AN: I am not a bannana!
Harry Potter read in relative privacy as the Hogwarts Express silently carried him towards Scotland, paying no obvious attention to the small red-headed girl that had decided to share his compartment with him. She had one of her own schoolbooks out, but Harry could tell she was making precious little progress with it, far more interested in trying to steal glances at him. It wasn't hard for him to tell she was clearly a close relation of the Weasleys, probably another sibling, though he was uncertain why she paid him so much attention, considering he wasn't particularly close to any of the other Weasleys.
He thought it most likely that the root of it was hero-worship, and the celebrity effect, but none of the other students he had dealt with at Hogwarts, save Hermione before she left, had so persistently ignored his social cues that he wished to be left alone. Over the course of the train ride, she several times moved as though she intended to speak to him, then blushed, and looked away. Harry decided this was an acceptable state of events, and the rest of the train ride passed in silence. Once they arrived at the Hogsmead station, he discovered that all students above first year rode carriages to the school grounds, carriages hitched to, apparently nothing.
Something niggled at the edge of his senses about the harnesses, but he turned his attention to the more immediate matter, of attempting to find a carriage to himself. Eventually he settled for a carriage with Neville Longbottom, a Gryffindor notable for his shyness, something Harry found desirable at the moment. The final stage of the journey to Hogwarts passed in silence, the light too faint for Harry to read, so he instead passed the time by concentrating on his magical control, attempting to stick and unstick his wand to his hand sans incantation or gesture. An uneventful span of time later, the assorted students entered Hogwarts castle, passing directly through the entrance hall into the Great Hall, to seat themselves at the house tables.
With a source of light more readily available, Harry was again able to read to pass the time, until the first years filtered in to be sorted. The hat, he noted, sang a different song this year, though the themes were the same; it mattered little to him. Throughout the sorting, he took note of each student, looking for anything about them that was likely to be particularly relevant to him; few caught his interest. There was a Gryffindor boy, Creevey, of unusual enthusiasm, who would bear a little watching. The Weasley girl, Ginevra apparently, was sorted into Gryffindor as well, and was indeed yet another sibling of the large family of redheads. There was a pale blond with an otherworldly expression sorted into Ravenclaw, who niggled at his senses in an odd way, that he could not quite place. None of the other students drew his attention in particular, though the faculty was behaving oddly.
McGonagall was paying him the occasional long glance, and Snape was ignoring him completely. Dumbledore looked at him once, just once, but Harry saw both a great deal of sorrow, as well as a Legilimency probe in his eyes, and thus immediately looked away. The feast, in and of itself, Harry found largely uneventful, save for the need to politely fend off the interested questions of the new Gryffindors, who had not yet learned of Harry's preference for privacy.
By the time Harry reached the second-year boy's dorm that night, he still had not caught a whiff of any sort of unusual trouble, and while unsurprising, that worried him.
"Mister Potter," McGonagall said, gesturing for him to take a seat across from her.
"Professor McGonagall," Harry replied, seating himself precisely, his face the epitome of utter neutrality.
"I called you here, Mister Potter," McGonagall said, "Because over the course of the Summer I came to learn, and realize, a great number of things. One of the things I realized, is that I owe you an apology."
Harry's neutral mask froze, and his body instinctively tensed for defensive action. McGonagall sighed, removing her glasses to rub the bridge of her nose.
"Amongst other former students," She said, "I corresponded over the Summer with Miss Granger, who professed concern for you. Some investigation revealed what is publicly available in the muggle world of your family history."
Aside from breathing, Harry remained utterly motionless.
"When Albus Dumbledore placed you with the Dursleys nearly eleven years ago," McGonagall continued, looking him fully in the eye, "I spent the day beforehand watching them, and I warned him that they were the worst kind of muggles, that you should be placed with someone else."
Harry did not move a single muscle in response, but his eyes had taken on a slightly glazed look.
"At the time, I allowed my judgment to be overruled by Dumbledore. He was, after all, the preeminent wizard of our age. Immediately thereafter, Dumbledore hired Snape as the new Potions master at Hogwarts, as Horace Slughorn was retiring. Over time, a pattern of favoritism and other objectionable behavior on his part grew, but again, I allowed Dumbledore to overrule my objections, until such time as we reached what you have known under his 'tutelage.' I have wronged you in both of these things, and the school at large for the second, and I apologize for both."
There was a moment's pause, Harry continuing to remain motionless.
"Particular to you also," McGonagall continued, "Is what happened on Halloween last year."
At this, Harry showed his first physical reaction since McGonagall said the word 'apology;' he began to tremble.
"Once the process of realization began," McGonagall said, "I began reconsidering many things, one of them my conversation with you after you saved Miss Granger's life. I realized that I had, in essence, been arguing that you should have allowed her to die, and purely so that my preconception of how things should be could be maintained. This was utterly inexcusable on my part, and you have my sincerest apologies. I should have lauded your courage, and the results of your behavior, and perhaps by way of punishment set you a weekly meeting with me to help you learn when it is appropriate to seek aid, and when to simply act."
Harry sat, strain showing around the edges of his expression, in subtle ways not immediately obvious, but combined with the trembling, these things told a potent story. McGonagall had the sudden urge to wrap the boy in a hug, and then realized, with a slight start, that that was probably exactly what the boy needed. So, standing swiftly, she walked around her desk, then after a moment's hesitation that surprised even her, bent over to wrap the boy in a hug. He started violently at the first moment of contact, but other than his trembling continuing, that was the only movement he made. After another moment's hesitation, she carefully lifted him out of the chair, and seated herself in it, pulling him into her lap.
She held him silently for a quarter of an hour before she realized there might be something more than simple emotional overload to what was happening. At that point, she turned Harry in her lap to look him in the face, and realized that his eyes were locked on something unseen, and aside from the shaking, he had gone totally limp. She snapped her wand out in a flash, cast a weightless charm on the boy, and swiftly carried him off to the infirmary.
"He was in Shock," Pomfrey said, looking up from the now-unconscious form of Harry Potter, "One of the worst cases I've seen in a long time. What happened to him?"
"I apologized to him," McGonagall said, a rare note of uncertainty in her voice.
Pomfrey turned to look at her, confusion writ across her face.
"You apologized to him?" She said.
"Yes," McGonagall said, a slight edge of hoarseness entering her voice, "After flinching slightly, he began to tremble while I detailed precisely what I was apologizing about. He flinched again, quite noticeably, when I first touched him, but aside from that, only the trembling until you put him under."
"There was nothing else?" Pomfrey asked.
"Nothing," McGonagall said, shaking her head.
Pomfrey sighed, and gestured for McGonagall to follow her into her office, where she sat down, and poured out a bottle of bourbon.
"Have a seat," She said, sitting down herself, then conjuring both of them glasses, and pouring a pair of drinks.
McGonagall transfigured the chair across from Pomfrey's desk to better suit her with a flick of her wand, then sat, accepting a drink from Pomfrey.
"You are not going to like this," Pomfrey said, "But I probably know the cause of this."
McGonagall nodded sharply, taking a brief sip from the glass of bourbon.
"I've seen very similar symptoms a number of times when dealing with muggles who have been exposed to the magical world," Pomfrey said, "Some muggles are so wrapped up in their concepts of science, and knowing for an absolute certainty how the world works, that seeing blatant, real magic traumatizes them, and they go into shock. The point I'm getting at, is that trauma isn't just experiencing something horrible, it's experiencing something outside of your knowledge, and not knowing how to deal with it. That's not wholly accurate, but it'll do for now. The point is, there must have been something about what you did that lay very far outside of Harry's experience for him to react like this."
Silence passed between the two of them, broken only by the consumption of alcohol.
"As I've mentioned before," McGonagall eventually said, "Harry has had a far from happy child-hood. That someone apologizing to him, and showing him physical affection, would be outright traumatizing, I find very disturbing."
"So do I," Pomfrey said.
When Harry woke, jerking up into a sitting position, it only took him a handful of seconds to realize where he was. Hogwarts Hospital Wing, well into the night judging by the level of light out the window. Harry immediately tried to work through his memories of what had brought him to there; said memories of the previous night flooded through his mind, chased swiftly by hot, furious rage. He did not know what kind of magic McGonagall had used on him, but he did not find it to be acceptable.
First order of business, survival. Harry quickly scanned his body and clothing for traces of another's magic; finding nothing active, he considered his possible routes of escape. After seven seconds of consideration, he directed his magical energies into his barrier, then turned towards the windows.
A sprint and a leap later, he was falling two stories down in a rain of shattered glass.
The sound of shattering glass abruptly ended McGonagall and Pomfrey's conversation, and the pair bolted out into the infirmary to discover the smashed window, and Harry Potter's empty bed. Horror struck McGonagall's heart, as desperation struck Pomfrey's. McGonagall froze for a moment, while the healer dashed across the room, sticking her head through the large hole smashed into the window, and staring down at the ground below.
She saw nothing even remotely human shaped on the ground below.
"He's gone," She said abruptly, turning to face McGonagall, "This wasn't a suicide attempt, he's running."
"Running?" McGonagall said, disbelief tingeing her voice.
"Yes," Pomfrey said, "Running. You've made him vulnerable, and if what you've told me is true, he's learned only one way to react to that: remove the vulnerability. That means getting away from you until he knows how to make sure he is able to prevent you from affecting him the same way again."
"He'll either be attempting to leave the grounds," McGonagall said, "Or return to Gryffindor tower to recover some of his belongings. I'll hurry to the tower, please alert Albus to what has happened."
Harry efficiently stripped his necessary belongings from his trunk; money (wizard and muggle), his personal notes on his developing magic, day-rations, two season-appropriate durable changes of clothing, his compact sleeping bag, and his invisibility cloak. He heard footsteps moving up the stairs to the boys dorm, and snatched up his English-French dictionary as a last item, then disappeared beneath the cloak.
McGonagall burst into the room seconds later, waking Harry's year-mates instantly.
"Whuu?" Ronald Weasley said intelligently, staring blearily at the witch silhouetted in the doorway, then covering her eyes as she illuminated the entire room with a silent spell.
Her eyes immediately fell on Harry's open trunk, and its clear partially-emptied state.
"Merlin's 'airy armpit," She breathed, turned, and stalked back down out of the dorm.
Harry followed swiftly, intending to follow her through the portrait hole, so as not draw attention by opening it himself. His plan was interrupted, however, by something that troubled his senses, a wariness that his instincts told him to heed, and he held himself back in the stairwell as McGonagall entered the common room.
"Poppy informs me that young Harry is missing."
Harry recognized the voice as Dumbledore's, though the pregnant calm to it was something he had not heard in it before.
"Yes," McGonagall said, "He appears to have fled the infirmary as soon as he woke. He has already been to his dormitory and retrieved some of his belongings, I suspect he is fleeing the grounds as we speak."
"I have allowed your actions during the Summer," Dumbledore said, "Because it has been readily apparent that I made a mistake in placing Harry with the Dursleys, but…"
Harry's rational thoughts came to a crashing halt, as Dumbledore's words connected with what McGonagall had told him earlier. When Dumbledore placed him with the Dursleys…
Dumbledore was a man well in excess of a hundred years old, and had experienced many, many things during his decades of life. A screaming twelve year old boy attacking him with a knife was new. Honed and well-maintained reflexes had his wand out, and spraying a capture-pattern of conjured ropes at the charging boy before Dumbledore even realized who it was. They struck Harry Potter before he had crossed half the Gryffindor common room; the boy tried to cut the ropes apart with his knife but there were simply too many for him to cut even close to all of them.
He did, however manage to cut the ropes that wound have bound his knife hand, allowing him to partially break his fall when the ropes snared his ankles, sending him tumbling to the floor. Dumbledore stared in shock as the young Potter rolled a half-dozen feet across the floor before coming to a stop. A half-second after his bound position on the floor was stable, the boy hurled his knife at Dumbledore, who deflected it with a spell so simple it didn't even require conscious thought for the master wizard to cast. Harry went for his wand, but McGonagall, finally overcoming her shock enough to act, disarmed him with a silent Expelliarmus, and closed her open mouth.
Harry bellowed again in rage, gesturing violently towards Dumbledore with his free hand, and a wave of magical force swept across the room, too diffuse to do much more than force Dumbledore to take a step back in order to maintain his balance, but laying another shock on the senior faculty at his display of wandless magic. When he managed to summon his knife back to himself with another gesture, Dumbledore decided enough was enough, and stunned the boy.
Or tried to. The spell struck Harry directly, but the only effect it had was to jostle the boy slightly. Dumbledore frowned, and disarmed the boy again, though not before he managed to cut several more of the ropes loose. Bereft of weapon and wand, Harry lurched to his feet, and charged Dumbledore again, rage written on his face as he reached out to grapple the aged Headmaster with his bare hands. Dumbledore levitated the boy off the ground, sticking him in mid-air, unable to move.
"What on earth is this all about?" Dumbledore asked.
The boy just snarled again, gesturing with both hands to send another wave of magic at Dumbledore, who neutralized it with a sweep of his wand, then proceeded to wrap the boy in as many conjured bonds as he felt he could without asphyxiating the boy. Then he cast a silencing charm to mute the sound of the boy's incoherent raging, before turning to look at McGonagall severely.
"I have allowed your actions thus far," Dumbledore said, his voice cool, "Because of how the results of my own actions have been less than desireable. If this is to be the outcome of your actions, however, I will be taking personal custody of Harry, to ensure his wellbeing."
And with that, he turned, and preceded the levitated Potter bundle out of the Gryffindor common room, ignoring the small crowd of Gryffindors that had assembled around the base of the stairs, drawn by the sounds of the enraged Potter. McGonagall however, not only would not, she could not, they were her Lions, and she was their head of house. She had just been served a very potent example of what came of neglect, and she intended to never again allow such to pass.
"What's happening, Professor?" A frightened young female voice asked, and McGonagall turned to see Ginny Weasley addressing her, hiding mostly behind her eldest brother (amongst those present at Hogwarts, at least), only enough of her head protruding into view for her eyes to be visible.
"What is happening," McGonagall said, sighing as she seated herself tiredly upon one of the couches that populated the common room, "Is the price of many mistakes and injustices coming due, and all of them being paid by one poor boy."
"Wh-what do you mean?" Ginny asked.
"I have learned many disturbing things about young Harry Potter over the last Summer," McGonagall said, gesturing for the assembled Gryffindors to seat themselves, while she lit the fire with her wand.
"What kind of things?" Neville Longbottom asked, some hesitation in his voice.
She told them. Not everything; that wasn't her place, but enough that instead of being frightened of Harry, they were horrified on his behalf.
When Harry awoke again, he was in a largely empty chamber, laying on one of only four present pieces of furniture. The bed he lay on was the first, the desk and chair the second and third, a book-case filled with second-year texts was the third. A warm breakfast was laid out on a tray on the desk, and Harry's stomach growled. Wasting no time, Harry left the bed, seated himself at the desk, and efficiently devoured the breakfast, studying the room he was within as he did so. There was little of note to it aside from the furniture; its architecture followed the same general lines that he was accustomed to from Hogwarts, and something he couldn't quite identify assured him that yes, he was, in fact, still in the Scottish castle.
There was a single door, but it led to a small, but fully functional bathroom, not an exit. Once he had ascertained that there was no obvious exit, Harry carefully confirmed, with senses both mundane and supernatural, that there was no concealed exit either, though the magic of one section of wall suggested to him that it had been a door not too long ago. The stones were genuine stones though, not conjured, and while he had no doubt they had been moved into place with magic, they were very real, and the magic of Hogwarts was swiftly binding them into itself. With a certain disassociated detachment, Harry noted to himself that yes, he could in fact sense the magic now, without needing to extend a tendril of his own magic to make contact with it. This revelation was noted only in passing, as the lion's share of his attention was completely consumed by something else.
He had been placed in a prison again, slightly larger, but ultimately no different than his cupboard at Privet Drive. Harry knew how to deal with prisons. Consciously draining every emotion out of himself except for cold purpose, Harry turned his attention to the texts on the bookshelf, to see if any contained anything useful for his upcoming escape.
"I've never heard McGonagall so upset before," Percy Weasley said somberly.
"Mate," Lee Jordan said, "I don't think I've seen anyone so upset. Do you think it's true?"
Katie Bell stared at Jordan flatly.
"McGonagall, lie?" She said sarcastically, "Being emotional like that's one thing, but lying on top of it? I'd suspect Polyjuice first."
"No," George Weasley said, "She was talking with us for too long, would've worn off."
Silence passed amongst the assembled Gryffindors for nearly a minute.
"So what do we do?" Lavender Brown finally asked.
"Dunno," Fred Weasley said, "Guess we'll hafta wait until we can talk to Harry won't we?"
"Yes," Percy said, "And in the meantime, I suggest we all get some sleep, with what's left of the night, at any rate."
"How is he, Poppy?" Dumbledore asked, concern clear in his voice.
"Well," Pomfrey said, sitting back from where she'd been leaning over the unconscious Potter, "The standard diagnostics show slight signs of fatigue, but nothing more. In retrospect, I probably should have done a physical inspection, and deeper scans, the first time he entered my care, but I can rectify that now. Why the sudden need for additional tests?"
"I am concerned," Dumbledore said, "That he may be experiencing psychotic episodes."
"Psychotic episodes?" Pomfrey said, confusion evident in her voice as she began a more detailed scan of the boy, "Considering the amount of stress he's been under, I could see that coming in twenty or thirty years, but at age twelve? What makes you think he's having psychotic episodes?"
"He attacked me," Dumbledore said, leaning back in his own conjured chair, and frowning, "In the Gryffindor common room, for no apparent reason."
Pomfrey completed the spell she had begun casting, examined results which she could only see for a few moments, frowned, then turned to look at Dumbledore.
"Did McGonagall tell you nothing of this boy's history?" Pomfrey asked.
"None of the details," Dumbledore said, "I am, however, aware that he has had a far from happy childhood."
"And Harry is now aware that you were the one who placed him with his aunt and uncle," Pomfrey said, "That does not sound like 'no reason' to me."
Dumbledore could think of no immediate response, and offered none. Pomfrey eventually turned back to Harry, and began casting another spell.
"If you would not mind, Headmaster," She said, "I would like some privacy to engage in my work"
The Headmaster nodded calmly, and left the mediwitch to her work.
Pomfrey, absorbed in her spellwork, only paid enough attention to be certain he was gone, before speaking aloud.
"Now this can't be right," She said, "It doesn't make any sense at all."
"You wanted to speak to me, Poppy?" McGonagall asked, looking at the weary mediwitch seated on the other side of her desk.
"Yes," Pomfrey said, "Albus had me take another look at Harry, he seemed to be under the impression that Harry was suffering from psychotic episodes, and I began using some more involved diagnostic spells on Harry."
"Go on," McGonagall said when Pomfrey paused, and the mediwitch noticed McGonagall's slightly uncomfortable expression.
"The basic diagnostic charms commonly used are unobtrusive," Pomfrey said, "Deliberately so, when dealing with curses, spells that interact directly with the patient's magic or the curse magic can have severe effects. They instead measure things like the general outline of the patient's body, the fluctuations of pressure over blood vessels, and similar things, to check blood pressure, pulse, body-temperature, for the presence of broken bones, etc. Every time I have examined Harry except possibly for when you brought him to me in shock, I've had no reason to go beyond these charms, and have not; after the Headmaster asked me to inspect him again, however, I began using more intrusive spells."
Pomfrey paused for a moment to order her thoughts before continuing.
"His entire body is warded by a magical barrier that consumes about half his magical energy to maintain itself, it's hard to tell for sure, but as best I can tell, this barrier has been active for years. I'm also entirely certain that it's a result of hysterical magic, and maintains itself involuntarily. It took me half an hour to wear far enough past this barrier to actually study it properly. I had to drive him nearly to the point of magical exhaustion, and then over power my own diagnostic charms substantially to pierce the barrier. It only took me so long to do so because I had to be cautious of doing him injury somehow. Albus mentioned that Harry had been resistant to a stunner, and I'm confident this is why."
McGonagall reached down into her desk, and pulled out a bottle of whiskey, and two glasses.
"It's limited to the strength of his magic, of course," Pomfrey said, "But he's powerful for his age, and this constant use of his magic has built up his endurance like nothing I've seen before. His rate of rejuvenation was strong enough that I couldn't penetrate it again after I left him for ten minutes. Aside from the barrier, he was in remarkably good health, very physically fit, and aside from some scars, nothing else to be concerned about. I've never seen hysterical magic effects this strong though, I think we need to know more about just what happened during Harry Potter's early childhood."
McGonagall passed one glass of Scotch to the mediwitch.
"I believe you are correct," She said, pausing to take a drink before continuing, "I will have to get into contact with Miss Granger. What did Albus have to say about all this?"
Pomfrey looked uncomfortable, and took some time before responding.
"I haven't told him yet," She said eventually, "I'm not entirely sure if I trust him to handle this."
A long, hard silence passed between the two, several minutes of hard thought, and hard liquor passing before either spoke again.
"In all honesty," McGonagall said, "Neither am I, though I hate to admit it. Dumbledore is well past one hundred years old, and holds so many positions of critical importance, I am no longer entirely certain of his ability to keep up with them all."
"So wotsit you want us 't look at?" Ron asked, looking up and down the corridor curiously.
"Right," George said, "See this wall here? We're pretty sure Harry's behind it. Now have a look 'round the corners, and in the classroom on the sides."
The rest of the Weasley family, aside from Fred, as well as the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and the other second years, all did a circuit around the indicated section of wall, before coming to the same conclusion the twins had.
"There's a space," Percy said, "Perhaps thirty feet by thirty feet, walled in, with no visible entrances. What makes you think Harry is within?"
"We have our ways," Fred said with a smirk, "If one of you lot figures out what's up with the walled in space, we'll show 'em, but don't want to go revealing our tricks to just anyone, eh?"
"Fair enough," Alicia Spinnet said, "Let's get to work."
Dumbledore sat tiredly behind his desk, thinking. He hadn't slept well the night before, and regardless of how fit he was for his age, he was still well past one hundred years old. Unpleasant thoughts consumed his mind, reflections upon his own mistakes. Clearly, he should have checked up on Harry, but the thought that his own family would treat him that poorly had not even occurred to him, and he had so many other responsibilities…
He was not sure what to do with Harry now, the boy had clearly become unstable. Considering what had apparently happened to him at the Dursleys, his anger at Dumbledore was quite justified, but it did not justify his behavior, and Dumbledore would not, could not, expose the rest of the student body to someone so clearly unhinged, especially with his unexpected resistance to magic. The large muggle knife that the boy had been carrying only compounded the issue, he held it not as an unfamiliar tool, but as an accustomed weapon, one which he was at least passingly proficient with.
Normally, under such circumstances (or as close to such as he had encountered before), Dumbledore would have sent the child back to his family, but as his only living blood relations had been in large part the cause of such derangement… Dumbledore did not like the options he found available to himself, especially as they reminded him far too much of another troubled child, a century ago, that he had failed even more greatly than he had already failed poor Harry. The only real options he saw, were to either hand Harry over to the mind-healers at Saint Mungos, a place he could not be assured of Harry's safety, not to mention the social and political repercussions when such a thing became known, or he could hold Harry here at Hogwarts, and try to reason with him, which would be even more taxing upon his time.
It never even occurred to Dumbledore to allow someone else to take control of the situation.
"Thank you for allowing me to visit on such short notice, Misses Granger," McGonagall said as she stepped into the Granger residence.
"Not at all," The senior Granger woman said, "My daughter was quite eager to speak to you, and she made it clear it was a matter of quite some importance."
McGonagall was rather confused at the comment, as she had not indicated in her letter to Hermione just what she wished to speak of, only that it was about Harry in general, but did not let her slight confusion show.
"Hermione is waiting for you in the library," Mrs. Granger said, indicating a door on the left side of the entrance hallway, "She's rather eager."
"Thank you," McGonagall said again, nodded, and proceeded through the indicated door.
Inside, she found a modestly sized library, rather large compared to the house it was a part of, packed absolutely to the brim with books. Tucked into a large overstuffed chair was Hermione Granger, her chair flanked by a pair of end tables, both of which were perilously over-populated with an assortment of open and closed books, notes, writing utensils, and one photo album.
"Good afternoon, Miss Granger," McGonagall said, and the bushy brunette jumped slightly, looking up from the ponderous tome she had been working through.
"Oh!" Hermione said, "Professor McGonagall, I'm glad you could come so soon, you really must see this…"
The girl trailed off, setting the book she had been reading aside, and pulling another from the stacks on the end table to her left. McGonagall moved herself to one of the other seats in the library, and repositioned it slightly so that she ended up seated directly across from the Granger girl, only a few feet away.
"Here it is," Hermione said, and passed the book, now open to a specific page, across to McGonagall, "This is a list of all the death-eater trials that took place in the year following Voldemort's fall, I found it in my research as to what came of the people depicted in Harry's photo-album."
McGonagall accepted the book, and swiftly looked over the names. While she had not seen the list of names compiled in one location before, she was far from unfamiliar with the names on it; almost all of them had been her pupils before they had gone bad, or in some cases while they had gone bad. She did not notice anything in particular, except for painful memories, so looked it over again, with a bit more care, but still failed to notice what it was that had drawn Hermione Granger's attention.
"I am unsure as to what it is you are intending to draw my attention to, Miss Granger," McGonagall said, looking up at the young Granger, "Most of what I find in this list are the names of students I wish had turned out better."
"Sirius Black's name isn't on the list," Hermione said seriously.
McGonagall opened her mouth to respond, then stopped to think. Sirius Black had been James Potter's best friend, until he had betrayed him to Voldemort, killed Peter Pettigrew and a large number of muggles, then been sent to Azkaban. Sent to Azkaban within days of when Harry had been sent to the Dursleys. Apparently, sent to Azkaban, where he had spent the last ten years, without trial.
"I see," McGonagall said sternly, "Have you been able to find any indication that this list may be in error, or other sources that indicate his trial was held?"
"No," Hermione said, shaking her head, "Misses Tonks and I even went to the Ministry Archives together to search them, and found nothing about a trial."
"Well," McGonagall said, an edge entering her voice, "I shall have to speak with Albus about this when I return to Hogwarts. As Chief Warlock, this is his responsibility." Her voice softened, before she continued, "There is something else I wished to speak with you about, Miss Granger."
"Oh?" Hermione said, looking at McGonagall expectantly.
"There've been some troubles with Harry," McGonagall said, a slight tinge of discomfort showing through her stern façade, "Amongst other things, he discovered that the Headmaster was responsible for his placement with the Dursleys, and attacked him in a fit of rage."
Hermione went white.
"Neither were hurt," McGonagall continued, "Though Harry was surprisingly difficult to subdue. Madam Pomphrey has since informed me that his magic appears to maintain a constant magical barrier within his body, one which makes him heavily resistant to spells and physical damage. She believes it's a result of hysterical magic from years in the past. I had intended to respect Harry's privacy as much in this regard as I could, but I feel that at this point I must know more of what has happened."
Hermione's brow furrowed, and she chewed her lip, clearly worried. McGonagall gave her time to think. After a few minutes silence, she spoke.
"I don't think it would be right for me to tell you what I've discovered," Hermione said eventually, "Or at least, Harry wouldn't see it that way. I've already told you more about things he'd probably prefer kept quiet than I'd like," She paused, and took a deep breath, turning to meet McGonagall's gaze directly, "I will, however, tell you that Petunia Dursley knows, and give you her address."
McGonagall inspected Number 4 Privet Drive critically. It was a far cry from what she had seen eleven years ago, the rough, uncut lawn running up to a simple vegetable garden directly in front of the house, which, while clearly well-maintained, was rather dull and faded compared to its near-pristine neighbors. It took no great stretch of the imagination for McGonagall to realize the difference was almost certainly related to the cause of her visit. Steeling her purpose, she strode to the front door, and knocked loudly three times. It took only a few moments for the door to be answered.
"Yes?" The woman McGonagall immediately recognized as Petunia Dursley said, opening the door to find McGonagall standing there.
Like the house, this was a very different Petunia Dursley than what McGonagall had seen years ago. She wore a simple, functional blouse and trousers, no sign of make-up, and her hair was arranged in a utilitarian ponytail. The largest change, however, was in the woman's bearing and expression. Where before the bony woman had positively reeked of snobbish hauteur, her carriage now emanated a simple tired determination. Further, her former near-unhealthy light weight had filled out to a much more normal, and healthy, level of body fat, which McGonagall could tell was backed with the muscle of someone who engages in regularly tiring, if not particularly strenuous, physical activity. McGonagall was of the opinion that the change suited the woman, who now, rather than striking McGonagall as horse-faced, made her think of a mare that had fallen on harder times; lean, but still clearly feminine. A person of character rather than pride.
"I am Minerva McGonagall," McGonagall said sternly, "Assistant Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Harry Potter's head of house. I need to speak with you of Harry's childhood."
Petunia nodded, stepping out of the doorway and gesturing for McGonagall to enter. It wasn't hard for McGonagall to recognize that Petunia had been expecting something like this sooner or later.
"Would you like some tea?" Petunia asked with rote courtesy, but McGonagall shook her head.
"I would not think it appropriate for the probable contents of our conversation," She said.
Petunia nodded, and escorted McGonagall into her living room, and gestured for her to take a seat in a high-quality couch, while seating herself in a very worn, if still functional armchair to face the elder woman directly.
"I knew a visit like this would come sooner or later," She said calmly, "All I ask is that you let me finish the story once I begin telling it."
McGonagall nodded briskly, and gestured for Petunia Dursley to begin telling her tale.
"The story, properly, begins when I was twelve years old, and Lily ten, and she received her Hogwarts letter. Up until that point, our family life had been only somewhat odd, between Lily's occasional bouts of accidental magic, and my own slowly developing jealousy over how much prettier Lily was than I. There was also her relationship with that Snape fellow, who I honestly was feeling protective about her over at the time. He was, after all, exactly the sort that our mother told us to be wary of. I was a foolish child at the time, and handled such things poorly, but we probably both would have grown out of it, if Lily hadn't gone off to Hogwarts."
Petunia looked at McGonagall meaningfully before continuing.
"I do not blame your school, or Lily, or even Lily departing, for my own decisions since then, I have had a great deal of time to think on what I have done with my life in the last few years, and recognized many, many could-have-beens. That aside, whereas I had only been somewhat jealous of Lily's more attractive looks before, as she returned home each summer, that jealousy increased steadily intensity, until she returned after her fifth year, and it went completely out of control. I'm sure you, as a woman, can understand how a mysterious sister appearing during the summer, from a secretive but prestigious school in Scotland, with gorgeous red hair, green eyes, a beautiful figure and clear complexion, would draw all the young men's attention away from one with such commonplace, even homely looks, as myself."
Petunia sighed, before continuing.
"That our parents doted on her during the months she was around did not help. Perhaps the worst, was that Lily did not take advantage of her social status, or lord it over me, but instead refused invitation to social meetings with our peers unless I was also included. Up until the summer after fifth year, I was willing to pay more attention to how she treated me herself, than how others treated me compared to her. In hindsight, it was such a stupid thing that changed my mind. There was a boy I was interested in, who had displayed some hints of interest in return towards the end of the year, until Summer came, and Lily returned. Once she was around, he wouldn't give me the time of day."
Petunia stopped for a moment, looking at her hands, held carefully in her lap.
"Something inside me broke, and I began to hate my sister. Even after more than a decade and a half, now that I no longer see my memories through the lens of hatred, I realize just how much I hurt my younger sister when I rejected her, and began to shun her. I practically had a party when she returned to Hogwarts at the end of the Summer, and arranged for myself to go on a trip the next Summer, for nearly the entire time that she was at our family home. I was already at university when she graduated from Hogwarts, and married James Potter. I never met James Potter, I didn't even reply to her wedding invitation."
Tears came to Petunia's eyes, and she had to pause for a moment before continuing.
"Our parents told me that she had two seats reserved at the ceremony, and the reception, just in case I showed up anyways, the second in case I had met a man for myself. To this day, I cannot understand how Lily was so forgiving, I certainly didn't deserve it. When I saw the wedding pictures, how handsome James was, just the way he looked at her, with so much love in his eyes, it seemed he was everything that she had denied me, through just being better than me in every conceivable way. When I saw those pictures, my hatred became something more, something that scares me even to remember. It became transcendent, utterly dominating me in anything that related to my sister. I was a stupid, petty, horrible woman."
Petunia paused to wipe her eyes.
"It was shortly after Lily's wedding that I met Vernon. At the time, he was a very physically fit man, a competent, if not particularly outstanding rugby player, and a man of great passion. I didn't realize it until afterwards, but I was little more to him than another conquest, and a cheap one at that. Within a month of meeting, we were sleeping regularly together, and he probably would have left me within another month, if I hadn't gotten pregnant with Dudley. While Vernon may have been something of a cad, he was not completely without honor, and married me post-haste. Always one for decisive action, he even had the grace to make it look like we had eloped as impetuous young lovers, taking a week off from university to visit Bermuda. He acted quickly enough that no one, aside from the midwife, paid particular attention to Dudley's birth date compared to the date of our wedding.
"Dudley was a healthy, strong child, even as an infant, and for perhaps half a year, I held genuine hope of happiness with Vernon, as he took pride in his son. It didn't last though. By the end of the first year, he had begun to become abusive."
She paused for a moment, and her tone was cold and when she continued.
"He was of the opinion that he deserved 'better' than me. He made many remarks about many things, but the one thing I could not change, my appearance, was the one that cut the deepest, because I knew that he had not intended to marry me, would not have if it hadn't been for Dudley. He wanted someone more physically attractive, and I suspect that he had a number of affairs through the later years of our marriage, though at the time I was too afraid to find out. I still am too afraid, I suppose. I became a perfectionist, driving myself to meet his exacting standards for how the house and yard should be maintained, and I am still somewhat proud to admit that I was able to exceed his standards with my own in this regard. It did not help as I had hoped though, instead he simply focused all the more on my physical appearance, which played directly into my hatred of my sister.
"Then my sister's only child arrived on our doorstep, with word of her and her husband's death."
Petunia's expression became rigid, and she spoke the next words with great difficulty.
"My greatest shame, to this day," She said haltingly, "Is the sense of vengeful satisfaction I felt when I read of Lily's death."
McGonagall recoiled at these words, utterly appalled. Petunia looked away, her face burning red with shame, but she forced herself to continue.
"To my twisted mind at the time, Harry's arrival seemed at first a curse, then a gift. Vernon demanded to know who the child was, and I, thoroughly under his heel, told him everything. He did not believe me, and I suffered for my 'lies' for a week, until it happened that Vernon was in the kitchen, when Harry summoned Dudley's bottle from across the room. At this point I discovered that Vernon's distaste for the unnatural exceeded his own dissatisfaction with my appearance, and Harry became a second focus for his antipathy. Again to my shame, I took ruthless advantage of this, and in my hatred of his mother, redirected Vernon's rages from myself, to the child, as often as I could.
"At first, it seemed relatively harmless, even Vernon would not strike an infant, and would only rage at him verbally. If he had been a man to concern himself with 'woman's work,' such as feeding infants, he may have forbade me from feeding Harry, but his thoughts simply did not move in such ways. Once Harry was old enough to begin talking, and walking independently, Vernon's abuse began to slip into the physical, and escalate as Harry grew. Once Harry was eating at the table, Vernon did begin to forbid him food, and I am entirely certain that Harry's growth has been substantially stunted.
Petunia took a deep breath, and turned to face McGonagall again, her face still burning with shame, but her eyes sending a clear message that she would not deny her own shame.
"Harry also has his mother's eyes, I am sure you have noticed. As they grew from an infant's eyes, into the eyes of a child, the resemblance became stronger and stronger, and by the time he was five years old, the association was so strong in my mind, that my hatred of Lily had rather firmly grown to cover her child as well, and I began to inspire Vernon's rages at Harry deliberately, as a petty revenge upon Lily. It…"
Petunia broke off, unable to find words, and was silent for a long moment.
"At this point, I can barely comprehend how I could do such a thing, even once, much less repeatedly, for years. I did not even think about the example it was setting for Dudley, so consuming was my hatred. By the time Harry was seven, the abuse had become severe, sometimes Harry would be forbidden food two weeks out of a month, I am certain Vernon broke fingers, toes, or ribs several times. In a way, I am amazed the boy did not try to run away. In my studies of child psychology since then, I've realized that he most probably did not think anyone else would treat him any better. Vernon had old school friends in the school and local educational offices, who prevented attention from being drawn to Harry's condition, which rather frightens me, considering how blatant his condition compared to Dudley was.
"It all came to a head when Harry was nine. By that point, he no longer fought or argued with us, simply submitted to the beatings he received, though with surprising resiliency, that I now suspect was some artifact of his magical abilities. It was more than somewhat surprising then, when Dudley returned from school, to tell us that Harry had attacked him. Once Vernon had returned home, he had me call Harry into the kitchen, and attacked him with a seven-iron, striking him full-force across the forehead with his first swing. Vernon was a large, powerful man, even though he had become quite portly by this time, and the blow would have killed a full-grown man, but it merely knocked Harry unconscious."
Petunia paused again, and it took quite some time for her to find the words and composure she needed to continue.
"My memories of what happened next are… fragmented, I still do not understand it all," Petunia said hesitantly, "But some parts are exceedingly clear, and the outcome of the unclear parts was not difficult to discern once the police arrived at the scene. A bloody specter of my younger sister appeared, and attacked Vernon, nearly killing him. He attempted to strike her with the golf club several times, but it simply passed through her with very little noticeable effect, though he caught me in the arm unintentionally with one of his swings, breaking my arm. What she did to Vernon…
Petunia broke off for a moment, her face paling considerably before she managed to continue.
"There was so much blood. Everywhere. I did not know that the human body could hold so much blood. I do not remember it, but according to the report the neighbors gave the police, I was screaming almost non-stop for five minutes. After she was done with Vernon, Lily spoke with me, and she was not so forgiving as she had once been, not in the least.
"'Petunia Evans,' she told me, 'It is only because of Albus Dumbledore's foolishly-cast protections that I leave you with your life. You will take care of my son as you would your own, or when we next meet, you will learn the full horror of what a witch can inflict upon a defenseless muggle.' Then she dissolved. Most of the rest of my memory of that night is a blur, but according to the police reports, they found me lying in a pool of my husband's blood, in shock."
More than a minute passed in silence, while Petunia regained her composure, and McGonagall digested what she had been told.
"The official police findings were that I had stopped my husband from killing my nephew, receiving injury in the process myself. That, and the fact that I could honestly testify that I had never struck Harry myself, are the only reasons I am not in prison as well. I nearly lost Dudley and Harry to child services anyways. Once Harry was released from the hospital, he returned here, where we have maintained a distant relationship ever since. I have taken a very few cautious steps to attempt to build some form of healthy relationship, but it is likely the boy simply does not believe anybody cares about him, and certainly does not believe that I do."
They sat for several silent minutes, Petunia half-lost in painful memories, McGonagall integrating her new knowledge into what she already knew of Harry.
"Harry attacked Headmaster Dumbledore in a fit of rage last night," She eventually said, "After discovering that he was the one to place him with you."
"I can't blame him," Petunia said softly, "Though I am surprised he would display so much emotion. In a way, I am encouraged. I've not seen one smidgen of feeling, except for scorn, out of him, since he was eight years old."
"It is only the second time I have seen him display emotion openly," McGonagall said, "The first time was last year, when he saved a fellow first year student from a Troll. I was scolding him for putting himself in a place of danger, and he was arguing, correctly in hindsight, that he needed to act, or young Miss Granger would have been killed. He was quite angry with me, though he only displayed it very briefly."
Petunia nodded sadly.
"When I looked into the matter later, Harry had in fact attacked Dudley that day, in order to stop him from picking on a young girl. Apparently, Harry had learned to evade all of Dudley's attempts at bullying at school, and out of frustration, he was turning to a new target. I'm glad to hear he is still willing to stand up for others, they are the only signs I have seen that he has not turned into a sociopath."
McGonagall nodded sternly, staring at the younger woman, who met her gaze with determination.
"Your behavior has been reprehensible, Misses Dursley," She said eventually, her voice severe, "But you appear to have fully realized the scope of your sin, and are attempting to make amends. See that you continue in this path. If it ever becomes known in the magical world what happened to Harry in this house, at the hands of muggles, it would inflame anti-muggle sentiment through wizarding England, and you would probably find yourself dead at the hands of vigilantes."
"It would be no more than I deserve," Petunia said without hesitation, "If such comes to pass, I would ask that you find a good home for my own son, and explain to him that what I received was no more than I deserved."
McGonagall nodded sternly.
"I will do as I can. I am currently unwilling to trust the systems of government with the care of any child I know. You sell yourself short, however. It takes great moral character to change as you have, and it is women such as yourself who can make a great difference within society, magical or muggle."
Petunia started slightly at McGonagall's remark, and stared at the elder woman in bewilderment as the Transfiguration professor stood.
"Thank you for your time, Misses Dursley," McGonagall said.
"Actually," Petunia interjected softly, "It's Evans now, again."
"I'm glad to hear it," McGonagall said, smiling slightly, "As I said, thank you for the time, but even on the weekend, Hogwarts requires much time of its faculty, and I must be off."
"I only hope what I have told you can help Harry," Petunia said, "God Bless you, and I hope you do better for the child than I have."
"I shall do what I may," McGonagall said, nodding respectfully to Petunia, then disappearing with a sharp crack.
Harry Potter sat silently on the stone floor, his eyes closed. He was facing the bed, seated ten feet away from it, and his wand was resting on top of it, directly in front of him. Carefully, calmly, he shaped the spell in his mind, the way the magic moved in response to word, to motion, to wand, building up the energy. Then his eyes snapped open, and he threw the magic forth. It latched onto his wand, and summoned it to his outstretched hand.
"Excellent," He said quietly, "Now for speed."
"Nothing," Percy said, prim irritation clear in his tone, as he stared at the unchanged wall, "Absolutely nothing."
"Wadya 'xpect?" George said, "'s Dumbledore's work. Bit of a top notch wizard innit he?"
Percy nodded curtly.
"Won't stop us from trying," Angelina said, "After all, it's hard to have a Quidditch team without a Seeker."
"Damn straight!" Oliver Wood burst out, "Now less talking, more spell-cracking!"
Hermione Granger felt a little guilty, something she knew objectively she really shouldn't, if Harry was in trouble and Professor McGonagall needed to know about his past to help him, she needed to know. She'd also avoided telling what she knew directly, and knew that McGonagall would have found the Dursleys eventually anyways, and wasting time wouldn't have helped anyone…
But Harry was still a very private person, and would probably see it as a betrayal. Hermione's heart wasn't as able to justify her actions as her mind could, no matter how rational her actions had been. Groaning to herself in frustration, Hermione pulled out a new piece of notebook paper, and began to pen a letter to send to Harry.
"Albus," McGonagall said, "It's time we spoke of Harry."
Dumbledore looked up from his tea, meeting McGonagall's gaze evenly.
"I suppose," He said, "That there is no time like the present. What about him do you wish to discuss?"
"I learned a great deal about Harry's time with the Dursleys from Petunia," McGonagall said, "Things I think you should know."
Harry 'held' the book above his hand. It had taken him two days to gain a reasonable degree of capability with the summoning charm wandlessly, and though he was not as swift with it as he would have liked, something else had caught his attention. His power was growing, and noticeably. He had known that magical strength, like physical strength, would grow with time, but it had certainly not been growing so fast he could feel the difference hour by hour before. It was very slight, but the fact that the rate of growth was substantial enough that he could notice it said volumes in and of itself. He suspected it was tied to the fact that he seemed to be entering puberty, but was not certain.
He dearly wished he could Owl Hermione to ask her to look into it, but he, of course, had no access to mail from within his prison. So instead, he practiced his control with a wandless hovering charm, holding one of the books that was functionally useless to him in the air, and moving it about as he felt able. It was not as though he had anything better to do.
Dumbledore groaned, leaning back in his chair, and to McGonagall's eyes, showed more of his age than he ever had before. A certain wry humor came to her, however, when he reached into a drawer of his desk, and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and accompanying glasses. He quietly filled both glasses, then extended one across the desk to her, before downing his own very quickly.
"I have erred even more greatly than I thought," Dumbledore said quietly, weariness nearly drowning his words out.
"Indeed," McGonagall said sternly, but not harshly, "And I erred in allowing it."
Silence passed between them for some time.
"You're getting old, Albus," McGonagall eventually said, her tone softer than many of her students would have believed possible, "And you've spread yourself too thin. You hold three extremely demanding positions, of which, quite frankly, Hogwarts can the most afford your neglect in. You and I both know that it's only the respect the ICW has for you personally that has prevented Wizarding England from being ostracized, and your work in the Wizengamot is critical for keeping the blood supremacists from gaining more power. I know how much you love Hogwarts Albus, but of the three titles you hold, Headmaster is the only one with a ready, competent replacement on hand."
Albus closed his eyes, and nodded tiredly.
"I will retire at the end of the year," He said sadly, "And recommend the board place you as my successor. It saddens me to realize I am no longer up to the task, but even I am not immortal. I should have noticed sooner."
McGonagall laughed harshly at that.
"That is hardly your fault," McGonagall said, "Everyone in Wizarding England, including myself, has been too enamored of your legend to criticize you. If no one will call you on your mistakes, how will you ever see them?"
"That does not remove my responsibility," Dumbldore said tiredly, "Leadership is a position of responsibility, the higher the position, the greater the responsibility. I have allowed a great deal of harm to Harry, and through my neglect, to the many students of Severus."
McGonagall did not respond; she knew the man before her well enough to know that nothing she could say was capable of cutting him more deeply than his own guilt, now that he had realized his wrong. Nor would she.
"I suggest you tell the staff in the meantime," McGonagall said, "And remand Harry to my care."
For a moment, Dumbledore looked as though he was going to protest, but stilled himself.
"I suppose," He said with a wry smile, "I have rather proved my judgement is not the best where he is concerned."
"I suppose," McGonagall said in sad agreement.
"Very well," Dumbledore said, rising slowly from his chair, "I will give you access to Harry's room first thing in the morning. In the meantime, however, it's time for me to put these old bones to bed."
"I could use some sleep myself," McGonagall said, also rising, "I'm not as young as I used to be either."
Harry's eyes snapped open, his wand came to his hand, and was trained on the door that had not been there a moment ago before it even opened fully. In the doorway stood Minerva McGonagall; Harry did not lower his wand, but neither did he attempt any form of spellcasting.
"Hello, Mister Potter," McGonagall said cordially, "I am sorry it took so long to persuade the Headmaster to release you, but I had to spend some time looking into your past, in order to bring him enough information to convince him. He will be retiring from his position here at Hogwarts at the end of the year."
Harry remained motionless, utterly silent as he stared at McGonagall and considered her words.
"What guarantee do I have that he will not try to imprison me again?" Harry asked, his voice utterly devoid of emotion.
"If he does so for anything less than an utterly justified reason," McGonagall said, "Your guarantee is with me. If he confines you again, I will release to the Daily Prophet what happened to you in the Dursley's care, where he placed you, and his political opponents will tear him apart. He will be forced to release you post haste, and almost certainly be removed from Hogwarts by force."
Harry's eyes were suddenly fierce as they scoured McGonagall's face, looking for any hint of deception.
"You speak truth," He said eventually, "If something like this happens again though, I will be leaving Hogwarts, by whatever means necessary."
"I do not find that agreeable," McGonagall said, "But I believe I have enough of your measure to know it would be counter-productive to try and stop you. Please do not do so lightly though."
Harry's jaw flexed slightly, a gesture of aggravation that struck McGonagall as horribly out of place on a twelve year old boy, but he nodded, stood, and walked towards McGonagall and the exit.
"I wish to spend some time out doors," He said as he passed her into the castle hall.
"If you would not mind some company," McGonagall said, "I would like to speak with you in the mean time."
Harry's head snapped around as he stared at his head of house in wary shock. There had been no mistaking how she had addressed him; it had been as an equal, with a tone of respect. She met his gaze evenly.
"There is no need to be so surprised," McGonagall said evenly, "You are twelve years old, Harry, and have suffered more abuse than most do in a lifetime. What you have endured would drive most men mad. Yet instead, you are cool, controlled, if a little obsessive, and have twice put your life on the line to protect people you did not even know."
She knelt down to met his gaze from an even level this time.
"In some ways you are an adult, in some ways you are yet a child, but I can not think of any man in my life who has shown finer character than you have, and none who have shown as fine character after suffering so much for such senseless reasons."
She stood again, and gestured for him to join her in heading towards the nearest staircase.
"If that is not worth respect," She said as they began to move, "Then nothing is."
End Chapter 3.
"Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril."
-Sun Tzu, Art of War, Chapter 2, Section 20.
AN from revision: As I was working back over this, it made me realize again, and even more, just how bad a hand Rowling dealt Petunia. Lily is beautiful, with red hair and green eyes, the rarest and most 'exotic' color types in the 'white' ethnic type, Petunia isn't just ugly, she's horse-faced. Sure, she's a pretty reprehensible person in canon, but Rowling seriously screwed the woman over, just to make her less likeable.
Old Author's Note:
Someone mentioned concern about how Dudley's education is being paid for; first, Petunia would deliberately not send Dudley to Smeltings, look at how Vernon ended up. Second, Petunia is working a day job; it simply never needed to be mentioned in the story's flow.
The other thought I'm responding to, is someone mentioned that Harry needs to realize he has someone he can depend on, and open up to them. This is very true, but Harry is not aware of that. It's one of the endemic problems common in western society, and particularly in the US; someone is hurt deeply, and closes themselves off, denying themselves any chance at receiving help. Generally, this closed-offness applies to the area of life they were hurt in; friendship, romantic relationship, parent/child relationship, etc. They'll often try to find a new relationship, or partially rebuild the broken one, but a part of them they keep hidden away, and never allow to heal. It eats at them, and just makes them overall less happy, or more miserable in general. Then they get hurt again, and tuck another part of themselves away. And again. And again. And again.
Until you get people that, if they're like Harry, are bitter and isolated, only occasionally popping out to help people in obvious need, and otherwise keeping everybody at arm's length. Or, you get people who start blaming the entire world for what happened to them, and those like Voldemort (who is quite possibly the only realistically developed character psychologically in the entire cannon Harry Potter series.) Some people just can't handle the pain, and go mad; attempting suicide if they tend more towards depressive, or violent crime; murder, rape, if they tend more towards anger/aggressive.
It's a vicious cycle, one most people aren't consciously aware of, and the farther you go into it, the harder it is to break. Worse, since this is happening to nearly everybody in western society, it's a self-reinforcing cycle, as people become more and more isolated from each other, they become less sensitive, more bitter, and hurt each other more and more both unintentionally and intentionally.