'Oh I will,' said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face. 'They don't know we're not allowed to use magic at home. I'm going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer…' -PS pp.
Harry trailed behind Dudley and Aunt Petunia as Uncle Vernon strode ahead to the car. He sat through the journey in silence, squished into the door. Hedwig's cage was between him and Dudley but Dudley took up half of the middle seat. It looked like Smeltings food was as plentiful as it was at Hogwarts given the amount of weight he had put on in the last year.
Harry was thinking of the Weasleys on Platform 9 ¾. He had heard Ron's little sister Ginny pointing him out before they had got close. He hoped she managed to ignore 'The Boy Who Lived' and just see Harry like the rest of the Weasleys once she came to Hogwarts. Mrs Weasley had been as nice as he remembered from leaving last year, and from what Ron and the twins had said. The Dursleys hadn't seemed very impressed when she introduced herself.
Harry let out a sigh as the car pulled into Privet Drive. He didn't want to be here. He wanted to be back at the castle, perhaps walking down to visit Hagrid for a cup of tea and pretending to eat his rock cakes.
"Boy, get that ruddy bird inside. I won't have the neighbours seeing anything of your unnaturalness." Harry carried Hedwig up to the smallest bedroom before returning to the car for his trunk, he was about to drag it up the stairs when Uncle Vernon stopped him. "Not so fast. Open it up. I want everything to do with that school of yours in your cupboard now."
"What about my homework? I'll get in trouble if I don't finish it before I go back."
"In the cupboard, NOW! Or you'll be in there next." Harry opened his trunk and started taking anything the Dursleys had given him out, knowing that anything the Dursleys didn't recognise would be classed as magical. It would be easier to carry the non-magical things upstairs than to take everything else out. He gave his broomstick a pat and shut the lid on his trunk.
"It's all in there. Can I go up now?" Uncle Vernon grunted as he clapped a large padlock on the door. Harry started up the stairs. Maybe this summer wasn't going to be as fun as he thought.
Harry let Hedwig out of her cage and filled her water tray from the tap in the bathroom, wishing he had managed to find some owl treats in his trunk to tip into the empty food tray. "It's going to be a long summer, Hedwig. Uncle Vernon has locked all my school stuff away. Your spare food is in there too. Sorry, girl. I know you're probably hungry."
Hedwig fluttered over the headboard of the bed, Harry sat down next to her and absentmindedly stroked her feathers. It was hard to believe that just last night he had been sitting at the end-of-year feast with the others being awarded house points that would win Gyffindor the house cup. It really was going to be a long summer.
Harry woke the next morning to Aunt Petunia standing by his door flicking the light on and off. "Get up. I need you in the kitchen."
Harry quickly pulled on his clothes and made his way downstairs. Aunt Petunia handed him a spatula and set him to watching the bacon. Uncle Vernon and Dudley came down once the smell drifted up the stairs. Harry served up the bacon and eggs, set the toast in the rack and sat down to eat.
Uncle Vernon was glaring at him. "That owl is not to be allowed outside. I won't have you sending messages to any other freaks. And you are to keep it quiet."
"Her name is Hedwig, and she has to go outside, otherwise she can't hunt."
"I know what will happen if that bird goes outside and I'm not having you have any contact with those other freaks."
"I promise I won't let use her for mail. But she has to go outside. She has to be able to fly." Harry didn't mind too much about not being able to use her for mail. He was thinking he would just wait for Errol to bring a letter from Ron then send his letter back with Errol, along with any others and ask Ron to pass them along. And if once and a while he did send a letter with Hedwig, Uncle Vernon didn't need to know.
"That owl stays in and that's it," Uncle Vernon roared.
"But she'll get sick if she can't fly." At Uncle Vernon's glare Harry was resigned; he'd just have to let Hedwig fly around his room as much as possible. Hopefully that would be enough. He got up and started clearing the table. Dudley sat at the table, gloating, knowing that it would never even be suggested that he should help with the housework.
Uncle Vernon left for work and Aunt Petunia disappeared into the laundry to sort the washing.
"You know, Dudley… I could clean the whole kitchen with a wave of my wand if I wanted to. Of course since I'm only one year into my training, I couldn't specify what was cleaned, you'd probably get scrubbed top to toe as well. Though I suppose now that you are the size of a baby rhino there're bits of you you can't reach to clean, I'd probably be doing you a favour."
Dudley turned white. "Y-y-you can't. Mum and Dad they'd…they'd…"
"They'd what Dud? What are Muggles like them going to do to me?"
"MUM! Harry's doing freaky stuff. Make him sto-op," Dudley was edging towards the door, but was desperately trying to pretend that Harry wasn't scaring him.
Harry was busy washing the dishes by the time Aunt Petunia came into the kitchen. "Was he hurting my little Diddikins, don't you worry, Mummy won't let the freaks hurt you." As Aunt Petunia turned away from him, Dudley grinned and stuck his tongue out at Harry before disappearing into the lounge. Harry heard the television being turned on.
"How dare you threaten my Dudley," she was just about screeching. "You will not even mention your unnaturalness in this house."
"I'm sorry, Aunt Petunia, I didn't think that telling Dudley of my classes would scare him like that. After all, I'm sure that Mum told you about school and you didn't run away."
"I don't want you to mention your freak school in front of Dudley again. Is that understood?" Harry nodded. "Good. Now I want you in the garden in half an hour."
No magic; no homework about magic; no letting Hedwig out so no sending letters about magic, not even being allowed to mention magic, and to top it off he had to spend the whole time doing chores. While Dudley, of course, lolled about doing nothing. Harry hated the summer holidays.
Harry listened carefully at his bedroom door. He had heard Dudley and Aunt Petunia go to bed ages ago and now he was just listening for Uncle Vernon. He seemed to brushing his teeth in the bathroom. Uncle Vernon plodded past the door.
Harry was waiting for the sound of snoring from Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia's room. A quarter of an hour later Harry was quietly opening the window.
"OK, Hedwig, Uncle Vernon is asleep. I can let you out, but you have to be back inside before he wakes up so I can shut the window." Harry watched Hedwig fly over the houses and climbed into bed. He left the window open so she could fly in whenever it was she came back. He wasn't worried about her being back in time. Hedwig was a very clever owl and Harry had the feeling she understood exactly what was at stake.
Harry was cooking breakfast; worried but trying not to show it. Hedwig hadn't come back in time this morning. He'd been letting her out for just over a week now and this was the first time she hadn't been back in time. He had jumped up as soon as Aunt Petunia had knocked on the door, and practically ran downstairs eager to draw attention away from his room with the empty bird cage. He'd closed the window so Uncle Vernon wouldn't see it open when he left for work. Hedwig would surely wait under the cover of a bushy tree till he could open the window again.
So far he had been lucky. Uncle Vernon was reading his paper, grunting at the articles and glaring at Harry anytime he was caught in his view. Uncle Vernon was getting up from the table and kissing Aunt Petunia goodbye. Harry relaxed a little, as long as Hedwig came home soon he was home free.
Harry heard Uncle Vernon bellowing and watched as Aunt Petunia rushed outside. A car door slammed and a car drove away. Aunt Petunia stormed inside. "You disobeyed us. You let that bird out against our express orders." Harry stared at her in disbelief. How did they find out? "Your uncle saw it fly back into the garden on his way out to the car. What if the neighbours saw it? What are they going to think? Go put that bird back into its cage! Then I want you in the garden. I have a lot of work for you today."
Hedwig flew in as soon as Harry reopened the window and hopped into her cage without protest. "Uncle Vernon saw you flying back. What kept you this morning? It looks like I'll have to keep you inside for a while until Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia calm down."
It was worse than Harry thought. When Uncle Vernon came home, he was carrying a small bag from a hardware store. He charged up the stairs and burst into Harry's room startling Harry and Hedwig. Hedwig was back on the dresser and Harry was laying fresh newspaper on the bottom of her cage having just cleaned it out.
Uncle Vernon waited impatiently with a gleam in his eye as Harry coaxed Hedwig into the now clean cage and shut the door gently behind her. Uncle Vernon then emptied the contents of the bag on Harry's bed. Yet another padlock fell out, nearly as big as the one on the cupboard under the stairs. Uncle Vernon chortled triumphantly as he clapped the lock on the cage door and sauntered out of the room.
Harry was washing Uncle Vernon's car three weeks into the holiday, although it felt like twice that had passed. As he soaped the bonnet he started thinking about the last week at school. He found his chores gave him plenty of thinking time. Aunt Petunia never entrusted him with anything difficult enough to need his full attention.
The bubbles popped and disappeared into nothingness. Harry was reminded of Professor Quirrell when he was possessed by Voldemort. When Harry touched him he had blistered, it had hurt Harry too, but he had only passed out, not been actually injured.
It bothered Harry that Quirrell had been injured, it was Voldemort that should have been hurt. But nothing seemed to have happened to him, other than having to find a new host. Maybe that would be enough to keep him gone, with no Philosopher's Stone anymore it would have to. Wouldn't it?
What had happened to Nicolas Flamel? Was he still alive without the Elixer of Life. They has spent long enough looking for him, well, information on him. Harry would have like to have met him. He bet Hermione would too. If he really did die, had he been prepared for it like Dumbledore said? Had his parents?
His parents had been trying to protect him when they died Voldemort had said. He didn't know whether to trust him but he wanted to believe it. He wanted to believe that his parents had loved him that much, but he didn't want to be the reason they were dead.
Voldemort said they were brave. His dad had fought and his mum had protected him till Voldemort killer her too. Why hadn't he died too? What was so special about him? Harry didn't feel special. He wasn't the smartest in his class, or the fastest to pick up new spells. He wasn't really, really good at anything but Quidditch.
Why did Voldemort want to kill him? He was just a baby then; how could he have been a threat. Harry figured that Voldemort just figured he'd take out Harry while he was there bothering with his parents; no point leaving a kid around who could grow up to hate him. Then he couldn't because his parents loved him and died for him.
Why couldn't Voldemort understand love? Harry kinda did, even having grown up with the Dursleys who hated him. Voldemort had to have known more love than him growing up, or at Hogwarts. He just had to have done. Surely it wasn't possible for someone to live with people who liked you less than the Dursleys did him.
Harry passed the cupboard under the stairs and laid his hand on the door willing his stuff upstairs. He would especially like to have his Invisibility Cloak. His broomstick would be cool but there wasn't a single Muggle-free area near-by for him to fly in . His Cloak would be cool because then he could avoid the Dursleys and they would never know. Maybe he could even find out something to blackmail Dudley with. He could get Dudley to do Harry's chores for him.
He wondered why Dumbledore had given him his father's Cloak, especially as he seemed to think that Harry's dad used it for sneaking around the school. In particular, sneaking off to the kitchens.
Harry was a little disappointed on returning to his room to find that it was just as he had left it. His Cloak hadn't magically moved to his room from the cupboard. Hedwig was sitting despondently in her cage and hooted quietly as he entered the room.
"Hey, girl, there's something important for you to know. Uncle Vernon can hear you in the night. He's threatened to 'get rid of' you if I can't keep you quiet. I know you hate being in there but until Uncle Vernon gets his sleep he's not going to see reason. I'll keep trying to convince him, but it'll be easier if you can help me out by keeping quiet at night."
Harry woke drenched to the bone and twisted up in his sheets. He'd been having a nightmare about the night he got the Philosopher's Stone back. He filled his glass from the tap in the bathroom and climbed back into bed. It was still all twisted from him having been caught in it, he'd never get to sleep in that.
Harry got up and, after throwing one of Dudley's old t-shirts over Hedwig's cage to protect her eyes, and stop her hooting at it, turned on the light and started to strip his bed to remake it. While he worked he tried to make sense of his nightmare.
It had started with Neville turning into a real statue, not just freezing for a while when Hermione cursed him with the Pertificus Totalis, he'd then fallen to the floor and shattered. Snape had danced around the pieces rejoicing that his worst student was gone; Snape dancing was a scary enough thought without something happening to one of Harry's friend to cause the joy.
Snape then started juggling potion bottles, like those he had used to set the logic puzzle. Harry was just able to identify the one he had drunk out of when he found himself trapped on the other sided of the Mirror of Erised. Snape kept juggling while dancing around the pieces of Neville until one potion bottle dropped. Harry was diving to catch it when he woke up, lunging off the side of the bed headfirst into the floor. He could have just about caught himself clattering to the floor if he hadn't had the sheets holding his legs together.
He was mostly wondering why Snape and Neville were in his dream. Neville, he could kind of understand. He had stood up to Harry, Hermione and Ron, before being left behind. Harry was proud of him for doing it, even if it had been the worst possible time for Harry for Neville to start standing up to people.
Snape was a different problem. As he climbed back into bed he decided to think about the Mirror instead. When he had looked in the Mirror at Christmas he had seen his innermost desire to have a family then in his dream he was on the other side with them. He'd been with them and had spent his time looking out at Snape of all people.
Snape who hated his family. Who really, really hated his father, because, according to Dumbledore, his dad had saved Snape's life. Harry couldn't make any sense of that. Harry really didn't know what to make of Snape anymore. Oh, he was still a grouchy git, and he still hated Harry, but he hadn't been trying to get to the stone all year like they had thought. Hermione seemed to think he was brilliant for setting a logic puzzle too.
Harry drifted back to sleep thinking of Hermione and Ron, he had expected mail from them by now. Even without Ron having received visits from Hedwig he had hoped to see Errol at his window. He wasn't too worried about not hearing from Hermione, she didn't have an owl. But Ron had said he was going to invite him to the Burrow. It was his birthday in a couple of days, maybe they were waiting for that.
Harry woke on his birthday to the roar of Uncle Vernon. "That RUDDY BIRD!" He sighed and made his way down to breakfast. It sounded like it was a bad day to try and get Hedwig out of her cage, but Harry would try reason again. It was a pity that Uncle Vernon wasn't as logical as Professor Snape.
"Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive…"