Disclaimer: Harry Potter and the wonderful world of J.K. Rowling…Not mine. It's hers. Mine is a bit more surreal, with far more to do with Muggles than I would otherwise choose.

Nicky: You are so right! I'm reposting this first chapter because I am absolutely busted. So much for dramatic effect. g Oh, and TLC means Tender Loving Care. 8-)

Chapter 1

Harry sat next to the boarded up window and stared at the moon... "Waning Gibbous moon," Harry thought as he remembered Professor Lupin and looked into the night sky. He missed his friends dearly. He wished he were with his godfather right now. Harry worried about him all the time. He smiled wearily as he realized how protective he was of his godfather. He'd gone through so much for so many years. Harry closed his eyes as he thought of Sirius. He liked to picture him in Professor Lupin's living room, sitting before a fire as they joked with each other. They had a lot of years to catch up on. He imagined them running together joyfully as dog and wolf respectively through a forest under the full moon; the Marauders back in action again. Free.

Harry opened his eyes abruptly, startled by a sound next to him. Hedwig sat on the windowsill, reaching her snowy head between the bars and tapping persistently on the glass to get the attention of the boy inside. Harry sighed, wincing as his ribs protested the sudden movement. This was the third time in as many weeks she'd appeared with a message, but considering the Dursleys now had Harry effectively imprisoned in his room, there was nothing he could do about it.

"I'm sorry, Hedwig. They've got the windows boarded over. I can't open up," Harry whispered loudly. Hedwig hooted and cocked her head as if trying to see Harry through the little cracks between the boards. Harry smiled softly at that. Even though he couldn't have Hedwig with him, he was grateful for her company. She'd spent the night before and would most likely do so again tonight, leaving with the unread message in the morning light. Harry hoped he could make it through the summer in this room. It was comforting to listen to Hedwig, to know she cared. The Dursleys hadn't forced him to go back to the cupboard… yet. He'd begun to suspect that before school started though, he still might end up there. Then he wouldn't see Hedwig at all.

Harry returned his gaze to the hazy white sky. It was slightly overcast, softening the edges of the moon. He absentmindedly pressed his hand against his forehead, using the pressure of his palm to try to ease the ever increasing pain that radiated from the lightening scar. His legacy. Harry closed his eyes, dizzy for a moment. He'd not slept more than a couple of hours at a time each night for weeks now. Lack of sleep and lack of food now made Harry feel as weak as a kitten. He could barely stand anymore without trembling. The dreams came nearly every night now.

Harry drew in a shuddering breath, ignoring the sweat that began to coat his face and back at the sudden movements. He didn't want to think about the dreams. He'd see it soon enough. Voldemort was on the rampage. Harry didn't need The Daily Prophet to tell him that. He witnessed it. Muggles and wizards; whole families were dying. And Harry watched. He couldn't dredge up the energy to cry anymore, but he knew each time he saw someone tortured and killed, he was dying inside. After all, it was his blood that enabled Voldemort to become this strong.

Harry closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the wall behind him. He listened as Hedwig continued to hoot and coo, and would have sworn she was trying to reassure him somehow. He smiled softly at that. Her companionship made him feel less lonely.

Things hadn't gone well since his fourth year at Hogwarts. The Dursleys knew how to carry a grudge, Harry admitted wryly. But there was something more… Something sinister. There was never a question in Harry's mind whether the Dursleys loved him. Of course they didn't, and they took every opportunity available to remind him of it as he'd grown up. But somehow… Vernon had crossed a line somewhere, and Harry couldn't determine when or how it happened, but it had.

Perhaps Dudley's diet had been the beginning, Harry pondered. Harry had always feared Vernon. He'd certainly never had problems hitting Harry in the past. But never had Harry feared for his life before with them. And he was beginning to now. In fact, his aching ribs were a constant reminder of Vernon's rage, as were the other bruises and cuts he'd begun to accumulate. Always in the past, the Dursleys had loathed Harry, but they had still needed him to do all those chores they were too lazy to do themselves. This year, though, they hadn't cared.

Vernon had hired a landscape company to tend to his lawn, and Petunia now baked all the family meals since Dudley had been released from his diet for the summer. Harry suspected Dudley truly hadn't been cleared by the school nutritionist. It was far more likely that Petunia couldn't bear to continue to torment her son with the *cruel* diet the school had tried to enforce.

A housekeeper came once a week and did every room but Harry's. Sometimes Harry had to suppress the urge to pound on the door and call for help as he heard her vacuum the hallway outside his room. But he knew… Harry had learned that no one was coming. No one would come. He'd just bring more trouble on himself than he was prepared to deal with, and Harry just didn't have the energy to spare any more.

All he had to do was get through the summer. When he didn't show up for the beginning of school, someone would come. He just had to hang on until then. Hedwig tapped against the window again insistently. Harry started. He must have started to fall asleep. Bad idea, he thought to himself. He forced himself to wake up and looked outside, peering right into Hedwig's concerned eyes.

"Sorry, I must have drifted," Harry whispered reassuringly. Hedwig began to get irritated, and hooted more persistently. Harry frowned.

"What is it?" he asked her. She hopped to the side of the windowsill and looked down at the lawn below.

For a moment he saw nothing. Then he jumped as he realized that one of the shadows had moved. Chills went up his spine and his skin began to tingle. Harry's eyes widened in terror as he stood up now and pressed his face against the crack. Yes, the shadow had moved. And now there was another. And another. Harry's heart was in his throat. His wand was locked downstairs in the cupboard. He had to get to it.

Harry watched the shadows as they approached the house. They wore robes and appeared to be whispering to each other. There was no question they were going to break in. Harry tried to determine what to do. Should he wake up the Dursleys and try to persuade them to open the door? Would that give him a chance? Yes and no. Vernon might open the door, but it would be to beat him for waking them up. And if the shadows were Death Eaters as Harry suspected, they'd kill the Dursleys whether they cooperated or not. As much as he hated them, he didn't want them dead.

So he was on his own. And Vernon had put deadbolts on Harry's door. He'd tried for two weeks to pick the locks, but didn't have anything sturdy and thin enough to do the job. Vernon had heard him one night, and Harry hadn't tried it since. He couldn't think of any other way to get to his wand.

Harry's eyes were adjusted to the darkness. Looking around the room, he saw a broken floor lamp in the corner. It was the closest thing to a blunt instrument he could find. It was had a small table in the center of the lamp designed to hold drinks, and Harry decided it would also help him to lever it on his shoulder. The base of the lamp, although not as nearly impressive as a baseball bat would have been, could still do the job. He tore the shade off the top, and dragged the lamp with him to stand behind the door, ready to swing it at the intruder when the door was opened.

Harry heard the kitchen door open downstairs, and listened, nearly panting with fear, as the stairs creaked under the weight of the intruders. Harry could hear whispering now, although he couldn't hear the words. He weakly lifted the floor lamp above his head, his arms quivering at the effort. He hoped they wouldn't dally in the hall too long.

"Alohamora," whispered a man's voice softly. The door came open, and as a figure stepped forward Harry swung the lamp down fiercely.

"Harry?" Sirius' voice whispered urgently. Oh no! Harry changed the arc of the lamp at the last second, it's heavy pedestal narrowly missing Sirius' head.

"Sirius!" Harry said as Sirius leaped away in surprise.

"Did you find him?" Remus Lupin asked as he entered Harry's room as well.

"You nearly scared me to death!" Harry whispered fiercely, nearly laughing in relief. A third figure entered the room.

"Everyone's still asleep," Arthur Weasley said, following behind Professor Lupin. Harry had not turned on any lights, so they all stood in the darkness. Harry felt himself shivering now that the adrenaline had passed.

"They will remain so, too. I cast a sleep spell on them. We can talk normally," Professor Lupin said.

"Then turn on some lights so I can see what Harry nearly bludgeoned me to death with," Sirius said, trying to sound light hearted although Harry could clearly hear the worry in Sirius' voice.

"Lumos," Arthur Weasley muttered, and all three stared at Harry in shock.

"Um, hi," Harry said and smiled weakly. He'd set the lamp to the side and now had to reach out and grip it to keep himself upright. He looked from one face to the other, trying to read what he saw there.

"Oh Merlin," Sirius said, and Harry watched as Sirius' eyes teared up. "What have they done to you?" he asked as he approached Harry.

Harry tried to smile again, to say something reassuring, but he knew the look in their eyes. He hadn't seen himself in a mirror in a long time, and by their expressions he didn't look well. He didn't want to think about how the room probably smelled to them.

Remus and Arthur had begun looking around the room, piecing together Harry's summer. Over a month he'd lived in this room. Arthur began to clench his jaw and turn red.

"Where are your things?" he asked, the intensity startling Harry. He'd never seen this side of Arthur Weasley. For a moment he thought it was directed at him.

"In the cupboard under the stairs," Harry replied. Mr. Weasley nodded and stalked out of the room.

Sirius stood directly in front of Harry now, unsure how to approach him. Harry recognized his tentativeness and reached out to hug him, relief and gratitude nearly overwhelming him. Someone came. Someone missed him, and came for him.

Sirius jumped at Harry's initiative, taking him in his arms and holding him tightly. Too tightly in fact, as Harry's ribs sent out waves of pain that made him gasp for breath and spots to dance in front of his eyes.

"Harry?" Sirius asked, immediately releasing Harry, yet still holding his shoulders as he looked into his eyes. "What is it?" he asked, his face contorted with concern.

"Sorry. My ribs," Harry said as he struggled to regain his breath. His legs gave out on him and Harry watched the floor leap up to meet him. "Oh dear," Harry thought distractedly, and felt Sirius catch him.

"I've got his trunk," Arthur Weasley called from downstairs.

"Is there anything else, Harry, that you want to take with you?" Remus Lupin asked, his face unreadable as he looked at Harry resting in Sirius's arms.

Harry was still having a hard time catching his breath, but gasped out, "Floorboards. Under the bed," he said, then his eyes rolled up in his head as his body went limp and he passed out.