Chapter 1 – Harry Opens His Eyes
Harry Potter wondered if any of his school mates hated the summer as much as he did. During the school year, he learned magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but at the end of the term, he was returned to his relatives, the Dursleys. This included his magic-hating, Harry-hating Aunt Petunia who considered him a freak, her whale of a husband Vernon who considered him a worthless burden, and their bully of a son, Dudley.
Throughout the twelve years he had lived with them, he had been routinely denied food, forced to work ten-hour days doing all of the house and yard maintenance, and compelled to wear the ragged hand-me-downs of his grossly overweight cousin. His Aunt and Uncle had hoped to crush the magic out of him, but his acceptance at Hogwarts had demonstrated their failure and they were not pleased.
Now when he returned to them in the summer, they grudgingly allowed him a roof and minimal food – although it never was as much as the growing boy wanted – and kept him out of sight as much as possible when he wasn't doing his daily chores.
Today, he was locked in his bedroom looking through old newspapers. He had been surprised when his Aunt gave her halfhearted permission for him to use their old papers to line his owl's cage bottom. His argument that it showed how the family recycled items more than once let her realize that she could proudly lord it over the neighbors had been the incentive he needed. Of course, she didn't need to know that he read the entire paper first to give him an idea of what was happening outside of "Durskaban". If she had realized he gained anything from it, she would likely have denied him the use of the old newspapers.
He raised an eyebrow at the first article on the Metro section that read "Suspect shot and killed". Normally, the police didn't carry lethal weapons so he read the article curiously.
London police said Friday they shot and killed a man they believe was directly linked to an investigation of recent bombings in London's transit system. Typically, the London police, or "Bobbies" only carry a short, wooden truncheon, which they keep out of sight and may not employ except in self-defense or to restore order. Only police on a dangerous mission may carry firearms for that specific occasion. The unnamed officer who killed the resisting suspect was placed on temporary leave and is receiving mandatory counseling.
Harry puckered his brow as he looked at the article and thought about his encounter with Professor Quirrell, who was possessed by Voldemort in his first year at Hogwarts. He had been nearly killed by a troll Quirrell let into the school, had nearly been thrown off his broom by the possessed Quirrell, was again attacked by him in the Forbidden Forest and then he had to fight for his life against the man at the end of the year. Only his mother's sacrificial protection kept him alive and left Quirrell dead with Voldemort's spirit on the loose.
Hedwig clicked her tongue on the roof of her beak, drawing his attention. She looked inquisitively at the paper in his hand and then tilted her head, staring at him with curious yellow eyes.
"What? Oh, this article?" He frowned at it again. "They're giving a police officer counseling because he had to kill someone." He looked back at Hedwig with a troubled face. "Why didn't anyone give me counseling after a professor tried to murder me multiple times and then I had to kill him or be killed? I was just an ickle firstie then and I killed a man, Hedwig! Why didn't anyone care about me?"
The snowy owl jumped down to his shoulder and nuzzled his cheek. He lifted a hand to scratch her neck as he added "I mean…it's not like I had much of a choice. He was trying to kill me. But they just sent me back here, where we were locked up and nearly starved besides trying to cope with killing Quirrell. Wouldn't you think they would be more concerned about a kid than a trained adult police officer?" Hedwig nibbled his hair comfortingly.
"You know, none of us were offered counseling after Lockhart and the basilisk this year either. Ginny was possessed and Lockhart tried to obliviate Ron and me. Plus I had to fight that bloody huge monster and kill Riddle's diary ghost. And then Mr. Malfoy tried to attack me too! In fact, not only didn't I get counseling after getting Ginny out of the chamber, but they kept me in the Headmaster's office talking for ages! I had been bitten by a freaking basilisk for Merlin's sake, even if Fawke's tears saved me! A basilisk that only Hermione figured out because none of the teachers seemed to know what was petrifying the students." Hedwig cooed softly and nuzzled him again.
Harry turned more pages in the paper, flipping absentmindedly through the business section as he thought about everything that happened in the last two years. He paused at the front page of the Education section when the blaring headline "Scandal Over Student Abuse" caught his attention and he began to read.
Horace Widdicombe, the Headmaster of Rosings secondary school was forced to resign in disgrace after it became known that he did nothing to stop one of the staff from insulting and mentally abusing the children under his care. That teacher, Mr. Rudis Vilis was charged with 12 counts of abuse under the Children's Act 1989.
Mr. Roland Standish, father of 12-year old Reise, angrily stated "Families pay £4500 per child to attend Rosings. We selected this school because we believed it would provide a quality education for our children. Now we discover that we were paying for a sadist to abuse and publicly humiliate our children and the Headmaster knew it was occurring. This breach of trust is unconscionable."
Virginia Pruitt, head of the school board said, "There is no excuse for deliberately failing to provide basic respect to our children. Each teacher should be actively working to develop a student's potential. Each staff member should honor and respect human dignity and emotional wellness. They should be models of fairness, openness and honesty. Parents trust their most valued treasures – their children – to us with the understanding that we will honor that trust. Mr. Vilis betrayed that basic trust through his words and actions."
The Children's Act 1989 states that abuse should be considered to have happened when someone's actions caused a child to suffer significant harm to their health or development. Significant harm is defined as someone punishing a child too much; hitting or shaking a child; constantly criticising, threatening or rejecting a child; sexually interfering with or assaulting a child; and not looking after a child - not giving them enough to eat, ignoring them, not playing or talking with them or not making sure that they are safe.
Harry snorted and then tipped his head at the bird still nuzzling him. "How do you suppose what that teacher did is different than what Snape or Filch do regularly, Hedwig? Both of them constantly criticize and threaten students. So do you think they would be found guilty of abuse? Of 'betrayal of basic trust' as the school board member said of the other teacher?"
Hedwig clicked her beak at him and seemed to nod her head. "You think so, girl?" He scratched her again as he thought. "Then what about the Headmaster? He knows everything that happens in the school. If the Headmaster of Rosings knew and had to resign in disgrace, what does that mean about Professor Dumbledore?" The owl snapped her beak as if biting something hard. Harry lowered his voice to a whisper. "Do you think Dumbledore knows and approves how the students are treated? Do you think he believes we deserve to pay to be abused by gits like Snape?"
"From what the story said about the Muggle teacher, Snape is a thousand times worse than him. Snape deliberately humiliates students all of the time. I remember when he broke my potion vial and gave me a zero for the day and just smirked at me. And he allows the Slytherins to throw things into the Gryffindor cauldrons." He snorted in disgust. "Snape certainly doesn't do anything to treat students with dignity much less act like a 'model of fairness, openness and honesty'. In fact, he's totally unprofessional in every way imaginable!"
The dark-haired boy frowned as he thought of the many accidents that occurred in the potions class under Snape's supervision and his train of thought followed another track. "Why do you suppose there are no special protective masks or other safety measures when we're dealing with so many risky ingredients? How often has Neville Longbottom blown up his cauldron? That's dangerous! And what about all the fumes from all those potions? And when someone is hurt, what happens? We're just told to go to the infirmary and docked points!"
Harry looked at his best friend with troubled eyes. "If I had another option, I don't think I would go back to Hogwarts, Hedwig. But what other options are there? Stay here at the Dursleys and go to Stonewall? Being away from the Dursleys, doing magic and having enough to eat makes everything else almost tolerable. But what if there was another choice? Wouldn't it be incredible if there was a year-round magic school? I would never have to come back!"
Harry sighed in longing at the thought of a year-round school. His imagination created a school where the teachers were friendly, helped the students and were competent – no ghosts who put students to sleep or incompetent teachers who couldn't teach Defense; where students were safe from trolls, three-headed dogs, basilisks and possessed teachers and diaries; and where no one ever heard of Harry Potter or had impossible expectations of him that he could never meet.
Harry turned and stroked the snowy white owl softly. "Who am I, Hedwig? I spent ten years living in a cupboard under the stairs, was called a freak and told my parents were worthless drunks who died in a car crash. Then suddenly I'm told they were heroes and I'm a wizard." He ducked his head and whispered, "If they were so good, why did they want me to be left on the Dursley's doorstep like the morning paper?"
"You know girl, at best Dumbledore is spread too thin because he's not only the Headmaster of Hogwarts, but from what his choclolate frog card said, he's also some high muckety-muck of the wizarding government and has some type of important international position as well. I hate to think that he simply doesn't care about students. He can't be that mean, can he Hedwig? I mean, he's not like Snape." He stopped and looked at Hedwig with widening eyes. "You don't think he lets Snape and Filch do all that so that the blame doesn't come back at him, do you?" He wasn't encouraged by Hedwig's snapping beak.
"While I love learning magic, I wonder what other magic schools teach? Hogwarts seems to be missing half of the important classes. I mean, next term we have Divination, but aren't offered any languages or mathematics. Arithmancy was the closest they have, and it's an optional class only offered third year. How do wizards even balance a family budget without basic math skills?"
Harry's mind was whirling as he thought about Hogwarts. "You know girl, the teachers weren't the ones that saved us from the troll or Quirrelmort or Lockhart or Riddle's diary self that was draining Ginny; we had to save ourselves. Malfoy sends hexes in the halls and I get punished for it. Snape attacks all of us verbally every single class, although he singles me out for 'special' treatment." He looked back down at the newspaper and reread the comments by Roland Standish, the father of one of the students. "Why am I paying to be abused as well as receive a substandard education, Hedwig?"
Thoughts swirled through his mind with lightening speed. Was there another school? Could he apply? Would the Dursleys let him go? Could he afford to pay for it with the gold in his vault? What would Ron and Hermione say? He paused and thought about his best two friends.
"What do you think, girl? Are Ron and Hermione enough of a reason to stay at Hogwarts? I have to admit that it was brilliant that Ron cared enough to come rescue me last summer. But then at school he wasn't very nice about the parselmouth and Heir of Slytherin fiasco. That hurt a lot. Ron is a hot-head, even more so than any of his brothers." Hedwig cooed at him and nibbled his fingers sympathetically. "Herminone stood by me, but is she enough of a reason to stay at Hogwarts?"
He stood up and placed Hedwig back on her cage. "Right then, Hermione always says it helps to make a list when making a big decision. I'll try that." He pulled out a notebook he salvaged from Dudley's wastebasket. His cousin didn't like the color of the cover and threw the empty notebook out in disgust, demanding all red covers from his mother, who simply said "All right, Duddikins. Next time I go to the store I'll get new ones."
Harry took out a pencil stub he also had scavenged and began a list related to all aspects of his life at home and at school.
1. Cupboard under the stairs
2. Scraps for food
3. Forced to work long days
4. Regularly called worthless, useless, ungrateful and a freak
5. Told my parents were drunks and died in a car crash
6. Punished for things Dudley did
7. Why was there no one from Children's Services checking on him from either the Muggle or Wizarding World?
1. Hogwarts Letter was addressed to the Cupboard Under the Stairs, so why didn't anyone care?
2. No introduction to the Magical world, its customs, traditions or etiquette; why not at least add a book to the First Year book list?
3. No information on how to get to Hogwarts Express platform at the train station
4. Teaching staff includes an abusive Potions professor, a ghost who only taught about goblin rebellions and a caretaker who hates children
5. Missing Classes – there are no languages, mathematics, culture and customs, government, business, politics, arts, or physical education beyond Quidditch
6. Health and Safety – Year 1
- Possessed teacher, not noticed by the wards, the Headmaster or any of the teachers
- Headmaster brought the Philospher's stone wanted by Voldemort into the school – didn't he think it put the students at risk?
- Twelve foot mountain troll released in the school, not caught by wards.
- Eleven year olds sent out at night into the Forbidden Forest to find something powerful enough to kill a unicorn which then attacked them
- A deadly three-headed dog was behind a door that could be opened with a first year unlocking spell.
- After an eleven year old was forced to kill the possessed Quirrell to save himself, no counseling offered
- Dumbledore told me in the Infirmary that the Stone was destroyed. If the Flamel's were willing to destroy the stone once Quirellmort came after it, then why was it in Howarts in at all? Why wasn't it simply destroyed at the beginning of the year rather than risk potential thefts and problems? Did he want to attract a mass murderer to the school? Also, if the Flamels had successfully kept the stone hidden for 600 years, why did they suddenly need a new place to hide it?"
- Dumbledore (deliberately?) hurt and humiliated everyone in one of the four Houses at the Leaving Feast, letting them celebrate their House Cup only to have it taken away in front of the rest of the school by awarding extra points to Gryffindor to let them win. Reinforced house rivalries and increased anger towards non-Slytherins.
- Near death experiences First Year: Troll, First Quidditch match, Quirrell in the forest during detention, Quirrell attempting to get the Stone
7. Health and Safety - Second Year
- Headmaster hired an incompetent DADA instructor who couldn't have passed DADA O.W.L.s
- Riddle's diary made it past the school wards (how?)
- Not a single teacher recognized that a student was possessed
- A basilisk was loose in the schools and the wards/Headmaster didn't know – didn't a single portrait or ghost see the creature?
- A 12-year old girl identified what it was; why didn't any teachers 20-100 years older than her recognize it?
- No consequences when students wrongly identified and persecuted me for being "the Heir of Slytherin"
- Why wasn't the school closed after the first child was petrified? Why did it take a second, third and fourth? Leaving students in what was clearly an extremely dangerous environment that could easily have resulted in many deaths was nothing less than reckless endangerment.
- After fighting and killing a giant basilisk and being bitten by it, killing a version of Voldemort and saving Ginny Weasley, why was I kept in the Headmaster's office rather than being immediately sent to the Infirmary?
- No counseling offered to Ginny, Ron or me after being attacked by a teacher, fighting a deadly monster, and killing a ghost. Plus I was later attacked by another adult (Malfoy Sr.).
Harry finished scratching his list and shook his head in wonder. He looked over his shoulder at the snowy owl. "It didn't seem so bad when each thing happened individually, but when written down...it's bloody scary, girl." He read over his list again and nodded his head decisively.
"OK, I need to find out if there are other schools available, and hopefully where the education is better, where I wouldn't be nearly killed and where I could trust the adults not to hurt me." Hedwig hooted her approval. "So what do I need? I need to get some time to research other schools, especially those that offer year-round classes or boarding. That means I'll have to get Aunt Petunia's permission to spend time looking into it. If I have to, I'll let her know that I'm aware of Children's Services and that "normal" people don't lock children in cupboards or make them regularly work without food. However, maybe I can be…" he made a face "…Slytherin about it and find a way to phrase it that gets her support without threats."
Hedwig chirped questioningly from her cage top and Harry could swear it sounded like 'Dumbledore'. "The Headmaster? I'll write him after I've already left for another school…but I better visit Gringotts and make sure they don't pay next year's tuition right away."
He continued making a list of everything he needed to do. With any luck, he would get started tomorrow and make progress quickly. The morning was going to mark the start of a new life for Harry Potter.
Harry was up early in the morning and took special care to make a perfect breakfast, not wanting to antagonize his Aunt. After Vernon had left for work and Dudley left to probably terrorize the neighborhood, Harry approached his aunt hesitantly. "Aunt Petunia, may I speak to you for a few minutes?"
He noticed that her thin lips tightened into an even thinner line. Without looking at him she asked frigidly, "About what?"
He took a deep breath and crossed his fingers behind his back. "About getting out of your hair permanently."
At that unexpected comment, her eyes flicked to him. "How do you propose to do that," she spit at him. "Your precious Headmaster made it clear that we had to take you regardless of what we wanted."
The Headmaster? Dumbledore? Why would the Headmaster of Hogwarts tell his aunt what she was to do with her nephew? What right did he have to interfere in Harry's life when he was only a baby, a decade before he was eligible for school? "I'm sorry, Aunt Petunia. I have no idea why he felt he had a right to demand anything from you. It sounds like both of us want to be out from under the Headmaster."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "And how do you propose to do that, boy?"
Harry kept his face and voice polite, "I would like to find a school that holds classes all year. If I can find one, I would stay there and never bother you or Uncle Vernon again."
His Aunt's face lit up at the thought and then her eyes narrowed again. "We were told that your tuition was pre-paid at your current freak school. Vernon and I will not pay for you to attend anywhere else."
Harry felt a brief sense of relief that she wasn't arguing about his attending, but only paying for it. "I wouldn't expect that Aunt Petunia. I will either find a way to transfer my tuition to a year-round school, or I will find one that accepts me as a scholarship student or a work-study student. Either way, I wouldn't expect anything from you or Uncle Vernon, and I would be out of your house for good."
He could see her weighing her fear of Dumbledore against her desire to get him out of the house forever and decided to sweeten the deal. "I just need to go to London one day to gather information on other schools, find those that hold year-round classes and send in my applications. Once I'm gone, I'll send a letter to Hog...err...the freak school letting them know I've transferred. I could include a letter from you that gives your permission for me to attend another school."
She looked at him appraisingly and then glanced down at her magazine again. "Go start on your chores. I will discuss it with Vernon tonight."
Knowing that was the best he could hope for, he started on his chores. Going by his daily list, he stripped the beds and began the laundry. As the first load was running, he vacuumed and dusted the house. After putting the first load in the dryer and starting the next, he cleaned the bathroom, stopping only to re-make the beds with clean linens. From there, he started washing the windows, pausing only when it was time for dinner, being sure to include all of Vernon's favorite side dishes. He stayed out of sight of the man and waited to see what his Aunt would do.
After dinner, Petunia called him into the dining room where Vernon was still sitting. The obese man glared at the young boy, but let his wife speak. "Vernon and I will excuse you from your chores tomorrow to go to where ever you need to go to find out about year-round schools. You'll have to arrange your own transportation though. Apply to as many schools as you need to as quietly as you can. Once you're accepted somewhere else, go there as soon as you can and then let those freaks know you're gone and not coming back."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon. Shall I write a general note of approval for the transfer for you to sign to include in the applications?" Vernon spoke up from his vantage point, "Write it up, boy, and I'll review it."
"Yes Uncle Vernon," Harry replied meekly. He thought for a moment and then added "Shall I add something to the effect that you will relinquish guardianship to an adult of my choice? That way if a teacher at a new school is willing to accept guardianship, no one can expect you to have anything to do with me again."
Harry was surprised to receive an honest smile from his uncle, the first he remembered ever receiving. "Good thinking, boy! I'll even tell you what. If you can get accepted by another school before the end of the month, I'll give you twenty-five pounds towards your new school uniforms. Make it within the next two weeks, and it will be fifty pounds!" He rubbed his hands together in glee at the prospect of the unwanted teen being gone for good.