A/N: This is an alternate universe. It starts in the summer after Harry's 4th year and continues from that point. The launching point of Harry Potter is not mine. Were it mine I would be rolling in mountains of money. Seeing as how said mountains of money are not presently in my sight, I must conclude that said canon is not mine to claim.
WARNING: Though this is rated T, there is a paragraph of rather graphic description and there will be descriptions of implied abuse and other things later in the fic. Ratings may change later, but for now I will simply give you this warning.
Chapter 1: Darkened the Days
In the headmaster's office of Hogwarts, there was the soft chime of a clock ringing. The chimes filtered through the rather large room, echoing off the various instruments and devices that occupied the shelves. The room was also filled with the soft slumber of various portraits, the collected wisdom of the headmasters and headmistresses of year's gone by gathered for the current occupant's necessity. In the corner next to the desk sat a phoenix, looking rather ragged all things considered. It's beautiful scarlet feathers had fallen and the bird dropped down as it sat on its perch, glancing this way and that.
In a flash the bird managed three gagging coughs and then burst in a spectacular flash of flames. The outburst cause a sudden shuffle of papers and a stunned "huh," to arise from the occupant of the desk next to the bird. The man's long grey beard hung down nearly to the floor, and his hat was narrowly fixed on his head. His blue eyes had a mysterious twinkle to them in the waning torchlight, barely concealed by the half-moon spectacles that sat crooked on his nose. Blinking a few times, Albus Dumbledore looked over to the perch where his phoenix Fawkes had just flamed out a few moments ago. He smirked and shook his head. "It's about time you gave up the ghost." To this there was a small screech coming from the ashes, where a small chick now sat, having just been reborn.
Dumbledore took the moment to stretch his limbs and glance over at the clock on the wall. 9 PM. He hadn't meant to fall asleep, but it was hard keeping up with all the paperwork that had come across his desk in the last few days. Letters would soon be returning from the various 1st year students, and he had a few visits to make to a few of the muggle-borns who would be arriving at Hogwarts for the first time this year. There weren't many this year, only 5 Muggle-borns in the entire first year class, but it was a duty that he personally saw to every year.
Behind him he could here the low muttering of the Sorting Hat, frantically trying to finish composing this year's song. Dumbledore thought he might make some suggestions, but had decided against it. Though he appreciated music greatly, he didn't have a single musical bone in his body as far as composing was concerned. His brother Aberforth on the other hand...give him a few firewhiskeys and he could write you a symphony.
There was a knock at the door, which brought Dumbledore back to reality. Giving an affirmation to the party behind the door, he watched as his deputy Minerva McGonagall came walking in, looking almost as beautiful as she had the day that she first walked in to Hogwarts some forty years earlier. Dumbledore didn't take time to view such things, as he noticed that McGonagall was walking in at a rather frantic pace. "What's wrong Minerva," he said, motioning for her to take a seat in front of his desk. She didn't take the offered seat, and merely paced back and forth, uncertain.
"Professor, I don't know if anything is wrong, but I can't help but feel that something is amiss," she paused for a moment to collect her thoughts.
"Perhaps you should start at the beginning, Minerva. And please, sit down. Have a lemon drop." Dumbledore reached into his desk and pulled out a candy for the woman, who shook her head. Dumbledore contemplated for a moment, before taking his wand off his desk and waving it at a small tea set off in the corner. In an instant the small burner turned on and a teabag pulled out of the cabinet above it. Hot water appeared out of nothingness above the kettle, and fell in time shortly followed by the teabag. The kettle sealed itself shut so as not to whistle and set down on the burner, eagerly chugging away toward completion. Minerva watched the display, and then turned back to Dumbledore, sitting down in front of his desk.
"A few days ago I received a letter from Miss Granger, saying that she was worried about young Mr. Potter. She said that she had not received a letter from him since the end of school and had a bad feeling. I wrote her back, telling her that she was probably worried for no reason."
"A prudent measure," Dumbledore interjected, stroking his beard thoughtfully.
"Then, yesterday I received this reply from Miss Granger, along with this," reaching into her emerald green robes she handed two pieces of parchment to Dumbledore. The first was written in what Dumbledore immediately recognized as the strict and neatly done writing of Hermione Granger. Setting the other piece of paper aside, he began to read:
Dear Professor McGonagall,
I tried to ignore these bad feelings like you told me to in your last letter. But something's happened. Something that only reinforces what I've been dreading. I've sent you this letter that I received from Harry this morning. I think there's some kind of code there. I've circled the letters for you.
Please respond if Harry really is alright.
Albus stopped and considered it for a moment. He knew that Hermione was sometimes overly protective of Harry, but he chalked it up to sisterly affection. Setting the first letter down, he picked up the second, and could instantly tell something was wrong. The ink was scratchy at best, the paper wasn't actually parchment but was normal Muggle paper. The writing was bad, it looked like it had been written by a five year old with the scribbles. There in red ink he could see several miscapitalized letters strewn here and there, hidden ever so slightly. He digested the brief letter, trying to piece together the meaning of the letters at the same time.
Thanks for writing to me this summer. It'S nice to here from you again. Tell me how Ron is in your next letter, I haven't hEard from him yet.
It's been a good summer so far. I've just beeN studying most of the time. I still haven't reaD Hogwarts a History, and I probably never will. Sorry.
How's CrooksHanks? Hopefully staying out of trouble. Has he bEen chasing gnomes in the WeasLey's garden again?
Sorry it's brief, but I have a lot to do. Write to me soon, Please.
Albus re-read the letter a few times more. It was obvious that Harry hadn't been writing. The letter lacked the spirit or usual humor that Harry was known for. He reached behind him for the cup of tea that was conveniently floating behind him, the kettle having finished it's job, and passed the second cup onto Minerva, who took it and patiently waited for him to finish.
"I didn't think much of it till I actually took the time to read Harry's letter. Albus...do you think the boy is in trouble?"
"Maybe," Dumbledore replied in a half-whisper. Setting the paper down, he found the circled letters and spelled them out. As he came to that conclusion, he looked up at McGonagall, trying to maintain a semblance of calm.
"Minerva, I believe we should collect Mr. Potter this evening and bring him and his things here for the remainder of the summer." At this Dumbledore stood up and offered Minerva a hand. "Just allow me to contact Miss Figg and say that we will be by shortly at her house." At this Dumbledore walked over to his fireplace to make the call to Privet Drive's resident squib.
Arabella Figg's House
Arabella Figg sat in front of the empty chimney, idly scratching the cats as they roamed around her sitting chair. She had placed a small silver tray of tea and biscuits on the coffee table in front of her in anticipation of her guests. There was an eerie air of worry about her though. Dumbledore had sounded a bit rushed when he had called her. She had just been ready to turn in that night when Albus had called her. Silently she waited, when a rush of ash and smoke drew her attention to the fireplace.
First to emerge was her friend Albus Dumbledore, clad in his periwinkle robes and omnipresent inquisitive look on his face. A short time later he was joined by Minerva McGonagall, wearing her usual emerald green robes and witch's hat. "Hello Professors," she said as pleasantly as she could, standing up to greet the both of them.
"Hello Arabella. I'm sorry that we came on such short notice." Albus took a moment to contemplate the simple house around him, and smiled at the numerous feline companions that were scattered about this way and that. "We're here to collect Mr. Potter for the summer. We're bringing him to Hogwarts early for some special training in preparation for his O.W.L's next year." Dumbledore knew it was a lie, but didn't want to scare the woman.
"I'm glad your here," Arabella replied a moment later, "I think something's wrong."
"What is it Arabella?" Minerva jumped in a bit too frantically. She knew that Albus must have suspected something, or they wouldn't be here tonight.
"Normally I see Harry every so often outside. Not this summer, I haven't seen him since he got there. And earlier tonight, there was some yelling and screaming coming from the house. I thought it was just a family squabble but...well the screaming stopped about ten minutes ago and I thought about calling you but decided against it...oh Merlin help me if something's happened..." Arabella started to get more and more worried, but a reassuring hush from Dumbledore calmed her nerves ever so slightly.
"Don't worry Arabella. We're here now and we're going to catch them off guard a bit. I'm keyed into the wards on the house and this will allow me to apparate in and out at will. I'm going to apparate into his bedroom. Now, if you'd kindly show me which one is his." Arabella looked at the man slightly, but then walked over to the window where Dumbledore had made his way. She pointed at the small window in the backyard. Nodding, Albus offered his hand to Minerva. "You'll have to do a side-along Minerva. Otherwise you won't be able to get in." Minerva nodded and took the man's hand. A moment later Albus and Minerva turned, and both of them were gone in a flash. Arabella took a moment to contemplate the lit room where they were heading.
"Merlin help us if that boy is harmed..."
A few moments later the trip through space and time was over, and Albus Dumbledore opened his eyes to the most horrific sight he had ever seen. He looked around the room quickly, and was appalled, angry, and nearly disturbed to sickness.
The room had been practically stripped bare of all but the bare essentials. In the corner, locked shut, was a trunk that Albus knew for a fact belonged to Harry. Next to it, looking rather pathetic, was Hedwig, one eye frozen shut and its feathers a right mess. The bird was thinner than Albus remembered, and it looked to have a broken wing. Quickly spinning around, Albus turned to where Harry should have been asleep, but instead he found something awful.
There on the bed was what best could be described as a quivering mass. The boy had unruly black hair that was matted in places, even more of a mess than usual. He laid on his bed half naked, clad only in a pair of boxer shorts slightly ripped along the seams. He was thinner than ever, and you could see various bones on his body as if he were a skeleton. All across his back were lashings, both recent and aged, criss-crossing like some wooded thatch roof. Albus could tell from the quick examination that both of the boy's legs were broken, and that his right arm was twisted in an unconditioned way. His left hand was gripping his pillow in a death grip, but Albus could not tell if the boy was conscious or not. His breathing was shallow and ragged, and Albus could tell that there were more than likely cracked ribs and other internal injuries. Worst of all, he was bleeding profusely from the welts on his back, and Albus cringed as he realized that one of the welts went so deep that the boy's spine was exposed to the outside air.
"My god..." was all Albus could say in a hushed tone, to shocked for words. Next to him Minerva let out a desperate cry, one that Albus responded with by grasping her in his arms in a desperate embrace. "What have I done?" Albus whispered, barely in a voice audible to anyone but himself. He shook his head and pulled his wand out. Tapping Minerva twice on the head with it, he replaced it quickly and turned to her.
"I've just keyed you into the wards temporarily. They should allow you to apparate through. I want you to go straight to Hogwarts, find Madame Pomfrey and tell her to get her emergency portkey and then apparate with her here. Harry's going to be to weak to travel any other way. Do you understand me Minerva?" There was a desperation in Dumbledore's voice that never seemed to be present, and all Minerva could do is stare at the broken form lying on the bed half-conscious, possibly half-dead, and nod her head. Collecting her thoughts as best she could, she focused on her target and popped out of the room. At that moment Dumbledore turned to find the door that had been closed open.
"What is all that racket! I thought I told you to...AHHH FREAKS!!!!" the fat man named Vernon Dursley jumped back into the hallway at the sight of Albus Dumbledore standing over the broken form of his nephew. Vernon had never seen an particularly pissed off wizard before, and this was not a good first impression. Dumbledore stood firm next to Harry, his wand drawn, a scowl across his face, his logical side fighting the rage that was building for the first time in a long time. Dumbledore's eyes glanced down to the wooden switch that was firmly planted in Vernon's hands.
"I assume this is your doing," Albus said with venom filling his voice, mixing with an ice cold tone.
"And what business is it of yours? I will discipline that brat as I see fit!" Vernon slammed his feet on the floor, and dropped the switch. No one was going to push him around in his own house...
...that was the last thought that went through Vernon Dursley's head before being tossed down the hall by way of an expelliarmus from Dumbledore. Hearing the noise Petunia and Dudley came rushing to find what all the commotion was about, eager to punish Harry again, both freezing in their tracks when they saw the real perpetrator. Albus stared down Petunia, who felt as if her very soul was being probed.
"You promised. You promised to treat him as your own. THIS IS HOW YOU TREAT HIM PETUNIA DURSLEY!?" Albus made no effort to hide the anger in his voice, and at his verbal onslaught, Petunia did the only thing she could...faint.
Finally Albus looked down at Dudley and spoke in a firm, but less forceful tone. "Aurors...wizard police...will be arriving shortly to arrest the whole lot of you. I suggest you get to any other family you have immediately." The boy stood firm, but slowly nodded his head. Albus examined him, reading his mind in a flash. He could tell that he was hard on Harry, but more of it was out of a desire for attention from his parents than any particular hatred for Harry.
"P-Professor," came a quiet voice from next to Dumbledore. Albus turned down and saw Harry staring up at him, unable to roll over to his back. In an instant Albus was down on one knee, hugging the boy as best he could.
"Sssshhh...easy now. It's going to be alright." Albus cursed himself infinitely for ever being so blind and careless with the boy. He had to rectify this situation, and he had to do it now.
"I-I'm sorry that...I...I coul..." Harry trailed off and Albus looked into his eyes. They were cold, distant, nowhere near the vibrant green that Dumbledore knew. They shone not with the glory of life but with the look of something far more sinister.
'Merlin' Dumbledore thought to himself, 'He looks like an animal waiting to be put out of its misery.' Albus held back tears and extended his hand. Out of the corner came the trunk and Hedwig's cage, which disturbed the malnourished owl slightly. Dumbledore tapped the trunk once and watched it shrink down to where it could fit in his robes. Pocketing the trunk and his robe, he held onto Harry, as the boy drifted back into unconsciousness.
"It'll be alright Harry, I promise you." A moment later there was a sudden crack and two figures emerged from thin air. Albus looked up at Minerva and Madame Pomfrey, who's eyes were quickly widening.
"My god...what happened..." Dumbledore tried to reassure her, but the crack in his voice clued him into his own failing to keep his composure.
"I'll explain later Poppy, we need to get Mr. Potter to the infirmary at Hogwarts immediately. Did you get the portkey?" Pomfrey simply nodded and handed the headmaster a small wooden board. "Minerva, please take hold of Mr. Potter's owl if you would." At this Minerva grabbed the cage. Albus carefully placed the boy's hand on the portkey and took it as well, closely followed by Pomfrey and McGonagall. Quickly they counted down the seconds to their departure, and before long they had left the horrible nightmare of Privet Drive.
A/N: The letters in Harry's letter spell "SEND HELP." Obvious enough to draw attention from Hermione but subtle enough to escape the drull Dursley censors. Please review, I appreciate all comments and criticisms.