A.N. well I was inspired by Evansentranced Fantastic Elves and Where to find them, I had to do it! The idea wouldn't leave me alone!
Chapter One: Venturing Out
"Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you."-George Whitefield
The first time the thought of running away came to Harry was a week after starting primary school when he was five. A boy one street over had run away for a day, the whole neighbor had gone looking for him and the Dursleys had talked about the family very snidely afterwards. The boy was found in a few hours and Harry had watched as he was embraced by his parents, his mom had been crying, and thought that if he had run away no one would look for him.
Harry had been told enough stories about the streets, the orphanages and all the other horrors in the world that he hadn't given it much thought at the time. Uncle Vernon had made sure he knew that he should be grateful to them, protecting him from all those horrible things but there was times when Harry still thought about running away. A few weeks later Harry had run into the library seeking sanctuary during recess from Dudley's gang since there was always a teacher in there. The new librarian was a kind, younger looking woman that had brown hair and eyes.
She hadn't tried to chase him out like the other teachers had before and instead asked him if he would like a book to read. Harry had been so surprised at her calm manner that he had immediately agreed and she handed him a chapter book. That had been surprising too since most teachers just assumed he couldn't read all that well, since he looked younger than he actually was. The truth was that Aunt Petunia had taught him to read very young so he could understand the recipes in the cookbooks, and that was also where he had gotten the basics of math.
The book she had handed to him was, My side of the Mountain, and within the first pages Harry had been hooked. He actually had gotten to the second chapter before the bell rang summoning them back to class. The librarian had asked if he wanted to check the book out and take it home. Harry had been very tempted but then he had remembered Dudley. Without fail whenever Harry had gotten anything of his own Dudley had systematically destroyed it and Harry hadn't wanted to risk it.
Instead, Harry began to spend every recess, and lunch in the Library reading the book until he had finished. Then he had to read the next two books in the trilogy of course since the first had been so irresistible. It was during this time that the idea of running away from all this began to grow more insistent and more appealing. Reading about how Sam had done it, how it hadn't been easy but it was possible.
The thought of going out into the wilderness somewhere and never having to deal with the Dursleys or other people was very appealing to Harry. He began to picture himself as Sam, with his faithful falcon Frightful and living out there somewhere in a hollowed out tree. Once he had finished those books the librarian was happy to give him the Hatchet, another story of a boy out in the wilderness. Brian hadn't chosen to go into the wilderness but he did manage to live out there.
Reading about Sam and then Brain going into the wilderness somewhere and loving it so much was giving birth to an idea in Harry. If Sam could choose to go, if Brain could survive with only a Hatchet, if boys just like him could do it then why couldn't Harry? This gave Harry a lot to think about in the darkness of the cupboard as his stomach groaned from hunger. Thinking about taking his life in his own hands, being able to feed himself and if he went hungry it would be his own doing. Having that control given back to him was so tempting, so alluring that Harry couldn't think about much else.
Harry read Peter Pan, next, with some misgivings that slowly fell away. His relatives always called him a freak, called him abnormal, and he never really understood why. Harry knew strange things happened around him, that sometimes if he really wanted something it would happen but Harry had never really gave it much thought. Now, with the idea of running away, away from the Dursleys and their rules, Harry thought about it.
If he was a freak, if he could do things that other people couldn't and if he was really not human. Did that mean the reason he was treated so badly was because he was somewhere he didn't belong. Thinking about it, it made sense, humans didn't like non-human things very much instinctively. Which made Harry wonder, where did he belong? It was during his deep contemplation of this that the nice librarian brought him a book she thought he might enjoy. The book was called Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Harry read it almost without a thought.
The story started out a bit dry, actually, and allowed Harry to contemplate this whole not belonging here thing. Then the story got interesting when the Lord Greystoke and his fragile wide died leaving their child to be raised by apes in the African jungle. Harry was captivated, the struggle Tarzan felt trying to decide where he belonged. Whether he was an Ape, or whether he was a man. It was hard not to draw parallels, was Harry a freak or was he a person.
"Life's a journey, not a destination."-Steven tyler
Harry wasn't sure how the librarian knew it was his birthday but he was more stunned by the fact that she got him a gift more then anything. The box full of books wasn't wrapped, and she hadn't given him more then a happy birthday before she had laid it in his lap, still it was more than anyone had ever done for him. The box was full of books, old, worn books that had been going to given to some charity or other. The librarian had saved him these books from the other 'retired' books and had told them he could have them now.
It was evident that she had picked the selection carefully; taking care to pick ones she must have known he would have wanted. It was a kind gesture and Harry was brought to almost tears from her thoughtfulness. However, he had squashed the urge down firmly having been punished too much for expressing such emotion. There were a few survival guides, an animal guidebook, a few instruction books on how to build some things like braiding rope and hammocks. There were a few books from the Tarzan series and a new book call The Jungle Book that looked interesting. He got his own copy of My side of the Mountian and the Hatchet.
Harry was six now, he had spent a long time considering his situation of life and preparing for what he knew in his heart he had already decided. He had long since started to gather supplies for his run, he had it stashed under some loose floorboards in an little used classroom at the back of the school. He had a backpack full to the bursting with a blanket, some spare clothes, a knife he had managed to steal from a hardware store, some canned food he had gotten from a dumpster and matches. A few maps he had taken from a tour guide shop and a few other things he thought might be useful like needles, thread and some string.
In all Harry thought he might be ready today, it was getting close to winter and Harry knew he couldn't put off for much longer. If he didn't leave soon he would have to wait for summer and he didn't want to put it off that long for fear of losing the nerve to go through with it. Looking at the books Harry thought he might be able to squeeze them into his bag without too much trouble and if he left now it would give him time to get pretty far before the Dursleys would notice him missing.
Harry had some money squirreled away in the backpack that he had managed to get from running errands and occasionally stealing from various people. He didn't feel as much guilt stealing as he thought he should, Harry thought that might be because he didn't think he had really hurt anyone taking the little he had. The money he had would get him pretty far on the train and then he could be farther then he could ever get on foot.
He made the decision to go, it would be the best birthday present he could give himself getting out from under the oppression of the Dursleys. Harry wrote a quick note to the Librarian to say goodbye, he told he a bit about why he was leaving and thanked her for how kind she always treated him. He left it under a pile of books he knew she was going through to check back into the library and knew she wouldn't find it for a while yet. He grabbed his things and headed for his stash making sure no one saw him heading that way so he had a chance to get out without notice.
Once he grabbed his backpack he changed his shirt to the best one he had, it was still ratty but it was much better then the one he had on. Hopefully the change of clothes would keep people from noticing him if his relatives reported him missing sooner than he thought they would. Getting to the station would take some time, but Harry was sure he could before the school hours ended. He managed it just barely and had a hell of a time convincing the attendant to sell him a ticket but somehow he managed it.
Harry wasn't even sure where he was going but he bought the ticket to the furthest place he could afford. The train ride was quiet; people didn't like to meet each other's eyes on the train lest they invite unwanted conversation from their fellow passengers. This did wonders for keeping his presence unnoticed in the back corner of the car and Harry wanted to keep it that way. He pulled out his new book The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling was a lot like his favorite books. It was about a boy that was raised by wolves and had found friends in a panther and a bear. He made an enemy of a tiger named Sher Khan though.
The scenery flew by, slowly changing from concrete cities to farmland. The change was amazing, and the excitement Harry felt within was building higher the farther they went. The attendant didn't really pay him much mind and this allowed Harry to get further than his ticket would normally had allowed. He stepped off the train a few stops before the last stop since that would be harder to remember if the Bobbies ever questioned the attendant.
The town he was in was small and filled with mostly farms, surrounded by woods at the edges. Harry thought he picked a great place to start his journey but it had gotten pretty dark so Harry knew he had to find a place to sleep soon. He made his way to the woods, it took him some time but he managed to not get very lost on his way. Harry climbed up a sturdy looking tree that had thick branches that interwove together making it hard to see anything from the ground. He avoided the nests as best he could, not wanting to get an angry bird making a ruckus at the moment. Then he curled his blanket around him when he found a good place to sleep in the branches and fell asleep easily.
"Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey." -Pat Conroy
It took a while to get his bearings, living in the woods was very different from living in the cupboard and getting food was very different also. Harry had taken to sleeping in the trees while he searched for a more secure place to hunker down for winter. He knew that it was better to take the risk of staying put then to try and find a further place with winter to close. So he searched, he gathered what he could from the woods for food and only went into town at night to forage through the dumpsters behind markets.
Harry had thought about Sam's hollowed out tree, but there was nothing like that in these woods that he had found. He didn't think he would have to hollow out one in time so he began looking for an unoccupied cave or some such thing. That was easier said then done, so when he found a large tree that had a very small hollowed out place under its roots he took it. It was smaller than the cupboard but Harry started to dig it out right away to give himself more room. It was hard work, he could only use his hands and the soil was hard packed around the roots making it hard to expand his little burrow.
When he managed to get it to be about twice the size of his old cupboard Harry decided it was large enough to begin readying it for his uses. He fashioned a door of sorts from fallen branches, mud, his string and some moss to blend it in. What he got was a cover to the entrance of his little burrow that would keep the creatures out and his little burrow from prying human eyes. There was a small river not to far from his burrow that he caught fish from using the bugs he had gotten from digging his burrow out. He had plenty of books, canned food, he had his blanket and he was working on trying to make a fireplace of some sort.
Harry avoided going into the town as much as he could to avoid being taken note of since in places this small his appearance would immediately be noticed. When he did go into town it was always at night and he was very cautious to stay out of sight from other people. There was a church that always left its doors open for people; they had donation storage in the back that was mostly left alone until around Christmas time. They gathered all sorts of things throughout the year and gave most of those things out during the holidays surrounding winter.
They left it alone since it was just the beginning of September and they didn't have any major holidays coming yet, not till November. There, Harry managed to get a lot of valuable things for winter, lots more blankets, a flashlight, some pots and pans. He got a few more books there, some warmer clothes, coats, sweaters, scarves and mittens. He also managed to get a lot of canned food from there, a bigger knife, some rope and a toy or two. There was so much stuff there that no one noticed the few things he had taken and he knew he would be able to make it through winter.
He spent most of his time squirreling away food, reinforcing the walls of his burrow and trying to figure out how to get his little fireplace working. The first few attempts had only managed to fill his burrow with smoke and sending him coughing out into the woods. It was a lot of trial and error on it, not only the design but also what he could burn safely. Harry didn't want to draw attention to his burrow under the tree with black smoke so he had to figure out how to make his smoke white since it would blend better. At night, if he wasn't too tired he read his books using the flashlight.
It was a little lonely but Harry was finding he was enjoying being free. Harry had taken to being a wild child like a fish to water, he gathered feathers and knotted them in his hair. He only washed when he had to since it was getting so cold out and he made sure to keep his bathroom place a ways away from his burrow. Before Harry knew it, snow began to fall, and the boots he had gotten from the church were put to good use. The boots were big on him but it was better than going barefoot.
He managed to get his little fireplace working and his burrow was actually much more comfortable than his cupboard ever was. It was a little lonely with no one to talk to, but Harry didn't want to risk everything he had managed by talking to the children in the town. He had thought about Sam's falcon Frightful, Tarzan's Apes, and Mowgli's bear Bloo. Harry thought he might like an animal companion of his own but he didn't have the faintest idea on how to get one.
It was while he was out looking for more firewood to bring back to the burrow to dry that he heard the sound of someone moving noisily through his woods. Harry quickly scrambled up a tree to hide, people rarely looked up when searching and he felt safer up there anyways. Harry was glad he had managed to learn how to move quietly through the woods because he was sure he would have been discovered already had he not. The woman was cursing under her breath when she came into sight; she was dressed strangely with mismatched brightly colored clothes and was wearing a pointy hat. She was carrying bags in both her hands that looked much to big for her to carry even one and on her back was a large canvas backpack that stood out in its plainness in comparison to her other things.
Harry managed to only pick up a few words, "…Merlin damned ingredients…I'll show you…I can get my own potion ingredients…Merlin damned snow…bloody muggles…can't use magic…." She was making her way through the snow but it was slow going with all her things weighing her down. She stopped under his tree that he was hiding in, and for a heart stopping moment Harry thought she must have notice him. But, no, she was putting down her things and shrugging off her backpack. Harry dared not move for fear of her hearing him.
Once she had all her things down she looked around suspiciously, as if to check to make sure she was all alone. Thankfully for Harry she hadn't thought to look up and she pulled out a thin stick a moment later. Harry watched with awe as she flicked the stick around and did some impossible things. The snow around the tree disappeared, a tent whizzed out of one of her packs and set up itself not to far from her. Her canvas backpack floated to her and she reached into it practically having to climb into it to retrieve a small rock from its main pocket.
Harry was struck dumb at seeing her do that since it would be beyond useful to have something that looked so small fit so much. She tossed the backpack at the base of the tree without a care and tapped the stone with her stick making it glow. Harry felt something wash over him as she did so and with a sinking stomach he began to realize it was too late to leave now. He was sure that if he left the woman would somehow know now and began to settle in to wait.
When the woman dragged her two other bags into the tent Harry caught a glimpse of the inside of it, and found that the tent was also much bigger in than out. She got her backpack a moment later but only used it to prop her entrance open. Harry found his gaze continuing to fall on her backpack, it was small but it was a bit bigger than the one he had now. It was covered in pocket, pockets he was sure were much bigger in then out if he followed her trend and Harry couldn't help but wonder about it's contents.
What would be in this fantastical bag from this magical woman? What wonders would he find if he took a peek? Could he grab it without her noticing? He quickly became obsessed with it, and wanted the bag more then anything ever in his short life. His old pack was on his back at the moment, holding what little firewood he had managed to get and Harry sat in his tree plotting. It grew dark, the woman fell asleep and he could hear the faint sound of snoring within the tent before he dared to move from his perch.
He moved as quietly as possible down the tree, his heart was fluttering like a hummingbird in his chest in nervous anticipation, as he got closer to the ground. Harry winced with his feet crunched from the snow but the woman was still sleeping soundly though so Harry kept going. He grabbed her bag slowly replacing it with his own, and then he just as slowly crept away from her campsite. As soon as he felt her magic slip away from him Harry made a break for it running as fast as his limbs could carry him to his burrow.
Harry didn't feel safe until he was tucked away in his burrow with the cover on over the entrance and he heard no sound of pursuit for a good twenty minutes. Luckily it was still snowing so any tracks would be soon covered and Harry made himself step lightly so he hadn't left much of a trial to begin with anyway. He clutched his prize to him, his heart beating rapidly inside his chest and tried to calm down. He reached for his flashlight and grabbed his animal guidebook to him along with it hoping to distract himself from his harrowing adventure.
The guidebook had all sorts of animals listed, Harry was hoping that he would be able to discover a way to get his own animal companion from it. The book described a lot of things like habitats, known reserves, diets, and behaviors. It was a very interesting read and got Harry relaxed enough to sleep. The next day, Harry stayed in his burrow because he didn't want to risk being discovered by that woman. He had enough food and water to last him a few days so he thought he would be fine as long as he only went out to use the bathroom at night.
The backpack was really a bag of wonders, it had so many things inside it that Harry wasn't sure he had enough room to dump the back out of its contents in the burrow. So he settled for taking out things one thing at a time and examining it before putting it back. There were a lot of books inside the pack, fantastical books Harry could hardly wait to read with titles like: Moste Potent Potions, One thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, Talismans the lost art, Potions: A beginners guide to harvesting ingredients, A beginners guide to Enchantments, One thousand uses for Ancient Runes, Magical Woods of Great Britain: the survival guide, A Monster book of Monster (that was lashed closed with a lot of rope), and The Comprehensive guide to becoming a Potion Master (the thickest book of the whole lot).
There were a lot of knives in it, of all shapes and size. A lot of empty jars, a small pair of scaly looking gloves, a few cauldrons of many different shapes and sizes. The bag had so many things Harry was sure he would never find the end to the useful mysteries of his new pack. He felt little guilt over grabbing the bag from that woman, she had plenty of stuff and she seemed to have a mean temperament. In the jungle you took what you could and if you weren't strong enough to keep your things you didn't deserve to have them.
"No matter where you are, you're always a bit on your own, always an outsider." -Banana Yoshimoto
Spring came slowly, and Harry watched the blanket of snow melt away to reveal the sleeping world beneath with some interest. He had spent most of the winter reading his magical books, mapping out where he was and where he planned to go. Along with trying to discover what he could take with him and what he had to leave behind. Thanks to his Canvas pack he had to leave significantly less than he would have had to otherwise. Figuring out how to work his pack had been a challenge Harry had enjoyed and he was excited to be moving on soon.
Harry wasn't sure where he was going to go, the maps he had didn't show the magical forests and his guide book only contained the vaguest of directions. The woman he had taken the pack from was a witch, he was sure of it but Harry wasn't quite sure what that made him. He knew he was different; he was a freak among humans when he had lived among the Dursleys but he was sure he wasn't a witch either. Witches were girls and they needed things like wands for magic by his understanding.
Though it was a big relief to know that it was magic that made him different but now he was stuck with a conundrum of what he was exactly as freak was such a general term. The Monster book of Monsters hadn't helped him out much since it didn't have many humanoid creatures inside it (it had taken him forever to figure out how to open it without losing a finger). He doubted he was a werewolf, a mermaid, a house elf, a fairy, a Valcore, or any form of troll. So Harry was left wondering what he was exactly and what wouldn't be covered in the Monster book of Monsters.
Harry decided that he would visit the next town's library before he began his new journey to see if he could discover what sort of creature he could be. It had to be a creature that could pass easily as a human for an extended period of time, something that had magic, and maybe preferred to dwell in forests away from people. Harry felt more at home in the woods than he ever had living with the Dursleys and thought maybe whatever he was must live in the forest naturally. This discovery did bring to light an idea of what might have made the Dursleys treat him so horribly. After all, what human left a child on a doorstep at night in winter? Whatever left him must have known he would be all right in the cold temperature…that he was a creature of some sort not a person.