(A/N: For the many-th time, I do not own what J.K. Rowling owns. Though it might be nice.
Anyone who's been around my writing for a while will probably be familiar with my multi-story AU the Dangerverse. This story is not precisely DV, but it certainly draws from the DV, and it does indeed use some motifs I have employed before. If either of these things is going to bother you, you cannot say that you were not warned.
I write fan fiction primarily to relax and to entertain myself. While I certainly hope that "For Your Own Good" entertains you as well, if it stops doing that at any point, please feel free to stop reading. I promise you, there will be no hard feelings on my part. Thank you.
Now that I have that little peroration out of the way, onwards to the story. Please enjoy!)
From a broadcast on the Wizarding Wireless Network, 5 January, 1991:
"Also of interest this evening: everyone's favorite source for offbeat news, The Quibbler, has released its set of predictions for the upcoming decade. A rise in the popularity of edible earrings is apparently in store, as is a second war with You-Know-Who and the discovery of a foreign-born heir to the House of Black. It seems no one's told editor Xenophilius Lovegood that You-Know-Who has been dead and the last living member of the House of Black imprisoned for the vast majority of the last decade, but then, what fun would that be. And now, the weather…"
"I'm passing back your three-page story assignments now," the teacher told her class of ten-year-olds, walking down the front row of desks and handing each child a small pile of papers, from which they took their own marked story and turned around to give the person behind them the rest. "Most of you remembered what we've been covering in class, and used things like descriptive details and humor to make your world and your characters vivid and real. But one story in particular was excellent, and I'd like to share a little of it with you now." Picking up a stapled set of pages from her own desk, she waited for the final few students in the back to receive their assignments, then began.
"Mr. and Mrs. Blake, of 2319 Tudor Lane, Creedsdale, Pennsylvania, were proud to say that they and their son and daughter were perfectly normal, thank you very much. So were Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, of the same address, and their son and daughter. They had begun sharing a house, and two kittens named River and Firefly, as a way to save money when their children were tiny, but they had discovered as time went by that they liked it, until now they could hardly imagine living life any other way…"
Near the back of the room, one boy propped his head on his hand and let his eyes behind their round-framed glasses drift shut. He had no need to listen to his teacher read this story. It had been his escape from the grinding mundanity of his aunt and uncle's house for as long as he could remember, a warm and vivid world filled with color and laughter and life, as real to him as the classroom in which he sat.
Even if it is only a dream.
The heat from the radiator behind him, cranked to its highest setting on account of the late January cold snap, lulled him towards sleep, and his own words spoken aloud in his teacher's quiet voice set the scene he knew he would see.
Just an ordinary morning for Henry Blake and his family. Eating breakfast, dressing for the weather, hurrying out the door so we don't miss the bus…
"Why," demanded Jeanie Reynolds, extracting her gloves from under Firefly the grey tabby, "do you always have to wear that ugly hat Mom made you?"
"It's a statement," said her brother Mal before Henry could answer for himself, tweaking a bit of the fringe hanging down from the knitted orange earflaps, then batting a finger through the pompom on the top. "If he's willing to walk around in public wearing it, that means he's not afraid of anything."
"Besides." Henry shooed calico River off Jeanie's battered satchel, then scooped it up and waggled it at her. "At least I don't carry my books around in something covered with hearts and flowers and teddy bears."
"It is not covered with them." Jeanie snatched the bag from her courtesy cousin and slung it over her shoulder. "It's only got one of each!"
"And yet, it still looks sillier than Henry's hat." Mal pulled on the long brown leather coat for which he'd saved a year and a half's worth of birthday, Christmas, and extra-chores money. "I think he looks pretty good in orange, myself. Sets off his skin tone. Everybody got everything?"
"I can't find my parasol!" wailed a voice from the hallway leading back to the bedrooms. "Has anybody seen it?"
Jeanie sighed. "It's below freezing out, Pearl," she said in a tone of much-tried patience. "You don't need a parasol."
"Do too!" Henry's little sister, eight years old to his and Mal's ten and Jeanie's eleven, erupted into the main room in the flurry of movement he always associated with her. "Sun is even worse when it's reflecting off snow, Daddy says so—"
"Except that the sun's barely up yet," Henry cut her off, gesturing to the side windows of the house, beyond which only the faintest tinge of pink could be seen in the eastern sky. "And we don't exactly have a long walk to get to the bus stop." Over her shoulder, he caught sight of the clock hanging on the kitchen wall. "But we do have to leave. Now. Bye Dad, bye Aunt Gigi!"
"Bye Mom!" Mal added his own voice to the chorus, over Jeanie's "Bye Uncle Ryan!"
Chattering together about the events of the day to come, the two pairs of siblings hurried out the front door. Henry, as the last one through, made sure to twist the tiny metal switch on the inside of the doorknob which would lock it, since both of the adults currently home were down in the basement, then speeded his steps to catch up with the others, tweaking one of his sister's myriad of tiny braids which had escaped her red jacket's hood and dodging her snapped teeth with ease.
It was going to be a good day. He could feel it.
"…so as you can see, we get a strong sense of the characters and the world in which they live, even from such a short sketch as this," the teacher was saying. "I'll be sending a letter home with the student who wrote this, to recommend some specialized classes or one-on-one tutoring to develop this gift further—"
Her voice was cut off by the bell. "Homework, look over what I've marked on your stories!" she called out over the sound of a classroom full of students shoving chairs back, stuffing books into their bags, and hurrying towards the door on their way to lunch. "We'll be having another assignment like this next week, so think about what you might plan to do differently!"
The boy who'd written the story ignored his cousin's meaningful grimace as the larger boy clumped out of the room with his usual crowd around him, concentrating instead on gathering up the books which had in some mysterious way become dispersed on the floor around his feet. By the time he got the last of them into his bag, he was alone in the room with his teacher.
"Is something wrong, Harry?" she asked quietly.
"No, Miss." Harry Potter pushed his glasses up his nose, looking everywhere except at his teacher's face. "Nothing's wrong."
"If I give you that letter, is it going to get lost somewhere between here and your aunt and uncle?" Paper rustled as the teacher picked up another sheet from her desktop. "Or have I already done the damage just by saying I was going to?"
Keeping his eyes averted, Harry nodded once, quickly.
"I'm sorry." The teacher sighed. "I should have remembered your cousin's in this class."
"It's all right, Miss." Harry looked up and risked a smile at the moderately disgusted expression on the teacher's face as she glared towards the door. "I'll just get sent to my—room for showing Dudley up, and that means I can think about this world some more."
"A good attitude to have." The teacher held out her sheet of paper. "And some good information as well, once you're old enough to take advantage of it. Some of these classes are held at Stonewall High after school, and they're free for any student who wants to sign up."
"Thanks." Harry came to the front of the room and accepted the paper after a brief hesitation, folding it in half and tucking it between two of his books. "Have a good day, Miss."
"I will, Harry. You do the same—oh, and before I forget." The teacher opened one of her desk drawers and took out a small paper bag, setting it on the corner of her desk. "It was my turn to clean out the lost and found box the other day, and I came across this. You wouldn't happen to know who it belongs to?"
Harry opened the bag and looked down at its contents, then glanced back at the corner of the room where his teacher's handbag was sitting. It wasn't quite closed at the top, and he could just see a pair of blunted metal points inside it.
"I think it's mine, Miss," he said with as close to a straight face as he could maintain, pulling out the gaudy knitted hat, done in wide horizontal blocks of various shades of orange. "Thank you."
"You're quite welcome, Harry." The teacher smiled. "On your way, now."
Thoughts of his two worlds occupied Harry while he ate his lunch, to the point where he barely noticed when Dudley helped himself to Harry's chocolate pudding (a common occurrence in any case). His life with the Dursleys could not quite be described as unbearable, but he had no trouble understanding the choices made by his dreaming mind.
His Aunt Petunia, for instance, could become nearly hysterical over a misplaced knickknack or an undusted cabinet at number four, Privet Drive, so the standard of housekeeping at 2319 Tudor Lane placed more emphasis on comfort than appearance. Dudley's best use for Harry was as a target or a punching bag, whereas Mal's glib tongue and Jeanie's wealth of knowledge, not to mention little Pearl's wickedly fast throwing arm, were pretty much guaranteed to be on Henry's side in any given argument. And while his Uncle Vernon poured scorn on all foreigners, Harry's dreaming life took place almost entirely in America.
Though I've always thought there's a story behind that. Harry shrugged. Given that it's a dream, it's likely to be something along the lines of "so the talking snake can't eat all the magical red rocks", but still. I'm always meaning to ask why we moved to Creedsdale, how old I was when it happened, all sorts of things, and then I forget about it because we're doing something different. He smiled to himself. We do a lot of different things at Tudor Lane. For that matter, I'm different there, and not just my name, either!
Harry Potter saw a rather thin face looking back from the mirror every morning, with bright green eyes surrounded by the wire frames of his glasses, a tousled mess of black hair with a fringe half-hiding a scar shaped like a bolt of lightning, and peachy-pale skin, more or less tan depending on the season. Henry Blake saw the first few things as well, but his skin, like his parents', was a warm brown like oak leaves in autumn, making the lightning-bolt scar harder to spot even when his bangs weren't hiding it. His cheeks were rounder, likely because he'd never had to sneak food as Harry would tonight, and his chin had a slight divot where his sister, age three, had bounced a toy car off it after he'd kicked over the miniature racecourse she'd built.
Nobody'd ever think we were the same person. And maybe that's why America. Maybe we had to get out of the country in a hurry, because we're in hiding from something, or someone…
But at this point Harry's thoughts, as ever, ground to a halt, because it seemed unbelievable that either of his incarnations would need to hide from anything. Harry himself could not possibly have been more ordinary (always discounting the weird things which occasionally happened around him), and the strangest thing in Henry's life was the fact that his family, as he defined it, included his parents' best friends and their children. The older two Reynolds had been "Uncle John" and "Aunt Gigi" to him and Pearl since they'd been able to talk, just as his own parents were "Uncle Ryan" and "Aunt Thea" to Jeanie and Mal.
Though no, that's not quite right. There is something a bit odd about us in the dreams. Harry's forehead furrowed as he thought about it. Nothing that would cause trouble, I don't think. Just something that makes us different. But somehow, when I wake up, I can never remember what that is.
He shrugged again. Anything he couldn't remember was unlikely to be important, and he didn't need to waste his time over it.
Besides, it's not like stuff that happens in my dreams could change anything about my real life.
Absently, he reached into his bag to twine his fingers into his newly acquired hat.
Henry bolted awake in the corner bedroom he shared with his cousins and sister, his Uncle John standing beside his upper bunk, one hand on his shoulder. "There you are," the older man said, a smile relaxing a few of the worry lines on his strongly triangular face. "Are you all right?"
"I think so." Henry concentrated on his surroundings, on the sights and sounds and smells of home all around him, and slowly his heart and his breathing began to calm. "Yeah. I'm fine."
"Main room?" His uncle nodded towards the lower bunk, curtained off with black fabric as Mal preferred his privacy at nights, then glanced across the room to the full-sized bed in which Jeanie and Pearl slept snuggled together. "Let's not wake anybody else."
"'Kay." After another moment to make sure his arms and legs would take his weight, Henry sat up and swung himself over the end of the bunk beds to climb down the built-in ladder there, scooping up his glasses from the nightstand along the way. Uncle John had already gone ahead to the main room, and Firefly emerged from the bathroom door as Henry passed it to strop her length against his legs, purring. He scooped her up and held her against his shoulder, allowing her to reach up and rub the side of her jaw against the corner of his glasses, then carried her out into the main room, where he set her down on the back of one of the armchairs and curled up in it himself.
"Bad dream, Greeneyes?" Uncle John asked from the general vicinity of the kitchen, where he was doing something Henry couldn't quite see in the dim light from the moon outside.
"Mm-hmm." Henry reached over to the couch to get one of the little throws his Aunt Gigi liked to crochet, tucking it around his legs and feet. His blue-striped pajamas were comfortable, but he hadn't thought to grab his bathrobe, and two o'clock on a January morning tended to be chilly in Creedsdale.
"Same sort of thing as usual?" Returning to the main room, Uncle John set down on the table between the couch and Henry's armchair a tray with two steaming mugs on it. Henry couldn't help but smile as the scent of mint and Firefly's inquisitive trill came to him simultaneously. Nothing cleared away the fog of bad dreams more quickly than having to keep a curious feline out of one's cup of catnip tea.
"Just about," he answered belatedly, picking up his favorite mug ("Discover glorious destiny, defeat loathsome villain, marry gorgeous redhead…my work here is done") and blowing on the contents. "My stupid cousin ratting me out for doing well in school, my crazy uncle shouting at me for doing better in school than my stupid cousin, my crazy aunt picking my story apart almost word by word…" He frowned, shifting his mug to one side as Firefly flowed down from the back of the chair into his lap. "I still don't understand why she was reading it so carefully, or why she looked relieved when she got to the end. What did she think she was going to see?"
"What did she see?" Uncle John picked up his own mug ("Drinking my tea one hundred degrees hotter than everyone else since 1960") and took a sip, careful not to spill any on his soft red robe. "Just a story about us, about our lives and how we live them?"
"Yeah, pretty much." Henry blew on his tea again, then warmed his hands against the mug. Firefly was sniffing hopefully at the rising steam, and River squeezed out from under the couch, her black-tipped nose twitching. "Getting up in the morning, with Aunt Gigi fixing us breakfast before we head to school. Mal and I teasing each other on the bus until Jeanie smacks us both with her math book. You taking an early afternoon from the library and coming to get us at school, or Mom bringing us to one of the lounges at the hospital until she finishes rounds. Pearl's dance class, Mal's flute lessons, Jeanie's science club, my baseball, Dad popping out of the basement to get second opinions on a scene he's writing…just the usual everyday routine."
"Not having the privilege of knowing your crazy dream aunt, I can't say what she was looking for, but I'm glad she didn't find it." Uncle John removed the small bag filled with catnip leaves from his tea and emptied it into the slop bowl on the tray, which he set on the floor, getting the instant attention of both cats. "Your dreams sound disagreeable enough without your aunt and uncle—that aunt and uncle, I should say—having any more reasons to give you a hard time."
Henry risked a sip of tea. It was still sufficiently hot to sting his mouth, but the soft minty taste took him back to the leaves he'd helped to harvest from his mother's backyard garden on a warm summer evening, and the swallow brought a smile in its wake. "I just wish I knew what they wanted from me," he said restlessly, watching Firefly's striped head and River's patchy one bob up and down as they nibbled at the wet catnip. "They're always slapping punishments on me, 'for your own good', they say, and then they keep on watching me out of the corners of their eyes while I do whatever it is. Like they think I'm going to evolve on them or something."
"Gotta catch 'em all," his uncle quipped, making Henry snicker. "And are they still following what your father calls the Three-Step Plan to a Big Damn Hero?"
"You mean the cupboard under the stairs, the old clothes and broken glasses, making sure I never have any friends or anyone who could help me? All still happening right on schedule, and nobody's noticed yet." Henry paused, reflecting. "Except this one teacher at school, the one who liked my story and made me the hat I wrote about. Miss…whatever her name is. I can't remember." He sipped at his tea again. "Not that it matters, really. I'm done at that school in June, and I won't be back."
"No, you won't." Uncle John leaned back against the couch cushions, chuckling. "Either in your dreams, or in reality. But that, as your father would say, is a story for another day."
"Yeah." Henry swirled his tea gently in his mug. "You know what I wish?" he said after several long, silent moments. "I wish things worked both ways. Like I know I really do have a cousin named Dudley, and an Uncle Vernon and an Aunt Petunia, even if I've never met any of them for real. It's like Mal's cousin Dora, where he's related to her through his birth mom. Except Dora's pretty awesome, and the Dursleys…" He shrugged. "Not so much. I can handle it, they're not that bad, but it might be nice if somebody from around here existed on that side of things too. Just saying."
"Well, they are dreams." Uncle John tipped his tea back and forth in his mug, studying its surface as though trying to see the future. "I'm reliably informed it's possible to learn to control what one dreams about."
"What I'd like best would be if they'd just go away," Henry muttered, and finished his tea in three long swallows.
"You and me both, Greeneyes." His uncle accepted the empty mug and set it on the tray beside his own. "Feeling better?"
"Mostly." Henry turned his attention to the nip-drunk cats. Firefly had fallen over on her side and was paddling her paws weakly in the air, as though trying to catch invisible bugs, while River was pouncing frenetically on a piece of fluff from the carpet. "But one thing does worry me. When I'm awake here, when I'm Henry, that life feels like a dream, a really boring dream that I don't have to think about too much. But when I'm awake there, when I'm Harry, this life is the dream, the really good dream that can't ever actually happen." He looked up at his uncle, meeting eyes of a lighter green than his own. "So which one is true?"
"Which one do you want to be true?" Uncle John countered, standing up and drawing a slender rod of wood from the pocket of his robe. A swish and flick lifted the tea tray from the table, and a long and graceful motion of wrist sent it gliding into the kitchen to land, judging by the quiet clatter, neatly in the sink. "Which one do you believe in more? Magic is rooted in belief, Henry. Want something badly enough with your heart, put your head and your hands to work getting it, and you might be surprised where you'll end up."
"Back in the cupboard, is where I'm going to end up tonight." Henry slung the crocheted throw over the back of the armchair and got to his feet. "Still, there's worse things. It's private, at least, and quiet. Pearl whimpers in her sleep, did you know that? And Jeanie sucks her thumb."
"Still?" Uncle John sighed, returning his wand to his pocket. "I thought we'd weaned her off doing that. We'll have to take some stronger measures in the next few months, because unless young wizards and witches have changed quite a lot since my days at school, the girls in her dormitory would take especial pleasure in tormenting her within an inch of her life if they found that out."
Henry laughed a little, and hugged his uncle good night at the door to his bedroom, setting his glasses on the nightstand once more and clambering up the rungs into his bed. Curling up on his side, he closed his eyes and focused his attention inwards, on the two editions of himself and their utterly different realities.
I want that life, he enunciated clearly in his thoughts, envisioning Harry Potter's dreary existence in a tiny corner of Surrey with the relations who hated him, to look more like this one. Henry Blake's world spilled out before his mental eyes, in all its cheerfully chaotic glory and complete with honest-to-goodness magic (employed sparingly by the adults of the Tudor Lane household, but never hidden from their children, any more than their origins or former identities had been). I want a chance to do something I want to do, instead of always being told what to do "for my own good". To meet people who might actually like me, and want to be my friend…
The faces of his family hummed through his mind at this, until he set them firmly aside. Some things were too much to hope for, even in dreams.
And I want it soon, he added as he felt himself drifting back towards sleep. Because I'm going to need it.
Harry Potter might not know it yet, but Henry Blake had known for years that his family's jokes about being a Big Damn Hero weren't really jokes at all.
(A/N: Greetings, O readers! My name is Anne B. Walsh, and I'll be your author today!
So let me tell you a little bit about me. If you're just here for the story, or if you're a long-time fan and already know all this stuff, feel free to stop reading now. I'll wait.
Okay, as I was saying. American by birth and Pittsburgher by choice, I'm a massive word nerd, a bit of a general geek, and a lover of good food and musical theater. I'm also a pet-parent of four, sister of three, daughter of two, roommate of one, and since the age of five, I have been annoyed by things like the Disney trifecta of parenting styles (absent, stupid, or evil) and the "Get rid of the parents" rule of YA writing. Families can absolutely be a weird, dysfunctional pain in the butt, but most of them also have periods when things are working a little bit better, and I wanted to see those periods depicted more in the types of fiction I liked to read.
So, as Mr. John Reynolds advised his nephew a few paragraphs up, I put my head and my hands to work on what I wanted, and the results over the last ten years have been startling, even to me. I've produced a couple million words of Harry Potter fan fiction in various iterations of my main 'verse (the Dangerverse, after its title OC, who both is and is not a Mary Sue…it's complicated), along with three original novels and a number of shorter works, all working with the idea that a family, whether by blood or by choice or both, can actually be a pretty awesome thing to have. "For Your Own Good" does use some of the concepts and characters I developed for the DV, but I hope to make it fresh and fun for both old readers and new.
If you want to learn more about my writing, or about me, please visit either my website, annebwalsh dot com (which houses my blog, Anne's Randomness), or my Facebook page, facebook dot com slash annebwalsh dot page (easy, no?), to keep up with all the latest news. My original novels, historical fantasy A Widow in Waiting, family-focused fantasy Homecoming, and soft science fiction Killdeer, are also available on most booksellers' websites (Amazon, B&N, Apple, etc), and if you're wondering about the mugs used in this chapter, yes, they exist. Visit zazzle dot com slash annebwalsh for those and other fine, if silly, products.
Thank you very much for giving me this time, O readers, and allow me to hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Or at least of my providing you with an entertaining story. I'll take either.)