Harry Potter, it could be said, had never had an easy life. His parents had been murdered when he was but an infant, he had been forced to live with his abusive aunt, uncle, and cousin, and he had nearly been killed during his previous year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had numerous scars, both physically and mentally, but none stood out like the one on his forehead. That scar was special. That one was created when the dark wizard, Voldemort, had tried killing him after taking down his parents. The spell had rebounded and left the Dark Lord without a body.
This did not stop him from trying to take his revenge, however.
In an attempt to save the Philosopher's Stone at school, Harry had quite literally come face to face with the Dark Lord. Though he had no body, it didn't stop him from trying to kill Harry. What was left of the man had seemed to possess Quirinus Quirrell, his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. In the end, Harry had managed to hold off the two-faced man until Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, arrived.
During the fight, Harry had been shoved to the ground. He had landed on the side he was hiding the Stone in, causing a small shard to break off. Harry wasn't sure what he would do with this, but kept it, just in case.
Harry's return to Number Four, Privet Drive, had not been his choice. Towards the end of the previous school year, Dumbledore had explained that there was strong blood magic protecting Harry's relatives' house. He had to stay at Number Four for a minimum of three weeks for the magic to remain active during the time he was at school. It was also the reason that Harry couldn't stay with his best friend, Nymphadora Tonks.
When he arrived back at the house where he had suffered so much in the past, Harry had been afraid to even knock. He stood outside, in the dark, for what felt like hours before the front door opened and his cousin, Dudley, stepped out. Dudley had been carrying a trash bag that looked rather full. The two stopped when they caught sight of one another, neither moving or saying a word.
Dudley had been the first to recover, however. He dropped the trash bag on the ground, scattering its contents, and screamed for his father. Vernon Dursley, just a bit larger than his son, had come waddling in from the living room. One look at Harry and the man had become furious, yanking the boy and his trunk inside the house faster than Harry had thought possible. Things had only dissolved from there. Vernon had screamed at Harry, shoved him about the first floor, and demanded to know where he had been for the better part of the year. He yelled that his poor wife had to start cooking again and that it was all Harry's fault. This had earned Harry almost a week of no food for himself.
Harry had tried explaining, but it didn't sink in until he had pulled his wand out. Petunia, who had walked in at the sound of her husband yelling, shrieked when she saw the wooden instrument. A fearful look in her eyes, the woman had started babbling incoherently about her sister, some school for freaks, and how she had gotten herself killed for it all.
The cupboard door had been yanked open and Vernon was about to shove Harry in when Petunia had shrieked again. Looking fearfully at Harry, she sputtered that it might be a good idea for Harry to take Dudley's second room - a place where the pudgy boy stored all of his broken and unwanted toys. Vernon had demanded to know why and Petunia leaned in to whisper something to the man. Harry hadn't been sure of what they had said to one another, but whatever it was seemed to spook his uncle.
Vernon had lost a lot of gusto after that. He demanded Harry go up to the second floor and clean all of Dudley's things out of the room. Harry did as he was told, though it took well over an hour to do so. After he was finished, Vernon shoved the boy's trunk into the room and proceeded to lock him in. Harry had been thankful that he had left his owl, Hedwig, with Tonks and her mother. His uncle would have probably killed the creature on sight.
All that had happened almost two and a half weeks prior. Harry was let out of his room two times a day, mostly to use the bathroom. Once his food 'privilege' had been restored, he got old leftovers once a day. He was constantly hungry and barely got any sleep worth speaking of. After the first week, he had fallen into depression. Tonks' mother, Andromeda, had promised that she would do something if he could only get through his first night back.
He hadn't seen Tonks, nor her mother, since the night he left to return to Number Four. No visits, no owls, no explanations. There was nothing and Harry couldn't understand why. Eventually, he began to wonder if Tonks really thought of Harry as her friend. He began wondering if she only liked being around him in public because of his fame. A small part of his brain always tried reasoning with these thoughts, but in the end lost out to the depression that had swept over the boy.
It was only a few nights until Harry turned 12, thought at the moment, he couldn't think of any reason to celebrate, even if he was allowed to.
"Now you listen to me, boy. I have a very important guest coming over tonight! I don't want you to make a peep, do you understand me?" Said Vernon Dursley in a dangerously low voice.
Two more days had passed and Harry's birthday was right around the corner. During his first trip out of his room, Harry had been yanked aside by his uncle. Apparently, Vernon Dursley was going to be having something of a business dinner that night. Something about a possibly large order of drills. Harry tried not to pay much attention to his uncle's life.
Nonetheless, trying to argue with someone at least twenty times larger than himself seemed rather pointless. His most recent injuries still hadn't healed all the way and he wasn't in the mood to get more. With a quiet sigh, he nodded and murmured, "Yes, Uncle Vernon."
"You're to stay in your room and not move about." Vernon continued, pacing back and forth in front of Harry. "I don't want to hear any noises from upstairs! They're going to be here from five until around ten. So don't you move!"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon."
"And don't you try any of your tricks, boy. I'm warning you now... if you try any funny business, I'll make sure you're not fit to leave this house again." Vernon said, voice dark.
"Y-Yes, Uncle Vernon." Harry said, internally wincing as his stutter returned. Over the past year, it had all but vanished, only returning when Harry was upset or scared. But now, trapped back in Number Four, it had come back almost to full force. Locked up and away from anyone he thought he had as a friend, it was all Harry could do to just keep himself going.
"Now get back in there, boy! If there's any dinner leftover, Petunia will bring it up to you!" Vernon roared, grabbing Harry by the arms, spinning him around, and shoving him at the staircase. Harry stumbled, not predicting the sudden movement, and fell forward against the stairs. He knew better than to groan or otherwise show a sign of being hurt. That would only make his uncle angry.
Rubbing his ribs as he walked back upstairs, Harry didn't notice Vernon walking off into another room. Nor did he see his cousin waiting for him at the top of the stairs. Only when he was once again grabbed and shoved did Harry realize he had practically walked into his mammoth of a cousin.
Dudley chuckled. "I dunno what mum and dad are so scared about. You don't look any different now."
Harry, who had also learned not to bother talking to his cousin at all, kept silent.
Dudley smirked. "Awww, is ickle Harry upset? Gonna go cry to your mummy now? Oh, that's right...she's dead, isn't she? And your little girlfriend hasn't been by, either, has she? Guess nobody wants you around, huh?"
"Shut up, Dudley." Harry growled, unable to stop himself.
"What did you say?" Dudley hissed, narrowing his eyes.
"I told you to shut up, you great lump!" Harry spat, glaring at his cousin. "Shut up or I'll curse your bloody face off!"
Dudley backpedaled slightly, but balled his hands up into fists. "Y-you can't! You don't have your... your...."
"Wand?" Harry offered.
"Don't say it!" Dudley yelled. "If I told dad what you said, you'd be in for worse than what you got when you came back!"
"I'll say whatever I feel like. It doesn't matter, since I'm going to be pushed around, anyway." Harry said, voice low. "Wand, wand, dirty great WAND!"
"DAD! HE'S TALKING ABOUT THAT THING OF HIS AGAIN!" Dudley cried out. "MAKE HIM STOOOOOP!"
His cousin then proceeded to smile viciously at him. Harry glared, then turned and bolted towards his new bedroom, hearing his uncle's stomping footsteps coming from down below. It didn't stop the larger man when he reached the door, however. Practically knocking it from its hinges when he threw it open, Vernon stormed across the room and grabbed Harry by the throat, fury in his eyes.
"I told you not to talk about what you are in my house!" He said in a low hiss. "I warned you far too many times! I think you need to be reminded of what happens when you disobey me, boy!"
Harry wasn't sure what time it was when he came to. It was dark outside, so it was after sunset. What day it was, however, was anyone's guess. His uncle had knocked him out for over 24 hours in the past, so it wasn't much to assume he might have done so again. Harry was on the floor and seemed to ache all over. He tried sitting up, but this only caused his chest to cry out in pain.
Coughing, Harry laid his head back down on the hard, wooden floor and groaned quietly. He would have to take tally on his injuries sooner or later. And past experiences had taught him that sooner was always better than later. He raised his arms, seeing that one seemed to have a few new cuts on it. The blood had long-since dried, however. His left leg felt rather awkward when he applied a bit of pressure to it. 'Another sprain, probably...' Harry thought, grimly.
He knew at least one of his ribs was cracked, judging from the sheer amount of pain coming from that area, so he tried to move as little as possible. Harry turned his head and pressed his ear against the floor, trying to hear any movement from downstairs. He could hear faint voices, mixed with the occasional forced laugh, but he wasn't sure who it was coming from.
Moving his head back to stare at the ceiling, Harry felt another wave of helplessness pass over him. If only the Wizarding World could see their so-called hero now - laying, nearly broken, on the floor of an all-but-empty room in his aunt and uncle's house. Some hero he was. Sure, he saved the Philosopher's Stone a few months ago... but only due to sheer luck.
As they so often did when Harry was left to his own devices, his thoughts turned to Tonks. She had seemed to be so caring towards him at the end of the school year. She had even given him a tighter than normal hug. But where was she now? Sitting in her nice, warm home and enjoying some sweets? Talking with her mother, who seemed to have forgotten that Harry even existed? Why hadn't they tried to get him out yet?!
Years ago, above all else, Harry had learned something very important. To keep himself from being severely harmed and to keep from being picked on more than normal, Harry had learned never to cry. Not even when his cousin had 'accidentally' broken his arm when they were both eight. Not when his uncle nearly blinded him by slinging him headfirst at the corner of the kitchen table. Not when one of his Aunt Marge's psychotic dogs had chomped down on his foot when he was nine. Harry couldn't even recall the last time he cried. But laying on the floor of his room, it seemed harder than normal to keep the tears away.
For another hour or two, Harry lay there, as motionless as possible, trying to keep himself from falling over the edge. Only when an odd sound emanated from the direction of the empty dresser did he move to look. Slowly, the door to the dresser opened up and an odd creature stepped out, looking quite nervous. Harry recognized what it was at once - it was a house elf, if the head and ratty pillowcase the thing wore as clothes were any indication. Harry had read about house elves in a book he had checked out from the Hogwarts library at some point.
"W-who are you?" Harry whispered.
The house elf jumped, squeaking in a high-pitched voice as he spun around to stare at Harry. The house elf blinked and, for the briefest of moments, almost looked stunned. Slowly, the creature walked over to Harry, its large eyes darting around the room, as if it were expecting something to jump out and grab it.
"Y-you is Harry Potter, sir?" Asked the house elf slowly.
Judging from the voice, Harry assumed the creature to be male. Harry smiled weakly and offered as much of a nod as his aching neck would allow him. "Yeah."
"Why is Harry Potter on the ground? Harry Potter has a nice, big bed nearby..." The house elf said, sounding confused. He kept twisting his pillowcase in his hands.
"My uncle." Harry murmured. "Hurt too much to move."
The house elf blinked. "Harry Potter is injured?"
"Quite a bit."
For a moment, the house elf looked rather angry. But the emotion faded quickly. "Dobby can make Harry Potter better, if Harry Potter is letting Dobby..."
"Is that your name, then?" Harry asked.
"Oh, yes, sir. Dobby is named Dobby, sir." Said Dobby the house elf.
"Well... it's nice to meet you, then, Dobby." Said Harry, smiling weakly.
"Harry Potter is saying it's nice to meet Dobby?" Asked the house elf, his voice once more high-pitched. "Harry Potter is such a kind wizard... not like Dobby's master..."
Suddenly, Dobby's eyes grew wider than normal. The house elf leapt over Harry to stand, facing the wall by the window, and began banging his head against it, crying out, "Bad Dobby! Bad, bad, bad! Mustn't say bad things about your master!"
"Dobby! Please! Be quiet...!" Harry pleaded, a faint whimper in his voice. "If my uncle hears you, I'll be in even worse shape than I am now..."
Dobby bit his lip and turned to face Harry once more, a large bruise forming on his bald head. "Dobby is sorry, sir... but house elves is not to talk badly about their masters... That Dobby is even here is enough to be punished badly. Dobby knows what it is like to be in pain, sir."
"Didn't... Didn't you say something about being able to help me?" Harry asked, trying to derail the current direction of the conversation.
"Oh, yes, sir!" Dobby said, excitedly, bouncing over to Harry's side and beaming down at him. The house elf seemed to look Harry's body over slowly. "Harry Potter is badly hurt... Harry Potter's uncle did this?"
"Yes..." Harry said, looking off. "Not the first time, either. I'd like to say I'm used to it, but..."
"Harry Potter should not be hurt by his family!" Dobby squeaked loudly. "Harry Potter is a great wizard!"
"Dobby, shh! You don't know my uncle, he's... he's awful when he's mad!" Harry said, looking over at the door.
Dobby wiggled his long, bony fingers over Harry's body before touching the boy's ankle, chest, arm, and throat. Harry felt a faint tingling sensation in the spots that the house elf touched, but it passed quickly, leaving Harry feeling much better. He pulled in a slow breath, as deep as he could. When no pain met him, he grinned and sat up. "I feel fine!" He said. "Thanks, Dobby."
"Harry Potter is thanking Dobby!" Dobby said, clasping his hands together. "Master would never thank Dobby. Master-- No! Bad Dobby!"
Dobby made a grab for a nearby lamp, but Harry shot up and grabbed the creature before he could get to it. "Dobby! It's alright... um, listen... not to sound ungrateful, but why are you here?"
Harry sat down on the bed, setting Dobby down next to him. Dobby let out a sigh and looked off toward the window. "Harry Potter... Harry Potter must not return to Hogwarts!"
"Bad things is going to be happening at Hogwarts. Harry Potter must not return!"
"...Dobby, all of my friends are there. It's more of a home than this place is. I have to go back!" Harry said.
"Friends?" Dobby said, looking back at Harry. "Friends who is not even writing Harry Potter? Friends who is not even visiting Harry Potter?"
"...How do you know that?" Asked Harry, an alarm suddenly sounding in the back of his mind. Quickly thinking back to what he read, Harry recalled that house elves had their own special kind of magic. It could be quite powerful, as well.
"...Dobby cannot be saying, Harry Potter, sir." Dobby said, looking down. "But Harry Potter must not return!"
"Dobby, whatever it is, I can handle it... It can't be worse than living here. Or surviving Fluffy and Quirrell..." Harry said.
"...If Harry Potter is not agreeing, Dobby will make sure Harry Potter CANNOT return!" Said Dobby, hopping off the bed and running for the door. With the snap of his fingers, the locks on the door popped open. Giving one look back at Harry, Dobby practically begged, "Harry Potter must say he is not going back..."
"I can't do that, Dobby." Said Harry, slowly, standing up. "...What are you doing?"
Looking miserable, Dobby replied, "What Dobby is having to."
With that, the house elf threw the door open and rushed out. Choking on a breath, Harry rushed out after him. By the time Harry reached the staircase, Dobby was already at the bottom. He was floating a rather sizable cake over his head. From his position, Harry couldn't see the Dursleys or their guests, but they seemed to be talking in the living room. How Dobby had managed to get past the bottom of the stairs and the kitchen without being seen baffled Harry...but he didn't have any time to worry about that now.
Dobby mouthed, 'Promise not to go back...' at Harry.
Harry shook his head slowly, staring at the floating cake. Dobby's ears drooped as he saw this and looked at Harry sadly for a moment before he began hovering the cake into the living room. Everything that happened afterwards seemed to move as if in slow motion.
The cake fell on the female guest, who sat directly beside her husband on one of the couches. The icing splattered all over his suit, as well. Harry wasn't exactly knowledgeable in how much muggle clothes cost, but judging from how the suit looked, it must have been expensive. Harry's head quickly spun to glare at Dobby, who snapped his fingers quickly and vanished into thin air.
"I'm so sorry!" Vernon was apologizing. "He's mentally disturbed! We were hoping to keep him out of your hair for the evening! He thinks being rude and obnoxious is funny, you see... we've had to take care of him for years..."
Harry barely saw the look his uncle flashed to him, but he knew that if he wanted to survive the night, he had best escape - and quickly.
Harry rushed back to his room and grabbed his trunk. He silently thanked Andromeda Tonks for charming wheels onto one end of it as he did. Spinning around, Harry wheeled the trunk out into the upstairs hallway and towards the staircase. The Dursleys' guests were standing and the man was yelling at Vernon that he would be paying for his cleaning bills. Harry was almost to the door when Vernon grabbed the back of his shirt.
"Why hasn't he written...? Do you think he hates us now?"
"Albus is coming to inspect the wards again tomorrow, Nymmy. He thinks someone must have tampered with them... it's the only thing I can think of, as well..."
"Yeah... That time we both went over there, I suddenly felt like I was hungry again, even though we had eaten before we left..."
"Exactly. Someone's been messing around with those wards... Only I don't know of anyone who'd know how to. The Ministry's having a bit of a fit, you know."
"Yeah, I'm sure they are." Tonks huffed, looking out the living room window. "Their golden boy is in danger, so they're doing absolutely nothing."
Tonks winced. "Well, it's true!" She argued, turning to face her mother. "They haven't done anything! And who knows what those awful muggles have been doing to Harry all this time!"
"Nymmy, breathe." Andromeda said, sighing as she walked over to her daughter. "I want to get Harry out of there just as much as you do... but standing around and complaining won't get anything done. You know that."
"Yeah..." Tonks said, leaning back against her mother, who embraced the worried girl comfortingly. "But it makes me feel better."
"I know, honey... I had such a good plan to get him out, too..."
"You never did tell me what you were gonna do, mum..."
Andromeda smiled slightly. "I was going to put my hair up like Minerva McGonagall's, transfigure my clothes into a classy business suit, and go over there, pretending to be from Bluewood Academy..."
"Mm. It's where new Aurors go for their training and first missions... Kind of like a muggle college, I suppose. Anyway, I was going to go rummaging around their home until I unearthed Harry."
"And then what?"
"Then I'd hex Vernon Dursley into a pig or something, I dunno." Said Andromeda, airily. "I didn't think things out that far."
Tonks rolled her eyes. "Great strategy, mum."
Tonks sighed and pushed away from her mother, going to look out the window again. "I can't even imagine what he must think of us, not coming for him after we said we would... I just wi-- ... ...oh, god. Mum! It's Harry!"
About that time, the doorbell rang. The two Tonks women looked at each other and rushed for the front door. Tonks threw it open and the two stood there, gaping at the sight before them. Harry was bleeding from somewhere above his hair line, the area around his left eye was swollen and puffed-up, his glasses were broke... he seemed to be putting all of his weight on his right leg, as well. His clothes - oversized, due to the fact that they were Dudley's hand-me-downs - were ripped in places, which only revealed more cuts, bruises, and bleeding spots.
Harry smiled weakly at his friend and her mother, offered a very quiet, "Hi," and fell over, unconscious.
Author's Notes: And so it begins! I would've had it out sooner, but I scrapped a previous attempt about two-thirds in. Then I bothered writing up a chapter guide.
I'll say now that this is going to be a bit darker than the first book. Mainly because Harry's going to basically think he's all-alone for most of the first half or so.
Leon will be showing up in chapter 2, for better or for worse. What the sam hell does THAT mean? Well, if I told you, it'd ruin the surprise, now wouldn't it? I WILL say, however, that Leon will be much more present in this book than he was in the last. Shame he and Harry will be at each others' throats for awhile... Mwahaha...
Chapter 2 should be out within a week. Getting started is always the hardest part for me. And I know exactly where I'm going to be going for the first ten or so chapters, providing I don't bugger off and veer away from what I had planned. It's happened before. Anyway, thanks to all the people who reviewed the previous book. I'm simply amazed at the amount of reviews I've received for it. Here's to another 20 chapters of the same.