AN: ALL READERS SHOULD READ OPENING AN. Important story notices will appear here; I'll be endeavouring to keep my pontifications largely to the end notes to avoid loading down readers.
This is the revised (improved) version; I'm posting this as a joint aspect to posting the sequel. Some of the errors I found in the old version were downright appalling, so hopefully this will be an easier read this time around. My plan is to post two chapters of the revised version a day until the sixteenth, which is the one year anniversary of Brutal Harry's last chapter being posted, at which point I will post the last chapter (epilogue), and the first chapter of the sequel. That's right, unless something goes wrong, the first chapter of the sequel will be up in one week. Now on with the (revised) story.
Harry Potter tucked his head between his arms, and clasped his hands over the back of his neck. Rolling around, he tried to keep his legs facing the heavier hitters; they wouldn't hit hard enough to break his shins, but he'd ended up spitting and shitting blood once before when he'd taken a few too many hits below his ribcage. He felt a fifth set of kicking feet join in his attackers; Piers must have determined no one was going to run for a teacher, and left his look-out duties behind to join in on the 'fun'.
Around the schoolyard of Little Whinging Primary School, a few children stole occasional glances at the second formers beating up on what looked like a first form student, but for the most part ignored the gang of bullies picking on their favorite victim. They all knew well enough that drawing attention to it would only draw attention to themselves, and the last girl who had done that had transferred out rather than face the consequences. Dudley Dursley's father was in with the Principal and the Superintendant, and none of the other teachers cared enough to stick their necks out by going over their heads to the Ministry of Education.
Eventually, the bell rang, and after a few final kicks for good measure, Harry's attackers slouched off towards class. Harry kept himself curled up protectively for another half minute or so, making sure they weren't waiting for him to expose his face to a cheap shot; they'd done it before, and it was hard to fix his glasses. Gradually, after he regained his senses from the beating enough to hear the lack of heavy breathing around him, he uncurled himself and sat gingerly up, looking around the schoolyard. Tears streaked the inside of his glasses, distorting his vision, so he took them off and wiped them on his shirt.
He put them back on his face, and the right lens was streaked with blood. Inspecting his hands, he found that at some point one of the larger boy's kicks had split the skin on his right hand while slamming it up against his head. Harry wiped his glasses again, this time taking care to keep the blood on his right hand off of the lenses, then replaced them again. This time he could clearly see the schoolyard around him. Empty, as he expected.
The most remarkable thing about the schoolyard was himself, and the bloodstains he was leaving on the pavement. Again.
And he was alone.
Shuddering with pent up emotion, Harry grit his teeth as new tears threatened to stream forth, and choked them down with a fierce, hot anger. Lurching to his feet, Harry wobbled dangerously for a moment, before snarling, a strange and chilling expression on his little six-year-old face, and stalking towards the school building with a purpose.
I will never cry again. He silently promised himself.
It had been three days since Harry had eaten, or had anything to drink that hadn't come from the garden hose. It would be two more before he was permitted food again. Aunt Petunia's garden, which he was quickly becoming intimately familiar, while he worked his tired and aching hands between the various desired plants and removed the weeds, consisted mostly of flowers and other purely aesthetic plants, but there were a few vegetables as well.
Those vegetables, even covered in dirt as they were, looked very, very tasty to Harry. Looking up and around, Harry made sure his Aunt was not watching. Dudley was at the Polkiss' place, Vernon was at work (even though it was a Saturday), but he still checked around his entire line of sight in case the nosy neighbours were spying again. As best as he could tell, the coast was clear.
Moving hurriedly and furtively, Harry stripped half a dozen beans from one of the common green bean bushes, attempting to pick ones that were less visible, and ate them, hardly chewing enough to cram the vegetables down his small throat. Shaking with fear, he quickly shifted his attention back to weeding the garden. It was nearly a half an hour before he calmed down enough to stop trembling, and he almost threw up the little he had eaten because of all the nervous tension.
A week later, when Petunia discovered the stripped bean stems, she told Vernon. Vernon beat Harry 'for stealing food,' for 'defying him,' and for 'being a no-good freak,' until he threw up everything in his stomach, locked him in his cupboard for a day, then forbade him food for another week. It took three days after that beating before Harry stopped seeing red in his urine.
Harry uncurled in the schoolyard again. This time his glasses did not need to be wiped free of tears, though a few had still leaked down the side of his face. He used those escaped tears as fuel for anger at himself, and the world at large, to drive away the pain. Although his glasses were clear of tears, he still checked his hands to make sure they were not bleeding again before he stood up and proceeded into the school building. Unlike the aftermath of the previous beatings he had endured, this time he slunk off towards the kitchen's back entrance, rather than the first form classrooms.
The kitchens had two sets of doors leading directly outside, one a man-sized set of double-doors, the other a set of freight-sized double doors, beside which the school dumpsters resided. Limping up to the dumpsters as quietly as he could, Harry listened for a few moments to the noises emanating from the kitchens, and after determining as best as he knew how that no one would be leaving the kitchens soon, he opened the top of one of the dumpsters, and climbed in.
Half an hour later, a pair of kitchen workers dumped a series of trash bags into the dumpsters, not bothering to look inside as they did so. Harry waited for the workers to move back inside, then tore open each bag in sequence until he found what he was looking for: Bread. He immediately devoured as much of the day-old loaf as he could, the rancid odor of rot surrounding him in the dumpster not deterring his appetite in the least. Four days into his second week without food this month, his stomach had shrunk to the point where he could only eat three slices.
Crushing nearly a half-loaf into as compact a ball as he could, Harry placed it in his mouth to soak in his saliva, then paused to listen. After a moment, he peaked up out of the dumpster, and seeing no one around, clambered out, then limped back around the school towards one of the entrances that students were permitted to use. The clatter of the dumpster lid coming down, however, had drawn the passing notice of one of the Kitchen staff, who idly stepped to the back of the kitchen, and saw Harry's retreating form through the window set into the doors. Curious, and looking for something to do before clocking out time now that lunch was over, he stepped outside and took a peek inside the dumpsters, seeing the bags of food Harry had torn open.
The kitchen worker passed on his concerns about some poor sod having to raid the garbage for food to the principal; the principal made an educated guess and called Vernon at work. Vernon called Petunia. Petunia locked Harry into his cupboard as soon as he returned from school. When Vernon returned from work. He beat Harry for daring to break his enforced fast, for making him look bad in front of his old schoolmates, and for 'being a no-good freak son of no-good freakish parents.'
This time Harry managed not to throw up what he had eaten, but three bones in the fingers of his right hand were broken protecting his stomach. Vernon deciding breaking the boy's bones and leaving them unsplinted was sufficient punishment in lieu of making him throw up what he had eaten again. This time it was a week before Harry stopped pissing blood.
The kitchen worker was laid off, with no explanation given.
Harry stared blindly at Petunia's garden as he worked it over for weeds and parasites again, avoiding looking at the bean plants for as long as he could. He managed to avoid it for quite a while; he could barely work half as fast with the broken bones in his right hand. Eventually though, he was forced to work around the leafy bean plants, and his hands trembled in fear the entire time, painfully jostling the cracked bones in his right hand, and he got the dry heaves and had to stop working several times, waiting for them to pass. His week without food had been reset after he had been caught dumpster diving, and it had been four days since the bread.
In desperation, Harry eventually tore up handfuls of grass from behind the car port, and swallowed it. That night, he began frothing at the mouth and vomited up a mixture of grass and stomach acid. When Petunia found the vomit in the morning, she snarled at Harry that he had better clean it up before Vernon found out. Vernon smelled the stench from the cupboard as he passed it on his way towards the breakfast Harry was cooking him, and Harry was saved a beating only by Vernon's lack of time before work.
At the end of the day, when Harry was back from school, and Vernon from work, Vernon did something new, he lashed Harry with his belt rather than simply beat him with his fists. The pain was excruciating, especially where welts were laid atop the bruises he already had from his most recent beating. Harry went another week without food, even though he had not been able to gain any nutritional value from the grass he had tried to eat. Fortunately, the lashing, while painful, did not aggravate his already abused internal organs, and Harry stuck out the rest of his term without food in stoic silence.
Petunia worried, though she did not let on to anyone else, that the only reason Harry survived the protracted starvation, was due to his magical nature.
The next day at school, Harry ran from Dudley and his gang of bullies like he never had before. It hurt to simply sit or lay on the welts that covered his chest and buttocks, and he was still peeing blood. He did not want to know how much worse Dudley and his 'friends' could make things. That day in the cooling October air, for the first time, he ran not for fear of pain, but for fear of his life. His body was weak, starved, and damaged, but his drive to survive gave him an insurmountable edge over the out of shape bullies who pursued him for cheap thrills.
For the first time he could remember, he escaped Dudley and his bullies when they set out after him, and learned his first lesson of survival: Always be the fastest.
By this point, his attendance of after-break classes was so infrequent that teachers did not bother to note his absence from their classes during that period, so Harry, exhausted but feeling a strange and unfamiliar sense of satisfaction, lurched off to the library, to try to find out why he could not eat grass, and what else he could try to eat.
End Prologue Part 1.
Now eight years old, Harry surveyed the roof of the school around him, keeping utterly quiet to avoid notice from Dudley and his gang, with their two new members, below. Two of Dudley's old gang members had moved over the summer, so he had recruited two more, and his greatest exercise of his largely neglected mind, had specifically set out to recruit a pair of boys who were not as fat and lazy as he was, for pretty much the sole purpose of being able to catch Harry and hold him down long enough for Dudley to start beating on him.
Panic had set in when he had been cornered by the dumpsters; eight year old muscles, especially on a boy as broad as Dudley, could do a lot more damage than six-year-old muscles could, and Harry knew Dudley's character well enough to realize that the fat bully would do his best to bring two years of missed beatings back on Harry all at once. Five boys beating him all at once, one knowing he would be able to brag to his parents about it, as well as take out two years of frustration, was not something Harry was certain he could survive.
That was when Harry learned that speed alone was not enough. He still was unclear on how he had arrived on the roof of the school, but he was certain the great sense of pressure across his entire body that had preceded him arriving there was directly related, especially considering he had never felt anything like it before. It also violated everything he had learned about what was and was not possible in the world. Harry spent the rest of lunch period trying to figure out what had happened, before the bell rang, and he shimmied down a drain pipe to the ground, before heading off to the library to try to read up on suddenly being somewhere other than you had been a moment before.
When Vernon returned from work that evening, he had words with Dudley, and Harry endured another beating, and was assigned another week without food. Apparently suddenly disappearing was 'freakish.' From the way Vernon said it, Harry immediately realized that this was something more than the 'freakish' things Harry had supposedly done before. Harry was unsure just what the significance of the difference, but it was there.
That night, as Harry broke out of 'his' cupboard and set out into the night, he thought long and hard on just what the connection between the physically impossible and his uncle's obsession with 'freakishness' was. After scrounging a variety of herbs from places he knew they grew around Little Whinging and applying them to his bruise and welt-covered body, he eventually came to the conclusion that became his second axiom of life and war: Knowledge is power, both the knowledge that one does possess, and the knowledge that one doesn't. That which you knew could be used to your advantage, and that which you did not know could cost you dearly.
It was a month of after-recess periods in the library before Harry came to the conclusion that if there was any science that covered what he had done to get himself up on the school roof, he wasn't going to find it in an elementary school library. And that meant that whatever it was, it was not something he should have been capable of triggering completely unintentionally, with no equipment, and no knowledge of how such a thing worked. To everything he knew, this was not natural, and Vernon liked throwing around 'unnatural' almost as much as he liked throwing around 'freakish.'
So, in the greatest traditions of the scientific process, Harry decided to attempt to understand this unknown via the scientific method: Experimentation.
Harry looked around the compact space between the dumpsters and the school building that he had disappeared from, and mentally reconstructed the scenario that had led to his disappearance. Dudley and his cronies had gotten their hands on a new hand-held game system, and thus today was an 'off' day for the bullying, one Harry fully intended to take advantage of, to the absolute best of his ability. Moving himself carefully into the exact position he had been in as best as he could remember, he closed his eyes, and fixed his attention on the roof.
"Up," He said quietly to himself.
"Damn," Harry said, opening his eyes and scowling up at the sky as it began to rain.
Harry again positioned himself, this time wearing the same set of thread-bare hand-me-downs he had worn on that day, and closed his eyes to concentrate.
Up, He thought.
"Damn," Harry said.
Harry placed himself again, this time wearing the same clothes, with the temperature being as close as he could to what last month's paper had said it had been on that day, and closed his eyes to concentrate.
Then he opened his eyes, because he didn't remember closing them before appearing on the roof, and concentrated again.
"Damn," Harry muttered.
It wasn't until after Christmas break that Harry turned his literary investigations into what had happened towards the fiction section of the library, specifically to fantasy fiction. It did not take him long to pick up the most serious-looking piece of writing there, "The Eye of the World." It took him three weeks of reading in his 'library' periods to work his way through the massive book, a fair amount of that time spent with a dictionary expanding his vocabulary.
There was one theme to the magic of that world that he found that he had not attempted to tie into his experimentation at all yet; emotion. Desperation, fear, anger, powerful emotion was a driving theme in the untrained magic use of the main character. If this was the supernatural, then he certainly was untrained in its use, and this was not something he had thought to attempt before.
Harry stood between the wall of the school and the back of the dumpster, and tried to recall the fear that had driven him during the autumn chase. It was not as simple as he expected; the fear hid away from his conscious mind, not wanting to come open and alive within him. For several long minutes, Harry simply stood there, shocked and confused at things that rebelled within him, and his under-sized body began to tremble as the fear washed through him in spite of his own subconscious desire to hide from it.
But then his eyes began to wet with tears and a spike or rage shot through him like a thunderburst, and the fear was scoured from his system by an overwhelming tide of fury. Snarling aloud, Harry focused on where he was, then on the roof, and twisted, and then...
Harry was on the roof.
End Prologue Part 2.
Nine years old now, Harry held himself in a tight ball, and focused. He could feel it within him, moving in spastic spurts and starts to his force of will. He could summon the energy at will now, after two years of late nights alone in his cupboard, not paying attention in class, and attempting to multi-task as he performed his chores. Unfortunately, he could not direct it very well, though he could shape it to a purpose if his concentration was not broken.
The sheer number of beatings he had earned due to his distractions while multi-tasking on his chores had taught him to focus no matter the pain he experienced. Now, he carried the fruit of those painfully earned lessons in the magical energy imbued along the flesh of his back, absorbing most of the blows Vernon rained down upon him. It wasn't enough yet though, Harry could only maintain the shield over so much of his body at once, and he would not be satisfied until he could protect his entirety all at once.
So Harry held himself in a defensive ball, and focused as his uncle attempted, again, to 'beat the freakishness out of him.' The lack of bones breaking, and the fact that blood merely dribbled rather than splattered, combined with Harry's lack of vomiting, drove Vernon to beat Harry until he exhausted himself. After half an hour of violence, Vernon hurled Harry, who was still curled into a defensive ball, into 'his' cupboard and locked the door.
Harry crashed into the side of the cupboard head-first, and the blow stunned Harry, who had been focusing his protection on his back, and several moments passed in dazed pain before Harry was able to pull himself into some semblance of order. It wasn't much of a semblance, maintaining focus for so long had mentally exhausted him, but he was bleeding again, and he did not intend to let that go to waste.
Groaning slightly as he twisted around, painfully stretching his abused flesh, Harry cribbed his slightly misshapen right hand over to begin smearing the droplets of blood he'd left on the floor around, writing in a written language that was a horrific butchery of anything a half-way decent linguist had ever known. It was also completely unique to Harry, as he was still in the process of inventing it.
As the stress and demands of the moment faded, and the light creeping in under the Cupboard door flicked off when his aunt and uncle went to bed, grief and pain began to well up within Harry's heart. It was, he had learned from some of the more advanced books in the library, a common after-affect of intensely stressful situations; the human mind and body would go into survival mode and shut down extraneous thoughts and emotions until the crisis had passed. Then, as the urgency and demands of the moment faded, everything that was shunted aside would come pouring back in. It was, in essence, a form of shock.
Harry had considerable experience with such unpleasantness himself, and fought tenaciously to concentrate on useful things past them. He was developing three different skills with his magic; the first was the teleportation effect that had triggered his discovery of magic in the first place; the second was the protective magic he had focused on learning out of necessity; the third was something he was attempting to approach in an academic and analytical way (at least, as best a desperate and driven nine year old could). He had pored through dozens of different writer's fantasy works to try to find something he could do that was neither too spectacular to avoid notice, nor too insignificant to be useful. Interestingly enough, it had been the Bible that had set him onto this track, 'the life of a man is in his blood,' alongside the works of an obscure author, Jack Vance, who had invented a system of magic that functioned based on prepared and pre-charged spells.
What Harry was attempting was nothing like Vancian Magic, though it had drawn inspiration from it. He was attempting to store his magical energy outside of his body, via the medium of his blood, and if possible set it to a task, which he was attempting to shape with the characters he used. So far, he had been unable to properly store any energy; his blood would 'charge,' but the charge would gradually fade over time; at best, exhausting himself, he'd manage a charge that lasted a little over twenty-six hours. Shaping it to a purpose would have to wait until he knew how to provoke his magic to more tasks than simply travel and protection, though he had managed at least to force it to store in different 'shapes'.
While that branch of study had proved thus-far useless, between his rapidly-developing teleportation ability, and his protection, Harry Potter had become a firm believer in not only the existence of, but also the utility of, the supernatural. Even the attempts at storing magic in his blood served a purpose, though one he tried not to consciously think about: drawing his attention away from the pain of the present.
Rage coursed through Harry's young and undersized body as he glared harshly across the yard at Dudley and his gang. They had finally given up on chasing him after the first week of the school year; they hadn't caught him a single time the last term. So now they were picking new targets. A little blonde girl, who walked with a slight limp, one Harry knew from personal experience came from a not-yet-fully healed injury, and wore clothes that showed some signs of being hand-me-downs, though they fit her well. To Harry's disgust, those petty distinctions were sufficient to isolate her from the rest of the girls, and that left her exposed and alone to Dudley's predations. Cold fury burned in his veins as he watched them steal the girl's lunch, but everything within him screamed that the means of survival was avoiding attention and escaping the bullies, not provoking and antagonizing them.
Then Dudley backhanded the girl across the face, and Harry acted before he consciously realized he'd made a decision. His fist buried itself in Dudley's back, bruising the boy's kidney and knocking him off of his feet; punch delivered forward and upward, moving his center of mass behind blow. Piers Polkiss received a kick to the back of his right knee, then a sharp jerk on his shoulder to send him tumbling backward.
An imbalanced enemy cannot strike effectively.
Harry lunged past the two boys he had already downed as the other bullies turned to face him, wrapping his arms around the girl in a tackle-hug, twisting as he knocked her over, and then disappeared.
They crashed down onto the school roof, the girl landing on top of Harry, before the rest of Dudley's pack of bullies had a chance to get a look at Harry's face. The girl, however, did. She was trembling, staring wildly around the roof in confusion, complete and utter bewilderment showing on her face.
"Wha-wha-wha?" She stuttered.
"I took you away from my cousin," Harry said quietly, "It looks like he's given up on seeking me as a target in favor of others. Please get off of me."
Abruptly realizing that she was on top of the smaller boy, she rolled off of him, and managed to sit upright despite how heavily dazed she was.
"What... What did you do?" She finally managed to get out.
"I took you away from my cousin," Harry repeated, standing up and moving towards the edge of the roof, very deliberately facing away from her, "Stay away from him. He's a bully. Stay away from me, I attract bullies' attention. I'm sorry."
Very carefully not facing the girl, Harry climbed down off the roof.
That was when Harry learned that he could not abide bullies, regardless of who they were picking on.
Harry was not surprised when he was sent directly to 'his cupboard' when he got back from school that afternoon; he knew Dudley hadn't seen that it was him, but he also knew that would not stop him from receiving the blame. He did not expect his uncle to not immediately storm to the cupboard and rip the door open when he got home. Instead it was a good half hour before he was summoned out of the cupboard by his aunt to the kitchen.
He hesitated as he approached the doorway, instinct and experience both screaming how wrong the situation was. Desperately wishing he knew how to protect his entire body at once, he grasped his shoulders with his hands to protect his chest, and focused his magic on shielding his head, then stepped through the doorway into the kitchen.
A three-iron slammed into his forehead, the sheer force of impact from Vernon Dursley's powerful swing with the golf club bowling Harry over and splitting his scalp in spite of his defenses. As his brain was bounced within his own skull, his blood splattered across the hallway beside the stairs, a handful of drops touching the door of the cupboard. The last thing Harry saw before passing out, he was fairly certain was a side effect of the massive head trauma; after all, blood does not flow up.
When Harry next woke, it was a slow, gradual progression. It took some minutes for him to form a coherent awareness of his surroundings and pattern of thought. He was resting on a soft surface, covered in a blanket, but the air beyond the blanket was uncomfortably cool. He opened his eyes, and found himself, for the first time in living memory, on a bed. Judging by the impersonal cleanliness and white-dominated coloration of his surroundings, he was fairly certain he was in a hospital bed at that. Entering a hospital was another first for him.
He could also feel his internal energies raised to protect himself, without him needing to concentrate to maintain the effect. Frowning slightly, he focused on the sensations permeating his body, attempting to figure out what had changed. He spent perhaps half an hour attempting to delve his internal energies, and how they were distributed; eventually he came to the conclusion that whatever pathways his energy traveled through to assert his defensive reinforcement now held a default position of 'on' rather than 'off'. It had the downside of being weaker, as it was diffused through his entire body, but he was confident he could strengthen it given time.
Harry smiled, a somewhat grimly satisfied expression that carried a hint of a smirk with it as well.
It was three weeks before the hospital staff would release him to the care of his aunt. Police officers, medical personnel, and a few people Harry suspected were psychologists or counselors in the employ of the state attempted to get him to speak of his time at the Dursley's, but Harry would only ask questions. What was life like in the police force? How often did they deal with armed criminals? Did they receive unarmed combat training, or did they rely entirely upon their weapons? What was life like as a medical professional? How was the pay? What was medical school like? Was it worth it?
Eventually they gave up. When Harry returned to Number Four, Privet Drive, Petunia informed him he would now be staying in what had formerly been Dudley's second bedroom, and Vernon would not be returning to their house.
Harry did not ask why Vernon would not be returning.
So long as he never had to see the man again, he did not care.
End Prologue Part 3.
During Harry's sixth year at school, none of the bullies dared pick on him, and when he made it clear he would interfere if they ever physically assaulted anyone else, even if he only heard of it later, they restricted their bullying to verbal jabs. This was when Harry learned the power of Fear, and how he could wield it against his enemies. He spent the year ignoring his teachers in every class, instead studying the books he had gained access to at the Little Whinging Library.
Access to the school library was one of many things that had changed in his life. Almost the entire staff of the Little Winging Primary School had been sacked, the teachers for dereliction of duty, while the Principal and Headmaster had ended up in prison. Harry had been subjected to a battery of tests, a very long battery of tests, when he had returned to school from the hospital. He had been informed at the outset of the testing, that his continued access to the school library was dependent on his performance, a move suggested by one of the psychologists that had attempted to work with him during his hospital stay, and this motivated him to actually perform to the best of his ability. Harry himself never heard of it, but the results shocked the child services personnel assigned to his case; the testing revealed a complete scattershot of knowledge, some of which was woefully behind his class level (history, geography), some of which was far ahead (reading level, mathematics, and more esoterics not usually taught in primary school, such as wilderness lore and other survival skills).
Simple observation also revealed an incredibly aggressive interest in fantasy fiction on his part, which was taken as a highly-developed form of escapism by the child services and new school staff. Several meetings between Petunia and child services personnel were held while Harry and Dudley were at school, and the Little Whinging Primary School library was deliberately seeded with a number of stories that tied into psychology studies, and psychology texts, in the hope of leading Harry towards a more developed understanding of his own traumatized condition.
Harry's relationship with Petunia also changed, she did not speak to him much, but she required no more from him than she did from Dudley, and ensured he had access to three meals per day. She did not always cook for him, but neither did she require him to cook for her and Dudley, and she very directly told him that so long as he did not waste food or eat to excess, he could use make full use of the kitchen between 8 AM and PM as he wished.
When she told him this, he could see a hint of fear, and a greater measure of relief in her eyes. This was when Harry learned that things are not always as they seem, as he realized that Petunia herself had been living in fear of Vernon for years. While he was glad of the far less tense and far more open home environment, aside from its direct consequences on himself, he put it out of his mind as not his business.
Most of Harry's time (that not spent reading) at Number 4 Privet Drive was now spent attempting to regain control of his internal power. Due to its constant investiture in protecting his body, he no longer had the discretionary energy free to teleport, and that infuriated Harry. He had become accustomed to the mobility teleportation offered him, and was far from fond of losing it; he had rapidly devised a series of mental exercises designed to increase his energy reserves in order to regain the ability. Mostly it consisted of reinforcing his protection in various places, and spending more time on his attempts to charge his magic into something using his blood. It was a bit easier to work on the floor of his new room, as he had more light available, but he had less free power to work with, and any energy he managed to charge into his blood continued to drain away.
He did make progress in increasing his reserves, but it was agonizingly slow, as something like half the power he gained was immediately diverted to his internal reinforcement. While he was glad of the strength added to his defenses, he would have much preferred to regain his teleportation ability first, then reinforce his protections. It was better to avoid trouble, than have protection to help endure it. This was how Harry passed the year leading up to his eleventh birthday, though to his frustration, by the end of it, he could barely teleport across a room, and that only with great concentration. It was a far cry from the near-effortless town-crossing teleportation he had been capable of before, but it was better than nothing.
Everything changed on his eleventh birthday.
"Harry," Petunia said, "This is for you."
She handed an unusual letter across the breakfast table.
It bore classicly styled heraldry, with a quartet of creatures and a stylized H forming a crest, and contained a word that would dominate the next half decade of his life.
The next weekend, Harry watched his Aunt drive out of sight, and then turned to the 'pub' in front of him, the Leaky Cauldron. He found it to be singularly unimpressive, and, tucking his hat further down over his head, walked directly into, through, and out of the establishment without making eye contact with a single patron or member of staff. Once he reached the reached the brick wall his Aunt had spoken of, he channeled his energy to his hand, and then tapped a particular order of bricks.
As he had hoped, his magically charged appendage made a suitable substitute for a wand, and the brick wall folded itself into an archway, revealing an open-air day market beyond. Diagon Alley, his Aunt had called it; Harry took a few moments to observe both it, and the mannerisms of the people within, then set about collecting supplies. He first stopped by a "Madam Malkin's" for robes, as he did not wish to draw attention to himself by being a member of the small minority wearing modern clothing rather than the archaic robes it seemed magical personages preferred.
The garment shop accepted his pounds, but recommended he proceed to Gringott's to exchange currency, as most others would not. Harry found his brief business with the Goblins to be eminently satisfying; they were quick, efficient, brooked no nonsense, and above all else, bore no false pretenses. Harry could appreciate that in a person. From Gringott's, he proceeded to systematically work his way across the Alley, picking up the various prescribed tools and implements, skipping the book store for now, until he entered Ollivander's, having acquired everything else on his list, save his wand, and his books.
"Ah," An unexpected voice called, "Mister Potter, I have been expecting you."
Harry stared up at the ponderously thin and tall man that had appeared before him, not blinking as the man's unusually large eyes studied him.
"Why?" Harry finally said.
"Ah," Ollivander said, "Every young witch or wizard in England comes to me for their first wand, and after the exceptional talents displayed by your parents, I have been greatly anticipating your arrival."
Harry simply nodded in response, and set about finding a wand that matched him. An hour later he left Ollivanders a few galleons lighter, one wand heavier, and disturbed at what he had learned of his parents' killer. Then Harry Potter, age eleven, turned his attention to "Flourish and Blott's," a bookstore.
Six hours later, he spent four trips packing all of the books he had purchased out from the store to the curb outside the Leaky Cauldron, twenty minutes after that his Aunt loaded him, and over two hundred pounds of books and supplies into her car, and they returned to Surrey. During the return trip, Harry tore through An Introduction to the Many Uses of Magic, a short, one hundred and fifty page text targeted towards those unfamiliar with Magic as a whole.
After returning to Privet Drive, it took Harry several trips to transport all of the books from the car to his room, immediately after which he read the introduction to each of the primary magical texts. After reading them, he began sorting his books by order of importance, Charms, Transfiguration, Runes, Potions, Arithmancy, then Defence Against The Dark Arts. From what he gathered, the last subject was simply an amalgamation of appropriate portions of other subjects as applied to dealing with 'Dark' Arts. After this initial run, Harry had three different texts that appeared to be promising commentaries or summations of more obscure subjects that he intended to research.
In the end, he decided that the various abilities offered by each branch of magical were simply too varied and overlapping for him to focus study by branch, and decided to focus by desired effect instead. When he tried to decide which effects he desired, he very quickly realized that he just didn't know enough about what abilities he would need to form a definitive list, all he'd ever faced before was his uncle, and schoolyard bullies.
So he decided to form a basic list of desired abilities, and work towards acquiring said abilities, while revising and updating the list at least every month. His initial list was surprisingly short, especially since had already covered part of it; mobility, defense/durability, one offensive effect, and healing. The most important thing, he didn't need magic for in the first place, information.
Because, as far as he was concerned, knowing things was the most important power of them all.
"The Art of War is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or ruin, Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected."
-Sun Tzu's Art of War, Chapter 1, Section 1-2.