Chapter 1 - Amnesty Bay
It shouldn't be this hard to return home after a year at Hogwarts. All around Harry the rest of the students greet their well missed families with hugs and kisses, and Harry just walks slowly towards his annoyed looking uncle waiting for him on the platform. He feels none of the energy around him, none of the relief and joy of seeing his family again and the excitement for a fun summer. Instead he feels empty.
It's easier to feel nothing than to experience the dread of having to return to Privet Drive, especially given that for just a shining moment, he thought he'd never have to. But life has never been fair, and instead of moving out into the countryside with his godfather, instead Sirius is back on the run, hounded by dementors and aurors alike.
"Hurry up boy, I don't have all day," Vernon huffs when Harry's close enough to hear.
Easy for him to say. It's not like he's offering to help Harry with his year's worth of luggage and the owl cage that Harry has to cart along behind him. Nonetheless Harry picks up his pace, his suitcase clicking along behind him faster and faster. It wouldn't do him any favours to annoy his uncle so soon after leaving Hogwarts. Vernon has a long memory, and there's still seventy-three days before Harry gets to go back for his fourth year.
With only that as a greeting between them, Harry follows Vernon out into the King's cross carpark. Even from a distance he can see the impatient faces of Petunia and Dudley watching him from the car.
"Where am I supposed to put Hedwig?" Harry asks. The previous two years he's simply put her cage on the backseat of the car, but if Dudley and Petunia are here too, that's not really an option.
"That ruddy bird…" Vernon grumbles, clearly having forgotten. "We're going on a trip, she can't come with us."
"So where is she meant to go?" Harry isn't able to rid the annoyance from his tone, and Vernon's nostrils flare.
"I don't particularly care where she goes, but she's not coming with us!" Vernon shout-whispers.
Harry lets out a steady breath. There's no point arguing with him. He's never won an argument with his uncle, and it's unlikely that's about to change now. It's probably better that Hedwig not be at Privet Drive anyway. At least if she's elsewhere she won't be stuck in her cage. Harry lets out a sigh and reaches down to unlock the cage door.
"Sorry girl, but you might have to go back to the Hogwarts owlery for a while," he says, reaching out to brush her feathers with the back of his hand. She nibbles affectionately at his fingers before jumping out of the cage and taking off into the sky.
"Hurry up, boy! We have places to be," Vernon says irritably. He squeezes his body into the driver's seat, and Harry grimaces as the entire frame of the car seems to groan in protest under the man's weight.
"What took you so long," Dudley says as Harry slides into the seat next to him.
Harry's gotten pretty good at ignoring his cousin over the years, so that's exactly what he does. Dudley faces screws up in annoyance, but he at least knows a losing battle when he finds one and he instead turns to begin chattering excitedly with his parents.
But Harry's already blocking them all out. Instead his mind is drifting back to the last words he spoke to Sirius before he watched him fly into the distance, much like it has in every free moment since.
"You have your mother's eyes," he'd said. Logically the statement shouldn't bother him at all - it's true after all, at least according to anybody who had ever met her. But Harry can't shake the feeling that there was something more underneath it, something else he'd wanted to say. Isn't it odd that Sirius mentioned Lily rather than James? Everything he'd heard had led him to believe that it was James that Sirius was close to, not Lily.
Maybe he said it because I don't look anything like dad? As far as Harry can see, it would have been a complete lie for Sirius to note any similarities between him and his father. To his eyes, there are none. Whereas James' hair had been black and untidy, Harry's is golden blonde and wavy smooth. Where James' face was thin and had equally thin features, Harry's is more full, even if underfed, and his cheekbones are higher and more prominent. Sometimes it feels as though the only thing connecting the two of them is their quidditch position. He's even found himself wishing that he's near-sighted, just so that he's got something which he can relate to the man who gave his life for him.
Harry is shaken from his daydreams when a plane flies low over the car with a loud roar of it's engines. He follows it's path out the window and watches it land on the other side of a large fence.
"Wait, where are we actually going?" Harry asks. Vernon had said they were going on a trip, but he never would have expected it might be overseas.
"Haven't you been listening to a word we've been saying?" Vernon grumbles, catching Harry's eye in the rear-view mirror. "We're flying to Boston for a Boxing competition for Dudley."
Harry has so many questions he doesn't know which to ask first. He turns towards Dudley and really looks at him for the first time since getting in the car. He's clearly much healthier than the last time Harry saw him. He's still a big boy, but now he looks more densely packed with muscle than with puppy fat. It makes sense though. If anything was going to get Dudley to be healthier, its the thought of getting to punch people in the face without consequence.
"Well why do I have to go?" Harry eventually asks. "Couldn't I just stay back at Privet Drive?"
To his surprise, Vernon actually lets out a single laugh. "And have you infect our house with your freakiness while we're gone? I think not."
Vernon glares into the mirror. "Boy, you are coming with us and that is final," he growls.
Harry slumps in his seat. Anybody else in his shoes might be excited to be visiting a foreign country, but going with the Dursley's wouldn't be anyone's idea of a fun family holiday.
The flight over was no more comfortable than Harry would have expected. He had a seat next to Dudley, who's sleeping form seemed to subconsciously recognise where Harry's ear was and snore directly into it for the majority of the flight. Still, it's probably better that his cousin did sleep rather than torment him for the almost eight hour flight.
No matter how much he tried, Harry couldn't sleep himself, not with Dudley's loud snoring next to him, and instead his mind drifted right back to the same scene with Sirius. He wants to believe that he's stressing about nothing, that he's got absolutely no evidence that anything is out of the ordinary. But for reasons beyond his comprehension, he can't accept that. Sirius had wanted to tell him something important. He's surer with every passing moment.
He thought about it all the way out of the airport, and all the way to the motel the Dursley's had organised just outside the city. He's still thinking about it the next morning when Dudley knocks into him the next morning when they head to Vernon and Petunia's room for breakfast.
"When are we going to Amesty Bay?" Dudley asks excitedly, throwing himself into a chair at the small round table in his parents room.
"That's Amnesty Bay, and we have to go to your boxing meets first. They'll be done in a few days, so we can go then," Vernon says.
"What's at Amnesty Bay?" Harry asks.
Dudley turns to face him with an unusually excited expression on his face. "There's a rumour going around that it's where Aquaman lives!" Dudley seems to remember who he's talking to and contorts his face into a sneer. "Don't you know anything?"
"Aquaman?" Harry raises an eyebrow.
Dudley lets out a huff. "Don't you have any TV at Pigwarts?"
Harry shrugs. "No, actually. Muggle technology doesn't work at Hogwarts."
"Weird lot," Vernon mutters, not so quiet that he can't be heard. "Can't even keep up with basic technology."
"Actually, muggle technology doesn't work at Hogwarts, too much magic in-" Harry begins before Vernon cuts him off.
"Don't. Use. That. Word," he says, waving his spoon in the air with every overpronounced word. It's not quite as threatening as he seems to think.
Harry shrugs and looks pointedly away, unbothered. His lack of fear only seems to make Vernon angrier, his face growing more red with every passing second. Still, Harry pays him no attention, instead looking out the motel window at the skyline of Boston off in the distance.
"Dudley, Petunia, we're going. We have a boxing match to get to," he eventually grinds out through his teeth.
It's Harry's turn to frown now. "I'm not going with you?"
Vernon turns a furious glare on him. "Don't be absurd! You'll stay right here where you can't bother anyone."
Harry rolls his eyes. He doesn't know whether to be annoyed or thrilled. On the one hand he doesn't want to be stuck with the Dursley's all day, but nor does he want to be stuck in the motel room, either, especially since it's too far away from the city that he can do any exploring.
"What am I supposed to do all day?" Harry asks, throwing his hands into the air.
"As long as there's no funny business, I don't particularly care what you do. There's a TV in your room, watch that," Vernon says, cruel smile etched onto his face. "But you are not to leave the motel grounds."
"And food?" Harry asks, locking eyes with his uncle. "Should I just sit here and go hungry?" It wouldn't be too much of a surprise if that's exactly what his uncle expects of him.
Vernon grumbles and dives a thick-fingered hand into his pocket, pulling out a couple of paper thin notes and dumping them on the table. "There's a vending machine outside," he says. Without another word he steps through the door, urging Petunia and Dudley to follow him.
The days that follow prove themselves less terrible than Harry had thought they might be. He's sick of being stuck in the motel room like a caged animal, sure, but having come to Boston straight from getting off the Hogwarts express means that Harry still has all his school things, so he can at least pass the time by getting his holiday homework out of the way. After two days work he's managed to finish it all off, probably faster even than Hermione has done hers.
More than just his schoolwork though, Vernon's suggestion that he watch TV wasn't actually a bad idea. He's never really been allowed to watch it back at Privet Drive, but now he can see why people enjoy it so much. It's from TV that he's learned why Dudley likes Aquaman so much. He's a character in an unusual movie about an alien invasion of Gotham City. It's an odd sort of film, told by way of a news story or documentary. Still, it's interesting, and Harry can see why Dudley admires the character so much. His character is quite incredible, being able to control sea life and having immense strength. He was even able to take out one of the alien Darkseid's eyes with his golden trident, along with the beautiful Wonder Woman.
Best of all is that he's only seen the Dursley's briefly at night when they return from the Boxing meets. They seem to have decided to ignore the fact that Harry is actually there at all, not that Harry is complaining. Whenever they return he simply minds his own business and keeps out of their hair. No communication, no problem.
But now Dudley's competition is over, and Dudley is excitedly pressing his parents to go to Amnesty Bay to visit the rumoured home of Aquaman, or, Harry assumes, the actor who plays him.
"How far away is it?" Dudley asks his father as they head towards the car.
"About an hour," Harry hears Vernon answer.
Despite the fact that Harry has enjoyed his freedom from the Dursleys' over the past few days, he wouldn't mind a bit of freedom from the motel room, too. Without a second thought, Harry rushes out the door behind them.
"Can I come?" he asks.
"We've been over this," Vernon growls, not even turning to look at him. He keeps moving to climb into the car anyway, as if that's enough of a reason not to take Harry along. To Harry's eyes, it's barely a reason at all. He ignores his uncle and moves to climb into the back seat anyway.
"What do you think you're doing, boy?" Vernon spits.
"Coming along," Harry says matter of factly, sliding into the back seat besides Dudley. Vernon steams around the car and reopens the door.
"Get out," he says quietly, but Harry can see the vein almost popping on his temple. Vernon's clearly angrier than he has been in quite some time, but Harry's not about to give in now. It's too late now to prevent the anger anyway, whether he gives in or not, so he might as well press on.
"I'm not staying in that motel room again," Harry says.
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not, whether I go with you or not, I'm not staying in that room again. But if I don't go with you, I might not find my way back. Do you really want to explain to Professor Dumbledore how you lost me in a foreign country?"
Vernon sputters, opening and closing his mouth several times, as if constantly changing his mind about what to say. He glares at Harry, but eventually steps back and slams the car door closed before stepping back around to the driver's seat of their rental car. Harry can't help but hide a sly smile. Vernon might not fear Harry, but someone as overtly magical as Dumbledore is still enough to make him back down.
"Dad, Harry can't come!" Dudley whines.
"Quiet Dudley," Vernon says, all quiet anger.
Before he drives off, he turns in his seat to look Harry square in the eyes. "I don't want to hear a word out of you the whole time."
Harry almost wants to add that there's an invisibility cloak in his bag if his uncle wants him to use it, but there's no point antagonising the man further if he's already won. Instead he settles back into his seat, drowning out Dudley's whining to his father about Harry coming along.
Amnesty Bay, Harry decides, would be a very nice place to live. It's not very big, probably only populated by a few thousand people, but that's half the reason it's so appealing. It gives it a small-town vibe that you never find in any city, and it's main road only consists of a few stores located along a beachside street. He can see himself living somewhere like it one day, far away from the fame and chaos that seems to surround him back in magical Britain.
Of course, it would be far nicer if he wasn't currently sitting next to a still dreadfully upset Dudley, who even after an hour drive is still ranting about Harry being allowed to come. He's not let up even for a minute, despite the fact that Harry hasn't said as much as a single word in defence of himself.
To make matters worse, Vernon and Petunia are trying their usual method of appeasing him with promises of gifts and food, which usually only makes matters worse, since it lets Dudley know that he can simply keep going until they promise enough that he'll be satisfied.
They continue straight through Amnesty Bay and along the coast for a few more minutes until coming to an unassuming dirt road leading closer to the ocean. They arrive maybe half a minute later on a cliff side overlooking the ocean, a tall white lighthouse sitting on its edge. Connected at the base of the lighthouse is a small, cosy house.
Harry only spares the lighthouse a quick glance. What draws his attention is the ocean. He's dreamt about seeing it his whole life, but he's never once had the opportunity. Until now, the largest body of water he's ever seen is the Black Lake, but compared to this, it might as well be a puddle on a sidewalk. It seems to stretch out forever, as if the water never ends. It's not difficult to see why people thought the earth was flat for so long.
The water is oddly captivating. He steps out of the car when it stops and slowly walks over to the edge of the cliff, watching the waves roll over themselves leaving white froth in their place. Something about it calls to something deep in Harry, and he has to quell the urge to dive off the tall cliff and into the blue depths. Such a fall would undoubtable kill him, and even if it didn't, Harry has never been taught how to swim. Even so, it enchants him, but not in a worrying way. It feels right - natural.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he recognises that Dudley's yelling out and making a complete fool of himself, and invading someone's privacy to boot, but Harry's captivation is running so deep he can't even bring himself to care. It's not until Dudley is right next to him that Harry realises his cousin has been talking to him.
"What is the matter with you?" Dudley asks, crossing his arms firmly across his broad chest. "You were the one who just had to come along, and now you don't even want to see if Aquaman is in there?"
Harry rolls his eyes, annoyed to be torn away from the view. "You think I came to stare through his window? Guess it helps to actually have a sense of shame." It's probably not the smartest idea to insult Dudley when he's already volatile due to Harry mere presence, but being interrupted from his reverie of the ocean has him irrationally angry.
But Harry's anger might as well be nothing compared to Dudley's, whose face has contorted into a look of absolute rage. He wouldn't take an insult from Harry lying down on his best day, so he's certainly not going to on a day when he's already upset. Before Harry can do a thing to stop him he's stepping forward with a roar and shoving Harry with both hands.
What happens next seems to happen in slow motion. Harry stumbles back, and Dudley's face morphs again, this time displaying his utter dread. And Dudley is getting further away, his face disappearing behind the cliff as Harry begins to plummet down towards the blue depths below. The last thing he hears before hitting the water is Petunia screaming.