Disclaimer: Obviously, I don't own "Harry Potter". It belongs to J.K. Rowling, but she is kind enough to let us play in her universe. Thank you, Ms. Rowling!
Author's Notes: Hi, everyone! I started writing this story because I just couldn't stop myself from falling in love with it. It is completely unrelated to my other fics. I have to be honest and say that my other big story, "HP and the Potions Professor" is my first commitment, so "Slave Child" may not be updated as regularly as "Potions Professor." But I won't abandon it, and I will try to update as often as I can.
This story does deal with some sensitive issues, mainly slavery and suicide. I'll do my best to handle them with respect.
I hope you'll enjoy my newest baby, and thank you for reading! If you enjoy reading the story, I'd really enjoy reading your reviews, too! hint, hint
Now, let's go back to the last evening of Harry's fifth year…
The end of term feast was usually a happy event at Hogwarts. Students and staff alike celebrated the close of another school year and the beginning of summer. For the past two years, though, the feast had been a solemn affair.
The year before had been bleak as Hogwarts mourned the loss of top student Cedric Diggory and feared the rumors of the Dark Lord's return. This year those rumors had been confirmed as truth, and though there was some lighthearted chatter and laughter, the overall mood was tense as people wondered what the upcoming months would bring.
Several students seemed especially somber; a small girl with long bushy brown hair, a lanky boy with freckles and flame-colored hair, another girl who bore a resemblance to him though her hair was a darker red and her few freckles were limited to a light sprinkling across her nose, and a nondescript boy with mousy hair and a mournful round face.
"We should have made him come," the bushy-haired girl murmured to no one in particular as she absent-mindedly used her fork to push food around on her plate.
"He wanted to be alone for a little while," the tall boy responded in a dull voice. "He'll come in a few minutes, Hermione."
"No, he won't," Hermione sighed. "We better take some food back for him, not that he'll eat it. Harry hasn't eaten enough to keep an owl alive ever since…well, you know." She ignored the fact that she herself had only had a few bites of dinner.
"I wish there was something we could do to help," Ginny said softly.
"If only Dumbledore would let Harry come to us over the summer," Ron exclaimed, his normal friendly tone sounding almost bitter. "I know we could help him. We'd sure be better than those awful Dursleys. Harry doesn't need to go back to them now. They're the last thing he needs."
"Why can't he stay with you?" Neville Longbottom asked. "What does Dumbledore have to do with it?"
"I'm not exactly sure," Ron admitted. "But Mum and Dad wanted Harry to stay with us last summer, after the Triwizard Tournament, you know. But they mentioned something about it in front of Dumbledore and he said Harry had to stay with his aunt and uncle. Mum got really upset with him, too, but then Dumbledore took them off alone and they talked for awhile, and when they came out, Mum and Dad said that Harry was going to come for the Quidditch World Cup, but that he couldn't come for the whole summer."
"There's got to be something someone can do," Hermione insisted after a minute. "Ron's right. Harry hates the Dursleys and having to go to them now, of all times…it'll be horrible for him. He needs to be with us."
"Well, Mum and Dad are going to have Harry come as soon as possible, Mum said by midnight on August 1st, so that's better than nothing," Ginny tried to sound encouraging, but only succeeded in sounding desperate.
The four friends stared at one another in hopeless sorrow before turning their attention back to their plates. No one spoke for the remainder of the feast.
Harry never joined them.
He almost did.
Harry didn't know how long he lingered in the entrance hall, debating whether he should go to his friends at the feast, find Luna and help her search for her lost belongings, or go back up to Gryffindor Tower and crawl into bed.
Or maybe he could find some lonely spot in the castle, curl up, and wait to die.
That idea had its merits. Harry was a little surprised at how often he'd been thinking of death the past few days; wondering what it would be like, imagining a reunion with Sirius and his parents, never having to worry about Voldemort and Death Eaters again…
But he couldn't die right now. He had to kill Voldemort first, because he was the only one who could, according to Dumbledore. Harry squeezed his eyes tightly shut, wishing there were a way he could escape the memories that had played constantly through his mind for the past week. When he wasn't seeing Sirius fall through the veil in the Department of Mysteries, a casualty of Harry's ignorance, then he was seeing Dumbledore's sorrowful face and hearing his quiet voice explaining about the prophecy.
The cursed prophecy that had cost Sirius his life, and had stolen Harry's only chance to have a parent figure and a real family, the prophecy that had marked Harry as either a victim or a murderer.
And while life seemed empty and dark right now…while Harry had never, ever wanted to kill anyone or even hurt them really, he knew he couldn't let Voldemort win. He crossed over to the arched doorway leading to the Great Hall and peered in.
The Hall was bright with hundreds of flickering candles suspended in mid-air, high above the students' heads. The enchanted ceiling was dark with night now, but there was a glowing three-quarter moon and twinkling stars, and there were flaming torches affixed to the stone walls between the high leaded windows.
The four long House tables were crowded with students, everyone wearing their black robes over their school uniforms and eating their fill of the sumptious foods piled high on silver platters. Voices filled the air, and occasional laughter, but at the same time, the mood seemed slightly ominous.
The professors sat at the staff table at the far end of the Hall, and many of them looked worried. Dumbledore, with his crimson robes embroidered with gold spangles and his long snowy hair and beard, was a bright spot among the faculty, most of whom wore black or brown though Professor McGonagall had a tartan shawl draped over her shoulders. Despite his dazzling clothes, Dumbledore looked grim and he wasn't eating at all, but talking quietly with Professor McGonagall who was listening intently.
At least Umbridge wasn't there, Harry thought with uncharacteristic smugness. But after all the torment Toad Lady had put him through over the past year, Harry thought he was justified in feeling a sense of satisfaction over her defeat.
Snape wasn't there either, and Harry wondered fleetingly if the Potions Master had been summoned to his duty as a spy against Voldemort. Remembering how Snape had sneered at him when Harry had tried to tell him about his vision of Sirius, as well as all the other cruelties the professor inflicted on him, Harry decided that he didn't really care about Snape's welfare.
Dismissing thoughts of his hated professor, Harry searched among the faces at the Gryffindor table until he found his closest friends. Life wasn't completely empty, he reminded himself. He still had Hermione and Ron, and Ginny and the other Weasleys, too. He had other friends, like Neville and Luna, who had risked their own lives to help him. A warm feeling slowly spread through him as he watched. His friends, the only family he would ever have now.
He started to go to them, but then he thought of how it would be…Hermione would heap food on his plate and lecture him about not eating or sleeping enough, Ron and Ginny would go on about how they would miss him and how they wished he could go to the Burrow with them, as if he had any choice in the matter. That would make him think of the Dursleys and the long hard summer ahead, which Harry was trying not to think of. They would all try too hard to cheer him up, talking about Quidditch or harmless school gossip, and Harry would have to try to look as if he were interested because he didn't want to hurt them.
Suddenly, it just seemed impossible to summon up the energy to deal with all that.
Harry turned and headed for the stairs. He would go back to the Tower and go to bed. If he were lucky, perhaps he could sleep tonight…a deep dreamless sleep that would last the entire summer, preferably.
He was almost to the stairs when he heard a soft sound behind him and something made him spin around. Apparently he and Luna weren't the only students who had decided to skip the feast. A tall blond boy with grey eyes had stepped into the entrance hall from the corridor that led down to the dungeons.
"Potter!" He hissed. "I'm surprised to see you without your bodyguards."
"That's rich, Malfoy, coming from you. Where are those lumbering goons you call friends?" Harry responded. Before Draco could answer, he went on, "Oh, I know. They must have scented food and their little pea-sized brains couldn't retain any other thoughts."
"I've been waiting for this moment. Just you and me. It's your fault my father's in Azkaban, and you're going to pay!" Draco's eyes glittered with contained fury as he whipped out his wand and pointed it at Harry.
Harry didn't recognize the incantation the other boy shouted, but he reacted instantaneously, throwing up a Shield Charm and then rapidly sending a Jelly-Legs jinx back at his opponent.
Draco's legs immediately began jerking and twitching but he ignored them, already beginning to say another hex, when a third figure joined them. The man who stepped out of the shadowy alcove by the stairs was lean, with pale skin and hair as black as a raven's wing. He wore black robes trimmed with emerald and silver braid, and his dark boots glided silently over the stone floor as he approached the boys. It was difficult to guess his age. He moved with the lithe grace of young man, but his face was lined with bitter experience.
Life had never been kind to Severus Snape.
"Hexing another student, Potter?" His voice was cool, but his obsidian eyes blazed. "That's clearly against Hogwarts' rules. Ten points from Gryffindor. If you weren't leaving tomorrow, I'd give you detention as well. But there's always next year. Mr. Malfoy, remind me that Potter owes me a detention when we return in the fall." He waved his wand at Draco and the blond boy was released from the Jelly-Legs jinx.
Harry glared furiously, but he didn't bother arguing. It wouldn't change anything. Snape never listened to Harry's side. For that matter, he never believed Harry had a side. He could probably watch Draco hex Harry and still find a way to make it Harry's fault.
Without a word, Harry turned his back on both Snape and Malfoy and took another step towards the stairs. Snape watched him go, a triumphant gleam in his eyes. Neither of them noticed Draco raise his wand again and mutter a low incantation.
The curse hit Harry squarely in the middle of his back. He lost consciousness, and slumped forward. He would have taken a nasty fall if Snape hadn't sprung forward and caught him.
The professor stared down at Harry in amazement for a second, as if he couldn't believe he was holding Harry Potter in his arms. Then he looked up at Draco. His voice was cold as ice.
"What in Merlin's name have you done, Draco? What spell was that?"