A/N: LadyDunla has graciously offered to beta this fanfic. Thank you so much for the help!
Harry Potter wasn't a normal boy.
And he knew because of a school assignment when he was seven. His teacher, Miss Rogers, handed all the students a pieces of paper with a simple tree drawn upon it. Harry examined the paper with interest, slowly reading the words written above the bare branches: mother, father, sister, brother…
"This is a family tree," Miss Rogers announced and Harry quickly looked up. Miss Rogers wasn't a very nice teacher. She always seemed to be sucking a lemon between her teeth and her eyes were sweep across the room, glaring at anyone who seemed to not be giving their full attention. "Fill out the names of your family members and answer the questions below. I will be grading you on your penmanship and spelling. Begin now and make sure to finish before the end of class." She ended abruptly and began to sweep across the room, staring down any child who wasn't avidly writing on their paper.
Harry looked down at his own assignment and quickly filled out a branch labeled Me. He looked hopelessly at the other remaining branches, not knowing what he should write. He knew he had a mother and father. He knew that they had died when he was a baby in a car crash, but he had no idea what their names were. He remembered asking his Aunt Petunia about them, but she would just yell at him to stop bothering her. The Dursleys were always bothered whenever Harry asked questions.
Just as he was looking for more branches for his aunt and uncle, he felt a shadow come over him. "Potter, what are you doing?" The words felt sharp from Miss Rogers' mouth and Harry tensed.
She never seemed to like him and always took every opportunity to criticize him. Harry knew it was probably because Dudley accused him of cheating on the second day of class. He had been looking at Dudley's paper, but he wasn't cheating. Miss Rogers didn't seem to care and moved him to the front of the class. He had hoped, at first, that it would be better to be farther away from his cousin. But it only gave the teacher more chances to pick on him.
Harry chanced a glance up at his teacher and met her narrowed eyes. "I…uh…don't know-"
"Did you not listen to my directions?" she snapped and Harry knew Dudley, if not the whole class was looking at him now.
"I-I did. But I don't know…my parent's names…" He bit his lip, knowing he sounded completely stupid.
Miss Rogers made a noise like she had spat air between her lips. "You don't know? Well, then I suggest you ask them." She rolled her eyes.
Harry felt like sinking into the floor. "I…um…live with my aunt and uncle." He heard a short laugh behind him and he knew that was probably Dudley. He lowered his voice, hoping Miss Rogers would understand. "They...uh…don't really like…talking about them."
His teacher's eyes were so narrowed that he wondered how she could see him. "Well, I suggest you ask them politely and do not stutter or stumble with your words. You will complete this by Monday." She turned abruptly and leaned over another student's desk.
Harry thought it was rather odd that she did not reprimand him more, in fact, she gave him two more days to work on it. Normally, she would have made him stand in front of the class or do something else humiliating. He looked at his empty paper feeling better about it already.
Harry knew better than to talk to his aunt or uncle that afternoon after he and Dudley walked to the Dursley house. Well, it wasn't much of a walk as Dudley chased him the entire way back. Aunt Petunia was furious to find Harry rushing inside, forgetting to take off his shoes at the front door. She ordered him to his cupboard until dinner. He sat in the dark space, listening as Dudley said that Harry was reprimanded again in class. He was expecting the sharp knock on his door and her voice yelling that he would not get any dinner tonight.
He scooted away from the door then and pulled out his homework, wondering if she would be in a better mood tomorrow. Harry knew better than to ask Uncle Vernon. At least Aunt Petunia didn't act like she was angry at him all the time. In fact, last week she was almost pleasant when he helped her clean the kitchen. He was much better at crawling along to floor to wash under the counters and along every corner. Because the chore was finished early, she let him play outside by himself. It was made even better because Dudley was at a friend's house.
Harry traced the branches of the family tree. Saturday always meant chores, which he never looked forward to. But if he was good enough, Aunt Petunia would at least tell him his parent's names and maybe some other things. He looked down at the questions: How big is my family? What do my parent's look like? Do I look like them? What fun things does my family do together?
Harry didn't know how to answer the questions. Should he say that his family had three people? Even though his parents were dead? Or should he include his aunt, uncle, and cousin? Harry didn't want to do that, especially since he wouldn't be able to answer the last question with the Dursleys. He knew they had fun together a lot, but it never included him. Or worse, it was because he was somehow miserable.
But what Harry really wanted to know was the answer to the second question. He had never seen a picture of his parents and certainly they have never been described to him. He knew that his Aunt Petunia was his mother's sister, perhaps they looked alike.
Harry really didn't want to imagine his mother looking like his aunt. Mostly because he didn't find Aunt Petunia to be very pretty. She was thin with a long neck and was always frowning or making horrible simpering faces to Dudley as she coddled him. Harry wished his mother would have black hair, like him, and she would be as pretty as Mrs. Carlson, another teacher he had seen walking around the school. Mrs. Carlson was very nice to Harry. On the first day of school, she spotted him lost in the hallway and led him to class. She even excused him in front of the teacher.
Harry lay in his bed that night trying to strain his memory to see if he could remember what his mother looked like. He fell asleep before he could.
The next morning brought bright prospects. Aunt Petunia woke Harry up early so he could help her with breakfast. She seemed to be in a good mood, because she taught him how to cook bacon on the stove. He burned a couple pieces, but she didn't seem to mind too much and let him eat them.
Awakened by the smell of bacon, Uncle Vernon and Dudley came bumbling downstairs and quickly devoured the bacon and toast that was laid out. Harry kept an eye on his aunt, so that when she stood up, he quickly volunteered to wash the dishes. He usually had to wash the dishes, but he knew she liked it when he asked first.
By the time he had finished, Uncle Vernon and Dudley had left, leaving his aunt to sip tea while looking at the neighbors out the kitchen window. "Aunt Petunia?" He asked softly, folding the dirty dish rag, "Can I ask you something?"
She quickly looked at him, more than a little suspicious. Harry never asked them anything, if he could manage. He waited for some sort of response, but she merely continued to stare down her nose at him.
"I have an assignment for school and I was wondering if you could help me?" She might be more willing if she knew it was for school.
"Can't you do your homework by yourself?" She snapped and turned her head back to the window. Harry didn't bring up that she was always helping Dudley do his homework every night.
"The teacher said I should ask you about it," he said. His aunt frowned, but looked away from the window
"Fine, where is it?"
Harry was deeply relieved, Aunt Petunia didn't look happy, but she was willing at least. He quickly ran to his cupboard and found the paper. He noticed in the hallway that Uncle Vernon and Dudley were watching morning cartoons. He was glad that they were distracted. Homework assignment or not, his uncle would just get angry and lock Harry in his cupboard for even asking about his parents.
He quietly handed the paper to his aunt, whose face became very pinched while reading it. "I just don't know…their names," Harry murmured softly. "My teacher said to ask you," he said again.
Her eyes flickered to the other room and he worried that she would call out to his uncle. She was silent for a very long time, and Harry was too afraid to say anything. She sighed briskly. "Lily," she spat the name like it was disgusting, "I don't know his name." She quickly handed the paper back to Harry. "Now go put that back, I don't want to see it anymore." She abruptly stood up and went to the sink to rinse out her cup.
Harry held the paper very closely, unsure if he was really this lucky. Lily, he had never known. And though he could tell that his aunt was now doing her best to ignore him, he had to ask. He just had to. "What did my mum look like?"
The cup crashed into the sink, she had dropped it. Uncle Vernon's voice rose from the other room. "Petunia? What was that?" She was silent, glaring at Harry who suddenly realized that he shouldn't have said anything. But his uncle was already walking into the kitchen, his face scowling as he looked at his wife. "Boy!" He turned to Harry. "What did you do?"
Harry didn't answer but immediately fled to his cupboard. Not two minutes later, Vernon was banging on his door, yelling at him for asking inappropriate questions. It seemed to go on forever, but Harry was grateful to already be inside, so the shouting was muffled. He knew he wouldn't be let out for the rest of the day, but that really didn't matter.
He dug under his bed until he found a pencil and carefully filled out his mother's name, Lily Potter. He didn't have his father's name, but there seemed to be no way to get that. So he filled out, Mr. Potter, instead. It wasn't complete, nor did he have any idea of how to answer the questions, but Harry propped it up against his wall. He knew he wouldn't be able to turn it in, but lying in bed, he found he rather liked how it looked.
Her name was Lucy Jameson and she had moved from America during last summer. Everyone in Harry's class was a bit frightened by her, as she was taller than the rest of them. She also spoke very loud and instantly gained many friends from the girls in the class. She had never really talked to Harry, but he suddenly found her sitting next to him during the lunch hour.
No one ever sat next to Harry during free times. It was widely known that Dudley and his friends loved to use Harry as their punching bag. But there was Lucy, pulling out her sandwich like she didn't have a care in the world. "I don't think Miss Rogers should have yelled at you this morning," she said around ham and mustard. Harry shrugged, still not sure what to say. He had never really talked to anyone during lunch, let alone a girl.
"I didn't turn in my homework," he murmured.
Lucy sighed dramatically. "I know, but she still shouldn't have yelled at you. I heard what you said last week to her." She paused, her sandwich halfway to her mouth. "So…where are your parents?"
Harry stared at her, no one had asked him that, though he was fairly certain everyone knew he lived with his aunt and uncle, because Dudley often bragged about how pathetic Harry was at the Dursley's. Lucy was staring intently at her sandwich, like she was afraid to look at him. "They…uh…died when I was a baby. A car crash," he offered silently.
Harry frowned. "Why?"
She was looking at him again and chewing on the crust of her bread. "I dunno. Isn't that what you say when someone dies?" Harry shrugged, but she just continued anyway. "My mom died when I was a baby too. My dad died just last year, my aunt and uncle don't like to talk about it either."
"Really?" Harry hadn't met anyone who had the same family situation like him before. "You live with your aunt and uncle?"
She nodded, pulling off the rest of her crust and putting it back into her bag. "Yeah, that's why I moved here last summer."
Harry had the sudden impulse to ask her a lot of questions. Like if she lived in a cupboard, if she got any Christmas presents, if she got beat up by her cousins. "Do you live with any cousins?" he ended up asking.
"Sarah and John, twins." She frowned. "They're only two and really annoying. And I have to babysit them all the time."
Harry smiled, he couldn't imagine being older than Dudley and having to take care of him. He couldn't remember when Petunia used to hand feed her son, but he knew it must have taken hours. But at least the babies couldn't chase Lucy all the time.
"Yuck, oatmeal cookies." She pulled out the offending objects. "Do you want them?" Harry gladly took the snack. He had always made his own lunch, but only after Dudley's was prepared. It meant no sweet of any kind was left over.
"Why did you pack them?" He asked.
Lucy gave him an odd look. "My aunt did, she always packs my lunch. I told her I don't like oatmeal, but she forgets." She frowned at Harry and he realized that I just asked one of those dangerous questions. He had done it before, in the first year of primary school with another boy who was trying to be friendly. Harry had come how blurted that he slept in a cupboard. The boy thought he was lying and they got into an argument. "Do you make your own lunch? Why doesn't your aunt?"
Harry quickly looked away, no longer hungry. "I like making my own lunch."
Lucy shrugged. "Okay. Do you want to come over to my house after school?"
Harry was shocked; no one had ever asked him if he could play with them. "Why?" he blurted.
The girl seemed fairly surprised. "I dunno. Why not?"
Well, there was Dudley, he tended to beat up anyone who got close to Harry. Of course, a girl had never approached him before, so Lucy may be safe anyway. He also wasn't sure his aunt or uncle would like it. They never seemed to like Harry talking to anyone. "My aunt probably wouldn't let me."
Lucy frowned. "Well, ask her then." She pulled out a scrap of paper and quickly wrote something down. "Here's my address. Go home and ask your aunt if you can play. Then come over."
Harry dissected her messy handwriting. It was only a street away from school. The lunch bell was ringing Lucy was gathering her stuff. "Why?" He asked again.
She shrugged. "Cause you're nice and there is this tree in my backyard that I like to climb, but no other girls want to climb it with me. See ya!" She waved quickly, leaving Harry alone again.