Title: Name Brand
Warning: Severe AU spoilers for all six books and my insanity.
Summery: Harry has a choice in his eleventh year now that he has a life that he doesn't hate.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter
---ooOo Part One oOoo---
It all started with an advert in the paper on Saturday, a drunk driver, and a faulty street light in Harry's sixth year of life. Up until that point his life was not in the least exciting, but he was learning quickly not to count on anything from his family. He wasn't in the accident, rather he was in the backyard of the house doing whatever his Uncle Vernon told him to do as quick as he could. It was his Aunt Petunia and cousin, Dudley, who were coming back from London that afternoon and blind sided by a speeding car who forgot the to treat the broken light as one would a stop sign.
The news came to his uncle just as they were putting away the gardening tools and ignoring the fact that despite everything between them the day had been peaceful. A policeman from one of the suburbs closer to London had let himself in and tapped Vernon on the shoulder. Vernon handed the screwdrivers to Harry and roughly told him to put them away in the proper slots then ushered the grim looking man back inside and Harry quietly did his job as quietly and correctly as he could. He had a feeling that he needed to stay as far away from his uncle as he could manage that night, so he kept rewinding the ropes and the hose, straightening the tools, and checking over the flower beds just planted.
That night Harry watched the windows as his uncle raged and took out his anger and pain upon the house that his aunt had worked so hard to decorate. The next morning before the sun rose, Harry went in, put on a fresh set of clothes, and cooked the best breakfast he knew how to before he started cleaning what he could. It was Sunday, so he didn't have to go to school. When his uncle came downstairs, puffy eyed and in yesterday's clothes, Harry gave him a quiet good morning and went back to sweeping up the glass on the floor.
The next day strange people were in and out of the house, some were neighbors with casseroles and pies, some were people in suits who talked like Uncle Vernon did during business dinners, others were people Harry had a bad feeling about and he tried to tell his uncle to just get rid of them. But then Aunt Marge burst in without Ripper and Harry knew that she would help his uncle. It didn't take long for her to clear the people who felt wrong away, to settle the business people's questions, and she knew all the right words to say to the neighbors.
It was Aunt Marge who taught Harry the very basics of cooking decent dinner and teatime meals and made him promise to keep her brother on a schedule and to keep the place in order. She arranged for the dry cleaner two streets over to come every week, pick up the dirty laundry, and have it back in two days. She also made sure that Vernon was part of a carpool and that little bit of duty would keep him from trying to stay in bed and retreat from his life. She also took Harry out for new clothes and glasses, seeing as how he was going to be in public a lot more and taking care of her little brother. She also helped Harry to turn Dudley's old spare room into a comfortable bedroom. But she left after a month of keeping both of them together and in the end they fell back upon the schedules she crafted.
Monday through Friday they both spent their days at work and school, with Harry coming home as a latchkey child and cleaning and cooking until his uncle came home and ate the light tea Harry had gotten very good at making. Then after making sure they had lunches in the icebox for the next day, Harry did dishes and his homework while his uncle read or did minor repairs or yard work until the sun was gone. At night Vernon watched the news or his programs while Harry tried to sew or to draw. They didn't talk until Saturday, when Harry would ask his uncle if he wanted to try a new dish or make other alterations to the rather standard shopping list. Then Vernon would tell Harry to do some weeding or to cut the grass while he went out and did the shopping.
The only variations were the quarterly visits from Marge who would take them out one at a time and shop for new clothes and other larger purchases. Over time Dudley's room became less of shrine to the dead boy, and more of a study where the books, music, and computer was kept and used. Harry learned to use the computer for many things and slowly Marge's visits tapered off to once a year. Harry could either make or order all the clothes that they needed and often Harry dabbled in design, which Vernon didn't quite discourage.
Slowly, Harry lost his fears and Vernon lost the extra weight. Both were existing without too much contact, but traits from one often rubbed off on the other. With Harry cooking and making the menu up, the meals tended to be light and healthy things made of vegetables and fish or chicken. Dessert was something Harry didn't want to make and Vernon at first didn't care enough to want it, then later had gotten used to not having the rich things that Petunia had loved to create. Those changes along with doing gardening did a great deal of good for Vernon physically, and they also helped his moods a bit.
Harry had grown more assertive. After coming home to the third black eye in as many weeks, Vernon couldn't ignore that Harry needed something to change, but Vernon was at a loss at what he could do. It was that summer Vernon made Harry go to a day camp which offered martial arts as one of the activities along with the art classes that Vernon could tell Harry loved. He watched the boy go from scared and ready to hide, to a boy who held a quiet kind of confidence and a desire to learn more. Each year Harry went back to that day camp and when he was eight he also went to a kind of club after school for an hour a day.
It took time but both healed; Vernon from the loss of his family, and Harry from the damage that his last blood relatives had done to him. But at the end of Harry's fourth year in grammar school they were comfortable with each other and even talked like family at times. When Vernon saw the grades Harry had brought in he congratulated his nephew on his success at math and asked him what had happened to cause his grade in English to be less than stellar. They talked about various ideas about school; public was out for obvious reasons, private was still an option because of the advanced math class he had been taking which would not only help him get a place but also a scholarship to a technical school, state school was the most likely. But then Vernon started talking about selling the house and moving to the actual city of London.
He had been offered a place at another manufacturing firm and a much better paying position at that. Harry wasn't sure if he wanted to change anything, but he also wanted his uncle to not hate him like he had before. In the end he and Vernon worked together to put together letters and applications for various private schools that either boasted of advanced programs in math or art. For the ones that went to art schools Vernon had a neighbor who was also a amateur photographer help Harry create a good portfolio of slides and photographs. They spent the year reading the letters and realizing that while Harry was brilliant with numbers, the fact that at his age he was doing using mixed media and clothing design was garnering them better scholarships and other offers from the art schools.
After the third letter from an art school which was rated as one of the best in the nation, both knew that moving to London was a good idea. The school was in the heart of the Soho and Harry made it clear that he wanted to be a day student. Vernon smiled when he heard that statement, over the years he had become fond of the boy and appreciated how much Harry did for him. They wrote to the school and after all the paperwork was done, during Christmas break, they went to London together and started shopping for a flat with space for Vernon's office and a workroom for Harry to use as a studio. It took time but by Easter Vernon had a place that was just right reserved and ready for the first week of summer when they would move out so that the new owners of Number Four could move in. They even made a deal to leave a great deal of the furniture which the new family wanted, and neither Vernon or Harry felt any loss at that.
They spent all of April and May packing, shopping for new furniture, and moving into the flat. By the time they had finished both were happy and felt feelings that were almost like the platonic love that most other families seemed to take for granted. In July, Harry found a new martial arts club and Vernon took up a few new hobbies as well as spent most of his weekdays repairing the damage that his predecessor did to the accounts with Harry advising him on trying to get a computerized system set up like the one Harry used to do household accounting. He admitted after a few tea time discussions that it would be easier to use, and it would help him in straightening out the odd mess that everything was in now. On the weekend he and Harry went out and did their shopping plus the shopping for the supplies that Harry's school required.
Now, to Harry his birthday was an abstract idea, it was just a date when his age changed to everyone else, but it wasn't celebrated. It was neither a good nor bad day, and like the other holidays, Harry shrugged it off. Neither he nor his uncle gave gifts to any set calendar, just whenever it felt right or when they felt like sharing. Before he had tried to explain it in a class discussion, but he had ended up more confused than before. His teacher then sent a note home and he and his uncle spent the next afternoon talking with the school's psychologist who kind of understood and apologized for the teacher's misunderstanding. That night Vernon asked Harry if he wanted to exchange presents on Christmas and birthdays, but Harry was content and still remembered days of no gifts. He was still thankful that his uncle cared in anyway about him.
And so Harry expected nothing of what happened on July thirty-first.
---ooOo Part Two oOoo---
"You didn't apply to this, did you?" asked Vernon as he looked over the letter Harry handed him at tea. Harry shook his head.
"No, I was hoping that you did, because the only schools I applied to were the ones you and I worked together on." Harry said as he took another cheese and tomato buttie. Vernon took a sip of his black tea and sighed.
"Do you want to go?"
"No, not even a little bit. We've both worked so hard to get ready for me to attend the Acadamy, why in the world would I throw everything away?" Harry said and Vernon's mouth twisted as he thought. Harry watched and absently took a bite of a pickle.
"Petunia, your aunt, told me a few things about your mother and her life... before. I didn't believe her, not really, I put it all out of my mind later on... I just wanted a normal life after everything, especially after that day. She was convinced that if we seeped you in mediocrity then you'd become more like us, less like your parents and their kind." Vernon awkwardly stummbled on, "I guess it didn't work."
"Er, I'm confused." Harry said and Vernon winced.
"So am I. I don't know how to tell you any of this. Petunia was brilliant at storytelling, it was why she was always such a busybody. I don't even know anything but a very skewed version that she told me the morning we found you freezing in a basket on our doorstep. She told me a very weird story of how her sister was a magical witch and how she was killed because of it. It made no sense at the time but Petuina was very clear on two points; the first being that she was not going to love you or allow Dudley to care about you because either the witches would turn you against her or you would be killed like your mother, the second was that the only way to save you was to stop you from being magical if we could." Vernon took a sip of tea while Harry tried to understand what his uncle was saying.
"Magic... is real?"
"Apparently. I don't know everything, but it sure seems to be." Vernon said. Harry looked at the letter again.
"Maybe they have a summer program." Harry turned to the envelope which didn't have a return address, "It would be nice to learn a little bit more about this all, and maybe about my mum, but I can not give up my spot at the Acadamy. I wonder, was this all paid for in advance? There isn't any informataion about cost."
"That is a question we need to ask along with a number of other things that a four line letter and list doesn't cover." Vernon frowned, "Where are we supposed to get an owl?" Harry laughed.
"This is so rediculous. I wonder just how many kids are sitting around asking the same questions... Ah, to hell with it."
"Language." Vernon rumbled in a fatherly tone. Harry smirked.
"Well, what else could I say? This is pointless to worry about now. Look, I'll write up a letter saying I decline the offer, request any money back, and ask about summer programs or locations close to home where I could go to weekend classes." Harry stood up, "Er, could you do dishes tonight? I want to get this done before my kenpo class, otherwise I'll be out of sorts and that always means me getting hurt."
"Sure. Go, I'm not doing anything much." Harry gave him a bright smile and collected all the parchment papers and went to the study where the only thing unpacked were the computer and printer.
Harry sat cross-legged with the keyboard in his lap and wiggled the mouse on the floor to 'wake' it up. It was awkward using the computer on the floor but in twenty minutes, after three false starts, Harry had a polite sounding letter to the Hogwarts school. He printed it off, signed his name, then stuck it in an envelope that he wrote 'Hogwarts' upon. His uncle knocked on the door and asked Harry to open the windows as it was a nice night and they needed to save energy.
Harry opened the window, then went to grab his gym bag and leave for the martial arts club. He didn't see the small spotted owl that came in and grabbed the letter and flew off to Hogwarts with it. In fact, the next morning both uncle and nephew had forgotten about the strange letter and other than Harry telling his uncle about how his sensei had surprised him by giving him a small good luck charm, nothing out of the ordinary happened that day. Vernon went to work and started researching accounting systems, Harry tried to get a head start on his litterature reading, but in the end went to a small park and people watched then joined in a small game of football with other kids his age. At dinnertime he went home, ate a salad and started to make a Japanese dish he found in a computerized cookbook for tea.
Harry was about to start to slice up the tofu when there was a knock at the door. That in itself was unusual because unless a person had a key, the door on the first level required you to call up and for someone on the inside to open the door. Harry had a bad feeling about it as the knock came again, louder this time.
He went to the door with his kitchen knife in hand and opened the door part way to see a tall man clothed in back glare at him the way that his Aunt Petunia used to. It was something that Harry never forgot about her and at times the only thing he could remember about her.
"Mr. Potter, I presume." the man's tone made Harry feel like the stupidest person on the planet as well as about two inches tall, "I am here to answer your questions about Hogwarts as well as tell you just why you can not say 'No.' to our offer." Harry winced as the man's voice indicated that not only did he think it was all a waste of time, but that he also hated Harry and had no problems with doing the talk with or without Harry's consent. Harry opened the door and held the knife ready.
"Er, come in. Sit down, and please wait. I need to phone my uncle and the police." At the sharp look Harry gave a weak smile, "Kidding... sort of... I just need to ring up my uncle. We can talk once he arrives and then you won't have to say everything twice." The man followed Harry to the living-dining room area and sat upon the couch that faced the kitchen area where Harry went to call his uncle's office from. Harry watched the man study the layout while he waited for the other end to pick up.
"Hello, you have reached the offices of..." the automated message started which Harry ignored to punch in his uncle's exstention.
"Dursley here." grunted his uncle's voice. Harry thought he sounded kind of tired, but still that man was scarier than his uncle being angry with him.
"Er, hi. It's Harry. A strange man is here. He says he's from that magic school and that I can't say no to going."
"Hm. They can't just kidnap you, and I'm not going to make you do something you don't want to. That can of pepper spray that Marge gave you, where is it?"
"The odds and ends drawer in the kitchen. Oh. So I shouldn't do anything or say much until you get home, but keep it handy?" asked Harry.
"Exactly. I'll try to get home early, but I have a big meeting coming up soon and I can't send a proxy or anything."
"Is it about the accounting programs?"
"Yes. I'm half tempted to come get you and have you do the talking. You know more about computers than I do."
"But not too much more. You're becoming a big expert. Good luck and don't worry about me."
"I'll ring up Mrs. Lordes."
"That old busybody? But she'll hound me forever and a day."
"But she also has the sharpest eyes and she thinks the world of you, boy." Harry sighed at the finality of his uncle's tone.
"Stay safe." said Vernon as he hung up. Harry told the man he was just going to put on a pot of tea. In the kitchen he did set up the tea service, but also pocketed a spray canister of pepper spray that Marge got from her local constiable to scare off wild dogs from her kennel where she bred bulldogs. She had an extra can and gave it to Harry one here last visit. It was illegal for him to have, but she wanted him to stay safe in the 'big, unforgiving city'.
The kettle whistled shrilly and Harry poured the water over his favorite blend of Oolong. He carefully carried the tray which was laden with small bread plates, biscuits, a few scones, some jam, and butter, along with the usual tea things like milk, sugar, cups, saucers, and everything else needed.
"I wasn't sure what you wanted, so I just made some spiced Oolong." Harry said.
"That will be fine." said the man as he took the cup of tea that Harry poured for him. He put no sugar but a bit of milk instead.
"I'm just confused. I thought the letter was very clear on our thoughts and feelings about school. The whole reason we moved to London was for me to attend the London Acadamy of the Arts. I guess it was a bit stupid of my uncle and I to think that our voices mattered in issues of my education." Harry shrugged, "Oh well, do you teach at that magic school?"
"It is called Hogwarts, and yes, I do teach there." sneered the man.
"Oh." Harry took one of the gingerbread biscuits and dipped it into his tea, "You never did introduse yourself."
"I am Severus Snape, Professor and Master of Potions, Slytherin House Master, and the one sent to collect you for school."
"I see." Harry looked at the clock and saw that it was going to be at least an hour until his uncle came and tossed the man out. Harry almost thought that time was slowing down, just to trap him with this stranger. "Do you want to watch the tel..."
"No." snapped the man cutting him off, "I want to get out of this place and get back to preparing for the school term. It is only because I am the only one avaliable that I am here."