Update (New Year's 2014): Ignore everything you recognize from other worlds. They're different.
This is a rewrite of The Wizard of the Kaleidoscope. Our Magic Is Different.
Severus Snape was a man with a long, hooked nose, sallow skin and hair that could do with a rinse.
"I still see your ghost," he whispered to nobody.
There seemed to be a strange gasp ready to leave his lips and his pupils were dilated, vacant. His hands shook and his jaw clenched. An errant black boot extended from a stained cloak and pushed the large pewter cauldron he had been brewing in several inches further from him.
It was an exercise in pointlessness - there were no more fumes and he had pulled the majority of them into his lungs already. The particles were undoubtedly shooting through his bloodstream - he already felt the hallucinogenic effects begin to take hold of him.
Severus watched the years fly by in his mind, quite literally, as sheer nonsense made a strange sort of sense. He put both feet on the ground and walked on. He pulled himself out into sitting position. "Gone, Dumbledore, gone." He closed his eyes, hard enough to cause discomfort. She was there. His eyes snapped open, incapable of understanding why. You used to love the legend of Icarus, didn't you, Sev? The elongated faces of the scales had fallen to the floor and he could see her eyes in them. She opened her eyes yet again and they were perfect.
In the most mundane of the objects he worked with, he saw Mikailian angels and the eyes of Nephilim in contrast, in conflict.
They spun and spun and he was never sure if he was being hypnotized or not before he learned the arts of the Mind.
In the silver scales he saw red and black, a circle iris surrounded by a piece of an unnamed fractal that governed everything in the world.
He saw the Kaleidoscope.
Watch the Clouds Fall from the Sky
His name was Harry Potter, of course. His aunt, who he was sure he had loved at one point, made it a point to spit it out. His first name was as common as that of Tom Middleton's and Dick Campbell's. His father had been a no-good drunk - his uncle was the good kind, of course - who had gotten his mother killed in a car crash. It was a graphic car crash and it seemed to get more graphic each time he asked about it.
By the time he was seven, shards of glass had been pulled out of his body and twisted pieces of metal were coming out of his mother's ears.
Of course, that meant that they probably didn't die in a car crash. Aunt Petunia spoke with such vitriol that Harry thought she might have actually kidnapped him to spite his mother, but in his heart of hearts he knew that she was far too straightlaced to do anything that would carry a long prison for her. Uncle Vernon cheated on his taxes, but it certainly wouldn't put her in jeopardy.
Harry slept in a room that wasn't quite a room. It was small, easy to lock with a deadbolt, and filled with spiders jumping here and there. When he was a young child, he'd find creative ways to ensure that he'd be able to kill them. His personal favorite was using his pencil as a dart to skewer them in mid-air. He was far more accurate with it than he had any right to be. As he grew, however, he learned that spiders, too, were living things and they had the quiet misfortune of being born as eight-legged things that the rulers of the universe as he knew it hated.
Yet that was the first sign that there was something not quite right about him, other than the off-handed mutterings of "fucking freak" that peppered Vernon's speech when he spoke to himself. His uncle had a rather off-putting way of speaking that Harry knew wasn't the norm. His teachers spoke to him politely and called him by his first name, while Vernon just growled "boy" whether the large man was happy, sad, somewhere in between or livid. Vernon always spoke to himself instead of Harry after addressing the child who lived under the cupboard and cooked the bacon in the morning.
"I'm so glad the NHS is footing the bill for his damn healthcare."
Aunt Petunia enjoyed nodding sympathetically.
Dudley nodded along with her.
Dudley was his cousin, though he looked more like a baby whale at the moment. Uncle Vernon may have been overly obese, but the man looked hearty (and rather Irish, though the one time Harry said it to his face, he had been picked up by the collar and shouted at for nearly two minutes) and, dare he say healthy.
Dudley was hilariously fat. He had a habit of leering at scantily dressed girls between his age and twice that which he picked up from his father which Aunt Petunia turned a very forceful blind eye to.
Harry tried (he really did!) to leer along with Dudley, but the few times Aunt Petunia saw him, he had been smacked in the face and had to suffer Dudley's smirk for the rest of the afternoon. Harry grew up rather respectful of everything but authority.
While he wasn't locked in his room, cooking bacon or suffering on long trips to places that none of the Dursleys enjoyed but went to anyway, he was in the garden. Aunt Petunia had him weeding from a reasonable age. She taught him how to plant marigolds on his eighth birthday, and now he did nearly everything in the garden but the planting of marigolds, since two or three of them had turned lurid shades of neon green and blue when he had done it the first time.
There were a large amount of garden snakes which he enjoyed the company of. He had always loved them because they told were the daily confirmation that he was, in fact, special.
They spoke to him.
In fact, one was speaking to him right now.
"When I grow larger, I will have the ssssstrength to crush a million mice."
"Whatever you say, buddy," Harry replied as he pulled another weed from the ground.
"I will bite a wissssard and all of their kind will fear me."
"Whatever you sssssay, buddy," Harry repeated with an annoyed hiss.
"I will join the Dark Lord and purge of the world of those who don't resssssspect ssssssnakes."
Harry cocked his head and stared at the snake, nonplussed.
"He will rise from the ashesssss like Quetzalcoatal and take the world by sssssstorm."
Harry sighed. "Have you been eating the milk thissssstle again? That'ssssss not very healthy." It was a running joke in the garden - Harry had pulled some out of the ground and after a snake ate it, it grew gills. Harry threw it into glass of water and at first opportunity, he dumped it into a nearby stream. He never saw the snake again.
"I want gillssssss too."
Despite multiple requests, Harry could not recreate his feat.
"You are far better at magic than you believe," the snake said as earnestly as a snake could. "That'ssssss all there is to it."
Harry shook his head and smiled, pulled out the last noticeable weed and walked back into the house, taking care to open the door quietly. Against her better judgment, Aunt Petunia had left her keys on the kitchen table every night to ensure that she didn't have to wake up before he did. He often snuck out of the house early in the morning to talk to the snakes in the garden because each one of the Dursley slept quite deeply and could only be roused by the smell of his cooking.
It was a bad life. He did well in school, he was friendly with every teacher who met him and did homework for nearly everyone who requested it from him as long as they had some modicum of respect for him. No matter how many times he was punched, kicked, grabbed or choked, he wouldn't do Dudley's unless the other boy said "please" and Dudley learned quickly that asking nicely was far easier and left more time for him to play that damn game with aliens and missiles that most certainly rotted his brain beyond repair.
He'd grow up, go to a prestigious university by way of scholarship and become something that made an impact on the world, rather than a drill salesman. He sighed, prepared the ingredients for the next breakfast on the counter, sat quietly in the high-backed kitchen chair and dozed off for several minutes before he shook himself awake to meet the mailman at the door.
It always paid to be kind to everyone. They always had quite the interesting stories to tell.
"There's a lett-uh for you today, Mr. H. Potter," Mr. Stuart said, beaming as he read the finely penned green ink on a piece of parchment that certainly cost more than a month of Harry's pocket money.
Harry frowned in confusion. His grades were top-notched. There would be no reason for a letter other than an invitation to… dare he dream? Had he been one those lucky individuals selected rather randomly, based on merit, to some boy's school in the idyllic countryside?
"Thank you," he said rather enthusiastically and laid the rest of the mail (the Telegraph, two or three bank statements as well as an official looking letter from some business that preyed on stupid middle managers) on a table and closed the door.
Harry ripped the letter open and his heart nearly stopped.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
He decided to read the rest of the letter in a less heated moment, when he could think about the implications properly and threw it into his cupboard, then walked briskly into the kitchen. He burned an egg, which he hadn't done for years, and took extra care to ensure the bacon was crispy and decidedly unburnt.
The Dursleys stumbled into the kitchen, one by one. Aunt Petunia came first and helped set the table, as usual. Uncle Vernon lumbered down and grabbed the neatly laid newspaper and sat down. As he was three pages in, and had begun to mumble about stupid liberals, like clockwork, Dudley crashed through the door and grabbed his mother's plate, shoveling her bacon onto his and then inhaled the eggs rather neatly, somehow.
"Go get the mail, Dudley."
"Make Harry get it."
Harry reached over to the countertop, picking up two bank statements, a business letter and no letters of acceptance from any schools of witchcraft and wizardry, laying it next to Vernon's plate.
The newspaper was set aside.
"Stocks are doing well."
Aunt Petunia and Harry nodded along. Dudley ignored his father.
He opened another bank statement.
"Still paying good interest."
Two nods. Still nothing from Dudley.
"Dinner in London on Saturday!" Vernon beamed.
Aunt Petunia and Harry smiled placidly. Dudley looked up sharply at the mention of dinner.
No words were said, but Harry understood. He was not to leave the house. He was not to do anything unnatural. He would cook a late night snack consisting of a pair of heart attacks for Uncle Vernon and Dudley and a single leaf of lettuce for Petunia. Dudley glanced at him sharply for a moment and Harry nodded absentmindedly at him. Yes, he would find time for Dudley's homework and not play Space Alien Missile Invader Shoot Score or whatever the game was called.
Harry nodded and walked back to his cupboard and closed the door, then began to read the letter.
"Now where do I get these things?" he muttered to himself as he stared at neatly printed green ink which assured him that he would need a wand, scales, books written by authors with ridiculous pseudonyms and that he mustn't bring a broom along.
That was when all hell broke loose.
"Why the fuck is there an owl in here?" Vernon howled. Harry threw his letter on his bed and threw open the cupboard door, then ran into the kitchen.
Vernon was trying to stab the owl with a large meat cleaver. Petunia was chalk white and Dudley was chortling.
Petunia grabbed the letter the owl dropped onto the kitchen table and tore it open quickly as the owl made an exodus through a newly broken window over the sink. Vernon chucked the meat cleaver at it and managed to do nothing but bury the weighted knife into the counter.
"This letter was sent because we realize that you would not be capable of helping Harry procure his supplies. As he has already received his letter with instructions as to what he will be need, enclosed are direc-"
"Just one moment," Vernon roared so loudly that the unbroken windows shook. "Received his letter?"
Vernon had not been quite as angry with Harry since the marigold incident three years ago.
He stormed past Harry and into the hall. Coming to his sense, Harry dashed after him, determined to ensure the large man did not get his hands on the most precious thing he had ever received.
It was too late. The letter had been torn to pieces.
"You!" Harry whispered, unable to process what had just happened.
"Boy!" Vernon responded, his face purpling in anger.
"You tore up the letter," Harry finished with a hiss.
"Boy!" Vernon shouted back.
The stairs shook from his anger.
No, not from Vernon's anger. From Harry's anger. Harry was causing this. If either of them had been paying attention, they would have noticed the telltale sound of breaking wood as hairline cracks formed all over the bannister, steps and the door to Harry's cupboard.
"You. Tore. Up. The. Letter." Harry pronounced each syllable carefully. His vision had turned red in anger and the world had slowed by a fraction. He saw every vein on Vernon's neck, in his hands, on his face, an off-blue glow around the man he instinctively knew representing the larger man's lifeforce. But he didn't care.
Vernon's eyes widened at he locked himself into a staring contest with Harry. "D-demon," he whispered. "Witches." He clutched the cross that hung around his neck with such force that his knuckles turned white. The glow around him strengthened.
He believes that will protect him from me, an insidious voice whispered in Harry's ears.
Then it was harsher. He knows. He's always known.
Petunia ran into the hall, followed by Dudley and took one look at his face then screamed. She dropped to the ground and cradled herself in fetal position. "N-no Lily, don't hurt me anymore," she whispered to nobody, rocking back and forth.
Dudley's eyes widened at he decided to solve the problem with a tried and true method - punching it in the face. Harry watched the telegraphed motion carry through and ducked under the slow but strong fist. It slammed into the mirror next to him, sending shards of glass into the boy's hand.
Harry stared into the shards that lined the ground and reflected back at him were a million blood red eyes with single, slowly spinning black commas. The stairs had finally taken enough stress in its lifetime and with a loud rumble, collapsed.
Harry ran and didn't look back.
He had seen something terrible, yet beautiful, and it resided in his eyes.