Pain was not a new thing for Harry Potter. Neither was hunger. Experiencing the worst degrees of both of them simultaneously while being locked up in his room for over a week was almost proving to be more than he could handle. He was certain that this would be the death of him, which he found pretty ironic considering what he had overcome last year.
In attempt to get his mind off of his pain and discomfort, he reflected once again on how he had come to find himself in this most unfortunate circumstance.
It had all started when he had gotten a strange visit from a creature that referred to itself as a house-elf who was named Dobby. Dobby claimed that he had come to warn him against returning to his school, Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizarding the upcoming year. The elf had dropped his Aunt Petunia's pudding all over Harry in an attempt to ruin his Uncle Vernon's very important business meeting. The night might have been salvaged if it hadn't been for the arrival of the owl from the Ministry of Magic with a warning about the use of underage magic even though Harry had not been the one who cast the spell. How was he supposed to have known that Mrs. Mason suffered from an irrational fear of birds? And how was he supposed to control who and when he was sent owls? Regardless of what had been in his control and what hadn't been, his uncle had been furious and had placed the whole of the blame upon him.
An unfortunate side effect of the ministry owl had been that his relatives discovered that Harry was forbidden to use magic outside of school. With the threat of retaliation by magic that he had been holding over their heads now gone, the Dursley's found a renewed dedication to make his life miserable.
So Harry had been locked away in his room, a cat flap, in order to pass meager food rations through, had been installed on his door and heavy rod iron bars had been installed on the outside of his window. His uncle had even placed a lock upon Hedwig, his owl's cage. He could not help but feel as though he were in some crude prison or even an exhibit in a zoo.
For the first couple of days of his imprisonment, Harry had practically been ignored completely by his aunt, uncle and his cousin Dudley. He was let out of his room in the morning and evening to use the loo. He was sometimes fed twice a day, for lunch he received the crusts that had been cut off of Dudley's sandwich and dinner several spoonfuls of cold broth. He fed most of what he had been given to Hedwig who had, at first refused his rations until she realized that she would not be getting anything else.
One evening when Harry had been let out of his room to go to the loo, he had been unfortunate enough to collide with Dudley in his haste to get down the hall. The force of the collision caught Dudley off guard causing him to fall backwards into the wall and bang his head against the small shelf adorned with framed photos. With horror, Harry attempted to scurry past his cousin before he could regain his balance but had been unsuccessful.
He tried to brace himself against the impact of Dudley's oversized fist, but found himself airborne and winded from the force of the blow to his gut. He realized immediately that it was taking much longer than it should have to hit the ground. It wasn't, however, until he began tumbling head over heels in a bouncing sort of way, that he realized he was falling down the stairs. The sickening crack that he felt and heard when he had finally finished his decent nearly caused him to vomit. As he tried to stand and move the offended arm he had gasped loudly and almost passed out from the pain.
He had tried telling his aunt that he believed himself to be injured badly, but had been dismissed and told that he was simply overreacting. He had known better than to press the issue so he kept quiet and tried to deal with the pain. He had found that if he kept his arm completely still close to his body he experienced very little pain.
Sitting on his bed now, nine days since that house-elf had shown up and ruined his already crappy birthday, he wished for nothing more than to be back at Hogwart's. He wanted to see his friends so badly. What would they do when he did not show up at the school when term resumed? Would Professor McGonagall or Professor Dumbledore come to his house and retrieve him? Or would he just be allowed to stay put in his prison and be forgotten about?
Hogwarts had been the only place that he had felt he truly belonged. It was the only place that he had any friends or anyone to care about him. Now he was quite certain that it was the place that he was never going to see again.
As Professors Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape made their way to Headmaster Albus Dumbledore's office, both were wondering why they had been summoned to the school in the middle of the summer holiday. Neither said a word to each other as they entered the office to find Dumbledore pacing in front of his window.
The headmaster waited until the both of them had sat down in the chairs he had conjured in front of his desk before beginning to speak.
"I'm glad that you both made it," he began. "I am sorry for disturbing your holidays, but it has recently been brought to my attention that we may have a small problem regarding Harry Potter."
"What else is new?" Snape sneered. It figured that Potter would be the reason for his summer being ruined.
Ignoring Snape altogether McGonagall asked, "What is it Albus? Did something happen?"
"I'm not exactly sure, Minerva," he said with a sigh. "Hagrid came to me a couple of weeks ago saying that he was becoming concerned about Harry since he had failed to respond to any of his owls so far this summer. More recently I received a notice from the ministry about Harry being issued a warning for the use of underage magic."
Snape snorted in derision. Of course the boy was using magic since he felt that he was above having to follow the rules that are set forth for the rest of wizarding world. He was growing increasingly angry, but forced himself to bite back his retorts as Dumbledore continued speaking.
"This morning, Hagrid came to me again after receiving letters from Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger expressing their concerns about Harry. Apparently neither of them have heard from Harry either thus far this holiday. Normally," he continued as he stood and resumed his pacing, "this would not be an incredible concern to me since I know how children can be. However, based on the reports of mistreatment and neglect at the hands of his Aunt & Uncle that I received previously I fear something more serious may be wrong. Last year his relatives took extreme and somewhat comical measures to try to prevent Harry from allowing him to know who he was and even attending Hogwart's."
"What do you mean allowing him to know who he was?" Snape snapped.
Dumbledore gave Snape a small smile, "His aunt & uncle have an extreme dislike of anything that they consider to be abnormal or strange, so they never told Harry that he was a wizard. Sadly that task fell onto Hagrid last year when I sent him to deliver Harry's acceptance letter."
"Albus you can't be serious," McGonagall cried. "How in the world did they explain James & Lily to him if he didn't know that he was a wizard?"
"Harry was told that his parents had died in a car crash. He had absolutely no prior knowledge of magic or anything involving magic or the wizarding world prior to Hagrid showing up to give him his letter," Dumbledore recited sadly.
Snape tried to hide his surprise and disgust from his colleagues. That certainly explained a lot about the boy and why he seemed so inept at even the most trivial of tasks, like writing with a quill, and why he seemed so far behind the rest of his classmates. Of course that only meant that the boy should have been trying harder than the rest of his class to catch up .
"How did I not know this?" McGonagall muttered. "He never said a thing about this."
"I should think, that as Head of House, Minerva, you would have taken more of an interest in your students," Snape sneered.
The look that she shot him was absolutely venomous which Snape found to be quite satisfying. How could she not have known what was going on with the boy? Surely he would have complained or whined about it at some point in hopes to get some kind of special treatment or attention.
"Sadly I believe that Harry was too ashamed or embarrassed to reveal the truth about how he was treated. That and I believe he has simply been accustomed to being punished by his relatives if he tried to tell anyone about the way he was being treated," Dumbledore said as he stared at Snape with the piercing blue eyes.
Damn him and his legilimency! Snape usually was very good about occluding his mind, but had found himself slipping quite a bit in the last couple years something he was apparently going to have to work to remember to do more often apparently.
As Dumbledore continued to try to explain the Dursleys to Professor McGonagall, Snape found himself fuming quietly to himself. He supposed that he should have seen this coming from what he had known of Petunia as a child. While he really hated to think that she would really have tried to hide the existence of all things related to magic from her sister's son, he had to admit that he wasn't surprised. He remembered all too clearly how jealous Petunia had been when she had learned of Lily's gift, especially when she herself was not even the slightest bit magical.
Still he found himself becoming increasingly angry that Petunia would choose to dishonor her sister by inventing some ridiculous muggle death for her instead of telling the truth about how she had died a hero's death by standing down one of the darkest and most evil wizards of their day.
"Someone will need to pay the Dursley's a visit," Dumbledore was saying, "and check up on the boy. I would have just sent Hagrid again, but last year there was an unfortunate incident involving the unnatural growth of a swine's tail that I would like to not have repeated."
"I can go, Albus. I would like to give these people a piece of my mind," McGonagall volunteered.
"Actually, I was hoping that Severus could do the honors. As honorable as your intentions would be, Minerva, I think it would be best if we sent someone who was a bit less emotionally attached to Harry. There needs to be a certain tact when dealing with people like Vernon Dursley and it would not be good if the situation were overly charged with emotions. What do you say, Severus?" the older wizard asked with the hint of a grin.
Snape stared at him in disbelief certain that he was joking. "Let me get this straight," he spluttered. "You want me to act as a one-man search party to check up on a boy that is probably just too busy answering fan mail and reveling in his new found fame, just because he hasn't written to his friends, in the middle of my holiday which is the one and only break from these little brats?"
"Yes. Although I doubt that Harry is spending his time answering his fan mail. I think that if you ever gave the boy a chance you'd find out just how wrong your appraisal of him truly is," Dumbledore said in a scolding tone.
"So what am I supposed to do with him once I see that he is indeed, very much alive and well?" Snape resigned with a sigh.
"Nothing. We just want to know that he is not in any trouble. You don't even have to let him or the Dursley's know that you are even there if you do not wish to," Dumbledore replied simply. "If, however, you do find that something is amiss I know that I can count on you to handle it appropriately as you would see fit."
Snape stood up. "Is that all you need from us then? I would like to get this over with so that I can resume my holiday."
Dumbledore nodded and Snape hurried out of the office mumbling something about playing nanny as he left.
Once the door had closed behind him, McGonagall spoke up. "Are you sure that sending Severus to do this is the right thing given his irrational dislike of the boy?" she asked hesitantly.
"I am certain that this visit has to be done by Severus for precisely that reason. His dislike of Harry, sadly enough, has nothing to do with Harry at all. I think Severus needs to see just how unlike his father Harry really is. This, I believe, will be the eye-opening that they both need," he said with a sad, but wise grin.
When Snape arrived on Privet Dr and made his way to the home of the Dursleys, he had decided that the best approach for this unpleasant task would simply be knocking on the front door. However, after pounding on the door for nearly a minute straight with no answer and no signs of stirring he was forced to admit that there was either no one home or that he was being ignored. That thought only furthered his aggravation at the ridiculousness of this task.
With a cursory look up and down the street, he cast a silent unlocking spell and the let himself in. Silently navigating through the downstairs living areas, he found that he could not silence nagging voice in the back of his mind that kept telling him that something in this house was not quite right. Everything looked normal enough with the possible exception that maybe it was all too clean and organized. The house had more of a museum feel than a lived-in home, but Snape knew that it was more than that. He saw, in all of the family portraits and pictures, what could only be defined as a happy & normal family.
Except - He stopped immediately as the answer came to him in a rush. There was no sign anywhere at all that there was a second child that lived in this house! Retracing all of his steps, Snape checked and double checked all of the portraits in all of the rooms and was shocked to see that his observation was confirmed.
Instantly his senses were on high alert. He was certain that he was in the right place, so why was there absolutely no sign or trace of Harry anywhere? He proceeded cautiously up the stairs, inspecting the many pictures displayed along the walls as he ascended.
When he had reached the top of the stairs he was drawn immediately by the closed door with the padlocks. Being sure to first check the three open doors in the hall, which he found to be two bedrooms and a bathroom, to be sure that they were unoccupied, he then focused his full attention to the locked door. As he studied the door he noticed a small hole towards the bottom of the door that was covered by a flimsy piece of rubber. Using his foot, his kicked the flap open and was astonished when he heard a timid voice from within the locked room.
"Hello" Pause. "Who's out there?"
There was a lengthier pause before a trembling voice replied, "Professor Snape?"
That was all the confirmation that Snape needed. "Stand away from the door Potter."
After giving him a minute or so to move, Snape raised his wand and blasted the door in, ripping it clean off it's hinges and busting the door into three large pieces.
Stepping over the fragmented pieces of door into the room he was surprised to find that he had nearly over-looked the small huddled figure of Harry that was perched nervously in the far corner of his bed. Harry had always seemed scrawny and small to Snape, but somehow looked as though he had gotten even smaller since he had last seem him instead of bigger as he would have expected.
"Am I in trouble for something, sir?" Harry asked meekly.
"Trouble? What in the world would give you the idea that you were in trouble? Unless there is something that I am not aware of that you need to confess to?" Snape sneered.
"No sir. I just can't help but wonder then sir, why you would be here at my house," Harry mumbled.
Neither could he, Snape thought but to Harry he said, "I need to know what is going on in this house. Why was this door locked from the outside and where in the world is your aunt and uncle?"
Harry said nothing. Instead he shook his head and shifted his eyes so that he was staring at the threadbare covers on his bed.
Snape, recognizing the behavior, stepped closer to the bed. "I must insist, Potter, that you tell me what is going on here. I assure you that you are not in any trouble. I must add, that it will do not good trying to lie to me, since I will know if you try," he said silkily.
Harry looked up at his professor nervously and began to explain to him about the arrival of Dobby the house-elf, the pudding incident, Mrs. Mason's reaction to the owls and how they had all resulted in him being confined to his room,
Snape listened to Harry's depiction of events and found himself getting angrier and angrier. When Harry had paused in his story Snape asked, "How long do you have to stay confined in here every day? Is it only when they go out somewhere?"
Harry blinked in confusion and said, "I'm in here most of the day, sir."
"Well surely you must come out for meals…you must be exaggerating," Snape stuttered, but even as he muttered those words, he was sure that he knew the answer.
"I eat my supper in here, sir," Harry whispered as he stared at the floor. "When there is extra food, my meals are sent in through the flap in the door that you stuck your foot through."
It took all of the will power that Snape could muster to keep from exploding and hunting down these despicable muggles.
Choking back a growl he said, "Pack up your things, Potter. Hurry up."
Harry looked at him with a stunned expression. "Where am I going sir?"
"I don't know yet. I haven't worked things out that far yet," he confessed. "But it doesn't matter. Get moving."
Harry reluctantly began trying to move carefully to the edge of his bed, while still trying to keep his arm secure and close to his body. Suddenly a thought occurred to him.
"Yes, Potter," he replied impatiently.
"I…uh…I am going to need some help getting my trunk packed, sir," he gulped.
Snape rolled his eyes. "Surely you can manage a task as small as this without needing someone to hold your hand."
"It's not that, sir. My trunk and all of my school things, my supplies and books, are locked up downstairs," he said quickly.
"Locked up? Why in Merlin's name is your stuff locked up?!" Snape exclaimed.
"Uncle Vernon did not want them out and laying around, I suppose. He hates anything related to magic," he feebly explained.
"May I ask how it was that you were intending on completing your summer assignments?" he retorted.
Staring at the ground again he mumbled, "I was going to work on it on the train back, sir."
Snape sighed, "Where is it that your things are being kept?"
"In my cupboard downstairs," he replied immediately.
Snape was just ready to interrogate Harry about this cupboard that he called "his" when he noticed the strange way that he was holding his arm. As he watched the boy moving around the room gathering his things he was careful to not move his arm or jostle it in any way. Several times he noticed the painful wince that he tried to cover up with a yawn.
"Is there something wrong with your arm, Potter," he asked with a dangerous edge to his voice.
Harry flinched and said hesitantly, "I think so, sir. It hurts to move it," he admitted as his face began to turn red.
"Let me see," Snape insisted as he grabbed Harry's hand and tried to move his arm straight out to his side resulting in a screech of pain.
Immediately Snape realized that there was something very wrong and told Harry to take off his shirt. Harry slowly worked at the buttons of his shirt while Snape tried to calm his rising anger. As a way of trying to distract and calm himself, he gently pushed Harry's hands away and helped him the rest of the way out of his shirt.
Just underneath Harry's right shoulder was the most ugly bruise that Snape had ever seen. The dark purple, black and red contrasted harshly against his pale skin. Even his untrained eyes could see from the misshapen curve of his shoulder that something was definitely broken.
"How did that happen," he growled through gritted teeth.
Feeling his face get hot with shame, Harry replied quietly, " I fell down the stairs after…uh…running into my cousin, Dudley."
Snape looked at him skeptically before saying, "Never mind about your stuff for now, we need to get that shoulder looked at."
He helped Harry get his shirt back on and conjured up a sling for him to wear to better help him keep him arm immobilized. He then went downstairs to wait for Harry to use the loo and tried to work out a plan.
He had no idea where he was supposed to take Harry, but he knew for certain that he could not be allowed to remain in this house with these people. How could Dumbledore have allowed the boy to have been treated like this? He knew that was going to have to have a serious talk with the old man as soon as the boy was taken care of.
As soon as Harry had come downstairs Snape escorted him down the street to a deserted playground.
"Grab tight to my arm, Potter."
Harry did as he was told, and held onto Snape's arm with his good arm. In a blink the both disappeared from Privet Drive with a loud pop.