Magnis Veritatem: Forced Truth
Harry awoke to the sound of a repetitive tapping on his bedroom window at Privet Drive. It was not an altogether unwelcome noise, as he knew it was his beloved Hedwig returning from a night of hunting. Harry had let her out just last night, much to the vast displeasure of his Uncle Vernon...
- flashback -
"I warned you, boy! That bloody owl is to stay in its cage. I will not have that ruddy bird bringing you messages from those delinquents you go to school with. I told you those freaks are NOT to interfere with our lives this summer! I will not have it, boy, I WILL NOT HAVE IT!" Uncle Vernon bellowed, purple-faced and dangerously close.
He continued his tirade, grabbing Harry by the front of his t-shirt and pushing him against his bedroom wall next to the open window from which Hedwig had just departed.
"And If you think those damn Order freaks, or whatever they call themselves, from Kings Cross have any say in what I allow in my own house, you are mistaken, boy. I will not allow owls carrying eff-ing messages or freak boys who think they can get away with anything!"
His uncle's eyes were huge, bulging, with an evil, manic gleam to them. His grip on Harry's shirt tightened painfully and Harry could see him visibly shaking. A line had been crossed, Harry knew it.
It had happened before, of course, but not since before he had turned eleven. The threat of wizard retaliation had sufficiently kept Vernon Dursley's tendencies toward severe physical abuse at bay for the last four years. Sure, he'd been shoved, shaken, slapped and had various items thrown at him during that time. But Harry had avoided his uncle's more brutal beatings ever since getting his acceptance letter from Hogwarts. Now he was facing the very real possibility that his uncle's patience had run out and that the end-of-term threat given by certain members of the Order of the Phoenix on the platform at Kings Cross Station would do nothing to deter his uncle's abuse this time.
The first blow sounded like the crack of a whip as Vernon's fist connected with Harry's jaw, forcing his head to snap to the right and collide with the corner of the window frame. As a gash just above his temple gushed blood down his cheek,Harry's vision tunneled, darkening around the edges. Harry's consciousness faded, but the assault continued...
- end flashback -
As the memory of last night's nightmare came into sharper focus, Harry gingerly rolled onto his side and pushed himself up to a sitting position on his bed. He grabbed his glasses off his bedside table and cautiously placed them on, trying to avoid the wound above his temple that was now crusted over with dried blood. He glanced up at the window sill and saw the warm amber eyes of his snowy owl gazing dolefully at him through the glass pane. As he approached her, he drew a sharp intake of breath in reaction to the agonizing pain in his ribs. His entire left side throbbed perilously with every breath he took. At least one broken rib then. Great. And his jaw pulsed with intense, stabbing pain. Maybe a broken jaw too? No, he decided. He could open and close his mouth well enough, although it was extremely tender. Probably just badly bruised.
It had been his childhood, post-beating habit to catalog and assess his injuries. He was never naive enough to hope for medical attention from his aunt and uncle for his afflictions, but he could at least self-medicate by applying cold compresses to any bruises and wrapping the nastier cuts with gauze from the medicine cabinet. Broken ribs though? He wasn't sure how he would handle that particular situation.
He reached the window and unlatched it. Hedwig soared into the room circling once as if to scan for danger. She came to rest gently on Harry's shoulder, dipping her head down to nuzzle affectionately against his cheek.
"It's okay, girl. I'll be alright. Listen, I need you to go to the Burrow for the rest of summer. Okay? Ron will take care of you. I'm sorry, but I can't risk Uncle Vernon seeing you here again. Don't worry. It will be okay."
He stroked her soft feathered plumage tenderly as he spoke his reassurances. After a quiet hoot of acquiescence, she took off through the still open window and out into the crisp, cool morning air.
After watching Hedwig disappear from view, Harry closed and latched the window, then slowly shuffled back to his bed. He cautiously sat down on the mattress edge and winced as shooting pains from his injured ribs made him gasp. With each new breath, Harry felt more and more light-headed and nauseous. Slowly, he laid down on the threadbare blanket atop his bed and tried to arrange himself into a comfortable position. He would attempt to sleep some more. No sense in trying to sneak into the bathroom now. He knew his Uncle Vernon would be up and about as it was a Saturday morning. Better to wait it out in his room and attempt to raid the medicine cabinet later tonight, once the Dursleys were asleep. It would not be worth it to have another run-in with his violent uncle.
It doesn't matter anyway, Harry thought. The physical pain was bad, yes, but he'd gone through worse. Certainly this was infinitely more bearable than Voldemort's cruciatus curse. And definitely less excruciating than being possessed by said wizard. That had been agonizing - physically and emotionally. He had wanted to die, wanted the pain to end at all costs. He remembered that burning ache in his chest as he thought that in death, perhaps he could see Sirius again.
It had only been two weeks since term ended, three weeks since that fateful night at the Ministry, and Harry was still feeling devastated over losing his Godfather. Sirius had been the only real parent figure he had ever remembered having in his life. He had only been a part of his life for two years, but Harry had come to rely on him as he would a father. Losing him was far more agony than any physical pain Voldemort or Uncle Vernon could inflict upon him. And the worst part of it was that Harry knew that Sirius' death was his fault.
It was because of Harry's insistent and rash resolve to rescue Sirius from non-existant danger that directly led to his murder. Why did he believe that foul elf, Kreacher? Why didn't he do more to try and get help? He could have gone to Flitwick or Sprout, anyone, instead of... Snape. That bastard. Dumblebore swore that Snape had done everything in his power that night to get help. He alerted the Order right away, Dumbledore had said. Somehow Harry doubted that. Dumbledore trusts Snape, he had told him this several times. Well, Harry did not. Snape must have taken his sweet time to tell the Order about Harry's vision so that he could ensure that his REAL master had time to get exactly what he wanted from Harry... the prophecy. Snape was probably pleased that Sirius was dead. He had always hated him. And he had mercilessly taunted him back at Grimmauld Place. Snape wanted his Godfather to leave that house and put himself in danger. This was Snape's fault too. And Harry would never forgive him for his part in it.
Harry closed his eyes, fighting the tears that threatened to spill. He would not cry. No. He would just lay here and wait out the day. He would ignore this pain. Refuse this grief. Swallow this heartache.
Just as Harry felt sleep start to take hold of him, he heard a strange buzzing sound. His eyes snapped open in time to see a blinding flash of pure white light surrounding him and felt an uncomfortable sensation that was eerily similar to portkey travel. Following the strange surge of motion and dizzying confusion, he found himself sprawled out on the floor, alone, and in a room that was most definitely not the smallest bedroom at number four, Privet Drive.