Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Harry Potter world or its characters. If I did, I sure wouldn't be renting this crappy apartment.
Chapter 1 – Dedicated to shadowarwen whom I credit for my discovery of the world of Harry Potter Fan Fiction, and my favourite genre, angst! Somewhere I Belong was the first series I ever read. She's incredibly talented and a super nice person to boot. She's helped me so much with this story, and without her I wouldn't have the courage to post it.
Also, huge thanks to my beta reader Nita. You're wonderful!
"Honestly Ron, if you can't be bothered to send me even one owl this summer, I'll have lost all faith in you completely." Hermione said haughtily.
Ron rolled his eyes at his friend then gave her an imploring gaze from across the carriage.
"Come on 'Mione, you know I'm terrible at writing, and nothing exciting ever happens during the summer. What am I going to send you a bloody owl about anyway; what my Mum's making for tea?"
Hermione sighed dramatically.
"Oh I don't know Ron, what about 'Hello' for starters, then perhaps a 'How are you?'"
Harry couldn't help the brief smile that crossed his face at Hermione's indignation. It was fleeting, tugging at the corners of his mouth for only a moment before his face reverted to its former melancholy state. His eyes never left the window, not really seeing the beauty of the landscape as the Hogwarts Express drew him farther and farther from the safety of the school. He was lost in a jumble of emotions and memories, only half listening to his friend's banter.
The last weeks of school were always the hardest for Harry. The tight knot in his stomach made it almost impossible to eat, and anything he did manage to get down felt like a heavy lead weight in his gut, making him feel nauseas. Nightmares plagued his sleep to the point where he'd done everything in his power to stay awake, and he'd taken to pacing circles in the common room all night just to keep from sleeping.
His friends noticed the dark smudges under his eyes, the pallor that crept into his face, his increasing tenseness and inability to concentrate. They both knew the horror that awaited Harry this summer, though he had sworn them both to secrecy, and a Wizard's oath at that, something they begrudgingly agreed to, but only after Harry's solemn pleas.
His teachers had noticed the changes in him too, it was hard not to. McGonagall was insufferable, making such a huge deal about the school term coming to a close and how wonderful it would be for the students to see their families. Harry wished he was an expert at Transfiguration so he could turn the professor into a houseplant or a jug of pumpkin juice, just something without a mouth would've been fine, anything to stop the woman from prattling on.
She'd even asked Harry to stay behind after class. He'd been panic stricken at first, imagining being dragged to Dumbledore's office and probed for information until he cracked under the pressure. But it wasn't like that at all. She'd come at him with some foolishness about being there for Harry if he needed her, and that if he ever wanted to talk that McGonagall was there to listen.
Harry had played along and told his teacher that she was sad to be leaving his friends and something about it being so unfortunate that he wouldn't get to see them this summer, and McGonagall had bought it hook line and sinker; patting Harry on the shoulder, not noticing him flinch.
She'd left him alone after that.
"You never give Harry a hard time about sending owls." Ron mumbled, breaking the silence and folding his arms across his chest in a huff. Hermione shot him a heated look.
"You know why Harry can't send owls out." she hissed.
Ron's shoulders slumped as the gravity of his friend's situation came back to him.
"Aw sorry mate, I didn't mean it like that." he said to Harry, who was still staring out the window at the countryside, lost in the sound of the train as it raced down the track.
With every passing second it brought him closer to King's Cross Station; closer to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia and ridiculously overweight Dudley. Closer to missing meals, being punished for no reason, and closer to being the furthest away from his real home, Hogwarts, as he could possibly be.
Hearing his name, he turned towards the conversation.
"Huh?" he asked, eyebrows raised. Ron looked over at Hermione, who placed a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"You're thinking about the summer, aren't you?" It was more of a statement than a question. Harry offered her a small smile.
"It won't be that bad, Hermione." he said softly, trying to sound encouraging, but he just ended up sounding rather pitiful. Ron leaned in then, and gave Harry a light slap on the knee.
"I'll send Errol." he said brightly. "You can write back through him." Then Ron frowned. "'Cept he's not really good with directions." he said thoughtfully. "And he's pretty much blind, and bloody stupid at that. And he can't really fly more than twenty feet without smashing into something" He looked up and gave Harry a weak smile of his own. He shrugged, not really knowing what to say next.
Harry chuckled at his friend's clumsy attempt to cheer him up. Leave it to Ron to say something completely stupid and at the same time totally truthful. Harry knew he'd be getting no owls this summer, and he'd be sending none out. Not if Uncle Vernon had anything to say about it.
The summer would be as it had always been. He'd get his impossibly long list of chores as always, and he'd spend the day trying against all odds to finish them. Then Dudley would come along and try to ruin whatever job Harry was trying to get finished. Then, if by some miracle Harry actually did get all his tasks done, Uncle Vernon would accuse him of using his "freakish witchcraft" and stuff him in the cupboard. If he was lucky, Uncle Vernon wouldn't take the belt to him.
But then again, Harry Potter wasn't exactly the luckiest person alive.
The train lurched slightly as it came to rest at Platform 9 ¾. Harry begrudgingly pulled his bag down from the rack and picked up Hedwig's cage. He followed his friends down the hallway when suddenly Hermione came to an abrupt stop, causing Ron to stumble into her, and in turn Harry into Ron.
"Bloody hell, Hermione!" Ron said loudly, righting himself.
"Look!" exclaimed Hermione, ignoring Ron's outburst. She pointed out to the platform. "Look its Snape! He must have come in on the train. I didn't think teachers took the express. I wonder where on earth he's going!"
Harry ducked his head to look out the window. Sure enough there was Professor Snape stalking away from the train into the crowd. Merlin, couldn't the man even walk normally? He wore his usual black attire of course, though he was without a cape. Harry couldn't help but wonder if Snape even owned anything that wasn't black. He imagined Snape relaxing in the dungeons wearing magenta trousers and a canary yellow shirt.
Actually, it would have to be green being a Slytherin and all, and Harry almost burst into giggles at the mental image of Snape gravely stirring a cauldron wearing bright green trousers and a festive lime coloured shirt.
Ron rolled his eyes.
"Who cares!" he exclaimed. "He could be going to McDoogals for a Big Mac and chips for all I care. Its summer hols, 'Mione, who cares what dodgy old Snape is doing."
Hermione threw him a cursed glance and continued her stride down the passage way.
Harry stifled a giggle.
"It's called McDonald's, Ron." he said, smiling, and Ron waved a dismissive hand as he followed Hermione down the corridor.
He was going to miss his friend's mock fights. He even decided he'd miss Hermione's constant nagging, though she referred to it as 'persistent encouragement'.
They stepped down onto the platform where Mrs. Weasley was already waiting; waving frantically each time she spotted one of her children spilling off the train.
"Ron dear!" she called, and Harry stifled another giggle as Ron moaned beside him. Harry watched as Mrs. Weasley enveloped her son in a hug. His heart clenched a little, wishing one day he might be received in such a caring fashion by his family. When Harry had arrived home last year, Aunt Petunia had given him a dirty look accompanied by a "hrmph" noise. She'd ignored him the rest of the evening and sent him to his cupboard without supper.
Suddenly Harry was pulled from his reverie by Mrs. Weasley throwing her arms around him and squeezing him so tight he emitted a little squeak.
"How are you Harry dear?" she asked, letting go of the boy and smoothing down his hair. Harry offered her his brightest smile, trying to ignore the nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn't want Mrs. Weasley to worry.
"I'm great, thank you Ma'am."
Mrs. Weasley clucked happily.
"Such a lovely boy. Such a lovely, polite boy." she grinned, patting Harry's cheek gently. Behind her Ron rolled his eyes in mock annoyance. "Do have a lovely summer Harry." Mrs. Weasley said kindly, and Harry knew she meant it. She really did want him to have a lovely summer. The nervous feeling turned to a nervous sad feeling as he watched Ron's Mother bustling about getting her children in order. He wished he was going home with her. He really did.
"It'll be over before you know it." Ron had whispered to him before giving him a pat on the arm, then following his family off and around the corner.
Harry turned to Hermione who was standing a few feet away with her parents. Sighing, he picked up Hedwig's cage and brought his face up to the bars.
"Be good, girl." he said softly. "I'll see you at the end of the summer." Hedwig gave him a playful nip through the bars, and hooted softly. He slowly handed the cage to Hermione, who gave him a hopeful smile.
"I'll take good care of her, Harry." she said, giving him a hug almost as tight as Mrs. Weasley had. Before letting him go she whispered in his ear. "I'm sorry Harry. If there was any way…" but she broke off, a sob catching in her throat. Harry tightened his grip around his friend.
"I know." he whispered back. "I know."
They released each other, and Harry stood watching as Hermione's parents led her through the swarming crowd. Hermione looked back three times, catching his eyes each time and giving a supportive smile or a little wave.
Then she was gone.
Harry stood alone on the platform, people rushing past him to catch their trains. None of them noticing the thin little boy with disheveled hair and clothes two sizes too big.
Dejected, he pulled his trunk to a bench close to the car park. If Uncle Vernon had to search for him there'd be hell to pay. He sat down and leaned his elbows on top of the trunk, propping his head in his hands.
And so he waited.
Author's Note: It was pointed out to me that Hermione would have lasted about 2 minutes before telling a teacher that Harry was so horribly abused at home. I had my reasons for writing it like that, and this story is AU and definitely not canon, so if it really bothers you that much, just try to ignore it, ok? smiles
Please take a moment to review my story. I'd really appreciate it! It's my very first attempt at fan fiction so be kind!