Author's Note: Here it is, the sequel to "What is Right". This story won't make a lot of sense if you haven't read the first one. Go read that first, and then come back to this one. ;)
WHAT IS RIGHT: YEAR TWO
Harry stepped out of the loo and disappeared through the backdoor of the Leaky Cauldron. He had changed out of his school uniform and into nondescript clothing and a deep-cowled cloak. His trunk was in his pocket, shrunken at school and hidden away. He had sent his relatives a letter two weeks ago, informing them that he had his own transportation home and that he would see them soon. He hadn't received a reply telling him not to come home, so he figured that they weren't too angry with him. Or, he hoped that they weren't too angry with him.
He slipped through the archway and walked towards Knockturn Alley. His flat was located just off Knockturn Alley in a place called Spider Warren. The name fit, as tiny and damp flats were mere pockets in a cramped and dilapidated neighborhood. Poverty was apparent and obviously living well in Spider Warren. That type of neighborhood made it perfect for Harry. Everyone was too occupied in his own worries and woe to notice one small person as he walked around. Harry was more anonymous here than he was with the Dursleys.
Harry turned onto Spider Warren and picked up his pace. The best way to conduct oneself in such a neighborhood was to walk with a purpose and never make eye contact. People assumed things with a person like that, no matter their appearance. Moreover, Harry was left alone, which is exactly what he wanted.
He located his building and cautiously walked up the grimy boards that passed for a stairway. A man was slumped against the wall, drunk and oblivious to everything around him. Harry tiptoed past him and made it to the second story flat he had rented at Christmas. He took out the key and opened his door to slip inside his first honest-to-goodness private dwelling.
The flat was just as he left it. The kitchen was stark, nothing more than a few crates to act as cabinets and a small pot-bellied stove. There was a rickety kitchen table with two chairs, but Harry didn't yet trust them to hold his weight. A small sink, complete with spigot, gave out cold water. The sitting room was more like an extension of the kitchen, with a broken down couch and a wobbly coffee table. More crates were stacked in the corner of the living room. The proprietor, a rather frightening individual with garlicky breath, had called the crates bookshelves. A window in the sitting room looked out at another building. To the right of the kitchen was Harry's bedroom. It had an old iron bedstead and a scuffed nightstand. A wardrobe that no longer held a rod for hanging clothes stood in the corner. Harry had to share the bath with the other tenants down the hall. He knew he would be taking many of his baths in his rooms, with water heated from his sink. He looked around his flat and smiled to himself. It was his.
Harry removed his trunk and reversed the shrinking charm. The trunk returned to its original size and Harry opened it. First things first. He needed to clean the place up a bit. He pulled out the miniature bucket of cleaning supplies he had purchased in Hogsmeade, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work. First thing to be washed was his window. He tacked up a cloth to act as a curtain and turned towards the kitchen with a determined air. Two hours later, Harry finished cleaning and started to set up his belongings. He didn't want anything magical to make it to the Dursleys at all...except for him and his wand. His books and school textbooks were stacked into the crates. His cauldron and potions ingredients found their own crate set over in the corner. Most of his clothing made it into the freshly scrubbed wardrobe and Harry was pleased to find cedar under all the grime. His photo album was placed in the nightstand and several other objects, like the Gobstones he had received from Terry at Christmas made their home in another crate. His kitchen was still bare and he decided that it was time to find some food and utensils.
He warded and locked his apartment and slipped past the drunken man again to get outside. He turned right out the building and headed for the closest shopping area he could find. The main storefronts of Knockturn Alley were mostly for show, and most residents of Knockturn Alley did not bother doing their shopping there. Most stayed within their own neighborhoods and used the local shops for their needs. Harry found a secondhand shop and ducked inside to see what he could find for his kitchen. He discovered that this was very much like a thrift shop he was used to wandering through while living with the Dursleys. There was absolutely no organization. One simply had to dig through piles of objects and hope for the best.
Harry acquired a basket to hold his shopping and started on the likeliest pile of odds and ends. Almost five minutes of solid searching produced a dented saucepan and another few minutes of digging gave him a mismatched set of three forks, spoons and knives. He ducked back in, thinking that surely, this pile was for kitchen items and discovered a spatula, a bent out of shape whisk, and a large fork and spoon made for cooking. He added that to his basket and prayed to whatever deity there was that he could also find a frying pan. He moved to another pile and found his frying pan beneath a stack of dirty, bent, and practically exploded cauldrons. Harry had to wonder if any of them had ever belonged to Neville Longbottom. He chose the least shabby one and added it to his finds.
He moved to the next pile and ignored a young woman also rooting through the piles. He nearly cheered when he discovered an entire carton of mismatched plates, bowls, saucers and cups. He snatched that and put it into his basket. He found a few cracked glasses a Reparo charm could fix and decided that that should be enough to get him started. He made a quick run through the books and selected a few that looked like interesting recreational reading. He carried his basket up to the counter and allowed the clerk to tally everything. He paid his money, accepted the box of goods and left the store for a small grocery the next street over.
A quick run through gave him enough for tonight before he needed to return to the Dursleys. He rushed back to his apartment and put everything away. It was very relaxing, arranging his flat to his liking. It was so relaxing that his headache from earlier had almost gone away by the time he stopped that evening and looked around his flat. His. All his without the interference of anyone else. It suited him.
The trip to the Dursleys took less time than he liked. It was late and he knew that the Dursleys would be going to bed in just a few minutes. He didn't want to wake them, as that would be a bad start to his two weeks here with his relatives. He dragged himself up the front walk and let himself into the house. Vernon stuck his head out of the sitting room, grunted what Harry supposed was a greeting, and disappeared. Aunt Petunia appeared from the kitchen and stared at Harry for a few seconds. "Back, are you?"
"Yes, Aunt Petunia." Harry told her.
"They're keeping all of your abnormal things?"
"Yes." Harry held his small bag of essentials. "Only clothes."
"You're in Dudley's second bedroom. You're too big for your cupboard now. Move your things up there and then I want you to go to bed."
"Yes, ma'am." Harry ducked up the stairs and entered Dudley's (unlocked!) bedroom. He dropped his bag on the bed and shrugged off his jacket. He hung up his jacket in the wardrobe and unpacked the eight days worth of clothes he had brought with him. He found his pajamas in the bottom of the bag and Harry slipped into them, turned off the lights, and dropped into bed. He'd rather sleep than deal with his relatives.
Harry crept out of the house just before dawn and called the Knight Bus to take him to Diagon Alley. He spent the day at the public library just two streets over from Spider Warren and found that while many of the books were out of date, there was also a good selection of books similar to what the Malfoys had. The librarian, a phlegmatic woman interested only in steamy romance novels, had only waved Harry towards the section on Dark Magic, barely glancing at him. It seemed that children could get away with anything they wished in Spider Warren. Harry planned to exploit it. Badly.
Vernon was not happy when Harry showed up after dark that night, but hadn't said anything beyond "Get to bed." Harry had taken those directions seriously and fell into bed just moments later. He had worked out that morning and then spent the whole day in a study cubicle at the library. Researching Dark Magic and how it worked had exhausted him in ways that he had forgotten existed. It just took something from him to sit there and read about people being tortured for mere seconds of unimaginable power.
His second day passed much the same as the first, with him leaving Privet Drive early in the morning, going to Spider Warren, and then cloistering himself in the library with the books on Dark Magic. He had found a little store that offered pathetic looking sandwiches and chips that actually tasted pretty good, so most of his lunches started becoming hot lunches at that counter. The man who ran the place, a Squib called Laurence, had an odd sense of humor. He had named his little shop "Squibby's".
Harry spent one week in and out of Spider Warren. Laurence had taken to calling him "Squib Junior", as the only people that dared to frequent Squibby's were Squibs. The nickname was shortened to JR by the end of the week.
Harry shut the book on the history of Dark Magic, ran a hand across his throbbing eyes, and decided that it was time for lunch at Squibby's. He felt drained and thought that food would be a good idea to perk him up a bit. He ducked out of the library and entered the shop a few minutes later. "JR! Good of you to make it!"
"Hi, Laurence." Harry said as he hoisted himself up into his usual seat at the counter. "How's business today?"
"Same as yesterday. Only squibs!" This seemed to strike Laurence as funny, for he snorted to himself. "Your usual?"
"Mmm, yes please." Harry said as he started to toy with the paper napkin dispenser.
"Righto." Laurence disappeared into the back and returned a few seconds later with a plate for Harry. "With vinegar for your chips." He said, placing a small bottle next to the plate.
"Thank you." Harry paid his bill and then started in on his chips. His teacher would lecture about proper nutrition, but Harry found that his voice was starting to fade over time. He liked that. He could do what he wanted without worrying about what a ghost from his past would say.
"I hope you don't mind me saying, JR, but you look like you went through the wringer."
"Just tired." Harry admitted. As a matter of fact, he had been tired since two days before he left Hogwarts. Today, he had woken up with a blinding headache and aches in his joints. He figured it was a slight touch of exhaustion and he done only a light workout that morning. A headache potion had cleared up a bit of the pain, but it was slowly returning.
"Uh-huh. No offense, kid, but you should tell your mum to tuck you into bed for a few days. You look like you're sick."
"Thanks, Laurence. I'm fine. Besides, it's just me. No mum. No dad. Just me and some guardians that forget I exist from time to time." Harry muttered the last sentence to himself.
"Well, then. Make sure you take care of yourself. Know when to quit."
"I'll keep an eye on myself." Harry finished his lunch and avoided the topic of himself for the rest of the time. Instead, he asked Laurence about why he had wanted a sandwich shop. The story lasted through the rest of what Harry could eat and Harry left Laurence to return to his books. He was fine for about an hour and then he found himself in the bathroom, becoming acquainted with what his lunch looked like after it had been eaten.
Harry lurched home on the Muggle train. He couldn't stand the thought of riding the Knight Bus in his current state. He sat wrapped in his jacket, dozing lightly until the conductor shook him awake at his stop. It was a thirty minute walk to the Dursleys, and he had never been happier to see their little cookie cutter house before. He let himself into the house and heard the family eating dinner. His stomach churned at the thought of food and he decided that he should just head upstairs. He must have made some sort of noise coming in, for Vernon appeared and grabbed Harry. The shouting almost drowned out the sound of Harry's pounding head. Vernon cuffed him and Harry's head started feeling like an earthquake. His uncle pulled him up the stairs. Harry opened his eyes against the pounding and nearly groaned. The door locks and cat flaps were back. Harry tried to pull away from the man and was backhanded for his troubles. Vernon tossed him into the room and Harry heard the locks. "NOT A SOUND!" Vernon bellowed from outside the door.
Not a sound? Fine by me. Harry rolled over and squinted through the gloom. His window had bars. He gaped for a moment. Vernon had gone overboard with the bars. There was a set of bars outside his window, yes, the little decorative ones that had been there before, but there was another set inside the window. Heavier bars that were obviously going to be troublesome when it was time to leave. The door would be a better option. Take it off the hinges. First objective: reach the bed. He pushed himself up off the floor and noticed a new symptom. He was dizzy. Lovely. I think I am sick. Stupid Laurence, needing to be right all the time. This is not going to be fun.
Lucius Malfoy was experiencing a strange emotion that he was having difficulty naming. His son had come home from Hogwarts full of tales about his new friend, Harry Potter. The boy then proceeded to pester his parents about inviting Harry Potter for a visit during the summer hols. While that was not a problem, the lack of communication from the boy was proving troublesome. How was one to have the Boy-Who-Lived come for a visit if the boy refused to respond? The worst part of it was the fact that Narcissa was now becoming "concerned".
This state of affairs led to his current state, riding in a hired Ministry vehicle, on his way to the boy's Muggle home. A quick word in the Minister's ear had allowed for the vehicle, but it was still a rather uncomfortable ride. Lucius had wanted to come alone, but Draco had insisted and then, when Lucius was about to order the boy to stay home, Narcissa had told Lucius that it was a good idea for Draco to go along.
The Ministry car pulled up in front of a dismal little house in an entirely Muggle neighborhood. Lucius's face twitched, and his thoughts gave away his true feelings. Eugh. How does one live here? "Please wait here, driver." Lucius said as he climbed out of the car. "You too, Draco."
"I want to come with you." Draco said calmly, going for what Lucius and Narcissa were secretly calling his "mature" look. Quite endearing.
"And you are still an underage wizard with little knowledge of the situation. You are staying here." Mr. Malfoy shut the door on Draco and told the driver to watch the boy. The squib mentioned something about child locks and pushed a button next to his seat. Lucius only smirked when he saw Draco try to open the door and fail.
He left the car and went up the walkway. He paused at the doorway, preparing himself to enter Muggle territory, and knocked on the door. He heard a child's voice bellow for his mother. That is NOT Harry Potter.
A thin woman opened the door. "Yes?" She paused and took in his expensive Muggle suit and walking stick. "May I help you?"
"Are you Mrs. Dursley?"
"Yes. What can I do for you?"
Any number of things, Muggle. "My name is Lucius Malfoy. I am here to enquire about your nephew."
"My nephew?" Her voice took on a sharp tone, and her eyes narrowed suspiciously. Interesting reaction.
"Yes, is Mr. Potter at home?"
"You're one of them." The loathing in her voice for everything magical was clear. A very telling comment. Things may be easier with Mr. Potter than I previously thought.
"If you mean wizards, then yes, I am. I am Lord Lucius Malfoy, a member of the Wizengamot and on the Board of Governors for Hogwarts and-"
"I don't care who you are. Just leave." She started to shut the door and Lucius put out a hand to stop her.
"Madam, I am here as an official of the Ministry." It wasn't exactly true, but she was a Muggle. "The Minister himself is concerned about certain rumors he had heard..." Lucius paused and saw several people peering over their hedges. "Perhaps we could take this conversation inside?" The woman glanced around before stepping back to allow him to enter.
"Do come in." She fairly spat at him.
"Thank you." He entered the house and the door swung shut behind him. He looked around. The Boy Who Lived...in Squalor. "Now, where is Mr. Potter?"
"What rumors?" She asked.
"I'm afraid that only Mr. Potter can help with those." Lucius told him, affability in his voice. "If you would just tell me where I might find him..."
"I'll show you!" A round ball of a boy waddled out of the sitting room. "He's upstairs!"
"Shut up, Mum! I want the freak gone!" Lucius only raised an eyebrow instead of his wand and followed the boy up the stairs. "He's in there. Good luck getting him out." The boy turned away, hesitated for a moment, and then turned back. "I think my father was trying to teach him to be normal. I can hear it." With those odd words, the boy waddled back down the stairs. What an odd creature.
Lucius turned back to the door and studied it for a moment. They were all straightforward locks. He reached out a gloved hand and opened each lock. He didn't hear anything on the other side of the door. He opened the door and entered.
The room was small and gloomy. Trash and old food littered the area in front of the cat flap. He paused for a moment and stared. There was a fugue of sickness in the room. There was no boy. "Mr. Potter?" The door was locked. There are bars on the window. Where did he go? Right. Think like a child. He looked around for a few seconds before moving to the wardrobe. He opened it and pawed through the meager clothing. Nothing. He turned and considered the bed. Surely, he can't fit under there. He grimaced and cast a quick Scourgify at the floor before lowering himself down to peer under the bed. He was not disappointed. There, curled in a ratty blanket, was the Boy Who Lived.
"Mr. Potter?" He said softly. The child did not respond. "Mr. Potter?" Nothing. Mr. Malfoy cast a Bubblehead charm on him, just in case he was contagious, and reached out a hand. He could barely touch the child, as the boy had pushed himself as far back as he could. His fingers encountered the blanket and he tugged, hoping that the child would come with it. The boy did come with the blanket and Mr. Malfoy nearly left him to murder the Muggles. Without a qualm.
Do those Muggles have no brains at all? He wrapped the boy in the blanket and stood. "Accio Potter's wand!" The wand rolled out from under the bed and he reached down to pocket it. Everything here can be replaced. Where in the world is his trunk?
He left the bedroom and went down the stairs. The Muggle woman was standing there. "Out of my way, Muggle." Mr. Malfoy snarled. She scurried away.
"Don't bring him back here!" She called out as the kitchen door swung shut behind her.
"I won't." he muttered as he left the house. He rushed down the walk and opened the car door. "Driver, to St. Mungos, as fast as possible."
"Father, what's wrong with Harry?"
"He's ill, son. Don't come too close." No need for Draco to see the worst injuries I've seen on a child.
"Will he be alright?" Worry tinged Draco's question.
"I hope so."
Harry existed in Hell. He hurt all over, he froze and burned at the same time, and he couldn't wake up long enough to get his potions that would ease some of the pain. His uncle only made things worse. Nothing like before, but physical abuse was bad enough. It was something he understood, something he could deal with, but he couldn't understand that.
He felt the charm around his neck burn more than once while this was all going on. He heard frantic voices, demanding if he was in danger, but he hadn't had the strength to answer. The charm continued to burn, and he had heard his uncle rave about freakishness more than once when his hand landed on the charm. It only made things worse, whatever had happened, for the thrashings became harder, and no place on Harry's body was spared. Harry was sure he was one massive bruise. Killing me would be a mercy. He almost laughed at the irony.
He thought it couldn't get worse. He really did. It got worse. Vernon had come in with his belt, practically gleeful, and informed a barely conscious Harry that Vernon's dear friend Wilson had a certain affinity for little boys. Harry sicked up immediately. He remembered that name. He could still smell him, that horrid aftershave, his clammy hands. Vernon laughed at the look on Harry's face and almost crooned that Wilson liked his boys obedient and raised the belt. Harry closed his eyes and prayed for the first time since entering training. Please let him kill me. He lost all awareness, knowing that the next time he woke, if he did, he would be in his own worst nightmare, unable to escape.
He swam up towards awareness, fighting to hold onto the outside world. He was laying on something soft. He heard a faint chime every minute or so. Soft music played in the background. He felt detached from everything. It took him a moment to remember what happened. Vernon. Wilson. Oh, no. No, no. He stopped to take a small breath. This is a step up from the Dursleys. At least I don't hurt too badly. Must get out of here.
He gathered his strength and opened his eyes. They fell shut almost immediately. He was in a dark room. He heard a bell ring in the distance. So tired. He fought to open his eyes again. I can't stay here. Lights started to come on in the room. He squinted and opened his eyes again. His eyes fell on the cast on his leg. Hmm. That might prove problematic. His bed was a hospital bed with the railings raised. Also problematic. A woman walked into his room carrying a tray with potions on it.
"Oh, thank goodness!" She disappeared back out the door. Harry only stared at the doorway in confusion before throwing aside the covers and edging towards the side of the bed. She returned not even thirty seconds later with a man in tow.
"It's good to see you awake, Mr. Potter." The man said as he came in. "I'm Healer Morrison. Let's get you back under the covers." Healer Morrison didn't wait for agreement; he just nudged Harry back into position and covered him. "Okay, I'll make this fast so you can get some more rest." He pulled out his wand and waved it. Harry recognized the diagnostic spell. His Healer during training had used the same spell every time he encountered Harry, whether Harry was injured or not. "We were becoming quite concerned about you. How are you feeling?"
Harry croaked and the nurse smiled at him. "Would you like some water?" She asked softly. Harry nodded and she poured some water out of a pitcher into a glass. "You shouldn't try to sit up on your own. I'm just going to raise your bed, alright?" Harry nodded again and she cranked the bed into a sitting position. "Okay, sweetie. Only a sip, but you can have a bit more in a few minutes. Just take it slow." Harry tried to take the glass from her, but she only shook her head and held the glass to his lips. I am not glass. I will not break.
"How do you feel, Mr. Potter?" the doctor asked again.
"Physically weak. Tired. Drained." Harry stopped for a moment. "Incredibly sore. What's wrong with me?"
"You were brought in with a number of things, both wizarding and Muggle. You gave us quite a scare more than once, with one thing advancing into another. You were also injured severely. Do you remember anything?"
Nothing I'm sharing with you. "No, sir." Harry said softly. "May I go back to sleep? I'm still tired."
"And you will be for a very long time. You've been ill for a while, Mr. Potter. A long while, a month, if I guess correctly." Harry frowned at nothing. This was not good. "You've been here for six days, asleep mostly, though you did wake up once, look around and then went back to sleep. I'm glad to see you back with the world. Nurse Smith will help you with anything you need and get you something to eat. I know you may not feel up to eating, but you should try to eat something. You're dangerously underweight. I'll let your guardians know how you're doing and be back to check on you in a little while."
Guardians? Guardians! The Dursleys are here? Not good, not good at all. The faint chiming grew faster and Harry realized it was the magical version on a heart monitor. "Harry, what's wrong?" Nurse Smith asked.
"My relatives are here?" He tried to slow down his breathing, but all he could think of was that Vernon had brought Wilson.
"No, sweetie. Your relatives are not here. Your guardians are though, sitting in the waiting room. Did you want to see them?" She asked, lowering his bed and smoothing the blankets.
"No," Harry said softly. "Can I go back to sleep?" He injected a bit of a whine into his voice.
"Of course, sweetie. I'll be back in a little while with something for you to eat, but sleep as much as you want. Okay?" Nurse Smith covered him with blankets and smiled at him before disappearing from the room. The lights faded away to almost nothing and Harry relaxed. He would need to get out of here before too long, but for now, the bed was soft and he felt so tired. A little nap wouldn't hurt. He closed his eyes and sighed. This was much better than the Dursleys.