Warnings: Abuse, hints of sexual abuse, language…
Chapter One: Voldemort's Offer
Privet Drive was quiet. Too quiet for the events that were taking place at Number Four.
Harry's hands clenched against the wall, his tiny frame, small even for an eight-year-old, trembling. A crack sounded through the air.
Harry's back arched. However, he bit his lower lip to prevent himself from crying out, his eyes shut tight in pain as another red stripe was added to his back. His muscles were tight as he let out a small gasp. Tears escaped down his cheeks.
Silence was a large part of Harry's life. It was what the Dursleys drilled into him. When facing pain, which he did on a daily basis, he gritted his teeth and bore it. Else, the torture would only get worse. Much, much worse, which he learned from experience.
His breaths were coming out in short pants, and he leaned his head against the wall, feeling the world spin slightly. He struggled not to collapse or lose consciousness. If he did, his uncle would most certainly carry out his threat of doubling his punishment upon his awakening. A warm liquid was trickling down his back and sides.
"Worthless boy!" spat Vernon as he pulled his arm back for another lash, his hand on the handle of a thin switch.
Harry had heard that every day of his life, and he had accepted it. He was a stupid, worthless freak. He tried his best in everything he did, but it amounted to nothing. His grades were meaningless. His efforts were meaningless. Sometimes he wondered if his life was meaningless as well. His knees nearly collapsed underneath him when his uncle lashed the back of his legs.
"We're done, boy. Do you have something to say?" Vernon snarled.
Harry slid down to his knees and lowered his head, saying demurely, "Thank you, Sir, for punishing me and teaching me my place. It was nothing less than what I deserve."
"Good." His uncle went away then, looking significantly happier than he had a half an hour ago when his face turned purple with rage at Harry breaking a coffee mug.
Harry couldn't explain how he had broken it. He had been stressed about things going on at school, but that didn't explain how the entire mug shattered when he had only been holding the handle. It got his uncle into a flying rage. He stood up unsteadily to go to the bathroom. It was a routine for him now to treat his wounds.
His reflection in the bathroom mirror would scare and invoke the compassion and sympathy of anyone who happened to see it – anyone except the Dursleys of course. His dark, messy hair was dripping with sweat from him undergoing his punishment, and his back was a pattern of crisscrossed bloody stripes. His pale skin stretched over his bones, and his hollow cheeks made his thin face appear even thinner. His green eyes were lifeless and dull. Life had not been kind on the child.
Harry was quick to wrap up his wounds. It was a small respite for him that the Dursleys did not begrudge him their store of bandages. Although this was most likely due to his aunt's disgust at bodily fluids dripping onto her precious floors.
When he came out of the bathroom, his aunt immediately set him to the task of weeding the garden. "And don't you dare pull out anything other than the weeds," she warned.
In the late spring afternoon, despite the heat, Harry found weeding relaxing – it gave him a chance to get out of the house, away from his relatives. However, his respite was about to be interrupted.
"Kick it again! Kick it again!"
Harry looked up, his eyes searching for the source of the yelling. On the other side of the road, Dudley and his group of bullies were laughing, which was never a good sign. Harry pulled off his glasses and wiped the dirt off them before putting them on again. What he saw pulled at his heartstrings.
Dudley was kicking a fallen puppy.
Harry turned away, feeling guilt as he did so. He didn't want to get in Dudley's way if he could avoid it.
"It's so stupid!"
"It won't be so stupid after this! Teach it a lesson, Dud!"
"Yeah, teach it a lesson!"
Harry winced when he heard the puppy yelped after a particularly hard kick from Dudley. How many times had he been in that puppy's place? With no one standing up for him? How many times had he hoped for relief from the torment and received none because no one stepped in? Why was he feeling so guilty over this? No one ever stood up for him - why should he care that another was being hurt?
"Hey, we should whack it with sticks!"
"My brother has a cricket bat," Malcolm suggested.
"Go get it then!"
Harry widened his eyes in horror at the escalation in cruelty. It was practically suicide for him if he tried to stop Dudley, but when he saw Malcolm returning with the cricket bat, all thoughts of self-preservation flew from his mind.
Dudley tested the weight of the bat in his hands. It was rather unwieldy for an eight-year-old, but when it came to cruelty, Dudley could do anything he set his mind to.
With concern for the puppy coursing through his veins, Harry sprinted across the road. He burst through the circle around the puppy, surprising Piers and Malcolm, and stood in front of the animal, his thin arms outstretched. "Please don't hurt it!" he cried, even as he quivered in fear of his cousin. "It didn't do anything to you!"
All of them were startled before Dudley pulled himself together and shoved his smaller cousin aside roughly. "Out of the way, Potter! Or I'll beat you up!" He raised the bat above his head to swing it down on the puppy.
Harry scrambled over to cover the animal with his body, pulling his arms up to cover his head. A soft whimper escaped him when the wood connected with his back, aggravating the wounds he had received from Vernon earlier that day.
"I told you to move!" Dudley said angrily.
Harry barely had any time to prepare himself before Dudley began raining down blows on him. He clenched his teeth as his body took blow after blow. When he could no longer hold up his own weight, he collapsed to the side so as not to fall on the puppy he was shielding. His back to their abusers, he held the puppy to his chest, his arm wrapped around it protectively.
Dudley's face was red from exertion, and so he finally threw the bat onto the ground. "Let's go. He's boring."
Relief washed over Harry. His entire body hurt, and he couldn't move. He felt the puppy struggling against him, and with all his strength, he lifted his arm, wincing at the pain that coursed through him at the movement.
The puppy limped out. Of course it was leaving, and it would probably never trust a human again.
Harry closed his eyes. No matter what he did, his efforts, the efforts of a worthless child, were meaningless, fruitless...he opened his eyes in surprise when he felt a small lick on his face.
The puppy was looking down at him. It let out a whine before it limped over to Harry's arm, which was hurting from shielding it, and began to lick it.
It was licking his wounds, giving him comfort in the best way it knew how. It was the first time someone thanked him so sincerely, and Harry was touched. With much effort, he raised his hand and reached out to the puppy, petting it gently on the head. He smiled when it licked his hand and leaned into his touch. "Come here," he whispered as it curled up under his arm. "You're hurt, too. Let's…let's just rest, okay?"
After that incident, Harry found his first friend. The puppy turned out to be a German Shepherd and was extremely loyal to him. Every late afternoon, Harry would finish his chores and take a break at the nearby playground, and the puppy would wait for him there. It gave him something to look forward to, and for the first time in a long time, life returned to Harry's eyes. He gave his friend a name – Riley.
Riley grew in size quickly, and by the time summer was over, he was fairly large, weighing almost sixty pounds. No longer fearing Dudley and his gang, the dog accompanied Harry home and to school often. Remembering Dudley's cruelty, he developed a strong aggression whenever Dudley tried to come near Harry. Although he barely reached Vernon's lower thigh at this age, he was more than enough intimidating for Dudley and his gang, snarling whenever they were near and once even tackling Malcolm when he tried to grab Harry. In all cases though, whenever Harry called his name, he stopped and returned to his savior.
The only unfortunate thing was that Dudley would complain about Riley to Vernon, and Harry would end up being punished for his dog's behavior.
One day, everything he had ever known changed.
Harry was at the park, running across it, chasing and playing with Riley. He had to admit – the German Shepherd was a very active dog. After a while, he bent over his knees, panting from exertion, his back aching and smarting from his earlier beating. He sat down on the grass and waited for Riley to run over before petting him on the head. "Sorry, I don't have as much energy as you do."
Riley responded by giving his hand a small lick, eliciting a laugh from his human.
Harry hugged him. "You want to walk me back, Riley? My aunt and uncle would throw a fit if I'm not back in time to make dinner."
Riley lay down next to him and gave a small whine.
Harry scratched him under the jaw, causing Riley's tail to wag happily. "I'm sorry. I really am, but I can't play with you all day. I would love to be here with you, but the Dursleys…they wouldn't like that." He frowned and looked up at the sky. "I've been living with them since forever. I don't even remember my parents, who died in a car crash when I was really small. Uncle Vernon always said I'm not grateful to him for taking me under his roof, but I…I don't think they're very nice people."
Riley laid his head and paw on Harry's lap.
Harry laid his hand on Riley's head. How fortunate was he to have found such a friend. "I'm glad to have you for a friend. You're the only one who doesn't remind me that I'm worthless every day because I did the right thing that day." He closed his eyes. "I just wish I'd be taken away from that place."
Harry opened his eyes in surprise to look around for the source of the whispery, raspy voice. It wasn't often that someone called out to him by his first name.
However, Riley's head was low, his lips pulled back to reveal his teeth in a snarl.
"Come here, boy…"
Harry stood up and walked towards the sound. Before he could get very far though, Riley jumped in front of him. "Riley, what's wrong?" The dog showed no sign of letting Harry pass, and whenever Harry tried to go around him, he would jump in front of him to block his way again. Harry finally realized what his friend was trying to do and knelt down, petting it on the head. "It's okay, Riley. I'll be careful. Promise."
Riley was still adamant against letting him pass.
"Come here…Harry…Potter…Ignore the dog…"
Riley growled before grabbing the edge of Harry's oversized shirt with his teeth and pulling him away.
"I will not hurt you, boy…I merely wish to speak to you…and make an offer…"
"Wait a second, Riley," Harry said, his curiosity getting the best of him. "Who are you? Can you show yourself?"
"My name is not important…at least at this point in time…It is not possible for me to show myself to you, for I am not…physical."
"So you're a ghost?" Harry asked, still ignoring the persistent tug on his shirt.
"More of a spirit. I am the manifestation of power and immortality themselves."
Harry had no idea what that meant. "So what did you want to speak to me about?"
"I know you, boy…abused, neglected, starved by your relatives, those who were supposed to love you…cherish you…care for you…"
Harry shifted uncomfortably, wondering how much the spirit actually knew. Never had a stranger known so much about his life with the Dursleys. At school, the teachers noticed his skinniness, but all they would ever do was tell the Dursleys that he needed to eat more, never suspecting for a moment that the Dursleys abused him.
"You wish to be away from them…I can help you…as I have said, I am the manifestation of power itself…I can give you power beyond your imagination…you simply have to accept it…"
Harry swallowed. He was starting to get the chills from this spirit.
"You do not have to give your answer now…but consider it, boy…power…power to exact your revenge on those who hurt you…power to act on your hatred…"
As the voice faded away, Harry finally allowed himself to be dragged away by Riley. He shivered. He would never, never, never want to cross paths with that spirit again. There was something sinister about it. As he and Riley walked back to Privet Drive, Harry realized he was late in making dinner for the Dursleys. It was not going to end well. Standing in the driveway, he trembled in fear before whispering to Riley, "Go, Riley. I'll see you tomorrow."
Riley must have heard the absolute terror in Harry's voice because he hesitated to leave until Harry urged him to go.
Taking a deep breath, Harry resignedly approached the door that stood between him and cruelty beyond his comprehension. Suddenly, the door slammed open, and a large beefy hand reached out to grab his neck. The next thing Harry knew, he was thrown into the wall, and his uncle was towering over him with the most vicious look on his face.
"You…you…" Vernon appeared too angry to speak. "How dare you - "
Harry swallowed and mentally prepared himself for the inevitable beating.
"I'm sick of seeing your worthless body wasting space in our home!" Vernon spat, his eyes almost maniacal. He turned to his wife. "Petunia, no one has come to check on him for a long time. Surely there is no reason for keeping him!"
"But, Vernon, if he finds out…"
"I don't know what kind of people your sister hung out with, but in this neighborhood, you don't force someone else's kid on a respectable family and expect them to take care of him!" Vernon glared at Harry. "He cannot blame us for anything that happens to this freak! That's it! I'm through with him in this house! I'll get rid of him and make sure he'll never come back to our doorstep!" He stormed into his study before coming out with what shocked and froze Harry to the very core of his being. In his uncle's hand was a gun.
Dumbledore pushed a Transfiguration tome back into its place on his shelf as he hummed to himself. The school year had started out wonderfully. The house elves really outdid themselves for the Welcoming Feast…
A sharp sound caused his blood to run cold. He spun around and stared at the shattered globe on his desk - the protection surrounding the Dursleys' house had been broken. But how? It could only break when Harry would turn of age or when he could no longer consider the Dursleys' house his home. The former was impossible, and the latter was quite unlikely. A home was a place that one knew one could return to at the end of the day. What could have possibly made Harry think that he could no longer return to the Dursleys? Surely his relatives did not simply kick him out!
But there was no time to dwell on such matters. A crack sounded as Dumbledore disapparated.
"Vernon, what are you doing?" Petunia cried, horrified. "You'll be dragged to prison if the police finds out!"
"What the police doesn't know won't hurt them or us," Vernon said coldly.
This Vernon was someone even Petunia was afraid of. She cowered against the wall, too afraid to approach him, especially with the gun in his hand.
As he aimed his gun at Harry, he said tauntingly, "Any last words you would like to say, freak?"
Harry could only look on helplessly, fearfully as Vernon prepared to pull the trigger. His own family member was about to kill him. He squeezed his eyes shut, preparing for the worst…
Suddenly a loud, familiar bark caused Harry to snap open his eyes. What he saw…there were no words to describe it.
Vernon had forgotten to lock the door, and Riley slammed it open in his haste to save his master. The next few seconds passed by in slow motion. Riley leaped at Vernon's arm, his jaws clamping onto the large man's arm and his momentum pushing the gun to the side - when Vernon pulled the trigger, the bullet hit the wall right next to Harry. However, it only made Vernon enter into a rage. He rammed Riley into the wall, causing the dog to let go with a whimper. Without hesitation, Vernon fired off several more shots.
"NO!" Harry's voice sounded foreign upon his own ears. All he could see was red, red, red, and more red spilling across Aunt Petunia's once-clean floor. He ran to Riley's still body, shaking it as he cried, "No, no, no! Riley, please wake up!" He refused to believe it. He refused to believe that his first and only friend was dead. "No…" He stopped when it was clear that Riley wasn't responding no matter how much he shook him. His heart felt cold and ached. Hot, angry tears spilled onto the floor.
"Stupid dog," Vernon spat. "Now it's your turn." He pointed the gun at Harry.
Harry couldn't describe the heat that rushed through his body. Never had he felt such anger, such rage before. It enveloped his senses and left only one emotion – pure hatred.
"Let your hatred go, boy!"
Harry didn't bother to remember where he had heard that voice from. He simply obeyed the command and let go.
Vernon was blasted backwards into the opposite wall by a powerful burst of magic. Wind whirled around Harry, slicing and tearing at everything near him. Petunia and Dudley cowered in the corner, terrified not only of the impressive display of magic but also of Harry's eyes, which were glowing blood red.
"Surrender yourself to me, and I will give you unimaginable power! Take your revenge!"
Suddenly, Harry had a vision of himself trapped within a ball of white light. In front of him, a large figure with billowing robes loomed over him. Its red eyes glowed from beneath its hood as it hissed, "You are mine…Harry…Potter…" Its hands closed around the sphere containing Harry…
Harry closed his eyes. Yes, he wanted to hurt the Dursleys – he wanted to hurt them for everything they had done to him, what they had done to his friend...
Something warm, wet, and very familiar nudged against his hand.
Harry's eyes snapped open. In front of him in his vision was Riley. Harry struggled to lift his hand and reach out to pet the puppy gently on the head…Riley curled up under his arm…
As the memories played out, his anger faded away, slowly but surely, only to be replaced by a stronger, more painful emotion – grief. The light surrounding Harry expanded, and although the black figure looming over him struggled to grab onto him, it couldn't.
"What are you doing, boy? Do you not want revenge on them?"
The vision of Riley faded away, and Harry's physical vision cleared until he could see the Dursleys cowering together against the far wall. They had starved him. They had beaten him. They had hated him. They had even tried to kill him. But he didn't want revenge on them - revenge wouldn't bring back the only good thing he had. I don't know who you are. I don't know what's going on, but no, I don't want revenge on them. I just want to leave this place and never come back. Grief taking a huge toll on his body, Harry collapsed after he heard an inhuman scream of anger.
Dumbledore was shocked at the sight that greeted him as he approached the Dursleys' home. The front door had been ripped off its hinges, revealing a mess inside. A dead dog was lying in a pool of blood in the corner, Harry was unconscious next to the dog, and the Dursleys were cowering against the opposite wall. "What happened here?" he whispered to no one in particular. His eyes strayed to the gun still in Vernon's hand, and he understood why Harry no longer considered the Dursleys' house his home. "What have you done?"
Vernon mustered up enough courage to snarl, "We didn't want him in the first place!"
"But he was family," Dumbledore said softly, dangerously. "You were the only family he had left. Yet you consider him beneath the strangers you meet out on the streets!"
Vernon was about to argue, but seeing the look on Dumbledore's face, his mouth snapped shut.
"I see that you can not sympathize with him." Dumbledore pointed his wand at him and then waved it. "Perhaps…" He paused when a scream ripped itself from Vernon's throat. "…feeling the same pain he went through at your hands would teach you sympathy."
"You...what did you do to me?" Vernon howled. He could feel a terrible sting crack across his back.
"You are being given the same measure that you measured out to him."
Vernon clutched his head. Tears fell from his eyes.
"I'm sure Harry's suffering wasn't just physical." Dumbledore started to pick up Harry in his arms before stopping. Glancing at the dog, he laid him over Harry after cleaning the blood off the fur with a charm. Then he stood up and apparated with them both.
After he laid Harry down on a bed – with Riley next to him - Dumbledore sat down on a chair next to the bed, his face in his hand as he couldn't bring himself to look at the face of the boy he had failed. "What have I done?"