Disclaimer: consider this disclaimed.
Author's Note: Most of the important information about this story can be found above. It's 272,000 words long, so it's a bit of a time commitment, it's rated T, so there's some mature material but not too much, and from the summary (which after seventy-four million, two hundred and sixty-three thousand, four hundred and eighty-eight tries I'm finally satisfied with) you can probably glean that this is one of those stories where the piece of Voldemort's soul in Harry's head wakes up and begins to change his life, for better or for worse. Below are some fun facts that you probably won't be able to deduce from the aforementioned information.
Scope: This story covers Harry's pre-Hogwarts years, and years 1 through 3. A sequel covers 4 - the end.
What this story is not: Slash (most of the characters in this story are under fourteen, so there will be no romance...as for the sequel, though it will not be a slash story per se, there will be non-heterosexual relationships mentioned), a dark!Harry story (this is more a matter of opinion...I don't consider my version of Harry to be 'dark', but I know that others do), or bashing (I try to never demonize characters for the sake of plot development).
Genre: This is a coming of age story, and will focus a lot on Harry's psychological development and the relationships he builds. I tend to keep things fairly light-hearted, and when the story is not in a particularly dark or solemn place, I do employ a fair bit of humour. I like to make people laugh, and even though this isn't a comedy, it's still supposed to be fun. That being said, there are some very dark themes that weave their way through the story, and the overarching plot is quite grim.
Warnings and rating: This story is rated 'T', but it's more on the mature side of 'T'. The rating is for: depictions of abuse, violence, mental illness, and substance abuse, and some uncouth language. Fair warning, the sequel is rated 'M'.
Anyway, I think I've covered all the bases, and if you've made it this far and still want to give this a read, I want to thank you for your interest in my story, and I truly hope that my writing can keep you entertained. Again, thank you for reading, have fun, and enjoy!
Chapter 1: The Start of a Beautiful Friendship
The morning was crisp, still, and bathed in a delicate golden light – just like any self-respecting August morning should be. August was a month that could only be described as sweet - the way the sun kissed the ground lovingly, its glow adorning everything it cast its gaze upon even on the cloudiest of days, was truly the opposite of everything bitter and dark in the world. It was this sweetness that set it apart from the other months.
But August was not only sweet - it was also useful. Seven o'clock was often an unkind hour, still tightly embraced by the chill of night. October through March, seven o'clock could hardly be called morning at all; it was a cold hour shrouded in grey. April and September weren't much better. August, however, changed all this. August mornings were nothing short of pleasant, and this is indeed what made hiding out in the yard a more than acceptable morning activity. Really, he couldn't help but muse, sitting under the old oak tree at seven o'clock, with the August sun warming his face, wasn't so bad - a decent way to start the day.
It was quiet. He liked that. It was times like this that he could really feel. It was times like this when his mind could work its magic, gathering data and processing stimuli with exquisite attention to detail. Yes, seven o'clock was the perfect time to notice things. Like grass. There was a unique and stimulating quality to the manner in which the damp, feathery tendrils tickled his legs, complemented by the subtle breeze that swept over the yard, tousling his neat raven locks in a way that would have been adorable. But it was not. There was nothing adorable about him; even the tranquility of an August morning would not allow him to forget that. And anyone who'd seen his eyes would no doubt agree; they were cold and dark, belied by his soft, sweet, August-like features. Yes, everyone thought him a perfect angel until they looked him in the eye. Then they knew. He was no August child - he had been born in December.
It was an ugly screeching sound, causing him to hiss angrily and grit his teeth. Mrs. Cole had no doubt heard the story – Stubbs had of course gone to her again, whining and moaning like the incompetent child he was. Honestly, Tom couldn't be blamed for his actions; Billy Stubbs, with all his snide comments, flippant gestures, and grating voice, he deserved it, and much, much more. There was something simply horrible about that boy. The spiders agreed with him - the spiders that had marched dutifully up his trousers not 10 minutes ago, no doubt leaving him with nasty bites all over. Of course, the Stubbs boy didn't have any proof of his involvement, but he didn't need any. Everyone knew about Tom's strangeness – namely, his uncanny ability to train animals without lifting a finger.
A contemptuous sneer washed over his face. Stubbs had gotten off easy this time. The stupid boy would get what was coming to him. That is, when the time was right. Mrs. Cole always said not to play with his food – so, naturally, that's exactly what he planned to do.
"There you are!"
He glanced up sharply, scowling.
"Now, don't give me any of that, you naughty boy! I heard what you did – I heard -"
He drowned out the woman's angry scolding, dark thoughts welling up in his mind. He'd show them. He'd show them all. Tom Riddle was not to be messed with. Except...
That wasn't right. Tom Riddle? That's not right. Why was he so angry? Poor Billy Stubbs, the boy didn't deserve all those spider bites, not really anyway. His mind reeled from shock – he didn't mean it. He didn't mean any of it! He didn't want to hurt anyone. He didn't mean to be a bother. But as soon as he turned around to announce his revelation, he was met with nothing but darkness. A cold, empty black, that thankfully only lasted a second.
Three sharp knocks had him scrambling out of bed, frantically trying smooth down his notoriously prominent bedhead before sliding on his broken glasses and flipping the latch on his cupboard door.
He was met not with the righteous anger of Mrs. Cole, but rather the equally intimidating scowl of Petunia Dursley.
"It's seven-thirty! Breakfast should already be on the table, you lazy child!"
"Yes Aunt Petunia," he responded blandly, earning himself a light slap over the head.
"I'll have none of your cheek, boy."
He bit back a scathing retort – because that's not who he was. He wasn't angry, he wasn't vindictive; he was weak, an easy target – that's who Harry Potter was.
Sometimes it was hard to remember who he was, in the mornings. There were times, when still immersed in a sleepy haze, that he had to remind himself that he was not Tom Riddle. Nor did he want to be. Tom Riddle was not a good person. Harry knew this, and he really didn't know why he kept dreaming about the ill-manered boy. It was a little strange, a little eerie, how every night his consciousness was ferried away into the life of this other boy, so alike him in some ways, but terribly dissimilar in others.
Still, he didn't mind the dreams, he mused as he cracked a few eggs onto the skillet. That was actually an understatement. In fact, he wouldn't trade them for anything. When he was Tom, he was never afraid, he was never unsure of himself. When he was bullied, he fought back. When he was wronged, he wronged in turn. When he was called a freak, he wore it like a badge of honour. It was freeing, being without guilt, without the sense of worthlessness and hopelessness that seemed to follow him around everywhere and everywhen. No, Harry Potter was not Tom Riddle, but sometimes he wished he was. Sometimes it was hard to convince himself that he never wanted to become such a cruel person.
"Don't burn anything! Vernon will be furious." It was a fact, not a warning.
"Yes Aunt Petunia."
Tom wouldn't say something like that. Never. That's how he knew he wasn't still dreaming. Yes, he was definitely Harry Potter.
"And then I told Summers that if he didn't move out of the way, I'd kick him real hard."
"And did you, big D?"
"He cried like little baby, too!" his rotund cousin crowed, as his equally distasteful friends howled with laughter.
Harry glared at them from the swing-set, not impressed with the story at all. He looked away quickly though, hoping he wasn't noticed.
No such luck.
"Hey freak! You got something to say to me?"
He cowered a little, and almost shook his head meekly, but instead he froze. There were times when Harry Potter was a very practical boy - in fact, dare he say it, he was usually quite smart. He knew when to keep his head down. Don't speak unless spoken to, look at the ground, keep your face blank - he knew all the rules; he'd written them himself. But there were times when he was overtaken by this strange sentiment - this yearning for something more, something better. When it seized him, he liked to think of it as bravery.
"I do, actually."
"Oh yeah? And what's that, freak?"
He took a deep breath. "I think you're stupid, and weak, the lot of you. I wish I'd never heard your ugly voices, and I think the world would be a better place if no one had to hear them again!"
The three bigger boys gaped at him for a moment. But only for a moment, before fury overtook them.
That was when the sentiment abandoned him, and Harry's eyes widened in fear before he turned around and sprinted away from the playground, Dudley and his friends hot on his trail.
Bravery indeed. More like stupidity.
Thus began the sport known as 'Harry Hunting'.
They never caught him, at first – he was much faster than they were. Unfortunately, Dudley wasn't quite as stupid as his dimwitted friends, and he discovered rather quickly that there were other ways to go about catching a Harry. After all, after the front door of Number 4 Privet Drive was locked and sealed, there was no where left to run.
"The freak stole my lunch!"
"He ripped up the picture I drew for you, mummy!"
By the time they were in the first grade, Dudley had discovered the fine art of blackmail.
That's when Harry Hunting became a rigged game; when Harry and Dudley reached the unspoken agreement that unless Harry gave himself up by the end of the day, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia would hear all sorts of nasty lies about him. There was simply no winning for Harry.
He knew it was just a game. But it still hurt to lose, both literally and figuratively. Weren't games supposed to be fun?
"You should be happy, freak, no one else will play with you."
It was true. Dudley made sure everyone knew there was something wrong with him. What it was, Harry didn't know. Neither did Dudley, really. Sure, strange things tended to happen around Harry. But it wasn't his fault, or at least he didn't think so. So what? Sometimes things change colour, move, explode...it's not that unusual, he would think to himself. It was a natural sort of denial, and it lasted until March 2nd, 1987.
It started out as a normal day.
"What are you smiling about, boy?" Vernon growled from behind him.
He wiped the grin off his face, but it wasn't enough to dampen his spirits. He'd dreamt of Tom again last night – he'd dreamt of the day Tom met his first friend.
Last night, it was summer again; that much was evident from the way the humid, warm air clung to his skin like a wet blanket. The sun merrily danced in the sky, obstructed only by a few wisps of cloud, while a pleasant breeze danced in the leaves and the grass, carrying with it the sweet sound of songbirds and laughing children.
Tom hated summertime. The mornings were nice, but the rest of it was rubbish. Everyone was always so happy, so cheerful, so loud. Honestly, could they hear themselves? Screaming joyously without a care in the world, footsteps thumping happily throughout the yard – disgusting, the lot of them. He wasn't jealous. Of course not. He didn't need friends, or fun, or games. He wasn't some stupid child who needed to be coddled and distracted from the cares of the world. He knew better.
:You seem sad.:
Tom blinked, his head whipping from side to side. Had someone found his hiding place?
:You can hear me?:
Tom growled. :Where are you!?:
His eyes travelled downward, and he started a bit when he saw the new addition to his hiding spot; a small green serpent, tongue flicking out amiably as its head rocked from side to side.
:Are you talking to me?:
The snake made a sound that could only be interpreted as a bemused huff.
:Well there's no one else here, is there?:
Tom just stared.
The snake sighed. :Cheer up, it's not every day I meet a two legged creature that can hear my words. You must be really special.:
:You're a snake.:
:And you're talking.:
Tom sucked in a deep breath. :Are you the devil?:
The snake cocked its head to the side :The what?:
:Satan. The serpent.:
:My name's Cici, not Satan. That's an awfully strange name. Are you Satan?:
Tom's lips twitched. :The other children seem to think I am.:
Cici looked terribly confused at that.
Tom rolled his eyes. :They don't like me much.:
:Why? You're obviously of superior breeding – you speak the eloquent tongue of serpents, after all.:
Tom's small smile transformed into a full-on grin. :Finally, someone who agrees with me.:
:Do you like them?:
:You said they don't like you much. Do you like them?:
:Of course not. They're loud, and crass, and stupid. I'd rather cut my own finger off than call any of them my friend.:
:You don't have any friends?:
:No, I don't need any.:
:You should meet my friends!:
Tom narrowed his eyes. :Why?:
:So we can all be friends together, of course!:
Tom stared at the little creature for a moment, before his face morphed into the strangest expression – one might even call it tender. :Alright. That doesn't sound so bad.:
Cici made a pleased hissing sound.
:My name's Tom, Tom Riddle.:
:A pleasure to meet you Tom.:
A smile worked its way onto Harry's face again, as he recalled the dream. It was the first time he had genuinely wanted to be Tom Riddle. The unfamiliar feeling of warmth that flooded his chest when he made his first friend was something that Harry coveted for himself.
That's when he got the idea. He'd later come to reminisce on this idea with mixed feelings.
Either way, the idea went roughly like this; Tom Riddle wasn't really the most agreeable bloke. He was rude and unkind, and he took great pleasure in hurting whoever bothered him. Harry knew he was much nicer than Tom. So if Tom could make a friend, why couldn't he? It wasn't too strange an idea.
That's why, instead of finding his own secluded corner to eat his meagre meal in peace – away from Dudley's grabby hands and wayward feet – he sat down beside Lisa Alberts at lunch that day.
She was small, like him, and quiet too. Really, they had a lot in common. She had messy hair and glasses, just like him, and she liked to draw pictures of lakes and rivers, like he did. They both favoured the dark blue crayon.
"Hi," he said, not really knowing what else to say. It seemed like a decent way to start a conversation.
She looked up at him, her pretty face somewhat puzzled. "Hi."
First contact established. Things were going well.
Harry blushed, his heart suddenly fluttering in his chest. Could she be it? His first friend.
Pull it together, Harry, you can do this.
"My name's Harry. Can I sit with you?" he said with a nervous grin.
Lisa smiled. "I know who you are."
Harry's grin faltered a bit. "You do?"
"Yeah! You draw nice pictures!"
Harry could feel relief wash over him like a tidal wave. The one person Dudley hadn't managed to poison against him. He couldn't believe his luck. "Thanks! Yours are nice too."
Lisa's smile grew wider, and encouraged, he sat down beside her.
"Why aren't you playing over there with the other boys?"
Harry's gaze strayed to the playground. "I could ask you the same. The other girls are way over there."
Lisa blushed. "Sometimes I don't know what to say, so I don't bother saying anything."
Harry nodded. "You're talking to me just fine though."
"You're nice though. And friendly."
"You think so?"
Lisa was about to respond, but she froze as the subtle warmth of the late winter sun vanished behind the imposing figure that had somehow managed to sneak up on them. "Can we help you?"
Dudley smirked, and Harry audibly groaned.
"Is this freak bothering you?"
Lisa started in surprise, and was about to reply, before Harry stood up and stepped between his cousin and the puzzled girl.
"I haven't done anything, Dudley. Just talking, is all."
A fire was lit in the larger boy's eyes. A kind of malice that had Harry warily twitching as nervousness overtook his previous confidence. "Talking? To you, freak? Why would anyone want to talk to you? Unless -" Harry really didn't like the glint in Dudley's eye "- is she a freak too?"
Harry sucked in a breath, anger welling up inside him, slowly replacing the nerves. "No! Leave her alone."
Dudley laughed triumphantly. "She is, isn't she! You've found yourself a freaky girlfriend, have you Potter!?"
Harry gritted his teeth, his whole body growing tense. "Leave her alone, Dudley!"
"You know what? I don't think I will! I know! Let's all play Harry Hunting together! She can be on your team," he added darkly.
Harry went white at that. Lisa was going to be his friend, and good friends don't let their friends get hurt. "Leave her alone," he whispered harshly, his entire frame shaking now.
Dudley laughed at him. "Look! Little baby Potter's shaking in fear! You should be! How dare you tell me what to do! I'll just have to teach you a lesson! And then I'll teach her one too."
Harry's eyes snapped open wide, alight with a strange green fire, and before Dudley could make a move, he was flung backward with incredible force, knocking him off his feet while Harry's enraged scowl froze... and then transformed into fearful shock. He'd done it again.
Slowly, he glanced over his shoulder, but he didn't dare look at Lisa.
The silence could only be described as deafening. His breaths, hoarse and frantic, were so loud, but not loud enough to drown out the rapid beating of his heart, nor the shallow whimpers emerging from the girl in front of him.
"What are you?"
Finally, he gathered the courage to look up at her, but he wished he hadn't. It was written all over her face – her pale cheeks, quivering lips, glistening eyes – pure, unadulterated fear.
She flinched and stepped back in terror. And Harry ran, not daring too look back again.
He didn't know how far he ran, but he kept running, and running, and running, until his feet couldn't carry him anymore. That's when he collapsed on the grass, sobbing.
Why? Why did he have to be such a freak? He'd almost done it – he'd almost made a friend, but then stupid Dudley had to stick his stupid face in it, and then he got all freaky and ruined it!
She was afraid of him! Afraid! He didn't mean to do it, he never meant to do any of it, but it kept happening – the breaking glass, hair growing back at record speed, chairs tipping over, water boiling one minute and freezing the next – why? Why did it only ever happen to him? Why was it only him that wasn't allowed any friends?
He didn't understand. What did Dudley, Petunia, and Vernon know about him that he didn't? Why was he different? Why wouldn't they tell him? There was clearly something wrong with him, but no one ever told him what it was. They told him he was a freak, but they never told him how to fix it. He wanted to fix it, he wanted it so bad. Why couldn't he be normal? Why wasn't he allowed to be like everyone else? It wasn't fair! Why wasn't anything ever fair?
:Are you dying?:
Harry froze, his thoughts freezing with him, before lifting his head and looking around. There was no one there. :Great, now I'm hearing voices too!:
;Of course you're hearing voices, I'm talking to you!:
Harry blinked and his eyes travelled in the direction of the strange hissing sound, coming to rest on the form of a tiny green snake staring up at him with wide black eyes.
Harry gaped. The snake was talking. Snakes can't talk! They only talked in his dreams, to Tom...
:Hey, are you dead now?:
Harry's expression of shock was replaced by a scowl. :I'm not dead.:
The snake made a strange sound, which, coming from a human, would have sounded rather indignant. :Well how am I supposed to know that?:
Harry frowned. The snake had a point. He didn't know where he was, he felt like his legs were going to fall off, and his head felt like it was filled with sand. And then he was talking to a snake. Like he did in his dreams. :I...am I dead?:
:That's what I'm asking you!:
:I don't think I'm dead. I just...snakes aren't suppose to talk.:
:Of course we talk! It's you pink two-legged creatures that can't speak.:
Harry really had no response to that.
:So if you weren't dying, what were those sounds you were making?:
Harry stared at his hands, ashamed. :I...I was crying.:
:Yeah, it's what humans do when they're sad.:
:Why were you sad?:
:I...I'm all alone. I tried to make a friend, but I scared her away.:
:You're sad because you don't have any friends?:
:I'll be your friend.:
Harry's eyes widened, his back straightening as he frantically wiped the tears from his face. :Really?:
The snake bobbed its head up and down. :Sure. I don't have anything better to do.:
Harry choked out a laugh, a near-hysterical smile taking over his features.
:I'm Khasa. What's your name?:
:Harry, Harry Potter.:
:Well, Harry, Harry Potter, I believe this is the start of a beautiful friendship.:
Harry smiled – a genuine smile of pure joy. It was the first time he'd felt it - the warmth, the gratitude...the happiness of not being alone any longer. :I think you might be absolutely right, Khasa.:
Meanwhile, far away from the joy and innocent triumph of the making of a first friendship, something dark and cold bubbled to life, a conscious awareness stirring in the deep, undiscovered reaches of Harry Potter's mind.
A strange swirl of hatred, anger, and shock erupted at the name, and the consciousness trembled in the darkness, threatening to unleash a torrent of foreign pain on the unsuspecting boy. But then all was still.
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...
Anger was replaced by amusement, fury by a cold, calculating quiet.
Yes, he could work with that.
And thus it begins. Anyway, leave me a note! I always want to hear what my readers think :)