Harry Potter and The Mind
What really happens when an abused teen reaches his breaking point?
Rated R for language and violence. People get killed in this story, and real-life teenagers cuss (or curse, for our british friends).
This is an A/U fic, and deviates from canon whenever the spirit moves me. Let's be honest; since the last book is out, at this point no matter what fanfic gets written it's going to be somewhat A/U. Right?
The names of non-canon characters that I made up follow the tradition of british music halls, the golden age of british radio, and indeed british culture itself. Think the names I made up are too off-beat? Take a leisurely look through a London phone directory some time. If JKR can have a "Xenophilius Lovegood"... well, you get the picture.
"No sane man will dance."
- Marcus Tullius Cicero
Chapter 1 - Welcome Home
He lay in the darkness, bleeding. The cold, hard floorboards were a cool comfort to his face, but not to any other part of him. Harry Potter was not having a fun summer holiday. How long have I been back? he wondered. Fifteen minutes? Good to see some things never change.
Trying not to move - or even to breathe too deeply - he took a mental inventory of what was left of the Boy-Who-Lived. Broken nose, from Vernon Dursley's broad-fisted punch. Check. One, two... at least two broken ribs, from Vernon's kick after he was down. Check. Broken right knee, from being stomped on. Check. Broken little finger of left hand... I don't remember breaking that, he thought. Probably fell on it on the way down, or something.
He grimaced ruefully, thinking that it was a fitting close to an absolutely rotten fifth year at school. Come to think of it, an absolutely rotten last few years. Sirius dead... Cedric dead... Weasleys attacked left and right... Ron, Hermione and just about everybody else alienated. What exactly is it I'm supposed to fight for, again?
His thoughts wandered, as they had many times when over the years. Harry had learned that he could make his life a little more easier to bear if he just thought about something else. Not the normal daydreaming and woolgathering that all children do as part of growing up, but something more. In sixteen years plus, Harry had gotten very good at just 'not thinking about it'.
Harry had no way of knowing, but this disassociation was a defense mechanism; an ability common in heavily-abused people. Some people just overload on the stress and their mind shuts down, leaving them blubbering and gibbering wrecks of insanity; while others, like Harry, just let their panic mechanism handle the gibbering and crying - and let their reasoning consciousness disconnect.
Torture experts like the ones the KGB and Stasi had trained knew how to recognize the signs of the approaching crux point, and keep things just below the level that allowed a mental escape in either direction. Vernon and Dudley Dursley, on the other hand, were not expert torture technicians (or indeed expert at anything at all); they just liked to beat people up. Little people who couldn't fight back. People like Harry Potter.
He still felt the physical pain, just as intensely as one would expect. But it didn't matter as much. He knew that nobody was coming. He knew that he was probably going to die right here on the floor, locked in his room in a growing puddle of his own blood. And he was having a great deal of difficulty bringing himself to give a damn.
Not a little detached, he reviewed the day in his mind. Hmm... Everybody threatening Vernon at the train station. The strangely quiet trip home. Vernon's smile, looking as crazy as a football bat, instead of the usual purple threats. Getting all my stuff out of the car, bringing it in, closing the door and... getting punched in the face. On the floor, getting kicked, and stomped, and... Oh yeah!
Harry remembered - remembered what Vernon had been so happy about. They were moving. Getting a little jump on Harry's birthday. "We're leaving, freak!" he'd said. "The house is sold, so take your filthy muck out into the street! Good bye, good riddance, and" - crunch - "TAKE THIS WITH YOU!"
That's right, thought Harry. That's when my knee was broken.
The house was mostly empty already. No wonder lard-ass was happy. He had sold the house, already moved everything, and was just waiting to say his extra-special, heart-felt goodbye to the one person in the world he hated the most.
Harry Potter. The Boy-Who-Lived. Barely lived. And not for long. He couldn't even call for help. He couldn't breathe deep enough to whisper, let alone call out, without his ribs grinding. His nose streamed blood onto the floor.
Harry heard a sudden clatter at the window. Hedwig! The window was closed and locked, and there was no way on Merlin's green earth that he was going to be able to open it. At least she didn't get hurt. Hedwig, his beloved snowy owl, his familiar, and his most constant friend... had just arrived from her flight home. And now she couldn't get in.
He couldn't even see out the window. But he knew it was her. Looking around the room a little, he noticed that his leg was laying at an unnatural angle. He tried to move it a little, tried to scream... and that was his last conscious thought for the day.
When he awoke, he was rather surprised to be able to see, until he realized his glasses were still on his face, unbroken. Glad I learned that charm, at least. From the position of the light, it looked to be about mid-morning. After passing out from the pain, he had slept through the evening, the night, and half the next morning.
Time for another inventory, he assigned to himself. Then Hedwig walked into his field of view. She was standing on the floor, about an arm's reach away from his head, just watching him. When she saw that he was awake, she walked closer and gently nudged his forehead with her beak.
"Sorry, girl. You're very sweet, but I can't get up right now." Hedwig cooed and hooted softly, using that warm, throaty warbling that only birds can do. "You understand me, don't you, Hedwig? Always have, I think."
The pain in his injuries was stronger, but not as sharp. Harry was quite used to the cycle, having been hurt enough times - both at home and at school - to know. His breathing still hurt like blazes. His left hand was swollen from the untreated broken finger. His right leg had swollen to tightly fill his trouser leg. Probably cutting off the circulation, he thought. If I tried to take care of it I'd have to cut my pants off. He almost chuckled a little at that, moaning immediately when his ribs put a stop to his laughter.
Nothing to do but wait, now. I'm going to die right here. With an Order guard, probably standing right in the front yard, who has no idea that I need help. "I sure wish I had some water," he said in a hoarse whisper.
The hot June day took forever to pass. Harry kept fading in and out of consciousness. Not passing out entirely, he kept drifting into that near-sleep state that comes just before sleep. That time when your mind starts telling you silly, brilliant things that you never remember when you wake up.
Anyone able to watch would have claimed he was delirious; fading in and out of contact with the world, mumbling to himself. They would have been dead wrong. Harry's defense mechanism came naturally to him now. While his body lay broken and bleeding, his mind got on with business of its own. He was used to it. He had lain on that floor and other floors, broken and bleeding, many times before. Beaten, mangled, tortured, for the absolutely unforgivable sin of being Harry Potter. It couldn't be a crime, could it? It wasn't against the law. Just, apparently, against the code of the idiots in his world.
He chuckled again, lightly. It's a sin for me to breathe. Then he began to notice some things in his room. First, he saw that the day was gone and the cool of the evening was upon him. It was nice to be cool again, given his tremendous thirst. The next thing that he noticed, however, was the smell. During the last twenty-four hours, when he'd had very little control over his body, his bladder had voided.
Looking around a bit, he sighed - lightly, trying not to disturb his ribs. His blood was dried and crusted around him on the floor now. I'm almost empty, he thought. All my drain plugs are open. Blood, tears, sweat, urine. What a stinky mess we humans are on the inside. He was beginning to contemplate topping off the display with some ear wax, or maybe snot, when he noticed something. Something new to his experience. Something he'd never heard of as being possible.
He could see his own magical aura.
In the pale, fading evening light of his room, Harry Potter could see the nimbus of magic around his body. Was that there before? he thought. Or, is my magic leaking out of me too? He tried to think back to a time when he had seen a magical aura around anyone; but there was only one person.
Just thinking the name made him angry. All the lies, betrayals, manipulation, blatantly using him. Liar! his mind shouted. With the surge of his anger came a surge of incredible pain in his leg, chest, head and hand. He nearly passed out again, but somehow managed to hold on to consciousness. Better watch that, he thought. Intuitively, he knew that anger took him out of his mind's ability to remain apart.
He marvelled for a moment on that thought. What a terrible talent to have to develop! The ability to separate from one's own pain, just to stay sane. And only one, terrifying way to learn it.
Harry knew that a wizard's constitution was stronger than that of a muggle; just like their ability to heal, or the fact that wizards lived longer. But nobody had ever been able to satisfactorily explain to him why that was so. He considered this, looking down at his aura again. Laying on his left side, his good leg under the bad one, he saw a difference. A different color? No, not color... Flavor? He grunted, impatient with his own inability to describe it in words. He decided to use "flavor", even thought he knew it was wrong.
He could taste that something was different in the aura over the places where he was hurting. Pulling his hand close, he could see the damage manifest itself in the magic around his broken finger. Harry stared at his injured hand, somehow knowing that he was on the verge of a discovery. If he could only look close enough, to feel, to get a handle on this whole aura thing. He found that, when he tried to move the broken finger, the aura seemed to... well, to throb. When he stopped, the throbbing slowed.
He gave no thought to the ridiculous situation he was in. Lost in the experience, his mind still detached from his pain, he concentrated on making the throbbing slow down.
There, he thought, just before falling asleep again, exhausted. That feels better. His hand, at least, didn't hurt as much as it had. As he dozed off, he smiled a little at his newfound ability to manage his pain.
He didn't know it yet, but he had partially healed his hand.