A/N: IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT DON'T READ AND DON'T BOTHER TO COMMENT. Sorry for bad writing. This story might have no purpose at all.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Harry stared out of the window in the living room in nr. 4 Privet Drive. The rain was pouring down, drawing jagged lines down the glass. Strong gusts of wind made the maple tree in garden next-door bend by the force, and dark grey clouds covered the sky above, reflecting his bad mood perfectly. Having returned from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry yesterday he didn't know what to think. It had been his first year, and he had been looking forward to getting away from his so-called family, the Dursleys, who had treated him like a slave as long as he could remember.
The year on Hogwarts had started perfectly well. He had quickly made a friend in the red-headed Ron Weasley, and the know-it-all muggle-born Hermione Granger. There had been so much new to take in, and so much to explore and learn about this whole new world of magic. Harry had been happy for the first time in his entire life, but of course, it was too good to be true. Just a couple of months ago one of his fellow Gryffindors had accused him of being arrogant and an attention seeker, and the rumours had spread like wildfire. Ron and Hermione had slowly, but surely distanced themselves from him, for a reason he didn't figure before it was too late; they didn't want to be seen with someone the whole school looked at as a pompous jerk.
He quickly realized they had only been with him because he was known as the Boy-Who-Lived, the one who vanquished the Dark Lord at the age of one. Why did he have to be famous for something he couldn't even remember? Not that he wanted to be famous at all, he had already discovered the disadvantages of that; no true friends, reporters running wild inside the castle to track him down and question him about his childhood, and most of all the rumours.
The worst thing was that not even the teachers seemed to care – well, except for professor McGonagall. The others seemed to agree with the students' opinion of Harry, and worst of all was the Potions professor Snape. The greasy-haired man used the smallest of Harry's mistakes to take points from Gryffindor, or to give him detention. Harry remembered a lesson right after the Christmas break, where he had dropped a vial with his newly made potion in it, and promptly gotten a detention for breaking the vial.
When the other students on Hogwarts had started taunting him and trapped him inside a cupboard with a dungbomb he had been filled with such hopelessness that he only wished to die, to be gone from this world. But old headmaster Dumbledore, no he told him to pick himself up, don't exaggerate and go back to the Dursleys for the summer. Now Harry strongly considered not returning at all. He didn't want to face the stupid school and the stupid people there ever again.
The Dursleys had left him alone since he returned home from school, and not even commented it when he had sat down in a chair by the window and stared outside for hours. He received a few glances occasionally, but that was it. No yelling, no scolding, no claiming he was a freak. But he didn't lower his guard yet. It had not even passed twenty-four hours since uncle Vernon had picked him up at King's Cross.
With a sigh he walked into the kitchen to prepare dinner for the Dursleys, as uncle Vernon would soon come home from work. As he stirred in the stew his aunt Petunia entered the kitchen and stared at him for a few moments. Harry glanced at her cautiously.
"Can I help you, aunt Petunia?" he asked.
"No. I was just going to ask you the same."
Harry had to fight with himself in order not to mope at her in surprise. She actually offered to help him! Aunt Petunia had never done that before; why would she start now? Maybe she was sick? Yes, that had to be it. She had probably knocked her head during the day, and was thinking unclearly.
"No thanks, aunt Petunia. I'm almost done," he replied and turned to get dinner plates, glasses and cutlery. However, Petunia grabbed them out of his grip, and without another word she started setting the table.
Yes, she has definitely knocked her head into something, he thought, observing his aunt out of the corner of his eye.
Just a couple of minutes later the front door opened, and his big whale of an uncle came waddling into the kitchen. "Dinner finished?" he asked, glancing at Harry.
"Yes, uncle Vernon," Harry replied quickly and placed the saucepot on the table.
"Dudley! Dinner!" called Petunia before sitting down by the table.
Dudley appeared in the kitchen a few moments later, dragging his big body over to the table and sat down. Harry was surprised that the small chair could hold his weight, not to mention uncle Vernon's, but he knew better than to comment on it, so instead he waited until the three others had helped themselves with the stew before he shovelled a little onto his plate before picking up his cutlery to eat. He didn't even get that far before his plate disappeared from its previous spot. Confused he lifted his gaze to watch Petunia pulling the plate away from him. Suppressing a sigh he realized he had to go without dinner today, and started to push away from the table.
However, his aunt's next action made him pause: She grabbed the spoon and filled his plate with even more food before returning it to its previous position. Harry stared at her with shock. Petunia had always scolded him for taking too big portions, and now she was the one to indirectly telling him to eat more. Dudley she always made sure to give big portions, as "he is a growing boy, and he needs a lot of food." In Harry's opinion Dudley couldn't possibly get any bigger than he already was, at least not in width.
"Stop staring," said Petunia simply.
Harry quickly turned his attention towards his food, and started eating without a word.
"So... how was school?" asked Vernon, surprisingly calm.
Harry's head shot up. "Huh?"
"I said; how was school?" Vernon repeated, looking at him.
Harry hesitated. Hadn't he seen uncle Vernon's lips move, he would have deemed himself crazy. Now, however, he thought that his uncle was even crazier, because Vernon had made his opinion concerning magic clear to him last summer, so what made him ask about something he detested?
"Only different?" wondered Vernon, raising an eyebrow.
"Okay, it was horrible, is that what you want to hear? The friends I made left me because of a false rumour, turns out they only wanted to be with me because I am famous, and the teachers are giving me loads of detentions for simple things like breaking a vial or giving me homework like writing a four feet essay on the uses of a softening charm, while the others get off even without a warning," he rambled, glaring at his uncle, who looked back with mild surprise.
No one said anything for a while, so Harry quickly finished his dinner and returned to the living room, waiting for the others to be done so he could do the dishes. Outside a few flashes of light appeared in the dark sky, followed by the roar of the thunder. Harry just stood by the window, looking outside until he heard the chairs scraping against the floor. He did the dishes without a word, and didn't even comment it when aunt Petunia started drying the clean dishes, though he noticed that she glanced at him every now and then.
"Why do your teachers treat you like that? Do you know?" she asked carefully.
Harry paused and looked at her with a frown. "Why do you even care? I thought you only wanted me away with my freakishness."
Petunia sighed heavily while putting down the plate she was working on. "Look, boy – Harry. The letter accompanying you when we found you on our doorstep told us that the dark wizard might return and that you are the only one who can stop him. So we realized that by treating you so badly wound not exactly help should he return. By the way; we were scared. None of us know much about magic – I know a little because of my sister, but it is still something strange, something unusual.
"I was jealous at your mother because she was our parents' pride. I got nothing. Just a few days ago I realized how stupid I was. Lily couldn't help that she had magic, neither can you. It's just the way some things are. She was a great woman and a great witch after what I've heard. I'm sorry I have treated you so bad, Harry, I really am."
Harry stared at her, gobsmacked. Her gaze held his for a long time while he tried to process all this new information. Such honesty and such regret her eyes held he had never seen before. Slightly frightened he turned back to the dishes, only to pause after a few seconds and look at her again.
"You're serious, aren't you?" he asked lowly.
At that she seemed to be struggling to hide something, and her nod was short and tense. "I am."
"Did you tell uncle Vernon?" Placing the last plate on the bench he started on the saucepot.
"Yes, both him and Dudley. It took a while, but I made Vernon see reason, and he and Dudley have agreed to treat you better," she said.
Harry nodded. "I really appreciate it. Thanks."
"You're welcome. And by the way, do you want me to write to your school?"
His gaze suddenly shot towards her. "What? Why would you do that?" he wondered, his eyes wide open in surprise.
"They are treating you unfairly. You said it yourself," she answered.
He sighed softly while drying his hands. "I doubt it will help any. The students are the ones who started it all anyway. The rumours, I mean."
"I'm sure they're jealous of your fame, Harry," his aunt stated.
Harry frowned. "Why would they be that? It's not cool being famous. You never know who your friends are, you can't trust anyone, and reporters keep chasing you to ask you about your childhood. I don't even remember that night! How could I be famous for something I don't remember?" Grabbing the kitchen cloth he started to clean the table. "I wish Voldemort had killed me along with my parents."
"Is it really that bad?" wondered aunt Petunia as she hung the kitchen towel to dry.
"If you consider being locked inside a small cupboard with a dungbomb bad, so yes," Harry countered.
"Dungbomb?" Petunia stared at him with a quizzical expression.
"A magical stink bomb. I was locked inside that cupboard the whole afternoon," he explained to her.
"Is this usual behaviour?" she wondered.
Harry shook his head. "No. They go after me almost without exception. The only ones who don't pull pranks on me or insult me are the biggest pranksters on Hogwarts; the twin brothers of my assumed friend."
"Ironic," aunt Petunia said with another frown before trotting into the living room.
Harry made his way towards his room, figuring he could just as well get started with his homework.
As the days went on Harry found himself dreading more and more the upcoming autumn. Not even his love for Quidditch was strong enough to outweigh everything else. The Dursleys' especially aunt Petunia seemed to notice that something was wrong, and consulted her husband.
"He told me how badly the teachers on his school treated him," Petunia told him and recited what Harry had told her. "I'm actually worried. He didn't even have any friends."
"Fame can do horrible things to a person, Pet," Vernon said.
"I know that, but Harry stated clearly that he didn't want to be famous. He would rather be dead. He's really having a bad time on that school," Petunia urged.
"Well, what do you suggest? Send him to Stonewall High without having control of his m-magic? He'd just be expelled if he turns the teacher's hair blue again," Vernon protested.
Petunia sighed. "I do agree, certainly, but I don't want him to go to that school when they do such things to him."
"I'm sure it will get better next year," Vernon tried, but Petunia shook her head firmly.
"Harry clearly doesn't believe that." She straightened her dress as he watched her with a distant expression. "I already regret the way I have treated him. I will do something this time if I can. He doesn't deserve that. You know he doesn't."
"I know. But if he told you that a letter won't help, what is it that you can do?" he asked with a surprisingly soft voice for a man on his size.
Petunia folded her hands in her lap. "We have to find out if there are other magic schools," she said determinedly before she disappeared up the stairs.
Harry had just finished his potions homework when someone knocked on the door. Frowning he turned in his chair.
The door slid open and aunt Petunia's face appeared in the crack. She appeared excited, though in a weird, controlled way, and she was smiling at him. "Harry, do you know of any other magic schools in England?" she asked.
"Other schools? Not that I've heard of. But I don't know much about the wizarding world anyway. There are probably some books about it at Flourish and Blotts, though," he pondered loudly.
"Flourish and Wotts? Is that your bookstore?" asked aunt Petunia.
"Flourish and Blotts. And yes, but it's in London," Harry told her.
"I'm going with you," she suddenly said, and her voice held no room for argument.
This scared Harry slightly, even after the events of the past days. His magic-hating aunt offered to accompany him to the wizards' shopping street which would be filled with magic from one end to another. But he couldn't very well go on his own. How would he get to London?
"Er... Okay. If you really want to," he said hesitantly.
"Great. I'll ask Vernon when he has time to take us," she said and promptly disappeared again.
When Petunia reached the living room Dudley had come home from his meeting with his buddies, and was now sitting in one of the reclining chairs, watching a boxing game on TV. He merely threw a quick glance at his mother when she appeared.
"He didn't know of any," she told Vernon, "but he said he might find a book on it in their bookstore, Flourish and Dotts or whatever it was."
"What – are you talking about the schools, Pet?" he asked, tearing his gaze away from the telly.
"Yes. You know how important this is. Not only to Harry, but to me as well. I feel like I owe Lily, and him too," she ranted.
"I know that." Vernon paused. "Well, let's go to this bookstore. Where is it by the way?"
"He said it was in London. I guess he knows more precisely."
Then Dudley finally turned and looked at his parents with a curious expression. "What is going on? What is all this with Harry?" he asked.
Petunia walked over and stroked his hair gently. "Harry is being bullied at school by both students and teachers, and you remember what we talked about before he got home?"
"About treating him better? Yes. Why?"
"So we are thinking about finding another school for him. That's why we are going to London, to find a book which hopefully can tell us about it," Petunia explained.
"Oh. But why can't we just send him to Stonewall, like we planned before all this started to happen?" asked Dudley, surprisingly calm. His parents' speeches from spring about their attitudes towards Harry had apparently worked.
Now his father interrupted. "Because he is not fully trained, and he hasn't got much control of his magic yet, so we decided it would be better for both him and us that he got to finish his magic education. If he loses control, who knows what can happen?"
"Oh. Yeah." Dudley didn't fancy another pig's tail, so he merely nodded. "When are you going? Am I going to come too?"
"No, Dudley, I think only your mum and Harry will go. We can do something else meanwhile," said Vernon, returning his attention to the telly.
"Where is this bookstore, then?" wondered Dudley.
Vernon had decided they should go to London next week, when he had a day free from work. So the following Friday the family left for London.
"Would you mind telling us a little more of the magical world, Harry?" asked Vernon; he sounded curious.
Harry hesitated while he stared out on the passing trees. "Yes, well... I don't know very much. At school we are taught subjects like charms, potions, defence against the dark arts, transfiguration, astronomy, herbology and history of magic. And we are also taught how to fly on broomsticks. Witches and wizards have their own sport that is kind of similar to basketball, only that we fly on broom instead of running. It's called Quidditch," he explained, "It's the most wonderful thing I've ever tried."
"Kittich?" asked Dudley incredulously, "what a weird name."
"No, Quidditch," Harry corrected.
Dudley huffed. "Still weird. How does this sport work?"
"Well, there is a pitch with three hoops in each end. Those hoops are the tops of one pole each, raising them high above he ground. Then there are four balls in the game at once; one Quaffle – that's equal to a basketball or an American football as you would carry it in your arms. Those who handle the Quaffle are called Chasers. There are three Chasers on each team. They are to put the ball through one of the hoops of the opposite team, which are guarded by a goalkeeper. Then there are two Bludgers; they are bewitched to fly around and try to knock the players off their brooms. That's why the Beaters are important. They are flying around with a bat, like those you see in baseball, and they try to protect their team members from being hit by the Bludgers. There are two beaters on each team. Lastly there is a small, golden ball with wings called the Golden Snitch. The player handling this ball is called a Seeker, and his job is to catch the Snitch. That's a difficult task because it moves very fast and is difficult to spot. There is only one seeker on each team. The first team that catches the Snitch gets one hundred and fifty points, and the game ends. Then, your chance to win is judged by how many goals the Chasers can make. Ten points for each goal," he explained, drowning himself in his enthusiasm for the sport. When he was done, he found himself smiling.
"Cool," said Dudley fascinated. "Are you playing? At your school I mean?"
Harry nodded. "I am a Seeker."
"What else is there in the magic world?" asked Vernon.
"Obviously a lot of magic. As you noticed last year they use owls to bring mail and newspapers. By the way; the pictures in the newspapers move, and the portraits at school are speaking too. We also have our own Ministry. The Ministry of Magic, though I don't know much about it."
When they closed in on London, Harry told uncle Vernon a more accurate address to the Leaky Cauldron; Charing Cross Road. Vernon parked the car on a nearby parking lot, and told them to meet there in three hours. He and Dudley disappeared in another direction while Harry led aunt Petunia towards the building he knew to be the Leaky Cauldron.
"Why are we going in here? It's just an old shop. It's nothing in here, Harry," Petunia protested as he moved to push open the door.
"You're a muggle, you can't see it, only the inside as you are my family and guardian," he said and held the door for her.
"Oh," she said before following him.
The pub inside quickly confirmed his explanation. Men and women in robes sat by the bar, chatting, or tumbled in and out of the fireplace. Harry brought up a hand to instinctively flatten the fringe over his scar, not wanting to be recognized. He hurried past the landlord Tom and to the brick wall behind the pub with a confused Petunia hot on his heels. Now, what had Hagrid done? What was the order? Three up and two across, that's it.
Harry pulled his wand and tapped the bricks in turn under his aunt's critical gaze.
"What are you doing?" she wondered.
"Wait and see," he replied.
They didn't have to wait long, though, before the bricks moved aside to form an archway into the Diagon Alley. Petunia stepped through, but then she stopped to look around with awe and curiosity.
"So much weird things. What are all this?" she wondered lowly as she stared in through the different windows.
"Potions ingredients," he pointed at the Apothecary, "jokes," his finger moved to Gambol and Jakes Joke Shop, "pet shop," he gestured at the Magical Menagerie, "Quidditch supply store," he pointed at Quality Quidditch Supplies, "the wand maker Mr. Ollivander," his finger ended by Ollivander's, and he let his arm fall. "We are going to Gringotts, the bank."
Harry had to keep an eye on his aunt because she was so busy looking around she almost disappeared for him. At last they reached the white marble building, once inside Harry struggled to keep from laughing by his aunt's expression when she saw the goblins. She nervously followed him towards one of goblins, and he looked up, waiting for Harry to speak.
"I wish to withdraw some money," he stated simply.
The goblin stared at him critically. "Key?"
Harry handed it to him, and the goblin got down from his chair. "Follow me," he said.
"Harry, where are we going?" whispered aunt Petunia as they followed the goblin behind the main hall.
"To my vault. Do you rather want to stay here and wait?" he challenged, having noticed her insecurity of the goblins.
Aunt Petunia quickly shook her head and climbed into one of the carts after him and the goblin. The cart gained speed quickly, and aunt Petunia visibly paled as the speed increased on the way down. After several minutes the cart stopped, and aunt Petunia hurried out of it, making Harry chuckle.
"I suppose you didn't like the ride?"
She scowled at him. "I will not do that again," she declared as the goblin made his way towards the door of the vault.
When the door opened Harry quickly filled the small pouch he had his money in before allowing the goblin to close the vault again.
After they were done at Gringotts Harry showed aunt Petunia Flourish and Blotts, and once inside she disappeared behind the shelves looking at all the books that were there. Harry stepped over to the wizard by the counter, who looked at him with a critical expression. Apparently he had read the latest articles of the Daily Prophet, containing the stupid rumours about him given by that Boot-guy in Ravenclaw. Harry didn't remember his given name, but neither did he care about it.
"How may I help you?" the wizard asked, only half-way covering his icy tone.
"Do you have any books about magical schools, sir?" Harry asked politely.
The man disappeared between the shelves without a word and soon returned with a rather thin, dark brown book. An Appraisal of Magical Education in the World was imprinted on the front.
"One galleon and three sickles," he said, and Harry handed him the money before searching for aunt Petunia. He found her in the innermost corner of the shop, looking at a book named The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
"Aunt Petunia, we can go now. I've got the book," he said.
"Oh, yes, sure." She checked her watch. "We've still got a while until we are supposed to meet with Vernon and Dudley. Maybe we can look around in this Diggon Alley?"
Harry frowned. Not only had his aunt offered to go with him in here; now she was actually interested in the magical world. "Sure," he said.
They spent the next hours exploring Diagon Alley together, Harry explaining what they saw – if he knew it himself, that is. At one point Harry spotted Lavender Brown in the midst of the crowd. She glared at him and put her nose to the sky before striding down the street behind her mother. After a while they returned to the Leaky Cauldron and found themselves a cafeteria for a bite on Charing Cross Road. They got back to the car in time, where Dudley and uncle Vernon were already waiting for them.
"Did you find your book?" asked uncle Vernon.
Harry simply nodded and climbed into the backseat.
Only when they got home to Privet Drive Harry opened the book on the coffee table as Vernon demanded to see too.
"Well... there are a lot of international schools..." he murmured at he flicked through the book, searching for any schools in the UK. The only one he found was Hogwarts.
"May I have a look?" asked aunt Petunia.
"Whatever," said Harry and rose from the couch. "I've got homework anyway." With that he disappeared upstairs to finish his essay on how to remove a Spiky Bush.
The sun was shining, and birds were chirping from the trees in the park. Harry sat on a swing looking at the children who ran around between the slides and the spring riders. Their parents were watching them closely to make sure they didn't get hurt. Harry felt a sting of envy when one of the mothers cuddled a little boy, reminding him of his own loss. How would things be if his parents had been there? Would they like the person he had become? Maybe they would have scolded the teachers at school. He barely knew more than their names; Lily and James Potter, and how they looked, as he had seen them in the Mirror of Erised. But he knew that his father had also played Quidditch, and both were sorted in Gryffindor. At least he thought his father would approve of him playing Quidditch, as he did it himself in his school days.
Harry didn't even notice the person beside him before they sat down on the swing beside him, making the whole swing set dip slightly. At that he turned his head towards Dudley, who stared at him with a wondrous expression.
"Hi, Dudley," Harry said. "Why aren't you with your friends, tormenting another kid?"
Dudley frowned. "I don't do that anymore. After mum and dad told me to be kind to you I realized that I should treat others better as well. I saw Piers and the rest of the guys one time, when they were bullying a small kid and I saw them steal his money. So I figured I didn't want to be such an asshole."
Harry almost had to pinch himself. After so many years of bullying others Dudley had finally realized how bad his behaviour was; Harry had never thought that his small brain could figure that out all by himself, but seeing as he actually did, Harry realized that Dudley had more brain than he let out in the first place.
"That's great, Dudley," he said, "but what about your friends?"
"What about them? If they keep bullying others I'd rather not stay with them. Say, I should lose some fat and gain some muscles to defend them instead," he stated, shocking Harry so he fell off the swing, backwards.
"What? Where is that Dudley I know? Oh, I know! Dumbledore has been here and bewitched you!" Harry exclaimed.
"No! I'm not bewitched," Dudley countered, looking offended. "I'm nothing but Dudley Dursley!"
Harry stared at him for several moments. "Then this is a dream."
Dudley suddenly pinched his arm, making him startle by the pain.
"Ow! What did you do that for?"
"Is it a dream or not?" asked Dudley, rising a brow.
Harry snorted. "I guess not. Sorry for being suspicious, Dudley."
"That's okay. I understand that you were. I'm sorry too, for how I treated you."
"Apology accepted," Harry grinned.
Dudley appeared satisfied with himself and turned towards the playing children again. None of them said anything in a while, and Harry started moving the swing slightly in boredom.
"What was that book you got the other day about?" Dudley asked.
Harry looked around to make sure no one was close enough to overhear the conversation before lowering his voice. "About magical schools. Aunt Petunia wanted me to get one."
Gripping the ropes more tightly Dudley frowned at him. "Are you thinking about transferring to another school?"
"No. Anyway, there are no other wizarding schools in the UK."
"Oh." Dudley suddenly found the sand very interesting, and he started kicking it absently. "I'm sorry about your school. Mum says they are mean to you."
"Thanks. Actually, there are a lot of interesting things there, like the subjects and the books, and the whole magical world, but it's just the people who make it all a hell," Harry said.
"What do they do?"
Harry shrugged. "The teachers give me detention for using one too much porcupine quill in the potion or taking thirty points from my house for accidentally smashing a pineapple we are supposed to charm to dance, when the others simply get a new one. Not to mention that the other students hexed me with different curses like a skull-growing hex or a stinging hex. Some of the Gryffindors in third year often locked me inside a cupboard for the night before I learned the Alohomora to unlock doors," he told him.
Dudley looked at him with slight confusion. "What is a stinging hex?"
"It's a hex that causes pain and large swelling, many times worse than of a sting from a wasp."
Harry threw a glance at his cousin, who now sat completely still on the swing. Suddenly the big boy jumped off the swing and ran towards Privet Drive in a manner that almost made Harry laugh. To see a big boy like Dudley run with all his blubber was one of the more hilarious sights he had seen.
A/N: I know at least some of the characters are out of character, but some of them have to be.