I Don't Think You're a Waste of Space

BY : Unicorn Tickles
Category: Harry Potter > General > General
Dragon prints: 6041
Disclaimer: Fictional story based on fictional characters. I own nothing of Harry Potter, and make no money.

    Snape disapparated them all to Privet Drive, and Harry was left to stare at his old neighbourhood, but quickly used the opportunity to take in everything. He hadn't seen the sun in a very long time. Green growing things, and the fresh air. Then he was ushered into the house and into a too familiar living room. The Dursleys all reacted poorly to dissaparation, and fought each other to the bathroom. Aunt Petunia avoided the human wall her husband and son made and raced up the stairs for the bathroom there. Snape kept a hand on Harry's shoulder until Harry turned to him and jerked his body free of him.    
    "What're you going to do to Neville, you greasy bastard?" Neville squeaked behind Snape.
    Snape gave him a small smile, and Harry realized there had been anger there this whole time that gave way for the shitty little smirk. "While your concern is both touching and unpredictably impertinent, whatever I do, I assure you it's none of your concern. Now that you're taking a break from being the chosen one?"
    "I wouldn't be here if you hadn't killed Dumbledore, you worthless git!"
    "You don't know what you're talking about, Potter. Everything is, as it always has been, beyond your comprehension. Hopefully you can exceed my expectations and perform the menial tasks set for you by your new masters, however," as his uncle was working his green way back to the living room. "You wouldn't know it, but the Dark Lord granted you some delicacy here, in permitting you to be bonded in some moderate privacy. But the nature of the bond," and Snape smiled again, "is his own choosing."
    Harry's thoughts raced at the smile. This man only smiled at him when Harry was about to be put through it. He looked up the stairs, hoping to escape the room, and turned back to them all. "I'll just be going to bed, then. You don't want to see me, and don't worry, it's mutual." 
    "Not so fast, boy," his uncle said. So he was back to 'boy' again. "That's not your room anymore. There's no batty old coot watching over us this time. You're going back to your old room."
    Harry looked to where his uncle was pointing his meaty ham of a fist, under the stairs, and shrugged. He doubted he would even fit in there anymore, but what did it matter? What did any of it matter, so long as he had somewhere to hide from them all.
    "It's not that simple, Potter," Snape said, smirk leaking out with his words. "Your uncle has the less than enviable task of consummation with you. I also find I should tell you that it is his responsibility to house and feed you, now, perhaps more so than it ever was before. You may have noticed," but if he hadn't, Snape wouldn't be surprised, the tone said, "but I've given you a bond that will let you know when he is displeased with you, and in turn I've given him a bond that will know your physical needs. It should be easy for even you to survive this." Harry stared back, stunned.
    "If he dies, you will follow soon after. You require him to live, Potter. And you will require him to maintain the bond every seven days. If not, the magic will punish you both. Hopefully, through trial and error, you will both survive. Though I have my doubts, looking at both of your blank faces." Dudley and Aunt Petunia came back then, as Snape looked from them to Neville, who jumped at being noticed. Harry looked at the boy, and felt he still was getting the better deal. After all, life with Snape? And would he use him the way Snape said Uncle Vernon would be ... what had he said? Maintaining the bond? Harry had a hard time looking at his uncle, and found Neville's grey face a little easier to take. 
    Harry had turned a curious mixture of numb and nauseous. And a little angry, but it was having a hard time fighting for purchase. He should have died. He should be a cooling corpse. This, this was unexpected. And he should have expected something horrible from Riddle. He had, he just lacked imagination, apparently.
    Snape stared at his uncle, then went about repeating himself, telling the man that Harry would require food, shelter, and penetration every week. That a command must be given carefully, with thought about the words used, but he then said that allowances had been made in the bond, and Harry wouldn't have to follow a Command that would endanger his life. Harry wondered if shagging might do that, but it was a weak thought that made his empty stomach heave.    
    "You ... understand all I've said?"
    Uncle Vernon nodded, and so did his chins. Then, in a disapproving voice, "I'm not some bloody poofter, though. Just so you know." 
    "I have some potions that would help, if you need them."
    Uncle Vernon looked terrified for a moment at the thought of magical substances touching him. "I'll manage."
    Snape considered him, looking like he doubted it. He looked at Harry, who thought the look was saying that he had better have been listening, and paying attention, because he might have been the only one. 
    Harry didn't care; how could he want to live this life? He should have died back at Hogwarts, long minutes ago, looking Riddle in the eye and ready for it. He was very conflicted about how he was supposed to feel then.
    "Good luck," with a dubious lifted eyebrow.
    "Choke on it, Snivellus." He instantly wished he'd said something better, but he was just so stunned. He took one more look at Neville, but words were beyond him. And beyond  Neville, it seemed. Snape left, and Neville followed, apparently still under the Command to do so. 
    Harry turned from the door, and looked at his ... his family with some fear. Vernon turned to his wife and son and said, "Bed, both of you." Aunt Petunia ran back up the stairs without a look at anything, but Dudley gave Harry a curious look before following, one not filled with contempt or disgust. 
    Harry was left to remember the strangest moment of his life, when he'd been saying goodbye to them, last summer, and Dudley had become almost sappy towards Harry. Had said that he didn't think Harry was a waste of space. And then he'd almost thanked Harry for saving his life. The hugest shock maybe that Harry could ever remember, and he found himself wondering if that would do him any good here. Not here, if Dudley had just left the room, but here in the future, of course. 
    Uncle Vernon came up close, closer than Harry would have ever wanted from the man, and he couldn't help but back up further, until his back hit the door Snape had just shut. "I don't want to hear one word from you, boy."
    "Or else what?" He shouldn't have said it, but he'd never bowed to this man, and he hated the idea of doing so now. He glared back for all he was worth, which it turned out might be a much smaller amount than he'd been led to believe. 
    "Or else I'll make it even worse for you." He punched him in the gut, and Vernon was a powerful enough man. Air left him in a whoosh as Harry hunched over, and lost what control he'd had over his body until then, and heaved. Nothing but bile came out, and he swallowed it back quickly. He was proud enough he hadn't cried out; he'd seen it coming, honestly, even though Vernon had never really brutalized him before. 
    "I'm not going to enjoy this. But I'll not make it pretty, either." Harry's hairs stood on end, as Uncle Vernon's meaty hand gripped Harry's arm and pulled him to the living room. He pushed downwards, until he was on the floor. When the man pulled at Harry's robes, the young wizard fully understood what he'd been fearing since Vernon had spoken to Snape, and he grasped the fabric as it left his body. There wasn't anything under it, and it was his last defence. 
    This was sick, was this what Snape had designed for him? He had to try for some decency. "Uncle Vernon, stop!"
    "It told you, don't say anything. It's not helping." Harry's mouth revolted against his wishes, and wouldn't utter words, just garbled parts of syllables that he tried to make into words. He shouted until Vernon told him to be quiet, far more specific, and Harry had no choice but to be quiet. He wrenched himself out of the grip and grasped for a handle in the rug so he could pull away until Vernon had that figured out as well, and hissed, "be still!" That, too Harry had to obey. It was the bond, and he hated everything about everything as he heard Uncle Vernon pull his trousers down just enough to bare himself. 
    Harry felt it, and felt his uncle pump himself up for the job at hand. Harry wanted more than anything to pull himself away from the hard prick that prodded at his arse, but he'd been told to be still, and his body held in place for the invasion that Vernon was anything but delicate about. Hands pulled his cheeks apart then he tore through his ring of muscles, even as Harry tensed to keep him out, until Vernon was past that, tearing his way inside. 
    Harry swallowed a quiet cry against it, and any more that followed. He had never cried out for Umbidge, or Riddle or any of them, and he wouldn't now. The pain was something. It wasn't some little cuts on his hand, but it wasn't the cruciatus curse, either. He could handle it.
    Worse than the pain was the humiliation. He could only listen to Uncle Vernon above him, quiet at first, but gradually grunting above him. Hands dug into his hips until the man was pounding, then the hands planted themselves on the floor to either side of Harry's head and a massive gut grated along his bared back. The rug grated into Harry's face, and he grasped that, trying to focus on it above what was happening behind. The pain never left, but it dulled some, even as his insides felt like they were being shredded, and then the horrible man sped up some more. But Harry knew what that meant, and waited for the end, which came with a very piggish grunt over his head.
    Uncle Vernon left his arse quickly, and Harry heard him wipe himself. Then he got up and stood over Harry, who figured that the orders his uncle had given him still stood, because he stayed where he was. "I didn't enjoy that, boy. But it was necessary. Now get to your room, the one under the stairs, and stay there. I don't want to hear anything from you until we have to do that again, you understand?" 
    Harry dragged himself up, keeping back every wince that his body wanted to drag out of him. Seed leaked out and ran down his legs, making his skin crawl as it made its trails, and he nearly ran for the door to his little room, knowing it was a good thing that he would have somewhere he could be, that none of them would want any part of. He shut the door behind himself, and sank quickly, sitting naked on the wooden floor, stunned that he'd just experienced his first time. And it had been with that man. 

    He sat there, feeding his rage for a long time, until finally he looked around. The room was much the same as he'd left it, years ago. There was the same little bed he'd used for ten years of his life, the shelf that had held his few toys, only now it held towels. And some few books that perhaps Dudley had rejected. But none of his old belongings, since he'd brought them all to Dudley's second bedroom that they'd given him to avoid Dumbledore's scrutiny. The room seemed half the size, now that Harry was so much bigger; he could reach out and touch everything without straining. 
    He took a towel, knowing Aunt Petunia would screech about it, but not really caring anymore, and wiped himself viciously until he reached his arse. That required a lot more tender attention. The towel came away pink and sticky, and he put it right back on the shelf, hoping it would be taken one day for Aunt Marge or something equally inconvenient for the Durselys.
    He curled up on the bed, wishing for a blanket of all things, just something to cover himself, and ended up taking another towel. It shouldn't be chilly this time of year, but it was. He didn't sleep, and by morning he began to understand how evil the bond was. He needed to piss, but he'd been ordered to stay there. He looked around the room and found a bucket that held window cleaning solution and a squeegee, and knew it was all he had. He used it, knowing Aunt Petunia would be upset beyond control if he used a corner as they had in the cells in Malfoy Manor and later Hogwarts. 
    Time passed, and finally he fell asleep, but was woken by an insanely happy voice saying, "Good morning and good day to every one of you. It's day twenty four of our New World, and congratulations in not being killed by any wizards or witches out there who may have grown weary of tolerating you. You can't know how hard it is. But we're real proud of you who have managed to survive, and we're trying our best to let as many of you live as possible." 
    The cheerful man's voice was from the TV someone had turned on, but the sound was like it was coming from all around, like Harry was in the room with it. Magical TV programming, something that would have had Harry bouncing on his toes in another lifetime, but now it was all poison.
    Another voice came in, a lady, just as chipper, just as mental, "yes, that's always such a comforting thing to hear, isn't it, Culver? In the news today, The Prime Minister has accepted, as of course we all knew he would, to host a summit for a few countries, that we may solidify our communities, both on the continent, and across the pond. Everything is going very well, and the minister for Magic couldn't be happier. He congratulates you all for doing your part."
    The smiling inane voice stopped, and Harry heard what had to be the minister, who from the sounds of things was still Thicknesse, giving a speech about how wonderful things were, and would continue to be in the foreseeable future. Harry wondered at it all, knowing Hermione would be able to tell him what exactly had just been said, and felt a pang for his friend. He'd never felt this alone in his life, which was saying something. How many of them were even alive, never mind Voldemort saying to keep them alive. 
    "On another note, Harry Potter and his gang were apprehended yesterday, as we knew they would be, and our nation is even stronger today than it has ever been.They were caught trying to break in, again, to the Ministry of Magic, but this time we were ready for them. A plot to assassinate the Minister was uncovered, and they have all been dealt with swiftly, the ringleader himself put into servitude to muggles, probably a launderer for the rest of his days, while his closest friends were nearly instant in their regret and insistence that they were mistaken and begged for the opportunity to serve the right side. One of them even said they were put under the Imperius curse by Potter himself. 
    "Our Lord chose clemency, and granted them the chance to prove their new loyalty, and here is a lesson from which everyone can learn. Our Great Lord is forgiving and fair, wise enough to see true repentance, and generous enough to know when to grant it." 
    "That's right, Culver. I can only speak for myself, but looking at these fresh young faces, they do seem like a bunch of kids who made a mistake; followed the wrong kid down the wrong path. Thankully they saw it in time. And if Our Lord is willing to give them a second chance, who am I to question that they deserve it? That Potter boy, on the other hand, I can't even count the lives that need to be laid to his feet. The death toll that selfish boy tallied." Her shiver was audible even in his cupboard.
    "Indeed, Dierdre. But at least he is in custody, now, and life can return to normal." Harry wanted to drown it out, but the sound was everywhere. And he wondered if this was muggle only news, or for everyone? Had this been Voldemort's dream? "And thanks to the apprehension, all work today, all businesses, even works to cleanse our communities, will be put on hold for the day. They will resume at midnight tonight, so muggles, remain in your homes, please, for any cleansing that may be scheduled for you or your family. But for now, enjoy this day of holiday, forever to be a holiday in our years to come, the Twenty Fourth. The day we were all freed from Dumbledore's most insidious manipulation; a child who tried to lead us all down the wrong path."
    The voices drilled into his head until breakfast was done, and Dudley was heard plodding back up the stairs. Then someone, blessedly, turned it off, and Harry was given back just the sounds of the house itself as people moved through it. All familiar, as familiar as his childhood, as the sight of the wooden boards above his head and the webs that had housed generations of spiders. He tried to take any comfort from it that he could, but could only think of how he'd failed everyone. Not just Albus and Ron and Hermione, Ginny, Luna and Neville, but the world. The whole world. Had a defeat ever been more thorough?

    Later in the day, Harry supposed it might be near evening, the TV was turned back on, and he had to listen to more drivel. In Brighton, a muggle born child had been exhibiting signs of magical theft. Thatnkfully the parents were quick to respond to it, and reported the little trouble maker to authorities. The parents have been rewarded with another certificate to replace the lost one, and would be granted the opportunity to remain useful. The father was a lorry driver, Dierdre said in explanation, and Culver "oh'ed" in understanding. 
    "And on that happy note, we're bringing you some exclusive footage of the splendour that comes from the union of two pure bloods, and here's the view of beautiful Malfoy manor, where their son Draco is marrying Luna Lovegood, today. The bride, a former ally of the nefarious Harry Potter, has chosen the right side, that of her soon to be husband, long time supporter of Our Lord, young Draco Malfoy. 
    Harry had frozen at the words, and stilled himself to hear more, not that it was needed. He listened to the house just as carefully; the Dursleys were all in the kitchen. He willed them to leave the TV on, and envisioned what he could through description. It helped that he had seen the grounds they were discussing. 
    "Just look at these peacocks. Albino, all of them. And the gardens, look at these beautiful grounds. And here we have the radiant bride, next to her groom, and isn't she lovely?" Harry pictured Luna in his mind, but it was left wanting. He wanted to look for bruises, for a fearful face trying to control herself. Surely the newscaster was being dense about things? His heart ached, but there was also some anger coming. She was being used as a propaganda tool, and if she ever knew it, he wouldn't know. 
    "And our purebred groom, looking a little nervous himself. But that's to be expected, isn't it? What a lovely couple, fresh and full of the promise our Lord is delivering more every day."
    The newscasters went on a little more, giving panoramic views of the grounds, and more raptures brought on by the ridiculous albino peacocks, before they went on to another story, and Harry lost himself in trying to picture it all.
    The TV was turned off after a few more stories, then Harry listened to them all go to bed. He was still freezing, but there were plenty of towels for him to use, and he did, hoping it would send Aunt Petunia into fits.

   Harry's third day there, and he was starving. He listened, and heard the family go about their business, pretending there was no one else in the home by the sound of their conversations. Hardly thinking while consuming Aunt Petunia's decent cooking, from the smell of it. His stomach was gnawing at his innards, and it didn't help that they'd all been fed so poorly in that cell. It didn't help that before that they hadn't eaten well either while camping on the run.   
   Stomach pains were something that he'd had a lot of practice at ignoring, but it was the chills that he couldn't ignore. He was pretty sure it wasn't cold out, either. They were approaching the height of summer; it was probably gross in the rest of the house, but Harry's room had always been rather cool if the door was kept shut. 
   He gleaned what he could from the TV, but it wasn't much. Everything was said in such a way that Harry had to guess at the real meaning; nothing was said outright. Deaths were reported as triumphs, nameless combative wizards, and faces raced for Harry. Were these his friends? The ones from the Order who'd never been caught?
   It was torture to hear some of it. Fascinating to hear other parts, like the summit coming. Where world leaders would actually be acknowledging the magical community. It didn't seem real. And further than that, they must be intending for the level of control they'd achieved here to spread everywhere else? Would they imperio the presidents and prime ministers of other countries? Harry wished he'd known more about politics so he could follow better. 
   And every time he was struck by the immensities of the things he didn't know, thoughts of Hermione came to him, tearing him down for not being able to save her. Even if she was alive right then, she must have a face and body like Bill Weasley's face. Greyback hadn't been subtle about his intentions. And there was never a word about any of them on the news but that one bit on Luna. Uncle Vernon, as vile as his actions were, paled in comparison to thoughts about what the others must have been going through. That LeStrange brother had been positively lustful towards Ron, beyond anything Vernon had probably ever experienced in his little grey life. 
   That night Uncle Vernon banged on his door. Harry locked the best look of steel he could on his face as the door opened.     
   "Get out here." 
   Harry stared him in the eye, putting every ounce of hate he felt inside in his glare as his feet did what they were told, and Vernon blinked a moment, almost unsure, but he shook it off. "Get in there," gesturing to the living room. Harry went, with his uncle behind, and was grabbed by his shoulder, as though to halt him close to the couch. The hand shoved him down, again, to the floor, and his uncle followed. Harry was still filthy from the last time but Uncle Vernon didn't seem to have a problem with it. He unbuckled and unzipped himself, and Harry felt him stroking himself. He jerked forwards, but otherwise stayed in place. A cap being screwed off was followed by some wet sounds that sent revulsion through Harry, and he hunched his shoulders against it. 
   "Yeah, you can look at me any way you want, but you gotta do what I say now, don't you, boy?" Harry didn't answer, as he hadn't been told to do so. He'd take every little thing he could here. "Hands and knees." And Harry did, jerking a little when he came into contact with the man behind him. "Now, hold still, and be quiet." Beefy hands grabbed his arse as though he thought he needed to hold it in place and a sound lodged in Harry's throat as he felt Uncle Vernon force himself back inside him, ripping again on his way, but this time wet and cold. He'd slathered lube on himself.
   Harry was deeply grateful for the command to be quiet. He grasped at the floor trying to hold something, trying to keep still under the movements that jerked his body around, trying also to ignore the sounds Uncle Vernon made much earlier this time.  
   When he was done he rose up and left, without saying a word, and Harry stayed still for a time. His hips and ass were sore, but it was over. Harry fed his hate and anger in a cycle, blaming Riddle and Uncle Vernon, and Snape more than the other two. But the cycle would come back around to himself every time. This was his fault, no one else's, in the end. This was the result of his own failings. Not that he deserved it. He didn't think he did, but it was still his fault, either way. He'd dithered forever on the run, camping like they were on holiday, frozen between indecision and ignorance. And now he was frozen in this new little hell. 
   The house was asleep, and this seemed a better time than any to find some food to take to his room. He really was starving. When he got up the crust on his legs was renewed with more leaking from him, and he winced as he stepped, knowing he would trail some of it where he walked. He went to the kitchen and grabbed an apple, a slice of bread, a handful of cereal to tuck under the depleting towels. He knew from experience in this house that if he grabbed just a little of a few things it would be less likely to be found out.
   He took the opportunity to empty his little bucket of the meager bit he'd been able to produce, and as quickly as possible, washed himself in the downstairs bathroom, hoping they wouldn't hear the water running through the pipes. He snuck a few drinks while doing so, but knew that the more he drank, the less room he would have in the bucket the next day. 
   When he went back to his cupboard he was more than light headed, weak and tired. He ate an apple, core and all, and tucked the little stem under the mattress, then laid down to try and sleep. It took longer than it should, considering how tired he felt, but his thoughts were too angry too ease up.

   He woke to voices in the kitchen, hushed and nervous. 
   "Well, isn't it lovely that you're just making the most of it, then?"
   "Petunia! You can't think I enjoy it! I don't. I have never wanted anything to do with that ... that boy! You know that. I have to do this. I'm doing it for you. And for Dudley. You know that."
   "Well, I heard the conditions just like you did, and it's only necessary once a week. That's what that Snape said."
   "It's the magic then! I swear, I'm doing this because the magic is making me! You saw them do it! You saw him put that ... that spell thing on me. You can't see that I'm the victim here? And after all I'm doing for you? How can you even say these things to me?"
   Footsteps on the stairs halted their conversation as Dudley came downstairs, stepping lightly for Dudley. They greeted him cheerfully as he went to turn on the TV, and Harry was given something other than their voices to hear. The downfall of society was infinitely more pleasant to listen to, he found. Especially the newscaster Dierdre's light lilting voice, full of happiness and optimism. It became something beautiful to him, even when he heard the things she was saying. She just had such a gentle way of saying them.
   Later in the evening he heard them sit around the table for dinner, and after that they went to bed. And after the house went quiet, after they'd fallen asleep, Dudley's bedroom door opened, and Harry heard him creep down the hall, then his quiet feet on the stairs. They passed Harry's door to the kitchen, and Harry felt with relief that Dudley was just going for a late night snack. 
   Then he heard a tinkling of plateware outside his room, and the still quiet, but hasty footfalls of Dudley up the stairs. He opened the door after a long moment of silence, and found a sandwich on a plate, with a candy bar and a cup of tea. Harry took it, thinking that dementor had definitely knocked something loose in his cousin's skull, but eating half the sandwich slowly nonetheless. He crept back to the kitchen and washed the plate as silently as he could and put it away. He didn't need what might result from this, if he didn't hide the evidence. 
   He emptied his bucket and drank a little more water, wanting nothing more than to run his face under the tap and quench a thirst that seemed to have been a part of him for months, but he controlled that. If he filled the bucket and was ordered to stay in his room, he'd be in some kind of mess. Then he went back to his room. Later he ate the other half of the sandwich, and went to sleep on an almost uncomfortably full belly.

   "Good Morning muggles! Another job well done, and a huge thank you to those of you who are managing to stay in your homes. It's almost over, just a little bit longer. Cleansing is almost at seventy per cent for the whole country, and we're all so proud of you for doing as we have asked. 
   "Not all of you, of course, but we know who the good ones are, don't worry. A family in Langley have been taken in for harbouring fugitives from the Ministry, and all involved are being questioned as we speak. We hope to find out more about the resistance by dinnertime. The family had been helping the rebellion for years, it seems, and thanks to tip offs from neighbours, this has been put to a stop."
   Harry wished they would name people, but actual information was hard to get from the TV. It was always just vague threats and backhanded praise. Then Dierdre interjected, and Harry let his mind wander on the sound, instead of picturing friends under the knife. 

   That night his Uncle came to Harry's door. The house was quiet, everyone else was asleep when he knocked and whispered almost angrily, "Get out here."
   Harry did so without a fight, of course, how could he do anything else? But he glared at the man as he stepped out into the hall. 
   "What? Don't give me none of that. I suppose you think I enjoy this? Like your aunt does? Well I don't."
   "Yeah. Whatever helps you sleep at night." He'd thrown all his poison into the words and it felt good, so he threw an "Uncle" at the end, just to drive home his stupid little point, glaring at the man as he did so. Uncle Vernon gave what was very nearly a flinch over the word that Harry spat out at the end, and sputtered defensively for a moment. 
   "You're both daft. I've been ordered to do this," he whisper yelled, "ordered to fulfill this oath. What am I supposed to do about it? What I was told, that's what. You could be dead, you know? We all could. And I need to be able to get it up for that, too. None of you think about that, do you? Ungrateful. That's all you've ever been. Quit looking at me! Get back in there!" Harry hid his surprise and backed into his cupboard quickly. His uncle stood there, seething and faltering, then hissed, "stay in there and keep quiet!"
   Harry did so, and heard his uncle grab some food from the kitchen and go back upstairs. It felt like the greatest victory in the world, and Harry laid down on his little mattress full of it.

   "Good morning muggles! Well done in surviving another night. We're so proud of you and your compliance. And on that note, we have some big big news today. Surrey is over eighty percent cleansed as of today. Just twenty-eight days into our New World, and we've made it this far! Well done, all of you. Just a little bit more to go. Two more weeks, an official from the Ministry's new Department of Cleansing and Clemency has said, until Surrey is fully clean. 
   "As the home of the boy who started all this bloodshed, the Ministry expected a lot more resistance, some strongholds of violence, but have been pleasantly surprised to find little to no opposition there. Well done, muggles. You will all be rewarded with some outside time soon enough. Some return to normalcy will follow that. 
   "Meanwhile, in Brighton, ..."
   Harry felt almost numb to it now. He wondered what the facts were behind those words. How many of the homes in his neighbourhood were empty now? Out of no where, Mrs. Figg came to mind, and he wondered if a squib would be allowed to exist here. Should lives be measured up against the Dursleys to determine their worth? What a grim thought. 
   Harry listened to them have their news and when they turned it off he had to listen to them live their lives. But he was still high on the little victory he'd enjoyed the night before, emptied communities aside, and it didn't bring him down to hear them eating and talking lightly.

   That night they all went to bed and he was left alone. When he was sure no one would come down and bother him he allowed himself to feel the victory again, hardly dimmed over time, since he was going untouched for another night. 
   The next day went the same, horrible words said triumphantly on the TV, and the people in the house with him living their lives, but they all went to bed without bothering him, and he was glad to have it. 
   He woke to quiet steps above him, and thought the worst immediately, but he knew the different sounds of his family; this was Dudders trying to sneak around again. Harry stayed still and waited for the boy to go back to bed, but instead he came to Harry's door after some noise in the kitchen, and the sound of a plate on the floor. 
   Rashness, like from before all this happened, took Harry and he grabbed a towel to throw around his hips as he jumped to the door before he could tell himself to stay quiet and safe.  He opened the door and saw Dudley, towering over him and over the door frame where he'd straightened to in surprise, and Harry instantly felt like a fool. Why did he never think about the dangers, first? He'd been ordered to stay in this room, and ordered to be quiet. Dudley could do anything - could just be Dudley, and Harry could do pretty much nothing about it. Couldn't call for help, if such a thing would exist in this house. 
   "Dudley," Harry whispered, and the boy looked above him as though signaling Harry to keep quiet. He looked as though he was thinking thoughts far too complex for him, and Harry tried to appreciate the effort it clearly took.
   Dudley nodded inside the cupboard, and Harry felt regret over his actions. What had he been thinking? Just because he'd given him a sandwich? This was still the boy who'd wailed on him for years. He backed inside as Dudley followed after picking up the candies he'd set down. He put them on the bed and sat on the floor, and Harry did the same, keeping a fist tight in the towel. 
   "Dudley," he cautiously whispered, "how many people are dead?"
   He didn't seem to have been expecting that question. "Loads." The word was dull, and he had looked away for it. Did he blame Harry? He would be right to. "Pierce. They killed Pierce."
   "I'm sorry." Polkiss hadn't been the best kid in the world, but Harry knew he was still just a kid. Even Malfoy was just a kid, and Harry had seen moments from him that suggested he might not be the bell end he was always trying to be. He was just caught in a tight place. What did you do when your father was a death eater and Voldemort a frequent dinner guest?
   "More than half the block. Most of the houses are empty now. Dennis and Gordon, too. And their families."
   Harry shook his head, absorbing this. He should have done everything differently. Shouldn't have been caught by the snatchers in the woods. Shouldn't have spent so much time dithering there, camping and hiding from all this. What a mess he'd made of everything. 
   "'S always cold, too. Like that time ..." Harry was left to ponder this, as Dudley had hit his word limit. That time, cold. Dementors Were they just everywhere, as they had been before? It should be sweltering, but it wasn't. Yeah, that was probably what he was talking about.
   "Like the dementors?" Dudley nodded, staring at the wall. Was that how they were keeping people in their homes until they could come and kill them?
   "They did something to the neighbour across the street."
   "They ... they kissed him?" Dudley nodded. "Then what?"
   "Someone came and killed him. He was just standing in the street for a whole day, staring." Word limit again. Poor Dudley. He seemed terrified. And he should be. He'd tasted what they could do. Harry wondered which neighbour, and if he knew him. "Malcom made it. His dad does something useful."
   "How do you know this? If you aren't allowed outside?"
   "Phones. They don't really know much about them." Dudley looked up at Harry, as though to confirm it, and Harry thought of Mr. Weasley, struggling to call them once. He nodded. Dudley nodded again and looked away again.
   "This was what you were fighting, wasn't it?"
   That hurt. That was the entirety of Harry's failures in one simple question. "Yes. I'm sorry." Dudley looked back at him, but away again and Harry was glad he did. "We tried, but we got caught. I'm sorry." He wanted to scream it, have Dierdre and Culver televise it, but it wouldn't have been enough. His failure was the world's now, and most of them didn't even know it. And didn't know how doomed they were. 
   It took him a long time to fall asleep after Dudley left, he was tripping over thoughts of Pierce and the empty homes and telephones. And Dudley in his cupboard not to pound him but give candy. He was through the looking glass here.

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