Title: The Life of Another
Other pairings/threesome: Severus/Harry, Tobias/Eileen, James/Lily, Lucius/Narcissa
Warning(s): Underage in some places (both are 16)
Summary: When Vernon takes away his Hogwarts Letter, Harry makes a wish. A wish to have another life, to meet his parents and to go to Hogwarts. A wish that splits Harry in two and carries one Harry back in time, while the other lives on in the present.
A/N: A huge THANK YOU to all the wonderful, brilliant and awesome people who helped me out while writing this. Thank you Whitehound, for your awesome Britpick and beta. Thank you ShipsHarry for the wonderful and quick beta. Thank you Reddwarfer for being my own personal HP-wiki and idea-bouncing board. Another huge thank you goes to the mods for granting me the extra time finish this and generally cheering me on. I hope you enjoy the story!
This story is complete, I will be posting it in chapters, editing it to fit 's TOS.
The Life of Another
During the long boring hours in his cupboard, when Uncle Vernon had decided he had had enough of the boy and banished him out of sight, when only the smallest sliver of light outlining the door gave any testament to the bright spring day, Harry closed his eyes and wondered if there was a real Harry somewhere out there. Because, he was certain, somewhere in the unfairness of it all, there had to be a real Harry to balance it.
Not-Harry pulled his legs up against his chest, curling up on his bed as much as the narrow space would let him, and, just before sleep carried him off, not-Harry stopped being and Harry, the real Harry, silently slipped through the cracks in the walls and out into the brightness of the day.
Some days it wasn't so bad, but weekends were awful. Uncle Vernon was home all day and even though Harry tried to be good, tried to be quiet, he was never quiet enough. Sooner rather than later he would find himself in the cupboard, the door and darkness closing in on him.
Someone was lying on his bed in the cupboard under the stairs. It was not the real Harry. The real Harry was pushing off the swing on the playground near their house, the wind tugging at his hair, the sun on his skin as the momentum carried him higher and higher into the spring air. With every passing daydream of sun and playground and happiness, he felt less substantial, as if he was not real, his life the nightmare to another Harry's dreams.
The stairs shook and dust rained down on him. Not Harry stared resentfully into the darkness, the wood shaking with each of Uncle Vernon's steps. He was not the real Harry. He was not the real Harry. He was not…
The door opened and a big beefy hand grabbed his arm. "Boy!"
Harry liked strawberry ice cream. It ran in sticky sweet trickles down the cone, onto his fingers. He tracked the sweet stream with his tongue, enjoying the cold treat on this hot May afternoon.
Not-Harry carefully swirled the rag over Aunt Petunia's Teflon pan. Round and round it went, making no dent in the caked on bacon grease. Outside, Dudley and Piers had just managed to beg some change off Uncle Vernon and loudly debated what kind of sugary treat they should get. Not-Harry longingly eyed the scrubby thing. But using it on the Teflon pan and ruining it was a lesson he did not care to repeat. Harry ate his ice cream.
Sometimes, at night, when not-Harry was lying awake in his bed, Harry would just touch the door and the bolt would slide back, freeing them both. Chocolate cake tasted even better when you knew that Dudley would throw a fit over there being none for breakfast. Not-Harry always made sure they properly washed their hands and faces of the evidence and locked the door behind them.
The day Uncle Vernon tore up his Hogwarts letter, not-Harry lay awake in his strange new bedroom. Afraid and curious what had caused this change, not sure if it was for better or worse, not-Harry turned over on his new bed. The springs squeaked in new discomforting ways and he closed his eyes and wished his parents weren't dead, that he had read his letter when he had had a chance, that life was not so bloody unfair.
The next morning there would be more owls and letter and a strange journey to a rocky island off the cost. But not-Harry didn't know this. He closed his eyes and wished.
Harry sat on the edge of the bed. The torn up letter now whole in his hands, the crest glowing faintly in the dark.
Harry did not remember how he got there, but here he was at King's Cross clutching his letter. People were milling around him, children of all ages, many of them holding tightly onto their parents' hands. Harry stood alone, his letter pressed against his skinny chest like a shield.
He stood, unmoving as the people flowed around him. Some carrying ordinary luggage, others trunks and, he blinked, owls in cages? No, that couldn't be right.
A tall woman with lank hair was carrying a battered suitcase while a skinny boy about Harry's age trailed behind, dragging his feet, his hands buried deep in the pockets of his corduroys.
The train on platform 10 whistled. A man with a red backpack shoved past the woman with the suitcase, making her stumble. Her suitcase fell to the ground, clothes and books spilling out onto the dirty pavement. The man turned, mumbled a hasty apology and set off for the departing train.
The woman said nothing, just sat there among her son's possessions, covering her face in her hands. After a while she brushed the dust off her coat and haphazardly threw the shirts, socks and books back into the suitcase. The boy, all the while glaring daggers at the man through his fringe, kicked resentfully at a cigarette butt.
"Come." She reached for his hand and he reluctantly took it, still glaring after the departing train with an intensity that unnerved Harry.
Then Harry noticed it. The book was lying on the dirty concrete floor, dog-eared and face down where the woman had stumbled and fallen. He picked it up, inspecting the cover with interest. "Advanced Potion Making."
"That's mine." The skinny boy from a minute ago was glaring at him with the same baleful stare that he had given the man who had made his mother fall. He held out his hand. Harry shrugged.
"Picked it up for you. What's a potion?"
"It's for class at Hogwarts, stupid. Don't you have your own?"
Harry cocked his head at the other boy. "What's Hogwarts?"
"Are you trying to be funny?" The boy pulled a letter, just like the one Harry was holding, out of his back pocket and waved it in front of Harry's face. "H-O-G-W-A-R-T-S." He huffed and started to walk away, looking impatiently over his shoulder. "Are you coming, or what? The train is about to leave."
Not knowing what else to do, Harry followed.
He had followed the boy onto the train but then, among the pushing and shoving and fighting that was going on over the distribution of the best compartments, found himself alone again, watching, his hands and nose pressed against the cold glass of a window, as the train gained momentum and left the station behind, rumbling past the endless rows of grimy brick houses that marked inner city London.
The train seemed to be destined for a private school, since, as soon as the train left the station, children started to change into their school uniforms. They were of a kind Harry had not seen before. Long flowing and cloak-like, they bore the same crest as his letter, but with different coloured backgrounds.
Pulling out one of the emergency seats between compartments he rested his head on his arms and watched the houses fly by.
The train shook and rattled and Harry sat up with a start. He must have fallen asleep, London was gone and the train speeding through lush fields and soft rolling hills.
He wandered down the train, trying to find a seat in a compartment and maybe find out a little more about what was going on. He slid back a door and was greeted with a blonde girl's naked back, a scream and the door sliding back into place, barely missing his fingers. He mumbled his apology to the closed door.
In the next compartment three boys, one blond the others dark haired, were playing some kind of card game, chocolate wrappers littering the floor.
"Oh man, I got another Dumbledore!" The blond boy complained, popping a frog-shaped chocolate into his mouth, the front of his plaid shirt already covered in crumbs.
"Hi." Harry fidgeted. "What're you playing?"
A tall boy with glasses gave him a once over, raising an eye at Harry's oversized faded shirt and taped glasses. He poked his friend, who had been chasing a chocolate frog around the table. "What's it with all the freaks going to Hogwarts? Seems like Snivellus just got competition."
"Yeah, the freaks are that way." He gestured further down the train and then turned to his friend. "This one's a winner, Jamie; don't you think the tape on his glasses complements the rope he uses for a belt? Rather fetching, isn't it?" The speaker took a chocolate from the pile on the empty seat, unwrapped it and popped it into his mouth. Harry's stomach growled.
"Maybe he'll do a trick if we give him a chocolate. He's practically drooling on it already." The sandy blond boy snickered, holding a chocolate teasingly out to Harry, before eating it himself.
"Makes one wonder what house he'll get sorted into. Hey, Sirius, is there one for freaks? He and Snivellus could found one." They guffawed, the sandy haired boy drumming his fists on the seat in mirth.
His face flaming with indignation, hands balled into fists, Harry glared defiantly back at them. He wished nothing more than to punch that stupid mocking expression from their faces.
"Who wants to be your friend anyway?" he yelled, grabbed a handful of the chocolate from the seat, stuffed it into his pocket and ran off down the corridor, into the next carriage. Hearing the sound of pursuit behind him he randomly opened a door and stepped in.
"It's okay, Lily." The boy whose book Harry had found and who had shown him the way to the train was sitting, skinny arms wrapped around his knees, looking out the window. He did not turn but continued drawing spit figures onto the fogged over glass.
"I cannot believe that prat said that to you. That, that toerag." A red haired girl in a cheerful jumper and corduroy trousers was pacing in the limited space, kicking inoffensive seats and nearly Harry. "What?"
Harry cringed and hastily closed the door. "Uh, can I hide in here for a sec?"
She huffed and folded her arms in front of her, her hair lit like flame by the mid afternoon sun. "Give me a reason."
"If I go out there, they're going to find me."
"And they are?" The boy had turned, hard black eyes looking right at Harry.
"Those prats from the other carriage, they …"
Yelling from the corridor interrupted them. "Where do you think you're going?"
The girl slid the door open a bit, peeking out. Making a shush gesture towards Harry and the other boy.
"Ah good. It's one of the prefects. I wonder what those prats were up to?" She gave Harry a speculating glance.
"If by prats you mean those three arseholes from one carriage down?"
"Smug, dark hair, one wears glasses?"
"Yeah, that's them." Her demeanour becoming a lot less frosty. "Hi, I'm Lily and that's Severus."
Harry sat down besides Severus. "We met, he showed me the way to the train."
Severus grunted in acknowledgement, turning back towards the window. "Look." He pointed to the far horizon, exhilaration in his voice. "I think that is Hogwarts Castle."
They crowded around the window, trying to make out details.
Harry grinned. He reached into the pocket of his oversized jeans. "Want some chocolate?"
The sun was setting when they rolled into Hogsmeade Station. Everyone got onto the carriages, except the first-year students. Harry watched with interest as the carriages disappeared down the cobbled road, pulled by an unseen force. He stood, eyes full of wonder in the chilly northern breeze, shivering.
"Why aren't you wearing your robes?" Lily asked but Harry just shook his head.
"He can have my jumper," Severus said, bathing in the brilliance of her approving smile. He pulled Harry aside, digging in his bag for the promised clothes. But instead of giving it to Harry he stepped closer, whispering. "She's my friend." An odd possessiveness echoing in his voice. He tossed the jumper at Harry, joining Lily in the queue for the boats.
One of the prefects helped Lily onto the gently rocking boat. She took her seat and waved for Severus to come and join her, but before he could set foot on the wobbly planks, he was shoved aside and a boy with glasses gracefully manoeuvred the slippery wood, sitting down in the only free seat left. He wiggled his fingers at the people on the shore. "Ta, Snivellus!"
The boat took off and Harry and Severus were left behind to board the next one.
Severus kicked up a cloud of dust. "I know one thing for sure."
Harry cocked his head, giving him an inquiring look.
"I don't want to be in the same house as those prats."
The boats moved silently over the black water of the lake, only their ripples visible in the moonlight, Hogwarts Castle a gleaming jewel in the night. Harry squinted and rubbed his eyes. He pointed out on to the lake's surface. "What is that?" Ripples in the water seemed to be moving towards them.
"Probably the Giant Squid," Severus said offhandedly.
"Very funny." Harry elbowed him.
"That hurt, you tit." Severus rubbed his side, pouting. "I wasn't pulling your leg."
One of the girls sitting behind them leaned closer. "My brother says the squid eats people."
"Does not!" A girl with pigtails chimed in.
"Your brother's a tit."
"You're a cow, Melinda."
"Is there really a giant squid?" Harry asked, looking expectantly at Severus.
"Why would I tell you?" Severus folded his arms in front of chest. "You don't believe me anyway."
Harry sighed. "Look, I am sorry. I just… Till today I didn't even know magic existed." He gently nudged Severus with his shoulder. "Please?"
Severus gave him a look that said he knew this to be a bad idea but answered. "Hogwarts, A History says, as the largest invertebrate known to Muggle science, the giant squid can grow to up to 70 feet. It is also the only known species of squid to have adapted to sweet water. Some claim it originated as a magical experiment." His voice apologetic, ready to stop instantly. Noticing he had several avid listeners, Severus spoke up, nearly vibrating under the attention. "More specifically, at least one giant squid lives in the lake near Hogwarts castle seems to be more or less friendly toward the inhabitants…"
"There is something wrong with that boat!" A blonde girl at in the front yelled, pointing.
Severus fell silent and they all watched in horror and fascination as the boat in front of them started to sway and rock. The sound of panicked screaming carried eerily over the water as the boat capsized.
"Lily!" Severus gripped the edge of the boat in panic. "She's on that boat." He looked in impotent horror at the students in the water and went on in a small terrified voice. "I can't swim."
"Can she?" Harry asked, swallowing hard.
Severus nodded, not taking his eyes off the swimmers, looking for a glimpse of red hair amidst the darkness. "I think so."
The boats came to a halt and a few of the students in the water made their way over to one of the nearer ones.
"Give me a hand here, will you, boys." Lily was clinging to the railing, looking like a very annoyed mermaid. "I will so throttle that prat when I get my hands on him. What a complete arse." They helped her scramble into the boat, her hair plastered to her face, her clothes dripping water. Severus took off his school robes and offered them to her.
Suddenly the air was filled with light and people on broomsticks. Harry watched in awe as older students magically righted the boat and picked the swimmers out of the water, depositing them back onto their seats.
"What happened?" he asked Lily.
She ran a hand through her dripping hair, scowling. "James Potter and his stupid friend, that's what happened!"
"I know a drying charm, if you give me your robes." Melinda offered.
"Thanks." Lily nodded and handed them to her. "This boy, Jack I think, was afraid of the squid. And what did those prats do? They started rocking the boat, calling him a cry baby, claiming the squid had come to claim it annual sacrifice. And then other people told them to quit it and they made it rock even more and someone pushed James and he pushed back and then we capsized."
Severus put an arm around her shoulder. "Was it very bad?"
She nodded and leaned against him. "We're going to get them for this, Sev."
"You can count on that, Lily."
Harry stared into the darkness, watching the lights of the castle come closer, wondering what lay ahead.
To be continued in chapter 2