Chapter One - Prisoner
Harry Potter was angry. Never in his near-thirteen years could he recall ever being this angry. He was angry at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, non-magical Muggles, both of whom hated Harry and his wizarding world. Most of all, he was angry at himself for having been so stupid as to return to Privet Drive.
"Let me out of here! You have no right to keep me locked up!" he shouted through the bedroom door. "I'm going to make you pay for this!
Harry turned to his bedside table to get his wand. He knew just the spell to burst the door open. Then the fun would begin.
His wand was not where he had left it through the night. The bottom of his stomach dropped out. Harry fell to his knees to search the floor but only confirmed his gut feeling: his wand was gone - taken! - and it could only have been by the Dursleys.
He sprang to his feet and kicked the door. "Give me my wand back!" he screamed. "Open the sodding door! You're writing your own doom!"
"Switch off!" Dudley hollared at him.
Harry's response was very rude and vulgar.
"Language!" Vernon thumped on the door.
"Let me out!"
"Now listen good, boy. I don't want to keep you around, but I'll not have you threatening this family. I can't go to the police with you, so you're going to stay locked up and quiet."
"I just want to leave!" Harry implored.
"You'll stay in that room until I say otherwise."
"How am I supposed to whiz?" Harry demanded.
"I'll let you out once a day."
Harry started swearing again at that point, calling on some of the more colourful parts of his vocabulary gleaned from his good friend Theo Nott and his best mate's father, Lucius Malfoy. Vernon gave no response, and Harry kicked at the door until his feet hurt. Frustrated and furious, he dragged his chair to the window where he sat and pressed his face up against the iron bars. His breathing was ragged as he seethed with vicious thoughts of the hurtful hexing that Vernon so soundly deserved.
The window had been nailed shut, he discovered. "Why not just shackle me to the wall," Harry muttered. Even if he could somehow pry out the nails in the window, his brief hope of sending a message was foiled by the discovery that his eagle owl's cage had been affixed with a sturdy padlock.
Some time later, a tray was shoved through a narrow slot in the door. It held a bowl of watery vegetable soup and a hunk of hard bread. There wasn't much, but he shared half with Regal. The bird was his cellmate and his only friend in this forsaken place. Hours ticked slowly by, and Harry continued to seethe.
Harry counted down the hot, sticky, boring days of July as the summer rolled on. Every day was filled with nothing. To occupy himself, he started doing push-ups and sit-ups. If he went to bed exhausted, he slept longer and spent less time in his horrid reality. He'd never have thought he would miss the back-breaking chores the Dursleys forced him to do, but Harry would have cut each blade of grass with a pair of scissors just for something to break the monotony.
At least he still had all his things. Harry was able to read his school books, and it was somewhat entertaining to hover on his broomstick two metres off the floor. What he really needed was some fire. With a fire he could brew up some Dissolving Draught and break his way out in no time. Unfortunately, without wand or matches, Harry had no way to produce a flame.
Harry soon had cause to chide himself for objecting to his boredom. Towards the end of the month, Vernon unlocked the door to let Harry use the loo and followed him into the gaol cell when he was done.
"My sister Marge will be visiting us at the beginning of August," he said without preamble. "As she expects to see you, you'll be let out for her visit."
Vernon's sister Marge was no blood relationship to Harry, but he had still been forced to call her "Aunt" all his life. Aunt Marge lived in the country, in a house with a large garden, where she bred bulldogs. She didn't often stay at Privet Drive, because she couldn't bear to leave her precious dogs, but whenever she did, Harry had hated every minute of it.
"Why is she coming?"
"None of that tone. You'll keep a civil tongue in your head when you're talking to Marge."
"Only if she does when she's talking to me."
"I don't want any - any funny stuff while she's here. She knows nothing about your abnormality. We've told her you attend St. Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys."
"You'll be sticking to that story, boy, or there'll be trouble."
"Can't I just leave? You can tell her I ran away! It'll be the truth!"
"She'll be here for one week. If you behave, you can feel free to run away then."
"Why are you doing this?" Harry pleaded.
"Do we have a deal?"
Harry ground his teeth. He hated Aunt Marge, had hated every single minute of her every visit. He could still recall them all with vivid detail. At Dudley's fifth birthday party, she had whacked Harry across the shins with her walking stick to keep him from beating Dudley at musical statues. A few years later she had shown up at Christmas with a computerized robot for Dudley and a box of dog biscuits for Harry. On her last visit, the year before Harry had started at Hogwarts, Harry had accidentally stepped on the tail of her favourite dog. Ripper had chased Harry out into the garden and up a tree, where Aunt Marge had refused to call him off until after midnight.
This visit would only be more shame and scorn directed his way. If it meant his freedom, though, Harry knew he could endure anything. Once he got out and back to his proper world, then he could hatch a plan for revenge.
"Deal," Harry said shortly.
"Good. She arrives on Saturday." Harry's birthday. What a rotten present.
He had nearly a week to dread Aunt Marge's visit, but Harry didn't spend his time idly. He was hindered by not being able to build or control a fire, but he still bent his brain to devising an escape plan.
When Saturday finally arrived, Harry woke early. He sang the birthday song to himself as he dressed. Nobody in the house likely remembered or cared, but Harry was thirteen years old now. He was a proper teenager, and he was full of reckless daring. Today was his only chance; he would not miss it.
Around half nine, Uncle Vernon unlocked his cell door. "I'm going to pick up Marge at the station. You get downstairs and help your aunt with luncheon."
"Yes, Uncle Vernon," Harry said in what he hoped was a defeated tone.
Vernon eyed him for a moment, then shoved him roughly out of the room and down the stairs. "Dudders? Want to come along for the ride?"
"No thanks." Dudley, who was as fat as ever, didn't even look up from his handheld video game.
"Duddy's got to make himself smart for his auntie," Aunt Petunia simpered, smoothing Dudley's thick blond hair. "Mummy's bought him a nice new bow tie."
"I'll be back in a bit then," Vernon said, and he left the house.
"Don't just stand there, boy," Aunt Petunia snapped. "Get some water boiling!"
"Yes, Aunt Petunia." Harry set to his chores with diligence. When things were fairly well along, Harry crossed his legs.
"I need to pee," he announced.
"Well don't talk about it, for goodness' sake," Aunt Petunia dismissed him. She was preoccupied with fixing Dudley's bow tie, a task made more difficult by his refusal to lift his fat chin.
Harry wasted no time in bolting up the stairs, but he didn't even glance at the water closet. He went directly into Vernon's bedroom. He had to be quick. This was his only chance. Where would the great Muggle hide a magic wand? Not somewhere he would have to touch it or even look at it.
Harry rifled through the bedside table, and in an old box of cigars he found eleven inches of holly with a phoenix feather core. Reverantly, Harry brought the wand to his lips and kissed it. He could have wept.
The only place he could really conceal the wand was in his sock, under his pants leg. It would do until he needed it, and he would need it before much longer.
Harry quick-stepped to the loo and flushed the toilet. Then he took the time to wash his hands. He slouched back downstairs and into the kitchen where he set to stirring the soup. He did his best not to smile.
Shortly before eleven, there was a crunch of gravel outside as Uncle Vernon's car pulled back into the driveway. Harry, busy in the kitchen, barely heard the car doors slam, but as the front door banged open, Aunt Petunia shooed him out to go carry luggage.
Harry swallowed his emotions and pulled on a hopeless expression. On the threshold stood Aunt Marge. She was very like Uncle Vernon: large, beefy, and purple-faced. She even had a mustache, though it was not nearly so bushy as his. In one hand she held an enormous suitcase, and tucked under the other arm was an old and evil-tempered bulldog.
"Where's my Dudders?" Aunt Marge roared. "Where's my neffy-poo?"
Dudley waddled in from the living room. His blond hair was plastered flat to his fat head, and his new bow tie was barely visible under all his chins. Aunt Marge thrust her suitcase at Harry, catching him under the ribs and knocking the breath out of him, as she seized Dudley in a tight, one-armed hug and planted a large kiss on his cheek.
Harry knew perfectly well that Dudley only tolerated Aunt Marge's attentions because he was well-bribed. Sure enough, when they broke apart, Dudley had a crisp twenty-pound note clutched in his fat fist.
"Petunia!" their guest shouted, ignoring Harry entirely as she strode towards the kitchen. Aunt Petunia was barely two steps out when Aunt Marge got to her, and the two women kissed cheeks.
Uncle Vernon now came in, smiling jovially as he shut the door. "Tea, Marge? What will Ripper take?"
"Ripper can have some tea out of my saucer," Aunt Marge decided, and they all proceeded into the kitchen. Harry was left standing in the hallway, wheezing as he tried to get his wind back, with only Aunt Marge's suitcase for company. Well, that was just fine by him. Any excuse to delay the inevitable was a good one.
Harry heaved the heavy suitcase upstairs, taking as long as he could to get it into the spare bedroom. By the time he returned to the kitchen, Aunt Marge had been supplied with tea and fruitcake, and Ripper was noisily lapping away in the corner. Harry took a small pleasure in watching Aunt Petunia's wincing as specks of tea and drool flecked her clean floor. Aunt Petunia hated animals.
"Who's looking after the dogs, Marge?" Uncle Vernon asked.
"Oh, I've got Colonel Fubster managing them," she boomed. "He's retired now. Good for him to have something to do. I couldn't leave poor old Ripper, though. He pines if he's away from me."
Ripper began to growl again as Harry sat down at the table. This drew Aunt Marge's attention to Harry for the first time.
"So!" she barked. "Still here, are you?"
"Don't you say 'yes' in that ungrateful tone," Aunt Marge snapped at him. "It's damn good of Vernon and Petunia to keep you. Wouldn't have done it myself. You'd have gone straight to the orphanage if you'd been dumped on my doorstep."
"I hear the orphanages are very nice," Harry said before he could stop himself.
Marge looked at him coolly. "I can see you haven't improved since I last saw you. Wipe that smirk off your face. I had hoped school would knock some manners into you." She took a large gulp of tea and wiped her mustache. "Where is it that you send him, Vernon? I've forgotten."
"St. Brutus's. It's a first-rate institution for hopeless cases."
"I see. Do they use the cane at St. Brutus's, boy?"
"Of course," Harry said, seeing Uncle Vernon nodding emphatically. "All the time."
"Excellent! I won't have this namby-pamby, wishy-washy nonsense about not hitting people who deserve it. A good thrashing is what's needed in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. Have you been beaten often?"
"Not really," Harry replied. "I'm a model student."
Aunt Marge's eyes narrowed. "I still don't like your tone, boy. Perhaps you can fool your instructors, but I see right through you. If they won't discipline you properly, perhaps someone else should. Vernon, fetch my walking stick."
"Don't trouble yourself, Marge. I'll take care of it myself after tea."
"Only if you use my stick."
Aunt Petunia took that moment to pour more tea and abruptly change the subject. "Did you hear the news this morning, Marge? What about that escaped prisoner, hmm?"
"I did! What sort of stupidity was it not telling where he escaped from?"
"My very words," Vernon contributed. "An escaped murderer, a true maniac by the look of him, armed and dangerous and they can't be bothered to tell."
"Did you see that horrible picture? That matted tangle of hair, that gaunt face? I swear, I won't sleep soundly for a week."
"When will they learn that hanging's the only way to deal with these people?"
"I know, Vernon, I know. Whether it's this Black fellow or the serial rapist they caught last month, the only way to protect society is to eliminate those evolutionary dead-ends."
After tea, Uncle Vernon followed through on his promise to thrash Harry, though he didn't do it very hard or very long. He didn't even use the walking stick. Harry was at a loss to explain this weakness on Vernon's part, but his bottom certainly wasn't complaining.
As Aunt Marge started to make herself at home, Harry thought almost longingly about being locked up in his bedroom. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon normally did their best to pretend he didn't exist, but Aunt Marge delighted in tormenting him and running him down. She was constantly booming out suggestions for his improvement, comparing him unfavourably to Dudley, and throwing out dark hints about what made Harry such an unsatisfactory person.
"You mustn't blame yourself for how the boy turned out, Vernon," she soothed him at dinner that night. "If there's something rotten on the inside, there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's one of the basic rules of breeding. You see it all the time with dogs. Every so often, you have to put one of them down."
Harry tried to concentrate on his food, on giving his body the nourishment it would need for tonight. It wasn't easy. His face was starting to burn with anger, and his hands were shaking. She was getting to him, he realized.
Aunt Marge reached for her glass of wine. "If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pups."
The wineglass exploded in her hand! Shards of glass flew in every direction, and Aunt Marge sputtered and blinked, her great ruddy face dripping.
"Marge!" Aunt Petunia squealed. "Are you all right?"
"Oh, not to worry," she grunted, mopping her face with her napkin. "Must have squeezed it too hard. I have a very firm grip. Did the exact same thing at Colonel Fubster's the other day. No need to fuss, Petunia."
Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were both looking suspiciously at Harry. Doing his best to convey his innocence through glances, Harry knelt down to pick up some of the broken shards.
"Are we ready for dessert, then?" Aunt Petunia asked.
"Yes, a splendid idea, Petunia. Marge, can I tempt you with a spot of brandy?"
"Perhaps a small one," the large woman allowed. "Not in the coffee, if you please. A bit more than that. Just a touch more. Ah, that's the ticket."
With one large swallow, Aunt Marge emptied the brandy glass. "Aah!" she exclaimed, smacking her lips. "That's some fine stuff, Vernon. Petunia, this is some excellent nosh. I stick to simple things, myself, seeing as how it's just me and the dogs." She belched richly and patted her great stomach.
"Now then, what was I saying? Yes, I'll have a spot more brandy. Oh yes, breeding. That one there," she thrust her large jaw towards Harry, "has got a mean, runty look about him. You get that with dogs too. I had Colonel Fubster drown one last year. Ratty little thing it was. Weak. Underbred. It all comes down to blood. Bad blood will out. Now, I'm not saying anything against your family, Petunia, but your sister was a bad egg. They turn up in the best of families. Then she ran off with a wastrel, and here's the result right in front of us."
Harry felt his ears turning red. He spooned some more pudding into his mouth, but he couldn't stop listening to the evil woman before him.
"This Potter," she said loudly, seizing the brandy bottle and sloshing more into her glass. "You never told me what he did."
"Nothing. He didn't work," Aunt Petunia, who was exchanging nervous glances with Uncle Vernon. Even Dudley had stopped stuffing his face to watch the little drama unfolding before him.
"As I expected!" Marge boomed. She took a huge swig of brandy and wiped her chin on her sleeve. "A no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger living off the system!"
"He was not!" Harry said angrily. He was shaking all over, and the Dursleys had gone stone silent. Harry ignored them, putting all his great loathing into the stare he directed at Aunt Marge.
That look was returned. "Oh really now? Go on, boy, go on. Proud of your parents, are you? They go and get themselves killed in a car crash, soused to the gills, I expect, and leave you to be a burden on your decent, hard-working relatives!"
"They didn't die in a car crash!"
"You nasty little liar! You are an insolent, ungrateful-"
Harry could take no more, and he stood up so fast that his chair fell over. His wand was in his hand, though he didn't remember pulling it from his sock. A queer sort of redness tinged everything.
"What've you got there?" Aunt Marge demanded, squinting her bloodshot eyes at him. "If you're going to point a stick at someone, make it a proper stick."
Uncle Vernon, however, was staring bug-eyed at the wand in Harry's hand. "How did you get that?"
"Shut up! All of you shut up! I won't have you talking about my mum and dad like that!"
"Potter, don't be stupid-"
The blast of yellow light slammed Vernon back against the wall. Aunt Petunia shrieked and ran to his side. Aunt Marge sat straight up, finally shaken out of her brandy-induced obliviousness.
"What's going on here?"
"Flabre inflare!" Marge hit the wall inches away from her brother. Her chair fell to pieces, and she landed heavily on the floor.
Aunt Petunia was sobbing in fear. Dudley jumped out of his chair and frantically lumbered for the door to escape.
"Impedimentia!" The boy froze in place, one foot still raised in the air. Harry was briefly surprised -the spell was only supposed to slow the target down - but he was too wound up to care for long.
"Boy, what are you doing?" Aunt Marge was staggering to her feet.
"Instigo calvae!" All of the hair fell out of her head, even her mustache.
"Obstringere!" Rope appeared from nowhere to tie up Aunt Petunia. Suddenly helpless, she squirmed on the floor in a panic.
Vernon was sitting up now, backed into a corner, his beady eyes filled with fear.
"Hear me now," Harry hissed darkly at them all. "I could kill you all, and Merlin knows I want to."
"You can't do any such thing," Marge blustered, still not realizing that Harry was in charge. At the moment she was ignoring her bald scalp and focusing on the wand in Harry's hand.
Ripper chose that moment to interfere, and he sank his teeth into Harry's ankle. Harry shouted in surprise and tried to kick the dog off unsuccessfully. His eyes narrowed as he aimed his wand downwards.
"Petrificus totalis!" Ripper's entire body stiffened up, making him look like nothing so much as an extremely vicious garden statue. Harry yanked his leg back, ripping his trousers in the process.
Aunt Marge lunged at Harry while the wand was pointed away from her, but he was too quick. He leapt backwards, narrowed his eyes at the hateful woman, and spoke one final bit of magic.
"Engorgio!" Aunt Marge took a deep breath, her great chest swelling with inexpressible anger - but the swelling didn't stop. Her red face started to expand, her tiny eyes bulged, and her mouth stretched too tightly for speech. A button burst off her tweed jacket and pinged off the wall.
"Marge!" Vernon yelled, getting to his feet. Marge was inflating like a monstrous balloon, her stomach bursting free of her tweed waistband. Each of her fingers was blowing up like salami. In a few moments she was entirely round, like a vast life buoy with piggy eyes. Her hands and feet stuck out oddly as she floated up into the air. She was making strange apoplectic popping noises. Vernon tried to grab hold of her, but her foot slipped out of his grasp as he was almost lifted up himself.
Harry felt truly righteous. He folded his arms across his chest. "Muggles," he sneered at them. "How dare you lay hands on me? How dare you starve me and beat me? How dare you speak about things you know nothing about? I should do more to you. You certainly deserve it. Give me a reason, and I will."
With that warning, Harry walked upstairs to get his school trunk. A simple bursting charm sprang the lock on Regal's cage, and the eagle owl perched on his shoulder as he thumped down the stairs.
Vernon stood in his way. "You put her back!" he screamed. His beefy face was bright red. "You fix my sister!"
"Fix her yourself," Harry said derisively, and he pointed his wand at the man's eye. Fear unmeasurable filled Vernon's face as he scrambled backwards. "This is all your fault. If you had only let me leave, you'd all be fine. I hope you all burn."
"No!" Vernon gasped. "Don't burn us!"
Harry let a wicked smile creep onto his face. "Densaugeo!"
As he strode into the night feeling fully vindicated, Harry could hear the screams as Vernon's teeth began to grow. They would keep growing, he knew, and eventually his mouth would be wedged open.
"Miserable Muggle. You deserve so much more."
Harry did not look back as he walked away from Privet Drive forever.