Disclaimer: This story is based on characters, settings, situations and the secondary world created by J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter Series. I do not receive payment in any way for this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Two large green eyes peered around the door separating my office from the hall. They belonged to a small child. At first glance, he appeared six or seven, but according to his chart he was really almost ten. He wore a baggy grey sweatshirt, jeans that were too large for him and the most vibrant pair of lime green sneakers that I have ever seen. The sneakers looked like they had seen better days, but they also were clean, as if someone had lovingly sponged them off every day. The child had an unruly mop of black hair that stuck up every which way. He looked somewhat familiar to me, even though this was our first meeting. He was alone, which was very strange, especially since this was his first visit to my office. He didn't appear frightened, but curious. He looked around at the toys and games on the various shelves. There was a corner that contained many children's books containing bright pictures. There were posters on the wall. He took a minute to appreciate it all.
My office had been carefully designed for children. I wanted them to have happy experiences here. Many of my clientele are poked and prodded constantly. They associate the hospital with pokes, painful tugs, loud noises that hurt their ears, and constant manipulation of their mouths and tongues. I wanted my space to feel different. Apparently, I had succeeded, because even this young man realized this was a fun place, even if some of the poking and prodding did occur.
As this young man searched his surroundings, I paid closer attention to him. The baggy shirt concealed a box worn on his belt. I could see ugly white cords leading from the neck hole up to his ears. It was the oldest, ugliest hearing aide I had seen since I stated my training to work with deaf children. And that was a few years ago. The contraption this child wore belonged in a museum. I wondered where he got it. It probably wasn't doing him all that much good, since it looked like this device predated the technology needed to produce loud enough sounds without causing pain to the wearer.
In a moment, a woman with a long, bony neck and a face that somewhat resembled a horse appeared in the doorway. She was wearing a scowl and had an agitated look about her. I offered my hand. "Hello, I'm Alexandra Redding. I'm in charge of the speech clinic."
"Petunia Dursley," came the terse reply. "That's my nephew, Harry. I was told by the school to bring him here on Wednesdays. I'll pick him up in two hours. Do I have to sign anything before I go?"
Normally, a first visit with a new client involves me sitting down with the parent or guardian and explaining exactly what I would be doing. I generally use the approach that teaching a child to speak involved the whole family and my role was to show the caregivers what to do. Something told me that "Care giver" was not exactly accurate in this case. I felt a distinct negative vibe coming off of this woman. Usually I get along with almost anyone, but I realized that the sooner this woman was away from me the better.
"Yes, I need you to sign a consent form for the therapy. Did you happen to bring the medical information the school asked you to send?" Normally, I get most of my information from the parents, but my gut feeling told me this one would be of no help concerning her nephew.
She fiddled around in her large handbag, looking for the sheaf of papers. "Don't know why we bother with this. The kid's just too stubborn to talk. He can hear fine. He always does his chores when we ask. Or at least when I ask. He doesn't really respond to my husband. That's just his stubbornness. I'll pick him up in two hours. Just send him outside. I don't want to have to pay for parking." With that, she shoved a manila folder in my hand, turned around and marched out the door without so much as a glance backwards.
She really got under my skin there. One of my biggest pet peeves is adults who believe deaf children "can hear when they want to." It just proves their ignorance of these kids. They deserve better.
The boy, Harry and noticed his aunt's departure. He was reluctant to touch anything. I made a motion indicating that he could play. Instead of running towards a toy, he looked around slowly, making careful, deliberate choices. He took a step, then another, and then looked back at me, as if he was making sure I hadn't changed my mind about allowing him to touch the toys. I smiled at him and nodded my permission again. He sat down in one of the comfortable chairs that I have, and started thumbing through the books on the shelf. Selecting one about dragons, he opened it and started to gaze at the pictures.
He looked so happy and contented that I decided to give him a few minutes before we got to work. The school had sent over a thin file on the boy, listing his name as Harry Dursley, his address, phone number, age and names of his guardians. I knew not to trust all of the information, as half the time the records are filled out by an overworked, underpaid secretary who is trying to answer the phone, fill out referral forms and pour coffee at the same time. Half the records I got from that place are inaccurate. As Harry read, I decided to do some reading of my own.
The first page was his audiogram as was standard in a file such as this. Looking at the charts with their broken lines towards the bottom of the graph, I realized that the white cords hanging from his ears did absolutely nothing. I flipped through the pages, just reading the highlights, not paying attention to the details: Profound deafness of unknown cause, above average intelligence, good spatial problem solving ability, some emerging sign skills, no discernable speech. All in all, pretty generic, but at least now I knew what mode of communication they used with him at his school. It was time to begin.
I crossed over to the chair where he was sitting, and touched his shoulder to get his attention. To my surprise, he flinched violently. I'd only seen that kind of reaction once before as a student. The child's deafness had been cause by extreme physical abuse in that case. I made a mental note to look into the boy's situation, and also reminded myself not to touch him to gain his attention. I signed an apology and told him we were going to start his therapy.
"What's therapy?" he signed to me.
"I'm going work with you so you'll be able to speak."
He looked excited at this prospect, but then his face gained a thoughtful expression. "If I speak and don't sign, will I stop being a freak?" he asked me.
"Who told you that you're a freak?" He seemed like a normal ten-year-old to me, except for his small size and big clothes.
"My uncle and aunt and cousin. They say I'm a freak. Is it because I don't talk?"
I was outraged! Telling a ten-year-old he was a freak, just because didn't speak? Or did it go deeper? Something told me this child was special. "I don't know why they told you that. You're not a freak. You're a great kid. Now, let's get to work. Can you make a noise for me?"
"I'm not supposed to make noises."
"You're not supposed to make noises at home. Here, there are different rules."
We spent the next thirty minutes or so trying to get Harry to vocalize and realize when he was using his voice and when he wasn't. He worked hard and managed to get the hang of it quickly, and soon we played some games where we both would make sounds. It was a good thing that the office was soundproof, since we were kind of noisy. When our time was over, I walked Harry to the parking lot. You don't let a ten-year-old wait alone in a bad part of town.
The next few hours passed quickly. I worked with some of my regular clients and wrote reports. Finally, I had a few minutes to read the sheaf of paper. I have to admit that I just glossed over the information. I see around 30 forms a day, and most are the same. It was only when I reached a blue sheet with biographical information that I realized who I was dealing with. The school was wrong. The child with the green eyes was not Harry Dursley. He was Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.