Chapter 1: Back to Privet Drive
Harry stifled a heavy sigh as Uncle Vernon's fancy new company car pulled away from the car park at Kings Cross Station and merged onto the highway that would take them to Little Whinging. After the events of his fourth year at Hogwarts, the prospect of spending two months in the company of the Dursleys was more unpleasant than ever. Only Uncle Vernon and Dudley were in the car with him; neither offered an explanation for Aunt Petunia's absence and Harry didn't ask.
While he drove, Uncle Vernon grumbled to Dudley about his favourite subject of complaint: Harry. Tuning out his uncle's slights on his appearance (his messy hair again), Harry stared unseeingly out the window. His thoughts unconsciously drifted to the graveyard: the crumbling headstones, the dark cauldron, Cedric's lifeless eyes staring sightlessly at the sky…
Harry suppressed a shiver. No. Don't think about that, he told himself sternly. Unfortunately, he had whispered these words out loud to himself, catching his cousin's attention. Dudley turned around in his seat (which nearly forced the car off the road) and stare at Harry in cruel amusement.
'Dad! Harry's talking to himself. I think he's trying to do you-know-what!'
Uncle Vernon almost rammed into the car in front. He spun around in his seat and bellowed, 'WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT USING YOUR ABNORMALTY UNDER OUR ROOF?'
Harry was bursting to point out that he technically wasn't actually under their roof at present, but the sight of his uncle's purple face made him reconsider. But that didn't stop him trying to defend himself. 'I wasn't –'
'ARE YOU CALLING DUDLEY A LIAR?'
The car behind them honked impatiently. Uncle Vernon forgot about his nephew for the moment as he stuck his head out the window to curse at the other driver.
Harry slumped in his seat and stared glumly at his knees. He supposed he should know better than to talk back by now, to explain that it wasn't his fault. Even nine whole months at Hogwarts weren't enough to make him forget about his abysmal home life. The Dursleys never believed Harry, it had always been that way. He didn't expect it to ever change. Harry spent the remainder of the trip lost in thoughts of the fourth task, nothing to distract him from his dark memories.
At long last they pulled into the driveway of Number 4 Privet Drive and clambered out of the car (Dudley with great difficulty). Vernon slammed the car door and marched up the front walk. Dudley trailed behind him, smirking at Harry over his shoulder. Harry was left alone to struggle with his trunk.
Nearly ten minutes later, he was barely halfway up the stairs. Hedwig began to protest at being jostled so Harry quickly moved to open her cage. He doubted Uncle Vernon would be very forgiving of his owl this summer; she certainly hadn't endeared herself to him in summers past.
His uncle stormed into the hall. 'What are you doing?' he demanded angrily, eyes narrowed.
For the life of him, Harry couldn't think what he'd done wrong; Hedwig's complaints hadn't been loud enough to reach the kitchen.
'Put those things in the cupboard,' Uncle Vernon snapped. 'I don't want you getting any funny ideas.'
Harry moved to open his trunk to retrieve the salve Madam Pomfrey had given him for the wound he had received form Wormtail.
'What do you think you are doing?'
'I hurt my arm a few days ago; the school nurse gave me something to help it heal.'
His uncle sneered nastily and snatched it off him. 'Get upstairs.'
Harry had to grit his teeth to keep from protesting at the unfairness. Seeing no alternative, he reluctantly obeyed.
He pushed his sweaty fringe aside and collapsed onto his bed. From downstairs, he could hear the rumble of voices and chink of cutlery as the Dursleys ate supper. Not feeling remotely hungry, Harry opted to remain in his room. He seriously doubted that the Dursley's would care about his absence.
He soon found that this alternative was equally as unpleasant. Having nothing to distract himself, his mind kept dredging up the disturbing memories. With the memories so fresh it seemed that nothing would ever soothe the guilt, grief and despair he felt. Guilt, that Cedric had died so needlessly; grief, that Harry hadn't been able to save him; despair, that the most feared wizard in history was now at large and more powerful as ever.
Harry half-heartedly considered writing to his godfather, but dismissed the idea almost immediately. He had only just left Hogwarts, surely he could survive another few days before bothering Sirius, who was currently off somewhere on a mission for Dumbledore. Harry didn't want to draw his godfather away from wherever he was safely hidden, probably at Lupin's by now, just because Harry was too weak to overcome a few nightmares. Besides, Harry thought, he didn't really feel like talking about it again; what he really wanted was companionship, a person who didn't glare at him with hatred the minute he walked into a room.
After a restless night dreaming of Voldemort, Death Eaters and Cedric, Harry spent the next day in his bedroom, leaving it only for meals or to go to the bathroom. The Dursleys kept well clear of his bedroom. Harry couldn't see the point of forcing his company on them; seeing them would only make him more depressed.
And so it continued for two whole days. Alternatively, Harry was consumed with a restless energy that made him unable to settle to anything, during which time he paced his bedroom, furious at Dumbledore for sending him back after all he had experienced; other times the thoughts of Cedric left him so emotionally drained he could lie on his bed for hours at a time.
On the third day back, Harry was pacing around his room in agitation, having just woken up from a vivid dream about the graveyard. This dream was not like those before; in this one, Voldemort's victims were blaming him for their deaths. Cedric's angry voice still echoed in his head, yelling at him for leading him into a trap, but worse by far was the disappointment in his parents' voices. Harry paused mid-step as the sound of heavy footsteps thudded up the staircase. A moment later his uncle entered his room, scowling darkly.
'Your aunt and I are going out.'
'We'll be back in about two hours.'
'Dudley is in charge.'
'You are to help him look after Laura as he tells you.'
'Okay – what? Who's Laura?' Harry asked in bewilderment.
Uncle Vernon visibly bristled at this display of ignorance. 'Our daughter. We adopted her last spring. You'd have known about her if you hadn't spent all this time moping about the goings on at that freak place.'
Harry's mouth opened and closed repeatedly as he tried to comprehend how anyone could possibly deem his uncle and aunt suitable adoptive parents. But that wasn't the only thing that was mind-boggling.
'How would you know about any 'goings on' at my school?'
Uncle Vernon snorted. 'Your fool headmaster wrote us a letter explaining how you caused the death of another student.' He sneered horribly. 'I guess that must be the 'Cedric' you yell about at night.'
Feeling as chilled as though he had just walked through a ghost, Harry didn't answer. He stared blankly ahead as if he could see Cedric's death play out in front of him once again. He was brought back to present with a jolt as his Uncle raised his voice menacingly.
'… and don't even think about corrupting our dear little angel.'
'Of course,' Harry murmured distractedly, still dazed.
Uncle Vernon stared at him suspiciously before marching out of the room and down the stairs. The staircase creaked under his enormous weight.
Harry was dimly aware of the sounds of the car starting up and reversing out the driveway. The car was barely out of hearing when the front door slammed shut and Dudley ambled down the street, probably to meet with his friends against his parents' wishes.
Harry sat on his bed. Several minutes passed. Somehow, the unrelenting silence was harder to bear than the sickening comments about 'dear little Diddykins' and Uncle Vernon's dull jokes. Unable to stand the quiet, Harry slid off his bed and put his wand in his pocket, half-heartedly thinking of going for a walk.
As he reached the landing, a piercing cry almost sent him tumbling down the staircase in shock. Recovering quickly, Harry followed the noise to the spare bedroom. He stopped short in the doorway. The room had undergone a huge transformation since he'd been in here last; two summers had passed since he had been forced to lug Aunt Marge's suitcases up here. The polished oak bed and the matching bedside cupboards were gone; in their place by a cot, a change table and an assortment of expensive toys. Sitting on the bed was a very upset little girl; her small hands clung to the quilt as her body shook with her sobs. She stopped crying when she saw him. They stared at each other for several moments then her lower lip began to tremble and her blue eyes filled with tears.
'No, no, no! Don't cry,' Harry spluttered frantically, wishing desperately for Hermione or Mrs Weasley, who would no doubt know what to do.
Laura remained silent except for a single sniff. Harry slowly moved closer, approaching her as cautiously as one might approach a Hippogriff. Her eyes watched him carefully. He awkwardly patted her on the head. Never before had he felt so unsure of himself.
Laura lifted her arms above her head. 'Up,' she insisted when he stared at her blankly. 'Up!'
Harry carefully picked her up; she cooed as he held her; she beamed at him and reached up to grab his glasses. He tugged them gently out of her grasp and looked at her thoughtfully. It didn't seem to take much to earn her acceptance. He had always dreamed of having a brother or sister. The Weasley children and Hermione were the closest he would ever have to siblings– until now. Grinning like an idiot, he let her lead him across the room and carefully sat down beside the toys. She snatched up a rattle and plonked herself on his lap as though she'd known him all her life. It wasn't much longer until she began cooing and babbling to him in her own baby language