Warning- This fic contains heavy abuse and graphic descriptions, as well as slash.

Disclaimer- All characters, places, and concepts belong to JK Rowling, not me. =(

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This time, all Harry did was burn the bacon.

He smelled the burning food before he saw it. That tiny waft of air, carrying the offensive odor to Harry's nose, brought with it Harry's fear. He froze, praying that it was a dream- that he'd wake up in the smallest bedroom of number four Privet drive in a sweat, so that he wouldn't have to face it as reality.

The first blow snapped Harry's head forward. Immediately he fell to the floor, curling up into a tiny ball and trying beyond hope to protect himself from the blows he endured. The words flew, too, and although they used to hurt as much as the fists, now Harry barely seemed to hear them. Everything there was narrowed down to the point of impact of Uncle Vernon's boot on Harry's flesh.

It was worse than ever that day. Harry didn't know why, he only knew that the blows connected with old bruises, and that both old and new wounds were ripped open for fresh rounds of agony. He was bleeding on his clothes and on the floor, which would probably earn him another beating later.

It was hours, or minutes, or days or years later when the Pain stopped multiplying. No more blows, just the devastating aftershocks. The Pain settled over Harry like a blanket, smothering him. It was an old friend to Harry, all that he had ever known.

How many times had he told Dumbledore? A hundred, a thousand, a million times. But the bruises had always faded by September. The scars had closed up. No one believed him, and no one ever would. He was the Boy Who Lived- who could hurt him? They forgot that here he was as useless as a muggle, and a scrawny child. Every time he tried to seek help in the wizarding world, they were angry with him for lying. And in this world? Well, Vernon Dursley was a respectable man! He would never hurt anyone. Harry was a juvenile delinquent, so he must be a liar, too.

Harry didn't have the strength to cry. He didn't have the strength to breathe, to live. Never had Harry welcomed death like this. This was not a passive acceptance but a desperate plea, Harry begged for death to come, to take him, to save him from the Pain.

How could he live? Why would he live?

A hundred, a thousand, a million times he'd wanted to leave. He'd stood with his hand on the knob, listening to Uncle Vernon dare him to do it, and wanted so desperately to leave this all behind him. The Pain, the beatings, the constant fear. To leave it would be a relief.

But what else could there be for Harry? He knew nothing else, and he had nowhere to go. If he left, he was totally alone in this world.

This was no place of love, but it was Harry's home- or so he was told.

Dumbledore forbade Harry to leave. To leave was to break his mother's spell, so he had to stay, even if it killed him- or worse, he thought, if it didn't.

And so, a hundred, a thousand, a million times he'd let go of the doorknob and endured the blows that followed.

This was a house, but it would never be a home to Harry.

And then, the blackness swallowed him once and for all.

Harry floated in the blackness. It held him, caressed him, and eased the Pain. And in the darkness, there was a dream.

He saw a light, and for one moment, he thought that it was death, finally coming to welcome him into its arms. But the light took the shape of a woman- not an angel, but a face that Harry knew well from faded pictures in ancient photo albums. A face that looked nothing like his- except in the eyes.

Harry's mother leaned over him, an ethereal glow emanating from her skin, enveloping her in a heavenly light. Her eyes glistened as translucent hands stroked his sore face.

"My Harry! My baby, my child," she began to cry. Tears fell like rain onto his skin, as cool as ice, soothing the ache of the beating. "My son! They have hurt you! They have broken you! My darling baby boy!" She threw her head back with a ghostly wail, and as she wept, Harry felt her tears working magic on him. Like her love shield, they protected him, but not from his good friend death- from the Pain.

Perhaps this is enough, Harry thought. If I can't have death, maybe this will do. Harry felt a new part of him rising in his breast, a happier boy, a boy that hadn't seen the light of day in 15 years.

He reached out to her. "No, mother, they have not broken me." With that final whisper, he faded away.

The Pain. A different kind of pain shot through Harry as he returned to his earthly body. Beyond the physical sense, his soul was torn.

He had glimpsed the afterlife, the relief of death. So why was he here? He had seen his mother, and her sorrow had healed him. For one split second, he had been whole- and then he had been ripped back to reality, with its Pain, and its evil, and its unwillingness to let a dead soul die.

His eyes were swollen shut and crusted over-he could not see.

His lips were cracked and bleeding, torn and bitten- he could not speak.

But his ears were free to hear the sounds of the quiet, deserted house. He heard the ticking of the clock, counting off the miserable seconds as Harry's life dragged on without his permission.

And then: a whoosh, a cough.

Harry's pulse sped up in fear. His heart worked double-time to pump what was left of his lifeblood out of his veins.

It was him. It was Vernon. He was back to finish the job for good.

Maybe he had some mercy after all.

He whimpered, and waited for the inevitable blow. Where would it connect? His face? His stomach? His groin? It hardly mattered. Pain was Pain was Pain. There was Pain, and only Pain, and all that Harry would ever feel was Pain. The only question was when it would come next.

There was a voice, but not the voice he'd expected. Not the voice from his nightmares that taunted him.

"Bloody hell! Harry! Harry!" Disappointed that death was no longer a guarantee, Harry tried to ignore the voice, to will it away.

It continued to call his name. Or maybe it wasn't his name anymore. Maybe he didn't have a name anymore- maybe he never did. Harry was too tired to care.

The voice persisted, ringing in his ears, calling him from the silence that wanted to comfort him. There was something about the voice that was vaguely familiar, like a fragment of a dream or a long lost memory- never quite there, slipping through his fingertips whenever he tried to catch it.

But he was too tired to try. He was too broken to care.

Then the hands were touching him. And somehow, Harry had enough left in him to flinch at the contact. Not in this house. There was no kind touch in this house. Not here. Here, there was one type of touch: The one that broke you, hurt you, and brought back the Pain. There were no caresses, only slaps, and fists, and kicks.

Again, Harry waited to greet Pain. Pain that never came, at least not afresh. There was still the steady agony, unhealed in this realm as it was in the other.

"Thank Merlin you're alive," said the voice again. Harry wondered what the voice meant. Why would anyone thank Merlin for this? What happiness could be taken from life? Life was only Pain.

"Hold on, Harry! I've got you! Hold on!"

Harry didn't want to hold on. Let me go! He wanted to shout at the voice, whether or not it was in his head. Let me die here! I can't hold on!

But the voice couldn't seem to hear him. "I'm going to get you out of here, Harry."

The hands were back, and they tried to lift him into the air, and in an instant Pain returned to torture Harry.

There was only Pain, searing away all traces of love and happiness and thought. There was only the physical anguish.

And the fear.

And hoping, praying, for merciful death to come.

A/N: Sorry for the heaviness, but you know how it goes- the words choose me, I don't choose the words.

Thanks, and as always, R&R, please!

Truly yours,