AN: Welcome one and all to what I hope will be another fun story. For those of you who don't know me, most of you I'd imagine, I'm 50caliberchaos and this is my favorite site on the interwebs.
I don't have much to say about this story as of yet. It's something I've been working on/thinking about for a fair amount of time, and given the title, some of you might catch the blatant, obvious, and otherwise brazen reference to a certain tabletop role playing game. That is about as intentional as humanly possible, both because the story revolves around the titular character class and because I've taken the mechanics of the world in which that kind of character exists and applied them to Harry Potter... but you'll see that in chapters to come.
Anyway, thanks for stopping in and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
Prologue – The Failed Experiment
"I told you to get out!" the fat man with the hairy upper lip hissed, throwing open the screen door set in the back of the squat little house on Privet Drive. The door slapped against the side of the house with a crash as the fat man wrenched himself around, throwing the boy in his grip through the portal and into the tiny backyard. "Now stay out there," growled the man in the door, "and if I hear so much as a peep out of you, I'll turn your room back into the cupboard and you can stay out here. Understand?"
Harry Potter managed to stumble down the steps and avoid flopping into the dirt. He planted his feet and instead dropped to his hands and knees on the sparse carpet of neglected grass. His glasses dropped from his face and, by some stroke of misfortune, clattered against one of the only rocks in the yard. He turned around to face the man behind him and nodded.
"Yes uncle," Harry said. "I won't make any noise.
"Good," Vernon huffed. He ran his hand over his face, wiping away the caustic grimace as if by magic and replacing it with a jovial, if saccharin, facade. "Petunia!" he called into the house, turning around and stepping back inside. "Have you gotten our guest his beverage yet?" The door shut and clicked locked behind him.
Turning to look for his glasses, Harry heard Petunia answer, though he payed no attention. Spotting his glasses and picking up the frame, he took stock of the damage. He shook his head, being careful not to jostle the spectacles, lest the thin crack running through the lens expand and shatter the glass altogether. He quickly looked over his shoulder at the house, still crouching as if to avoid a predator, then scanned the top of the privacy fence enclosing him in the cell of a yard.
"Nobody around," muttered the nine-year-old, "and..." he pressed the glass gingerly between his palms and thought for a moment. His hands grew warm as the small reservoir of energy in his chest bubbled and drained only the slightest bit. Harry took a deep breath and pulled his hand away, holding the flawless pair of glasses. Smirking he put them on and stood up, confident that his uncle had not seen the display of his special talent.
Harry had no idea why he could do the things he did. Fixing broken glasses, making the gruel fed to him taste like savory delights, or warming himself on cool nights when his ratty blanket just wasn't enough all came as naturally to him as breathing. Damned magic, he had heard his uncle scream one night when Harry loosed a sneezing fit on his chubby cousin Dudley, very much in self defense of course. Regardless, that had been a most unpleasant night and since then Harry had made no small effort to keep his magical talent as secret as he could from his aunt and uncle.
Knowing what happened when his aunt entertained anyone, much less someone to whom the family wanted to endear themselves, Harry suspected that he was in for a long and lonely afternoon. Walking to the small bush, long since left to slowly fade from neglect in the corner of the yard, Harry knelt and reached under the thorny plant, feeling along the ground until his fingers lighted across the small metal box. Rusted nearly beyond use and rife with sharp edges that stuck out at odd angles, the box looked up at Harry as the boy held it carefully and undid the creaky latch.
Opening the lid, Harry remembered back to the day he'd first found the box, cast off like garbage in his neighbor's yard. He'd had no use for it then, but Harry had later found a purpose for the tiny chest and hid it behind the dying rosebush to keep his only treasured possession safe. Like his talents, Harry had no idea from where the necklace originally came, but when he'd found the silver trinket jammed at the bottom of a trash bin, Harry had quickly slipped the little piece of jewelry into his pocket and hidden it behind the bush. Every now and again he'd risk a peek at it, fully aware that he'd never see it again if his aunt, uncle, or cousin found it, but too enamored with the charm to leave it to be forgotten.
He stared down at the silver pendant on the wispy string, admiring the craftsmanship and detail the jeweler had poured into the little metal eagle, and for a moment it distracted him from the dreary day and the clouds that had settled over Privet.
"Hello," the voice tinkled like a bell.
Harry started and closed his hands around the necklace's charm. He cast about for the source of the noise and spotted the silvery grey eyes peering out at him from a hole at the bottom of the fence.
"What have you got there?" asked the girl, poking her head and shoulders through the hole and looking at Harry's hands.
"Uh, just a- nothing really," Harry stammered, looking at the girl with the dirty blonde hair as she crawled into his uncle's yard and knelt beside him. "You know you're probably not supposed to be here? Who are you exactly?"
"I live back there," the girl pointed over her shoulder at the house behind Harry's. "I was exploring the edges of the fence and found my way here. My family is moving to Ottery St. Catchpole soon and I want a last look around. So what's your name?"
"Harry," the boy answered. "Harry Potter. Nice to meet you."
The girl looked up at him, staring at his eyes and then focusing on the scar that twisted across one side of Harry's forehead before she reached out and patted his head. "Very nice to meet you too," she said. "Want to hear a secret?" the girl raised her eyebrows and leaned in a little closer.
"What?" Harry asked.
The blonde girl cleared her throat and put her hand and her lips up to Harry's ear to whisper to him. "My mom is going to try turning sugar into gold tonight," she said quietly. "And my dad thinks it might work if the goblins don't sabotage it."
Harry paused, his nine-year-old mind mulling over the idea of turning sugar into gold. "How will she do that?" asked the boy. The intriguing idea stuck in Harry's mind. The Dursleys did, after all, keep a cupboard stuffed to the brim with all manner of sugary substances.
The girl shrugged and puffed up her cheeks. "I don't know," she said. "But magic can do funny things like that."
Harry shifted the necklace in his hands a little farther away from the strange visitor. "I don't believe in magic," he said. "There's no such thing."
The girl blinked at him. "You don't really believe that, do you?"
"Why wouldn't I?" asked Harry, defensive now.
"Oh, I don't know," said the girl, her face falling a little as she continued to stare at him, studying him, Harry thought. "I just thought you might since you look like that sort of person."
Harry went silent and tried to think of something to say. "What makes you say that?"
"I don't know that either," she responded in a sigh. "But you wouldn't lie about it if you did have magic, would you?" she stared at him, growing very stern for a minute.
Harry grinned a little and shook his head. "Promise not to tell?"
The blonde girl's demeanor lightened and she quickly nodded up and down. "Promise," she said.
Harry reached around and opened up his hands, revealing the charm which seemed to catch what little sunlight broke through the clouds at uneven intervals and flicker a bright silver. Harry smiled with approval when his visitor cooed at the sight of the necklace. "And watch this," he added, reaching for the magic in his chest. With a hint of effort manifesting on his face, Harry drew his hands away from the charm, allowing it to hang in midair as if caught by some invisible net.
"Pretty," said the girl, reaching out and tapping the silver eagle with her finger.
Harry winced, concentrating to maintain the token wisp of magic allowing the necklace to float. He focused harder and the necklace floated a little higher in the air, hovering just in front of the blonde girl's face before circling once around her head.
"That's wonderful," the girl laughed. "It's magic." She held out her hands and the charm dropped into her open palms.
Harry grinned, his head pulsing from the effort of molding the magic with his will alone. "It's magic," he echoed as the girl held up the charm and looked at it.
"I can't believe you can already do magic," said the girl, looking up at Harry. "My parents say I can't have a wand or a spellbook until I'm older."
"A what and a what?" asked Harry.
"A wand and a spellbook," the girl repeated quizzically. "To use magic, my parents have to spend a long time reading a big book and practicing with a wand to get the spell just right. Don't you?"
Harry shook his head. "No," he said.
"Then how do you do magic?" asked the girl, still hanging onto Harry's charm.
"I just do," Harry answered. "I just sorta make things happen. I thought that was how magic worked."
"I don't think so," said the girl. "My dad says it takes a long time and a lot of practice. You have to go to school for years and practice and study for hours if you want to be any good."
"Not me," said Harry, reaching out and picking a thorn from one of the brittle branches of the bush. He focused on the tiny spike, releasing a little bit of magic and lifting it into the air. "This is all I have to do," he lifted the thorn over their heads and it began to glow like a torch.
The girl smiled and watched as the thorn, now a little ball of glowing energy lifted higher and turned colors from white to green. "Higher!" she laughed. "Make it purple!"
Concentrating against the heat in his head, the same heat that seemed to come whenever he used too much magic or maintained it for too long, Harry made the light shoot up into the air and flash from green to purple. When his friend laughed in delight, Harry decided to have a little more fun and focused on shapes and patterns in his mind. The light traced out the patterns perfectly, shining and sparking like a silent firework as it drew letters and animals in the air next to the house.
Harry grinned, despite the fever burning in his head and chest, and went for one last finale, knowing the discomfort would fade as soon as he stopped. He tried to think of the eagle charm and focus on the outline of the pendant. The ball of light started to go through the motions, but stopped short when Harry yelped in surprise. As the girl turned to look at him, Harry reached up and pressed his hands over his eyes as the headache and fever suddenly intensified and stabbed at him.
"Harry?" the girl asked, reaching out and putting a hand on his shoulder. "What's the matter?"
Harry turned and looked at the ball of silently pulsating light, which had fallen to sit directly level with the dining room's big portrait window. "Oh no," he muttered, feeling the magic slip loose of his control.
Silently expanding to the size of a small car, the light flashed brilliantly and then collapsed in on itself. An instant later it exploded like a mortar shell, shattering the dining room window and cracking the wooden trim around the pane. Harry and the girl were knocked to the ground by the shock wave and the girl screamed in fear as glowing flecks of shrapnel shot out like stinging hornets from the explosion. Reaching to pull her away from the blast and put himself between the blonde girl and the flying debris, Harry whimpered as the boom gradually faded into an intense ringing in his ears.
Both children turned to and looked towards the site of the smokeless explosion. The window was gone and the dining room, before set with the Dursley's finest china for a nice dinner, lay in absolute ruin. Petunia's shrieking and Dudley's crying echoed out of the living room as did Vernon's vehement curses.
"Wow," whispered the girl. "Where did you learn to do that?"
Harry shook his head. "I have no idea," he answered, laying on the ground next to his prone guest. His head hurt.
"Harry Potter!" Vernon screamed from the living room, following up with unintelligible shouting and yelling as he stomped through the house towards the dining room.
Harry's eyes went wide and he immediately turned to the blonde girl. "He's going to kill me," Harry stated matter-of-factly. He cast around and quickly located the eagle charm. Picking it up and putting it in the girls' hand he closed her fingers around it with his. "Hang onto this for me," said Harry. "Okay?"
The girl nodded. "But-"
"Go now," said Harry, getting to his feet and helping pull the blonde to her knees. "Just go."
Crawling towards the hole in the fence, the sound of a car alarm going off in the distance, she turned and looked at Harry. "I had fun until you blew up the house," she said. "Can I come back tomorrow?"
Harry nodded. "Sure, sure, just go." He turned around to face the house as Vernon, his normally meticulously combed hair completely out of sorts, stormed into the disaster area of a dining room. The boy didn't turn to look and make sure his friend had escaped the yard, instead focusing all his attention on his uncle.
"You little witch-child," growled the fat man, stalking towards Harry like a bear. "I know you did this. I know you did this!" he shouted.
Fortunately Vernon and Petunia had decided not to murder Harry, despite Dudley's insistence. Their decision likely had something to do with the prompt arrival of the police on the scene and the desire of those police officers to question everyone in the house, including Harry. Thus, after several hours of sitting around waiting to be questioned, followed by half an hour of meticulous inquiries and desperately hoping that no one blamed it on him, Harry retreated to his room under the stairs.
While the door could not be locked from the inside, no sooner had Harry shut it behind him than did he hear the loud clicking of the locks on the outside being securely fastened. The young boy, fighting back tears and breathing in short hiccups, flopped down on his bed and buried his face in the pillow. He hated magic, he told himself, hated it as much as he hated having to live with the Dursleys. Why, he wondered, did magic have to be a part of him? Why couldn't he be normal like everyone else? If he had been born normal, at least, maybe his aunt, uncle, and cousin wouldn't hate him. Maybe he'd be able to be friends with Dudley or even be in his cousin's gang. At least then he'd be popular.
Harry lay on the bed, listening to the noises in the house and trying not to listen to Vernon and Petunia argue over whether they should go to a hotel or simply board up the window and stay in their home. When he heard someone storm out of the house and start the car, Harry at first assumed that they were going to leave him here and go to a hotel for the night. Harry wasn't concerned about that. The locks on his door could do nothing to contain him if he really wanted out, but an hour later he heard the car return. The sound of an electric drill and banging hammers filled the house as Vernon fixed a board over the window and walked up to his bedroom. When the house went silent, Harry rolled over and looked at the cheap clock on his nightstand. The numbers told him it was just now nine.
The hunger that accompanies a night without dinner gnawed at Harry's belly and the boy sat up in bed. Despite the pain in his stomach, he had no real desire to eat. Magic, he thought, had proven to him to be nothing but a curse.
"Only because I can't control it," Harry thought, trying very hard not to feel miserable. After all, this was not the first time he had lost control of his innate magical abilities. On Harry's eighth birthday, a particularly hot summer day, the boy had accidentally created a blast of cold that inflicted frostbite upon his cousin. Not a month later, Harry had been experimenting with warming up cold food and unintentionally ignited a loaf of bread. Examples abounded of times when Harry had set things on fire, or created flashes of light that frightened his family to no end, all very much by accident.
The boy got out of bed and pressed his ear to the door of his tiny cell. Hearing nothing he assumed that the Dursleys had gone to bed early tonight. "Well," he said as he pressed his palms to the door and drew on the warm energy. "I'll just have to get better," muttered the boy. The latches holding the wooden door closed clicked open and Harry cracked the portal only enough to peer into the dark hall beyond. "I'm going to become the best..." he couldn't think of a word to describe someone who used magic, "magic... user... magic-wielder," he exclaimed, immediately slapping his hand over his mouth and listening. He heard no one move upstairs or from anywhere else in the beleaguered house and breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'm going to become the best magic-wielder no matter what," he whispered, tiptoeing into the lambasted dining room and opening the door to the back yard. Making a point to step over or around broken china and fragments of debris, he closed the door behind himself and laughed a little to think of how perturbed Petunia must have been at the thought of her china being reduced to dust.
Pausing to glance around the tiny yard, Harry spotted the hole in the fence by the rosebush, and looked over the barrier to the house on the other side. All in all the structure looked remarkably unassuming as he crawled beneath the fence and tried to think of how best to get the attention of the girl from earlier without rousing the suspicion of anyone else. He decided that getting his pendant back would most easily be accomplished by locating the girl's room, knocking on her window, and simply asking to have the necklace back, he began searching. He could levitate himself if need be, Harry thought.
A twitch of white light from the window on the second floor caught Harry's attention and he glanced up. Through the pane of glass Harry could see flickering blue, silver, and reddish lights that seemed to fade as they took the shapes of spectral animals and people. Suddenly bubbling with energy, feeling a kind of electricity in the air, Harry crept to the wall beneath the window, and concentrated on his hands for a moment. As the magic pulsed through his fingers, the digits twitched and burned as Harry's fingerprints grew out of his skin like the pads on a gecko's feet. Pressing his fingers to the wall, Harry carefully pulled himself up to the wall to peek in through the window.
Nose poking up over the bottom of the glass pane, his eyes immediately locked on the glowing blue circle drawn in the floor. Wispy lines of prismatic light traced their way around the circle like long millipedes, drawing out sigils and runes of mind boggling complexity. On the side of the circle opposite the window, standing behind a pedestal, a woman in blue robes that ran to the floor held her hands out at her sides. As the wind confined within the room tossed her hair about and the light from the circle made her smile flicker a multitude of colors, her hands traced through the air in patterns identical to those the glowing lines drew on the floor. Harry turned and saw the girl from before, dressed in a robe identical to the older woman's, standing in the corner of the room and watching the woman intently.
"They're identical," Harry whispered from outside, noticing the striking resemblance between the two participants in the ritual, even as his gaze shifted back to the marvelous display of color in the center of the otherwise empty room.
"Alright," said the woman behind the podium, not removing her gaze from the circle or stopping the motions of her hands. "Take the powder and do just like mommy told you." She looked down at the massive book resting on the podium as the pages also began to glow. "Daddy is going to be so proud of us when he gets home tomorrow," said the woman with a delighted smile, stopping and beginning to chant words Harry didn't understand.
Transfixed by the ritual, hearing the words tingle in his ears like crackling embers, Harry watched as the little blonde girl stepped forward and drew a small flask from her robes. Pulling the cork she leaned over the circle and poured a fine grey, or perhaps it was purple or red but Harry couldn't quite tell over the rapidly oscillating colors, powder into a pile in the center of the circle.
"Good, honey," said the woman. "Now step back and don't worry."
The girl did just that and retreated back to the corner of the room, looking intently at the glowing circle as the light began to get brighter. The woman's chanting rose in volume and her hands waved through the air, one holding a thin wooden wand, the other contorted in an odd sign, while her eyes rose skyward.
A second later, Harry froze as a roiling mixture of excitement and nausea shot through his chest and stomach. He concentrated to keep the magic in his hands from fading and detaching him from the wall, while simultaneously fighting the urge to vomit down the side of the house. Inside he caught the change in atmosphere as the little girl dropped to her hands and knees. A column of prismatic light bolted through her back, coming out her stomach and making the girl threw up on the floor between her hands. The woman in the blue robe's smile had disappeared. Taking its place, a ghastly expression of shock and terror smeared across her face.
"It's alright honey," shouted the woman, her hands flying through a frenzied series of motions as wisps and trails of smoky light emanated from the glowing circle and rioted around the room like ghouls. "It's perfectly safe," she said, even as her daughter wretched and threw up again. The mother gritted her teeth and began chanting over what sounded like a thunderstorm in the house, yelling in the strange language while Harry hung, transfixed and helpless to do anything but watch as the ghostly lights took on identities of their own, morphing into spectral terrors that tore about the room.
"Mother!" the little girl screamed as the woman's hands shot out to her sides and froze.
The woman grunted in pain as the wispy hands escaping the circle crucified her in midair. Her head craned toward her daughter and her expression melted to one of both terror and sorrow as her wand dropped to the floor. "Luna it's going to be OK," she cried, tears dripping down her cheeks. She stopped and screamed as her arms jerked with a snap, pulling themselves too far free of the woman to be in their sockets. "Baby I love you very-"
She exploded. Harry clung to the wall, stunned and staring blankly at the pulpy crimson juice which completely covered the inside of the window. His mind refused to work as the magic holding him to the second story wall faded into nothing. Even as he fell towards the bushes below, Harry's expression remained a mask of shock.
An hour later the boy's body crawled out from the bushes beneath the window and walked back to the hole in the fence. Oblivious to the world around him and shuffling like an animated corpse, Harry returned to the Dursley's ruined dining room, stepping on crunching porcelain and snapping glass as he walked back to his room beneath the stairs. Shutting the door behind him, Harry crawled beneath his covers, mouth still hanging dumbly open, and stared at the wall opposite his bed.
The whole next day he didn't get up from his bed and the Dursleys didn't bother him. The next day passed and Harry remained motionless in bed until well after three in the afternoon when his door clicked open and Petunia set for him a bowl of gruel on the floor without saying a word. The rest of the day passed and the gruel remained untouched until after eight when the door opened and Dudley's foot splashed into the cold meal.
"What the hell is this?" sneered Harry's cousin, looking down and crinkling his nose. "Why aren't you eating?" he looked up at Harry, who remained motionless in the bed. "Hey, hey," said Dudley, stomping in front of Harry. "I'm talking to you," he jabbed his finger into Harry's shoulder. "I said why ain't you eating?" Dudley waited for a moment for Harry to answer, but the boy on the bed only rolled over and wrapped his arms around himself.
Dudley's face contorted as though he were trying to work a math problem, and he shrugged. "Fine, starve, see if any of us care," he said, walking back to the door but stopping when Harry didn't respond. Dudley bit his lip and walked from the cell without closing the door. A moment later he returned with a small bowl of steaming soup. "Eat damn you, eat," said the pudgy child, setting the bowl on the nightstand and jabbing Harry with his finger again. "You're going to starve if you don't eat!"
The smell of the food finally overwhelmed Harry's remaining shock and the boy slowly sat up in the bed. Without looking at his cousin, Harry reached out and picked up the bowl, ignoring the heat which stung his hand and mouth as he spooned the soup between his lips. Eyes glassy, he went at the soup for a moment as Dudley watched, before the fat child turned and kicked the bowl of spilled gruel from the room and into the hall. As the door shut, Harry heard Dudley shout for Petunia.
"Mom!" yelled the fat child. "Harry threw the food you gave him into the hall again!"
Chapter One – Of Snakes And Of Sorcery
"So where are you from?" Harry whispered, resting his chin on the pole meant to keep children from getting too close to the zoo's display. Staring intently through the glass at the quasi-jungle beyond, Harry sighed and watched as the large boa watched him back and flicked its tongue through the air.
"Burma," the snake hissed. Or, at least it seemed to hiss the word. Even after weeks of pleasant chats with the many garden snakes and king snakes that had come to occupy the Dursley's back yard, Harry couldn't tell if the conversations were audible or if he and the snakes somehow communicated without actually speaking. "And I'd very much like to go back," said the oily voice. "Sadly, I don't see that happening since I came here on a boat..."
Harry always heard the words of a serpent as clearly as those spoken by any human, but no one else seemed to notice, even when he spoke back. To the young Potter it was a fascinating puzzle as the snakes didn't know the answer either. They were always surprised to be speaking to a human at all, much less one who could speak to them too. Nevertheless, that did not prevent Harry from quickly building up friendships with the snakes that passed through his yard.
"I'm sorry," said Harry. "If I ever hear of any ships headed for East Asia I'll be sure to come back and let you know. In the meantime though, life in a zoo can't be too bad, can it?"
The boa uncoiled just a little, as if to shrug the shoulders it didn't have. "It's not torture. They give me a sunlamp to warm myself under and plenty of water to soak in, just like back in the jungle. Oh, and the mice here make a delightful little crunching noise and a squeak just before they go 'squish'."
Harry caught the little flick of the head that seemed to serve as a universal laugh among snakes. That was really the only thing about his ophidian friends that bothered Harry, thought the boy as he faked a grin. Most of them always took such delight in slowly killing things. "Well that's... nice."
"Isn't it though," answered the snake, turning its head as another human walked in front of its cage.
"Move it," bellowed Dudley, barreling up to Harry and shoving his cousin out of the way. "You've been watching that snake all day. Let me take a turn," said the fat boy as he shoved Harry away.
Harry stumbled but managed to land on his palms without hurting himself. He glared up at his pudgy cousin and glanced over at the snake behind the glass as Dudley reached out to pound the glass with the back of his hand. Dudley began barking at the snake to do something funny or to stand on its tail, prompting Harry to shake his head. The boa turned towards Harry.
"Could you do something about this?" asked the snake, as calmly as ever.
Harry thought for a moment and focused on the glass. A pang of effort twinged in his chest as he willed the glass out of existence. Dudley's hand, already mostly through the motion of slapping the pane, met only empty air and no resistance as the glass simply winked out of the universe. Still looking at Harry, the snake flicked its tongue as Dudley's eyes went wide.
"Thanks," hissed the animal. The snake then whipped its head around, quick as a thought, opened its jaws and latched onto Dudley's hand. As the fat boy screamed and Harry leaped to his feet in surprise, the boa twisted its elongated body and curled around around Dudley's arm like a bullwhip. As the scream echoed through the dim hall of the humid reptile-house, Petunia Dursley and the rest of the children attending Dudley's birthday party turned around and spotted the commotion. Petunia put her hands up to her face and screamed that the snake was eating her little boy.
"No, no, stop it!" Harry shouted, reaching out as his cousin toppled to the ground. "What are you doing? Let go of him!"
The snake released its bite on the fat child as panic broke out in the reptile house, though it retained its crushing grip on the boy's arm, and shifted to look at Harry. "Why?" asked the creature, flicking its tongue. "He tastes of pork and salt. Delicious."
"Just let go and get out of here!" Harry barked at the snake, directing his will at the serpent and forcing its muscles to relax their grip on Dudley.
The snake shivered as Harry's magic overrode its motor control and then relaxed on its own as Petunia rushed over. The fat woman stopped short of Harry and her son, screaming incoherently at the snake. The serpent flicked its tongue and slithered off Dudley. "Thanks anyway," it hissed as it left the reptile house.
Petunia dropped to cradle Dudley as the boy grabbed at his hand, trying to cover up the puncture wounds with his good hand. The fat woman turned and glared at Harry as the boy stood up. Silence filled the reptile house as Dudley's crying faded. Harry's own heartbeat seemed to be the only sound in the room while all the other children watched in some combination of fear and amazement.
"Just wait," Petunia whispered, a false smile glued to her lips, "until we get to the house. I'm simply positive your good uncle will have words for you about sicking a snake on our little boy with your witchcraft."
Harry swallowed the lump in his throat.
Seeming to last an eternity, the drive home reminded Harry of the punishments he had begun to endure more and more often when the Dursley's would lock him in his room for his perceived wrongs. While agitating, Harry thought, the 'punishment' proved convenient if nothing else. While he waited in his solitary confinement, he could practice his magic in relative peace, the silent magic at least. To the boy it seemed that each passing day brought with it more understanding of how to manipulate the world around him using only his will. Already, he reflected, he could almost effortlessly levitate a cup or other small object, and have it float about the room as though on a string. And as his day at the zoo had demonstrated, making objects disappear proved a relatively easy task, though where they went remained a mystery until he willed them back.
When Harry got home he was forced to tune out his uncle's ravings for the better part of an hour before being thrown in his cell without dinner to think about what he'd done. The boy wasted no time in taking his blanket and cramming it up to the crack between the floor and the door to ensure that he could practice his more visually impressive talents with impunity. Reaching into the reservoir of energy that seemed to grow deeper by the day, Harry began his personalized exercises and spent the rest of the day practicing magic by himself.
That night, after the Dursley's had gone to bed, Harry unlocked the door with a thought he'd long ago mastered, and snuck out to the kitchen to scrounge for leftovers. He settled on finishing off a half-eaten turkey sandwich in the refrigerator, quickly destroyed the evidence of his mission, and went back to his room. Upon refastening the locks, using a thought he'd only more recently mastered, Harry went back to his practice.
The days passed and Harry stopped counting how many went by, though he did note that this was the longest the Dursley's had kept him in his room. They wouldn't even let him out to eat, instead slipping him his meals through a crack in the door. When he went to the bathroom, once a day, was the only time Harry went out while his jailers were awake. At night however, Harry had come to own the house. Over the course of the first week, the boy had come up with a bit of magic he could use to muffle his footsteps, freeing him from having to concentrate on sneaking. Requiring much more effort, but providing much more fun, Harry had also learned to make himself levitate a few centimeters off the ground as he walked.
After what must have been at least two months had passed, Harry began to wonder if the Dursleys had forgotten about him altogether, simply slipping the food into his room once a day and leaving the door unlocked for a few minutes every afternoon out of habit. Whenever he listened to their conversations from the bottom of the stairs they were never talking about him, always something completely mundane and boring. Thusly, it came as a great surprise to everyone except the young Potter, when Harry decided to reappear at the table for breakfast one morning towards the waning end of the summer.
When Vernon walked into the kitchen that morning in late July and found Harry sitting at the table, the fat man jumped in surprise and clutched at his chest.
"What are you doing here?" Harry's uncle demanded when his pulse settled back to a reasonable level. "How did you get out?"
"Someone left my door unlocked this morning," said Harry, not completely fabricating the story as Harry had indeed left his own door unlocked. "So I assumed my punishment was over. I just wanted to make sure before I went and did anything foolish." The boy added with an innocent smile so convincing that his uncle could only grunt in acknowledgment.
Vernon turned and looked at the calendar. "Sure," he huffed. "I guess it can be over. Now get your breakfast and get back to your room."
"Thank you uncle," said Harry, hopping down from the chair and picking up a bowl of cereal he had already prepared. By way of little more than a passing glance, Harry happened to look down at the table where Vernon had set the morning post and saw that on the top of the pile sat an envelope with his name on it. "What's this?" he reached out with his free hand and picked up the envelope. It felt thick.
Quicker than a man of his size seemed capable of moving, Vernon snatched the letter from Harry's hand with a definitive 'snap.' "Nothing for you," said Harry's uncle. "Don't give it a second thought."
Harry looked up at the fat man, not missing the implied or else. He nodded, resisting the urge to tear the letter from his uncle's grip with magic, and slunk off to his room beneath the stairs. Sitting on the edge of the bed he set the bowl on his nightstand and studied the colorful shapes floating in the milk. Trying to think of how to get that letter consumed his every faculty for some time as he stared down into the bowl. As the buoyant bits of spun sugar and corn interconnected in just the right shape, Harry's mind snapped back to that night several weeks ago.
Trying desperately not to think about the blonde woman and how she met her grisly end, Harry put his hand over his eyes and turned away from the bowl of cereal. He shivered and was suddenly very glad he'd not yet eaten. It had taken him days to build up the courage to simply look at the house after the event, and when he did gather the strength to investigate further, he uncovered nothing. When he looked through the windows one night, all he'd seen was an empty house. It was as if no trace of the woman or the strange girl who crawled through Harry's fence one day had ever existed. The police had never, to the best of Harry's knowledge, questioned anyone in his home about the disappearance of the woman or the fate of the girl.
Looking about his little cell and refocusing on regaining the letter, Harry pushed the thought of the little blonde girl from his mind. He'd probably never see her again, he decided, and that was a pity. He'd decided that he very much enjoyed her company... and she had his pendant.
Sitting and thinking for a long time, until after the clock in the living room chimed that it was noon, Harry eventually decided that the best way to retrieve the letter would be to wait until nightfall, sneak out, and search the house. He could read it quickly and return it before... The idea froze in Harry's mind at the same instant that the scent of smoke touched his nostrils. He opened the door and poked his head out into the hall, looking towards the kitchen. Upon seeing his uncle Vernon, holding a flaming envelope over a waste basket, Harry grimaced and pulled the door shut after returning to his room.
So much for that idea, he thought grimly, turning and retrieving a little wooden ball from beneath his bed. Holding the ball a few inches above his open palm with magic, Harry used his free hand to guide a series of luminescent green eddies of energy over the surface of the ball, stripping away even the minutest of imperfections and leaving in their wake perfectly smooth wood. Working the surface of the sphere multiple times, Harry gradually refined the ball over and over again as his mind grew distant and turned. I wonder if there's a way to bring paper back from ashes, he mused.
The next morning, on what would be a warm and bright Tuesday if the weather channel was to be believed, Harry sat at the table in the kitchen, opposite a sullen Dudley as the two ate breakfast. Petunia sat between them, sipping a cup of tea. When Vernon got up from his paper to check for the post, he returned with a handful of envelopes of various shapes and sizes, junk mostly, though Harry's eyes lit up when he saw not one, but two envelopes addressed to him.
"Are those for me?" asked Harry, nodding to the letters.
Immediately after he saw them, Vernon set the envelopes aside, sporting a confused and almost worried look as he assured his nephew that there must be some mistake. Harry made a point not to grimace, but instead finished his breakfast and retreated back to his room. Again the smell of smoke wafted under his door, and Harry contemplated how he might return ash to its paper form as he polished the wooden ball brighter and brighter, gradually shaving off one millimeter after another from its diameter with the tiny green wisps of magic.
The next day, Wednesday, breakfast stopped on a dime when Vernon arrived at the table, carrying not two, but three letters addressed to Harry. The fat man immediately ordered Harry to his room and labeled the envelopes "Return To Sender."
On Thursday, five identical letters arrived for Harry, prompting Vernon to put them through the shredder and burn the remains.
Friday brought with it a pile of eight identical letters for Harry. The day also saw Vernon drive to the post office in a rage and return home just as flustered.
On Saturday the Dursley's mailbox had been stuffed, before the postman arrived, with thirteen letters for Harry. Vernon proceeded to promptly tear them up in the front yard and earn a collection of wary glances from his neighbors in the process.
While the post never came on Sundays, Vernon woke to the shock of twenty-one letters for Harry in his mailbox. The fat man, growing ever more agitated, resorted to taking down his mailbox and setting the metal receptacle like a trophy in the living room, quite confident no more would be coming tomorrow. Harry nearly laughed out loud at the old man's frustration when the family awoke the next morning to discover a new and bigger mailbox fastened to their house, stuffed with thirty-four envelopes. Harry never did find out what Vernon did with those and though he quickly grew accustomed to the idea that someone really wanted him to get one of the letters, the boy couldn't help but forget to filch one in hopes that this might continue.
And continue it did. On Tuesday there were fifty-five envelopes. Wednesday brought eighty-nine. Thursday saw one hundred forty-four, and by the time Friday rolled around, Vernon nearly screamed when he walked into his living room and found that two hundred thirty-three envelopes had been shoved through the tiny slot in his front door, prompting the fat man to take a board and seal up the mail slot.
Not to be denied, Saturday brought a record three hundred seventy-seven envelopes crammed under the Dursley's front door. Each and every one bore a salutation to Harry Potter. By the end of the day, Vernon had stormed to Dudley's room, confiscated his son's BB gun and declared to Petunia that he'd perch atop the house all night like a sniper from the war if he had to.
"Next thing we know," Vernon told his wife, "well have birds delivering the bloody things!"
Harry Potter, standing an arm's length from Petunia, cleared his throat to grab his uncle's attention.
"What?" seethed the fat man.
Harry nodded his head towards the living room window, a large pane of glass overlooking Petunia's flower box and Privet Drive. Perched atop the flower box and staring mindlessly into the window, there sat a single fat pigeon, a creme colored envelope in it's beak. Vernon and Petunia watched in terror as another pigeon landed beside the first, this one also carrying an envelope. Then a third pigeon with a letter, and a forth and a fifth. A raven carrying a white envelope addressed to Harry Potter landed beside the pigeons less than a minute later, followed by a starling, a robin, and a swallow, all identically laden.
"But, but, but, but," Vernon stammered, staring at the birds which all looked at him while their heads twitched and shifted for different angles. "Where do they all come from?"
"Well," mumbled Harry, only just loud enough for Vernon to hear. "That the one there is a European Swallow so-"
"Will you shut up?" Vernon exclaimed. "I need to think." He ran a hand through his thinning grey hair, the cooing and cawing of the feathered visitors not aiding his concentration. "I said shut up!" Vernon grabbed the trophy mailbox from the coffee table and hurled it at the window. The glass shattered under the impact and the birds scattered in a flurry of flapping and squawking.
"Honey," Petunia whispered, reaching out almost sheepishly and touching her fuming husband's arm. "You're going to scare Dudley."
"Dudley's out with his friends!" shouted the fat man. He began tugging at his sweater with both hands and fidgeting from side to side. "Petunia, pack yours and Dudley's things," he said. "As soon as he gets home we're leaving."
The following day saw Harry and the Dursleys on a road the young Potter didn't recognize. It wound north, then northwest, then doubled back down south to a small beach and a ferry. Paying the toll and driving the car aboard, Vernon quickly secured them passage on the vessel. "Now," said the fat man as he turned turned in his seat before anyone had even gotten out of the car. "We're all going to take a nice little boat ride to an island I know. While we're there, no one is going to say anything about birds, or letters, or the post at all. We're going to have a nice vacation."
Harry didn't fail to note the hint of mania in his uncle's words. The boy got out of the car with his aunt and cousin while Vernon waited behind for a minute, then walked behind Dudley to the railing lining the ferry as the horn sounded above them. With a jerk, the boat set off and began chugging into the distance. As Harry set his hands on the rail and looked over the side and down at the water, he felt a tug at his stomach, a sensation that, having never been on a boat before, he couldn't place. Something told him however that this would prove a miserable trip. The gathering storm clouds and fog did not disappoint him, shrouding the entire journey in a dreary haze.
When the ferry landed at an island an hour from the mainland, Vernon packed up his family and Harry, driving them all down a bumpy dirt road to what Harry could only describe as an ugly outcropping of rock, crowned by an even uglier excuse for a house. When they reached the shack, an uncharacteristically giddy Vernon unpacked all the bags himself and carried them into the tiny, one room building.
The interior of the structure looked like a log cabin gone horribly wrong. Its one room contained a wood stove in one corner, two sets of bunk beds in the other, and a table and chairs in between. Harry followed behind his aunt and cousin, stepping into the dim and dank little cabin, wondering as to its original purpose.
It's going to be impossible to practice magic here, he thought, realizing a moment later that Vernon had possibly taken that into account when choosing their destination.
"Here we are," Vernon breathed a sigh or relief. "Far from anything or anyone that knows who we are or could deliver us some ghastly post."
Thunder boomed overhead, immediately followed by the sound of rain tinkling down on the old roof. A big drop of water splatted down on Harry's forehead and he took a step to the side. Looking up and counting no less than four locations in which the roof had already begun to leak, Harry wiped the water from his forehead. Stifling a sigh, he loosed a bit of magic to keep him warm and, spotting that his aunt and cousin had actually begun to shiver in the cool room, did the same for them.
"I'll get a fire going," said Harry's uncle, his tone a good deal merrier than the situation merited. He cast about the room before reaching up to comb his mustache with his fingers. "Unless we don't have any firewood."
This time Harry made less effort to contain a sigh of exasperation as he tried to calculate how long it might be until he could return home to his tiny cell. The boy smiled a little to himself, almost finding it funny that any circumstances could make him want to return to that house on Privet Drive. When he learned that he'd be sleeping on the top bunk, directly under one of the leaks in the roof, essentially to serve as a buffer for Dudley who slept below him however, Harry genuinely considered trying to teleport himself back to the house and ignore the consequences. Then again, he decided, that would be admitting the situation here had gotten the better of him... never mind that he had never actually managed to successfully teleport himself anywhere on purpose.
The next day passed on the miserable little outcropping of rick and Harry was just settling down for dinner, a bowl of potato soup, when he realized that today was the thirtieth of July, and tomorrow would be his eleventh birthday. He silently, and with no small measure of cynicism, wished himself a happy birthday as he finished the bowl of soup and set it in the sink by the stove. He turned in early, as did the Dursleys, but found it impossible to go to sleep. Even after the mattress had dried out from the first night's storm the lumpy thing proved too squishy in places and too hard in others to provide any semblance of a comfortable surface. Not wanting to use magic in front of the Dursleys, Harry instead decided to put up with it.
As the clock on the wall ticked away the minutes and hours, Harry glanced over at it occasionally, counting down the time until he turned eleven. At eleven fifty-nine and thirty seconds, Harry began counting backwards while staring at the face of the clock.
3...2...1... he watched the last few seconds tick by and listened as the clock chimed midnight. Happy Birthday to-
Harry bolted up in bed, slapping his forehead against a beam in the ceiling as the room filled with a thunderous boom. He dropped back on the pillow, his skull ringing from the impact, and put his hand up to his brow. The warm heat alerted him to the cut the sharp edge of the beam had inflicted upon him. As another boom sounded at the door as someone were trying to smash it down, Harry drew on a bit of magic to try and close up the wound on his forehead.
Surprise overtook the stinging when Harry felt the magic drain out of him, but simply evaporate into nothing rather than relieve the pain in his head. He tried again and accomplished nothing. The magic seemed to refuse to mend the gash above his brow.
"What the hell is that!" Vernon shouted, rolling out of bed and getting to his feet as another tremendous knock sounded at the door. "Who's there?" he demanded. "We don't want any! Go away!"
The jam of the door snapped and splintered and the hinges creaked. Giving out with a final groan of complaint, the deadbolt tore loose from the jam and the door slowly swung inwards, lifting off its broken hinges. Watching in utter shock, Harry scooted back against the wall adjacent to his bed as an enormous figure, shaped like a man but far more menacing, bent low and stepped through the portal, carrying the heavy door by its knob as if it were no denser than styrofoam. Petunia screamed as the figure, its face obscured by a hood and a monstrously untamed beard, looked at the door in its hand and reached up to brush back its hood.
"Oh, well would you look a' that," said the giant, surprise evident in his voice as he looked at the door in his hand. The man, for indeed Harry could now see that the figure appeared to be an enormous human, set the door down and leaned it against the wall, removing his hand from the crushed knob and turning back to the occupants of the room. "Sorry about that," he said pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. "I didn't realize it was locked so I figured I'd just come on in." He cleared his throat and patted his hands down the front of his dark cloak to smooth out some of the wrinkles. "Rubeus Hagrid's my name and," he said, scanning the room and immediately spotting Harry, "ah, there's Harry Potter. At last."
Harry, despite sitting on his bed, sat only at eye level with the enormous man. He ignored the cowering Dursleys, pointed at himself, and said, "You're looking for me?"
The huge man nodded and Harry felt a lump form in his stomach. He genuinely hoped the fairy-tales he'd read in school, the ones about giants eating humans, weren't true. Even more than that, Harry hoped this Hagrid wasn't hungry.
"Well, here I am," said Harry.
The giant, in front of a stunned Dursley family, walked forward and sat down on the floor beside the dinner table. Still the visitor's elbows rested levelly on the platform as he motioned for Harry. "Well come down here and we can have a chat then," he said.
Harry swung one leg over the edge of the bed and climbed down to the floor, cautiously approaching the table and pulling up a chair. The giant reached inside his cloak, mumbling and pulled out a white envelope, reaching across the large table without extending his arm even half way and set the letter in front of Harry.
"This is for you," said Hagrid. "Congratulations, oh, and let me take care of that nasty lil' scrape there." He reached into his cloak and drew out, of all things, a small pink umbrella. Pointing it at Harry's forehead he swept the tip of the umbrella through a quick pattern, uttered a word Harry didn't understand, and set the device aside.
Harry felt a tingling across his brow and reached up. Finding that his cut had disappeared, he awkwardly thanked the giant and took the envelope. His uncle made a move to approach the table, but a steely glare from the giant locked the fat man in place before he could take a step. "Well go ahead then," said Hagrid, amicably. "Open it up," he motioned with his hands, ostensibly excited.
Harry tore away the top of the thick envelope and pulled out the card it contained. Flipping it open he read for a moment before looking up at the giant. "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," Harry read the title of the establishment. "What is that exactly?"
Hagrid laughed out loud, frightening everyone present, and slapped his knee. "What is that exactly," he repeated, setting his hand on the table with another hearty outburst. "You inherited your mum's sense of humor, you did." Hagrid went on to laugh another time, gradually growing quieter as the confused look on Harry's face registered. "Oh," he said. "Are you serious?" the giant exclaimed. "How could you not-" He turned on Vernon and Petunia.
"W-w-we never told him," Vernon stammered angrily.
"Never told him!" Hagrid burst. "Never told him that he'd been hand picked from birth to attend the most prestigious school of magic in the world? You never told him that the greatest wizard who ever lived personally chose him for the honor? Did you ever tell him anything? Did you ever even tell him his name or who his parents were or what they did or even what HE did? Did you tell him any of that?"
Vernon's glared at the giant and shook his head defiantly. "No, we did not," he said. "We are good, honest, normal people and we don't have any use for any of that witchcraft nonsense. We especially didn't want him to learn all that devilry about killing people and spinning curses and, and," the man's face contorted and he waved his hand for emphasis. "And he certainly didn't need to go off to that nut job of a headmaster when like as not he'd come back some kind of crazed monster!"
"Don't – you – ever," Hagrid got to his feet, his head nearly at the ceiling, "insult Albus Dumbledore in front of me. Now," he pointed a finger at the Dursleys, voice lowered but forceful as ever. "If Harry decides that he wants to go to Hogwarts then that will be the end of it, and you won't try to influence him one way or the other. You won't mention money or nothing like that since it won't be an issue. Clear?"
Vernon hesitated, but nodded and remained silent.
"Good," Hagrid said, turning back to Harry and growing amicable again. "Now Harry, what do you say? Would you like to attend Hogwarts in the fall and learn all there is to know about wizardry and magic?"
Harry froze. His mind snapped back to the night he lost his eagle pendant and he thought about how quickly the magic he'd seen and used then go wrong. He thought about all the times he'd accidentally unleashed a puff of magic that had dangerous consequences, and effects reaching farther than he'd intended. He thought about the desire he'd felt after each episode, the desire for more control over the magic he'd always known was, and would probably always be, a part of him.
"Sure," he said, his expression one of resolve. "Sure thing Hagrid. I'll go."
"Good, good, good," said the giant. "Well why don't we-" he paused and jumped as if something had surprised him. "I almost forgot," he said, reaching around and pulling a small brown box from his cloak. Setting it on the table and opening the top, Hargid turned it around towards Harry and pushed it across the table towards him. "I wasn't sure what flavor you liked so I went with something basic. But I baked it myself."
Leaning forward to look in the box, Harry peered down at the cake inside. The simple pastry, a vanilla cake with strawberry frosting, sat lopsided in the container as though it had been turned up on its edge for some time. 'Happy Birthday Harry' was written across the top in slightly smeared chocolate lettters. Harry turned back up to the giant, deciding not to point out that he was allergic to strawberries, and just smiled. "Thanks Hagrid," he said.