Disclaimer:I do not own the characters. J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury books, Scholastic books and Warner Brothers have that pleasure. I am merely borrowing them
Summary: Unexpected and traumatizing events leave Harry in more danger than ever before. Severus Snape is reluctantly drawn into the fray. Not slash.
Author's Notes:This is the new and improved version! Many thanks to my new betas: darkladyofSlytherin, Shavaineth, and Emily. They will whip me into shape yet!
Chapter One: The Accident
"How dare those freaks tell ME what to do!"Uncle Vernon thundered as he sped toward Privet Drive. Instead of calming down after the confrontation at King's Cross Station, Vernon had become more agitated with every block that flew by the car windows.
"Vernon, dear, do slow down!" Aunt Petunia whispered frantically, her hands fluttering nervously in her lap.
"WHAT?! Those freaks! How dare they?!" Vernon continued, apparently oblivious to his wife's attempts to soothe him.
Uncle Vernon took the next turn so fast that Harry was certain that the car went up on two wheels. The young Gryffindor hurriedly checked his seat belt to be sure it was securely fastened, watching as Aunt Petunia did the same. Harry clenched his fist around the door handle so hard his knuckles turned white.
"Whoa, Dad!" Dudley was laughing from his position behind his father in the back seat. The portly boy leaned forward to look out the front windshield of the car. "That was brilliant!" Dudley crowed with delight as the car whipped around another turn, nearly jumping the curb in the process.
Neither Dudley nor Uncle Vernon wore their seat belts, as the straps were not made for people of such prodigious girth. Aunt Petunia had purchased extensions for the belts so they would fit but neither father nor son had seen the need for them.
A light rain began to fall, coating the roadways. Uncle Vernon turned on his wipers but didn't slow down.
"Vernon, dear. Do slow down."Aunt Petunia's voice had taken on a hysterical quality as she reached forward, her hands reached out to clutch the dashboard like it was a life preserver.
"Those FREAKS! I take this…" Uncle Vernon pulled one meaty fist loose from the steering wheel and waved it vaguely toward Harry, "weirdo into my home and they treat us like this!" He slammed his hand back onto on the steering wheel vehemently. "I won't stand for it!"
In his anger Uncle Vernon glared at Harry through the rear view mirror. The momentary distraction was just enough; Vernon Dursley did not see the red light. The truck tried to stop but the slick pavement caused the truck's tires to bind throwing the vehicle into a deadly skid. The two vehicles collided with the shriek of crumpled steel and a shower of broken glass.
Petunia Dursley was dead on impact, her thin body crumpling along with the car door. Her husband Vernon was pushed hard into the side window, his head slamming into the glass with a sickening crack. Harry's head bounced against the side of the door but his body remained pinned in place by the seat belt. His injuries would have been minimal had it not been for the projectile that was his cousin. The impact had sent Dudley sailing headfirst into the side window beside where Harry sat, the larger boy's massive body smashing down onto the Gryffindor's legs.
The Dursley's car was spun hard into the guardrail, clipping two other cars on its way. The impact bent the rail alarmingly as the car teetered over the embankment. For a moment it seemed the rail would hold, but then with a shriek of protest, the metal buckled and twisted before snapping completely. The car hung for an instant over the embankment before a shower of rock sent it tumbling end over end into the ravine.
Albus sat in his office, enjoying a leisurely cup of tea. The students were gone until fall and the castle was blissfully quiet. The only sound was the rustling of the house-elves as they packed his things in preparation for his summer holidays. A flash of light from his half-open desk drawer caught Albus' eye. It must be my hand mirror being activated. I wonder who could be mirror-calling me? Summer only just started, there shouldn't be any trouble yet. Albus thought as he deftly crossed to his desk to retrieve the tiny hand mirror that every member of the Order owned these days.
"ALBUS?! Albus Dumbledore?! IS this thing on?!" A panicked voice rose from the drawer.
Albus opened his desk drawer, taking out his hand mirror. Albus thought the voice belonged to Arabella Figg and when he looked into the mirror he saw that he was indeed correct. "Arabella, how nice to hear from you. Everything alright, my dear?"
"It's Harry, sir. He still isn't home. Alastor contacted me over three hours ago to tell me they'd left the station. It doesn't take more than an hour and a half at most for them to get home, usually."
"Albus? It's raining pretty hard here. It could be dangerous to drive in this. Muggles have accidents all the time, you know." She chewed on her lower lip, glancing back toward her window at frequent intervals.
Albus smiled. Voldemort would not strike again so soon. He must have time to regroup. Arabella would always find something to worry about but she was right often enough that it would be best to placate her. Especially since she'd had enough of a scare last year when the Dementors were in Harry's neighborhood. "I'll send someone straight away, Arabella, not to worry. I'm sure they simply stopped to get something on the way." Albus used his mirror to call Mundungus Fletcher to Floo to Arabella's until Harry arrived home.
Harry slowly regained consciousness. He could hear snatches of conversation coming from somewhere nearby but he didn't recognize the voices.
"Dead on impact."
Dead? No, I'm not dead. Harry thought muzzily.
"Severe head trauma."
Is that why my head hurts?Harry wondered.
"No seat belt."
No seat belt? Oh God, Dudley, Uncle Vernon, the truck!Harry thought as the accident suddenly came crashing back to him.
He could barely open his eyes; in fact one eye would not open at all. His head was hurting terribly and there was something sticky on his face. He tried to reach a hand to his face but feeling a sharp pain in his shoulder forced him to stop. With a moan he closed his eye again and let his hand fall limply to his side. Someone from outside the car gasped.
"We've got a live one in the back!"
Harry felt someone gently touch his throat and call out, "His pulse is strong! We've got to get the top off the car."
Harry tried to open his eyes again. His left eye still would not respond but he was able to open the other, though the effort taxed him greatly. The sirens wailing above him drew his eye to the top of the embankment where he could see lights coming from news vans and emergency vehicles. A man standing beside the car slipped his arm back through the jagged glass of the car window and gently touched Harry's arm to get the boy's attention. Catching Harry's gaze, the man smiled reassuringly.
"It's okay son. You're going to be fine. Just try to relax. We'll have you out of there in no time. What's your name?"
"Harry Potter." Was that my voice sounding so hoarse?
"Hello Harry. I'm Nick. You're going to be fine."
Harry felt a great weight pinning him to the seat and looked down to see Dudley's bulky form sprawled face down across his lap. He tried to lift his arm to check for Dudley's pulse but Harry just didn't have the strength to move, instead he tried calling out to his cousin. "Dudley?" Harry managed, though his voice sounded strained even to his own ears. Harry could not see any bleeding, but Dudley was so terrifyingly still.
"I'm sorry son; the boy there didn't make it."
Harry looked down at Dudley, noticing for the first time that his cousin's back was not rising and falling with the breath of life. "My Aunt and Uncle?" Harry tried to move his head but a sharp pain in his neck stopped him and elicited a harsh intake of breath through his clenched teeth. He felt a hot tear trickle slowly down his cheek.
Desperate to keep his mind from thinking about being trapped in a car with the dead bodies of his family around him, Harry started to see if there was anything wrong with him. Harry could see no overt bleeding on his own body, but he could feel the sticky dampness of blood trickling from a small gash at the side of his head. His left eye was swollen and the skin surrounding it was beginning to stretch painfully tight. Harry's left shoulder felt bruised but did not feel broken. He had probably wrenched it when the seat belt snapped taut against his body during the impact. As the last vestiges of grogginess fled, Harry realized he felt pain coming from almost everywhere in his upper body but had no sensation from his lower body. "I can't feel my legs!" Harry cried frantically as a painful fluttering started in his chest. His heart felt like a bird that was trapped yet valiantly trying to escape the confines of its cage. He tried to push Dudley from his legs but was unsuccessful. Falling back against the seat, his shoulder burned with pain from the exertion. He gulped hard, trying to keep himself from crying, but it was hard when he could not remember having ever felt so afraid.
"Try not to move Harry. The numbness may just be due to having this…uh…weight on your legs." Nick leaned in as far as he could and took a firm grip on Dudley's shoulders , lifting him from Harry.
Pain cascaded over Harry's legs like millions of razor sharp needles pricking him. "Oh! It hurts! It hurts!" Reflexively he lurched forward trying to grab his legs.
"You're doing fine, Harry. Try to stay with me." Nick urged.
The sudden motion and renewed pain made Harry suddenly feel dizzy and sleepy.
"Don't move, son. Try to keep as still as possible. We don't know just how badly you're injured yet."
Harry heard a loud buzzing sound and looked around in confusion for a moment before he saw a chain saw begin to slice through the roof of the car.
"It's okay son. The doors can't be opened; they're too damaged. We need to cut through the roof to get you out. You'll be okay." Nick said comfortingly when he saw Harry's confusion.
Harry's world was spinning wildly and his eyelids were very heavy.
The voice sounded so far away. Harry struggled to wake up again but the urge to rest was too great. He gave up the fight and allowed the blissful unconsciousness to overtake him.
Arabella paced back and forth in her living room. It was a nervous habit she'd developed over the years of watching Harry. She'd done it so much that the faded blue carpet was wearing thin, not that she noticed it at the moment. Hearing a car engine from out in the street, she scrambled to the window, peering intently at the approaching headlights. The lights passed by as the car continued on. A large orange cat weaved in and out of her legs as she paced; several more were curled up on the navy flower print sofa. She glanced repeatedly toward the fireplace along the south wall. On the opposite side stood the television that was tuned to some news program she had started watching in an attempt to calm her nerves. She absently glanced at the screen as her pacing turned her in that direction. The scene that met her eyes froze her in her tracks.
A flash of green heralded the arrival of Mundungus Fletcher in Arabella's living room. He had been just about to close a deal that would've set him up for some time, as a result he was not particularly happy about being dragged away to placate some old biddy who worried too much. He was tired of being shunted to sit with Arabella whenever she got it in her head that Harry Potter was in danger. The last time he was here was last summer when Harry had supposedly disappeared. Arabella had frantically contacted Dumbledore and he in turn sent Fletcher. It turned out that the boy had fallen asleep in the bushes under the window of his uncle's home. Why he was sleeping in the bushes was anybody's guess but he was not in any danger. This was not likely to be any different.
Fletcher hated to come here because the strong smell of cats burned his nose and with the wet weather the smell was ten times more powerful. He saw Arabella with her back to him staring at the TV. Merciful Merlin! I missed out on the deal of a lifetime to watch the telly with the old cat lady? Fletcher groused to himself.
"Arabella?" he called. She obviously did not hear him, which was not surprising as the woman had the TV on so loud Mundungus wondered if Albus could hear it. "ARABELLA?!"
Arabella jumped and whirled, seeing Fletcher. She pointed at the TV. "The Dursleys! I recognize their car!"
He stepped forward to look at the screen. A TV crew stood at the top of an embankment filming a rescue attempt to get people from a car mangled at the bottom.
"Ah come on! There's got to be hundreds of cars the same make and color of the Dursley's, what makes you so certain it's their car?"
"Look! White feathers in the trunk! That must be Harry's owl!" Arabella covered her mouth with her hand as the camera focused on the mangled boot of the car where sodden white feathers could be seen, sticking out of the misshapen metal.
Author's Note: Thanks for the kind and encouraging reviews for the former chapter one and the former chapter two! There won't be a specific schedule for updates but I will get them to you as soon as I can type and have them betaed. If you'd like an email when the new chapter comes out let me know in your review or put me on Author Alert! Thanks!