Harry Potter and the Garden of Intrigue
Being an exploration of the differences in Mr. Potter's life pursuant to his understanding Victorian flower language at age 11. Single Point-of-Departure: Harry has a working lightbulb in his cupboard.
Harry Potter, all related characters, and the original Harry Potter narrative are properties of J. K. Rowling.
"Wake up, you useless boy!" Uncle Vernon's shout roused Harry from a rather pleasant dream about some kind of hairy wall, and the boy started scrambling for his trousers. He'd have perhaps five seconds before- BAM! Uncle Vernon started- BAM! Slamming his great meaty fist into- BAM!
"I'm up! I'm up!" called Harry, desperate for some relief from the noise. His reward was instantaneous silence from the beleaguered doorframe, only to be replaced by a more muffled rhythmic pounding as Dudley started stomping down the stairs. As mornings went, it was rather tame for young Mr. Harry Potter. After the incident on Dudley's birthday, he was glad of the respite.
Scarcely a minute later, Harry was setting the table for breakfast. He'd been doing pretty much every chore around the house since they'd let him out of the cupboard last week. At least they were feeding him again. Harry hadn't gotten many full meals in the past ten years, but the past few months had left his stomach aching with hunger almost constantly. He'd been looking forward to breakfast since turning out his light the previous night. Or was it early that morning? Apart from sunrise, which he was always awake for, Harry had never been very good at telling the time. He'd be reading a book on the history of Wales, or how to boil potatoes (actually quite a useful book, he'd been allowed to cook supper for a week after reading it), or the subtleties of Victorian flower language, and suddenly he'd realize that he had ten minutes to sunrise and he'd been awake the whole time. Sometimes Harry wished the light in his cupboard didn't work, so he wouldn't be short on sleep so often, but he knew that Uncle Vernon would have made sure nothing good came of extra sleep. Not to mention reading by the light of that electric bulb was pretty much his only respite (what a wonderful word, respite) from Dudley.
"Idiot boy! That's coming out of your clothing allotment," shouted Uncle Vernon, suddenly. Harry realized he'd dropped one of the plates, and of course it had shattered on the linoleum floor.
"I- I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking," stammered Harry, who didn't even have a clothing allotment to begin with- all his clothes were hand-me-way-downs from Dudley, and fit about as well as a fish in a tree-
"Too right you weren't. That's your problem, you ungrateful whelp, you just don't think!" With that, Vernon boxed Harry's ears and said something about breakfast.
He's probably telling me I don't get any breakfast, thought Harry. I wonder if he's realized that I can't hear him? From the increasingly ruddy shade of Uncle Vernon's face, he probably had. Harry decided this was a great time to start weeding the back garden. "I think I should go weed the back garden," said Harry. He quickly picked up the broken shards of the plate, dropped them in the wastebasket, said "goodbye" to Aunt Petunia, and dashed out the door with his bag in tow.
Weeding the garden wasn't nearly as torturous as the Dursleys seemed to think. Harry actually quite enjoyed seeing his own hands shaping and guiding the growth of so many living things. It gave him a sense of accomplishment that he'd never had in school, and could never find inside the tacky walls of Number 4 Privet Drive. After he'd been weeding for a few hours, Harry heard the unmistakable sound of Dudley and friends coming around the house, looking for another round of Dudley And His Friends Beat Up Harry Potter. Harry managed to avoid them for a few minutes by hiding inside the refuse cans, but soon regretted it; the oily banana peels and sundry other unpleasant leavings, slowly rotting in their own little world, put him quite off his lunch. I really hope Uncle Vernon's in a good mood by now, thought Harry. I don't want to miss all my meals today. Harry realized he was looking at a lump of soggy custard, an impossible task in the darkness, which meant that Dudley had found him out and taken the lid off the can.
Harry tried not to hurry back to the Dursleys' house, lingering at the petunias he'd been nurturing on the front walk. Petunias mean resentment... Harry usually interpreted these particular petunias as your presence comforts me, which was a better explanation for why Aunt Petunia put them on the front walk. Although, actually, she'd had Harry plant these ones. On bad days (such as today), Harry usually wondered if Aunt Petunia had ever read her book on Victorian Flower Language. Some of her flower choices were incredibly insightful, but if you interpreted the tulips differently it made no sense at all. Harry had asked her about it once, but she hadn't seemed to hear him.
It was Thursday. Harry knew it was Thursday because he was miserable, and he was miserable because it was Thursday. Some people might think that, being trapped in a house with the Dursleys from his earliest memory, Harry should be miserable every day; they'd be wrong. Most days, especially Tuesdays, were quite tolerable. Thursdays, however, were miserable.
Harry didn't know why every Thursday turned out so poorly. It was something different every time, something completely new and unexpected and horrible, that made each Thursday a wallowing pit of misery. Maybe the circuit was blown to his closet's light, or the book he wanted to read had a big moldy splotch in it from when Dudley was five, and spilled something treacley. Once, he'd actually had his hair shaved off by Aunt Petunia. And of course the Drainpipe Incident had been a Thursday.
Today, horrid Thursday that it was, had started out well enough. Bacon for breakfast, chores boring as ever, no screams of rage from Uncle Vernon or weird food for luncheon. Harry'd even dodged Dudley's gang until Aunt Petunia called them in for dinner. Well, called Dudley in for dinner, at any rate. He should have known that Thursday was only playing with him, giving him a breather so it could really wallop him later.
It was the letter that had done it, honestly. The first letter Harry'd ever had, addressed to him directly in lovely green ink, and he'd been so shocked that something so... wonderful could happen on a Thursday, he'd forgotten that Uncle Vernon was watching. Now his letter was so much ash in the fireplace, and Harry was more miserable than he'd ever been in his life. Even Thursdays aren't as bad as this, thought Harry. He'd have gone on with eloquent insights into the nature of the universe, Karma, and some rather sophisticated theories of why his life was so wretched, but he was too busy feeling miserable to think that hard.
How did they know I sleep in the cupboard under the stairs? mused Harry, as he drifted to sleep.
The next few days were a bit better. Harry had no luck trying to carefully steal his letters away, even when they started flying out of the fireplace; Uncle Vernon searched him thoroughly and held him down while Dudley and Aunt Petunia shoveled the letters into big garbage bags. Later, Uncle Vernon drove them all down to the recycling station, and dumped the whole lot of them himself as an 'act of environmental awareness'.
On the bright side, they'd moved him into the second bedroom upstairs. He had a light with a shade, a bed with an actual mattress, and (for the first time ever) shelves. Admittedly the shelves were full of Dudley's old things, but there were a few spots that Harry could wedge a book into, to keep it from getting dusty on the floor.
Harry did rather miss the spiders, though. He'd been trying to teach them tricks, and he was pretty sure he'd gotten the big one to start making snowflake patterns with its webs.
On Monday, Uncle Vernon packed them all into the car and drove off, trying to escape the letters. Harry, of course, had to go with them. He spent most of the trip reading a book about flea circuses that Dudley had put in 'storage' four years ago, when he realized that flea circuses actually required effort. Harry hoped he'd be able to find his spiders again, and teach them something new.
Harry looked up at the massive wall of hair beside him, trying to convince himself (again!) that this was all real. The enormous man had left the Dursleys in total confusion, Dudley with his own piggy tail and Uncle Vernon with a twisted gun to match it. And that wasn't even the best part! Harry knew there was a reason he liked Tuesdays.
Hagrid, the tallest, broadest, probably most-bearded man Harry had ever met, was taking him back to London, to a secret wizard shop where he'd buy strange and magical things for the strange and magical school he'd be studying at in a few short days.
"Where in London are we going?"
"Diagon alley. Only place to go, really, for what you'll be needin'."
Harry pondered that for a few minutes, as Hagrid juggled the money- the 'muggle' money- needed for the underground.
"Er, Hagrid?" said Harry, a bit confused.
"Why are we taking the underground? I thought wizards would have, I don't know, magic carpets or flying motorcycles or something."
"Keep it down, 'Arry," said Hagrid, leaning closer to keep things conspiratorial. Considering Hagrid's face was still a good three feet above Harry's ears, it didn't accomplish much. "We don't want to go attractin' too much attention out here."
Harry didn't think Hagrid was the best man for avoiding attention.
"I mean, yeh, I knew a bloke had a motorcycle like that," continued Hagrid as they boarded the compartment, "beautiful machine it was, actually rode it the night... The night I brought ye to yer uncle's house, may he never see you again." Hagrid paused for a moment to brush some old newspapers off his seat. "But I don't have one meself, they're terrible expensive. And I can't use.. you know.. " here he eyed his pink umbrella conspicuously.
Not very low-profile there, either, thought Harry.
"Ter get ye back to London, even. Though I'll have to do a touch fer the gate." Hagrid shifted a bit in his seat, getting comfortable. "But don't worry, Harry, I'll get ye to Diagon alley, sure enough."
A few hours later, Hagrid was showing Harry Diagon Alley for the first time. Harry, only a bit unnerved by the mess with that crowd of fans in the Leaky Cauldron, was entranced. Magical shops surrounded him, selling strange trinkets and gewgaws and things he didn't even have words for.
"Are all these for school supplies?"
"Nah, that'll be mostly Flourish 'n Blotts, Ollivanders, Wizard Depot an' maybe the Owlery. Diagon Alley's the place fer wizards ter trade all kinds o' things." Hagrid snorted, ran a finger past his nose, and continued. "'Course, you'll want ter stay clear o' the back ways. Lot o' strange stuff happens there." Hagrid gave Harry a dark look, as though to impress him with the seriousness of these mysterious back alleys.
Harry was impressed. "Er, right. No back-alleying. Got it."
"Good. Come on, we got ter get teh Gringotts before they close."
"What's Gringotts?" asked Harry, confused.
"Wizard bank. I got summat to take care of there, while we're gettin' your vault anyhow." Hagrid blinked for a moment, then concluded "Shouldn't a told ye that."
Harry was still confused.
Harry was no less confused after a whirlwind tour of Diagon Alley. Gringotts was full of goblins, and Hagrid had warned him not to steal from them while simultaneously trying to hide a small, dusty package that he'd apparently needed to pick up from the deepest vault in the place. Flourish and Blotts was pretty much the same as any other bookstore, aside from the books that talk to you and the Wizards walking around. Madam Malkin's would probably have been the least memorable shop he'd gone to, if not for the pompous blonde kid with an odd name, an ego the size of a tree and a treeish amount of perspicacity. Harry hadn't had time to introduce himself - though he wasn't sure he'd have wanted to - because the big-headed boy had been whisked away by what Harry could only assume was the boy's mother. It was probably the only thing young master pompous could have that Harry would be jealous of, aside from a father. Of course the overpriveleged twit would have one of those, too, thought Harry despondently, contemplating the invariable injustice of the world. He tried to ponder the relation between wealth and thick-headedness, and the corresponding correlation between poverty and good-naturedness until his robes were fitted, but didn't get any real insights.
After the perplexing encounter at Madam Malkin's, Hagrid and Harry walked into one of the more well-lit of the previously forbidden alleyways to find Wizard Depot. Harry was almost as entranced by the interior of this one store as he had been by the storefronts in the main stretch of Diagon Alley. Wizard Depot was full of all kinds of bulk wizarding supplies and safety equipment, from dragonhide gloves to self-pushing spades, and Harry had kept asking Hagrid questions about all the different kinds of cauldrons for almost ten minutes before they'd found an employee to help out.
Then there was the Owlery, where (after a few mind-twisting moments of indecision) he'd bought Iris. Harry, beaming at his snowy new friend, thought I have a message for you was a perfect name for a mail-carrying pet. He'd been distracted more than once by an apothecary, racing broom displays, wizard's toy shoppe, and of course the magical florist (Greta's Greenery, half-off on Betwixting Blooms today only!), but had had to settle for window-shopping on such nonessential stops.
"Just one stop left, Harry," said Hagrid. "Ollivander's. Time ter get your wand."
Harry had been waiting for this moment all day, all week, maybe even his entire life. He was far too excited to see Hagrid's sadness, that their reunion would soon be at an end.
"Holly and Phoenix feather. Very interesting, very interesting..."
"Er, why is it interesting? Does it mean something?" Harry couldn't quite remember what holly flowers meant, and he was pretty sure the wood had a different meaning than the flowers anyway, but Mr. Ollivander seemed to be thinking on different lines entirely.
"I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single one." Ollivander leaned in uncomfortably close to Harry, so close that Harry could see his own nervous face reflected in the old man's pale eyes. "And that wand's brother," imparted Ollivander, still inching closer, "why, its brother gave you that scar..."
Harry gulped, feeling that this was a bit too much Strange Destiny and a bit too little Odd Coincidence for comfort. He also felt that Mr. Ollivander was as creepy as a caterpillar on a fresh loaf of bread, but that was an entirely unrelated variety of creepiness.
"I, um, I," stammered Harry.
"A'right, Ollivander, let 'im go," said Hagrid, looking in from the entrance to the dusty wand shop. "Harry 'ere's had a long day, needs 'is sleep."
Harry had felt more gratitude towards Hagrid before, especially when they'd talked about Harry's parents, but not by much. Once the wand was safely paid for - my own wand, it works, it's real, I'm really a wizard! - Harry and Hagrid headed back to the underground. Harry would be waiting at the Dursleys' until September 1st, much to his dissapointment. And Hagrid had told him not to use magic until he got on the train, which made Harry wonder why he'd gotten his wand today.. not that he wasn't grateful.
"Thanks again, Hagrid," said Harry, a bit choked up, when they reached the station. He'd been surprised at how quickly he'd bonded with the huge man, but he didn't want to leave yet. Especially not to go back to the Dursleys.
"Ah, don' get all weepy on me, Harry. Ye'll see me again soon enough, anyhow." Hagrid pulled out a large, often-used handkerchief from one of his many pockets and started wiping the corners of his eyes with it. "'Sides, I can't keep from joinin' yeh, if yer gonna get like that."
It took a few more minutes to finish saying goodbye.