1. characterised by cautious hesitance and vigilance; wary.
2. unadventurous; afraid of risks and being in the spotlight.
3. Unwilling to cause trouble for others.
The ways in which this story differs from the original are subtle to begin with but by the second half of this chapter they will get more divergent and interesting — and all because of Harry's broken character — everything else starts the same.
Chary Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Part 1
~~~ Perfectly Normal ~~~
The Dursleys of Privet Drive were perfectly normal thank you very much. But they also had a secret. Almost ten years before, Mrs Dursley's sister had died and her son — well, the Dursleys had been burdened with his upkeep. Oh, they had leaned hard on his scrawny frame in an effort to bend him towards behaving as normally as possible, but the fact remained, Harry Potter was very strange indeed and odd things happened around him: he was 'one of that lot,' as Vernon Dursley put it.
In addition, Harry had a curious, lightning-shaped scar on his forehead: a mark which evoked so much derision by his peers at school that he tried vainly to obscure it with his dark, tousled hair. It seemed to signpost him for bullying as surely as the 'PUSH ME' sticky notes frequently observed attached to his posterior.
"That was the letter-box I heard. Get the post, Dudley," said Uncle Vernon from behind his paper at the breakfast table.
"Make Harry get it."
"Get the post, Harry."
"Yes, Uncle." Harry had long since accepted his place in the world at the bottom of the heap.
Three things lay on the doormat. he picked them up without looking closely, carried them in to his Uncle Vernon, then took his place at the far end of the table on the wobbly chair. If Harry had glanced up from his lonely slice of toast he might have noticed his uncle turning rather pale. Instead Harry was looking for the butter dish — it was the other side of Dudley and his cousin wore a smirk on his face that was visible even through a mouthful of bacon. Harry suppressed a sigh and crunched on his thin dry rusk. He knew from experience he would come off worse whichever way he tried to get at the butter. He let it be.
Harry was used to the Dursleys' disputes. He kept well out of them. So it was many days before he realised something unusual had happened to the 'very normal' Dursley household.
"Why'd anyone want to keep sending you all these letters?" his cousin Dudley said to him one bright July morning. "That's nine so far up to yesterday and—" He hesitated while he counted on his fingers.
"What?" said Harry, not really interested. "What letters?"
Dudley stared at him for a moment then sniggered. "Nothing." He sauntered out of the kitchen, whistling out of tune, while Harry continued skilfully splashing fat onto the eggs in the frying pan with a flat scoop. He was familiar with Dudley saying things that made no sense so he quickly forgot his comments.
Harry rubbed a bruise on his arm thoughtfully. For years, Dudley had manoeuvred him into being his practice partner in sparring matches so his cousin could perfect his bullying skills. He insisted Harry fight back which he did, but Dudley easily deflected most of his punches — Harry himself cleverly made sure of that. Whenever he had connected with those meaty cheeks it had only annoyed Dudley who then laid into him even harder.
"Hurry up, boy!" snarled Mr Dursley from the table. "After breakfast I want you to tidy up Dudley's second bedroom. Make it habitable so there's space for you—"
Harry almost dropped the pan he was lifting to serve. "Really! Thank you Uncle Vernon."
Mr Dursley glared at Harry. "Don't interrupt, boy! Make space up there for you to transfer as many of Dudley's old toys from last year. His new birthday gifts you can then take up to his main bedroom for him."
Harry hid his disappointment and wasted no time. At the first opportunity he ran up the stairs to inspect Dudley's other room. It was a dream for Harry Potter as he gazed around. He had never been allowed in here before - especially not on his own — though Dudley sometimes let him look through the open door to make him jealous. Even with Dudley's discarded toys, there was still more volume than Harry had ever had for himself — and there was a real bed to sleep on. He ran his hand over the mattress and wrinkled up his mouth in envy. By the time he had finished carrying toys and video games and a broken television through from the other room, however, the bed was obscured and unusable again. As he trudged back downstairs he wondered if one day he might have such a room himself.
As he reached the foot of the stairs there was a flurry of envelopes spraying through the front door letter-box and he stooped to pick them, knowing he'd only be sent back to get them anyway. Even Harry couldn't fail to notice the unusually large number of letters being delivered that day and, his curiosity mildly aroused, he glanced at the top one.
"Here, boy!" roared his uncle from the kitchen doorway. "Give them here!"
Harry dutifully handed them over. "That first one's got my name on it, Uncle. Is that from Stonewall High?" He was looking forward to starting secondary school after the summer holidays without his bullying cousin being present.
"Erm, yes — I mean no." Mr Dursley looked flustered for a few moments. "It's junk mail. Erm... yes, Mass mailing. Your name got onto a computer somewhere and they keep bombarding us trying to get us to buy er... school uniforms for you. Yes, that's it — school uniforms."
"But Aunt Petunia's already dyed some of Dudley's old things for me."
"Exactly. Damned advertisers don't even know when to stop. Just because someone's nearly eleven they pester everyone to buy, buy, buy! Think we're made of money."
Harry still thought it rather odd. It seemed even more strange when his uncle boarded up the letter-box and, on the following Sunday, letters poured down the chimney. Harry had developed a passive outlook but he wasn't stupid: something was up. But he didn't have a chance to investigate.
"We're going away," his uncle declared out of the blue while Harry was sweeping the hall. Harry shrugged his shoulders. The Dursleys went on holiday every year, leaving him with Mrs Figg down the road so he closed his mind and swept harder. When Dudley said, "Daddy's gone mad, hasn't he?" however, he paid more attention and soon learned that, for the first time, he would be accompanying them.
"Thanks, Uncle! Thanks, Aunt Petunia!"
When he saw the shack that was to be their dwelling place, however, he had to agree with Dudley's opinion about his father's sanity. It was a filthy hovel perched on a lone island. Why had they come to this forsaken place, he wondered.
It was difficult for him to sleep that night because of the cold draughts that found their way in through the many cracks and crevices. When he finally dozed off he was awakened soon after midnight by a mighty crash: a giant of a man stood in their doorway. He forced his way inside and began arguing with Harry's uncle. Although initially alarmed by this intrusion, it eventually dawned on Harry from what was being said that this man might be the one who had been sending all the letters.
"Excuse me, but... who are you?" said Harry, nervously.
"Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts."
During the next hour, Harry listened in growing astonishment as Hagrid explained that he was a wizard and that his parents had been murdered. He was unable to accept either claim until he saw the Dursleys' reactions.
"You knew?" Harry said to his uncle and aunt in astonishment. He was not particularly interested in his parents. He knew almost nothing about them except that they'd passed him over to Aunt Petunia's family. Maybe for that they deserved to be murdered, he thought. Still... murdered — the Dursleys should not have kept it secret.
"What if we did!" glared Uncle Vernon. "None of your business!"
"Sorry, Uncle," said Harry meekly.
"None of his business!" thundered Hagrid, taking a step towards Mr Dursley and causing him to take several backwards. "Why it's everythin' ter do with Harry, yeh great prune!"
When Hagrid finally presented the letter inviting him to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry his annoyance was replaced by fascination. Here was a way out. He had always thought he was different but now he knew why — and he would be able to leave behind the unpleasant world where he had grown up and travel into a magical community where people would be more like himself.
The next day, Hagrid took him shopping to get the items he would need for his new school, most especially a snowy owl named Hedwig and even a magic wand! He learnt that the one who had killed his parents had tried to kill him too but somehow he had survived and a dark wizard named Voldemort but nobody called him that, had been driven away. Nobody knew why but it meant that Harry was famous — really famous. It also explained the scar on his forehead which, Hagrid informed him, was legendary. And now, at last, he was on his way to Hogwarts School of Magic...
~~~ Getting There ~~~
"Well, there you are, boy. Platform nine — platform ten. Your platform should be somewhere in the middle, but they don't seem to have built it yet, do they?"
Uncle Vernon gave Harry a rather nasty grin. "Have a good term." The Dursleys left without another word, all three of them laughing. They had a point, thought Harry. According to the ticket, the train departed from platform nine and three-quarters.
Harry sank down onto his luggage trolley and swung his gaze from left to right. Had this all been a practical joke? Had the Dursleys hired Hagrid to perform his part just so they could abandon him in London with very little cash and some fake money to humiliate him? Harry quickly stopped this direction of his thinking. He had seen the goblins at Gringotts bank; he had witnessed magic when Hagrid had taken him shopping for his school things in Diagon Alley; he himself now possessed a magic wand and had felt something of its power. It was all real.
He wandered around the many train platforms searching for a nine-and-three-quarters sign without success. He didn't want to cause a fuss by asking the platform attendant and decided to find somewhere where he wouldn't be in the way. An overhead walkway kept drawing his attention so he sprinted up its steps to get a higher and wider view. All the platforms he could see appeared to be the ones he had just searched on foot. Something else caught his eye. Down between platform nine and ten near where he had left his luggage cart was what appeared to be an entire family of oddly-dressed people — and they too were pushing trolleys, one of which had an owl perched on top inside its cage.
Harry hurried back down to the platforms wishing he had a Nimbus 2000, a broomstick he had seen on sale in Diagon Alley — but he was not fast enough. There was no sign of the strange group he had seen from above. There was a train on platform nine with all its doors open — but it appeared to be empty, nor did he see any empty baggage carts nearby.
After another twenty minutes he had to concede defeat. He looked glumly at the time on his ticket. He was too late; the train must have left. He walked back to his trolley and sat down beside his owl, Hedwig who was looking wistfully at him. "Sorry, Hedwig. Looks like we may have a long wait. I'm not sure where to go from here." Hedwig held out her leg and pecked at the cage bars. "I suppose that means you want exercise? Look, let me show you again; the cage is never locked, see? You only need push. I'll never lock you in, Hedwig — never. I won't treat you like the Dursleys do me." The bird nuzzled Harry's fingers as he held them at the open door but she remained steadfastly within the cage.
Harry sighed and dug out his Hogwarts letter of invitation and read it through carefully once more. Why had they not given instructions on how to get onto the platform? Of course! He must be the only wizard to have ever been raised by non-magical folk, he thought to himself. All other wizards would surely have a witch and a wizard for parents to advise them. If only he had a phone number he could ring!
Wearily he pushed his trolley the length of the station and found a telephone. He called directory inquiries but they had no entry for the name Rubeus Hagrid anywhere in the country. He decided his only recourse was to phone home to the Dursleys to come and fetch him. He did not relish the thought. He scooped out all the coins he had in his pocket and examined them. Amongst the wizard money was a one pound coin and some silver. He doubted it would be enough to make the call, especially if they deliberately delayed him on the line. In addition, it was now mid-afternoon and he was extremely hungry; ticket attendants and other officials were beginning to scrutinise him in a suspicious manner: he knew he did not fit the normal pattern of either traveller or welcoming friend.
That decided it. He made his way towards a sandwich bar near the entrance to the station and parked his trolley. "Sorry, Hedwig, you'll have to wait here while I..." He stopped and stared at the snowy owl. She had not eaten since nighttime. Surely, there would be nothing to be bought within a Muggle train station with which to feed her. He trundled off to the exit.
"Oi you! Where'd'you fink your takin' that? No trolleys beyond the taxi rank. Can'choo read nuffink?" The irate red-faced attendant's raised wrist-flick gestured Harry back before he could step over the double white line.
With a sigh, Harry removed Hedwig's cage and resumed his walk without the cart.
"You blind or summat? Can't leave it there, can you? Round the bend wiv yer!"
When Harry finally stepped outside, his walk was already a trudge. The day that had begun full of promise had become a nightmare. He failed to find a pet shop that sold anything so exotic as owl food but a butcher's shop supplied him with a few ounces of expensive minced steak to keep Hedwig happy — but what about tonight, he wondered. He looked across the speeding traffic towards the park on the other side of the road.
As soon as it became sufficiently dark he released Hedwig to hunt in the trees while he searched for a seat. He'd seen this done lots of times on the television when he had been able to sneak a look around the sitting-room door. You just lay down a few sheets of newspaper on a park bench and it looked as comfortable as any bed so long as it did not rain. The only newspaper he found had dog poo on it so he settled down on the bench without it. The wooden slats were only moderately hard to begin with but were painful an hour later. Harry had a miserable, sleepless night relieved only when the first glimmer of daylight showed across the duck pond. He was numb with cold and fatigue. He looked around and called but there was no flutter of Hedwig's wings, no glimpse of white coming through the foliage above — though he searched desperately for an hour. He yielded finally to his gnawing hunger and dragged himself back to the station. Perhaps there would be another train to Hogwarts at eleven?
He was bitterly disappointed to have lost his owl. He had tried to befriend her and thought she seemed to show some affection in return — but he knew he had never been successful at making friends; Dudley had made sure of that.
The taxi cab attendant was gone when he reached King's Cross and so was some of his luggage. Harry gaped in dismay at his remaining bags. He placed the empty cage on top of his flat-topped trunk then went further inside the station in search of food. A news stand was offering a range of confectionery, biscuits, and prepacked food.
"How much is that snack bar, please?"
The woman on the stall looked up from the magazines she was sorting. "Thirty-nine-pee"
Harry looked at the remaining Muggle coins in the palm of his hand. "Would you accept... thirty-seven?"
"Would you accept a clip round the ear? Sod off if you can't afford nothing."
Harry's stomach growled with annoyance and demanded action. Reluctantly, he fingered one of his Galleons. "I can give you... one of these... They're gold."
"Yeah, right, course they are." She turned her back on him and resumed hefting her bundles of newspapers, cutting the bands open with a knife and expertly cascading the papers sideways along the shelf above.
Feeling completely wretched and empty, Harry collapsed himself onto a seat in a waiting room, wondering what to do. At least it was warm inside. So warm that his eyes soon began to droop. Two hours later he was being roughly shaken; he had fallen asleep.
"Can't stay here, son." It was a policeman. By his side was a grim-looking station official.
"Have you got a ticket?"
Harry looked at the official and shook his head. He wasn't about to show his strange ticket to a Muggle. Then he had second thoughts and pulled it out. Perhaps they'd lock him up as a nutter — it would be better than another hungry September night in the park.
"Some sort of joke ticket is it?" said the official. "Either get a real one or get out; this isn't a free hotel."
"Where are your parents?" The policeman seemed to be more interested in his welfare.
"Dead," said Harry, trying to sound mournful in the hope of some sympathy.
"Ah! There yeh are, Harry!" It was Hagrid ducking in through the waiting room door. "Bin' lookin' everywhere fer yeh!"
"You know this man?" said the policeman to Harry, getting out his notebook.
"Yeah, he's my... uncle. We got separated." Harry stood up. "Hello, Uncle. How'd you find me?"
"Why, Hedwig o' course! She fetched me! Got her on my bike outside, see?"
"My aunt Hedwig," explained Harry in response to the questioning look on the policeman's face. Inside he was feeling nothing but gratitude towards his owl and a little bit ashamed he had thought she had deserted him.
Harry immediately dozed off again in the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike. When he awoke he was astonished to find the motorcycle was in flight. He gripped the safety rail in panic as the bike growled and roared down towards a huge, medieval castle that was spread out before them like the grandest of toys.
"Welcome, Harry Potter, to Hogwarts School of Magic!" beamed Hagrid.
This story will be exploring what would happen through all seven books if Harry had been more passive and withdrawn — as he might well have been considering his upbringing. The results may surprise you! For instance, he's already a day late for school and has missed the sorting ceremony! There is a slight sense of humorous parody here and there but that was not the original intention. It's actually severely cruel how he was raised so it should not be surprising that he is reluctant to draw attention to himself.
Isn't seven books rather ambitious? Well, no. I'm not rewriting them in full with every detail because much of what happens in the books 'my' Harry won't do in this story so they'll only be a seventh (haha!) of their length. I've already written the first three so I'll be uploading more chapters quite quickly.
Many thanks for all comments and reviews. These are most welcome and very encouraging. :)