The faces smiled. The glassy eyes looked. They watched. He gripped the long sleeves of the overly portly muffler and covered his face to hide his self from the eyes. The eyes always watched. The noses breathed in and out. He didn't understand their words. He remained quiet. His corner was his. He looked through with his bright green eyes from the crack in the door.
The door wasn't his. It belonged to the portly man who always screamed when he saw him. He heard the voices. The voices always talked. One man was different. The people talked some more. There was something different about that man. He didn't look at the portly owner of his door, and yet he looked.
The man looked at him. It looked at Harry.
Harry Potter looked back, even though he knew it was stupid to look back at people. He knew the man couldn't see him, not through the small crack. Yet the man could. The man saw. The man smiled. The man that wasn't a man looked and smiled.
Cold, shivering winds ruffled his hair. Unblinking those glassy eyes that hid a truth beyond that of the world stared at him for but a second more than eternity, and yet a minute less than nothing. He didn't understand. He couldn't understand. His childish mind refused to understand and the man who wasn't a man understood that he couldn't understand.
He could watch. He could touch. He could smell. He could hear. He could taste. He couldn't understand what went beyond those five meagre senses. He couldn't accept. He couldn't understand.
Harry could not scream from a mouth that wasn't his own. He couldn't tremble and push his body back against the wall on the other side of his dark and cranky room. He couldn't…and yet he did because the thing beyond the door, the thing beyond the crack, was not of this world and was not of another.
That thing went beyond reality, past and present.
He didn't understand that.
No, all that Harry Potter, of Privet Drive Number Four understood, from his dingy place under the cupboard, was that things lived and lurked beneath the façade of normality.
The things…the things that slept, that lived, that dreamt…they were better left undiscovered.
Six years later, Harry Potter didn't say a word as an owl deposited a letter in his hands. He wondered how an owl could have entered Arkham. He wondered how such a beautiful and white owl could have entered the sin of madness and found the den of madmen. The lunatics weren't lunatics, but just people who saw too much.
He had seen too much. He still was seeing too much.
"Potter," the rattling of his cage's door pushed him against the wall. He didn't want to go outside, under the stares. He would have to stare back. He would have to stare at the sack of flesh that weren't filled with flesh.
They couldn't force him. They wouldn't force him.
"Potter," the voice rasped, sickening claws that weren't claws but fingers lunged forward to grip the scruff of his neck with a speed beyond that of the world. "When I call, you answer."
Rotten and fetid smell came from the creature's throat. The nausea overpowered Harry's face, the skin turning a sickening green. Skin couldn't turn green. The world didn't care.
"Potter," the creature that was a human in an overweight body, with dirt and grease over his nurse suit, said once more.
"Present," Harry hissed back. "I am Potter."
"Follow," the creature moved, and Harry did as the monster said. He was safer in Arkham than outside. Safer with the monsters that held on to an inkling of humanity than outside, where the true monsters laid in wait and licked their fangs from the hunger.
"You have a visitor."
The door rattled open once more, this one led into the visitors' hall. Only puppets guided by invisible strings sat there. Old women filled with cheap perfume, lunatics that weren't meant to be anything less than a show, actors who held no souls. There was nothing of real in there. There was nothing except for a single old man with a long beard and a pair of twinkling eyes. The man wore a large yellow canary suit. It was too bright for his eyes.
It was too bright for the eyes of everyone else.
"Ah, Harry," the voice was soft and kind, elderly. He saw no pretention behind the words. The voice was kind because it was a voice. It was a voice that wasn't birthed from the mouth of a creature, its teeth were human and the tongue was pink. It was the voice of a human. He wept in joy, the dark icy needles in his heart and body thrummed as the agony of loneliness quivered and melted.
He wasn't alone in the world. There was a human there.
Harry sat eager to watch and hear. He smelled the scent of lemons, he heard the sound of breathing and he saw the chest move up and down in the old man's body. The stale air of Arkham did not last long around the man. It came close, its wickedness and depravity moving like a tentacle hungry for flesh, and then it left.
It left smelling of lemon.
"Would you like a lemon drop, Harry?"
He didn't know what a lemon drop was. He knew what a lemon was. He nodded. It was the first time a human gave him something.
Small, soft and bubbly yellow confetti covered in a thin plastic wrap dropped into his awaiting hands. He moved them closer to his face and smelled deeply, the scent of lemon overpowering his senses. He unwrapped one, bringing it to his mouth.
He liked it. He liked it very much.
"That's the first time anyone had a reaction so strong to a lemon drop," the old man said. "Would you like more, Harry? Would you like to come with me?"
Harry frowned. His lips curled up. "Are you sure?" he asked, his voice coming out like a whip cracking leather. "Things follow me."
"Strange things," Harry nodded. "They follow. No, they are always there. I just see them. When I see them, they exist. They exist before I see them, but they exist also after. They exist more after I see them."
"I'm afraid I do not understand, child," the old man said. "Can you make an example?"
Harry bit his lips. "If I do, will you still bring me with you?"
"Of course, my boy, you have my word," the man replied. "I would not have left you here in any circumstance. An asylum isn't the place for someone like you."
Harry gripped his knees with the palm of his hands. "They are puppets," he whispered. "The old lady that stinks of oil and ricin is empty inside. The man who brought me here is not human. The man next to the door is a monster. They are all creatures. They devoured their innards. They aren't meant to be."
The old man frowned. "My child?"
"They do not blink," Harry continued. "They do not breathe, drink, eat, properly talk or walk. They walk, but not well enough. They are not real. They are more than real. I see them," he whispered. "I see their shadows at night dance under the pale light of death's candle, and I'm afraid. Afraid…"
A sixteen year old would have been able to speak in such a way. At eleven with his shoddy and gaunt appearance, the words that Harry Potter, the saviour of the wizardry world, spoke were starting to make the back of Dumbledore's beard rise.
His eyes moved to the woman, whose lips now seemed filled with crooked and yellow teeth beyond normal. The stench of rot filled his nose, and his hand went to his wand's handle just as it had many years before, while venturing into the depths of Nurmengard with brave other souls to cast out Gellert from his home.
The Statute of Secrecy seemed unimportant. He, Albus Dumbledore, with full intentions to get out of there as fast as humanly possible, gripped tightly onto Harry Potter's near skeletal hand and apparated away.
A moment later, and he would have watched things appear from the doorway and the walls. Things not meant to be described to the human's eyes.
Things that lurked, slobbered and whined. Things sniffed the air and wobbled forth. Things…woke and moved.
Harry Potter cried.
A soft bed covered him. It menaced to devour and ingest his body and spit out but the bones. Paintings looked at him with oily eyes that moved filled with something he could not and would not comprehend. The grimy windows looked shiny, although the rocks dripped with drops of water and viscous filth.
Dark, cold and alone it waited deep below for someone to talk with.
He didn't want to wake it from its slumber.
He wanted his cell.
He wanted the monsters that were humans once. He could not stand. He wanted to walk. He could not walk. He could touch the feathery pillow and he could smell the soap. He was clean. His skin was unblemished. He could not understand.
He didn't want to understand.
Harry Potter wanted to speak with the yellow human.
He didn't want to speak with that which hid itself below. He didn't want to speak with the things around the castle of Hogwarts.
He had ears that weren't ears and eyes that weren't eyes, and so he could do naught but watch what he didn't want to watch and hear what he didn't want to hear.
He wept until he fell asleep.
Another day would come. Unfortunately, another day would come.
Cthulhu meet Harry Potter.
Harry Potter, meet Cthulhu.
Giggles for everyone.