A/N: Thanks to my wonderful beta StephanieO! This story is a one-shot for now, but at some time I'd like to continue with the idea - just not anytime soon. This is kind of in response to all of the Snape rescues Harry scenarios - I've never really found that realistic :) Hope you enjoy!
Harry sighed as he flopped back on his bed. He'd hoped his relatives would get tired of keeping him locked up, but three weeks later he was still locked in his room. He wasn't hungry anymore, something he was glad about. He did still get thirsty, but his aunt would slide a full jar of water into the room for him through the cat flap each morning and that usually lasted the day.
A low hooting sound caught his attention and he sat up, looking over at the now rather thin and raggedy looking snowy owl. "Hey, girl. Are you okay? I wish I could figure out a way to let you out of there."
He was becoming very worried about his owl. Even with him splitting all of his 'meals' and water, she was very thin and her feathers didn't look right. He wished he could let her out.
"I promise as soon as we get out of here I will find you a mouse or a rat or something."
Reaching through the cage he was able to at least run his fingers down her back. After playing with the bird for a few minutes, he went over to the window to see what was going on outside.
"I still can't believe Uncle Vernon actually spent money to have someone else do the grass rather than let me out," Harry remarked to Hedwig. He'd seen one of the neighbourhood kids mowing the grass and weeding the garden the day before yesterday.
"Of course, he could have just asked Dudley to do it." Harry laughed, "Can you imagine Dudley pushing the mower around? He'd have a heart attack before he finished the first row."
Shaking his head at his relatives' foolishness, Harry paced around his room. He was so bored with the inactivity, he was pacing the room and even doing some of the exercises he remembered his aunt doing when he was younger – he felt a little silly doing them, but anything to actually move around. He couldn't exercise very long because he was so tired, but he tried to do at least a little bit every day. Each night he would mark off another day in his prison, hoping that someone would come and rescue him.
Hermione Granger sighed as she settled into her favourite chair in the back garden. She loved to read outside in the summer, but today even reading wasn't holding her attention.
"What's wrong, dear?"
She turned to look at her mother, "I'm just worried about Ron and Harry. I still haven't heard from Harry."
"I expect not," Jenna Granger replied. "I told you. His uncle said he was being punished for disrupting his uncle's business dinner and he is not allowed to use his owl for the rest of the summer. It might be a bit extreme, but I gather that Mr Dursley had been hoping to make quite a sale. He told me that Harry purposefully dropped the pudding, splattering the guests, and not only didn't he apologize, but his owl flew in and scared away the potential clients."
"I guess," Hermione replied. "I just wish I could talk to him."
Jenna shrugged, "It is well within his uncle's right to punish him for misbehaving, Hermione. It must be rather scary for the Dursleys if Harry is using magic against them. I am glad there are rules in place to punish that type of activity. Just because you don't agree with the punishment doesn't make it wrong." She laughed, "When I identified myself, Mr Dursley was more than willing to talk to me. I don't think he is quite the ogre you and Ron have made him out to be."
"Well, Harry doesn't seem to get along with him very well," Hermione defended her friend.
"Children don't always get along with their relatives." Jenna replied. "It must have been quite an adjustment taking in their nephew and him turning out to be magical. Mr Dursley didn't come out and say it, but I gather that Harry has a habit of misbehaving and causing trouble for his family. From what you've told me, Harry tends to disregard the rules, perhaps that has caused some friction between them." She studied her daughter. "Do you think it's more than that?"
Hermione thought about it for a moment. "I don't know. Harry doesn't really like to talk about his home life. I just know he has to do chores and he doesn't get along with his relatives."
"Having to do chores isn't exactly a hardship, Hermione. You have chores to do as well," Jenna said softly. "Harry might have trouble at home simply because he was orphaned at such a young age. Often children orphaned at such a young age have an idealized and unrealistic vision of what life would have been like if their parents survived. Add to this the fact that his parents were magical and his aunt and uncle aren't. This can lead to friction with the family he is living with when they don't live up to this idealized version."
"That actually makes sense," Hermione said.
Jenna smiled, "It's been known to happen." She leaned back in her chair a bit enjoying the afternoon warmth. "Have you heard anything else from Ron? I can't believe his brother was injured by a dragon."
Hermione laughed, "No, Ron's not the best correspondent in the world. He told me that he and his brothers and sister were staying with their aunt while his parents were in Romania. I'd been hoping we would see them when we went to get books, but he said they would probably end up going the last weekend before school starts." She smiled at her mum. "I don't want to wait that long."
"Of course not, dear," Jenna soothed. "We can go next week on my day off. How about we make a day of it in London and go sightseeing. Would you like to go to the Natural History Museum?"
"That sounds like fun," Hermione said. She settled more comfortably into her chair. "Thanks, Mum."
Hermione had already picked a compartment on the train and her father had helped her with her trunk before she saw any of her friends. She shyly greeted her dorm mates and she was talking to Neville when she saw the Weasleys rush through the barrier. The boys all quickly said goodbye to their parents and hurried onto the train.
"Hello, Ron." Hermione smiled, it was good to see her friends again. As Ron stowed his trunk and looked around the train corridor, "Where's Harry? Have you seen him?"
"No," Hermione replied. "We were hoping that maybe you had."
Ron shook his head, "We were running late as usual. My sister's starting this year and everyone kept forgetting stuff. I didn't think we were going to make it."
"Ron?" Hermione turned to see a young girl with long red hair standing uneasily in the doorway.
"What, Ginny? Go away, find some people your own age," Ron said irritably.
"Ronald, you don't need to be so rude," Hermione hissed as Ginny turned and headed down the corridor.
"You don't know my sister," Ron replied unrepentantly. "If I was nice to her she'd want to hang out with us all the time. She needs to make her own friends."
The train started moving and Hermione looked around anxiously. "The train is leaving. What if Harry missed the train?"
"Maybe he's getting to school some other way," Ron said uneasily.
Neville nodded, "Maybe his relatives couldn't bring him today and he had to go early or something. That happens sometimes."
"I wish we'd heard from him," Ron said. In the back of his mind, he wondered if maybe Harry had decided he didn't want to be friends with someone whose family was so poor. He didn't really think that was the case, but he did worry about it. Ron had hoped to invite Harry to the Burrow for part of the summer holidays, but between Harry not being allowed to send owls and Charlie's injury it hadn't been possible.
Harry was famous and rich and he was a great Quidditch player. What if he'd decided he could do better for a friend than boring old Ron Weasley? Ron imagined that Harry's house was much bigger and nicer than Ron's. Maybe he wouldn't have wanted to stay at the Burrow. Not to mention they still didn't know why Harry had never answered any mail.
Shoving those thoughts away, Ron and the other two settled into their compartment laughing and talking about their summer adventures. Ron was full of complaints about his Aunt Muriel with whom he and his siblings had stayed, but even he sounded like he had a fun summer.
Harry listened enviously to his cousin getting ready to go back to Smeltings. He'd heard his aunt fussing over his cousin and they'd evidently gone on a big shopping spree buying Dudley all sorts of new clothes and games. Harry's own lot hadn't changed much.
It had been a month since the disastrous dinner party and his uncle was still angry with him. Harry was let out of his room twice a day to go to the bathroom – it reminded him of the days when he'd been locked in his cupboard. At least he was older now and hadn't had any 'accidents' where he hadn't made it to the loo. That had happened sometimes in his cupboard.
Just this week his aunt had let him out for a few hours so he could help with the cleaning and laundry. He'd been able to grab an apple and some bread to share with Hedwig. He'd even snuck into his old room and grabbed a few spiders for his friend to eat. She'd been very appreciative. He wished he knew how to trap a mouse or toad for her to eat, but he didn't.
He'd taken the opportunity to get his school books out of his trunk. More than anything else, having his school books proved that he'd not imagined Hogwarts as he'd feared at times. He'd hidden his books inside the old books that Dudley had left in his room.
Now at least he had something to do. He'd re-read all of his books and even fixed up his notes so things made a little more sense. He had finally been able to do his summer essays so that made him feel a little better. A glance at the makeshift calendar he'd put on the wall showed that the Hogwarts Express was supposed to leave in the morning and he didn't think his aunt and uncle planned to take him. He wondered how long it would be before anyone noticed he was missing.
While he knew the elf was stealing his mail, he wondered if Ron and Hermione had gotten tired of sending letters to him. They had probably given up on him. He sighed, he really hoped they hadn't, it was rather nice to have friends.
Harry spent the first of September locked in his room. His aunt and uncle left early in the morning to take Dudley to Smeltings leaving Harry alone in his house. Harry packed all of his belongings in his trunk, hopeful that someone would realize he was there. The day dragged on and to Harry's disappointment, no one came to rescue him.
He'd really hoped that when they realized he wasn't on the Hogwarts Express, someone would come and find him.
Demoralized, he turned to his owl. "Do you think they forgot about us? I thought that Ron or Hermione or someone would notice." He sighed. "Maybe they just decided I was more trouble than I'm worth, just like Aunt Petunia always says."
Hedwig hooted supportively and nudged her head up against the bars. Harry managed a smile for his friend and reached through the bars to stroke her head. "I hate that you are locked up in there, but I'm really glad you're with me."
Nipping his finger lightly, Hedwig hooted in agreement.
Hermione watched the sorting with a growing feeling of uneasiness. She had not worried over Harry during the last part of the summer because of her conversation with her mother. Once she'd talked to Ron and Neville on the train, they agreed that Harry's uncle was probably right to be a bit upset with him and they would have been punished for ruining a dinner party as well.
She was pleased to see Ron's sister sorted into Gryffindor, but she had to admit she was a bit appalled at how poorly Ron treated his sister. It didn't seem like the twins or Percy were much better. For a girl with four older brothers at the school, Ginny seemed very much alone. She'd joined the other first year students who were clustered in the middle of the table looking very small and rather scared.
Hermione felt badly for the girl, but realized she'd been the same way a year ago and she'd made friends. Surely Ginny Weasley would do the same. Dismissing Ginny from her thoughts, Hermione returned her thoughts to Harry Potter.
Had he decided he was tired of life at Hogwarts? She thought he really liked the school and she knew he loved Quidditch. Maybe the events at the end of last year had scared him and he didn't want to return to Hogwarts. She wished he'd returned even one of her letters from earlier in the summer.
Minerva McGonagall surveyed the Great Hall. She always enjoyed the beginning of the school year. The excitement of the children as they greeted their friends whom they hadn't seen all summer and the life and exuberance they brought to the castle. The new group of first years had all been sorted and were starting to talk to each other.
It was the same every year. A group of scared children started reaching out to each other and by the end of their seven years they were the best of friends. Well many of them were. Her gaze wandered over to the Slytherin table. Draco Malfoy was holding court with all of the other young Slytherins, most of them children of other Death Eaters. She corrected herself mentally, accused Death Eaters. Of course their parents had pled the Imperius Curse and been allowed to blend back into society. If young Mr Malfoy was anyone to judge the others by, they certainly hadn't changed their mind-set.
Turning her gaze to her Gryffindors, Minerva had to hide a smile of pride. She looked over the newest group of lions and was happy to see Ginny Weasley among them. She had rather expected the youngest Weasley would end up in her house as all of her brothers had, but one never knew what characteristics the Sorting Hat might seize upon during sorting. Miss Weasley looked a bit scared, but so did all of the other first years.
Minerva looked up and down the table. She could see the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan holding court with the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. The Quidditch team had done her proud last year and if it hadn't been for Harry's unfortunate accident, she was certain the cup would have been theirs. Glancing down at her colleague, Severus Snape, she recalled how he'd been taunting her all week about Lucius Malfoy buying the whole Slytherin team Nimbus 2001s. She mentally shrugged, better brooms could only do so much. Maybe this year would be the year the Quidditch Cup returned to Gryffindor.
Continuing her way down the table, she found Hermione Granger talking animatedly to both Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom. Hermione was one of brightest students of her year and Minerva was very proud of that fact. So often the brightest were found in Ravenclaw, but every once in a while they were found in Gryffindor or Slytherin.
She really enjoyed teaching Hermione, but she had to admit her favourites tended to be found among the troublemakers. Not that she would ever admit that to anyone, but she had truly enjoyed teaching the Marauders and the Weasley twins were great fun to teach. Their minds just worked in such unique ways, you never knew what they might come up next. Harry Potter was one of those troublemakers who had wormed their way into her heart.
As she came to end of the table, she frowned and quickly rescanned both sides of the table. Where was Harry Potter? He was usually found with Miss Granger and Ron Weasley, but he was not there. She hadn't received any owls reporting a problem. Occasionally a student missed the train, but usually they would send an owl explaining the problem or their parents brought them up to Hogsmeade. Looking down the head table, she could see that Albus had made the same conclusion she had – Harry Potter was not there.
Impatiently, she waited for the end of meal before approaching the headmaster. She waited while Gilderoy Lockhart spoke to Dumbledore. She honestly couldn't believe Albus had hired that man. She had never really liked him as a student, she found him vain, boastful, and he thought just too much of himself. After Lockhart headed out of the Great Hall, she approached the Headmaster.
"Albus, have you heard from Mr Potter?"
He shook his head. "No, I am unaware of any problems that might have precluded him from joining us. Perhaps his relatives had trouble bringing him to the train."
"I shall speak to his friends and see what they've heard." Minerva waited to give the students a chance to settle in before heading to the Gryffindor common room. She had to bite back a smile at the stir her appearance caused. Students never knew how to react to her coming into their area.
"Professor McGonagall," Percy Weasley stood up and moved towards her. "Is there something we can help you with?"
"Yes, Mr Weasley," she replied crisply. "I would like to speak to your brother Ron. I will go retrieve Miss Granger if you could find your brother."
"Of course," Percy replied as he hurried off to the boys' dorms.
Minerva headed up the stairs to the girls' dorm. Upon reaching the second years' dorm, she knocked. It was Miss Granger who answered the door. Behind her, Minerva could see the two other girls unpacking their trunks.
"Miss Granger, I wonder if I might have a word with you."
"Yes, ma'am," Hermione replied and followed her professor back downstairs. Ron was nervously waiting for them near the bottom of the stairs.
"You wanted to see me, ma'am?"
"Yes, Mr Weasley. If you and Miss Granger would follow me I have a few questions for you."
"Is this about Harry?" Hermione burst out.
"In my office, please," Minerva replied.
Once in her office, Minerva looked at them. "Yes, Miss Granger. This is about Harry. Have either of you heard from him? Do you know why he might be missing?"
Not surprisingly, it was Hermione who answered. "We haven't heard from him all summer. My mum called his house at the beginning of August and found out that Harry had misbehaved and wasn't allowed to use his owl for the rest of the summer."
"Misbehaved?" Minerva asked.
"Yes, ma'am," Hermione replied. "His aunt and uncle were having a dinner party and Harry purposefully dropped the pudding on the guests. He didn't even apologize."
Minerva frowned, that didn't sound like Harry at all. When she said as much out loud the two children looked at each other and shrugged.
"He doesn't get along with his aunt and uncle," Hermione offered. "Perhaps he was angry with them."
"What has he told you about them?"
"Not much," Hermione said after thinking it over. "I know he doesn't get along with them. He doesn't really ever talk about them."
"All I know is he didn't know anything about the wizarding world until Hagrid gave him his letter," Ron volunteered.
Minerva didn't like the picture that was being painted. "Thank you, I will escort you back to the common room."
"Are you going to find out what happened?" Hermione asked.
"I will," she replied.
Albus frowned as she reported what she'd discovered. "That does not sound like our young Mr Potter. He may be a bit defiant, but I have not found him to be out and out rude."
"Me neither," Minerva agreed.
Reaching into his desk, Albus handed her a piece of parchment. "This is a copy of a warning received by Mr Potter on the night of July 31."
Minerva read the warning for the use of a Hover Charm. "A Hover Charm? He shouldn't have even learned that yet."
Albus smiled. "Often students try out charms too advanced for them. That may have been what happened."
"Possibly," Minerva allowed. "But why wouldn't he show up for school? You have not heard from him, have you?"
"No," Albus replied. "He is still on Privet Drive, I can tell you that much. Hagrid mentioned that Harry had not replied to any of this letters either. I presume because of this punishment."
He sat quietly for a moment as he considered the matter. "Perhaps I should send someone to see what is going on."
"I will go," she said.
"I don't think that's necessary," Albus said. "I believe we should wait to see if we hear from him. At least wait until morning and see if he sends his owl. I don't like disturbing his family more than necessary."
Minerva reluctantly agreed. Once she distributed time schedules, she actually had the morning period free on Wednesdays. She would head to Little Whinging in the morning whether Albus agreed or not.
Harry woke the morning of September 2nd feeling worse than ever. He'd honestly held out hope that someone would come looking for him yesterday. It was a rather grey and dreary day; the weather outside rather suited his mood. He didn't even move at first when the cat flap was opened.
It was only concern for Hedwig that forced him to retrieve the cold toast and water from the floor. He didn't feel like eating so he tore all of the toast up for Hedwig and poured a good portion of water into her dish. He wished he could clean out her cage. Not only was it rather smelly, but he thought he might help her as well. He shrugged, he imagined they were both rather smelly by this point. He aunt was only letting him bathe once a week and she seemed to have forgotten this week with the excitement of getting Dudley off to school.
He walked over to his window and peered outside. The children were heading off to school. He watched them rather enviously. At this point he'd settle for going to a Muggle school as long as he could leave his room. Maybe his aunt would have more chores for him to do today.
He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. Maybe he'd just take a nap, he was always so tired these days – tired and cold.
Petunia Dursley was bustling around her kitchen cleaning up. She really did love being able to take care of her family. Dudley looked so distinguished in his orange knickerbockers and maroon tailcoat. She dearly missed her boy, but she was happy he was able to get such a wonderful education. Looking around the kitchen, she decided to do some baking and send a care packet to her Dudders. She wasn't sure they were actually feeding him well enough at Smeltings.
A soft thud from upstairs filtered down to her and she frowned. If only that dratted boy weren't in their lives, things would be so much better. She was positive that if that boy hadn't come to live with them she would have been able to have more children. Shaking her head, she wondered for the millionth time what on earth her sister had been thinking just dumping that boy on them. Hadn't she made it clear enough that she didn't hold with any of their magical nonsense and certainly didn't want anything to do with them?
A familiar old anger at her sister welled up once again. When she was growing up it was 'Lily this' and 'Lily that.' Lily was the pretty one, the popular one, and when she grew up she was the magical one. When Petunia had met Vernon she was thrilled. He was a little older and very stable. He made good money at Grunnings and had wonderful prospects. Her father hadn't entirely approved of Vernon for reasons Petunia never understood. Of course, he'd loved James though.
James, he was yet another thing to hold against her sister. While Petunia had gone out and found a perfectly respectable boyfriend, Lily had found a wealthy, good-looking, and very personable boy. Petunia loved Vernon, but she realized that not everyone found him as attractive as she did. James never had that problem. It annoyed Petunia no end when James and his hideous friends showed up at one of her parents' parties. Even her girlfriends thought James and his best friend with the funny name were handsome. They had charmed her parents and grandmother, but Petunia thought they were immature and rather rude.
She would never admit it out loud, but she felt a jolt of satisfaction every time she saw disappointment shining out of her sister's eyes in that boy's face. She knew it might be petty but she always made certain that boy never got anything her Dudley might want. Dudley was never going to feel inferior to his cousin, never.
A knock on the door startled her. She hoped that boy knew enough to be quiet while there was company. He should by now.
Opening the door, she found an older, rather distinguished looking woman on her step. "Yes?"
"Yes, I am Petunia Dursley."
"My name is Minerva McGonagall, I am the Deputy Headmistress at Hogwarts."
Petunia felt the colour drain from her face. She had never imagined they would send anyone looking for the boy. She assumed they would be glad to be rid of him. The woman was watching her.
"What?" Petunia said feeling she had missed part of the conversation.
"I asked after your nephew. We expected him to turn at school yesterday and we are concerned." The woman repeated rather coolly.
Petunia shrugged. "He decided he didn't want to return to your school. We've enrolled him at the local secondary school. That is where he is now."
"Mrs Dursley, do you really imagine I can't tell there is someone else here? In the room with the bars on the window, I might add. I must insist on speaking to Harry. If he truly does not wish to return to our world I can respect that, but I must hear it from him."
"No," Petunia replied. "You people dumped him here. You don't get any say in what we do."
Petunia felt a wave of fear as she felt the power emanating from the older woman. She found she could offer no resistance when the woman pushed past her and entered her home. Closing the door so no one could follow them, Petunia screeched. "How dare you enter my home uninvited? I demand you leave at once!"
"I will leave once I speak to Harry," Minerva replied angrily.
"Fine, go up and talk to him. I don't care!" Petunia retreated to her kitchen. What did she care if one of those freaks came and took the useless boy away?
Anxiously, Minerva headed upstairs. She looked up and down the hall. In front of her was a loo and off to the right were two doors. Off to the left she found two more doors. Her eyes narrowed when she saw one of the doors had three locks on the outside and some sort of little square cut out of the bottom of the door. It looked almost like a cat flap, but Harry didn't have a cat, did he?
She really had a bad feeling about this. Taking out her wand, she said, "Alohomora."
The door sprang open. The room had a rather musty smell as though it hadn't been opened or aired out. Sweeping her eyes around the room, she saw the boy sleeping on the bed. His owl who was looking a bit unhealthy was padlocked in an absolutely filthy cage. The stench from the cage was rather strong and with a few spells Minerva cleaned and unlocked the cage. She didn't want to let the owl out as she hoped Harry would be coming with her.
Nearing the bed, Minerva noted how pale Harry had become. He was quite thin as well, she could easily see his collarbone through the huge shirt he was wearing. Like his bird, Harry looked rather unhealthy and a not altogether clean.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, she gently shook his shoulder. "Harry."
It took a moment, but soon his eyes popped opened. He seemed extremely surprised to see her. "Professor! You came! I thought when nobody came yesterday that nobody wanted me there. The elf said it wasn't safe, so I thought maybe you all thought so too. Am I still allowed to come? I didn't get to go shopping or anything."
Minerva almost came undone at the mixture of hope, anxiety, and fear warring in those big green eyes. As Harry sat up she said, "Ssh. Of course you can come to Hogwarts, but first I would like to understand what happened. And what elf are you referring to?"
Harry flushed and dropped his eyes.
"Please, Harry. I need to understand what happened."
"Uncle Vernon had a dinner party and I was supposed to stay up here and be quiet, but when I got to my room there was a house elf there."
"A house elf?" Minerva interrupted.
Harry nodded. "He was really dirty and said his family wasn't really nice, but he wanted to warn me about some sort of plot at Hogwarts this year. He was really…well he was kind of strange and he didn't want me to go back to school. He even stole all of my mail." Harry sighed. "I bet Ron and Hermione won't even want to be friends with me anymore. I couldn't answer any of their letters."
"I don't think that is the case," Minerva said reassuringly. "They were both quite concerned about you. Miss Granger's mother spoke to your uncle and he said you purposefully dropped a pudding and ruined a dinner party."
"No, no, I didn't do that, honest," Harry said imploring her to believe him. "When I wouldn't promise not to go to Hogwarts, the elf ran downstairs and he did some kind of magic and the pudding splattered all over the floor. It was a huge mess, it splattered Uncle Vernon's guests and floors and windows. That was bad enough, but the Ministry sent a letter saying I performed magic. Uncle Vernon's guest was afraid of birds so that ruined his deal. That was also the first time they realized I couldn't use any magic so they could punish me without fear of me doing anything to them."
Minerva felt anger and indignation welling up inside her. How dare they treat their nephew like that?!
"How exactly did they punish you?" she asked cautiously.
He shrugged, but wouldn't meet her eyes. "Uncle Vernon put the bars on the windows and the locks on my doors and …oh, Hedwig."
To Minerva's amazement as Harry held out his hand, the door to the cage flew open. The snowy owl flew straight to the boy. He smiled happily as he stroked the owl. "Are you okay, girl? I'm sure we can get you some food." He looked up at the professor. "Is there someone who can look at her? I haven't been able to let her out to hunt and she's been splitting my meals with me. I don't think it's enough for her. Her feathers don't look quite right."
She nodded. "Of course, Hagrid will be more than happy to look her over. I didn't let her out because I was hoping you would come with me. If it is alright with you, I can send her and your trunk onto Hogwarts. We can include a note asking the elves to let her out."
"It won't hurt her?"
Minerva smiled gently at the amount of concern he had for his owl. "I promise it won't hurt her."
Looking at the owl, Harry said, "Is that okay? Professor McGonagall will send you to Hogwarts and you can finally get something eat. Hagrid can make sure you are healthy."
To Minerva's surprise, the owl turned and looked at her. The large amber eyes shone with intelligence as they swung from Minerva to Harry. Minerva smiled at the bird. "I promise I will take care of Harry and he will join you soon, Hedwig."
The snowy owl nipped Harry's hand gently before flying back to her cage. Professor McGonagall looked around the room. "Where is your trunk?"
"It's locked in the cupboard under the stairs," Harry explained. He hurried over to the bookshelves and pulled several books off the shelves. Taking the covers off of them, he revealed his first year books. He dug out his notes and parchment before opening a loose floorboard and removing an Invisibility Cloak. "This is all of my stuff here. I had to hide it so Aunt Petunia wouldn't see it."
"Why don't you take a shower and get dressed?" Minerva said. "I will gather your belongings and send them on to Hogwarts."
Harry looked doubtfully towards to door. "Won't Aunt Petunia get mad if I take a shower?"
"You will not get into trouble," she promised.
Reassured, Harry grabbed clothes that to Minerva looked way too large for him and headed for the bathroom. Once he was safely out of the room, she opened the cupboard. She wrinkled her nose at the state of his laundry. It was all way too big for him.
Heading downstairs, she found Harry's aunt in the kitchen. "What in Merlin's name have you done to that boy? Have you even bothered to feed him?"
Petunia sniffed. "He gets fed. I don't know what lies he's told you, but he gets fed."
"He's locked in a room, he's skin and bones, and he apparently isn't allowed to shower," Minerva replied coolly.
Petunia shrugged. "I can't help it if that boy won't eat. I'm not making special food for him, he has to eat what I serve him. He ruined my husband's dinner party and he is being punished that is why he's locked in there. He is allowed to shower, I don't know what lies he's spreading. He's always been like that – sneaky and spreading lies."
Realizing she wasn't going to get through to the woman, Minerva stormed back down the hall stopping by the cupboard. She retrieved his trunk, but was surprised to find a very thin mattress on the floor with a stack of threadbare sheets stacked on top of it. As she closed the door, she realized the same locks that were on Harry's door were on this door. She gasped in horror – certainly not!
"Did you force him to sleep in that cupboard?"
Petunia startled, but recovered quickly. "Don't act like you didn't know. His first letters were addressed to the cupboard under the stairs. He was little and we didn't have room for him. My Dudley had to give up his playroom for that boy."
Restraining herself from turning Petunia Dursley into a toad or just smacking her, Minerva sent Harry's trunk upstairs. She quickly packed and sent the owl with two notes – one for the elves and another for Albus asking him to cover her classes for the rest of the day. To her surprise, Harry soon returned to his room. She would have expected him to take a much longer shower. He looked much cleaner, but still had an unhealthy look about him.
"I sent on your owl and your belongings," Minerva explained. Harry nodded and she continued, "Harry, did you really live under the stairs until you received your letters?"
He turned deathly pale and then bright red. Dropping his gaze, he stuttered, "Y-yes. I t-thought you knew."
"No, Harry," she replied. "The envelopes are automatically addressed, I never see the addresses once I approve the names on the list."
She watched him for a moment, but he didn't say anything else.
"Why did you never say anything?"
He shrugged. "They moved me. There didn't seem to be anything to say. Even I know it's not normal to sleep in a cupboard, but there wasn't really anything I could do."
Minerva nodded and with a flick of her wand, she changed the sheets and made the bed. She gestured for Harry to take a seat and she sat at his desk chair. "Harry, I started to ask you about the punishments."
He looked a bit startled that she would bring it up again. "Uncle Vernon locked me and Hedwig in the room. Aunt Petunia would feed me once or twice a day and they would let me out twice a day to use the bathroom. Last week Aunt Petunia let me out to help her clean, I took an apple and found some spiders for Hedwig."
Suddenly his eyes grew wide. "Professor, you used magic. Does that mean I'll get in trouble again?"
She shook her head. "No, I informed the Improper Use of Magic office I was coming here and might be using magic." She looked searchingly at her student. "Harry, did your uncle ever hit you?"
He looked up startled. "When?"
As he didn't seem to realize he'd confirmed her worst fears, Minerva said, "Ever."
Harry blushed again. "Not really. He might get mad and smack me or laugh if Dudley beat on me, but he never beat me. He would usually just throw me in my cupboard."
"For how long?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I think the longest was a month, last summer."
"Harry, why didn't you say anything?"
"They didn't beat me," he protested. "Besides if I talked to anyone they never believed me and I would just get into more trouble."
"You've told someone?"
"When I was little," he replied. "One time when Uncle Vernon threw me in my cupboard, my arm broke. My teacher called my aunt and uncle and they told her I never told them my arm hurt – which was a lie. My Aunt took me to get my arm fixed and I didn't get to eat for three days. I never complained again."
Minerva shut her eyes. "Harry, I am very sorry. I did not want to leave you here in the first place."
He smiled at that, he seemed pleased that someone had thought about him. "Are we going to Hogwarts? I don't have any books or supplies or anything."
"I shall take you shopping," Minerva replied. "However we will be making one other stop first."
"Really? Don't you have classes to teach today?"
"I have asked Professor Dumbledore to cover my classes today," Minerva replied.
"Okay," Harry replied. "What do we need to do?"
"Have you ever heard of a Portkey?"
Harry shook his head.
Minerva smiled. "It is how many adult wizards travel – it is the use of an object that will transport you from one place to another."
"Okay," Harry stood. Minerva held out something that looked strangely like a cat toy.
She smiled, "You need to put your finger on this."
Harry landed in an embarrassing heap at Professor McGonagall's feet. He stood up quickly and looked around. He found that they were standing in front of a rather secluded cottage. He followed his professor around the house and into a side door.
As soon as they entered, an older woman who looked rather like the professor entered the room. She broke into a smile.
"Minerva! What are you doing here? I thought you'd be busy at the school," the woman said as she came over and hugged the other witch.
"Hello, Mildred. I'm sorry I couldn't give you more notice, but an emergency came up and I wondered if I could trouble you to look at one of my students."
The woman named Mildred raised her eyebrows, but readily agreed. Turning, Professor McGonagall said, "Harry, this is my sister Mildred McGonagall. She is a healer and I want her to examine you before we run our errands."
Blushing, Harry nodded. He didn't really like seeing doctors, but he knew he wasn't at his best right now. Professor McGonagall continued, "Mildred, this is one of my students, Harry Potter. I fear he's not been treated as well as he should have been."
"Of course," Mildred said after a moment of surprise. She gestured to Harry. "Follow me, dear."
Harry followed her into the exam room and was rather relieved that his professor did not follow.
"How old are you, Harry?"
He looked up startled. "Oh um, I'm twelve."
She nodded. "I am going to cast a spell that changes your clothes into a gown so I can examine you."
He blushed again, feeling he was just going to be red all day. She cast the spell and started examining him.
"Why do you need to see when you are using your wand?" Harry asked curiously.
"Looking can tell me all sorts of things," Mildred replied with a smiled. It faded a bit as she said, "For example, I can tell you've not been fed well this summer. My wand tells me it is a rather long standing problem."
He shrugged. "My aunt and uncle don't like to feed me much."
"Hmm, you've been with them since your parents died?" she asked gently.
He nodded. She continued to examine him before finally saying, "Okay, I'm going to change your clothes back and bring my sister in, is that alright?"
Harry nodded and she did as she said.
"He is severely malnourished and because of that his blood counts are low," Mildred began. "I shall give you blood replenishing and nourishment potions for him to take." Glancing over at Harry, she asked, "How long have you had your glasses?"
"Grade one, I think," Harry said. "They tested us at school and sent home a note that I needed glasses. My uncle wasn't very happy about that."
Looking over at her sister, Mildred said, "I can give you a potion that will fix your vision. It is fairly new, but it works really well."
"Really? That would be great," Harry said enthusiastically.
Minerva raised her eyebrow at her sister. "Isn't it-"
Cutting off her sister, Mildred hurriedly said, "I know it isn't that common but I have a vial ready to go. You will need to stay here in a quiet room for ten minutes, but then you will have perfect vision."
Harry looked over at his professor hoping she would have no further objections. She agreed and soon he found himself lying in a dark room with a warm flannel over his eyes.
"Isn't that very expensive?" Minerva asked after Harry was safely ensconced in the room.
Mildred shrugged. Minerva glared at her. "Millie, don't try to lie to me. I heard Severus Snape going on about how it was over four hundred galleons a vial."
"I think that must be the Potion Maker's discount rate," Mildred laughed. "Okay, yes it is very expensive, but Minnie that poor little boy deserves it. He has had multiple broken ribs, broken arms, and Merlin knows they didn't feed that poor child. What in Merlin's name was Albus thinking leaving him there and never checking up on him? After what that sweet boy did for our world…well this is the least I can do."
"Thank you," Minerva replied. She smiled. "He is a sweet boy. His miserable relatives locked him in his room and didn't let him take the train. When I found him this morning, he was so worried about his poor owl I don't think he realized he was telling me how badly he was treated as well because he was so indignant on her account."
The two sisters sat down to chat while waiting for Harry's potion to work. Ten minutes later, Mildred retrieved Harry. She examined his eyes and watched him delightedly bin his old glasses. She handed him a rack of potions.
"These are nutritional potions," she said pointing to the dark blue potion. "You should take one a day until they are all gone. The blood replenishing potion you will need to take for one week. I would recommend that you are examined by Madam Pomfrey in two weeks."
"Okay," he agreed.
"May we use your Floo?" Minerva asked her sister once they were finished.
"Certainly," she replied.
Minerva looked over at Harry. "We are going to use the Floo system to get to Diagon Alley. Are you familiar with the Floo system?"
He shook his head a bit hesitantly. Minerva smiled. "The Floo system is a method of traveling through a fireplace."
"You are joking," Harry stated firmly.
Minerva laughed at the expression on Harry's face. "No, I assure you, I am not joking."
She gestured to the large fireplace in her sister's sitting room. Reaching into a pot on the mantel, she threw something into the flames. "You see how the flames are green?"
When Harry nodded, she said, "That means the flames will not hurt you."
Harry gasped when she demonstrated by stepping into the fire. She smiled at him and stepped out. "Throw some powder in and say clearly 'Diagon Alley,' when the fireplace stops spinning you can get out. You need to get out quickly as I will follow behind you. You will end up at the Leaky Cauldron. You have been there before?"
"Yes, ma'am," Harry replied hesitantly.
He took a handful of the Floo powder and followed her instructions. The spinning of the fireplaces was very disconcerting, but soon he was tripping into the Leaky Cauldron. He got out of the way and Professor McGonagall soon joined him.
She led the way out onto the alley. He felt an incredible sense of relief as he stepped onto Diagon Alley. He hadn't imagined the magical world after all. He'd been relieved when Professor McGonagall showed up, but Diagon Alley was the first magical place he'd ever visited.
To his surprise, Harry found that shopping with Professor McGonagall was actually fun. They stopped at Gringotts and Harry could swear that she enjoyed the cart ride as much as he did. After refilling his money bag, they went to the bookstore, the stationary shop, and robe shop.
"Professor, can we stop at the Quidditch shop?" Harry asked hesitantly. He didn't really need anything, but just wanted to look around.
After a moment she agreed, "Certainly."
They looked around together and both admired the new Nimbus 2001. Harry thought the broom was nice, but he loved his Nimbus 2000.
He found the newest Quidditch magazine fascinating. He smiled when Professor McGonagall caught up with him. "I really missed Quidditch this summer."
"I don't blame you," she replied. Looking at what he held in his hand she asked, "Would you like to buy that?"
Harry brightened up, he wasn't used to being able to just buy things. "That's a great idea."
After purchasing the magazine and stopping at the owl emporium to pick up some owl treats for Hedwig, they headed out into the Muggle world.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked curiously.
"To get you some clothes," Professor McGonagall replied firmly.
"But I already have clothes," he protested.
"That fit you?" she challenged him.
Blushing he shrugged. "Not exactly."
"So let's find some that do," she said.
Harry found that shopping with Professor McGonagall was actually much more fun than his aunt. He was allowed to buy what he wanted without regard to what was on the clearance rack. Every time he looked in the mirror he was surprised to see himself without glasses, he kind of liked it. His eyes were really one of his favourite features, especially after he discovered he had his mother's eyes.
Once he'd purchased some jeans and t-shirts, Professor McGonagall made sure he picked out some pants, socks, and pyjamas. He was even allowed to buy two pairs of new trainers. When they went to pay for it, Harry startled a bit over the amount, but Professor McGonagall simply nodded and Harry paid for it with the Muggle money he'd taken out of his vault.
As they left the store, Professor McGonagall said, "I don't know about you, but I'm rather hungry."
"Me too," Harry agreed. He'd actually been hungry for a while, but he didn't want to bother Professor McGonagall if she wasn't hungry. Aunt Petunia hated if he asked for food so he was used to being hungry.
Wandering through the mall, they found a burger shop. Once they'd purchased their meals, they sat down watching the other shoppers.
"Professor, is the healer your only sister?" Harry asked curiously. He'd been very surprised to see his professor had a family. It rather embarrassed him that he'd never thought of his teachers as having families.
"Yes," she replied. "We had a brother, but unfortunately he was killed during the conflict with Grindelwald. He was married and had two children, so I have two lovely nephews and they have now married and had children. Mildred never married."
"I'm sorry, Professor," Harry said. "I didn't mean to bring up any bad memories."
"That's okay," she said gently. "You didn't know. I miss my brother very much, but I'm lucky to have known him for so long and I feel a part of him is still alive in his children and grandchildren."
Harry nodded, he missed his parents even if he had never known them. "Do you get to see your sister much?"
"Not as much as I would like, but luckily she is a rather prolific letter writer," Professor McGonagall replied.
"That must be nice," Harry said a touch wistfully. "I don't get any letters. Well I didn't use to, I did get sent letters this summer I just didn't get to read them."
"Did the elf tell you his name or who his family was?"
"His name was Dobby, but he didn't tell me who his family was, just that they were bad."
"Dobby," Professor McGonagall mused. "I don't know him. I am sorry he took your letters. It must have been a very lonely summer."
Harry nodded. "It was, but at least I had Hedwig."
"She is quite an owl," she said with a smile.
"She's brilliant," Harry said proudly. A worried look crossed his face. "Hagrid will be able to help her, right?"
"Without a doubt," the older witch replied. "He is very good with animals and I believe that, like you, she will simply need some extra nutrients for a while."
Harry looked at the chips left on his tray. They looked and smelled really good, but he was very full. He knew from experience that if he ate too much after he hadn't been allowed to eat for a while he would be sick. Regretfully he wiped his hands on the serviette. "Professor, what should I tell people? Did people notice I was missing?" He couldn't look up at her. "I just…I don't want people to know about my uncle."
"It is up to you what you decide to tell people," Professor McGonagall said softly. "You can say nothing, but I'm afraid people might make up stories. Perhaps you could say there was a problem with your relatives' car or there was an illness in the family."
"Hermione would never let it go at that," Harry said ruefully. "She keeps asking questions until she knows everything."
Professor McGonagall sighed. "I'm afraid you are right. It is up to you how much you want to tell them. She knows you were being punished for the pudding incident, although she only heard your uncle's version of events. Perhaps you could simply say they were upset with you and lost track of the days, I don't know how much you want to tell her."
Harry shrugged as he thought about it. He watched a family walking by and noticed a little girl following her brothers. "Professor, did Ron's sister start this year?"
"Yes, Miss Weasley was sorted into Gryffindor like all of her brothers," Professor McGonagall said proudly.
"That's nice," Harry said with a smile. He thought about it for a moment. "Ron doesn't usually talk about his sister. I don't know why, I think it would be fun to have a sister."
Professor McGonagall smiled. "It is, but brothers and sisters don't always get along all the time."
She looked at her watch and regretfully said, "I think it is time we get back to Hogwarts."
They walked back to the Leaky Cauldron and travelled via the Floo to Professor McGonagall's office. She sent his bags up to his room.
"Thank you so much, Professor," Harry said shyly.
"You are quite welcome, Harry," she replied. "My door is always open if you have any problems."
Harry smiled, he actually believed that she might listen to him at times.
"Before you head up to the tower, let me give you this," she said. She handed him his timetable. "You've missed the first day of classes, but Professor Dumbledore will speak to your professors. I'm certain Miss Granger will be happy to fill you in on anything you may have missed."
Harry nodded as he read over the schedule. "Can I go check on Hedwig?"
"I think that would be an excellent idea," she replied. "I told the elves to take her to Hagrid."
Harry started towards the door, but turned and came back to his professor. He shyly reached out and hugged her. It was the first time he had ever instigated a hug, but for some reason it seemed right. To his relief, she hugged him back.
"Thank you so much, professor," Harry whispered. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come to rescue me."
"You are quite welcome," Professor McGonagall said equally quietly. "I will be speaking to Professor Dumbledore about your relatives' behaviour this summer. Their behaviour is completely unacceptable."
Harry blushed, but he was happy someone was on his side.
Several hours later, Harry was returning to the castle. He'd discovered that Hedwig would be fine. She was also taking a nutritional potion, but Hagrid assured him that she would get better and her feathers would return to normal. Harry had spent some time talking to Hagrid and petting his beautiful owl. She looked happier to be away from the Dursleys.
As he looked up at the castle, he realized it was really good to be home.