Title: Everything Will Change (aka "Don't Let Them Break Your Spirit")
Author's Notes: Just a quick plug—I'm currently beta reading for HP authors. I'd love to read for you, but I do have two kinds of fics I refuse to do: slash and Mary-Sue. Don't have anything against either of these genres of stories, but when it comes to beta reading for them, I don't wanna! Anyone interested? Email!
Pre-ramblings: This is my first HP fiction. I'm not even a big HP fan, but I've read one book out of the series and take way too many psychology classes in school. Have you ever thought of what Harry's everyday life would have been, pre-Hogwarts? Taunted in school and degraded at home, it would be enough to break anyone's spirit. Yet, the Harry we meet is far from that. Why? What caused him to cling to a little bit of hope, caused him not to lose his faith in the good of people? Hm. This is my theory.
Summery: Ever wonder what Harry's life was like, pre-Hogwarts? Why wasn't his spirit broken by the miserable life he led? What caused him to cling to a little bit of hope, caused him not to lose his faith in the good of people? This is my theory…
Harry Potter, age 9, ran out of the house at 4 Privet Drive as fast as his gangly legs could carry him. He clung to his knapsack that was torn in two places and didn't look like it would make it one more day. The small boy tore across his neighbor's front yards, catching a glimpse of the school bus as it roared past without him. Panting hard, Harry stopped where he was and cursed his luck. This would be the fourth time this month that he was late to school.
It wasn't his fault. If Aunt Petunia hadn't made him wash the breakfast dishes (twice, to make sure they were "clean of his germs") he would have had plenty of time to get to the bus stop. Dudley had gotten to the bus stop early that morning and in plenty of time to punch two people, which put him in an extremely good mood. Harry, on the other hand, scrubbed his little paws raw trying to remove the mounds of maple syrup left on Dudley's plate. Then Aunt Petunia made him scrub the pan in which she'd made her "famous" pancakes in; it was caked with little burnt pieces of batter that took Harry a good ten minutes to scrub off. Finally, with only minutes to spare, Harry dashed out of the house with Uncle Vernon screaming at him about his hair.
Of course, this morning routine wasn't any different than it usually was. In fact, Harry thought to himself, there hadn't been a time when he could remember it being different. He was always woken up at six thirty to make the bacon, eggs and toast. He was always the one who served it. He was always the one who had to wait until Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and Dudley had taken all they wanted before he was allowed to touch the food, and he was always the one who cleaned up afterwards.
It was going to be a hot day. Summer was coming but Harry wasn't looking forward to it; it meant hours of pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, and cleaning the gutters. He thought he actually preferred school to summer vacation, but he dare not admit that to anyone. He was already unpopular enough.
Harry stared in the direction of the school, a good twenty minutes' walk from where he was. Adjusting his glasses, which were sliding down his nose because he was sweating, Harry began to trudge towards the elementary school, where the morning held nothing more exciting for him than being hit in the back of the head with erasers. Students had never liked Harry Potter very much, mainly because Dudley's gang didn't. They always taunted him about his broken glasses (which were held together with scotch tape), his baggy clothes, and his unruly hair. The only thing the other kids teased him about, but couldn't make him dislike, was a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead.
Harry was lost in his thoughts and didn't notice a tree root sticking out of the ground. He tripped, sending his bag flying and his glasses crashing to the ground. He raised himself slowly off the ground, noted with some dismay that he'd ripped the knee out of his jeans and scraped himself, and began to feel around for his glasses. Carefully he walked forward, feeling frantically for his glasses, when he heard a very distinct crunch. Harry flinched; that couldn't be good news. He lifted his left foot and saw the vague outline of his glasses. Fearing the worst, he slid them back on and nearly cried when he found that he'd cracked the lens. Not only would he have to walk around like this all day and be teased, but he knew it would be weeks before Aunt Petunia would actually do anything about replacing the lens.
Harry sighed quietly, knowing it was out of his control, and went to retrieve his bag. Perhaps out of anger, he forgot the certain way he had to hold his bag to keep from falling apart (one hand on the bottom and the other holding two splits together) and yanked it off the ground. A ripping sound, and out tumbled all his schoolbooks. Harry bit his lip to keep from screaming in frustration, and tried futilely to find a way to fix the bag. After a lot of tugging and experimental positions, he knew the bag was too far-gone to ever be useful again. This also disheartened him: until Dudley got a new book bag, Harry knew he would not get another one. Discarding the flaps of cloth left, Harry picked up his school books and tried to find a comfortable way to transport them all the way to school. This was impossible. They were just too heavy! Harry wasn't strong and he wasn't big, so the only way to lug the books along was to hold them out in front of him, with both his arms underneath them. He had to readjust every few feet so its not surprising that by the time he appeared in the classroom doorway, school had long begun without him.
"Ah, Mr. Potter," the cold voice belonging to Mrs. Rickshickle rasped. "So glad you could join us." There were a few snickers as the students got a look at Harry's cracked glasses and skinned knee.
"Sorry I'm late," he panted. "I missed the—"
"No excuses, Mr. Potter. Please take your seat," Mrs. Rickshickle said sharply. Harry did as he was told, and sat down in the back of the classroom. The teacher continued to stare at him for a moment before resuming the lesson on tree frogs. Though she had no real reason to despise Harry (he was, after all, a decent student) there was something about the boy she just didn't like. Perhaps she had picked it up from the children, this dislike of Potter, but in any case, it didn't do Harry any good. He slunk down in his seat and was silent for the rest of the morning.
Lunch was perhaps the worst part of the day for Harry. In class, the other kids couldn't rightly throw anything without getting a detention, and at least in recess Harry could dodge the balls fair enough. But at lunchtime, food could be thrown at Harry without any of the teachers noticing, and food had a way of sticking to one's hair and skin.
This is why Harry maintained a hunched over position in lunch, and always tried to eat quickly. Aunt Petunia made Dudley's lunch every day for him. She cooked him little bits of steak, and sent along pouches of cookies and other sweets. Two or three sandwiches always were present in the lunch, as well as a big jug full of cola. The lunch itself took up about three bags, and Dudley never had leftovers.
In the beginning of Harry's schooling, Aunt Petunia had made him lunch too. Of course, they were nothing like Dudley's lunch: Harry's bag usually contained a half a cheese sandwich and a jar of water. But, as the years progressed and Aunt Petunia had to spend more and more time preparing Dudley's ever-increasing lunch expectations ("He's a growing boy and needs LOTS of energy!"), she decided that Harry could eat whatever the school fixed. She always made sure to only give Harry enough money to get the cheapest lunch (ham salad and skim milk). Not that Harry minded; he was used to eating whatever was placed in front of him, no questions asked.
Harry was busy devouring his ham salad when Calvin Johnston slid next to Harry. This startled Harry, seeing as how no one ever sat with him. He usually had the table to himself.
"Hey Potter," Calvin said casually, biting into his sandwich. No one ever called Harry "Harry". Sometimes he wondered if the other kids even knew his name.
"Hello," Harry said quietly. "Did you…did you mean to sit here?"
A somewhat dark grin spread over Calvin's face. "Well sure I did, Potter. I came to ask you if you wanted some of my ice cream. I can't finish it," Calvin said, holding up a Styrofoam dish full of strawberry ice cream.
In retrospect, Harry should have known Calvin was up to no good. But the sight of strawberry ice cream was too much to pass up. "Gee, sure! I'd love some!"
"You sure?" Calvin said in almost a teasing tone. Other people were watching now, leaning over from other tables.
Harry nodded vigorously, never taking his eyes off the ice cream. "Yeah, yeah sure Calvin, I'm sure!"
Calvin grinned broadly. "All right then, you asked for it!" Calvin smushed the ice cream right in Harry's eager face amidst cheers and hoots of laughter. Strawberry ice cream streamed down his chin and onto his shirt, and Harry, not knowing what else to do, tried to wipe it off with his hands.
"Gee Potter, are you sure you don't want some syrup with that?" Nigel Finchman, one of Calvin's cronies, shouted above the laughter as he poured chocolate syrup all over Harry's hair.
"Make sure you rub it in good, Potter!" Calvin hooted as he rubbed the syrup into Harry's scalp. "Make sure it'll take hours to wash out!"
Harry, who was used to this sort of thing, thought it best to just wait the whole ordeal out. Shouting or fighting back would only egg them on, and Harry hated to think what they might do next.
Just then a teacher, Mr. Nidedale, broke up the eager session. "Go on, get along there, you can settle this on the playground. Potter, look at yourself. Aren't you ashamed? Get down to the nurse, now, and have her clean you up."
"Yes, sir," Harry muttered as he made his way quickly out of the lunch room, which was still echoing with laughter. Ice cream trailed after him down the hallway, and he could hear the janitor curse him under his breath.
When the nurse caught a glimpse of Harry, she merely pursed her lips.
"Gone and got yourself in trouble again, did you Potter? What did you do, fall in a vat of ice cream?"
"Don't get smart with me, young man. Come on. Let's see if we can get this…this…stuff out of your hair." She marched him to the bathroom and stuck his head under the faucet. She didn't even bother making sure the water was a comfortable temperature; instead, Harry felt freezing cold water run down his head and back, and shivered. "Maybe you should use syrup in your hair, to make it stay in one place, Potter."
After about five unsuccessful minutes, the nurse sighed heavily. "Oh, Potter, I don't know how you did it, but this stuff won't come out of your hair. And you've got sticky pink stuff all down your shirt. Honestly, I don't know how your aunt and uncle even keep you clean." Harry said nothing, not wanting to look up in her eyes. She sighed again. "I just guess we'll have to call your aunt to come down here and get you!" she exclaimed in exasperation.
"Let me give it a try, hm Flo?" a shaggy looking man in the doorway suggested.
Flo shook her head. "He's hopeless, Mr. Lupin. Absolutely hopeless."
"Well, we'll just see about that, won't we?" Mr. Lupin said in a light voice, smiling and winking at Harry. Harry had a strange feeling he'd met this man before, many years ago…
The nurse threw up her hands in defeat and cried, "All right, but I tell you, Potter is a hopeless case!"
With this she stared harshly down at Harry, who seemed to cower from the look. She left in a hurry and Mr. Lupin came in and shut the door. "Well, seem to have gotten yourself in a bit of a mess, eh Harry?" he laughed.
Harry couldn't remember the last time anyone at school called him "Harry", and how did Mr. Lupin even know his first name? "Yes…" Harry said slowly. "I kinda…fell into some ice cream…and some syrup…"
"Happens to the best of us," Mr. Lupin said earnestly. He turned on the tap water but yanked his hand away when he felt how cold the water was. "No wonder the bloody stuff won't come out of your hair—probably froze it!"
Harry suddenly had a vision of chocolate syrup spikes in his hair, and laughed.
Mr. Lupin beamed at Harry's laughter and adjusted the taps until they were giving warm water. "Having a bit of a rough day, are you Harry?" he asked, his tone suddenly changing to sound more concerned.
Harry had never, in his whole life, been spoken to with any sort of compassion and was quite taken aback with it. "Well—er—yes."
"Oh, what a shame. Would you like to tell me about it? Here, stick your head underneath the faucet. That's a good chap."
"Well, it all started this morning. I have to cook breakfast for my family."
"Ah, so we have a chef in our midst," he said with a smile. Harry smiled back.
"I'm not a bad cook," Harry commented, having never admitted that outloud. "I know when to take the bacon off the stove, so it won't burn."
"That's a skill I have yet to master," Mr. Lupin said with a small smile, fully concentrating on Harry's hair.
"Then I missed the school bus, because Aunt Petunia made me wash the dishes twice."
"Twice, you say?"
"Er—yes. She's a fanatic about germs."
"Oh yes. One of those."
"Then I tripped over a tree root, and I broke my glasses," Harry said, pointing to his glasses which were on the basin. Mr. Lupin took the glasses swiftly, tapped them with something Harry couldn't make out without his glasses on (was it a stick?) and put them back on the basin.
"They look all right to me, Harry," Mr. Lupin said.
"And my book bag burst, so I have to carry my books in my arms now. They're heavy, those school books," Harry said. He couldn't believe that an adult actually cared enough to carry on a conversation with him. "So I was late to school and then at lunch someone threw strawberry ice cream at me and rubbed chocolate syrup on my head," he finished quickly.
"Now, why would anyone do that?" Mr. Lupin said softly, rinsing the last of the chocolate syrup out of Harry's hair.
After a moments hesitation, Harry whispered, "Well, er—no one…no one likes me," as he lifted his head from the faucet. Mr. Lupin put a towel around his head and start to rub his hair dry.
"What's not to like, Harry?"
"My cousin, Dudley, is big and strong. He doesn't like me, and if anyone did, they'd get beat up by him. And also my clothes…they're baggy, and my hair is always sticking up."
"Sort of a sticky situation to be in," Mr. Lupin said. "But Harry, do you really want to be friends with someone who'd drop you the instant it became a bit threatening, or if it became unfashionable to be around you?"
After a moment, Harry's green eyes drifted to the floor. "Oh, I don't know…" he said in a voice barely above a whisper. "It'd just be nice to have someone to talk to, that's all."
"Oh, Harry," Mr. Lupin said in a gentle voice, rubbing the rest of Harry's hair dry then lifting Harry's head until their gaze met. "Things aren't always what they seem. You'll find your place someday, I promise you."
Harry scratched his head in annoyance; this man didn't even know what he was saying!
"I know you don't believe me now," Mr. Lupin continued as if he had read Harry's thoughts. "It's hard to when you're miserable. But a day will come when everything will change." He handed Harry his glasses. Harry slid them on and noticed that they were no longer cracked. He also chanced to look down and saw that all of the ice cream was gone from the front of his shirt, and the hole in his jeans had been mended. Amazed, Harry looked back up at the good-natured man in front of him. Mr. Lupin put a hand on Harry's shoulder and smiled. "There are normal people in this world, Harry, and then there are special people." Mr. Lupin grinned, and his whole face lit up. "You are special Harry. Don't ever forget that."
Harry nodded slowly. "I won't," he whispered, meaning it.
Mr. Lupin leaned down next to him and whispered. "Remember what I've said—someday, everything will change. Until then, don't let them break your spirit." He stood up suddenly as if coming to a startling revelation. "Well! I think you can go back to class now, Harry. Feeling better?"
Harry jumped up, feeling as if he didn't have a care in the world. "Much!" he said.
Mr. Lupin looked pleased. "Good, good! Run along now, don't want to be late!"
Harry ran out of the nurses office with a huge grin on his face. No matter what, he wouldn't let them break his spirit…