Title: Solid Ground
Summary Childhood means different things to everyone, but how does it feel to be a kid when you have never known love?
A/N: I have decided to write a story about what life might have been like for Harry in his Pre-Hogwarts days (this story takes place during Christmas time, in 1989). Harry is supposed to be 9 here, and I have tried to keep the language simple (age-appropriate) to reflect his thoughts and feelings as a little kid. Note: this story depicts the Dursley's as physically abusive. From the books and stories, they are obviously emotionally abusive and neglectful – but what if it went further than that?
Oh yeah, the "special camera" Harry makes mention of truly exists. It's used by forensic scientists, and also by those investigating cases of rape, domestic and/or childhood abuse (either physical or sexual), and can take images of damaged tissue, and old bruises that have already faded.
Also note that when Harry refers to football, he means the English version of "football", which is typically known as soccer to those in Canada and the States. Just thought I'd point that out, so you wouldn't be confused as to why a bunch of 9 year olds are playing tackle football at primary elementary school. (grin).
I hear the sound before I feel it. It sounds like a whip, and I bring my hand to my face and move further back in my chair. Quickly. Too quickly - my chair topples over.
Landing on my wrist, I try not to cry. Uncle Vernon will just get madder if I cry. I won't cry. I won't. I'm not a baby.
"Get up from the floor, you little slug!" He is screaming now.
My hand is bent at an odd angle, and I find it hard to push off from the floor.
But Uncle Vernon doesn't know this. He thinks I'm just being disobedient again.
"I said get up, you fucking bastard!"
Aunt Petunia reprimands him for swearing in front of Dudley, and I feel a little better that she is here. Uncle Vernon probably won't hit me too badly now.
I still haven't gotten up. I just stay down, and hope he ignores me.
But he doesn't, and I feel his foot kick me in the side then, hard, hitting my ribs. Not meaning to, I let out a shriek. Dudley grows quiet, and stops eating his corn pops. Aunt Petunia stands up and reaches across the table, trying to calm my Uncle down.
"Vernon. Let it go. He's not worth it. Just don't work yourself up over him, love."
I look back down, turn to my side and manage to get up using my left arm. It's harder than I thought, because it's not the arm I use very much for things like eating or brushing my teeth so it's…not as strong, or something. I'm right handed.
But my right wrist is puffy right now – purple and deformed, so I pull it up into my sweatshirt, not wanting my aunt or uncle or cousin to see that it's injured. That will only make things worse.
However, because it is injured, I can't quite hop back onto the chair easily. Not with one good hand anyway, so I sort of try eating the rest of my raisin bran with my left hand. There is no milk in my cereal this morning, so it's not exactly as if I can't pick up the food with my fingers, and I'm able to pick at the raisins with my weak hand.
Uncle Vernon doesn't like this though.
"Eat your food properly…before I really give you something to cry about!"
I know he means it, too. So I try to hold my spoon in my left hand, but it's hard. Whenever I try to pull up some of the raisin bran, my hand shakes a lot and the flakes fall off into the bowl. After a few tries, Uncle Vernon looks over to me. He looks disgusted again.
"What are you playing at, you little freak? We don't have time for your games."
I swallow, and tell him that I'm not very hungry anymore.
It's not true of course.
I'm really, really hungry. I haven't had much lately, less than normal, because I dropped a platter of glazed carrots two nights ago - Aunt Petunia's flower dish, at that. It was one of her favorites - good china. And Uncle Vernon spanked my back really hard with his belt and locked me in the cupboard afterwards. I even had to sleep on my belly because my back hurt so much, and then when I woke up, my belly hurt too – because I was so hungry.
So I really want to eat my cereal. The raisins look really good. They are dusted in sugar, and my mouth is watering for them.
"Not hungry, eh? Well, I won't have you wasting food. Take this and eat it later, then. But get out of my sight", and Uncle hands me my bowl, much to my relief.
I manage to grasp it with my left hand before it can fall to the floor, although it's a close call.
As I slowly walk away, he spits out, "What's wrong with your arm, anyway?"
I don't know if I want to show him, but he yanks me back, wanting to know what is up, which causes me to scream. The pain is really strong, and I see black stars for a second, almost as if I am going to pass out, faint.
Pulling back my blue sweatshirt, I hear him swear again under his breath.
"Oh bloody hell! Look at this Petunia…this idiot boy has managed to hurt himself again! "
I hear Dudley laugh.
Aunt Petunia keeps eating her oatmeal, and Uncle Vernon turns to me.
"We aren't taking you to that damn clinic again – don't you think that we will! You and your bloody backwardness. Always falling down, always getting hurt. You are bringing bad attention to my family, you good for nothing little freak!"
I nod my head to show that I agree with his statement, and don't say anything. The best thing for me to do now is simply leave, so I cup my bowl of semi-eaten raisin bran with my good hand and cradle it next to my chest, before I turn around and slowly walk back to the security of my cupboard.
Once safely inside, I sit down, cross-legged, and begin to nibble on the raisins.
As I think about my arm, I begin to pray that it's just a little sore, and not fractured, because I really don't want to go back to the clinic either.
The last time I went, this pretty nurse noticed some bruises underneath my knees. Uncle Vernon had smacked me across the legs with his garden rake, and the edges of the rake had hit under my legs, and had brought me to my knees. The next strike caused one of the metal tips to actually cut my skin.
Then, during gym class a few days later, one boy named Nigel Seaver saw the marks while I had been changing into my sweatpants for football practice. I had tried to be really careful about it, be he saw anyway, and ratted on me to my gym instructor who got someone from the office to take me to a nearby clinic. I hadn't known that at the time. I just thought that maybe because I was hurt, they didn't want me playing sports.
After we got to the hospital, everything happened so quickly. I remember I was really confused, and I had wondered if someone from my school had called ahead of time, and had told them my name and that I was coming, because some people seemed to be waiting for me.
One pretty nurse – her name was Laura – had lead me into an examination room, with another doctor, and had asked me if I was hurt, and why I had been taken out of class.
They asked me to show them my legs, the area behind me knees, and I was really nervous, but I didn't want to disobey them, either.
After I did, Laura asked me some questions, such as how I had gotten the "funny marks" on my legs. I told her I didn't know, and not because I wanted to get Uncle Vernon in trouble, either. It's just hard to make up stories for certain things. Some things are easy to hide – like if you bruise your arm or twist your ankle or something. You can say that you got hit with a ball, or that you got in a fight at school, or that you got scuffed up playing rugby.
But some marks are harder to explain. Like when a belt hits you. Because a belt makes markings that are different than markings from falls, or scrapes with pals. I'm not stupid. I might not be a grown up, but I know that much.
And so I didn't know what to say to Laura. I just told her I wasn't sure. I knew that if I didn't say anything, she'd just think I didn't want to talk to her or was avoiding answering something really tough. And that would be suspicious, cause she was so nice and friendly and everything.
She left for a bit then, and when she came back, she had another lady with her. This lady's name was Rachel, and Rachel asked me the same questions as had Laura. I told her I didn't know, again, repeating what I had said before. But I was starting to get nervous because usually if I get hurt, and Aunt Petunia drives me to the clinic, I just say what Uncle Vernon has told me to say. And that's usually good enough because the doctors will patch me up and we all get to go home. Once I got to leave with a cast on my arm, and it was cool for a bunch of reasons because some of the nurses signed the cast with different coloured pens, and drew little smiley faces on it…but mostly because Uncle Vernon was very quiet for a long time afterwards and he didn't speak to me. He left me alone, and didn't hit me once. At least not until the cast was off, and that was a couple months later. So I felt safe for a long time then, and everything was really good.
But this time the doctors didn't do that – they didn't just give me stitches, or patch me up. They also asked me questions and they looked really intense and upset for some reason.
At one point, Rachel asked if she could take a photo of my leg, and when I asked why – she said because she wanted to take a special shot with a very special camera.
She told me that the camera could "see" deep down into my body and would show them how badly the bruising went and the best way to treat the cuts.
So I had agreed, and then they had dimmed the lights and took a couple photos with the funny camera. It had made these weird noises right when they snapped the picture. It sort of whirred, and the flash was really bright and I blinked a bunch of times and laughed.
I asked how long it would take to develop the photos, and if I could see them after, because I thought it would be neat to see deep into my leg and see the bones and veins and everything. Like in science class, when we read about the human skeleton. It would be cool to see my own skeleton.
But that was when Rachel told me that it didn't work that way – that I wouldn't be able to see the bones and blood, but that I'd just see my leg like normal, but that other marks from before – even from weeks back – that they would stand out too. On the outside.
That's when I knew that I had made a really, really big mistake. I remember I got mad and yelled at them because they had lied to me. I remember I was so angry, but afraid too, and I told them that they were liars because they said the camera would take a photo of inside my leg and I thought that meant something else. I thought that meant that they would see inside me… like an x-ray. I remember I had started to cry, I was so scared.
Laura tried to calm me down then, and kept telling me that everything would be okay. She said it over and over, and I tried to stop being a baby, and I stopped crying so much but it was even harder for some reason because she was being really gentle and kind like Aunt Petunia is when Dudley throws a temper tantrum. And no one had ever talked to me like that, so it made me feel strange, and less certain of everything.
I had to stay at the hospital overnight then – on this little cot. I remember it was really scary and dark and I was worried if I had gotten Uncle Vernon into trouble and what would happen if I had. I couldn't sleep at all, because I was so scared that he, and Aunt Petunia, and Dudley would hate me.
I couldn't stand it if they hated me.
In the end, I had to spend the next few days talking to these different people, and when I kept asking where Uncle Vernon was, and when I could go home… no one would say anything.
I didn't get to see Rachel again, so I couldn't ask to see my photos, and that made me upset, too. She had told me, originally, that "maybe" I could see them, but that was before I agreed to let her take them. But once she got what she wanted, she just broke her promise. Which is really, really bad. You don't break promises. That's the worst thing you can do in the whole world.
Sometimes, though, lying is necessary. Not because you want to lie, but because you have to lie. It's because you have no options anymore.
So that's what I did. I lied.
I talked to another person; it was a man this time. I'm not sure how old he was – younger than my Uncle, but definitely a grown up. He wore glasses sort of like mine, and his eyes were the same colour as mine too. Bright green. For one ridiculous second I thought that he looked like my dad. Then I pushed that thought away, because it was stupid and would make me sad.
My real dad was dead, and it didn't matter that this man looked like him. He wasn't my dad. I didn't have a dad anymore, and I never would have one. Once they're gone, they're gone, and only little kids don't seem to understand that.
When the man spoke, though, he even sounded like I had imagined my dad would sound.
"Harry. My name is David. I'm sure you're wondering why I am here now, talking to you…"
I had cut David off then, even though I knew that it was really rude for a kid to do that, and that I could get punished. But I wanted to know about Rachel, and about where she was, and if I could see my photos. I had already waited a long time. At least two days.
"About that Harry. Well, I've seen those photos, and they aren't nice photos. Your legs have had been bruised a lot in the past, haven't they?"
I had shrugged, because I couldn't really deny it. They had photos. They had proof.
"I want to go home", I had said.
"I'm not sure if that can happen right now. Not until we know a little more…"
If they knew more, then what? They'd let me go home?
That gave me hope. But I knew that I could only go home if I said the right things.
So for the next hour I spoke to David, and answered his questions. Like, did I like my Uncle? (Yes) Did my Uncle have a bad temper? (No) Did I like my cousin, my aunt? (don't really like my cousin cause Dudley tries to bug me all the time, cause he's bigger, I had said – and David laughed at that. But I said I like my Aunt Petunia) School? (Sometimes. I like PE but I hate maths).
Lots of questions.
And then David asked about my legs and why they were bruised so badly, and I made up a fib and told him that I had stolen something from a gardening shop a while ago, and the owner had caught me and had hit me with a rake. David had asked me which one – which store – and I told him I couldn't remember, and I didn't want anyone to talk to the owner either, even if I could remember, because I was embarrassed and felt badly about stealing, and that my Uncle would be upset if he learned that I had shoplifted because he had raised me to be better than that.
David had sighed then. And then he had said, "is all of that the truth?"
And I lied again, and said that it was.
David looked…like he didn't believe me but later that night I got to go home.
Before I did, Laura had given me a hug and wrote her work number down on a little card and told me that I could call her if I ever needed a friend.
I told her that was weird, cause kids aren't usually friends with adults, and she had laughed and said that she meant that I could call her if I ever needed any help from a grown up, for whatever reason.
I put the card in my pocket, not a moment too soon, and Uncle Vernon came into the waiting room area to collect me. Laura said "Goodbye Harry", but left quickly, and didn't look at us as we left the clinic.
Uncle Vernon was silent on the car trip back, and when we got into the house Dudley and Aunt Petunia were watching a television show. They also didn't say anything to me, which was okay, because it was better than having them scream at me.
I walked back to my cupboard then, turned on my flashlight, and had read some of the discarded books that I had taken from the library. One on spiders, and one on aliens, and The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White – which turned out to be my favorite.
That night, I ate my dinner in the cupboard too. Dudley came by, with a sesame seed bun and a green apple, and told me that Uncle Vernon was still really mad with me for causing such a fuss, and I should try to stay out of the way for the next few days.
That was fine by me. I could stay out of the way. I was good at staying out of the way.
It was then that I started to fall in love with books, with reading.
Once a week, I would make my way over to Mrs. Figg's and she would babysit Dudley and me while Aunt Petunia played bridge with her friends, before Uncle Vernon got home from work. And each time I went over to her house, I would play with her cats, and she would let me look through her little home library of books, while Dudley watched a cop show on the telle. Mrs. Figg would then let me choose a couple books from the shelves to take home with me, and each week I would return the books that I had read, and get new ones.
I started to read everything I could get my hands on.
I read The Narnia Chronicles, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Jungle Book, The Neverending Story, a bunch of detective books, Where the Wild Things Are…
My favorite book, however, was called Matilda, by Road Dahl, because even though the main character was a girl – not a boy – she was really clever, and used her cleverness to get back at her mother and father and brother, who were horribly mean to her. So it didn't matter that she was a girl, because she was really cool girl. And some girls are probably fine. Like Matilda – I wouldn't mind knowing Matilda. I could be friends with someone like her.
Over time Matilda became "my special book". Every time she did something great, like glue Mr. Wormwood's hat to his head, or bleach his hair – I cheered. Then, part way through the book, Matilda learns that she has magical powers and can move things with her mind, and for the next week, I wondered if it was really possible for me to move things with my mind too.
I knew most adults would look at me like I was crazy if I asked, but part of me thought it was possible.
Because there are a lot of things in this world that don't make any sense at all and that shouldn't be allowed to happen… and yet they exist.
So why not something good?
A/N: So…? Sequel? Or should I keep it as a stand-alone? It could go either way at this point.