AN: Opening with a newspaper article this time, partly because it's necessary and partly so as to refresh your memory after the long wait. Sorry about that! Things have been insane.

(Those of you who are reading Glass Magic; I'll try to get the next chapter up before I leave the country on the twenty-second. If I don't, I'll have one up by the seventeenth of June.)

Chapter Four

xxxx

Teen starved, imprisoned in Surrey

Greater Whinging, June 16th- A teenage boy was found abandoned in a locked room last week, say police.

On the fifth of this month, officers entered a Greater Whinging home following a call by worried neighbours. The residents of the home had allegedly been missing for three days.

The officers, John Benson and Fredrick Caley, found no signs of anything wrong within the home until they reached the second level, where they found a door held closed by several padlocks. Benson proceeded to pick the locks, while Caley went downstairs to check the basement.

Entering the room, Benson found what he believed to be a young girl, who was feverish and, says Benson, 'skeletal'. There was no food or water in the room, only a pail for waste materials. He immediately called Caley, and they called for an ambulance. At the hospital, it was discovered that the 'girl' was actually a boy.

The boy, who appears to be about twelve years old, was listed as a John Doe at first. The owners of the Surrey home have only one known child in their care, their 'unusually large' (as described by a neighbour) sixteen-year-old son. The boy finally told his caseworkers his name yesterday, but no records have been found for anyone by that name.

The family is still missing. Police request that anyone with further information contact the Greater Whinging police department.

xxxxx

January 7th, 1996

Petunia is out-of-sorts today. It wouldn't matter so much if Uncle Vernon were home to coddle her, but Harry's alone with her. He's opened and closed the window six times, straightened her covers, made her tea twice (and had to redo it each time because it wasn't quite right), made her eggs and taken them away when she decided she wasn't hungry, and all of that in addition to his usual chores.

He's actually rather pleased that she's decided to put make-up on him today, because it means that he can sit down for awhile.

"Look up," she orders, aiming an eye-liner pencil at his face in a vaguely threatening way. He obediently looks up at the ceiling, easily keeping his eyes open and still as she applies the eye-liner. It was much more difficult to do so when she started this, but he's had plenty of practice now.

Next comes the blush, which always makes him blush for real (boys don't wear blush). It's an oddly pleasant sensation, though: the brush and the powder are soft, and Petunia is gentle when she does this.

"Open," she tells him, unscrewing the cap of a little jar of lip-gloss and scooping some onto her finger. He opens his mouth accommodatingly, and she carefully spreads the gloss over his mouth. Her attention is entirely on what she's doing, and he takes advantage of the moment to look at her from close up. When she's occupied with his make-up, she doesn't sneer and scowl like she usually does whenever he's around. It's the only time she's ever looked at him without disgust.

She finishes and pulls back, so he quickly averts his gaze. "There," she says, admiring her work. "Lovely." From the corner of his eye, she looks smug.

Then the moment is gone, and she shoves at his arm. "Now go away and get back to work," she snaps. "I want to sleep for awhile."

xxxxx

Hermione and her parents arrive at one o'clock. She has on a deep green dress with a skirt that looks like it will swirl out when she spins. Harry grins at her until his aunt steps out of the kitchen, where she had been enjoying her afternoon tea. "Who is it?" she asks sharply.

"It's Maria and her parents," he says, and turns to frown at his aunt. "Are you sure you don't need my help? I could-"

"No, no, dear," Petunia says, with a malicious grin. "You go have... fun."

"Thank you for loaning Harry to us for the evening, Petunia," Mrs. Granger says, giving Aunt Petunia a simpering smile. "He'll be such a help carrying bags, and I just know he'll love prayer group. Oh, and the two meetings of church tomorrow- we go to the regular service and the youth service, of course."

Petunia smirks. "Oh, yes, good luck with that," she says. "If you can get him through the door of a church, I'll be amazed."

"Oh?" says Mrs. Granger. Harry can see that she's itching to leave, but Petunia doesn't seem to notice.

"The last time we tried to take him, he lit the sanctuary on fire," Petunia tells her cheerfully. "Well, have fun, now!" she says, waving, and she vanishes back into the kitchen.

Hermione and her mother share a disbelieving glance, and Harry slips outside, shutting the door behind him.

"What a horrible woman," says Mrs. Granger, shuddering.

Hermione is giggling. "'Lit the sanctuary on fire'? How does she come up with these things?"

Harry winces. "That one's true, actually," he admits sheepishly. Hermione and Mrs. Granger stare at him. "I was eight, all right?" he says defensively. "The priest tried to bless me or whatever, and next thing I knew, all of the lamps were exploding." He shrugs. "It's not like I did it on purpose."

Hermione sighs. "Only you, Harry."

No one talks for several minutes after that, until Hermione, with a gasp, bends over to dig around under the seat. "Wait, wait, I have it here somewhere... Ah! Here!" Hermione says, shoving a bundle of fabric into his arms. "I hope it fits," she adds, looking Harry over.

Unfolding it, Harry discovers a black trench-coat with silver buttons. He holds it up to himself, and decides that it will probably fit him, although it's a bit too wide. "Awesome," he breathes. "I've never had a coat before. Thanks!"

Mrs. Granger glances back at them in the mirror, frowning. "What do you mean? Why haven't you had a coat?" she asks, her brow creasing with worry.

"Oh, I had cloaks and stuff," Harry tells her hurriedly. "And jackets."

"But if your relatives are Muggles, surely you've had-"

"Mum!" Hermione exclaims, "You promised not to bug him about that kind of thing." She gives her mother the stern look that Harry knows very, very well from the nights when he was playing chess with Ron instead of doing Potions homework.

Speaking of which... "Hey, Hermione, there was something that I didn't understand about the combination of dragon scales and rose hips..."

xxxxx

June 18th, 1996

"If you're so bored, then why don't you go hang out with someone else?" One of the boys, Ben, finally snaps. Harry, despite his best efforts, has been yawning and sighing distractedly; the boys are playing some video game with guns and shooting.

Violent video games aren't terribly interesting once you've fought for your life against the most powerful wizard who's ever lived.

"I'm okay," Harry mumbles, and shrugs apologetically. He ducks his head so that his hair partly covers his face, and looks up through his lashes. (He picked this particular habit up mostly because John-from-before would start blushing and stuttering whenever he did it, and Harry found that utterly hilarious.)

"No, you're bored," one of the other boys says quietly. "Not to be rude, but maybe you really should go find something else to do." Jim's always been nice to Harry, if a bit dismissive toward him.

Harry is therefore a little surprised by what he's just said. "Oh," Harry answers. "All right, then."

How he ended up playing dress-up with the girls, he'll never be able to recall, but that's all right; and it's more than all right when the girls decide to play nights and ladies and Harry gets to be rescued from a "dragon" instead of fighting it, for once.

xxxxx

June 30th, 1996

They were on a field trip when things started to go wrong.

It was late at night; the children were all sound asleep in their sleeping bags on the museum's floor. It was silent, although the skeletons of long-dead animals which loomed above them looked like they could begin to roar again at any time- or, at least, Harry had thought so when the students were wandering through the halls earlier that day. (He had wisely kept this thought to himself, having learned by now the limit of the other boys' patience with oddities).

Now, though, Harry is sleeping, albeit restlessly. He shifts and whimpers as he sleeps, and- had anyone been awake to notice- an observant viewer might have noticed his hair lifting away from his head as if in a slight wind.

He begins to whisper under his breath, words in tongues strange to Muggles but as familiar to Harry as the alphabet. His lids half open, green shining from beneath them. "Crucio," Harry hisses. The last syllable drags out into a piercing scream, and his back arches away from the ground.

Around him, pale faces appear from sleeping backs, wide-eyed and panicked. "Mrs. Benedict!" one of them yells.

But Mrs. Benedict is already there, heading to Harry's side. "Harry? Harry, what's wrong?" she asks frantically, which is the usual reaction to screaming children (but not a particularly practical one).

Harry has stilled, the curse over, but he's still mumbling, in Parseltongue now. The sounds twist and undulate in a way that humans were never intended to pronounce. His scar splits open, blood trailing down his face.

One of the more religious children crosses herself.

The Parseltongue switches smoothly to Latin, and then to another torture curse. Harry screams again, and there is the crash of breaking glass as every display case in the room shatters.

His energy dispelled, Harry slips into normal sleeps again. Mrs. Benedict shakes him tentatively, and Harry wakes up with a yawn. "Wha'?" he mumbles, wiping the blood away absently. He looks down at his hand curiously when it feels wet, and groans when he sees the blood. "Merlin," he mutters. "Again?"

There is a stunned silence, and then Mrs. Benedict echoes, "Again?" in a faint voice.

Harry shrugs. "It's always happened. It's okay; it's not dangerous or anything. It's sort of like... night terrors."

"You're going to go see the doctor in the morning," Mrs. Benedict says firmly.

"That won't do any good," Harry tells her, but it doesn't make any difference: he's going to a doctor whether he wants to or not.