Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or the characters of his universe, I just play in that sandbox for fun and without pay or any form of remuneration other than reviews and private messages; which are fortunately non-taxable.
AN: Miss me? Ok, I know you didn't miss me, but you might have missed some more of this story, so thanks for following it and I hope you continue to enjoy it. I'll be writing as I can, but I picked up a second job as a law school professor on top of my 55 plus hour a week job. Still, I'm committed to continuing this, especially since it seems to be a hit. Just to get myself in the mood for writing this chapter, I put my TV to playing old school video game theme music sorting through a variety of old NES and SONY games of yore; yes, I used the word yore, aren't you jealous you can't use yore in your everyday life? Anyway, on with the chapter. EDIT: oops on the 10 years old, he's 4. Serves me right for cutting and pasting parts around the story. MS
'Thoughts are in italics'
"Things Said, or Things Written"
Chapter 6: The Daily Grind
Harry finally stopped cursing when the words on the blue patch notes menu screen in front of him flashed to something besides just "Thank you for your patience." Still, the game couldn't help but poke fun at the anything but patient Harry.
"Thank you for your patience in waiting for the patch to complete. We now return you to the Adventures of Harry Potter." The screen read.
"About time you wankers." Harry groused as he crossed his arms in front of his chest and pouted while the world flashed around him.
Harry got one glimpse of the Dursley's house as the world around him came back into focus.
One glimpse, and at first nothing looked like it had changed.
Once again Harry was presented with the peaceful, calm, normal and thoroughly boring number 4 Privet Drive. A place where nothing unexpected ever happened, well, besides the occasional bought of accidental magic, crazy house-elves, rescue by flying car, or attack by wandering dementors. But besides those things, the scene before him was perfectly peaceful and Harry sighed as he took in the view of his hated relatives' house- only for the rose bushes in front of the house to suddenly launched themselves into the air and take off in an explosion of dirt and debris like rockets on their way out of Earth's orbit.
A buzzing sound split the air and Harry cringed and covered his ears as the air around him vibrated like a sky full of bees.
"Urk!" Harry gave a pain filled grunt as he squinted his eyes shut due to the incessant loud buzzing, only opening them when he heard a scraping sound of metal on concrete.
Harry's jaw dropped open in surprise- just as Vernon Dursley's car flipped upside down and then seemed to disappear through the concrete driveway without having any effect on the driveway itself- and then the front door of the house exploded out of its frame headed right towards Harry.
"AHHHHH!" Harry dropped to the asphalt beneath him and covered his head, fortunately not feeling anything but suddenly realizing he was crouched in a shadow as the door floated above him horizontally; having pivoted as if on an axel and was now spinning end over end floating in the air above him.
Harry blinked, and then the door shot straight down at him.
"GAH!" Harry screamed again, expecting pain as the door flew at him, only for the door to fly right through Harry as if it was totally intangible.
Harry's mouth worked but no sound issued out he was so surprise at not being hurt- only to be surprised again as his feet were yanked into the air above his head as if swept up by some invisible trip line.
Harry only had a moment to look wide eyed at the asphalt a foot beneath his head, before he suddenly found himself accelerating at a break neck pace right towards the road- only to pass through it as if it didn't exist.
"AAAAAAAAHHHH!" Harry screamed as he fell through the earth like he was a ghost, arms flailing for purchase while passing through asphalt, sewage pipes, dirt, rock, and then fiery lava as he continued to pick up speed while flailing but unable to interact with any of the world around him-only to land with a solid 'THUD' on the unending black floor of the Menu screen; the blue screen once again floating in front of him.
Harry's muffled "Ow" echoed through the darkness; muffled as his nose and face were pressed flat against the invisible floor before him.
Raising only his head, Harry blurrily blinked to look at the screen.
"Server down for Patch. We appreciate your patience. Would you like to read the patch notes? Y, N?"
"Ugh, yes." Harry replied, resting his cheek on the slightly cool invisible surface; his head lay quirked on its side so he could look up at the screen from his current place on the ground while he tried to get his breath back from his sudden impact.
"[Patch 0.2] To fix a glitch created while fixing the glitch with Mr. Tibbles fight. Mr. Tibbles now invincible, but gravity mechanics incorrect due to programming mistake with transposition of FUBAR and FOO. Please be patient while we fix the world. Thank you, have a nice day!"
"Ugh," Harry groaned and closed his eyes while the programmers thought it would be great to pipe in an electronic music midi version of the Harry Potter theme song on repeat while the patch was processed.
Fifteen patches later, each fixing and causing additional problems that needed to be fixed, the world around Harry blurred back into existence and Harry found himself lying on his back on the grassy front yard of the Dursley residence; lying in a similar position to that which he had laid while forced to while away the innumerable hours of patching followed by more hours of patching the errors that were created by the first patch. Yes, Harry had learned the joys of dealing with a game that was probably in its beta stage of development; if not alpha testing.
Harry carefully opened one eye, and then the other to look around and make sure that it was safe to get up. When nothing exploded, flew when it wasn't supposed to, nor suddenly turned the color chartreuse, Harry thought that it was safe to assume things were finally fixed.
"If you're going to mess with me, the least you could do is have your ducks in a row and get it right the first time." Harry groused towards the sky as he stretched and then sat up, brushing himself off and looking around himself.
Nothing had changed, not that he could see at least. He was once again at the boringly normal number 4 Privet Drive; which most importantly wasn't spinning, flipping, exploding, falling through the floor, merging with other pieces of the scenery, or inexplicably dropping through the earth.
One golden exclamation point still hovered over Vernon's towncar in the driveway, and a grey ghostly exclamation point floated across the street in front of the neighbor's house.
Harry scrunched up his brow in confusion before bunny hopping across the street to the ghostly exclamation point and waved his arm through it in an attempt to activate the mission; the greyed out words of "That Delinquent Boy" floated above the ghostly mission post.
Much to Harry's surprise, rather than the mission starting, his hand passed through the mission notation as if moving through a cloud of smoke that left vapor trails that followed his fingers as they passed through it before the exclamation point reformed itself a brief moment later.
"What in the-" Harry's surprise was interrupted by a tutorial message.
"De-Do" the jaunty tune of the tutorial message was followed by a message titled "Choose Wisely" floating in the air in front of Harry's vision. "You seem to have gained too many levels of experience to perform this mission, tough luck little guy. In your wonderful adventures you will come across many adventures that give fun filled experiences of daring-do and much enjoyment, however missions are rated by the level of experience and will grey-out if your level is too high to gain any benefit from them. Alternatively, missions that are much too high for you to achieve will have the title of the mission denoted in shades of Red or Black, getting easier as they transfer to shades of orange, yellow, then green and blue before ultimately turning grey when you've far exceeded the suggested level needed to complete the mission. Other missions will show up as white if you have yet to meet the required skill or attribute score needed to start the mission, or if your standing with that particular faction is not high enough. Secret missions will not show up on your map and will be denoted by a rainbow colored question mark when you find them, but be warned that there is no telling how difficult those missions may be nor what you will face when you start them. Ultimately, the missions you choose to attempt are up to you, but choose wisely."
"Oh, so you're fighting back are you? Think you can stop me from level grinding? Not likely mate." Harry grumbled under his breath before hopping back across the street to the Dursley's and started reaching towards the last Dursley chore mission, the last mission in the tutorial.
"Wait a second-" Harry's hand paused as he stopped himself from touching the gold exclamation point and starting the last mission called "Clean the Car."
A smile slowly crept across Harry's face as he made a realization. "I have infinite time while in tutorial, so let's grind some skills. After all, what's the worst that could happen?"
And with that statement, that would in no way come back to haunt Harry, he started bunny hopping to grind stamina and strength.
Then Harry hopped some more.
The equivalent of five days passed- then two weeks—then a month of non-stop 24-hour a day hopping.
Months of hopping down the same streets, across the same cracks, with the same cars, the same motionless sun and clouds, and the continued monotony of doing nothing but hopping without any hope of human interaction.
Harry lasted just over two months. Two months of being left with nobody to talk to but himself. No sleep, no getting hungry, no changes in the weather or even Dursleys yelling foul things at him to break up the monotony of a never-ending English summer in Little Whinging. He was almost to max stamina, but even the nearness of reaching that goal wasn't enough. Maybe if this had been a real video game, with an off switch, or the ability to pop in another game to relieve the boredom; but that wasn't the case. Instead, this was what his real life had come to, endless monotonous hopping and grinding of stamina.
It was enough to make anybody crack.
Harry approached the Dursley's house at a fast sprint bunny hop for what would be the 2,987,291 time while talking to himself, and by this point he was ranting in a semi-coherent chant:
"Must grind strength, must grind stamina. Must grind strength, must grind stamina."
Harry chanted in a scratchy dry voice and he would have continued chanting it with every hop if it wasn't for some indescribable change in Harry that finally had enough.
It might have been the fact that whereas video gamers can put a soda pop can or a bag of crisps on their keyboard and walk away to do other things while their character hopped, but Harry couldn't do that given it can't be stressed enough that he was having to live through the real time effort of endlessly hopping in what felt like a large circle.
It might have been the shear monotony of not being able to chat with other gamers which is a break in the boredom for those who are grinding skills in massive multiplayer online video games. Harry didn't have this option, and given the nature of his neighborhood chances of intelligent conversation were probably slim to none even if Harry could have talked to another human being; not to say that people are able to find intelligent conversation in a MMORPG. Still, the mail man just waved without saying anything, and none of the people walking the street even looked at Harry as he passed them by.
It might have even been the fact that the golden mission to wash the Dursley's car was taunting him with the idea of something different to do, but promised an end to this exploitation of endless time with which to gain stats.
Whatever it was, Harry's chant suddenly changed from a mantra of grinding strength and stamina to an incoherent babble and yell of insanity.
"BWAAA! No talky talk and no Hermione hugs make Harry Go What?" Harry screamed as he stopped jumping, paused, turned around, and then gave a wide eyed crazed looked up the street in the direction he had just come from.
Harry stepped forward a large step and then turned around facing the opposite direction again, just as if he was playing the role of the second person in the conversation.
"Um, go crazy?" Harry asked himself with a shrug and one eyebrow raised in a question.
Harry then hopped forward and turned back around to address himself, a large maniacal smile on his face.
"Don't mind if I do! BWAA HA Ha Ha Ha!" Harry replied before laughing incoherently and unequipping all his clothing until he was butt naked.
Equipping his Pointed Stick, Harry sprinted past the Dursley's front window, his twig and berries dangling in the breeze, laughing all the way.
Inside the Dursley's front parlor the women's book club and gossip brigade was still busy sipping their tea and maligning their neighbors when out of the corner of their eye they caught a glimpse of a naked Harry Potter streak past the window.
"Cough. Ahem, um, Petunia, was that your nephew that just ran by the window naked as the day he was born." One of the ladies sputtered into her tea as she turned large startled eyes towards the hostess of the meeting.
Petunia, in turn, was stunned speechless staring out the window and blinking as if she didn't believe what she had seen. In classic Dursley fashion she decided to deny everything, since that always made it true and made everything better; just like denying that magic was real made it true no matter how much evidence she had from dealing with her sister Lily and now her nephew the Freak.
"Ahem, I'm sure you must have been seeing things." Petunia replied, putting on her most calm face and taking a sip of tea-
Only for the tea to spray out of her mouth and across the room as Harry ran back into the front yard and started doing naked pelvic thrusts towards the window.
"Ooga! Ooga! Ooga! Huh! Huh! Huh!" Harry chanted, as at this point he had somehow found enough mud, who knows where, to paint himself up as one of the lost boys or perhaps one of the children stranded in the book Lord of the Flies. Pelvic thrusts prefaced with each grunt, Harry jumped up and down several times before weaving his makeshift spear/Pointy Stick in the air before stopping and giving a "shhh'ing" motion towards the window with the women who all were staring agog at Harry.
"Shhhh, its piggy hunting season." Harry said in a pantomimed quiet voice that still traveled loud enough to be heard by the women inside.
Then with an "Ooogha ooogha Ooogha! Here Dudley Dudley Dudley! Shew-EEEEEE!" Harry was off and down the street, out of the view of the women as he hopped off at a sprint speed to pillage or hunt who knows what.
One of the women blinked and licked her lips to dry her mouth before turning to the other women of the group. "Um, how old is he again?"
Petunia couldn't stop staring out into the front yard where her nephew had just disappeared from view. Without thinking she replied, "He's only 4 years old."
"My my, well he's quite blessed for only being 4." One of the ladies mumbled.
Then by unanimous unspoken agreement, the women decided to quickly change the subject to something safer.
"Ding!" "Faction increase with Muggle Neighborhood." Appeared in Harry's screen, but he ignored it as he was busy charging towards the target of his hunt at a break neck speed.
"Congratulations! You've earned a trophy, "Showing off the Boys." Sprint more than a kilometer while naked without getting arrested for indecent exposure nor tackled by a sweaty overweight security guard at a football match."
Harry ignored this too as he neared his prey, timed his jump perfectly so that just as he landed he swept the unsuspecting prey off the lawn, bounced into the air and then used the invisible barrier to backflip into the opposite direction and then sped off down the street cackling madly as he went.
"G'orsh Darn Kids! Give me back me wee-man ya little naked bugger!" Came a cockneyed yell of ire as Old Man Henderson burst out of the front door of his house and took off after Harry in hot pursuit.
"Bwa ha ha ha ha! They'll never take us alive Melvin." Harry cackled to the lawn gnome tightly gripped in the crook of his arm as he twisted in midair of the jump to shake his Pointy Stick back at Old Man Henderson with the hand not currently full of porcelain non-responsive muggle garden gnome.
Old Man Henderson, black title above his head promising death if he caught up to Harry, was fading into the distance as at this point Harry was sitting pretty at Stamina level 99 and an additional 11 points more to Strength than when he had started grinding; one point away from gaining his 12th additional point to Strength and maxing out Stamina at 100.
And Harry might have gotten away with his illicit booty if it wasn't for the fact that at just the moment where Harry was turned around to face and taunt Old Man Henderson, yet still traveling at high speeds up the street, the distance calculator for the game that was Harry's life clocked one more kilometer of ground crossed and Harry hit level 100 of Stamina.
"Ding! Max Stamina Reached! +1 to Strength and Congratulations, you've earned the perk "RUN AWAY!" Brave brave Sir Harry ran away, he bravely ran away! When Danger reared its ugly head, you've bravely turned your tail and fled, Brave Brave brave brave Sir Harry! While running from mortal danger (loosely defined as running from creatures trying to eat you, kill you, defile you, or boy-who-lived fangirls/boys) you gain a sudden burst of uncontrolled acceleration along the vector you are traveling to help you get out of trouble more quickly." The game message flashed in front of Harry's eyes.
Through Harry's crazed malaise, a small warning filtered through his brain that now was a really bad time for this uncontrolled acceleration to kick in.
Back turned towards the direction Harry had been heading in, and heading on an upward jumping trajectory back towards the Dursley's House, the perk "RUN AWAY!" triggered.
Harry's eyes met Old Man Henderson's for just a moment as sanity was forced upon Harry in the most inconvenient manner possible.
Harry realized what he had been doing, and was able to issue out a simple, "Sorry about stealing the little guy!" while letting go of the garden gnome just as the games mechanics triggered Harry's new perk and Harry was launched into the air and down the block as if a 100 meter bungee cord had been attached to him or like in some cartoon where the character realizes they've run out of rope and are suddenly being hooked around their middle and disappearing only to leave an afterimage behind.
"Zoing!" In the back of his mind a small part of Harry realized that the new perk came with its own pre-programmed sound effect.
Not that Harry cared about that as he was too busy flying backwards and up into the air, over the rooftops of the houses he had been heading towards, and out of sight of Old Man Henderson and poor Melvin the garden-gnome who had been on his first travel away from home but only made it a block before having to go back to his home on the front yard.
Harry moaned as his muddy naked body formed a divot in the formerly perfect grass of the Dursley's back yard; a single heart flashed in Harry's vision telling him that he had been hurt. Of course, the pain radiating up his back and neck and through his arms might have been a hint also.
"Ow," Harry groaned before moaning out the word "Inventory" and grabbing a handful of bacon.
A few bites of bacon and Harry's hearts rapidly refilled, and Harry noted that all his injuries healed themselves as well.
Harry sighed in relief as he finished his food, "Yummm, it's true, bacon does make everything better." Harry said with a smile as he sat up and quirked his back rapidly to the right, and then to the left; causing a series of popping sounds to issue out of his spine and Harry sighed in relief.
Harry pulled up his map and looked at the thoroughly traveled and explored area of the neighborhood and sighed before shaking his head and heading for the last Dursley Chore mission and the closure of the tutorial level.
It was time to exit the tutorials, as no matter how much it helped his stats to grinding without the limitations of time passing, he didn't want to go crazy…
'Ok, so not crazier than I already am.' Harry thought wryly to himself with a bit of gleam in his eye.
AN: Back to writing, sorry for the break but I hope to have more out soon. This may make you angry, but reality is that I've had this portion done for a few weeks. Problem was that I had an additional portion finished also where Harry goes back into the regular passing of time and the "real" world is opened up outside the tutorial zone. Doubly problematic was that I couldn't find a good stopping spot and it felt like it was dragging this chapter out into other sections, so I cut it and am now releasing it. Hope you like it. I'm definitely using some of the ideas people have shared, especially regarding the zoo, school, areas of London and don't even get me started on the zany fun that will happen at Diagon Alley… but I don't want to spoil anything. If people have details about the London zoo then anything you want to share would be helpful as its been several years since I lived in London and even longer since I visited the zoo. Hope you keep enjoying this. Cheers!