Disclaimer : I don't own Harry Potter or anything you might recognize as belonging to his world, and I certainly don't make money from fanfiction.
Author's Note :
This is my take on my own challenge (see The Healer's Challenge). I don't know if or when I will continue it.
Anyone interested may borrow the chapter and continue to thread on it. Or they might go and read The Healer's Challenge for the full conditions.
This is more of an introduction chapter. It is not long, and it is written in a speedy narrative, just to sum things up. There are many loose threads, which will be connected in later chapters (if there are later chapters.).
Also, I apologize if there are some odd expressions - I am not a native-English speaker.
Of Scalpels and Spells
A Tale of Two Lives
'Difficult. Very difficult. You certainly make things interesting, don't you?' Harry shifted on a stool as the Hat tutted in his head. 'You don't belong to Griffindor, you certainly don't. Brave, yes – sometimes – reckless, no. Could be Slytherin, you have held onto your ambition for a very long time, now; but you're not cunning, no, not sly in the slightest – it's surprising considering your home life, but people cope differently, don't they? You'd be crushed, there. Maybe. So, Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. You're very clever, yes, and you have wisdom beyond your years… But you don't learn for knowledge's sake, no, no, no, you have a goal. You would be very bored, there, and you would lose that people touch you possess. Hufflepuff is better. You're patient, yes, gentle and kind. You're trustworthy and loyal – respectful – and, ah yes, you work hard, very, very hard to achieve your goal. What triggered such desire I wonder? But I've chatted too long already. Off you go, my boy, to HUFFLEPUFF!'
A rather stunned silence fell on the Great Hall of Hogwarts as Harry took off the hat, thanking him before jumping off the stool. He reverently handed the Sorting Hat to McGonnagall and looked uncertainly at the black-and-yellow colored banner hanging above an all-too silent table, wondering why they weren't clapping like for the other students. Then the Hufflepuff exploded in cheers, disbelief soon replaced by enthusiasm as they welcomed the Boy-who-Lived. He grinned a little sheepishly and walked towards them, sitting next to a boy he would later know as Cedric Diggory, truly relieved that he was sorted in the house which would permit him to become a healer.
As soon as sleep engulfed him in the cosy, comfortable bed he had been attributed, Harry opened his eyes – to another life.
A life where magic didn't exist, where he still lived at the Dursleys, in Dudley's second bedroom, and still attended muggle middle school.
Petunia knocked on the door to his room. 'You up, Harry?' she asked, her head popping in the doorway to make sure her nephew's eyes were open.
'Yes Aunt Petunia,' he replied and got up, quickly picking clothes before heading to the shower. As hot water poured on him, he contemplated his life. Ever since he could remember, he had been leading two lives. Whenever he fell asleep, he awoke in the next. For a long time, he had thought he was just reliving days, though he had never mentioned it to his family, knowing how edgy and skittish they were whenever something strange came up in the conversation. He didn't mind –it permitted him to learn things better, which could only help in his ambition to become a doctor. But on his eleventh birthday, he had understood what the difference was between his lives: magic. In one, he was a wizard, and he would attend Hogwarts till the day he could become a healer. In the other, he was a muggle, magic didn't exist, and he would become a doctor.
He had no idea what had caused his lives to split, though, not when it had happened.
His thoughts turned to the Dursleys. He still clearly remembered their early treatment of him, how he had been chucked off to the cupboard under the stairs, how he'd been yelled at and sometimes cuffed for having superior grades than Dudley, how miserable he had felt when he'd cried himself to sleep, wishing someone would come to help him.
But all that had changed.
Harry had always wanted to help people by becoming a doctor and from a young age, he had taken to hanging in the library –which wasn't forbidden, since he was out of his family's way– and learning as much as he could about his dream profession. He had absorbed the knowledge and never let it go, like a sponge. (This, he had learned, was called photographic memory.) Therefore, when a serious accident had befallen Dudley at the tender age of eight, he had been able to provide first-aid. That had saved his cousin's life.
After that, his family had stopped hindering him and had even pushed him in his ambition to be as successful as he could. He had worked hard, so much that he had jumped several classes. Now, he was in fourth year of secondary school, also called Year 10, which meant there was a four-year gap between him and his classmates. He didn't mind, for they all treated him rather fairly; some ignored him and some were friendly, occasionally helping him. Thankfully, none bullied him, but perhaps that was because he was in a public school which his aunt and uncle had paid a lot to get him into.
Shaking his head at the reminiscence, he stepped out of the shower, dried himself and dressed. The foggy mirror gave him a blurred shape for reflection. He wiped it with his hand and looked at himself. He was shorter than most eleven-year-old, but it didn't matter. Perhaps he would grow, in time, and anyway, all his classmates, being older, were far taller than him and it was silly to wish otherwise. Emerald green eyes stared back at him, flicking to and fro as he took in his appearance. His shock of black hair, a mess as usual, contrasted with his pale skin, but he didn't look unhealthy. A bit on the scrawny side, perhaps, but years of malnutrition couldn't disappear at once, just as they couldn't be easily forgotten.
Still, for the sake of a peaceful household, Harry didn't mention his former bad treatment to the adult Dursleys and neither did they. He was lucky that they had changed and he knew better than to push his luck. So, even though the abuse was not entirely forgiven, it remained an issue nobody ever brought up. Except Dudley, sometimes, when he felt awful pangs of remorse compelling him to apologize profusely.
For his relationship to his cousin had changed. Dudley had been grateful to Harry for saving his life and they had gradually become tentative friends. Of course, the transition hadn't been easy and arguments had broken out quite regularly for a while, then it had smoothed to some sort of companionship. They weren't friends, exactly – the fact that Harry wasn't in the same class made things difficult, too – but they were no longer at odds. Vernon treated Harry with utter indifference and Petunia, pushed by gratitude, went out of her way to make Privet Drive seem more homely to him, even more so since nothing had happened on his eleventh birthday.
In the other life, things with his family were at the same sort of standstill. They had reluctantly accepted to let him go to Hogwarts, and the whole family's relationship had grown tense and strained for a time, but it seemed the month after Professor McGonnagall's visit had allowed them time to resign themselves.
'Harry!' Dudley shouted from outside the door. 'Breakfast's ready.'
He tugged on his clothes a little – they fit him, for which Harry was grateful for –, opened the door and clambered down to the kitchen, ready for his first day in year 10. As he ate his buttered toast, he spared a thought for his life at Hogwarts, and his heart squeezed with excitement at the idea of getting his first day of magical lessons. He wondered whether he could do magic in this life, too, or whether his magical knowledge would help him at all for his everyday classes. However, when Dudley engaged him in a cheerful conversation about his own upcoming first day in secondary school, he firmly put those thoughts out of his mind and focused on his cousin's words.
Harry's life at Hogwarts turned out to be rather more troublesome than he had at first thought.
In his first year, he quite single-handedly defeated a troll to save a Griffindor girl Ron had offended, which resulted in ending Ron's and his relationship while establishing a new, timid friendship with Hermione Granger, mostly focused on schoolwork as they didn't see much of each other in classes. Hanging out with them was Neville Longbottom, Susan Bones and Terry Boot, who joined them after discovering Harry and Hermione were at the top of the class.
It came as a surprise to everyone, actually, but Harry discovered that year that Transfiguration was both his forte and his passion. It came to him easily; since he had studied cells in his other life, he knew how to change things at their very core. He worked hard to excel in Charms, though he could never surpass Hermione, and was good, but nothing extraordinary at Defence Against the Dark Arts. Potions, however, he found unsettling, partly because of the snide remarks the teachers ceaselessly dealt out, but also because, well, he had never been one to follow a time schedule to the second.
Flying lessons had been great, revealing that Harry was a great flyer. There was even talk of moving him to the Quidditch team, but he had refused: the training and matches would be too time-consuming. He didn't want his grades to drop. If anything, he was aware that healers were very selectively picked, and that only the best students could pretend to such formation. Even if his influence as Boy-who-Lived could have waltz him in there even without NEWTS, he wanted to make it out with his own abilities. Sprout understood, and though disappointed, he thought he saw a shimmer of pride in her eyes.
Years passed with their share of trouble: the Philosopher Stone, the Chamber of Secrets… Strangely enough, the danger pushed Harry to work even more than he was used to. When he turned twelve, he was expected to choose some GCEs, and he had elected those most fitted to medicine. Thanks to the knowledge, in his third year, he published a thesis that the microscopic technologic knowledge of Muggles could actually help improve Transfiguration, for it permitted the transfigured elements to be changed entirely, and therefore, permanently. He was hailed as something of a genius in the world of Transfiguration masters, and McGonnagall even recognized with baffled admiration that he was now probably better than she was. It was that same year that Harry learned he had a godfather. Even if he ended up being separated from him in the end, it was nice to know he had a family that cared about him and to receive Sirius' letters, something he sorely missed in his other life. He also kept a correspondence with his Defense professor, Remus Lupin, whom he had found to be quite similar to him; knowing the poor man was doomed to a life of injustice because of his lycanthropy had only caused him to deepen his relationship with him. Harry had felt, upon meeting him, how little Remus had to hold onto, and he had resolved to become one steady thing in his life and now he considered the man something akin to his uncle.
His fourth year been – strange. The Goblet of Fire spat his name out and from then on, everything went downhill. While Hufflepuff was thrilled to have a second champion, most of the other houses, not to mention the other schools, resented him for being too young, and didn't believe him when he argued he hadn't done anything. The tasks were difficult, ending in near disaster each time, and he was glad for Cedric's help and advice. To witness Cedric die and Lord Voldemort come back to the land of the living, as well as discovering one of his trusted professors to be a Death Eater, came as a severe blow and it reflected on both his lives.
His fifth year was the worst of them all. In his muggle life, Harry started his first year of medical school, which increased his work load tenfold. In his wizard life, he had to cope with Umbridge and ignore her constant allusions, teach himself Defense, try to figure out why Dumbledore wouldn't talk to him, and study for the Potions OWLs, which he was most likely to fail when he absolutely could not afford to, as it would put an end to his dream of becoming a healer. Then, as if it wasn't enough, he faced off Voldemort again at the Ministry, only managing to survive thanks to his Transfiguration ability, morphing walls out of thin air to block spells while he waited for someone to help. Sirius died, swallowed by the veil; and he learned a prophecy tying him and the Dark Lord in a gruesome link that could only be severed with death.
After that horrible month, the Ministry put the whole country on high alert and the Boy-who-Lived was hailed as a hero. When his ambition to become a doctor had come out, though, the tendency changed, for the wizards wished for a fighting warrior, not some weak boy who stayed behind. Harry ignored all that, and in the following months, the buzz abated, mostly because Voldemort went off the radar, seemingly disappearing as if he had never existed. The truth was probably that he was gathering supporters and waiting for the right moment.
Harry's sixth and seventh year went by with not one clue of what Voldemort was doing.
Harry entered the healer formation, accepted wholeheartedly because of his grades and within three years, he completed the formation and started working at St Mungo's. In his other life, he became a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery. The Ministry's safety policy, which had lessened over the years, now mellowed to a complete stop, though Harry was informed that the Order of the Phoenix remained vigilant.
Still, Voldemort didn't make his move. People began to wonder, doubting he had ever come back. Some spoke of an impersonator; others said the Boy-who-Lived had orchestrated the whole thing to bring fame to himself. Newspapers both trashed and celebrated him. Harry, however, couldn't care less and focused instead on helping people.
The time would come, he knew, for the prophecy to be fulfilled. Soon, probably.
But as Hagrid was fond of saying – 'What will come, will come, and we'll meet it when it does.'