This is a fanfiction by the Grinning Lizard. It is an alternate universe, as is most fanfiction, and explores as I often do the consequences of a very small change in the fabric of time. In this case it takes place after Harry's emigration to the Dursley residence some time in his childhood. There have been many fics like it but none will have been the same.
This is a Nature versus Nurture exploration of Harry Potter.
Harry Potter was not a normal little boy.
He'd come to accept this a while ago- from his family endlessly telling him so, to the feelings he held too deep inside him to recognise- and had come to terms with it. But not quite what it meant.
Every human being knows they are different. It is part of human genes to know that their own being is Unique. Every member of the human race knows inside that they are different to their peers, because this is a truth- everyone is individual in every sense of the word. But whereas Harry had known nothing but being different, there would come a time in his life when he'd realise that he was not alone.
The journey to this realisation would not be an easy one, nor one any could have predicted him make, but make it he did. Whether he came off different, or worse, or perhaps by a slim chance better because of it, who could tell? People change a lot, and the experiences they live through mould and form their eventual selves.
This is the story of Harry Potter. And Harry Potter was not a normal little boy.
The Dursleys- Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and Cousin Dudley- were what Harry had learnt was Normal. Harry had, through the years, come to hate things that were normal. Because normal things were everywhere; they could not be escaped, they could rarely be changed, and why would anyone want to change normality anyway? Changing something from Normal usually meant it ended up Odd, or Weird, and people hated weird things. Weird was bad.
Harry was weird.
But his known family were not- they did normal things, like gossip, go to work, and go to school, respectively. They had normal days and regular routines- of course, Harry did too, but his routines and days were decidedly less normal than that of his relatives. That was because Harry was a freak.
Rarely would his normal family include him, the freak, on such a normal day- later in life he supposed he should have savoured these occasions. The little slices he got to sample of being Ordinary. But the Dursleys were ordinary, apart from their secret in the cupboard under the stairs, and Harry didn't much like the Dursleys.
On such a day- a rare, strange day when obligation forced the Dursley family to include Harry in their life- things usually went from normal to bad, or worse, or even weird when Harry came along anyway. Why even include him, they all wondered, when such inevitability loitered?
It was a day that didn't promise to be much of anything normal- it was early September and the sun was out and glistening off the rain-soaked Surrey populace. Rare to be so sunny, so late in the year, but (as Vernon Dursley grumbled, staring grimly out of his open front door) British weather could almost be relied on to be unreliable. He was almost quoting the new, pretty weather-girl on channel two with her apologetic smile who he could never remember the name of.
But Mr. Dursley was going to work today, and so would not be subject to much more that was peculiar, so really had very little to complain about. He would go and sell drills, lots of them, and become very smug with himself and be in a pleasant mood until he got home to his distraught wife this evening.
The front door slammed again, raindrops falling from the glinting brass knocker, and elsewhere in the neighbourhood of Little Whinging others began to rise.
The slam also woke up Harry Potter, who slept in the sub-stair cupboard not twenty feet from the front door with the Henry Hoover and mops, whose companions through the night were primarily eight-legged and intrusive.
Harry had only ever seen the sun rise once in his entire life, but he was too old to remember being wrapped in blankets on the Dursley doormat.
Vernon opened the cupboard lock for Harry, who was about six or seven (Vernon neither knew or cared) to make the breakfast. Petunia would handle the hot things, but Harry would butter the bread and lay the table.
Dudley, when he rose two hours later, was in a sleepy, docile mood until he remembered the date. He looked at the calendar his mother had bought for him and saw what she'd written in biro for today.
Dentist, Midday, Duddiekins!
Harry had frowned slightly at the ensuing screams, but had known better than to say anything.
When Vernon Dursley had disappeared in his car to go to work and sell drills, and Harry was entertaining himself with vague thoughts of pile-ups and flaming, smoky crashes on the route from Little Whinging to Guildford, Dudley was still sulking. He was strapped into the front seat, next to his mother, who was in the driver's seat, who Harry sat directly behind.
Grunnings Drills, ltd, paid a fair amount towards their employees and their families for healthcare- a fact which the opportunistic Dursleys took full advantage of- so as Petunia pulled out of the garage of Number Four and reversed onto the road, she directed the bonnet of her hatchback towards Epsom in the North of Surrey. In Epsom waited the best private dentistry she knew of, so she, Duddiekins and Vernon (also her unfortunate Nephew) had been members since Vernon's promotion 3 years before.
Courtesy of Grunnings.
The journey was short and uneventful, just as she liked her journeys to be, and she helped her son out of the car when they'd reached their destination. Harry helped himself out, and stared in a bored manner at the building they'd reached.
It was drab in half-effort, the nice sign above the doorway paradoxical to the peeling paint of the wall, but few children ever really know the welcoming sight of a dentist's. It could have been a bright blue building with the sign 'Free Ice Cream inside!' and Harry still would hardly have felt excitement at the prospect- however unlikely- of a Dentist's giving away sweet foods. Dudley might have though, he mused.
He noticed the scaffolding at the side of the free-standing structure and the bored-looking workmen on it with a child's curiosity before his Aunt prodded him sharply between the shoulder blades to prompt him forward. He walked in stoically, his cousin whimpering behind him two steps, and climbed an unholy amount of stairs while leaving the complaining to Dudley.
He reached the top well before, and rang the bell, and a pleasant looking nurse called Alice or Ally welcomed him with a smile before she noticed who he'd entered with. She repressed a grimace and Harry openly grinned at her reaction as she let them into the waiting room, a wide room with huge floor-to-ceiling windows in the south side and nice leather sofas.
When Aunt Petunia saw the scaffolding on the outside of the building, however, she turned to the nurse with a practised, faux smile and asked "Erm, excuse me – I don't suppose there's anywhere a little more - " a large exterior banging interrupted her "- QUIET!?"
The nurse simply shrugged apologetically and left the room. Harry thought she might have winked at him first.
Petunia sat as far from the window as possible and Dudley followed her. Harry occupied himself with the magazines on the centre-table and half-heartedly watched the looping private practise advertisement on the television in the corner.
He was halfway through the 'Invisible Crowns' demonstration when a "Mr. Busch?" was summoned by the nurse and Harry and his family were left alone in the waiting room with a middle-aged woman who was reading a novel.
He could only catch the odd snippet of speech from the television between the banging and shouting of workers outside and Dudley's whining about wanting to change the channel, or get a drink, or go home, or whatever he would whine about.
Petunia half-heartedly placated him, absorbed in a gossip magazine she'd found on the sofa.
The fourth time through the advert for self-whitening and the banging stopped for a while. Harry was daydreaming, staring absently at the plain white ceiling, and Dudley was focused briefly on a handheld game Petunia had strategically brought for him.
Vaguely Harry looked from the ceiling to the window, then to the T.V, then back to the window again.
Oddly enough, through the window, Harry could see no workmen. Oddly enough, all Harry could see standing on the scaffold was a figure dressed very strangely indeed. Someone dressed so strangely they could have looked more out of place only by standing inside the waiting room itself.
What was so unnerving, so chilling, was that this strangely-garbed person standing outside on the scaffold was staring right back into the building.
More specifically, they were staring at Harry.
For a second, or more, Harry sat there, utterly confused. If he'd even had time to become confused. This was so sudden, and so weird, he didn't really have time to react to it.
The person outside, facing the window, who was dressed in what looked like a cloak from a cheesy fantasy film or an old black bathrobe, stayed staring at Harry for not very long.
They lifted their arm, and Harry watched as they pointed a stick at the window between them. A very long, shiny stick that reflected the sun.
The figure mouthed something- something not actually directed at him, he realised- and all of a sudden the window that had separated them was no longer there. All of a sudden, they were climbing over the windowsill and into the room.
Harry didn't hear Petunia scream. Or the Nurse who had just walked into the waiting room again. He didn't hear Dudley burst into tears. Harry didn't hear anything. Harry wasn't even breathing.
Harry was staring into the blackest, coldest eyes he'd ever seen.
The figure said something- whatever it was, it didn't matter, because then the figure fell. It looked as though he'd been struck by some strange lightning from the side, except they were all still inside. He'd been silhouetted by the sunlight pouring unrestricted into the room from behind him.
He hit the floor as Harry became aware of his heartbeat, beating impossibly powerfully in his very throat. All he could hear was wind swirling about his ears.
What occurred then was a sickly blur to him. He knew something had happened- or nearly happened- to him, but he wasn't sure what. He wasn't really thinking at all. He simply sat there, turning his head to whatever was happening.
He saw the shapes of two more robed figures come through the window, flashes of light being exchanged between the middle-aged woman who had before been merely reading her book and these odd strangers. He saw one of the flashes go into the nurse and then saw her fall. He saw the open, screaming mouths of his relatives. He saw the sticks they were holding and everyone's mouth screaming. He saw his hands come into contact with the sofa and push himself, impossibly slowly, up to a standing position. Slowly, slowly, creaking upright like a growing oak, with no conscious thought- merely the spectator in his own form, trapped behind the bars of conscious inaction- slowly, slowly, the woman falling, the first figure rising again, all three strangers turning to him, slowly, slowly, and there he was- standing.
Slowly, slowly, all three raised their arms and sticks to point at him. Slowly, their mouths opened in unison… slowly…
A sharp, sudden return to the present had Harry fall to his knees. His arms he found outstretched, his throat sore from his shout, staring at the blue carpet.
He heard the impacts somewhere in front of him, and also his cousin whimpering, and the tinkling of broken glass being disturbed, and another female scream from somewhere in front of him.
He raised his head.
The woman stranger- the one who he'd heard- hadn't met with solid planks of wood on the other side of the window. She'd met with a gaping gap like a screaming mouth in the flooring of the scaffold. She'd plummeted right through, matching the gap's wide mouth with her own. The gap was laughing- but she felt nothing but terror as she fell.
The man who'd come through after the first one had gone neck first into a propped up pile of bricks. He soon met his comrade on the bottom floor, but a tonne of bricks and dry mortar followed him down, and he wasn't alive enough to scream about it.
The first one through, who now stood up laboriously on the top floor of the scaffold where Harry had first seen him, some might have counted as lucky. But this figure had lost his stick, and had fear and confusion in his eye as he regarded his mark.
Harry didn't think. He didn't do anything but bring his hands together in a flat-palmed clap.
As the small clap rang out, the initial figure heard it, and felt a strange alteration in the cool climate of September. Suddenly, the cheerful, chilly sun became wrathful and wild, and grew hotter… and hotter… he began to sweat, then choke as the air left his lungs, then his eyes grew wide and he tried to grasp his throat. But he couldn't. It was too hot. Too stiflingly boiling and horrifically hot.
Before Harry's young eyes and together palms, the first figure burst into flames. His crisping knees met wooded planks, and until they sizzled in their sockets his eyes were linked with Harry's.
He lay staring into the darkness to where he knew the ceiling would be.
He lay, open eyed and dry mouthed, where he had for nearly two days now. He'd not eaten, drunk, or even left his cupboard. He hadn't done much of anything.
His relatives were completely content to leave him this way. They'd not looked in once, his Uncle out of tremendous rage and his other family members for sheer fear.
They were secretly hoping he might die. His own hope wasn't secret.
He stared into darkness… but all he saw were those eyes.
Black, but alive and drenched with fear. Terror. Pain.
What he'd done.
He couldn't remember ever feeling so much turmoil, and miserable confusion, in all his young life. Maybe, he reasoned, if he went crazy he could forget those eyes. Forget the screams of the falling. Forget the sound of plummeting terror, and slowly roasting death.
He didn't cry again- after the first twelve hours there hadn't seemed much point. He raised his hands for the thousandth times in front of his face, looked at where he knew they'd be. He didn't bring either hand anywhere near the other.
He slapped his own face. Then again. Hard.
He banged the floor by his mattress.
He thumped the door of the cupboard, and then quickly stopped breathing, quiet as a mouse, frightened of what the resounding bang might bring upon him. He could handle his Uncle's ignorance, but didn't want a beating.
But why not? A mutinous thought escaped. Why shouldn't I? What have I to fear, now?
"…Nothing," he whispered in a cracked voice.
He thumped the door again.
He hit it harder, it rocking on its hinges.
He hit out with both hands, one on either side of the cupboard, hitting the door and shelves and knocking dust from the ceiling into his eyes.
He used his elbows.
He hit even harder, only on the door.
"EVERY – THING!"
Crack. The door flew open. Moonlight refracted in. His wide, scared eyes caught it and he hunched up to the other side of his cell.
He sat there, shaking slightly, for more than a minute, listening.
The house was empty.
He crawled out, weak, tears running down his face, and the clock on the wall told him it was 2:02 in the morning. The Dursleys were away for the night. He staggered into the kitchen, his arms raised slightly away from his hips. His eyes stayed wide open, bleary with tears.
He collapsed at the table.
"Everything," he conceded.
He brought his hands to his forehead, the balls of the palms rubbing his eyelids, his fingers raking his hair, and then he brought them absently together in front of his face, breathing into the steeples of his fingers.
He brought them away suddenly, swinging them wide away like he was being crucified, breathing heavily through his nose, his scruffy hair falling down over his head.
He waited, his teeth clenched.
When nothing happened, he exhaled loudly, in ecstasy, and brought his hands together one time, another time, clapping louder. He froze in fear, waiting for something to happen.
He clapped his hands again, slowly.
He smiled slightly. Nothing happened. He wasn't- wait! What was that?
He froze in his seat, breathing stifled.
Somewhere in the darkness... Or was it-?
No, it was coming from outside. Someone was outside the French doors leading to the patio.
Trying to get in..?
Harry walked very calmly, surreally, back to his cupboard, and closed the door on himself. He sat there and listened.
A burglar maybe, his mind raced. Lets hope he doesn't fancy stealing a Henry Hoover. Absurdly, Harry wrapped his arm around the novelty housekeeping item, pulling it close.
Then he heard the patio doors open. Then he heard the footsteps in the kitchen on the linoleum flooring. Then he heard their hushed voices.
Harry couldn't bear this. He couldn't bear any more strangers with sticks. For that is what they were… two very strange men with sticks. In his kitchen. Coming into the house. For him?
But as they moved past the cupboard he was in, talking in whispers, he thought they both sounded very… old. How strange?
One of them moved upstairs- for all his stealth, the floorboards above Harry's head creaked as he ascended. The other went into the living room. For a long time, nothing else happened. He could almost believe he was still alone.
Suddenly, very heavy footsteps thumped down the stairs, and as they reached the bottom they said some strange words and then flicked the lights on.
These can't be burglars.
"My dear sir," said an old voice from the living room, now at full volume. "Is it really necessary to signal to the entire street that we are here?"
"Psh," the other tutted from the hallway. "Nobody will know a thing, Nicholas, and there's no sense working in the dark."
"I suppose," said the first, who through the shades he cast on the slats in the cupboard vent Harry could locate.
"Now then- we ought to not dally. Where shall we start?"
"Albus, my boy, you tell me."
More sounds of movement.
"This umbrella might do nicely…"
"No," the other simply said. Harry was beginning to think he was dreaming. "The umbrella is likely to be taken out and around. It is not quite suitable. I need a foundation, or something-"
"Well, alright. Upstairs or down?"
"Both- oh, gracious Albus, are you sure you checked upstairs thoroughly?"
"It wouldn't do to have them stumbling upon us in the midst of the-"
"Nicholas, I promise you, checking was a formality. The Dursleys and Harry are visiting a dinner function for the father's company employees in Guildford. They are staying the night at the Alejandro hotel. We are quite alright here."
Harry nearly panicked. They knew who he was, who his family were, and they thought he was out of the house. He gripped the vacuum tightly and swallowed.
The other one sighed, saying, "So be it. And on your head. Sneaking around in the middle of the blasted night, against the bloody law-" he broke off into mumbles, and then eventually said, "Point me somewhere and I'll make the runes."
"That's the spirit- we'll be done in a jiffy."
"If you say so, my boy."
Harry heard more movement, more strange words being whispered and sat dead still breathing steadily for about ten more minutes. He could feel their bustling presence in the otherwise still house.
Finally, one spoke again.
"I don't suppose you'll tell me why we're sneaking about in the Dursley home in the middle of the night checking the ward structure, will you?"
"You haven't heard of the attack on the muggle dentist, but it'll be common knowledge I have no doubt very soon."
"Alright. So why-?"
"Harry was at the surgery. With his Aunt and Cousin, we believe. The records tell us that much. The young muggle nurse on duty was killed by the curse, and we found Jemima dead at the scene."
"Jemima? That young cursebreaker- oh, how terrible! What happened?"
"Somehow, the Lestranges and – you'll never believe it – Bartemius Crouch Junior caught up with Harry."
"The politician's son? Oh dear-"
The other sighed, continuing, "So we have reason to believe that the remnant Death Eaters figured out where he lives. Jemima was on duty, so she fended off the attack before she was killed, and very well I must say, but she lost her life for it."
"That's dreadful. Oh, but Albus, why not just take him away to Hogwarts if he's been breached here!?"
"You know my reasons for it," the one called Albus said quietly.
The rest of the conversation was done in whispers. They didn't open the cupboard for the duration of their visit.
When they eventually left, it was as though they'd never been there, and Harry wasn't sure himself that they had.
For a long time he sat there, dead still, head swimming.
Dawn was peaking, though he didn't know it, when he curled up under his covers and drifted far away…