33. Return to Hogwarts
It was the first of September and Harry was expected back at Hogwarts today although he wasn't sure he really wanted to return whilst Albus Dumbledore was still the head of Hogwarts. It didn't help that compared to the curriculum of other schools Hogwarts was crap. It only offered half the subjects that other schools did.
And that didn't even begin to look at the teachers. Okay there were some good impartial ones like Flitwick and Sprout. However, there were other teachers who were awful teachers; Binns who put children to sleep, Trelawney who wasn't a good teacher in the first place, Hagrid who was very enthusiastic but completely unqualified, Snape who was overqualified and a bit of a sociopath who wasn't someone who should be put in charge of children and the reason there hadn't been a Potions Master qualified in Britain in twenty years.
Snape may not be a bad person but he had no patience with those who knew less than he did which was all children at Hogwarts. Harry had a feeling that he would be happier teaching those at Mastery level than those like Harry who had only heard about Potions a month previously. Again Dumbledore causing everyone hell so he could manipulate Snape.
Then there was McGonagall who a good teacher and qualified to the right level needed but when she was in charge of children who were in Hogwarts for almost ten months a year she really needed to be more approachable for the homesick, the bullied and everyone else. Harry hadn't trusted her since he had tried to tell her about the Philosopher's Stone. Then there was the fact she was so far up Dumbledore's arse that she couldn't see the truth when it was displayed clearly in front of her.
Then there was Poppy Pomfrey. All the times Harry had been in the hospital wing for Quidditch or Voldemort related injuries or as often or not both she hadn't even mentioned that Harry had suspicious injuries. Harry liked Pomfrey so could only hope that there was another case of Obliviating there.
Harry had had half a mind to opt to either be home schooled or attend school elsewhere but Sirius convinced Harry that it was his heritage to at least give it another go for a few months. If by the time the Dursleys trial rolled around or there were any incidents like there had been previously Harry still wasn't happy with Hogwarts Sirius would send off the applications. Hopefully Harry would be living in Salem by Halloween.
What convinced Harry was Remus suggesting he go at least so he could explain to Ron and Hermione why he had left. Harry wanted to see his friends again. However, he was going to make it quite clear to Dumbledore and anyone else that if they attempted to manipulate him or pulled any stunts he was going to transfer to Salem in America hopefully that would stop the old coot from interfering with him or his friends' lives but he doubted it somehow.
The Dursleys trial was on the seventh so he had permission from the Ministry to leave the grounds that day despite missing a day of school. Dumbledore would be furious but Harry couldn't find himself caring less about that bastard. True Dumbledore's fury would be more that Harry was escaping control than anything else and the fact that he wasn't going to come out of the trial smelling like roses if his lawyer had anything to do with it.
If everything went well Dumbledore's motives would be called into question this time next week considering the memories Harry was going to provide proving that Dumbledore knew all about the abuse. Add the evidence that Dumbledore had been repeatedly oblivating Muggles to keep the Boy Who Lived in an abusive situation. Harry hoped that Dumbledore would end up in Azkaban but had long ago learnt that the system just didn't work.
Not for him!
Sirius had side-along apparated Harry to Platform nine and three quarters and helped him with his trunk into an empty carriage which there were plenty of as they had arrived at quarter past ten with plenty of time to spare. The only problem was that it was hard to disguise himself so everyone was staring at him. Harry hated being stared at.
Harry settled himself into the carriage to observe the station. Several people walked past his carriage but when they saw him they either gawked or ran the other way. Harry rolled his eyes honestly they were so gullible believing the lies about him being mad without any proof.
You'd think that they would learn considering that they had thought him the Heir of Slytherin in second year. Then they suddenly turned around to him thinking him a hero once more. The one thing Lockhart had been correct about was that fame – whether wanted or not – was a fickle friend.
At about five to eleven an extremely harried Molly Weasley rushed into the station. Harry didn't understand why the Weasleys were continually unable to organise themselves before the morning surely they would learn after fourteen years of school runs although it was true that at first they only had one child to drop off and no twins causing trouble but still. It was a wonder that they had never yet been late for the train well apart from Ron but that was because of Dobby not their lack of organisation.
Harry saw the entourage the Weasleys and Hermione had come with including a pink haired witch Harry thought must be Sirius' auror metamorphagus cousin, a tall black man, Alastor Moody (the real one Harry presumed as Crouch had his soul removed), and Remus Lupin. Harry knew that they were on the lookout for Harry if as was correct Harry hadn't been kidnapped but had run away. Harry ducked away he didn't want Mrs Weasley's ear splitting rant.
At about midday Harry ordered pumpkin pasties of the cart where Ron and Hermione both sporting prefect badges spotted him. Harry wasn't surprised at the prefect badges considering that Dumbledore was likely to be furious at him for running off. He wasn't going to reward his streak of rebellion. He wasn't likely to be non-biassed in the awarding of the prefect badge so was going to give it to the one who would get at Harry rather than giving to Dean who was the most deserving of the badge.
Harry and Ron got in too much trouble and broke too many rules even if it was for the right reasons – mostly. Neville would have a breakdown of having so much pressure. Seamus had a habit of blowing things up (Harry thought he had a slight case of pyromania). Dean was in no way perfect but he was certainly the most qualified.
Harry hadn't been expecting being prefect so if that was the worst he was going to Dumbledore was going soft in his old age. Still Harry was waiting for this year's plot to get started. The old man was probably going to use Harry to prove that Voldemort really had returned rather than letting Harry provide memories for the minister which Harry was going to do anyway.
Soon as Hermione saw Harry the bushy haired girl flung herself at her friend wrapping her arms round his neck far too tightly almost strangling Harry and not letting go until Harry was almost choking. When the girl finally let go Harry saw her discretely wipe her eyes on her robes. Harry gave her chance to do so by looking at Ron who this time last year would be jealous of the contact between the girl he fancied and best mate who he always felt was better than him but Harry coming out gay meant that he couldn't care less about Harry and Hermione's touchy feeliness.
'Do you want to sit down?' Harry asked awkwardly.
Really Harry wanted them in the compartment and the door shut before Hermione's relief that Harry hadn't been murdered by Voldemort was overridden with her anger at Harry for scaring her and not obeying authority figures and she began screeching at him. Harry had always wondered if Hermione's obsession with authority figures was healthy – Harry doubted it somehow. Not that Harry blamed his friend considering that she grew up being bullied and adults were the only ones who were safe for her.
At least she had the adults Harry thought bitterly. Harry was bullied by his cousin's gang so that no other child would befriend him out of fear. The teachers thanks to Aunt Petunia thought he was a trouble maker. The only thing Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon loved about Harry was beating the shit out of him.
The only person Harry had pre-Hogwarts was Arabella Figg who was powerless to help him in the grand scheme of things. Harry didn't blame the squib but wished that someone had helped him but no Dumbledore prevented all that. This was the reason Harry didn't expect the trial to bear any fruits despite how much evidence there was against him.
Hermione wasn't sitting down but glaring at Harry who looked perfectly healthy and not tortured in the slightest. Both Harry and Ron winced knowing the rant that was going to follow. Hermione was really far too much like Mrs Weasley for anyone's liking.
'HARRY JAMES POTTER HOW DARE YOU?' Hermione shouted.
'Hermione-'Harry tried but was ignored by the furious witch.
I THOUGHT YOU KNOW WHO HAD YOU!' Hermione shouted.
'He-'Harry tried again.
'I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!' Hermione shouted tears in her eyes.
'I-'Harry once more tried.
'DID YOU CARE THAT WE WHAT YOU WERE PUTTING US THROUGH?' Hermione yelled so loud Harry was convinced that the whole train could hear.
'Hermione-' Harry tried once more.
'DID YOU HAVE ANY HOW MUCH DANGER YOU WERE IN!?' Hermione shouted.
'Of course I did,' Harry snapped starting to get annoyed at being treated like a child by the almost sixteen year old.
'YOU KNOW WHO COULD HAVE GOT YOU!?' Hermione shouted furious that her best friend would put her through so much.
'I'm not an idiot,' Harry retorted. 'I wasn't out on the streets.'
This time, Harry mentally added in his head. Hermione may be well read but she was very sheltered to the real world whilst Harry had to learn how to survive in a world where everyone hated him. Hermione thankfully would never be able to understand.
'THE DURSLEYS WERE THE SAFEST PLACE FOR YOU!' Hermione shouted.
That was what made Harry lose his already boiling temper. The idea of the Dursleys and safe in the same sentence was horrific to him. The Dursleys was the worst place in the world for anyone with magic.
'OH YEAH VERY SAFE BEING RAPED!' Harry shouted back losing his temper.
Hermione suddenly deflated her face going from red to pale faster than Uncle Vernon's had ever gone when magic was mentioned. Harry closed his eyes. Remus had suggested explaining things to his friends rather than they hear it from the Daily Prophet after the trial but that wasn't exactly how Harry had meant it to come out.
Both of Harry's friends seemed to pale. Ron's freckles standing out vividly against the white of his skin. Hermione for once seemed lost for words. Harry didn't know how to explain what had happened all those years ago.
'I shouldn't have told you like that,' Harry said softly.
Ron gulped, 'you mean you were really…' Ron trailed off unable to go on.
'Yes,' Harry said tiredly slumping down onto his seat.
Hermione did the same and there was a very uncomfortable silence in which nobody knew what to say. How do you ask your best friend how he was raped? How do you tell your best friends that you have been abused most of your life?
'Look it was three years ago,' Harry said.
'Three years?' Hermione squawked. 'Oh Harry how long has this been going on for?'
Hermione had tears in her eyes and looked like she wanted to throw her arms around Harry again but held herself back in case Harry wasn't comfortable with touch. Harry understood Hermione was trying to make the best out of a bad situation but didn't really know how to. Harry was just glad that both his friends were still on his side.
'Hermione I'm not scared of touch,' Harry said.
Harry didn't add not anymore because he knew that would make Hermione even more upset that she didn't notice her friend's jumpy behaviour that had continued through much of second year. It wasn't until Harry had had sex willingly that Harry had stopped being jumpy around people. Harry was glad he had hated feeling so weak and vulnerable all the time.
'It only happened the once,' Harry said. 'Ron saved me.'
'That's why your room smelled funny,' Ron said speaking quietly. 'Merlin no wonder you were so out of it I just thought you were tired.'
Harry shook his head, 'I couldn't face going back there not when I ran into him. I ran away at the end of second year. That's why I told you not to pick me up from the Dursleys.'
'Oh Harry I'm so sorry of course you'll never have to go back,' Hermione said tear stained. 'Tell Dumbledore he-'
'Knows,' Harry said sharply interrupting his friend.
Hermione's eyes widened at this statement it seemed too much for her that a trusted adult had betrayed her core values. Hermione was once again rendered speechless. It was Ron however who spoke.
'Mate, are you sure? Dumbledore wouldn't just leave you there if he knew he's Dumbledore!' Ron said.
'I told him what was going on twice,' Harry said. 'Once in first year before it and the second time after it!'
'Before?' asked Ron.
'You were beaten,' Hermione said.
'Yeah, many times,' Harry sighed. 'The teachers believed the rumours spread by Aunt Petunia that my mother was a whore, my father a drunk who died drink driving and I was going to go down the same path as them so whenever I spoke up they thought I was lying and told Aunt Petunia who told Uncle Vernon. In the end I gave up. Probably why I don't like going to adults for help.' Harry snorted bitterly. 'And Uncle Vernon drove me down the path of a whore at the end.'
'You're not a whore,' Ron said.
'Good as,' Harry retorted.
'What happened, Harry?' Hermione asked gently.
'I was on the streets. The days were fine. It was the summer but the nights. Well it was more than slightly unsafe to be on the streets on London so I began sleeping around with older men. I got a bed for the night and something to eat the next morning. It's how I met Sirius.'
'What do you mean?' asked Ron.
'You slept with him, didn't you?' asked Hermione.
Harry nodded, 'yeah.'
'That's why it was so awkward and you didn't want to write to him,' Hermione said.
'He broke up with us after he found out I was thirteen and his godson,' Harry replied. 'But now I'm emancipated he's finally given in,' Harry said suddenly beaming.
'Harry,' Ron said before gulping. 'Do you love him?'
'Yes,' Harry said. 'Without Sirius I don't think I'd have got over what happened … well at least as much as I'm ever going to.'
'So Sirius knows?' asked Hermione.
'Sirius, Remus, Arabella and Professor Snape all knows but I've never spoken much about it … it's just hard,' Harry said.
'If you ever want to I'm here,' Hermione said.
'I know,' Harry said softly, 'but I don't want to. It was bad enough going over it for my lawyer and the Ministry. I got emancipated on my birthday.'
'So you're taking the Dursleys to court?' Hermione asked.
'And Dumbledore, the Prophet, Fudge, and Rita Skeeter,' Harry said.
Hermione nodded, 'when?'
'The Dursleys on the seventh,' Harry said face paling.
'How are you feeling about that?' asked Hermione gently.
'How do you think!?' Harry snapped. 'Bloody awful! Do you know the number of times I've spoke up or been taken away by social services just to be returned to the fucking Dursleys!'
'The Dursleys are Muggles,' Ron said. 'They'll be heavily discriminated against.'
Hermione frowned, 'as much as I hate to say it Ron's right. They can also use memories, legimency and veritserum against the Dursleys.'
'I know I've provided memories,' Harry said grimacing.
'It'll be okay,' Hermione reassured her friend.
'Can we please stop talking about this,' Harry begged his friend. 'Dumbledore's going to be bad enough without going into this.'
'If that's what you want,' Hermione said, 'but I think it will help you to talk. So where were you over the summer?'
'Grimmauld Place isn't the only place the Black's own,' Harry said with a grin.
Harry noticed Dumbledore and McGonagall staring at him all through the welcoming feast so was therefore unsurprised when McGonagall came hurrying down the Gryffindor table. Harry sighed knowing what she was going to say. Harry really didn't want to put up with Dumbledore tonight or ever.
'Professor Dumbledore would like a word with you,' McGonagall said lips pressed into a thin line.
Harry nodded, 'I'll see you later then,' he said to Ron and Hermione.
'Good luck,' Hermione said quietly.
'I'll be fine,' Harry said quietly.
Walking to the headmaster's office with McGonagall Harry could tell that she was furious with him. Harry understood that she had been worried about him but didn't particularly care. If she had paid him any attention apart from when he was in trouble or involved with Voldemort she would see that he should never have been left with the bloody Dursleys.
'Potter,' she said thin lipped. 'You have no idea how much trouble you are in for running off like you did.'
'If you want to know why I ran off you should ask the headmaster,' snapped Harry.
McGonagall looked even angrier and her lips impossibly thinned but she said nothing apart from the password ('Treacle Tart' which Harry couldn't help but wonder was it made especially for him). McGonagall took him right into Dumbledore's office as if she thought he would run off again. She probably did.
'Harry,' Dumbledore greeted calmly.
Harry could see the old man staring unhappily at Harry's rings obviously realising Harry had escaped his control. Dumbledore could never again force Harry to return to the Dursleys. Harry was now his own boss.
'Professor Dumbledore,' Harry said with a poker face.
'Professor McGonagall you may leave us,' Dumbledore said.
Probably didn't want anything said that the old Gryffindor woman wouldn't approve of. Professor McGonagall may be strict but she did truly care about her lions although Harry wished she showed it a bit more considering most of the younger Gryffindors didn't even know where the woman's office was. Harry could only recall two times when she had graced the Gryffindor tower.
'Of course headmaster,' nodded the teacher.
Harry didn't say anything as the old woman left. He didn't trust her not to side with the headmaster. Harry was already facing one on one with the manipulative old man he had no wish to have two on one.
'So headmaster what is it you wanted to speak about?' asked Harry calmly.
'You shouldn't have run off like that you know that the Dursleys is the safest place for you,' Dumbledore said.
'So you've said,' Harry retorted angrily. 'But I couldn't go back there not after what he did to me!'
'Voldemort will do worse,' Dumbledore said still playing the grandfather.
Harry snorted, 'no he won't! I was kidnapped by Voldemort only months ago, remember. He tortured me a bit which was nothing the Dursleys have never done, got bored and attempted to kill me.'
'Don't you get it Professor!' sneered Harry. 'I would rather be dead than be anywhere near the Dursleys again!'
There was a sudden silence in the office as the portraits watched them with baited breath. Harry couldn't help but feel that a lot of them were either looking furiously at Dumbledore or sympathetically at Harry. Harry was glad that it wasn't just him who felt Dumbledore was way out of line.
'Harry,' Dumbledore said, 'I may have made mistakes but I have tried to do the best I can for you.'
'You keep telling yourself that,' Harry retorted. 'Now is there anything else because if you're trying to force me back to the Dursleys you should remember I'm emancipated. I only returned to Hogwarts because of my friends. If you keep pushing I will transfer to Salem.'
'What about your friends?' asked Dumbledore.
'We can still meet up in the holidays and communicate by owl,' Harry replied.
'May I ask where you were staying,' Dumbledore asked. 'You wouldn't have access to your family properties until your birthday. That's a month without protection. You could have been killed.'
'As I've already said I would prefer to be dead,' Harry said coolly. 'And if you really need to know I was living on the streets as I have been doing since I was twelve. It's not nice, it's not pretty but it's better than letting my uncle be anywhere near me!'
'Harry,' Dumbledore said softly. 'I wish things weren't like this between us. I really do care for you.'
'Not as much as you care about the greater good,' Harry said softly. 'You're the only one to blame for our bad relationship. Now is there anything else or can I go to bed?'
'I do not think bringing your relatives to court is a good idea,' Dumbledore said. 'When have the authorities helped you before?'
'Only because you were obliviating them,' Harry retorted.
Dumbledore went very white at this point. It may have only been for a second but Harry had seen and smirked at the old man causing Dumbledore to scowl. Harry was going to make it clear once and for all that he was out of Dumbledore's control.
'And I should point out that my aunt and uncle are Muggles. The Wizengamot doesn't like Muggles do they now!' Harry pointed out.
'Blood Purists will dislike the fact that Muggles had the arrogance to harm a magical child no matter who it is and they and the Ministry will probably use this as a chance to discredit you. After all it was you who placed me with the Muggles and kept sending me back there year after year. If they find out about the Obliviations it will be the end of you.
'The Light and Neutral will dislike the fact they harmed a child especially the Boy Who Lived!'
'You would be willing to let everyone else know what you allowed the Dursleys to do to you?' asked Dumbledore.
'I never let the Dursleys do anything to me,' retorted Harry, 'so don't try to shame me into backing out. It's too late anyway the Dursleys are already in prison awaiting trial. The court date is set and the Ministry has all the information even if I were suddenly to back out or forget the trial would still go ahead it would just look worse for you! Now may I leave?'
Dumbledore signed but nodded wearily obviously hoping Harry would take pity on him but Harry was no idiot and months away from the manipulative old man had lead Harry to losing faith in him. Something for which Harry was immensely glad for. He was no longer Dumbledore's to do what he pleased with.
Harry was at the door of the Headmaster's office when he turned back to face the man who had caused him so much pain so often. Harry's eyes were hard as he looked at the man who had once been his guardian. He needed the man to know that he wasn't in the mood for any of his nonsense.
'And that wasn't an empty threat. I will transfer to Salem if anything untoward happens this year! I've filled out the paperwork. All I have to do is send it away. I am emancipated and there's nothing you can do about it!' Harry said.
Harry sighed and walked out of the office leaving the old man behind. Harry was pleased to have got this over with but really wanted to be out of here already. He really hated that old man. Harry was already regretting returning to Hogwarts and he hadn't even been here a night.
This was going to be a long year!