Ramble On, Prologue

'He's a pinball wizard, there has got to be a twist.
A pinball wizard, S'got such a supple wrist.'
Lyrics from "Pinball Wizard" by The Who.

Harry Potter stood before a pinball table, wasting the last few of his pence upon
entertainment. He hadn't actually been planning to stop, let alone spend money, but
he didn't want to travel further with the storm raging outside.

He hit the flipper with perfect timing, his mind idly tracking the ball as he planned
out his next options. He didn't have any cash left, so he'd either have to find a job or
steal some; returning to the Dursley's was not an option. Still, the relief of finally
being free outweighed any fear he might have felt. He would never have to cook
breakfast for them, never have to scrub the floors under Aunt Petunia's watchful eye,
and most importantly, he would never be locked up and ignored again.

He was free. Realistically, he knew the chances of surviving on his own were pretty
slim, but it didn't matter. He idly hit the ball on a rebound as he considered what
kind of picture he made; eleven years old, messy black hair, emerald eyes, and pale
skin from years of being indoors. Most of the other customers here, sitting in their
booths eating, probably thought he was either very sickly or had grown up in a cave.
He was definitely not sickly, having spent his time at the Dursley's doing manual
labor, but a dusty old cupboard really wasn't that far from a cave.

Distracted by the memories, his first pinball fell. The Dursley's had not been kind to
him, treating him like a piece of trash and forcing him to work as a slave. He waited
for the ball to reload, and then pulled back the plunger, reminding himself that the
Dursley's didn't matter anymore; he was free.

He always liked to imagine that his pale skin and green eyes were signs of
aristocracy. It had been a secret dream of his for years; that one day he would be
rescued, claimed as some lost relative of one of the nobility Uncle Vernon always
insulted on the telly. He knew it wasn't going to happen, though, and that was why
he had ran away; he would rather spend his life homeless and free than trapped and

The Dursley's had always kept him in a small cupboard under the stairs, bolted shut,
and normally he wouldn't have stood a chance of escaping; that had all changed
after Dudley's birthday.

Dudley's eleventh birthday had been one of the few times besides school he was
allowed outside, although it was definitely not by the Dursley's choice. They hadn't
been able to find a babysitter for him, and were forced to take him with them to the
zoo. He had mixed feelings about the zoo; just being outside was a pleasant
experience, even if Dudley and his friends spent most of their time bullying him.
Seeing all the different animals was interesting, but he felt a pang of sympathy
watching them, kept in cages, bred in captivity, as he was.

He bounced the silver pinball again, watching it build up points for a moment before
turning back to his contemplation.

It was the snake exhibit that had given him the idea. He had found himself talking
with one of the snakes, which was in itself surprising; he hadn't thought snakes
could talk. He had felt a sense of kinship with the caged snake, and had chatted for a
few minutes before Dudley arrived to spoil his fun. What followed had been
confusing, but somehow, the snake had been set free and Dudley was behind the
glass; Harry somehow knew that he had caused this.

His Aunt and Uncle seemed to know, too, because Vernon had turned livid with rage,
and threatened to keep Harry locked under the stairs for a week, without food. By
the time they had driven home from the zoo, his Aunt and Cousin had gotten into
the spirit, adding extra chores and punishments.

The silver ball fell again, as he recalled what happened next. Uncle Vernon had
dragged him into the living room by the ear, reaching behind the couch for the
supple rod he always kept there. The lashing, twenty harsh strokes against his bare
back, was not something Harry preferred to remember. Being locked up in his
cupboard afterwards had almost been a relief.

It wasn't until afterwards, when his back no longer felt like it was on fire, that he had
had time to think upon what happened at the zoo. When the glass that had been
guarding the snake had disappeared, he had gotten the strangest feeling. And when
Dudley had wound up behind the glass, he had felt it again. He had a suspicion that
somehow, he had somehow caused these things to happen - things that could only
be described as magic. Suddenly his Aunt and Uncle's fear and hatred of the unusual
was making sense. He could do magic.

After reaching this conclusion, Harry had waited several hours, finally judging it safe
to try his new talent when he heard three sets of snores coming from upstairs. In his
earlier examination of what happened at the zoo, he had come to the conclusion that
what he needed was some form of emotional fuel, to power his magic. He had plenty
of that, considering his history. Still, he forced himself to remember each and every
injustice, the years of being locked up, forced to work as a slave, the time spent
being ignored at best, hated and punished at worst.

With a force of will, he had pushed; and the door to his cupboard had sprung open.
Climbing silently of his bed, gathering the few belongings he had in one hand, he had
set off for the kitchen.

Although Uncle Vernon thought it a much-kept secret, the money hid atop the
refrigerator was not unknown to Harry; he had found it one day while forced by Aunt
Petunia to clean every inch of the kitchen, and had spent years fantasizing about
taking that money and running away. Careful not to make a sound, he climbed upon
the counter and gathered the few odd pounds. It wasn't much, merely enough for
Vernon to spend a few hours drinking after work, but Harry would make it last as
long as it could. He wasn't coming back here.

His last ball dropped, as Harry remembered the feeling of elation he got, stepping
out the door and into the night. He could still feel it, even though he knew the future
would not be easy; he would never have to deal with the Dursleys again.

Now that the rain outside was no longer coming down in buckets, and his pinball
game was over, Harry felt it was time to leave. Before he left the restaurant, he
glanced idly behind him. A small, satisfied, smile graced his face. The pinball
machine listed his name as the highest score.

Authors Note:
Another project started... lyrics from the song 'Pinball Wizard', sung by the Who.
I happen to own neither the lyrics nor the characters used herein. I'm not sure
whether or not to continue this... It's a little short, as of now, but I really like the idea
of Harry escaping the Dursleys on his own. I guess I'll just wait for some feedback.