A/N: I realize this story has not been updated in.. well.. over a year. I found this floating around in one of my saved documents folders and it was in full completion, so I figured I would go ahead and upload it. I have not forgotten about this story, but the muse for it seems to have taken an extended holiday. I have received and treasured each review that has been submitted, and I hope you all appreciate this chapter. I will work on writing at least one more, to see the story to its completion, but I make no promises. Thanks for reading. ~D. Mitch
Arthur Weasley had had to pull quite a few strings to borrow a Ministry car for the day to travel to Surrey to pick up one Harry Potter. In a few days' time, Arthur was talking his family to the Quidditch World Cup, along with his youngest son's best friends Hermione Granger and Harry. Hermione's parents had no problems allowing the Ministry to connect their fireplace to the Floo Network for an hour or two, but Harry's relatives, Vernon and Petunia Dursley, hated all things magic and had stoutly refused allowing their home to be associated with anything magic, even for the shortest possible time, as Arthur had found out when he'd used the telephone number Harry had given to Ron in their very first year at Hogwarts and called to request their permission to pick Harry up for the rest of the summer.
He was taken aback by how uniform and perfect all of the houses along Privet Drive appeared to be as he drove along the road in search of Number 4. The house barely looked any different from those around it, though the first thing to catch Arthur's attention was the beautifully kept garden along the house's front. He pulled into the driveway and headed up along the path to the front door, ringing the bell once he was on the stoop. A very rotund boy of thirteen with a dark pink face and blonde hair plastered to the top of his head answered the door.
"Who're you?" he said rudely.
Arthur was caught off-guard by the child's rudeness. "I'm here to pick up your cousin Harry," he told the boy, rightly assuming the child was Harry's cousin Dudley. "Are your parents here?" Considering he had pulled in behind Vernon's car, Arthur had to assume at least one of them was.
"MUM! DAD! Someone's here to get the freak!" the boy shouted, lumbering away from the door, leaving it wide open and Arthur still standing on the stoop.
A thin, horse-faced woman came bustling to the door. "Excuse my son, Mister..?"
"Weasley," Arthur said. "Arthur Weasley. You must be Mrs. Dursley, Harry's aunt? I believe I spoke with you last week about taking Harry for the rest of the summer?"
"Yes, of course," Petunia simpered, giving a rather forced smile. "Please, come in, Mr. Weasley. My husband is upstairs now making sure Harry is ready to go."
Arthur entered, glancing around the foyer and living room he was led into, thinking there was something off about the situation. Something about Petunia's tone of voice and the darting glances she kept sending up the stairs bothered him.
"May I offer you a cup of tea?" Petunia asked, gesturing a tea tray on the table in the living room.
"No, thank you," Arthur declined; he wasn't here to exchange pleasantries with the Dursley family - he was here to pick up Harry. "Is Harry nearly ready? I know my wife and children are very eager to see him, and we've a long drive back home."
At that moment, Vernon Dursley came stomping down the stairs. His fat face was a bright red, his mustache twitching above his lip, and the exertion of walking downstairs, apparently, had the very fat man breathing heavily. "The boy'll be down presently," Vernon said gruffly. Petunia rushed to his side and they shared a hushed conversation while Arthur looked on.
Arthur frowned. "Which room is his? Does he needs help finishing his packing? I'd like to see his room." Something was definitely not right about this situation, and Arthur didn't like it one bit.
"No!" Petunia blurted, face flushing as she turned to face the wizard. "I mean - no, that's all right. I'll just be a minute."
Arthur stood; now he knew something wasn't right. "I would like to see Harry's room myself, thank you, Mrs. Dursley," he said coldly. He pulled his wand and cast a quick point-me charm. Arthur pushed past Petunia and Vernon and followed the direction of his wand, up the stairs and to a room whose door was locked shut - from the outside. He consulted his wand; it was pointing directly at the padlocked door. Surely they didn't keep Harry locked in his room!? It was at that moment that the red-haired wizard caught sight of the cat flap at the bottom of the door. His temper rising, he turned the knob and pushed the door open, glad to see the door wasn't locked at the moment although he had a very bad feeling that it was often kept locked.
The room behind the door was a mess. Broken toys and other items littered the floor; the desk in the corner of the room was falling apart. But what concerned Arthur the most was the threadbare mattress on a rickety metal frame in the far corner of the room. That, and the scrawny, black-haired, green-eyed boy currently digging around underneath said bed.
"Harry?" Arthur said gently, not wanting to startle the child unnecessarily.
Hearing Mr. Weasley's voice, Harry's head jerked upwards, banging against the metal underside of the bed. "OW! Shite, that hurt," the boy cursed, carefully and slowly crawling backwards out from under the bed, one hand coming to the back of his head and gingerly rubbing the spot he'd just banged. "Mr. Weasley, er.. hi." Harry said uncomfortably. In his free hand, he held his Invisibility Cloak, wand, and photo album, his more precious items that he'd hidden underneath the loose floorboard under the bed. When Uncle Vernon had come up moments before, he'd told Harry to gather all of his things because he was leaving. Of course, he hadn't been nearly as nice about it; Uncle Vernon had snatched him from the bed by one arm, landing a terrific wallop to his backside (which was already rather sore from the belting he'd given Harry only a couple of days previous for mouthing off to his aunt), and ordered him to gather his "freakish belongings" because "another freak" was here to get him.
"Hello, Harry," Arthur said calmly, betraying none of the anger he was feeling. What sort of room was this? All the locks, and he hadn't missed the catflap at the bottom of the door. "Are you nearly ready? Packed your trunk?"
Harry suddenly averted his gaze. He hadn't been allowed to pack anything. The few items he'd managed to take from his trunk were cluttered on the broken desk. "Um.. er - not really," he muttered.
Arthur frowned. "You haven't packed?" Granted, he didn't see too many of the boy's belongings in the room, but surely Harry would have packed as soon as he heard Arthur was coming to get him. "Where's your trunk?" he asked, becoming suspicious.
"I... it's.." Harry floundered for something to say; anything that would keep Mr. Weasley from asking any questions. "I can get it; let's go downstairs. Did you see my garden outside? Well, it's really Aunt Petunia's garden, but I work in it a lot, pulling weeds, pruning the bushes,..." He headed for the desk, but Arthur waved his own wand and swiftly shrunk the items before pocketing them. "Aunt Petunia wanted some new flowers planted, but I haven't gotten the chance yet," Harry continued to babble randomly, hoping to distract the older wizard.
"Harry, where is your trunk?" Arthur asked again, a hard edge to his voice. The boy was clearly trying to divert his attention, but it was not going to work.
Harry averted his gaze again, face flushing. He'd never wanted anyone to see just how awful the Dursleys were, and now it was too late! "The cupboard under the stairs," he muttered, knowing he wouldn't be able to get away with not answering. "But I can get it! Really.. you don't need to trouble yourself."
It was too late; Arthur was already halfway down the stairs. He found the cupboard and unlocked it with his wand, stooping to step into the tiny space. He Shrunk Harry's trunk and put it in his pocket. Arthur was about to leave when a faded drawing on the cupboard wall next to the door caught his eye. A very crude child's drawing.
Harry practically raced down the stairs after Arthur, skidding to a stop as he nearly ran head-first into the open cupboard door.
Arthur's eyes narrowed. Why on earth would any child be drawing on the wall inside of a cupboard? This was no ordinary storage cupboard. Arthur seemed to see his surroundings in a new light. The tiny cot crammed into the space, the broken toys jammed underneath it, tattered books placed tenderly on the storage shelves. Had Harry lived here? Arthur backed out of the cupboard, trying to temper his rage. He slammed the cupboard door, causing Harry to jump.
"Harry," Arthur said slowly, "I am going to ask you a question and I expect an honest answer, do you understand me?" His voice was even and determined. "Did your relatives make you live in this cupboard?"
Harry was tempted to lie, to ask Mr. Weasley what in Merlin's name he was talking about, of course they hadn't made him live in a cupboard!, but he caught sight of the dangerous glint in Mr. Weasley's eye. "Un-until I got my letter," he stammered, staring down at the floor in shame.
"We are leaving. Now," Arthur said in a steely voice, "before I do something I regret. Do you have everything, absolutely everything, before we go? Because you are never EVER coming back to this house again." Not if he, Arthur Weasley, had anything to say about it! He wanted nothing more than to go into the sitting room and curse the daylights out of the Dursleys. However, he had Harry to worry about, and his paternal instincts overrode his desire to do Vernon and Petunia Dursley bodily harm. Catching Harry's wide-eyed, terrified nod, Arthur headed directly for the door, Harry on his heels, and out to the borrowed Ministry car he'd driven to Surrey.
Harry wasn't keen on taking a long drive to Ottery St. Catchpole; Vernon's belt had left marks, and a few bruises, on his backside that hadn't faded even after two days and, even with upholstered, cushioned seating, sitting was still highly uncomfortable - particularly since Vernon had reignited the pain with that almighty wallop he'd given Harry when Mr. Weasley arrived at Privet Drive. He tried to get comfortable and not shift around too much, but it was nearly impossible. Fifteen minutes into their drive, Harry was squirming in his seat, trying to find a spot to sit on that didn't hurt. It didn't help that he could sense Mr. Weasley's anger. Despite the man trying to hide it, Harry had spent his entire childhood reading his uncle, for failure to recognize when Vernon Dursley was in a mood could be dangerous.
Arthur had remained relatively quiet, silently observing his young charge from the corner of his eye while he drove. Harry might have been picking up on his anger, but Arthur was picking up on Harry's discomfort. The car was filled with tension, but Arthur didn't trust himself to speak until he'd calmed some. He was a man who brooded quietly, usually, when angry and those that knew him well knew to leave him alone and stay mostly out of sight until he'd calmed. Unfortunately, due to their long drive, Harry didn't have that luxury. Assuming that Harry's squirming and shifting next to him was due to the boy's discomfort with his anger, Arthur forced himself to reign in his anger so he could speak to the boy without scaring him further.
"Harry," Arthur said, breaking the silence after an uncomfortable twenty minutes, "I want you to know I'm not angry with you. I am angry, yes, but at how your relatives have apparently treated you. The locks on your bedroom door, and the catflap?" Arthur shook his head. "And that cupboard? Harry, that is wrong - I am furious at what they have obviously put you through, and that it has been allowed to continue unchecked."
In his seat, Harry fidgeted, gnawing at his lip while Mr. Weasley spoke. Why was he explaining himself to Harry? The boy wasn't quite sure what to say, but Arthur continued.
"That being said, I apologize for frightening you. I should have kept a better hold on my temper when speaking with you."
A look of shock passed Harry's features. Mr. Weasley was apologizing to him? "I-it's okay, Mr. Weasley, really." he said uncomfortably.
"No, it's not," Arthur replied firmly. "Nothing I saw today was 'okay,' and it was most certainly not 'okay' for me to scare you like I did. I saw the fear in your eyes, Harry, and frankly I'm ashamed of myself for putting it there." the man said bluntly. He had seen his children, and even this child, frightened over the prospect of an impending punishment, he'd seen that frozen, scared expression when a child was caught at naughtiness, but never had Arthur seen a look of fear in a child's eyes that he, in his anger, had caused, either by action or by speaking to them. It did not sit well with him that he'd seen it in Harry's.
Harry glanced down, staring at his tatty trainers as they tapped against the floorboard. He opened his mouth, to say what, he didn't know, but the car went over a bump and Harry rose in his seat before bouncing back down. The pain the bounce caused in his backside was sharp and sudden. "Ow!" he blurted, hand immediately coming up to cover his mouth after the cry of pain was expelled.
Arthur glanced over to him in concern. "Ow?" he repeated. "Harry, what's wrong?" The young wizard was quick with his reply, a shaky "no-nothing!", too quick. Arthur checked behind him, ensuring there were no cars on his tail, and pulled over onto the curb, parking the car.
"Harry? Why are you in pain?" the boy's squirming made some more sense now and Arthur silently cursed himself for not having noticed the signs sooner. The boy had been trying to get comfortable almost from the moment they'd gotten into the car and left Privet Drive - his constant squirming and shifting, though he tried to be discreet, was clearly a sign of a well-spanked backside, something that Arthur should have recognized from the start.
Harry blushed furiously, his normally pale cheeks turning bright red, and shook his head, not answering Mr. Weasley's question. However, Arthur was having none of that.
"I can see that you're in pain," Arthur commented softly. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you'd been spanked recently. What happened, son?"
There was that word again, the one that set Harry's insides to fluttering and filled his heart with a happy feeling he'd never known before. How could Harry lie to that? "I was," he muttered. "Uncle Vernon walloped me."
"When?" Arthur asked. The slight frown on his face deepened when Harry answered. Yesterday morning? Unless it had been very harsh, Arthur couldn't understand why Harry would still be in this much pain a day and a half later, and he couldn't imagine Harry having behaved that poorly as to deserve such a harsh punishment. "Can you tell me what happened, Harry?"
Picking at his fingernails, the boy gave a reluctant nod. "I got cheeky with Aunt Petunia; she told Uncle Vernon when he got home and he walloped me with his belt."
Disbelief registered on the elder wizard's face. He'd gotten the belt just for being cheeky? Arthur pulled out his wand and scooted to the middle of the connected front seat.
"Harry," he said gently, "I'm going to heal you, but I would ask that you please show me your bottom. I need to ensure that there is no damage a healing spell alone cannot heal. Okay?" Arthur asked, his voice still soft. Arthur wanted to ensure a healing spell alone would take care of the damage. If there was any broken skin, the boy would need to be given a salve to rub on his bottom when they got home. If what he suspected about Harry's home life was true, it would also give him proof of abuse and strengthen his case to remove Harry from that home.
Harry was mortified at the thought of doing what Mr. Weasley said, but he was really sore and he knew the wizard would not hurt him. Face flaming, Harry gave a miserable nod. He made short work of disrobing and bent himself across Arthur's lap.
Arthur couldn't hide his gasp of shock at the state of Harry's backside. The small bottom was myriad of angry red lines; there were purpling bruises (which Arthur suspected were older than just yesterday's belting) and a few upraised welts still visible on Harry's sit-spots, and in the center of the red bottom, an obvious handprint. The lines, very obviously caused by a severe belting, went nearly to Harry's knees. No wonder the boy hadn't been able to sit still! Overpowering even the fury that was bubbling up inside him was an intense, overwhelming sadness that anyone could treat a child, this child!, so horribly. As a father of seven, he could never imagine hurting his children so. Fighting back the tears that were threatening to come up, at the dismay over such treatment, Arthur waved his wand over Harry's bottom and thighs and murmured the healing spell. The bruises and welts disappeared from Harry's bottom, but the skin was still tinged an angry red. Wand-hand shaking, Arthur repeated the spell and gave a satisfied nod as the boy's bottom returned to its original colour. He could practically feel the tension pouring out of the boy as the pain he was feeling finally, finally went away. Arthur used his wand once more to right Harry's clothing and let the boy up. He squeezed Harry's shoulder as the young wizard beamed his thanks at him.
The rest of the drive was much more enjoyable than the first half hour. Harry was much more comfortable and it showed; he chatted with Mr. Weasley about his third year and his excitement over getting to see the Quidditch World Cup. While Arthur smiled in the right places and made conversation with the boy he considered a seventh son, inside his mind was reeling. There was no way he could consciously allow Harry to return to those horrible excuses for human beings. It was obvious to him that no one had made inquiries into the boy's home life and Arthur was struck by a sense of deep regret that he himself had missed the signs. As far as he was concerned, the Dursleys were guilty of both extreme neglect and also abuse and he'd be damned if he let Harry return to that environment. As they turned onto the exit that would take them to the Burrow, Arthur made up his mind. He would see Harry to the Burrow, but after that - he was going to Hogwarts. Albus Dumbledore had much to answer for.
When Molly came out to greet them, and after she'd given Harry a crushing hug and tutted over his thin appearance, promising him hoards of food that would surely 'put some meat on those bones!', Arthur pulled her off to the side. He handed her Harry's Shrunken belongings and informed his wife that he would be home in time for supper but that he needed to see the Headmaster of Hogwarts, urgent business that couldn't possibly be put off until later. Hugging his wife, Arthur Apparated to the gates of Hogwarts, storming across the grounds and into the castle, not stopping until he reached the gargoyle statue that guarded Dumbledore's office.
"Arthur Weasley here to see the Headmaster on urgent business," he snapped, nodding briskly as the gargoyle leapt to the side. He didn't even wait for the moving staircase to deposit him at Dumbledore's door, but took the stairs two at a time, thrusting the door open.
"Albus Dumbledore, I need a word with you!"
The Headmaster of Hogwarts made his way down the stairs that led into his office from his adjoining quarters. "Arthur, I must say this is a surprise - I wasn't expecting you." If he noticed the man's temper, he failed to address it. "Sherbet lemon?" Dumbledore offered as he made his way to his desk and opened the candy jar, selecting one of the yellow sweets for himself.
"I am not here for sweets, Albus," Arthur said with a hint of contempt. Did the man think of nothing but his bloody lemon sweets? "I'm here concerning something far more important."
Aged brows creased in a gesture of concern. "Of course," the aged wizard replied easily. "Won't you have a seat? I find it is much easier to discuss difficult matters when one is comfortable." As if illustrating his point, he seated himself in the chair behind his desk.
"Harry Potter," Arthur began, availing himself of a chair. "Albus - I am here to demand removal of Harry from the home of Vernon Dursley. The man is little more than a child-abuser and I cannot abide by Harry staying in that home-" he nearly spat the word, for #4 Privet Drive could hardly be considered a home, at least not for the Boy-Who-Lived, "-any longer."
The twinkle so frequently evident in the clear blue eyes of the wizened Headmaster dimmed slightly. "Arthur, Harry must remain with his aunt and uncle."
"He will not," Arthur fairly hissed. "Do you know what I saw upon my arrival to pick Harry up today? Locks on the outside of Harry's bedroom door - if, indeed, you can call it his bedroom. The room looked more like a receptacle for junk and broken toys than a bedroom. That's not to mention the catflap on the bottom of the door. Albus, they lock the child in his room! Do you even realize where Harry lived for eleven years of his life? A boot cupboard under the stairs, Dumbledore!" Arthur could not stop his voice raising. Disbelief shown on the Headmaster's face; either a lack of belief or a refusal to believe what he was hearing.
"The blood wards around the property are necessary prote-"
"DO NOT speak to me about PROTECTION, Albus Dumbledore!" Arthur shouted. "The wards on that house do absolutely NO GOOD if Harry is being persecuted from INSIDE THEM." Arthur forced himself to stop and take in a deep breath. When he had composed himself, or at least as well as he could given the current situation, he continued. "I will not allow Harry to return to that place, Albus."
"What would you have me do, Arthur?" Albus said with a sigh, sounding as if he held the weight of the world on his shoulders. Arthur was not fooled, nor would he be intimated. "Harry must be protected."
"He will be protected. With me and Molly. I intend to adopt the boy, Albus," Arthur informed the man in a voice that brooked no argument. The Headmaster opened his mouth to reply, but Arthur cut him off, pushing himself out of the chair and leaning over Dumbledore's desk. "Harry WILL be coming to the Burrow - and he WILL NOT return to Number 4 Privet Drive. Molly and I are going to adopt him and Merlin help you if you try to interfere, Albus Dumbledore! I will not be manipulated, and no longer will I allow you to manipulate Harry's life to suit your own means. You may be the 'greatest wizard of our age', Albus, but you have made a grievous mistake in your treatment of this boy," Arthur said in a heavy voice. "Do not stand in my way on this matter. For God's sake, Albus, do something right by Harry for once."
With those words, Arthur turned on his heel and left the Headmaster's office.
He was home in time for supper but, though he enjoyed the meal shared with his wife and children, Arthur remained quiet, lost in his thoughts. After supper, he volunteered to help Molly clean up and sent the children off to amuse themselves (of course, that was something they would have done without his direction) so that he could talk to his wife.
"Molly," Arthur said as she started the charm on the sink and set the dishes to washing, "I told Albus that we are taking Harry. I'm petitioning for adoption tomorrow." He went on to explain what he had discovered upon picking Harry up that morning; by the time he had finished, his wife was in tears, her face buried against his shoulder while he held her tightly. Molly had such a soft heart when it came to children and she had considered Harry one of her own practically since she'd met the boy.
"Thank you, Arthur," Molly said once she had her composure back. "Albus Dumbledore will have hell to pay if he tries to interfere with this."