Chapter 1: The Author Personified
The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.
Cars that were usually gleaming stood dusty in their drives and lawns that were once emerald green lay parched and yellowing -for the use of hosepipes had been banned due to drought.
Deprived of their usual car-washing and lawn mowing pursuits, the inhabitants of Privet Drive had retreated into the shade of their cool houses, windows thrown wide in the hope of tempting in a nonexistent breeze.
The only person left outdoors was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four, and off in the distance you heard the gentle humming of a mountain bike riding somewhere a couple blocks down.
The boy in the flowerbed was a skinny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who had the pinched, slightly unhealthy look of someone who has grown a lot in a short space of time.
His jeans were torn and dirty, his T-shirt baggy and faded, and the soles of his trainers were peeling away from the uppers.
Harry Potter's appearance did not endear him to the neighbors, who were the sort of people who thought scruffiness ought to be punishable by law, but as he had hidden himself behind a large hydrangea bush this evening he was quite invisible to passers-by.
In fact, the only way he would be spotted was if his Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia stuck their heads out of the living-room window and looked straight down into the flowerbed below.
On the whole, Harry thought he was to be congratulated on his idea of hiding here. He was not, perhaps, very comfortable lying on the hot, hard earth but, on the other hand, nobody was glaring at him, grinding their teeth so loudly that he could not hear the news, or shooting nasty questions at him, as had happened every time he had tried sitting down in the living room to watch television with his aunt and uncle.
Almost as though this thought had fluttered through the open window, Vernon Dursley Harry's uncle, suddenly spoke.
"Glad to see the boy's stopped trying to butt in. Where is he, anyway?"
"I don't know," said Aunt Petunia, unconcerned. "Not in the house."
Uncle Vernon grunted.
"Watching the news …" he said scathingly. "I'd like to know what he's really up to. As if a normal boy cares what's on the news -Dudley hasn't got a clue what's going on; doubt he knows who the Prime Minister is!
Anyway, it's not as if there'd be anything about his lot on our news — "
"Vernon, shh!" said Aunt Petunia. "The window is open!"
"Oh - yes - sorry, dear."
The Dursleys fell silent. Harry listened to a jingle about Fruit 'n' Bran breakfast cereal while he watched Mrs. Figg, a batty cat-loving old lady from nearby Wisteria Walk, amble slowly past.
She was frowning and muttering to herself. Harry was very pleased he was concealed behind the bush, as Mrs. Figg had recently taken to asking him round for tea whenever she met him in the street. She had rounded the corner and vanished from view before Uncle Vernon's voice floated out of the window again.
"Dudders out for tea?"
"At the Polkisses'," said Aunt Petunia fondly. "He's got so many little friends, he's so popular"
Harry suppressed a snort with difficulty. The Dursleys really were astonishingly stupid about their son, Dudley.
They had swallowed all his dim-witted lies about having tea with a different member of his gang every night of the summer holidays. Harry knew perfectly well that Dudley had not been to tea anywhere; he and his gang spent every evening vandalizing the play park, smoking on street corners and throwing stones at passing cars and children.
Harry had seen them at it during his evening walks around Little Whinging; he had spent most of the holidays wandering the streets, scavenging newspapers from bins along the way.
The opening notes of the music that heralded the seven o'clock news reached Harry's ears and his stomach turned over. Perhaps tonight - after a month of waiting - would be the night.
'Record numbers of stranded holiday makers fill airports as the Spanish baggage-handlers' strike reaches its second week -
"Give 'em a lifelong siesta, I would," snarled Uncle Vernon over the end of the newsreader's sentence, but no matter: outside in the flowerbed, Harry's stomach seemed to unclench.
If anything had happened, it would surely have been the first item on the news; death and destruction were more important than stranded holidaymakers.
He let out a long, slow breath and stared up at the brilliant blue sky. Every day this summer had been the same: the tension, the expectation, the temporary relief, and then mounting tension again… and always, growing more insistent all the time, the question of why nothing had happened yet.
He kept listening, just in case there was some small clue, not recognized for what it really was by the Muggles - an unexplained disappearance, perhaps, or some strange accident… but the baggage-handlers' strike was followed by news about the drought in the Southeast ('I hope he's listening next door!' bellowed Uncle Vernon. 'Him with his sprinklers on at three in the morning!'), then a helicopter that had almost crashed in a field in Surrey, then a famous actress's divorce from her famous husband ('As if we're interested in their sordid affairs,' sniffed Aunt Petunia, who had followed the case obsessively in every magazine she could lay her bony hands on).
Harry closed his eyes against the now blazing evening sky as the newsreader said,
'- and finally, Bungy the budgie has found a novel way of keeping cool this summer. Bungy, who lives at the Five Feathers in Barnsley, has learned to water ski! Mary Dorkins went to find out more.'
Harry opened his eyes. If they had reached water-skiing budgerigars, there would be nothing else worth hearing. He rolled cautiously on to his front and raised himself on to his knees and elbows, preparing to crawl out from under the window.
He had moved about two inches when a voice right next to him scared the daylights out of him.
"What the hell are you doing?" the bemused voice asked causing Harry to jump up. His eyes watered as pain seared through his head as it met the unforgiving open window shutter. Turning around, he opened his mouth to reply when a loud CRACK echoed through the air. Both of them turned to face the noise, a short stick appearing in Harry's hand as a shriek came from within the house.
"PUT THAT AWAY!" Vernon snarled into Harry's ear quietly. Harry felt his hot breath by his neck as his Uncle made to talk again before suddenly noticing that there was company. Letting go of Harry as if he had been burned and pretending that nothing had happened, Vernon instantly put on his polite face just in time for the new person to turn around; Harry's wand had long since disappeared.
"Well hello, Harry." Vernon said loudly and nicely, only his tiny eyes showing how much hatred he had for the freak in front of him, "What brings you here?"
Thinking quickly, Harry knew that the answer 'Watching the news' would spell trouble for him and his mind easily provided an excuse.
"I was just showing my new friend around the house, Uncle. Uncle Vernon meet-
Jack Riley. Pleasure to meet you sir, I just moved in a couple blocks down." Harry breathed out slowly as the guy, Jack, apparently took the cue and introduced himself without a pause or hesitation. He figured he should at least finish the introduction.
"Jack Riley, meet Vernon Dursley."
Vernon's look was unreadable but his eyes flared in hatred that gave Harry some enjoyment in the boring summer. It was not often, after all that Harry would be able to piss off his Uncle this much and get away with it.
"Yes well…" Vernon paused as though thinking of something to say before he finished lamely, "Don't hang around in one place, you'll get dehydrated."
"Yes, Uncle Vernon, we were just leaving. See you later."
It was a quiet duo that went down Privet Drive, one on bike and one on foot. They went that way for a while before Jack broke the silence.
"So…" Jack said slowly, "new friend huh?" he asked turning to look at the boy next him inquisitively. While there was no smile on his face, at the same time it was not unfriendly. For the first time, Harry turned to look at the person he had claimed as 'friend'.
Jack was tall around 5'11'', with black hair and clear blue eyes that reminded him slightly of Sirius, sans the mischievous twinkle. His clothing, while formal –a white button down shirt and black dress pants with slip on dress shoes- was thrown on him in a way that just screamed casual. A light mustache coming in dusted his upper lip.
He was also riding a bike, an expensive one it looked like, not that Harry knew anything about bikes but all in all, he didn't look like a bad guy.
"Yeah thanks, mate." Harry finally mumbled a reply, "I owe you one." Harry's gaze returned to the sidewalk as they took a turn down some block Harry didn't know the name of, and couldn't be bothered to check. Jack's reply made him want to smash his head into the closest wall and end it all now.
"I'd say you owe me your neck from the looks of it." Jack retorted before continuing, "What the hell was that all about anyway, and what was with that crack also?"
Harry's reply was a far from convincing, "Dunno what you're talking about mate."
They had stopped in front of a house that looked like every other house on the block, except the number, 13, was emblazoned on the front door in gold. Pulling out a key, Jack easily opened the door in a practiced move before stepping aside and letting Harry in, at the same time shooting back a sarcastic reply that had Harry choking.
"Yeah, and that stick you were waving is something you picked off the street to play around with."
Deciding to ignore the question after getting over his coughing fit, Harry decided to ask one of his own. "Where are we?" he asked curiously looking around. There was a couch and two chairs set up tastefully around the corners of the front room, a mantle over the fireplace held about a dozen pictures of different people and lamps on all sides lit up the room in a warm glow.
A raised eyebrow along with "oh I don't know, let me think… oh yea my house!" Was the reply that sent Harry blushing as he revised his opinion as someone slightly better than Snape. He did after all help him out with his Uncle.
"No need to get sarcastic with me." Harry said defensively, "I was just asking-
Well don't" he was cut off, "It makes you look stupid if you ask stupid questions. One thing you learn in life, and learn fast, is not to ask stupid questions unless you want someone to underestimate you. You learn a lot more keeping quiet then you do making noise."
Harry frowned but didn't say anything as he slowly digested this information. He followed Jack up the hard wood stairs and into the room on the immediate right and stopped short at the mess that he saw.
The bed was covered in wires that tangled up in some elaborate way that Harry was sure would take hours to undo, three machines –tape decks- Harry thought, were in pieces around the floor and on a desk was a glowing screen displaying the time and date and a small picture of Jack and Harry in the room.
Next to the screen was a computer console that looked like an older version of the one Dudley had, yet had three times the amount of wires and drives around it. There was even a wire going out the window and Harry vaguely recalled seeing an antenna of some sort on the roof of the house.
Deciding to take Jack's advice for the time being, Harry kept quiet and watched as Jack shoved some junk around his bed, removed a wireless keyboard and mouse and plopped down on the newly cleared space leaving just enough room for Harry to sit. After a moment of hesitation, in which Jack once more raised the dreaded eyebrow, Harry sat.
He was quiet as Jack placed the keyboard on his lap and tapped away at the keys. Harry watched as the computer console flickered through several screens –eventually matching fingerprints from what Harry gathered from all the screens flashing by before Jack stopped and waited for some program.
Ignoring Jack's comment of being a quick learner and maybe they could be friends if he always caught on quickly, he watched as several diagrams popped up on the screen. Seeing Jack scrutinizing them carefully and apparently reading them, Harry himself tried to do the same but after looking at it for more than a minute he had a massive headache and he was content to let Jack read them himself.
It was another five minutes that Harry regretted his decision as a thoughtful and surprised look overtook Jack's face before it was quickly smoothed back down to normal, Harry had a bad feeling about this and was debating if he should get up and run now when Jack suddenly turned to him.
"So what level skill are you in magic?" he asked casually.
"Starting fifth year." Harry responded automatically before he could stop himself, his mouth opened wide and he stared shocked at Jack as a smug smirk slowly spread across Jack's face.
"So I was right." He said more to himself than Harry, "Magic is real."
A\N: All I'm going to say is that NO Jack is NOT a wizard, and yes he will explain to Harry how he came to his seemingly random conclusion. Jack will not be a major character passed the summer. He is someone Harry meets once that changes him. Whether he will pop up later or not I'm still deciding and of course depends somewhat on the readers….I'm still working on my other stories but this one just quite literally hit me during work and I couldn't get it off my mind….