A/N: Harry doesn't have glasses in this... I'm not sure why. Its not really that important.
Life with the Dursleys.
Harry layed in his cupboard feeling pretty sad about his life. It was dark. He was cold. Hungry. Slightly damp. Nobody loved him. And he wasn't sure what day it was.
He was nine.
He thought he could remember a time long ago when life was better, when he was happy and loved. Or maybe that was just his hope flaring up again. Hopeful delusions to keep him sane. Hope really was a bit annoying, especially as it never did him any good. He hoped and hoped to be saved from his terrible life but... what good would that do?
And Harry was bored. Really really bored. There was nothing to do in his cupboard but be alone with his thoughts of misery. Nothing to do but dwell on how bad his life was. And as he was doing all of that dwelling and mourning of how miserable he was he came upon something deep inside himself.
Something really warm.
Now, he wasn't sure if he was having some sort of sensory hallucination, or if he was finally dying or something, but deep deep inside his mind (or was it soul) was a nice warm bubble. So he dug deeper and deeper into his thoughts until he came across one thought that seemed to make everything seem a little better.
Could have been worse.
That was... right. How had he never thought of that before. Okay, he was hungry, thirsty, cold and wet... but he wasn't injured or anything. He wasn't dead. He was living, breathing, safe... basically. And... and... that was an amazing thought. Harry suddenly thought that he could have been hurt by his uncle, or shouted at, or... or... killed with a frying pan.
But he was alive.
And it was amazing.
Harry took a moment to try and find his heartbeat, pressing his hands all over his body searching for it. And then he found it. On his neck. A steady thump thump thump that was so... soothing. And strong. And beautiful. Harry had an amazing gift inside of him. He was lucky he wasn't some lamp post or mail box. He was a living, breathing human.
No matter if everyone thought he was a freak, he was alive.
And Harry took a deep breath, smiling at his realisation that he was alive. His heart was beating. He could see. Hear. Smell. Breathe. Think.
And it was beautiful.
Harry suddenly felt very happy. He couldn't help the smile that beamed on his face. And as he leaned back into his dirty mattress, he slept well with the thought that he was worthy enough to live.
The next time Harry was in the garden, doing 'chores', he made sure to take a good look around. At all of the beautiful flowers. The beaming sun. Clouds drifting so carelessly across the sky, as pretty as a picture. And he berated himself for not acknowledging it all before. It was beautiful. Everything was so beautiful.
He picked one of the flowers, and sniffed it deeply, smiling like a loon. Harry was so happy, being just content with what he had. He didn't need anything else. He was happy where he was, and he would be happy with less. Harry had been taking his whole life for granted, letting it pass him by and never savouring the moment. He had been greedy and miserable. But now he was content and happy.
Harry remembered the toy horse he had in his room. He didn't feel like he cared as much about it any more. He didn't need something of his own. He was fine just to breathe, and walk, and garden, and think about his lovely lovely life. Sure, some things weren't that great, but some things were amazing.
On his next walk to school he smiled all the way there. He could walk, run, move, jump, swim (more like float because he didn't know how to swim). And Harry couldn't help but smile. He was so lively. He could do so much. He had so much. Life was a beautiful thing.
He decided to skip that morning, just because he could.
And as he did so, ignoring the funny looks he got and sneers, he almost laughed. It was so freeing. Just being able to do what you wanted, ignoring the imaginary confounds that everyone followed. He could wear a dress. He could like the colour pink. He could sing, and dance, and skip. He could try his best in class. He could smile at everyone, no matter if they didn't smile back.
Because Harry knew a secret that they didn't, he knew that live was wonderful, and they couldn't see it. He would tell them, if they asked, but they wouldn't understand. Not really.
That day he skipped to class early, gave his teacher a beaming smile, which she didn't return, and sat in his seat, starting to read through his book. He'd been taking books for granted too. Everything for granted. He had seen school as just a place to be bullied, harassed and sneered at. Now he could see it as the a wonderful place it truly was. A place to learn and be happy.
Dudley and his friends were chasing him down the road, playing 'Harry Hunting'. Harry was laughing all the way, enjoying the fresh air rushing past him, the wind in his ears, the skip in his step. Because, honestly, what was the worst that would happen? Dudley's gang would beat him up? Pain? Pain was only temporary, and it could be worse. Someone could kill him out of no where, a piano could fall from the sky, he could have a heart attack.
What was a little pain compared to that?
When they caught up and Harry stopped, not feeling like running any more, instead looking around the park they had ended up at in wonder, Dudley asked, feeling perplexed,
"Why'd you stop running? You're not out of breath!"
Harry smiled at him, a bright happy smiled, which made Dudley annoyed since he didn't feel happy, and replied,
"I didn't feel like running any more. You can beat me up if you like, but I'd like to stay in the park. You can join me if you want to?"
Dudley shook his head, feeling very confused. Piers said,
"Its not fun any more if the freak doesn't care."
And everyone started to run away from 'the crazy kid'. Harry smiled and waved back at them, calling out,
"Have a nice day, see you at home."
Then he turned and layed down on the grass, loving how much life was in the park, and staring at the sky in new-found wonder. Being carefree and happy had helped yet again, in stopping Dudley's beatings. Harry supposed it didn't matter much, it didn't really make much of a different.
Harry had made friends with the spiders in his cupboard, named them all in fact, but wasn't too sad when they all eventually died... because everyone had to die in the end. He had cried the first time, when Fiona, a large brown spider, had died, even going so far to hold a funeral, as he loved life so much. But the next time it happened he came across a realisation that death was important, for life to have any meaning. If people lived forever life could not be cherished for the miracle that it was.
His spiders died, the trees died, his parents died, and eventually he would die. And when that day came he would be ready, not that he wouldn't try to live life with joy while he still could.
Harry thought he liked the colour purple best, purple and yellow. He wondered if one day he would buy himself some new clothes. He didn't really need them to make him happy, rags covered him well enough, he didn't really need money at all, all he needed was food, water and maybe shelter. But, it might be nice to have something in that colour, perhaps just a patch of fabric or a shoe or something.
He had already given away his stolen (from Dudley) toy horse to the children's donation box down the road. Other people would have more fun with it. He barely played with it any more, too content with his own imagination, the park and his spiders. He often played in the park, enjoying the swings, slides, and most days just the grass. Running around, dancing, singing to himself.
Harry liked to think he was good at singing. It was something he often liked to do. Even if it wasn't particularly manly. He liked a few 'manly' things too though. Like running, skimming rocks across a pond he had found, and talking to snakes. He didn't think he was that feminine, not that he would have cared if he was, mostly that prejudices didn't really matter and were usually irrational, so it was safe to ignore them. He ignored most things about society; grudges, prejudices, politics, and sometimes science. Although, it was interesting to explain things away with scientific principles, Harry thought it was better to simply enjoy what was there. Harry still was a bit wary of the laws of society, and didn't want to hurt anyone, but he wasn't sure if he would really mind prison all that much. There'd be lots of food there, probably more than he already got, plus new clothes.
But there wouldn't be a park, and that made all the difference.
Even if Harry could live happily enough without it, he still liked the place.
Harry's teacher was a bit confused by him, since he now tried his best on all the work. But didn't bother putting his hand up, as he didn't need the recognition. She was starting to think he wasn't a cheat or a delinquent, but Harry didn't really care about her opinion anyway... or anyone's opinions.
She approached him one afternoon, when he had decided to stay after class and draw. He was depicting the sky, something he stared at often, and imagining it in his mind. It was pretty realistic, and Harry was proud, but he would have been fine if it turned out terrible anyway. He quite liked to draw, he had realised, but could live without it. As he didn't have many opportunities to, as the Dursleys never liked spending money on him.
The teacher, a red headed woman, that reminded him of someone from a dream, who was quite short and had frizzy hair, sat beside him. Gazing at his pretty picture in wonder. She said, after a moment,
"That is very nice, Harry, I didn't know you could draw."
Harry turned to her with a smile, something he always did, no matter who he was talking to. Always smiling, that boy. He used to always frown, now that she thought about it. He said in a very soft voice, giving her one last smile before turning back to his picture,
"Everyone can draw, miss."
She nodded at that, a little shocked at such a kind tone coming from someone she used to scorn quite often. It was quite unfair of her, he had only been a child, but she had thought him a menace based on rumours around the school and his own guardians comments. She said softly,
"I'd like to talk to you about your school work."
Harry smiled at her again, and it was quite a sweet smile. Not at all worried, as some of the children might have become had she mentioned school work in an out-of-class setting. He was completely relaxed actually, at home, as if he were with a long time friend.
"Oh? Is there something wrong?"
He said quietly, adding a deeper blue to certain parts of his drawing, giving it more depth. How was he such a good drawer? She had never seen him in class. Perhaps his guardians let him draw at home often, but a niggling thought in the back of her mind told her that they wouldn't. She said calmly, trying to match his tone,
"You've been doing very well, actually Harry. You have one of the best test scores in the class, and your homework is always very well done. But, you never contribute to lessons, and you used to do quite poorly. I was wondering about your change of attitude."
Harry paused for a moment, and in that moment she could see how very small he was. She wondered why that was, since the rest of his family was quite large. Perhaps he was adopted? That might explain some of the ire they seemed to hold for the gifted boy. He folded his picture up very neatly and pulled a tatty book out of his bag. A book she had never seen before. And briefly flicked through the pages to glue in his picture. Once he was done he zipped up the bag, placed it under the desk, and very calmly turned to her, another smile on his face.
Harry seemed so... happy. It was like nothing she had ever seen.
"Miss, can I let you in on a little secret?"
She smiled at him, finally they were getting somewhere.
"Of course, Harry, I won't tell anyone."
With that Harry paused, shook his head, and said in a conspirational tone, quite different from his usual bright tone.
"Actually miss, it is completely up to you whether you want to tell people, but I don't think many people really know the secret miss. They can say it, hear it, almost understand, but it takes a unique person to truly believe it is true. Would you like to know what it is?"
She was actually quite excited now. What had this... prodigy child discovered that would make him so different from before? What had he uncovered or been told? He was so happy now, doing so well in school, and seemed to get in much less trouble after school as well. She nodded, and he said softly, very sincerely,
"Life is beautiful."
And she paused. Not really understanding.
"What do you mean?"
He simply looked at her with a fond expression, an expression that he could understand something that she didn't and he didn't blame her.
"Exactly what I said. Life is beautiful. And not many people can understand that. And that is the secret that I discovered, and the secret that I now fully believe."
She nodded warily, a little confused, and wanting to get the conversation back on track. Life was beautiful. Yes. But she didn't see what that had to do with anything. She said,
"Well... okay. That's nice. But can you tell me about your school work."
Harry sighed, looking a little sad, but then brightened up quickly, smiling at her again.
"Nothing has really changed. I still know as much as I used to. But now I simply don't try to be bad, and try to be how I really am. And I don't answer questions in class, because I don't need to. The other children would benefit more."
She nodded, slowly, thinking she understood.
"And why did you try to be bad?"
Harry tilted his head the side, eyes gleaming, as he said,
"Because people wanted me to do badly, and back then I thought their needs counted more than my own. Now I know it is neither, and simply that there is no good reason for me to pretend to be something I am not."
She nodded again. So... people wanted Harry to do badly? But who?
When she turned back to Harry she realised he was picking up his bag to leave. She called out to him,
"Where are you going, home?"
Harry shook his head,
"The park. If you really want me to stay I can, but I thought you might need a little time to think."
Then he left.
And she thought.
And she was still confused by the end of it.
On Harry's tenth birthday, he was amiss at whether to do anything or not.
Birthdays were always extravagant occasions for his cousin Dudley, with many gifts, praises and trips. This year he went to the local amusement park while Harry was left with Mrs. Figg. She seemed to notice something was different about him, but she didn't ask, merely saying she wanted to start a fire in the other room to warm up the house.
Even though it was summer.
But Harry let her be, not really feeling curious about her. She was free to do what she wanted. And he was more than happy to stare at her new painting for a couple of hours, while her cats tried to get his attention. He had a bit of an uneasy feeling in her house, but let it go as it didn't feel very important.
Harry's birthday had never been celebrated. As far as he could remember. The most he ever got from the Dursleys were more chores, or a promised present only to be given nothing. It was a little cruel now that he thought about it. But today, he was sure that everyone had forgotten, and it was a Saturday with not many chores, so he had the afternoon free to do as he wished.
Almost like a birthday gift.
Harry decided he would simply go for a walk, as normal, and ponder a bit.
It had been a few months since his birthday and his aunt was becoming suspicious of him. She hadn't noticed his 'odd' behaviour before, of smiling and being generally happy and polite, because she liked to pretend he didn't exist, but she was noticing it now.
Harry could tell by the wary glances she would send him, and more insults to see if he would be effected. But he just let them bounce off of him, time passed very quickly and what good did it do to dwell on such things as insults? Aunt Petunia had then realised than he seemed happier in the garden, so she didn't let him garden as much. Harry didn't really mind, living was enough for him.
She simply got more and more infuriated when it didn't affect him at all. One afternoon she had gotten so mad as to slap him hard across the face, leaving a red hand print that she would later cover up with make up so as not to be shown when he went to school. Harry simply sighed at her, asking a quiet,
"What is it, miss, have I done something wrong?"
And Aunt Petunia stared at him in fear, whispering,
"What is wrong with you child?"
Harry looked up at her, smiling brightly which seemed to frighten her more, not that he cared, he liked smiling thankyouverymuch,
"I'm not sure, mam, may I continue cleaning?"
She nodded, racing quickly out of the room, and once she was out of sight Harry began to sing to himself. It made cleaning more fun for him, not that he really minded. Sure, he liked gardening better, but it would do no good to be upset about something so trivial as cleaning, since he had to do it everyday. Instead he taught himself to enjoy it, by playing a game of trying to get every speck of dust, and if he got bored of that simply drifting off into his own thoughts, and cleaning on auto-drive.
That night as he locked himself away in his cupboard, humming happily but quietly enough so no one would hear, he heard a faint conversation drifting through the wall of his aunt and uncle.
They were worried about his mental health.
Or in their words,
"We can't let the freaks find out what we've done to him!"
"Then we never let them find him, he's a good cook anyway, we don't need to-"
"No. They will collect him soon enough, as soon as he gets that blasted letter. We need... We need to get him help."
"But he's still living in a cupboard, and doing chores, how can-"
"Vernon, if the freaks find out they will kill us. We'll give him Dudley's old toy room, feed him, I can start doing some of the chores and you get him a therapist."
"Are you sure, Pet?"
"Yes. If the freaks find out... I don't want to know what will happen to us."
Harry tilted his head to the side, smiling at his family as a fourth chair was placed at the table,
"Good morning, shall I start breakfast?"
All three heads swivelled towards him. His aunt looked quite pale, his uncle worried as well, and Dudley looked hungry. Harry simply smiled and waited, he had plenty of patience, and he wanted to try out some new recipes anyway. He had borrowed a book from the library, a cook book, one afternoon. Originally he had simply gone to have a conversation with the librarian, to say hello, but she seemed to expect that he wanted to read something so he borrowed the first thing that came to mind.
His aunt quickly said,
"No. No. You sit here."
She gestured to the chair.
Harry simply smiled at her, brightly, unnerving her, and sat down, a little curious as to why everything was changing. He was perfectly happy with how things were, but he supposed it wasn't too bad of a thing if things changed.
Then something quite strange happened.
Aunt Petunia cooked breakfast.
Harry stared at the plate in front of him for a moment before eating, thinking that maybe the Dursleys simply regretted the errors of their ways. He supposed that was okay. And eating a full breakfast was a bit of a novelty experience, a nice thing to cross off his bucket list perhaps if he ever made one, although he felt a little sick afterwards.
It was Sunday, so there was no school, and Harry was about to get up to start the rest of his chores for the day, since they didn't like wasting their time in telling him what to do, when he was stopped by a hand on his arm. He turned to see it was his aunt, who smiled thinly at him, which he returned with a bright smile, and told him to sit.
He sat again, humming lightly under his breath, and smiling widely, until Uncle Vernon broke the silence with his gruff voice,
"You will now be staying in Dudley's second toy room. It will be your room. Clean out anything you don't want and shove it in the attic. You and your aunt will be going clothes shopping this morning, and tomorrow afternoon you have a therapy session."
Harry simply nodded, not really that surprised by the turn of events, since he had heard it last night. It had taken a while to realise the whole breakfast thing was connected to 'feeding him'. Aunt Petunia started to speak, and he turned to her, beaming,
"You will not be doing as much chores as normal. Just gardening, because I know you enjoy that, and cooking dinners. Keep your room clean, don't bother us, and we won't take all these privileges away. Now put on some shoes and we'll go shopping."
Harry had already been wearing shoes so he simply waited patiently by the car, singing softly to himself and staring at the sky. It was nice and beautiful today, although he thought he might prefer cold weather in general. Not that he would chose one over the other if he had a choice; it was nice to be surprised by things like that.
His aunt came out of the house, ten minutes later, looking a little surprised to see him waiting patiently by the car.
The car trip was quiet, and probably awkward for Aunt Petunia, but Harry felt as he always did, happy to be alive and in wonder at all the beauty surrounding him. Every day he found something new, and he never thought he would stop cherishing life for the miracle that it was, never being so grateful to having that epiphany last year which let him see the world through clear eyes.
His aunt simply glanced at him warily as he smiled.
When they went shopping, he didn't really mind what he got, and neither did his aunt, as she simply handed him thirty pounds and told him to buy whatever clothes he wanted with that money. Harry quickly left the new and expensive clothes store, and found a nice second hand store which had things sold for almost a third of the price.
He wondered what he wanted. Not really wanting anything other than the rags he already had, and thought back to how he wouldn't mind things in the colours purple or yellow.
So Harry just picked what he thought looked cool, and he didn't care if it would be a little strange to wear it.
He bought two dresses, one purple and one green. The purple had small sleeves that ended above the elbows, like a T-shirt, and had beautiful embroidered gold bits and patterns of other fabrics. It was tight-ish to his waist, and then parted off like a skirt, so if he spun around it would spin too. It was a pale purple, perhaps a lavender colour or near enough to it.
The green one was more like a dressing gown than a dress, maybe something Japanese, and was a dark shiny fabric, with a black waistband about as thick the small sapling's trunk in his garden, which was some sort of elastic because it shrunk to fit around his waist and torso. There were little white lines all over it, some swirls, some straight, and Harry could imagine wearing it around the neighbourhood. Maybe pretending to be a samurai.
He bought some baggy jeans, as he had always wondered what jeans would be like to wear instead of the stretchy sweat pants that Dudley used to wear. And a red T-shirt with some sort of logo that he didn't bother to look at. Harry also bought some leather boots, that were probably made for girls based on how dainty they looked, but didn't really care because he could pretend to be a cowboy or a horse-rider. He bought some cheap undies and socks, as the ones he had now were scratchy. And stretching his money to the limit he bought a big baggy dark brown jumper, with big pockets, and a hoody.
When he returned to his aunt, giving her two dollars change, she asked what he had bought and he showed her.
She said, sounding appalled.
Harry simply smiled,
"They were pretty, mam."
As they left for back home he heard her murmuring to herself,
"Smartest thing I ever did arranging therapy."
Harry let it bounce right off of him. It was only an insult. And decided to go to the park later, wearing his purple dress, whilst his aunt burnt his old rags.
When he returned back from the park, Harry set to cleaning out everything he didn't want. So he did. Everything in the room except the bed, the book case (which was too heavy), the chest of drawers and his clothes was moved up into the attic. The room was completely bare, even the desk that used to belong there was moved. All the toys, books, the lamp, even the pillow from the bed (but not the blanket because Harry thought being warm was nice) had been moved.
When his uncle entered the room to check if Harry had finished, he was shocked to see the small boy sitting on the floor and drawing, paper leaned up against a tatty book, with only one thing he could see.
His school bag on the book shelf, which was falling to pieces.
He said warily,
"Boy, where did it all go?"
Harry looked up, smiling brightly at seeing another person, not really caring who it was, and replied,
"In the attic like you said, sir. I tried to move the book shelf, but it was too heavy."
Uncle Vernon was confused,
"Didn't you want any of the other stuff?"
Harry shook his head, returning to his drawing, murmuring quietly,
"I want for nothing, sir."
Harry absently wondered if he could move the spiders upstairs, and give them the bookshelf. It would be a nice place for webs, and if Harry made sure to clean his own room, which still felt a little weird to think about, he could make sure they were never found and his friends were kept safe.
Even if everyone had to die one day, it still hurt when they did.