A Scholar is Born
July 31, 1986
At six years old getting a gift can mean a lot to a child. As Harry Potter getting anything for a gift can and would mean the world. If that gift shows up on your birthday that would mean it is was a special gift even if it is a book. Needless to say Harry was almost insane with joy. It was his. This book was addressed to him on the package. Harry may not be the most intelligent child, but he could make out his name easily enough. Yes, the Dursley's had to break down and teach him something or risk looking like neglectful people they are when it came to Harry.
At the age of five and a half a decision was reached that made little Harry happy for a rare occasion. Harry was headed to school soon. Knowing how to identify his letters and his own name would be a must as far as Vernon was concerned. As much as Vernon would like to ignore the child completely, some things had to happen to maintain their orderly life. If teaching the boy to somewhat read so he would not draw attention to them so be it. He would have no direct hand with assisting the boy in reading. Freaks like him came from his wife's side of the family after all.
"Pet, my dear it has to be done." Vernon pleaded.
Petunia was not fooled at all. She knew Vernon had no desire to deal with her nephew at all. She was also concerned that Vernon may not have the patience to teach him properly and his mild temper may get the better of him. Make no mistake Petunia wanted nothing to do with her witch of a sister's son either.
"Alright, Vernon, I will handle this." She said.
So, poor Petunia regardless of how much he loved her would have to deal with the issue. Teaching Harry to read was simple. Getting him to stop reading was hard. It was to this end that Harry started cooking around their home.
So it was a month later the Harry had absorbed the 26 letters of the alphabet like a dry sponge dipped in water for the first time. Petunia caught him trying to read the recipes she had in the kitchen. Of course her first thought was that the boy was doing something horrible to them. The fact that Petunia thought he may be getting his freakish drool or worse on the books or even the recipe cards from the neighbors was completely plausible in her mind. When she stomped over there to stop Harry from further damaging her recipes she stopped. While looking over Harry's shoulder she saw something remarkable, well freaky to her, there sat a child organizing the cards. It was not much in reality. Just a child exercising his mind using the alphabet he learnt from his aunt. That Petunia had put out of her mind having taught him the basics of the alphabet and their order already made what she saw all the more alarming to her. That freakish magic that was denied her was being used in her house under her long nose. It can't be helped she reasoned. As long as Vernon doesn't know the boy was using magic she might as well put him to task.
"Come here boy." Said Petunia, "What are you doing with my cards?" Her angry face looking like she had caught him doing something wrong again.
A nervous Harry approached, "I was singing the alphabet."
He answered knowing he was probably in trouble for touching without asking. He hadn't meant to cause trouble for himself it just seemed like something he could do so he might as well.
With a smile Petunia decided this could be a good thing for her and an excuse to get more gossiping time in the day and use less time on little things that her sister's spawn can be made to due for the family.
Seeing the smile on his aunt's face relaxed the small child a bit hoping he would not be in trouble for practicing his letters and learning more words. "I think she may let me read them now." He hoped silently.
If all worked out Petunia mused she could make use of the spawn elsewhere to. After all it took a lot of work in the garden. The household chores could eventually be accomplished by this child. But, let's see how the child handled the cooking first.
"Come with me to the kitchen." Petunia commanded.
This is what started Harry cooking for the Dursley household. Petunia's mistaken view allowed Harry to learn more about reading. Limited as it was to the field of cooking mattered not as it was a beginning none the less. There were some unintended side effects to this though.
The first was moving Harry into the second bedroom that was originally for Dudley. Dudley was not happy about this move at all. The child cried and whined and demanded Harry kept from the room. Dudley threw things around and broke several items. Dudley was convinced he needed it for his stuff. More importantly he just did not want to give it to the Freak. Vernon agreed. Petunia was not convinced. Normally she would side with them. However, once Dudley broke the picture frame of her long dead parents the argument was closed. It was extremely rare for Petunia to get upset at Dudley.
"Dudley, you will listen to your mother that is enough young man! Your mother has decided and you will not argue with her on this. Go to your room, or you will have to clean up this mess." Even Vernon recognized the warning signs and sent Dudley to his room quickly.
Petunia stared at the frame of the picture for a few moments. "The room goes to Harry."
Vernon had mistakenly upset his wife once back when they were still just newlyweds. He planned to never see her angry again. Sleeping on the couch was been doubly upsetting since he could not fit on the couch.
Petunia cried at the destroyed picture. It wasn't just the picture of her parents. It was the only family portrait of the Evans. Not that Harry knew the young girl in the picture was his mother standing next to a young Petunia. He had in truth never seen the image. He never was allowed near her personal things. The only picture of the boy's mother and aunt had been cut by the broken glass frame right through Petunia's parents. Now the picture was ruined by a tantrum.
Harry received the room shortly after that. It was not without cost of course. The boy's room became the official storage room for all the cookbooks and recipes. Along with this he had to maintain them and became the official scheduler of the family dinner menu. Surprisingly to the household Harry didn't mind. They did start to eat a better diet. Not really though for Vernon and Dudley. Even with Harry planning and making the meals. All his attempts to actually feed them better fell through when Vernon and Dudley simply ate double or triple what was good for the average person.
Secondly, Harry started eating better. Mainly he got his meals by tasting everything ahead of time. This made Harry laugh for the rest of the time he was with the Dursleys; whenever they tried to stop feeding him. As far as they are concerned Harry is too expensive to feed most days. So after cooking most meals he is sent to his room while the civilized people eat. If there are leftovers, which continue to be rare, he is allowed to have them while cleaning up after them.
If you're wondering why they thought Harry is too expensive to feed the answer comes from the food itself. Harry told them to make better food required better ingredients. That is what the cookbooks Petunia owned said. They decided to get better items for the cooking. With the obligatory threat of burning or ruining the food with confinement to his room, the cook bit his tongue knowing that would never happen. In the first month of Harry taking over the cooking the taste of the over all meals went up substantially. Spices truly can change a meal around he discovered. After a couple of more months the adults simply thought it was his magic altering the food. Not that they were going to stop eating it.
Lastly, the final effect was probably the most significant for the burden of the Dursleys. Harry gained access to the nearby library. In a clever move to gain new cookbooks the boy asked if there were more books around. Petunia seeing him holding one of the books had a quick thought. Send him to the library to find out. It had the dual purpose of removing the reminder of her dead sister from view and may add something to the menu.
Harry eventually found the library. It was not a large public library but he found it regardless. The fact he had to ask several people where it was after getting out of the immediate neighborhood was to be expected for the troublemaker of Privet Drive. Blaming the locals for the way he was viewed didn't seem fair to Harry. His aunt and uncle could be blamed though. Being aware that lies were spread about him did confuse him. He was not sure what made his relatives say such things.
Spending time at the library had taught him so much more. Petunia had not cared how much time he spent there as long as he was not under foot. The books here opened the lone Potter's mind to several subjects and the helpful librarian delighted in the kind, shy, and quiet young man.
Here it was though after spending months going to and from the library, his book. The first book that belonged to Harry Potter sitting in his hands joy overflowed him at finally having his own book. It had been a strange last few months in hind sight. The speed with which Harry picked up reading was incredible. Sadly that was one of the few bonuses. Comprehension of the material read is much slower. Harry stared at the book with just a hint of fear in his excited state.
Checking the mail for the day Harry found the book wrapped up in a package with his name scrawled on it. The rest of the mail is taken to the dining table and deposited next to where uncle Vernon liked it on his immediate right. None of the Dursleys noticed the package as they are in the living room watching a movie.
Harry had quickly moved to his room to examine it in solitude. Fearing the removal of the book from his possession he decided to hide it. Knowing he could keep it safe in his room he moved quickly to get it there. The fear of losing the book is justified. If the book is discovered and its nature revealed he would have lost it for sure. So here he sat looking at the book.
Old is the first word to come to his mind about the book after removing the old thin tan leather wrapping. Well used like several books in the library is the second thing that he uses to describe the book. Absolutely beautiful would be the next. It is hard covered leather that gave the appearance of wrinkled leather grooves. Surprisingly it stays smooth to the touch. The brown color stands offset with the grooves being a delicate yet dark burgundy coming from the edges almost like vines growing towards the center of the cover. The center circle of the vine like grooves didn't seem to invade. This space maintains approximately a 3 inch diameter. The back cover looked the same as the front. The spine covered in the vertical grooves though.
Harry easily spent a couple of minutes turning it over and examining every angle of the book. His book he thought as he continued to grin like a mad man. A truly terrifying look if you consider a 6 year old with this face. Continuing to examine the book in detail the young cook noticed the book is over two inches thick. The front cover appears to just over 10'' top to bottom and 7 ½'' wide. Eventually the thickness of the book catches his attention. Being 2 ½ '' thick seems to really get his attention now that he is no longer drooling. Harry holds his breath as he grabs the front cover with his left hand. He opened the book that is addressed to him and is utterly disappointed. It was empty.
"What!" Harry exclaimed loudly. "Where is it? What is this book about? Is this a mistake?"
Harry is so disappointed his first book is completely empty. Surprise gives way to anger. It must be a dirty trick. In a moment inspired by Dudley, the boy threw the book across the room and let it smash into the wall. The second it left his hand he felt it was a mistake. He watched it in slow motion fly into the wall. As it hit the ground he rushed to pick it up.
"Knock off that racket you freak!" Vernon bellowed from downstairs. The large man got up from his seat and headed up the stairs. Cursing the distance he had to go to deal with his nephew.
"Oh no!" The Freak panics knowing his uncle could find the book. Grabbing the book and stuffing it under the old used pillow on his bed.
Vernon burst into the room looking angry and just a bit winded.
"What is the meaning of all this noise up here? Can't you even be quiet for once?" Vernon angrily yelled. Having to come all the way up here had taken a little of the steam out of him. He had planned on teaching the brat how to keep quiet with a good couple of slaps to the head like his father had taught him once. Not that Vernon would admit that the act of moving fast up the stairs had worn him out due to his large frame.
"I-I fell off the bed. I'm sorry Uncle Vernon." Hoping his uncle would believe his on the spot lie.
Many things you can say about Vernon, but you could not call him a fool when it came to reading people. The freak is lying. The question remained why. Deciding it didn't matter to him he made a choice. If the freak refuses to be quiet in the house he would not be in the house. Grabbing Harry by the arm he roughly drags the boy out to the backyard.
"Pet, come with me please!" Saying this with as much calm as the angry man could muster while dragging the freak to his just desserts for lying.
Harry is terrified at this point. Vernon never willing touches him. Now he was dragging him around and yelling for Petunia to come with. His mind has gone blank he only knew fear at this point.
Petunia and Dudley are startled by this turn of events. Petunia soon got up confused as to what is going to happen and Dudley sat there confused after the initial outburst.
"Petunia dear," Vernon started now standing in the backyard after taking a much needed breath, "we need to do something about him being in the house when we are trying to have family time."
"Did you have something in mind?" Petunia inquired.
"I think he should spend time outside. I have considered some chores like mowing the grass and trimming the bushes."
"Vernon! He is six. Do you know how much damage he would do to the bushes?" Petunia began. "He will have to be older to work the lawn mower and the electric hedge trimmer without breaking them."
Vernon grunted thinking that means he would still continue paying having these things done. Once the boy was old enough Vernon will be putting that money aside for other uses while the freak acquires some good honest manual labor. Who knows maybe that unnaturalness from his mother and father will never attach itself to the boy? Hard work should make a good upstanding natural individual like the rest of the Dursleys.
"Then what about the garden?"
Petunia having already thought about this same thing agreed with Vernon. Although she still believes that the child might be too young maybe he will take to it like he had with the reading.
"Alright Vernon, but if he messes up the weeding you're going to fix it." Petunia stated firmly.
Vernon fears his idea blowing up in his face. How does he get the boy to work on Petunia's blasted garden without ending up in the hot muggy weather having to do it in the freak's stead?
"Fair enough dear Pet don't you worry your sweet head at all." Vernon smiled as Petunia nodded and headed into the house. Vernon rounded on the boy and his smile vanishes instantly. He stared at the boy for a moment. With his thoughts in order and approach set he began. Putting on a fake smile a blind man could see through and sickly sweet voice he speaks to the freak.
"Listen here freak; these are my wife's pride and joy. You will go in between each of the flowers and bushes and clear out all the small plants. Those are weeds. You pull them out and toss them in the rubbish bin at the back of the yard. If you damage these it will be no food for you for a week, understood."
Harry looked at his uncle still trying to deal with the painful grip on his arm.
Vernon's smile changed and with a hint of a push to distance the boy from him let go. Turning to head back into the house he paused at the door to send out one last reminder. Turning his head part way toward the small boy, but not enough to look in his direction addressed Harry.
"Get to work."
With that Harry started out of his fear and shock that his brain was in the whole time. He looked at the garden and then looked around. The sun hovers up high in the sky. It is hot and moisture begins to make his clothes start to cling to his skin already. The grass was neatly trimmed and the flowers in the flower bed were neatly arranged into rows. The weeds grew irregularly in between them. Guessing that must be the task to remove them he started pulling the weeds.
More concerning to any psychologist is Harry's reaction to human contact. The sting in his left arm where Vernon grabbed him persists there and beginning to bruise leading to a thought no child should ever have. Touching him will bring pain. In Harry's head this made sense. Dudley didn't like hugs from his mom when they were getting into the car in the front yard before running to the store or going out to dinner. If he knew that the reason Dudley didn't like being touched by his mom had more to do with the other boys seeing it and making fun of him later that could have changed Harry's mind. But as it stood Harry had been touched twice once by an elderly neighbor swinging a rake at his calf to get the troublemaker away from his yard when looking for the library. Now Vernon had hurt his arm.
Harry spent most of the afternoon working on gently getting the weeds out of the garden. If anything he came to the conclusion he liked the flower bed a lot. There was a nice breeze in the later afternoon. It was quiet outside even with the occasional car driving around. Once he finished with the flower bed he looked around. It was nice being outside alone with his thoughts. And think he did.
For now it was all about his book. Why was it empty? How was he supposed to read it if it was empty? Who sent it to him? The last thought made him wonder a lot. Was it one of the neighbors or the kids in the neighborhood? Were they making fun of the little bookworm as they called him? Harry still didn't know what that meant. It was something that started with the librarian. He was an older gentleman with glasses sitting at his desk in the library when Harry entered the first time.
Mr. Thomas was sitting at the check-out desk when Harry first came inside. He saw the young man and winced momentarily before rising up to help him out. That and sitting at the desk was making his bum go numb. The young man looked surprisingly nervous as Mr. Thomas got closer. Coming to a stop a few feet in front the child and kneeling down on one knee in front of the boy to be eye level and less threatening to him asked the standard question.
"Can I help you little one?" He then smiled at the boy with all the honestly and caring he could muster. Harry relaxed and smiled back.
"Are there any cookbooks here?"
Momentarily caught off guard by the request Mr. Thomas automatically responded with "Yes, yes there are."
Harry was happy; he found the place he was looking for with the books he wanted. Mr. Thomas having gotten his thoughts back in order wondered at a young boy wanting cookbooks at this age.
"I take it your mother is in the car and asked you to come ask?" Mr. Thomas tried looking past Harry to see if a car was indeed pulled up to the curb and the boy, younger than he had ever seen sent in to ask a question, was waiting outside for his return with an answer. The answer he got after seeing no car outside by the street surprised Mr. Thomas.
"My parents are dead." The boy said. The librarian closed his eyes for a moment cursing his unintentional assumption. Opening his eyes and looking directly at the boy this time seeing part of a scar on his forehead assumed whatever happened the boy was there for it. Best to just move on then as the boy already seems skittish.
"Alright then," putting a smile back on his face. "I'm sorry for bringing it up. Now then, how can I help you? I believe you said something about cookbooks." Harry merely nodded.
"Let's go take a look at them we have a few. Not a big call for that kind of thing really. Most people have them handed down through the family and friends." Mr. Thomas was about ready to kick his own arse. "Did I really just toss out another reminder of his dead family!" he thought.
"My aunt has several of them from relatives." Harry replied unknowingly letting the gentleman feel a tad better about his automatic response to the boy. "Excuse me sir."
Turning back to the lad he was leading off to one section of the library. "My name is Paul Gregory Thomas. When I am working it is Mr. Thomas. To my associates it is Paul. To my friends it is Greg. Do you understand?"
Harry quickly nodded and asked, "Mr. Thomas are all these-"
"No, call me Paul young man."
"Yes sir, I was –"
"You don't listen to well do you?" Smirked Paul
Harry thought for a second then spoke "Paul, I was wondering if these other books we are passing have recipes in them too?"
Having finally gotten to their destination Paul turned to Harry while putting his hand on the short row of books shelves.
"These here are the only books on cooking we have here. Most of the others are on a wide variety of subjects that may or may not interest you at another time. After all most little bookworms like to make their way through them eventually." The last statement had confused Harry at the time. The smile on Paul's face and hope in his eyes was enough for Harry to trust the man. If the other books had other things in them maybe he would like them too.
Coming back out of his memories about the past Harry thought maybe he should ask Paul about this book. The man seemed to know a lot about the books in the library. Looking up into the sky Harry would have to make a trip to the library soon and see Paul again. But now it was time to start making dinner. He knew he had to get inside and start cleaning up or get into trouble.
After making a nice dinner for everyone and cleaning up the dinner dishes Harry retired to his room for the evening. Harry was laying on his bed his head hanging over the edge effectively looking at the world upside down with the book in his hands staring at it as he held it sideways. It was starting to bother him it was empty. More importantly why did it bother him? Was the book broken? Wait, how do you break a book?
Sitting up with the book in his lap he started to feel sleepy. Looking at his clock that came with the room saw that the time. 8 p.m. he wasn't normally this tired this early. But then he never weeded the garden before either. Guess that is an early night for him. Getting changed into his night clothes he laid down after tucking the book under his pillow. Putting the book on the shelf with Petunia's books did not seem right to him.
"Happy Birthday to me." Harry smiled before drifting off.