AN: I do not own Harry Potter.
Plot: AU - Thanks to Harry having been "mistakenly" declared a squib at birth, Voldemort goes instead for Neville's life as he seemed to have a greater chance to become his equal. But that didn't change the fact that Harry's parents were still killed by the frenzied Death Eaters' attacks in the aftermath of the Dark Lord's defeat. Growing up on the streets and having nobody to rely on, these things have led to a different from canon Harry Potter start his first year at Hogwarts.
Smart, Slightly Cold, Grey Harry. Neville is The Boy Who Lived.
Important: although there are mentioned some Marvel comics and characters from the Marvel Universe, this fic is not a crossover with it. These comics are just that, comics that Muggle children enjoyed reading in this fic, just like in our real life as well. I only used them for Harry's character development.
"Hello" – normal talk
'Hello' - thoughts
Chapter 1 - On Dumbledore's Radar
'There...easy, almost got it...please don't turn around...' an eleven year old boy with messy black hair and green eyes was chanting in his mind while he was 'working'.
He was furrowing his brows in concentration, trying to accomplish his task. It was the middle of the summer in London and the buses on the streets were filled with passengers, each one of them tired and feeling slightly weak due to the unusually hot weather...which was a good thing for the boy, considering which was his line of 'work'.
With a final flick of his wrist, the raven-haired boy levitated the pouch from a fat middle-aged man's pants' back pocket into his own outstretched right hand. Mentally patting himself on the back for his accomplishment, the boy didn't dare to stay in the bus for a moment longer than necessary; at the first stop he jumped out of it. Then, with practiced calm, he started distancing himself from the bus stop with an expression of innocence befitting a child of his age...only that he was anything but innocent. Harry Potter – yes, that was the boy's name – despite his age, was mature enough to pass as a grown-up teenager if it weren't for his appearance to betray him.
Ten years ago Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts left a one year old Harry Potter sleeping in front of his relatives' front door, in the middle of the night, at the end of October, with a letter in which he informed Petunia Dursley of her sister's passing away and asked her to raise her nephew as if he were her own son. To say that Vernon and Petunia Dursley were outraged would not be an exaggeration: they did not even want to consider keeping the boy. Therefore, at just a few hours after they had read the letter, they went directly to the closest police station and reported the incident. The next few weeks were quite hectic for the Dursleys as they had to convince the Child Protection Agency that they were simply both unable and unwilling to raise another child. They already had a son, they didn't need another one.
In the end Harry Potter was sent to one of the many orphanages of "Poor Sisters of Nazareth". On the surface everyone thought that said organization was one of the most prestigious and trustworthy organizations in the United Kingdom, but only the children in their care knew the real truth.
Throwback to 5 years prior
"Hulk is sooo cool! I bet he'll kick Thor's butt in the next edition!" squealed an eight year old boy as he finished reading a magazine with comics.
"No way, Thor will definitely roast his hide with his mighty thunder!" retorted a six years old boy with messy black hair and green eyes partially hidden behind a pair of round glasses.
Around them, another 4 or 5 boys took sides and then they all started to chant against each other:
"Thor is the best!"
"No, Hulk will smash his arse!"
Their shouts eventually alerted one of the nuns and when she heard what were the shouting about, she immediately went in a state of a religious fanaticism-driven anger:
"What is the meaning of this?" she screamed at them.
Seeing the angered nun glaring at them, the children gulped audibly. And they had a reason to do so if the beating that followed afterwards was anything to go by. Although the nun was very angry at the children's sin of reading the Devil's work, she was still careful to not leave them with bruises and marks in places easy to spot because the pagans from the Children Protection Agency never understood that many children were acting under Devil's influence. And, as one of the servants of God, she couldn't let them walk on the highway to Hell. It was her duty to set them to climb the Stairway to Heaven. (1)
Back in the present
As Harry walked through the crowded streets of London, he fell into one of his habits of reminiscing of the past.
Three years have passed since Harry ran away from the orphanage. Ever since the beating he received when he was 6, he has been dreaming of living on his own with no-one to control his life. And that dream of his has been constantly fuelled by the comics the older children managed to smuggle into the orphanage. Comics like "Runaways" and "X-men" were the ones that had the greatest impact on his personality.
Although the life in the orphanage was very unpleasant and despite the fact that even as just a 6 year old child he had had a mature mind, Harry never managed to muster the courage to actually run away. Or probably it was exactly because he thought like a grown-up that he didn't dare to break free.
However, all of his worries and hesitation vanished one day when he produced his first bout of accidental magic: it was Harry's 8th birthday and one of his friends at that time, gifted him a magazine with one of the comics he loved the most. Although they had tried to be stealthy, the nun still discovered their actions eventually, fact that led to another beating.
Blinded by her 'righteous' rage, instead of using the leathery part of the belt to beat the children, the nun hit Daniel – that was the poor boy's name – with the buckle, breaking his head. Due to his state of fear, Harry's magic broke free of its shackles and he banished the nun to the other side of the room where she collapsed unconscious.
At first, Harry was filled with awe and excitement...all those comics he had read along the years had many children and teenagers with superpowers! Was he actually a mutant as well? Did he awaken the power of telekinesis, like Jean Grey from "X-men" did?
After a few moments of relishing in the happiness of finding out that he might have superhuman abilities, the realization of the consequences of his deeds dawned on him: when the other nuns learned of what had just transpired, he knew he would be in for a royal beating. Heck, he didn't put it past them to crucify him or torture him in some way in order to exorcise the devil that they believed that it was possessing him.
Although the nuns weren't actually that cruel like Harry believed them to be and despite that not all of them were finding a pleasure in beating the children from orphanage, in his panicked state of mind, Harry's fear of them intensified.
To this day, Harry could still not remember clearly the events that followed his first bout of accidental magic. All he knew was that he had run away...and that he had run just like a naive child: with no pocket money, no food reserves, no additional changes of clothes, nothing. But what could anyone ask of him? He had been just an 8 year old child. Although his mind was more mature than his peers', in the end he had been too young to have had accumulated any worthwhile life experience.
The following months were very hard on young Harry. He realized then that there was a good reason behind the orphanage's rule of not leaving the yard – the streets were not friendly with anyone, much less homeless people. And although on the surface London was believed to be one of the safest capitals in Europe, that was a bit far from truth. Especially in the Eastern London and the centre of the city, all sort of gangs were terrorizing the locals during night-time.
Maybe it was his firm belief that he had somehow became a mutant and acquired superhuman abilities, or maybe it was the fact that he was an outstanding genius Wizard from birth, that was not certain, but the thing is that his magic was highly responsive to his will. Although Harry didn't know that he was a Wizard and thought that the wandless Banishing Charm that he had used against the nun was just the power of telekinesis, in only three weeks, he got a good grasp on the Levitation Charm. Thanks to that, the number of beatings he received for getting caught stealing food has gradually decreased to the point where nowadays he was not getting caught at all.
And today Harry could say with no small amount of pride that in spite of not having a home of his own and no parents to take care of him and despite being just an eleven year old child, he had everything he needed in order to survive. He was doing questionable things for that, but he wasn't bothered by it. It wasn't like he was stealing because he liked to...alright, alright, after he started to become good at it, he also started to like it, but at least he was never stealing from the poor people; that had to count for something, right?
At any rate, he needed to eat, to buy the minimum necessary of clothes and pay up the rent at the motel he was living in. To do those things he needed money – especially for the rent. The owner of the shady and shabby motel Harry lived in was such a money grubber that he demanded from him to play the double amount of money for the rent if he wanted to live there. But Harry didn't hold it against him; after all, the owner was risking having trouble with the police by renting a room to runaway children, especially when they were as young as Harry (he was just 10 at the time when he first came there).
All in all, life was relatively good for Harry. Obviously, he was not living in luxury because that would have attracted unwanted attention, but he was still living decently. Harry wanted to keep a low profile because he was afraid of being discovered not only for being a runaway but also for his "mutant" powers. People believed that Marvel's comics were all just fiction for children, but he knew better than to dismiss them like that. After all, he thought he was the living proof that superhuman powers existed! What if there also were organizations that were hunting down or were forcefully recruiting individuals like him? In his mind there was also the fear of getting caught and being experimented on by creepy scientists.
While Harry was thinking like that, the feeling of being watched washed over him. He turned his head abruptly but there was nobody behind him. Correct that: the street was just as full as it always was during days, but he couldn't see anyone suspicious...no policemen and no gangsters.
Despite that, Harry didn't lower his wariness. During the three years he had roamed through the streets, Harry had developed something akin to a 6th sense. Every time he was followed or when someone nearby had ill intentions towards him, he got the feeling he was having at this moment. Moreover, ever since he had obtained a certain amulet all of his senses and his perception had increased dramatically.
As he picked up the pace, Harry affectionately caressed the round, palm-sized artefact that was hanging from a silver chain from his neck, under the green short-sleeved shirt he was wearing. He didn't know why but from the very first moment he had seen this stone relic, he felt an inexplicable attraction to it, like it was calling for him.
But that wasn't the time to let his thoughts run astray. He was too worried about the one following him. Harry picked up the pace once more, to the point that he was almost running now. Then, he rushed through the crowds, trying to blend in with the mass of people and deceive his pursuer.
Despite his efforts, it was to no avail. He was still feeling the gaze of his pursuer locked on him. What should he do? Running around could only take him so far; it was clear to him that the one on his tail was not an amateur. He feared that the special forces of the government finally got wind of him. What was he going to do?
The blood started to rush madly to his face and adrenaline began to bubble through his veins...he had lived well enough on his own, it was the best time of his life – especially ever since he got a good grip over his supernatural abilities. There was no way he was going to let himself get caught and used as a dog of the government or worse, as some sort of rat lab!
A plan was being formed in his mind. He was not going to shrink from anything. Harry was no stranger to violence. Gangs were having violent conflicts for supremacy every now and then and he witnessed almost on a daily basis people getting into altercations. He had even saw once an Asian old lady being stabbed to death by a thief. He himself had had at some points along the years to defend himself from thieves by using his fists – fists empowered by his so-called telekinesis, of course.
Therefore Harry decided that if it came to it, he would even beat his pursuer half-to-death if that allowed him to escape. He would then have to leave London – fact that saddened him as he had grown to love the city, despite its many hidden dangers – and he would have to lay even lower for a few months, until they lost his trail. Yes, he had read in comics that the guys that were hunting the mutants were very persistent and that most of the time they had the ability to take down their targets despite their lack of superpowers.
Armed with that resolve, Harry broke into a sprint, unmindful of the looks he was getting from the people be was bumping in. He was small and nimble and because of that Harry hoped that he managed to run at a faster pace than his pursuer since he supposed that the ones that were following him not only were they fully grown-up men – which would actually hinder them if they had to run through a crowd – but they also had to remain stealthy as to not attract the civilians' attention.
As he ran towards East, Harry had one destination in mind: the derelict buildings from the old industrial area, especially the abandoned warehouses. It was a place normally avoided by people, but it was perfect for what Harry had in mind: not only the police rarely patrolled the area, but last time he went there, there also were large piles of debris laying around – things that would become potentially lethal weapons in Harry's hands.
Harry kept running for 30 more minutes until he arrived at the desired destination. By the time he arrived, he was dead-tired and soaked in sweat. He was breathing heavily and he felt like his heart was going to jump out of his chest at how fast and hard it was beating. Harry was used to running since he pretty much did it everyday, but running at full speed for half an hour was very hard on him nonetheless.
He sat on large concrete brick, calmed his breathing and rested. There was no point in running or panicking at the moment. He just had to wait for his pursuers to show his face. Then it will all come to the result of their confrontation: if he managed to render his enemies unconscious, then he would have a chance to disappear before the agents sent to hunt him informed their superiors of their failure. If he was captured...then that was it. End of the line.
Harry clenched his hands into fists and his entire body trembled involuntarily for a second. It was the first time he had gotten himself into such a dangerous situation. Sure, he had run before from the police or various people whose belongings he had stolen, but they weren't after him with the intention to kill him.
This time was different.
Harry brought out of his shirt his treasured amulet and gazed at it fervently. Said amulet had a rough circular form and it was not bigger than his palm. It was made out of stone and it gave off the feeling of being ancient. Moreover, it had depicted on it a rather frightening head of a woman: the face of the woman was scrunched into a hate-filled expression and instead of hair, she had a large number of snakes. It was a Gorgon, the head of Medusa. The Gorgon head was said in Greek Mythology to have been used as a symbol of both Athena and Zeus and people in ancient times had a very respectful attitude towards it.
As Harry looked at the Gorgoneion in his hands, a peculiar feeling washed over him and in the next moments he spoke almost without even thinking:
"Please help me. If you do, I promise to do any one thing you ask of me in the future!"
When he finished speaking these words, Harry immediately felt stupid for actually speaking to a an object. But then, to his fright, he received an answer!
Harry watched in morbid fascination how the Gorgon's eyes flashed a blood red colour, and then, a powerful energy flowed into his body and flooded his entire being. It was indescribable. All his tiredness at having run so much vanished and he felt full of energy.
In that moment, a rather eye-catching silhouette appeared in front of the warehouse seemingly out of thin air. It was a tall, thin and very old man, judging by his silver hair and beard, which were both so long that they reached his waist. He was wearing long, extravagant purple robes that swept the ground and high-heeled, buckled boots. He had blue eyes and the half-moon spectacles from his long nose did nothing to hide their vibrant colour.
For a brief moment Harry was stunned speechless. He has been expecting to see a young, athletic man, dressed in a black suit and wearing shades, not some old fart dressed as if he was a 90 years old homosexual cosplaying Merlin.
But Harry shook his head and focused. There was no way that man was an ordinary man. Not only that he seemed to have appeared out of thin air, but also, to have kept following him at the pace he had been running despite his old age, these were glaring signs that the man in front of him was not ordinary. He probably dressed that way to make his targets lower their guard in front of him and capture them more easily.
'Pfft, as if that those petty tricks would work on me!' the boy thought condescendingly before, with a wave of his right hand, 3 football-sized pieces of debris came floating in front of him. There was no need for him to hide his abilities anymore.
Albus Dumbledore POV
He had been observing the boy's activities for the past week. What? With the current peace the United Kingdom was experiencing and with Hogwarts' students being away on their summer holiday, there wasn't much for him to do. And at his age it wasn't like there were too many things he could do to spend his free time, except for going for a walk, read a book or listen to music. However, he had been doing these things since forever. Watching young Mr. Potter's daily activities was like a fresh breath of air. It was refreshing observing such an interesting boy.
It all started two weeks before when in the students' register at Hogwarts, his name appeared. A name which should have normally not been there. Before James and Lily Potter's deaths, their son had been declared as being a squib. It was a reason of great disappointment and then pity for the young married couple, but they nonetheless decided to raise their child by showering him in their love, even more than normally, as to not let him ever feel as if he was being rejected by them for him not being a Wizard as well.
However, at just one year after Harry Potter's birth, the prophecy about the Dark Lord having an equal was proven to be true. Considering how the prophecy sounded, there were two boys that had the potential to become Voldemort's equal. But with Harry Potter being declared a squib, the Dark Lord went for the logical remaining option, the Longbottoms' son. Fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on how you look at the situation – only Augusta Longbottom had been at home, taking care of little Neville when the Dark Lord came since Frank and Alice were away on a patrol mission for the Order of the Phoenix.
Nobody knew exactly what happened during that fateful night of Halloween at the Longbottom Manor. But the results have certainly shaken the entire Great Britain. Voldemort vanished while the baby – who got the moniker "The Boy Who Lived" – survived with only a lightning bolt-shaped scar in the middle of his forehead.
The aftermath of the events was full of celebrations and happiness. Everyone wanted to congratulate Frank and Alice Longbottom for their son, but very few of them cared enough to offer their condolences for Augusta Longbottom's passing away.
However, while the British Wizarding folk was celebrating, the followers of the recently vanquished Dark Lord were in a frenzy. As an act of retribution, the Death Eaters launched a series of attacks on every family that had played an important part in the war. Unfortunately the Potters have also been amongst the ones murdered with baby Harry Potter escaping alive only thanks to his mother who had thrown a portkey on him, effectively 'teleporting' him from the harm's way.
After the situation had calmed down, Albus Dumbledore sent Harry Potter to his relatives. It was the best and most sensible choice for him to make since the boy was a squib. That way, Harry wouldn't have felt inferior compared to other boys of his age and he would have also not known of his parents' tragic death. What little Harry didn't know couldn't hurt him - at least that was the Headmaster's opinion. But who could have expected that the squib's name would appear on Hogwarts's register as one of the people to whom they had to send an invitation letter?
In a feat of boredom mixed with curiosity, when they deduced that although the letter had arrived at its destination, it had not been taken seriously – they didn't get a reply – Dumbledore decided to go speak with the boy himself instead of letting his deputy handle the things as usual.
Whatever has Dumbledore expected Harry to be, it was definitely not a would-be gangster that actively made use of magic and controlled it as if it were one of his limbs in order to pickpocket from strangers. Putting aside the matter concerning the illegality of the boy's deeds, the astonishing amount of control Harry held over his magic was mind-boggling. He had only seen one person displaying the same capabilities before – Tom Riddle.
At that revelation, Dumbledore decided right away to put a stop to the boy's acts and straighten his behaviour by making him willingly or not - it was not like he was actually going to give him a choice - study at Hogwarts under his watchful gaze. He was definitely not going to make the same mistake twice. He wouldn't let another Voldemort rise because of his negligence like he had done in the past.
After running after the boy for quite a while – he had never expected the boy to feel his presence from the very moment he arrived at 100 feet away from him – Dumbledore was surprised again by Harry's resourcefulness: not only that he had tried to make him lose his tracks by blending in with the crowds – and it would have worked on any Muggle but all the experienced Wizard had a Tracking Charm in their arsenal of spells – the boy had also made sure for their confrontation to take place in a favourable location for him, where he could make full use of the Levitation and Banishing Charms that he had unknowingly mastered.
Harry Potter was intelligent. Dangerously so.
Back to original POV
Just as Dumbledore was about to offer Harry a gentle smile and introduce himself with kind words, the boy's actions stupefied him: with a wave of his right hand, football-sized pieces of concrete and bricks began to float in front of him, serving as both shields and projectiles...Dumbledore realized then that Harry considered him an enemy.
'But why does he? It's not like I harmed him yet, I have only followed him around...for an entire week...but he only knows about the last hour or so...'
If Harry had heard Dumbledore's process of thinking he would have probably face-palmed himself right there and right then. Even if he didn't hear it, Harry would realise in the following weeks anyway, just how badly Wizards lacked common sense.
"I'm not here to harm you, my boy." said Dumbledore rather hurriedly, before the tension between them evolved into outright hostilities. He did not want to harm the boy.
"Who are you and what do you want from me?" Harry asked back through gnashed teeth. From his point of view the old man in front of his eyes was trying to fool him by speaking kindly in order to capture him more easily. He didn't trust his words because a man with honest intentions wouldn't have pursued him through half the city like an assassin. Therefore, he didn't lower his vigilance in the least.
A frown marred Dumbledore's face at Harry's behaviour but he would let it slide this time. With the boy's upbringing and his current state of mind, it was not like anyone could ask anything from him.
Dumbledore was about to say something but, apparently, not having replied immediately made the boy even more distrustful of him. At that moment, two large slabs of concrete came at him at a very high speed and rotating with a great velocity. Instead of getting angry, the old wizard was actually studying Harry's skill with a poorly masked expression of amazement on his face. The degree of control over the Levitation Charm that the boy in front of him was displaying was very hard to achieve even by a full fledged wizard with a wand, let alone a child and wandless! Even Tom Riddle had not shown such a skill when he was a child!
Dumbledore was sure Voldemort had not been permanently defeated and that, one day, he will return. Yes, when that time comes, there will be the Child of the Prophecy, Neville Longbottom to save the day... But what if the Boy-Who-Lived failed? After all, the prophecy stated that the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal...and that means that the final outcome could go either way.
Therefore, the question that remained was: what if the Longbottom boy failed in his task? What if Voldemort won? What would be left of Great Britain in the aftermath of his victory? Dumbledore did not want to even imagine that! And as he watched young Harry's astounding skills (for his age), an idea bloomed into the old man's head...
The fact that Harry was wildly throwing large chunks of debris at Dumbledore seemed like it had no effect on the old and experienced wizard who never even dodged any of the projectiles aimed at him, choosing instead to simply Vanish them with barely noticeable flicks of his wand.
When Harry saw how the old man in front of him was swatting away his attacks as if they were nothing, panic engulfed him and he began to lose control over his magic, finding it harder and harder to use his 'telekinesis' as the time went by. In his paranoia-affected mind there was only one thought:
'They have sent a mutant after me. Everything I throw at him is useless, what should I do?!'
While Harry was getting desperate, unaware of his turmoil, Dumbledore continued to ponder on the idea that had just appeared into his mind: the skill in magic that Harry was displaying was something that would make even 4th year students at Hogwarts feel pressured. Such a genius should not be wasted. What if he shaped the boy to be the contingency plan for the situation where Neville Longbottom didn't manage to fulfil his destiny?
Glancing at the boy in front of him, Dumbledore could not help but scoff at the idea of Harry having been born without magic. It was a crazy thing to even imagine that such an once-in-centuries-seen-genius could have been a squib at birth! Unless...
'Those cunning Potters!' Dumbledore mentally exclaimed in both surprise and amazement 'They had actually purposely declared their child a squib as to make people pay as less attention as possible to them. It was almost as if they had known about Sybill's prophecy before it has even been made! And since Voldemort had heard as well that young Harry was a squib, he naturally went instead for the Longbottom family's son.'
After a few good minutes of continuously hurling debris at Dumbledore, Harry finally lost all his energy and collapsed on his fours on the ground with a thud.
Sighing in relief that he didn't have to forcefully restrain Harry or worse, even hurt him in order to be able to talk to him, Dumbledore began to approach him at a moderate pace as there was no reason to needlessly increase the boy's anxiety – if that was even possible.
Seeing the old man steadily approaching him, Harry sighed in frustration and sorrow. In a few moments he will be killed, or worse, become something akin to a slave, one of those 'lab-rats' on whom scientists were doing experiments on, like he had often seen in comics – yes, Harry envisioned such a life as being worse than death.
Harry's thoughts were becoming darker and more sombre the closer Dumbledore got to him. But when the tension almost made Harry reach the breaking point, from the pendant he was still tightly clutching in his right hand, a warm sensation emerged and he felt like he had just been engulfed into the comfortable and loving embrace of a woman. Harry didn't remember ever being held like that, but if he ever imagined how a mother's embrace felt, then the feeling he was experiencing in that moment was the closest thing to it that he would ever get to feel.
Gradually, Harry's heart calmed down and the adrenaline washed out of his system. The magical exhaustion and the physical tiredness resulted from his previous actions finally kicked in and Harry fell into unconsciousness.
AN: As you have seen, those Marvel references only served to Harry getting acquainted with the idea of him possessing extraordinary abilities. They also shaped him into becoming a tad distrustful and paranoid, but he will learn the truth in the following chapter and he'll start attending Hogwarts like any other first year student.
(1) "Highway to Hell" and "Stairway to Heaven" - couldn't help myself, lol
(I'm not an English native and I don't have a beta either. Sorry for any mistakes I may have made)