Disclaimer: Neither Harry Dresden nor Harry Potter belong to me.
A/N: I'm still working on Thunderstorm, new chapter should be out soon. There we go. Anyways, this is a plot bunny that bit me while I was working on chapter 7 of Thunderstorm and wouldn't let go. Keep in mind that the protagonist is one person, this is important not to get confused. While the story is rated M, it probably won't ever be a very heavy M - I'm just covering my bases. Future updates will be faster in the DLP WbA, as usual (except in the Dresden WbA this time). Please read, review, and most importantly, enjoy!
October 31st, 1981
A scream of pain, desperation, and triumph.
A flash of green light, the rushing cold of dark power. A soul is torn from its body, magic is released from its life, and the barriers are breached.
Home and Hell
June - November, 1987 (July, 1984)
When I tried to tell my father about the fat man and skinny woman who locked me in a cupboard every third day and night, he thought I was having nightmares. He told me that he'd be there for me in the morning, and he was, but only after I spent a day trapped in a nightmare.
I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Upon my vocal objections to the treatment I suffered at her hands, she dropped me in surprise. I then noticed, having become more self-aware, that I was rather smaller than I used to be. Talking was more difficult too, but this didn't bother me overmuch. I only needed to say one word: "No".
The woman shoved me into the cupboard for my trouble and I started screaming for my release, but she ignored me. I fell asleep alone, afraid, and exhausted.
The next morning I woke up to my father's smiling face. "Daddy," I whispered. "She put me in the cupboard again."
His smile dimmed, but he brought me closer to him and whispered soothing words into my ear.
He didn't believe me.
Days passed, weeks passed, months passed. I suffered the company of the Dursley family with as much dignity as I could muster, treasuring the time I spent with my father that much more.
Malcolm Dresden died of a brain aneurysm when I was six. I should not have been able to understand what that meant at my age, but I did. I discovered that while I spent every third day in some otherworldly hell, time did not pass in what I called the "real world". I was still young, but older than I appeared.
And thus I was sent to the orphanage.
A Daring Plan
December, 1987 - January, 1988 (November, 1984)
The orphanage was a small building, worn down with age and neglect, but there was a life to it despite its miserable appearance. The paint was peeling and discolored, but there were flowers growing in the windowsills and decorations adorning the walls.
The rooms inside were as cramped as the building, but they were large enough for a small child and his meager possessions.
I stared at the ceiling, laying on my cramped bed. The room I now lived in was modest, plain, and functional. The food was much the same, as were the clothes I wore. Despite this, I noticed that being a ward of the state was not nearly so terrible as the Dursleys would have had me believe.
A week after my father died, I began to rise out of numbness into true grief. It hurt, and I took out the pain on my tormentors in the other world. They couldn't hurt me any more than they already did, and I became further convinced that the entire thing was a figment of my imagination. Even I was old enough to understand that glass vases didn't shatter when you screamed.
A few weeks later, I came to see the silver lining, however thin it was. The orphanage was preferable to the Dursleys, and I was certain that this would be the case in England just as much as in the United States. There had to be a reason why they hadn't sent me to an orphanage, and the threat of Child Protection would surely entice them to treat me better.
"Uncle Vernon," I said. He looked very big and very real, and despite my previous conviction, this seemed to be a foolish endeavor. As he turned around, I girded my resolve and reminded myself that he couldn't truly hurt me, and if he did, I'd just go to an orphanage myself.
"What?" he barked out.
I drew in a deep breath. "Why do I sleep in a cupboard?"
"Because it's what you deserve! Now get lost if you want dinner!" he shouted.
He started to turn around again, but what I said next caught his attention quite well. "I wonder what the police would think?"
He froze mid-step.
"Or the neighbors," I continued.
Vernon turned his head to look at me, and I could almost see the thoughts flashing through his head. After a long moment, during which I didn't dare move, he harrumphed. "You move into Dudley's second room today." He turned away, satisfied that the threat had been defused. It didn't occur to him to wonder how a four-year old could speak in complete sentences, let alone plan out and execute a blackmailing attempt.
The next day, as I woke up in the orphanage again, I smiled for the first time in a month.
Freedom of the Mind
November, 1989 - November, 1991 (November, 1985 - November, 1986)
I rolled my eyes as the teacher called on me once again. Looking at the textbook, I dutifully read out the specified passage. I had a lot of practice at reading, given that I had nothing else to do in my new room at the Dursleys. Not that I was complaining - it was better than sitting in the dark all day.
As the teacher went back to lecturing, I looked around the classroom. The children were restless and clearly not interested in being in a classroom, but that was to be expected. This was not one of the better areas of Chicago, and a significant fraction of the students came from the orphanage.
Johnny was picking at his scabs again, I noticed with some mild despair. I had become something of an assistant to our caretakers because I was reliable. More mature, older, really, but they had no way of knowing that. It made it difficult to have friends, though. Those my age - I was eight - all seemed so very young, and the older kids couldn't be bothered with my presence.
With a silent sigh, I turned back to my book.
I ignored the breeze whipping hair into my eyes as I tried to stare down the two bullies. Mark, the tall one, was flanked by Jason, the taller one.
Mark sneered. "Why do you even bother, Shorty Harry? We all know you can't jump."
I bristled at the nickname, mostly because it was accurate. I wasn't about to let these two goons intimidate me into not performing. Tilting my chin up, I sneered back. "I'd like to see you do better than me."
He snorted and shared a look with Jason. They thought they could jump farther than I could. To be fair, I wasn't so sure they couldn't, but the important part was getting them to leave me alone now, before the competition.
He turned back to me. "Alright, Shorty, we'll see who's biting the dirt later." The pair walked away without a second glance.
Letting out a whuff of air, I turned to stand in line for the long-jump. I daydreamed of how it would feel to actually beat them, and the vicious surge of satisfaction made me realize how much I wanted to. Well, I thought, I would just give it my best shot. If I did manage to jump farther than those two gorillas, the looks on their faces would be priceless.
A few moments later, my turn had come. I stepped up to the line, drew in a deep breath, bent my knees, and pushed-
- felt something push me -
- and left the ground far faster than I expected. For a moment, I flew, but then gravity reasserted itself. I landed awkwardly, a tangle of limbs, bones, skin, and asphalt that left me dizzy and breathless. A moment later, the pain hit, but I started chuckling.
Those suckers sure weren't going to beat me this time.
Two weeks later, I was sitting on my bed at the orphanage. Two weeks later, I was still confused about what had happened when I jumped. Two weeks later, I got called to the front office.
It was two weeks later, then, that I met Justin DuMorne.
He was a tall man, lean with lanky arms and wide shoulders. His hair was cropped close to his head and his features were best described as striking rather than particularly handsome. That was not the first thing that I noticed about him, though.
The first thing that I noticed about him was the way he looked at me. When I entered the room, he peered at me so intensely that I thought I had something stuck in my hair - but no, he was just looking at me.
I ignored him and walked over to the front desk. "Yes, Ms. Graham?"
The bespectacled receptionist looked up at me and smiled. "Good morning, Harry. This is Mr. DuMorne," she motioned to the man standing at the side of her desk, "and he's expressed an interest in meeting you."
I turned to him and sized him up. He was no longer looking at me the way he had when I walked in, but his lips were curled up in a small smile.
I decided to stick to the basic formalities and stuck out my hand. "Pleased to meet you, sir."
He shook my hand and I felt a tingle, almost like the static electricity you picked up in front of a TV, but I ignored it as best as I could.
"Pleased to meet you too, Harry," he said, sincere yet unexcited. His voice matched his appearance well - it was deep and resonant, and it seemed to leave a strong impression on me. I shook off the cobwebs of thought and nodded, and his smile widened slightly.
"Tell me, Harry, do you believe in magic?" he asked.
I narrowed my eyes. This was clearly an interview, but that was a strange question to ask. I glanced at the receptionist, but she was busy with paperwork and didn't seem to be paying attention to us.
"My father was a stage magician," I replied. "But real magic?" I shrugged my shoulders. I had seen things - well, no, done things, really, that I couldn't explain. At first it had been limited to the other world, but then came the long-jump. I could no longer put them off as hallucinations.
"Do you believe in God?" was his next question. I shot him a look, but he wouldn't meet my eyes. That was less of a strange question, but it worried me more. He hadn't struck me as a religious man, but you never knew. I took a minute to compose my answer.
"I have seen no evidence of any being comporting himself as such."
"Big words for a little answer," he snorted, but seemed satisfied. He turned to Ms. Graham and nodded. "I'll be signing the paperwork today."
My heart skipped a beat. I was being adopted? Just like that? I hadn't been hoping for it, exactly - by my age, it was usually too late. But I had thought about it on occasion and decided that it would be better than living in the orphanage. Hell, living with the Dursleys was better than living in the orphanage, and that was barely tolerable.
I looked at Ms. Graham, and she smiled at me, and I smiled back.
I looked at Justin DuMorne, and he smiled at me. And I smiled back.
November, 1991 (November, 1986)
Of course, the paperwork took some time to be filed and processed, but it went suspiciously fast. I was moving in with Justin a week later. When I stepped outside of the orphanage for the last time, carrying everything I owned in a small backpack, I expected us to step into a car and drive away. Justin seemed well-to-do, and besides, you had to have money and a job to adopt.
But we started walking instead. "Sir," I asked, "where are we going?"
He glanced down at me. "We're taking a bus back. And none of that sir crap, either, call me Justin. Do you prefer Harry?"
I nodded and set to keeping pace with him.
We arrived at the bus stop and sat down on the bench. "So, Harry. I hear you're a star student?"
"Yes, s- Justin. I do a lot of reading." I wasn't about to elaborate on where I did the reading.
"And are there any subjects you like?" he prompted.
I examined the passing traffic and shrugged. School was boring, and mostly busywork besides. Still, I supposed some subjects weren't too bad. "I like math, a bit. And science." Mostly because they were easy and a lot less boring than the other subjects.
"Good, good," he approved. The bus pulled in and we stood up. "I'll be teaching you some things apart from what you're learning at school, and math and science will help."
We boarded the bus and Justin led me to the middle. "What will I be learning?" I asked.
He smiled and shook his head. "It's a surprise."
"Alright," I replied, and settled in for the ride.
The bus dropped us off at Union Station and I glanced at Justin. "You don't live in Chicago?"
Justin chuckled and shook his head. "Hardly. I live in Des Moines, Iowa. I hope you don't have any objections to moving?" He gave me a mild look.
I shrugged. I was rather ambivalent about moving, to be honest. I liked Chicago, but getting away from all the reminders of what had happened here would be nice. Maybe I'd move back when I was older.
As we walked into the station, Jusin turned to me. "This trip's going to take a while, Harry. Do you have anything to read?"
I stopped and rifled through my backpack. "Um. Not really."
Justin took a moment to look at the board with the departure times. "Well, I suppose we've got some time. Come on, let's see if we can't find you something to read around here."
We wandered into a convenience store and found a rack full of paperbacks.
"See anything you like?" Justin asked.
I browsed through the collection and picked up an inoffensive legal drama.
Justin raised an eyebrow at my selection. "Aren't you a little young for that?"
I gave him a brief glare. "I can understand it just fine."
He dropped the argument and paid for the book, also picking up some bottled water and snacks.
We made our way to the train and I sat down to read, while Justin took out a pad and a pencil and started writing.
The book was none too realistic, but engaging enough and it passed the time. The train ride went by in silence, each of us absorbed in our material.
When we finally arrived, night had set and I was drowsing. Justin gently shook me awake and motioned for me to grab my backpack. I followed him out the train, rubbing sleep from my eyes.
A short bus ride later let us off a block from his house. We made our way inside and Justin showed me to my room. "You can have this one - or the next one," he said, pointing to the door at the far end.
I yawned and dropped my backpack near the foot of the bed. "I'll have this one."
"Go to sleep, Harry. You can unpack in the morning."
I nodded and tumbled into bed, barely managing to strip off my clothes before falling asleep.