Chapter 1: The Secret Prince
In the smallest bedroom of number four, Privet Drive, a boy of no more than ten, sat on his stool and surveyed his latest piece. Vivid blues, golds, oranges, and reds formed into the abstract of a flower, pouring out a vibrancy that clashed with the dull, gloomy image of its maker. Pale skinned, lanky, and dressed in dingy over-sized clothing, the only hint the boy held any sense of beauty lay in his vibrant green eyes, which flashed between his painting and his pallet in contemplation. With slow deliberateness, he dipped his brush into the black acrylic and set it to canvas. With a continuous, spindly line he completed his latest work with a single name.
"Heinrich! Lunch!" a shrill call rang up from the kitchen.
Quickly, he set about collecting his supplies. Small tubes of acrylic paint, brushes, a spatula, and his pallet. He took them to a large bucket of water and began to clean them carefully and thoroughly. It would not due to be lectured on proper respect for his relative's gifts. Especially, since they were the only gifts he received from them. One look around the stark, gloomy bedroom was testament to that. A creaky bed, small table and chair, and a wardrobe (that couldn't decide if it was white or the color of rotten wood) were all the furniture supplied (in other words, already happened to be there when he first arrived three years ago). There were no photographs, posters, toys, or books. The only sign of personality were the few watercolor pictures he had painted himself, each with their own glaring flaw that made them unsaleable, and cheap enough to make so that his relatives didn't destroy them because of his intentional waste of their gifts.
He left his stuffy bedroom, stopping briefly in the bathroom to wash his hands and a smudge of paint from his nose. Barefoot he reached the bottom of the stairs, and barely saved his toes from being crushed when Dudley, his whale of a cousin, nearly stomped them as he rushed into kitchen first.
"Watch it, 'sauerkraut'," the larger boy sneered, not even stopping.
'Heinrich' scowled at the back of his head. He could hear the television still on in the living room, blaring out a noisy, ridiculous dialogue of some cartoon super hero. Had Dudley been waiting for him to come down just to pick on him? Probably. Which meant his cousin was in one of his moods.
He entered the kitchen, making it a point to stay out of his cousin's reach and intending to make it the trend for the rest of the day. His Aunt Petunia was just finishing up with lunch. She set a large slice of roast beef, carrots, and potatoes in front of Dudley, cooing at her 'Duddykins' like the fat baby he was, before turning to him. Her scowl made her horse like face look even longer, as she picked up what he assumed was his plate.
"Picture?" she asked.
'Heinrich' tilted his head, as if trying to understand her, then lifted his hand and made a gesture for 'tiny'. She scowled and put her free hand on her boney hip.
Ah, now he was having a conundrum. If he told her it was done, then he would get to eat, but he might also be sent outside to garden, making him fair game for Dudley's cruel, infantile jokes. If he told her it would take too many hours she might send him up to his room without eating, scolding him for being lazy. After considering for a moment, he held up two fingers. Her scowl didn't ease up, but she handed him his plate. It was only carrots and potatoes.
"It better be done by then, or you can forget about dinner."
"Danke, Aunt Petunia," he said, sitting down. He pushed his chair as far from the table as he could manage to avoid his cousin kicking him, and ate in a sullen silence. Petunia joined them a moment later, nibbling at pieces of carrots as she flipped idly through a beauty magazine. Despite 'Heinrich's' smaller portion, Dudley finished scarfing down his meal first and elbowed him sharply on his way back to the living room, abandoning his dishes on the table. When he finished, he gathered up both of their dishes, and washed them, along with his aunt's, and all of her cooking utensils.
Finally, he made his way back up the stairs to his room. He hesitated when he reached the top of the stairs. Hadn't he closed his door when he came down? With a sudden feeling of dread, he opened the door the rest of the way.
Dudley sat, a parody of deep thought, flipping through a sketch book. 'Heinrich' froze, a cold, heavy sensation settling in his gut. That was not his 'project' sketchbook. That one was large and spiraled at the top. That one looked more like small text book, with plain black binding. That one was his 'private' sketchbook.
"Hhhmmm," Dudley said, looking at one picture with particular interest. "This'un isn't half bad." The fat boy turned to his cousin, tilting the colored pencil picture so he could see it. A woman in a sun dress and hat stood under a flowering tree, her hair a brilliant red and verdant eyes that mirrored 'Heinrich's' own. She was smiling, a cross between sly and coy that had boggled him even back when he had attended primary school. Mom.
"Real looker," his cousin said, turning the picture back towards himself. "Kinda of slutty looking, but hey... You know what a slut is, sauerkraut?"
The coldness in his gut suddenly turned hard, and the hardness spread into his chest, and moved into his shoulders, before finally reaching his hands that clenched so hard he might have shattered stones in them. Dudley leered at him.
"So they taught you that much at least, huh, stupid?" Abruptly, he ripped the picture from its binding. A corner was torn off, coming dangerously close to decapitating the beautiful woman. 'Heinrich' stepped forward quickly. Dudley took the remains of the picture in two hands, looking at his smaller cousin with sadistic glee. 'Heinrich' stopped. "Mind if I take this? Daddy won't buy me girly mags yet, but this will due for a while.."
If possible, his insides hardened further, seeping into his head, crushing all thoughts except rage and horror. His vision was turning red, like the blood that was now seeping out between his clenched fingers. Dudley, stupid and arrogant, saw only the usual impotent rage, heedless of the danger and laughed. In a final act of cruelty, he stuck out his tiny pink tongue, and gave the image a lascivious lick.
What happened next, Dudley would relive in nightmares for the rest of his life. Though therapy and endless repetitions of 'it was a bad dream' would stave off the fear in his waking hours, sleep would bring the terror and incredulity of that memory back in all the vividness of the event itself. 'Heinrich' would remember it as his first conscious act of magic. It began as he stepped completely into the little bedroom. His cousin's porcine laughter was abruptly silenced as the door slammed shut without being touched. For a moment, Dudley seemed merely surprised. The completed painting near the window suddenly bursting into flames quickly turned his confusion into blatant fear. He shot off the bed, dropping the notebook and the picture. He made a run for the door and 'Heinrich' was certain he would have been knocked to the other side of the room, if the thin sheets on his bed hadn't suddenly seized the fat boy.
Dudley let an ear splitting shriek, shattering the stone-like power that had been crushing 'Heinrich's' fear and surprise. His thoughts and feelings suddenly scattered into so many directions, leaving him weak and suddenly terrified of what was happening. On his bed was the rather hoaky idea of a ghost, a dingy grey sheet draped over some unseen person. Only there was nothing hoaky about this. Parts of the sheet had twisted themselves into tight spirals, forming skeletal hands that clutched and clawed at their fat prisoner, who beat at them uselessly. No matter how hard Dudley struggled the sheet wraith refused to relinquish its hold, intent, it seemed, on dragging him to the bed itself.
'Heinrich' floundered uselessly for a bit. A part of him wasn't sure if he could help his cousin, and certainly not without becoming the... thing's next victim. If that happened he certainly wasn't going to get any help from his cousin. Another part whispered that the disgusting little Stück Abfall deserved this. That he had wanted this to happen. That he had made it happen.
Oh God, he had made it happen.
He didn't know how, but he was certain of it. He was bloody Carrie! Luke Skywalker! That girl in Firestarter.
A new fear arose, almost as terrifying as his cousin being smothered to death in front him by the linens. A fear of his Uncle when he found his son smothered to death in the FREAK's room. As if to taunt him, he could suddenly hear footsteps hurrying up the stairs.
"Dudders? Baby? What going on?" came his aunt's voice.
"MUMMY! HELP ME!"
A moment later, the handle to the door was jiggling. But whatever power had slammed it shut was still holding it shut. Petunia let out a desperate yell, resorting to kicking and throwing her stick-like body at the door. Panicked almost as much as his relatives, for entirely different reasons, 'Heinrich' forced himself to move.
He ran around Dudley, snatching up his private notebook and the picture of his mother, leaping back quickly incase the sheet wraith attacked him as well. He went, ignored, to his opened bedroom window, careful to avoid the charred remains of the painting, and barefoot he made the jump he had longed to make for the last three years.
Behind him he heard the door finally give way to his aunt. He had no time to wonder what she would do. The ground came up to meet him, and he barely remembered to unbrace his legs and roll as he landed beside the shrubs. He laid there stunned by the impact, stunned by what he was doing, before stiffly climbing to his feet. His feet hurt from the landing, but nothing was broken or sprained. As quickly as he could, he hobbled away from number four, Privet Drive and prayed it was forever.
Mr. Dursley had never been so angry in his life. He was a man very prone to anger so that was saying something. He had been in the middle of yelling at some nitwit at work, when a call had come in from his wife. She had been frantic and stuttering, crying about 'Dudders' and about something that wretched nephew of hers had done to him. Nothing she had said made much sense to him, but he could tell it involved some of that Potter weirdness.
As he drove home from work, taking the day off and threatening to fire an entire department if even one person dallied while he was gone, his thoughts ran in a continuous angry circle. He knew, he knew, he should never have allowed that boy into their home. He knew that expenses had been a little tight, especially as Dudley was growing into more expensive tastes in toys and games, but the government stipend for his care and the boy's rather impressive trust fund could not have been near enough to cover the mere inconvenience of housing the ungrateful wretch.
For one, he couldn't speak a whit of English. His British parents didn't have the bloody decency to teach their son the proper Queen's English! They could shout and lecture him all day and he would just tip his head at them and look confused. Or worse, he'd start talking in that funny German way, and he knew it wasn't anything good. No matter how patiently Petunia tried to teach him, just wouldn't learn. Sending him to a proper English school was out of the question. They wouldn't tolerate the sheer embarrassment it would cause them.
As if that wasn't enough of an issue, the brat had the nerve to refuse the cupboard under the stairs as his bedroom. When they had first tried to send him to the little room, he had looked at them with utter disbelief. This was followed quickly by anger and a stubborn refusal to move. It hadn't bothered Mr. Dursley much, as he a little twig of a kid, and he threw him in anyway and locked it. The brat had kicked up such a racket! He had screamed and kicked the door, and it had been amusing for the first fifteen minutes, but then he wouldn't stop. All day and into the sleepless night, he kept kicking and screaming. Not even yelling or belting the boy had silenced him. Eventually, a very cranky Dudley had generously offered the smallest bedroom to his cousin if only to shut the other boy up.
That was years ago. Now all the little leech did all day was laze around the house and paint. A foolish past time, but apparently one his clever little wife had found profit from. That there were so many ridiculous people in the world who would call a child's paint smudges art and actually buy it, was infuriating.
And worst of all, was the boy's parents. What a perfectly abnormal lot they had been. Doing their silly wand waving and nonsense muttering and frog spawn cooking. And look at the trouble it had gotten them into? Run out of the bleed'n country (and good riddance too!) by their own foul ilk! Even then, they couldn't settle for being normal! They went off and became a bunch of smelly, hippy artists! Which was only slightly better than... that other thing.
He didn't care what his sister said about the boy not knowing any of their freakishness. If he knew how to paint, then the brat likely knew the other stuff. And this had just proved it. The moment he got his hands on that boy, he was going to beat all that nonsense out of him and use that trust fund of his to send him to the cheapest, most miserable, most far away boarding school he could find.
Mr. Dursley pulled into his driveway, his knuckles alternately popping and turning white as he clenched and unclenched his hands around the steering wheel. If he weren't so furious with the entire situation, he would grin with anticipation. Finally, finally he would be rid of that miscreant, and the Dursley family would once again return to the perfect normalcy they had previously enjoyed.
He mounted the steps to the house, ignoring his neighbor's friendly waving, and reached for the door. Yet, amazingly, before he could touch the knob, the door swung open. A tall man with a hooked nose and dressed in a formal black business suit stood before him. The man's greasy, shoulder length hair, which was enough to earn Mr. Dursley's disapproval already, but then the other had the nerve to be standing in his house.
"What-" he began to bellow.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Dursley," the man practically hissed, "You wouldn't happen to know where your nephew is, would you?"
The next two days passed slowly for 'Heinrich'. He wandered around aimlessly, his only precaution an avoidance of Privet Drive. All of the houses looked the same, all the gardens were unoriginal, and cars in the driveways were generic. Even if the monotony was not so all encompassing, he had nowhere to go anyway.
He slept short, fitful hours in garden sheds, sneaking in after the houses had gone dark, and leaving before dawn. The hunger set in early the morning after the 'incident'. He managed to ignore it until evening, where he finally gave into his body's needs and stole tomatoes from a garden, feeling like a wretch with every bite he took.
His feet started to crack and bleed shortly after.
With every passing hour, the fear of the Dursley's unknown retribution was being smothered by how utterly helpless he was on his own. He had no clothes, shelter, or food. He was filthy, tired, and hungry. He had no friends to stay with and no neighbors he trusted to take pity on him. There was no one he could turn to except...
But bloody hell, he hated the Dursley's.
He hated them, but as evening came on and the air began to smell of rain he realized he needed them. With this miserable understanding, he finally returned to number four, Privet Drive. He was vaguely surprised to see the porch light was on. Had they left it on for him? Did they want him back? He snorted to himself. They probably just didn't want the stigma of having their oh-so-grateful little orphan actually run away.
Steeling himself for the inevitable shouting and perhaps the worst belt thrashing his uncle had ever inflicted, he stepped up to the front door. The sound of voices stilled his hand over the door bell. There were several of them, faint and muffled, but definitely not his uncle's thundering baritone or his aunt's shrill tones. Had the Dursley's actually called the police? Had they been called to find him or arrest him? Was there a charge for assaulting someone with a bed sheet?
With a little less certainty, he pressed the doorbell. The house went suddenly silent. Unease crawled into his gut, and he felt the distinct urge to run away. He turned around to do just that, but the door opened and he was hauled into the house by his collar. Letting out a startled yelp, he fell to the floor, barely avoiding the edge of the stairs. He whirled around on his hands and knees, expecting to see his uncle.
Instead, he met the coal black eyes of a complete stranger. The man was tall with a large hooked nose, and was dressed as if ready to attend a funeral. Bloody hell! They called the government. They're going to dissect my brain!
"Young man," the stranger said, his voice silky even in disdain, "Considering how tiny your brain is, I doubt anyone would be able to find it, let alone dissect it."
He read my mind. That is so ...awesome... or would be if he weren't such a twat about it.
"Language, Heinrich. You've caused quite enough trouble to vex a great many people... you do not want to add me to that list. Get up and go to the living room. There are matters that need to be addressed."
Reluctantly, he climbed to his feet and skirted his way around the stranger and made his way to the living room. There were two more strangers there. A woman and a man. Unlike the dark man, however, they looked considerably less dour. One was a middle-aged woman, attired in a rather nice blue dress with a matching ribbon tying back her blond hair. She reminded him of one of his school teachers back in Germany, who talked softly and always reminded everyone to play nice. The man was older, with thick white hair and a neat mustache, dressed in brown tweed and red tie. They both gave him a comforting smile when he entered, and he felt his lips twitch to return it. However, the sight of the Dursley's kept his expression completely blank.
Dudley was, fortunately?, still breathing, although he was looking white enough he might have been mistaken for the dead. He was staring ahead at nothing, saying nothing. His aunt had a protective arm around him, rubbing his arm and shoulder as if he might be cold, cooing softly and telling him everything was alright. Vernon Dursley, however... well 'Heinrich' was glad he wasn't alone with the man. The man glared mutinously at the benign pair, and turned even darker as gaze landed on Harry. When the Dark Man strode into the room though, his beady eyes quickly settled on the floor.
Harry quickly moved out of his way and took a seat on the ledge of the fireplace, next to 'Mr. Tweed'. 'Miss Blue' smiled knowingly at him, and took a seat in his uncle's sitting chair. The Dark Man planted himself directly behind the Dursley's couch, his hands coming to rest on either side of the family patriarch. He couldn't help admire the sheer dignity the tall man maintained while still exuded the highest level of malevolent intent. His uncle always came off as a raging walrus and Petunia merely looked like she had bitten into a lemon.
"Ah, good, we're all here," began the woman, her voice well suited to children and perhaps overly timid adults. "We were rather worried something had happened to you, Mr. Makowksi."
'Heinrich' threw her a baffled look. I'm Makowski now? That's not even a German name. The Dark Man gave an impatient sigh.
"Yes, yes. Burned at the stake and fed to Catholics, or some other horrible fate, but since the worse you seemed to have suffered is a brief stint to a third word country, perhaps we might move on to relevant matters."
"Really, Mr. Snape-" his aunt began.
"Professor Snape, it's pointless to ask him anything. He barely knows any English. He can't string a sentence together to save his life."
"Really? After three years under your tutelage and still so little progress? I suppose that's why your not Professor Dursley then," Snape sneered.
Petunia turned pink. Vernon, already red, turned purple and moved to stand. Snape's hands were suddenly resting on the larger man's shoulders. The effect was immediate. Mr. Dursley sat back down, his face looking as haunted as his son's.
"Professor…" 'Mr. Tweed' admonished, although his expression was clearly amused.
"Why don't we just try some questions first, and see how it goes. Will you answer some questions for us, Mr. Makowski?" 'Ms. Blue' asked. 'Heinrich' merely nodded, unused to a complete stranger looking at him with such affection. If she started cooing at him, he resolved to take the first opportunity to run away and stay away this time.
"Of course," Professor Snape agreed, "Perhaps, we will luck out and someone here will actually tell the truth. It's a novel idea, but one most conducive to one's health, yes?"
"Now see here, are calling my family-"
Mr. Dursley's mouth snapped shut. 'Heinrich' could barely suppress a laugh, but managed it rather quickly when those dark eyes suddenly fell on him.
"The truth, if you please, young man. What is your name."
"We told you his name. It's-"
"Madam, if you do not hold your tongue, I will make you swallow it. Am I perfectly clear?"
Somehow she managed to turn even pinker.
"You both will remain silent until spoken to. I will not warn either of you again," he said, his voice soft as silk and sharp as a knife. He turned his attention back to the subject of interest and found him watching him with rapt attention.
"How do you do that, Professor?" the boy asked, his voice carrying just the slightest hint of a German accent. Everyone in the room, even pale Dudley, turned to him, startled. Everyone except the Dark Man, who regarded him with cool disdain.
"There are those who strive for violence, young man, and those who live it. Those who strive so meekly can not possibly hope to stand up to those who live it. Like those who try and those who do. They are people on completely different levels. Now, your name."
"Harold James Potter."
A strangely sardonic look came across the professor's face, and his scowl twisted up in a mockery of a smile. "Of course it is."
1. Piece of trash