I was re-reading "My Reflection" by quaquaquaqua when I thought, "What if Harry had refused his Hogwarts letter and seriously meant it? What would have happened then? Could they have changed his mind? Would they even try?" And so, I wrote this little fic; however, I did have to come up with a reason for Harry to prefer living in the non-magical world with his aunt and uncle. I decided to tweak their personalities and their circumstances just a bit so that, although still considering Harry an unwanted burden, they weren't quite as awful as most fics (even my own) have depicted them.
I should also point out that what I know about the construction industry could be written on the head of the proverbial pin. I apologize for any inaccuracies.
Ten year old Harry Potter was sitting at the breakfast table with his uncle, Vernon Dursley, and his cousin, Dudley. His aunt, Petunia, was puttering around in the kitchen while the three males nibbled (in Harry's case), munched (Uncle Vernon), and inhaled (Dudley) the toast, eggs, and bacon that had been prepared. The three diners heard the rattle of the letter box as the day's post was dropped in.
"Get the post, Dudley," said Uncle Vernon from behind his open newspaper.
"Make Harry do it," demanded Dudley, helping himself to an entire platter of bacon.
"Get the post, Harry," ordered Uncle Vernon.
Sighing resignedly, Harry grabbed the last pieces of toast and bacon from his plate and headed for the hallway and the front door. Though his relatives did not skimp on the amount of available food, once what Aunt Petunia had prepared for a meal was gone, they had to wait until the next meal for more. In fact, to keep her husband and son at a healthy weight, Aunt Petunia doled out snacks as if they were gold especially since Dudley was a bottomless pit who ate anything and everything he could get his hands on. Harry knew that if he left any food on his plate, his cousin would eat it. Stuffing the remainder of his breakfast in his mouth as he walked, Harry picked up the few letters that had landed on the doormat and returned to the dining room where he quickly handed them over to his uncle before beginning to clear the table.
Helping his aunt with the breakfast clean up, Harry forgot all about the envelopes he had handed his uncle. Once the kitchen and dining room were cleaned and straightened to his Aunt Petunia's high standards, he went outside and began his daily chore of weeding and watering his aunt's flower beds.
At lunch that day, Harry was surprised when his uncle addressed him, "Harry, your aunt and I have been thinking about your cupboard. You're growing a bit big for it and so we've decided to move you into Dudley's second bedroom."
Shocked, Harry replied, "Really?"
At the same time, Dudley, angrily whined, "No! I need that room! He can't have it!"
Aunt Petunia attempted to placate her son by adding, "Don't worry, Dudley, we're going to convert the attic into a games room for you. It will be much bigger and nicer than your old second bedroom."
"I don't care," shouted her spoiled eleven-year-old son in a tone more suited to a two-year-old toddler. "It's MY second bedroom and he can't have it."
Irritated, Uncle Vernon responded, "It's already been decided, Dudley, and I'll hear no more about it. Harry really should have been out of there long ago and he would have been if he hadn't been so frightened of sleeping in a room with windows." He then turned to Harry and added, "I expect you and Dudley to have cleaned Dudley's baby things out of your new bedroom and moved your things into it by dinner time. Your aunt and I will move your bed. We'll shift the wardrobe from the laundry room to your new room later. You can put Dudley's old things into the garage until your aunt has time to go through them. The workmen will be arriving some time next week and you will help them with whatever they need."
"Yes, Uncle Vernon," replied Harry quietly. Helping the workmen, he thought, could be interesting and it would, at least, be indoors and out of the summer heat.
Dudley complained about the loss of his second bedroom for the remainder of the afternoon. Harry tuned him out, but Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon got really annoyed. Finally, just after dinner, Aunt Petunia reached the limit of her patience and, for the first time ever in Harry's or Dudley's memories, shouted at her son, stating that, if he did not stop complaining, the attic conversion would be cancelled. Dudley was so surprised at her reaction that he spent the remainder of the evening quietly in his bedroom.
Unbeknownst to Harry and Dudley, the decision to move Harry's bedroom from the cupboard under the stairs to an actual room and the subsequent attic conversion had been due to one of the letters that had been delivered that Saturday—a letter that was addressed to Harry with his cupboard printed directly under his name. On Monday, another letter came for Harry. This one was addressed to the smallest bedroom on the right. It, like the previous one, was tossed in the kitchen bin by Aunt Petunia.
On Tuesday, another letter for Harry came, but, in the commotion caused when the toolbox of one of the workmen hired to convert the attic into a games room spilled its contents in hallway, no one noticed that the letter had been scooped up along with the tools and the architect's plans. That evening, when the hapless workman's wife was attempting to restore some order to her husband's toolbox, she saw the letter, but, due to a large amount of dirt and oil staining the front only noted the name "H. Potter." She quickly wrote "Addressee Unknown" above the name and tossed it in a nearby letterbox. Magically, the letter was transported to Hogwarts where a house elf placed in the pile of letters on Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall's desk where it would rest, undisturbed, for six weeks.
Meanwhile, Harry was actually enjoying helping with the attic conversion. The work crew was made up of friendly men and women who were happy to show a curious, but careful, Harry how to use the tools of their trade. They added more insulation before plastering the walls. They cut and installed large windows and two skylights to brighten up the large space. They painted the walls and installed deep pile carpeting. The contractor even taught Harry how to read the plans the draftsman and architect had created. After observing how willing and able the small boy who had been assigned to help them truly was, the contractor suggested to Uncle Vernon that the boy be encouraged to consider a career in building.
Uncle Vernon might have envisaged a future in which his unwanted nephew wore a hard hat and carried lumber and nails to those who actually built buildings as the boy finally earned enough to live on his own, but the contractor saw a future draftsman and, possibly, an architect. In fact, the contractor was so sure of Harry's future prospects that he requested that the boy be permitted to help around the safer job sites the company had for the rest of the summer. Thrilled at the idea of having Harry out from under foot and bringing in his own money to pay for school uniforms and supplies, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley quickly agreed and their nephew soon found himself with summer job—though due to underage employment laws, the job was completely "off the books."
In all, it took three weeks to finish turning the attic into a games room. When, at last, the games table, several upholstered chairs, a large screen tv complete with multi-platform video game consoles, and three pinball machines had been moved in, Dudley was ecstatic—until he realized just how far it was down the stairs and into the kitchen for snacks and drinks. It was not long after that that the contractor and his workmen, including Harry, were back to install a kitchenette complete with tile flooring, cook-top, oven, microwave, and full-sized refrigerator. When one of the workmen jokingly suggested adding a bathroom and a bed so that Dudley could just live in the attic, Aunt Petunia was highly offended. Dudley, however, was thrilled and soon a utilitarian bath with shower stall, sink, and toilet occupied the attic's north corner along with a small linen closet. Since Aunt Petunia objected to Dudley actually living in the attic, a large sofa that converted into a queen-sized bed was added as a compromise. Dudley and his friends now had a place to "hang out." In later years, the Dursley attic would become Little Whinging's summer party palace.
It was Professor Minerva McGonagall's practice to leave the letters accepting or declining admittance to Hogwarts in her inbox until August 1. After all, each recipient was instructed to reply by July 31. Hogwarts's policy was that those who missed the deadline were assumed to have refused and, if they did, in fact, wish to attend would have to delay their admission until the next year. This policy was well-known throughout the British magical world and guaranteed incoming first years responded promptly. The deputy headmistress could not know that a mistakenly returned letter would prevent the attendance of the most anticipated student since Merlin himself.
After breakfast on August 1, Professor McGonagall sat at her desk with a letter opener in one hand and the first letter from her inbox in the other. She meticulously scanned each letter and put it in one of two piles when she finished. The "accept" pile was considerably higher than the "reject" one as very few children refused an invitation to attend Britain's premiere school of magic. There were always a few, however, who, either through family tradition or intransigence chose one of the smaller schools or private tutoring. The rest, naturally, came to Hogwarts.
The good professor was quite near the bottom of the stack (the house elves always kept the letters in order of arrival as they firmly believed the first letter to arrive should be the first read), when she opened one that puzzled her. Instead of accepting or declining admission to the school, it was a standard Hogwarts letter of invitation—the kind sent to students who needed no introduction to magic. She quickly looked at the salutation and was shocked to see it was the letter originally sent to Harry Potter. Confused, she looked at the unusually dirty envelope in which the letter had been enclosed and only then noticed the "Addressee Unknown" written above the recipient's name.
Vowing to solve the mystery after she finished with the other letters, McGonagall placed Harry's letter on the corner of her desk and continued sorting through her inbox. Once finished, the professor binned the "rejection" letters as Hogwarts did not maintain records of those students who chose not to attend. As part of her duties as deputy headmistress, the professor made a list of those students who had accepted Hogwarts's invitation and, then, with a wave of her wand performed a silent incantation to sort the names alphabetically. A second wave her of wand created two additional copies of the list on separate pieces of parchment, which she then set aside for a house elf to mail to the Ministry of Magic's Department of Education and the Daily Prophet, Britain's most popular newspaper, which published the names of incoming first year Hogwarts students each year on September 1.
The Hogwarts edition was the Prophet's most anticipated issue as its readers eagerly looked through the list to find the names of family and friends. Using the Prophet's list, Gringotts, the wizarding bank, did a brisk business with those who liked to wager on which house a child would be sorted into. Other, less scrupulous, bookmakers used the same list to allow patrons to wager on which student(s) would fail to attend all seven years, pass/fail the most/least subjects, earn the most/fewest detentions, etc.
By the time Professor McGonagall finally had time to investigate Harry Potter's returned letter, it was August 31 and the students were due to arrive the next day. First, the professor wasted nearly three hours in the Department of Education going through the "Hogwarts Book of Names" to determine if young Mr. Potter still resided at the address at which she, Headmaster Dumbledore, and Groundskeeper Hagrid had left the boy nearly ten years previously since the address on the filthy envelope she had found on her desk was illegible. Then, finally determining that the address had not changed, she made her way to Number 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, to discover that no one was at home. A helpful woman watering the roses at Number 6, told her the family had gone to take Dudley Dursley to his new school, Smeltings, which was apparently located quite some distance away and would require an overnight stay. The woman failed to mention, assuming that she was even aware, that the nephew, Harry Potter, was at a construction site on the other side of Greater Whinging helping a draftsman decipher a site map created by an apparently drunken survey team. After politely thanking the neighbor, the professor returned to Hogwarts, resigned to waiting until the winter holidays to try to visit the family once more.
At the same time as a pleasantly tired Harry Potter was enjoying a dinner of pizza and breaksticks at a Greater Whinging pizzeria with his construction crew, Minerva McGonagall was sitting down for dinner in the Great Hall at Hogwarts with her fellow teachers and staff members.
Headmaster Dumbledore smilingly asked, "I hope your errand today was successful?"
Politely finishing the bite of chicken she had been chewing when her immediate supervisor had spoken, the deputy headmistress replied, "Unfortunately not."
"Oh," responded Dumbledore questioningly.
"Yes," she replied exasperatedly. "As you know, I wait until August 1 to go through the letters from invited first years."
Everyone at the table nodded and so she continued. "This year, one of the letters was returned with 'Addressee Unknown' written on it. Not wanting to keep a student desiring to attend Hogwarts away, I decided to visit personally. Unfortunately, with preparing for the upcoming school year, setting up my obstacle under the third floor corridor, and one thing or another, I couldn't get away until today."
"Well," interjected Pomona Sprout, herbology professor, "since the deadline was missed, the student cannot attend until next year anyway so, really, the delay didn't matter."
"True," echoed Filius Flitwick, charms professor.
Minerva nodded and then continued, "I spent the morning at the ministry going through the book of names. It's enchanted so that magical searches cannot be performed and so I had to go through it year by year until I found the boy's name to determine his current address. Thank goodness it updates automatically! Anyway, the boy had not moved and so I was at a loss as to why the letter was returned. Nevertheless, after lunch at the Leakey Cauldron, I made my way to the boy's house only to find no one at home. A neighbor told me the family had gone out of town and would not return for at least two days. Well, there's no way I can go visit on the first day of classes! I've just too much to do."
Her colleagues nodded in agreement.
"I suppose you can just wait until the Christmas holidays, Minerva," suggested Dumbledore. "A few more months won't make any difference at this late date."
"I know," agreed Minerva sadly. "It's just that I, we all, were so looking forward to his attending this year."
A startling thought crossed the ancient headmaster's mind. "Minerva," he asked anxiously, "just which student are we talking about?"
His deputy sent him a knowing look and responded, "Harry Potter."
The table erupted in a cacophony of sound. The idea of Harry Potter not attending Hogwarts at age eleven was unthinkable, but, as had been pointed out, it was too late now for him to attend the current school year, and, the boy's birthday, July 31, was rather late in the year. In fact, he would have been one of the youngest students in his class. Perhaps it would not be detrimental to Harry's education to allow him one more year in the non-magical school system. Still, a decision as to how to handle the boy's non-attendance with the rest of his class would have to be made. Finally, it was determined that, until someone asked, no attention would be drawn to the fact that Harry Potter, the most famous boy of his magical generation, was not at Hogwarts when expected.
Harry Potter started Stonewall Secondary School on September 5 and immediately loved it. With no Dudley around to steal his lunch or to play pranks on him, Harry was able to make new friends and explore his school. And the classes, oh, how Harry loved the classes. He had been so bored for the last two years of primary school, but Stonewall was so different. At Stonewall, Harry could study so much more than just maths, literature, writing, history, and basic sciences. He could learn computer programming and design, foreign languages, wood-working, carpentry, auto repair, cooking, finance, childcare, art, psychology, horticulture, and much, much more. He took the advice his summer boss had given him and signed up for every class he could fit in his schedule.
Thanks to his summer employment, Harry had been able to buy several used uniforms in like new condition and had all new school supplies. In the past, since his aunt and uncle had had to save for Dudley to attend Smeltings, Harry had usually inherited Dudley's old uniforms (Harry had always been quite small for his age and Dudley unusually large). Both boys had to make do with second hand uniforms and the least expensive paper, notebooks, pencils, and pens on the market—make do and ensure the supplies lasted until Christmas when more would be under the tree as the government stipend the Dursleys received for taking in their orphaned nephew barely covered basic necessities, such as underwear and everyday clothes and certainly did not stretch to cover new school uniforms, fancy pens, or expensive art supplies! It was only Uncle Vernon's receipt of a promotion at work that finally guaranteed Dudley could attend Smeltings that year. The position came with a company car allowing the couple to sell the model they had owned for almost as long as Harry could remember. The proceeds from the sale of the car and the many years of savings had paid for the games room.
Overall, the first term Harry and Dudley spent at their secondary schools was a happy one for everyone in the Dursley household. Though Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon missed Dudley a great deal, it was comforting to have their nephew still at home. The nest was not completely empty yet.
The day after Stonewall closed for the December holidays, Harry reported to a building site. The weather had been dry and sunny and, though cold, work on a new shopping center was proceeding at a brisk pace, Harry's help, even as an errand boy, was highly appreciated. He would be kept busy working every day except Sundays and Christmas day.
Dudley's return from Smeltings was celebrated by a special dinner cooked by Aunt Petunia and Harry. The cooking class Harry had taken that term had revealed a previously unknown talent that Aunt Petunia truly appreciated. Harry's chocolate cake (made entirely from scratch) was the highlight of the meal. Later, when Dudley had made his way to the games room, Harry left his aunt and uncle alone in the sitting room and went to bed. After all, he had to be at the job site at daylight. Harry could not know that the deputy headmistress of a magical boarding school would once again attempt to visit him the next afternoon.
On December 21, Hogwarts closed for Christmas. By ten in the morning, all the departing students had boarded the train for London. The few students who were spending the holidays at school had dispersed and most of the teachers were comfortably lounging in the staff room. Minerva McGonagall, on the other hand, was dressed in the outfit she typically wore to introduce magic to students from non-magical families. She nervously retrieved Harry Potter's Hogwarts invitation and made her way outside the school's wards. It was a cold, snowy day at Hogwarts. She hoped the weather would be better in Surrey.
The professor quickly turned and then disappeared into thin air only to appear moments later in a copse of elm trees in a park near Privet Drive. She was pleased to see the weather, though cold, was dry and sunny as she walked to the Dursley home. After arriving, the professor rang the doorbell and waited. The door was promptly answered by a husky blond boy.
"May I help you," asked the boy politely.
"Yes," replied the middle-aged professor, "I am here to see Harry Potter."
"Oh," said the boy. "Harry's not here. He won't be back until dinnertime."
"I see," responded the professor confusedly. Could the boy be spending the day with friends? "I will return tomorrow, then."
"Um, ma'am," stuttered Dudley. At McGonagall's raised eyebrow, he quickly continued, "Harry's out until dinner everyday except Sunday." It was Friday.
"In that case, I shall return on Sunday afternoon," replied the annoyed professor. "Please let Mr. Potter know to expect me."
"Right," said Dudley. "Who exactly are you?"
"I am Professor McGonagall of Hogwarts," she replied authoritatively.
"I'll tell him to expect you," answered Dudley. "Bye."
"Good day," responded McGonagall.
Dudley closed the door, and the disappointed professor returned to the park and apparated back to Hogwarts. After changing her clothes, the professor made her way to the staff room intent on a soothing cup of tea.
"Did you see him," asked Rubeus Hagrid excitedly. "Was he all right? What did he say?"
The other staff members leaned forward in their various chairs anxious to hear what the transfiguration professor had to say. After pouring a cup of tea, McGonagall sat in her favorite chair and sighed, "He wasn't there."
"What, again? Where was he this time," inquired Professor Sprout.
"I'm not sure. I didn't ask. His cousin said he would be out until dinnertime today and tomorrow. I'm going to go back on Sunday afternoon," explained the weary professor.
On Sunday, Professor McGonagall once again donned her muggle dress and coat and made her way to Privet Drive. This time when she rang the bell at Number 4, it was answered by an extremely thin, horse-faced woman with a sour expression on her face.
"Yes," said the woman.
"I am Minerva McGonagall and I am here to see Mr. Harry Potter," responded McGonagall evenly.
"Yes," said the woman again. "I remember you. I suppose…yes, come in."
She moved away from the door. "We're in the sitting room," she stated gesturing toward an opening on the left.
The professor moved to the indicated room removing her coat and folding it over her arm as she did so. The woman, McGonagall supposed she must be Petunia Dursley, followed the professor into the room.
"This is Professor McGonagall," announced the woman.
The room's three male inhabitants had risen politely at McGonagall's entrance. "My husband, Vernon Dursley," continued the woman pointing at a large male standing closest to the box Minerva believed was called a television, "my son, Dudley, and my nephew, Harry Potter."
"How do you do," replied everyone at approximately the same time.
"Do sit down," finished the woman.
"Mr. Potter," began the deputy headmistress once she was seated. She was pleased when the three males waited until she and Petunia(?) had seated themselves before returning to their own seats. At least they had good manners. "This letter belongs to you."
She passed the Hogwarts invitation, which she had placed in a new, clean envelope, to the dark haired boy who was almost a mirror image of the late James Potter.
The boy took the letter and thanked her a bit doubtfully. "Go ahead and open it," suggested McGonagall with a touch of amusement in her voice.
Harry broke the seal and removed the letter from its envelope. As he read, his face morphed from curiously polite to open puzzlement. "Excuse me, ma'am," he said "but is this some sort of joke?"
"No, Mr. Potter," replied McGonagall. "This letter was sent to you in July. We are unsure why, but it was returned to us marked 'Addressee Unknown.' I attempted to visit you in August, but your neighbor said you had gone away. Since the deadline to attend the current school year had passed, it was decided I would try again during the holidays and so here I am. Of course, you will be joining us next year. If you will just write out your reply, I will take it with me."
"But," questioned Harry, "why would I want to go to your school?"
"Why would you want…" sputtered McGonagall. "Why WOULDN'T you want to attend? Your parents studied at Hogwarts. It's the premiere school of magic in Britain."
"I don't want to be a magician," stated Harry. "I'm going to be an architect."
"Don't be ridiculous," dismissed McGonagall. "You don't have any choice. You have to attend Hogwarts. You've got to learn to control your magic. It's what your parents would have wanted."
Harry took a visible breath. It was obvious he was centering himself. "Professor," he said quietly, "I thank you for your invitation, but I'm perfectly happy at Stonewall Secondary. Unless your school offers drafting, computer aided design, advanced geometry, and advanced calculus, I'm afraid I see no reason to transfer."
"Mr. Potter," countered the professor disdainfully, "we aren't offering you a chance to be a magician; we will train you to be a wizard."
"But, I don't want to be a wizard," replied Harry.
"Mr. Potter," explained the exasperated witch, "you ARE a wizard. The purpose of a magical education is to train you to use the magical powers you already possess."
"What about careers after school," asked Harry. "Will I still be able to get into university?"
"There are many careers in the magical world," explained the deputy headmistress. "There are hundreds of positions in the government alone or you could play professional sports, run your own business, work at Gringotts—that's our wizarding bank. The possibilities are endless. We don't, however, have magical universities. Most jobs provide training through apprenticeships."
Harry thought about what the professor had told him and made his decision. He rose and went to the desk in a corner of the room. He opened the top right drawer, removed a sheet of muggle stationery and a pen, placed the stationery on top of the desk, and scratched out a few lines of text before folding the paper in thirds. He then rummaged in the drawer for an envelope, placed the folded sheet in the envelope, addressed it, licked the flap, and handed it to the bewildered witch.
"That's my reply to your letter," the raven-haired boy stated. "I'm responding before the 31 of July as requested by the invitation."
McGonagall stood as did the others in the room, "I look forward to seeing you at Hogwarts in September, Mr. Potter."
Harry did not reply. The woman the deputy headmistress assumed was Petunia said, "I'll show you out."
The women left. McGonagall returned to Hogwarts. She went directly to the staff room and poured herself tea from the always ready pot.
"Were you able to see Mr. Potter this time," asked Professor Flitwick.
"I did," said McGonagall.
"Well," asked Professor Snape, Hogwarts's potions master.
"He did not seem to be interested in attending Hogwarts. Here's his response to the letter," she added holding out the envelope.
"Aren't you going to open it," asked Professor Sprout.
"I'm afraid to," confessed McGonagall. "I'm almost certain it's a refusal."
"Nonsense," comforted the headmaster, "of course Harry is coming to Hogwarts."
Minerva handed the envelope to the headmaster. Eyes twinkling, the headmaster opened the envelope. He looked down and read what Harry had written. The twinkle left the aged man's eyes. He read the note aloud:
"Dear Professor McGonagall,
"I thank you for your invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; however, as your school provides no courses to aid me in my chosen future career, I must regretfully decline your invitation.
"Harry J. Potter."
"He declined. Harry Potter actually declined an invitation to attend Hogwarts!"
Professor Quirrell whose pronounced stutter normally made it difficult to understand anything the man said had just made a completely clear statement just before bursting into hysterical laughter.
The rest of the staff stared at their colleague who had tears rolling down his face. Harry Potter, the boy who lived, the most famous child in the wizarding world, had refused his invitation to attend Hogwarts and there was nothing any of them could do about it.