Disclaimer: I own nothing. I earn no money by writing this. All characters and suchlike are owned by whoever owns them, and that person is not me.

A/N: First chapter, re-written. Alright I admit it, I'm obsessing. Since writing chapter 20, I went back and I'm pretty appalled by the original story. So in an attempt to be less embarrassed by my lack of writing ability, here's the improved version.

As the Hogwarts Express pulled in the station, Harry Potter laughed. Ron already had his face pressed against the window scanning the crowd for his family. The flock of red-heads wasn't easy to miss. Hermione smiled amusedly and gathered the cards they'd been playing with. She had introduced her friends to Muggle card games over the school year, and while Ron still couldn't understand why they didn't "do anything interesting," it'd become a popular distraction for the teens.

Harry let out a quiet sigh as he gathered his things. The end of the perfect year had come. This year really had been the perfect year, he reflected as he slid the compartment door shut. No attacks, no death threats. Voldemort had been remarkably quiet. He knew he should be on his guard, but everything was so quiet. Hopefully the Dark side would keep calm a little longer.

On the platform, He was engulfed in a hug by Mrs. Weasley, who quickly insisted he come over to visit this summer. Through the happiness and chatter, he had no was of predicting what was to come.

The Weasley's went on their way, but not after insisting they bring Harry home first.

"Really, Mrs. Weasley, thank you. But I'll be fine. Uncle Vernon will be here soon to pick me up. He doesn't much like having to see "our type" anyway. I'll be fine on my own."

"Well, dear, if you're sure..."

Alone now, Harry began to feel the cold set in. It came every year when he realized that it was summer time. As the smuggle children cheered happily, enjoying their break, Harry would have preferred to remain in school. Now he had to go find Vernon before he left and face three months of isolation.

He wandered the platform but there was sign of his relatives. He took a breath. It wasn't so bad. If he needed to, he could take the Knight Bus home. He'd just have it drop him off a block or two away and he'd be home in no time. Alright, he thought, I have a plan. Good.

Harry dragged his trunk outside and lifted his wand. The Knight Bus appeared in less than a second, accepting his fare and going on it's way. He chatted with Stan about the latest news and gossip until they arrived at the park near his house.

As he walked in the quiet suburb, he thought about what was waiting for him at home. A silent, tidy house. A bare, tiny bedroom. The occasional beating by Dudley. It wouldn't be so bad. And Madame Pomfrey had taught him some basic healing techniques during the school year and even given him a few potion, so he would be alright.

Harry arrived at his house just as the glow of a new sun began to peak over the horizon. But the house wasn't completely dark, as it should have been. A single light glowed from the front room. He'd seen this before, it meant that Vernon had been drinking. Harry sighed. He'd have to be especially careful getting inside. He dragged his trunk into the side yard, carefully sliding it behind a few bushes. He pulled out a few important things first, like his wand and a few unbreakable vials of potions.

He brushed the dirt from his hands and knees and went around to the back door, taking the key from under the mat and quietly unlocking the door. The light from the front room spilled out onto the carpet and the air smelled strongly of spilled beer.

He slipped off his shoes and padded to the door frame. He listened carefully, but couldn't hear any movement. He peered in and saw Vernon facing the other way. He took one step, then another, a third. Up a few stairs and...


He started running up the stairs instead. He reached the top, but suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder. The next thing he knew, he was falling.