When Harry By Sylvia 12/10/02 Warnings: AU, death of major characters, dark themes. R for sexual situations, language Summary: What if Hagrid hadn't found Harry on his eleventh birthday. Feedback is most welcome, positive or negative.

When Harry was eleven, his uncle locked him in the basement for a fortnight. His cousin brought him food now and then, and there was a tap in the wall, so he had water, but it was darker than night and quiet as the grave. On the night of his birthday, there were strange noises upstairs and Harry felt a tug at his soul. It was as though someone were calling him home from far away, but the door was locked and he was chained to a pipe anyway, so he couldn't answer.

The morning after his birthday, when things had quieted down, his uncle let him out of the basement. He shoved Harry into the little room under the stairs and closed the door behind him. "Be grateful, boy, " he said. "I've saved you from a monstrous fate." Then he pulled off his belt and dropped trou, pushing Harry's face into the pillow so he wouldn't have to hear the noises Harry made.

That night, Harry dreamed of the school for the first time. It was a school for wizards, for magical children, beset by an ancient evil that lurked in its corridors. When he woke, the scar on his forehead was throbbing and his pillow was wet and salty from his tears.

When Harry was twelve, his uncle locked him in the basement again. There were no strange noises this time, though. No tugs at his soul, no calling home that only he could hear. Just the silence of the concrete walled room and the drip of the tap. On the night of his birthday, Harry dreamed again of the school. He dreamed of an old man, with a long white beard. The man was weeping over the bodies of two children. One was a boy about Harry's age, with red hair and a dusting of freckles on his homely face. The other was a girl with ink stains on her hands.

Harry's uncle died later that month and Harry smiled for the first time in years.

Strange things were happening in the world. Evil things that made him wonder. People seemed crueler, more afraid, and the sky was cloudy almost every day.

When Harry was thirteen, he ran away from home. His cousin had come to his tiny room in the night and tried to do what his uncle had done. Harry kicked him in the balls, stole his aunt's ATM card and some food, and fled to London.

There were riots that year, and London was a battleground. Class riots, race riots, student protests, gang wars. Everyone hated everyone, and chaos was king. Harry made a home in the middle of the confusion, sleeping in boxes, on the Underground, under bridges. He became skilled with a knife, a broken bottle, a stout length of pipe in his good right hand. The chicken hawks learned quick to leave him alone, and the other street rats gave him a wide berth. Things happened around Harry.

Harry dreamed of the school almost every night. The gray stones were black, now, and the four banners had been overshadowed by one. Field sable with snake, vert, rampant. The weeping old man was in a prison, screaming, surrounded by hungry shadows.

When Harry was fourteen, he met the giant. This is how it happened.

Harry was rooting around behind a bookstore for something to read. His squat on Baker Street had a low shelf of scrap wood and bricks that he was slowly filling with coverless books he had scrounged. This bookstore usually had a few in the bin on Fridays.

When the shadow fell across him, Harry reached for is knife. Brandy fumes blew over him and there was a musky, wild smell coming off of the man behind him that reminded Harry of the bear cage at the zoo. Quick as thought, Harry turned and looked up. And up. He thought for a moment that it was a bear after all. His specs had vanished long ago and he had to squint to see much up close.

"It's you," the bear said, then grabbed Harry in a hug that threatened to crush his ribs.

"Bloody 'ell!" Harry squirmed, but could no more escape that embrace than he could have his uncle, so long ago. Panic fueled his struggle, and he remembered the knife, but the giant was crying now, and the arms seemed to be cradling rather than crushing. Gentle, huge hands held him away and deep brown eyes searched his face. The giant's fingers were brushing back the flopping bangs that were always falling into his eyes. The scar. He was looking for the scar.

Then the giant started babbling. Talking a lot of rot about magic, and an enemy, and how he'd been looking for Harry for years, ever since before the wars and the death. "You're a wizard, Harry," he said, and meant it.

"Bullocks," Harry said, and meant it. Sure, he'd seen some strange things, and the laws of physics seemed to occasionally rewrite themselves around Harry, but magic? "You're drunk." Harry hadn't believed in magic since he was nine. His uncle had seen to that.

"Well, yes, but that's not the point."

Harry took the giant, Hagrid, back to his squat and fed him tinned beans and stale crackers, then watched him sleep. He was a great, hairy lump on the mattress, and he snored, but Harry wound up burrowing under the folds of his coat and Harry's blankets and sleeping through the night. He didn't dream.

They got the old man out of prison. A sneering bloke named Snape showed up one day, out of the blue, and the three of them got the wild-eyed man out, past the screaming shadows. The giant and Snape had been teaching Harry about magic, which as it turned out wasn't bullocks after all. When Hagrid sobered up, he'd pointed his pink umbrella at Harry's book collection and intoned, "Biblio Repairas" and all the books had covers again.

"Wicked," Harry breathed, eyes wide. "Can you teach me?"

Snape smiled a little and the lessons began.

They disguised themselves with spells and covered the mad, filthy old man with more spells and took him to an old manor house in Manchester that Snape claimed was his. It was a run down wreck, but it had food and fires and running water, and it was isolated, so no one could hear the old man when he woke up screaming.

When Harry was fifteen, he almost died. He was working with Snape and the old man, Dumbledore, practicing curses. Dumbledore still woke up screaming, most nights, but he had turned out to be not so insane once they'd gotten him fed and cleaned up and he'd slept for a week or so. Hagrid had kept watch, and the dreams stayed away.

Meantime, Harry's talent was blooming, and his skills were growing. Snape and Hagrid, and later Dumbledore, taught him curses, potions, spells to protect and to attack, incantations, divination, and how to conjure. At sixteen, Harry was lanky, dark, and wicked bad with a wand. His brown hair was too long, and his new specs made him look like eighteen, easy. He snuck out to pubs, sometimes, and into the beds of birds and blokes who'd pay for the treat. Helped pay for food, but Hagrid looked sad and a little angry whenever Harry gave him money for groceries.

One night, he was on his knees in an alley behind the Filthy Cauldron. His companion for the evening was as fair as he was dark, and where Harry burned hot, he was cool distain. Right now, though, he was leaning back against a brick wall and groaning as he twined his long fingers in Harry's hair, pulling him deep, and there was a crisp hundred in Harry's pocket, which made it all right.

Then, the fingers gripped hard, pulling Harry away, and the bloke's angry eyes stabbed down at him.

"What?" Harry said, his lips ruddy and tingling. There was a bitter taste on his tongue, and his jaw was a little sore.

"You're Potter," the bloke said, reaching into his expensive leather jacket. The wooden haft of a wand peeked out from the pocket as he fumbled for it.

Harry was on his feet and across the alley before the bloke had it out. Knife in his left hand, wand in his right, Harry said, "Sod off, mate. I don't know you and I don't want to."

The bloke backed away, zipping his trousers, his face pale and his jaw clenching with anger. "I know you, Potter. Malfoy. Remember the name. Skotono!"

"Negato Differens!" Sparks from the bloke's wand shattered against the ruddy mist that poured from Harry's, lighting the alley with a bloody incandescence. One of the sparks hit Harry's boot, and the foot went painfully dead. The bloke was gone before Harry could get off another spell.

The foot stayed dead for a week. Snape told him if the curse had hit fully, Harry would be dead and his soul sundered. It made Harry cautious, and it made him practice.

Harry got really good at curses.

Meanwhile the world was turning in to hell.

When Harry was sixteen, he saved the world.

Voldemort and his army over ran the old manor house, and Dumbledore and Snape held them back while Hagrid and Harry made a dash to the woods. They didn't make it. The four of them, battered and bleeding, were brought before Voldemort and made to kneel while the dark wizard gloated. The shadows had Albus almost gibbering. They loomed over him like living nightmares until the crazy old man collapsed into tears and buried his face in Hagrid's chest, hiding and sobbing like a child.

"Get on with it," Snape said, his dark eyes snapping defiance.

Voldemort just smiled, and then knocked the potions-master into the far wall. Snape fell to the floor, unmoving, blood seeping from his nose and mouth.

"Damned sniveling traitor," Voldemort muttered.

Harry just watched him, his long hair flopping into his eyes as usual, hiding the pulsing scar. The shadows crowded closer, and Voldemort stood before him at last. The dark wizard's eyes were alight with cruelty and malicious joy. "Well, Harry Potter. Nothing to say to the wizard who killed your parents?"

And Harry looked up at the bane of humanity, the scourge of the wizarding world, and said, "Give us a kiss?"

Voldemort laughed once, harsh as crow song, and licked his lips. Harry smiled cheekily, winking and giving him a come on look that usually had the birds and blokes on their backs in a twink. Worked just as good now.

"Little whore," the dark wizard muttered, and then his lips claimed Harry's, his long hands twining in the boy's thick hair.

Harry grabbed with both hands, holding the wizard's face to his, and swallowing the screams as the wizard fell into corruption and dust, his eyes wide and disbelieving to the last.

The shadows screamed their hollow screams and vanished into memories of nightmares. The dark wizard's army awoke and blinked in confusion as the coercion spell broke and dissolved, leaving them their memories and self will once again.

The sky cleared. The sun came out. Harry wiped dust from his lips and went to see if Snape was still alive. He was.

When Harry was seventeen, he died. The world was mostly peaceful once again, barring the occasional terrorist attack or suicide bombing. The school Harry had seen in his dreams so many times reopened, under Dumbledore's guidance and Snape's sarcastic prodding. All four banners flew once again, though the black and green had fewer students at their table than ever before.

Harry stayed in London, despite Hagrid's begging him to come to Hogwart's. "What would I do there? I'm a little old to be a first year," Harry said, and tapped a silk cut into his hand, lighting it with a cantrip.

So he'd rented a flat and moved his books over and found work in a curry shop. The hours were good, and he had fun playing with the ingredients in the vindaloo, wondering what Snape would say.

He was going to the corner for a pack of silks when a cold voice stopped him. "Remember me, Potter?" Pale eyes, pale hair, pale skin shone out from the alley, but the gun in his hand glinted bright. Malfoy. Then thunder split the sky and it rained blood and he was falling falling and he couldn't breathe and it was dark.dark as the basement.dark as Snape's eyes..

He woke up in hospital, and the old man was smiling down at him. Snape was scowling in the corner and Hagrid was looking worried. "Welcome to Hogwart's at last, Harry," Albus said. "Welcome home." And Harry answered the call he had heard when he was twelve, and smiled, and settled in to sleep for a while.

The End