AUTHOR'S NOTES: While I'm waiting on my muse to get up off its lazy ass and help with new chapters for my ongoing stories, I'm going to be working on some rewrites including 'Dei Ex Machina' and this story which is actually a rewrite of the story 'Broken Dreams Can Still Fly' which I honestly wasn't sure what to do with.
CHAPTER SUMMARY: A paralyzed Harry Potter comes to Hogwarts and Dumbledore decides to use Harry to help break Draco Malfoy away from his family.
HARRY POTTER: What If…?
6-year-old Harry Potter wished the drive home from the zoo would last for the rest of the day… or at least until Uncle Vernon calmed down after what happened in the big cats exhibit. After all, it hadn't been Harry's fault that the male lion had roared right next to the glass as Dudley walked by… Or the fact that the jaguar has tried to attack the glass when Dudley had been making faces at the animal…
But Harry knew his uncle would never believe him. No one ever believed Harry when he said that he wasn't to blame for the strange things that kept happening around him.
The rest of the time at the zoo was quiet, but Vernon kept a close eye on Harry as the Dursleys and Harry continued the outing.
And while Harry wished he could believe that his uncle had forgotten what had happened, he knew that his uncle being quiet just meant that the worst was yet to come.
Uncle Vernon never did or said anything in public or in the car…
But at Home…
Harry knew he was in for it as soon as he got into #4 Privet Drive but what he didn't know was what exactly would happen to him… Would his uncle starve him? Beat him until he fell unconscious? Or would it be something far worse this time?
Maybe Harry would be lucky and Vernon would just scream.
Huddled on his side of the back seat, his back to the door, trying to make himself as small as possible, Harry didn't see the car speeding towards them on an intercept; he only felt the car as it slammed into his side of the Dursleys' vehicle.
It had been fortunate that Petunia Dursley had been driving the car. That evening As such, she'd only suffered a broken arm and some bumps and bruises.
Vernon hadn't been so lucky. The impact had killed him instantly.
Lying in her bed at the hospital, Petunia started to think about what had happened when the doctor taking care of Harry and Dudley walked up. "Mrs. Dursley?"
Petunia sat up as best she could, her mind playing every scenario she could think of. "How's Dudley? And… and my nephew? Harry?"
Dr. Eric Kessler—an older doctor with salt and pepper hair and gray eyes—replied, "Your son, Dudley, had severe head trauma. There was swelling and while we're trying to reduce it, that doesn't help the actual damage to the brain."
Petunia's jaw dropped. "What… What kind of… damage?"
"There was severe damage to Dudley's occipital lobe. He can't see," Dr. Kessler replied. "With this type of blindness, it's questionable whether your son will regain his sight."
Petunia nodded as she tried not to cry. Her little boy was blind? What about school? How was Dudley supposed to have a normal life if he couldn't see?
"Your nephew's condition… is much worse, I'm afraid," Kessler went on after giving Petunia a moment.
Petunia hadn't even really put a lot of thought into Harry. It wasn't that she hated the boy—at least, she didn't hate him like Vernon did. And in fact, a small part of Petunia wished she and Harry were closer since he was essentially all she had left of her sister, Lily. Hearing that Harry was even worse off than Dudley, Petunia wasn't sure what to say. "How much worse?" She finally asked, showing real concern for her sister's son for the first time that she could remember.
"Harry suffered devastating damage to his spinal cord. It's a miracle he wasn't killed as well," Kessler added. "The only good news is that Harry's spine wasn't completely severed. But there's a lot of swelling. And right now Harry is paralyzed from the neck down."
Petunia felt like she was going to be sick. "Is… Is he… Is the… paralysis permanent?" All those years she'd abused the poor boy—shouting at him, treating him like little more than a servant… Was this somehow Karma coming back? Because of how badly she'd treated Lily's son, now her own son would suffer and Harry would…?
Kessler shrugged in response to the woman's question. "I can't say. Harry could regain the use of his body… Anything can happen…"
Petunia frowned as she sensed that the doctor was dodging the question. "But…?"
"It is possible that Harry can recover," Kessler said, honestly. "However… the odds are extremely low. At best… Harry would regain some use of his upper body. Most likely, Harry will need assistance for the rest of his life."
Lying back, Petunia let out a long sigh. She loved Dudley more than anything… And she wanted to have a better relationship with her nephew. But she wasn't ready to deal with all this—one child who might never see again and another who would, in all likeliness, never regain the full use of his body.
"I know this is a lot to take in," Kessler said, gently, seeing that Petunia was having a hard time wrapping her head around what had happened to her family. "There are programs and centers to help you take care of Dudley and Harry. And there's a support group run by the hospital for parents of disabled children. You're not alone in this."
Petunia nodded. Sure, there was help to be had… but that didn't change the fact that her life… or Dudley's… or Harry's… would ever be what it should have been…
10 Months Later
Petunia tentatively entered the hospital room that Harry had been in for close to a year. Dudley was working with a tutor on Braille and learning how to live without his sight, but Harry was still in his bed, trapped in the back and neck brace that prevented any movement. The poor boy didn't deserve this. He should have been the one to walk away unharmed, Petunia thought. Not her.
"Harry," Petunia said, gently, as she sat on the bed. The doctors had had to trach Harry, putting a tube directly into his trachea to help him breathe and Petunia's eyes followed the tube to the ventilator that was acting as Harry's lungs. Once Harry finally looked at her, Petunia said, "You're going home tomorrow."
Harry didn't reply as he looked away. But after a few minutes, he asked, "Where's… Dudley?"
"He's working with a tutor," Petunia replied, succinctly. When Harry didn't say anything else, Petunia put a hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek before standing and leaving the room.
"Mrs. Dursley," Dr. Kessler said as he saw her coming out of the room. "How's Harry today?"
"Still not talking to me, really," Petunia replied.
"The nurses showed you how to care for Harry once he's at home?" Kessler asked, looking over at Harry.
Petunia nodded, thinking of the stack of pamphlets, and guides amassed at the new one-story house she'd bought with the life insurance from Vernon's death and the proceeds from the sale of the house on Privet Drive. "Is there any improvement in Harry's condition?" she asked, hopefully.
"None," Kessler replied, shaking his head. "Mrs. Dursley, I know you want to take Harry home, but… I need you to understand that between Harry and Dudley, you're not going to have a lot of down time. Dudley will need plenty of assistance for a while—until he gets used to getting around the house. And Harry will likely never regain any use of his body. There are centers… places where Harry can receive the care he needs and you can focus on your son."
"I am not going to just abandon Harry," Petunia insisted. "I know it'll be hard, but… But I'm not going to do that to him."
Kessler pulled a business card out of his pocket and handed it to Petunia. "This is the number of a home nursing care service that's covered by our hospital. I've already called and your insurance will cover everything. They'll help you get settled at home and take care of Harry and Dudley if you get a job."
Petunia pocketed the card. "Thank you, I appreciate that. And don't worry. We'll be fine."
The next morning, Petunia came into Harry's room just as the nurses finished helping Harry go to the bathroom and getting him dressed. Harry's neck and back were still braced and Petunia tried to be careful as she lifted Harry from the bed and got him settled into the motorized wheelchair. The tube coming from Harry's neck was connected to a portable ventilator and one of the nurses showed Petunia how to check the power levels and the tubes.
As Petunia pushed him towards the exit, Harry kept replaying when he'd first heard about what had happened to him. His aunt looking at him, tears in her eyes as she told him he was paralyzed. He'd never be able to walk… or even move. He'd be completely helpless for the rest of his life.
He couldn't move… couldn't feed himself… He'd never be able to go to the bathroom on his own. He'd never even be able to breathe on his own. He was trapped in his own body.
4 Years Later
It was ironic that Petunia's second husband's name was Evans. Thomas Evans, to be precise. They had met in a support group and had gone out for coffee afterwards. Thomas's daughter, Veronica was 12 and had been born with a severely deformed left arm. When she was 8, she'd gotten an infection which had necessitated an emergency amputation. But the young girl was always happy and laughing and once she'd met Dudley, the two had gotten along wonderfully.
Even Harry liked Veronica and Thomas which was surprising to Petunia since Harry had basically stopped liking anyone—except Dudley and Petunia—after the accident 5 years ago. But one evening, about two years later, while Petunia attached Harry's nutritional IV to the permanent IV port in his left arm, Harry had asked, "When… are you… and Thomas… going to… get… married?"
After the accident, Dudley had often become frustrated by his blindness, but when Harry was around he was almost always able to calm his cousin down. The two had become even closer over the years and Dudley often tried to help his mother take care of Harry.
Setting the table for dinner one warm summer evening, Petunia's thoughts turned to Harry.
Because Harry had been paralyzed from the neck down, he couldn't breathe on his own and therefore, the doctors had had to put a tube directly into Harry's trachea which was then attached to a respirator. It had taken Harry a few months to learn how to talk with the respirator and when Petunia had told him that he couldn't move his body, Harry had tried to apologize as if the accident had been his fault. It had taken Petunia more than a year to get Harry to stop blaming himself and feeling like he deserved to be paralyzed.
"Dinner smells... good," Harry said as he came into the room just as his aunt went to the cabinet to get glasses. In the past year, Harry had started to get some use of his arms back but unfortunately that was as far as his recovery had progressed thus far. "Wish I could… have some…"
Petunia had been happy that Harry could now move around on his own in the new motorized wheelchair but since his lungs were still affected by the paralysis, he was still dependant on the respirator. "Its eggplant parmesan," Petunia replied, as she grabbed Harry's nutra-smoothie. While Harry was now able to process liquids, his system was still unable to deal with solid foods.
"It smells wonderful in here, Petunia," Thomas said as he came into the dining room with Dudley and Veronica.
"Oh," he added, handing over the evening mail. "I grabbed this earlier."
Petunia wiped her hands on her apron before taking the stack of bills, letters and magazines. Rifling through, she stopped when she saw a parchment letter addressed to Harry. Setting the rest of the mail aside, she opened the envelope and read the enclosed letter, her heart beating faster as she reread the letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She knew it would be coming eventually but a small part of her had been praying that Harry wouldn't receive his Hogwarts letter since the poor boy already had enough to deal with.
"Petunia?" Thomas asked, watching his wife's expression.
"Later," she said, putting the letter away before glancing ever so briefly at Harry.
Thomas just nodded in understanding as they all sat down to dinner after Petunia finished helping Harry with his smoothie. Before Thomas had married Petunia, she'd told him about the magical world her sister had come from—a world that she wasn't sure if Harry would belong to. Seeing Petunia's look as she'd read the letter, he figured it had to be from the magical school Petunia's sister, Lily Potter, had attended.
After dinner, while Veronica, Dudley, and Harry went into the living room to watch TV, Thomas went to the kitchen sink to help Petunia with the dishes while they talked about Harry. Thomas agreed that things would be extraordinarily difficult for Harry if he went to Hogwarts, especially considering that Harry was still in a back and neck brace due to the fact that the orthopedic surgeon that had operated on him had noticed a minor curvature of Harry's spine during the last physical exam a few weeks ago.
But on the other side, Thomas added, what was the alternative? Harry was a wizard and he would eventually have to learn how to control his magic.
Petunia sighed deeply. "I know," she said, quietly as she finished washing the dinner dishes. Looking over to Harry, she wished things were different. But the fact of the matter was that there was nothing that could be done about Harry's situation. "But would the professors at the school even know how to take care of Harry?"
"Maybe that's what you need to do first," Thomas suggested, towel-drying the last of the dishes. "Write back to Hogwarts' headmaster and make sure he knows what the situation is."
"I suppose you're right," Petunia replied after thinking a moment on how exactly she was supposed to get a message to Albus Dumbledore in the first place.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Albus Dumbledore was spending a late night in his office in Hogwarts checking response letters against the list of new students.
Typically, Dumbledore's Deputy headmistress, Minerva McGonagall went through the letters, but she was currently away in Scotland visiting family.
Looking through the names, Dumbledore smiled to himself as he saw the name 'Ronald Weasley' on one the letters. The Weasleys were one of the finest wizarding families he knew even though they weren't very financially endowed. But anyone who spent time with them could see that what they lacked in money they made up for in love and family ties.
Further down the list, Dumbledore paused to reflect on another name: Neville Longbottom, Frank and Alice Longbottom's only child. As Dumbledore thought of the two fallen members of the Order of the Phoenix, he wondered if their son would live up to his full potential.
After a while, Dumbledore looked at another letter from Lucius Malfoy's son, Draco. The Malfoys were one of the wealthiest wizarding families and had also been part of Voldemort's inner circle. As he thought about Draco Malfoy, Dumbledore was certain of two things. The first was that Draco was sure to have his father's prejudices as soon as he stepped foot in Hogwarts.
The second was that Dumbledore deeply wanted to help the boy to become someone other than a clone of his father.
An hour later, Dumbledore was stopped by yet another letter. But unlike the others which were written by the soon-to-be students, this one was clearly written by an adult. Opening the letter, Dumbledore was even more surprised to find that the letter was written by Petunia Evans, Harry Potter's aunt.
Dear Professor McGonagall,
I wanted to inform you that my nephew, Harry Potter, did indeed receive his letter from Hogwarts. However, there is a situation regarding Harry's attending you school that needs to be addressed first. As soon as possible, if you could visit at the address on the back of this letter.
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, thinking for a moment about what kind of situation Petunia could be referring to. She seemed to indicate that whatever the problem was could prevent Harry coming to Hogwarts.
Pulling a fresh sheet of parchment with the Hogwarts crest towards him, Dumbledore selected his favorite quill and dipped it into the jar of ink on his desk before drafting a response to Petunia's letter.