(Disclaimer: Any and all characters, things, situations, and ideas created by J.K. Rowling belong to her, not me. Obviously, since my name's not J.K. Rowling. Kind of wish it was... but that would be an awful lot of pressure to live with...
Important note: This is another in the series of "stuff that never happened" – yes, I'm hopelessly addicted to this world. I'm now writing AU's OF an AU. Anyway, this is one possible outcome of a different resolution of a major crisis in the story. What if things had happened differently?
And this is NOT a one-shot. There will be more chapters. And there will be humor in due course. Spotting everyone shouldn't be too difficult – figuring out what's going on/what happened might be, but I trust you. And if you can't get it, just wait... another chapter will be out in due course... and yes, I promise Chapter 11 of LwoD is also in the works! I just happened to be incredibly inspired for this tonight instead!)
"Attention, boys and girls," said the teacher as the final bell rang and all the students scrambled to put their things in their bags and run out of the classroom. "Attention for just one moment. Before you leave today, I need you to come up to the front and get one of these permission forms for your parents or guardians to sign."
Harry Potter finished stuffing his books into his frayed bag and made his way to the front of the classroom slowly, so as not to get in his cousin Dudley's way. The rest of the class ignored him, as was customary. He was the last person to take the form off the teacher's desk.
"Come on, Potter, if you don't hurry up Mum's going to leave you here!" Dudley shouted back at him.
Don't I just wish.
Harry walked slowly down the hall, reading the form as he went.
Due to a policy recently passed by the School Board, all students must have a five-minute meeting with the new school counselor (Miss Alice Anderson) before the end of the year. Any and all information divulged in these meetings remains totally confidential. Please sign and return the form below.
Harry tucked the form into his bag and speeded up. He didn't want to make his Aunt Petunia wait too long.
So I have to talk to a counselor.
I wonder if she'd believe me if I told her the truth.
"There you are," snapped his Aunt Petunia as Harry walked out the door of the school. She was leaning out the driver's side window, looking annoyed. "Get in, we've been waiting."
Harry got in and put on his seat belt. The truth was that the Dursleys loathed Harry, and had since they'd woken up to find him on their doorstep nine and a half years ago. He'd lived with them ever since...
Harry shook his head, wincing. Maybe I should ask the counselor about this. "Excuse me, Miss Anderson, but I think I'm going out of my mind, or maybe I just have amnesia..."
The fact was that Harry couldn't remember most of his life very clearly. It didn't interfere with his ability to do his schoolwork or his chores, and no one cared enough about him to ask, so he hadn't told anyone. He assumed he'd taken one too many hits from Dudley somewhere along the way. Whatever the reason, his only clear memories were of the three months or so since Christmas. Everything before that was somewhat muddled.
But I know I've been living with my aunt and uncle since I was a baby. They tell me so often enough. And complain about how much I cost to keep.
Though they certainly do their best to keep the cost down.
Every piece of clothing Harry owned had once been Dudley's. Since Dudley was several inches taller than Harry and approximately twice as wide, the clothes didn't fit very well, and Harry took a lot of teasing at school because of it. His glasses, too, were the cheapest make available – round, black, plastic frames. He didn't mind that, though – he rather liked the look.
The Dursleys didn't exactly starve him, Harry thought, but he never got quite as much to eat as he wanted, and certainly not the things he wanted, the things Dudley had in such abundance – ice cream and candy and cake and so forth. And they always got their money's worth out of him in housework.
I don't think Aunt Petunia's done her own vacuuming since I was old enough to work the machine. And I know Uncle Vernon doesn't do any gardening, but he takes all the credit with the neighbors for the roses and the lawn...
And how would it cost them any more to let me sleep in a bedroom?
He didn't mind sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs – not much, anyway, it could feel very cozy in there sometimes – but he did mind being locked into it. He minded so much, actually, that he wondered sometimes if this was a new kind of punishment, something that had developed recently. If it had been happening to him all through his life with the Dursleys, surely he would have gotten over his fear of it by now. But every time he heard the latch on the outside of the door click into place, unreasoning terror rose in him, and he had to press his face into his pillow so no one would hear him scream.
But then the lion comes and makes me brave...
Harry smiled a little at his own silly pretending. His hand slid into his bag and caressed one of the two possessions he owned that had never (as far as he knew) been anyone else's. It was something he wasn't even sure his aunt and uncle knew about, and he wanted to keep it that way.
It was a small stuffed lion, about eight inches long. Harry carried it with him everywhere, being very careful to keep it out of sight at school, and putting it in his cupboard right away when he got back to the house. It was the kind of present one might give a baby, and Harry cherished the secret hope that it had been a gift from his parents. It certainly looked worn enough to have been his when he was very small.
And maybe it doesn't take away the fear, but it helps me remember that the door always opens again.
The boy and girl sat together in the window seat, looking out at the traffic passing. They looked like some kind of symbolic portrait of day and night, the woman thought from her vantage point near the door.
"Only three days left," she said quietly, trying to cheer them up a bit. "Then you'll be out of here for good. Be glad to see the back of me?"
The girl shook her head. "We like you, Auntie," she said. "But..."
"We do want to go home," the boy finished for her. His face twisted wryly. "Now that we know where home is, thanks to you."
"Yes – I do believe I'll be filing a complaint about that. Standard procedure, my – er, nether region."
The girl giggled. "I know what you didn't say," she sing-songed happily.
"Little brat," said the boy affectionately, rubbing the girl's scalp with his knuckles where it was exposed in between her tight braids. She nestled back against him, and his arm slid around her chest, holding her close to him in a pose that almost brought tears to the woman's eyes.
This kind of tenderness, this kind of love, they could only have learned it by example, and no one who loves like this could be as Dark as they're painting him – if there was only some way to introduce this as evidence –
But she knew there was no way. The evidence would be considered without "emotional nonsense", as she'd heard it put, and the verdict rendered in the same way.
And she greatly feared what that verdict might be.
A man sat at a table, scribbling on a piece of parchment. Work was the only thing he had to distract him from thoughts of his wife, his friends, his children, and what might happen to him three days from now. Work was good. Work was his friend.
Besides, stress appeared to spark his creativity. He'd had more good ideas in the last three months than he had in the year preceding them.
Great, I've found a cure for writer's block.
Get yourself arrested for murder.
He snorted a laugh, then went back to his work.
A woman sat at her piano, playing bits and snatches of melodies, unsure if she played them because they reminded her of the ones she missed so or if the memories of her beloved ones prompted the music instead.
But I'm getting close to at least one of them soon. I hope.
God willing, when this business is over, we can all be together again.
She straightened her back and played on, repeating the name over and over like a charm in her mind.
Anderson... Miss Anderson...
"Counselor, eh?" Uncle Vernon huffed when Dudley and Harry presented their forms for signing after dinner. "Damn fool business, waste of time and money – and a woman, too. Probably doesn't know her head from her arse." He signed Dudley's straight away, then beckoned Harry closer.
"Listen up, boy," he said, scowling at Harry. "You tell this counselor anything she shouldn't know – anything – and you'll be in that cupboard from now till Christmas, you understand?"
"Good." Uncle Vernon scribbled his name on the permission form and handed it back to Harry. "Go help with the dishes, your aunt shouldn't have to do all the work around here."
"Yes, sir." Harry went into the kitchen and started wiping plates, rubbing the back of his neck with his damp hand surreptitiously to cool it where the chain he wore felt too hot.
She huddled on her bed, curled up around one of the two things she didn't dare let anyone see, hot tears soaking into her pillow.
Something was wrong. Somewhere, something was about to be horribly wrong, and she didn't know what. And even if she did, she couldn't tell anyone about it.
She couldn't speak.
Doctors had checked her over, pinching and poking her until she wanted desperately to scream, but she couldn't make the sound come out. Counselors asked her endless questions, and she wrote answers down when she knew them.
Her name was Jane White. She was ten years old. Her parents were dead. She didn't know if she had any other family. She didn't know where she lived or who she lived with. She didn't remember anything before she'd been found in the entryway to the Holy Family Children's Home on Christmas Eve morning, frantically clutching her one possession – her stuffed lion.
Other things she knew, but didn't tell the counselors, were that she loved music, but that sometimes it made her cry – especially violin music. That made her cry a lot. Or flute. She had told them, though, that she played the piano, because she knew that she shouldn't get too far behind in her practicing. She was allowed to practice in the music room four times a week, and she got lessons once a week from the teacher who taught everyone.
She had been placed in a handicrafts class, where the teacher had handed her needles with twenty stitches cast on, carefully guided her fingers through the basic motions of knitting, then told her patronizingly not to worry if she didn't pick it up right away – and she had proceeded to knit a square, knit a row, purl a row, with no dropped stitches and every stitch the same size.
In outdoor activities, she could throw a ball farther than any other girl her age. And harder. She'd been punished one day for hurting another girl in a game of catch by throwing the ball too hard. After that, she pretended not to be as good as she was.
The necklace she wore around her neck, hidden from everyone beneath her shirt, was hot against her chest – or maybe it was just her imagination.
But it couldn't be her imagination that the carvings of the lion and the wolf were glowing.
She hid her face in the pillow and silently cried.
The sun sank towards the horizon.
Far away, the tableau was repeated in a slightly larger size, as a woman lay weeping on a bed, feeling the pain of another and unable to help as she had always done before.
The previous two times this had occurred in this situation, they had been able to convince someone to place them in adjoining areas, separated so that he could not harm her, but so that she could still touch him. They claimed, truthfully, that having her near would help him, make him calmer. He still played at being savage, for the sake of the watchers, so that no one would realize the extent of her powers and take her away to be examined.
But someone had decided that this month, they would not be allowed to be together.
The moment was approaching. Gallant as ever, he was closing himself off, not wanting her to be dragged into the madness with him, and she had to force herself to let him go, to hide her terror that the goodbyes they were whispering would be the last words they ever heard from one another...
A sound startled her. She looked up.
A man stood in the doorway. "Come with me," he said bluntly.
The woman scrambled to her feet, biting down hard on her hope – it might be routine, it might be nothing at all –
But the corridors around her began to look familiar, and the hope rose in her, unable to be checked –
She almost didn't wait for the door to the front half of the cell to be opened before darting inside and falling to her knees at the second set of bars, reaching through and pressing her hand down hard on top of his, releasing all barriers and feeling their combined relief/hope/joy overwhelm her.
For this night, at least, they would live.
The girl's tears slowly ebbed as the glow of the necklace faded. Everything would be all right now, she knew.
Her eyes closed, and she slept.
Later that night, Harry lay in his cupboard, curled up on his side around the stuffed lion, and thought about life, the universe, and everything, but mostly about music.
Last month, for a special treat, his class had gone to see a musical show called Annie, which was being done by an American touring company. Harry had felt a kinship with the little red-haired heroine. Both of them were orphans, left on a doorstep as babies – both of them were eleven –
Well, I will be, in July. But she's always eleven.
And one more thing. She had a silver locket – and I have a gold necklace.
Harry pulled the fine chain out of his pajama top and ran his fingers along the different carvings on the four medallions. They were all pictures of different kinds of animals – birds, deer, different kinds of cats and dogs, a horse with wings, and even something that could have been a lizard, but Harry liked to think it was a dragon.
He sighed. But I know my parents will never come to find me with another necklace like this.
Annie didn't know her parents were dead. But I do.
Harry had always dreamed of someone coming to take him away from the Dursleys, but he knew no one ever would. They were his only relatives, and why would strangers want to take in a child not even related to them?
But I can still dream. And something could always happen. Maybe even tomorrow...
Harry smiled. Two of the songs in the show were called "Maybe" and "Tomorrow". He hummed the beginning of "Maybe" under his breath and closed his eyes, feeling himself falling asleep as the song began to play in his head.
(A/N: Yes, the lyrics to the song used to be here, but that was before I knew they weren't allowed to be. As usual, if you read, please review, it's the only way I know if I'm doing all right... and if you have questions or want to readthe story with the song in it, link to Yahoo group is on bio page, head there, join in, and ask away!)