Hey! This is something I wrote last night, just kind of fooling around. :P I don't know if I like the ending, you'll have to decide for yourselves. :) And I know, I know, it's Christmas, but I'll get my Christmas one-shot (I mean, I obviously have to have one. Hello, this is me we're taking about here. As in, one-shot obbsessor? Angst freak? -Waves hand madly- Over here! No, no, behind the sheep!) up soon. Anyway, enjoy this one. :P And Happy Christmas!!!

The Loneliest Boy He Ever Knew

Mark Evans heaved a sigh of boredom. Ever since he'd gotten beat up by that loathsome pig, Dursley, his mother had barely let him out of her sight. But she was gone today—had to go shopping with Angela for school clothing. His dad was in his office, doing paperwork, and so that left Mark with nothing to do but watch T.V.

And he didn't even like television.

He looked out the window of his house. A tall, dark-haired boy was strolling by, his hands shoved in his pockets. His head was tilted downwards, looking at his feet as he walked. Mark squinted and then saw it—The Scar.

It was Harry Potter.

Mark smiled to himself. He, Abbey, Joe, and Dan had spent hours and hours thinking up how the older boy had gotten The Scar, as it had come to be called. So far the best—or maybe just most outrageous—was that he had thrown himself into battle with a huge bully (probably Dursley) in order so save some helpless little girl, and the fat porker had carved it in his forehead.

It really irked the four of them that no one knew how he really got it. His aunt and uncle—possibly the most stuck up, vain people he had ever met—said it was from a car crash, but come on. That was utterly A) unadventurous, and B) ridiculous.

It was ridiculous because there was something about the Potter boy—something Mark couldn't quite identify, but it definitely had nothing to do with a car crash.

Mark glanced about. His dad would never notice him leaving if he was quiet enough…he slipped into the kitchen and out the front door before logic and reason caught up to him and he changed his mind.

Harry plopped down onto the curb, right beside a lamppost that stood on the edge of the park, and stared out into the distance. He shook his head slightly, and his banged swiveled to the right to reveal The Scar.

Mark wanted to run and hide. The boy that was supposed to go to St. Brutus's had eyes like he had never seen before. They were emerald green, deep, so amazingly vibrant that he knew Abbey would follow him around and beg him to be her boyfriend.

He wrinkled his nose, and then shook himself. The eyes were also troubled, dark; it occurred to him that he had never seen Harry with a friend. He was always alone. Always.

"Mark Evans, right?"

He started. Harry was observing him quietly, looking slightly amused. The corners of his mouth twitched. Mark nodded once, jerkily. He stood rigid. "I'm Harry." Mark nodded again. "Potter," he added unnecessarily. "Nice to meet you?" It was a question, almost sarcastic, as though Mark was the one who was supposed to have said it.

"Yeah," he squeaked instead. "Nice to meet you, too."

Harry looked surprised, and then he laughed. It was a dull, disbelieving laugh. "Really?" He asked, quirking an eyebrow. "No running off, no telling mummy that you met the strange Potter boy, no begging Diddly-doo-stupid to beat up his weird cousin?"

Mark shook his head. "N-No," he managed. "I—I don't think you're weird."

At this, both eyebrows shot up. "Really." It wasn't a question, and yet it wasn't ensuring the fact either. It was just a statement. A word. Harry pulled a face of thought. "Well, will you look at that." He paused and stare into the distance again. Then he sighed. "You want to take a seat, Evans?" He asked, and then winced for some unknown reason.

What's wrong with my name? Mark thought indignantly. I like my name! Evans...it's very...it's ! "Sure," he said, growing a bit more confident. He flopped down beside the older boy. "You go to St. Brutus's, right?" He asked, and then grimaced. If he was trying to get himself beat up, he was doing wonderfully.

Harry just laughed. "No," he said, shaking his head wryly. "But don't tell my aunt and uncle I told you that. I go to a boarding school in Scotland. But it's…well, hard to explain is what it is." He set his jaw, and Mark had a strange feeling that was all to be said on the matter.



They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Mark burst out, unable to contain it any longer, "How did you get that scar?"

He groaned as soon as he said it and readied himself to be punched or yelled at. He sat like that for a while, and then realized nothing was happening. He cracked an eye open and realized Harry was laughing. "Don't buy the car crash story, eh?" He asked, mirth sparkling in his haunted eyes.

The word hit Mark rather forcefully. Haunted. That's what Harry was. Haunted. It was the 'something' Mark hadn't been able to place before. He brushed it off, though—Harry was looking at him expectantly for an answer. Mark shook his head. "Nope," he said, almost cheerily now that the threat of a beating was gone. "It just didn't seem plausible."

"Plausible," Harry muttered under his breath. "Good Gods, you sound just like Hermione." Mark raised his eyebrows, but Harry waved the question away. He studied his nails for a moment and then carefully turned his eyes and looked Mark over, as though deeming him worthy. "I'm going to tell you a story, Mark Evans," he said solemnly.

"There once was a little baby boy who had two loving, caring parents. They adored their son, and so did their best friends. In this circle of immediate friends were three men. The mother had her close friends too, of course, but they aren't really important to the story. They belong in another story, with another little boy…"

He trailed off, wincing, and then began again after a moment's silence. "Now, one day, the family learns that an evil king wants to take over where they lived. Now, they fight this king, along with their close friends, and try to keep him from doing that. And then one day, they learn that their son—their little baby boy—is the only one who can really defeat him."

Mark nodded, enraptured with the tale. Harry smiled grimly at him.

"Unfortunately, the king learns it, too. And so he goes to the house where the man, woman, and their child live, in order to kill the boy. The father fights him to give time to his wife and child to escape, but he is killed. And then the king goes after the mother. She, too, fights this man—this evil being who is so much stronger than she is—and she dies as well. So all that's left…is the boy."

Mark felt his throat constrict. "How sad," he whispered. "Did the boy die?"

Harry laughed softly; glumly. "No, Mark. The boy didn't die—and that's the odd thing. Because this king had so much power that he ought to have been able to destroy the infant in a moment. But when he brought down his blade to do so, he couldn't. He tried, but there seemed some force keeping him from doing it. And instead, the blade twirled around and stabbed the king.

"Everywhere, people celebrated the little infant. They called him the Boy-Who-Lived and put him in history books. But where did the little boy go, Mark? What had become of him? No one knew. He was alive, yes; they had been told on no uncertain terms that he was living. They were finally told that he was living in a different kingdom, because he had relatives there. And no one wanted to deny him his last living relatives.

"So he was sent to live with his Aunt and Uncle. They were evil people, Mark—they made him sleep in a cupboard and do all of the chores. He was a slave for them. It was rather like a Cinderella story. But all of that changed one day, ten years after the boy had been brought to that horrible place."

Mark's eyes bugged out of his head. "What, Harry?" He asked, his voice tight. "What happened?"

Harry smiled. "When he was eleven—he'd been a year old at the time of the evil king—he received a letter from a powerful man…you could call him the unofficial king of the kingdom that had been under attack. It was peaceful now. Everyone was happy. And he received a letter from this man saying he wanted the boy as an apprentice."

Mark could have clapped. He could have kissed Harry, he was so happy.

"His Aunt and Uncle didn't refuse the man, although they handed their little nephew over grudgingly. So they gave up this boy and did not see him for a whole year. Now, during the year, the boy learned a lot of things from his master. Well, no; I don't like that word. Let's call him his employer, all right?"

Mark nodded.

"All right. So the boy learned a lot of things, including his past. He learned why everybody loved him and why his name was always in the papers. He was a very sad boy, Mark; you see, everyone thought he was so fantastic because of the dark king's defeat, but he saw it for what it truly was: he hadn't done anything. He'd just lain there, in all probability laughing and gurgling, until some unseen force kicked in.

"But no one believed this besides himself, so it didn't matter. For the first time in his short life, the boy had friends, Mark! He had people that cared about him!" He broke off, raking his fingers through his unruly hair.

"And yet…everything wasn't all right. You see, although the evil king had been stabbed all those years ago, he hadn't died. No; he had crawled off into the woods and somehow managed to keep himself alive. He was barely anything, but still there. And he knew of something that could bring himself back to his full power—there was a stone that worked sort of like the fountain of youth. It would make the king immortal."

Harry smiled at Mark, almost as to put him at ease. "But the boy…the boy didn't want that. Maybe it was bravery, or foolishness, or perhaps he didn't even realize what he was doing. What started out as harmless investigation just happened to lead from one thing to another until the boy and his two best friends found themselves face-to-face with the evil king again."

Mark gasped. "You've got to be kidding me!" He cried. "Cut the kid some slack, Harry!"

The older boy laughed. "Hey, I'm just the one telling the story," he said, but his eyes were dark and sad. "Do you want me to keep going, or is it getting too heavy?"

Mark shook his head fervently. "Keep going!"

Harry smiled poignantly. "All right, then. So the boy and his friends are faced with the evil king—they are only eleven, remember—and he offers this young, lonely boy the one thing that he knows he will not be able to resist.

"He offered him his family."

Harry looked off into the distance, and for the first time in his life Mark fully understood that Harry didn't have a family, either. Just like the boy in the story. Harry didn't have a Mum, or a Dad, or any siblings. In all likelihood, Harry didn't have any friends.

"But Mark, and take note of this, the boy…he refused the evil man's offer. He turned down his greatest desire for the sake of others. And he didn't do it because he was brave, or strong…no. Mark, when he refused that old man, he felt his very heart break. And so, by some stroke of luck, he lived once more. Old magic, once again, kicked in and saved him."

Mark took a deep breath. "That was so brave," he said in a hushed whisper.

Harry looked at him sharply. "No it wasn't, Mark," he corrected. "You see—that's what everyone didn't understand when the boy returned, triumphant—if you can call it that—once more. It didn't take bravery to turn down his innermost desires, it took strength. It took the boy's very heart to break and crumble, and yet he still refused. It had nothing to do with being brave, or talented, or anything else."

He stopped, looking apologetic. "Sorry," he mumbled, and turned his eyes to the pavement for a few minutes of silence before starting again.

"He went back to his Aunt and Uncle's for the summer and was once more reduced a miserable existence. But it passed, eventually, and he went back to be an apprentice once more. But once again, something went wrong. The evil king possessed a young girl—his best friend's younger sister—and made her unleash something horrible: a large, evil snake.

"This snake would go about and make people fall into a coma…do you know what a coma is, Mark?"

The young boy nodded. His father was a doctor.

"Smart lad. So—this snake made people fall into a coma. And everyone thought that the young boy would have to stop living in the kingdom, and that everyone—everyone!—would have to leave. But then…then, the king made a mistake."

"He kidnapped the girl he had been possessing. Now, the older brother and the young hero—let's call him that, all right? 'Hero'—went to save her. The other best friend could not, because she had been attacked. And although the older brother was prevented from finding his sister, Hero was not and he saved her. He also prevented the evil king from returning once more."

Mark grinned. "Gave him the ol' one-two, eh?"

Harry looked at him with a funny expression on his face, and then smiled oddly. "Sure, Mark," he said, the corners of his mouth twitching, "You could say that." He shook his head ruefully and then went on.

"Now, when the boy is thirteen—after yet another dismal summer with his relatives—he gets some bad news. A man—a man who used to be his father's best friend, but betrayed his parents to the evil king—is out to kill him. He has escaped prison and wants to kill young Hero as an act of revenge for his former master."

Mark furrowed his brow. "Why would anyone betray their best friends?"

Harry shut his eyes slowly, and his expression became masked. "I don't know that," he whispered. "No one ever will."

He took a deep breath. "There isn't much Hero can do about this, however, so he just goes about his business until one day he meets yet another man. This man helps his employer to teach the boy things, and they grow close. This man was also one of his parents best friends."

Mark looked up. "What about the other one? You said there were three, in the beginning."

Harry nodded. "Well, the third was one was thought to be dead, but I'll get to him." Mark nodded again and waited for Harry to continue. "So, Hero goes through the year until something horrible happens—his best friend is abducted by the man out to get him."

He sighed. "Hero and Girl—she is Hero's other best friend; the one who had been attacked by the snake?—they go to rescue Boy—the male best friend that that been kidnapped—and when they do, they learn that the man who was supposedly out to get Hero was, in fact, innocent…and Hero's godfather!"

He smiled at Mark's shocked face. "A lot to take in, huh?" He asked. Mark nodded. "Well, that's what happened. And so the third friend—the one that everyone had thought to be dead—had really only faked his death…and it was he who had betrayed the boy's parents."

Mark sighed. "I wouldn't want to be Hero for the world," he murmured.

Harry studied him and then buffed his nails on his jacket. "No," he agreed, "Me neither."

He took a deep breath, searching the skies as though for an answer. There was a large, pregnant pause before he spoke again.

"So…so, Hero went back, once more, to his Aunt and Uncle until he turns fourteen. Then he's brought back to the happier kingdom, to his best friends, and is told that he'll be in a competition! A dangerous one, but that rewards a lot of money if he were to win.

"So he gets through all the Tasks…but something goes awry. One of the…em…judges is really working for the evil king, and he messes with the last Task. So the boy and a competitor—a competitor who is good, and kind, and had been nothing but friendly towards Hero—are whisked away to face this king."

Mark groaned and buried his head in his hands.

"Do you know what happened to that kind boy, Mark?"

He shook his head.

"The evil king killed him. Just like that. He said, 'Kill the spare', and the good, caring young man was murdered. Hero had to watch—and why didn't he do something, Mark? Why didn't he jump in the way and take the hit? Why did he have to have been noble and agreed to share first place with that kind boy? Why?"

He shook his head again, surprised at Harry's outburst. Harry sighed.

"I don't know why he didn't do any of those things, Mark," he said sadly. "But he didn't—there was no chance to think, and Hero was scared. He was more terrified than he had ever been in his life—but he didn't let it show. And a small part of him died as he watched Cedric die."

Mark raised his eyebrows. "Cedric?" He asked.

Harry winced. "Er—let's call the competitor Cedric. But that's not important," he hurried on. "The evil king fought with Hero, and although Hero escaped, the evil king managed to drink a potion that needed Hero's blood in order for him to return. And so he was back—not in full power, but definitely back."

Mark sighed, but said nothing.

"Hero returned once more to his Aunt and Uncle."

At that, the young boy could not keep silent. "Why?" He wailed. "Didn't they know what he went through there? How could they send him to such a place after seeing that boy die? Didn't they understand? Why didn't somebody help him?!"

Harry gave a soft laugh. "I don't know why," he murmured. "I don't know why."

"And then Hero turned fifteen. He went through a difficult year—studies were hard, he was tired—but all in all things were…okay. A lot of people didn't like him, though—they blamed him for the return of the evil king—"

Mark growled. "It wasn't his fault," he snarled.

Harry smiled. "No," he agreed, "it wasn't. But people were afraid, Mark—they can't be held responsible for their actions." The younger boy sighed.

"I don't care," he muttered.

"And then the evil king tricked young Hero into his lair. You see, he made Hero believe that he had kidnapped his godfather—the closest thing to a father that Hero had—and was torturing him. As it turned out…he didn't. But when said Godfather arrived to save Hero from being killed, he himself was murdered."

Mark let out an anguished wail. "I hate the evil king!" He cried. "He's taking everything from Hero—he didn't want all that! He didn't ask for it!"

Harry shook his head. "No he didn't," he agreed softly, "But it was Destiny."

"Screw effing Destiny," the younger boy snapped. Harry laughed and shook his head.

"Something strange happened as Hero watched his Godfather died. He felt himself die, too—all of himself. He felt like he was nothing more than a weapon, nothing more than a useful device that his employer would use against the evil king. He wallowed in misery at his Aunt and Uncles—"

"They sent him there again, the sodding idiots?!"

"—But slowly, as the summer wore on, something began to change in Hero. He realized that the only way to keep his loved ones safe would be to keep them at a distance—to make them and the rest of the world believe that he didn't care about them anymore. Than the evil king could not use them against him; they would be safe…

"It was hard—oh, so hard—to push his friends away that year. His best friends, and the girl he was in love with—the girl he had saved all those years ago, when he was twelve?—they made it difficult, because they kept returning. Ignored his jibes and taunts…

"But all humans have their limits, Mark Evans. Remember that. He was only sixteen, he had no more friends to turn to, and his employer was the only one who would even speak to him. But he knew…he knew he was all for the best. So although he regretted his life, and he regretted being the one who had to go through all of the pain, he did not regret keeping his friends safe from harm."

He paused, and then sighed. "He was the loneliest boy you ever knew, Mark," he whispered.

Mark believed it.

He waited for Harry to continue, but nothing happened. The boy just stared out at nothing, his eyes troubled. "Harry?" Mark asked timidly. "What happened?"

Harry looked down, and their eyes connected. "I don't know," he whispered, his voice hoarse. "Hero trained, tried to be the best so that he could defeat the evil king, but…well, anything could happen. There were so many outcomes to his final battle, but no one knows what it will—would be."

Mark paused, thinking. "You—you mean, there's no end?"

Harry shook his head. "No end."

A strange feeling bubbled up in his chest. "How can there be no end? Who made up the story? Why don't they just make up and ending? Did Hero die? Did he live? Did he go home and get his friends back? What happened?"

Harry shook his head again. "I wish I could tell you, Mark, but I don't know myself. I hope the boy lived. I hope he got his friends back. But maybe they would never forgive him for the things he had said, even if he never meant them. Maybe they would die anyway, in spite of his efforts. Maybe he would die in battle and everyone would keep hating them. Or maybe… maybe he would die and they would realize what he'd done and loved him anyway."

He looked out into the distance, and when he spoke again, his voice was cracking. "Or maybe there is no end. Maybe the struggle goes on forever, Mark. Maybe Hero and the evil king fight for the rest of there lives, and there is no rest. Maybe Hero never gets to see peace and never feels happiness."

He looked at his hands. "Maybe the girl Hero loves gets married while the war is still raging. Maybe she does that, or dies or something, before Hero ever gets the chance to tell her that he loves her, that he would die for her; that in all likelihood he will die for her He'll never get the chance to say that he's ready to die if it will make her life better."

Mark's voice shook as he spoke next. "But Hero didn't deserve anything that happened to him," he mumbled, fighting tears. "Why did it all have to happen to him?"

Harry's eyes met his own, and there was irreversible sadness in them. "Maybe he was the only one strong enough to bear it," he whispered. "Or maybe the only one weak enough."

Mark shook his head, not bothering to think about the logic. "I hope Hero has a happy ending," he said defiantly.

Harry smiled. "Me too, mate," he grinned. The younger boy couldn't help but feel a surge of pride at being called 'mate' by this strange boy who so many looked down on but there didn't seem to be anything wrong with.

"Will you tell me when you get the ending?" He asked. "Er…if you get the ending?"

Again, Harry smiled. It was a large, beaming smile. "Count on it," he promised, and even offered his hand, which Mark took gleefully. Then, the raven-haired boy stood. "Well, I'd best be off. Expected at the relatives," he explained, winking. "See you around."

He disappeared down the road, his hands still in his pockets…but his face was straight up, as though he was facing whatever came his way.

Mark watched him walk away, the story reeling in his mind. He didn't even care that he never learned the secret of Harry's scar. Somehow, the scar didn't even seem important any more—not even deserving of capitol letters.

Because there was something more to that story, something that Mark wasn't quite grasping, but it was there, on the edge of his comprehension.

It occurred to him that maybe there was more to Harry than met the eye.

He would never know why afterwards, but that night as he was crawling in to bed, he wrote a small prayer for the raven-haired boy, letting it loose into the streets. A downy white owl would sweep down and carry it to her owner, who was sitting in his room…he would look down and read it. And then a smile such as no one had ever seen on his face for almost a year would spread across his features, and he would sleep peacefully for the first time in months.

Mark did learn the end of Harry's tale, exactly twelve months later. It came to him in a letter, carried by the same downy owl that had taken his prayer, and it was addressed to Mark Evans, Second Window To The Right, Third Floor, Privet Drive. And when he read it, his eyes filled with tears.

From grief or happiness, I don't know.But since then, a pretty redhead and dark-haired boy have been known to frequent the area...

There, you see? I'm getting better--no endearing people to the main characters and then ruthlessly killing them off, no musigns about how much life sucks! It's the whole Christmas thing, I'm telling you. Who can resist the charm of christmas carols? Honestly.