Disclaimer: J.K.R. owns Harry Potter and co., not me (I wouldn't mind owning Sev though). This story is slightly (basically bits of the plot ideas; just technical stuff) inspired by Minnionette's A Gutter Rat's Tale and Dauphin's Let History Repeat Itself.
Also, this is yet ANOTHER answer to Severitus' wonderful challenge. Can't you see how much I love it?
Summary: Oh, now, if I told you that, the story wouldn't be very interesting, would it?
If anyone can pick out the movie that also had some inspiration here, you get five points.
Suppose I said
I am on my best behavior
And there are times
I lose my worried mind?
Would you want me when
I'm not myself?
Wait it out while I am somebody else?
Suppose I said
Colors change for no good reason
And words will go
From poetry to prose
Would you want me when
I'm not myself?
Wait it out while I am somebody else?
And I, in time, will come around
I always do for you
Suppose I said
You're my saving grace
- John Mayer "Not Myself"
Not Myself by Saerry Snape
Prologue – The-Boy-Who-Was-Lost
On a quiet street in Little Whinging, Surrey, a bony, horse-faced woman opened the front door of No. 4 Privet Drive to put out the milk bottle and let out a shriek.
A large man with an equally large, drooping mustache appeared behind the thin woman.
"What is it, Petunia?"
The woman pointed a shaking finger at a bundle sitting on their doorstep and said in a low hiss, "Get rid of him!"
Vernon blinked and looked down at the baby boy lying in a blanket on the doormat, one tiny hand curled around an envelope addressed to 'Mr. and Mrs. Dursley'. He said, "It's a baby, Petunia."
"It's her child, Vernon! Her freak of a child!"
Vernon's eyes widened slightly and he said in a hushed voice, "Harry?"
Petunia shrieked, "Yes! Get rid of him! I will not have that – that – that freak in our home!" With that she had vanished into the kitchen, from which Dudley's wails were coming from.
Vernon looked down at the child at his feet, who was now awake and looking up at him with brilliant green eyes. He sighed and bent down to pick the boy up. Absently he muttered, "What am I going to do with you?" as he moved once back into the house to get his keys, dodged a spoon Petunia had thrown at him (or more accurately, the boy), and headed outside to his car. The boy cooed in his arms the entire time.
Vernon shook his head and sat the boy in the passenger seat then cranked the car into life. Pulling out into the street, he drove off, not really focused on where he was going.
"Look, Mr. Dursley. I'm tellin' ya. We ain't got no more room!"
"Then make more!" snarled Vernon.
Vernon snorted and stormed out of the orphanage back to his car. For some reason, every single orphanage he had been to had been to had been full. Casting a glance at the child lying asleep in the passenger seat, Vernon sighed. The orphanage he had just left was the last one in the city. He had no other choice but to do what he was about to do.
Stopping on a deserted street, Vernon got out of the car, gathering the boy into his arms. For a moment the green eyes opened then closed again. Vernon frowned for a moment and almost got back in the car then had a horrible image of Petunia taking his head off with a frying pan. Steeling his nerves, Vernon walked around the back of the car and into a deserted alley. He sat the boy down in the cleanest spot he could find and tucked the letter into the blankets. Turning away quickly, he practically ran back to his car and drove off as fast as he could.
Before his conscience could get the better of him.
A dark-haired head poked its head out from among a huddle of blankets, green eyes shining dimly in the dark.
"Up, Potter. We have work to do."
Harry Potter crawled out from under the pile of blankets that had been classified as his bed and stretched, yawning. He ran a hand through his black hair, which fell to his waist and probably would have looked good except for the fact that it was tangled and greasy from almost eleven years of living on the streets. The only puzzling thing about his appearance was the lightning bolt scar right above his right eye. Making an attempt to brush some of the dirt from his patched and ripped clothes, he made for the door before Argil could come back and drag him out. Harry was one of ten children – ranging from ages eight to thirteen – who had been "taken in" by Argil. Argil himself was a nasty, ratty looking sort of man who used the children as a way to steal things. Each of the ten children were sent out in the morning, skittering along the streets of London and picking pockets. Argil himself occasionally went out but those times were rare.
"Potter! Get yer arse moving!"
Harry nodded and slid past Argil like a snake as the man tried to hit him. He ran out into the street and nearly ran into a boy exactly his age with sandy-colored hair and black eyes.
"C'mon, Harry! We got ter get movin'! Ye want Argil te get ye?"
Harry shook his head and replied, "Nah. Not good te get Argil after me in the mornin', Tyls."
The other boy, Tyls, nodded and began walking down the alley, Harry walking beside him. Tyls had been the first boy Argil had taken in, Harry being the second. The two of them had become fast friends and often stuck together when they went out.
"So, where we goin' this mornin', 'Arry? 'Igh Street?"
Harry nodded and Tyls grinned.
"Ah! The bounty of large purses."
Harry slipped into an alley adjoining the one they were in and ran down it. Tyls was right at his heels as they went down alley after alley, finally coming out in the section of town they called High Street. Argil had taught them that there were three main sections in London; High Street, Middle Street, and Low Street. They themselves were below Low Street. When Harry had asked what they were, he had gotten backhanded into the wall. Of course, he was used to pain. Argil had often taken his rage out on the closest child at hand, which was often Harry.
"Okay. 'Igh Street. Now what, 'Arry?"
Harry rolled his eyes and snapped, "What do ye think, Tyls? We stand 'ere and watch the scenery?"
Tyls frowned at him. Nobody understood how Harry could be gentle and kind one moment then fierce and snappish the next.
"Oi, calm down, mate. No need ta snap at meh."
"Sorry, Tyls. C'mon. Let's get te work."
The two boys set off separately onto the street, moving up and down it several times before they met back in front of a bookshop. The pockets of Tyls extremely baggy, tattered jeans were full, which Tyls pointed out to Harry with a grin and a pat of the pockets. Harry rolled his eyes and looked around them. He suddenly noticed a strange sign in front of them that he had never seen before.
"Oi, Tyls. What's the Leaky Cauldron?"
Tyls blinked. "The wha?"
"The Leaky Cauldron. It's right in front of us."
Tyls looked at the building in front of them then back at Harry. He said, "'Arry, I think yer seein' things again."
Harry scowled at the other boy then grabbed his hand. "C'mon."
"Wha? 'Arry! What 'n da bloody 'eck are ye doin'?"
"Seein' what the Leaky Cauldron is, ye arse. Ye comin' 'r not?"
"Well, as yer draggin' me I don't how much choice, do I?"
"No," said Harry sharply and dragged the other boy forward.
"Ye can say that again."
Tyls frowned at Harry, who was looking around the room in awe. The Leaky Cauldron turned out to be a pub. But it was filled with strange looking people wearing even stranger clothes. Yet Harry felt….at home, which was something he had never felt.
Tyls tugged at Harry's arm and whispered, "C'mon, Harry. Argil'll be angry at us if we don't ge' back."
"We can come back, ye silly chicken! C'mon!"
Harry allowed himself to be dragged out of the pub, glancing once back at the strange people inside before he was back on the streets.
Tyls shuffled his feet as Argil loomed over him and Harry. Harry turned his eyes away from Argil's face in a submissive gesture and mumbled, "We're sorry, sir."
Argil frowned at them for a few more moments then ruffled the two boys hair.
"Ah, nevermind. My two best pickpockets can be late." He looked at the rickety table where Tyls and Harry had dumped the purses they can snitched and added, "Especially when you bring in this much." Giving them a cruel smile, Argil pushed the two boys over to the table where the other children were eating a slice of slightly dry bread and a lump of cold cheese along with a small portion of water. Harry ate his quickly then hurried off to bed. The quicker he went to sleep, the sooner it would be morning.
And the sooner it would be that he could have a closer look at that pub.
Morning came and went and the ten children were off. Harry managed to get away from Tyls and ran right up to High Street, looking frantically for the pub. He found it soon enough but never took time to notice that no one walking the streets seemed to know it was there as he went inside.
Harry looked around in awe at the pub, walking aimlessly.
Harry rubbed at his nose, which had had the misfortune to run into the counter while he was walking aimlessly. Absently he muttered, "Nice un, Harry. Real nice."
"Are you okay?"
Harry looked up into the blue eyes of a red-haired woman. He blinked then nodded.
"Are you sure," she asked, her tone concerned.
"I-I'm sure, ma'am. Jus' fine."
The woman frowned at him then asked, "Where are your parents?"
"Don't have any," answered Harry, which caused the woman to look at him in sympathy. She looked at him and said, "Your skin and bones, child. Come sit with me."
Harry shook his head.
"You can, child, and you will," said the woman in a fierce voice as she pulled him to his feet and led him over to an old-fashioned looking booth. As they entered Harry was shocked to find himself looking at five redheaded children, each of them with freckles. The oldest of the five said, "Mum?" while the rest looked at Harry in confusion.
The woman said, "He'll be joining us. Come along, dear. Yes, sit beside me. That's it."
Harry sat on the edge of his seat, his eyes wide. His street instincts were telling him to run but something else was telling him he could trust these people. After a short battle, the street instincts were defeated.
The woman looked at him and asked, "Would you like something to eat, dear?"
Harry could only nod numbly and watched as the woman waved at the man behind the counter and told him to bring something to the table. The woman then turned back to him and said, "I'm Molly Weasley and these are my children – Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny."
Harry looked at each in turn then said, "Harry."
"Hi, Harry," said Ron.
Harry smiled then jumped as the man returned with a plate of bacon and eggs and a glass of orange juice. Mrs. Weasley smiled at him and said, "Thank you, Tom." Tom smiled and nodded then turned and walked back over to the counter. Harry stared at the food on the plate in front of him until Fred (or he thought it was Fred) asked, "Are you going to eat that?" Harry jumped then nodded and dug into the food, eating slowly at first then becoming faster. Mrs. Weasley smiled at him and asked, "Is it good, Harry dear?" Harry nodded and reached for the glass of orange juice.
When he finished he looked up at Mrs. Weasley and said, "Thank you."
"Quite alright, dear. Do you have somewhere to stay?"
Harry blinked and opened his mouth to say 'yes' but instead said, "No."
Mrs. Weasley frowned then Ron piped, "He could stay with us. Couldn't he, mum?"
"Well, I suppose he could…" said Mrs. Weasley. Harry nodded vigorously. This was his one chance to get away from Argil. Sure the man had kept clothes on his back and food in his stomach but he had wanted something in return. And Harry still had scars from several beatings the man had given him.
"Alright then. You come with us, dear. We'll take care of you."
Harry sighed with relief then flung his arms about Mrs. Weasley in a fierce bear hug.
"Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Mrs. Weasley patted his greasy hair gingerly and said, "You're welcome, dear. Why don't we get you home?"
Harry looked up. Home. A real home, not some rotting old building with blankets and a hard floor for a bed. He nodded and Mrs. Weasley smiled again, motioning her children out of the booth. They all piled out and headed back into the main room, all of them gathering around the large fireplace. Mrs. Weasley led Harry forward and said, "We're going to be traveling by Floo, Harry. Do you know what that is?"
Harry gave her a puzzled look and shook his head.
"Fire travel. Just watch what everyone else does. Percy, why don't you go first?"
Percy took a pinch of powder from a large pot on the mantle above the fireplace and threw it into the flames, which turned bright green. He stepped into the fire and yelled, "The Burrow!" A moment later he was gone.
Harry blinked and watched as Fred and George disappeared in the same manner. As Ron vanished, Mrs. Weasley nudged Harry forward. She said, "Just step into the fire and say 'The Burrow'. Don't worry, dear, the flames won't hurt you." Harry gave her a skeptical look but stepped gingerly into the fireplace. Grinning at his success, he yelled out, "The Burrow!" The green flames swirled around him and then he was whipping past fireplaces. On and on he went until he stopped, tumbling out of a fireplace. Fred and George pulled him to his feet and tried to dust some of the soot off of him. George said, "Crikey, Harry, you look like a chimney sweep."
Harry frowned. Of course he looked like a chimney sweep. What else could he look like after ten years of not ever getting a chance to get clean?
Mrs. Weasley and Ginny suddenly came through the fire and the older woman walked over to Harry. She grabbed his hand and said, "Come along, dear. Let's get you cleaned up." Harry grinned at the thought and followed her.
About an hour later Harry emerged from the bathroom dressed in some of Ron's old jeans and a t-shirt. They were a bit baggy but they were better than his old clothes, which had been disposed of by Mrs. Weasley after he had taken them off. Heading downstairs, Harry found the Weasley's in the kitchen. Ron was the first to see him.
"Blimey, Harry. You look like a different person."
"Ten years on the street and you do look like a different person."
Nearly everyone stared at him and Harry realized that was the longest sentence he had spoken since he had met the Weasley's. Grinning still he looked over at Mrs. Weasley, who was looking disdainfully at his hair.
"Harry, dear, come here and let me cut your hair."
Harry frowned. He happened to like his hair.
Mrs. Weasley frowned and replied, "We'll see."
"Not above my shoulders."
"Please? I-I like it long."
Mrs. Weasley relented as she looked into his green eyes, which were wide and innocent.
Harry smirked inwardly. It was easy to get people to do things if you knew how to get them to do them. And looking innocent was one of them.
Mrs. Weasley came over to him and pulled out her wand. She had actually stayed in the bathroom with him for a half-hour, trying to get his hair clean. At the same time, she had told him that her family were all wizards and as he had ended up in the Leaky Cauldron, he obviously was too. Harry watched her out of the corner of his eyes as she moved behind him and began pointing her wand at his hair. As the long black locks fell to the floor he felt a pang.
"There now. I don't see why you won't let me cut it shorter…"
Harry smiled and said, "I like it long, Mrs. Weasley."
"Alright, dear. Ron, why don't you show Harry upstairs? He'll be staying in your room."
Ron sprang up from the table with an, "Okay, mum," and dragged Harry upstairs. They went up flight after flight of stairs until they came to a door that was peeling paint. Ron pushed the door open, grinning sheepishly.
"It's not much…"
Harry stepped into the room, which was mainly orange. Posters littered the walls, each of them of moving. Harry noticed a rat snoozing on the windowsill and looked at Ron.
"Aw, that's Scabbers. So, erm – what do you think?"
Harry looked around the room once more then turned to Ron and grinned.
"This is great."
Ron beamed and began to show Harry everything in his room, beginning with the moving posters on the wall.
A/N: *pant* Whoooo. Seven pages.