Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any character or location that was created by J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter series. I do not currently earn or plan to earn money by these stories, and I make no profit from writing these stories other than my own enjoyment. Any character or location appearing in these stories that was not a creation of Rowling is a product of my own imagination and is not meant to represent her works in any way.
All the poetry appearing in this trilogy is my own writing (unless otherwise specified) and therefore belongs to me exclusively. Do not use these poems, reproduce them, or print them without my express permission.
The Wise One
Book One: Becoming
Nature, Nurture, and Long History
Looking fresh on the world
So quickly disappointed
Looking out with jealousy
Starting out with prejudice
Shape them with love and power
They are becoming
"You live and learn. At any rate, you live." Douglas Adams
The day he slipped through the bars and left the prison, he knew what he had to do.
It wasn't a hard choice, really. There were only two roads open to him, and both likely ended in being recaptured and returned to Azkaban. But which one was the better option? To go after Peter . . . he longed for that meeting, to stand in front of the man and watch his face turn from confidence to fear, that would be so good. When he transformed, his mouth salivated and his spotted tongue hung out with the thrill that went through him, the idea of the hunt, and the capture. Oh, the capture. Killing Peter would be the culmination, the sweet fulfillment of all his years of brooding in that prison cell. Going mad—going so mad.
In the back of his mind, he always knew that he was being driven mad. Revenge was what had kept him going, when he hadn't been able to remain in his dog form. But he'd become sub-human, the last few years. He knew it, although his heart was too dead to grasp that significance. His mind was operating on the level of instinct and the drive for vengeance, and nothing more than that was working now. His spirit, if he still had one, was rusty and useless, and he was less than a man.
And so this was what he must do.
Peter would be hard to find, he knew. Peter was a rat. Peter could be living in a sewer and awaiting the day when he could finally come out into the open with his true allegiances. It would be next to impossible to track him down—although he was sure his canine nose was up to the task. Much easier to find the boy. James and Lily's boy would be easy to locate. There had to be a thousand wizards and witches, or more, that knew where little Harry was living—the boy was famous, after all. Even in prison, he'd heard the tones of awe or anger in which Harry Potter's name was spoken. He could track him down easily, provided he could stay out of sight. And then maybe . . .
Maybe seeing the boy would stir those embers of his soul.
If not, he didn't know how long he could go on this way. Could be that he'd finally escaped prison just to race to Peter, kill him, and die himself in that struggle. As he loped down the deserted country lane he'd chosen to travel, he wondered if the clattering rocks under his feet were the sound of his own death rattle.
"Whatchoo fink, Phil?"
"I don't think anything. Not my job."
"Course not, nobody ever got paid to."
"Especially not you," Phil said grumpily.
"Fine. Only I was finkin', how he got out."
"Well, nobody knows, do they?"
"You ever been to Azkaban, Phil?"
"No, thank Merlin."
"Me, neither," the stockier man said thoughtfully. "Maybe it ain't so hard to break out."
"Which is why he's the only one to ever do it, then, is it?" Phil asked scathingly, flicking the ashes from his cigarette.
"Well, it's a mystery, then. But I was finkin' too, where 'e might be goin'."
"He's on his way to the Potter boy, where else?"
"I know that. But who knows where the boy is, eh?"
"People ranking higher than us, Robbie," Phil said in exasperation.
This conversation was proving more useless all the time, but still he waited. He waited to see what the two men on their smoke break might inadvertently say, to give him some clue as to the boy's whereabouts. James' parents were dead, so obviously the boy hadn't gone to them. Who else might have taken him in? Dumbledore was close to them at that point. He simultaneously hoped and feared that it would be Remus who had the boy. He hadn't heard a word yet about Remus.
"Yeah, but you're an Auror, ain't you? You know somefin'."
"I know he's in Surrey," Phil told Robbie grudgingly.
He let out a quiet breath. Not too loud, that attracted the . . . never mind. There were no dementors here. At least not yet. He was still a step ahead of all of them. And now here he was in London, listening in on the conversation of two hapless Ministry employees discussing the recent events in their world. He was almost proud of himself for sparking such a massive upheaval of the cumbersome Ministry procedure—or he would be, if he had the energy. Catching a wounded animal or two in his dog form was one thing, but he hadn't had a decent meal or a full night's sleep in two weeks. Well, in years, really, but this was the first time he'd had to do anything other than sit in his prison cell and fight for control of his mind. He was exhausted. Now, he felt what little adrenaline could spark its feeble path through him shooting along his nerves. Surrey. That wasn't so far, now.
"How?" Robbie pressed.
"Because we've got people stationed in Surrey, you dolt. We're not all just combing the country miles, you know. We have some defensive positions around the boy."
"But not you," Robbie pointed out, taking a deep drag on his cigarette to show his satisfaction for gaining the brief upper hand against his vastly more intelligent coworker.
"Obviously not," Phil said, sounding almost prim. "I've been demoted to paper-pusher."
"Still, you fightin' that old bag must have been a thing to see," Robbie chuckled. "With her screamin' 'it weren't me! it weren't me!' all the time."
That sounded like an interesting story, but he wouldn't get to hear it. Phil dropped the butt of his smoke on the pavement and ground it out with his heel, his face dark. "Back to work, Robbie."
"All right, all right, I'm comin'," Robbie said, still chuckling. "Not like the toilets won't keep for a bit."
And they went back through the breakroom door. That was that, he thought. The most information he was likely to get by the eavesdropping-in-side-alleys method. Still, Surrey was something. It wasn't like wizards didn't stick out like a sore thumb. He'd be able to locate them quickly, and with any luck, they'd be stationed around the boy in a ring, and he could just slip between them and find the center of that ring.
It was his only hope now.
Sweet Merlin's grace. He'd forgotten about Lily's sister.
What a disgusting family, he thought, crouching in the perfectly-trimmed flower-bushes outside their window. The picture-perfect family with the neat yard and the freshly-painted house and the man who went to work and came home for dinner every night and praised his son just for existing. It was almost enough to make one sick. He hadn't quite got over being sickened by how lax the Aurors surrounding this neighborhood were, and now he was forced to watch Lily's sister coo and fuss over her fat little dumpling of a son. Lily was related to these people? Really?
He hadn't yet caught a glimpse of the boy he wanted to see. Maybe he wasn't home. Maybe he was at a sleep-over at a friend's house or something. Didn't boys like to do that kind of thing? He certainly wasn't sitting down at the dinner table with the rest of the family.
The little boy—Dudley, his name was, also called Diddydums, apparently—looked expectantly at his ugly, no-neck father and said something he couldn't quite catch through the window. The man's face broke out into a wide smile, and he nodded.
"Right," he said in a big, booming voice, and got back up from the table. Vernon left the room, and he had to run around the outside of the house to the window by the front door to find a view of what was happening. Was it the boy, where was the boy?
"Out you come, then," Vernon was saying . . . to the door of the little cupboard under the stairs. He flicked some kind of lock on the door and opened it. "You get started clearing up the dishes while we're eating, and you'll have not a bite of it. And next time your aunt cuts your hair, it'll stay cut, won't it boy?" he finished on a growl.
It raised the hackles on the back of his neck, and he stared in anticipation. He'd been wanting so badly to see the boy, but if Harry Potter was what was in that closet . . .
Out stumbled the boy. The tousled black hair hung low over the pinched little face that was mostly taken up with glasses and an enormous scar on his forehead. He was swimming in his clothes, and he looked far too tiny to be a boy of the indestructible variety he seemed to remember being in his own childhood.
"Yes, Uncle Vernon," the boy said in a cowed little voice, and shuffled down the hall.
And his heart woke up. It woke up angry.
When the boy stepped out the back door to dump the remains of the dinner salad on the little compost pile, that was his chance. But he had planned it carefully. He didn't want to frighten the boy—Merlin only knew what a frightened boy wizard who hadn't discovered his powers might do by accident. And he was working hard to keep his anger against the Dursleys in check. He hadn't grown any more fond of them in the last half hour, but he needed to stay under control. Control was what he had in all the world, his greatest accomplishment in his life. He'd maintained it all through Azkaban, after realizing the loss of it was what had landed him in that prison, and he'd kept going so carefully the last few weeks. Never succumbing to his need for revenge, just seeking out the boy to regain his humanity, if he could.
He slunk forward, knowing his huge black shape would startle the boy but hoping he wouldn't react in fear too quickly, as his size couldn't be helped at this point. He would remain in dog form until the boy trusted him enough not to run screaming when he transformed. He kept his eyes on the food the boy was dumping out, trying to convince him that he was just a stray dog interested in a meal. The boy froze, and stared at him, his eyes wide and brilliantly green behind the glasses.
Lily . . . he thought. But it was James that Harry looked like. So much like James that it was incredible. He'd been having flashbacks to their first meeting on the Hogwarts Express since first laying his eyes on the boy, and he had to shake off yet another memory. No time for reminiscing just now. The boy was still staring at him, unmoving and frightened.
He made a little whining noise and slunk forward a few more steps, licking his purple-red lips and trying not to show the size and sharpness of his teeth. He whined again, looking at the salad. It wasn't entirely an act, come to think of it. How long was it since he'd had fresh vegetables? It was a wonder he had any teeth. He'd known it was time to affect an escape when the first one had fallen out and he'd seen how yellow it was. The greens spilling out onto the ground looked delicious, and it made no sense to throw good food away. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew his mother never would have stood for leftovers and at some point in his life, neither would he . . . but that was a long time ago, now. Still, he was amazed that there were leftovers, but maybe the little dumpling didn't eat his vegetables.
"Dogs don't eat salad," the boy said, his voice a little shaky.
He whined again, proving the boy wrong. He knew that even in this form, with thick black fur covering him, his ribs were visible enough to count. He was dirty and starving and ragged, dog and man together.
"Aunt Petunia says I'm not allowed to feed strays," he said, and cast a frightened glance at the back door.
A boy more afraid of his family than a huge feral animal either had something wrong with him or had a seriously dysfunctional family. He was starting to see it was the latter, and found he could still feel pity. James and Lily's son should be a little princeling, and here he was a kitchen boy scraping the dishes clean like a house elf. He gave up on the idea of food and simply padded up to the boy and rubbed his head slowly against his arm. He, too, was skinny and wretched-looking in his baggy clothes and pale skin. Perhaps they were more kindred than he'd first imagined. How was it that no one knew about this, he thought? Didn't Dumbledore know? Didn't Remus? Why would they allow this to happen to him?
The boy was shocked for a moment at the touch, then laughed a little and sat down on the stoop, the dinner leavings half-forgotten at his side. He scratched behind the tufted, pointed, black ears gingerly, watching for signs of impending attack. None were forthcoming, as the dog was currently fighting tears at how good it felt simply to be touched by another human being.
"My name is Harry," he confided in the dog. "Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon just call me 'boy,' mostly, and Dudley calls me things like 'stupid,' but I like to be called Harry Potter. My parents were James and Lily Potter, and they named me Harry. Aunt Petunia says it's such a common name, like it's bad or something. I think I would like to be common, but I don't think I am. My teachers say I'm strange."
He moved his hand down to scratch under the big black chin, which also felt amazing.
"I didn't know it was so easy to talk to dogs," the boy said in wonderment. "I could tell you anything. I'm eight years old, and I sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. I don't like it in there. There's spiders and I don't have a light. Uncle Vernon put a lock on it so I can't come out when I'm being punished."
His hand stroked over the furry black head and along the neck.
"I got punished today for my hair. It's so shaggy. Aunt Petunia tried to cut it and it grew back. I didn't do it on purpose, but I still didn't get anything to eat. I don't know why things like that always happen to me. They always act like it's my fault."
His hand stroked along the spine of the great beast before him, standing up to do so. He couldn't reach while sitting down, but he laughed to see how much the dog was enjoying it.
"You're so big," he said with awe. "I didn't know dogs got so big. But you're nice. Did you ever have a house to live in? I wonder if you have an owner. Maybe they gave you a name. I guess you can't tell me, though. I could give you a new name. I don't think they would let me keep you, though. Aunt Petunia will say you're dirty and disgusting, and Uncle Vernon will say you'd eat us out of house and home. Dudley will say you're just a stupid dog, and who'd want a stupid old dog, anyway?" Harry grinned down at him, and the smile was just like James. "I want to name you, anyway. I'll find some food for you when I can, if you come back." The little hand stroked through the fur, the boy enjoying the feel of it even though it was filthy and matted. He'd never had a pet before.
"I don't know any good names for a dog. I don't know any good names at all. I guess I'll have to think about it. Maybe I could call you James, just for now. I always liked my dad's name."
He whined deep in his throat, the only way he could communicate how much Harry's pain hurt him, how much of that pain he shared. He didn't want to transform now, not yet. Harry wouldn't be ready for that kind of thing. He didn't even know about magic, so far as he could tell. But he didn't think the boy would run screaming, anyway—he wasn't that kind of boy, and besides, who would he run to?
"Here," Harry said, pushing the bowl of salad forward. "You can have this, and I'll see if I can get anything else. I'll have to be really careful though, or Uncle Vernon will kill me."
As Harry went back into the house, the voice of his aunt rose shrilly from another room.
"Haven't you finished those dishes yet?"
"Almost, Aunt Petunia!" the boy answered.
He gulped the leftovers down in one bite and settled down on the back stoop to wait to see if Harry would be able to get him anything else. He resolved to share it, whatever it was. Harry hadn't eaten, either. He waited while dusk turned into twilight, and then the back door swung silently open, and Harry traipsed out, looking crafty and scared. He had something tucked under his arm, and something in each hand.
"Here," he whispered, holding out both hands carefully so as not to lose the dark shape under his arm. "This is bacon, but I didn't dare cook it. It's for breakfast tomorrow, so I only took my part. This is just bread, I don't know if you'll eat it."
He felt no qualms about scarfing all the uncooked bacon, as Harry wouldn't be able to eat that anyway, but he pretended to turn up his nose at the sliced bread, waiting expectantly for Harry to eat it. Harry turned it over in his hands and said doubtfully,
"I guess if you don't want it . . ."
The black nose nudged him, and he giggled. "That's cold," he scolded, shoving the bread into his mouth. He pulled the object out from under his arm. "I thought you'd be cold. I got you a blanket."
He spread the blanket out in the grass next to the stoop.
"Do dogs like blankets?"
He dropped himself onto the blanket and burrowed his nose—which was indeed cold—into it. He hoped that was answer enough. He was amazed by the amount of kindness Harry seemed to have stored up in himself. Another few years, and most of it would be smothered out by these awful people. They spent a comfortable fifteen minutes enjoying the food in their bellies and the warmth of each other's company, and then Harry regretfully snuck back inside. He had to get back into his cupboard before they discovered him missing, or there would be no food tomorrow, either.
He fell asleep that night more quickly than he had in years and slept so soundly the night passed without a single dream to mar it.