Disclaimer:  Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling and the legal licensees of Harry Potter books and products.  I am writing this for my own pleasure and have no intent to make any sort of profit with it. The inspiration came from Severitus, the plot came from my warped imagination and everything else belongs to JKR and those to whom she's given the rights.

Author's Note:  This has been rewritten and reformatted since I posted the first copy of Chapter One, due to a brainstorm I had while listening to a thunderstorm rattling the window of my hotel room in Missouri in the middle of the night.   Enjoy!


(An Answer to Severitus' Challenge)

By RowanRhys

Chapter One July 1, 1995

(Kings Cross Station, London)

Harry winked at them, turned to Uncle Vernon, and followed him silently from the station.  There was no point worrying yet, he told himself as he got into the back of the Dursleys' car.

As Hagrid had said, what would come, would come… and he would have to meet it when it did. (From GOF Chapter 37)

Unfortunately, what Harry had coming, came almost immediately.  His trunk had been shoved into the boot of the car, and his robes stuffed in next to the tyre jack before Vernon had slammed down the lid, barely missing Harry's fingers.

"Get in the car."  Dursley's voice was an angry growl that triggered an automatic fear reaction in Harry.  He hurriedly ducked away from his uncle, as if to avoid a blow, and slid quickly into the vehicle, pushing Hedwig's cage in ahead of him, grateful that Aunt Petunia was in the front seat so he'd have to sit in the rear.  Oddly, Dudley wasn't in the car, but Harry wasn't about to ask where his fat cousin was.  He slumped back in the corner of the seat, and surreptitiously fingered the long hidden pocket that he'd transfigured into his oversized, hand-me-down jeans to hide his wand.  He had no intention of using it for illegal magic, but if worst came to worst, he could always call the Knight Bus again to get himself and Hedwig out of there.  Hopefully, his aunt and uncle would believe the wand was safely locked up in his school trunk and he'd be able to hide it under the floorboard in his bedroom.

The tension in the vehicle was so high, that by the time they'd reached Little Whinging and Privet Drive, Harry was sure that one word would trigger a massive explosion of Dursley temper.  Even Hedwig seemed cowed by the anger that seemed to emanate from the corpulent, red-faced man and remained silent inside her too-small cage.

Once they'd arrived, Harry set Hedwig's cage down on the sidewalk and headed for the boot to get his trunk, only to be seized by the upper arm and dragged towards the front door by his uncle.  Despite four years of excellent food at Hogwarts, Harry had never really gained the size and bulk a boy of his age should have, and his physical resistance did no good against his Uncle's much larger mass.

"Hedwig!--" he protested as Petunia Dursley followed them in and closed the front door firmly behind her.  Harry found himself pressed up against the cupboard below the stairs, the knob of the ventilation grate digging into his back.  Vernon's scarlet face was millimeters from Harry's glasses and the boy swallowed hard at the hate in his Uncle's eyes.

"That damned owl isn't coming into this house this summer.  No more of your threats to write to your damned criminal godfather. Got that?  You're doing exactly as I say, boy, or you'll suffer for it."

Harry swallowed again, and nodded fractionally.  "What are you going to do with Hedwig?"  The blow from his uncle's meaty fist rocked his head hard back into the wall and he gasped as pain blossomed across his left cheekbone and eye.  The frames of his glasses dug into his skin before the temple snapped away from the lenses and he grabbed for them even as he raised his hands to forestall a second strike.

"You get up in your room and stay there unless told otherwise."

As Harry ducked away from his uncle, he caught a glimpse of his Aunt Petunia's face and cringed away from the hatred and spite mirrored there.  He fled up the stairs, clutching at his broken glasses, only to find out why Dudley hadn't been in the car when he was picked up.

The boy, only a few months his senior, had apparently not been keeping to his diet, what weight had been shed the previous year was back with a vengeance and the porcine youth would have been hard put to fit into the back seat by himself, much less with Harry and Hedwig.  As it was, he entirely blocked the upstairs hallway, preventing Harry from escaping into the second bedroom.

"You're back, are you?  You know you're not wanted here.  Why didn't you just stay at that freak school of yours for the holiday?"  Dudley sneered and swung his Smeltings stick at him.  "What is it?  You so much of a freak that the other freaks don't want you around?" 

Harry ducked again, simultaneously trying to block the stick aimed at his head with his arms, but the rigid length of wand down the side of his left leg reduced his mobility and Dudley's stick caught him sharply across the left wrist.

The crack of fractured bone was sickening in Harry's ears and he went white as the pain slammed through his nervous system.  His vision began to gray out, and he collapsed backwards, to fall down the stairs.  Flashes of red and orange filled his head with each impact on a tread, and his last clear sight was of his uncle looming over him, moustache bristling in his florid face.

To be continued . . .