Hi! Welcome to Enveloped in the Darkness. This story idea hit me during my car ride home from class tonight. Well, to be honest, a certain...event came to mind. This story rapidly began to take form in my mind as a way to reach that event. I have no idea how we'll get there, but we will, and I hope you will enjoy it.
As for now, let me know what you think. Essentially, anything may happen - I am writing this chapter to chapter. We will just have to find out together, won't we?
Please send a review my way if you like it. Hell, even if you hate it, let me know. I want to improve as a writer, so any constructive criticism is appreciated.
Also, and most importantly...enjoy.
Chapter 1: A Dream Deferred
Mr. and Mrs. Crawford of London were the best sort of folk you would ever meet. Charles was a former football player and a current school teacher at the local primary school in town. He was a broad – shouldered man and sturdily built, with a lively gleam to his soft brown eyes and just enough stubble along his jawline to be called a beard. Charles draped his arm around his wife, Angela, and pulled her closer to his side as the two walked toward their destination.
Both of the Crawfords loved laughter and they made sure that their house was full of it, but it was Charles' belief that the laughter of a child was even more precious. As a school teacher, the winning grins and unbridled joy of his students brought him happiness. After an unfortunate and inopportune knee injury that abruptly ended his football career several years ago, Charles had been in need of a bit of that happiness surrounding him. Those had been very dark days for him. He had been in need of a purpose. And what better purpose could one have than teaching children the things they would need to prosper for the rest of their lives – what goal was more noble?
Charles was happy and satisfied, now, but there was one niggling desire left in his life that remained unfulfilled.
And no, it was not poor Angela's fault, his wife of eight years. The two had met after one of his matches in a Manchester pub. The team had won – Charles himself earning an assist in the match - and Charles had laid his eyes on the most charming woman he had ever seen. She was modest and magnetic in the most positive of ways, her gorgeous black hair curling around her face in waves. Angela's blue eyes had found him that night and Charles had simply been unable to pass up the chance. Two or three drinks later, he had received her number and a quick peck on the cheek.
The couple had married within the year. In another, Charles' athletic career came crashing down and Angela was there to help him recover, offering a shoulder to cry on and an unwavering faith. Charles put his life back together with her help. Without Angela…where would he be? She was the woman of his dreams! If he had ever doubted it, she proved herself then.
There was one problem that could not be solved. The couple had settled in London when Charles got his first teaching job and tried to start a family. They were unsuccessful. At first, they had thought it was Charles' fault, that something was wrong on his end of the, well, baby-making. That certainly was something no man, including Charles, ever wanted to consider. The doctors eventually came to the sad conclusion, however, that Angela was unable to have children – and how unfair was that?
What had they done to deserve such unfortunate news?
It tore Charles up inside. Angela was such a sweetheart and as patient as can be, helping to nurse him to health in both body in mind after his surgery. In fact, becoming a teacher had been her idea. Something about playing a team sport made that sort of job attractive – the team has to work together, after all, if they want any chance of succeeding. The classroom was the same way; any problems that arose had to be settled with an open mind lest the learning cease. And she had been the first to make that connection. But he had so much knowledge built up inside him from his thirty-some-odd years of existence, both of the world and of football to pass along to his own child. He had been through so much; his own father had left him and his mother when he was young. He wanted to give everything he had, everything he had never been given to his own child.
His own child.
'And that's why we are here today,' Charles thought with a smile. At long last, Angela and he would achieve their dream. The faint sounds of tinkling laughter helped to lift Charles' morbid thoughts and painful reminiscing. Today, the couple planned to adopt a child from Ripley's Orphanage, a small orphanage located right outside the bustling city.
For all intents and purposes, Ripley's appeared to be a homely building. Children were playing on the playground to the side of the bright, brick building; the boys chased one another, yelling and laughing and having fun. The girls frolicked to and fro. Such liveliness brightened Charles' mood even further and he did not even bother to try to hide his grin.
"C'mon, honey," Charles urged her. "There's a child that needs us today."
Angela mirrored her husband's smile before returning her eyes to the children at play. In fact, there were more than she thought the orphanage would hold. Boys and girls of different age groups ran around, climbing, jumping, and giggling as they went. However, a group of older boys were huddled by the jungle gym. Perhaps they were too old for such nonsense as playing. The thought made Angela laugh.
"Let's go meet the staff, Charlie," Angela said softly. "They'll help us find the right child. Tell me if you see one that you'd like, though."
Charles grinned and rubbed his hands together in anticipation as they neared the front door, laughing in merriment. The fulfillment of a dream. Their dream.
His own child.
The Crawford's, in their own world, were oblivious to what exactly the older children outside were huddled over.
"Such a small runt, aren't you, Potter?" One particularly large boy snarled, kicking out at the defenseless body beneath him, enjoying the strangled cry of pain. "Did you see those people enter the building? They wouldn't want a creepy kid like you. They want a good kid, one who isn't so weak."
The bully punctuated his sentence by stomping on the little boy's hand.
Little was just about the only way to describe the boy writhing in pain. After all, the child was only six years old. Wild black hair was matted with little clods of dirt and specks of blood as pained green eyes glared at their tormenters.
The boy, Harry, had never fit in at the orphanage. He had been left at Ripley's at the feeble age of one, left only with a note stating the boy's name and birthday. Ever since little Harry could remember, he had suffered at the merciless hands of the kids at the orphanage. Why? No clue, he would tell you.
Harry was not normal. He had accepted that a long time ago and wished the other children would as well. He did not enjoy playing with others. He barely tolerated speaking with them. The only thing that made him happy was reading, something he had learned only recently. The books he read were easy to understand and simple and spoke of uncharted territories, unforeseen lands, and mystical powers.
Oh how he wished he had those powers. The power to fly, the power to fight back, the power to win…the power to make his tormentors stop. And that's truly what they were – tormenters. It was a word he had recently read. At first, the older boys had just kept away from him and spread lies. Now, they liked to make him suffer. Maybe his desperation for these powers was working, though. In the past week, Harry stumbled upon several things that simply did not make sense. One of the boys had tripped him a few days ago, ripping the sleeve of his only coat in the process, a coat that had been given to him by the orphanage when someone had donated it. The weather was getting cold so Harry mourned the loss of his protection. When Harry awoke, however, his jacket was fixed. In fact, the jacket was in the best condition Harry had ever seen it. That day, Harry had been happy – something that he rarely felt.
Only a few days later, one of the kids stole his lunch. And his dinner. Harry had gone to bed hungry that night, and the next day it seemed the kids had decided to see how long they could make Harry go without food. Finally, an adult stepped in, giving Harry a bowl of soup as the others went to play. Harry feasted greedily on the soup, but the bowl did not empty – it stayed full no matter how much he ate. As he was finally becoming comfortably full, Harry's spoon hit the bottom of the bowl.
But how did these things happen? It made no sense. Was someone, at long last, looking out for him? But how could they do such things? Another blunt kick to his already bruised ribs brought him back to reality.
"You hear me, Potter? Those people don't want a runt like you. They want a good, strong kid like me. And if you mess this up for me somehow, I will make you pay, you little shit!"
The bully taking the lead role in his suffering, Mike – they liked to pass that responsibility around finished his assault by kicking Harry across his jaw, clicking the latter's teeth together painfully. For Harry's part, he whimpered and remained still, trying to protect as much of his body as possible and deter them from inflicting any more damage.
Every day was like this. Every single day. There was no one bully, either; all the kids were mean. All of them wanted to hurt Harry just for the sake of it. It made them feel powerful, Harry thought. Part of him wanted to fight back, but there were simply too many. He wanted to get away, more than anything. To have a home. To have people who actually liked him.
'Leave. Please leave,' Harry thought desperately, shuddering from the pain. It would not do to black out, either. The adults never seemed to really care. He and his problems were just a chore for them, something to be completed with a sigh.
"Children," Ms. Reed shouted. "We have visitors today! Come back inside, please!"
She had said please, but that was for whoever the visitors were. It was an order – everything she said was an order. She didn't care about him, either.
Ms. Reed was a middle-aged woman who was unflattering in nearly every way imaginable; you could start with her wispy hair and end with her oily, clammy skin. She was an unnaturally thin and severe woman, punishing children for reasons that seemed unreasonable. Indeed, Harry had once been caned by the lady for eating too slowly.
Today, however, she was his savior as the boys retreated to the orphanage, but not before laughing over his pitiful position once more. Harry pulled himself up to wobbly legs, wiping his sleeve across the cut on his forehead and releasing a shaky sigh. His jaw ached and his right side gave off a sharp pain with every breath. It took him a moment, but with one last measured, painful exhale, Harry shuffled his way back to the orphanage.
"Shut the door behind – oh look at you, Harry! This is ridiculous!" Ms. Reed scolded, scrunching her beady eyes at Harry's battered appearance. "Go get cleaned up! We have visitors and I will not let such a pathetic sight ruin the other's chances at finding a family!"
Harry did not respond. What point was there? It was pointless to fight. He was not big enough, not old enough…not strong enough. He reached for the banister and made to climb the stairs to go wash up in the bathroom.
God, how he wished he was stronger. In many of the books he read, there was a hero who was strong and brave and changed everything for the better. Why couldn't he be like that? He needed help.
He needed a family.
"Oh Charlie, look at that one over there," Angela smiled, pointing to the small boy climbing the stairs. He was so cute with his large green eyes. The boy's shirt was stained by the earth. 'Probably an energetic little angel,' she thought fondly. Her Charlie might need some more time, Angela had already made her mind up; she wanted that little boy to come home with them.
Charles grinned. The kid was a bit scrawny, but he could work on that. The child was young though, four or five at the oldest it seemed, which was perfect for Charles. He desired the chance to be a true father, to raise a child through their entire childhood. If Angela had already made her choice, he could certainly go along with it.
Best to at least speak to the little guy, though.
"We would like to meet him," Charles stated, pointing to the child as he disappeared upstairs. "Could we talk to him?"
"Harry?" Ms. Reed grimaced. There were so many better children here, of course. Ones that truly deserved homes. But if the pair wanted to talk to the boy, why not humor them? "Of course. If you will follow me, I will show you to a room where the three of you can meet."
Ms. Reed ushered the couple into the cafeteria area of the building, hissing behind her, "Mike! Go get Harry! These people want to talk to him." Mike glared sullenly, but took to the stairs two at a time.
Harry was washing the grime from his face when Mike found him, opening the door with a bang. "Alright you little brat, what did you do to make these people want to talk to you?" Mike demanded, stepping forward to trap Harry between him and the sink.
"I dunno," Harry mumbled, casting his gaze at his ragged trainers. Mike was obviously angry but he wouldn't do anything drastic with visitors here. And speaking of visitors…they wanted to speak with him? Why? Surely not to adopt him? Harry couldn't help the little spark of hope that ignited inside him.
"Well you and me are going to have a little chat after this," Mike growled, cracking his knuckles spitefully. "I told you not to fuck this up for me, didn't I? We'll get to the bottom of it all, though and you're not gonna enjoy it, asshole."
Mike was one of the older kids. At 13 and equipped with many a swear word, he was running out of time to be adopted. And it was thanks to younger children like Harry that he was cast aside. All their fault.
"I'm sorry, Mike, I didn't mean to," Harry whispered, hating his own words. He deserved a chance to be happy – he would not truly apologize for that.
Mike snorted. "Whatever, runt. Get your arse downstairs before those people find someone better." Mike grabbed a fistful of Harry's shirt, smirking before shoving the boy brutally out of the bathroom.
Harry crumpled at the top of the flight of stairs as Mike laughed harshly. Thanking his luck and ignoring Mike's final taunt of "Nice shiner you got there, runt!" Harry made his way back downstairs towards Ms. Reed, gripping the banister to support his wobbly legs.
Ms. Reed watched his progress with a sour expression, crossing her veined arms under her drooping bosom.
"Alright, boy," She spat. "I don't know why they want to talk to a little troublemaker like you, but they want to. Be polite, don't act up, and for Christ's sake, don't cry."
With that, Harry was pushed into the room where the two strangers sat. The man was grinning like a loon, his straight white teeth popping past tanned skin and dazzling Harry. The man was sitting, but Harry could tell he was awfully large. Heck, he still towered over Harry's young frame. The woman, a shorter and softer looking individual, was not grinning as widely as her husband, but her blue eyes were warm as well. Harry swallowed as that spark turned into a warm fire in his stomach. Did they really, truly want him?
"Hi, sport," The man started, his voice deep and rich. 'They really do,' Harry realized. Harry moved closer to the man, hoping to hear him say more.
"Hello," he returned shyly, sliding into the seat opposite the couple.
"You poor dear, what happened to your face?" The woman crooned, distressed to see the bruise taking up the entire side of the child's face.
"It was jus' an accident," Harry mumbled, gingerly touching his still-aching jaw.
"Poor baby," the woman whispered sympathetically as she reached out to caress the spot. Harry was in heaven. "What is your name?"
"Harry, ma'am," Harry said, his tiny hands fiddling with the hem of his shirt as she massaged the spot. "It's nice to meet you."
"It is great to meet you too, buddy," the man spoke up, his grin turning much softer, much warmer. It filled Harry with hope and cautious optimism.
"We saw you come inside and we wanted to meet you," The man continued, reaching out to pat Harry's shoulder. "My name is Charles and this," Here, he wrapped his free arm around the woman. "Is my wife, Angela. We are looking to add a member to our family today."
Harry's heart soared. This really was his chance! His chance to leave, to find happiness. He could not let this chance go.
"Do you like football?" The man, Charles, asked curiously.
Harry nodded eagerly. He had never seen a match but he'd seen the older boys kick around an old football. More importantly, he did not want to disappoint the man. "Yes sir, erm-"
"Call me Charlie," Charles interrupted with another heart-warming grin.
"Yes sir, Charlie," Harry finished dutifully, relieved to see the man smile.
"I used to play football, Harry," Charles said, revealing one of the ragged orphanage footballs from behind his chair.
"Like for England?" Harry asked curiously, leaning forward to peer at the ball the man was twirling in his hands.
Charles and his wife both chuckled. "No, not quite. I was getting there though," Charles joked. "I am a teacher now."
"Is that fun?" Harry inquired. He had never been to school but it seemed like fun to him. Anything to get away from the orphanage seemed that way, though.
"It is for me," Charles laughed. "Maybe not so much for the children."
The meeting was going so well, Harry thought. The two, Charles – Charlie, he reminded himself, and Angela were perfect. Charlie was rambling on about getting Harry signed up to play football and how the man would teach him. No one had ever cared so much before. He needed to show them he was worth it.
"I can do something cool," Harry blurted, interrupting the man in midsentence.
"Oh? And what would that be, Harry?" Charles teased, interested however to see the boy's "something cool."
"Hold the ball out," Harry said shyly. This was it, the moment that would assure him a happy future. The couple would love him and his ability – it was the one thing that set him apart from the other children, after all. Harry was a bit uncertain if his idea would work, but he was certainly desperate enough, and good things happened when he was desperate.
Harry shot off his chair and took several steps backwards, slowly reaching his arms out and needing.
In a matter of moments, the ball zipped out of Charles' open arms and into Harry's. Harry grinned down at the ball. It worked! And that was the first time he had actually caused something to happen when he wanted it to! Charlie and Angela would truly love him now! Harry looked up in excitement, expecting to see two awed faces.
That is not what he saw. Quite the contrary, in fact.
"H-h-how did y-you do that?" Angela whispered, one hand holding onto Charles' shirt tightly. Charles gripped the knees of his jeans with white knuckles, his mouth furrowed but his eyes wide and cautious.
Harry felt time stop and his heart freeze. He shrugged feebly, looking at the ground. "I don't know. It was something I learned to do. You-you don't like it, then?"
"That was a bit scary, Harry. Really scary, actually," Charles admitted lowly, his eyes warily gazing at the little boy. Maybe they should reconsider…after all, that wasn't normal, was it? What could something like that mean?
"Please don't be mad," Harry pleaded, holding the ball out to Charles. This was all going wrong and his insides were melting and how could he fix this? "I didn't want to scare you, honest! There are so many kids here and I want a home and parents so badly and I just wanted to impress you and -"
"It's okay, honey," Angela said shakily. She kept looking from the ball in Harry's hands to Charles' guarded face and back. "Perhaps we should look at some other of the children though; it is only fair to give everyone a chance, right?"
Harry watched, devastated, as Charlie nodded and muttered his agreement.
"No!" Harry screamed. His heart tearing at the seams and there was no way to fix any of this. He could not believe it. He had tried so hard to impress them and it was all crumbling down.
"I-I just wanted you to like me. That's all that was. I'll never do it again if you don't' want me to. Please don't leave me," He finished with a broken whisper. He could already see it in their eyes, however. He had lost his chance; they did not want him any longer.
Turning from their rejection, Harry wrenched the door open, desperate to get as far away as possible; these people were just like the rest, he realized as he fled to an empty room of the orphanage to drown in his sorrow – it did not matter what Harry did, other people simply did not care. They had their own plans and wants and they never really cared. He was alone, truly alone in this world.
Harry shut and locked the door, crying as he fell to the ground. Never had he felt pain like this. No matter what damage Mike or the others could cause to his body, none of it rivaled the sting of rejection.
He laughed spitefully through his tears. Harry hated himself for getting his hopes up. Of course it would not work out - it never did anyway. Those people wanted a child to raise, but they did not want Harry. He was just too freaky for them.
'I don't need them,' Harry thought viciously as the tears finally stopped. 'I don't need anybody. Whatever it is that I can do is not a bad thing. It makes me better – better than everyone in this stupid place! They can't handle it. And I will be better than them all one day, and then it will be them that don't matter.'
Never again, Harry vowed to himself. He would never allow himself to be hurt so badly again.
His heart grew cold.