4 Privet Drive

Harry awoke with a start. Another night of tortured sleep behind him, he reached over onto the nightstand and grabbed what appeared to be a salt- water taffy wrapped in a green paper. Popping it into his mouth and chewing, he felt his voice returning.

The candies were a gift from Fred and George Weasley, and came in two colors, blue and green. The blue candies, and their counterpart green candies, were part of a new Skiving Snackbox. Blue to rob a person of their voice, green to restore it. As Harry chewed, he thought that they would be perfect if they could only take away the pain associated with silently screaming for eight hours. That and the awful headaches.

Harry had been shut up inside his room for the past two weeks while Voldemort tortured him, smashing through his mind's defenses and playing in slow motion the deaths of everyone Harry had lost. His parents, Sirius, Dumbledore. He showed Harry every scene where his friends and loved ones had been tortured. The cerebral cinema was slowly driving Harry insane. He also taunted Harry regarding the prophesy, having picked it out of Harry's mind the very first night that he invaded Harry's dreams.

"You really think that you can kill me, you pitiful boy? You cannot even stop me from entering your mind! Boy, I will either kill you or drive you to the point that you will kill yourself. In any case, you are no threat to me. You can join the Longbottoms in your own little hell in St. Mungo's"

Harry knew that he should tell someone about the nightly assaults, however with Dumbledore gone, he had no idea of just who he should tell. He thought of Moody, Lupin and the Weasleys, but none of those options sounded like they could do much good. As far as he knew, Dumbledore had not entrusted any of them with the details of the prophesy. That left Ron and Hermione, and Harry did not believe that either of them could really help. He quickly dressed and headed downstairs to see if he could eat.

It was really a pleasant morning. The Dursleys had left early to attend a boxing match in which Dudley was entered. Harry went to the refrigerator and pulled out three eggs and some cheese in order to make himself an omelet. As the eggs were cooking, he put a couple of slices of bread in the toaster and went back to the fridge to get some oleo and marmalade. Sliding his omelet onto a plate and stacking the toast on the top, he sat down at the table to eat, and for the ten thousandth time, brood about the twists of fate that put him squarely in the sights of the most powerful wizard in the modern world.

Twenty minutes later, as Harry was drying and putting away the dishes that he had used, he reflected on the strange turn of events since he had returned to the Dursley's home. While Petunia had shown her normal disdain toward Harry, and Vernon had been about as sociable as a blast-ended skrewt, Dudley had not only been civil to Harry, but had been coming to Harry's room to talk about Harry's world. t seemed that Dudley had been very impressed by Harry's defense of him against the Dementors two summers ago. Dudley had not come around Harry last summer, in reality he was a bit scared to. Harry just seemed to have this whole..well..trouble magnet attached to him. Dudley was growing up however, and had spent the last school year reassessing his scrawny cousin. It had helped that Harry had come back from Hogwarts looking quite a bit more physically fit than when he had left the previous summer. The two boys had spent several hours in Harry's room, talking about the war and Harry's life at Hogwarts. The real turning point came when Hedwig allowed Dudley to pet her, gently nipping his finger in a sign of acceptance. While Harry did not tell Dudley of the prophesy, the large boy figured out that since Voldemort and the Death Eaters had been targeting Harry for so long, that his cousin must be playing a pivotal role. Although Dudley had been quite the prat for as long as Harry could remember, he was no numpty. He had also grown up, becoming more introspective over the past year.

Not wanting to face the four walls of his bedroom right then, Harry took a stroll over to Mrs. Figg's house. While there, he mowed her lawn and had a quick chat with Tonks, who was the designated watcher for this shift. He also used a bit of floo powder to attempt to chat with Mrs. Weasley; however no one was at the Burrow.

Remembering the crushing depression he had gone through after the death of his godfather, Harry was trying his best to keep from sliding into the same trap following Dumbledore's death. He had resigned himself to having to share his nights with Voldemort, but he wanted the daytime to be his own, a time in which he could quietly grieve and remember the good things in his life. He was also determined to channel his grief into positive action, studying every clue he could lay his hands on about the Horcruxes which had already been destroyed, and attempting to puzzle out where the others could be hidden. To this end, Hermione had been helping by spending hours with Professor McGonagall, picking her brain for everything she could remember about Tom Riddle and sending long letters via owl to Harry.

There were times in which Harry would have liked to convert his Gringott's holdings to muggle funds and just disappear, but those thoughts were fleeting. All he wanted was a normal life. A normal wizarding life. He could not really imagine living his life without magic, and he knew the only way normality would return to his world would be if he defeated Voldemort. As he thought of the fear that his world was going through, he knew that this was worth one more life. His life, and he knew that if it came to that, he would make that sacrifice. For his friends, for the people he had come to love these past six years.

Returning to the Dursley's, Harry went up to his room just as a post owl flew up to his window with the latest Daily Prophet. Harry paid the owl and tipped him an owl treat from Hedwig's supply, earning him hiss and a couple of beak clicks from the snowy owl. Opening the paper, he saw the front page article that said that the Ministry had decreed that Hogwarts would be closed for at least the next year, and urging wizarding parents to home school their children. The Ministry did not address the matter of training for muggle born children, leaving the distinct impression that the less said about these students, the better. He also noted with interest that during the period that Hogwarts would be closed, the ban on underage magic was to be lifted "for training purposes".

Just as he heard the Dursley's car pulling into the driveway, a searing pain blasted through his head, driving Harry to his knees. His reality shifted, and he no longer was seeing his bedroom at 4 Privet Drive, but rather was in a dungeon, unable to move or speak. In front of him, in a similar state, were Lupin, Hermione, and all of the Weasleys. Harry heard a low laugh behind him.

"Isn't this a beautiful day Harry? I find that sharing days like this with family and friends to be most refreshing. But where are my manners? Wormtail, welcome our guests!"

"Avada Kedavra!" Wormtail shot the killing curse at Bill Weasley, the green light erupting out of his wand and dropping Bill to the floor.

"Shame on you Peter, now we will have to remove a place setting at the dining table. Surely you can make our guest's visit more interesting than this."

Wormtail snickered, "So sorry M'lord, I got carried away. "Crucio!" Peter pointed his wand at Lupin and let fly. Although Lupin was still frozen in place, Harry could see the agony in his eyes.

"What am I thinking? I have been waiting for Harry to complement me on my hospitality, and I forgot to allow him to speak" Voldemort came around in front of Harry and muttered under his breath while pointing his wand at Harry.

His voice freed, Harry moaned, "NOOOO…" Voldemort nodded at Peter and the smirking rat released his spell.

"Bella, please show Miss Weasley how we can make her visit more enjoyable"

Bellatrix Lestrange moved into view, and with a indolent wave of her wand, released Ginny from her frozen condition. Two masked Death Eaters seized Ginny and manhandled her over to a table-like fixture that looked to be some sadistic altar. Strapping her down, Voldemort picked up a scalpel and held it up to the light.

"You know Harry, I read quite a bit about the period of time that the muggles were at war he in Europe. There was a muggle whom I read about, that had he been magical, would have been a wonderful Death Eater. Mengle was his name I believe…. He had some most interesting methods of experimentation.. "

Taking the scalpel, Voldemort took Ginny's left hand and started to cut around her knuckle on her thumb. When he finished, he grabbed the thumb, bent it backwards and ripped it from her hand. The scream that Ginny let out tore through Harry and he let out a scream that almost matched in volume.

"Harry, I am going to use these instruments and take your girlfriend apart at every joint. Then I plan to skin what is left. There will be a point where you will beg me to kill her. I may consider granting you this favor, but it will be you who asks for her death"

With Ginny's screams in his ears, Harry descended into madness.

The Dursleys burst into the house upon hearing Harry's screams. They found Harry laying on the floor, contorted in pain, screaming Ginny's name, pleading with some invisible person to stop. Petunia lost all colour in her face and backed out of the room. Vernon grabbed Harry's shirt and pulled him up, slapping his face while shouting at him to shut up. Seeing this, Dudley crashed into the room, grabbed Vernon's arm and shouted at his father.

"Leave him alone, you bloody bastard!" Vernon whirled around, face contorted in rage.

"How DARE you speak to me that way and defend this freak!" With his free hand, he shoved Dudley back against the wall.

Calling upon everything he had learned in his boxing training, Dudley did the unthinkable. Balling his fist, he launched a roundhouse at his father, smashing him across the room. As Vernon hit the wall, his eyes glazed over and he slid to the floor.

Running over to his prone father, Dudley took a ballpoint pen from Vernon's shirt pocket, looked around, and seeing some parchment, wrote "HARRY NEEDS HELP NOW!" and signed his name. Going over to Hedwig's cage, he bent down and looked straight into the owl's eyes.

"Hedwig, Harry needs help. Can you take this message to someone who can help him?" Hedwig hooted at him and took the parchment in her beak. When Dudley opened the window, Hedwig shot out of the room and disappeared.