Disclaimer: I own nothing but possibly the plot idea, and one OC who doesn't even feature very much into the story past chapter 5. All else belongs to JK Rowling, Warner Bros, et al. And the title was inspired by a Richard Dawkins book, The Selfish Gene.
Author's note: Okay, guys. So I was rifling through my old documents the other day and I stumbled upon this. I began it a year ago and only made it up to Chapter Four before abandoning it. I never posted because I was worried that if I didn't know how to continue it, it'd just go on permanent hiatus like a lot of my other fics. So I've come up with a solution. If people like this -- and I know it might not be everyone's cup of tea, given the first person POV and the childlike narration -- I'll be asking for help with ideas on how to continue past Chapter Four. If you'd like to help write, as well, I'd be happy to work out some sort of collaboration arrangement. You will get full credit for the parts you contribute. So, I suppose just think it over and maybe drop me a review or PM if you'd be interested. And I hope you enjoy!
There's a lot of talk of wanting self-control and changing one's physical appearance and even skipping meals, but it's not intended to be eating disorder themed. Many parts of this story really are meant to be taken lightly; on the whole, it's not nearly as dark as my other fics and it will end happily. For constructive criticism and hopefully-civilly-phrased grievances, you know where to reach me!
So Mum got me this journal. I don't really know what to do with it and I wouldn't even write in it, really, except for the fact that Mum got it for me. And she wants me to write, so I can talk about my feelings and "cope with our loss." Only...I don't have feelings to talk about and I'm "coping" just fine. But I'll write anyway, because I hate to disappoint Mum, and the last thing I want to do is make it harder for her. I feel like I make it harder anyways, though, all the time and in ways I can't predict. Like when I ask for things, for example: even though they're things I really need, I feel bad about asking. I mean...she's "coping with our loss" too, and that seems like a task that shouldn't be interrupted, right?
She always says cope when I think she really wants to say grieve. I think she's afraid of that word.
So I guess I should tell you more about myself, even though you're a journal and just paper and so you can't talk back or even understand me at all. Oh well. My name is Harry. I'm ten years old. I like reading, drawing, and looking up cool words in the dictionary. I don't play sports. I have a best friend named Janie Lewin, who's in my year at primary. Mum wanted me to go to primary so I could get some Muggle culture in me, or at least that's what she says. I think it's really that she didn't like the idea of me hanging around the house all day for...oh, five years of my life. So.
And if we're being frank, here, Janie's not just my best friend, she's my only friend. I should tell you about her. She's a Muggle. She's one year older than I am, but she was in my same class at primary because Mr and Mrs Lewin wanted her to have a year of homeschooling before she "integrated into a regular school system." I don't quite know what they meant to achieve by doing that...maybe they wanted to spare her the nastiness kids dole out until she was a year older. But you see, it doesn't do much good waiting a year, because that just leaves you an extra year unprepared, while it gives your classmates time to get an extra year nastier.
The kids at primary think that I'm weird. I reckon it has to do with the fact that I don't like to play with them at the interval between lunch and maths. They go off and do their "war games" with sticks as fake guns and mud as war paint, which is all very silly because as soon as we come in from interval our teacher, Miss Vance, makes them wash up and go to the corner to "think about what you've done, young man."
"Young man." That's my favourite of all the things adults say, really, because when you get a resounding "young man" that's when you know they're upset. Teachers love to use "young man" when really they mean cheeky brat or annoying whelp.
And sending "young men" to the corner to "think about what they've done" is absolute rubbish. Punishments like that are even more ridiculous than the muddy war paint, because you totally know that little Trev by the Language Arts section isn't thinking about whatever it is he's done. Both little Trev and Miss Teacher know it, too, which is the most frustrating part. Miss Teacher wasn't born yesterday, you know. She knows Trev's thinking about how much he resents her, most likely, or how it was a great game and he can't wait to do it again tomorrow...even if it means the corner and a time-out surrounded by huge, laminated bubble letters that spell out "Learning is FUN!!!!"
But Miss Teacher puts little Trev in the corner anyways, for appearances' sake and because Trev is "trying her patience."
That's another one adults like to use. They say, "You're trying my patience" when they really mean, "I'm fighting the urge to kick you out the door so hard you'll have bruising on your backside in the shape/approximate size of my shoe for weeks."
Grown-ups would like to think they're good at hiding their displeasure. They're not.
I've only been in the corner once in my entire time at primary. Once was enough. Being confined to a small space, surrounded by all of those chipper, paper exclamation points was probably the most revolting experience of my life. If you ask me (which you didn't, but I will tell you anyway), anything that requires that much punctuation to get its point across is just asking to be puked on.
Which this one kid Andrew Jennings did, actually, this past February. He was sitting in that very corner. Except I think it was because he had the stomach flu; I don't think he was taking a political stance against the declaration of "Learning is FUN!!!!" I doubt he felt as virulently towards those stupid sodding letters as I do.
Get it? Stomach flu? Virulently? I'm really clever. I heard Mum use that word once and I looked it up in the OED; I'm glad I did, because right now I just found the perfect opportunity to use it.
...and this is probably why the other kids avoid me.
I am sort of jealous, though, that Andrew got to blow chunks on those letters and I didn't. But oh well, public vomiting isn't really my bag anyways.
Neither are those war games, if you must know...or any of the other macho sandlot stuff the other boys play. Mum makes me wear nice clothes to school so the teachers don't think I'm unloved. I don't fancy getting my nice clothes dirty only to have Mum be disappointed with me later. I don't like to get messy in general, actually, unless it's in my backyard and I'm playing with my Godfather Sirius and he's in dog-form. Does that sound weird? Yeah, I guess it does. Let me explain. He's something called an Animagus, which means he can take the form of a certain animal at will. His animal form is this massive, shaggy black dog and I love to chase him around the garden and I don't even care if I get filthy, then, because it's just like having a puppy, really, and I'd be completely willing to get filthy playing with a puppy.
Mum says we can't get a puppy of our own because it would be too much work to take care of it. So that's that.
At interval I like to sit on the playground and read and so I get shoved around for it. Sometimes it bothers me, but mostly it doesn't. That was the approach Mum and Dad taught me growing up. "Just shrug it off, Harry," they'd say. Sometimes Dad would say that I should get them all back with a right nasty prank, but usually Mum kept him in line. She's very practical that way.
Mum really is very practical. Every once in a while she'll grin and suggest we do something impulsive, like pack all our bags and go to the shore for a weekend holiday, or spend the afternoon at the zoo, or watch a marathon of old black-and-white horror films made back in the days before they knew anything about how to make good horror films. (We own one of those Muggle televisions, but Mum's done some sort of enchantment to it so the electricity still works around all this magic. Mum's brilliant that way.) Those nights are the best: we have chocolate ice cream and home-popped popcorn and she lets me stay up past midnight.
But those marathon movie nights and trips to the shore are getting fewer and farther between; her practical side's won over, I reckon. I mean, not that she wasn't super practical before -- she's always said things like, "Let's do it properly, Harry," and "Let's get this sorted before supper," so we did. And she's always known what's up. She never let me get away with anything. But I never minded, really, because it was such a gas to come into the house, just pretending to be all innocent when actually I'd just done something heinously stupid, and have her corner me first thing and let me have it like nobody's business. Sometimes I could smile and blag my way out of it, but not always.
Only...I guess something's changed, since Dad died.
She's not as good at it as she used to be, I guess, both the impromptu (glad I looked that one up, too!) "horror" film marathons and the lectures after I do something wrong. Or maybe she's just as good at those things, but she's just stopped doing them. The lecturing especially. Sometimes I do something silly just to see what she'll say...but then she doesn't say a word.
Like last week when I started throwing rocks at this annoying cat from down the way, and of course the cat flipped out and started attacking me and practically mauled my face off. I came inside totally expecting this massive blowout of a row with Mum, about how I should "stop torturing animals" and "this is what you get for attacking an innocent cat" and "aren't you sorry now that your face is so hilariously disfigured?"
Or the best yet: "Well, you certainly deserved what you got, mister." (I just love it when adults say "mister" to you. Almost as much as I love hearing "young man.")
Except. Except, except, except.
She didn't say anything. I didn't get that "mister" I was hoping for, let alone a "young man." I come in and my nose is bleeding -- just a bit, really, but bleeding all the same -- and she looks over at me, frowns, and says, "Go wash up for supper, Harry; you know how dirty your hands get when you play outside."
I mean, really. Yeah, I was glad to get out of a lecture, but I just felt like it wasn't right coming from Mum when she's just so practical, and even though she loves letting go and having a fun afternoon with me, she doesn't like foolishness like...throwing rocks at angry pussy-cats.
So that was the start of it, really. I guess I've been worse than I usually am. I don't mean to be, exactly. Not really, anyway. Because I know it's not very productive and it just makes things harder for Mum. But she's just gone so quiet that I feel like I have to up the ante now just to get her to react. That sounds kind of bratty, I guess, but when I do those foolish things I don't even think about it before I do them. I just...do them.
It's like she says, "Go wash up for supper, Harry," and I do it without complaint, but the very next day I'm just climbing really high in the trees (like she always told me not to), or I'm going off without telling her (like she always told me not to), and she never even scolds me. She just says, "Go wash up for supper, Harry," so it's like there was no point to my doing anything at all. So the next day I stay out longer, maybe, or I leave after lunchtime and bunk off the rest of the day at primary and get a note sent home from the Head.
But it's always the same. "Go wash up for supper, Harry." And so I do.
There's a man who comes round sometimes. I don't know him so I stay out of his way. I think his name is Severus Snape but I don't know for sure, I've only heard Mum say it once or twice so she may very well be talking about someone else. That's not a very pleasant name, Severus Snape. Sounds like some sort of nasty curse you might cast on an enemy. "How dare you insult me in this manner! Petrificus totalus! Severus Snape!"
He sort of scares me, if we're being honest: he's not the most pleasant-looking of blokes. He's all surly and hook-nosed and he only dresses in black, even though the weather's become rather nice these days so he could probably get away with a light-weight cloak, a collared shirt, and some smart-looking trousers.
And the whole outfit could be, say, grey or blue, you know. He shouldn't confine himself to one colour like that. He has dark features that would look good with almost any colour. Well, maybe not bright pink or neon green, but that's just common sense. Nobody looks good in neon. Something about the harsh overtones and the way it soaks up light; we read about it in art class.
I just want to say to him, "You know, a nice slate-blue wouldn't hurt. Nothing wrong with a little slate-blue." But I don't. I've never even spoken to him. He probably doesn't even know I exist. When he comes round I make myself sparse as can be. Mum talks to him a lot, so that means I'm sparse a lot. But that's okay with me as long as it's helping her "cope with our loss."
I think sometimes Mum is the most open with him and she talks about those feelings she has but wishes she didn't. And hopefully that'll help her feel better, so I don't want to interrupt in case it's helping. It seems that she has a whole bunch more "coping" to do than I do. Go figure, she was married to Dad for eleven years and they were in love for even longer. Probably a whole year longer. That brings her to twelve. I just had him around as a Dad for ten and so she's got me beat by two whole years. I suppose that means she gets to grieve for two years longer than I do.
Only, like I said, she doesn't call it grieving. That Snape man does (I overhear it when I'm eavesdropping, just like Mum always told me not to), but Mum never does. Not once.
It's a funny thing about when the Snape man comes over. I never hear her say to him, "Go wash up for supper, Severus," and it's probably because he's a grown man. But maybe it's also because he's not the "Go wash up for supper" type. I dunno. But I do know she doesn't stare blankly at him when she talks. She isn't happy, of course, but at least she doesn't look at him wearily like she doesn't know what to do with him.
That's the issue, really, when you get right down to it. I think she just doesn't know what to do with me. I reckon that's fair; I don't know what I would do with me either, if I were her.
Before Mum got all quiet on me she said I ought to visit Dad's grave, but I don't see why I would do that, really. It doesn't make very much sense to visit someone who doesn't even know you're there. But I could tell she was upset when I said that and I sort of felt bad for upsetting her. Except she wouldn't actually say the words, "I am upset with you, Harry," so...well...if she wasn't going to say anything, then of course I couldn't say anything either.
I don't see why she should be upset, though. It's not like Dad's going anywhere.
A/N: Tell me what you think so far, and if I should post the next four chapters...and whether you'd be interested in helping me write more after those are up!