Punishment

Harry lay on his bed at the Dursleys' house. He was lying on his left side facing the wall for this was the only comfortable position at the moment. Well, comfortable was definitely too positive to describe his position, it was rather the only way to lie down without having his entire body hurting.

Harry sighed but soon regretted it for drawing breath or exhaling too deeply caused him serious pain.

No, his holiday had not been very pleasant so far, and it was still six weeks to go. He had not had any contact to his friends or to Sirius so far for Hedwig had been locked away and strong bars on his window prevented it from being opened for any other owl.

Since somebody, Harry was deeply convinced that it had been Draco Malfoy but had no proof for that, had sent an article from the Daily Prophet to his aunt and uncle which reported the events of the Triwizard Tournament in Harry's fourth year, the Dursleys had started referring to him no longer as 'boy' but rather as 'murderer'. Not that he really cared about what they called him, but every time they had said so it had given him a sting inside. He blamed himself for Cedric's death, he already blamed himself enough and there was nobody he could talk to. Instead, he was forced to live with people who seemed to enjoy the pain he was in.

Nightmares had been his constant companions, there had been no night during that summer in which he had slept until the next morning without waking up, screaming because he had re-lived Cedric's death over and over again.

He had wished so much that Sirius could be with him, that he could talk to his godfather about everything that had happened in the past months, but he didn't even know where Sirius was.

That holiday had been hard, but it was nothing compared to what Harry had been through so far after returning from his fifth year at Hogwarts.

His nightmares still had not left him after one year although they didn't torture him that often anymore. But this was no gain for his life in broad daylight had turned into a nightmare as well.

His uncle's drill company was not doing very well and he constantly was in a foul mood. At the very first day of his holiday he had given Harry a very good insight into what would await him because of that by knocking him to the floor without any given reason.

Throughout the following days and weeks, his uncle's beatings had become worse and regular, never with any clear reason behind them.

He needed somebody to work his anger on and that somebody of course turned out to be Harry.

Only this morning, not nearly two hours ago, had Uncle Vernon stormed into Harry's room, pulled him out of bed by his wrist and punched his eye with his fist. Harry, who had not been really awake, had fallen onto the floor, an increasing dizziness spreading through his head.

"Lying lazily in bed while it is already bright day outside, I will show you that this won't work in my household! Somebody needs to clean the kitchen after breakfast, and the roof has to be mended! Get up, you lazy, stupid, useless burden!"

With this, he had kicked Harry hard into the side which again knocked him onto the floor. Harry had breathed in sharply as the pain hit him, he could clearly feel that at least one of his ribs had given way when the blow had hit them.

"GET UP!"

Harry had still lain on the floor and tried to get air into his lungs and could not follow his uncle's demand.

"Well, if you want it the hard way…"

Vernon had removed his belt from his trousers and ripped Harry's shirt off his back. Pressing Harry onto the floor by the neck with one of his large hands, he had taken the belt into the other and let it strike down onto Harry's exposed back with all his might, belt buckle first.

Harry had suppressed a cry of pain. 'Don't give him that satisfaction. Don't start crying. Just try to ignore it, then he will finish soon.'

Harry had repeated these words over and over again like a mantra but could not bear more than two further whips on his back before the cries of pain that had built up in his throat forced their way out. This had only seemed to encourage Vernon in continuing with the beating.

Harry had counted seventeen strikes until he lost consciousness. Not only his back, but also his ribs had hurt like mad during the beating for Vernon had fiercely pressed one of his knees onto Harry's lower back to prevent him from dodging the hits. The pressure onto his ribcage had taken away his breath. Eventually, Harry had fainted. The pain had been too much because the remains of Vernon's last wake up call of that sort had not healed properly yet.

Realizing that Harry would not be able to clean up the kitchen until he had regained consciousness, Vernon left him lying on the floor and locked the door from the outside.

It had taken Harry nearly an hour to wake up and after that he had collapsed onto his bed, searching for a position which would not hurt too much.

No, he surely could not go on like this for another six weeks. But how could he get away? Owl for help? Hedwig was locked in the cupboard under the stairs with the rest of his possessions, including his broomstick. Harry hoped that Petunia at least could overcome her fear and disgust for the owl enough to provide Hedwig with food. If the owl received the same rations or even less than Harry did she would surely be dead by now.

Every evening after six, when Harry was locked in his room after fulfilling his duties around the house, Petunia would unlock the door only long enough to put a small bowl with thin, cold broth onto the table next to the door. That was all he was provided with for the entire day.

Harry shook his head when he thought about this, but even that motion hurt. A wave of nausea shot through his body, his intestines contracted and he started choking, but there was nothing in his stomach that his body could vomit. It only increased the pain Harry was already in and he tried not to move any part of his body anymore.

No, there was definitely no way he could flee. During the last days it had become hard to walk straight for him and he constantly felt dizzy, he was not strong enough to run away even if he left his belongings behind.

If only the Weasleys would come to rescue him again like they had done after his first year at school. Or Sirius, his godfather…

Harry closed his eyes with another sigh and drifted off again.

When he felt hands on his face he snapped back into reality. Fearing that somebody had come to choke him or that Vernon had not had enough fun in beating him up for today, he opened his eyes and tried to rise into a sitting position. This had been the worst idea he could have had for the sting of pain coming from his ribs nearly made him faint again.

"Still not up yet! When did I tell you that you could lie down again and sleep? The dishes won't clean themselves! What have I done to have such a freak around my house? A murderer, a useless bastard who should have died with his useless parents, but no, I am forced to shelter you! And you're not even thankful enough to fulfil your duties in the household!"

Harry had tried to open his eyes during Vernon's insults but pressed them close together again when he felt a massive hand slapping his face with all his might. Warm liquid, obviously blood, spilled down over his mouth and his nose hurt like mad.

"Well, if you intend to lie down the entire day I better give you a reason to do so! Get up boy!"

Harry tried for he knew punishment would be worse if he didn't but his body would not obey his commands.

"I SAID GET UP!"

Vernon pulled him to his feet by his right wrist and slapped his face again.

He winced in pain and moaned.

"QUIET! I don't want to hear anything from you!"

Harry suppressed another moan of pain as his uncle pressed him against the wall, his hurt back appeared to be on fire. One hand held him upright by the throat, dangerously close to cutting off his air supply completely while Vernon's right hand started beating madly against his chest and belly. Harry felt something crack inside of him and knew that one if not more of his already abused ribs had finally broken. He could not hold back a scream but this time Vernon did not seem to notice.

All of a sudden, the hand that held Harry was removed and he fell onto the floor, gasping for air. Tears ran down his face and he tried to cradle into a foetal position. Taking breath had become even more difficult and painful after his ribs had broken. Harry knew he could take no more and did something he had never thought he would do in front of Vernon. He begged.

"Please…no…"

"I SAID QUIET!"

Vernon pushed Harry onto his stomach and left the room but before Harry could dream about the beating being over, he returned. In his hands he carried Dudley's Smelting Stick.

"No…"

Another kick in his sides made Harry stop talking immediately and Vernon started whipping Harry's already welted back with the thin stick again and again. Harry knew he would never forget the whistling sound the stick made before it painfully settled onto his bruised back.

"Vernon…"

The beating stopped. It had been Aunt Petunia's voice coming from the doorway and Vernon turned around.

"What is it Petunia? I'm just giving the boy a lecture."

"Vernon, there is something you need to know."

Vernon got up and walked towards his wife. Both started talking in low voices and for all that Harry could see without his glasses and with pain fogging his sight none of them looked pleased at all. Petunia left and Vernon returned at his side.

Instead of picking up the stick again, Vernon grabbed Harry by his wrist and by the hair and threw him onto the bed. Harry was close to passing out again.