Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: T, eventual M
Disclaimer: JKR owns the Harry Potter franchise; and, if I was her, I'd rather spend my time swimming in my money ala Scrooge McDuck than writing fanfiction. (Though, then again, Tom and Harry are rather fun together, so I suppose that I can't even put a 100% claim to that... XD)
Summary: On Harry's 10th birthday, he unwrapped the first presents he had ever been given from the Dursleys: a coat hanger, a pair of Uncle Vernon's old socks, and a locket.
Author's Note: La la la laaaaaa~ *ignores scolding* Yes, I probably shouldn't be starting another story while working on Paradise Lost and Jörmungandr. But I've been chatting with Moth Gypsy lately and I've been having such a wonderful time talking with her that I wanted to write something in thanks. :3 A forewarning, though: PL and JR both take precedence, so Cacoethes will be updated but irregularly (and will not be abandoned, I promise).
cacoethes – n; an irresistible urge, mania
The day after his ninth birthday, Aunt Petunia went up to her nephew with a sweet, cloying smile playing about her lips and told him that—if he were a good boy and promised to do all of his chores for the entire year and didn't sass back to his uncle, he would get a present for his next birthday. The promise seemed like it was too good to be true, and yet…
Harry had never before been given a present from his relatives.
Dudley's hand-me-downs, sure. A place to sleep and occasionally something to eat. But those were things that were expected of him, if only because he couldn't go out in public unclothed and, if he got too thin, people would question the Dursleys and eventually find out how they really did treat him. None of those things were gifts; they were necessities, and Harry had learned the difference the hard way the first time Aunt Petunia had given him a blanket to pad his mattress with during wintertime.
At his thanks, Aunt Petunia's upper lip had curled and she had turned away from him with a small sniff. It had been getting colder, she had informed him while her gaze turned flinty. She didn't want him to take the chance of getting a cold: his aunt wanted to make sure that Dudley stayed well and if Harry got sick who, then, would take care of the house? The words had been like a slap in the face, but Harry had quickly accepted it—what else could he do?—and had noted for future reference what the difference was.
A gift was not a necessity.
A gift was a luxury.
And Aunt Petunia had promised that he would be given gifts for his next birthday if he did well; thus, Harry did all of Dudley's homework, slaving away over his fat cousin's assignments at the detriment of his own. He waxed Uncle Vernon's car every single day until the paint's sealant could no longer hold the polish and the liquid instead beaded off. He did housework—cooking, cleaning, small errands that he could get to on foot, and anything else that Aunt Petunia asked of him. He gardened the front and back yards, as well, and when springtime arrived Aunt Petunia proudly displayed the award that she had been given for "Best-Kept Home and Garden."
It was an award that she had been trying to get for years, but had always lost to Mrs. Fitzpatrick of 7 Wisteria Lane. This year, though… oh, this year, she had finally rightfully won the plaque from Mrs. Fitzpatrick's grubby grasp!
Aunt Petunia made Harry polish the award at least three times every single day.
The chores, the work, the derision, and the gloating over how beautiful the Dursley house was—everything and anything, Harry knew that he was willing to put up with because it meant that he would be given presents. Presents for the very first time, on his birthday! The thought was one that filled Harry with a sort of giddy excitement, a belly-deep expectation that burrowed itself deeper and deeper and knotted tighter and tighter the sooner that July 31st approached.
By the time that the day finally arrived, Harry thought that he might faint from anticipation.
The boy slipped out from his cupboard beneath the stairs early in the morning on his birthday after having heard Aunt Petunia throw something at the door. It had landed with a quiet "thud" and since neither Uncle Vernon nor Dudley had come 'round to pick it up, the thing must have contained Harry's present.
The boy spotted a brown paper bag—the type that was used to place groceries in—that had the name "Harry" scrawled messily near the top. Breath coming quick, hitching with an overwhelming sense of bliss, the verdant-eyed boy reached out and hugged the bag to his chest before quickly darting back into the cupboard.
Harry turned on the light overhead, biting his lower lip as he looked down at the bag at the end of his mattress. His hands shook as he made to open the edges, and Harry forced himself to pause for a moment to take a deep breath, wanting to be calm so that he could always remember this moment. Once he had himself under control, however, the ten year-old scooted closer to the bag and carefully began to open the top to peek inside.
And his heart plummeted.
There, at the bottom of the bag, Harry saw that his gift compromised a coat hanger, bent and warped and well-past the ability to be used, and a pair of Uncle Vernon's old socks. There was nothing else in the bag and it was then that Harry realized that this, this, was supposed to be his birthday present—the gifts that he had worked all year for. And though Harry knew that saying anything was impossible (he'd just get lectured on how he was ungrateful, always ungrateful, and that these presents, too, had had to be taken away from Dudley for some-reason-or-another), the boy still was fully aware of the fact that he had been cheated.
Bile rising in his throat, Harry shoved the bag off of his thin mattress and onto the floor, not wanting to deal with his birthday gift any longer; it hurt to think about it and, seeing it, Harry had to fight hard to ward off tears. There was no point in crying. It never mattered, never helped in any way.
As the bag tumbled down to the ground, the dark-haired boy heard a muted "thunk"—the type of sound that was made when metal hit something hard. The same sound had happened when Harry accidentally knocked over Aunt Petunia's plaque; thankfully, though, the woman hadn't heard the noise and Harry had been quick to put the award back in its place before the horsey woman had meandered out from the kitchen with her usual cup of afternoon tea.
Curious now, Harry crawled closer to the end of his mattress and grabbed the bottom of the paper bag to upend its contents upon the wooden floor. The "thunk" was repeated, and the boy frowned slightly as he considered the two items. The hanger wasn't heavy enough to merit such a sound, but the socks… the socks were wool. It would have been impossible for them to make that "thunk" unless…
The boy scooped up the folded fabric and ran his fingers along each sock's length. When he got to the bottom of one, Harry finally felt the solid, unforgiving curves of metal tucked in the very tip of a toe.
He unrolled the socks from one another cautiously before tipping over the "special" sock, the one with the secret, to see what it was that it was hiding. Shaking it firmly, eyes intent upon his sheets to see what fell onto them, Harry's expression turned gobsmacked when a heavy silver locket tumbled from its prison to plop down heavily before the ten year-old's crossed legs.
"Wow…" Harry breathed as he held the amulet up, letting it catch the light from the naked bulb above him. The locket was tarnished and would require some polishing to get it to be shiny again—but that also meant that it was real silver because it looked exactly like how Aunt Petunia's good silverware did before she made Harry polish them up when company came over.
An elegant "S" was etched upon the front of the locket, gracefully curving this way and that—almost serpentine in its movements, and Harry was reminded of the pet snake that he had helped take care of with the teacher when he was in second grade. Lightly, the boy traced the letter, jumping in surprise when a sharp spark sprung from the top—and then the locket divided itself in half and fell open.
There was a painting—or, at least Harry thought that it was a painting; he had never seen a real one before so he wasn't quite sure that that was what it was—on the inside and he (the person in the painting!) moved, almost as if it were alive!
The man—the man that moved!—was obviously from a long time ago. He wore some sort of dress that swept down to the ground and a feathered serpent had its body twined comfortably around his torso. The man's hair was as dark as Harry's own—but much, much neater—and his eyes… his eyes were the exact same shade as Harry's!
No one had ever had the same color eyes as Harry before, and the boy knew that this locket was very, very special. Not only did it have a moving painting, but the man who was in the painting had the same eyes as he did; the locket was old, positively ancient, and the boy wondered if this was some sort of magic talisman that would keep him safe, that only he would have been able to find…
Maybe the man in the painting was Merlin!
The locket certainly looked old enough to come from the time of King Arthur's court… and if it really had come from back then, then it meant that there was something special about Harry to have found it, nestled as the locket had been in Uncle Vernon's sock. After all, if Aunt Petunia had known about it, she certainly wouldn't have given it to her nephew as a birthday present! If anything, she would have pawned it and spent the money on Dudley.
But… no. The locket now belonged to Harry, and it was his secret—one that he'd never, ever give up. Lightly, the boy traced the edge of the locket, staring in fascination at the man in the painting as he smirked up at the child in turn.
Harry flinched as his aunt rapped harshly upon the cupboard's door, and he knew that it was time to come out to start on his chores for the day. Swallowing, the green-eyed boy glanced down—didn't want to leave it behind, in here, where Dudley could have easily stolen it—and, decision quick, Harry closed the locket and placed the chain over his head.
It took only a moment more before Harry stuffed the cool metal beneath his billowy shirt, hiding it from view. With his newfound secret hanging just over his heart, Harry eased his cupboard door open and stepped out of his room before padding on silent feet towards the kitchen so that he could begin to make breakfast.