Harry lay on his bed atop the threadbare blanket, his head resting on a pillow that had lost all of its bounce as he stared up at the ceiling. He was not having a good day. Hell, he wasn't having a good summer at all. After his uncle had collected him off the train the 'summer of hell' had started almost straight away, with Vernon informing Harry that his sister, the woman Harry had been forced to call aunt Marge, was at the house. Apparently, after something had gone wrong with her plumbing it had revealed that some emergency work was needed on her house, so while the work was being done aunt Marge had invited herself to stay.

This had not left aunt Petunia happy. His aunt had entered Harry's rose bushes in some local garden competition (he refused to call them aunt Petunia's rose's in his head as he was the one who did all the work before he started Hogwarts). Marge had brought her prized bulldog 'Ripper' with her and Ripper seemed to be deeply offended by the flowers and was doing his best to defile them. Uncle Vernon had then taken great delight in telling Harry of the rules for the summer, as well as how he had told Marge that his "no good, pathetic excuse for a nephew" was so bad he had been sent to 'St Brutus' school for incurably criminal boys', and, specifically, that if Harry so much as hinted at anything else his uncle would make him regret it.

-ϟϟϟ-

Uncle Vernon pulled the car onto the driveway. The two got out of the car without talking only to find Harry's 'Aunt' Marge standing on the doorstep. She was very like Uncle Vernon; large, beefy and purple-faced, she even had a mustache, though not as bushy as his.'*

She started in on Harry before he even got to the front door, "so your back are you?" Not even waiting for a reply, she continued on, this time to her brother, "why even let the boy out Vernon? Surely that 'school' is the best place for him?" Her less than subtle emphasis on the word school left no doubt that she was referring to the ridiculous fabrication of his uncle. "Teacher's need time off", Vernon replied gruffly as he opened the boot for Harry to retrieve his trunk.

"What's in the trunk boy?" Aunt Marge demand, obviously looking for something to criticize, "Oh...Um...just my school things. School uniform, homework, paper, pens...that sort of thing." Harry replied, automatically concentrating more on getting the heavy trunk out of the car then having a less than pleasant conversation with his aunt. Marge mulled that over for a few moments, looking for something else to scold, but evidently coming home from a boarding school with luggage and homework was expected. So, Aunt Marge fell back on her favourite insult, which was also a favourite of the two Dursley adults. Namely, calling him lazy and questioning his work ethic. "Well, you best take your trunk up to your room! No excuses for not getting your homework done! At least while you are doing that you aren't off trying to break into cars or whatever it is you do!"

Harry froze and looked at his uncle. He knew Vernon didn't want him to have his school things, he didn't want Harry to do his homework. But, most of all, he didn't want Harry to have access to his wand. Not that Harry's wand was in his trunk. After everything that had happened the last two years, he had owl ordered a wand holster, and as such his wand was stuck to his arm and hidden with a perception filter charm. "Don't go looking to your uncle for help, boy! Get that trunk upstairs now!" His uncle, now standing behind Marge, nodded and mouthed 'for now'. Harry guessed that he couldn't think of an excuse on the spot to lock Harry's trunk away and had decided to pretend it was perfectly normal until he could think up something that wouldn't leave his sister suspicious.

-ϟϟϟ-

After that, there had been the start of the whole thing with Hedwig. While Marge had accepted Vernon's excuse that at Brutus' they required pets to teach the boys responsibility, she still complained that her bulldog Ripper didn't like birds and that he was 'sensitive'. Sensitive was apparently code for 'evil little shit', at least that was Harry's opinion. He'd taken Hedwig straight to his room and set up a perch for her by removing the bars from her cage. It was crude but serviceable. He had just gone downstairs to ask Vernon if there were any old newspapers he could line her cage with, (there were always some as his uncle was an avid reader of the Daily Express. Harry, however, always remembered what he heard a comedian say about it once "well at least they are true to their advertising, the paper is daily and clearly written in a hurry), when there was a huge racket from his bedroom.

Ripper had snuck into Harry's room when Harry left the door open and was trying to jump up on top of the wardrobe where Hedwig had retreated to avoid the snapping jaws of her attacker. Harry grabbed the dog to pull it out of the room and away from his owl. He had been able to pull the dog out but had received a bite on his right arm for his trouble. The door now closed and Hedwig safe, Harry now turned his attention solely to keeping Ripper's teeth from ripping into him again. This was not as quiet he'd hoped, as evidenced by the three sets of feet thundering up the stairs.

Harry felt sick just thinking about their reactions. First up the stars had been his uncle, who just stood there watching. Marge came next and the bitch fucking laughed and encouraged the dog. It wasn't until Aunt Petunia had seen the blood that she said anything. But, not surprisingly, it wasn't to protect Harry, no, she was more concerned about Harry getting blood on the carpet.

God, He hated it here.

Aunt Petunia threw a toilet roll and a Crepe Bandage at him and told him to make sure not to get blood everywhere. Harry retreated to his room and sat on the bed. He made two pads out of the toilet paper, one for each side of his arm, and held them in place with the bandage. His arm seen to, it was time to strengthen out the room. He reset Hedwig's cage, then set about the task of coaxing her down off the wardrobe. Seeing his friend so shaken, Harry held her close, "It's Ok Hedwig, it's Ok. I promise I won't let him hurt you. Only a few more weeks before we can get out of this shithole."

-ϟϟϟ-

The next few weeks had been filled with cooking, cleaning, dodging his cousin (who'd arrived back from smeltings the next day), and trying to do something to help the roses survive Ripper. This was easier than it might have been, as the dog had stopped caring about the roses. Instead, the bulldog was constantly camped outside Harry door trying to get in at Hedwig. Harry had been bitten three times more by the dog so far and he seriously doubted it would be his last this summer.

If that wasn't enough, he was seriously missing Hermione. To be fair, he was missing any friendly contact. His friendship with Ron was strained and almost everyone else cared little for Harry, only for the-boy-who-lived, some mythical hero they'd built up to some impossible standard that no one could ever live up to, let alone a small, underwhelming and bespectacled boy. All this and the fact that Hermione filled both the role of best friend and girlfriend meant that Harry was feeling rather alone.

It hadn't helped that since becoming a couple the two of them had been practically inseparable, never spending more than ten hours away from each other, even if most of that time they were asleep. It wasn't entirely their fault; they eat their food in the same hall, went to the same classes, studied in the same library and relaxed and slept in the same tower. Even when they weren't working together or chatting they tended to be in the same space. The only real time they spent truly apart was when Harry was practising quidditch (Hermione only went to games, not practices) or when Harry was forced to go to classes while Hermione had been stuck in the hospital wing, once from the polyjuice and once from that bloody great big snake.

Even when Hermione had been petrified he had made his way to the hospital wing each day, telling Hermione about the classes he had had that day, then reading more of her books to her on the off chance she could hear him. Staying till Madame Pomfrey kicked him out for the day. He still wasn't sure if Madam Pomfrey let him stay for Hermione's benefit or his own. He definitely felt, well...not better, but less helpless as he sat there reading the 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' series to her. Just thinking of Hermione in that state lead his mind to another dark place. He couldn't believe that Hermione had had the answer in her hand and that he had spent days sitting next to it the whole time. That damned snake, he wanted to bring it back to life just so he could kill it again for what it had done. The thought of that it sent phantom pains through the crux of his right elbow, a remembered pain of the venom burning its way into his flesh.

God, he hated summer.

-ϟϟϟ-

July 31st

Harry awoke on his birthday like it was any other day at Privet Drive, with his aunt banging on the door and telling him to go cook breakfast. Harry wasn't surprised if he was lucky no one would say anything about him now being officially a teenager. Then he could pretend they had just forgotten, instead of deliberately doing it to hurt him.

He finished getting dressed; pulling on a lumpy old pair of Dudley's socks that he had grown out of about two years ago, a ratty old pair of trainers that he had grown out of at about the same time. Then he was off to cook enough bacon and fried eggs to feed a small platoon, or just three Dursleys. Aunt Petunia would have just tea and toast with whatever spread she chose that morning, if she stuck to her pattern.

Harry grabbed a package of 24 slices of British back bacon from the fridge, laying out the whole pack on the grilling rack and starting them to cook. He set the largest cast iron skillet on the hob, adding what he considered an obsessive amount of lard to the pan and set it on low heat. He put four slices of bread in the toaster, two cans of beans in a tub in the microwave and filled the kettle to boil the water for tea and coffee. Aunt Petunia as always was the first to come down, and her tea was already in the teapot and her toast cooking when she sat at the table.

"Marmite." No please, no thanks, just the one word. Not that Harry expected anything else as he grabbed the tar-like paste from the fridge, setting it next to the plate that was waiting for his aunt's toast. Soon everyone was down and the Dursleys were eating. Breakfast done, Harry made his way upstairs, finally able to take care of needing the bathroom and brushing his teeth. As he cleaned his teeth he smiled to himself, thinking of the lecture Hermione had given him on dental hygiene.

It was rather an interesting topic that showed the difference between Muggle and Magical cultures. Muggles couldn't really fix teeth, they could only add a hard substance to fake a tooth being there, such as fillings and false teeth. So muggles focused on prevention, pastes and brushes to stop there being a problem in the future. Magical folk, however, they just used charms to keep their mouths smelling and tasting fine. This did nothing to remove the problem though, but if a witch or wizard had a bad tooth that was easy enough to fix; just vanish the tooth and down a shot of Skele-Gro. 6 hours later and they have a new, perfectly healthy tooth.

Harry made his way back to the kitchen to clean up after breakfast and to see if there were any leftovers so that he could eat this morning. To his surprise, there were two pieces of bacon and a slice of toast. Hardly a feast but plenty for him. He cleaned up the plates and mugs and grabbed the plate with the toast and bacon on it to put it on top of the pile of dishes he was taking back to the kitchen.

"One second, Harry" He froze at Aunt Marge's words, hesitated for a second then turned back to her. She smiled at Harry, then took the bacon and folded the toast around it and fed it to the dog in her lap. She had done this on purpose, she had left the food there till he had seen it, just so she could take it away in front of him. Harry wanted to scream, he wanted to shout, he wanted to take the pile of dishes he was carrying and smash them over her fucking head. But, he knew that was exactly what she wanted. Instead, he did the only thing he could to strike out at her. He denied her the confrontation she wanted by smiling at her, somewhat viciously, "anything else Aunt Marge?"

-ϟϟϟ-

Later the same day

Aunt Marge definitely wasn't happy with how things went at breakfast. She had been pushing all day to get a rise out of Harry, ramping up the pressure each time. Now the Dursleys were sitting down to dinner, again cooked by Harry. Dudley had had the brilliant idea to get at Harry; he'd asked for shepherd's pie and treacle tart for dinner. This was probably Harry's favourite meal, and despite the fact that both dishes were of the classic British variety; namely heavy, rich, hot and very filling and an absolute godsend when it was cold and wet, they were being consumed in the totally unsuited summer heat. So they sat there eating Harry's favorite meal, while Harry hasn't had a bite of food all-day on this thirteenth birthday.

Then there was the dinner conversation he had to listen to, "You mustn't blame yourself for the way the boy's turned out, Vernon", Marge said between shoveling meat and potatoes into her mouth, "If there's something rotten on the inside, there's nothing anyone can do about it." Harry's hands shook even as his face remained impassive though he longed to burn them with his anger, and magic. She wanted him to fight. He had to keep his cool. Don't rise to it, "It's one of the basic rules of breeding," she continued on, definitely oblivious to Harry's rising temper, "You see it all the time with dogs. If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup."

How fucking dare she! She had never even met his mother, the woman who had literally given up everything, including her life, for Harry. Aunt Marge reached for her glass of wine, only to have the glass explode in her hand, the shards of glass cutting into her flesh. Harry watched as blood began to ooze from numerous small cut on the inside of her hand. Luckily, Marge just laughed it off, "Sorry about your glass Petunia. I have a strong grip. Let me just go sort my hand out. BOY! Clean up the glass, if even one shard ends up in my poor Rippy's paw there will be hell to pay.

Her threat finished, she left for the upstairs bathroom, her hellhound in step behind her. As soon as she was out of sight, Vernon turned on Harry. "You dare use your abnormality to attack my sister!?" He was out of his chair and was pulling off his belt. "I di-didn't", Harry stuttered, "T-that wasn't me." The belt was in Vernon's hands now, "BULLSHIT! I know your freakishness when I see it", Harry had backed into a corner of the room trying to put as much distance between him and his raging uncle as the room allowed. Searing pain flashed over Harry's back and shoulder as the strip of black leather found its mark. Again and again, the blows fell onto Harry's left side, feeling like it was on fire as uncounted blood vessels where broken under the improvised whip.

Harry cowered in the corner, trying to react as little as possible to the beating, though some tears and pained moans still escaped from him. He had learned over the years that they were longer if he screamed. Then everything changed.

There was a loud screech of pain and everyone stopped. It wasn't Harry's scream. It wasn't even on this floor of the house and, it wasn't human. "HEDWIG!" The blood drained from Harry's face. Now he could see what had happened; Marge had broken the glass on purpose. She had done it so that Harry would be busy cleaning while she went upstairs and let Ripper into his room where Hedwig was sleeping.

Harry got up and tried to rush to the stairs, only to be grabbed by his uncle. His uncle opened his mouth to start yet another of his verbal tirades, though unfortunately for Vernon Harry was now too focused on his owl that he was no longer concerned with holding his power in check. As a result of delaying the desperate boy, Vernon was relocated to the far side of the room, where he suddenly found himself being reintroduced to his wall with a sickening pop and crack from his shoulder and arm.

Harry was up the stairs in a flash. He tried to push open his door, Hedwig's continued screeches calling him to help, but the door wouldn't open. He tried again but the door wouldn't budge. Then he saw it; Aunt Marge had locked one of the seven locks that were on the door, a relic of the last summer Harry had spent in this hellhole. She had also added a padlock. Harry's mind raged and his power responded, rushing out to unblock his path, exploding the door and some of the surrounding masonry that was keeping him from Hedwig.

If Harry had been paying attention, he would have seen Marge standing in the bathroom, the door wide open, watching. The sadistic women wearing the biggest shit-eating grin she had ever worn. As Harry pulled on the door to try and get in finding it locked she mouthed the words "got you". Her triumph, however, was soon replaced by terror as at a gesture from Harry, the door exploded into shrapnel. The shrapnel that resembled matchsticks more than anything else and was suddenly filling the landing.

The sight that greeted Harry as the door disintegrated chilled him to the bone. Hedwig's pale white feathers were scattered around the room, her blood staining them, the ruby crimson standing out all the more due to the contrast. And there, in the middle of the room, a screeching Hedwig, her wing trapped in the jaws of her attacker.

Harry couldn't have held back if he tried, Hedwig wasn't just his pet and post owl. She was a magical creature and his familiar. And part of that bond was that his magic couldn't stand by and let her be hurt. While a more experienced wizard may have been able to direct the response more, Harry, with only two years of education under his belt, was just along for the ride. Harry felt the power in him flow, reaching out towards the dog, prying its jaws off the injured wing and freeing his friend. The offending mut was then thrown across the room through the door and into the opposite wall with a meaty thunk, where it slumped to the floor, never again to rise.

Seeing her prized bulldog stud die so suddenly cut through Marge's shock, fear and the rational parts of her brain. Marge charged at Harry, intending to hurt him for what he had done to her dog. But Harry still hadn't regained control of his magic yet. In fact, he was so worried about Hedwig he hadn't even tried. Hell, he was so worried about her, he didn't even know that he was being attacked. He would later find out that he had stuck his aunt to the ceiling with some accidental magic variation of a permanent sticking charm.

Harry now cradled his friend in his arms, tears freely flowing at the state of her wing. He stood, keeping Hedwig in his arms and just started walking, down the stairs, out the door, down the street. He had only a vague plan. Find a vet, get Hedwig to Diagon alley, there had to be someone there who could help. The problem was, without Hedwig he couldn't call for help from anyone. He had little Muggle money and he was down to his last 5 gallons till he got to Gringotts. He would use the Muggle money to get as close to London as possible. Then he would try and get the rest of the way as fast as he could, even if he had to walk.

He really needed Hermione right now. Hermione would know what to do. There would be a public floo access she had read about or a post owl office that he could use to call for help. Hermione would also probably know a better place to take Hedwig than a magical pet shop. Right now he just needed help.

It was then that Harry's magic decided to pull one more trick out of its hat tonight. He felt the flow of his power as it surrounded him, then started crushing him into a ball. Not painfully, but definitely not comfortable. Later, when Harry heard about Apparition training and the three D's, he would always add his own fourth; destination, determination, deliberation and lastly, desperation. He would also realize that he was incredibly lucky that all he left behind was his shirt, and not some part of himself.

That was how Harry appeared in the Grangers' dining Room, covered in belt marks, bruising and dog bites. Nothing to hide it from the three sitting down to dinner, but an owl with a mangled wing and her blood that was covering him. Seeing the one person who he thought could help Harry relaxed, "Hermione."

"Harry?!" With that one word from Hermione's lips, all the will and adrenaline that was keeping Harry going, allowing him to push forward despite the lack of food and heavy use of magic gave way and Harry's last act of will was to turn as he fell, ensuring that Hedwig would land atop him, not the other way around, as he slipped into unconsciousness.

-ϟϟϟ-

Author's Notes

From now on, all flashbacks will be in italics, so that you'll be able to see that it's not at the same time as the story.

ok, I admit I hated myself a little when I had Harry made that promise to Hedwig knowing what was going to happen. I originally intended for ripper and marge to put up a stronger fight at the end of the chapter but this felt more right as I wrote it.

a few small parts are lifted directly from the prisoner of Azkaban

P.S props to anyone who can name the comedian who made the Daily Express joke I used.