Disclaimer: Usually I write out this very specific disclaimer explaining exactly what it is I don't own but I find myself not really interested in doing so as it is very tedious. Suffice it to say I own nothing that was created by anyone else and I am making no money whatsoever from the writing of this FanFiction.
Warnings: Mild to moderate violence, character death, foul language, alternate universe (i.e. kiss HP canon goodbye), angst, drama, starts pre-Hogwarts Era, and who knows what else.
AN1: The timelines of both SAO and HP have been adjusted in order to align the storyline the way I wanted it to go. HP's timeline has been bumped forward three decades (meaning that Harry was born in the year 2010, orphaned in 2011, and due to go to Hogwarts in 2021) and SAO's timeline has been moved back three years (Kirito born in 2005 and the players trapped in SAO in 2019). Characters and players within the game will speak Japanese (except when Harry initiates a conversation in English with a player) and all Japanese dialogue will be written in italics in order to distinguish it from Harry's spoken English – regardless of whose point of view is being used.
Additionally, I have placed Dudley's age as three years older than Harry; this is to make it more reasonable for Dudley to have gotten a NERDLES implanted at the start of the story since he would have only been a year younger than the cut off (those under thirteen being banned from having NERDLES implanted according to the SAO world rules. And while Vernon could probably spend any amount he wanted to get Dudley one early, I can't see a nine year old as being over looked while a very fat twelve year old might. This also gave the Dursleys more time as a family together before Harry was thrust into their life and therefore more reason for them (Dudley in particular) to resent Harry's presence.
AN2: This story is self-beta'd; so there may be occasional grammatical or spelling errors that crop up every now and then and for those I apologize in advance.
Chapter One: Theft
Thursday, August 15, 2019 7:45 PM
Nine year old Harry Potter watched with undisguised shock while his heavyset twelve year old cousin, Dudley Dursley, pitched a fit as his grossly overweight uncle, Vernon Dursley, stormed in and out of the house several times hauling a small fortune's worth of brand spanking new computer and gaming equipment. Little Harry was stunned speechless that his uncle was throwing away the computer, the gaming console, the state of the art Nerve Gear, and all of the brand new (and rather expensive) games he'd purchased for his son over the past couple of months. He just couldn't believe that his uncle would take something away from his [Harry's] cousin after he [Uncle Vernon] had spent so much money on the gaming system in the first place and when it was patently obvious that Dudley still wanted said computer equipment.
It was unreal because Uncle Vernon never denied Dudley anything. If one was to look up the definition for the phrase 'spoiled rotten' in the dictionary one would find a picture of Dudley Dursley; that was how much the boy had been spoiled. Late night snacks, late night movies, expensive toys, all day trips to amusement parks, brand new clothes, all the latest techno-gadgets; it didn't matter what it cost or how unreasonable the desire. If Dudley wanted it, then he got it; pure and simple.
What could possibly drive an overindulgent father into taking away a prized possession from his beloved son? To answer that question, one would first need to know a little history about the Dursley Family.
The Dursley family is comprised of four individuals; Vernon Dursley, his wife Petunia Dursley (née Evans), his son Dudley Dursley, and his older sister Marge Dursley. Mr. Dursley is an ordinary man with an ordinary job who loves his ordinary wife and wonderfully ordinary son. Mrs. Dursley is the perfect housewife who thinks she landed the perfect husband, knew she'd given birth to the world's most perfect boy, and she is perfectly content to spy upon her less than perfect neighbors in order to spread perfectly scandalous gossip about town. Dudley is just Dudley and he cares for nothing and thinks of no one but himself. And Miss Dursley swears her brother's family is the best family one could have and takes pleasure in gloating over how fine a boy her nephew is turning out to be.
Over all, they were a perfectly normal sort of family that was perfectly satisfied with their perfectly normal life.
Unfortunately, for the Dursleys, their perfectly normal life took a sharp turn towards the abnormal when Mrs. Dursley unexpectedly found her one and a half year old nephew, one Harry James Potter, sitting on their porch in a basket one brisk autumn morning. With the arrival of their nephew, the Dursley's normal lifestyle took a steep nosedive towards the abnormal. For starters, normal families did not have newly orphaned relatives dropped on their doorsteps without so much as a by-your-leave with nothing but a letter telling them an estranged family member had been murdered during the night. Normal families also did not attempt to hide all evidence that said child existed.
Worse yet, in the eyes of the now no longer normal Dursley family, was the fact that the unwanted child that had been dumped upon their doorstep had been born with a rare ability. He'd been born with the ability to use magic. A freak in the eyes of the family upon whose doorstep he'd been left. An unwanted burden. A terrible secret that would ruin their 'normal' lives completely should anyone learn that he was related to them.
Now, some may jump to the conclusion that the Dursleys would physically abuse the abnormal and unwanted child that they had been saddled with but the truth was that they went out of their way to avoid touching little Harry. They feared that they might contract some horrible disease if they were constantly coming into physical contact with the boy and so left him alone. That didn't stop them from tormenting him verbally, mentally, and emotionally or from threatening him with all kinds of terrible punishments any and every time something went wrong (including more than one death threat).
They also tended to blame him for everything that went wrong; even if there was no possible way for him to have been involved.
Despite their harsh and borderline unethical treatment of the child, he was at least taken care of, after a fashion. They fed him; even if the food he was given consisted of substandard fare that fell well short of a healthy diet (this was not all that surprising though, since the Dursley's diet was hardly what you'd call healthy). They clothed him; even if the clothes he was given were nothing but the worn out cast offs their precious son no longer wore. They sheltered him; if one could consider a small storage cupboard beneath the stairs adequate shelter. And they saw to it that he was properly educated; if only because sending him to school allowed them to kick the unnatural child out of the house for long hours at a time.
As far as the Dursleys were concerned, those bare necessities were more than adequate enough to cover their nephew's basic needs. In return for those bare necessities, Harry was required to do a rather unrealistic number of chores in order to 'repay' his relatives for their so called kindnesses and generosity.
He also had a very strict set of rules that he was to follow.
Never speak unless spoken to. Never answer the phone. Never answer the door. Never ask questions. Never show any emotions. Never touch any of Dudley's precious things. Never take anything that belonged to the Dursleys. Never let anyone see his face outside of the house (school days the only exception and even then he had to sneak out least one of the neighbors caught sight of him leaving the house). And above all else, never, ever speak of anything unnatural (like magic). So long as the rules were obeyed and his chores were completed on time, the Dursleys ignored Harry (provided there was no funny business going on that could be blamed on him).
All in all, it made for a sad and lonely existence for one Harry Potter. He didn't complain, even though he had no idea what it was he'd done to make his relatives hate him so much (completely unaware of his magical heritage), because any complaints he might have voiced would have gotten him in trouble. He couldn't remember a time when his life hadn't been the way it was now.
That didn't mean he was happy with his lot in life.
In fact, he hated living with the Dursleys (even if he didn't actively hate his relatives – he just didn't like them all that much). He couldn't bring himself to consider the Dursley's house home; not since he was old enough to realize just how unfair and unnatural it was for his relatives to treat him the way they did. And each night as he curled up beneath the stairs, he dreamed of a place he could call home.
His wish would be granted just a few weeks after his ninth birthday, on the night his entire world was shaken at the very foundations, when he watched the door slam shut behind Uncle Vernon as the man carried the last of Dudley's beloved gaming equipment out to the rubbish bins lined up beside the garage. You see, Dudley had made the mistake of bragging about the magical sword skills he'd learned in one of his games during the evening meal. The moment the word 'magic' had passed through Dudley's lips; Aunt Petunia had gone white as a sheet and nearly fainted in fear while Uncle Vernon had gone purple in rage.
The next thing Harry knew, Uncle Vernon had lugged the gaming equipment out to the rubbish bins as he muttered darkly under his breath while Dudley wailed like a siren in the background. Ducking back into his tiny bedroom (least his uncle find reason to blame the entire incident on him), Harry bit his lip as he listened to Dudley's ongoing tantrum; his mind going a mile a minute as he considered doing something that could easily see him kicked out of the house (or killed if he angered his uncle enough and the man actually followed through on his threats for once).
Harry was going to break a rule.
He was going to steal from the Dursleys; he was going to smuggle the binned gaming equipment back into the house and he was going to keep it for himself.
Worse, his theft was going to involve the ultimate taboo in the Dursley's world; his planned theft was something that contained mentions of magic.
Some people would question Harry's sanity for risking his entire existence for something that had clearly angered his uncle but Harry was curious. He wanted, no, needed to know what was so terrible about a single game (and the one word that apparently not even his cousin was allowed to utter) that would drive his overbearing and overindulgent uncle into throwing away such costly equipment while at the same time depriving his son of a favorite possession and, as the saying goes; in for a penny, in for a pound.
With that one decision, Harry changed the path his life had been set upon and the consequences would have far reaching effects.
Later that evening, after his relatives had gone to bed, Harry snuck out to the rubbish bins to carefully retrieve each and every last piece of gaming equipment that had been tossed out while his relatives slept on; all three of them blissfully unaware of his current misbehavior. It took him over an hour and close to eight trips back and forth between his closet and the rubbish bins to transport everything to his bedroom. He spent another two hours carefully setting everything up in the smallest corner of his cupboard (using the instructions, which had been thrown out as well), where the ceiling dropped down close to the floor due to the stairs.
He would run the cords against the wall behind his mattress to hide them from view before he plugged them into the unprotected socket on the opposite end of his cupboard. Two more trips outside would then net him a pair of cardboard boxes that one of the neighbors had thrown out, an old blanket his aunt was going to cut into dust rags, a pair of scissors, and a dusty roll of duct tape from the utility shed in the Dursley's back yard. Making as little noise as he possibly could, Harry cut up the cardboard boxes to make an accordion style door to hide everything behind; using the duct tape for hinges and to secure the door to the underside of the stairs.
Once finished, the door could be folded up vertically and secured to the ceiling of the room by a carefully folded loop of tape secured between two bent nails that stuck out from the step the makeshift door had been hung from. The leftover cardboard was then neatly tucked beneath his worn out mattress in order to make his bed a little bit more comfortable and the cords beneath it a little less noticeable.
Next, he cut the blanket into thirds; one third of which he cut up further to make the rags his aunt intended to turn the blanket into. Another third of the blanket was carefully spread out over his bed so that he wouldn't have to ask for new covers from his aunt; something that he would have gotten in trouble for doing. The final third was carefully hung over the inside of his cupboard door with duct tape in such a way that it would block the seams of the door and prevent any light from escaping out of his closet. The blanket could easily be hidden by rolling it up and securing it in place above the door with a small strip of cloth and the nails that poked out of the wall.
After hanging up the blanket over his door, Harry left his closet one last time to return the scissors and tape from where he'd gotten them from so they wouldn't be missed and to put the newly made rags away where they belonged so that his aunt wouldn't go searching for the missing blanket. On his way back to his room, he grabbed several alcohol wipes from the first aide kit so he could clean the equipment before he used it. When he returned to his room, he dropped the blanket down into place over his door and began taking care of his purloined gaming system.
Once he'd cleaned everything, paying close attention to the Nerve Gear out of necessity, Harry placed the spare Nerve Direct Linkage Environment System (NERDLES) that Uncle Vernon had purchased (in case the one that had been implanted in Dudley malfunctioned at some point) on the back of his neck where it met the base of his skull (as shown in the diagram of the package) completely unaware that the device was supposed to be surgically implanted. He winced as he felt the needles of the device pierce his skin but soon forgot about the pain as he slipped on the helmet unit of the Nerve Gear and powered on the device.
The device ran through a complete diagnosis of his current physical, mental, and emotional state before he launched the basic tutorial on how to use the equipment when the option was provided. Next he ran through a step that the system called calibration; the system requesting that he physically touch various parts of his body in order to allow the gear to learn how much he had to move his hands to reach each part; which would allow the system to accurately and smoothly portray the sensation of movement while he was within the games.
During this period, he never noticed his magic integrating the NERDLES device completely into his body and enhancing the effectiveness of the technology at the same time instead of shorting it out like it should have the moment his magic had come in contact with the active technology – not surprising since the device hadn't actually been properly activated by a surgical technician upon proper implantation.
It only took about twenty minutes for Harry to learn the basics before he was testing the system using one of the many educational games that the Dursleys had purchased in the hopes that Dudley would learn from them. He quickly grew bored with that simple game though and sat up to hunt through the pile of games to find the game that Dudley had been bragging about during the meal. It didn't take him long to find the disc and just seconds later he inserted the beta release of Ken no Sekai (a game for which Uncle Vernon had shelled out nearly two thousand quid in order to purchase a copy from a Japanese client through work because Dudley had demanded a copy of the game) into the console.
He wasted no time in activating the link once the Nerve Gear informed him that the software had been loaded. Over the course of the next hour, Harry slowly muddled his way through the game's tutorial to build himself a cool looking avatar that looked like an older and taller version of himself using the step by step instructions that had been provided by the man that his uncle had purchased the software from (due to an English version of the game being unavailable).
Next he was required to fill out a short questionnaire that would determine what Skills he could learn during the course of his game play and what his chosen profession would be (once again relying on the provided instructions). Lastly, he selected his middle name as his penname (to keep anyone from recognizing him), leaving the rest of his profile blank for the same reason why he'd not used his first or last name.
The game then activated and he appeared in a cathedral like room that was called the Fukkatsu no Heya. Harry would eventually learn that this was the room in which a player's character would respawn if they 'died' during the game after he'd began teaching himself to read and write Japanese at the local library in order to play the game more effectively. Harry spent several minutes checking out the magnificent room before he dashed across the open floor and hurried out through the only door.
A grin bloomed across Harry's face and his eyes lit up with wonder as he stared out at the rambling streets of what looked like a medieval city that he would soon discover was called Hajimari no Machi. It looked nothing like the cookie-cutter rows of houses that filled the street his aunt and uncle lived on and that alone made it remarkable.
It was love at first sight.
Saturday, November 02, 2019 9:15 AM
Harry focused intently on washing the breakfast pans while he kept one ear open for the sound of the post being pushed through the mail slot. It had been over a month since the beta test of Sword Art Online (SAO) had ended and the official version of the game was due to go live in four days. Uncle Vernon had pre-ordered the full version of the game (through the online link located within the beta version) shortly after he purchased the beta software and several days before he'd trashed the entire system because Dudley had used the word 'magic' even though there were actually no Magical Skills offered in the game (Harry had looked because he wanted to see what the forbidden magic looked like).
The software should have been shipped out on the twenty-eighth of October (the shipping date announced in-game on the last day of the beta test) and Harry had been diligently checking the mail every morning since the thirtieth in the hopes of stealing it before Vernon or Dudley saw it; both of the Dursley males had long since forgotten about the game and he didn't want to remind them. So long as he could chuck the software into his cupboard without anyone noticing, no one would ever know that he'd been the one to take the gaming equipment out of the rubbish bin nearly three months earlier.
Oh how both Dudley and Vernon had moaned and complained about that; Dudley because he'd planned to sneak it back into the house himself once his father had gone to work and Vernon because he'd been hoping to take it to the pawn shop in order to get back part of what he'd spent to purchase everything.
Harry was eager to return to the life he'd created for himself inside of the virtual reality game; a life that was nothing at all like his real life. In the game, he was Tracker James; a reclusive scavenger hunter that located rare items, plants, and creatures that he could sell or trade for goods, services, or money. He was pants at sword work (he had killed himself far too many times each time he tried to use a sword) and had instead learned how to make various types of traps to capture and kill the different monsters and creatures that he hunted. He'd quickly learned which of the game's Equipped Skills would help him survive on his own in the dungeons and had honed them during the month and a half he'd had to play the beta version.
Those Skills included:
Searching: the ability to spot players, monsters, creatures, and rare items.
Tracking: the ability to follow any player, monster, or creature.
Listening: the ability to hear the smallest of sounds.
Night Vision: the ability to see in the dark.
Detection: the ability to detect hidden monsters or players and avoid ambushes.
Hiding: the ability to avoid notice from players, monsters, and creatures that use visual tracking.
Sprint: the ability to use extreme speed over a short distance (useful for dodging an attack or attacking when least expected).
Fishing: allows a player to catch water-bound creatures and monsters.
Acrobatics: an ability that can be used to dodge attacks, to perform aerial attacks, or to entertain other players.
And Trapping: the ability to set a variety of traps in order to kill or capture any monster and creature; though it was far less effective on boss level monsters.
He had also learned a handful of Unarmed Skills that he'd found highly useful in getting through the game. Those Skills were:
Escape: the ability to flee from a battle with an opponent that is too powerful (the only exception being Boss Monsters).
Camping: allows a player to use their equipped skills to make a safe camp in which they could rest while within a dungeon.
Navigation: the ability to create dungeon maps in order to better navigate a dungeon.
Scouting: the ability to locate safe zones within a dungeon – this skill was linked to the equipped skills of Tracking, Searching, and Detection.
And Research: the ability to separate fact from rumor and dig up hard to find information – this skill was linked to the equipped skill Listening.
Outside of the game, Harry spent what time he could at the local public library looking up the meanings of the various Japanese symbols that he painstakingly copied from the game introduction and the Player Menu so he could memorize what they meant in order to navigate the game easier. He also looked up common phrases in Japanese so he could speak to and understand the other players when needed (his self-study sessions had continued even after the beta test was shut down).
At first glance, his character appeared to be weak but because he'd built up all of his Skills (both the Equipped and the Unarmed Skills) to a minimum of six hundred Points or higher, he was actually quite strong. He also tended to fight using his head rather than his muscles (figuratively speaking) since the only equipment he carried with him was a small dagger, a shovel, and the ropes, wires, and cables that he used for his snare traps. During the course of the game, Harry had learned quite a bit about himself as well. He found that he enjoyed the quiet solitude of the forest, disliked large crowds, hated small dark spaces, and that he loved the challenge of hunting the harder to kill game monsters.
More importantly though, was that in the six weeks he'd been playing the game, the world of Aincrad had become home to the nine year old.
Harry was pulled out of his introspection by the sound of the mail flap squeaking open and it took all of his willpower to keep the grin off his face as he heard the sound of a heavier than normal package hitting the floor. He just knew that the software he'd been waiting for had finally arrived. The Dursleys were far too engrossed in watching the television set in the dining room and eating the large meal Harry had cooked for them to pay attention to the world around them and Harry quickly dried his hands before dashing to the front door on silent feet. It took but a couple of seconds for him to collect everything from the floor and his hands fairly shook when he saw the Argus Company logo combined with the SAO logo on the thick, plastic wrapped cardboard packet that had been shoved through the slot.
Hardly daring to breathe, his heart pounding like crazy, Harry hurried to his cupboard under the stairs and shoved the package beneath his mattress before he hurried to the dining room to place the rest of the mail on the table beside his uncle. He then scampered back into the kitchen to finish washing the pots and pans so he could start on the rest of his chores; the sooner he got them finished, the sooner he could open the game to check it out. Even knowing he'd have to wait at least another four days before he could play the game didn't dampen his mood as he scrubbed diligently at the caked on bits of overcooked egg that was stuck to the skillet he was washing.
Keeping his excitement bottled up inside was nearly impossible but it was something he had to force himself to do least the Dursleys get suspicious of his behavior and searched his cupboard. Still, every so often he could help the huge grin that would spread across his face for a few seconds before he could wipe it from his face.
Only four more days until he could go home.
Translations: Japanese to English
Fukkatsu no Heya – Room of Resurrection
Hajimari no Machi – Starting City or Town of Beginnings
Ken no Sekai – Sword Art Online
Nerve Gear – equipment created by Kayaba Akihiko (Argus); allows the user to enter FullDive
FullDive – the use of technology to fully immerse one's conscience in a virtual reality
NERDLES – Nerve Direct Linkage Environment System (a surgically implanted chip that allows the FullDive system to interface with the brain – the surgically implanted part may or may not be canon as it was something I thought seemed more logical than it just being part of the interface helmet)
Respawn – a reset of the player's character after the character has 'died' within the game
SAO – Sword Art Online
Harry's Game Data/Stats (End of Beta Test):
Classification: Human Player
Steel Shovel – Sturdy shovel used for digging traps
Steel Cable – Extra thick wire that is difficult to break/cut and used to create traps
Hardy Boots – Sturdy boots that make some noise and raise his defense slightly
Leather Gloves – Sturdy gloves that protect his hands from his trap wires and cables and raise his defense slightly
Leather Clothes – Sturdy clothes that raise his defense slightly
Skill Slots: 10
Equipped Skills: (Basic 1-250 pts, Advanced 251-500 pts, Proficient 501-750 pts, Expert 751-999 pts, & Master 1000 pts)
Acrobatics – 602
Detection – 712
Fishing – 653
Hiding – 726
Listening – 756
Night Vision – 635
Searching – 749
Sprint – 798
Tracking – 695
Trapping – 763
Unarmed Skills: 5
Escape – 748
Camping – 671
Navigation – 604
Scouting – 618
Research – 642
Notes: To calculate the HP for any given level I used the following formula: [175(L – 1) + 350] where L = player's level and 350 represents a player's HP at level one. So, using Harry's beta level as an example; [175(23-1) + 350 = 4200]
10-16-15: Minor edits made to chapter to fix spelling/grammar mistakes and removed unnecessary author's notes.