The Dogs and Shakespeare
Story Summary: The Dursleys are swayed by circumstance to accept Harry as he is: a cursed little blighter who gets into too much trouble and has the additional quirk of magic. He slowly becomes a part of their family and with his new freedom in life comes his ability to discover and explore magic years before Hogwarts. He leads two lives, as a precocious muggle child and as a secretly strengthening wizard. When he makes his first real friends, he can't help but share the secret with them.
Warnings: I don't know if this will end in Harry on the Light or Dark side. Either is a fair possibilty. Other than that, this won't be any darker than the actual series is.
2018 Note: This is an old story which focuses on alternate pre-Hogwarts years. It was intended to reach Hogwarts eventually but that was never the goal. As it stands this is a long AU kid fic that's fifty percent moral crises, fifteen percent deception of the innocent and thirty-five percent ridiculous light-hearted shenanigans, with some resolutions but no ending.
Chapter 1: Harry the Closet Monster
His aunt, Petunia Dursley, thought he was simply a wild little monster. His uncle, Vernon Dursley, liked him just enough to look after him, in spite of muttering that he was a terror and blight. His cousin, Dudley Dursley, thought of him as a toy to play with and abuse as he liked, and often told him he was a stupid baby. The neighbors, the whole lot of them, just wished he'd move somewhere else, soon.
Thus it was the general consensus that Harry Potter was a trouble-maker, a nuisance, hopelessly freakish and not quite bright. He was five years old and had rooted up more dangerous nonsense than his family, the Dursleys, had ever before thought a child capable of finding. By the age of three, he had sat to play behind the tires of the family car, run off into neighbor's yards and nibbled the leaves off their bushes, gotten bit by his aunt's bulldog and tried to bite the dog back, crawled out of a second-story window and somehow survived falling, investigated a cupboard full of cleaning chemicals and committed a number of other acts of curiosity which had left his aunt and uncle, with whom he lived, completely exasperated and befuddled. The boy was a disastrous danger to himself and a horrible embarrassment to the otherwise orderly household.
Granted, though at five he was blamed for such things every day as though he had just done them, he hadn't actually been that wild since he was a small tot. No, he had become much more subdued since his family began keeping him in a cupboard.
"For safekeeping," his uncle had tiredly excused it at first, "just to get him out from underfoot and into a place where he can't make trouble. Hah! If there is such a place."
It was dark there, like a time-out in his old bedroom. The dark, he knew, wasn't so bad. Anything could live in the dark. Anything could happen in the dark. It was so much easier to find things, the things he liked to look for at least, when his eyes couldn't see to distract him. He could feel that secrets lived there, with the faeries and monsters. His Aunt Tuna said he was a little monster, so Harry felt quite eager to meet one, so that he could ask it to be friends or perhaps to leave together, to wherever monsters were meant to live, through whatever secret of shadows allowed them to be there in the dark but gone in the light, without ever opening the door. He liked to imagine what his new monster friend would look like, whether he'd have fur or horns or a tail. Perhaps with bright green eyes like his and shimmery silver scales like a fish. Perhaps with thick black fur, a great beast resembling the shadows it came from.
Looking for monsters had been fine at first, until he'd gotten frustrated at not finding any. He'd thought he'd found one a few times but it always turned out to be a little bug, probably a spider, scurrying over his skin at a tickling run. He became bored and wanted to go outside, to be in the light and see and touch the colorful mysteries like cats and flowers, and all the other things that tried to trick him into thinking they didn't know about the shadows' secrets and monsters. He knew better, of course; even if his aunt and uncle had told him otherwise, he could feel that those little living things all knew what he wanted to learn. It wasn't his fault that the birds and bushes had tricked his family into believing their lies of not having secrets to tell.
The trouble had come when he decided he'd had enough of his 'safekeeping' and tried to open the door.
Being locked in for a time-out was a wretched thing that had only happened to him twice before. Considering how often he was punished, this wasn't a lot at all. However, those times he simply found himself locked in his bedroom, with a few of Dudley's unwanted toys to play with and a bright sunny window to look out of until he was let out. When he found himself locked in the small closet space beneath the stairs, he audibly swallowed. He immediately felt panic well up at the thought of being trapped in the little room, maybe forever, maybe until he starved. What if the monsters wouldn't come save him? He hadn't met one yet, aside from himself, so what was to say they'd visit him now, or ever?
He banged against the door and howled, desperate to see that someone was still on the other side of the door and he hadn't been left alone.
His aunt came to stand outside the door and called in, "If I let you out, do you promise to behave yourself?"
Of course, he cried out all sorts of promises about how good he'd be, just if she'd let him out. So she unlocked the door and he rushed out, feeling as though he'd just escaped with his life. His aunt shook her head in exasperation at his antics and returned to the kitchen, muttering something about wild little monsters and thanking goodness for her precious Diddydums. Harry had stood panting and shivering after his ordeal, determined not to get into such trouble again. Then finally, he took in a great breath of air and let himself outside to further question the blue jay that liked to roost in an ash tree in Mister Emerson's back garden about just how he got so blue.
Trouble, he eventually figured out, was simply something that happened whenever he did something. When trouble happened, he was inevitably made to stay in the cupboard beneath the stairs, until his aunt and uncle wouldn't let him out even if he howled and screamed for them to. After awhile, when trouble was no longer something his aunt couldn't take in hand, when he was tired of trying to explain to her that he just wanted to know what made the rose bushes grow so much, when his uncle always looked at him like he was disappointed, when his bigger cousin would stand and jeer because he thought Harry's crying was entertaining, Harry stopped trying to find out the daylight mysteries and kept his peace about what he thought the wind was saying and about how unfair he thought it was that he kept getting shut up in such a little part of the world, when it looked like there was plenty of space to share. After he was made to live in the cupboard, he learned to be quiet like the things that made plants grow and smart like the trick-playing cats and flowers, so that he could keep his own mysteries.
He helped his Aunt Tuna in the kitchen and didn't ask her why she was named after a fish. He said all the polite words his Uncle Vernon liked to hear and didn't ever ask why the man's face could turn so many colors when he was mad. Instead of crying for his aunt or uncle's help when his cousin Dudley would bully him, he'd just outrun or outwit him, which wasn't very hard. On the surface, even though it only stopped the yelling and didn't really make anyone like him better, Harry was a good little monster, mindful and well-behaved. It seemed that nothing would get him out of the cupboard under the stairs and back into a room with a window but at least they weren't tempted to start keeping him in the cupboard under the sink or in the dish cabinet.
They could go ahead and shun and tut, he was just fine without them. They'd see they were wrong, once he got bigger and dug under the house to find monster caves. Then he'd have loads of monster friends, and they'd probably have tons of jewels from their tunnels, and then he'd be rich and happy and loved and what would they have? The television? Hah!
For two years, he told himself that being alone in the dark was making him stronger, better. He could hear the whispering of secrets on the air, more clearly than he had when he was small. Sometimes, when he was trying particularly hard to find an answer, a truth behind all the tricks, he could feel something soft and fluttery around him, like thousands of summer-warm butterflies beating their wings against his skin. A mystery he didn't mind, since it was, at last, something real enough to touch, even if he couldn't see it.
Patiently trying to make the fluttery sensation come to him again, so that he could try to ask it where it came from and if it was a type of monster, Harry was startled out of his meditation when the door to his cupboard was whipped open. He blinked up at his Uncle Vernon, trying to see him in the brighter light of the hall.
"We're going out," his uncle said gruffly, "and I don't want any trouble from you, boy, do you hear?"
Harry tilted his head at the white and black blur and slapped his palm against his cot until he found his glasses. Putting them on, his Uncle Vernon's scowl came into focus. "Yes, Uncle Vernon."
"Good. If you do act up, we'll just see what there is for you to do about the house, won't we? Lord knows your Aunt shouldn't have to do everything herself while you laze about here."
Thinking that Dudley did far more lazing than he did, apparently always looking for secrets in television, Harry bit his tongue and stood up without comment, knowing that either agreeing or disagreeing would probably get him into trouble, as most things did. He stepped out into the hall and looked up at his uncle for further direction, guessing that anything he did of his own free will wouldn't go over well. He flinched back as he caught his Uncle Vernon's eyes, surprised and hurt to have discovered the man looking him over in disgust.
Apparently flinching was the right thing to do, but then he hadn't meant to do it so he should have known it was. Perhaps he should look into only doing things without meaning to. Uncle Vernon frowned at him, looking ready to say something that might not have been mean, then suddenly sighed in resignation and turned his back on him, going into the kitchen. "We leave in ten minutes, boy. Clean yourself up!"
Harry breathed deeply and blinked at a stinging in his eyes, caused by some trick in the only mystery his family had. It didn't matter what the truth to that one was, since he knew they'd never tell him, but he wished it would stop catching him by surprise.
Hurrying up the steps to the bathroom, Harry quickly washed his face and ran his comb over his hair, trying to make all the spiky clumps of it stick together into one shape. He thought it looked a bit worse than it had before he'd bothered but at least he'd tried.
"Boys! We're leaving!"
Stamping came from down the hall, Dudley pounding his way downstairs as loud as he could. Harry smiled, feeling it was a joke on his cousin that he wasn't under the stairs to be bothered by the shaking stomps. He went out into the hall after him and as he came downstairs and saw a look of disappointment on Dudley's face, he couldn't help but stick out his tongue.
"Harry!" Snapped his Aunt Tuna.
"Mum-my, why does he get to come?"
"Dudduds, Mummy and Daddy want some fresh air and Harry can't stay here alone. God knows what he'd do to the house if he did."
Harry ignored it and held his tongue, not particularly wanting to be left out of the impromptu outing. It only happened occasionally, but when his Aunt Tuna would get restless and have Uncle Vernon take them somewhere, it was usually at least a little fun for Harry, with new plants to talk to or even a playground to play on for awhile. Sometimes, when they were out in front of strangers and all getting along, he could even pretend that he was a real part of the family, instead of just the monster they kept in their closet.
They all loaded into the car, Harry and Dudley sitting as far apart as they could, and set off somewhat peacefully.
"Daddy, Harry's glaring at me."
"Dudley kicked me!"
"Did not! I'm way over here, nitwit!"
"You did too!"
"I did no-"
"Don't make me pull this car over or you'll both be sorry!"
Dudley threw his back against the seat of the car with a huff and Harry hurriedly looked out the window with an innocent expression on his face.
This was followed by several repetitions, with pinching, face-making, name-calling and shoving thrown into the mix. When they pulled into the parking lot of the casual restaurant Captain Laughlin's, his aunt and uncle practically fell out of the car to get away and Harry wasn't far behind. He offered a sheepish smile as he caught his Uncle Vernon giving him a dirty look. Then he nearly laughed as Dudley waddled around to their side of the vehicle and his uncle gave his cousin the same glare.
"Best behavior," Uncle Vernon intoned sternly, looking from one boy to the other, "best manners, or you won't be coming out with us again for a long while. Understood, boys?"
Dudley, who had been smirking at Harry as he thought that it was him being warned, suddenly straightened up and nodded vigorously, pasting a smile on his face. "Yes, Daddy."
When Vernon looked from his son's angel act to his nephew's mischievous amusement, his eyes narrowed and Harry called forth that hesitant smile again. "Yes, Uncle Vernon."
The man sighed, reminding himself that he'd always wanted boys and that keeping them was worth the strain on his nerves. Really, he told himself, he didn't want to trade them in for a nice quiet pair of girls. "Let's go then." He led the way in, shaking his head and hoping they wouldn't squabble through the entire meal. Why Petunia liked family outings was a mystery to him.