Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of... not me. I am not in any way profiting by this story, but merely taking the opportunity to play in JK's sandbox for a bit. Any resemblance to any living person, etc, is completely unintentional.

HP – HP - HP

The thundering steps and taunting voice of Dudley Dursley woke the bespectacled boy from his fitful slumber, but despite the customary obnoxious wake-up, Harry Potter couldn't help but feel happier than he'd been in over a week. Seven days was not the longest he'd been locked in the cupboard beneath the stairs by any means, but it was more than long enough to have Harry yearning for even the 'freedom' of doing the Dursleys' yard work. He still had no explanation for how the glass in the reptile house had vanished the previous week at the zoo, but by now Harry was used to unexplainable occurrences happening in his presence- just as he was used to being punished for them, even though he had nothing to do with them.

He brushed his forever messy hair- yet another point of contention between himself and his so-called family- from his eyes as his aunt unlocked his cupboard. "Mind the eggs, boy," she told him curtly as he emerged.

"Yes, Aunt Petunia," he replied by rote, knowing that a lack of response would be construed as a lack of manners- and punished, of course. He went about the morning routine of preparing breakfast while his cousin and uncle started on the toast and jam.

"Undercooked the eggs again, boy," his aunt berated, though he noted no complaint as his uncle and cousin tore into them as well as the sausage on their plates. There was already no sign of the toast and jam that had been there just a few minutes prior. "I swear, I don't know why we bother with you."

"Yes, Aunt Petunia," he replied once more. It was always safest to just agree with his relatives, especially when they were berating him.

Her only reply was a 'hmph' as she doled out a meager bit of bread- not toasted, of course- and egg to his plate. "Hurry up with that. You've got a week's worth of chores to catch up on." Stifling a sigh, Harry quickly ate his food and cleared the table.

"Before you get to the yard, boy, get the post," his uncle added as Harry finished up the dishes. Not wanting to give his uncle any reason to express his displeasure, Harry hurried over to the front door, where the mail had just arrived. He began to quickly sort through it as he started walking back towards the kitchen, before coming to a shocked stop.

Mr. H. Potter

Number 4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging, Surrey

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

A letter for me? Harry thought, his mind still not quite comprehending this simple yet shocking fact.

"Boy, hurry up with the post!" Uncle Vernon's shout shocked him out of his musings. As he took that first step back towards the kitchen, he hesitated for just a brief moment. If they see this letter, they'll take it away from me. Harry had never received post before, but there was no doubt in his mind that it would be taken simply because it was for him. They could never see this letter. Mind made up, Harry quickly slipped the letter into his cupboard before giving the rest of the mail to his relatives.

HP – HP – HP

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry read silently to himself for what seemed the hundredth time. As he'd expected, his entire day was consumed with chores for the Dursleys, so Harry didn't have a chance to read his letter until late that night. He almost wished he hadn't. It's got to be a trick, he thought, brutally squashing the hope he could feel blooming in his chest. What he wouldn't give to be a wizard- if he could do magic, Harry was sure, he wouldn't have to stay with the Dursleys anymore. Harry wasn't quite sure how this would happen, but his mind raced with the possibilities of what could be. Angrily, he shook his head. Harry had learned his lesson about foolish hopes over the course of ten years in the cupboard with no family coming to claim him. Besides, he thought bitterly, I haven't got an owl to respond with, have I?

HP – HP – HP

Harry's chores continued unabated for several days, but he was no stranger to hard work, and he managed to finish them all within the meager amount of time allotted him by the Dursleys. Every time he would feel his enthusiasm- such as it was- flagging, his mind would drift back to the letter he had carefully tucked under his mattress in his cupboard, and he would angrily redouble his efforts. Physical labor was good for helping him forget the rather cruel trick someone had perpetrated. Still, there was a tiny kernel of hope that Harry held deep inside. After all, magic could explain all the unexplainable things that had happened to Harry over the years. And, it was also true that no one had come forward to mock Harry or in any way follow up on the letter prank. For that matter, Harry had concluded, he couldn't even think of anyone who would try such a thing. Dudley and his friends had very limited patience and intellect- they wouldn't try such a thing, but would rather chase and hit him, and that would be that. The Dursleys, whatever their other faults (and there were many), wouldn't stoop to such a level- they, too, had other ways of inflicting pain.

Harry crawled out from underneath the bush he was pruning, and once again found himself shocked into stillness. Sitting not five feet away was a solitary owl. An owl that appeared to be looking directly at him. And clutched in the owl's proffered claw was a letter that appeared identical to the one he had hidden in his cupboard. It's not a trick was all he could think. Shaking his head to clear it, Harry shakily accepted the letter from the bird. A quick review confirmed that it was indeed the same letter. "Hold on a minute," he said to the owl, immediately feeling foolish for speaking to a bird. Strangely enough, though, the owl remained where it was- thankfully out of sight of the Dursleys, who were absorbed in some program on the telly.

He dashed into the house- quietly, so as not to attract the Dursleys' ire- and scribbled a reply on the letter- Yes please!- before returning outside and, with a bit of trepidation, offered it to the owl. It was only after the bird was out of sight that Harry realized that he had no idea how he was supposed to get to this Hogwarts School, nor how he was supposed to get his supplies.

HP – HP – HP

The blessed quiet of Privet Drive was shattered by his uncle's angry shout. "Boy, get in here this instant!" No, Harry thought, anger doesn't quite cover it this time. With no small amount of worry, Harry left the front yard and entered his so-called home, wondering what exactly it was that Uncle Vernon was angry about this time.

The color drained from Harry's face as he saw, clutched in his uncle's beefy, white-knuckled fists, the letter that he had carefully hidden inside of his cupboard.

"Exactly how long have you had... had... this," his uncle growled in a low tone. This worried Harry; if his uncle was this angry yet not shouting, it most certainly boded poorly for Harry's immediate future.

"I, er, just a couple of days, Uncle Vernon," Harry stammered in response, hoping to deflect some of his uncle's anger. He knew it was a useless gesture even before his uncle spoke.

"Just a couple of days," Uncle Vernon replied. "A couple of days, the boy says. You're not going, boy. I don't care what those... those freaks told you, you're going to Stonewall High and that's final!" Surprisingly, his uncle's response didn't elicit the upset or resignation that Vernon was likely hoping for.

"You knew?" Harry practically shouted. "You knew I was a... a wizard, and you..."

"Of course we knew," his aunt interrupted from behind his uncle. "How could you not be, with your mother and father being the freaks that they were. And then they went and got themselves blown up, if you please, and we were saddled with you. Oh, we knew you'd be just like them, but we hoped that- maybe- we could keep you from doing anything... unnatural."

Harry had stopped listening after his aunt said the words 'blown up.' "You said my parents died in a car crash!" he shouted, no longer caring that this was most certainly going to add to his already tremendous punishment.

"We weren't going to tell you the truth, you foolish boy," Petunia sneered. "There was no way we were going to encourage your freakishness in our home. Vernon and I have graciously allowed you to stay here, but that doesn't mean we're going to permit your... unnaturalness." And with that, his uncle's face took on a manic grin, and he slowly and deliberately tore Harry's letter to shreds.

"You're not going to that ruddy school, boy. You're going to your cupboard, for a very long time." Vernon's horrible expression was the last thing Harry saw for quite some time.

HP – HP – HP

Harry's stay in the cupboard lasted even longer this time than it had since the incident in the reptile house. Since I made the glass disappear, Harry thought. In fact, it seemed as though his relatives might be content to leave him in the cupboard forever. Aside from once a day to use the washroom, Harry hadn't seen the world outside of his cupboard for well over a week. In fact, Harry wouldn't be surprised at all if they left him in there until after his birthday. He idly wondered if perhaps Hogwarts would send someone to see why he didn't turn up come the first of September, or if they would instead just write him off entirely. Harry hoped it would be the former, but rather suspected that the latter would be the case.

He wasn't sure exactly how long had passed before he heard his uncle shout from the front of the house. "You've got the wrong bloody house! There's no Harry Potter here. You can just ruddy well go on your way!" Hope surged in his chest. Someone here, asking after him? Could it be...?

"I am not mistaken, Mr. Dursley, and I would advise you to watch your tone." It was a woman's voice, Harry could tell, Harry could tell, and the words were clipped in such a way that indicated someone trying to hold tight to their temper. It also sounded as though whomever this was, they meant business. Harry faintly heard what sounded like a paper, or perhaps parchment, like the letters he'd received, being unfolded. "Imagine my surprise when Mr. Potter's return letter came to me- written on his school letter, no less- and that school letter was addressed to the 'cupboard under the stairs.' Bring me to Mr. Potter, Mr. Dursley. Now."

"Return letter?" his uncle spluttered. "He never sent one. We tore the ruddy thing up!" Vernon seemed to realize he'd perhaps made an error in saying this, as he cut off whatever he was going to say next. Harry took his opportunity.

"I'm in here!" he called, hoping the woman would hear him. BANG! His cupboard door flew open, and Harry, who was pressed up against the door, tumbled out. The woman was standing in the doorway, holding a long, narrow stick in her hand. She was dressed in some sort of emerald dress, but was also wearing what was most definitely a witch's hat. She looked furious.

His uncle, on the other hand, was quite obviously terrified. The man had backed all the way to the kitchen door, and was watching the angry woman they way a person might watch a rabid dog.

"I never," she began, "never imagined that..." She paused, collecting herself, as Harry stood up. "Mr. Potter. My name is Professor McGonagall. Your response to your school letter raised some concerns at Hogwarts, so I thought I might come by and see for myself. I had hoped that the letter address was wrong... I see it was not." She pursed her lips, and narrowed her eyes at Vernon, who appeared to be about to speak. He did not heed the obvious warning.

"Like I told the boy, he's not going to that bloo-" Mid word, his uncle's voice cut out as the woman's stick jabbed towards him. His uncle's mouth kept moving, but no sound issued forth.

"I warned you to watch your tone, Mr. Dursley. When Mr. Potter and I return this evening, perhaps we will give you another chance to speak more appropriately." She turned towards Harry. "Put on your shoes, Mr. Potter. I will be taking you to Diagon Alley to get your school things presently." She then began walking towards his uncle, who paled and, still obviously trying to speak, backed into the kitchen. "In the meantime, I think I shall have a few words with your family."

Harry quickly readied himself, his excitement easily overriding his worry over how his relatives would react to this intrusion when he and McGonagall returned that evening. His uncle was certainly not the sort to let such an insult go unpunished. He didn't have long to wait before the stern-looking witch passed once more through the kitchen door.

"Ready, Mr. Potter? We will be traveling using a means called 'apparation'. It is not something you will learn until much later, so I'll ask that stay close to me while I bring us to the alley." With those words, she took his arm with hers, and making sure he was staying close, turned.

Harry felt himself squeeze, as though he was being stuffed into a too-small tube. He squeezed his eyes shut until the sensation faded, and when he opened them, his jaw dropped in wonder. He stood in broad street surrounded by all sorts of people garbed similarly to Professor McGonagall- some, in fact, even more garish and outlandish. Stores lined both sides of the busy street, crammed together. Some seemed relatively ordinary, like Madam Malkin's, which appeared to be some sort of clothing store, while others, such as the store labeled Dervish and Banges, were completely out of his realm of experience.

The witch's brow furrowed as she caught him staring at the magic joke shop, before she inexplicably smiled almost fondly. "Welcome, Mr. Potter, to Diagon Alley."