Title: Heart of a Badger
Summery: What's in a name? Harry Potter becomes Harry Dursley when his relatives adopt him. And
Harry Dursley is no Gryffindor. Nor is he Slytherin. See what a difference a name can make.
Genre: Alternate Universe (and out of character-ness but hopefully only in the sense that AU, by its very nature, causes people to act differently than in cannon. If the Harry of the book had grown up in similar circumstances, he might act similarly to this Harry. And of course the other characters are going to react differently to this Harry. So it's OOC but hopefully in a circumstantial way).
Warnings: Child abuse, but to a lesser extent than in the book and only one instance of physical violence. Slight OOC-ness (see my note on AU). Possibly violence later in the story (this is following book one, so expect the same amount of violence to occur)
Rating: PG (to be on the safe side)
To Be a Dursley
Harry Dursley meant to be a perfectly ordinary boy. After all, his only family wished it of him, and he would do anything to please them. Unfortunately, the other Dursleys did not feel remotely the same towards him. They liked his cooking, they liked how well he cleaned their house and tended their lawn, and his aunt was especially fond of how well he brought up the garden. But they did not like him, not in the slightest, and as often as not he was told to go to his cupboard and stay out of the way.
Harry could not say that he liked the Dursleys, exactly. He was fairly certain that it was not nice to pamper one child until he could hardly move for himself while shutting the second child up in a cupboard. He was also fairly certain that being given all the chores while his cousin waddled about making more messes was not really fair. But on the other hand, Harry was good at what he did. He enjoyed working in the garden and he enjoyed cooking. He didn't even really mind the cleaning, unless it was something especially difficult like cleaning out the gutters or pushing the big heavy mower. And sometimes his aunt would work with him, or show him how to do something, and she would almost smile at him. And all three of the Dursleys were always very appreciative of his cooking. Even if they never precisely said thank you, Harry could see that they meant it.
But whether the Dursleys liked Harry or whether he liked them, it didn't really matter. They were a family, and so they were all stuck with each other. Dudley might bully Harry sometimes, but he never let anyone else do the same. The last time someone had tried that at school, Dudley had shoved the kid down the stairs. No one messed with Dudley's cousin except him, because messing with his cousin was messing with a Dursley, and Dudley wouldn't stand for that. Unfortunately, not messing with him seemed to extend to friendship, because no one at school ever seemed to want to talk to Harry. They were all too afraid of Dudley to try it.
His aunt hardly ever said a kind word to him, but she didn't really scold him often either. In fact, she generally did her best to ignore him, unless company was around. Then Harry would either be sitting quietly in his cupboard, or he would be sitting next to his aunt to serve the tea. Those tea times were his favourite, because his aunt didn't ignore him then. She in fact acted quite proud of how well he behaved himself while her friends lamented about the deplorable manners of their own children. Dudley was never invited to these tea parties.
Harry's uncle was the hardest to get along with. Of the three Dursleys, he was the only one who seemed to actively dislike him. More often than not, he was the one who ordered Harry to sit in his cupboard or to do the harder, most dangerous chores. In fact, Harry had heard his aunt scolding his uncle once after he had ordered Harry up to the roof to fix the shingles. She was also the one who drove Harry to the hospital when he broke his arm cleaning out the gutters. Harry didn't know if she scolded his uncle that time, because the pain killers sent him to sleep rather quickly. But his uncle never hurt Harry on purpose, except the occasional half-hearted swat when he thought him in the way. And though Harry didn't like having anyone hate him so obviously, he could at least comfort himself with the fact that they weren't related by blood and so his uncle was only sort of family. Because Harry was quite certain that, like or dislike, one was meant to love their family. And Harry didn't think he could love Vernon Dursley. At best, he could avoid wishing him harm.
So Harry did his best to please his aunt and to get along with his cousin and secretly wished that he could please his uncle. The trouble was, Harry wasn't Dursley enough for any of them. Because no matter how hard he tried to be perfectly normal in every way, strange things still happened. There was, for instance, the trouble with his hair. It was thick and messy and refused to lay neat and straight no matter how his aunt combed it. One day, after he came back from the barber looking just as untidy as ever, she had nearly had a fit over his impossible hair. His uncle's solution was to grab a pair of scissors and chop it all off so short it was practically a buzz cut. All of it but for the bangs to hide the horrible scar on his forehead. He looked utterly ridiculous.
"You can't go to school like that!" his cousin had exclaimed in disgust at the sight, "No Dursley is wandering outside with a haircut like that!"
"At least it is laying straight for once," his aunt had said, despite the fact that Vernon's cut was nothing near even all over, and Harry was sent to the kitchen to make dinner. He sat up half the night, running his fingers nervously over his sheared hair. He didn't want to go to school looking like that any more than Dudley wanted him to. The next morning, it had all grown back.
For one of the only times in his memory, his aunt slapped him and called him a 'horrid little freak'. His uncle turned an interesting shade of purple and ordered him out of the house before he had even begun to make breakfast. Harry ran out and down the street where he burst into tears. He was certain, in that moment, that the Dursleys would never love him. He was seven at the time.
Of course, the Dursleys got over it. By the time he and his cousin got home from school, his aunt was waiting with their snack and acted just as though nothing had happened. His cousin didn't seem to care one way or the other except to tell Harry not to upset mum again, because she had burnt the bacon that morning. And Harry continued his never ending quest to please his family, and to never again be a 'horrid little freak'. But he never did seem to be able to achieve either end.
One of the worst incidents of strangeness happened on Dudley's eleventh birthday. He and his friend Piers were taken to the zoo, and Harry as well because he was a Dursley, even if he wasn't a much like one. Besides, his usual sitter couldn't take him that day and his uncle didn't think he could be trusted alone in the house. So he got to wander around behind the others and enjoy the day as well, at least until they reached the reptile house. He was sympathizing with a beautiful boa constrictor stuck in its little glass prison when the snake had risen up to look back at him. And when Harry cried, quite without meaning to, "You are beautiful," he had heard it reply, very distinctly, "Thank you." And then his cousin pushed him out of the way, knocking him to the ground, and the real strangeness had happened. The glass vanished. The serpent came out, winding passed Dudley and Piers and, with a final hiss of 'thanksss' it slithered away. After that, it was months before any of his family would look at him without that horrible look of fright and disgust. That look was worse than anything, even being made to stay in his cupboard except for chores and school. But at last the look faded once more and life returned to normal.
This went on until one day, during the summer just before his eleventh birthday, Harry received a very unexpected letter. It came in the morning post, addressed to Harry Dursley. It even had his cupboard in the address, which he found odd. He didn't think one was required to include the recipient's bedroom in the address. And besides, no one except the Dursleys were supposed to know he slept there. He carried the strange letter directly into the kitchen with the rest of the mail.
"Aunt Petunia," he said, "There's a letter addressed to me." She snatched it out of his hands and then gave a shriek when she read the address. Harry ducked away, startled. He had thought it strange but he didn't think it warranted that kind of reaction. He was suddenly afraid that he had done something freakish again without meaning to and he began to wish he hadn't shown it to her after all.
"What is it?" he asked, after watching her read it. Judging from the look on her face, the letter was something dreadful. But she ignored him and went to find Vernon, who was still upstairs. Harry and Dudley followed but were shut out of the room. They couldn't hear what his aunt said, but they could soon hear his uncle.
"We swore!" he shouted, "We swore when we took him into our family that we wouldn't stand for it! We'd squash it out of him and make him a proper Dursley! He isn't going!" His bellowing went on for a good deal longer, but neither boy could figure out what he was so upset about. Only that it had something to do with Harry's parents and freaks. Later, both aunt and uncle refused to answer any questions, not even when Dudley begged to know. This was strange in itself as Dudley was rarely denied anything. Harry couldn't help but feel that this was good for him, except that it meant that Harry didn't learn anything either. And a little shouting and dark looks were probably all that would have come from it if that had been the only letter. But more came.
His aunt didn't slap him and call him a freak this time. She didn't make him do any chores that week either. Instead, she told him to stay in his cupboard and not make any noise. She seemed afraid and that made Harry anxious. Was someone looking for him? After nearly two dozen letters had come, all addressed to Harry in his cupboard under the stairs, his aunt insisted he be moved to Dudley's second bedroom. Surprisingly his uncle didn't complain about this, though his face did keep twitching oddly. Dudley complained long and loud but to no avail. The letters kept coming, this time addressed to his bedroom.
What began as strange quickly became horrifying. No matter what the Dursleys did, they could not seem to escape the letters. Not even when all four fled the house on a sudden holiday did they manage to evade the mysterious stalker. Harry was beginning to grow frightened.
"Perhaps if I just read one of the letters, they'll stop sending them," he suggested, "Or we could go to the police." But his uncle only grunted and his aunt pinched her lips together. Harry was forbidden to even think about reading one of the letters.
Finally, his uncle led them all to a rickety old shack that they had to take a row boat to reach. It was cold and wet and dismal and smelled of rot and mildew. There was nothing to eat, either, except a bag of crisps each and a banana. No matter how great Harry's culinary skills were, there was simply no way to turn that into a filling meal. Not unless one could do magic.
To make matters worse, the next day would be Harry's birthday. Not that the Dursleys ever did much for it, nothing at all like with Dudley, but at least his aunt would usually let him out of most of his chores and she would usually bake a cake for their dessert that evening. There were no candles or singing, but Harry knew it was meant for him. And he was usually taken to get new clothes on his birthday and at Christmas as none of Dudley's old things fit him and even his uncle agreed that no Dursley was going to walk about in public without decent clothes. It seemed that this time his birthday would pass without even this half-hearted notice. Harry could only hope that whoever was sending the letters would at last give up. Then they could all go home and their lives could go back to normal. It was not to be.
At exactly midnight, during a great clap of thunder, the door to the shack crashed in. A giant was standing outside.