Ever After

Taxes

“More eggs, Cousin Dudley?”

Dudley didn’t even glance at Harry or pause in his eating. He just grunted and grabbed the goblet of pumpkin juice. Harry tried not to roll his eyes – how Aunt Petunia ever thought she was going to be able to get someone to marry her disgusting, glutinous blob of a son completely eluded him.

As if she had read his thoughts, Petunia said, “Now, Dudley dear, try and show a bit more decorum. The Princess isn’t going to be impressed if you eat like that.”

Now Harry really did roll his eyes. Ah, yes, the Princess. Petunia, some years ago, had got it into her head that Dudley was, of course, going to marry the royal Princess despite the fact that, not only had the Dursleys never been to court, but that the minute Harry was 17 he was going to throw them straight into prison. They had even overlooked the fact that the Royal family were all magical – “Royalty is royalty, after all,” Harry had once overheard Petunia saying to Vernon.

Of course, Harry thought, table manners were the least of Dudley’s problems when it came to wooing eligible young noble women. Already fat as a baby, Dudley’s size hadn’t diminished over the years. In fact, he had slowly and steadily eaten his way until he was the size of a small dragon and didn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. It certainly did nothing but help reinforce the notion that he was some kind of enormous intelligent pig.

Well, semi-intelligent.

Poor Princess Ginevra,’ Harry thought, moving on to offer eggs to Vernon. He felt quite sorry for the faceless Princess who was fated to be the lone female of the royal siblings. The six princes of the realm – William, Charles, Percival, Frederick, George and Ronald – got to share the noble ladies of the land amongst them. Poor Ginevra had to fight off all the suitable males by herself.

He wondered what it was like for her, to be surrounded by simpering mothers, such as Aunt Petunia who were constantly trying to thrust their bumbling sons at her. Harry had trouble believing that any other mothers were as bad as her, or any other noblemen quite as awkward or moronic as Dudley, but still. She was only a year younger than Harry, after all. It must be very lonely.

As he often did when thinking about the Royal Family, Harry wondered whether his mother would have been like that if she had lived. Harry liked to think not – he didn’t want to think that Lily Potter had anything in common with the grasping Petunia Dursley. Maybe he would have been friends with one of the Princes – he knew that Ronald, the youngest, was roughly his age.

Most of the young noble men went to Durmstrang, an exclusive boarding school for the aristocracy where the young aristocrats learnt to read, write, fence, ride and all other such things that the nobility are supposed to know. It, and the girls’ equivalent Beauxbatons, were the only places in the kingdom which taught magic to those eligible nobles. Anyone else had to hire a costly private tutor. Harry knew that his father and Sirius had both attended but had realised at a very young age that the Dursleys would never allow him to go.

The one, small blessing was that Dudley did not go. Harry didn’t think he would be able to stand it if Dudley had attended Durmstrang and he had been left behind. Harry found it very hard to be close to his parents, despite the endless stories recounted by Remus and Sirius. The manor house stank too much of the Dursleys to let him feel their presence and Durmstrang was the one untainted place he had left.

But if they were still alive, then Harry might have met the royal family there and made friends for life, just like his dad had with Sirius.

Harry sighed quietly, now filling up Vernon’s cup with hot tea. As it stood now, he wouldn’t recognise royalty if they passed him in the street. All he knew about them was that they all had bright red hair. And they certainly wouldn’t look twice at him.

“Nonsense, Petunia,” Uncle Vernon said, in his usual barking way, making Harry jump as he was pulled from his reverie. “Our Dudley is pure charm – the Princess would be swept off her feet.”

Luckily this sort of talk had been common place in the Dursley household for the past two years or so, so Harry had long ago lost the uncontrollable urge to snigger, something that in the past had earned him a few whippings. None of them had believed Aunt Petunia at first when she’d announced that Dudley was going to marry the Princess and some of them (well, Tonks) laughed outright when she heard. Aunt Petunia hadn’t liked that – she’d ordered Tonks to be whipped so thoroughly that she hadn’t been able to sit down properly for a week and promptly sent her out on horseback for business. Petunia had a vicious cruel streak.

“Well, it doesn’t hurt to take care of the basics,” Aunt Petunia sniffed, pushing half heartedly at her boiled eggs. “I know that our Dudders will win the heart of the kingdom, but a little decorum won’t hurt him.”

All Vernon replied to at that was “Hmm”. Dudley, already on his third helping of bacon, certainly paid his mother no mind. He grunted which Harry, after long years of serving dinner, had come to interpret as “more food”. As he moved round to his cousin with yet more food, Aunt Petunia started rattling of the day’s list to Harry.

“Now, boy,” she said stiffly, as though speaking to him caused her great pain, “I want you to send that girl” – ‘that girl’ being Hermione as the Dursleys never bothering to learn their names – “down to the market this afternoon and buy our Duddikins some new material for clothes. He has grown out of his old court clothes” – ‘Hardly surprising,’ thought Harry – “and we need some more to be made for upcoming festivities next month. It’s going to be a very special time for us and if she doesn’t get it exactly right there’ll be no food for her for a month.”

“Yes, Aunt Petunia,” Harry said automatically, before doing a double take. “Wait – court? But you never...”

He shut his mouth as all the Dursleys stared at him, outraged, even Dudley (although his expression was more that of gleeful expectation. He loved seeing Harry punished). “Sorry, my Lady,” Harry added quickly, hoping he wasn’t going to be too strictly punished. The staffing situation was strained enough – poor Hermione would probably pass out if she had to do everything on her own today.

Either Aunt Petunia knew this or the ‘My Lady’ had softened her (she quite despised the fact that Harry had a right to talk to her as an equal) but there was no punishment. Instead, Aunt Petunia took in a deep breath and said, “It will need to be blue. Not those insipid turquoise colours or navy, but a nice cornflower blue. Blue brings out Dudley’s eyes.” Her eyes narrowed. “And I’m warning you, boy!”

“Yes, my Lady,” Harry said.

“Well?” she snapped. “Get to it!”

“Yes, my Lady,” Harry responded, relieved and quickly rushed towards the door before she could change her mind.

But as he was heading out the door, Aunt Petunia said, almost triumphantly, “Everything is certainly falling into place.”

Harry looked back at her curiously. He didn’t see what she had to be so satisfied about. Dudley still looked, ate and smelt like a pig and even if he was finally making his way into court she couldn’t honestly truly expect the Princess to marry him.

Could she?

He suddenly felt cold and a sense of foreboding made him shudder. What was Aunt Petunia up to?


It never ceased to surprise Hermione just how many jobs there were to do in Godric’s Hollow, especially considering it housed barely a fifth of its potential capacity.

But then, she mused wryly, the Dursleys were demanding enough for 10 people, not 3.

This was especially true of Petunia. Dudley was too lazy to care and Vernon just liked to yell a lot, but Petunia was exacting and shrill. If there was so much as a speck of dust in a room she would make Harry or Hermione clean out the whole room from top to bottom. And she seemed to find specks at least twice a day.

Luckily most of the time the tasks could be made easier with magic, but if Petunia ever caught them using spells she would lock them in the bare cupboard off the kitchen with no food or water for a whole day. So they had to keep a careful ear out for Petunia’s sharp footsteps as they worked.

Harry and Hermione tended to share the cooking and cleaning in the house, although Harry was better at cooking and she the cleaning. Hermione also had to do the laundry and Harry had to exercise the horses, for he was an unusually good horseman. Sirius did it when he was younger, but he was often quite short tempered with the equines and they shied away from Remus, no doubt smelling the wolf on him.

Hermione didn’t begrudge Harry his time with the horses. For, whilst he enjoyed the feeling of freedom cantering around the paddock brought, Hermione quickly realised that laundry entailed rather a lot of time sitting around.

Time she could spend reading.

Hermione didn’t know what it was about books that held her interest so. A servant all her life, she could barely read before coming to Godric’s Hollow. The Malfoys had frowned upon servant literacy almost as much as the presence of magic in the lower classes.

But Remus and Sirius were not like that. They had forced her to practice, again and again, recognising words and sounding them out until her head swam and she wanted to yell at them. But one day she managed to read an entire passage perfectly... and it was like someone had lit a fire within her. She just couldn’t get enough.

It came to her that, within the pages of the often dusty tomes stored untouched in the Potter’s library, there was a whole world of knowledge that she could access. Not just about magic, but about different people, different cultures, different places. Places, she vowed to herself, she would one day see.

But today was different. She had no time to sit around reading. Instead she set off some basic cleaning charms and dashed out of the scullery and onto the farm. Sirius had taken over the farm some years ago. He had said he liked being outside (which was true) but they all knew it was so he could spend as little a time with the Dursleys as possible.

And out of their way it kept him, for the farm was a large one. It had to be, to sustain most of what Dudley ate and supply surplus to sell at the markets, not to mention feed themselves as well. Dursleys cared much more about making money at market then ensuring their servants were well fed. If productivity fell then they would go hungry.

Luckily for Sirius, however, the Dursleys knew absolutely nothing about farming, which meant they weren’t at all suspicious with just how much food he could produce all on his own without losing any to insects or disease. Hermione knew he felt a sadistic sort of glee knowing that the Dursleys ate magicked food every single night.

Well, he had to get his kicks somehow.

“Hermione!”

Hermione jumped from her musings to see Harry jogging across the field to her, lugging a big wicker basket. “Hi, Harry – how’s your morning been?”

“Same old,” Harry shrugged, but he looked a bit unsettled. “I don’t know,” he said, when Hermione asked him what was wrong. “I’ve just got a bad feeling.”

“Is it about Remus?” Hermione asked, anxiously. She had grown especially close to Remus over the past few years as he was a dedicated scholar, just like herself.

“No,” Harry said, shaking his head, although he, too, was worried about the werewolf. “Just something Aunt Petunia said...” He trailed off, uncertain.

After a pause, Hermione gave herself a little shake. “Well, whatever it is it’ll come when it comes,” she said sensibly. “What we do know, however, is that we’ll get flogged if we don’t get the vegetables in.”

As she’d hoped, Harry laughed at her practical mind. “Well, actually Aunt Petunia has instructed me to give you another job.”

Hermione frowned at him. She didn’t often get specific jobs from the Dursleys. “What does she want?”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Apparently there’s going to be some big hoo-ha up at the palace next month and they want you to get some material for court clothes for Dudley.”

Hermione’s jaw actually dropped open. “You mean they’re actually going?” she squeaked, shocked. “I mean, they’ve talked about it for years but they’ve never even touched the gates before now.”

Harry frowned. “I know,” he said, shifting awkwardly. “That’s what Aunt Petunia was talking about that got me so worried. I’ve just got a bad feeling about all this,” he proclaimed again, staring off into the distance, expression troubled.

“Well, you never know,” Hermione said, after an uneasy pause, “Maybe Dudley will end up the marrying the Princess and leave you and Godric’s Hollow alone. That’s all you’ve ever really wanted.”

Harry gave a shout of laughter. “Poor Princess!” Harry said, laughing. “Hermione, that’s really cruel.”

“Well...” Hermione smiled a little. “I suppose that might be a little mean.”

“A little? Bloody Merlin, I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy!”

“I thought Dudley was your worst enemy?”

Harry started laughing again and Hermione smiled, relieved the tension had gone. She wasn’t sure Harry had noticed, but he tended to get a bad feeling just before something awful happened. Usually it was just before someone was fired and their duties were upped once more. The last time had been a day before Tonks had fallen off her horse and nearly been trampled to death. Hermione wasn’t sure if it was because he was very good at reading the Dursleys or if he had some latent talent in foretelling (even if it did seem to her to be a very wishy-washy side of magic) but she had learned to respect Harry’s bad feelings.

Even if he didn’t.


“Inflamare!”

Harry grinned as the weed blew apart in smouldering ash leaving the plants nearby intact. Sirius had made him practice that particular spell again and again until he could burn a single twig on a broomstick (an ordinary one, not one of their few, prized flying ones) before he would let him anywhere near his garden.

Sirius was somewhat protective of his plants.

“Inflamare!”

Harry grinned as he managed to burn two separate weeds together. Hermione was much better at this than him – on a good day she could simultaneously burn all the weeds in a three foot radius and leave nay a singe on the vegetables.

But then Hermione was just good at magic.

Idly imploding weeds, Harry pondered his best friend. Hermione probably didn’t know – in fact, Harry was certain she’d be utterly confused and horrified – but Harry often felt sorry for the muggle-born witch. She was far too bright to waste her days as a lowly servant. It did not seem fair that she could never have the chance to learn, to make something of herself.

Why, if it hadn’t been for a chance encounter with Tonks she would most likely have died – either on the streets, or after being caught up with the so-called Death Eaters out in the forests

Well, he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps. One of the first things he had learned about James was that his father didn’t care where people had come from. He saw people as people, not servants and masters. When he was rightfully recognised as Earl they would all be free. Hermione, Remus, Sirius and Tonks wouldn’t be servants any longer, their pride be damned. They would be equals.

He smiled as he blasted a particularly gnarled, blobby looking weed imagining it was Dudley.

Yep, change was round the corner now.


Hermione left the cloth shop feeling better than before. Whilst she detested spending any money on the Dursleys, especially Dudley, she did enjoy seeing Arabella again.

Hermione had only been at Godric’s Hollow a few months before the Dursleys had fired the old nursemaid, as they had so many of the other staff. But Arabella had spent more than a decade looking after Harry and she was determined not to go too far.

So she had petitioned her old friend, Madam Malkin, to give her a job in her local clothing shop, working as a seamstress. Although she was old and her eye sight was poor now, Madam Malkin had not the heart to turn away her friend and now Arabella kept shop for her.

It hadn’t been easy scrounging together enough blue silk to cover Dudley’s vast bulk, but between the two of them they devised a suitable design that would look expensive enough to satisfy the Dursleys but used the least amount of fabric and money.

As always, however, happiness didn’t last long and instead Hermione found her feet dragging the closer she got back to the Manor. ‘I should really hurry,’ she told herself. ‘I’ve still got about a hundred chores to do and it’s already getting late,’ she added, the sun already beginning to set in the sky.

But instead she found herself looking at the trees and flowers lining the sides of the dusty road and her pace lagging even more. It was sometimes hard to appreciate how beautiful the world was when she was at Godric’s Hollow. True, she had four amazing friends – family, she amended – but everything around them was tainted by the Dursleys and it was hard to appreciate anything, knowing that any one of the Dursleys could turn up and take it away or spoil it whenever they felt like it.

Sometimes she thought wistfully back to her half remembered early years with the Malfoys. Yes, they were a snooty, cold family who looked at servants as mere objects, but they were indifferent. The Dursleys were downright vindictive, especially when it came to Harry.

“NOOOOOO!”

Hermione stopped, shocked, as the scream ripped through the peaceful air. ‘Sweet Merlin, that was Harry,’ she thought, feeling cold. She had never heard him yell like that before. Something was horribly wrong.

Hermione picked up her skirts and started running, basket of blue silk forgotten and tumbling onto the dusty road. She wasn’t too far from the Mansion, but the trees that lined the avenue blocked her view of the house. But, between the thuds of her feet on the ground and the panting of her breath, she thought she could make out muffled thuds and yells, though none so clear as the first one.

Even worse, she could see the faint colours of spell fire.

That was bad. Really bad. Harry would never use magic that obvious unless his life was in danger. Hermione picked up her speed, Harry’s words of earlier echoing in her mind: “I’ve just got a bad feeling...something Aunt Petunia said.”

Hermione tore round the gates and faltered, horrified.

At the front of the house was a heavily laden cart, being loaded up with various bits of furniture, vases and other heirlooms of the Potter household. By the front door, a white faced Vernon and Dudley stood watching, whilst four men in red pulled themselves shakily off the floor. A fifth man in red stood smirking.

In the centre, frozen and confused, was Harry, staring in shock at the Aunt who had just slapped him across the face.

He was clapped in irons.


Harry was kicking himself.

Or he would be, if he wasn’t currently occupied by kicking the strange men that had decided to grab him.

He wasn’t quite sure how it had all happened. One moment he was quite happily summoning apples off the trees in the orchard (making a game out of it, too – he was well on his way to beating his previous record) when his Aunt Petunia had suddenly appeared behind him.

“Er... Aunt Petunia,” Harry said, whipping his wand out of sight and feeling sweat break out on his forehead: catching someone using magic usually meant 20 lashes and two days without food.

But, despite the pinching of her lips, all Aunt Petunia had said was “Boy, we need you out front. Move.” And then she turned briskly and went away.

Harry had figured that, for once, his aunt had realised just how understaffed they were and let him off the hook.

Yes: he was an idiot.

So, feeling oddly light, Harry dropped off the apples in the kitchen before hurriedly running round the front to see what his Aunt needed. And then he saw it.

It was just a cart: nothing special really. Creaking, tired wooden slats pulled by dull, listless horses. But it was not the cart that stopped Harry dead in his tracks. It was what was being loaded on it.

“What are you doing?” Harry yelled, horrified.

It was as though sound stopped for a second. His aunt and uncle, Dudley, even the men loading the cart, all stopped and turned to stare at him. Harry knew he should care – he couldn’t remember ever yelling at the Dursleys like that before and, Merlin knew, they beat him bad enough already – but nothing had enraged him quite so much as this.

“We’re selling this useless stuff,” Aunt Petunia said simply, face cold as marble.

She didn’t even reprimand him for his attitude. Warning bells were starting to go off in Harry’s head, but he ignored them. “‘Useless stuff’?” he repeated, clenching his fists. “These are my parents possessions!” He motioned angrily to the pile of tapestries, books, vases and various other artefacts that had lived in Godric’s Hollow for as long as he could remember.

“Wrong,” Petunia corrected him coldly, pursing her lips. “They are our possessions and, as such, we can do what we like with them.”

Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. They’d been trying to erase all memory of his parents for years, but they had never done anything so obvious before now. “They are NOT your possessions,” Harry growled, hand going to his wand. “They are MY possessions and I refuse to sit by and watch you sell them in order to spend any more money on my useless, charmless, LUMP of a cousin!”

Petunia smiled frostily at him. “You,” she said, gesturing at the men, “are not my problem anymore.”

And that’s when Harry found himself fighting for his life.

Is this really happening?!’ Harry thought to himself, feeling himself fighting and punching the men surrounding him but from a strange distance, as though it was not really him fighting at all. It suddenly came to him that he was not only an idiot, but an idiot twice, thrice over.

You’re a wizard, Harry,’ he told himself, exasperated. ‘Use your bloody wand!

Of course, by this point, this was easily said than done as both his arms well being held back and he was being inched towards a cart he hadn’t seen before – a cart with a cage on the back...

“NOOOOOOOOOO!”

Finding a new surge of strength he managed to free his right hand and grab his wand. After that the four men fell easily, muggles that they were they had no idea how to fight a wizard.

Stupefy! Expelliarmus! Reducto!”

Harry smiled to himself as he rounded on his relatives. The Dursleys had finally gone too far and nearly 16 years of torment and anguish were finally going to catch up with them. He had put up with them for long enough and now they were going to pay, minor or no.

“INCARCEROUS!”

Harry froze, dread filling him as he was struck by the spell. Iron handcuffs immediately materialised over Harry’s hands and feet, squeezing his wrists and ankles painfully. There was a strange magic in the irons, too: Harry couldn’t move his limbs, almost as if he’d been hit by the petrificus curse. He looked round in consternation. What had happened?

As Harry looked over in shocked confusion as a fifth man, one he hadn’t seen earlier, came round the side of the cart and smirked at him as he twirled his wand idly round his fingers. “Dear me, my Lady,” he tutted, “I see what you mean about a rebellious servant.” He shot a look over to the triumphant looking Petunia. “I’m surprised you didn’t call us in sooner.”

“Well, what’s done is done,” Petunia said, matter of factly, walking down the steps at the front of the manor and approaching Harry. “His wand?” she added, sharply.

“Of course, my Lady,” the wizard said, reaching over and simply plucking it out of Harry’s helpless hand. Bending the wood quickly he snapped it and let the pieces fall to the floor. Harry looked down at the splinters, feeling hollow. That had been his father’s wand, one of the few things that had been salvaged from the crash. He’d had that wand almost since he could hold one.

“Aunt Petunia, what are you doing?” Harry croaked, hating how desperate he sounded.

She slapped him.

Harry, his head ringing, looked up to see his Aunt sneer at him. “How dare you speak so familiar with me, servant,” she hissed, low enough that only he could hear her. Her eyes shined in hate. “You are nothing more than a burden thrown upon my poor family, cheeking us, shirking your duties, using that unnatural magic whenever you could. You are a lowly, evil little freak... and we’ve had enough.”

She straightened up and walked away. “Take him away,” she said to the fifth man, who smirked and motioned to his colleagues. They moved in on him menacingly.

“Aunt Petunia!” Harry yelled, suddenly feeling terrified for the first time in his life. “AUNT PETUNIA!”

She didn’t look back.


As Harry watched his one remaining blood relative disappear inside his own house, he felt something inside him break. He had never thought he had any illusions about his relatives. They had treated him – treated them all – like slaves, vindictively destroying anything he enjoyed and torturing poor Remus every month. But he had never thought that even they would go so far as to throw him in jail.

“Get off me!” Harry yelled, trying to struggle as the first of the men grabbed him and began hauling over to the cage. But it was no good: the enchantment still held him strong and one of the men hit him on the head for his efforts.

As Harry swore, his vision swimming, he heard a new voice enter the fray.

“No! What are you doing?! Let GO of him!

Harry turned his head and felt his stomach plummet. Hermione, eyes streaming tears which she didn’t seem to notice, was running full pelt down the drive. “No, Hermione, go back!” he croaked, trying to twist round to see her better, but she didn’t hear.

“Oi, shut it,” one of the grunts said, shaking him hard making his already aching head spin more.

“Yes, prisoners don’t talk,” the wizard said oily and snapped, “Silencio.” He ignored the furious Harry and turned instead to look at Hermione, who had just come to a halt in front of them, panting and livid. “Move out of the way, girl,” he sneered. “This delinquent is now the property of the King.”

“What are you talking about?” Hermione snapped, hands curling into fists. She looked about three seconds short of cursing them all. “He’s nobody’s property! How dare you!”

“Shut your mouth, wench,” the red wizard said, voice cold. “What your master and mistress do with their servants are none of your business.”

“Release him,” Hermione said slowly, eyes almost glowing they were so angry. Harry saw her hand reaching slowly to where he knew she kept her wand and suddenly he felt cold.

“No, Hermione!” he tried to say, but nothing came out. He felt panicky – it was bad enough that he was to rot alone in a jail cell for the rest of his life; he didn’t want the same to happen to her. He settled for shaking his head madly, but either Hermione didn’t notice or she ignored him.

The wizard’s mouth smirked up in amusement. “And you’re going to stop me how, little girl?” he sneered. “I am the King’s man, this servant has just been sold to me and I have all the power of the law on my side.”

Harry saw Hermione falter at that. She knew what it meant: if she struck out at any of them, she could end up in jail with Harry. But Hermione stuck out her chin and persevered angrily. “I’m telling you, you have to let him go!” she cried. “He’s not a servant! He’s Earl Harry Potter – this is his land, his estate – Petunia has no right to sell him. If you sell him then you’re committing a crime.”

Harry turned his head away as the men all broke out into laughter at that. He knew how it looked: powerful, immaculately dressed Lady Petunia versus the word of rebellious, dirty, female servant. He knew who he would believe were he in their shoes.

Hermione had gone red in the face at their sniggers. She knew that she had no chance, but couldn’t give up on him. “Let him GO!” she yelled, and reached for her wand.

As if this had been the signal he had been waiting for, the red wizard flourished his own wand, yelling “Expelliarmus!” and Hermione shot back through the trees, wand flying far away. Hermione herself went straight into a tree, instantly crumpling to the floor.

“HERMIONE! HERMIONE!” Harry yelled, panicking, but the silencing charm was still in place. He struggled as best as he could then, trying to get to his best friend and see if she was alright. But the men were having none of it.

“Enough of this nonsense,” the red wizard snapped, motioning towards Harry. Harry felt the hands tug at him once more and tried even harder, but nothing he did had any effect. It was as though his brain had been disconnected from the rest of his body. As he was pulled further and further back he stared at the tree, watching and willing the bushy haired girl to rise: not to rescue him, but so that he could see she was alright.

They threw Harry into the cage and he silently cried out as his head hit the metal bars, causing his vision to swim before his eyes. One good thing about the cage, though, was that the freezing charm of the handcuffs was neutralised and he could move again.

As the cart jolted forward, Harry stumbled to the end and watched Godric’s Hollow disappear feeling empty inside. It was the only home he had ever known and he both loved and hated it. He loved it because of its connection with his parents and not just them, but all the Potters. They had owned the mansion for generations, each one farming the same land, sitting in the same chairs, reading the same dusty books.

The reason he also hated it was because of the Dursleys, how they had pushed aside everything that made it special and tried to turn it into their own especially awful brand of fakery and falseness, not to mention vindictive spite. They covered up everything that was good and made it something ugly and nasty.

But what he felt most, as he was pulled slowly further away, was disappointment. He had planned for years what he would do when he officially took up his role of Earl: how he would change the house, how he would treat his own servants, how he would deal with his tenants. How he would uncover everything that the Dursleys had tried to hide and make it brilliant again.

Now all those dreams were put to waste.

Harry curled up in the side of the cage and began to cry.


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