I do not own Harry Potter. Direct quotes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will be in bold.

An Unexpected Visitor

Summer homework was hardly a problem for Charlotte Potter. She'd always been good at school, whether she was taught Muggle history or the art of Potions. The only thing stopping her from completing her assignments was her uncle, who locked up all her magic supplies in the cupboard under the stairs.

She managed to rescue the textbooks and materials that she needed (she had developed the skill of picking locks with a hairpin long ago) and finished her assignments in the first two weeks of the summer holidays. As she didn't want to arouse the suspicious of her relatives, she did the work by flashlight under her covers in the middle of the night.

When the third week came and she had nothing but chores to do, she dreamed of Hogwarts and her friends, who did not fit in the Dursley's world of normalcy.

"Come on, Ron," she muttered in annoyance one night as she slaved over a hot oven, cooking supper for her aunt, uncle and cousin. "Where's my invitation to freedom?"

A sharp rap at the front door caused Vernon to grumble in the next room. "Who could be calling at this hour? Charlotte! Answer the door, girl! And don't even think about doing anything strange, you hear?"

"Yeah, I got it."

Charlie slammed the lid over a pot of boiling potatoes and made tracks for the entry hall. Her uncle had been spreading rumours that she had been attending St. Brutus' Center for Troubled Girls for the past two years when in reality she had been at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But the neighbours were just as nosy as the Dursleys, and so they came up with a cover story to explain her absence for ten months out of the year.

They couldn't say they sent me to boarding school. No, they had to tell everyone I'm a hardened criminal who needed to be sent away for the safety of others.

She reached the front hall and quickly swung the door open, only to jolt in shock at discovering who was on the other side.

Professor Severus Snape stood on the front stoop, his black robes billowing around him. Charlie's emerald eyes widened as she stared at her Potions professor. "Hello sir. Um…what are you doing here?"

Snape arched an eyebrow. "I've come to converse with your relatives. Are you going to invite me in or just stand there gawking?"

Charlie nervously glanced over her shoulder, but there was no sign of her relatives coming to investigate-at least not yet. "I don't think that's a good idea. They're gonna freak if they see you. They don't like anything to do with magic."

"Oh really?" Snape drawled. He studied his student and noted her flushed expression and gravy-stained apron that hung from her waist. What in Merlin's name had he interrupted the child from doing? "Not even you?"

"Especially not me."

It was said with such sincere lightness that Snape frowned. The people the child lived with starved her regularly for most of her life, and did who-knows-what else, and she spoke of them with an easy tone, as if their mistreatment of her was normal.

"Who is it, girl?" a loud, unpleasant voice hollered. A large man with a purple face stumbled into the hall. He took one look at Snape and bellowed like an angry bull. He charged forwards and grabbed his niece roughly by the back of her shirt, yanking her backwards. Charlie stumbled into the decorative table by the staircase with a yelp of surprise.

Immediately, Snape took out his wand and gave it a flick, stopping Vernon in his tracks.

"Vernon! What's wrong?" Petunia cried, entering the front hall next. When she caught sight of Snape, she gasped in shock and took a step back. "You!"

"Tuney," Snape sneered. "It's been a while-not long enough for my liking."

"Get out of my house!" Petunia raged, hands flapping anxiously. "Oh, what did you do to Vernon, you brute?"

"Your whale of a husband is simply frozen in place and Silenced. I am here to have a civilized conversation, and I will have it."

His tone was icy and dangerous, the one that could make any student shake with fear.

Charlie darted her gaze between her professor and aunt, eyes wide. They knew each other? This is just too weird for words.

Petunia pursed her lips and nodded, reluctantly granting Snape entry. Pale-faced, she led him into the drawing room and shooed Dudley into the kitchen to watch television, for fear that Snape would do something to her baby boy. Vernon was released from his frozen and silent hold and he barged into the drawing room, shouting at the top of his lungs. It was only when Snape threatened to use another Silent Charm did he shut up.

Charlie slunk into the room, green eyes darting about nervously. Petunia spotted her and barked, "Go finish supper, and don't you dare ruin it!"

The raven-haired girl nodded and quickly went into the kitchen to finish her task. Snape frowned and stared at Lily's sister, who was so much unlike her. "I shouldn't be surprised that you put a twelve-year-old girl to work, but I admit that I am."

"After all we've done for her the least she can do is cook dinner for us," Petunia said coldly.

Snape thought back to the baggy clothes the girl was wearing when she answered the door. "Indeed," he said with a mocking sneer. "Now, to the reason for my visit. I've been sent by Dumbledore to make sure that you are treating the girl properly. Are you still starving her as a punishment?"

"No!" Vernon snapped. "We were told that if we starved her again we would be sent to court. Don't know how it is anyone's business, the girl needs a good solid punishment to get her into place."

"Starving children is not a punishment. It is cruel," Snape hissed, recalling the days of his childhood and the starvation he had suffered, among other abuse. "Are you buying her the proper clothing?"

"Charlotte is perfectly fine with Dudders' old clothing," Vernon growled. "Now, will you leave my house at once?"

"Not quite," the professor said silkily, getting up from the couch and heading for the kitchen. "I have a few more inquiries to make and then you won't see me again, thankfully. I don't know if I can stand to be in this room much longer without hexing either of you."

The two paled at this and Snape drifted into the tidy, immaculate kitchen. He paused in the doorway and observed.

Charlie was standing over various pots, stirring and adding salt or milk every once in a while. A fat blonde boy sat at the table watching the small television perched on the counter, who he assumed to be Dudley.

A commercial interrupted the program, and the boy turned to face his cousin. "Don't burn anything, or else you'll really get it."

"No different from any other day," she answered back, swirling the gravy around.

"You know, you're really gonna be in trouble for bringing another freak like you here. Maybe you'll get put back in the cupboard and I'll get my room back."

"Hmm," said Charlie idly. "It's a possibility."

Snape stared in disbelief. It didn't matter what the foul boy said, the girl was unshakeable. She took his insults with an air of eternal patience. Eventually the two finally noticed his presence and the girl smiled. "Hi. I hope everything went okay."

"What's he doing here?" Dudley demanded, eyeing Snape distrustfully. "Dad would never let someone like you in here."

"Well, he's a vampire," Charlie answered. "He's also a teacher at Hogwarts. He doesn't harm the students, but he hunts in the Muggle world. So if you're not careful, he'll suck your blooooood!"

Dudley turned white and screamed before rushing off to find his parents. Charlie giggled before remembering who was in the room with her. "Oh! I'm sorry! I wasn't really calling you a vampire, I just-"

"I understand," Snape interrupted. "I suppose you've been wondering what I'm doing here."

Charlie shrugged. "I'm a bit curious, yes."

"Well, Professor Dumbledore has been worried about your health ever since Molly Weasley told him about your lack of food intake. A few of our wizards at the Ministry that concern themselves with child safety came here and gave your relatives a warning while you were still in school. Professor Dumbledore decided this wasn't enough and sent me to make sure you are fine."

"I am fine, sir," Charlie assured him. "It really wasn't anything to fuss over. But I appreciate everyone's concern."

"Does your cousin treat you like that often?"

"Everyday."

Snape studied the girl. "You seem to handle your relatives well, considering what they do to you."

"I've had almost thirteen years to get used to the Dursleys. I've developed an extreme tolerance for their insults and behaviour towards me. Besides, I've dealt with worse."

"They are feeding you, then?"

"More than usual, yeah."

The child did indeed look healthier. She seemed to have gained a few pounds and sprouted a few inches, although she still had some ways to go before she caught up to her classmates. "Are you forced to do chores like these often?"

"Yeah, pretty much every day. But that's alright. It gives me something to do."

"What was it your cousin said about a cupboard?"

Her hand stilled for second, lips thinning into a nervous line. "He was just joking."

As much as she appreciated his concern, Charlie hoped he would leave soon. He didn't need to know about the other abusive tendencies the Dursleys had. She understood that their treatment of her was unfair, but she also knew that there were kids out there getting it much worse. It wasn't a great life, but it was one she knew well.

When she didn't offer anything more, Snape gave a curt nod before heading out of the kitchen and for the stairs. He ignored the protests of Petunia and Vernon and checked the doors on the second landing. One of them was very much male, with toys cluttering every corner and a wide television hanging on the wall.

He pushed open another door and found a pure white cat which he knew belonged to Charlotte. The cat mewed at him before hoping onto a small bed. The toys in this room were all broken or roughed up-obviously hand-me-downs.

It was then Snape realized that Charlotte Potter had not had the lavish lifestyle he had assumed she had. Really, he should have known living with Petunia wouldn't grant her any luxuries. She hardly liked her own sister. What amazed him even more was that the young girl didn't seem to harbour any severe dislike for her relatives, which was a reflection of how Lily felt after her estrangement with her sister.

Unsure of how to deal with Charlotte now that he no longer saw any trace of James in her, he reluctantly headed back downstairs.

"Everything okay, sir?" Charlie asked, wiped her hands on a cloth as she emerged from the steamy kitchen to see him in the entry hall.

"Everything is fine, Miss Potter. Although you do not have the life a child should have, I am aware that nothing I do can make a difference." Curse Albus and those wards.

Slightly startled by his words, she grinned. "Don't worry about it. It's not the happiest life a girl could have, but it's definitely not the worst."

Snape adjusted his robes before heading to the door. "I will give Professor Dumbledore my report. I shall see you when the semester begins. Good evening, Miss Potter."

"Good evening, Professor."

He left and Charlie stared after him for a moment.

Perhaps the rivalry with her Potions professor was finally over.

"Girl! Dinner had better be on the table in five minutes!"

"Sure thing!" she called back, hurrying back into the kitchen, hoping the smell of food would dispel any fury her relatives had towards her.

...

"Happy birthday to me," the newly-turned thirteen-year-old muttered after the clock struck midnight. It was dark in her room, the only source of light being the silver glow cast by the moon. She hadn't been able to fall asleep, the hope that perhaps she would be getting birthday wishes from her best friends too great for slumber.

Charlie glanced at the window, absent-mindedly petting her cat Snowflake. Suddenly she caught sight of something flying towards her closed window. Curious, she got up and padded across the hardwood floor, peering intently out into the night.

"Wow!" she exclaimed as two owls flew towards her, both holding a third owl in between them. She cranked the window open and the birds flew in and landed on the bed. Snowy eyed them for a moment before settling back down, having finally been trained to leave the owls alone.

"Oh dear." Charlie stared at the weak grey feathery lump that was Errol. "Hang on, poor thing."

She crept downstairs and got a saucer of water. She hurried back up and closed her door firmly behind her. She set the water on her bedside table and placed Errol beside it. The owl hooted his thanks and gulped it down. Charlie relieved him of his burden and did the same with the other two owls.

"Thanks, guys!" she whispered. "Can one of you stay behind?"

The owls hooted and one stayed while the other flew off. Charlie sat crossed-legged on her bed and checked on Errol quickly before picking up the newspaper Errol had brought her along with a wrapped present and a letter. She unfolded the newspaper and gasped when she read the front page headline. A large picture of the Weasleys in front of the pyramids was displayed, all of them beaming and waving.

"Arthur Weasley wins annual Daily Prophet Grand Prize Draw," she read aloud. "Oh, brilliant!"

The Weasleys looked like they were having a great time. Charlie set the newspaper aside and picked up Ron's letter.

Dear Charlie,

Can you believe it? We won seven hundred Galleons! Mum and Dad were overjoyed, and of course we were as well. Egypt is great and it's fantastic to see Bill after such a long time. He doesn't get to come home much since he works here. We got to see the pyramids, and I'm taking lots of pictures for you guys-especially Hermione. Speaking of which, she wants us to wait until we all meet in Diagon Alley to open our report cards. She's absolutely certain she helped us get an Excellent in Potions. She's mad, I tell you.

Mum said she would put away a portion of money to buy me a new wand. That's a relief, isn't it?

I do wish Percy would stop boasting...he made Head Boy and my parents are extremely proud. Fred and George are plotting something, so I think he'll stop soon.

We'll return the week before term starts. Do you think we can all meet to get our books in London? Hope so!

Happy birthday, Charlie!

Ron

Charlie grinned and picked up the package. She tore off the paper and pulled out a miniature glass top. "Neat!" She glanced at the note attached to it.

This is a Pocket Sneakoscope. It lights up and spins if there's someone untrustworthy around. Considering the adventures we've had the past two years, this ought to come in handy, yeah?

Charlie laughed and set the Sneakoscope on her bedside table. She then stared at two packages that had come with the same owl. She scooped up the first letter and read it.

Dear Charlie,

I'm in France with my parents and I didn't know how I was going to send this to you! Luckily Harry knew I didn't have an owl and sent his to me! Isn't that thoughtful of him? Hopefully it won't be too much trouble carrying my present and his.

I adore France! There's lots of interesting facts on wizards here and I'm writing them all down, just in case. I bet Ron is having a wonderful time in Egypt. He wrote to tell me he's taking pictures for us, isn't that sweet? He doesn't seem too happy about Percy becoming Head Boy...but I suppose I understand.

I owl-ordered your present from the Daily Prophet. It's very good to keep up with the wizarding events, you know.

Oh, and if you haven't already, don't open your report card yet! Ron and Harry have already agreed, and I really want us all to open them together in London. I do hope I can wait that long, though.

If we don't see you in London, then we'll see you on the Hogwarts Express!

Happy Birthday!

Hermione

Charlie opened up Hermione's present and gasped. A sleek black leather case with the silver words Broom Servicing Kit greeted her as she tore off the paper. She studied the contents in awe. "Thanks, Hermione!"

She then picked up Harry's letter.

Dear Sis,

Wow! It feels really cool to say that. Although it's been really hard keeping it from my uncle, since he knows me so well. But I hope we know why they kept us apart soon...if I don't slip up first then the curiosity will overwhelm me!

I'm still taking the Glamour potion...although I'm curious to know what I look like without it. Probably an appearance similar to you, correct?

Ron's having a blast in Egypt and Hermione's learning a new language in France...next year we should all do something together. I hate being stuck at home, never mind how much I love Uncle Remus.

He says I could have you over, but I have a feeling your relatives won't like you using Floo powder to travel here. Maybe next year when they're a bit more used to the idea. Charlie snorted at this. You know, this is technically my birthday too...wow. That's weird. Anyway, happy birthday!

Your bro (bro! Isn't that neat?),

Harry

Charlie shook her head in amusement. The two had discovered last year that they were really siblings, having been taken apart by Dumbledore and Remus Lupin, who was a good friend of their parents. They obviously had a good reason for doing so and the children decided to keep the secret between themselves and Ron and Hermione.

She opened up Harry's present and grinned when she found a book on wizarding fairy tales. Harry probably thought she had forgotten that it was technically his birthday as well, but she hadn't. On the rare shopping trip she was allowed to attend with her relatives, Charlie collected as much pocket money as she could and hurried to the stores downtown and bought Harry a book on Muggle animals, knowing that he probably hadn't heard of half of them.

Charlie took the wrapped package with her card and handed them to the owl that stayed behind. "Can you give these to Harry, please? And try to make sure his uncle doesn't see them."

The owl hooted and took off with the parcel. Charlie then turned to the last parcel, which was attached to a thick envelope that bore the Hogwarts crest. Curious, she picked up the note.

Charlie,

Happy birthday!

Hope the Muggles are treating you well. Think you might find this useful for the semester. Won't tell you anymore-you'll have to wait and see.

Hagrid

Charlie reached for the package and jumped when it started to squirm and wiggle. "Oh, no!"

Snowy hissed and stood up, bracing herself for a fight. Charlie knew Hagrid would never send her anything dangerous on purpose, but the man didn't have a normal sense of what was dangerous and what wasn't.

Cautiously, she tore off the paper. A green book with a gold title flipped over and started scuttling around the room, snapping furiously. Charlie quelled a groan and grabbed a belt from her dresser. The book hid under her bed and she knelt down, carefully patting around for it.

"Ouch!" she hissed as it bit her. Shaking her sore hand she avoided the book as it flew out from under the bed and zoomed around the room. She tackled it and managed to wrap the belt around it so it wouldn't bite her anymore.

"Man...Talk about reading that hurts." Charlie brushed her hands off on her baggy pyjama bottoms and collected her gifts, placing them under her bed. She propped the cards up on her dresser and grinned at them before opening her school letter.

Dear Miss Potter,

The school year will begin on September the first. The Hogwarts Express will depart promptly at eleven from King's Cross Station. Third years are permitted to go to Hogsmeade on certain weekends. Please give the enclosed permission form to a parent or guardian to sign. A list of books is enclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Professor M. McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

Charlie groaned softly. She would love to visit Hogsmeade, but how on earth would she get her aunt or uncle to sign it?

She wasn't exactly in their good books.

...

"She's what?" Charlie howled, glancing up from cooking the bacon to stare at her uncle in horror.

Vernon frowned sharply at her. "Marge is coming for a visit and I'm going to pick her up from the station. I don't want any funny business girl, and you'll stick to the story that you go to St. Brutus' Center for Troubled Girls."

He headed for the front door and Charlie scowled as she pushed the sizzling bacon around the pan. Every memory she had of Marge was not a good one, as it always had the woman embarrassing her, insulting her or siccing her dogs on her. A week-long visit was not something she thought she could bear.

A sudden thought came to her mind and she hastily scraped the bacon onto a plate before rushing to the front hall. Vernon paused with his hand on the door handle and glowered at her. "You don't think you're coming, do you?"

"Of course not. I just wanted to tell you that third-years at my school are allowed to go to the nearby village, but they need a guardian signature." Charlie crossed her arms.

"What makes you think I'm going to sign any ruddy form?" Vernon growled.

Charlie blinked innocently. "What if I slip up and tell Aunt Marge where I've really been the past two years?"

"You wouldn't!"

"I'll try not to, but I would do my very best to remember if you sign my form."

Vernon glared at her, a vein throbbing in his forehead. "I'll sign your form if and only if you do a bloody good job of sticking to the story."

He stormed out and Charlie pumped her fist in the air before rushing up the stairs. She started packing up Snowy's cat supplies and her cat mewed inquisitively at her. "Sorry, Snowy, but Aunt Marge has a big old ugly dog named Ripper that likes to get into everything. The last thing I want is him busting down my door and eating you for a snack."

Snowy seemed to understand and settled into her cat carrier. Charlie got everything ready and softly called out, "Dobby!"

There was crack and a strange creature appeared in the middle of her bedroom. Charlie listened for any signs of her aunt rushing upstairs, but there was none. "Hello, Dobby. How are you?"

Dobby was a house-elf that used to belong to the Malfoy family before Charlie had him freed. She offered him a place to be her house-elf and he had eagerly accepted. She made sure not to work him too hard and always told him how much she appreciated his work. For the summer, she had him loaned to the Weasleys, but since they were in Egypt he was house-sitting for them.

Dobby beamed at her. "Dobby is being well, Mistress! The kind Wheezys send Dobby gifts of thanks! Does Charlotte Potter need Dobby?"

"Yes, actually. If you don't mind, can you take care of Snowy for a few days while my relatives have some guests over? They don't like cats, you see."

"Dobby will gladly be taking good care of Snowy!" Dobby took the supplies away first and came back for the cage. "Will Mistress be needing anything else?"

"No. Thank you very much, Dobby." Charlie smiled at him and he grinned at her before Apparating away. Charlie then took a deep breath. "Okay, I can do this...I can do this."

But when there was a hearty knocking at the door an hour later, Charlie felt her confidence dip severely. "Oh, who am I kidding? She's gonna sic her dog on me the second I open the door!"

Why did she have to be the one that always got hurt?