Harry's return to Privet Drive this year had been more miserable than ever. He missed Ron, Hermione and Hogwarts desperately and his worry over Voldemort's return, and his guilt at Cedric's death gnawed at him constantly. The Dursleys were as hateful as always and it was obvious from their attitudes, they were still holding a very large grudge over the Ton-Tongue Toffee incident. More than anything Harry wished he was living with his godfather Sirius Black. Not only would this mean an escape from the wretched existence he had here with the Dursleys, but he would also feel a lot safer living with an experienced wizard now that Voldemort was fully back to life and after him once more.
Harry yawned tiredly and glanced over at the luminous dial of his battered alarm clock – three o'clock. He hadn't had a full night's sleep since his return from Hogwarts and as a consequence he was constantly tired, spending his days peering blearily through his glasses, while his aunt and uncle roared at him to "Pull his finger out!"
A whisper of noise to his right had him glancing up hurriedly, relaxing when he recognised Hedwig swooping gracefully through his half open window. She flew over to him and nipped his ear affectionately before settling in her cage and drinking delicately from her water bowl. Harry sighed softly. No mail again. Although he had received letters from Ron, and Hermione, before she had set off on a family holiday to Italy, he had only had one letter from Sirius telling him that he had arrived safely at Remus Lupin's. Sirius had written that it would be better if they didn't contact each other unless absolutely necessary, for fear of his whereabouts being discovered, but he urged Harry not to worry and to enjoy the holidays as much as he could. Enjoy the holidays? If Harry had his way he would stay at Hogwarts all year round. He yawned again and punching his pillow in exasperation settled down in his bed, thankfully managing to fall asleep a few moments later.
He was awoken very early the next morning by Aunt Petunia banging on his bedroom door. 'Harry, get up, I need you to go shopping, I've run out of eggs and Dudley wants them for his breakfast. Are you awake you lazy boy? Get up, get up now!'
Groaning, Harry rose reluctantly from his warm bed and dressed in a daze, his vision still blurry with tiredness even with his glasses perched firmly on his nose.
'Finally,' Aunt Petunia screeched when he arrived in the kitchen five minutes later. 'Here,' she said, ignoring his quiet, 'Good morning,' and thrusting some money into his hands. 'And be quick about it, my poor Dudley's starving,' she announced in the simpering voice she used when speaking about her son.
Harry looked past his aunt to the large frame of his cousin grinning maliciously at him from his seat at the kitchen table. Although Dudley's diet had apparently continued to some degree during his year at Smeltings, because he was only a little larger than the last time Harry had seen him, he was still huge. In fact the idea of Dudley starving was ludicrous; left alone on a desert island, Harry was sure Dudley could live off his fat for a good six months before there was any need to even consider panicking. Harry had grown himself during the past year and was now slightly taller, although no wider than he had been during his last stay at Privet Drive. Even so, Dudley's hand me down clothes would still at a pinch, have fitted Harry, Ron and Hermione all at once.
'Be back soon,' Harry called as he opened the front door and set off, but neither his aunt nor his cousin bothered to reply.
Perhaps it was because he was so tired, or perhaps it would have happened anyway, but Harry never noticed the car zooming towards him as he crossed a quiet road on his way home from the shops. He didn't even have time to glance up the second before the car ploughed into him, but without being aware of what he was doing, the part deep inside of him where magic resided at its strongest recognised the danger and kicked in to save him, if not from the initial impact then from at least hitting the pavement at speed afterwards. Harry's last thought before he slipped into unconsciousness was Aunt Petunia will be furious about those eggs.
As the ambulance carried Harry away, the distraught driver could be heard exclaiming to the police. 'I don't know what happened, I couldn't avoid him, he came out of nowhere, but then the strangest thing happened - he just seemed to float to the ground after I hit him!'
The onlookers who had arrived on the scene after the accident raised their eyes along with the police officers, who were already preparing to breathalyse the gibbering driver.
Harry woke slowly as if from a deep sleep. Once both eyes had been prised open he realised from the gloom surrounding him that it must be night, but his blurred vision made it impossible to make out any other details clearly. He reached over to grab his glasses, which were always close by when he slept, only to discover that not only could he not move his right arm, but that the attempt to do so was causing the most astounding pain. Although well used to pain, he couldn't help the soft groan that escaped him. Immediately he heard a chair being pushed back and soft footsteps heading towards him.
'Madam Pomfrey?' he managed to croak out. The soft lilting voice that answered him however, did not belong to the Hogwarts Matron, but instead to a stranger with kind eyes he noticed as she bent down to peer closely at him.
'Ah, Harry, you're awake at last,' the women said pleased, reaching carefully down to capture his uninjured left arm and feel for his pulse. As he watched her blurry figure examining a fob watch hanging from her dress, and belatedly noticed the tubes running from his arm to a bag perched high above his bed, Harry realised he was in a Muggle hospital. No quick wave of the wand to heal these injuries then.
'How did I get here?' he asked, the pain coursing through his head and body was making him feel very sick, but he had no recollection as to how he had arrived in this place and he needed to know. Had Voldemort attacked him again?
'Well now, it seems as though you decided that checking for traffic before crossing the road was a waste of time,' the nurse scolded gently. 'What do you remember before you woke up?'
'Erm … Going to the shops for Aunt Petunia,' Harry was able to recall slowly now the panic over Voldemort's involvement had passed. 'Dudley wanted eggs,' he managed, the effort of speaking draining him of the last of his energy.
'That will be your cousin then will it,' the nurse asked, a distinct coolness entering her voice. Harry assumed that meant she had met the Dursleys. 'Don't worry about it now; you were hit by a car and had quite a knock to the head, you've been unconscious for two days. You'll probably experience a little bit of confusion for a while with that, and along with all your bruises and scrapes, you also managed to break your arm and your leg in the process. Nothing that won't mend though; you're a very lucky boy. Now I'm going to get the doctor to come and look you over, but would you like a drink first?' she asked, seeing Harry lick his dry lips painfully. He tried to nod and groaned again at the agony that caused.
'Lie still there, Harry,' she said comfortingly, pouring some water into a glass and raising a straw to his mouth. 'Just a sip now,' she warned, 'you'll make yourself sick if you drink too much.'
The water was blissfully cool to his parched mouth and Harry was disappointed when she pulled the straw away. 'I'll be right back,' she promised, but whether she was or not Harry never knew as he slipped almost immediately back into the healing embrace of sleep.
Almost a week later and Harry was still in the hospital. The accident had left him with a broken right arm and left leg along with a few cracked ribs, which ached miserably. The bruises however, were already beginning to fade and his entire body by now was a multicoloured mess of half-healed cuts and scrapes. But worse than any discomfort he was suffering, was his increasing concern for Hedwig. He had yet to see his aunt and uncle, although they had apparently brought in some pyjamas and toiletries for him, which the nurse he had met when he first woke up - who he now knew was called Lois – had given to him with a disgusted look on her face.
'Your aunt and uncle have just dropped these off for you, Harry,' she said in a determinedly jolly voice. 'They said they had to rush off somewhere or they would have stayed. It's a shame because I think you must have been asleep when they came to visit you the other times,' she said, not quite meeting his eyes.
'It's okay,' Harry said without emotion, 'I know they've never bothered to come and see me. No need anyway – I'm feeling much better. When do you think I'll be able to go home?' he asked, not for the first time. Much as he preferred being almost anywhere than with the Dursleys, he had no way of knowing if Hedwig was all right. Harry knew she could fend for herself for food and water, but what if the Dursleys had locked her in her cage or were mistreating her? He couldn't even contact anyone; Hermione was in Italy and Ron's family didn't have a phone.
'Pretty soon I should think,' Lois answered as she turned to walk away. 'You're coming along wonderfully, but you'll have to have a wheelchair to be getting about I'm afraid. With that broken arm you won't be able to use crutches.'
Harry sighed inwardly, if he couldn't walk that would mean he would be back in the cupboard under the stairs unless he could manage to drag himself up and down the steps to his room unaided; he doubted Uncle Vernon would be offering to carry him anywhere.
'Time to check you over again, Harry,' Lois said returning to his side pushing a small cart. Harry lifted his good arm and Lois tightened the cuff of the blood pressure monitor around it allowing it to automatically produce a reading, which she jotted on his chart. 'You're still looking a bit flushed,' she said with concern popping the electronic thermometer into his ear, removing it after a moment and holding it up to look at the reading on the side. 'Yes, your temperature is up a little, how are you feeling?'
Now that he gave it some thought, not too well, Harry realised. His temperature had been up and down for the past day or two and he tended to feel a little groggy and sick when it was raised. 'Okay,' he said instead, not wanting to risk delaying his discharge by admitting to feeling unwell.
'Hmm,' the nurse raised her eyebrows at him plainly doubting the truth of his answer, but not pushing it. During his stay at the hospital Lois had spent a lot of time chatting with him, obviously feeling sorry for him because of his lack of visitors. Not that Harry minded – he much preferred Lois's company to the Dursleys any day. She was funny and kind and she seemed to have a way of making him feel better just by being there.
She was also very pretty he couldn't help but notice – another reason he enjoyed having her around. Although she was tiny, not much bigger in fact than a lot of the older children on the ward, her light blue nurses uniform showed off a figure that was happily not at all childlike, and her hair was a soft vanilla colour, which looked like it might be long, but as she always wore it pinned up it was hard to be sure. It was her eyes that Harry liked best of all though, they were huge in her softly rounded face, a bright, gleaming blue with tiny flecks of gold that glowed when she laughed or when she was worried. In fact, Harry noticed, they were glowing now. Lois leaned forward over the bed and pressed the back of her hand to his warm forehead. Her cool touch against his heated skin soothed him, and he felt the vague nausea he had been battling recede, along with the burning warmth in his head.
'Are you sure I can't get you anything, Harry?' Lois prompted softly, but he shook his head, a wave of exhaustion sweeping over him.
'No thanks,' he managed through a yawn. 'I think I'll sleep for a while.'
'All right then,' Lois replied, helping him scoot further down into the bed and drawing the covers around him. Harry felt the touch of her hand on his now cool forehead once more, before he fell into a deep sleep.