Disclaimer: I'm not making any money from this. The plot bunnies came to me and wouldn't leave until I had it all down in words. JKR and Warner Bros own all the characters in this story.
Harry was terrified. He'd only ever seen his uncle this mad once before, the time when his uncle to come fetch him after he'd found himself on the school roof. The school had said that climbing on school property wasn't allowed and had phoned his relatives. His uncle had driven straight over to "have a quiet word" with his nephew then.
Harry shuddered at the memory. He'd got such a beating that night for "being freakish". He'd fallen unconscious after the brass buckle of the belt had caught him round the back of head. As he blacked out he heard a shriek of "Vernon!" and then he had mercifully felt no more.
This time his Uncle looked worse. His massive purple face was close up to Harry's and Harry could smell his whiskey breath and count everyone of the marks on his uncle's fat nose. Harry was on the floor having tripped over one of Dudley's toy trucks as he had tried to back away from his leering uncle. Now he could do nothing as his uncle stood over him his hands undoing his belt, his purple face twitching in fury. He lifted the belt up and Harry's hands automatically covered his face muttering
"Please Uncle Vernon, please... please..."
All he got in response was a low "this'll knock that freakishness out of you boy."
Last time Vernon looked like this she'd just about managed to keep him from killing the boy by keeping him distracted and eventually shouting that she didn't want Dudley to grow up with a father in jail. Fortunately for both of them he'd stopped beating the boy at that and she had been able to carry him upstairs, lying him in the bed in Dudley's second bedroom. There was blood everywhere but somehow he'd made it through the night, his magic no doubt...
Petunia stopped her thoughts here. She had given Vernon his usual whiskey when he walked through the door today and she knew that he had had a bad day by the colour of his face. It was always a rather unappealing shade of red but when he had to deal with their freak of a nephew it went purple and the vein in his neck would start throbbing. If it got even worse then his face started twitching too. Today, she knew, he would go the whole way and the boy would be on the receiving end. She had left him to his whiskey as soon as she could knowing that he wouldn't care whether she was there or not. There would be no "How was your day, dear?" or "What would you like to do tonight, dear?" today. Oh no.
She was currently sat in Dudley's second bedroom that she was considering giving to her nephew. It was a small room, completely stacked wall to wall with toys that Dudley had either broken or just plain decided he didn't like. There was a drum kit with a hole in, a racing bike with only one wheel, at least 3 broken computers and many, many dinosaurs and other "monsters" that had either been subject to Dudley's tantrums and had lost their heads or that her son had said weren't scary enough. That was just on the top. She knew her nephew would get the letter from that... school soon and it being addressed to "The Cupboard Under the Stairs" was something her pride could not contend with. The school would surely see it and awkward questions would be asked. She would of course make the boy clear the room up first though.
Mind made up she went downstairs again to tell the boy to move all his stuff from the cupboard to the bedroom when a sound made her freeze. It was the unmistakeable sound of belt hitting boy and by the frequency of it Vernon was going at it harder than last time.
From how Vernon looked when he walked in and hearing those noises she instinctively knew she would be risking her own life this time if she tried to stop him and so she hurried back upstairs again. She couldn't stop him herself but she had to help the boy. She hated everything magical and the boy was a living reminder of everything Lily had stolen away from her - with that letter Lily became the golden girl, the special one and although Petunia was older she got pushed into the background - but she was not so bitter that she would condemn her nephew to death.
When this happened last time she had sent a message to Albus Dumbledore saying that Harry was badly injured and could he send some help. She had never received a response. She knew that this time he would need immediate medical assistance if he were to have any chance of survival and so decided to contact the only other one from that world she knew - Severus Snape.
Severus Snape ran into the Hospital Wing his robes billowing behind him and slamming the doors as he entered.
"Poppy get your emergency kit and come with me!" he yelled to the room in general
Poppy Pomfrey, head healer at Hogwarts, alerted by the wards that somebody had entered the Hospital Wing and then the distinct yelling of a certain Potions Master came rushing out of her quarters, expecting bad things and the sight she saw didn't make her feel any better. Snape certainly did not look at ease. He was antsy, more snappish than normal and obviously in a rush somewhere else. As she looked over him she could even see a flash of fear in his face. It made her worried as Severus could hide his emotions better than anyone else she knew.
"Severus are you trying to wake the castle? Are you injured? It's nearly 1am!" she asked quickly.
"No you silly woman, didn't you hear what I just said? I require you and your emergency kit urgently elsewhere" he snapped back.
"Severus what is the matter?" she asked fighting back a yawn. There had been no critical night patients for quite a while and she had got used to having a solid night's sleep.
Snape's answer was short: "Harry Potter".
Poppy's eyebrows rose practically into her hairlinr as all traces of tiredness vanished on her face. She quickly transfigured her nightgown, summoned her emergency pack and followed the Potions Master out.
Harry felt content. He didn't hurt anywhere which was a novelty these days since his uncle has decided to beat it out of him. What "it" was he didn't know nor did he know what he had done this time to anger his uncle so much but both were probably due to his freakishness... Everything always was.
He stopped this train of thought as he heard a soft voice calling to him
"Harry sweetheart you need to wake up"
This was the first time in his life that someone had spoken gently to him and he didn't want it to stop. He kept completely still in the hope the voice would come again. It did.
"Come on Harry, you have to wake up" the voice coaxed "Wake up for mummy"
That did it. Harry opened his eyes and looked around. He was in an entirely white bubble that was just barely pulsating, tickling the hairs on his skin as is went in and out. The feeling soothed him and subconsciously he started matching his breathing to the pulsing. As this continued and he became more aware he realised that the pulsing was getting stronger. All of this went out of his head though when he saw the woman by his side - his mum.
"Mum!" he cried. He got up to hug her and when he felt the comforting arms around him, he broke down. He had never been held like this before, the only touch his aunt and uncle gave him was in anger or annoyance and to feel care and love like this was so overwhelming that he just couldn't stop the tears falling. He sat cradled in his mothers arms just letting the tears fall and she held him close. Eventually the tears subsided and Harry collapsed again on the "floor" of the white bubble. She sat down next to him, keeping one arm around him all the time.
"Am I dead then?" he asked "I mean you are and I'm here with you"
"No sweetheart" his mother replied "but you are very close. Your uncle tried to kill you but your magic saved you"
"My m..magic?" Harry stuttered
"Yes my darling. You are a wizard. Magic is not a bad thing, nor is it freaky like your uncle says. He cannot understand it and so thinks it unnatural and a menace. He is frightened of what you could do so he takes every opportunity to make you feel small and unloved. Do you understand?"
"Mmmm" Harry's eyes drifted shut again as the pulsing of the white bubble started to fade. He hadn't really understood much of what she had just said, but he was too tired to care right now and had just accepted it.
"Harry!" Lily reached over and shook her son gently on the shoulder. "Harry you need to stay awake. Please. For me: stay awake"
"But I'm so tired" the boy mumbled. Lily could see that she was losing him to the impending sleep and she knew what would happen if he did. She had arrived only just in time to keep him from slipping away by feeding her own magic into his stationary magical core. Her love for him had made it work, but barely. She had then kept hold of his hand and that had helped it him enough to allow her magic to channel through him. She knew that if he fell asleep again, she wouldn't be able to waken him.
"Harry this is your magical core." she gestured to the white bubble surrounding them, the pulsing now strong enough to be feeling like a massive fuzzy teddy bear when it came in close. "This is where your magic takes you when you are badly injured. It is like your heartbeat. As long as it is pulsing you can survive. The more awake you are, the stronger the pulsing."
"So if I fall asleep I'll die?" Harry asked. It sounded far-fetched but he had heard so much that confused him this far that in his tired state he was willing to believe anything.
Lily nodded once. "Help is on its way. You just need to hold out a little longer"
Harry nodded weakly, then curled up closer to his mother, wanting the feeling of comfort and love never to end. Lily picked him up in a tight hug then said "You can't stay with Petunia and Vernon. Your magic can only save you so many times."
Two pops were heard startling both Potters. It was the first sound that had come from outside the bubble. Lily put her son down, hugged him once more then said "Help is here for you now. I must go. Goodbye my sweet, lovely, brave boy. Remember you are a wizard and nobody can take that from you."
Harry nodded, hugged his mum back and whispered "love you Mum". It felt so good to say those words that he started to cry again.
Lily kissed him on the forehead. "Love you Harry" she said. Then she was gone.