A/N: Here it is the next chapter. Sorry for the late reply...

Disclaimer: Still not mine.

Chapter 2

The next few weeks of summer holiday passed by in a hurried blur for Harry, receiving only five more 'punishments' from his father, though fortunately none of them left him unable to bend for a week. He was actually grateful that this summer was turning out better than the last one. Now with July coming to an end, Harry's birthday was only days away and that meant he would be receiving his first Hogwarts letter anytime soon.

Ever since his brother returned from school after his first year, he'd heard nothing but Hogwarts this and Hogwarts that, and now that he was finally getting his turn, he could hardly wait much longer. With that considerably pleasant thought in mind, Harry's day started well enough compared to other mornings in the Potter Manor.

He was on his way to the dinning room to have breakfast when Pimpy appeared before him, halting his descent. "Master Harry sir, yous father is having guest over and wants Young Master to have his meal back in his own room." While the elf said this, it was obvious with the way she looked that she disapproved of her orders.

Harry wondered who his father's guests were. As far as he knew, they weren't expecting anyone other than his Uncle Siri and Uncle Remy; they were the only ones that he was allowed to interact with without having to be told to do otherwise.

"Who is it?" Harry asked the elf.

"Pimpy sees that it was Mr and Mrs Longbottom and their son," replied the house-elf.

Harry frowned. His brother may be close to Neville, the Potters and Longbottoms having been close friends throughout the years, but that didn't mean he had to like the chubby boy as well. If truth be told, he would gladly lock himself up in the library whenever the boy came for a visit, which unfortunately was very often. But he knew his brother would always drag him out and that he, Harry, would always be kicking and screaming whenever he did so. It could be said that he was an introverted person who would rather be by himself considering the only contact he got came from his father's 'care'. He wasn't used to attention, though he unknowingly craved for it deep down, any depraved child would.

But probably the main reason why he really disliked being around the other boy so much was the fact that the boy was an extremely conceited git. Just because he was labelled by the wizarding world as the bloody Boy-Who-Lived didn't give him the right to be mean to him all the time. There were numerous of times when he would just love to tell Neville dearest that he wasn't the only one and that he, Harry, had been there as well and that he had survived that night just as he had. But of course he'd never have the guts to tell that to dear Neville, he was after all his father's godson, far more important - Harry was constantly reminded - and furthermore, his father hated being reminded of what had happened that fateful Halloween night just as much as he hated having to see his youngest son's green eyes.

"Pimpy has served Young Master's breakfast in his room and Young Master should go back now before it gets cold," said Pimpy in an ordering voice that made Harry smile.

"Yes, Pimpy. Thank you," said Harry as he trudged back up the stairs.

After his solitary meal, Harry made a beeline to get to the library hoping to avoid his brother and Neville once they were done with their meal. He had spent a good majority of the morning reading up on one of his latest Potions experiments and was pleased with himself for having been able to elude both his brother and Neville. By noon he had left the confines of the library and was to be found stirring a cauldron twice his size, preparing to give his new experiment a try when the dungeon doors opened to reveal the person he'd been trying to avoid all morning enter his private haunt.

"So this is where you hide your hind whenever I come for a visit," came Neville's voice as he entered the high-ceilinged, dark room.

"Nice to see you too, Neville," said Harry dryly not bothering to look up from his cauldron.

Neville looked around the room he'd never been to with an uncharacteristic sneer on his chubby face. "You like coming here?" he asked, staring at the vials of ingredients by the shelves, most of which contained substances there were squiggling and wriggling about.

"Yes, Neville, because I, unlike you, do not spend all my time stuffing magazines on my face trying to read what the people think of the Boy-Who-Lived," said Harry, still determined not look up from what he was doing.

Neville stood still at first at Harry's comment but when he finally realized that he had just been insulted, he marched forward until he was too close for safety of the bubbling cauldron.

"What did you just say, Potter?"

This time Harry did look up with a raised brow to watch the annoyance flitting through the other boy's plump face. "You'd better not say that in front of father. He might think you're being obnoxiously rude."

"You know bloody well who I'm referring to," growled Neville.

"No, I don't, Neville. There are three people with the name Potter in this house. You could either be referring to father, Joshua or me, so you'd better make yourself clear."

Neville smirked and said, "I was talking about you, Harry … the unwanted child."

Harry eyes widened, "Take that back, Neville!"

"Why should I? It is true." gloated Neville. "Uncle James prefers me over you."

"Take it back!" shouted Harry, his bubbling potion forgotten.

"Hurts, doesn't it? The truth?"

Harry was all prepared to dunk Neville's fat head into the boiling cauldron and forever rid himself of his arrogance when the dungeon door opened the second time, admitting a grinning Joshua.

"Hey, there you two are. I've been looking for you for ages." said Joshua, oblivious to the loathing looks the two other boys where giving each other.

Neville seem to come to himself in the presence of the older boy, and his face was all smiles again. "Sorry 'bout that, Josh; I was just looking for Harry. It's been ages since we last saw each other."

"Oh, well in that case, do you guys want to go outside? Uncle Siri wants to hold a pickup Quidditch game," said Joshua, not bothering to enter the dark spaces of the lab.

"Er … sure. I'll … I'll just ask dad to get my broom," replied Neville nervously before exiting the Potions Lab, leaving the two brothers behind.

Once Neville was out of the room, Joshua finally entered the lab and walked straight to his brother. He noticed that Harry was unusually pale and was staring at his cauldron but not registering that its contents were bubbling ominously. He was no brewer unlike his brother, but he had had one too many experiences with exploding cauldrons during his last year to know that this was on the brink of exploding on his brother's pale face.

"Harry," cried Joshua, snapping his fingers in front of his brother to get his attention. "Harry!"

Harry jolted from his reverie and panted as if he'd just ran a marathon, staring at his surroundings with a confused glazed in his eyes. It was only when he saw his brother's worried expression did he remember where he was.

"Are you okay, Har?" asked his brother.

"Yeah … yeah. I'm fine. Crap," said Harry, who, finally realizing that his potion was ruined, tossed a neutralizer into the vat of viscous substance.

Joshua sighed in relief that the potion was no longer going to explode on them, "So are you coming?"

"Coming where?" asked Harry, clearing up his work station and labelling today's experiment as a failure, trying to get his mind off the earlier conversations.

"Quidditch, of course. Uncle Siri is starting a pickup game by the lake," said Joshua, grinning broadly.

"I think I'll pass, Josh. I'm not up for a game today."

"Are you sure you're fine?" pressed his brother.

"Yes, Josh. I just don't want to play." Father will disapprove was left unsaid.

"Alright then. We'll be outside if you need anything." Josh smiled, practically running out of the lab, eager to get back on his broom.

Harry sagged down on his stool; he couldn't believe how much Neville knew about his life when he's tried so hard to hide it whenever they were having company. Was Neville really able to read him that easily or did he just make a lucky guess? No matter which it was, the confrontation completely caught him off guard and shook him to the core; he definitely had to do better once he got to Hogwarts.


The morning of Harry's birthday came the same way it had come for the past ten years, unacknowledged and insignificant. However there was something special today as he would finally be getting his hands on his Hogwarts letter, something he'd been waiting for months.

"Pimpy wishes to wish Young Master Harry a Happy Birthday!" cried the elf, Apparating into his room and carrying a plate of her usual birthday cake especially made for him.

"Thanks, Pimpy," said Harry, getting out of his bed and rubbing the grit out of his eyes.

"Young Master should be getting ready soon, it is almost time for breakfast," piped Pimpy, placing her burden on her master's desk.

"There's no need to rush, Pimpy," replied Harry, sitting on the side of his bed.

"Today is Young Master's birthday and Pimpy has prepared all of Young Master's favourite meals." The house-elf was literally bouncing on the balls of her feet with excitement.

"You didn't have to, Pimpy," said Harry with a slight tone of displeasure in his voice.

Pimpy ignored the tone and continued with her ludicrous bouncing, "Pimpy must. Young Master is turning eleven today and would finally be of age to go to Hogwarts, 'tis a very special day."

It would be even more so if he at least tries to remember, thought Harry sadly, but to the elf he said, "Okay, Pimpy, since you made it, I'll go and get ready."

Pimpy beamed happily at him before Disapparating with a loud pop.

Harry headed for the bathroom connected to his room and got his daily morning rituals out of the way. After he had dressed himself in robes his father would not criticize him with, he got back to his room to make sure he was prepared to face this one day in the year when his father would be even more so critical.

"Happy Birthday, Harry Lilium Potter," he said to his reflection in the mirror, trying to cheer himself up for the long day ahead. His reflection merely smiled sadly back at him, an eerily accurate representation of what he truly felt, and he was off to have breakfast.

By the time he reached the doors that led to the Manor's dinning area, he could already hear his father's voice and he didn't sound very happy. Harry braced himself for the words his father would definitely lash out on him since he knew very well that if anytime his father was already there and he was not, he was late. And it didn't matter whether it was still too early, if his father was already up, then he should have been up an hour earlier. However before he could push the doors open, he heard his father shouting, calling out their house-elf.

"Pimpy!" he heard James Potter cry.

Harry heard a loud pop and knew that the house-elf was now in the company of his father, all alone, never a good thing.

"Yes, sir," came the firm squeak of the elf.

"Tell me why you have prepared all this food in the table? Are we having a party that I'm not aware of?"

"No, Master Potter, sir. But today is Young Master's eleventh birthday and Pimpy thought that it would be good if Young Master is served his favourite meal."

Silence followed the house-elf's words and Harry prayed, prayed that his father would acknowledge his birthday, just this once.

"Joshua and I are going out with the Longbottoms to a Quidditch match today to celebrate Neville's birthday and we will not have time to finish all of these. I want you to clear this all at once. How many times have I told about not wasting food for no apparent reason? You are not to this again, do you hear me?"

Harry's heart sank so low then that he didn't hear Pimpy's defiant protest but he did flinch unconsciously at the sound of something colliding heavily on the stone floor. He couldn't go inside looking like this, therefore he did the one thing he knew he knew best – he ran, furiously wiping the hot tears that were rolling down his pale cheeks. He swore to himself long ago that his father's words would not hurt him anymore and that he would not cry. Crying never did save him from his wretched life. Crying never did stop his father from landing blow after blow on his frail body. And crying never did bring back his mother so as to stop his father. Crying was useless. Crying was for the weak and he vowed never to show weakness again.

But why was it that his father's words could still pain him like this after all these years? He should have gotten used to it by now, but why was he still crying? Why couldn't he stop? Was there something adversely terrible hanging on his head that his own father would treat him as such? For once couldn't his father just see beyond his veiled eyes and find a lost little boy who craved nothing more than his father's love?

He was running through the halls of their Manor, not knowing where his feet were leading him, just as long as they took him far away from anyone as possible, unknown to him that slowly a piece of himself was dying.


The Hogwarts acceptance letter was held tightly in his hands; it had arrived by owl shortly after his father and brother left for the Quidditch game with the Longbottoms and the enthusiastic smile that should be on his face as he read through the letter was absent. Here it was the missive that would free him from his father's hold and scrutiny. For a long time now he's imagined that when this day came, his parents and brother would be behind him, smiling proudly at him. Yet here he was now, sitting all alone in an empty Manor with no one to share the most important milestone in his young life. He wasn't sad because he really didn't have much energy left from this morning to feel anything else.

But in the instance that he did have energy to spare for any emotions, the apt emotion that he would be feeling would be termed 'hollow'. He no longer expected anything overtly familial from his family. He was now alone, he knew that now. He loved his brother dearly but he knew Joshua was too scared of their father to actually disobey the man and Uncle Siri and Uncle Remy would just play blind on the things his father did so as not to cause a problem.

He was on his own.

Folding the letter back into its envelope, Harry proceeded to the lab to clear his head and to get a start on that potion Neville ruined before he got to Hogwarts and became too busy for his favourite relaxation. As he walked through the silent halls of Potter Manor, he ignored the sudden dull ache that sprang from his 'hollowed' chest.

A/N: Hang in there, I'll try to get the next chapter out as fast as i can...