The room was much larger than his bedroom at the Dursleys, and there was a large window over the desk, making everything much easier to see. There was also a wardrobe and a bed with a soft mattress that was long enough to stretch luxuriously on, it was very hard not to appreciate the accommodations he was given. The boy made these observations despite himself, as he wasn’t in a mood to be appreciative of anything at the moment.
He lay on his side, curled into a tight ball and blinking away insistent tears, as he thought about his aunt and uncle and how they left him here without a word of explanation. How long did they know that he had a living father? Did they know that his father would hit him like that? Uncle Vernon never hit Harry like that, only rarely slapped him across the face when he was too mouthy. The boy was usually yelled at a lot and locked in his room as punishment, he had always been scared of his uncle, but now he thought that he would prefer him.
A sharp knock on the door startled Harry out of his musings, and he stiffened fearfully as the door swung open. The man was too far away to see his face with any clarity, but he could tell his father was angry because of the way his arms were tightly folded.
“I told you to come downstairs at six, Potter,” he said severely. “Do you think I speak merely to make noise?”
Harry shook his head, sitting up and casting a frantic look at the clock on the desk, even though he couldn’t see the tiny hands to figure out the time.
“N-no, I-I’m sorry,” the boy whispered, on the verge of crying. “It won’t happen again, sir.”
“It had better not,” father warned coldly, but then he heaved a calming breath and spoke more softly. “Wash your hands and come for dinner.”
“Yes, father,” Harry told the closed door.
It wasn’t hard to locate the kitchen once he descended the stairs, he could clearly hear the banging of pots to the right of the living room. He wondered what he would be doing, he wasn’t so stupid as to expect food after a punishment, serving or cleaning probably.
Harry stopped at the threshold of the kitchen, looking around curiously. The room was quite small, with a round table and a line of cupboards in a bland grey that blurred together no matter how hard he squinted.
“Sit down and eat, Potter,” the man snapped, making him jump.
He narrowed his eyes at the table, noticing just now a second chair and a place setting opposite the man. Surprised, the boy slid into a chair and looked at the food heaped on the plate with awe. He had never eaten jacket potatoes before, with binned beans and tuna topping and cheese sprinkled over it. His mouth watered seeing this amazing offering.
“Thank you, father,” he whispered, grateful that he was allowed to eat.
Harry didn’t think he was that hungry, but as he put the first mouthful in, he realised that he was starving. Much sooner than anticipated, he was scraping the last morsels of food off an empty plate. The boy sighed, feeling heavy and lethargic, he’d never eaten so much in one go before.
“While your manners leave much to be desired,” the man observed dryly. “At least you have a good appetite.”
The boy flushed crimson in embarrassment, hanging his head.
“‘M sorry,” he mumbled.
“Here,” the man said, handing him a napkin over the table, and the boy did his best to mop up tomato sauce off his face and hands. “It is a little early for bed, I probably should give you the grand tour before you get in trouble, yes?”
Harry looked up, scrutinizing the man for any signs of mocking, but could only discern impatience in his expression when the boy didn’t answer immediately.
“Yes, sir,” he agreed carefully.
“Very well,” the man said, he drew a thin stick of wood out of his sleeve and waved it over the table. Harry’s eyes just about bugged out, when with a soft pop the dishes on the table disappeared! “Come along, but don’t expect too much excitement. There are only three rooms you haven’t seen, and you aren’t allowed in any of them.”
The boy scrambled after the retreating man, his mind whirling with thoughts. He caught up to him in the entryway, where there was a low black door next to the front door.
“Where did they go?” he demanded, unable to keep quiet a moment longer.
The man turned to face him, his forehead wrinkled in displeasure.
“Where did who go?” he asked sternly.
“The plates!” Harry exclaimed, almost bouncing in excitement. “They disappeared, did you see? Did you see they disappeared, father?”
The foreboding expression on the adult’s face melted away, and was replaced by a smirk of amusement.
“Ah, indeed,” father acknowledged, his lips curved up at one corner, as if he was fighting a smile and failing. “I believe they went to the sink to wash themselves.”
Harry frowned, not entirely certain that he wasn’t being mocked, but a little afraid to voice his doubts aloud.
“Aunt Petunia’s dishes don’t do that,” he mumbled, looking at his feet to hide how upset he was getting.
A hand caught his chin, and tilted his head back so that he was forced to meet the man’s black eyes.
“You may watch them do it tomorrow, alright?” he offered softly.
The boy nodded, sniffling.
“What’s there?” he whispered, glancing at the black door worriedly. “Is it a cupboard…?”
The man snorted and shook his head.
“Hardly,” he said indignantly. “This is my potions laboratory, and you, young man, are forbidden to enter without my permission. Do you understand, Harry?”
He nodded, brightening considerably with curiosity.
“May I see?” he pleaded.
Father didn’t answer immediately, giving the boy a stern appraisal. Harry straightened his shoulders, trying to appear responsible and trustworthy.
“I’ll show you,” he decided. “But you must hold my hand and not touch anything. Understood?”
Harry happily agreed, and they descended into the laboratory hand in hand. The room was quite dark, dampening his enthusiasm, especially when father stopped just a few steps into the room, pulling him to a halt. It was no fun to explore a laboratory when you could hardly see anything!
“Can’t we go any closer?” he whined, pulling on the man’s hand impatiently.
“Stop that,” father growled, catching the boy around the middle and delivering a stinging smack to his rear. “This is not a place for children to play, there are dangerous ingredients and potions stocked here, which is why you are not allowed entry. You’ve seen enough.”
With that stern speech, the man lifted the sniffling boy, and carried him back upstairs, shutting the black door with an ominous snap. Harry rubbed the sore spot, giving the man a hurt look.
“Be glad it was a smack, and not a spanking,” father said mercilessly when he put him to his feet. “You won’t be as lucky if you open this door alone. You may knock and call for me when I’m working, but under no circumstances are you allowed to open that door. Is that very clear, Harry?”
“Yeah,” he mumbled to his shoes.
The rest of the ‘tour’ passed with Harry feeling very sorry for himself, as his father was so angered by his sulking that he put him over his knee after all, and after several very painful swats marched the crying child to the two other doors he wasn’t allowed to open, father’s office and bedroom, promising dire punishments if he disobeyed.
By the time Harry climbed into bed that evening, he felt absolutely miserable and homesick.