Disclaimer: All things you recognize from JK Rowling's books are hers. I make no money. This is purely for my entertainment.

A/N: So, I've left that horrible place in my life where I felt the need to express the darkness in my life through dark writing. Therefore, I shall be changing many details as I make major edits. I do encourage you to read through. My Petunia and Vernon will not be nice people, however. Anyone capable of locking a little boy away in a cupboard for ten years of his life is certainly capable of much worse.

Please review! Happy reading!

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Chapter One: Letters

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On a hellishly hot and humid street in the village of Little Whinging, below a white windowsill, behind a perfectly groomed hydrangea bush, crouched the prone figure of a thin, black-haired boy. He absently scrubbed a droplet of sweat away from his brow as he stared once more at the crumpled parchment clutched in his hand. The black and silver seal of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black heading the missive blurred and began to run as the grey asphalt-scented sky let loose its first drops of rain.

The young man continued to gaze at the document even as the rain turned into a downpour and the ground beneath him muddied. His wiry, untameable raven hair stuck to his forehead and ears, and his too-big shirt and belted jeans clung to his skin and weighed him down, but he did not stir. Indeed, if anyone had been able to spy the boy between the hydrangeas and wall, they would have thought him either dead or insane.

But despite his catatonic appearance, Harry Potter was far from reaching the River Styx. In fact his mind was a whirlwind of activity and emotion as he mentally reviewed the words that had previously graced the crumpled parchment.

Harry,

I'm sorry that we did not have much time together. Buck up. I am happily arm-in-arm with prongs. My only hope is that I went out in style. If you do happen to be moping about, I hope that you at least find the time to set off a package of filibusters to celebrate my departure from this world. They were a marauder favourite.

I have left you absolutely everything – my title, my properties, Kreacher (though I wish I could spare you that nuisance) and a secret that I could not reveal to you while living. I wish to leave you the truth, Harry, so that you may have a choice. I know that Dumbledore has told you many things and has left much more to guesswork on your part. If you want to know everything – the truth without the old man's filter – then go to Gringotts no later than your birthday. Take Hermione, and only Hermione, with you in secret. I hope you will understand why I beg this of you. In any case, the goblins, in compliance with my last requests of them, will not allow anyone else entry into my vaults – now yours.

Take care, prongslet. I love you. Be happy.

Sirius

By now, the foot of heavy parchment had become illegible. The previously pristine white surface was smeared with faded bluish-black ink. The colour continued to bleed until the crumpled mass resembled a wet piece of newsprint rather than the all-important document it had once been. Harry drew his knees to his chest as he idly fingered the edge of the soaked paper. He could hear its words spoken in his head as if by Sirius himself, but the meanings eluded Harry. He could only feel the guilt weighing on his shoulders and a horrible emptiness in his chest. The latter was not an entirely unfamiliar sensation. He often felt a similar, though much less intense ache when he thought about his parents. That intensity, too, brought on another wave of guilt, but Sirius was the closest person to a real family member that he had ever known. And Harry had caused his death.

The young man rose to his hands and knees, crawled out from behind the hydrangea bush, and walked the few short steps to the front door of number four Privet Drive.

Inside the perfectly appointed, brick, cookie-cutter house, Petunia Dursley rose from the sofa to glance down the hall at the door.

"Is that you? Where have you been? Dudley will be arriving home soon so I expect that you'll be getting to the cleaning now," Petunia said in her nasally voice as Harry walked into view. Her nose wrinkled at his soaked clothes and matted hair.

"And for goodness sake dry off and wipe your feet!" she commanded before turning back to the television.

Harry strode through the foyer and to the stairs without paying any mind to the order. In his room, Harry pulled his wand from his back pocket and set it on his bedside table. Sirius' letter followed in a crumpled mess, which he quickly smoothed and folded neatly. He figured Hermione could put it to rights when he next saw her. When exactly that would be, Harry had not a clue. In fact, since the beginning of the holidays he had heard scant little from his friends, and that much had come from Hermione's quill.

The letter had been sent via the national post and secreted quietly away when Uncle Vernon was otherwise occupied. Harry recalled that this was the first and only letter of muggle appearance that he had received in his life. Absent were an overabundance of stamps, or the smell of parchment, or a wax seal. And despite its sender, the letter really was completely ordinary in that its contents had referred most to Harry's mental condition rather than their shared knowledge of the magical. In fact, if the letter had not been on top of the stack, Harry would have mistakenly given it to his uncle.

Harry picked it up, his fingertips brushing over Hermione's neat script on the envelope before pulling the simple white stationery from inside.

Friday, 21 June 1996

Dear Harry,

I charmed some envelopes before we left Hogwarts so your Uncle wouldn't notice if I needed to get in touch. I know you're angry with yourself, and probably at Ron and me, and I want to apologize. I'm so sorry.

I know I didn't support you as much as I should have when you told me about your difficulty with certain things. It wasn't your fault and I'm sorry that I made light of your problems. Dumbledore knows that your relationship with Professor Snape is far from amicable. The more I think about it, the more I believe you were given the worst possible circumstances in which to accomplish anything at all.

It's no wonder that we were lured away considering the business with Snape, your distance with Dumbledore this year, and that Umbridge cow reigning over Hogwarts. Anyone in your shoes would probably have done the same.

So please, try to forgive yourself for being their victim. You are blameless. I know you've done nothing but wallow since then. Stop it. You're not doing yourself any favours and Sirius would be disappointed that you're wasting your time feeling awfully.

I hope to see you soon. I haven't received word from Ron or the Order yet, but I think we'll probably end up at the Burrow soon. I've been told not to send Owl Post, and I think that even my regular post may be screened soon. I expect the Ministry has begun making inquiries into your location, as people have begun to suspect your importance in the coming war. Be careful Harry.

Please feel better.

With Love,

Hermione Granger

Reading through it again, Harry felt slightly less bitter about the absence of post. He remembered shamefully that he had exploded last year over that same situation. He walked to the nailed-down window and stroked Hedwig's gleaming feathers through the bars of her cage. She hooted a little mournfully as Harry gave her a sad smile.

"Sorry, girl. I know it's tough being locked in here all the time. We'll be out of here soon enough, I promise. At least they're letting me feed you," Harry sighed, rubbing his stomach. It had been at least two days since he had ingested more than bread with cheese. For Hedwig, he was allowed to take all the raw odds and ends from meats after preparing meals. But with the window nailed shut and the threat of death if her droppings or feathers found their way outside of her cage, Hedwig had been contained inside the bars since the beginning of the holidays.

"Boy! I don't hear the vacuum running!" Vernon bellowed from downstairs. "Do as your aunt says or you'll be in for a caning!"

It was with a sigh that Harry finally left his room in a dry shirt and oversized trousers and began the task his aunt had appointed him. Cleaning out Dudley's bedroom only took a short while, as Petunia cleaned it quite regularly. The vacuuming and dusting were menial and brief tasks. The time-consumer consisted of bleaching all of the surfaces in the bathroom. He was not given gloves and it did not take long for the chlorine to begin burning his skin. Half way through scrubbing the tub, Harry's fingertips began aching, and Harry dismissed his task as a bad job. Harry hosed down the tub, rinsed his hands, and returned to his bedroom to await his cousin's arrival. An hour passed before Harry heard his uncle calling for him to start dinner.

"Boy! Get your lazy arse down here!" Uncle Vernon bellowed. From the sound of his voice, Harry reckoned the walrus still occupied the loveseat in the sitting room, which gave him approximately thirty seconds before the blustering beast would start up the stairs. Harry sighed and swung his feet over the side of his bed. Hedwig gave a sympathetic hoot as Harry shut the door behind him.

Petunia Dursley's kitchen always sparkled with antibacterial cleanliness. The white tiled countertop shone brightly and reflected the overhead lights. Off-white linen curtains hung over the window above the sink, and a towel of the same colour sat beside the gleaming stainless steel basin. Wryly, Harry mused that Petunia's kitchen towel probably cost more than any article of clothing the Dursleys had bought him. Indeed, all of his fitted clothes probably amounted to maybe half of the price of that silly, crocheted dishrag.

Petunia Dursley chose that moment to walk into the kitchen and thrust a butcher-paper-and-twine wrapped parcel into his chest.

"I want it cut into medallions and served with a red wine reduction. Hurry, and don't you dare burn it," Petunia spat before turning and leaving the kitchen.

With a grumbling stomach, Harry unwrapped the luscious hunk of meat and began the task of cooking something that should be prepared over the course of a day rather than a short hour.

"And it had better be finished as soon as Dudley's ready. He'll be home in thirty minutes if the Perkisses are on time."

"Right," Harry griped as he set the oven and began slicing the leg of lamb.

Twenty minutes later, Harry had just finished putting the meat into the oven when the front door banged open and Petunia started her fluttery welcome.

"Diddy dums! Did you miss mummy, darling? How was this term at school? Did you do well in the boxing tourney? Tell me everything, Duddy!" she simpered as she embraced her large boy.

At the age of sixteen, Dudley Dursley resembled an overgrown bulldog. Harry recalled longingly the days in which Dudley's mass had been composed mostly of fat. Now, the boy stood as tall as Harry and possessed a hefty amount of muscle from the practice of his favourite sport: beating up weaker boys.

"Yeah, Mum," said the boy happily, allowing the waifish woman to usher him inside.

"Go on upstairs, Duddy dear, and put your things away. I'm making your favourite num nums tonight. It'll be on the table when you're ready, darling."

'Dammit,' Harry thought as he glanced at the kitchen timer.

The lamb wouldn't be ready for another twenty minutes at least, and he had just started the mash and greens. He started to rush, pulling the roasting medallions out of the oven and searing them hastily on the stovetop. He shoved them back in and haphazardlydoused them with sauce, earning himself a glancing burn on his wrist as he withdrew his arm from the oven's depths.

"Bollocks!" he hissed, clutching the seared flesh with a wince.

After a moment of internal cursing, he returned to his assigned task. He could attend to the wound later. Harry listened carefully as the sound of his cousin unpacking made muted thumps against the ceiling. As footsteps began making their way across the upstairs hall, Harry rushed to set the table and load plates with mashed potatoes, greens, and braised lamb. It was with a relieved sigh that he finally placed the serving dishes in the middle and filled glasses with the leftover red wine.

"Food's ready, Uncle Vernon," Harry called into the living room.

"About ruddy time," grumbled Vernon as he stomped through the doorway.

Harry wisely slid out of the way as Vernon took his seat at the formal dinner table. A few moments later, Dudley came tromping down the stairs with his mother hovering behind him. His expression belayed embarrassment at having the woman fawning over him – A first, in Harry's experiences with the two.

As Petunia and Dudley took their seats, Harry cleaned up the kitchen, washed dishes, and wrapped the discarded fats and trimmings in a napkin for Hedwig. The process of returning the kitchen to sparkling perfection took thirty minutes, after which he served iced cream and waited for his relatives to finish. It was then, and only then that he might be able to eat something more substantial than a bit of sliced bread. So Harry waited, thinking longingly of Hogwarts, of flying, of Hermione and Ron. His mind lingered a little on his female friend. In the past five years they had grown closer than brother and sister, and she had always done her best to offer advice and help. He frowned as he thought of her.

When had Hermione become beautiful to Harry? At the Yule Ball? That sounded about right. Before then, Harry had realized Hermione's gender (unlike a certain redhead), but the fact that she was all female had not occurred to him. Her strength of mind and determination often distracted him from her femininity, especially since she so bravely went up against all the obstacles Ron and he managed to face throughout the course of their school years. Harry chewed a hangnail while images of a growing Hermione flicked through his mind's eye. From their first encounters on the Hogwarts Express until now, Hermione had ceased to look like the buck-toothed, bushy-haired little girl that Malfoy still accused her of being.

If Harry were honest with himself, he would have to admit that Hermione's hair was far from bushy in recent history. She had allowed her teeth to be corrected by Madam Pomfrey's expert hand back in third or fourth year, and her girlish figure had grown to suggest feminine curves, though her Hogwarts robes did much to hide that fact. Yes, if Harry were honest with himself, he would be forced to admit that Miss Hermione Granger had as much womanly effect on him as any other girl – perhaps more.

"Boy!"

Harry was pulled abruptly from his idle musings as Vernon's bellow rose to dangerous volume. Harry had failed to notice the quiet that had settled over the dinner table (excepting Dudley's continued attempt to drown himself in food).

"Yes, Uncle Vernon?" Harry asked cautiously as he came out from around the breakfast bar.

"What. Is. This?" Vernon growled, pronouncing each word like its own dour sentence.

He held up his fork, from which a long, dark hair hung limply. Harry pursed his lips, knowing that it was his aunt's hair, not his own, that had found its way into Vernon's food.

"A hair, obviously," Harry supplied, putting as much sarcastic venom as was possible into the three words.

"A hair. Now, why would I have a hair in my dinner, Boy?" Vernon growled, his beady eyes narrowing into dangerous slits.

Harry's hands trembled as he attempted to control his anger. Years of ridiculous, baseless abuse by this man had worn his patience thin. His experiences at Number Four, Privet Drive had been intolerable at best, but when added to his recent loss and the constant sense of oppressive danger hanging over him, Harry found it difficult to control the magic coursing through him. He could feel it like a pulse ringing in his ears: loud, and insistent, and explosive.

"I'm not sure, Uncle," Harry managed quietly. "Obviously it isn't mine."

"Is that so, boy?" Vernon said in mock levity. "Come here."

Harry did not move from his spot in the doorway.

"Come here," Vernon growled.

Harry glared, refusing to draw any nearer.

"It's not mine!"

Vernon struck out with his meaty hand, grasping Harry by the back of the neck. He forced his nephew's face into the plate of food so hard that the delicate china cracked at the impact. Harry remained silent as he felt his glasses break beneath his face as well as the sharp edge of the porcelain digging into his cheek. Vernon held the hair in front of Harry's face for him to see.

"This is unacceptable, boy! Your aunt and I took you in out of the goodness of our hearts and this is how you repay us?! By putting foreign objects in our food? Littering your mangy hair in our mash? Well…"

The sound of Vernon Dursley's voice faded, giving way to the rush of blood in his ears. Harry could feel rather than hear it when his uncle's tirade came to a stop. The room vibrated. The china rattled and the lights flickered.

Four years old. A Christmas tree stood in the corner of the parlour, boughs heavy with twinkle lights and shining ornaments. A few glazed ceramic frames decorated a branch here and there, all of them filled with photos of Dudley. Wrapping paper littered the floor around the tree, and Dudley sat with his pudgy legs by the fire, his stubby fingers pushing a shining toy train roughly around a hastily assembled track. Harry quietly approached the tree, looking underneath for any sign of a missed present.

"Aunt Petunia," he said softly, "Did Father Christmas forget me?"

The horse-faced woman looked down at Harry with pinched lips, her distaste obvious.

"Of course not. Orphans don't get presents."

"What's an orphan?"

"Anyone who doesn't have parents," said Vernon, smiling cruelly. "Orphans aren't allowed to ask questions, either."

Harry fell silent and continued to pick up the discarded wrapping paper. He threw it all in a bin, walked back to his cupboard, and curled up on his mattress, holding back tears.

Vernon and Petunia had always made it very clear they weren't his parents. He remembered calling Petunia 'mum' once, and she had smacked him with a wooden spoon for it. But he always hoped maybe his parents were somewhere, just not able to take care of him. Harry squinted into the dark, his small arms wrapping around his blanket.

'Wasn't there anyone that wants me?'

Six years old. The woman in front of the classroom shrieked as she caught her reflection in the rain-darkened window. Her hands fisted in her now vibrantly blue hair. Harry's eyes went wide with surprise and fear while the rest of the class laughed. The boy drudged back to Number Four, tripping twice over his too-long trousers. He arrived at the door with skinned knees and raw palms, a result of his nervousness. He was used to his clothes being too big, after all. The door flew open before he could reach up to turn the knob, and a woman's claw-like hand snatched his upper arm and dragged him inside. The small mattress in the closet under the stairs caught Harry as he was thrown into the darkness.

"Just you wait until Vernon gets home!" Petunia's voice screamed at him through the door.

Harry waited in darkness for hours, his stomach grumbling and his mouth dry with fear. The door slammed open and a meaty hand clamped down on Harry's wrist, twisting his arm painfully as he was bodily yanked from the cupboard.

"What did you do?" the walrus exploded, emphasizing each word with a mighty thwack of his belt against Harry's rear.

"N-nothing!" the boy cried helplessly, tears staining his drawn, reddened face.

"Then what do you call that freakishness at school? Eh? Nothing, is it?"

The blows kept coming, until Harry could no longer speak for sobbing, his breath coming in ragged gasps of pain through clenched teeth.

Nine years old. Harry clutched a stitch in his side as he ran around the corner, ducking down an alley. He could hear their heavy feet chasing after him, their raucous voices echoing off the pavement and brick.

"Get him!"

"He must have gone that way!"

Harry gasped, running faster, his eyes widening in fear as he neared the end of the alley. A chain-link fence blocked the way. He ran toward it, his eyes closed, feeling Dudley's hand brush the back of his shirt.

Suddenly, the boys were on the ground twelve feet below him, and he was perched on the roof of the school building. He laughed in relief.

He avoided walking home until it was nearly dark, the headmaster's note clenched in his fist. He was suspended for his 'dangerous' behaviour. He went to his cupboard, hoping that maybe they would let him alone. But as soon as the television program ended in the parlour, the cupboard door slammed open and a hand closed on the scruff of Harry's neck. They jerked the boy to attention, turned him around, and cornered him against the stairs. The head of Vernon's least favourite golfing club rained heavy blows on Harry's back, sides, and legs.

Be happy…

Something snapped inside Harry as Sirius's words interrupted the painful memories, washing away the years of self-doubt, fear, and loneliness.

"Let. Go. Of. Me."

The hand on Harry's neck dropped away abruptly. The air felt cold as Harry stood straight and slung food off his face. The Dursleys had backed up against the wall opposite him as the vibrations grew louder and the light bulbs in the chandelier and in the kitchen burst with a shower of sparks.

"Do you remember that conversation you had with my lot?" Harry said in a low voice, his hands trembling with the effort to not lose his temper. The house had ceased shaking, for now.

"Now see here, they don't scare – "

"I am done!" shouted Harry. "Do you want to know what I've dealt with?! Do you want to know how bloody tiny you are, compared to what's out there? Compared to what I've seen?"

"You think I'm a freak? You think I'm the worst thing in your life? Do you watch the news, take the paper? That school with all the children missing, that woman and her little girls raped last week – All that destruction and horror you see is because of the monster I've fought and won against! You. Don't. Scare. Me."

Each word was met with a wince as the colour drained from the Dursleys' faces. Harry took another breath, noticing that air was charged. The table was littered with broken china, the small electric bulbs in the chandelier had burst, and the table seemed to be smoking slightly.

Harry looked into the faces of his only remaining family and unclenched his hands to wipe the remaining filth from his face.

"I'm leaving. You've been told what will happen when I do. I suggest you get the hell out before they come. They will come. And I'm tired of being told I have to prevent that. You never did anything remotely near as much for me."

With that, Harry left the room, stormed up the stairs, and retrieved his things. So much for being his head, he thought bitterly as he threw his most prized possessions into a rucksack and hoisted Hedwig's cage under his arm.

The door opened without Harry touching it, and Harry left Number Four.

An hour later, Harry stopped short. He had come to the bus terminal in the Little Whinging town square. His mind whirred as the anger left him. He was no longer a thirteen-year-old runaway. He was nearly an adult in the wizarding world, and he had a home at Grimmauld Place if nowhere else.

He knew better, now, too. He hadn't performed any spells. Just accidental magic. And no one had been hurt, so it was unlikely the ministry would come calling, and even less so that the Dursleys would report him. The only entity that would be after him was the Order. Harry bit his lip, trying to recall whether he'd seen Mrs. Figg on his way out.

Either way, he needed to make up his mind and choose a destination quickly.

The Burrow came to mind first, but Harry thought again to Sirius's letter. It was hard for him to believe anything bad about Ron. He knew very well that his best mate had anger and jealousy issues, but despite the occasional episode, he had always supported Harry in everything. Without Ron, Harry would not have known Mrs. Weasley, Fred, George, or Arthur Weasley – all whom Harry regarded as his first real family. Even Ginny had made her way into Harry's heart in the role of sister. All else aside, it would not be easy to leave the Burrow and take care of the business Sirius had alluded to.

A bus passed on its way to the stop and Harry stood up straighter, feeling very much the fool. He would have to tell Hermione before he went anywhere else. In a flash, he was headed to a nearby bench, his truck and Hedwig in tow. Harry rummaged in the trunk for a moment, annoyed that his cracked lenses contorted his view, finally withdrawing Sirius' pocketknife. He unlocked Hedwig's cage quickly and coaxed her out to perch on his shoulder, before withdrawing a notebook and a biro.

Another moment of consideration and Harry went back to digging through the contents of his trunk. Finally his fingers brushed across his DA galleon.

"Hedwig," Harry called quietly. The owl nipped his ear affectionately as she waited for orders.

"I'm sending you to Hermione's. Don't go to Ron's unless I'm there. You can stay with Hermione if her mum and dad don't mind. If not, just stay out of sight for a while, OK?"

Hedwig gave Harry another affectionate nip on the ear as he penned his brief note.

Hermione,

Pick a day and time to meet at Diagon Alley and notify me of the details. Do not reply by owl. Please take care of Hedwig if you can. Ron can't make it, so it'll just be us.

Harry paused, his eyes flicking over the text. Before he could stop himself, he penned another line.

I can't wait to see you. I miss you.

-Harry

With the completion of the note, Hedwig hopped down from Harry's shoulder and held her leg out helpfully. He attached the note and stood, stroking her feathers for a moment. He looked outside the pool of light cast by the streetlamp above him, his eyes scanning the darkness for movement.

His hand twitched to his pocket as something shifted in his peripheral vision.

"Go, Hedwig!" Harry hissed, as the owl took flight.

A volley of red light shot toward the ghost-like bird, barely missing her as she soared into the sky and out of view.

"How troublesome," a familiar voice sighed.

"Professor?" Harry frowned, trying to make out the speaker.

"Stupefy."

The man reached out and the thin boy collapsed into the man's arms. A wave of the wand, and the trunk and cage disappeared. With a pop! the pair disappeared from the street, leaving bus stop as deserted as before Harry's late-night arrival.

A/N: You've likely noticed that the rest of the story had disappeared. I will be reposting as edits are completed. I'm nearly through with 2 and will be posting through ch. 11 (a new chapter!) in the following two weeks. Sorry for the long wait, guys!

-Forensica X