THE BOY-WHO-LIVED... WHAT FOR?
Summary: (AU, starts before canon) Nothing much is known about Harry Potter. All we know is that he defeated the Dark Lord when he was one. We don't know how. We don't even know if he suffered from it.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything you might recognize. (It is the short version to say that the Harry Potter universe belongs to its owners, and that this story is written only for enjoyment; as such, I may own the plot and some non-canon characters and locations, but that's all)
Warnings: Possible spoilers for the official books. Some facts and characters are taken from them, and sometimes adapted to my needs. This story is an AU, which means Alternate Universe, something which implies that characters, situations, and rules governing the wizarding world may be different from JKR's work. After all, despite some similarities, I don't intend to copy/paste her whole work here. That would be a sin.
Author's Note: This one-shot is my first try at Angst, and it developed a sequel (read: "second chapter")
1 - A Sorting of Sorts
posted September 4th, 2005
The thunder-like voice did exactly that. It thundered in the house, making glasses tinkle, frame rattle against the wall, and small boys recoil in fear. One boy, in particular.
It has been almost ten years that the boy had lived with the infamous family.
He didn't know about it, though. He had always been called "Boy" by the beefy man who was currently cursing on the other side of the wall. Locks opened with a clicking sound, and the door opened wide. It didn't shed any light inside, though, because of the large frame obscuring it.
"GET UP, YOU FREAK."
Freak. That was his other name. He didn't have the slightest memory of things being handled differently. He was told that he was a worthless freak, not deserving the honour they gave him by lodging him. He was told that his parents were like him, worthless freaks who got themselves drunk and died in a car crash. It didn't change anything that the boy didn't display any kind of freakishness, they just had to remember about who he was, and that was all.
He was barely fed, most of the time being given scraps from the table. He had to cook the meals, clean the house and the garden, and carry things around. He never went to vacations or socializing events with the Dursleys, being kept in the cupboard under the stairs most of the time.
In his short life, he had learnt very early that he didn't have anything to say in the matter. He had nothing to say, in fact. And he obeyed. He knew that if he disobeyed, he faced harsh and swift punishment. He hadn't opened his mouth to speak in eight years, and hadn't cried in seven. And he had long since stopped wondering about his life. All his thoughts were centred on staying alive, and it involved obeying, taking the occasional punishment, and not complaining.
His minders had never wanted a second child. They had wanted only one so that they could spoil him rotten. Which they did, by the way. The one which had been deposited on their doorstep was a burden, and they had decided, so long ago, not to provide anything more than food, clothes, and a roof to the boy. He thus ate remains, was clothed with hand-me-downs too large for him, and slept on a makeshift bed made of Dudley's old crib mattress and an old rug. And his free will had been squashed out of him by hand, foot, and the occasional starving period.
School had never entered the equation. The letter accompanying the boy had never asked for it, so the boy never left the house. He couldn't. The large man had forbidden him to walk on the walkway. In his whole life, the farthest he had gone from the house was the driveway. He still took care of the garden.
The result was a scrawny boy, who had too much dirt on him to be identifiable, and who wasn't taller than a regular 6 years old boy. His long hair was unkempt, his Aunt only cutting it once a year. A few years ago, the boy had dropped a toast in the large man's coffee one morning, ruining his shirt. Ignoring the fact that it was in fact his son who had tripped the boy, the burly man had punished him so hard that he was still limping. He had numerous scars, and was constantly bruised. The three persons living in the house constantly slapped, docked, or tripped him. As it sometimes caused damaged food or dropped linens, he was in for another punishment, bruising him some more.
And he didn't know his name. In fact, he didn't know the concept of name. All he knew in that department was that when one of them called for Freak, it was him.
That's why he quickly stood up when Vernon opened the door. He didn't even avoid the vicious slap. Experience had told him that when he tried to avoid a punishment, it was doubled.
His ears ringing, he understood that he had to cook the breakfast. He limped toward the cooking range, and started to heat the bacon, turning it a few times with his right hand. Four years ago, when bringing the clean clothes to the houses, he had inadvertently dropped the heavy basket on the earthen ground of the backyard, dirtying it in the process. The woman had shrieked and dragged him towards the ironing table, where the tool was heating. In her fury, she had pressed the searing iron on his hand, and it was now devoid of sense. On top of that, it always amused the Dursleys to make him cook the food without the appropriate cutlery.
When he fetched the mail, delivering it on the table near the sugar and maple syrup, he got a surprise.
The silence surprised him, because it wasn't something the Dursleys were used to. They always yelled, scraped their chairs on the floor and banged the doors. They especially liked to pound on the stairs with their massive legs, knowing that he was under them.
The silence was kind of unnerving, but he sure wouldn't say anything about it. He couldn't anyway. When a child like him doesn't speak for a long time, under this kind of pressure, he would be hard pressed to say anything.
While he took the empty plates, starting to wash them, they whispered together. Whispered! He knew it was about him, though. His good ear had picked the word "freaks" here and there. Freaks. Plural.
What could it mean?
He didn't know. His command of the language was so low that he couldn't fathom other people like him. His Aunt stood suddenly, and threw the offending thing in the trashcan, while Vernon did the same with him and his cupboard.
Two weeks later, in Hogwarts Headmaster's office...
The tall man stood, his white beard safely tucked in his robe's belt. His eyes constantly twinkling behind his half-moon spectacles, Albus Dumbledore, Supreme Mugwump and wizard extraordinaire, addressed the people in front of him to him.
"I think that today's meeting is coming to an end. We have barely a fortnight before school starts. Do you have any question about the upcoming year?"
There was a wave of negative answers, and the professors rose as well, before filing out. Only one stayed, a stern woman in her seventies. As soon as the door closed behind the last teacher, she spoke.
"Albus, you have to do something. He still hadn't answered."
"Nonsense, Minerva." the older man shrugged, before sitting in his comfortable armchair. "I'm quite sure that Mr Potter is currently writing the answer, if he hasn't sent it yet."
"Do I have to remind you what I said ten years ago? They are-"
"I know what you said. But I assure you, once again, they were the only possibility." he answered.
"What if they threw the letter away?" she asked, still worried. "You know they don't like magic."
Dumbledore frowned, annoyed. "That is quite enough, Minerva. I thought I have been clear enough from the start. They will do what is the best for him, and the best is for him to go to Hogwarts."
Miffed, the stern woman stood abruptly and exited the office without uttering another word.
Once in her quarters, she rummaged through her desk's drawers before finding the document she needed. As Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall had a copy of the magically-updated register of Hogwarts students. At this point of time, it included each and every student whose acceptance letter had been sent, whether they answered or not. Once again, she stared at the address of a certain student, bitter tears slowly welling up.
After a few minutes, she shook herself awake. After all, she was Deputy Headmistress, for Merlin's sake! She couldn't let the matter drop because an overconfident old man told her so. Her instincts, closely attuned thanks to her animal side, were screaming that something was wrong. She had quelled them ten years ago, but the lack of answer was the last straw.
She took her quill and one of the stationary papers with the Hogwarts crest on it, and started to write. Just before sending it, she hesitated a bit. Was it the correct path to follow? After half a second, she spoke the appropriate incantation.
'There,' she thought, just as the school owl was taking off from her window, 'Now I am sure that he will see it.'
Two weeks later, on an isolated rock in the middle of the seas...
BANG! BANG! BANG!
The thunderous sound woke the household. Not that it was much populated, mind you. And one of them was already awake. The young boy had been watching through the window in mute awe. He had never felt so alive, despite having a dislocated shoulder and a swollen eye. His eyes closed, he had been reminiscing the last 24 hours.
After the house had been swamped by letters, his minders had taken the car with him and drove until they found the isolated house on the rocky island. On top of a trip longer than anything he had experienced, the noise and odours emanating from the open waters were enough to make him try to speak. He had been swiftly silenced, though, when Vernon's massive paw had started to slap him until he fell unconscious. Now, in the middle of the night, he had been watching the agitated waves under the thunderstorm, when the noise had been quickly covered by loud knocking sounds that had shaken the massive door.
Despite its sturdiness, Said door didn't stand the onslaught, and a gigantic man entered the house. Lightning struck behind him, and the Dursleys, who had awakened from their slumber, recoiled in fear.
"I'm here ta fetch Harry Potter." a deep voice boomed in the small room. "His school awaits."
The next day, in the early morning...
"...and I sayin' Headmaster, teh boy's as polite as one can be. 'd shy too. He piped no word."
Rubeus Hagrid, Hogwarts' groundskeeper and half-giant himself, was retelling his actions to Dumbledore, while drinking tea with the old man and eating the proffered scones. His broken talk was difficult to follow, but it didn't seem to bother the Headmaster, as he nodded along.
"What about your little excursion in Gringotts?" he asked, dismissing the student's story.
Hagrid's eyes lit up, and he fetched in his numerous pockets, before putting something on the Headmaster's desk. "There ya go. 't was in teh vault as said. What's it?"
"I can't tell you, Hagrid." said Dumbledore, lifting the stone until it shone in the light. "But it is of paramount security that you don't tell about it to anyone."
"Oh. Oh! Of course, Headmaster. Ye know I won't tell a soul."
When the large man lumbered out of the office, miraculously passing through the narrow doorway, Albus Dumbledore's eyes looked at his departing back calculatingly.
At the exact same time...
The boy woke up, and looked around, startled, before taking refuge under the bed. It wasn't his usual surroundings, and he was at a loss at what had happened to him. The day before had been a whirlwind of activities, beginning by an escape from his minders on a flying motorcycle, and several stops at shops in a busy street the giant called Diagonally or something like that.
At one of these stops, he had had to grasp several sticks, one after the other, while the shopkeeper seemed lost by his case. The giant had taken advantage of the wait to go on an errand of his, during which the shopkeeper had finally declared himself beaten. Almost every wand had been tried, and he hadn't been able to find one appropriate for the boy. It was even worse, as no wand had elicited a reaction. Agitated and dishevelled, the man had finished by giving him a wand at random. Given the boy's name, it would work for classes, at least a little, and he would come back later to fetch another. Ollivander, the shopkeeper, had decided to construct other wands in the meantime, for him to try later. The man had had ideas about new woods recently...
At the end of the day, the giant had talked about things like "room" and "reservation" but he had a hard time understanding him, so he just nodded along. He did this with his minders sometimes. It generally earned him a punishment because he wasn't doing what they wanted, and the boy had been surprised when no fist came hitting his face. He didn't remember anything afterwards, as he had fallen asleep at the table, exhausted by the day's activities.
The room he woke himself in seemed luxurious. Too much for him. He had unconsciously slipped onto the floor, much more like his usual sleeping habits, and woke when the sun hit the window, another thing he wasn't used to, thanks to his usual cramped cupboard.
Still in the things that a blond woman had insisted he wear, called "skool rob" or something like that, and not caring about their wrinkled state, he slowly extracted himself from under the bed. Nobody was there, and he looked around cautiously.
He whirled around. Somebody had talked! He couldn't see anyone, though, and started to panic.
"Oh boy, you're a jumpy one, yes?"
Still the voice, and nobody. Quite afraid, and not noticing the animated mirror, he opened the door and threw himself out...
...only to find two sturdy legs in his way. Looking up, he found the barman from the day before, who was speaking to him. The language though, despite being clearer than the giant's, was full of strange words, and he was quickly lost. Eventually, the man showed him a wooden case, saying "trunk" at that time, and indicating him. Understanding that he had to carry it, the little boy went to it, and dragged it outside of the room. Once there, he saw the barman at the bottom of the stairs and followed him. He kept following him when the man went in the pub to serve a client, but stopped suddenly.
It wasn't his fault, really.
Somehow, the fireplace next to which he was passing had become alive, spitting somebody on his dislocated shoulder. As they both fell on the floor, he didn't yelp at the surprise, nor did he cry at the pain, but he felt better suddenly, his shoulder forcefully put back in place. Looking at the person in front of him, and fearing retribution, he was surprised to see two dark chocolate eyes over a smiling face encased in fiery red hair. Suddenly, the eyes looked at his exposed forehead, and widened considerably. She blushed, stood up, and went to another redhead.
"Mum! It's Harry Potter!"
"Are you sure, Ginny?" asked the mother.
Ginny was ecstatic. "Yes! Look! He got the scar, school robes, and a trunk with his name on it."
"Help him up, then, dear. He must be stunned by your arrival. How many times did I tell you not to run in a fireplace?"
"Sorry mum." said Ginny meekly, before darting to help the stunned boy up. "Hello Harry, I'm Ginny. Ginny Weasley." she said.
The boy looked at the blushing although friendly face. A friendly face? It had been an oddity in his life until now... what was she saying?
"You are Harry Potter, aren't you?" she asked, confused. The boy nodded weakly, and she started to notice several strange things. Despite the fact that he was older, he was smaller than her. Once up, he had quickly hidden his face under his long hair, but she had still discovered the numerous scars and bruises.
She didn't have time to voice her thoughts, though, as her mother instructed her sons to help carrying Harry's trunk. Harry followed, not knowing what to do. In his mind, it was the innkeeper's trunk, after all. As said innkeeper seemed content to see them leaving with it, he let the subject drop and was pondering where to go when the girl grasped his elbow and led him outside.
Harry didn't understand anything at the ongoing conversation between the Weasleys. He didn't know what a prank was, or a muggle, a Filch, a transfiguration, a wand... he felt completely lost, and it didn't help his already lacking speaking abilities.
The walk from the pub to the train station was short and, apart from the lone comment about disguise parties and Halloween, nobody said anything about Harry's school robes. When he discovered the trains, Harry found himself lost again. He didn't gape and didn't stop walking either. His upbringing had assured that, even if his mind was reeling under the shock, his body was still continuing his assigned chores.
Still following the trunk, he found himself in a compartment with one of the redheads, a lanky red-headed boy. The train shook and started to move, and Harry was surprised once again, when he noticed the friendly girl running along the train, waving at him. Him. He looked around, but he was alone on his bench. He tried to smile to the girl, failed lamentably, and resigned himself to wave back.
A single tear escaped his eye, but he wiped it swiftly.
Several hours afterwards...
The train journey had been long, and several teens were hungry. Ron's stomach was growling, despite the sandwich he had eaten an hour before. Harry had been silent the whole trip, something Ron had attributed to the boy's being arrogant. After all, he was famous, right? And most celebrities were arrogant, right?
The two of them had had the visit of a blond first year, telling Ron off because of his poverty. The blond boy's name hadn't been hard to hear, because it had been repeated often. Malfoy had then offered his hand to Harry, who had recoiled. Mistaking the fear reaction for a gesture of refusal, Malfoy had threatened them, before leaving them alone.
They were now about to get Sorted, the stern woman was saying. He didn't know what that meant, and was quite afraid. In following the trunk, he hadn't envisioned finding himself surrounded by children, most of them taller than him, in a strange castle where portraits moved. In fact, his life had been strange before that, when the mail had started going crazy, the same envelope appearing again and again.
The woman was speaking, and he looked at her intently, unsuccessfully trying to understand.
McGonagall was doing her part, but she couldn't stop a feeling of dread creeping up her spine when she noticed the telltale scar on a very small boy, who appeared at a loss about his surroundings. 'I'm going to kill Albus. He'll have to answer me about this poor boy's state.'
After the customary welcoming song from the talking hat, the sorting started, and the people already seated cheered when they welcomed a new member.
At one moment, Harry was looking around, and there was a great silence.
"Harry Potter." repeated McGonagall after a while. Obviously, the boy hadn't heard, and some snickers could be heard around the hall.
When it became clear that the boy still hadn't heard, she advanced toward the smallish boy, and indicated the stool. She wasn't looking angry or mad, just her usual stern self, but she could have sworn that the boy flinched as if he was going to be slapped.
Understanding that he had to do like the others before him, the boy climbed on the stool and the Great Hall fell silent again. Everybody held their breath, waiting to know which House the great Harry Potter would be Sorted in.
And they waited.
Murmurs started left and right, people still looking at the boy under the hat. Some remarked that the hat seemed bigger on Harry's small frame than it had appeared on the others. After five solid minutes, the students became restless and the staff began to worry, casting anxious glances toward their Headmaster.
Albus Dumbledore was sporting his usual smile, and he was cheering internally. The Hat always had difficulties judging powerful wizards. He remembered that his own Sorting had lasted ten minutes, and a particular student named Tom Riddle had had to wait seven.
The Sorting Hat seemed to frown, as if debating a tough issue. And then, it made an unusual gesture.
It turned around.
I was normally facing the students, shouting the new one's House. Now, though, it was facing Dumbledore. And its words froze everybody, the Headmaster included.
"We have a problem."
A little while later...
The Sorting ceremony had continued nonetheless, but the cheers had been quite subdued. The Headmaster had invited everyone to eat, and had vanished through the side door, bringing Harry, the Sorting Hat, and the four House Heads with him. Once in his office, he conjured several chairs for his guests, and put the hat on. The four teachers sat, but Harry preferred to sit on the floor. After all, he had always sat on the floor, and a chair appearing in mid-air could have been a trick from his minders. As the four teachers looked between themselves, the Headmaster was having a private conversation with the hat.
A mere minute into this, he snatched the hat off.
"You lie!" he exclaimed.
"If you wish to carry this conversation with you guests as well, please do so." the hat answered, using his mouth-like opening. "I still think you should have done so, as it prevents tedious repetitions. And don't call me a liar. Unlike you, I'm not designed to lie."
The four Heads looked at each other. Was the hat talking about humans in general, or the Headmaster?
"You know the story." the old man said. "Please tell me you are wrong."
McGonagall's earlier sense of dread increased tenfold. Was the Headmaster pleading?
"Headmaster." the Hat answered coldly. "I spent fifteen minutes in him. I'm sure of it."
"NO!" said Dumbledore, throwing the Hat through the room.
The piece of garment landed upside down in a corner of the room, but its magically-animated mouth spoke again. "Had I been a creature, you'd have been charged with aggression, Headmaster. I'm not, but, as you know very well by now, every action has consequences, and you have to live with them. Don't try to find me."
And the hat disappeared in a puff of smoke.
The Supreme Mugwump put his elbows on the desk, and his head in his hands. "What have I done?" he lamented. "What have I done?"
The four Heads looked at each other again. That was clearly unexpected.
Harry Potter was idly playing with a quill, his back turned to the four teachers. He straightened suddenly, his eyes flashing golden for a second, before turning their usual dull green again. Nobody noticed.
Dumbledore knew he had to come around, and he told them everything. Everything the hat had told him he had seen in the fifteen minutes of exploration in the boy's mind.
With a shaky voice and watering eyes, he told them how the initial backdraft of Voldemort's last spell took away all Harry's magic. How the Dursleys treated Harry Potter, despite him not displaying any sign of magic. How the boy had been denied proper upbringing and education. How he had been scarred again and again. How the ability to speak and cry had been beaten out of him. How even his growth had been affected.
The four Heads looked at the prone boy, shocked. McGonagall was too stunned to say "told you so". Severus Snape, Hogwarts Potion Master and Professor and Head of the Slytherin House, had thought that the boy would be like his father, a pampered arrogant bully, but his illusion had crashed down in flames, leaving a poor boy in front of him. The situation wasn't unlike his own, he wondered, although he hadn't been in such a bad shape. Not at all. Pomona Sprout, Herbology Professor and Head of the Hufflepuff House, had fainted, and was being woken up by Filius Flitwick, Charms Professor and Head of Ravenclaw.
The hat hadn't been able to sort the boy for a simple reason.
For all intent and purposes, Harry Potter was a muggle.
To be continued in next chapter: Be Thou My Shepherd...
T'is not the end, finally.
I have found a follow-up...
Harry will find an ally;
Won't be easy. Buckle up!