Prologue: Azalea Evans – A Different Beginning
Disclaimer: If you've seen it before, it belongs to J.K. Rowling. Otherwise, it's mine. Naturally, I'm making no money off this. Am I the only one that finds these things to be extremely repetitive and pointless?
The morning was rather chilly in the town of Little Whinging, Surrey, on the second of November, in the year 1981. Halloween had just passed, always a time of grumbling for the small suburban populace, themselves being perfectly ordinary folk that held no stock by such maddening foolishness as ghosts and goblins. This year, however, had proven to be particularly vexing, with strange, unidentified people in robes dancing and celebrating in the streets as if England had just won the World Cup, no regard whatsoever to decency or propriety. Owls darted about hither and thither in broad daylight. But for the Dursley family of Number Four, Privet Drive, those strange happenings were the least of their concerns. Mrs. Dursley's younger sister and her husband had passed away under suspicious circumstances the previous evening and their infant son had been left on his aunt and uncle's doorstep, accompanied by a mysterious note. The man of the house had fumed and raged for hours on end about being unceremoniously dumped with and expected to keep one of "those freaks" in his residence.
And indeed, the boy's parents, Lily and James Potter, had not been what people such as the Dursleys would term as "normal people." They were, in fact, a wizard and a witch, and rather talented and powerful ones, at that. However, the times were dark in the secluded magical world in which the Potters had lived. The Dark Lord Voldemort terrorized the population, bent on purging those not of pure magical heritage from the wizarding world with the assistance of his ruthless followers, masked wizards and witches known to their peers as "Death Eaters." Just a little over a year before, a Prophecy had been proclaimed foretelling the possible circumstances of the evil overlord's demise. A special child, born at the tail end of the seventh month to parents who had thrice defied the Dark Lord, would have the power to rid the world of his foul presence. As fate would have it, young Harry Potter fulfilled both conditions.
Hoping to nip the situation in the bud, Voldemort had personally invaded the young couple's home in the wizarding village of Godric's Hollow. James had been the first to fall, dueling the dark wizard with all of his might in hopes of buying his wife and newborn son enough time to flee to safety. His efforts had not been enough. Voldemort had crossed over James's fallen body and proceeded up the stairs, intercepting Lily inside the baby's nursery. She threw herself on front of the Dark Lord's lethal curse in order to protect her offspring, unknowingly placing a powerful protective charm on young Harry. Unaware of this, her murderer attempted to fulfill his objective and slay the child of the Prophecy, only to have his own spell backfire onto him, reducing him to a mere shade of his former self.
Not that Vernon Dursley knew or cared about any of that, really. What he did know, however, was that one of those bloody freaks had come and left this other little freak on their front porch, with a letter instructing that it was to stay there and be looked after, and threatening certain repercussions if he and his wife did otherwise. As much as he would have liked to have dumped the little monster off in some back alley and left it to die, he had a lovely wife and an infant son of his own to protect. And that was another problem. Vernon ruddy well would not have this...this thing corrupting his little Dudley with its freakishness. If he had to keep it, he would stamp the unnaturalness right out of it, before the disease could fester and spread. It was his duty to the civilized world, and he intended to do it by any means necessary.
Vernon had called in sick at work that morning, leaving young Polkiss in charge of the office. Hopefully the little nance wouldn't bugger things up too badly. And if he did, Vernon hadn't fired anybody worth mentioning in a few months, so he was overdue. Meanwhile, he and his wife were discussing what to do with the little freak. At the moment, it was sleeping in the cupboard underneath the stairs, still bleeding like a sieve from some unnatural wound on its forehead. Petunia had gone into the kitchen to take a telephone call, leaving Vernon with his mug of brandy-sweetened coffee, muttering angrily to himself.
"Ruddy freaks, leaving us with that little abomination. I'll take care of its unnaturalness, yes sir. Beat it out of the brat with a hammer if I have to."
Vernon turned his head upon hearing his wife, Petunia's hurried footsteps. She ran into the room as if chased by the Devil himself, a terrified look on her face.
"What's the matter, Petunia dear? Freaks calling up here to threaten us! I'll..."
"No, but it's almost as bad. That was my mother. She knows we have the little freak, and she wants to see him. She's already on her way! Hurry, we have to get him cleaned up! You know what will happen if she sees him like he is right now! My mother was always partial to those freaks!"
Vernon's face turned ashen. Petunia's mother, Azalea Evans. She was the veritable bane of his existence, and one of the most wealthy and powerful women in all of Surrey. Azalea had always favored Petunia's unnatural whore of a sister, and she would make no end of trouble if she came and saw the freak in the state that it by all rights deserved to be in. If Vernon had any luck, she might just take the worthless little creature away with her, and they would both leave him and his wife alone. Still, they had to prepare for her coming now.
"Right. Go on upstairs and get a clean change of clothes from Dudley's room. I'll try and stop the bleeding on the freak's forehead."
With a frenzied nod, the horse-faced Petunia Dursley hurried to comply.
Meanwhile, a violet-colored limousine drove briskly down the residential streets of Little Whinging, just now making a turn onto Wisteria Walk. In the middle compartment, a borderline elderly woman sat clutching a handbag and a walking stick in her respective arms. Dressed in a yellow Sunday dress, despite it being Wednesday, a matching large feathered hat, and heeled shoes was Azelea Lynn Evans, young Harry Potter's maternal grandmother and the most feared and respected woman in the entire county.
Azalea herself was of colonial stock, though somewhat diluted, as both of her own parents had been born and raised in Britain. Her grandmother had been the wife of a colonel in the Confederate Army during the United States Civil War. Both she and her husband were old Southern aristocracy. However, her grandfather was killed in battle, and her grandmother fled from the advancing Union troops across the seas with as much of her husband's assets as she could muster. She would later marry again, this time to a moderately wealthy British businessman, and give birth to Azalea's mother through that union.
Azalea herself had been quite the beauty in her youth, and married into the Evans family, which ran the oldest and most powerful law firm in Surrey. Her husband, Augustus Evans, became head of the firm with his father's retirement, and had himself been the most feared solicitor in the area. He had died half a decade ago, of a stroke incurred while in his office. He had quite literally worked himself to death. His younger brothers still controlled the firm, though, and treated their eldest's widow with complete deference. She was, therefore, a woman not to be crossed lightly.
She bore only her two daughters, and now her favorite, her dear, sweet Lily, had been murdered in her own home along James. Her younger son-in-law had been a refined and gentlemanly sort of man from a good family, and both Azalea and her husband had absolutely adored him. He and Lily had been at one another's throats for most of their school years, but eventually saw the truth in each other and fell in love. A few years later, they gave birth to little Harry, who was the apple of his grandmother's eye. Harry looked every bit like his father, but had his mother's eyes, which Lily had inherited from her father. A sweet and innocent child doomed to a cruel destiny.
Oh, yes, Azalea knew about the Prophecy. Despite Albus Dumbledore's objections, Lily had confided the information in her mother. For her part, Azalea had always been somewhat mystified by the wizarding world. It was, in a word, unbelievable that such a complex society existed right under everybody else's noses. Azalea had been so excited at learning that her youngest daughter would be able to do real magic. It had been a breath of fresh air into her rather mundane and boring life. But now Lily was gone, and her only child thrust into the dubious care of Azalea's other daughter, Petunia, and her crude and boorish swine of a husband.
Thankfully, Azalea had made a few friends among the wizarding population over the years, one of them being Minerva McGonagall, the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the head of James's school house. Minerva had been the one to personally inform the old woman of her daughter's passing, and had also relayed to her Harry's whereabouts, as that meddling old coot had placed Harry with the Dursleys despite Minerva's disapproval. Disapproval that was far from unfounded. Petunia had always despised Lily and would equally loathe her son, and Vernon was nothing short of a beast. Harry would find nothing but neglect and abuse in that household. And damned if Azalea was going to allow her beloved grandson to suffer at the hands of those creatures. She intended to have some very strong words with her daughter's former Headmaster if the two ever crossed paths again. She was snapped out of her fuming by a voice from the driver's compartment.
"We have arrived, Madam Evans."
"Good, thank you Parker. Let me out and then find somewhere to park the car. This may take awhile."
Once out of her rather exotic limousine, Azalea drew herself up proudly and marched directly up the lawn of Number Four, Privet Drive. She became apprehensive at hearing a baby's tortured wailing from outside the front door. Without knocking or waiting to be admitted, she opened the door and entered the house, rushing in the direction of the noise. She entered the hallway, and there witnessed a scene that would rightfully ruin one man's life, and also save a young hero from an abusive childhood. A purpled Vernon Dursley, accompanied by his wife, was roughly holding up a severely bleeding Harry Potter with a vice-like grip, shaking him violently and screaming for him to be silent, finally striking the infant forcefully across the face.
"BE QUIET, YOU RUDDY LITTLE FREAK!"
The force of the cuff across the face sent the crying baby tumbling from Vernon's grip. Petunia rather unwillingly caught Harry, glaring disdainfully at him all the while. Azalea had seen more than enough, and the old woman charged forward brandishing her loaded handbag.
Vernon had just enough time to turn around before the handbag met his mustached face head on, the impact shattering his nose and left cheekbone. The beefy man crumpled to his knees, bleeding profusely from the injured body part. Rage not sated, Harry's grandmother, who had always been an active woman, and whose strength had not yet failed her, yanked one of Vernon's heavy iron golfing clubs from its bag near the cupboard door. The old lady rained blows down on her hated son-in-law, having no qualms about bludgeoning Harry's abusive uncle on his unprotected head and face. Vernon attempted to shield himself with his arms, but with limited effectiveness. Petunia gingerly placed her infant nephew on the kitchen table and moved in to intercede. By that point, her husband had long since lost consciousness.
"Mother, please! Stop this before you kill him!"
The old lady ceased her assault on Vernon for just long enough to whirl around and backhand Petunia with all of the force that she could muster. Harry's aunt grabbed onto a chair for support, but still tumbled to the ground bawling her eyes out. Azalea turned and glared at her eldest daughter.
"You ungrateful bitch! I'm not through with you yet, mark my words!"
After this latest effort, some of the adrenaline had ceased flowing through the old woman and she keeled over slightly, using Vernon's six-iron as a replacement for her discarded walking stick and breathing heavily. Parker, Azalea's butler and personal chauffeur, came rushing into the house, having heard the confrontation from outside.
"Madam Evans, is everything all right? What's all this commotion?"
"Parker, go into the kitchen and call a constable. That brute was abusing my grandson, and I intend to see him prosecuted."
"But, madam...he looks to be more dead than alive. If a constable sees..."
The old woman cut him off.
"The authorities in this town will have no sympathy for a child abuser, nor would they so much as dare to challenge my word. As soon as the constable arrives, phone Robert at the firm and tell him to expect us soon. This foul creature will rot in prison or worse, or else my name isn't Azalea Lynn Evans."
With that, the old woman slowly made her way over to the wailing baby and scooped him up. Grabbing a white towel from a nearby cabinet, she attempted to stop the bleeding from the unhealed curse wound marking his forehead and rocked him gently. Harry calmed down somewhat from the loving attention.
"That's a good boy, Harry. Calm down for grandma. Everything's going to be all right from now on. I won't let these beasts hurt you any longer..."
Petunia crawled over to her prone husband, trying to shake him back to his senses, still sniffling like a small child at being slapped by her aged mother.
"Oh, Vernon...I'm so sorry..."
That comment only served to enrage Azalea again.
"Do not feel pity for that beast! On your feet, Petunia!"
The younger woman shamefully obeyed, as a pair of constables barged into the house. The shorter of the two respectfully addressed the old lady.
"Could you tell us what's happened here, Madam Evans?"
"Of course, constable. My youngest daughter passed on the other day, and her infant son here was confided to the care of these filthy beasts. I came to the house to inquire into his well being and found that swine on the ground over there beating on this poor baby to quiet him. I smacked him over the face with my handbag and whacked the gristle out of him with a golfing club, and he deserves far worse."
Both law enforcement officials looked at the bleeding child in Azalea's arms, and then scowled balefully down at Vernon. The Muggle policemen couldn't have known that the wound on Harry's forehead was actually due to a botched Killing Curse from the Dark Lord, and the old woman had no intention of enlightening them. With a nod from the lead constable, his second handcuffed Vernon and dragged the porcine man towards the front door of Number Four. Jerking his head back towards the retreating pair, the constable again spoke to the old lady.
"Don't you worry about a thing, Madam Evans. My wife's old man's a county judge, and I'm sure that he'll be more than willing to hear this case. If your fellows will prosecute him, mine will make sure he gets tossed away for a good long time."
Azalea smiled contentedly.
"That would suit me just fine, constable."
The policeman's eyes widened a bit as Harry's grandmother dabbed away more of the blood from the infant's forehead, revealing a cut shaped like a bolt of lightning.
"Excuse me, madam, but is that by any chance Harry Potter?"
The old woman looked back at him guardedly.
"Why do you ask?"
"My oldest son's in his sixth year now at that certain boarding school up in Scotland. Top of his class. We keep up a subscription with their newspapers. That little boy is a hero."
"He certainly is, and he'll be treated like one from now on. What's your name, sonny?"
"Glad to head it. The name's Adam Dawlish. My son's aiming to enter the Auror academy once he finishes his regular schooling."
"A noble profession. My late son-in-law was an Auror."
"I know. James Potter was in his last year when my Brian started school. My son idolized him. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to be heading back down to the station. I want to make sure that your other son-in-law gets the proper welcome from the boys."
Constable Dawlish left with that remark, which also stirred a fresh round of wailing within Petunia. Azalea reared back and slapped her to the floor a second time. The old woman stared down at her stunned daughter with contempt.
"Even after this, you would still stand up for that man. Freshen up, get dressed, and grab that pig's son, Petunia. We're going down to see your Uncle Robert."
"U-Uncle Robert? But why, mother?"
Azalea sneered hatefully at her only remaining child. Robert Evans was her husband's eldest brother, the second son of their generation. He was now at the head of the family firm, and the old lady had a few requests to make of him.
"Are you completely daft, Petunia? Fine, then. I'll spell it out for you. First, we're going to make sure that your pig of a husband is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I'll give my statement, and you're going to corroborate it."
Petunia visibly regained some of her nerve and drew herself up.
"I will not help you to send my Vernon to prison. You've always hated him, and daddy did as well, from the very first time you laid eyes on him. You never thought he was good enough for an Evans. But I love him, and I'll never betray my wedding vows and see my Diddydums left without a father."
Azalea's sneer only broadened. She might have struck her errant daughter again, but her arms were tired now. She would simply force Petunia to obey. Vernon was only a hired manager at Grunnings, and had no actual stock in the company. The man's standing assets were limited, and Petunia had a child to raise. Alone, as both women knew that Vernon was going to jail regardless of Petunia's testimony. Azalea only wanted to subject the man to witnessing his wife's betrayal in his last hours as a free man. Regardless, Petunia had none of the requisite skills to provide for herself, so much less Dudley, and would have to rely on her mother's charity to be able to give the piglet a proper upbringing. The old woman had won this battle before it had even started, and spoke in a saccharine voice, albeit one laced with deadly poison.
"Yes, and just what about your son, dearest? How do you intend to raise him without Vernon? The swine is going under, rest assured of that. You went and got yourself pregnant before finishing university, and you have no skills with which to start a career of your own. Whatever good looks you once had have now fallen by the wayside, and you've got issue as well. You can forget finding another man to provide for you. You're going to do exactly as I tell you to do. You'll do it, Petunia, for the sake of your child's future."
Petunia looked to the ground, defeated.
"Yes, mother. I understand."
"That's a good girl. Second, since you seem to be so worried about those wedding vows, you're going to file to have your marriage to Vernon annulled. I'll not have a child abuser and a criminal connected to this family."
The younger woman didn't even bother to object this time.
"And, finally, you're going to sign a document transferring custody of young Harry over to me. Do as you will with that piglet of Vernon's, but I'll not have you mistreating this child because of some pathetic grudge of yours against your late sister."
Something flashed in Petunia's eyes.
"That isn't possible, mother."
"Oh, and just why is that, dearest?"
"The spells protecting the boy from his parents' murderer will only be maintained if he lives with me. At least, that's what the letter left with him says."
Azalea arched an aged eyebrow.
"Bring me this letter. I want to read it for myself."
Petunia scurried off and brought the letter left by Albus Dumbledore, as the old lady withdrew her reading glasses from her handbag. Just its author left Azalea with certain doubts of the content's truth. She had met the Headmaster on a few occasions during Lily's schooling, and had never liked or trusted the man. She saw him as an overbearing and manipulative sort, who hid behind half-truths and grandfatherly airs. Dumbledore was the type that had always been granted his way on things, and that would pursue his ends with a borderline fanatical obsession. Having been married to a law practitioner, a man who generally made his living through bending the truth, Azalea had been able to see more or less through Albus. Neither she nor her husband had ever said a word of it to Lily, though, as their daughter had completely adored the old wizard.
Still, the letter raised some concerns for the old lady, who knew absolutely nothing about magic aside from what her youngest had attempted to explain to her. She wasn't about to risk young Harry's safety over her personal dislike for Dumbledore. However, she also wouldn't just leave the child in Petunia's care, given the woman's personal hatred of Lily and certain bitterness at her husband's arrest. Azalea's only living daughter was the type that would blame Harry for her husband's abusive ways. No, simply leaving him here was unacceptable. However, there was one compromise that would both satisfy the blood magic and see to Harry's well being. She called for her butler.
"Parker! Come in here, please."
The man came as requested.
"Parker, phone up a moving company and contract them to begin preparing Mrs. Dursley's things for immediate transport while we're away at the firm. She'll be moving back into the mansion as soon as possible."
The old servant left as quickly as he had come. Meanwhile, Petunia decided to voice her displeasure at this latest proposal.
"I have no desire to return home, mother."
The old lady again glared at Petunia.
"And I have no desire to keep you, ingrate. Unfortunately for the both of us, according to this letter, you have to reside in the same home as Harry in order for him to be protected. I'll not leave this baby in your custody to be abused, nor do I want to have to move into this suburban dung heap in order to take proper care of him. Therefore, you're going to move back home, and I don't want to hear another word of complaint about it. I'll simply have to stomach your presence as best as I'm able. Now, go and freshen up like I told you earlier. We mustn't keep your Uncle Robert waiting. Unlike you, he has productive things to do with his time."
As her daughter stalked upstairs, Azalea took her infant grandson outside, needing a breath of fresh air herself. The scene that greeted her very nearly roused her temper again. Virtually every biddy housewife of Privet Drive was in assembly on the front lawn of Number Six, the entire party eagerly waiting to hear the full story and aftermath of Vernon Dursley's sudden arrest. The old lady spat in disgust. The suburbanite leeches made her physically ill, living their daily lives chomping at the bit for the next morsel of gossip. Neither were they quiet with their speculation, loudly talking about the fact that the beefy man looked as if he had been beaten with a sledgehammer as the constable dragged him from the house.
Soon enough, Parker had gone out to bring the limousine back around. Azalea entered with Harry, turning on the air conditioner to wait for her lazy giraffe of a daughter and Vernon's pig of a son. After a time, Petunia emerged from the house carrying Dudley. Azalea hadn't seen her other grandson since his birth, generally having had little contact with her eldest daughter, but he looked every bit the walrus that his father was. The old lady took out a baby bottle that she had grabbed from Petunia's kitchen before coming outside and filled it with milk from the limousine compartment's refrigerator. Harry drank up quite willingly, as the two stragglers entered a different section of the vehicle. That suited Azalea just fine, as she had no particular desire to have to tolerate Petunia for any longer than absolutely necessary. She rang up the driver's compartment.
"Let's go, Parker."
"As you wish, madam."
Some hours later, the limousine stopped at the front gates of Azalea's country estate in pastoral Surrey. The meeting with Robert Evans had gone exactly as the old woman had planned. Harry's great-uncle was positively livid upon hearing that Vernon had abused the baby boy, and had taken her statement immediately with a vindictive smile on his face. Petunia had not been far off the mark with her statement that her parents had long hated her swine of a husband. He had knocked her up at a party while she was in her third year at university, forcing her to drop out of school and take care of the child. He was, indeed, everything that Augustus and Azalea Evans detested, and that loathing spread to other members of the family.
A crude and boorish product of an upstart middle class family, Vernon was in their eyes wholly unworthy of a daughter of an established wealthy clan such as theirs. Azalea and her husband had often derisively compared Vernon Dursley in the past to Stanley Kowalski of Tennessee Williams's famous play, "A Streetcar Named Desire." However, as he was the father of Petunia's unborn child, the family had little choice other than to accede to their union. At any rate, before their official marriage had even taken place, the family firm had started to compile a detailed record of Vernon's pattern of violent and erratic behavior, secretly relishing an opportunity to have him hauled before a court of law at some point. Their moment had come, and Robert was ready to pounce on Vernon like a starving jungle cat on its chosen prey.
Petunia had reluctantly corroborated her mother's story, and likewise signed annulment papers and a custody document, coerced again by both her mother and her uncle. Azalea was now Harry Potter's legal guardian, or would be as soon as the papers were filed. Presently, Parker opened the large gates of the estate and eased the limousine in. The property was filled with ornate floral gardens and fruit orchards, with a large artificial lake behind the house. A full stable and riding pasture marked a far corner of the property. The compound itself was grand as well, and consisted of two separate mansions linked by a common corner. Azalea and her husband had been the proprietors of the far mansion, while Robert and his family ran its nearer counterpart. The old lady's branch of the estate had largely been unoccupied for years, ever since the death of her husband. It pleased her immensely that she would have a child around to brighten the place up again, despite her sadness that the blessing had come at the cost of her favorite daughter's life. She looked down tearfully at the sleeping infant cradled in her arms.
"Welcome to your new home, little Harry. I'm not a witch, and thus I can't raise you as your mother and father would have, but I promise to do my best for you."
The car stopped in front of the far estate, and Azalea stepped out with her grandson, carrying Harry over the threshold into the house where he would begin his new life.
Author's Note: This new story idea hit me yesterday afternoon. Since starting my other work a few months back, I've found that I don't always like to write for the utterly serious, ideologically driven, and completely ruthless Harry that I've put forth in Prince of Darkness. As a result, I've started up a second work in which I can paint from a different angle, as it were. This will be an alternate universe, obviously, and will take Harry through all seven years at Hogwarts. And before anybody worries, I have no intentions of abandoning my initial story. The next update for that work should be out sometime this weekend, if all goes according to schedule.
As for this experiment, Harry will most likely be the exact opposite as in my other story. Flighty, lazy, unmotivated, and generally a spoiled rotten little prince. I won't be turning him into a venomous little toad like Draco Malfoy, though. That would be too boring and cliché. You'll just have to stay tuned to see where this goes next. This prologue ended up being much longer than I had originally planned. I just had too much fun having Vernon and Petunia get the shit beaten out of them.
This was a blast to write, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Please, review and let me know if you think this is worth continuing.