AN: Welcome to Freedom. This is set in a vastly different world to that of the original books and most fanfictions, you have been warned. There will be space flight, faster than light travel, piloting and have been warned
Come with an open mind, there may be some ooc elements; living in a different universe has changed our dear friends a little! This is Mentor!Healer!Snape and firmly alternate universe; magic is different, but importantly it is still here. I hope you enjoy teasing out the logic.
Warnings: Sci-fi, pleasant!Snape, sick!Harry, Mentions of child neglect and abuse (largely cannon),
Disclaimer: I make no money and own nothing you recognise. PM me if you wish to use any of my concepts, you'll know what I mean, and I'll be thrilled to have someone on board.
Enjoy and Sky Speed.
Chapter one: Upheaval
"Admiral, we have incoming jump, coordinates: Alpha three-three-two, Echo twenty; Solaris relative. Visual in three... two... one."
A large blue and red flash to the left of and just above the Poseidon's prow showed where the new ship was jumping in and the Admiral smiled, resting a hand on the reporting officer's shoulder.
"PPZZZ... This is Transport Hotel Echo niner one, requesting docking permission. It's good to be home."
"Roger that, Hotel Echo! This is Poseidon flight control; it's good to see you. You are clear for loading bay landing, authorization: Lemur, Foxtrot, Yankee. Repeat: Lemur, Foxtrot, Yankee."
"kkssst... Copy, Lemur Foxtrot Yankee. Coming in nice and slow for a fore-aft landing. ADS is online and bringing us in."
One month, two weeks and three days prior to the arrival of the Hogwarts Express, HE91, into Battle Cruiser Poseidon's jump space,
Galactic Standard Time 14th July 1991,
Colonial Museum of Technology. District One, Sector Tango.
"MUMMY! Why won't it move? DADDY, make it move!" Dudley's obnoxious whine didn't bother Harry anymore, but people were looking, which did. Uncle Vernon tried to explain that VCF's couldn't move without one of their freak pilots but Dudley's attention span had him running off to the next exhibit before the puffing, over-weight Vernon could say more than a few garbled sentences.
Harry was in no hurry to be near his hyperactive cousin and lingered behind, stepping up to the barrier. The shimmering, transparent blue energy field had small blocks of text explaining the nature of the exhibit floating on it.
"VCF, Visceral Control Fighter..." He read, looking up at the sleek white metal ship. The plating on one wing was slightly scorched and the metal was covered in dings and silver streaks where orbital debris had impacted on the hull and dented it or worn the paint off. "Capable of fighting both in atmospheric pressure and in vacuum... wow..."
Harry had never been off-World, nor had his Aunt, Uncle, or cousin, and he knew that if you left the planet you'd leave your soul behind, Aunt Petunia had said so. But still! He let himself imagine for a moment, climbing into the gel-filled cockpit and taking off, roaring high into the sky and away from here.
He couldn't help but grin widely; it would be so cool to be free!
His face soon shifted into curiosity when something began to hum intermittently... he looked around, slightly concerned that they might be about to have a power surge, like when Dudley had chased him around school and a power fluctuation in the barrier surrounding the playground had propelled him onto the roof. But no one else, even the attendant Uncle Vernon was talking to, looked like they had heard anything. He tilted his head to the side, trying to find the source and turned back to the ship abruptly. There! He stepped closer, leaning against the barrier with one hand. Sure enough, one of the lights in the cockpit was blinking on and off in time to the humming. His face lit up in awe as the hard shell covering the pilots seat pulled away like an iris and the gel filling the space rippled.
It seemed welcoming.
The barrier fell.
Harry took a step forward; eyes fixed on the screens flickering to life in the cockpit.
And promptly was pushed roughly aside, falling backwards, as Dudley charged past, yelling at the top of his voice again.
"DADDY, LOOK! Potter made it move!" Harry, shocked out of his dazed awe, looked around fearfully, wishing he could undo whatever it was he'd done before Vernon noticed. His Uncle was already charging towards the ship, though, his face puce with rage. Harry cowered, flinging his arms up over his head and felt a ripple that, though he couldn't say what was rippling, felt rather familiar. No sooner had that happened than did Uncle Vernon run full tilt into the corner of the newly erected barrier. Dudley looked on, shocked, as the blue field rippled up all around the ship, as it had before, trapping him inside. Harry giggled a little; dropping his arms from his protective stance, as Dudley beat his fists against the barrier, looking frightened himself for once.
Then the alarms went off. The ship powered down, the barrier turned red and warning messages in orange began to scroll across it at shoulder height, a siren sounded... chaos.
Harry sighed and drew his knees up to his chest, resting his chin on the worn through knee of his jeans.
By the time they got home it was late, Dudley was cranky, Aunt Petunia was fussing and Uncle Vernon had gone quiet and an ominous shade of white. They pulled into the garage at around nine in the evening and when the motor cut out there was dead silence for about three seconds as Vernon, usually the first to move, sat peeling his death-grip off the steering wheel.
Aunt Petunia broke the awkward moment,
"Come along Diddums, let's get you some ice-cream." The great lump was sniffling and looking pitiful for all he was worth after his "traumatic experience" and Harry sighed, quietly as he could, and got out of the car before Dudley's considerable weight moving around could jostle him too much. He held the door into the hall way open for Aunt Petunia and his cousin; he didn't really want to walk in front of Dudley right now, just in case he got off a kick or something. He forgot that this meant he was at Vernon's mercy instead.
His Uncle's beefy fist closed around the back of his neck and Harry felt all the hairs down his spine stand on end.
"Don't think for a minute that you're getting food tomorrow. Not after this!" The fist started jerking him painfully from side to side and Harry had to reach up and hold onto Uncle Vernon's fingers to avoid falling over. "Get in your cupboard, Boy!"
He loosened his grip on Harry's scruff and pushed him towards the cupboard under the stairs, making Harry stumble.
"Yes, Uncle Vernon..." he mumbled, shoulders slumped,
"And no more of this Freakishness! It's bad enough that you're parents had to go get themselves killed, you hear me?"
"Yes, Uncle Vernon." Harry gritted his teeth against his futile, angry tears. He was hungry, they'd made him stay in the car when they had stopped at the fast food place on the way home and Dudley had commandeered his lunch, under Petunia's watchful and satisfied eye, so he hadn't eaten in hours already! For a ten year old, this was, of course, the end of the world. Harry was used to the world ending on a regular basis so he ground his teeth, ignored the comment about the parents he had never known, and went to his cupboard.
The first letter arrived three days later.
GST 17th July 1991,
Number 4, Privet Drive, District One, Sector Sierra.
The Cupboard under the Stairs.
Harry Potter sat in near total darkness on the cot in his cupboard. He had been let out to cook breakfast in the last two days but he knew he was still in trouble for the 'Incident'. His Aunt and Uncle had made it perfectly clear that it was all his fault so he was only being allowed out for chores. He'd gotten a bit of breakfast and an orange after he'd made lunch the day before so he didn't feel like he might fall over but he was still too hungry to sleep for long. So he sat in the near-dark playing with the broken soldiers he'd filched from the bin. Their holographics were fairly banged up, all four flickered and one had even lost the red and green parts of the projection so it was just a blue ghost of a guy holding a rifle. Dudley had run over them with his toy tank. Repeatedly.
Harry had managed to get these ones back working though, by fiddling with the batteries and in one case pushing the little lens back into place with the arm off his glasses. He was pretty proud of the achievement, though he knew to hide them from everyone. At least he had a little bit of light in here, now.
The blue soldier was just tragically failing to save a comrade from falling off a cliff, by virtue of being a ghost and having no body, when he heard his Aunt clattering down the stairs, her high heels making the most horrendous racket. He quickly turned the little holographs off and hid the bases under his pillow, sitting back so that the light coming through the door wouldn't blind him when she opened it.
"UP! Get up! You lazy, useless boy, UP!" Her voice was pretty piercing at the best of times, even through the metal hatch. It slid open with a hissing sound, letting harsh artificial light into his cupboard and making him blink, even in the shadows.
"Yes, Aunt Petunia." He shuffled forwards as slowly as he dared, squinting and trying to get his eyes to adjust. The world was still fuzzy but at least his eyes didn't hurt by the time he had climbed out of the cupboard. He pulled his glasses off the shelf just inside the hatch and hooked them over his ears as he followed his Aunt to the kitchen. The refracting barrier stretched between the ear and nose pieces shimmered gray then silver for a second before settling clear and round into lenses and correcting his horrendous eyesight. They didn't work as well as they used to, when they'd first adjusted to his eyes, but they still helped. He nudged the frames up with his knuckles and rubbed his eyes before opening the storage cabinet and reaching inside for bacon, eggs and butter. Each container was at a slightly different temperature under his hands as he picked them up and put them on the counter. The packaging kept them at their ideal temperature to keep them from spoiling.
"Eight rashers and five eggs, get too it! And don't you dare burn anything!" His Aunt shrieked as she clattered around, laying the table. He sighed and got the two heavy frying pans out and stuck them on the induction coil on the counter. The colour spot quickly glowed red and he poured in oil, added bacon and got to cracking eggs.
The smell of frying pig brought a flying pig down the stairs. Harry's pun made him giggle a little and fortunately Aunt Petunia was fussing over the over-weight lump of lard and didn't notice. He watched the bacon carefully, turning it over with tongs every few minutes before turning it out onto a paper towel and leaving the pan to cool on the draining board. The eggs went straight on the plates, two each for the 'men' of the household and one for his Aunt, Harry felt sorrowful that they weren't scrambled so that he could nick some... He delivered the plates to their respective recipients, taking great care because the plates were heavy, large and awkward, especially for a ten-year-old.
He didn't want to watch them eat when he was so hungry so he retreated into the kitchen to make himself some toast. There were only three chairs at the dining room table. There had only ever been three chairs.
He turned to the counters while his bread was toasting and began to clean up the specks of fat that spat out of the pan every time you fry something. Noise blared from the screen that shimmered up from the counter between the kitchen and dining room, showing some ground-race or other that Harry had very little interest in. HE would much prefer to watch the VC tech races but his Aunt disapproved strongly of anything VC, saying it was only one step away from going off-planet and that she didn't want little Duddykins exposed to such freakishness. Harry thought that she was probably even worse now, since the Incident. Dudley was quite happy to go along with his mothers' dislike, especially since it was something that Harry did like.
Just as his toast popped, Uncle Vernon yelled for Harry, and he resigned himself to cold toast again.
"Boy! Go fetch the post." His Uncle didn't even look at him, just gestured with his fork.
Harry shuffled off to get Vernons' data pad from the living room, turning it on and telling it to download the day's mail. He took his time going back, it was best if Vernon had his mail the moment the little computer was in his hand, so Harry idly watched the data packets come in, named and labelled:
'V. Dursley, Grunnings Plant and Manufacture,'
'Petunia, dear, have a look at this'
'Mrs Dursley, can Dudley come over?'
Harry stopped dead in the doorway to the kitchen. He had never gotten mail. Ever. There was no label on the file, just his name and a symbol of an arrow-like object streaking across a field of three stars. He lifted a finger to tap the file but Uncle Vernon snatched the pad away from him,
"Don't go reading other people's mail!" he snarled, looking like he might turn puce again if Harry wasn't careful.
"Sorry, Uncle Vernon, but there's something there for me!" he took a step forwards reaching out as if he might take the pad back and read his letter. Vernon was not impressed and yelled in his face, spraying him liberally with saliva.
"You filthy little liar! Who would want to send mail to you? You useless, pointless brat!"
"I'm not lying, look! It's right there!" Uncle Vernon glanced down, sneering, but the expression disappeared when he scanned down the list and spotted Harry's name. He went very, very pale.
"Go to your rooms." He said with quiet fury, he looked up when Dudley didn't move; his eyes fixed to the video screen. "Both of you!" He snapped. Dudley looked about to complain, but the look on his fathers' face made him squeak and leg it out of the room. Harry backed away more slowly, still wanting his letter, but it was clear Vernon wouldn't budge. He went to his cupboard and fumed in private.
The next morning, something very similar happened, only Harry had the Pad snatched from him much more quickly. Uncle Vernon deleted the message in moments.
The morning after that, Harry's Uncle deleted his entire correspondence without looking at it.
The messages did not stop coming.
After the first week, Vernon destroyed the data pad that collected their mail.
Three days later, the letter appeared on the house's video system. It kept doing so every day subsequently.
Uncle Vernon oscillated between maddened rage and a bizarre, calm insanity. Harry frequently overheard him and Petunia talking about "those freaks...!" and then cutting off when they noticed that Harry had entered the room.
Dudley complained constantly about not getting mail from his friends and being unable to watch vid broadcasts. His Aunt often forgot to set Harry chores, especially if he sat quietly in the garden, out of the way. That worried Harry more than anything else.
After breakfast on the 30th of July, one week and six days after the first letter, Uncle Vernon evacuated the house. He told Aunt Petunia and Dudley to pack their things, told Harry to put together some food and told them all to get in the car.
By lunchtime, they were a mile above the surface, amongst a stream of traffic with Uncle Vernon honking at the people in the lane above them, who were driving a little close; the backwash of their propulsion engine was setting off their proximity sensors. Harry handed out the sandwiches he'd made to keep Dudley from screaming and settled back into his seat.
Already they were further from Privet Drive than he had ever been before; he'd only crossed sector boundaries once before, on the way to the zoo, and this time they'd crossed over four! Uncle Vernon had even said that they were going to the coast! That meant leaving District One! Harry had never seen the sea...
He didn't really pay attention to the fact that he'd be eleven in twelve hours, but it did dampen his enthusiasm a little bit.
By mid afternoon they had made landfall again, coming down from the sky highway to run on tarmac again and the roads were much quieter. Their propulsion engine made the occasional crackle of electricity when they passed over a wet patch of road but that was about it for noise. Even Dudley was subdued; Harry thought that he looked nervous, even. They'd passed over the city boundary hours ago and he knew that his cousin had never been out of the city, District 1, also known as London. He didn't like the change, apparently. Harry, on the other hand, thought it was awesome. And GREEN. He'd never seen so much green in all his life, there were trees, even; actual wooden ones!
Harry saw a field of pigs, all happily rolling in mud and eating gray slop out of troughs with great enthusiasm and almost pointed them out, but then thought that he might put Dudley off bacon, and then he'd have to cook sausages instead, which was much harder. So, he kept quiet, fiddling with the end of the belt that held his trousers up and watching the scenery.
As it began to get dark, Dudley started to whine. And didn't stop. Harry had already run out of food to give him, and Uncle Vernon was not about to stop before they got to their destination. Dudley started to cry in earnest.
Harry almost felt sorry for him, thinking that this was probably the first time he'd ever been actually ignored. Harry knew how it felt.
Eventually, Uncle Vernon pulled into a car park and cut the motors. Dudley was still sniffling and got out of the car, quick as a shot, just in case his father decided to start driving again before getting him food. Aunt Petunia, looking a little green, got out too and, after a quick word with her husband, headed with the big lump of lard that was her son to a nearby corner shop. Vernon went to talk to a figure standing out of the street lamps in the far corner of the lot and Harry was left alone in the car.
He was, admittedly, a little angry now. He knew that his Uncle had deliberately broken their data pad and had gotten them out of the house so that Harry's letter couldn't get through the vid system and now they were in some small town, he had no idea where, and it was too dark to see the sea, and he wasn't going to get his letter.
He wondered how his letter had got into the vid system in the first place; that had never happened before. Maybe people only did that for really important letters? And if the letter was really important, and if it could get into the vid system, what was stopping it getting into the audio system? He turned off the seat restrainer, (which Dudley never wore, but Harry would prefer not to die if they crashed, thank you very much) and leaned between the two front seats to try and turn on the radio. He stabbed the touch plate repeatedly, but nothing happened, the module was completely powered down. Harry sighed heavily and slumped back in his seat, pouting a little bit.
Aunt Petunia and Dudley got back before Vernon, a bag of dehydrated "Just add water, we'll do the rest!" meals in hand. Dudley had chocolate smeared around his mouth and on his fingers, and had stopped his annoying whining. They got back in the car and the whole thing rocked when Dudley sat down. Harry spotted Vernon coming back first, since he'd seen were he'd gone in the first place, and saw something that really worried him. Uncle Vernon tucked something into his jacket pocket that was long, oblong and had an intense but dark blue light on it.
It looked like a gun.
It probably was a gun.
Uncle Vernon was planning to shoot someone?
Harry's train of thought steamed through the station marked 'fear' and settled in for the long haul.
Uncle Vernon ordered them all out of the car, telling them to get their things. Since Harry didn't have any 'things' and his soldiers were already in his pocket, Aunt Petunia ordered him to carry the corner shop bag. He noticed that there were three adult meals in it, and one tiny child's meal. He couldn't say it wasn't expected though, and he sighed.
"Come on, you lot! This way, no more... freakishness, no more letters!" said Uncle Vernon, as if these two things where the same. Aunt Petunia looked rather worried as they followed Vernon down a slope, towards something that made a hissing and roaring noise. That was almost as frightening as the fact that his Uncle had a gun. Almost.
As they passed, streetlamps detected their movement and flicked themselves on, shedding harsh light on the steps in front of them. When they reached the bottom, Harry realised that it wasn't some sort of monster or giant machine that was making all that noise, it was waves, they really had made it to the sea... Vernon didn't pause though, so Harry had to make a few extra quick steps to catch up.
He led them to a small boat, a ferry really, slightly square and hooked onto ropes that led away into the darkness of the water. What struck Harry was that nowhere was there the glow of a light or anything that looked a motor on the thing. As they got closer he realised that it was made out of wood! Harry couldn't believe it was floating, let alone that it would take them anywhere... it really should have been in a museum.
Vernon climbed in without hesitation, the rest followed, and Harry crossed his fingers in hope that they would survive.