Six days had passed and Harry had yet to hear the voice again, he began questioning if it was all a dream. But no, the touch of the voice had been real, he knew it. When the voice touched him it was… he couldn't describe it. Comforting, yes, but also so much more. It was a touch that he couldn't remember… a caring, protective touch, one he knew he had received from his parents so many years ago. The only time he was ever touched now was violently. Constantly pushed, pulled, shoved, hit. Nothing was ever gentle… soothing.
Harry thought about the voice every day, and hoped and prayed that it would return. He wanted to hear it again so badly, so much so that he felt… addicted. He yearned for it, for the comfort. It was the only hope he had, the hope that Dumbledore hadn't forgotten about him.
Today was one of the few days during the summer that Harry was allowed to accompany the Dursley's out of the house. He wasn't entirely sure where they were going as Vernon had only shouted up the stairs for him to get dressed and that they were leaving. Worrying over wearing the appropriate attire wasn't an issue as Harry only had a handful of Dudley's old outfits to wear.
Harry sighed as he tightened the belt around the pants that would forever be too large on his small thin body. He hated going out with the Dursley's just as much as he hated being left in the house all summer long. Trying to flatten his hair, he marched down the steps.
"Let's go." Vernon snapped as he roughly yanked Harry by the arm down the last two steps and out the door. Petunia was already in the car waiting when Vernon shoved Harry into the backseat.
"Is Dudley not coming?" Harry asked as innocently as possible, trying not to earn a yell.
"No." Vernon simply said before putting the car in reverse and backing out of the tiny driveway.
The car was silent as they rode, Harry looking out the window and enjoying the chance to see the town. After ten minutes they pulled up in front of Dudley's school and Harry couldn't help but be surprised. Why were they here? Especially without Dudley? During his thoughts, Harry hadn't realized that his aunt and uncle had already exited the car.
"What are you doing boy?! GET OUT!" Vernon yelled, hitting the glass window of the car door where Harry sat. Harry jolted and practically pulled the handle off the door trying to get out quickly. He really didn't want a beating today.
They walked inside and Harry stood out of the way while Petunia spoke with the lady at the front desk. They were led through the hallways and into a classroom and Harry was quietly and quickly instructed by his uncle to sit in one of the desks.
"Now boy, you listen to me. I expect you to sit here, silently, while Petunia and I converse with Dudley's teacher. You make one peep and I swear I will hit you so hard when we get home that you won't be able to see straight for a week. You understand?" Vernon growled lowly.
Harry quickly nodded his head. He hated how submissive he was forced to be during the summer, he was a Gryffindor for Merlin's sake! He should be standing up to his uncle! But he knew he had no choice but to stay with them during the summer… he couldn't run… he couldn't stand up for himself. He had to suffer with it for only a few more years…. 'Only a few more years' Harry thought while he rubbed his prickling forehead.
A few minutes passed while Petunia and Vernon- who had somehow managed to squeeze himself into one of the desks- sat in silence. Suddenly the door burst open and an older woman, probably in her sixties Harry guessed, entered.
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley I presume?" She asked. She looked a bit befuddled, hair and glasses both slightly askew. She looked like the kind of older woman who lived alone and owned about seven too many cats. Harry had to keep himself from laughing at the woman.
Pleasantries were exchanged before the woman, who introduced herself as Miss Thompson, one of the English teachers here at the school, looked suspiciously at Harry.
"Oh, forgive our rudeness," Vernon spoke quickly, "This is Harry, our nephew. His mother and father were killed many years ago and we took him in. We apologize for having to bring him to this meeting, but he has promised to be quiet and will not be a distraction" Vernon finished with a pointed look at Harry. Miss Thompson looked slightly taken aback at the overly informative introduction of Harry, but then gave him a pitiful look.
The meeting continued, the three adults conversing about Dudley and something about him wanting to sign up for an advanced class the upcoming year. Harry ignored the conversation.
'They brought me here to show me off!' Harry thought, somehow slightly astounded. 'Bring the poor pathetic little boy who lost his parents in to earn sympathy points… this is why Vernon hasn't punished me in the past few days, he didn't want me covered in bruises'. Harry bristled, he truly could not stand his unfortunate family. 'Show me off as the sad little boy that you took in out of the kindness of your hearts…' Harry took a deep breath, trying unsuccessfully to control his anger. He wanted nothing more than to beat every single one of the Dursley's over the head.
During his mental tirade, Harry had not noticed the swirl of magic in the air. His magic. Petunia stumbled over her words for a moment, feeling something change in the atmosphere around them. She continued talking, not paying it much mind, but suddenly she felt her seat begin to rise.
Vernon did a double take as his wife slowly rose into the air, his eyes comically wide. "What- what the-".
Hearing the pause in conversation, Harry's mind came back into focus just in time to see the desk his aunt was currently sitting in, rise into the air before unceremoniously and unexpectedly flipping itself over. Petunia fell to the ground with a surprisingly loud thud for a woman so thin. Miss Thompson jumped from her seat, shocked, but nonetheless offering her hand to Petunia as the desk returned to the ground.
Harry sat, eyes wide, knowing what had happened. He let his magic go uncontrolled- again! As his eyes turned towards his uncle, he knew this was bad. Vernon was standing there, face red, trying to control his bull-like panting. Harry saw out of the corner of his eyes his aunt being helped to her feet by Miss Thompson, who looked shocked and confused. Before Harry had time for another thought, he felt meaty hands gripping his hair.
Harry screamed out of reflex from the sharp pain. Before he could even get his feet under him, Vernon had dragged him out the classroom door, obviously not worried about his saint-like image any longer.
Harry was still trying to divest Vernon's hand from his hair when he was thrown into the backseat of the car. He heard multiple doors slam.
"WHEN WE GET HOME YOU ARE DEAD."
Harry simply lay in the seat, not even bothering to sit up. He contemplated for a moment opening the door and jumping out of the car, but at the speed his uncle was driving in his fury Harry thought better of it. The black haired boy closed his eyes, still rubbing his head trying to get the sting out. He knew this would be bad when they reached home. Really bad.
Harry lay once more in his tiny bed, silent tears falling down his face. Harry thought back to the moment he was sure his uncle was truly going to kill him, and closed his eyes tightly as fresh tears sprang from his eyes. He hadn't meant to do anything during the meeting, he really hadn't, but once again his anger got the best of him. Harry turned his head into his flat pillow, he wouldn't think about it, it had happened before and it had happened again- he had lost control of his magic. It was worse this time, as Vernon and Petunia had obviously been trying to impress the teacher- what was her name again? Either way, it wasn't just an accident that had happened at home behind closed doors. This was at Dudley's school, where no doubt the Dursley's meeting would be the talk of the remainder of the summer.
Harry wanted to sit up as he had been lying down for hours now, but he knew it wasn't worth it- everything hurt. He would be sore for days, and hated to even think of how black and blue his skin was right now. Vernon had done- no, Harry didn't want to think about it. Harry thought back to the last time this happened, the last time he had laid in bed, bruises covering his body. Harry thought about the voice, about how it had healed him.
'When are you coming back?' he thought. He knew it had just been a dream, but how he so wished to close his eyes and feel the warm caresses of the voice once again, even if only in his dreams.
Harry finally decided he needed to move, lying in one spot was not helping his stiff muscles. He slowly, carefully lifted himself up onto his knees. He paused, taking deep breaths as he looked down onto the sheets covering the bed- they were stained with blood. Petunia wouldn't be happy about that in the morning.
When he felt ready, Harry leaned back to sit on his butt, not without groaning through the pain. He sat for a moment before opening his eyes and inspecting the damage. He was right, he was covered in black bruises. He saw cuts and scrapes along his legs, some of which were still slightly bleeding, as well as hand prints along his arms. Harry sighed and closed his eyes, not bothering to even lift his shirt to see what future scars his uncle had inflicted upon his abdomen. He kept his eyes closed, slightly enjoying the feeling of finally sitting up, and took a deep breath, not noticing at first the sudden warmth in the room.
Then he felt it. The thing he had been waiting to return for a week, Dumbledore's promise, the thing that had plagued his thoughts throughout the days. He felt it.
It gently touched his back through his thin ripped shirt, and slowly moved higher, towards his neck. Along the way the warmth spread through Harry. When it reached his neck, it paused.
"Thank you," Harry sighed. He was so relieved. He would be protected.
The voice said nothing, only moved to card its way through Harry's tangled black hair. Harry leaned into the touch, sighing.
You are safe… the voice finally spoke.
A new and sudden wave of emotion hit Harry and his sore body broke into sobs. He couldn't control it, couldn't even try to stop it. He cried and cried, trying desperately to find words.
"I—I—I don't—c-can't—hurts—h-hurts—". Harry felt the voice press in on all sides, it surrounded him completely. This brought on a new wave of uncontrollable sobs and unintelligible words. He just felt so… safe.
Shhhh…. The voice soothed, but Harry continued to cry. Shhh… little one, you will wake them… shhh…
The surrounding warmth pressed in closer in its embrace. Harry continued to cry, wave after wave of emotion that he was never allowed to release hit the small boy. His body shook as he cried, his knees pulled tightly to his chest and his hands covering his face. The voice continued to soothe him as he sobbed, continued to whisper comforting words into his ear.
After quite a few minutes, Harry calmed. He sat silently, trying to control his hiccups as his breathing slowed. "Thank you…" he finally managed to repeat.
I will protect you…
Harry swallowed the lump forming in his throat, trying not to launch into another round of tears. That's all he ever wanted, to be protected. "Why- why d-did you leave?"
The voice said nothing.
Harry sat quietly, his mind finally clear enough to think. Why did the voice promise protection, but yet allowed this to happen? Why wasn't Dumbledore keeping his promise? Why did they all leave him in this place to suffer every summer?
Harry felt tired, no, exhausted, after his episode, but he tried in vain to stay awake. If he slept, the voice would leave again. He took note of his body, which was still sore and achy, but felt much better in the warmth.
Sleep, my little snake…
Little snake? What an odd nickname. Harry tried, he tried so hard to stay awake, but he felt so relaxed finally. Knowing he couldn't resist, he lay down, having a flash of deja-vu from the first time the voice visited him.
"When are you coming?" Harry whispered to the darkness while fighting to keep his eyes open.
Very soon, my little one... Very soon… I promise…
A moment before he fell into unconsciousness, Harry was able to mutter, "Tell Dumbledore… come soon…"
Harry was instantly asleep and was not aware when the air in the room shifted from warmth, to instant tense cold. It lasted only a few moments before the warmth returned to protect the small fragile boy.