"Home sweet home." Harry said bitterly as the door of Dudley's second bedroom slammed closed behind him. "Well, I guess it was nice while it lasted. Stupid house elf."
Harry had been home from his first year at magic school for just a few weeks. It had been quiet and peaceful so far. He'd left his relatives with the impression that he could turn the lot of them into toads whenever he wanted if they gave him a hard time. Yeah, it had been kind of lonely-- they'd taken to completely ignoring his existence wherever possible-- but still better than years previous.
It had all ended today. He'd walked into his room and found an odd creature that called himself a house elf. He had warned him against returning to Hogwarts. When Harry had refused to stay home, he'd gone downstairs and dumped a pudding on his uncle's guest's head with magic.
Now uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were both furious since uncle Vernon had lost the big deal he'd been trying to close. Even worse, they now knew he wasn't allowed to do magic. A note had come from the Ministry warning him against underage magic use--which was really unfair since it hadn't even been him! Even worse, the warning had landed in his uncle's hand rather than his own. Uncle Vernon had wasted no time taking all Harry's school things and locking them up in his old bedroom--the cupboard beneath the stairs.
He was now locked in, and according to Uncle Vernon he would continue to be for the foreseeable future.
"Stupid house elf. Stupid Ministry."
His owl, Hedwig, hooted from her cage.
"Tell that ruddy bird to be quiet or I'll break her ruddy neck!"
A cold feeling of horror fizzled through Harry's veins. He knew better than to think it was an idle threat. He couldn't even let her out because stupid Uncle Vernon had padlocked her cage shut!
He hurried over to the cage and stroked her breast lightly to keep her calm. As he did his eyes fell on a latch he'd never really noticed before on the bottom of the cage.
"Huh. What's that?"
Some investigation gave him the answer. The bottom could be easily removed! He'd never noticed before. He'd always just reached in through the door to clean it before.
"Be real quiet, girl. Okay?"
He carefully undid the latches and lifted the top of the cage free, and then looked at the window. He really didn't want to do what he was about to do…but it was too dangerous for her not to. It was going to make being imprisoned in his room for the remainder of the summer a lot harder to take, and a lot lonelier too. In the end though Hedwig's life and safety was more important than his comfort.
He found an old notebook of Dudley's that had never been used and a broken pencil that still had a point. He tore out a page and scribbled a quick note, and attached it to Hedwig's leg with a bit of string.
"Take this to Ron, girl, and then stay there for the rest of the summer, okay? If he says he'll wring your neck, he means it. It's not safe here."
Hedwig seemed to object to leaving him there on his own, but Harry was adamant.
"Go girl. Be safe. Don't let them see you, okay?"
Hedwig finally relented. She flew to his shoulder and groomed his hair gently before heading for the freedom of the open window. Harry watched her till she was out of sight, his heart heavy.
Once she was gone he went and flopped on his bed and indulged in a prolonged pity party.
"It's been a weird year." Harry sighed.
A lot had happened. He'd met a talking snake, found out he was a wizard, gone to magic school, met the guy who'd murdered his parents…or what was left of him anyway. Now, he'd met a weird little green house elf, been threatened with more trouble at school, and was now being held prisoner by his loving relatives.
It was going to be a long summer. Hedwig had only be gone a few minutes and he missed her already. At least while she was here he had a fellow prisoner to keep him company.
In the end, Harry could only feel sorry for himself for so long. He was bored. Really bored. Bored enough to take a look at the piles of Dudley's broken junk that took up most of the space in the room in an attempt to distract himself from the fact that he was bored, lonely and trapped.
"Broken tv, broken game console, broken cars, broken action figures, unused school supplies…enough for three students. I really can't believe Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon let him be so bloody wasteful. Broken, burned, exploded, broken, broken, broken… Man. Why is all this crap even still in the house? Hmm…telescope. And it actually seems to be okay. Well, the base is broken and the casing is a bit cracked, but the lenses seem alright. Maybe I'll do some stargazing tonight. I do have astronomy homework… Wish I could remember what it was. Bugger. Encyclopedias, little engineer's project guide, everyday science, the wonderful world of mathematics… Who was dumb enough to buy all these for Dudley? It doesn't look like any of them was ever even opened. In fact, knowing Dudley I'm positive they weren't. The wonderful world of Doctor Who? Who's that? Children's classic literature. Boy Scout manual? Since when was Dudley a ruddy boy scout? Weird. Star Trek: The final frontier. What even is all this?"
Harry had always been a curious boy. Before Hogwarts books and the library had been his haven. He had long suspected that Dudley was allergic to books. He had often used that fact to his own advantage. Dudley and his gang had never bothered him when he'd hidden out in the library. It was odd, now that he thought about it. He'd become as bibliophobic as Dudley since he'd started Hogwarts. If he was honest it was mostly Ron's fault. Ron was as allergic to books and learning as Dudley. Harry had followed his lead so he wouldn't stop being friends with him.
Hermione, on the other hand, loved books, loved school work, loved learning. In a way she was just as responsible as Ron for Harry's aversion to the library. She liked being able to nag them about homework. He had thought, briefly, about letting his real intelligence show once he was away from the Dursleys and at Hogwarts, but his friendship with Ron and Hermione had killed that passing thought right quick.
He had been beyond curious about magic and all one could do with it, had wanted to delve into all its secrets… Instead, he had spent the year goofing off, playing endless rounds of chess and exploding snap and had only cracked open a book when absolutely necessary for homework or Voldemort-related research. He had a year of magic school under his belt, but in truth he knew little more than he had at the beginning of the year going in.
"It isn't like I can even try to make up for slacking off all year with all my stuff locked up." he realized. He sighed despondently and grabbed a book at random from the shelf and began flipping through it idly as he continued musing. "I can't even really do it while I'm back at school. Ron and Hermione are with me 24-7…except when I'm at quidditch practice. Can't really go early in the morning. I pretty much wake up in time for breakfast and not much else… and Hermione's usually already been awake for an hour or two. Damn."
Ron wouldn't leave him alone to read or study, and he would certainly blow a gasket if he wanted to spend time in the library.
Hermione would be supportive, but only so long as his grades never competed with hers. She was a vengeful sort and wouldn't take such an affront lying down. She would be as quick to sabotage his scholarly interests as Ron were that the case.
It suddenly occurred to him that with the way things were he was pretty much going to miss out on actually learning as much as he wanted to about magic. It was a depressing, not to mention sobering, thought.
"What am I even reading? The wonderful world of mathematics. It's something to do, I guess. I used to be pretty good at maths… though this doesn't look like the maths we did in school. Huh. Something new then."
He grabbed one of the empty notebooks and the broken pencil from before and laid across his bed to start reading.
Harry woke with a start when he heard the lock on the door opening. He'd fallen asleep on Dudley's math book. He shoved it , the notebook and pencil under his pillow just as the door swung open. Aunt Petunia would take all the books from the room if she thought he liked them or was touching them.
To his surprise, it wasn't aunt Petunia at the door, it was uncle Vernon. He had a drill in his hand, several packages at his feet, and a manic look in his eye that made Harry very nervous.
"Boy! Go see your aunt!" he barked. Harry was quick to comply.
When he got downstairs aunt Petunia simply sneered at him and started him on chores.
While he was weeding the garden a couple of men in a van appeared and installed bars over the window of Harry's room. Once they'd left, bars installed, Harry was called back in and given a sandwich--two slices of bread and a slice of cheese, and sent back upstairs. Uncle Vernon was waiting by his door looking well pleased with himself. He grabbed him roughly by the shoulder and tossed him inside, shutting the door behind him. The locks he'd just installed--a half dozen of them at least--were fastened one after another, each making a rather ominous 'snick' as they were engaged. Harry numbly noted a cat flap had been installed in the base of the door.
"Enjoy your stay boy! You'll be in there for a long, long time! You won't be going back to that ruddy school either! I've had enough! There will be no freaks and none of your ruddy nonsense in my house!"
Harry's blood ran cold and a cold sweat broke out all over his body. He banged on the door and rattled it in the frame, but Uncle Vernon just laughed and walked away.
"You quiet down in there, boy. If I have to come in there you won't enjoy it. Have fun, FREAK!"
He was trapped, a prisoner in his supposed 'home'. He had no way to tell anyone either; he'd sent Hedwig, his only link with the outside, away. Upon studying the bars on the window he realized it was probably just as well he had; she probably wouldn't have fit, even if he could get her out of her cage.
Yesterday had been his twelfth birthday; already twelve was looking to suck way more than eleven-- and he'd nearly gotten squashed by a troll and killed by one of his teachers while he was eleven!
Finally, exhausted and despairing, Harry sunk down in a miserable heap against the door. As of right now, his only hope was that someone would notice if he didn't show up for school September 1st and come investigate. If they didn't, he was trapped for good.
The next few days passed with agonizing slowness. He was let out in the morning to use the bathroom and then was immediately locked back in. He was fed once a day through the cat flap--usually cold cans of soup still in the can and a small cup of water. The room was stifling, and he was hungry all the time.
He began making his way through all the books in the room one after another in a desperate bid to keep from going mad. It was easy to lose himself in tales of space travel-- Dr. Who, who sounded like a wizard: his ship was bigger on the inside than out, and he had a 'sonic screwdriver' that sounded sort of like a wand! He also travelled through time! Star Trek was a crew of thousands on a massive ship whose job was to explore the galaxy.
It all sounded rather grand to him. He himself had never been anywhere but here and Hogwarts, and trapped as he was, a chance to explore all the known universe sounded like just the thing. With those out of the way he turned to the encyclopedias he started with looking up topics related to space exploration and moved out from there. Once he'd exhausted those he just flipped through each of them and read whatever caught his fancy.
He lost track of time even while keeping his mind sharp as he could. The walls, and the routine, never changed, and the Dursleys remained as hateful as ever. He no longer knew if he'd been trapped there for days or weeks, or if any kind of rescue was on its way or ever would be.
All this was on his mind as he sat on the floor by the window, peering at the moon through the bars.
"I'm not going to be able to get out of this on my own. I can't get out of the room, and even if I make a break for it when I'm let out for the bathroom, where will that leave me? I don't have any money, I don't have my wand either. With that I could at least try and do magic and get the ministry's attention…. And hope they rescue me rather than kick me out of school or arrest me."
It was at times like this that Harry really regretted his lack of parents. He had no one in the world to take his side, or look out for him. He'd been on his own for as long as he could remember--the Dursleys certainly never took care of him.
"I'm really stuck, aren't I? There isn't anyone."
The thought was entirely too depressing. He went back to his encyclopedia to try to take his mind off how very awful his life was. He was currently reading about Norse mythology. Harry figured Aunt Petunia didn't know there was stuff like that in here or she wouldn't have let them in the house.
"That's what I need. Intervention of a god would get me out of here. Who though? Not Thor. Yeah, he'd probably get me out, but he'd probably kill the Dursleys and wreck half the neighborhood before he was done, and then he would fry everyone with lightning. Loki would be a better choice. He'd do something sneaky. I need Slytherin not Gryffindor right now. I don't think Gryffindor tactics will help me much."
He chuckled to himself sadly as he realized Ron would probably disown himself as his friend if he could hear what he was thinking. Heck, Hermione probably would too.
"Maybe Slytherin with a touch of Ravenclaw. Sneaky and smart."
Harry smiled to himself wryly. "I guess I've finally cracked. My only escape plan is to hope an ancient Norse god decided to help me." He looked up at the moon again and chuckled. "Couldn't hurt, right? Loki, god of mischief, god of lies, hear my prayer. I need help. I need… help."