Title: Other Choices

Author: The Island Hopper

Summery: What if the Dursley's had managed to convince Harry that he wasn't a wizard after all? What if Harry had believed his aunt and uncle, instead of Hagrid on that cold, stormy evening? Harry, now 22, ponders what might have happened if he'd made other choices…

Author's Notes: Yet another late night writing fit. I had a sudden thought and this is the result…

Other Choices

 "It doesn't really matter anyway," Harry whispered to his reflection. "You weren't really expecting anything, anyway old boy." A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth but never fully appeared. The green eyed man, who'd been studying his reflection in the cracked, ancient mirror, now looked away. "But it still would have been nice. You don't turn twenty two every day…"

Sighing, he stepped into the small living room and sat down on a faded, worn armchair in the corner. "And talking to myself won't make it any better," he said aloud, mostly to keep himself company. "I mean, no one's ever celebrated my birthday, not even me, so why should this one be any different, hm?" he asked himself in an almost demanding tone. Glancing at his watch, he noticed that he would be late to work if he didn't hurry. Though not exactly eager to get to work, he hated to think what his boss, who just happened to be his uncle as well, would have to say to him if he came in late again. Grimacing, he pulled himself up out of the chair and made his way down to the bus stop.

It was cold and rainy again. Harry pulled his collar up but he was already chilled to the bone through his thin clothing. Having lost his umbrella in a gust of wind last week, he had no way to shield himself from the pelting water drops as they bulleted towards the ground. He jogged to the corner where the sheltered bus stop awaited him, but was disheartened to find that it was full of people equally as wet and unhappy as he. Forced to stand out in the rain, Harry again glanced at his watch and sincerely hoped the bus wouldn't be late again. You'd think it wouldn't really matter if I were a few minutes late, Harry thought to himself. What's one or two less labels on a drill, I wonder?

Although not a great job by any definition, the job as a labeler at the drill company Grunnings had been, to Harry's eyes, the only option after high school. Looking back on it now, he wondered where he'd lost his spirit, his ambition. Where had he left his hope for a good life behind? Scanning his memory, it was without a doubt, the cold stormy evening of his eleventh birthday. The strangest night of his life.

He couldn't really remember much of it. The memory had been embellished and elaborated so much by the Dursleys over the years that it was hard to tell fact from fiction anymore. Closing his eyes and concentrating, Harry tried hard to remember what had really happened that night. He remembered letters, hundreds of them, all trying to get to him for some reason. He remembered Uncle Vernon going half-mad and taking the family to a desolate rock on the sea to get away from these letters. He remembered desperately wanting to read one. He remembered an over-sized man, a giant even, bursting through the door on Harry's eleventh birthday. Harry concentrated harder now, as the memories were coming slow and fuzzy. The giant man—what did he want again? Oh yes, he came to give Harry his letter. Yes, he had finally gotten to read his letter. What was it about? Hog pimples? Pig warts? Something like that. Harry shook his head, trying to reason why anyone would send him a letter about something like that. There was something else too…something about…magic…and wizards…

A crack of thunder jolted Harry from his thoughts momentarily. Harry shivered involuntarily and his thoughts returned to that strange night on his eleventh birthday. He scanned his memory for more, but nothing would come to him. It had been lost to the years of perpetual stories about that night, told by the Dursleys, who swore every single thing they said about it was true. "That thing had been following us," Uncle Vernon had said. "Wanted Harry to join a cult, you know. Yes, the same cult his parents were in. We saved him though—" Harry would always roll his eyes at this "—and managed to talk some sense into the boy before he did anything unreasonable. Told him his parents wouldn't want him to make the same mistake they did, that's right. Told him it was all for the best. Told him to finish school and find a job, like every other respectable human being on this earth. He did, too—but its not our fault of how the boy turned out," Vernon had always finished, glaring at Harry.

Harry smiled darkly. Yes, he remembered every word Vernon had said about that night. Looking back on it now, Harry couldn't help but think of what might have happened if he had gone with the giant that night. Even if he had been brainwashed into a cult, he would undoubtedly be leading a more interesting life than the one he had now. Scratching his head, Harry tried to remember how he'd been convinced to stay with the Dursleys. He'd always been miserable with them, so why hadn't he taken his chances with the giant? Sighing, he came up with the same answer he always did; the Dursleys had told him that his parents would have wanted him to lead an "ordinary" life. After all, they should know, right? Aunt Petunia was his mother's only sister; if she wasn't right about his mother, who could be?

Harry stuck his head out further into the rain, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive bus, which was now almost a full ten minutes late. I should be happy, Harry told himself. It's ten less minutes that I have to spend at Grunnings.

After his eleventh birthday, the strange letters had stopped showing up at 4 Privet Drive. In fact, everything that had ever been odd stopped happening. When Harry was younger, he used to think that he had magical powers that made strange things happen. For instance, when he'd get really angry and something a tad out of the ordinary would happen, Harry was convinced he had caused it. One time, shortly before his eleventh birthday, he went to the zoo with his cousin and a snake had gotten out of its cage. Harry was convinced he had made the glass disappear. Looking back on it now, Harry wanted to laugh. That glass had probably never disappeared. He was just imagining stupid things like stupid little boys like him did.

In any case, after his eleventh birthday, Harry's life changed. He couldn't quite pinpoint what exactly changed, but in the back of his mind, Harry knew that his hope was gone. Harry had always hoped that maybe he was something special, something better than the Dursleys, but after that, he knew he was just odd Harry Potter with baggy clothes and broken glasses after all.

Sighing, Harry kicked at the ground with his worn tennis shoes. He couldn't remember ever having anything nice in his life. His birthday had never been celebrated, and he never received Christmas presents. School had been hell, especially high school. The other kids called him "Harry Pothead", and the teachers, as if taking a cue from the students, summoned Harry to random drug tests at least once a week. One time Harry had been on strong medication due to a terrible flu he had caught from digging the snow out of the driveway for his uncle in the wee hours of the morning, and the medicine had showed up on the test as an illegal substance. For a terrifying forty-eight hours until the doctor got around to calling the school, Harry was faced with expulsion on the grounds of drug abuse. Harry snorted; it probably would have made life a lot easier if he had been a pothead; at least that life offered him some escape. Of his social life in school nothing could be said, and even now it was nothing to brag about. He was a twenty two year old virgin and was likely to remain that way for another twenty two years. With Dudley, his cousin, graduating college this year and taking a managerial position at Grunnings, Harry knew that any hopes of having friends at work would be impossible. Dudley had a way of changing people's minds about Harry. That's what they called "people skills".

Harry had a sudden urge lay down right where he was and go to sleep, never to wake up again. Though he had never had any experience to prove otherwise, something inside of Harry screamed that this life wasn't his own. Something was missing. Something big. He had missed something along the way that was now causing his unhappiness. This, standing on a crowded street corner in the rain, waiting for a smelly, loud bus to take him somewhere that he hated, what not what Destiny had had in store for Harry Potter at one time. Harry swallowed hard and was surprised to find that he was fighting back tears. Why had life always been so miserable? Wasn't there such a thing as happiness? Why could he conceive of it but never achieve it? What had he done wrong? Hadn't he done everything his parents had wanted him to do?

A loud whooooooosh sound interrupted Harry's thoughts. The bus screeched to a halt, just inches from Harry's feet, as the people made a mad dash to get on and get out of the rain. Harry was the last to get on, dragging his feet and clutching his tattered clothes tight against himself. The bus began to roar away, and slowly Harry's thoughts began to drift back to the care one needs to use in labeling a drill…