Chapter 1: The Garden
Wrote this for NaNo of 2011, posting it here. More chapters posted on my fanfiction account. This is approximately 3 pages :D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry dug his fingers into the earth, feeling for the roots of the weed, clutching, pulling them from the well-tended ground, and carefully placing them into the pail that his Aunt Petunia had given him.
He’d found through frantic searches through the gardening magazines his Aunt wanted him to throw out that if you only plucked the stem of the weed, their roots would allow them to shoot back up. That’s what he got from the pictures, anyway. It was the white squiggles he had to get.
Without, it would mean that when Aunt Petunia checked in the morning it would seem as though he’d come back into the house without finishing his work.
That was Bad.
Getting their roots also meant that Harry could go to his Cupboard sooner, and get more sleep. Less weeds to pull again that he’d gotten the night before, too.
It was only recently that Harry had managed to prove he was adept in identifying the weeds from the not-weeds enough to allow his Aunt to not hover over his shoulders, hard knuckles on hard hips, as she made sure he didn’t pull out a daisy, or a tulip.
As if he would, they were too pretty….
But then again, his Aunt wanted him to pull out Dandelions.
Dandelions were Beautiful.
When he’d finally passed that marker, he’d been told that he was to work on the Garden at night, so the neighbors wouldn’t see him.
That would be Bad.
Harry was not to show himself to the neighbors more than what was necessary, because neighbors Talked.
It was Bad when they Talked.
But it was when they Talked he found out that he had a name. Harry.
He held that information close.
Before he overheard the neighbors, he’d been jealous of Dudley, since he had a name, and sometimes even got called a variation of Boy, like “Darling Boy,” or “Wonderful Little Boy”. It wasn’t fair that Dudley got to use Harry’s name as well as his own. But Harry had a name now, and that was one less hardship in his life.
So Harry was to weed the back Garden after dinner, and once it was Dark he was to weed the front Garden.
He’d quickly learned not to waste time jumping at the Noises.
Samuel had said that the Noises wouldn’t hurt him.
Samuel was Smart.
His name wasn’t actually Samuel, but he didn’t have a name that Harry could remember, so he asked Samuel if he minded if Harry called him Samuel.
In the Big Place the Sad Man said that Samuel meant Heard of God or "God has heard", and Samuel had shown up when Harry wished that he would have someone with him, so perhaps God had been listening the way his Aunt and Uncle hadn’t.
Harry thought that perhaps God might be nice, but he didn’t seem like he wanted to listen to anything else Harry said, so he thought he was rather like his Uncle.
God didn’t listen unless he could get something from it. Harry would finish faster with someone there. It would be Bad to ask his Uncle if he’d sent Samuel though.
Harry had asked Samuel if he’d been sent by his Uncle, and Samuel had answered that he’d come over because he was scaring the crickets from their hiding places, and Harry was content in handing Samuel any bugs that he caught.
Samuel talked to Harry differently.
He didn’t have the same way of speaking to him as his Aunt and Uncle did, nor did he have the same way of speaking to him as the neighbors did.
He talked to Harry the way Harry sometimes talked to himself, when his Aunt and Uncle hadn’t said anything to him that particular day, and he spoke so that he would have something to respond to.
Sometimes Harry spoke to himself anyways, even when his Aunt and Uncle had talked at him, because in his conversations to himself he could answer with more than ‘yes sir’ or ‘no sir’ or ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘no ma’am’ and he didn’t get frowned at or have his head hurt, or have to listen to the way that they spoke the way that Samuel didn’t speak to him.
Samuel was Nice.
Harry got up, careful not to dig his knees into the grass that his Uncle had said that he would be able to mow in a few years, and moved down a little in the Garden in order to get more weeds into his bucket. He would soon have to empty his bucket into the bin, as it was getting rather full.
Harry was glad it wasn’t raining, or he would have to make more trips to the bin even if it wasn’t full, because the rain somehow made it heavier.
Harry had once tried to do something he’d glanced at from the telly, as the large and shiny man had said that he could make him stronger if he did it, but he hadn’t managed to do many of the pushes, and he couldn’t tell if he’d managed to do ten.
The shiny man said to do ten, and Harry had carefully counted each of his fingers on one of his hands up to five of his pushes, his arms trembling as they struggles to hold his weight up, but then he had to stop, frustrated.
Ten was more than five fingers! How was he to know he’d reached ten if he didn’t have ten fingers?
He’d done a few more pushes until he thought he might’ve reached ten, and collapsed onto his bed, exhausted.
His arms had felt wiggly the next morning as well, and he’d dropped a plate of bacon.
That was Bad.
Harry decided that he’d continue to try doing the pushes, but only five, and only after he’d finished with the front Garden.
The Garden was Important.
The front Garden was the only time he could meet up with Samuel, and he’d found that even when his Aunt and Uncle hadn’t spoken to him that day, he could get by without speaking to himself because Samuel would drop by at some point, and they’d talk, with Harry handing Samuel spiders and ants and crickets that he learned to catch.
If Harry could get enough of them, then Samuel would stay longer.
Weeding and watering the Garden was the only time where he could be left alone by his Aunt and Uncle, the only time when his Aunt and Uncle would tell Dudley to leave him alone.
The only time.
The Garden was Important.
Harry still had to go to The Big Place every Sunday and sit on the hard benches and listen to the Sad Man speak. Occasionally he didn’t speak of Sad things, and Harry very much wanted to ask him why he always talked of such Sad things if he wanted to make the other people in the Big Place happy.
Harry didn’t much like going to the Big Place, and eventually his Aunt and Uncle stopped bringing him, once his clothing got too dirty and grass stained to bring him.
Harry admitted to Samuel that he was happy that he didn’t have to go there again, and Samuel agreed that it didn’t seem as though there was any point in going to an uncomfortable place to hear about how the death of someone was supposed to make them feel better.
Next will be up soon!
Chapter 2: Words like FOOD, THEY, and SKOOL
Aunt Petunia wanted to start a vegetable Garden.
Harry did not know all together what that would mean for him, but suspected that it would be more time out of his Aunt and Uncles notice.
It was Good.
Aunt gave him a trowel, a small shovel with a rubber grip, and told him to dig.
He was too small for a normal shovel, and he could hear as he dug within the small square his Aunt had marked out what his Aunt was telling one of the neighbors from over the fence.
“Oh, the boy loves to dig,” Aunt said. “He might as well dig something useful… you know how boys are.” Aunt and the Neighbor had tittered and clucked over that as Harry carefully placed each square of grass into the wheelbarrow next to his hole. Harry didn’t know how boys were, or how that even mattered.
Boys just were.
He moved his bucket closer, now that he had a square of no-grass, and started digging down farther.
His Aunt said that it had to be as deep as his arm, and he had better finish it before dinner or he wouldn’t get any.
Harry learned to scrape the dirt, always moving along the grass rather than in the no-grass dirt area so he would be let into the house, and to turn his bucket on it’s side so he could scrape dirt into the bucket.
Harry learned that he could only fill his bucket less than full, or he wouldn’t be able to lift the bucket enough to dump it into the wheelbarrow.
Harry learned, later, that it didn’t matter that only his shoes and hands were dirty (he’d stayed on the grass), neither his Aunt nor his Uncle let him inside, even though he finished, and instead made him eat his peanut butter sandwich outside.
He weeded the back Garden once he was done, and allowed himself to wash the dryness from his mouth with hose water before his relatives noticed.
Harry learned, watching Dudley trample dirt all over the house, that perhaps the only ones who appreciated his work were the plants, and maybe Samuel.
The vegetable Garden was Wonderful.
His Aunt had been surprised and pleased when the tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers had grown so well.
The ripe colours had enchanted Harry when he’d seen them, and soon found out that he could get rewards for gardening.
Rewards that his Aunt and Uncle didn’t have to know about.
They were careful in what they said to the neighbors, Uncle telling how proud of his wife he was, Aunt blushing and accepting praise.
Harry accepted food.
Uncle and Aunt didn’t count what each line of plants gave off, and Harry was careful to give the best of each to his Aunt and Uncle.
The rest he ate at night.
It was the first time he’d eaten tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and he found which tasted best in what colour.
He liked red, a lot.
Almost as much as he liked Green.
Red and yellow peppers he liked more than green or orange. He liked tomatoes when they were red, and had found out that he could hide away green tomatoes in his Cupboard, and after a few days they would be red and delicious. Cucumbers he rarely had, as he could never tell quite when they were ripe.
Ripe was important.
That’s why he liked red so much; it was always obvious that it was Time To Eat when it was Red.
For the first time in his life, he didn’t despair when his Aunt didn’t give him food.
Plants gave him food.
Harry frowned slightly as he watered the Garden, listening to the screams of his cousin. He was upset because the other kids in his class watched Disney, and HE wanted to see those movies TOO. Harry wondered what a Disney was.
Shockingly, Dudley was Denied. Aunt and Uncle said that there would be NO Disney movies in the house.
This was the first time Harry could remember that Dudley was said ‘no’ to, and he promised to remember it always.
When Harry turned five there was a Change.
Harry was allowed to look through his Aunts gardening magazines, and was given the colorful books his cousin didn’t like.
It didn’t matter that his cousin had given them to him because he was ‘boring’ enough to like them, and laughed whenever he saw Harry looking them over.
It didn’t matter that his Aunt let him look at the magazines because she wanted his Garden to look better.
The books were precious.
The images of flowers that he could eventually look after were precious.
As he poured over the books, he began to see more than pictures in the magazines, too.
He saw WORDS.
It didn’t matter that the words he recognized were scattered and few.
It was wonderful.
Soon he saw words that he understood part of.
And soon he found out words that he loved.
It was Wonderful.
And then things Changed again.
And Harry learned why it was Bad when the neighbors Talked.
He had been picking tomatoes from the garden, his Aunt talking to one of the Neighbors from the fence, when the Neighbor started talking about a thing called school. Harry didn’t know what it was, but started to try to spell it out in his head.
‘S’ makes sss, ‘K’ makes kuh, ‘O’ makes oh, two ‘O’s make ooh, ‘L’ makes el.
S-K-O-O-L. Makes school.
Words broke though his concentration.
“Oh, you must be so excited for next year!”
“Oh yes, my little Diddy-dums going off to school… he’ll be done nursery school this year, and then off to first grade… Oh it’ll be so different without my precious Pumpkin around the house!” Aunt sounded tearful.
“Ah, yes, you’ll have an empty house to look forward to. You’re lucky that Dudley and Harry are the same age, you’ll have them both gone at the same time!” the neighbor gushed.
There was a half-moment of silence, and Harry very carefully set the tomatoes into the basket, not looking up.
The Change wasn’t good.
That night Aunt and Uncle had a loud conversation in the kitchen after he had made it back into his Cupboard.
It was a loud enough conversation that he could hear what they were saying, mostly.
They were talking about sending him to this school, or rather, why they can’t afford NOT to.
Uncle said that he wasn’t going to pay for it.
Aunt said that They were watching, and the Neighbors would Notice.
Uncle said that the boy wouldn’t get anything from it.
Aunt said it didn’t matter because They were Watching, and the Neighbors would Notice.
Uncle said that he’d be slowing down their Dudders.
Aunt said that the Neighbors would Notice if he didn’t go, and that They were Watching.
The loud conversation got louder, and went on for some time.
Harry wondered who They were.
Chapter 3: Unsaid Names and Silent Conversations
Harry thought that this school might be like the nursery that Dudley had been going to, but didn’t think so. He had been thankful when he’d gone to nursery, as it meant that he wasn’t getting pinched and shoved while he was doing his Chores.
If it was, he didn’t want to go if Dudley was going.
But Fall turned things orange and brittle, and Winter came and went with it’s lack of Gardening (the potted plants inside weren’t enough) until Spring came and thawed the ground enough that he could replant bulbs and loosen the ground. Harry had more of Dudley’s books thrown at him, and learned more about WORDS.
The loud conversations continued, until one day in summer Aunt and Uncle told him to get into the car, and Dudley complained because Harry had never been in the car before and he didn’t want him to be there. He started screaming.
Somewhat shockingly, Harry had still been forced into the car, and it’d been a terse long ride as Harry looked at the outside-the-car world and saw blurs of other gardens, ignoring Dudley's screams. A girl in another car with bushy hair had a staring conversation with him for a while, and Harry imagined introducing her to Samuel.
Hello, his eyes said.
Hello, she replied.
I’m in a car, he informed her.
Really? Me too, her eyes said.
A twitch of her lips turned them into a smile, and Harry smiled back because his Aunt never told him not to.
And then their respective cars turned away from each other, and Harry said Goodbye, and she waved.
They pulled into an area with a lot of other cars, and no grass or dirt or flowers except around the big building that had colorful bits of paper on the windows.
Harry followed his Aunt and Uncle into the building, his cousin running ahead, and looked around.
There wasn’t much for him to do here. No real gardens, and it looked as if those men over there were cleaning the windows and sweeping up dirt.
Of course, His Garden was better, His grass was more GREEN, and they were missing spots on the window—he could see that from HERE—but it didn’t seem as though he had anything to do.
Why had his Aunt and Uncle brought him here? Before he walked through the large, heavy door after his relatives, a squirrel paused on the pavement and caught his eye.
He didn’t think he’d have as much of a conversation with it as he did with the Girl or with Samuel, but he smiled at it anyway in acknowledgement.
It twitched in response, and continued on its way.
Harry let the door close behind him
The women behind the large table looked friendly, and kept smiling down at Dudley and Harry as if she expected them to do something amusing at any moment.
Harry stood back, arms at his side as he Listened. Listening was Important.
But he couldn’t quite understand all of what was being said, and his Aunt and Uncle had to sign something, and had to show a bundle of papers on two separate instances.
It was all rather odd.
Dudley was busy tapping at the glass of a tank full of fish. Harry could tell that the Fish didn’t like Dudley any more than he did, by the way there were hiding in their little plastic castle, and their hole-filled rock.
Harry thought that perhaps he needed a hole-filled rock of his own—Samuel had mentioned a time or two of hiding from a Predator (Harry didn’t know what that was, but it didn’t sound nice) under a rock.
Harry imagined himself hiding away from his Aunt and Uncle, hiding from Dudley as the fish were, and smiled slightly to himself.
Harry caught the eye of the friendly looking lady and she smiled back.
Harry dropped the smile when his Aunt looked back at him suspiciously.
Harry gave an apologetic smile to the lady when she glanced at him, and that seemed to make her relax.
His Uncle sighed after he wrote something else on a piece of paper, and then Aunt and Uncle stood up, shaking hands with the Lady. The Lady looked at Harry and Dudley, and smiled again.
“I’ll be seeing you in September then, Harry, Dudley.”
Harry had no idea what he was getting dressed up for, or why he was wearing a thread-worn bag that had lined paper and pencils inside of it.
He didn’t know why he’d been told to wear different clothing that what he usually wore, and was now wearing his less-stained pants and most-fitting shirt. He still had to use a bit of string to hold his pants up, and the edge of the shirt went to above his knees.
Shuffled back into the car, Dudley grumbling once more about how he shouldn’t be going, but thankfully Dudley decided that if screaming didn’t work the last time, it wouldn’t work this time either. Harry saw the blur of other gardens once more, this time with only a dog in the back of another car to have a talk with.
By the time the other car turned away, Harry and Dog were good friends.
Harry was led into the building once more, but down a different hallway, and into a different room.
This room was bright and colorful, and had lots of Green and Red and Yellow and even Blue and Purple, but no actual plans except for the on tall leafy plant in the far corner. The tall stalks weren’t as GREEN as they needed to be, and from this distance he could see that some of the edges were turning the yellowing brown of Unhealthy Plant. It needed watering.
A cheerful woman came by and happily introduced herself as Ms. Keen, and led a tearful Aunt Petunia to the door.
Ms. Keen was very pretty and very different from Aunt Petunia, and said in a very odd tone for Harry and Dudley to go play with the other children.
Harry forced himself to quietly tug on her skirt once he could no longer hold himself back.
“Excuse me. Could I please have a glass of water?”
Ms. Keen seemed pleasantly surprised, and Harry Smiled at her when she went to go get a cup. He tugged once more on her skirt, though, when he saw her pouring red liquid into the plastic cup.
“Excuse me, but could I have water instead? Juice is bad.” He thought that she would know that by now, but perhaps she was actually watering the plant regularly, but with juice, and that was why the poor plant was becoming an Unhealthy Plant.
Well, he’d just have to make the plant healthy himself.
Harry found out something marvelous, something that not even the neighbors had let slip: he had THREE names. More than two, more than one, THREE. He was Harry James Potter. Harry JAMES Potter. Harry James POTTER. HARRY. James. POTTER.
It was Wonderful, and Harry knew that Dudley didn’t know about it.
Chapter 4: The Difference Between Wonderful and Different is….?
Though Ms. Keen wasn’t very smart about plants, she was smart about other things. She was going to teach them how to read and write!
So far though, she had them singing the Alphabet, something that Harry had learned by the week that Dudley had learned it and decided to bellow it throughout the house to show that he knew it. She then set about showing what each sound was connected to, but Harry already knew that A was for Apple and B was for Blue and C was for Cat and D was for Dog and the rest of the cards that she was showing the class.
And then it was break time, and Harry was puzzled and delighted to see the teacher bring out food for the class. The other kids went straight for the cookies, but Harry indulged himself on some of the vegetables that he hadn’t had a lot of before.
Broccoli and Carrots were Wonderful.
She also set out many, many glasses of juice and water, and Harry took that opportunity to water the Plant once again.
One girl saw him do it, and went to dump her juice on the newly dampened plant before Harry stopped her, telling her that Plants didn’t like Juice like people liked juice. She seemed unsure, but Harry told he that it was like the plant could get a toothache from the juice, it was too sugary for it.
She told him that that must be boring, and another kid came and asked what was boring.
Harry explained that Plants could only drink water, because other drinks—like juice—would make it sick, like it had a toothache because it was too sugary.
Other kids came to circle Harry, and Harry explained it once more, and when another group came asking, the first two kids told them that Plants would get toothaches if they drank anything other than water, and Harry had to stop the group from each getting a glass of water and watering the plant, and told them that it would be too much.
Harry then went on to explain about how they could only drink so fast, and pulled up one small root to show that these were the tiny little straws that the plant drank up the water from.
The class was suitably impressed that the plant could drink anything from a straw that tiny.
One kid mentioned that his Dad used a funny straw with a bent bit in the middle to sir his coffee sometimes, and it was hard to get hardly anything from the tiny little holes when he’d tried to drink juice with it.
Harry agreed that it was hard, and, to set the lesson, told him that it would be like having your nose held closed and told you could only breath after you drank a HUGE glass of water from this tiny straw.
Dudley glared at Harry when, at Carpet Time, the other kids wanted to sit with him more than Dudley.
Harry left class that day wishing he could go back already.
In math they had learned how to count past five.
In both of his hands, with ALL of his fingers, he could count to TEN.
That night Harry tried doing ten Pushes, and found it not as tiring as he thought it would be, and decided that he would start doing ten Pushes a night instead of five.
Harry drew many pictures of plants when they were told to draw, because he didn’t know what else to draw.
He carefully moved on to the leaves once he got the stem to be like he wanted them to be and got the roots to look the way they should. The leaves were hard to make look right with marker, so Harry started on a new piece of paper and had to draw new roots and a new stem and continued to do this until the leaves looked right.
Then he started to draw the petals, until he realized that the leaves weren’t right for this kind of flower, so he had to start over again.
Ms. Keen asked him to draw her a house once he’d finally finished drawing his Daisy, and though he was more interested in flowers and plants, he drew her a house.
Box, two points, door, four windows made up of a square and a plus, a garage, and a chimney. There.
But he looked at it and saw what was missing from it, and it wasn’t the slightly wobbly lines or the fact that the house was entirely Green. He Drew a Yellow Sun in the sky, because that was needed.
Then he started on the grass out front, making neat interloping rows of small green lines, and then started to make the flowerbed.
Ms. Keen Smiled from over his shoulder, unnoticed.
The school play was rather interesting, with lots of singing and fun costumes, though Harry was not allowed to be in the actual play according to his Aunt and Uncle. It was a shame, as Harry would have been one of the star performers, playing a tree.
But Uncle said that Trees didn’t move around and talk, and seemed so angry that Harry couldn’t mention the fact that potatoes didn’t talk or move either, even ones who looked very much like Dudley in a costume.
Harry decided that his Uncle couldn’t play Pretend when it came to him.
Playtime outside was one of the best times of the day for Harry, though as the days went on he started to notice that the other kids didn’t bug him as much to play odd games with them. He wanted to play with them, but why play house?
Harry ended up telling kids a lot about plants, about why it was easy to rip out grass but not easy to rip out the little trees. He also told that it wasn’t good to rip out the little trees unless they were in a garden.
Harry made friends with some of the kids, but not close friends. They weren’t close like Samuel and Harry were close.
Talk always went to parents, and Dudley had made a point to tell ALL of the other kids that he didn’t have any. And he had a freaky scar of his face because he was there when they died!
That made Harry Different.
Different, he found out, was almost as bad as when neighbors Talked.
Chapter 5: Liars and Learning and Cheating and Children
Harry’s Aunt and Uncle went down for the Parent-Teacher interview, and came back Unhappy. Harry was very good at his work, and was already putting sentences together in his notebook. He was very good at sharing and though he seemed rather fixated on plants, he was a Very Good Student and was Coming Along Very Well.
Dudley was about average, and Ms. Keen expressed a worry that he was developing the habits of a Bully.
They were Very Unhappy.
Harry still gardened at night and still had his chats with Samuel. Though those chats never happened in winter, Harry was always glad when he next saw his friend. Harry told him about the friends he was making, and about how no one else seemed to know much about Gardening. The other children made pictures of odd creatures, wasn’t that strange? He was learning math, and could count all the way up to thirty now! He couldn’t do thirty pushes quite yet, but he’d managed to get up to 15 every night now! Harry asked Samuel if he had to learn about counting, and if it mattered at all to him that Harry didn’t have parents. It didn’t? Harry was relieved.
Then Dudley found out that he could make the other kids flock to him by telling them nasty things about his cousin.
And things Changed again.
The friends that Harry had made didn’t want to be friends any more, and Harry found more and more time to himself during playtime.
One day Dudley claimed that Harry was a liar, and proved this by dumping a glass of juice onto the now-greener plant.
The other kids had gasped, and began to mutter to each other when the plant didn’t turn black and die. Perhaps Harry was a liar.
Things turned worse when, while the other kids were playing a finding game, Harry found a feather. It was a grey and white feather, and was very soft, so he was fine with sitting against the fence and running it through his fingers and across his face. The neighbors had a plant that was as soft as this, called Lambs Ears.
It just so happened that what the other kids were currently trying to find were feathers, and one of Dudley’s friends saw him with the feather and yelled out that Harry was cheating.
The others were shocked.
It was only when Ms. Keen came and sorted out that it was impossible for Harry to have cheated, as he wasn’t in the game, and didn’t even know that the game was going on, but the information that Harry was a Liar and a Cheater stayed in their minds.
First Grade ended with Harry being ignored by his peers and being the least favorite person to sit next to. He was the social pariah of the first graders.
Harry missed having friends, but was used to being ignored, and enjoyed being able to count and had managed to read an entire paragraph from his aunts gardening magazines!
It was Wonderful.
Not as wonderful as it could have been, he thought, but still Wonderful.
The summer vacation passed with Harry telling Samuel more about what he’d learned, and testing out his writing any chance he got. He counted up to 50 and then tried his best to count back down from 50, and managed to get up to 20 pushes every night.
Second Grade couldn’t come soon enough.
Second Grade couldn’t end soon enough.
Harry had headed to the classroom with his cousin, books in his worn bag, and had settled into the class with their new teacher, Mr. Ky.
Many of the kids were from his first grade, and told the kids who weren’t about how much of a bad kid he was. He was a liar and a cheater, don’t you know? Best stay away from him.
Harry didn’t bother correcting them, as it made his life a little easier.
He’d heard his Aunt and Uncle complain about how he was doing better with his schoolwork than Dudley, but at the end of the year it seemed as though they felt better about Dudley being ‘social’ than him being smart.
If Dudley could get on with being popular with the other kids, Harry could focus on learning how to read bigger words, and count even higher, and maybe even learn addition and subtraction.
Mr. Ky tried to get Harry to participate with the other children, but the kids snubbed his half-hearted attempts, and Harry glanced to him with a look that clearly said “see?” Harry’s Aunt and Uncle were happy that their strapping young boy was so clearly popular, even if he wasn’t the smartest in the class, and really, wasn’t it social skills that were important in life more than book smarts?
Harry was rather worried when his Aunt received a call from his teacher, and the pinched expression on his Aunts face didn’t ease that worry any.
His Aunt went out as soon as she hung up the phone, giving him a disgusted glare.
Harry panicked while she was out, thinking about what the teacher could possibly have told her. She looked disgusted, but that wasn’t unusual, and Harry didn’t take up with eating glue or glitter as some of the other children were doing, nor did he gnaw on the end of his pencils as the others did, and he didn’t steal the longer pencils from the other students and kept his own things close, so what could it possibly be about?
When his Aunt came home, it was almost a relief to see her. She tossed a pair of glasses to him with a glare, and when he caught them he saw that they had twisted round frames and were much larger than he thought they should be.
“Your teacher says that you might need glasses, he’s noticed you squint at the board. Wear them.”
Dudley took his glasses when he saw them as another thing to tease his Cousin about.
Harry hated them, even if it did make blurry lines sharper.
Harry learned more numbers, and was adding single digits before everyone else.
Harry’s handwriting improved, but practice in a Cupboard made for shaky writing.
Harry was reading faster now, and could read whole pages of magazines now.
Dudley found out that he could get more people to like him if they hated his cousin.
Dudley found out that his larger size was grand for making other kids miserable.
Dudley found out that his parents didn’t care if he was smarter than his cousin and thought it was better for him to be popular. It made him even more popular to make fun of his cousin about how smart he was.
Both Harry and Dudley found out about Harry Hunting, one a little bit before the other. It was one of Dudley’s friends who came up with the name.
Harry learned that while he was stronger in arm, and could break out of Dudley’s hold, he needed to run more often.
Dudley learned to break his glasses. Harry used tape to fix them.
Another exercise was added to his before-bed rituals, a run up and down the street as fast as he could go. He sometimes thought that if someone saw his late night runs, they might tell on him, but it never came up, so he kept running.
Harry got faster.
Dudley got meaner.
Harry learned to climb trees.
Dudley learned about sticks and rocks and how to aim.
Harry learned how to heal himself quicker.
Both Harry and Dudley learned that Aunt Petunia didn’t like bloodstains in Harry’s clothing, and that Uncle Vernon didn’t like hearing teachers say that they were worried that Dudley was bullying Harry.
Harry had always stayed quiet, but Dudley learned to not Hit Harry in front of teachers.
Harry learned to hide his bruises better.
Chapter 6: Not-Aunt Ripper and Stupid Dragons
Aunt Marge who wasn’t actually his Aunt came to visit that summer. She brought her bulldog, Ripper.
Harry got along rather well with the cats and dogs of the neighborhood, but Ripper snarled and bared his fangs at Harry.
Harry decided to leave Ripper alone.
Ripper decided that he had to hump Harry’s leg.
It was awkward, as the dog was rather large, and Aunt Marge barked out a laugh and said something about how Ripper was asserting his dominance over him (“And rightly so!”), but Harry just wanted the dog to leave him alone.
Harry shook the dog off and ran out to the back yard, but Ripper came barreling after him, so Harry ran up the tree in the back yard.
Ripper snarled and barked at the base of the tree, and Harry felt tears sting his eyes when all he could hear over the barking was his not-Aunt Marge’s laughter, and the back door was closed.
Harry had been stuck in the tree for quite some time, and only carefully climbed down when Ripper was called in for dinner.
Harry accepted his sandwich and ate it quickly outside, making sure to finish before the spiteful dog. Harry started to weed the back garden, keeping an eye on the back door so he could run if the dog came out. He was tense and ready.
At least until he got into the comfortable repetitions of pulling roots and patting dirt.
It wasn’t until he was finishing with the last of the weeds that he noticed that Ripper was sitting right next to him, and he froze.
Ripper watched him. Harry slowly started to stand. Ripper watched him. Harry had a thought that perhaps he wanted to have a staring conversation, but decided that now was Not The Time.
Harry started to turn away, towards the tree so he could—
Aunt Petunia looked out the window at the sound of a scream, and saw Harry clutching at a branch, his leg a bloody mess.
Harry carefully prodded at the bound wound, and was satisfied when it gave a dull ache instead of the persistent burnpainstinghurt that it had given earlier.
The cool sensation that he got over his bruises was setting in, and Harry wondered whether it would really take as many weeks as the Doctor had said to heal.
Uncle Vernon muttered the whole car ride back, and when they pulled up to the house, Aunt Petunia was looking anxiously through the front Garden to see if it was any less perfect than it was. She checked to see if the neighbors were looking, and hustled him inside.
Harry wondered is Samuel would be disappointed that he hadn’t been there last night.
Not-Aunt Marge left later on that day after dragging Ripper from his spot lying across Harry’s Cupboard.
The next few weeks Dudley and his gang let off on Harry Hunting, and Harry kept on the bandages for as long as the doctor said that it would heal, even though he’d peeled it back and found only a vague scar and a bit of tenderness a week before.
Afterwards, Harry made sure to run as fast as he could around the block once, before going at a slower pace around the block once more.
Harry added 5 more pushes to his routine.
Second grade passed.
Harry nodded greeting to the strange lady on the street as he finished drinking his glass of water. His break was almost over. But the lady had smiled, so Harry was going to be Polite and smile back. She seemed a bit shocked, but then, even though she didn’t look like she was from the street, she must’ve heard that Harry was a Bad Boy. She seemed to get over it though, so that was nice.
The lady smiled at him, and held a stick out to him. Harry thought this was silly since she was on the other side of the street.
A CRACK was heard, and a big purple bus appeared, blocking his view of the Strange Lady. After a moment, where Harry admired how much more pretty this tall bus was than the ones he’d seen in town were, there was another shot of sound, and the bus was gone.
The Strange lady was gone as well.
Harry got back to work.
Later, Harry got a smack to the back of his head for Making Things Up, and was shoved in his Cupboard for the rest of the night.
Harry rubbed his arm, where he could feel a bruise forming, and huddled on his side. His Uncle had grabbed him when he’d heard Harry asking if his Not-Aunt was likely to visit again and had shoved him into his Cupboard with a warning smack.
Uncle said that he was not to call her that.
Harry learned that it was much less painful to not speak exactly what was on his mind when it was strong enough, and that his Uncle didn’t like him telling the truth, even if it was obvious.
Harry waited for the cooling feeling of his bruises going away before he let himself rest.
Harry enjoyed third grade to a point.
Sciences were interesting, and art class was about the same as last year.
He enjoyed math, and most of his classes (which seemed to have taken a new seriousness to them), but he was having some… issues with Language Arts.
Mainly issues at home.
In class it was alright, but if he brought back any book to do his homework it had better not be fantasy.
His Aunt and Uncle seemed to have a coughing fit any time anything fantastical is mentioned in the house.
Harry took to hiding his books at the bottom of his bag so that he could finish the completed reading for his next classes, but still…
The teachers wanted them to identify the characters, the plot, and the setting, which were all rather easy to do, but he got in trouble if his Aunt happened to see the word ‘Dragon’ in his notebooks.
Harry was punished if he doodled anything fantastical in his notebooks as well, and all of Dudley’s fantasy adventure games were thrown out. Harry was fine with only drawing vines and plants in the margins (he stopped drawing the occasional bug, as his Aunt yelled at him for drawing a caterpillar), but Dudley had thrown a fantastic fit that had only calmed with the promise of twice as many shoot-em-up games, and a new TV.
Harry wondered what would happen if he decided to have a fit like that, and then imagined how much it would hurt if his Uncle decided to smack him.
Harry Hunting expanded as more and more people joined Dudley's gang, and Harry learned how important it was to be aware of where the majority of them were—at all times.
It was difficult.
Harry learned what lies would make the teachers leave him alone, and not Talk to his Aunt and Uncle.
Harry also learned how to hide bruises even when wearing the even baggier hand-me-downs.
Chapter 7: Silent Stress, Colorful Creatures, a Tattoo
Harry was able to get ahead of his studies rather easily, but stress was building up from Dudley and his gang and the indifference from the rest of his class.
Recess was horrible, and Harry learned the places where the teachers frequented, and learned which teachers would see them chasing him as something wrong rather than a rather odd game.
Harry was finding it harder and harder to say ANYTHING around his relatives, and Dudley kept making things up about how he was talking about pixies and fairies in class. Harry was spending more and more time in his Cupboard, as Dudley kept making up wilder ad wilder stories of made-up creatures that Harry claimed to be seeing, and then chores and more chores kept building up on Harry as his relatives took work to be the punishments rather than larger amounts of time in his Cupboard.
He had to shovel snow as it was falling, and then shovel the walk-way, and shovel a good amount of the snow off the road so that when the plows came, it wouldn’t push as much snow onto the walkways.
There was always snow on the walkways after the plows regardless of how well he shoveled, but Harry didn’t try telling his relatives that.
He had to clean every inch of every window in the house, including the rather fogged up bit of glass that showed into the oven.
He had to rake every leaf he could as it fell, and then carefully place half of them over the flowerbeds to protect them over the winter. His Aunt had never made him shred them before.
Harry had to learn how to use the lawnmower, and then had to rake up the snipped grass as he did when his Uncle mowed, and sweep up anything he’d missed on the driveway.
The work ate away at his time, and soon he had to ask the teachers for work weeks in advance in order to keep up. His teachers were pleased because it looked as if he was learning things quickly, the way his marks kept up, but he was learning things out of desperation now; he was only allowed to stay in the library for the recess after lunch, the first two he was forced to go outside to his cousin.
He didn’t want to fall back in school, as his Aunt and Uncle may decide that it wasn’t worth him going after all, as Uncle Vernon had loudly tried to convince Aunt Petunia all those months ago.
There were still so many big words in his Aunts Magazines (now secretly thought of as his Magazines) that he had to find out about.
Harry looked back at the strangely dressed little man as his Aunt pulled him away.
Why had he shaken Harry’s hand?
Harry clutched the slip of paper in his hand, and fought not to shake as he walked home. Dudley was staying after school for some sort of sports practice (he said), so Harry had to walk. Harry was at least spared the thought of Dudley crowing it in the car.
The note explained that, somehow, he’d managed to turn the substitute teachers wig blue. How they pinned this on him, he didn’t know, but he knew that he was either going to be spending a lot of time in his Cupboard, or he was going to be worked to near-death.
Harry had only been asking if their usual teacher had left her anything to give to Harry, and she’d taken it to mean he was implying that she was a bad substitute teacher. Harry had wondered how she managed to rant for so long without seeming to take a breath, and wondering if she’d turn blue soon…
And then her hair had turned blue.
She didn’t seem to notice at first, but Harry and every other kid in his class had.
Harry shivered when he walked within sight of the house, and anxiously smoothed out the note when he was close enough to see the gleaming #4 that he’d been made to polish the night before last.
Harry closed himself in his Cupboard, clicking on the bare hanging light bulb so that he could do the last of his homework, and caught a conversation from the living room. It was Uncle Vernon and Dudley.
“Now then, you are not to tell your mother this, but you are nearly nine now, and a real man should know what is to be expected of him in the future.”
Harry turned off the light, and slid the vent in the door open so he could see into the living room. Uncle was on the couch with Dudley, one huge hand resting on his shoulder. Dudley looked interested, but his eyes kept drifting towards where Harry knew the TV was.
“A man is not truly a man unless he has given himself a mark of permanence! A mark to show that he is a MAN.”
Uncle said this with such fervor that Harry couldn’t have looked away if he wanted to. But what did he mean? Harry thought of what he had done in his life so far that was permanent, but all he could think of was getting bitten and now he had a scar. Harry avoided thinking about how he had a scar on his face, too, from when his parents died in a drunken car crash.
“What d’you mean Dad?”
“A freely chosen mark to put on your body, a mark that will be there forever, something that will show that you will not make choices lightly and will always remind you that there are things you CAN’T take back…”
Uncle Vernon used the hand currently not on Dudley's shoulder to lift a bit of his shirt. Harry made a face at seeing his belly, and made a different face when his uncle lifted up some of his flab to show a dark splotchy mark that just made it above his trousers. Harry thought that it was a bit larger than the circle his thumb and forefinger could make. Dudley gave a gasp, and leaned in to see closer.
“COOL! You have an alligator on you!”
“Yes, I got this when I was 18, and you will get a tattoo yourself when you turn 18. It will be a mark of you becoming a man.” Pride was heard clearly in his voice, and Harry carefully slid the grate back into place, and turned back on the light.
His uncle had given him something to think about.
The next day in class Dudley was telling the rest of his gang about his dad’s cool tattoo, and about how it covered his entire chest; its jaws were dripping with blood and guts, and looked as if it was ripping it’s way out through skin. His friends were suitably impressed.
“I’m going to get one when I’m a man, my dad says so. And I’ll get something even better than what he’s got.”
Dudley looked rather proud of this declaration, and Harry wondered about mentioning the fact that it wasn’t that large, but decided that he had enough worries without provoking Dudley. Provoke was a new word he’d learned. He thought it was another way of saying ‘asking for it’.
Dudley noticed him looking in their direction, and strutted over with his group.
“Potter would be too much of a wimp to get a tattoo, wouldn’t you Potter? Too afraid to get something permanent, something that you’d have made the choice to have on you for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, eh, Potter?”
Harry thought about that for a moment, ignoring the way the rest of his gang jeered and laughed, ignored the way that Dudley turned his last name into an insult, and thought.
“It depends on what it is.”
Dudley looked confused, before bursting out into laughter.
“Hahah, Hey you guys, you hear that? Potter says that it would depend on what the tattoo would be before he got it! Hah! As if he’d ever actually get one.”
Piers Polkiss laughed, and said “Hah! If he did get one it would probably be something wimpy, like a flower!”
Harry wondered why a flower would be bad.
As Dudley and his friends left, laughing about the delicate Daisies he would likely get, or perhaps he’d get a tattoo of a fairy or whatever else they thought was insulting to get a tattoo of, Harry thought, and wondered if he’d be able to find a place to get a tattoo.
Chapter 8: Green Means Life
That summer Harry managed to find a place.
Aunt Petunia had, for reasons he wouldn’t complain about, decided that Harry needed to be seen around the neighborhood more often (never mind the fact that she was the one who said that he should be seen as little as possible), and so kicked him out of the house with instructions to “Do something normal.”
Harry went exploring around the neighborhood for the next hour, until he found himself in a shop area.
He’d looked over the signs with relative interest, but only ended up going into one.
It didn’t say it was a tattoo shop, but that’s obviously what it was.
When he walked in, there wasn’t anyone else in the shop save for a man behind the counter. The walls held his attention, and he allowed himself a few moments to admire the many little videos of images of tattoos, the wings of a heart flapping slightly as if regaining balance, a stone monster shifting from it’s crouch, various plants shifting as if ruffled from a breeze, all covering the walls before turning his attention to the man behind the counter.
He had a ratty grey shirt on, and was bald. That was all that looked normal about him.
Eyes that looked at Harry were a milky colour, and his face had a blue sheen under it like Harry could see the veins beneath his skin. A mottled and twisted scar made its way up the left side of his face, and when he smiled at Harry, it was a savage grin that showed off one of his canines, silver and pointed.
Harry thought that perhaps he should leave.
“Aren’t planning on leavin’, are yeh Kid?”
Harry stopped mid-turn, and wearily looked at the strange man, wondering if he was making fun of him or not. He didn’t have the tone for it, but that didn’t mean anything. His teachers sometimes made fun of him, when he was taking his time to draw a hyacinth, and they said that it was Very Nice, but wouldn’t he like to draw a puppy for once? No, he enjoyed drawing plants, and Yes, he knew how to spell Hyacinth, and Dudley was pouring paint on Anne’s head, could you please go over and help her? Thanks. Or when his Language Arts teacher asked him what he thought about if a dragon would to come and kidnap a princess, and wouldn’t he want to go rescue her? Harry had responded by asking why the dragon felt the need to kidnap princesses, and why they only ever kidnapped princesses. She hadn’t been able to answer to his satisfaction, so Harry proposed that perhaps the dragon was bored and wanted someone to talk to, but in that case, why not kidnap someone more interesting than a princess? Harry didn’t think princesses were terribly smart, not if they kept making poor deals with evil fairies, and spending all their time talking to animals (not that Harry thought that it was a bad use of time) and getting kidnapped all the time. Also, Dudley is giving Robert a wedgie. You should go help.
Harry didn’t mind telling the teachers when Dudley and his friends were doing something to someone else, so long as they didn’t say that he’d told. Harry also didn’t mind if Dudley was trying to paint him later either, or if he tried to give him a wedgie instead. The paint stains on his clothing somehow managed to disappear by the end of the day, before Aunt Petunia could get angry at him, and Harry was getting much faster than Dudley now, and he hardly ever caught him anymore.
Harry wanted a tattoo before Dudley got one, but he didn’t think he was actually allowed to get one now, and if it was allowed when you reached a certain age, then that wouldn’t work because Dudley's birthday was before Harry’s.
That was why Dudley got a birthday party and Harry didn’t, after all.
But there wasn’t anyone else in the shop, and Harry wasn’t sure if the man was actually dangerous or not…
“Yeh lookin’ t’get a Marking, are yeh? A Tattoo?”
The mans voice rumbled through the silence of the shop, and, Harry thought, through Harry’s bones as well. He didn’t sound like he was making fun of him, but…
Harry nodded once. “I need a tattoo please…” the word felt awkward in his mouth the way foreign words do. “A marking please.” That word was a bit better.
A marking. A Marking.
The man hummed.
He didn’t sound doubtful, as one of his teachers had when he mentioned that he slept in a Cupboard, and didn’t seem as if he would brush him off as if he was joking as that teacher had done afterwards.
He didn’t seem the type.
What type he was, however, Harry didn’t know quite yet. He certainly wasn’t like anyone Harry had ever spoken to before.
“But I don’t know how to go about getting one.”
The Man barked out a laugh as his Not-Aunt Marge had, but Harry didn’t feel bad when he heard it as he did when his Not-Aunt Marge laughed. Instead he gave a small smile, the feeling foreign on his face.
“Well yeh found yer way here alrigh’ now didn’t yeh? You have any idea what yeh want on yeh?”
“Not a crocodile.”
The answer came immediate, and without Harry meaning to say it aloud. The Man barked again, and said “We can go on for hours for what yeh don’t want, Kid, which’s why I figgered I’d ask yeh what yeh do want.”
Harry flushed lightly, and forced words past his lips.
“I don’t really know what I need…” He let his eyes sweep once more to the walls, and his eyes caught on the panel of gently swaying flowers.
“A plant would be nice… something green.”
Harry added that last part because, though some part of him scoffed at what other kind of plant there was, he thought that it might help in finding what Mark (Harry liked that word better than tattoo) he wanted.
Sure enough, the wild grin on the Man’s face turned to something more thoughtful as he looked Harry over.
Harry thought he might’ve been looking at the brown-greenish stains on the knees of his pants, the dirt that was always under his nails until he was allowed to bathe, perhaps even taking in the colour of his eyes.
Harry had once thought that his favorite colour ought to be blue, as he was a boy, but green was always on his mind.
Blue faded, could be worn out, could wilt over time, but green could turn into dozens of colours, dozens of shades of green-red-orange-brown-green as the year went on to the next and the next. Green could be paired up with every colour and still look amazing and green.
Green was Life.
Harry privately thought that he also liked green more than blue because Dudley had blue eyes, often filled with greed and mean-ness. He internally winced at what he’d just thought, and immediately thought of other words for it.
Malice, he eventually settled on.
They were filled with Greed and Malice.
Harry didn’t lower his eyes when the Man met them, and hoped that he could make the Man know how much he wanted—no needed—to have something green Marked onto him. Reasons for getting a Mark—a tattoo—had quickly shifted from having something before Dudley for once (for once), to the thought of having something as precious as something Green permanently on him. Something Green so that during the winter months, he would still have the warmth of a plant to look after. Something Green that Aunt Petunia couldn’t claim as hers and couldn’t claim to have looked after, something Green that couldn’t be taken away from him, something Green that would be irrevocably his.
No take backs.
Chapter 9: Max a Million Green Pictures
Eyelids with the starry sky Marked onto them blinked, covering the milky eyes for a second, before the Man turned away. He picked up something from behind the counter, and turned back to Harry. The Man gestured Harry forward as he set a large black book onto the counter, and Harry moved from his position by the door, embarrassed that he’d stayed this far away the entire time...
Harry was a bit too short, but there was a stool, so he stepped up on that to see the now-open book on the countertop.
It was filled with more of the video pictures, and Harry ran a finger over a shifting dragon, wondering at how it felt like the plastic-covered paper that was used in the classrooms, and not at all like a piece of machinery. The dragon seemed to shift under his fingertips, looking up at Harry in a way that told him that this dragon wouldn’t waste time kidnapping empty-headed princesses, but would perhaps take the leader of an army, or maybe a scientist. Perhaps even Harry.
Harry snatched his hand back when the Man flipped through the pages, muttering under his breath before the pages settled, and green was laid out for Harry’s eyes.
Blue Alkanet, Basil, Bluebells, Catmint and Clover, Daisies and Dandelions and Fennel and Goldenrod, Foxglove, Honeysuckle, Knapweed, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lupin, Mint, Nettle, Pansy, Parsley, Primrose, Purple loosestrife, Rosemary, Sage Tinsel, Thyme, Toadflax, Yarrow, Yellow Meadow Vetchling… flowers that had taught Harry his letters and words stretched out in images before him, and many more plants that Harry couldn’t identify stretched through the pages.
Roses, Hyacinth, Lilies, Carnations, Tulips, and Irises spread their petals for him, as Willow, Maple, Pine, Balsam, Birch, and the twisting branches of Cork trees rustled for his attention.
Fantastic plants and flowers waved, snapped and whipped, threatened to sting from where they were, and Harry yearned to know their names, their blooming times, how to properly care for them, how their roots would spread so that he could properly weed around them, keep them healthy. One tree that reminded him of a particularly knobby willow tree whipped around as if it was looking to bludgeon someone, and Harry suspected that he would never have to weed around it, for it’s roots would take care of that for him.
Harry marveled at the thought of a plant that took care of it’s own weeds.
A flower that looked like a teacup tilted, and Harry was once again wondering as water poured from it, deciding that he would likely plant many of these throughout his garden, but then corrected himself to only a few as the cup continued to pour liquid even after a normal teacup would have emptied. Drowning his Garden wouldn’t be good.
Harry ran his fingers over every image, fingers tingling to know if the real thing felt as scaled as it looked, as fluffy as it looked, as sharp as it looked, wondering if he would have to include bugs or small animals into the compost to satisfy plants that seemed to have teeth, fangs, wondering if he would have to tend certain plants at night in order for them to thrive, wondering if for those plants he would need to shield them from sunlight, as they looked to stretch from every dark story Dudley had told him, trying to scare him with things that had long since lost their mystery.
A plant like a dandelion roared silently and bared it’s flowery fangs, and another plant stretched to either side, seeming to snuffle at the ground as a dog did when it smelled something interesting, curved leaves flexing like nostrils. Branches like arms stretched from one tree, hands with claws, hands with webbing, hands with tufts of feathers and fur, twisted and cajoled imaginary prey closer, snatching occasionally, and Harry saw the outline of something on the trunk open wide in a yawn, revealing smiling lips and razor sharp teeth, opening wide enough for Harry to see the molars in the tiny image. Harry shivered as thoughts ran through his head on how one would go about clipping a dead branch from that tree.
Perhaps it would chew it off itself.
Harry had a brief moment where he imagined the mouth spitting out one of Dudley's new runners, or perhaps his Uncle’s wallet, and licking its lips.
The image broke, and the tree grinned at Harry, as if to say “I saw that…”
It was a shock when there were no more pages of Green to turn, and the next page had pictures of large pots and vials of bubbling liquids. Harry thought they looked like something out of a Lab, or out of some strange kitchen, but was entirely disinterested in getting a Mark of any of the pictures. He turned the pages back to look through the pictures once more, realizing that not all of the plants were actually green, and some were entirely blue, or orange, or purple, or had polka dots on them, but still considered them.
He looked through the pages of pictures another three times, before looking up at the Man with some frustration.
Every picture was perfect, each plant compelling, enthralling, infinitely something that touched places in Harry’s heart that urged him to, for once, ask his Aunt to buy them even with the threat of a hit, or having food taken away, or anything.
But none reached out to him in the way he knew that one should. None reached out and poked him, saying, “Hello, You will be getting a Mark of me now, thank you.”
None demanded it, none dared him, and none prompted him, none enticing him to have their image branded to his skin.
Milky eyes once more held his, and the grin on his face turned smug for a second so quick that Harry thought he must have imagined it.
“None of ‘em good enough?”
Harry reared his head back in surprise.
“What? No! No, they’re all wonderful, all so amazing and alive and green, but—I mean—it’s just that—no! They’re all good enough, it’s just that they don’t—I just—I mean…”
Harry clamped his mouth shut; miserable at the thought of the Man thinking he thought for even a second that any of these wonderful plants wasn’t ‘good enough’.
He was nodding though, as if he’d expected it, and Harry hoped that he understood, as he seemed to.
The large book was closed, and Harry bid a silent farewell to the plants inside as it was put away with a number of other identical books.
Harry wondered for a moment how he could have picked it out from its fellows and known that what he wanted was in it, but decided not to ask.
Harry didn’t know if he was disappointed that he couldn’t find an image that he wanted or not, but decided that it was for the best.
He didn’t want to look at his Mark later and wish he’d gotten something different.
A Mark was something permanent, a decision that he would carry with him for the rest of his life, something that he chose. It shouldn’t be something that he would have to get used to having, not something that he would regret.
He should never have to regret something Green.
The Man came back with another large book, this one thinner than the last.
He thumbed through the pages until he found what he was looking for, and opened the book to a blank page.
Chapter 10: Serious Feeling
Harry looked at him, confused.
“I thought yeh weren’t serious when yeh said you needed it, so I showed yeh the usual.” He took Harry’s hand from the glass top of the counter, and Harry let him, though he did try to tug his hand away at first, and then set it so that the tips of his fingers were at a spot near the top, Harry thought for a moment, left corner of the blank page, and Harry felt something.
He wasn’t sure what he felt, but he felt something.
But it didn’t feel right.
It felt interesting, sure, but Harry thought that this feeling should reach out and poke him to awareness. It should, he thought, poke him and ask him why he should be allowed to have this feeling, and challenge Harry to do—something.
This was odd, because it wasn’t what he thought should happen with the other pictures.
The man moved his hand over to the middle top of the page, and Harry felt something again, and again thought it didn’t feel right.
The man moved his hand again, and again Harry felt something that was not right, and the Man moved it down the page to the bottom right corner, and the process was repeated another three times along the bottom of the page.
Harry vaguely thought that the Man was judging when to move on by what he saw on his face, but he didn’t lookup at the man once, eyes focused instead on the blank page and his fingers running along it.
It didn’t matter that he couldn’t see anything on the page.
The man flipped to the next page, and the process was repeated.
When the Man flipped to the next page again, Harry saw that he was flipping two pages, not one, and sort of understood.
The top page was a blank page. The second page had the pictures on it.
He didn’t understand how this was supposed to work, exactly, but he sort of understood… what was happening… sort of…
Harry felt the urge to ask if he could still see the pictures afterwards, but was distracted when he felt warmth under the paper, and frowned.
Harry was shaking his head even as he replied, wondering how he knew.
“No, it feels like it’s under this, like feeling something under packed snow. Like a hot pot covered by an oven mitt…” Harry thought that this wasn’t a good enough description for the feel of it, but the Man seemed to understand and flipped to the next page, this time placing Harry’s hand back on the top middle portion of the page.
Harry shook his head. It was warmer, but from something else under it.
Again the pages were turned. No.
Again the pages were turned. No.
Again the pages were turned. No.
The place kept getting warmer and warmer, and Harry wondered if he would have to get burned when they got to the right page.
They were getting closer to the end of the book, and Harry wondered if they would have to get to the end of the book before they got to the warm source.
Again the pages were turned. No.
Again the pages were turned. No.
Again the pages were turned. N—
The warmth was blazing with heat like Harry had accidentally brushed the soup-pot, but he didn’t flinch his fingers away from the heat, because along with that heat was right.
Harry looked up at the Man, and he seemed to be frowning at the place where his fingers rested.
He turned the pages, and set Harry’s fingers on the next spot, but the rightness wasn’t there, and the difference between the feeling of right and this not-right wrongness actually made Harry flinch back.
His hand was set back on the Rightness, and Harry relaxed.
“Hm. Well then. I guess yeh were right about needing something green after all.”
Harry looked up from his fingers to find the Man grinning at him, his silver pointed canine shining in the lights of the room, and smiled back.
His hand was moved to the side, and Harry rubbed his fingers against his shirt as he watched the white paper get turned, and laid eyes on what was beneath it. He didn’t even glance at the pictures on either side, because the picture before him was so Right.
It was a tiny little plant, poking up as if it was barely turning to spring, about as tall as his index finger, and was less disappointing than it was confusing.
It didn’t look anything like any of the plants he’d ever seen in this stage, at least in ways that mattered. Its leaves were rough around the edges—or at least some of them were. The rest were smooth edged.
It had a stem, but had the little feelers that vines and climbing plants had.
It also had tiny little purplish thorns, and though Harry knew that it was too young to show signs of what kind of flower or fruit it would have likely bore, he knew that it would likely have as confusing mix of buds as it did leaves.
But he wanted it.
This was the Mark he wanted.
It didn’t matter that it was small, it didn’t matter that it didn’t look as if it would be a particular challenge to take care of… but no, Harry felt that that was wrong, somehow.
It didn’t matter that it wasn’t as fantastically interesting as the other pictures that he’d seen, it was fantastic in itself.
He reached out and touched it, and the feeling did reach out and poke him back. It asked him what he thought he was doing, and why he should be given any attention when it was obvious that it needed attention more. In fact, why was it paying the least bit of attention to him? He responded with feelings of wonder at its simple complexities, and his love for taking care of the green things. His love of it, and his yearning for it. He fully agreed that it needed attention more than he did, and wondered how exactly he could help.
It seemed to mull over these feelings, before giving a sort-of nod in acceptance, and telling him to hurry up already.
Harry smiled, and the picture rustled slightly. The sprout Flexed.
“Huh, so I guess yeh get it then. So how’re yeh gonna be paying me Kid? Yeh don’t get th’ Mark before yeh pay.”
Harry felt the bottom of his stomach drop suddenly, and felt stupid for getting this far without thinking about the price.
Everything needed money, as his Uncle told him repeatedly, reminding him that his Uncle paid for everything for him, and how thankful he should be.
Harry knew with a certainty that his Uncle wouldn’t pay for his Mark.
How would he get the money for this?
The man seemed to see what was wrong, and scoffed.
“What’s your name Kid?”
Harry swallowed the knot in his throat and croaked out “Harry Potter sir…”
The Man Barked, this time in what seemed like surprise, and Harry saw his eyes dart to his forehead and rest there for a moment, before focusing back on Harry’s eyes.
“I think I know a good solution for this, yeah?”
Chapter 11: Signatures
Harry didn’t think he was actually asking him, but hope lifted his chest at being able to get his Mark, and get it today.
“This beauty will cost yeh thirteen Galleons, and if I bring in a paper signed by you saying I can have money from your vault, I’ll get my money, and you’ll get your Mark.”
Old looking yellowish paper without lines appeared on the counter, and the Man pulled a feather from what seemed like thin air. Harry wondered how many pounds made up a Galleon, let alone 13 Galleons…
“I have a vault at the bank? And how will they know it’s actually from me?”
The Man was writing on the yellowish paper, and Harry was amazed to see that he was writing straight, with neat, curly writing.
“Yeah yeh have a vault, and you’ll be writing with a different quill than this ‘un, that’ll make it so they know it’s yer signature.”
“How? And can I practice writing with the feather?” Harry knew that it would be very different writing with the feather, for all that it had the pointy bit at the end, and he didn’t want to make a mess of it.
“The quill will use your blood to write, instead of ink, and the… people at the bank will be able to test the blood to see it’s from yeh. And yes yeh can practice.”
Another bit of yellow paper appeared in front of Harry, and the Man handed him a quill. Harry was impressed that The Man was so quick.
Harry practiced writing his letters, and wrote out his name carefully; first in normal letters, and then in the curly writing that the teacher said was called ‘cursive’ until he was satisfied that someone could clearly read ‘Harry Potter’ from it.
He folded the paper up and put it in his pocket and handed the quill back, and pulled the paper the Man had written on to see what it said. It was rather short for something so important.
I, Harry Potter, do formally give one Max Ritter access to my vaults, allowed to access my account and values therein.
Harry frowned at the paper, wondering why it didn’t sit right with him.
The Man handed Harry a different feather—quill—this one bright red, and Harry shifted it in his grip for a moment before setting it down.
“What’s wrong Kid?” the Man’s smile was wide, and had teeth in it.
Teeth that, Harry knew, would dig in and not let go until it left a permanent mark, just the same way that Rippers teeth had. Harry supposed that his name was Max Ritter, since he wasn’t paying anyone else for anything.
Harry had once heard his Uncle tell Dudley that he was never to give out a check without the price written down on it, and Harry thought that not being as specific as possible might be the same thing.
Harry gathered his courage and said what would surely have earned him a smack from his Uncle. He tried to say it in the No-Nonsense way his Teachers sometimes used.
“That’s not what we agreed to.”
The newly named Max Ritter laughed though, and his grin widened, milky eyes looking Harry over with a new light. Harry could see a hint of a gold tooth way back in his mouth. He touched his mouth, wondering if it hurt to smile that wide.
“Hah! Yeh’re what, nine—”
“Seven, actually, nearly eight.”
“— and yeh managed to catch tha’? Hah! Well what d’ye think it should say then, eh Mister Potter?”
Harry startled at being called Mr. Potter, but gave that some thought, frowning.
“Um, does it have to sound like that does?” Max nodded.
“Umm… how about ‘I, Harry Potter, do formally give one Max Ritter access to my vaults to collect and take out 13 Galleons as payment for… as payment for… the purchase of one Mark’?”
Max thought it over for a moment, and nodded, pulling a new sheet of line-less paper and writing on it.
I, Harry Potter, do formally give one Max Ritter access to my vaults to collect and withdraw 13 Galleons as payment for the purchase of one tattoo.
Harry read it over, and confirmed that withdraw meant take out, before picking up the red quill and carefully writing his name out in cursive writing on the line, and set the quill down.
Then clutched his hand as pain spread over the top of it.
In familiar lines, ‘Harry Potter’ was carved into his hand, like someone had stamped it with a knife, before healing over so that only the stain of blood was on the back of his hand. Underneath the small bit of panic that resulted from that bit of unexpected-ness, Harry thought it looked kind of funny, like someone had drawn on his hand with a really thin marker, and then made it look kind of crusty.
Harry looked up in question, and Max grinned.
“These babies ‘r made so that the cuts heal afterwards. Yeh can get ones that don’t, but those ‘r illegal outside of the bank and certain rooms o’ the Ministry.”
Harry goggled at the fact that people in the Ministry used something like that quill, or that banks used anything like that. Harry had gone to the bank with his Uncle once, but he used a machine that spat out money after he pressed a bunch of buttons, and Harry couldn’t imagine his Uncle using the quill for any reason.
Harry wiped the back of his hand against his pants, rubbing the blood off, and watched as Max Ritter rolled up the paper and placed it in a box that had other bits of rolled up paper in it as well.
“Now then, yeh ready to start?”
Chapter 12: Chatterbox
Harry sat back in the padded seat, his shoes and socks on the floor with his right pant leg rolled up, watching as Max Ritter set up… whatever it was he was setting up.
The book was next to him, open to the page with his sprout on it, and beside that was an odd pointy machine thing with a number of caps of dark stuff inside of it. Next to that was some cloth, and besides that was a container of clear stuff.
Harry didn’t actually know how one got a tattoo, but assumed it was very much like drawing a picture. He didn’t know how it was made permanent, but figured he would find out soon enough. Something occurred to him.
“Isn’t there an age limit for getting a tattoo?”
Max paused for a moment before pulling on a pair of black rubber gloves, snapping the tight covering into place.
“An where’d yeh hear ‘bout that?”
Max Ritter was silent for another moment. He tapped the image of his Mark and then tapped the inside of his ankle, and Harry saw that he’d somehow missed seeing Max draw on an outline of the Mark. Weird. Harry was usually more observant than that.
“Does yer ‘Uncle’ always tell yeh the truth?”
“No,” Harry shook his head, “But he wasn’t telling me, he was telling my cousin.”
Ritter looked at him for a moment.
“Really. And what’d he say?”
“He said that when Dudley was 18 he’d be a man and he would get a tattoo, but not to tell Aunt Petunia. He said that as a man he’d be able to get a tattoo, something permanent, to show that he knew that some things couldn’t be taken back and know that actions have consequences.” Harry paused for a moment, before admitting one more thing.
“I wasn’t supposed to hear it, but I was in my Cupboard and they were talking in the living room, so I heard. I don’t think Dudley will ever learn about consequences.”
Not, Harry thought, with the way that Dudley got away with everything. Not with how he was treated.
Harry didn’t know why he thought he could tell Max Ritter all of this, but supposed it was because Max didn’t seem the type to mention any of this to his Uncle.
Harry still didn’t know what ‘type’ Max was.
Ritter’s face was still, and Harry was worried that he would say that he wouldn’t be able to get his Mark until he was 18, before relaxing back into a grin.
Harry was glad. His grin might be savage looking, but it fit him more than the dead stillness that was just on his face.
“Well, the age for getting a tattoo is younger than that here… unless, of course, yeh druther wait another decade to get your Mark…”
He trailed off when Harry started to shake his head frantically, and his grin relaxed.
“Good, now this is goin’ t’hurt a bit, so why don’t you talk a bit ‘bout that Cupboard you mentioned before… as a distraction, of course…”
Harry didn’t think it would hurt as much as it did, getting a tattoo, but at the same time, it hurt less than he thought it would when he first realized that he’d have a needle scraped against his skin a bunch of times to get the mark permanent. The new lines hurt more than when he was filling it in, but there was a constant throbbing that made it hard for Harry to ignore it otherwise. Max continuously wiped a clear gel over his Mark, and Harry saw that his ankle was getting redder and redder.
Ritter was right about talking as a distraction though, and he’d already talked more than he had in a week. He talked more than he had ever. His throat was hurting a bit…
He’d talked more than he’d ever talked ever. He’d already told him about his Cupboard, abut how he was worried he’d outgrow it and then where would he sleep? He talked about how his Aunt was always talking about keeping the house clean, and how he had finally managed to get good enough at cleaning the house to have her leave him alone last year, but that would change as soon as she decided he was old enough to clean anything in the upstairs other than the bathroom and shower.
He talked about how it was stupid for dragons to always kidnap princesses, and annoying when his teachers tried to get him to draw something other than flowers and plants, though he admitted to being fine with drawing some animals, except he didn’t much like drawing bulldogs.
Harry pointed at his leg, at the shiny scar that his Not-Aunt Marge’s dog Ripper had bitten him, and talked about how he didn’t know what had caused him to bite him like that, as he had been siting next to him alright before that, but then he had to bite him, and that was NOT nice.
He talked about how his favorite time of day was after dinner, when he got to get away from his relatives and weed the garden, and how that was when he got to talk with his best friend Samuel. He talked about how Samuel really liked bugs, and how good Harry was getting at catching crickets and other bugs for him. Max asked why Samuel liked bugs so much, and Harry replied that he didn’t know for certain, but figured it was because he liked the taste. Max laughed, and Harry felt a strange glow-ey feeling inside of him.
He had made Max laugh.
Harry asked why his Mark was on his ankle, and if the placing of the Mark was always up to the artist. Though, he admitted, he didn’t want his relatives to see his Mark, so it was probably good that it was on his ankle. Max didn’t answer either way, and Harry wondered for a moment if Max was even listening. But no, he occasionally made remarks that proved he was listening.
Harry decided that Max decided that Harry had answered his own question, and why was he talking so much again? His throat was hurting a bit, and he felt like he needed a drink.
Harry stared at Max Ritter’s arms, looking over the image of a half-horse half-bird animal standing by his elbow, and felt the pain on the inside of is ankle get to him enough that he thought he could see it rear up. Bird-feet swiped at the air with sharp talons, threatening the large snake that wrapped around the wrist, the head peeking out from under the black glove to flick a forked tongue at the animal in retaliation, and hissed silently. The constant hum from the pointy machine Ritter was rubbing against his ankle made the image surreal.
Harry thought it looked like a larger Samuel, and asked the snake if it knew him.
“It’s almost done now, I’m ‘mazed yeh stayed silent this long. No more hissing though, ‘s distracting.”
“What do you mean? I was talking for this entire time! You told me to.”
Max Ritter laughed, and continued working on his ankle.
Harry admired the little sprout and flexed his foot despite the pain to see it move. It seemed to have a bit of a shadow behind it now, and Harry resisted the urge to reach and touch the picture; he didn’t want it infected after all.
“Now there’s only one more thing, and it’ll be done. Cover your eyes and promise to not look.” Harry looked at Max for a moment, before doing as he was told. He’d thought for a moment that he’d been joking, or making fun of him.
He’d given him something amazing, and if he said that it wasn’t finished, it wasn’t finished.
“I promise not to look.”
Something small, blunt, and hard was pressed to the Mark, and Harry winced at the answering throb it gave to the poke. He heard Max muttering again, and there was another throb before a nice coolness seemed to blanket the Mark. It was a bit like when his bruises were going away, and Harry had a moment to appreciate it before a sharp pain shot up his leg from the Mark, and he had to clench his eyes and hands into fists to resist the urge to see what he’d done. His bruises going away never felt like that before.
After a moment more of the pain, the hard thing was taken away, and Harry was told he could open his eyes.
He looked at his Mark and gasped.
Before, it had looked good, but somehow it now looked MORE. He didn’t know what exactly it was, but it seemed as if it had more presence, as if it had been taken from a picture and pasted on, as if it would be flowering as soon as it got warm enough.
Harry looked up to Max and breathed out the most honest thank you he had ever given out, and thought that maybe, maybe, Max understood a fraction of how thankful he really was.
A patch was taped into place over the Mark, and Harry was told that it would fall off in about 2 hours…. Also, did he have a time he should be back at his Aunt and Uncles house?
Harry glanced out the window, and saw it was much later than he thought it was, and a thank you was blurted out before he ran out the door. He felt so light he thought he might be able to fly home. In fact, he wished he could fly home, as his ankle was still a bit sore.
Max Ritter thought that it would be interesting when he came back, and cleaned up his supplies.
Thankfully Harry came back at an appropriate time according to his Aunt, who decided he’d been seen enough and ushered him inside with orders to start up dinner.
Harry started cutting up the chicken breasts that he’d taken out of the fridge earlier, and took secret comfort in the slight throb that still beat in his ankle.
For the next couple of days, Harry found himself bearing Dudley’s usual torments easier, found himself relishing in his Garden work more than usual, found himself happier than usual.
It was Nice.
He humored his teachers and drew animals, dogs, cats, horses, birds, and went further to draw the bird-horse that he’d seen on Max’s arm. He even found himself enjoying drawing the animals, and was putting as much thought into their images as he usually put into his plants drawings.
His teacher was so overjoyed that she didn’t bug him until the next week to draw animals again, but then she got distracted when she saw the plants he was drawing.
He didn’t draw his Mark, because it was his and he didn’t want to share it, but he drew some of the interesting plants he’d seen in the first book.
His teacher particularly liked the teacup flower, the one that tipped over and dumped an endless amount of water every once in a while, and liked his practice drawings of hands for when he wanted to draw the tree with a mouth in it’s trunk.
Dudley told on him once they were home, of course, and when he was asked why he was drawing flowers that looked like teacups, he reluctantly said that he thought it would be useful to have a flower that would water itself. He wasn’t going to say that he was drawing it after seeing it in a tattoo shop.
Aunt Petunia’s mouth pinched and her nostrils flared.
“You wouldn’t get out of his chores by drawing ridiculous flowers.” She hissed. She thankfully let the topic drop, and it gave Harry something to think about.
Harry decided to talk to his teacher about how he could draw hands in a plant, and made comments like how tree branches were like fingers and allowed her to suggest he draw a tree with many hands and arms instead of branches.
She then went on to suggest that he try adding little bits to the hands, like webbing, or claws. Harry was glad that she still thought he should be drawing more animals.
When Dudley next told on him for drawing a tree with hands and a mouth, Harry admitted that his teacher had told him to draw it, to see if he could.
His Aunt and Uncle retreated, sulking, and ordered him to the back yard to start weeding early. Harry did so, and smiled at the tree in the backyard as it’s branches waved in the wind.
Harry waved back.
It had been a little more than a week since he’d gotten his Mark, and Harry was staring at it late one night when it was decided that he would have to go see Max Ritter once more.
Harry had been sitting cross-legged with his foot in his lap, staring at the little sprout, admiring it wonderingly. It was so life like, no one would be able to mistake it for a blob, even at a distance. It was so life like that it almost seemed as if the sprout had grown, and Harry imagines it as it might be if it was more grown, imagining other sprouts of jagged and smooth-edged leaves, stems turning to vine’s crawling strands, working their way up his calf and past his knees. Harry glanced at his chest, and wondered at what it would be like to have vines crawling up his chest. To have them crawling up his face and around his eyes. He tried to imagine what kinds of flowers the plant would have, but couldn’t imagine past the buds, little hints of some rainbow colour peeking out if you stared hard enough.
It had bled a little a few days earlier, but once Harry rinsed the blood off whatever bit of skin opened had sealed closed again.
His leg started to cramp, so Harry shifted so that his left foot was in his lap instead, sighing and looking at the net of cobwebs that hung above him and waited for his leg to stop being all tingly so he could look at his sprout once more.
Why Dudley thought he could scare Harry with spiders, he didn’t know. He didn’t know what leap of logic made Dudley think he could scare Harry with a number of things, spiders being one of a long list, with darkness following.
He jogged his knee a little, hoping to speed the process up a little bit more so he could look at his Mark for a little while longer before doing his pushes for the night.
Harry knew they were called Push-ups now, but the childish name for them stuck in his mind. He thought he might add Sit-ups to his routine, as it seemed like a good idea and it was easier to do in his Cupboard than the pushes.
As he watched a spider make it’s way across its web to a mosquito who was stupid enough to get caught, he wondered if this was how it would always be, snatching looks at his Mark whenever he was in his Cupboard, and staring at spiders while he waited for his leg to become less numb.
Though, perhaps he could get one on his left ankle, so that he could look at them in turns…?
He looked down at the ankle in question, and thought his imagination must be very good because it looked like he had a similar image of his sprout on his ankle.
But then he blinked and realized that he did have that image on his ankle, and rubbed at it with his fingers, but it didn’t come off, or stop being there.
Harry checked his right ankle, and yes, there it was, and it was bigger than it was before. It was about as long as his middle finger now, and the one on his left ankle was only a little shorter than that.
In the peculiar blankness that seemed to hug his mind, Harry thought it was rather odd that the one on his left ankle had grown so quickly, and the one on his right had grown a bit more than a centimeter.
Harry felt panic bubble up his throat, and took a deep breath and swallowed it down. It wouldn’t be good if his Aunt and Uncle came and found him having a fit, two Marks on his ankles. Marks he wasn’t ‘supposed’ to have…
And so it was decided that he would have to go see Max Ritter once more.
In case anyone was wondering, I'm posting up to chapter 15 and then posting chapters weekly after that.
Chapter 14: By The Way...
Thankfully his Aunt had decided that every other day would be when he would go out for a couple of hours ‘to be seen by the neighbors’, and today was one of the days to go out.
Harry grabbed the green bandanna that he’d taken from Aunt Petunia’s stash of them, one that she never wore, and headed out the door and down semi-familiar streets to the Tattoo shop. He didn’t know why he had grabbed it, but he did.
When he opened the door, Max was grinning and looking right at him.
Harry blinked at him, his thoughts of how things were likely to pan out sputtering to a stop. What? Max came around the counter and flicked the sign on the door to “CLOSED”.
“Ah, well, can’ be helped then, lemme see ‘em.”
And he picked up Harry and plopped him onto the padded chair, pulling his too-large shoes from his feet and yanking his baggy socks off.
And then his ankles were bare and beautiful, and Harry was reminded that he wasn’t here for angry demands but only to find out why he now had two separate marks that were also growing.
“Huh. Seem to be growin’ well.” He ran fingers over Harry’s feet, tilting them at various angles, and stopped to trace a silvery line that Harry hadn’t noticed before. “Once the roots sink in, they’ll grow to match your energy, but with so few roots it’ll take a bit before they grow to your current levels… ”
Max looked over his feet for a few more moments before sitting back with a sigh.
“Yeh wan’ an explanation, yeah?”
Harry nodded, running a finger over the silvery line on his foot that did indeed look like the beginning roots of a transplanted plant.
“Alrighty then Kid,” His grin was once again wild and manic, “Yeh should know that there’s magic in the world, yeh’re a wizard, yeh’re famous for killing a dark wizard, an’ this,” he pulled a stick from the back of his pants, “Is a wand.”
Harry opened his mouth to tell him that that was not True, but before he could get anything out Max muttered something underneath his breath and Harry was getting taller, and there was no longer a cushion underneath him.
He wasn’t getting taller, he was floating.
Harry felt his clothing for anything that could have been hooked to him, but couldn’t feel anything, and looked at Max with wide eyes.
“Yeh’re a wizard ‘cause yeh managed to see and get into my shop, Muggles can’t do that. Muggles are non-magic fuckers,” Harry blinked at the Bad Word but let it pass without comment. His Uncle said Bad Words too, just not around his Aunt.
“Why can’t Muggles see or get into here?”
“Because I cast a spell that made ‘em not notice it. Yeh can’t go into a store yeh don’t know is there. Your parents were offed by the Dark wizard that yeh killed as a babe, not whatever lies your relatives told yeh, and for that the name Harry Potter is famous, and by proxy so’re yeh.” Max seemed to find that as funny as Harry thought it odd, and he barked out a laugh.
“Really?” Harry was glad to know that his parents weren’t useless drunkards who died in a car crash, but it was rather harder to believe that he was famous. It was also very hard to really believe that there was magic in the world beyond plants, but since he didn’t have any proof against it, and Max had made him float… well, he was even now sill floating.
It was hard to argue that magic didn’t exist when you were floating.
“If I’m famous then why am I living with my relatives?”
Harry didn’t think it was likely true, but then thought about the strange little man who’d shaken his hand, and the lady who disappeared into a purple bus who’d smiled at him. His Aunt and Uncle had told him not to lie, and Harry had avoided thinking into those situations too much to avoid any punishments…he got enough of those from Dudley’s lying. He looked down and also thought it might be nice to be back on the chair. He wasn’t afraid of heights (he got over that the first time he cleaned the gutters around the roof), and floating was nice, but it soon got a bit tiring.
Max seemed to notice, as he seemed to notice everything, and set Harry back down on the seat.
“No clue. But right now we need to go to the bank. Get on yur shoes.”
Harry frowned but complied. He was feeling a bit numb in his mind right about then. Or his mind was feeling numb. Whatever… there was such thing as magic.
“Where’s the bank? And why do we need to go?”
“Diagon Alley. An’ the Goblins have been trying to get in contact with yeh and asked me to arrange a… meeting… it seems as though any Owls sent to yeh come back, angry, their letters unopened.”
“Mail travels by owls. They try to send yeh a letter, but owls can’t get to yeh, so they come back. Goblins don’t like that. Goblins run the bank, Gringotts. ”
They left the shop, and Max locked the door behind him, and they were standing at the curb, and Max held his wand out to him, and Harry had seen this before—
The tall purple double-decker bus snapped in front of them, and an old looking man heaved himself to the door, his face pockmarked and hair thin and lank on his head.
“Hello, my name is Steve Shunpike, and I’ll be you’re—”
“Yes Steve, I know, here’s the money, and we’ll be going to the Leakey Cauldron. Now.”
The newly named Steve blinked, and heaved himself back into the bus, the silver coins clutched in his sweaty fist.
Harry stepped into the bus with Max.
Harry tied his bandanna so it covered his forehead, as Max told him to.
Apparently he didn’t want to ‘deal’ with people, and somehow covering his scar would keep him from having to. Harry was glad he had the urge to bring the bandana with him in the first place.
The pub was dingy but friendly feeling, and Harry was feeling a bit dry from the lack of anything growing. He was used to SOMETHING growing around him…
In the bus there had been a lady with a plant with leaves like spears, and Harry had stared at it, transfixed. He’d seen it in the book of Marks, but to see in in real life…
Max had explained things about the magical world in a low voice for the entire ride, and so Harry didn’t gape when the bricks pated, didn’t goggle too much when they walked through the Alley, and knew why a group of teens were huddled around a broom.
Harry wondered what it would be like to fly.
Harry saw apothecaries and wondered about potions (Max had said it’s a bit like cooking, and Harry was getting rather good at that), saw clothing shops and wondered if he would have enough money to buy clothing of his own, saw a wand shop and thought about charms and transfiguration, saw what seemed to be an Owl Store and thought about what Samuel had said about Owls eating snakes…
Max had told him a lot in that half-hour bus ride.
Gringotts was huge and made of white stone, but still seemed to be living, it was so magnificent.
Harry stopped a moment inside the doors to read an inscription on the door. He was rather impressed at them being able to put a warning in a rhyme.
Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.
Harry didn’t think that what the thieves must ‘pay most dearly’ would be money. Max said that only an idiot would try to steal from Gringotts, and Harry didn’t think that idiots would have much money, especially if they were trying to steal money…
He told Max this, and Max only laughed.
“That’s circular thinking, that is.”
Harry looked at the Goblin who stood at the inner doors, and smiled at him and gave a small bow. “Good afternoon, I hope that you make a large profit today.” Max had said that Goblins main priority was money and profit, so it seemed appropriate.
The Goblin blinked, and after a moment gave his own bow. “To you as well, may your gold flow freely and gain much profit.”
Max’s grin slipped slightly, and Harry saw him give him an odd look when they stepped into a line to reach one of the tellers.
Something occurred to Harry as he stood in line with Max.
“What do you get out of taking me to the Goblins?”
“Because then the Goblins will remember me.” Max’s grin widened as he replied. He seemed delighted that Harry had asked. Harry thought that over, before nodding.
“The Goblins are in charge of wizarding money, and will likely owe you one, right?”
Max’s chuckle was his only response.
When they got to the front of the line, Harry once again greeted the Goblin, this time using different wording.
“Hello, May your gold flow freely and gain much profit.”
The goblin blinked at him, and Harry thought that perhaps it meant that he was surprised… He couldn’t really tell though. Goblins faces were very different, but Harry didn’t stare. He thought that his face must look very different to tem, and the Goblin wasn’t staring. Do unto others as they did to you, or something like that. The only exception was his relatives.
“To you as well… what is your business?”
His eyes narrowed at Harry, and glanced at Max. Max answered.
“This is Harry Potter, he was asked ‘ere by Griphook, t’ look over his accounts. M’ name is Max Ritter, and Griphook asked if I would bring Mr. Potter in t’ see him. ‘Ere we are.”
“You would be wiling to prove this?” Harry wondered if he would have to sign something again with that red quill, and rubbed the back of his hand. When the Goblin looked at him, he nodded anyway though, because it would be interesting to see that he actually had money, and if it healed over, it wouldn’t matter too much.
The Goblin didn’t however, produce a red quill.
Instead he pushed a piece of yellowish paper towards him, and produced a rather large curved knife. It was sturdily made, with a solid looking handle wrapped with strips of leather, and Harry could see that there was a blue ripple in the silver blade, and felt jealous. It was vey well made, and looked as if it would be much better to use in the kitchen than the knives his relatives had.
Harry imagined that the knife might be sharp enough to go through an entire chicken breast without Harry putting pressure on it.
And the Goblin wanted to cut Harry with it…
“Where does the cut need to be made?” Harry knew he sounded resigned, but didn’t think it was unwarranted. You could only sound so enthusiastic about being cut…
The Goblin blinked at him again, and said “Anywhere.”
Harry placed his right arm on the table, palm up, and looked at the Goblin expectantly.
The Goblin blinked again, before carefully making a small cut on the fleshy part of his hand.
Blood welled up, and when the Goblin said to, Harry pressed it against the bit of paper.
After a moment, Harry lifted his hand, and the cut was gone.
The Goblin looked at the paper for what seemed like a very long time, before directing them to go through a door to the right, saying that Griphook would see him shortly, if you wouldn’t mind waiting.
Harry had, of course, been startled to see Goblins, with their knobby, sneering faces and fingers with a few too many joints, but he had tried his best to be polite, and had been able to succeed, he thought, with the Goblins he had met with insofar.
After all, as he was looking around he noticed that the other Goblin were treating the other people the way that his Uncle and Aunt and Cousin did when he did something wrong, and so far he’d been treated as his relatives treated him when he wasn’t being a nuisance.
Griphook’s scowl had lost a tiny bit of it’s distaste when Harry had greeted him as he had the other Goblins, and as with the other Goblins, Harry didn’t stare at him.
Staring was Rude.
But as Harry explained that no, he had not gotten any Owls, and no, he didn’t know of any wards over his residence to keep owls away and what are Wards anyway, he didn’t know a lot.
He didn’t know that Griphook was suspicious of his polite manner, and his usage of a Goblin greeting, didn’t know that Griphook was planning to find out where he had learned of their customs, didn’t know that Griphook had changed his mind, deciding that the meeting would go on as long as it would take, rather than finishing as quickly as possible.
Griphook decided that Mr. Potter was of Interest.
He didn’t know that the guards that were posted around the private room were listening intently, didn’t know that they were also wondering at this young wizards knowledge of their customs, and wondered what else he knew. He didn’t know that the entire conversation was even now being written down, as all private meetings were, word for word, to be documented and studied later. He didn’t know, as the other Goblin didn’t yet know, that late they would spend many hours going through each thing he had said, and making Plans.
Harry also didn’t know how bemused Max Ritter was, or how fascinated he was. He didn’t know how unusual it was for any wizard to be treated with anything ore than polite scorn, nor how odd it was for a wizard to treat Goblins as anything but Goblins. He didn’t know that Max was wondering how Harry managed to treat the Goblins as both Goblins and as Intelligent creatures worthy of respect. Human respect. Max knew that you didn’t treat Goblins with anything less than respect, but it was always the respect you gave to someone who had power over your money. Goblin respect, not Human.
No, Max was interested in finding out more about the Kid who had proven that he NEEDED a Mark, and was also making Plans.
But Harry didn’t know any of this, and happily said that yes, he was fine with Mr. Ritter staying through the meeting if he would like.
Max said yes.
Harry finished looking over the long roll of paper that was filled with names and numbers; names of places and businesses that he owned and the Goblins had been keeping track of, and numbers—HUGE numbers—of Galleons, Sickles, Knuts, and even Pounds.
Harry wondered why his Aunt and Uncle complained about how much they have to pay for food for him and for his schooling if there was this much money… but then, the Goblins had contacted HIM, not his relatives, so perhaps this was his own money…
That would bear some thinking over…
Harry was told about his investments, and then about what investments were, and was given yet another list, detailing how many vaults he had, and was told how he was to gain access to those vaults and how some of them weren’t accessible until he was of a certain age… Harry thought that using keys was like the card his Uncle used at the bank.
Something occurred to Harry.
“Who has access to my vaults?”
“Anyone with a key has access to your vaults.” Harry frowned, and glanced at Max. Max sat back and grinned at him. He wouldn’t be any help then.
“Is there a way to get them back? And can I get a list of any money taken out in the past, say, nine years?” He thought it best to round upwards.
Griphook nodded, and pulled out another sheet of paper with a shorter list on it.
“If you would like, all keys may be repossessed, and an accounting for what material possessions have been taken from your vaults… Here is a list of the ones who currently have a key to any of your vaults.”
“Yes please… Also, if someone has taken something from my vaults without my permission, could it also be… repossessed?” The new word felt foreign in Harry’s mouth. He thought about what else he could have missed. This was only the second thing that was truly his own, the other being his Mark, and the thought of someone having taken advantage of his ignorance was deeply upsetting. Who knew what these people could have taken, knowing it was his?
Harry was used to things being taken away from him, but he had two things now that he didn’t want to lose, things that were his, not his cousins, not his Aunts’ or Uncles’.
Another Goblin came into the room, and Griphook snarled and burbled at him, or at least that’s what it sounded like to Harry. The other Goblin nodded though, and left once more.
“Snapclaw will be back in a moment with the original copies of each of your keys. You will have to draw each key over the names that possess them to have the duplicate keys repossessed.”
“And anything that was taken?”
“That will take a while longer, Mr. Potter, as the listed contents of each of your vaults will have to be gone through to see what is missing… you want only what has been taken during the last decade?”
Harry thought for a moment.
“My parents had access, correct?” Harry thought this should make sense; where else did the money come from? Griphook nodded.
“Could you… have anything that my parents or family members did NOT remove themselves repossessed?”
Griphook thought for a moment.
“It would require a small sum to be paid, but yes, it can be done.”
The newly named Snapclaw reentered the room, and handed Griphook seven keys, and left.
Griphook handed Harry four of those Keys.
“These three keys are tied to the family, and cannot be accessed by anyone not of the Blood.” Harry nodded and set about crossing out each name with each key. Each name gained an X at the end of their name after one, two, or three keys were crossed, until the end of the list, which took all four keys.
Remus Lupin. Crossed out. Sirius Black. Crossed out. Peter Pettigrew. Crossed out. Frank and Alice Longbottom. Crossed out. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Crossed out.
Next Chapter will be posted in a week.
Comment and tell me what you think :)
Chapter 16: Records, Meanings
A knock at the door, and Snapclaw reentered with a sheaf of papers in hand, to which he handed to Griphook before once again making an exit. Griphook removed some papers from it, and handed them to Harry.
“This is a list from the past nine years of what has been withdrawn from any of your vaults, and by who.”
Harry scanned through the list, and saw the increasingly familiar overly long name of this Albus…
Nothing had been taken from him by any of the people on the rest of the list.
Small sums of money had been taken monthly from one account, a larger sum taken a few years ago, and at the bottom of the list, dated almost exactly 8 years ago, was a note of Albus too-many-names Dumbledore withdrawing one invisibility cloak.
Harry didn’t know much about the magical world, but he could figure out what the cloak was for, what it would do, and there was a word next to it that made it seem extra important.
“What does ‘Heirloom’ mean?”
Albus Dumbledore was startled from his thoughts by a ringing in his desk.
He checked each of his drawers, and pulled out a small, ornate box. It was vibrating and ringing in a way that told him that, somehow, someone had taken something from within without his permission.
But how could that be?
He ran a finger over the carving of a phoenix on the lid, and the ringing and buzzing stopped. With a click, the lid popped open.
Albus was relieved when the silvery material of the Potters’ Invisibility Cloak greeted his eyes, and carefully pulled the folded silky material from the box to set it on his desk.
The rest of the box was empty.
Albus picked the cloak back up, and carefully unfolded the material and gave it a light shake.
Not even the string he’d used to keep the Potter Vault keys together.
This was worrying indeed….
“Would it be possible to have it reclaimed?” Harry didn’t think that, after Griphook explained what an Heirloom was, that it should be allowed that this Albus person should be able to keep it… especially when Griphook said that no, Albus Dumbledore was not a relative.
Griphook nodded, and after he gestured for it, Harry handed him back the sheet.
“The money he had taken from your vaults will have to be investigated as well, as you have pointed out that you have given no permission for their use.” Griphook gave Harry a savage looking grin and ran the tip of one claw around the parchment, and coughing out a snarl.
“A notice is being sent to Albus Dumbledore that in three days hence a representative from Gringotts will be coming to Hogwarts to repossess the cloak and the amount of Gold taken in the past nine years.”
“Why give him three days?” Harry frowned. Griphooks expression suddenly cooled despite not being very warm to begin with
“Mr. Potter, not even for one of your… standing would protocol be dismissed.”
Albus opened the window for the owl, and took the letter addressed to him with some trepidation when he noticed the metal tag around the owls’ foot. The tag meant that the owl was sent from Gringotts.
To Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,
Gringotts Bank is hereby repossessing all effects taken from the Potter Vaults due to the request of the Vaults Account Manager. A sum of 3608 Galleons, 48 Sickles, and 12 Knuts, and one Invisibility Cloak is to be returned at the end of three days hence, as well as reasoning for the removal of said objects from their Vaults. A Gringotts Employee will be sent to acquire said amounts at noon.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Head Manager of the Potter Accounts,
Albus set down the parchment, and spent a long moment staring at the Gringotts seal at the bottom of the parchment, right next to the Goblin Equivalent of a signature.
“Truly worrying indeed…”
“What’s the protocol then?” Harry felt a bit uneasy with the suddenly hostile looks he was getting, but was determined to learn all he could about what was going on with his Vaults and possessions. He was relieved when his question seemed to thaw their expressions, somewhat. The Goblin Guards seemed much more threatening when they were glaring.
“Protocol dictates that the holders of items or amounts that are to be repossessed be given three days at minimum to acquire the amounts and items listed.”
Harry nodded. It sounded fair, even if he didn’t like it
“How much money did he take, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“3608 Galleons, 48 Sickles, and 12 Knuts… in Muggle money, it would be £18,054.24.”
Harry felt boggled at the amount, and wondered why someone would need that amount of money.
But, he realized, he had many, many, many more times that amount of money, and the realization that, unlike what the Dursleys had told him, if he ended up on the streets, without their care, he would have a way to survive.
The thought warmed him.
Chapter 17: Ch-ch-ch-changing!
Things Changed after his first meeting with the Goblins.
Max had agreed (for a small price) to bring Harry to the Bank every other day, to get ahold of his finances and organize his accounts. Harry had told this to Samuel with glee and wonder, and once again tried to explain the idea of currency to his friend.
Since he now went to Diagon Alley every other day, Harry decided that he would explore a bit after his Meeting with the Goblins.
He walked through Flourish and Blots, reading titles and passages from books that seemed interesting, and learned that he was in a number of books, and found out that he was supposedly the one to Defeat (as all of the books had this in capitols) the Dark Lord, or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (-But-Was-Anyway). Harry didn’t think this was likely.
He also wondered whether the Dark Lord had a normal name, or if perhaps he was also called ‘Boy’ but didn’t have neighbors or teachers to tell him he had other names.
He learned about the Statute of Secrecy, and wondered about what was done when a Fucking Muggle ever saw something magic.
He learned that there was something in the world that he would beg and plead for, and that you weren’t allowed to sit in the isle and read through an entire book, whether it had fascinating details about magical plants or not.
It was with a heavy heart and the burning weight of Galleons and Sickles and Knuts in his pocket that he left the book behind. He had the money for it, which was something he still wasn’t used to, but his Aunt and Uncle would likely take the book away if he bought it.
He walked through candy shops, and looked at the Blood and Acid Pops with curiosity, and wondered if Samuel would like Cockroach Clusters. He didn’t notice when the shopkeeper looked at him oddly for leaving, the clink of money in his pocket audible to a shopkeepers trained ears.
He wet into what seemed to be an Owl store, and saw two rather cuddly looking Snowy Owls perched together. Harry knew that if they had a baby, that it would be the most beautiful bird, and told them as much through a Staring Conversation. Harry’s expected response of Ah, yes, thank you from them was not what he got, but was all the more special. They Thanked him, preening and fluffing their feathers in pleasure, and flew the short distance to rest, one on each shoulder. As they ran bits of his hair through their beaks, they told him that they were impressed that one so young would be able to recognize such a thing, and after a few moments of running careful fingers along their gloriously soft feathers, they flew back to their perches and Harry bid them farewell.
Another store sold many different kinds of pets, and Harry looked at the Rats, the Mice, the Lizards, and the Toads, quiet as the sign out front said to be and said Hello in staring conversations to them (he rarely got a response, but imagined that they accepted his greetings anyway), until he got to an area which seemed to be mostly left alone. These were much more familiar to him, and he whispered a “Hello,” to them. They were all gorgeous, and Harry saw that some of them had even more fascinating designs on their bodies than Samuel did (not that he would tell him that), and spent some time conversing with the slithering bodies in each tank. Most seemed happy to talk, and Harry told them about Samuel and smiled as a few sighed over the talk of crickets when he mentioned that he caught them for Samuel sometimes. Eventually though, he had to leave, and his explorations each day revealed something new and magical in each store he visited.
Over the next Month, each meeting with the Goblins got easier and easier, as he didn’t have to ask again and again what something meant, and he got even better at reading quickly as he found out that Goblins could be even more impatient than his Uncle waiting for breakfast.
One meeting, Harry sat down and told Griphook, with no little amount of bafflement, that he had seen a store that sold little toy Harry Potters, and had a number of books detailing his supposed ‘adventures’…
“I haven’t ever seen a live dragon before, let alone fought one, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Mountain Troll—I haven’t ever seen a mountain before, so…”
Harry trailed off when he saw Griphooks wide grin.
Harry then found out that he was now going to get more money from the stores that sold the dolls, and he would be getting money from the people who wrote about his ‘adventures’ as well.
Apparently they weren’t allowed to use his name or image without his permission, and not without paying.
Later, Harry bemusedly gave his permission for his name to be used in the books, but only if they changed it so that it clearly stated that it was entirely fictional and was not to be taken as fact…
Harry thought that perhaps he shouldn’t give his permission for the dolls to continue to be sold, as the thought of someone buying a mini-Harry plush gave him a strange chill, but the Goblins assured him that he could have the production of the dolls stopped at any time.
They mentioned something about a loop-hole in the contract he had to sign, and he promised himself that he would look up that term later.
Harry told each new thing that he found in the Wizarding word to Samuel. He told him of the books, the strange floating things, the Goblins, the fact that he had actual things of his own… Samuel didn’t quite believe that there could be an odder-looking creature than a human, and Harry laughed.
He told Samuel about the owl shop and the animal shop, and told him about the many different kinds of snakes that were there. Samuel listened to Harry tell him of how the snakes seemed jealous that he got to eat so many crickets and grasshoppers, and seemed smug about it. He kept bringing it up throughout their conversations, and Harry agreed to get him a cockroach cluster next time he went to the candy shop.
When Harry did bring him one, Harry told him about the odd look the shopkeeper had given him when he’d bought the single cluster, and watched in amazement when Samuel swallowed the cockroach whole. Samuel told him that he liked crickets better.
That summer Harry was delighted to find that his plants were flourishing.
Harry thought that there must be something different in an amazing way in the weather, but was also finding that the few indoor plants that his Aunt had placed around the house were also doing much better than they were in earlier years.
Harry kept quiet when neighbors were over and heard them exclaiming over how well his Garden was doing to Aunt Petunia, and listened when his Aunt said that she was planning on buying some new plants, as she seemed to have developed a green thumb…
Harry thought that perhaps it was more likely because he’d developed green ankles.
Perhaps his new Mark had given him a new appreciation for the green growing things, and somehow that had given him something—extra—that helped in his gardening.
He certainly felt as though he couldn’t have felt love for his Gardens as much as he did now at any other time.
He carefully righted stems, pulled the equally flourishing weeds from the ground, clipped dead spots from each plant, pulled snails and slugs from underneath leaves and set them in the same bucket as the weeds.
He listened from his Cupboard for the weather channel to come on so he would know if his plants would get burned, and watered carefully around the base of the plants, careful not to let the water bead on the leaves, if it was supposed to be sunny.
It was all Wonderful, and Harry thought that this might be the best summer of his life.
Harry was reminded of the best night of his life when Uncle Vernon met Samuel. He then decided that perhaps that summer wasn’t all great, because Uncle Vernon didn’t act at all like Harry had when first meeting Samuel.
Harry was pulling tomatoes when he heard Samuel call out a Hello from the flowerbeds.
Harry looked up, pleasantly surprised to see his friend in the daylight, and smiled at him. His Aunt was sitting a little ways off, waiting for one of their neighbors to come out so she could talk more about Harry’s Garden, and noticed that he had stopped working.
Then she noticed Samuel.
“SNAKE! VEEERNON IT’S A SNAAKE!”
Aunt Petunia jumped up from her lawn chair and scrambled to stand on it instead, pulling her arms close to her chest and squishing her legs together as if to create a smaller target. Uncle Vernon barged from the Back door, looking around the yard as if he was looking for something more to the size of a bull moose rather than a snake.
Harry frantically told Samuel to Go Away while his Uncle was distracted by his Aunts shrieking, and looked at his Uncle in horror when he picked up a shovel and headed over to where Samuel had disappeared and started savagely stabbing the ground.
Harry hoped that Samuel hadn’t gone underground, feeling rather sick as he heard the shovel digging into the ground repeatedly, flinching when he heard something that might have been Samuel crunch.
His Uncle went on with that for a while, until he decided that Samuel wasn’t underground, and started prowling around looking for him. He looked like he expected Samuel to jump out at him at any moment, something that Harry thought he might’ve found funny if Uncle Vernon wasn’t looking to kill his best friend.
Uncle Vernon eventually decided that it would be Harry’s job to try to find the ‘little bugger’ and to scare away any more of them.
Harry wasn’t to come inside until he got rid of them all and finished cleaning up the garden.
Harry winced at that.
Uncle Vernon had not been careful when stabbing the garden, and the crunching sounds that Harry had thought might be Samuel were bulbs and stems and the thick tree root that Harry worked around every year as he got his Garden ready for his Aunt’s ‘social season’.
Harry carefully put the mostly intact bulbs back into the soil, murmuring apologies as he blanketed them with soil, letting his tears soak into the ground. As he wondered if he’d find a dead Samuel somewhere else, he tried with all his might not to think about how Samuel wouldn’t have been in danger if he hadn’t come to see Harry. If Harry hadn’t ever known Samuel, Samuel wouldn’t be in such trouble.
He pulled the remains of entirely crushed bulbs from the ground, and placed them in the weed bucket to be added to the compost. He tried not to think of placing a dead Samuel in the compost, and instead spelled out the names of each plant he was fixing up. He repeated them until he was done with that plant, and started on the next, changing things up by spelling DIRT, SOIL, GREEN, FLOWER, words that eventually calmed him down enough to stop crying, and continued to hope.
That night Harry didn’t get dinner, as Uncle Vernon wasn’t convinced he’d done a good enough job.
On ‘scaring away’ other snakes, or on fixing up the garden, Harry didn’t know, and Uncle Vernon didn’t explain.
Harry started to cry once again when he heard the welcome voice of Samuel, and crouched in the dirt thanking everything he could think of that his friend was all right.
Samuel said that it was okay and that his Uncle should be the one apologizing even though they both knew that that was never going to happen. Harry and Samuel had a long talk that night about death. Harry told Samuel that he would be very sad if Samuel died, and after a moments thought Samuel said that he would also be sad if Harry died. But, Samuel said, it was best not to think about death, as it was going to happen with or without thinking on it. Samuel told Harry that he had lived in his territory for so long that the snakes in neighboring territories had already died well before than, and two more generations had lived and died while he had been there.
Harry wondered at how quickly they had died, and felt tears dripping down his face again. It felt like it would never stop.
“I was so scared, when Uncle Vernon got the shovel…” His throat closed up, and he couldn’t get anything else out except sniffles. He knew he had snot running from his nose, and wiped it off to smear it into the dirt. Neither Harry nor Samuel said anything for long time.
Hey, Samuel slid over Harry’s hand, don’t be sad when I’m dead, and I won’t be sad when you’re dead. It makes no sense to live thinking on death. Death was natural.
Samuel made it sound extremely easy, simple, and after a while longer Harry agreed. He didn’t want Samuel to get sad because of him, and could understand that Samuel didn’t want him to get sad because of him either. Harry knew he wouldn’t be able to not be sad, but promised that he would do his best to move on.
Three days later he was roughly shaken awake by his Uncle, who told him to get up and deal with the mess on the driveway. Harry was confused as to why his Uncle was up before him before he remembered that there was a meeting at Grunnings that morning.
His stomach ached from the little food he had in his belly, the tomatoes and peppers he’d managed to eat the night before disintegrated in his stomach. He pulled on his shoes, listening as the car pulled from the driveway, and opened the door.
The first thing he noticed was the shovel lying on the front lawn.
The second thing was Samuels body, split in half.
A part of Harry noticed that part of him seemed to be smeared on the driveway, before he threw up what was left in his stomach onto the driveway and collapsed.
Harry sat on the grass staring at the corpse of his best friend for a long time, tears leaving hot lines down his face.
It didn’t seem real.
It didn’t seem real that he would no longer have someone to talk to at night, that he didn’t have anyone to catch crickets and grasshoppers for.
It didn’t seem real that he would no longer have anyone to tell about what’s happening in school. No longer have anyone who cared, at least.
It didn’t seem real that he no longer had anyone to share the wonders of the wizarding world with, didn’t seem fair that he had to tell the snakes in the animal shop that Samuel was dead.
Samuel was dead.
Chopped in half by his Uncle.
Harry noticed that his Uncle had also used the flat of the shovel on his friend as well, and dry heaved at the thought of having to ‘clean up’ his mutilated friend from the driveway.
Harry looked at the splatter of throw-up next to his friends’ body, and thought that he had to clean that up as well.
Harry got up to get the hose.
Harry managed to stop crying while cleaning up his last meal, but started sobbing again when he picked up the two halves of his friend from the ground.
Instead of heading towards the compost bin, where his Uncle must’ve wanted him to put the body, Harry stood for a moment, is friend in his hands, and made a decision.
Carefully placing Samuel’s parts down on the grass, he got out a trowel and started digging around a clump of Blue Sedge grass.
He dug a hole underneath it, then carefully set Samuel inside, placing his parts almost together so that it seemed as though he was whole, and carefully placed the dirt back in place.
It was much easier once his body was covered, and just before he replanted the grass over top of him, he thought that he should say something. This seemed the kind of situation where he ought to say something before he replanted the grass.
He thought for a moment, and then started.
“Dear Samuel, you have been my friend for many years, and I have caught many crickets for you from this plant. I know that you won’t be able to appreciate it, but now you’ll always be near a full supply of crickets.” It didn’t sound the way he wanted it to, and his eyes were tearing up again. “I’ll miss you so, so much, and I wish you didn’t die, but like you said, d-death is natural.” Harry stopped to let out a shaky breath. “I’ll always remember you, and I know I’m breaking my promise right now by being so sad, but, but you’re my b-best friend, and I’m gonna miss you…”
Harry put the Blue Sedge back in place, and pat the dirt back into place around it.
“I really wish I could have one more conversation with you, even if I had to explain numbers to you again, or clothing, or anything really, because I really wish you were still here right now, and right now I don’t know what I’ll do without you…”
Harry couldn’t keep it in any more, and he sobbed, new tears creating trails down his dirty cheeks and he rubbed at them, miserable.
He stared at the Blue Sedge until he ran out of tears and heard his Aunt get up, and went to make breakfast. Aunt Petunia didn’t notice that his eyes were red and splotchy, and sent him outside to finish picking the ripe vegetables. Harry missed Samuel.
Harry lasted the entire day, for once glad that it wasn’t the day that he got to go with Max to meet with the Goblins, and responded to Dudley's taunts about him crying with a flat stare that made Dudley go away.
He finished with his chores, and didn’t look at Uncle Vernon when he came home.
After dinner Harry worked on the Garden, paying special attention to the Blue Sedge before saying “Goodbye” to it and heading inside.
In his Cupboard, Harry curled up and cried himself to sleep.
When Harry woke up, he had forgotten about how his friend wouldn’t be able to meet him the usual way in the Garden. He forgot up until he found a dead spider, and was thinking about how Samuel would probably like it—
No. He wouldn’t like it because he was dead. Samuel was Dead.
Harry got his tears in check before his Aunt unlocked his cupboard.
Harry got in trouble by his Aunt in the morning, as all of the plants in the Garden were missing their flowers, and she almost didn’t allow him out of the house. It must’ve been his expression of horror when he saw his Garden that proved that he hadn’t done it on purpose… Harry had no idea who would do such a thing… it was just one more horrible thing that he had to deal with.
Harry didn’t stay after the meeting with Griphook to look around the Alley, and went straight home. Max didn’t comment.
Harry stared at the door to his Cupboard, thinking of Samuel.
Thinking of what he’d been thinking of Samuel the past two days.
He’d been thinking about Samuel being dead…
And that didn’t seem right.
It didn’t seem Right.
To only think of Dead Samuel.
Samuel was so much more than a dead snake, Harry thought as his eyes watered. Why am I thinking of a dead snake when I could be remembering Samuel?
Harry thought hard about every night he’d talked with Samuel, every night that he’d looked forward to for the past four years, every laugh, every frustrated explanation, every Thank You for the Cricket.
Something tight in Harry’s chest loosened its hold on him, and he fell asleep smiling.
The next day Harry caught a couple of crickets from the Blue Sedge and crushed their heads.
He set them in a row, one by one, by the base of the plant, and then went on his nightly run around the neighborhood.
When he got back he smiled at the Blue Sedge and went to bed.
So, three chapters, and one was short, one was feel-good, and then this...? Long and sad.
Next update in a couple of days,hope you enjoyed (in some sense), and please comment.
Chapter 19: Thwarted, Warded
The next meeting with the Goblins Harry was feeling much better.
Griphook brought up an issue that had been niggling at the back of Harry’s mind.
He wanted to know if Harry would consent to having ward breakers sent to his residence to have whatever was keeping owls from his home take down, as well as any other detrimental wards.
Harry thought this over.
“Only if you agree not to send me anything.”
Griphook gave him a sour look, and Max laughed.
“Yeh might want te have some new wards put up as well… perhaps have a mailbox set up within the bank so that any letters addressed to yeh doesn’t end up at yer house?”
Griphook seemed to brighten (as much as any Goblin can brighten) at that, and brought out a list of wards that could be set up around Harry’s house. Their prices were listed next to them.
Harry asked to have it found out, which wards were around the house before he agreed to have anything set up.
“Could you make sure my relatives don’t see you either?” This was something that worried Harry slightly, as he didn’t want his relatives to know about magical things like wards being put up—but then again, since there were wards up in the first place, did that mean that his relatives knew about magic already?
Harry thought about his Aunt and Uncle throwing away all of Dudley’s fantasy games, refusing to buy Disney Movies, and their aversion to fiction.
Harry also thought about the fact that his mother, his Aunts sister, was a witch, and what that possibly made his Aunt… but no, Max had said that his mother was a Muggleborn…
Was it possible that his relatives really knew about magic but were trying to keep it from Harry and Dudley? Harry didn’t think that Dudley knew about magic… he wasn’t very good at keeping things to himself.
The thought seemed ridiculous, but Harry considered it even as Griphook assured him that his relatives wouldn’t know that the wards would be taken down or put up.
According to Griphook, the people he sent to check out the wards on the house detected quite a few wards.
Two to keep owls from finding him, one to keep out anyone with ill intent against the family, one to keep someone from finding him using something called a Point Me charm, and a weak blood ward that, from what Harry could tell from Griphooks expression, was done by an amateur.
There were general wards to keep the house standing as well. Some part of Harry though Oh, Good. And then thought about his childish fears that one-day when Dudley was thundering down the stairs the stairs would give and crush him.
“Why two different wards on Owls?”
Griphook told him that one was to keep general and fan mail away, and another was to keep all business owls away.
The first was used by many wizards to keep junk mail away, and was used by the better-known celebrities to manage fan mail, though it was usually not entirely rejected. Usually they had it sent to a mailbox. If there wasn’t a specific mailbox, the business Owls, the ones with small charms around one foot, would still be able to get through.
The second was used primarily in times of war, when any owl heading to you could give you away, and so any mail that was not on the owners approved list would not get through. Even with charms, Business Owls would not get through without first being on that list. This was why Gringotts Owls weren’t making their way through.
Harry agreed that the letters shouldn’t be sent away entirely, but sent to a mailbox.
He also agreed to most of what kinds of Wards Max suggested be put up, but said no to a Muggle-repelling ward. Most of what would be put up was considered ‘standard’ for a wizarding home, and Harry felt oddly safer knowing what protections were on #4 Privet Drive.
Not safer against his relatives, but safer from other things.
Perhaps the mysterious ‘They’ that his Aunt had been worried about all those years ago.
The wards were taken down from his house at an opportune time, though Harry wouldn’t know it.
As each ward was unraveled to make room for the new, approved wards that Harry had agreed to, Albus Dumbledore was in Gringotts trying to get a meeting with the Potters account manager.
He’d luckily managed to explain the funds taken from a few of the vaults, as they had been taken out to pay for Harry Potters future schooling at Hogwarts (something that the Goblins had been suspicious about, as it was still quite a few years off from when he was to attend, and he’d been taking it in portions), and hadn’t had funds taken from his own vaults as compensation.
He couldn’t quite explain the rest of the funds, as they were going to his current guardians to pay for his upkeep, and he wasn’t able to get any of it back.
The Goblins wanted to know whom his guardians were, as the late Potters’ will had been frozen.
Then the Goblins wanted to know why the will had been frozen.
Albus had hedged and stalled as much as he could, and eventually got the Goblins to agree not to unfreeze the will until the remaining Potter Heir requested.
He then tried to get the invisibility cloak and keys back, and was summarily Denied.
The Goblin who he was talking to grinned nastily at him.
“Until the Potter Heir requests that another key be made and distributed to you, all access to anything within the Potter Vaults, including one invisibility cloak, is unavailable to you.” He would have to wait until the Potter heir requested he be given it.
Albus felt his mouth pinch at having his own words thrown back at him, and tried to gain access to the Potter Trust Vault at least, so he could give it to Harry Potter in a little more than two years.
The Goblins said that unless the Potter Heir came personally to get the key, Gringotts will not willingly give out a vault key without the owner’s permission.
As Albus tried bargaining with the Goblins, he didn’t hear the alarms he’d set up to alert him when the wards were falling shriek once and fall silent as the wards were vanished entirely. The portraits in the Headmasters office were startled, but so was Fawkes, and they dismissed it as an odd sound from the bird.
Chapter 20: New Introductions
As Harry had experienced with the Owls, his staring conversations had Changed.
Harry didn’t have many staring conversations with people anymore, as it seemed as though as one got older, the less polite or excusable staring was. But he still had many with animals, even if they had Changed.
It was an interesting Change, and Harry took it in stride.
One day he was staring out the car window, heading for fourth grade, and saw a large sleek dog with is snout poking through a crack in the window.
Harry caught it’s eyes, and said Hello, smiling.
The dog replied.
::OH MY OH MY I’M IN THE CAR SO HAPPY SO HAPPY CAR RIDE CAR RIDE CAR RIDE! ::
Harry blinked and smiled at the excited dog.
I’m in the Car too, what’s your name? Harry expected a name like Chocolate, or Caramel, or some other dog-ish name. Harry hadn’t had much experience with big dogs, a all of the dogs in the neighborhood were usually small Poodles or Chihuahua’s with names like Fluffy or Tootsie or Princess. He didn’t seem like he’d be a Princess.
::MY NAME IS ROGER! ISN’T IT EXCITING TO BE IN THE CAR!!??! BE MY FRIEND! ::
Harry nodded and replied that Yes, It was, and Sure he’d be Roger’s friend.
And then the cars were turning away from each other, and Roger called out an excited ::GOOBYE!!!!!::
Harry got out of the car, resigned to another year of running and teachers asking him to draw Something Else, and encountered a squirrel.
He tried a conversation with it as well.
The squirrel stopped and twitched.
:: It speaks.::
Harry raised an eyebrow (a talent that Dudley didn’t have), and cautiously replied with a Yes.
It’s tail twitched for a while longer, as if considering what he’d said, and then Dudley stomped in its direction, and it ran up a nearby tree screaming.
:: DECIEVER! BIG FOOTED FIEND! YOU’LL NEVER FIND THEM, NEVER!! ::
Harry wondered what ‘them’ was, and thought it might be nuts.
‘Them’ that is, though the squirrel could be nuts too.
Harry was very happy looking at his Mark, as it was now longer than any of his fingers. He could just barely touch the top and bottom if he stretched his middle finger up and thumb down. Harry couldn’t tell from the yellow light of his cupboard light bulb, but he imagined that his foot would shine silvery from the roots that he could practically feel covering most of it.
Harry loved his Mark.
Fourth grade introduced a number of things.
It introduced division and multiplication, something that had been brushed upon the previous year, but then it introduced the calculator.
Dudley and his friends made sure that Harry always got the least working calculator, so while Harry learned the proper way to use one, he worked harder at figuring out all of his times-tables and learning how to divide and multiply in his head.
Journals were introduced in Language Arts, and the Mr. Baryn told them that they were to write three pages every day, and that the final project for the year would be to write a story. This meant that every couple of days there was a library trip (for inspiration), where the entire class was herded to the schools library to find a book and read it. Harry was very familiar with the library by now, and immediately went to the last shelf he’d left off at last year to start a new book. He found one on snakes, and flipped to Garter snakes.
Reading, he found out that the average lifespan for a wild garter snake was about 2 years. Harry felt tears prick at his eyes, but held them back.
In art class Harry found out that they were to do reports on musicians and painters as well as work on their own art projects.
Harry was fine with this, and found out from Mrs. Brush (the arts teacher) how many of these reports he was to do. He also found out that all reports were to be given to his homeroom teacher, Mr. Baryn.
By the end of the first week Harry finished the two written reports about two artists, one on Edgar Degas talking about how he did sketches and paintings of ballerina’s behind stage, and one on Bach detailing his life and what musical pieces he did, both with the required sketch or written review of a song.
Mr. Baryn laughed and asked if he was also done the short story that would be due at the end of the year.
Harry replied that no, he didn’t, and didn’t know what to write about.
Mr. Baryn seemed to think this over, and told Harry to come see him the next day. Harry left school that day worried.
His meeting with the Goblins and Max gave him some relief concerning the winter months.
Things were sufficiently caught up that the meetings could now be weekly without affecting income as his absence had before.
Harry didn’t think that it had been as bad as they made it out to be, as he still had a LOT of money, and Harry didn’t think that the Goblins would have let the investments become stale, but Harry was enjoying the meetings regardless.
School helped him understand more of what Griphook told him, and Griphook explaining figures and more on his investments helped him in school as well.
It was an odd trade-off, but Harry learned to take what he could get in any situation.
In class Harry went to talk with Mr. Baryn feeling as if his shoes had weights in them.
“You asked to see me sir?”
Mr. Baryn smiled.
“Yes, I’ve talked with some of your other teachers from previous years, and they tell me that you’re a rather good artist. I was wondering if you would be willing to include pictures in your short story. It doesn’t have to be every page, but if you’re willing to include a few pictures then I’m willing to take a shorter story.”
Harry thought about this after he got over his relief, and encountered a problem again.
“I still don’t know what to write about though, sir.”
“How about something you love to do? Or about someone you know, or used to know? If you write about something that you know about, you’ll find you can write a lot about it.”
Harry thought about it, and thought about what he loved and knew about.
He immediately thought of his Garden, and then thought about Samuel.
The thought hurt, but a new idea was blooming in his mind.
Harry nodded to Mr. Baryn, and excused himself to the library.
Chapter 21: Some History
Mr. Baryn looked after Harry for a long moment.
He was rather worried about Harry.
Harry was a quiet child, and there seemed to be a huge social barrier between him and the rest of the students.
Mr. Baryn thought that it originated in Harry’s rather different cousin, Dudley.
It was amazing how different they were, really.
Harry was always polite, did what he was told, and was one of the brightest students he’d ever had the pleasure to teach. Harry had handed in every assignment well before the due date, and it was always done with more than top marks.
If he could, Mr. Baryn would have suggested that Harry be moved up a grade or two, but when he’d talked to the principle about him, he’d scoffed and talked about how he’d already been warned by the boy’s guardians. Mr. Baryn listened with quiet disbelief as the principal told him that the boy was a delinquent cheat, a pathological liar, and that he’d managed to cheat his previous teachers into asking him the same thing, to let him skip up the grades.
Mr. Baryn had left, and immediately sought out Harry’s previous teachers.
When he found them and asked them about Harry, they had responded with enthusiasm.
They told him exactly what he knew, that Harry was quiet and polite, always finished his work on time, usually days or weeks before something was due, and it was from them that he learned that Harry was apparently an amazing artist.
This was some news to him, as Art classes in his year were held in another classroom with another teacher, but when he talked to Mrs. Brush about it, she too gushed over his work. She joined their Harry-discussion group.
He apparently enjoyed drawing plants above all else, though he had started to be more interested in animals as well. When she’d given a project to mix two things together, Harry had given her a drawing of a Dandelion.
She laughed and gushed over how realistic it was, at how he’d managed to make it look like it was roaring, like it was one vined and leafy body away from prowling around the savannah, or perhaps a garden.
When Harry’s earlier years teachers heard this, they all moaned over how they had tried to get him to try drawing something other than plants.
When he’d asked why, they laughed and described how he started each plant, and how obsessive he was over the details.
His first grade teacher (Mr. Keen) mentioned that she was worried that he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but when she asked him to try drawing a house, he drew it quickly, and then started in on details of a front garden.
Lots of details.
He apparently was only really interested in plants, and wanted to get everything ‘right’.
She also mentioned that he was very popular in the beginning, and had been watering her one plant in the classroom, and had even taught the other students about plants, but that had changed partway through the year and he’d changed to a sort of social pariah.
A rather odd social pariah, as even the kids who were ostracized for picking their nose or for being ‘weird’ were more welcome than he was, and Harry had always been a polite, nice boy. She couldn’t remember ever telling him not to eat glue either.
His second (Mr. Ky) and third (Mr. Rector) grade teachers moaned about this as well, and all three of them put the blame firmly on his terror of a cousin.
That seemed to open up everyone to complain about the bully that is Dudley Dursley, and that went one for a while before a lull in conversation came.
Mrs. Brush asked his second grade teacher about a drawing that Harry mentioned, a tree with hands and teeth, and she hurried up to get it from a file in her classroom.
She brought back a couple of photocopy prints, and Mr. Baryn shuddered when he saw the top picture.
It was done with remarkable sepia-toned detail, and Harry had done some background for it, a barren landscape with what seemed like little hints of something there that when he stared at it disappeared. But the true disturbingly beautiful thing was the main picture, a gnarled grey tree with branches like arms with a variety of hands reaching out from them. Though it was only a picture, Baryn could picture the clawed hand clutching and grabbing at anything the moved close to it, could even imagine the trunk bending to help scoop up its victims, could picture the furred, scaled, feathered, webbed hands twitching as it waited for some movement, like a junkie waiting for their next fix.
He could understand why the hints of movement, of life in the background stayed hidden.
It was a horrifying picture, made even more horrible when he noticed that the gnarled trunk had a mouth. Thin lips were pulled back in what could have been a smile, a hint of jagged teeth showing. It was a smile that said that it ate the cat and the canary, and was waiting for you to get near enough to join them.
Mrs. Brush gasped over it and spent time pouring over the picture in a way that Mr. Baryn dismissed as an artists obsession over detail. But as he looked at it, he also noticed that for all of its horror-film quality, it was rather… interesting. Kind of pretty, even. He looked at the other teachers and they too had looks of dawning realization on their faces.
He’d been worried that an 8-year-old (or 7-year-old even) had drawn this thing from imagination, but though it was initially a repulsive picture, it was kind of like looking at a documentary picture of a lion about to catch a zebra. You knew what would happen after it caught it’s prey, even expected it. You knew that the next picture would likely have a gristly quality, but…
That was what the picture was like.
Mrs. Brush picked up the picture to look at it on her own, and his second grade teacher spoke.
“I was worried when he drew it like he had, but it’s rather pretty after you look at it for a while, isn’t it? And he drew a lot of other pictures too.”
And it was true; the next picture was a tulip looking flower, except that it also looked like it was a teacup.
The one after that was a strange looking plant that was bent over so that it’s curled leaves touched the ground.
After a moment, he realized that it looked rather like it was sniffing the ground, and it’s curved leaves looked like nostrils.
Picture after picture of odd looking plants, some taking a moment to realize what it was, or what it was doing, and with comments as they went through. Some of them Harry had explanations for, such as the teacup “To water the garden for him” and a knobby willow tree that looked as if it was trying to whip flies away and “can weed around itself for me with its roots.”
Some of the odd, polka dotted or zebra striped plants he didn’t give explanations, and drew then ‘just because’.
Eventually he also drew animals, and Baryn could recognize a Griffin, or what would be a griffin if it hadn’t had the hindquarters of a horse, something that could be a giant (Baryn noticed that it had a bushy mustache like he’d seen on Harry’s Uncle), it’s face a red-purple colour, and there were a couple of more plant-animals.
It was drawings like these that made Mr. Baryn talk to Harry about adding pictures to his short story.
When Harry had admitted that he didn’t know what to write about, he’d told him to write about something he knew about and loved, and had almost made the mistake of telling him to write about a friend.
Harry didn’t, from what he could see, have friends.
Harry didn’t seem as though he would have gotten upset if he’d actually said to write about his friends when he didn’t seem to have any, but Harry didn’t get upset about much that he could tell.
He seemed more resigned to something bad happening than upset.
Mrs. Brush and Harry’s other teachers left for a moment to get his other pictures, ones that they too had photocopied, and there was some time where they shared the rather impressive drawings that the 6-, 7-, and 8-year old had done.
He could see why they laughed over getting him to draw something other than plants, as almost all of them were of some sort of greenery.
Unlike the pictures of sniffing plants and grabbing trees, but were drawings of plants that one would find in their garden.
It was interesting seeing how he started off (“he went through so much paper, trying to make each leaf and stem ‘right’, it was rather funny to watch”) to now.
His drawings were remarkably detailed, and looked almost professional.
It was fascinating.
Chapter 22: Some Backstory, Some Staring
Harry worked on his story for a while, on the ‘scrap’ paper that was always in a pile in Mr. Baryns classroom. He finished most of it, and then reread it and crossed out most of it and started again.
He did that twice more.
This project was Important.
Important in a new way for Harry.
Harry thought that it was kind of sad that he was the only one who knew about Samuel, or about Samuel’s death.
The snakes at the pet shop knew OF him, but that wasn’t really the same either.
Harry thought that if his short story was good enough, he might ask Max if he could somehow make a copy, so that when Mr. Baryn asked for it or a copy he’d be able to keep a copy of his own. For some baffling reason his teachers always asked for copies of his drawings, or the drawings themselves. He was fine with handing them over (it wasn’t like he would be able to keep them at his relatives’ house), but he still saw them later in the photocopy room, pictures in hand.
It was odd.
But if Mr. Baryn didn’t ask for it, perhaps he could give the copy to someone else, maybe Max, or to one of those silly publishers who wrote that he fought trolls and dragons.
Perhaps he would put it into one of his vaults. He hadn’t actually been to any of them yet, and now that he thought about it, it seemed like he should look at them, at least once.
At least his Trust Vault, as he knew from Griphook that of his seven keys, three (the ones that only one ‘Of The Blood’ could enter) he wouldn’t be able to access until he was 17 (for two of them) or 23, and of the four remaining he could access only two before he reached 11.
He also learned that he wouldn’t have been able to access any of his vaults if he was younger than 7.
Wizards seemed to take comfort in these kinds of numbers, what Mr. Baryn called ‘prime numbers’. 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23 couldn’t be divided by a whole number evenly.
Harry only remembered them because he didn’t always have access to a calculator, so while his other classmates were trying to figure out if 23 could be divided evenly into 3 he knew that it couldn’t, but Harry felt that he could confidently bet that whatever age restriction after that would also be a prime number.
Thinking of numbers, Harry thought for a moment if he should include Samuels’s bafflement in regards to the importance to numbers, and wrote in something anyway.
This was Important.
Harry was slightly irritated by his arts teacher.
He’d finished the project that, around him, his classmates were still working on, and had handed in his picture of ‘something broken’. He was now working on drawings, or potential drawings, for in his short story, and Mrs. Brush wanted to know why he was drawing snakes.
He told her he wasn’t just drawing snakes he was drawing garter snakes. It was for another project.
This drew attention from his classmates, unwelcome attention, and Harry was uncomfortably aware that the people around him were saying compliments to him about his work for the first time since first grade.
It made him extremely uncomfortable.
Mrs. Brush asked to see him after class.
Harry grudgingly sat in his seat, picking at the dry yellow and purple paint that Dudley had managed to get in his hair that class. It wasn’t fair that he had to stay after class after having to bear Dudley's torturous revenge. Revenge against Harry managing to get any good attention shown at him, from what he could tell.
Mrs. Brush sat on a stool next to him, and asked to see his drawings again. The ones he’d done in class.
He showed her, interested despite himself. Mrs. Brush wasn’t like his other teachers when she looked at what he did, as she told him how he could make it better, pointed out lines that didn’t look natural.
She looked at them for a long time, his drawings of Samuel, and Harry wondered if he’d somehow managed to draw his friend wrong in some way. He hadn’t gotten very far with any of his sketches, mainly working on the head or coiled body shape that Samuel had preferred to rest in.
Eventually though, she nodded.
“What project are you working on?”
“Language Arts, the Short Story project. Mr. Baryn told me that if I wanted I could add pictures.” It wasn’t quite what he said, but it was true enough. What went unsaid in that conversation was that he might get extra marks for his drawings. Extra marks were always good.
“Really? And what are you writing about? Is it all about snakes?”
Harry shook his head.
“Not all about snakes, there’s only one in the story.” There was a silent moment, and Harry realized she wanted him to talk more about it.
“I think that there might be a boy… sort of… as well. A couple of other people. Maybe.” Harry wasn’t entirely sure, as he’d written a lot but also crossed out a lot, but Mrs. Brush nodded and hmm’d.
“What’s the setting then?”
“Really. What a surprise.”
Harry raised an eyebrow at her.
“Have you done any practice drawings for the boy? Figured out the names?”
Harry blinked at her. He hadn’t thought about drawing the boy. And Samuel was Samuel, but… Harry got an idea. He wasn’t sure he would go through with it, but…
“No drawings of people yet, but the Snakes name is Samuel, and the boy’s name is… Boy.”
“Boy? Just Boy?”
“Why a name like Samuel for the snake and a name like Boy for the boy?”
“Because the boy is just a boy. The story’s mainly about the garter snake. Boy is…” what was it Mr. Baryn called it? Ah, right.
“Boy is just a side character.”
Mrs. Brush frowned slightly at that, and looked confused, but thankfully she let the topic drop. Harry glanced at the clock, and saw that he would likely have less time than usual to eat if he didn’t leave soon. Mrs. Brush saw his look.
“Well, if you’re drawing people in this project of yours, I suggest you look at the people around you. You seem to draw from what you see, making your drawings rather realistic looking even when you do something surreal, like your teacup flowers or DandeLions. You should go to lunch.”
Harry tried his hand at drawing a human during his Language Arts class, as Mr. Baryn had given them a free work period, and was frustrated at how hard it was.
He had hands down, as he’d studied his own hands before to draw the strange hands on the Eating Tree (as he’d dubbed it in his mind), but every time he drew a person they looked… lumpy.
Their arms and legs were too long, too fat, their torsos bulging oddly, their heads too large or too small for their bodies…
Problems that shouldn’t be happening.
It only reinforced in his mind that plants were better than humans…
Most humans… Max was alright.
Goblins were okay too, though they weren’t humans, really…
He sat back and thought for a moment, thinking about what had helped when he was learning to draw hands…
But hands were hard to do, and even now he didn’t always draw them alright…
But what did he do to make them recognizable?
He thought, and then the words of Mrs. Brush came to mind.
Well, he thought to himself, it couldn’t hurt.
It did hurt.
Uncle Vernon had thrown him into his Cupboard particularly hard, supposedly to teach him more of a lesson. Harry was just glad he didn’t get kicked.
Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were unhappy to get a call from the principal with complaints from the children and their parents. Apparently Harry was staring.
All the time.
This was apparently an Issue.
Chapter 23: Issues, Finished
The other children complained to teachers about his staring, but couldn’t get any reasoning for Harry’s new staring other than he was ‘watching’, and he’d sort of toned it down after he was talked to.
The children still all complained about the weird Potter kid who stared at them to their parents though, and their parents complained to the principal, who had no choice but to tell the Dursleys that their delinquent charge was freaking out the other children and staring at them.
All the time.
He sat, and stared, for no particular reason as far as they could see. He just sat there… watching… watching.
All the time.
Harry didn’t believe it was possible to stare at all of his classmates all the time at the same time, as he couldn’t focus on that many people at once, but he stopped watching his classmates.
They didn’t help him out much either, as he’d found out through his watching that his classmates didn’t have bodies at all like his own.
His other classmates didn’t do push-ups or sit-ups every night, they didn’t go for long runs every night, they didn’t haul buckets of dirt, or shovel, or weed on a daily basis.
They didn’t have to rake every time leaves fell on the lawn. They didn’t have to shovel snow for hours on end. They didn’t even seem to have to do as many chores around the house, daily, as he had either.
His classmates were all soft. Squishy even.
He was surrounded by soft, squishy classmates who were useless.
So Harry instead stared at the older students.
But he found that a lot of them were squishy too, and he couldn’t follow around the ones that weren’t without having to run away later.
So he watched his teachers. Very few of his teachers weren’t squishy, but they were easier to Watch.
Mr. Baryn asked him to stay after class.
Mr. Baryn had talked to the other teachers, wondering with them why Harry had turned into the… rather creepy kid who was always watching you.
Harry was still a nice, polite kid, but when he wasn’t working or reading, or otherwise distracted, he Stared.
It was bad enough that it needed a title, so among the teachers they talked about how he Watched or Stared. The other teachers, the ones who didn’t have Harry as a student, had laughed to themselves when they first heard about the ‘issue’, but then their students complained about a little kid who was following them around and staring, and then they would occasionally see a short kid with messy black hair and green eyes staring at them. Just staring. They stopped laughing
After a lot of discussion, eventually Mrs. Brush came into the teachers lounge, and they asked her why he might have started this… staring thing.
Apparently she had suggested to Harry that he look at people to help when he was drawing people, as he responded more from being given an example to work off of.
It was a rather funny situation, but Mr. Baryn had enough of being stared at quite as intently as Harry had been staring.
So he asked him too stay after school, and explained to him that people (himself included) weren’t comfortable being stared at.
He suggested that Harry go to a busy street corner and try people watching there if his Guardians were willing (he doubted it though), and when he dismissed Harry he hoped that the problem would be solved.
Harry didn’t watch people at school any more, and instead went to Max’s shop or Diagon Alley to watch people every other day. At Max’s shop Harry had to promise to be very quiet any time a customer came in, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to watch anymore. Harry accepted that, and thought about the books about the Statute of Secrecy, and how it would probably be like that with some people… Everyone in the shop was magic, but that didn’t mean that they wanted their business told to others.
Harry liked ‘People Watching’ in the Alley a bit better, as people seemed to be dressed in much more interesting clothes. Wizards and Witches also seemed to take advantage of something called a ‘warming charm’ when it got cold (something Harry was envious of), and so didn’t bundle up when it got cold as the Fucking Muggles did.
Harry new that they were just Muggles, but like the childish name for Push-ups, ‘Fucking Muggles’ stuck in his head.
At least for people who he either didn’t know or didn’t like.
Mr. Baryn wasn’t a Fucking Muggle, but Harry secretly thought of his relatives as such.
After a meeting with Griphook, Harry stood in the main atrium of Gringotts to Watch for a bit, before leaving.
Griphook was very careful about client confidentiality, and Harry didn’t want to get on his worse side by spending more time than he should, staring at the Gringotts customers.
It only made sense after all.
Harry worked on his drawings of humans until he was satisfied that it was a bit more than recognizable for what it was, and then started in on writing his final drafts.
He’d been crossing out almost twice as much as he’d write, it seemed, but he’d gotten his Short Story almost entirely done.
Harry only had to finish writing the end.
Dudley tried making a big deal about Harry being a nerd again, this time an even nerdier nerd for him being so girly in his drawings, but that only reminded the others about Harry’s apparent skill in drawings. The other kids asked him to draw things for them, and he said no, because why should he? Harry privately thought that he didn’t have time to work on their pictures anyway, not when he was stressed out a bit about the ending of his Short Story.
Also, the kids of his class never paid him any attention before, never made any attempt to be friendly before, so Harry took secret pleasure in being able to deny them something, anything really.
Harry’s refusal to draw any puppies or kittens or people or whatever they were asking for upset the other students deeply. Harry replied with “Whatever…”
This started a rather small riot in the class as kids told him he was being rude for not drawing them pictures, and it was only the distraction of everything falling off of the walls of the classroom that made them go away.
And that meant everything.
Mr. Baryn ushered people out of the classroom and called a janitor to check out the room to make sure it was safe again.
It was, and the rest of the day was spent picking up the numerous assignments and pictures from the floor.
Dudley told Aunt and Uncle about it, and Harry was shoved into his Cupboard for the rest of the night for being a freak again.
When Harry finished looping and tying sturdy string through the holes on one side of the papers, he set down his finished short story with a sigh. The strings were mismatched ones he’d found abandoned in the house, but would hold the book together. Harry was glad he could use the paper at school, otherwise the paper inside would also be mismatched as well, and though the different strings could be written off as him being ‘creative’, he didn’t want Samuels story to be on scrap paper.
But it was done.
It was, by far, the longest assignment he’d ever done. In both time and length.
Harry sighed again.
He just needed to bring it to Max to have it copied, and he’d be able to hand it in to Mr. Baryn.
The drawings were done, each word of the story carefully written out in the library, the pages were as crisp and new-feeling as he could get them, and it was finally done. It had taken past winter, and through a lot of spring, but he’d finished it, and now there was hardly more than two more months of class left before summer. And it would be the first full year of having his Mark.
And Harry would be handing his first assignment in with his classmates. His first assignment handed in directly ‘on time’. That was new.
It was rather odd feeling, but Harry carefully put it into his bag to bring it to Max later in the day, after he was done his chores and his Aunt let him out.
Harry put the copy of his Short Story into his bag, and asked Max if the original could stay at the shop for the next day an a half or so, and was happy when Max said yes.
Harry left when it was getting dark out, and once he was out of sight Max pulled the childishly bound book from the shelf where it had been put, and stared at the cover page for a moment.
He opened the first page, and started reading.
Harry didn’t notice later that there was another copy of his Book on the shelf when he came again, and Max didn’t mention it. Harry asked, and then offered Max the chance to read his book, and was happy when Max started flipping through the pages. He wanted to ask what he thought, the first time reading it, but Max seemed to be in one of his quiet moods, so Harry didn’t ask.
Chapter 24: Later
Mr. Baryn looked over the Short Story assignments of all of his students, but moved one string-bound book to the side to review last.
He’d gotten ‘rough’ copies of all but one of the assignments a week and a half prior, so he knew what they were about, and was only looking for changes.
He marked with a red pen on a separate paper about the grammatical errors that the students had forgotten to change, not marking up the pages themselves but writing about each mistake on each page separately and sliding them in between pages.
Students usually gave his corrections a cursory glance, but focused on the bright red mark at the top of the first page. Mr. Baryn chose to give these assignments percentage marks rather than the usual A, B, C, or D marks. It would get them ready for the higher grades that used the percentile system.
Mr. Baryn noticed that while the assignment said that they could have a cover page, all but one had a fairly neat printer page with a couple of cutout pictures glued to it. Very few had personal drawings on it. All but one was held together by the might of a single staple in the top-left corner. One or two assignments had two staples in the corner.
He’d finished most of them quickly, as he’d already written out a preliminary mark when he’d reviewed their rough copies, and very few had major changes that he had to take note of. A few needed more of a look over, as it seemed that they’d changed most of their story, or added more to it as he’d told them to.
When he finished with the rest of the class’s stories, he packed them up, and after checking the clock and noticing that it was after his after-class hours, picked up the string-bound book, put on his coat, grabbed his bag, and headed home.
Later that night, he sat down in his living room and set the string-bound book on his lap.
He admired the simple cover, made of green paper with a smaller white piece of paper centered on top of it.
“It’s a Circle” was at the top with an image of a snake biting it’s own tail—an ouroboros, he thought – below it.
Baryn was intrigued by the title; he honestly had no idea what the story was about.
Aside form his one conversation with Harry when he’d asked if Harry would illustrate his story and suggesting he write about something he knew and loved, Harry hadn’t talked to him at all about what he was writing about. It was one more thing that set him apart from the other students.
His cousin, Dudley, had come to him every class to talk about his short story, a rather uninteresting fiction about a poor rich boy who has to live with his freak urchin cousin and share what he has with him. In the end the urchin cousin gets thrown in jail, and the rich boy is free to do whatever he wants. Baryn was severely underwhelmed by the plot.
Mrs. Brush had asked whether she could read it after it had been marked, before it was handed back, and he’d agreed to ask Harry the next day at class. She’d mentioned that Harry had worked some on the practice drawings for his story in class when he had nothing else to do, but all Baryn got from that was to know that it had a snake and a boy in it. And possibly other people in it. Maybe.
He could get that there was a snake in it from the cover page.
He turned the first page.
A short while later, his wife came into the room to find her husband sitting on the couch, dabbing at his eyes with his sleeve.
When she tried to get him to tell her what was wrong, he pulled her down next to him and flipped to the first page of what looked to be an assignment.
They read it together, and by the end she was also crying, but was also confused.
“Who made this? Surely not one of your students?” She thought it was much too sad to be from one of her husband’s fourth-graders. Sure, the beginning could be considered a bit childish, but…
Mr. Baryn nodded and handed her a tissue.
“I’ve told you about Harry, right? Well he’s still as bright as ever, and this is the first I’ve read his story…”
“Don’t you usually collect a rough copy from your students so you don’t have to spend days marking? I know you still keep the assignments for a couple of days or a week or two so you can get on in class…”
“Yes, but he didn’t hand in a rough copy, and I didn’t pressure him for it. He’s a brilliant kid, really, handed in everything but this almost immediately after I assigned it, and I talked to some of his previous teachers and they all said that he was brilliant as well. I asked him after he handed in two assignments weeks in advance if he wouldn’t mind adding pictures to his short story, as the other thing that his other teachers couldn’t say enough about was how talented in art he was. He agreed, and I suggested he write about something that he knew and loved, and…well, I knew that he liked plants, since apparently that’s all he would draw for a while, but this… well I knew he could think up some bad things… but…”
“And this is what he came up with? That’s…” she stopped.
They were quiet for a few minutes before Ms. Baryn spoke.
“What do you mean you knew he could think up some horrible things? Didn’t you say that it was his cousin who was the bully? Dudley Dursing or something like that?”
He shook his head. “I told you a while ago that I met up with some of his old teachers and they had a lot to talk about right? We spent a good while after school talking about him, and like I said, they were really enthusiastic about his art. I don’t teach art at this grade, so I got Mrs. Brush to join us.
They joked about how he’s really enthusiastic about drawing plants, almost to the point that they were worried that he had a case of OCD, until one day he started to draw some other things too. On his own. Without a teacher having to ask him to draw it. This apparently reminded Mrs. Brush about something Harry said, something about a tree with hands, and that made all of them rush to get photocopies of his drawings that they’d gotten.” Mr. Baryn laughed.
“A child prodigy is he?” Ms. Baryn never liked the idea of putting a child on a pedestal like the media was prone to do with ‘child prodigies’ but it didn’t sound as if this Harry was being treated as more than a polite and smart child. She thought about the drawings in the short story, and acknowledged that they were indeed beautiful…
“A bit, yeah. I thought that the other teachers were exaggerating, but he’s honestly a really good artist. He draws plants like it’s all he’s known about since birth, and he has a really unique imagination… when he suddenly started drawing other things, he drew flowers that looked like teacups, a strange looking plant that looks like it’s sniffing for something, stuff like that. He also drew a griffin kind of thing, but with the hind quarters of a horse—”
“Oh! That’s a hippogriff! I remember reading about those in college, when we were doing a mythology unit!”
“Really? Oh. Well I feel a bit silly now… I talked to Harry about that drawing, and told him that griffins have the rear legs of a lion, not a horse… ”
Ms. Baryn smiled at her husband. “What’d he do?”
“Gave me a strange sort of look and nodded… now that I think about it, I think he was humoring me… Well then, a kid less than 10 years old was humoring me. I feel old.”
Ms. Baryn patted his shoulder, giggling.
“So yeah, he had those drawings, but he’d talked to his teacher about how a tree looks like it has arms and hands, and she suggested he try drawing that. He did. The entire picture looks like something from the mind of Edgar Allen Poe, all sepia-toned horror film quality, with arms for branches and hands grasping at the ends of each arm.” Mr. Baryn mimed reaching out his arms and grabbing at his wife with hooked fingers. She shivered a bit, but couldn’t quite imagine it.
“Sounds a bit like he was drawing a nightmare honey.”
He nodded. “Yes, especially since the trunk has this wide, thin mouth on it. Looked ready to eat anything that happened past, especially with the arms and everything. But the thing is that he didn’t make it look like it was going to try to get you or anything, he just drew it like it was… I don’t know. Like it was just there. Just because. In fact, it was actually a pretty cool looking picture, after you got over the…”
“The creepy factor of it?” Ms. Baryn suggested. Mr. Baryn nodded.
“I don’t know how his mind came up with it. Or this, for that matter.” He tapped one finger on the cover page of the short story. “I’ll talk to him about it after class tomorrow.”
Chapter 25: After Class
Harry waited as the rest of the students, and Dudley, filed out of the classroom, bags on their backs and chatting to each other about what videogames they had, what they were going to beg their parents to get them, and whatever else his classmates could think to natter on about.
Dudley gave him a look as he left, and Harry knew that he’d have to walk home himself, and when he did get there he would be punished for whatever he’d done to have the teacher talk to him.
Harry wasn’t that worried. Maybe he should run back to his relatives house… and when he was in his Cupboard, even if he’d gotten too big to do even sit-ups, he’d found out about a new stretch for his legs while sitting down. He’d have to look for other stretches to do as well, not only ones to do in his Cupboard.
He was getting rather stiff lately.
Stretching might even help him get more comfortable in his Cupboard. Maybe.
Harry thought longingly of a time when he could stand comfortably in his Cupboard. He didn’t mind being short, didn’t mind that most of the girls in his class were taller than him (though he was honest enough to admit that he once cared). It meant that when he was being teased for his height or his mind, he wasn’t being teased about his glasses, which were starting to bother him. He’d heard about having to get a new prescription for your glasses if your eyes get worse, but he didn’t know that it would be such a dizzying experience. He knew his eyesight was changing, but he didn’t think everything would start to look buggy and goggly. Everything got a super-focused warped look to it. It was decidedly unpleasant.
He noticed he’d started looking over the rims of his glasses more and more when he was looking at the board, and was raising his glasses with one hand to work on something directly in front of him.
It was irritating.
Almost as irritating as the fact that his classmates couldn’t come up with anything better to call him than ‘four-eyes’, ‘nerd’, ‘dork’, or ‘wimp’.
Piers Polkiss, Dudley’s best friend, once tried calling him a pussy.
He said it with this weird sort-of pride, the same that he’d developed the first time he’d said the f-word in the school yard. Harry was amused by the unsaid boast the word had held. ‘Yep, I’m cool, I’m hip, me mam would smack me for saying this, but here it is. I said it. I said f—shoot there’s a teacher!’
But then he was calling Harry a pussy with this same tone.
Harry had stared at him for a moment before meowing at him and walking away.
It was the only response he could think of that wouldn’t involve laughing in his face. When the rest of his classmates giggled, Piers flushed and punched him, but didn’t try calling him a cat again.
Harry was glad. Of all the insults, being called a pussy was more than ridiculous.
A pussy indeed...
Mr. Baryn finished cleaning up his desk, and Harry waited for him to start speaking.
“Thank you for staying, Harry. I have a couple of things to talk to you about, concerning the short story you handed in yesterday…”
“Was there something wrong with it?” Harry was feeling a bit defensive. It was one of the best things he’d ever written…
“Oh, no, no, no, no, nothing like that. It was very well written, good job. Both the story and the art you included are wonderful, very well done. Um, first of all though, I was wondering if you would mind if I showed this to some of the other teachers, they’ve asked you see…”
Harry nodded. It was fine. It would be good for other people to read it as well. “You can also keep it. I made a copy.”
“Great! I’m sure everyone will be pleased to read it. I was also hoping to talk to you about the content…”
Mr. Baryn brought Harry’s story to the teachers lounge after first period, and left it there. He put a note in the first page saying that it belonged to a student but that he would like others to read it. He’d be back to collect it at the end of a week. He wondered about going to the Principal and asking about bumping Harry up a grade… his wife was against labeling children ‘prodigies’ but…
Surely she’d understand this.
Luckily for Harry, Yoga was ‘in’ with the neighbors right then, and so his Aunt bought a number of yoga instruction videos and went through one session every weekend in the living room.
Harry watched from the grate in his cupboard, and listened.
A week later, Harry managed to incorporate a number of those stretches into his nighttime routine, and he smiled thinking about what Samuel would have said about a couple of the poses.
I didn’t hurt as much to think about Samuel, and he’d finally managed to get up the courage to tell the other snakes about his death. They were a bit surprised, and expressed their condolences, and Harry told them about how he’d read that garter snakes in the wild only live up to two years if they’re lucky.
This shocked them, as most of them were older than that, and Harry had a short conversation with them about what else he’d read about snakes before the storeowner told him that unless he was going to buy something he should leave.
Baryn left the Principals office with a red face and feeling as though his blood pressure would go through the roof. There was absolutely no reasoning with that man…
He’d gone inside after talking with his previous teachers and getting their approval. He didn’t need it, but he figured his argument would have more weight if he could bring in the opinion of the other teachers as well. They all agreed that Harry could be bumped a couple of grades and still keep up, and even though the three fifth-grade teachers were disappointed about missing the chance to teach the much talked about Harry Potter, they agreed that if he was handing in assignments weeks in advance, he would be able to catch up easily.
So, armed with these arguments, he’d headed to Mr. Burtensen’s office.
“So I hear you want to move one of your students ahead? Well, who is it, hmm?”
He’d smiled, as Mr. Burtensen seemed open to the idea.
“Yes, one of my top students. He’s handed in all of his assignments well before each due date and never causes any trouble in class. He’s rather brilliant and could keep up with even the seventh-graders.” Baryn laughed to himself. Yes, he thought Harry could probably catch up even to the eighth graders if he worked at it.
Mr. Burtensen leaned forward in his chair, his eyebrows raised. “You’re sure of this?”
Baryn nodded. “Absolutely. If you test him on the material, he would be able to pass, I’m sure of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already started studying algebra already.”
Burtensen made an interested hum back in his throat. “That’s amazing… what’s this student’s name? Have I heard of him before? I should already know of a student like that…” He frowned down at his desk.
“You’ve probably heard of him… there was a bit of a problem earlier this year as he went about working on a project in an… interesting way. His name is Harry Potter.”
Immediately Mr. Burtenses’s face scrunched.
“Hm, Potter… I’ve heard of him. I’ve had quite a few talks about that boy with his relatives.”
Baryn didn’t like the look on his face. “Sir?”
“A horrible boy from the sound of it… and I remember that problem, caused his dear aunt quite a bit of stress. Staring at the other students like that, can you imagine? From what I hear he’s a menace of their neighborhood, always causing trouble.”
Baryn felt like they were talking about two different people… Harry? A menace? The most menacing expression he’d ever seen on the kids face was his nose scrunching when he’d seen a vase of cut flowers on his desk. Or… maybe when he was staring, but that was more intent than menacing…
“And you’re saying he’s that smart? He’s probably getting his cousin to do the work for him. Cheating on tests too, his relatives mentioned he’s nasty like that… No, absolutely not. If he’s managed to fool you, he must be a good cheater, but I won’t reward a cheater by moving them forward a couple of grades. Absolutely not.”
“B-but sir, all of his other teachers agree with me… he’s a marvelous student, and how can he cheat if he hands in everything before his cousin? Dudley’s grades are also terrible…”
“Hmph, if he’s getting his cousin to do his work for him then how could Dudley work on his own work? You should give him extra marks to make up for it actually.”
Baryn didn’t think so… But how could he get him to understand!? Harry really was a sweet kid!
“But sir, Harry really—”
“No. I will NOT put forward a request to the school board to push him forward even one grade. He will not be given a prize for his actions. Don’t ask me again, Baryn. Leave.”
His look gave him no choice, and Baryn swallowed the words of protest in his throat, and left the office.
He’d tell this to the fifth-grade teachers… perhaps next year one of them could talk to Mr. Burtensen.
Chapter 26: Rollin 'n' Recognized
While he was riding the Knight Bus back to Max’s store, Harry took the time to look at Max and think.
He’d asked the Goblins to send 6 Galleons to Max every time he brought him to their office as payment, and had asked Max if he minded if Harry stayed at his shop when he wasn’t going to the Alley.
Max said yes.
Harry wanted to consider Max a… well, if not a friend then at least an ally.
Max had given him his mark, Max had agreed to bring him to Gringotts when it was needed, Max made a copy of his short story for him, had held onto it for him, and had, for nearly a full year now, always ben there.
And he hadn’t once asked to speak with his relatives.
That did a lot for him, as that was something that not even his teachers could do.
In the meeting with Griphook, Max was always there, but only commented occasionally. He gave input but listened, and from what Harry had learned this past year, listening was much more important than speaking.
And while he was mostly quiet in the meetings, he spoke to Harry outside of them a lot. He pointed out stores and explained things in the Alley, and when Harry visited his shop he allowed him to stay.
Occasionally there are people—wizards—in the shop, but Harry was still allowed to stay. Harry wasn’t worried about being recognized. He always wore the green bandanna, rolled into a headband to cover his scar, and had taken to not wearing his glasses on his walks.
It was frustrating not being able to get another prescription…
Though wizards would likely have to wear glasses. Didn’t they?
Harry searched his memory, and found that yes; he did see a number of witches and wizards wearing glasses of some sort.
But then again, he was seeing the board in school just fine, and he didn’t need his glasses for reading…
Harry internally shrugged.
Well he might just not wear his glasses anymore.
But back to not being recognized.
Harry saw some pictures of his parents, pictures that moved, and he knew he looked like his father somewhat; they had the same hair and general face shape and features, though like in everything in Harry’s life, his were smaller. With his bandanna covering his scar and pushing his bangs up, Harry still looked a bit like his father but without his glasses the predominant feature that people noticed were his eyes.
Harry liked his eyes the best of all of him, so this was fine for him.
And it helped that with people’ mind on the stuffed dolls and moving cartoon pictures of Harry, anytime someone looked at him and only really noticed dark hair and green eyes, they didn’t think that Harry was Harry Potter since they didn’t notice the messy dark hair, glasses, scar, and green eyes.
It was nice.
Harry was infamous at school and famous in the wizarding world, he was despised in his relative’s house, and with his disguise he was only recognizable in the Alley.
That was something to think about, too.
He’d been in and about the Alley for so long now that storeowners were starting to recognize and greet him.
It was nice…
There was one part of the Alley that Harry wanted to go into, but got pulled away from every time he headed towards it.
The first time he’d seen the shadowy archway that led to Knockturn Alley, he’d headed towards it and gotten his arm nearly dislocated as a well-meaning witch pulled him away and told him Not To Go In There. She brought him to Fortescues Ice Cream Parlor, and told him to wait there for his parents before bustling off.
Harry had tried again later in the week, and had been pulled away again, this time by a tall, reedy man. He also told Harry Not To Go In There.
It was rather frustrating, as no one would tell him why.
Max didn’t tell him why he couldn’t go in there, but had promised to show him around as soon as he turned 11.
It was another one of those special wizard numbers, and Harry wondered if there would next be a restriction that he had to be 13 or 17 to buy anything in Knockturn Alley.
Harry hadn’t bought anything since he’d found out that he had money, nothing other than that one cockroach cluster, and, Harry conceded, Max’s time.
Perhaps when he reached that magical age of 11 he’d buy himself something.
Harry had never gotten a present for his birthday before, and a present that the Dursleys wouldn’t notice would require some thought.
Harry’s mind immediately went to the large Herbology volume, the one that had pictures, uses, and care instructions for what seemed like thousands of different plants, both magical and Muggle.
But it was a large book, and Harry didn’t know how he could hide it.
Harry also thought about the Beautiful Snowy White Owls, and then about the tanks of friendly snakes, and thought about how he didn’t know how he could hide an Owl, and he didn’t want to risk another snake around his Uncle… especially if he had a shovel.
Clothing would be noticeable, and would be useless if he never wore it (though again, perhaps at some other magical age? 17?), and now that Harry had decided to no longer wear his glasses, he was more than reluctant to get a new prescription and have to wear the darn things again. They were always falling off, and with Dudley breaking them all the time they were uncomfortable too, the scotch tape rubbing against his skin unpleasantly.
Harry supposed that he could always buy himself a meal…
Perhaps he would get one good meal whenever he came down.
The idea was appealing… his stomach gurgled. Max raised an eyebrow at him, and Harry smiled in return.
Maybe he’d ask Max to go out to eat with him for his birthday, Harry’s treat.
That sounded like a good idea.
One meal to spoil him every other day, and buying his… ally/friend Max dinner.
For the first time that Harry could remember, he looked forward to his birthday.
Chapter 27: A Study in Cooties
His Aunt was acting weird around him. She seemed startled any time she looked at him, now that he didn’t wear his glasses, and she was constantly sniffing around him.
The first time Harry noticed, he’d carefully sniffed his shirt, and then his armpits, but he didn’t smell like anything more than the cool dampness of the rain last night, and a hint of potting soil.
Harry would freely admit that he wiped his hands off on his clothing after he was done in the Garden; his Aunt would complain about him being dirty no matter how careful he was.
Then again, Harry thought about once reading that one couldn’t smell ones own stink.
In an attempt to stop his Aunt from continuing to sniff after him, he took a couple of sprigs of lavender to his cot and slipped a few strands of it in various cracks and corners. He’d thought about doing this earlier, as lavender could apparently help keep bugs away, and this was an excuse to do it early. Harry was glad that things were growing so quickly, otherwise his Aunt would surely have noticed the missing stems of lavender.
His plan didn’t work tough, as his Aunt still sniffed after him. Harry wondered if his apparent stink would be enough to prompt her to let him wash more often.
But he was proved wrong, since when his Aunt finally told him to go wash, he entered the bathroom to find that she’d taken all of the shampoos and conditioners from where they once sat, and while Harry had his own bar of soap that he used instead of shampoo and conditioner, this brought up another possibility that he hadn’t thought of.
Perhaps he smelled good, and THAT was what was making her suspicious.
Harry guessed that one couldn’t smell ones own perfume…
He washed up using his bar of soap everywhere, and left the washroom to find his Aunt waiting outside of the door.
The now-familiar flare of her nostrils and narrowing of her eyes was the only indicator that whatever he smelled like that was irritating her was still present.
Harry restrained himself from sniffing at his pits again.
But, whatever this bathing test was, it seemed to have made her back off, because while she kept sniffing after him on occasion, it wasn’t as obsessively as it once was.
Harry wondered what, exactly, he smelled like then.
Harry later saw his Aunt sniffing his bar of soap suspiciously, and was ordered to go shovel the living room when he was caught.
Harry didn’t correct her, and went to get cleaning supplies.
He still wondered what he smelled like though.
Dudley and his crew of young criminals were the ones to answer the question, and in answering they decided to bring Harry into a war that he wasn’t aware was happening.
A war that included cooties.
It must be said now that Harry looked up the strange word in the dictionary much later, and from what he could gain from it, it seemed as though a ‘cootie’ was some form of body lice… that the males of his class were convinced the girls of his class had, and vice versa for the girls.
Harry knew for a fact that he didn’t have any kind of lice, and after adding bits of lavender around his cupboard, aside from removing some of the musty smell from around him, it also served to drive away most bugs aside from mosquitos, spiders, and the occasional fly. Harry didn’t bother telling this to his classmates, as he didn’t want to have to spend a couple of days explaining and re-explaining to his rather petty classmates.
Also, Dudley would likely ‘tell’ on Harry for putting bits of Lavender in his Cupboard.
But back to Dudley and the first time he’d ever answered a question for Harry.
It was during the required Gym class, and Harry was stuck standing in line next to Billy Pembrooke, one of Dudley’s Young Criminals.
It was almost Harry’s turn to do his 40 yard dash when he heard a familiar sound coming from Billy.
Harry wouldn’t have even noticed it if he wasn’t made sensitive to it from his Aunt.
Billy Pembrooke was sniffing at him. Harry felt his shoulders stiffening.
When he glanced at him he saw Billy grinning at him in a way more reminiscent to Goblins than a human, Harry knew to be prepared for trouble later.
He was right.
Back in class, when Dudley and his gang regrouped, Harry sat down with a book in his seat. He glanced up when he heard their jeering laughter and saw them heading towards him.
The rest of the class turned their attention to them, wondering what Dudley would do to his cousin next.
Dudley made a big show of leaning forward and taking a big sniff around him. Harry almost smiled at how ridiculous he looked, but managed to restrain it. No provoking Dudley by snorting at him.
“You’re right! He DOES smell like a girl!”
Harry felt a shift around the classroom as Dudley loudly declared that. This seemed to have some sort of hidden meaning, one that was lost to Harry.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked, curious despite himself.
Billy answered, snickering.
“He smells like a flower! Girly Potter smells like a Flower!”
Harry raised an eyebrow at the group as they burst out in laughter.
A flower. The sense of humor his classmates had was lowering if they thought a flower was funny.
Listening to the rest of his classmates, he heard muttering sweeping around the room.
But, he thought as he glanced around the room, there seemed to be two groups of mutterings…
A girl, Amy he thought her name was, stepped forward from a group of other girls.
“What’s wrong with smelling like a girl? It’s better than stinking like a boy.”
“A’course it’s bad for a boy to stink like a girl! Who in their right mind would wanna smell like a flower?” Another boy stood up.
Harry thought it prudent NOT to mention that he wouldn’t mind.
This started a class-wide argument about guys versus girls, the first that Harry had seen, and Piers spoke up reminding them all of Harry once again.
“Potter stinks like a girl, he’s just as bad as a girl.”
Dudley opened his fat mouth and spewed gibberish.
“He probably has girl cooties, Girly Potter.”
In that moment, Harry didn’t pay attention to the girls who were surprisingly sticking up for him, or the boys who started to laugh and back away from him. No, all he could think about was the absurd word that Dudley had spewed, one that everyone else apparently recognized.
What the hell is a cootie?
The next week and a half went by oddly.
The girls of his class seemed to decide that he was ‘one of them’ just as the guys of his class decided that he was, once again, ‘Different’.
Harry didn’t know why, and later agreed with the feeling, but he felt as though he should say absolutely nothing about anything until whatever it was died down. He also felt the need to hide during recess and lunch, more so than usual.
This again turned out to be a good idea, as it seemed as though everyone in his grade was out to get him.
To find him, that is.
Harry didn’t know what they would have done to him if they found him, since his ‘feeling’ kept him from being seen.
This feeling also told him in the middle of the week to stop hanging around the small side yard area that no one really went around to hide, and instead go around an equally unused area of the playground, this one a hidden nook with a tree and a wall blocking it mostly from view.
This again turned out to be a good idea, as Dudley found that little area not long after, and Harry could see from his hidden area that that area was added to the checking-for-Harry routine.
Harry learned to trust this feeling, as it was keeping him from danger and another talk of cooties. Harry also liked this new hiding spot better, as he lay with his back against the tree, listening.
Listening to the rustling of leaves like secrets being whispered in his ear.
Harry had listened in silence to the new talks of cooties that sprung up around the classroom, and gained that it wasn’t something really physical, and from Mr. Baryn shaking his head, it was more something mental.
From what Harry read, you couldn’t catch something mental.
Cooties were, to his classmates, something bad that you could catch from the opposite sex.
With Harry apparently smelling like a flower, something ‘girly’, he was shoved into—or at least beside—the category of ‘girl’ by his male classmates, which in turn made them nervous of staying around him more than necessary, and made them keep from touching him if possible. They didn’t want to catch his ‘cooties’.
An upside to this was that this meant that Harry Hunting was banned, and Dudley made a point to not touch him at all, for fear of contracting cooties.
He made a rather large deal of NOT touching him, full of theatric wincing and walking wide berths around Harry when making his way past him.
The boys also developed a strange power of being able to make eye contact with each other at certain times, sharing a knowing look, sometimes a smirk, whenever one of the other boys was made to go near or touch Harry. This would mean that for an hour or so (the time varied), the boy ‘unlucky’ enough to be caught near Harry was also avoided, before he was deemed ‘purified’ of whatever he could have caught off Harry.
It was rather amusing, actually.
Similarly, the girls also developed the ability to know when this was going on, and as a group they would glare and frown at the boys as they shared a look/smirk with each other.
As an outsider, Harry took to staying around the edges of the classroom to see this oddness, and it was through observation that he noticed that as a group the girls would look up from whatever they were doing, and as a group the guys of his class turned at the right moment to make eye contact with another male (sometimes across the room from each other), and that the eye contact was not always with the same boy.
Harry wondered if he would have gained this… this group mind if he had been more a part of his classmates’ lives.
He found himself extremely glad he wasn’t included in this.
Something slightly irritating he found with his enforced silence was that his voice was getting rough with disuse. This wasn’t much of a problem every other day, but every even day he had meeting with Max, and he’d gained a raised eyebrow and an amused smirk when Harry spoke with his overly hoarse voice.
The first meeting he had with the Goblins, he’d gained slight frowns when his tone had been so hoarse and he’d had to clear his throat a number of times during the meeting, and after that Harry devised a plan so that his voice wouldn’t get the rough, scratchy sound to it.
Every night he was outside working on the garden, Harry didn’t talk to himself, but he hummed.
He hummed any tune he could think of, and made up ones to go with his hand actions.
When that got repetitive, Harry made up songs for each of his plants, and liked to imagine that even though he thought he sounded stupid constantly humming, his plants liked it.
He eventually added some words, if only to break up the humming and catch his breath.
Harry was glad when the murmuring of cooties died down, and he felt that it was safe to talk again, but kept humming at night.
He looked at it as vocal exercises, and he still thought that his plants might have enjoyed it still.
So yet another thing was added to his nighttime exercises.
Chapter 28: A Short Story by Harry Potter
It’s Green – Chapter 28 – A Short Story By Harry Potter
There was very little time left before the end of the year, and Harry was wondering when the short stories would be handed back. He knew he wasn’t getting his back to keep, and was fine with that as he’d had Max make up a copy for him, but he was curious as to what mark he’d get for it.
Mr. Baryn mentioned that their mark would be in numbers, to give them an idea of what marking in the higher grades would be like, and Harry wondered what that would be like. Surely much more specific to each assignment.
Harry smiled, thinking about the possible mark Dudley’s story would get.
As luck would have it, Mr. Baryn told the class that he would be handing out the stories at the end of the day. He didn’t feel as lucky when Mr. Baryn asked to see him at the end of class, but stayed hopeful, thinking that maybe it would be to give back the short story as he’d asked to keep it.
Harry kept that in mind.
In the last half-hour of class, Mr.Baryn started to and out the various short stories, and told them that it would be free period to look over the corrections and marks he’d made, and to share their stories if they wanted to.
“Don’t forget to come ask me about anything that you aren’t sure of.”
Harry sat in a corner as the rest of his class crowded together, comparing marks and comments, all thoughts of cooties apparently out of mind in the face of possible bragging rights.
Harry thought it was funny that some were bragging at having a 76% over someone else’s 75%, and looked down at his own sheet of paper with notes and marks on it.
95% sat on the top of his paper, and Harry remembered Mr. Baryn saying that he wouldn’t give anyone 100%. Something about that never happening in High school for written assignments.
Harry read over the separate page, and flipped through the pages of his book to find the places with corrections.
Done that, Harry decided to read what he’d written, wondering if it would truly be that different reading it so long after he’d written it.
He stared at the picture of a neighborhood made up of leaves and vines, odd in the fact that each house looked identical, and read the first lines of his story.
“Once upon a time a snake found his way into a Garden.”
Once upon a time a snake found his way into a Garden.
It was a strange Garden, with so many different kinds of fruits and vegetables; the snake didn’t know what to do with himself.
He’d only ever been in Gardens with gangly grasses, friendly shrubbery, and flowers bundled together in their lots.
Never had he been in a place full of such colour, full of uniform produce in their uniform lots, so much variety snipped and pruned into efficient conformity.
Many other snakes would, he felt, balk at such a strange new place, and perhaps turn around for Greener pastures, but this snake took a chance.
This snake moved forward.
He moved through the Garden, looking at families of fruits and vegetables and legumes, but mostly unseen himself. He was content with this, as snakes are generally satisfied with the solitary life.
He slithered and slid along the neat plots of land, wondering if he would see anything not trimmed and tucked to excess, when he came across the Boy.
He was a small bit of familiarity to the snake, having seen plants such as the Boy before, though he did wonder why one would be happy to be in such a place as this.
From what he recalled of Vegetable gardens, plants like this Boy were considered Weeds.
Curious, he approached the Boy.
Called out a greeting, and watched as he jumped, startled.
Plants, as far as he could tell, did not jump for any reason. Always had one foot firmly to the ground, and he wondered at this strangeness.
“Why are you here, Boy?” he asked, once he had his attention. “What are you doing here surrounded by vegetables?”
The Boy looked uncomfortable, and shrugged. “Weed killer got my parents, and I got sent to live with… well.” He looked over his shoulder at the plot of land he was on, and through the windows he could see a horse faced Carrot fussing with a portly young Rutabaga, a Gold-Faced Beet just beyond them, reading the newspaper.
It was an odd looking family to him, but certainly not unusual around these parts from what he had seen.
He looked back to the Boy.
The Boy shrugged again. “I’m grateful to them for taking me in, really. There’s not much room in a world like this or a weed like me.”
He wanted to say something about that, to say that there are actually many more ‘weeds’ out in the world, many more in communities much more diverse than this odd Garden, but was distracted by the Boy asking him his name.
Snakes in general have no need for names, as most recognize each other by scent, but each snake does have one.
He speaks his, and the Boy does not understand it.
Says it again, and the boy tries repeating it, and again they try, and again they try, and he thinks it is fortunate that he is not terribly attached to his name, as they come to agree that the Boy may call him Samuel.
When he, thinking to be polite, asks the boy for his name in return, he looks uncomfortable and replies “Boy. I’m really just called Boy.”
This is convenient, Samuel thinks, as snakes really don’t have need for names, and he doubted he would remember any other.
And that is the start to Samuel’s friendship with the Boy.
They talk often, about everything and nothing, all at once and at great length, and it works for both.
Their solitude was a little less solitary, and Samuel told of all the places he’d been, the sights he hoped the Boy would someday see, while the Boy told of his life in the Garden.
It’s clear the Boy doesn’t understand why Samuel stays in the Garden, just as Samuel doesn’t understand why the Boy doesn’t leave it.
It was true that the Boy was in need of water and nutrients, but though his roots were small and thin, he had many, and that made up for any perceived deficiency. Samuel knew, should he ever put his roots down somewhere, one would be hard pushed to remove him.
He only hoped he would one day do so far, far away from this particular Garden.
A vegetable Garden wasn’t a bad place to be, but it was certainly a more difficult place to be happy in when you were thought a weed.
Bits and pieces of themselves come together in conversations filling the holes in each other’s fabric, the spaces in between kept together by shared thoughts and the exchange of experiences, and it felt as though they were making a great tapestry of colour. Day by day, week-by-week, it was growing and warming their days with its comforting colour, thickness.
The Boy cannot remember a happy time before Samuel, and indeed Samuel cannot recall a time he was more content.
One night it all came torn down.
Out of the house came the Golden-Faced Beet, shovel in hand. The Boy reeled back from it immediately, fearful of its root-severing sharpness, remembered threats running rampant through his mind. This was the end for him; this was where his legs would be cut out from him.
But it wasn’t for him.
He wished it were.
For instead the shovel was swung at Samuel, making a hollow sound on impact. For one moment the Boy was elated—the shovel had no power over Samuel! But then Samuel gave a full body twitch from the impact, and the shovel came again, and again, and the Boy could do nothing as his friend was cut in two.
The Boy could not move.
The Golden-Faced Beet prodded the Boy’s friend twice, confirming, and still the Boy could not move.
The deed done, the golden-faced Beet twitched his moustache and told the Boy to get rid of it.
The Boy wanted to tell him that Samuel wasn’t an It, he was a he… he was Samuel.
Samuel was his friend. But he was as silent as he was still.
However, as long as he wanted to have shelter on their land, he had to do as he was told, and the Boy set to digging. Finally moving. Words still escaped him.
He worked and he worked, digging deeper and deeper into the land to give Samuel a proper burial, doing his best to remember him the way he would want the Boy to remember him.
He remembered him in mind; how clever he was, all the places he’d been, the stories he’d told. He recalled tales of other places, other Gardens entirely populated by plants like him, by Weeds, and still he dug deeper.
He remembered him in body; the sleek strength to him, the colour of his scales just before and just after shedding, the way his forked tongue flickered in and out. He remembered how he coiled up with the Boy to look at the stars, and he made the hole wider.
He remembered him in spirit; the unending belief he had in the Boy to do more than tend the earth in his relatives land, the complete lack of fear for the unknown, for death.
Once, Samuel said, it was best not to think about death, as it was going to happen with or without thinking on it. He’d said Death was natural. The Boy had said it was scary, and sad. And it is.
“Hey,” Samuel had said, sliding closer, “don’t be sad when I’m dead, and I won’t be sad when you’re dead. It makes no sense to live thinking on death. Death is natural,” he repeated.
It was hard to keep that in mind, when rolling your best friend into his grave, and then again the other half of him, but the Boy did his best. He would mourn, but he would not do so indefinitely. He would not, he promised, not forever. But for now, it was needed.
Before covering the hole, the Boy snuck inside and stole the shovel, bringing it outside without notice and placing it beside his friend.
Then, he filled in the hole.
The Boy did his best by Samuel’s words, and worked to be strong enough to leave this Garden. To find the lands he spoke of, to spread his roots without fear of shovels coming down to cut them short. He would do so, for Samuel.
His roots grew stronger, thicker, and he grew taker, more vibrant despite his relative’s efforts.
And eventually, with only one last look back in memory of his friend, the Boy left the Garden.
Left to find greener pastures.
At the end of class, Harry stayed behind and didn’t look at Dudley when he left.
Mr. Baryn was seated at his desk. When he was close, Mr. Baryn started to speak.
“I have to say Harry, that was an extremely good project to read. You really did a good job on the pictures, and you took ‘interesting plot’ to a whole new level.” He laughed here, and Harry took the compliments with a smile and a small nod.
“I admit that I was concerned, though, when I was reading it the first time over, especially the, er, the end… I have to ask this, Harry, and I hope you’ll answer me truthfully…”
Harry nodded and waited for the question.
“Why did you have Samuel die at the end?”
Harry blinked at him.
“Why do you ask that sir? I thought it was rather clearly put…”
Mr. Baryn sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
“It’s… it’s not the, er, the most usual thing for a fourth grader to write… there were no deaths in most of the others’ stories, and for the ones that there were, it was the villain to die…”
“You said that a unique plot would get higher marks, why are you complaining?”
“You had him die because you wanted to be unique?”
Mr. Baryn was floored at this, as he hadn’t thought Harry capable of something like that, and to have Harry kill off one of the main characters for a reason like that… he felt the worry inside of him grow.
Harry shook his head.
“No, I had him die because that’s what happened.”
“What do you mean?”
“Because that’s what happened. That’s what I mean.”
Harry wondered how much more clearly he could put it. Would he have to mime it out or something?
“You mean, when you were… thinking up the story that... that seemed to be what would fit?”
Harry shook his head again. Why was he asking him things like this? If Harry had written this for what he thought would ‘fit’, Samuel wouldn’t have died. Ever.
“You were the one who told me to write about what I know.” Harry swallowed the lump in his throat, surprised that it was so hard to say after he’d gotten over writing it. “Samuel died, and so I wrote this for him. Story Samuel died because My Samuel died.” Harry swallowed again, and pushed back the stinging in his eyes.
“I wrote that he died because that’s what happened.”
Mr. Bryn sat back, and Harry didn’t look at the expression on his face. Harry didn’t want to talk about this anymore. He set his story on the corner of the desk.
“May I leave now, sir?”
He fled when Mr. Baryn gave a distracted nod, and sprinted home.
Baryn watched as Harry left, feeling flummoxed.
One part of him was glad that Harry had one friend… but that part shriveled up when he fully understood that he’d died.
When did that happen?
Baryn didn’t think he could have missed Harry’s reaction to a friend—the only friend he could think of Harry having to date—dying… He didn’t think that any of his other teachers could have missed that, but he resolved to ask them about it later.
None of them had mentioned anything about it when he’d gone to pick up Harry’s story from the staff room. Most had been wondering exactly what was happening in order for Harry to have written his story.
Well now he had an answer for them…
But how…. Hm. He’d written the story as a… tribute to his friend? He’d written that Samuel was killed because he HAD been killed?
Baryn wondered why Harry had made his friend a snake and why he’d had him killed by a shovel…
He immediately thought about the time he’d visited friends in America and had seen one kill a rattlesnake with a shovel. He also remembered getting scolded by his friends for not reacting ‘properly’ and for gaping and pointing at the snake with a grin on his face rather than moving away or getting a weapon… but that was beside the point.
He understood that Harry had meant that Samuel had died when he said “Because that’s what happened,” but why… Well, he thought, perhaps that’s what it might have felt like to him when his friend had died. Like his friend had died by something that gruesome… Or maybe that’s how horrible it seemed to him. Like his friend had been chopped in half by a shovel
How has Harry’s Samuel died anyway?
And how did none of the teachers (including himself) not notice? When had this happened anyway?
Harry had seemed upset—something that had thrown Baryn slightly, as, even though he knew that Harry felt emotions as any other nine or ten year old, Harry was always calm and focused and seeing him look unsettled was… different…
But Harry had seemed as though he was getting more and more upset as Baryn talked to him.
But then… Baryn hadn’t yet known anyone who died, not since he was a kid and his grandparents died, but it was so long ago he couldn’t remember much beyond being upset that he wouldn’t be able to see his grandparents again. He couldn’t remember how long he’d been upset… And he figured right now that there was a difference between a friend dying and grandparents dying, especially for a reclusive kid like Harry. He’d been so upset while he’d talked… It suddenly occurred to Baryn that perhaps the reason why Harry had taken as long as he had (that is to say, as long as the other kids) on the project was because he’d written it for a long-dead friend.
Or maybe not-long-dead friend.
With Harry being so calm and inverted all the time, it could be that this Samuel character may have died within the last year…
Baryn wondered about how bad it must’ve been for Harry to write about his friend… perhaps that’s why he made Samuel a snake? To distance himself from Samuel’s death? Baryn had a hard time imagining Harry that upset, even if it would make sense…
He tried to remember the last time he even remembered Harry being that upset…
He couldn’t reme—wait… no…
He remembered a little while ago, before another outbreak of ‘cooties’ came out, there was a problem with the other students and Harry… he remembered it because Harry had actually talked back, rather than staying silent as he usually did. Harry had started looking upset and uncomfortable when his fellow classmates had started demanding pictures from him… Baryn had no problem believing that Harry could draw as many puppies and kittens and whatever else his classmates could think of, but Harry had made it clear that he had no reason to do so, in a way that was less than practical as it caused the other students to hound at him more… It was fortunate in an unfortunate way that the nails holding up the boards for classwork to be shown gave way and distracted them. The force from that also made all of the taped-up work to fall as well, and the rest of the day was busy enough with cleaning up that the students didn’t have the time or concentration to continue to hound over Harry.
Baryn could honestly admit that Harry was his favorite student… he usually didn’t cash in on that nonsense, but he’d never had a student like Harry.
He had a friend who worked for a high-class advanced school that wasn’t too far from Surrey, and she told him about a student in her class who always raised her hand and finished her assignments… But she overdid them, and when she tried to help the other students his friend had admitted that she was bossy and overconfident about it. His friend had also admitted that sometimes her answers were too by-the-book.
Harry’s assignments were always a good length, and were interesting enough that even if he had written nothing right he would have given Harry bonus marks for it anyway. He also couldn’t remember Harry ever offering to help out his fellow students… He thought about how Ms. Keen said that Harry had taught his fellow first-graders about plants the very first day, and had explained it well enough that for a while the class had set up a turn system for who would water the class plant each day. She’d said that it was better than a class pet.
But Harry had never reached out to any of his classmates… He was brilliant, and when he DID interact with the other students they listened. He’d had a laugh when Piers Polkiss had tried to call Harry a pussy (and where that boy had learned that as an insult, he didn’t know) and Harry had meowed at him in reply.
He’d watched his class for a while after that, and noticed that everyone always noticed when Harry came in, and while that could be due to his social pariah status in class, he’d noticed that none had issues with being near him. No one seriously complained about being in a class group assignment with Harry either, and he didn’t think it was because of Harry’s obvious smarts.
He was glad that he’d decided to divide up all of the group projects into parts for each member; otherwise he felt Harry would have been forced to do the entire project. Harry likely wouldn’t have complained if that had happened anyway, but still.
But he was digressing….
Harry Potter gave him plenty to think about, and he’d gotten Mrs. Penber to keep him updated on Harry next year. Mrs. Lender, the other fifth grade teacher of the school, was retiring at the end of this year, so Baryn could only hope that if Harry was placed in next years new teachers class, then he could get him or her to agree to keep him posted as well.
He worried for the kid after all…
He wasn’t all that popular with anyone of his age group—or any of the kids a few years older than him, after the staring incident—and he’d lost his best friend…
And Baryn may or may not have made him much more upset about losing that friend…
He really felt like an ass…
But there was a while yet till the end of the school year, and he would try his best to treat Harry as normal as possible…
He would tell the other teachers, the ones who had been curious about how he’d come up with the story, that he’d done it as a… a commission of a sort for a friend of his.
A friend that he knew from his neighborhood.
Baryn wondered at how many teachers would be as surprised as he was about Harry having a friend…
He rethought that to himself, and wondered why, exactly, it was that it was surprising that Harry had a friend.
Perhaps because he’d heard enough from his students that it was common knowledge around the playground that Harry-did-not-have-friends-just-because, paired with most of the teachers ideas about Dudley scaring off anyone who wanted to be friends with Harry.
For Harry to have friends in the neighborhood…
Perhaps a secret friendship?
But how would Harry keep it secret…
Baryn put it from his mind and prepared to head home to his wife, who would hopefully be able to shed some light on the situation.
NOTE: The rattler with a shovel thing in this story was inspired by Janelly Slytherin (who also told me that killing a snake with a shovel isn’t just something gristly that I thought up but also an actual way that people kill snaked :|), and the reaction to a rattler was from real life when I was working in a Provincial Park. I saw a Massassauga Rattler, and pointed and smiled at it instead of retreating. I’m smart like that.
Chapter 30: Stuck in your head, a snip snip, dead
Harry sat down the cookbook he was finished reading, and wondered what recipes he could use… He’d memorized enough of them, and enough of the recipes he didn’t memorize entirely that he could focus on them on the way back to the Dursleys house and commit them to memory.
It would be much more convenient if he could bring it back with him, but that would likely remind his Aunt to actually tell him what to cook, and Harry was finding some enjoyment in choosing what to cook. She’d been rather busy with the amount of gossip in the neighborhood lately…
It wasn’t a problem getting the ingredients that he needed, as he had been in charge of getting the groceries for more than two years now, and so long as he kept track of the prices of everything he needed, the Dursleys wouldn’t punish him for it.
There were a few things that he wanted to try making, but was certain that his Uncle would have a fit over. His Uncle was very much into English cooking, and while Harry had gotten away with adding certain spices to the food, and straying slightly from the usual fare, Harry didn’t know how he could disguise bok choy to look like regular Enlishmen fare. He didn’t think he would ever get the chance to cook rice or even half of the interesting recipes that he’d found in the variety of cookbooks in the library without there being some sort of Indian or Chinese fad that would cause his Aunt to ‘force’ him to make it.
There was a recipe he’d just read about, that involved shish-kebab and dried apricots, and marinating it all together for a whole 24 hours, but it required a barbecue, and the one thing that his Uncle cooked was anything that needed a barbecue. As the ‘Man of the House’ his Uncle Vernon was to be the one to barbecue. Harry knew, in theory, how to barbecue as he’d been working in the Garden when his Uncle was trying to teach Dudley how to use the small barbecue in their back yard. He’d been ordered inside though, after the third attempt to show Dudley resulted in Dudley whining about how Harry should be forced to do it. Harry had privately agreed as he saw his Uncle’s face turning puce, and thought that if Dudley was ever left alone to use the barbecue he’d somehow manage to set the house on fire. Even with its gross, plastic siding.
And probably Harry’s Garden as well.
Harry sighed and picked up the stack of cookbooks he’d taken from his school library’s shelves, bringing it to the aisle he’d taken them from and started to put them back. He chanted out the recipes in his mind, and continued doing that as he prepared for his last class of the day.
Through Social Studies he still worked on the recipes in his mind, paying the minimum attention to the class as he’d already read ahead and didn’t need the review class.
He answered correctly when called upon, but the teacher already knew that Harry knew the material, so this was only twice.
Harry debated writing out the recipes while he had the time, but Aunt Petunia would hardly let him bring out a recipe to look over while he cooked… that would remind her to look into what he’s making.
He’d finished going through the first cookbook in his mind by the end of class, and was through the entrees section if the second as he headed home. His Uncle had decided to pick up only Dudley today, so Harry had the time to continue to go through the recipes as he headed back.
Throughout his chores, Harry still went through the cookbooks an recipes in his mind, even going through recipes he’d already learned before, and when he was done, and it was dark enough out that his Aunt was pushing him out the door to work in the Garden, he started from the first again.
He hummed to his plants as he worked, going through his voice exercises, and found him thinking along to the beat as he worked.
He stopped that and kept thinking the recipes to himself, but without the beat, and tried to continue to hum to his plants… and found himself once again thinking to the beat of his own hum.
He looked up at the front window if the Dursleys house, and saw that the light was out. Whatever time it was, his Aunt and Uncle and Dudley weren’t on the main floor anymore… They wouldn’t hear.
Harry got back to work, this time saying the recipes aloud to the tune his humming had turned out.
He had to clear his throat a couple of times, but he got into the hang of it.
Because he didn’t think it would be nice to sing about cooking to them, he reverted to humming when he worked on thyme, basil, and rosemary…
He wouldn’t like it if someone sang about chopping him up for seasoning, and didn’t figure that the plants would want to either.
Mr. Baryn giving him sympathetic looks wasn’t nice.
Every once in a while Baryn would look as if he was going to ask Harry to answer a question like usual, and then hesitate, and ask someone else.
Harry knew why.
It was because of that stupid talk they’d had. Harry had moved on for the most part, why couldn’t Mr. Baryn? Every sad, mopey look that Mr. Baryn gave Harry brought up Samuel in his mind, and every hesitation made Harry think that his teacher was tying to spare him, trying to leave him alone with Samuels death.
And of course that brought up a wave of coiled up grief to the base of his throat as he thought about the loss of his friend, and a burn of anger towards his Uncle, and Harry had thought he’d gotten past this, but Mr. Baryn pitying Harry was pulling him back.
It wasn’t fair.
Samuel’s absence left a gaping hole in his life, like the first time he’d lost a tooth from Dudley punching him, but more serious.
When he’d lost that tooth, he’d been horrified, and Dudley had sensed that and had told Harry that it would never grow back. That had somehow translated in Harrys mind that the ache in his mouth would also never go away, and regardless of the pain he’d poked and prodded at the wound.
Mr. Baryn’s glances were like Dudley’s taunting, and were causing Harry to once again prod at the wound despite the pain.
Even because of the pain.
Mr. Baryn was making Harry feel as though he should still be grieving for his lost friend, and that brought up guilt, and then that brought up more guilt as he remembered Samuel telling him, making him promise, to not let him dying bother him.
Mr. Baryn was making Harry be bothered, and one part of him said that since it wasn’t him doing it deliberately, it was okay.
But the rest of him said that no, it wasn’t.
And Harry was getting tired of it.
He was glad that Mr. Baryn felt grief over Samuel’s death, and got that he was a great friend, but didn’t he get anything else? Didn’t he get the part where you let it go and move on? Why couldn’t he just drop it?
Harry felt like going up to him in the middle of class and asking him what his problem was… but with a slew of Bad Words thrown in for good measure.
Harry wanted to call him things, bad thing… Harry wanted to call Mr. Baryn a Fucking Muggle for what he was forcing Harry to go through with his stupid looks.
Harry was just glad that summer vacation was in less than a week, and so he wouldn’t have to see the man for quite some time.
Harry looked, amazed, at the pictures. Beaches surrounded by an aqua blue ocean, palm trees swaying in a breeze… Pictures of cafes, foreign streets, odd looking buildings, even stranger looking plants… Harry decided, after he looked at the caption of that picture, that he wanted desperately to go to the rainforests.
He also wanted to go camping in a park, he decided later in the book.
When the librarian called for everyone to start cleaning up, Harry reluctantly put away the travel guide of pictures, images of forests and open plains still burned behind his eyelids. Forests and forests full of trees and animals made him ache to go out and find them, and the knowledge that he couldn’t tore at something inside of him. He knew Surrey like the length of his Mark, but he had less than a clue as to how to get to these places.
How could he get to these forests if he didn’t know where even Canada was?
He makes a note to himself to look up maps and learn to understand them.
Harry hid away the three books he’d gotten from the attic underneath the mattress of his Cupboard, and hurried back upstairs to finish his cleaning job.
He’d found an English to French dictionary, and an entire book full of French… He had no idea what it was about though.
The last book was of a weird sounding language, one that Harry didn’t recognize or think he’d ever be able to use, but he decided that if he could learn French, he would then start in on this different language. He would look up where people spoke ‘Bulgarian’ later.
Harry had read up about whether or not he’d be able to leave the country, and if so, if he would have to bring the Dursleys.
If he was of age, or was an emancipated minor, he didn’t.
That was good.
Harry was already looking into getting books on how to emancipate oneself.
The Dursleys didn’t like him, and Harry wasn’t particularly fond of them either, so he didn’t think there would be an issue with getting them to sign the right papers…
Harry sighed as quietly as he could as he sat, waiting for his Aunt to get a bowl.
This had become something of a ritual, he couldn’t remember since when, but for as long as he could remember there would be… this.
Aunt Petunia walked towards him, bowl in one hand, scissors in the other, her lips pinched in what Harry knew to be determination.
She only did this at the end of the school year, at varying times during the last month. This year she’d moved from the norm, and now it was a full week into summer vacation and she was only doing it now.
Harry winced when the bowl was banged over his head, the bottom tapping harshly, and felt his Aunt tug at his hair, pulling it hard until she snipped it off.
The tugging and the snipping continued, before she tugged the bowl off of his head and continued.
Harry didn’t understand why she put the bowl on his head if she was just going to take it off to snip more of his hair…
Knowing his Aunt, it was likely something that she heard that ‘everyone did’ when giving haircuts…
Harry couldn’t recall one time when the hairdresser that did this to Dudley the few times Harry was dragged along to watch as his Cousin was given a haircut.
That hadn’t been for a while, as one of the newer hairdressers had asked his Aunt why he wasn’t getting a haircut, since Harry so obviously needed one.
Harry knew his hair was a source of frustration for his Aunt, and even as he felt his hair get chopped off, he felt the tingly scratchy feeling of his now short and scraggly hair start growing.
About the third time the bowl was put back on his head, Harry could concentrate to keep it from happening… ever since he’d found out about being a wizard, his hair growing at such a fast rate was more understandable.
He could even play at growing out his hair longer when he was alone in his cupboard, cutting it off with a pair of scissors that Dudley had abandoned and storing the cut off hair in a small plastic bag with a hole in it to be brought out to put in the compost.
Cutting hair was a strangely interesting and compelling thing to do… Harry couldn’t stop at growing out his hair only the once, but usually stopped before the baggie got full.
Wincing when the bowl was once again put on his head, he concentrated, and his Aunt made a noise that said she was pleased. She continued snipping until Harry once again felt a breeze against his head, and then ordered him to clean up the mess of hair she’d let fall to the ground.
Harry wondered if she would swing the frying pan at his head in the morning like she did the last two times he’d woken up in the morning with his hair back to it’s usual length.
Harry ignored the traditional sniggering from Dudley as he cleaned up and then headed out to work on the Garden.
In the dark of the night, Harry let his curly hair grow out until it was slightly longer than it was before, now brushing the tops of his shoulders, barely.
The vegetables were coming in, Harry could do without breakfast in the morning.
Chapter 31: Drawings of Plants, Plans, Bats, and Blonds
Harry ran careful fingers over leaves as he walked down the rows and rows of plants. He was so happy to have discovered this plant shop…
Why he hadn’t noticed it before, he dismissed to the fact that it was the store directly next to the archway that led to Knockturn Alley. When he’d been trying to get in, he hadn’t been paying any attention to the store that was right next to it.
Harry was still curious about what sort of stores were in the darker Alley, but he could wait until Max brought him into it.
He’d taken to occasionally people watch near the entrance to the darker Alley, and he’d seen some interesting figures come and go. Most of their clothing consisted of rather dark clothing, but with the heavy summer air even they were lightening up in their layers, and so Harry was given the sights of an amazing array of clothing that looked to be rather expensive.
Harry drew them as well as he could when he got back to Max’s shop, with some of the thick paper that was the norm of the wizarding world. Max had even donated an empty booklet for Harry to put his drawings into… Harry also found a spell in one of the many volumes in Flourish and Blotts about a spell one could use on drawings to animate them. It looked to be rather interesting, as you had to repeat the spell a you imagined what sort of action would be included… There was an advanced spell that you could use on your quill and ink so that the drawings would move around as you imagined they would move, coming from your thoughts as you worked…
A bud, filled with what looked to be sharp spines in an imitation of teeth, leaned into Harry’s touch, it’s fellows straining so that they could cuddle into Harry’s palm as well.
Harry supposed he wouldn’t have been allowed into this area of the shop had the shop owner been at the front of the store when he’d walked inside.
When Harry had first walked in, he’d wandered what looked to be the main part of the store for a little while, greeting the plants, smiling at the ferns that uncurled prematurely in greeting and brushed off dust from the thick tentacle-like strands of what looked to be a magical aloe plant.
But eventually Harry had made his rounds to all of the plants, and while he could visit with those he was less familiar with for a bit longer, maybe confirm what kind of soils each needed, learn what their blooming times were, find out if those teacup tulips really didn’t ever need to be watered (he’d found a group of the plants seated on top of a grate that hovered over what looked to be a large drain), but Harry knew he’d be back, and he wanted to see some of the more obviously magical plants.
He’d read up on many of them, but Harry learned more from the plants themselves than from the books.
Harry imagined that actually making potions would give him a better understanding of what he was finding to be a deep and fascinatingly complex subject.
So, when the shop owner, or shopkeeper as the case may be, hadn’t made him or herself known, Harry had walked through the side doorway with the glowing red ring around it, past the official looking sign that said “ABLE PERSONNELL ONLY”, and into a comfortable humidity.
Harry felt like he could stretch out metaphorical roots in the pleasant heat and wetness, and couldn’t remember a time he was more comfortable.
The feel of the room was radically different from the main room, and that wasn’t accounting for the change in temperature and moisture.
In this area there was a pressure, and a constant sense of movement.
A constant feel of growth.
It was Wonderful.
To one side Harry saw a grouping of tall plants that he’d once thought would be only as big as a dandelion. The curled leaves flexed and the huge Snuffdragons leaned over as far as they could reach in his direction, the sounds of sniffling inhalation showing just how interested they were in catching the best wiff of Harry. They were like hounds straining at the ends of their leashes, and Harry could feel a draft created from the sniffing, tugging at his loose clothing.
He was tempted to go over immediately, but with how excited they were acting, Harry knew they would each try to sniff him right up into their stems. They were pack plants, yes, but according to the books he’d read on them, they were particularly jealous and greedy plants, determined to catch the best scent and hold it close to lord over their fellows… Harry didn’t particularly feel like taking up residence inside one of them for as long as he was the most interesting scent, and didn’t think it would be easy to ask whichever Snuffdragon got him to release him before the fluids inside of their stem dissolved him to make room for the next interesting scent to take up residence.
Harry moved around the area, stopping to pet the soft petals that made up the mane of a DandeLion, stroking softly to not crush the moisture from them. The writer who did an extensive study on them said that they were terribly vain even as sprouts, and a crushed petal that had not yet dropped from them on their own was enough to earn you the enmity of the things. When DandeLions grew past their prime, you will only ever be able to see them for a short time before they retreated to ground to protect their fluffy manes from any passing winds.
A slight breeze brought a strong scent of licorice to his nose, and Harry followed it to an area sectioned off with metal that went through the floor. It looked to be a bog, fumes rising from the tiny flowers that stemmed in small explosions. Fennel, his mind supplied. Magical Fennel. Fen. Another word for bog. The witch who discovered this plant had a sense of humor.
The plant did not spread its seeds easily, which was a good thing in some respects.
Fennel had the funny ability to create bogs where it grew, requiring a certain amount of water to be sucked up by the plant’s seed so that it could turn some of the land around it into water as well. It was being studied extensively, as water could not be safely transfigured by any but the most talented and powerful, and it was of an interest how the plants seemed to secrete the bugs and bacteria needed to keep the water around it from stagnating or from choking out any other life forms.
It was a smart plant, and while Harry couldn’t reach any of the plants themselves, he crouched by the marker to admire the yellow-green flowers and breathe in the licorice scent that they gave off.
A sound of movement—a kind of movement a plant was likely not to make—made Harry stand and turn at the right moment to see a average looking man with a wide mouth look at him, eyes bulging in what could have been shock.
“How did you get back here?!” His voice wheezed. Harry wondered if he hadn’t worn a mask around Poofing Periwinkles or something. He’d seen a few pots of the bloated plants behind a large pane of glass, and hadn’t gone near.
“Through the front. I waited, but no one came to the front, so I figured it was alright to come back here.”
“The sign at the door said—”
“Able Personnel Only.” Harry finished with him, and raised an eyebrow at the man. His folded bandanna slipped slightly, and he felt one eyebrow disappear underneath the cloth. Harry could read, and thought that he’d shown that, but realized that it was unusually forward of him to be so rude about it. Harry frowned and looked down, relaxing his face slightly at the Puckering Pansies blowing kisses.
Perhaps it was being so surrounded by green things…
Looking up once more, Harry saw the man’s face turning a puce colour similar to his Uncles trademark shade, and turned to where he knew the door was to make a speedy exit.
The man looked more shocked—flabbergasted? Would the word work in such a situation? —than angry, with some confusion, but that colour was one Harry had never seen in an amiable person.
His movement seemed to let loose something in the other man, because he started to shout about irresponsible boys while hurrying to carefully put down the two pots he had in his arms (Harry saw they were brightly colored Pasting Pastels), to try and go after him.
Harry slowed down only enough to give a pat to the pack of Snuffdragons before heading out to the main part of the store, and out the door.
A man in billowing black robes was turning towards the door when Harry walked out, and Harry stopped himself from slamming into him just in time. That didn’t stop a strong scent of chopped green things from greeting his nose, along with a scent that Harry only vaguely connected to the medicine cabinet. It was lacking the chemical scent, though, that kept Harry’s nose from scrunching from the sting of it.
“Pardon me, sir,” Harry excused himself, meeting the man’s dark eyes for a moment, nodding respectfully, before continuing down the street. Perhaps a visit to the Owl shop would do. It was a fair distance away…
He stared after the green-eyed boy who nearly ran into him long after he disappeared into the crowd of the Alley. His eyes had been so like Lilly’s…
Perhaps—but no. The Potter Brat was hidden away somewhere being spoiled worse than his Godson, and wouldn’t have apologized even half as politely for nearly knocking into him as that boy had done.
More than likely a half-blood by his dress, and that bandana, but the posture, politeness, and longer hair pointed to a contradiction.
Perhaps a traditionalist produced half-blood spawn…
He let himself be amused by the thought of a traditionalist allowing any of their offspring dress in such a careless manner before tearing his eyes from the crowd and continuing to Bud’s and Barleys’ Botany.
Why the shop-owners in the Alley insisted on alliteration and assonance in their names he would not dwell on.
Grant Barley walked from the specifically warded doorway to the back shop red-faced and huffing. He stayed silent; Barley was the more talkative of the two storeowners, and was in the habit of a near-constant stream of chatter.
“Did you see the boy who just ran out? Damn ward let him through! He was as comfortable as can be by my Fennel bog, and that means he’d have to go past my Snuffers and my Tentacula and a number of my more testy green ones and if it weren’t for the fact that I got something new for each of my Snuffers to lord about the other day I’d think they’d been without a new scent for longer’n a week! Stupid boy, he sassed me when I found him too! Read my sign to me and everything, the one that was supposed to help anchor ‘n direct the ward to keep out those who’ve got no business ‘round my green ones—the ones that require a certain know-how any-who to prevent those damnable ‘accidents’ that make it harder and harder to get a license to keep my testy green ones as I like, and here a boy not even at Hogwarts age made it through! I’ll be having my wards checked soon enough, ho ho, don’t you worry ‘bout that, and if they say they got nothing wrong with them, I’ll find that boy and give him a good whollop ‘round the ears for the sass and hire him just like that. Believe me. Otherwise it’s a good kick in the pants for that stupidity; these ain’t regular garden greens you know. Could use another hand in the shop though, and that’s a fact. Now what can I do for you today Severus?”
Pausing to fully take in what he’d said, it took a hardly a moment for Severus to get back on track. So the boy was either a dunderhead of a menace, or a knowledgeable bother. He thought rather humorlessly that perhaps the boy could be the Potter brat after all. Looking skeletal in baggy, unkempt clothing and hanging about in a plant shop.
“Professor Sprout asked that I stop on my way here for her order of Venomous Tentacula seedlings, and I was informed that you had more Corumbdun tree sap harvested.”
Grant nodded, and set about fiddling around the stores counter for the requested items.
“Oh, yeah, got the sap in less than a week ago, saved a couple of liters for you knowing you’d find your way here, and will take me hardly a moment to get Pomona’s little green ones. She’ll certainly have her hands full and fingers bitten with these ones, I tell you, absolutely nasty little greenlings,” Severus was reminded strongly of the oaf Hagrid at how affectionate the man sounded just then, “I’ve half a mind to set the boy to keeping the rest of the darned things when I see him next, see if I don’t in fact, little bugger will learn to sass me. Reading my sign to me and everything… Hmph. Now that’ll be charged to Hogwarts, yeah?”
Severus nodded, and asked, “Why assume that the boy will be back at all?”
It seemed as though the boy had been just about chased from the building, being caught where he ought not to be as he was.
But Grant was shaking his head even as he bundled the potted sprouts into a wooden crate to be sealed and shrunk.
“Nah, that boy’s got the gleam almost as bad as I got it, and seems to have a way with the plants like nobody’s business. My Puckers were going all over themselves to flirt with the boy, and I haven’t seen my Dandies purring like that since I got an over-large shipment of catnip set by them. Now THAT was a right stupid thing to do, had just about the whole shipment ruined from that one mishap, and my Dandies were so high off the stuff that they were letting their petals crumple and crease, and wasn’t THAT something to fix once they came down enough to notice.” It took Severus a moment to translate Grant’s affectionate nicknames to the aptly named Puckering Pansies and the overly ferocious DandeLions.
“So I wouldn’t be much surprised if it was a case of the boy jut being ‘able’ enough to get past the wards.”
So perhaps the boy was less of a dunderhead than he feared Grant was thinking of hiring.
Taking his shrunken packages, Severus allowed Grant to talk at him for a while longer before heading back to Hogwarts to hand off the vicious plants and store his sap. Grant may talk quite a bit more than Severus would otherwise stand, but he knew his plants and the proper preparation of harvested materials.
Not to mention he gave as good as he got, as he’d found out after being particularly sarcastic one day when getting supplies.
Thoughts on the strange boy with startling eyes were pushed away as thoughts of preparing the curriculum for next year’s brats moved in.
Griphook peered at his fellow associates from over twined fingers. It was a meeting that had finally been decided to be had, concerning one client who had been putting more gold and silver and copper into circulation over the past few years than any other had in such a short amount of time.
In such a short amount of time after being made aware of their accounts, anyway.
It wasn’t even so much that it was gold that had at one point been inactive being put back into circulation, as that happened any time a client came back from being missing, or at a point where a client has their blood tested to see if any vaults could be theirs by family alliance or default hierarchy.
One Mister Harry Potter had been missing his regular banking statements, and hadn’t been sending his legal guardian to look after his accounts, and it had been assumed that the young heir was ignoring his commitments, allowing the gold in his vault to stagnate.
Gold that was not put into use stayed in vaults. Without that gold being put into motion, through transactions and business deals and through investments, there would be no possibility for gain or for the amount of gold to increase, thus beginning stagnation in Gringotts itself.
As wizarding families kept getting themselves killed, and other wizards not coming in to have their blood tested, so many vaults under Gringotts were stale from disuse.
Griphook was disgusted by this particularly, as the wizards and witches who so stupidly inbred for many generations could, if they had their blood tested, gain these vaults and have them put into use.
As Goblins made a point to only offer when asked, especially to the high and mighty of the wizarding nation, and only offer when it could be beneficial to themselves, the test could not be brought as an option without breaking the trust of many of the allied Goblin Nations.
Though many of the most senior vault managers have attempted to suggest, subtly, that to have ones ‘blood purity’ proven would be wise, none of the stupid wizards had been willing.
Most had been outraged and offended, likely, Griphook snorted to himself, over even the implied notion that their blood status wasn’t as pure as they would believe.
Or have everyone else believe.
Max Ritter came to Gringotts with Harry Potter’s signature, drawn in blood, approximately two summers ago.
While it wasn’t the first offering up of Harry Potter’s signature, each and every other document detailing an amount to be given. As a gift to the family was a popular excuse. Griphook, as the Potter vault Manager, had to listen to countless reasoning’s as to why the parties involved couldn’t produce the Potter heir for confirmation.
Max Ritter was the first to have the contract’s signature written up in blood.
Due to the temerity of claims to the Potter fortune, the ritual to test if the blood and signature had been freely given wasn’t enough to grant the admittedly small withdrawal from going through, as it would have done with nearly any other client.
Instead it only meant that Maximus Ritter wouldn’t be fined and punished for harm and extortion of one of their clients.
So Griphook had to ask that Mr. Ritter bring Mr. Potter in for a confirmation, making it known that the Bank had been trying to contact Mr. Potter without success for some time, and that assistance in this matter would be deeply appreciated.
It was a small enough favor to ask that being in debt to Mr. Ritter wouldn’t be an issue, but contact with Mr. Potter was needed.
And yet two years later nearly a thousand Galleons had gone to Mr. Ritters account at the request of the strangest young wizard Griphook had ever done business with. And simply for the man’s presence at their daily, and then weekly meetings.
Griphook had to respect the man a minimal amount for managing such a gain at so little cost.
Ignorant though the boy had been when he’d first stepped through the Bank’s arched doorway, it took less than a year for the boy to become knowledgeable enough to ask relevant questions and understand what was being said to a reasonable degree.
‘Reasonable’ was still quite a bit more than the average witch or wizard knew about how to manage their accounts.
And so in the two years of the boy being made aware of his assets, a copyright on his image was imposed, a large flow of money was making it’s way to his vaults from the books that give fake details of his ‘adventures’ without a disclaimer and without permission, investments in a number of companies was given the go-ahead, and the number of issues he’d had to deal with as the Potter Account Manager had gone down significantly. Irregularities had been sorted, and a steady flow of gold was making its way through the bank as investments affected jobs and salaries and other investments into blossoming and allowing more gold to flow.
So now it was the collective thought if those working directly at Gringotts that perhaps rules could be bent this once, and the Potter heir could be made aware that he may have claim over more than just the Potter Vaults.
Griphook had more than a passing interest in seeing this happen, and knew that had such an arrangement not been beneficial to many other accounts, and may give more work and opportunity to other account managers, this meeting wouldn’t be happening.
Silence descended the circular antechamber as the purpose was read out to the Chiefs and Lords of other Goblin clans, a figure on an ornate throne listening with some interest to the proceedings.
Harry clutched the old sketchpad to his chest as he walked down Diagon Alley to the ice cream shop. His insides felt like they were bouncing around his torso, and his cheeks were hurting from smiling. He hardly noticed the matronly figures at the Alley cooing at him, or the shopkeepers smiling to themselves at his obvious joy.
Harry didn’t think he’d ever smiled so much as he had today in his whole life. This almost felt as wonderful as running back to the Dursleys after getting his Mark.
His insides gave a warm sort of lurch when he thought of Max, and squeezed the bound papers in his arms. He didn’t know what to do with himself when Max had given him the sketch book and small pencil set.
He’d wanted to make some sort of noise, a LOUD noise! He wanted to run, but not anywhere in particular and certainly not away! He wanted to squeeze something, he wanted to—to—!
He wanted to give Max a hug! He wanted to give Max the biggest hug ever!
Harry hadn’t ever given anyone a hug before.
Even though Harry knew that was impossible due to his small size, Harry’s arms still trembled when he thought back, and he could barely contain the renewed urge to make some sort of loud noise!
Harry had laughed and smiled and felt entirely unlike himself when Max had slid the bound papers to him on the stores countertop.
“’Ere, yeh’re decent at sketching, draw in this…”
Harry had looked at him in confusion, and Max had sighed even as his grin widened.
“It’s an ol’ sketchbook I had lyin’ ‘round, has standard protection spells on it, so yeh don have te worry ‘bout it getting wet or nothin’… Don’ have any use o’ this now, got m’own books to sketch in, much better quality ‘n this, don’ go getting’ sentimental now on me…”
Harry had picked up the thickly bound book and carefully flipped through the pages, feeling the thick parchment and already seeing pictures forming on the pages…
He’d flipped through the pages once more before forcing himself to settle down.
A half hour later, and Harry was in Diagon Alley, heading to Fortescues Ice cream shop to sit down and break in his new sketchbook.
A small scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cup, and Harry had use of one of the outdoor tables.
Flipping the cover to reveal the first page of the sketchbook, Harry noticed that there was something on the back of the cover.
In printed text were the words “Pinch blank page and picture together with two fingers to copy”
Well what did that mean?
Curious, Harry pinched two pages together and watched.
After a moment, flipping between the two pages, checking both back and front, Harry saw that nothing happened.
Thinking for a moment, Harry supposed you might need a picture of something… Or you might need to draw something in it, he supposed. It was a sketchbook.
At the bottom of the first page, Harry wrote Property of H.P.
Pinching the first two pages together, he wondered if it mattered if you drew on the first or second page.
A moment later, and Harry checked the second page to find his handwriting at the bottom of the second page as well.
Harry pinched the second, third, and fourth pages together, and after a moment checked.
His writing was on the other pages as well.
Harry wondered if whatever charm was placed on the sketchbook (or on it’s pages?) was also available in notebooks.
It would certainly make copying someone’s notes easier.
His mind immediately thought about how much more his classmates would bother him if they could get easy notes from him, and he immediately dismissed the thought of handing out notes.
If Harry did end up using a similar charm as the one on this sketchbook, it would be to make backup notes of his own.
Dudley went into his bag every once in a while and ruined his notes. Crayon doodles over the writing, ripped pages, spilling whatever liquid he had on hand on it…
Harry was only glad that Dudley didn’t decide to take his notes as his own—Dudley didn’t care about schoolwork.
Harry turned back to the first page, and thought for a moment.
What he put on the first page seemed like it would be important, he thought, as a strange bit of nervousness seemed to take hold of his stomach.
What was there to be nervous about? Anxious?
It didn’t make any sense…
Eventually, he moved to the second page, and found it rather easier to put the pencil to the page, doing a quick sketch of his melting cup of ice-cream and the table beneath it. Because he could, he used the eraser to blank a space beside the cup, and sketched in the basic proportions of a figure. Slightly hunched next to the cup, one arm extended so that he could draw in a hand holding the end of the spoon, Harry glanced around the Alley from his position.
Seeing a woman, he sketched in her approximate proportions—using a bit of what Mrs. Brush called ‘creative license’ for what he couldn’t see—and sketched on clothing he’d seen in a book on faery tales he’d found in the bookstore.
The book was filled with tales of unfortunate children who didn’t learn their traditions, and so angered Forest Faeries, Water Sprites, and Earth Glows when they wandered.
Harry thought of the Earth Glows, particularly the band that got angry at Hansel and Gretel and led them away from their parents one day and led them through the forest by leaving shiny rocks, and led them right to a starved Hag.
Though it was hard to see the Earth Glows in the wizarding drawing as they flitted between branches, Harry thought it looked a bit like they wrapped long grasses around themselves horizontally. The book said that they were supposed to have weaved precious stones within their clothing, but Harry didn’t know what that would look like.
Drawing it in, Harry shaded in the face so that it would get steadily darker the higher up it went, all the way up into a tuft of hair that stuck from her head in a solid mound, and erased the graphite where the eyes were suppose to be.
Harry didn’t recall seeing a mouth on the Earth Glows. He’d thought this curious, because the Forest Faeries had eyes, nose and mouth, but then he saw a picture of a Water Sprite and saw it only had a mouth, ridges placed where the eyes would be.
Harry changed the shadows in the picture, and erased smudges around the Earth Glow, and looked at his drawing.
The Earth Glow was standing next to the cup of ice-cream, holding onto the edge of the spoon and looking, Harry hoped, rather like it was peering into the cup with interest. It was rather hard to draw expressions on most anything, Harry found, and that was when he had a nose and mouth to work with.
It wasn’t particularly great, but it was good enough.
Turning to the next page, Harry debated on whether or not he’d end up copying the picture, and decided not.
On the third page of his sketchbook, he drew the outline of a face.
The jaw wasn’t even, but in his minds eye, it was because of a smile that constantly tugged at the side of the mouth.
One vertical line down the center, and a curve across the eye line, and Harry stopped for a moment to make sure everything was where he wanted it.
Satisfied he made light marks to approximate features, not happy with them immediately, but going over the parts he was satisfied with with slightly harder strokes.
Bland, textureless features stared at him dully.
Light strokes again, Harry started filling out details.
Ropey scars creeped up the lightly drawn in neck, up what was to be the left side of a face, brushing past the corner of a slash of a mouth and tugging at it into a small smirk, and then continuing up to a small curve around the eye to the temple. It was wide enough that it stretched at one point to his slightly mangled ear before narrowing off to a thinly raised line.
Thin lips, with a fuller lower lip and a deep cupids bow curved crookedly, and Harry added the small crinkle under the right eye and at the corners of both eyes, the small creases in the forehead and in the chin.
The wrinkles and creases were difficult, and looked wrong until he started working on shading.
Harry was starting to see a flawed, but still familiar face.
The veins that stuck out at his neck and somewhat around his jaw added more familiarity, even though he wasn’t happy with the lines he could still see in his shading.
Mrs. Brush said that it took time to get to the point that shading would be as smooth and precise as he wanted, but it was still frustrating to see how he wanted his drawing to look like in his mind and then see it look even remotely different on paper.
Harry worked on a few more details, darkened some lines, and was somewhat relieved he didn’t have colored pencils for the eyes.
The milky eyes with their blue undertones wasn’t something he thought he could get even remotely right, and he was happy enough with his drawing of Max that he didn’t want to feel like he ruined it in any way.
For being his first drawing of someone’s profile, Harry thought he did… well enough.
He wasn’t happy with the outcome because he knew he could do better with more practice, but Max had said that first drawings were always important.
And Harry could still see some of Max’s personality in the drawing.
He hadn’t managed to get that glint in his eyes, but the curve of his grin, showing just enough teeth to show amusement and some menace, the curve and crease under the eyes that sort-of hinted to the I-know-something-you-don’t that Max just about wore like a cloak was hinted at. The darkness at his lids, where once closed would show a depth of a starry sky, lightening to a vague shadow at the corners and just under his brow was shown in a vague way. Harry had never seen a night sky with so many stars in it outside of a picture-book on astrology, and didn’t think he could rightly capture the idea to even attempt to imitate.
Mrs. Brush said Harry was fantastic at realism, but without spare paper to practice on, Harry didn’t want to ruin the picture.
Not of Max.
Harry had even almost gotten the importance and story into the smattering of scars on his face, even if he didn’t know how they came about.
Harry thought he got enough meaning into the most prominent scarring on the one side of Max’s face, even though he didn’t know the story behind it or even when he might have gotten it.
Blowing carefully across his picture, and erasing the smudges and powdered lead that set loose across the pale expanse, Harry carefully turned the page to protect it from anything falling on it.
Unsure as to if he would do what he had half a mind to do—if he had the courage to do it even—Harry turned two pages after his drawing of Max, and pulled back his shoulders in a stretch.
He hadn’t been bent over the table as he’d seen his classmates do, but even with proper posture, it looked like it had been a good couple hours since he’d looked up from drawing Max.
Max had drawn a great deal when Harry visited, and Harry never saw Max without the perfect posture that Aunt Petunia had all but given up instilling in Dudley.
So Harry kept himself from slouching and held his shoulders relaxed but squared. His shoulders certainly felt tense though.
He didn’t know how his classmates would be able to deal with drawing for so long hunched over their drawings.
He looked around the Alley for an idea of what to draw next, and was distracted by the bell over the ice cream shop’s door jingling.
A pale blond boy with pointed features strutted from the shop holding what Harry recognized as one of the more elaborate Sundays between his hands.
A striking pair walked after him, both with the white-blond hair and pale features of the blond boy, giving him what Harry thought might be a fond look, and if Harry hadn’t gathered that the wealthy pureblood families tended to avoid showing so much emotion on their faces he might have doubted himself.
As it was, Harry was confident in figuring out expression, even if he wasn’t quite as good at drawing it as he wanted to.
He figured it was likely from having to read his Uncles expression regularly to avoid confrontation paired with his study of people earlier in the year.
He may have been looking at body language and body types, but he could hardly avoid looking at facial expression.
The two who were fairly obviously the boy’s parents walked with a poise that Harry found fascinating, even as he doubted his Aunt would ever develop the poise and eloquence she hoped for if this was what it was. The three were wearing what Harry now recognized as stylish (if not a bit costly) robes.
Harry didn’t much care about how he looked, but he suddenly felt a bit self-conscious of his grass-stained jeans and worn shirt. He was just glad he’d decided to wear one of his tighter shirts, so at least the collar wasn’t hanging off one shoulder.
The woman’s hair was pulled back into an elegant plait, her face smooth and beautifully proportioned, tones even in a way that Harry doubted was a result of make-up, and full lips with colour added bringing some warmth to her face.
But that was where warmth ended, as any fondness left her eyes as she surveyed the rest of the Alley, nose flaring and scrunching ever so slightly as to not appear unseemly, but looking a lot like she didn’t like the smell of the Alley.
The man had his long pale hair loose but neat, and held an elaborate walking stick in a leather-clad hand.
He had a slightly longer nose to be classically attractive, but the slight up-tilt kept it from being beak-like and added to what Harry assumed was a rather regal look with his high cheekbones and attractively shaped mouth. Not as full or colored as the woman’s, but thinking about it, he thought he’d look a bit silly, or maybe more pompous with such full lips.
He didn’t look like he disliked the smell of the Alley, but like the woman, any softness left his eyes when off his son, replaced with a look like he thought everyone in the Alley was so far below him he didn’t think they should be there while he was.
Harry didn’t think they’d be nice to meet—polite yes, but certainly not nice—but they were attractive and his fingers twitched, tightening around a sharper pencil.
Turning his sketchbook sideways he sketched out the outlines of how they looked now, slightly turned towards each other, and remembered their expressions when they were looking at the boy now happily speaking to them from a few tables over as he ate his ice cream.
Looking up once more, he was only slightly startled to find himself under the stare of both of his subjects.
They didn’t, at this distance, have blue eyes as far as he could tell. He wouldn’t say for certain, but it seemed like they both had grey eyes, the woman more than the man, and Harry noticed the slight change in their expressions, just different enough from their holier-than-thou expressions to see that they were looking at him in what could be slight curiosity.
Harry felt the corner of his mouth twitch up slightly.
Curiosity in a “what do you think you’re doing?” sort of way.
Drawing in the shape of their irises so that the picture seemed to be looking out and off to the side from the viewer.
Not putting nearly as much detail into this drawing, drawing the two of them together was easy enough, and Harry added the shading around their features as he saw them now, with the sun just off from being directly overhead.
He thought it might also be that there was very little marring their smooth skin other than the usual facial lines, and they didn’t have any of what Harry thought of as story-scars that he had to put detail into.
Finishing the last couple of texture lines in their hair (the woman’s plait was a bit of a challenge), Harry looked at the finished product and saw that he’d even managed to soften the lines around the eyes so that the tenderness in their eyes showed.
He saw this page wasn’t signed as ‘property of’, and printed in his neat and slightly curled hand writing a simple H. P at the bottom right corner of the page.
When he looked back again the two had stopped giving him looks, and were focusing on what their son was saying.
Actually looking at their son, Harry could see that he had fuller lips than his father and what looked to be the same nose as his mother. The same high cheek bones and white-blonde hair that both parents shared, and there was something in his brow that suggested more to the father.
The face was still round with baby fat, but not nearly as chubby as Dudley's face, and Harry thought he would likely look as striking as both his parents once he grew out of the roundness of youth. Perhaps he would draw the boy if he ever saw him when he was an adult.
A thought occurred to him then, that if he went to Hogwarts as Max said he would likely be invited to, he might have this boy as a classmate.
The thought dimmed a great deal of any interest he had in the family, as classmates in his experience were rather dull, but Hogwarts offered 7 years of schooling starting at age 11, so that would mean Harry would see him as he grew out of his baby fat.
Perhaps he would draw him before graduation then.
That is, if the blond boy went to Hogwarts.
Harry was under the impression that while Hogwarts was seen as the premier school of England, there were in fact other schools in the continent.
Going abroad wouldn’t be out of the question either.
Harry wondered if he’d get invitation letters from those other schools as well, or if one had to apply if one wanted to go to school abroad.
As he was thinking this, his hand had flipped two pages, and was sketching out rectangular shapes and connecting tubes that could either be for a strange humanoid shape at this point, or…
If he made a line from here, and extended it to a curve there, with a triangular shape and a mirroring line below that, it would look like…
Yes. Harry started filling out details for the dragon he’d seen in Max’s tattoo book, thoughts about schooling and the pale family a few tables away gone from his mind as he continued filling in details.
He didn’t notice the man and woman send him somewhat thoughtful glances, and didn’t notice when they got up to leave, even when they walked past his table.
Before he left to go back to the Dursley’s, Harry shyly pinched two pages between his fingers, and carefully ripped out his sketch of Max. The original, rather than the magical copy. Face burning and feeling oddly nervous, Harry set it carefully on the counter. After a moment’s hesitation, he also gave into the urge he’d had all day and darted forward to squeeze his friend around his waist, pressing his face briefly into the worn shirt that covered his chest before darting out the door with a final thank you.
Harry felt mortified at his actions.
What if Max didn’t want a hug? What if he didn’t DO hugs? What if he just didn’t? What would Harry do the next time he headed over? Would Max turn him away? His insides crumpled at the thought of being rejected by Max for his brief weakness.
Harry didn’t like to think he’d be turned away for giving a hug, but…
Sketchbook hidden under his shirt, Harry allowed himself to be manhandled into his cupboard, worrying all the while.
Chapter 32: Secret Gifts, and Not-So Secret Spots
Harry felt like his insides were going to turn to fertilizer he was so relieved.
Max hadn’t had anything to say about the hug, and that had worried Harry for a bit, but then Max went out of his way to pat Harry on the shoulder, or to smooth down his hair, or to stand just that tiny bit closer when they were waiting to be seen by the Goblins.
Harry had been to the same school lecture that talked about inappropriate touches and all that, and he knew this wasn’t one of those situations.
It was certainly more than he was used to being touched, and much more gentler than he was accustomed to, but they were the kind of touches that he once looked on jealously at when Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia gave them to Dudley.
The encouraging pat on the back his Uncle would give Dudley for having gotten a C+ on a test, while Harry’s tests remained marked with A+’s and he was told to go start dinner.
The way his Aunt would smooth Dudley’s hair back affectionately when he whined about something not being fair, as Harry was told to go to his cupboard for not cleaning up Dudley’s room right.
It seemed like any distance Max had put between them before was only intentional because maybe he thought that’s what Harry wanted. But with the hug, Harry had shown otherwise.
Relief made him suddenly ravenous while in the Alley, and ordering lunch with Max made the simple Chicken Caesar Salad wrap Harry had melt in his mouth with flavor.
He suspected he could have eaten cardboard in that moment and still said it was the most delicious thing he’d ever eaten.
Harry carefully finished writing, breathing lightly over the parchment so that the ink wouldn’t smudge.
Max had been teaching him how to write properly with a quill since the previous year, when he realized that Harry would be more likely to produce chicken scratch than words when told to write at a normal pace…
Harry could write very neatly with a quill, but he’d needed more than ten minutes and a couple of test sheets to sign his name when he’d first used a quill, and hadn’t had much need to use one outside of the few times he’d had to give his signature at a meeting.
The Goblins, as they had when Harry’s voice had gotten rough from disuse and he was forever clearing his throat, were not patient when Harry had needed the extra time to sign something.
Harry couldn’t practice writing with a quill at the Dursley’s, either.
Harry could remember a time when Dudley and his friends had decided it would be cool to write with feathers, like the cartoon Shakespeare did. He also remembered the fit his Aunt and Uncle had pitched when Dudley had tried to show them how he could almost write with the feathers he’d found in the schools yard.
If it weren’t for his Uncle also reacting, Harry would have thought it was because Dudley had tried writing using the leftover gravy as ink, but only Aunt Petunia made a fuss over the contamination of food or the kitchen in general.
So the idea of bringing a quill and ink, as well as some parchment to the Dursley residence was… not a Good Idea.
Harry had an idea about how to continue practicing at school, as he could remember seeing a calligraphy writing set in Mrs. Brush’s art room, but he still had another five meetings with the Goblins before school started.
Harry slid the parchment to Max for inspection, and felt a warm glow wash over his stomach when the corner of his mouth twitched upwards.
He’d only written out the alphabet, as he’d been doing in practice already, but this time he’d done it in cursive.
And he’d taken less time this time to do so.
Max slid the parchment back to him with a smile, and laid a warm hand on his shoulder for a moment.
Harry had to forgo two days of visiting Max when little red dots covered him from head to knee. He could recall a similar thing happening to Dudley a few years back, and he’d been sent to Mrs. Figg’s for two weeks while Dudley got over his “chicken pox”.
He remembered Mrs. Figg asking why they didn’t let Harry get it at the same time, and he’d been insulted until he realized that it was a strange disease where you got it once and never again, and agreed that it would make sense to get it over with.
Not that he’d said that.
His Aunt and Uncle had given a non-answer and Harry had lived with Mrs. Figg for two weeks listening to Dudley scream and whine from next door.
But now he was covered in little spots that itched, and he was feeling warm, and Aunt Petunia had told him to not itch and to go water the Garden. Harry wasn’t to go out until the spots go away, or else he might give them to other kids. She said this in a tone of voice that made no attempt to hide the fact that she thought he’d caught this on purpose.
Harry didn’t itch at his spots even when they tingled, but it was made harder when Dudley followed him about scratching at him occasionally until his entire body felt like one big itchy mess, right down to just above his knees.
This was good because a great deal of the chores he had to do required him on his knees, quite a bit, and Harry didn’t like the idea of red spots making a mess of his Mark.
When the spots finally went away, Harry was almost not allowed to go out again, his Aunt and Uncle were so angry.
They didn’t say it was because he was sick for so little time, but Harry knew that was why. He’d heard about how it usually took nine days to get over entirely… three days to get it fully, three days to have it, and three days for it to go away.
It was only the threat of the Neighbors Talking that had Harry out of the house after that.
Harry spent a great deal of time tracing his Mark when he was in his Cupboard.
The tallest point was now just over his knee caps, and it covered the inside of his calves with its tendrils and variety of leaves.
It had grown a number of buds, but they hadn’t opened yet—they hadn’t shown a bit of colour yet either. He traced one lightly with a dirt-encrusted nail.
He was delighted to find that on both ankles, a little more than two inches from the bottom of the stems that started his Mark grew another stem. It wasn’t nearly as tall as the main stems yet, but the fact that new stems were growing like he’d planted cuttings of it made him think that perhaps eventually his legs would be entirely covered with the Mark.
He’d hoped so before, but in his mind he’s always left patches of skin that would peek through, like brick showing through vines on a wall.
His fingers moved down to his feet, where root veins shone a subtle sliver in the yellow light cast by the bare bulb in his Cupboard. He knew from a cautious peek during daylight hours that the roots wrapped around his feet loosely, the roots of a plant still anchoring itself to the ground after being transplanted. Transplanted from paper to skin, and searching for nutrients and energy from his flesh instead of the earth.
He’d briefly wondered if he should be watering his feet—that WAS where the roots were—but unlike soil his body didn’t soak up and hold into moisture for plants to use, so whatever was helping his Mark to grow was something he was already providing…
Though now that he thought about it, his Mark grew more when he ate more—like when he’d eaten lunch with Max, and the beginnings of the second and third stalks appeared on his ankles.
For a moment he was absolutely terrified; what if he’d been mistreating his Mark and not knowing it? What if whatever plant was branded on his skin started to wilt? What if the gloriously green and varied leaves started to brown and discolor from lacking what it needed?
A greedy part of him wondered how much higher his Mark would be on him—and how many more stalks would have appeared—had he been eating much more than he usually did.
Harry had no idea as to if any harm had come to his Mark, though he consoled himself with the fact that every six months Max checked over his Mark, and hadn’t said anything to indicate he’d been mistreating it. But worry still gnawed around his ribs even as dread settled heavily in his stomach.
What if Max noticed he’d been mistreating his Mark? Could he take it away? Was that even possible?
Harry didn’t think Max would do that, but Max took his Work seriously.
In the two years he’d known Max, only one other person had had the special Mark book brought out. A number of people—witches and wizards, all older than Harry by at least two decades—had asked in a convoluted way for a Mark, all the while looking at Harry sideways as if perhaps he shouldn’t know about Marks.
When the Troubled Woman came in—Harry didn’t know her name—and went through a similar process as Harry remembered going through—
“I need something… Bright. But not like a light, just something… Bright…”
—Max had brought out the Black Book and, just as with Harry, went through the Book with her.
Harry remembered that his Mark had been nearer to the end of the Book, and her Mark turned out to be rather close to the beginning of the Book.
When she’d finally found her Mark, Max had looked him squarely and told him to go for a walk for two hours.
Harry had left with no question.
If someone else had been in the store when he’d had his Mark being given to him, if Max hadn’t asked them to leave Harry would have likely asked for it.
Though, Harry could admit that he wasn’t entirely sure if he could have gone through with trying to get his Mark had there been someone in the shop that day. He knew logically that it wouldn’t happen, but Harry was still weary of anyone seeing his Mark, even other non-Fucking-Muggles, for fear that they’d tell his Uncle Vernon.
Why a perfect stranger would do this, he knew it would be unlikely, but the threat of it…
Harry still kept his Mark a secret.
It was nice, in a way, to have a secret that only he and Max knew about.
Perhaps he could include the Goblins, or at least Griphook, but they only knew about the Mark/Tattoo being bought, not what it was.
When he’d gotten back to the shop after grabbing a turkey sandwich from a deli, the Troubled Woman had left, and Max was just finishing cleaning up his equipment.
They’d shared a look, and Harry had tried to show that he knew, he understood, what had happened and accepted it.
There were no words after that, only quiet understanding, and Harry loved that there were no need for words.
They could have talked about it, but there wasn’t any need for it, and Harry had never felt so close to someone then, not even Samuel.
Harry had drawn quite a bit since Max had given him his sketchbook.
He drew people, clothing, shops, things he half-remembered from old school books, some of the moving tattoo designs that Max had on the shop’s walls, and had even given Max a couple more originals that he was proud of.
He still hadn’t drawn anything on the first page, but he knew he’d eventually get to it.
He just needed to figure out what to put there.
It was two weeks after he’d seen the Blond family that he saw them again.
He saw them well down the Alley, and after looking at them for a moment, made a decision.
Flipping to the pages where he’d drawn them, he pinched the blank page behind it to the page of the original drawing.
He pulled a self-inking quill from the old backpack he wore most of the time now, and signed his initials at the bottom right of the page (Max said that was what he was to do if he gave anyone else a picture, so that he was credited for the picture), he waited for it to dry and them headed towards the family.
As he drew closer, he didn’t see the Blond Boy with them, but could recognize the same signs of “keeping an eye out” that his Aunt and Uncle showed when Dudley ran off somewhere.
When he stopped in front of the handsome couple, he looked up at them from under his bandana.
The man sneered at him, cold eyes assessing, and the woman turned her face away slightly, as if he‘d brought a handful of shit for her inspection.
This less-than-welcoming reception didn’t faze him in the least, and Harry said nothing, only carefully tore the copied picture from his sketchbook and holding it out carefully to the couple.
He held it out so that the picture was on the top, facing them, and though their expressions didn’t change, both sets of eyes darted over the picture.
After a moment, a pale hand reached for it, and Harry gave up his picture to the man.
He waited a moment while they both looked it over closer, and nodded when he noticed a barely-noticeable gleam of appreciation.
He closed his sketchpad and turned to leave and nearly walked right into the Blond Boy. Meeting his eyes briefly, he was about to walk around him when the Man spoke.
“Why did you give us this?”
Harry turned to the couple again, a questioning look in his eyes, and tilted his head slightly.
“It is… well done.” The Woman said. The other boy made a curious noise, and the picture was lowered so that he could get a look at it.
Harry smiled slightly at the more obvious signs of appreciation, the faint noise of awe, before he turned imperiously to him.
“Draw me next.” He ordered.
Harry raised an eyebrow at him, meeting his grey eyes with his own green ones, “No.”
His face scrunched up slightly before smoothing out into something less childish at a small noise from the man. Harry was glad; he’d prepared himself for a Dudley-esque temper tantrum.
“Why ever not?!” “Because you haven’t grown into your features yet.” Harry said.
“Do you know who I am?” He drew his short self up with self-importance. He was perhaps two inches taller than Harry was.
“No.” Harry once again replied. He was slightly amused when that seemed to make him deflate some, a puzzled look on his face. That puzzlement didn’t last long, and after a glance at his parents, outrage came back. It brought a flush to his cheeks that seemed to embarrass him further.
The other boy looked so offended right then that Harry rolled his eyes slightly before flipping open his sketch pad to the drawing of a dragon that he’d made the same day.
Pinching it and the blank page behind it together, he once again got out the self-inking quill and signed the copy, ripped the page out, and handed it to the silly boy.
It was snatched from his fingers before a sound of delight escaped from the previously pouting boy.
Harry put his quill away, but was once again stopped from moving away from the family by a gloved hand on his shoulder.
The hand held one Galleon in it, and Harry look at it curiously.
“For your services.” The man said smoothly. Harry knew he thought that he was doing Harry a huge favor, but he didn’t need it, and he wasn’t giving them copies of his pictures for money.
If he could turn down giving out drawings for Quid and Pounds at school, he could refuse taking Galleons for his drawings here.
Harry raised an eyebrow at him this time.
“Thank you, but I don’t need the money. Have a nice day, Sir. Ma’am.” He nodded at the two, and gave a small smile at the boy who was still poring over his drawing like it was a new plant in the Garden, and left.
He was determined that he’d get at least one meal every day he came to the Alley, and that’s what he’d do.
Perhaps after he stopped by the Owl Emporium though.
Harry left the shop with a growling stomach and a high fluttery feeling in his chest. The beautiful Snowy Owl couple were going to have babies! Chicks! They promised they would let him see them when they hatched, and Harry was so excited!
He bought a sandwich that had spinach leaves, grilled chicken, tomato, and a few thick slices of brie on it, and ended up buying another he was so hungry.
His Mark developed two more shoots on either foot that night.
He was overjoyed and celebrated by buying himself a bar of extra dark chocolate (other kids seemed to like it, so why not?) and a single cockroach cluster.
He buried the Cluster in the roots of the Blue Sedge to share his joy with Samuel’s memory.
The day that Harry decided to use his money for something beyond food was two days after he watched part of a movie the Dursleys were watching on the telly, one day after he found a particular clipping in a magazine, and the exact day he found out that there was no way for the Dursleys to have NOT known about the magical world.
Harry stared at the transcripts that Griphook had brought for him, tempted to run a finger over his Aunts signature. Though he knew that Goblins were notorious for confirming the legitimacy of transactions (words he’d picked up while in meetings with the Goblins), it was difficult to connect his Aunt to the magical world. He’d speculated before, but to have her signature…
Harry had only seen his Aunts signature once, when she had him putting invitations into envelopes to send out for a garden party (something Harry had mistakenly thought to mean that people would be donating plants to Harry’s Garden), but Harry could still picture the closed loop of the ‘y’, the upturned ends that made up the slash of the ‘t’, and the tight ‘e’s and upright ‘r’ that he was seeing in front of him right then.
It was a paper signing that yes, Petunia Dursley was the guardian of one Harry James Potter and accepted the agreed upon sums for his upkeep.
The bottom of the paper, next to his Aunts signature, was the emblem for Gringotts Wizard Bank, and was signed by Griphook as the Goblin witness required for such a form to be submitted.
His Aunt Petunia had seen a Goblin…
His Aunt Petunia might have even been in Gringotts itself.
A greedy, childish part of Harry that he could admit to having balked at the idea.
The wizarding world was HIS. His Aunt had no place knowing what it was, or knowing where Gringotts was, or knowing that magic exists…
It didn’t fit.
The two worlds that Harry had kept carefully separated were blending at the most unlikely of places…
It was true that Harry had thought about how his Aunt at least must’ve maybe known, as his mother, her sister, was a witch. In one of his talks with Max he’d been informed of the fact that even though Harry was a half blood, by having two magical parents, Harry was first generation Pureblood.
This was made better by the fact that Harry already had a number of familial connections, alliances, businesses, and a fortune to his name. The fact that his half blood status labeled him a first generation pureblood meant that any familial feuds that had developed were considered null and void, even if he was the last of the main branch of Potters.
Something that didn’t quite fit into his mind was whether that meant that his Uncle Vernon knew about magic… it would explain why they seemed to have a united front against ‘freakishness’, and the checks that came monthly wouldn’t require explaining away… Griphook confirmed that all ums forwarded to the Durlseys may have to be sent by Muggle, but they still had the Gringotts seal.
Harry once again thought about his Uncles rants about money.
Harry was likely eating them out of house and home.
Harry should be grateful that they allowed a roof over his head. Harry thought of Dudley's junk room.
Harry should be grateful that they were allowing him a chance to work off some of the trouble that he was putting them through.
Harry took a deep breath and focused on thinking for a moment.
Griphook waited as he sorted out what his reaction should be. He was glad for that, at least. It was a rare day that the Goblin gave him more than a few minutes to think.
He thought that maybe he should feel angrier maybe. Perhaps more offended. Outraged? Shocked?
But not really…
After spending so much time with the Goblins, Harry could see how the Dursleys could come to the decisions they did.
That didn’t mean that he would have done the same thing, but then, there were many situations that Harry could understand but not have done.
It wasn’t a secret that they held more than just dislike for him.
It wasn’t a secret that they spoiled Dudley by more than most standards.
It didn’t take a genius to see that by not spending money on Harry, they could spend more money on Dudley and on themselves.
Harry thought of his Uncles new car.
Harry thought of the redesigning of most of the main floor that had been done two years ago.
Harry thought of the steadily rising numbers of Dudley's presents every year.
Harry took another deep breath.
“What would you like to do Mr. Potter?”
Harry looked at his clasped hands for a moment, and glanced at Max. His face gave nothing away save for a raised eyebrow.
Max had seen the figures.
Harry wondered how much Max had guessed about Harry’s home life. Wondered if he knew how much work Harry had been made to do to make up for his living expenses.
He knew, according to Max’s accounts for the usual witch or wizard, children were spoiled for the most part. Especially ones with even half as much money as Harry had.
He thought to the Blond child with his two beautiful parents, and the large Sunday they’d bought him.
Harry thoughts turned in his head. A part that had developed from so many years of negotiating with Goblins and learning how to manage a household bloomed in his mind, displaying a thought borne to make the most for oneself. The idea would likely destroy something.
Another part, one made from many talks at night with his friend Samuel suggested an idea that would require no confrontation and would leave most unscathed.
Harry thought, and found a neutral ground. Harry described what he would like to have brought to him, and informed both Griphook and Max what he would be doing.
Max barked out one of his laughs, and Harry smiled in return.
Perhaps it would work…
He had a number of things to discuss with his relatives.
Chapter 33: An Intervention of Sorts
Okay, so flurry of chapters for you all, and s you might have noticed, I'm lengthening my chapters so that they're closer to 8 pages/chapter rather than the 3 pages/chapter I had written up while writing this for NaNoWriMo...
I have most of the next chapter done, but that'll end up being posted when I can once again get to an internet source.
I am in the middle of the woods, working at Grundy Park if you're wondering :D
So yeah, I'm glad that this is being liked, and a challenge for you at the end of this chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry timed it, as much as he could, to about a week before the sign-up deadline was due, which left him two more weeks of summer vacation left.
He’d seen the Blond Family a few more times, but it didn’t seem like they noticed him, which was all right for him. He’d also seen the tall man with the dark robes—the one who smelled of plant cuttings and that non-chemical medicine scent. He’d even once seen the four together.
He’d been sorely tempted to go back into the Plant shop, Bud’s and Barley’s Botany, but until he was certain he could defend himself from the man from before, he wouldn’t risk it.
As it was, he walked on the far side of the Alley when passing, and even then only with a crowd in between him and the glass.
When he’d been walking towards the Dursley’s, he’d wished that he could have the convenience of not having to interact with his relatives, but he knew it was not likely to happen. It was a necessary burden for now.
Harry shook his head to rid himself of such thoughts; he needed to focus right then.
It was Saturday afternoon, his Aunt and Uncle were in the kitchen (His Aunt peering through the drapes, likely, his Uncle finishing sorting through the day’s post), Dudley was out terrorizing the neighborhood while Harry had finished cleaning the windows of any finger or face prints from his Aunt trying to spy on the neighbors.
He checked for the papers—the parchment—that had all of his calculations and all the bank statements for the past nine years. Each bank statement had the ornate seal From Gringotts on it showing the proof of transactions sent to the Dursleys, and the calculations had references to a number of organizations and their prices.
Harry had ads from each company hidden in his cupboard. One particular pamphlet was folded neatly in his back pocket.
He could do this.
Taking a deep breath, he walked into the kitchen.
His uncle was seated at the table, just finishing up with the mail, just like Harry thought he’d be doing, and his Aunt was standing casually by the window with one hand pulling the curtain back just enough to see into the neighbours yard.
Just like Harry thought.
Harry took another breath, the air rattling in his lungs so loudly he thought his Uncle might yell at him for it.
“Aunt Petunia. Uncle Vernon.”
Aunt Petunia spared him the barest of glances, and Vernon grunted dismissively.
Making sure he was on the opposite end of the table from his Uncle, Harry carefully chose his words.
“I’d like to speak to you two about something… something important.”
Both gave him irritated looks.
“Go work on your chores, freak. The Gutters need to be cleaned out!”
Harry stood his ground.
“I want to take self-defense lessons.”
There was a beat of silence before his Uncle rumbled out a gruff laugh. His Aunt tittered.
“And teach you to go out making more trouble? No. Absolutely preposterous.”
“I know about my parents.”
That gave them both pause, and Harry saw his Uncle’s face slowly reddening.
“All about them, actually. I also talked to my banking manager.”
His uncle erupted from his chair.
“What’s all this boy?! What are you going on about, I won’t have all this nonsense in my house!”
His Aunt was looking pale and drawn, but Harry took strength in the fact that she seemed too shocked to start bawling her eyes out.
“I’ve been seeing my banking manager since I was eight—“
“And the Goblins—“
“Were rather helpful in showing me a few discrepancies in what you’ve been telling me over the years.”
“Come Here Boy!”
Harry dodged around the table when his Uncle waved meaty fists after him.
“Particularly about me being a financial burden when you’ve been getting money from my parents for years!”
This made his Uncle pause, panting on the other side of the table, his face having gone puce two bellowing shouts ago as they had a stare down.
“I’ve told a number of people—including the Goblins—about my intentions today. I have a scheduled meeting with them later on today, and another tomorrow, and if I don’t show up on time they’ll come find me.” Harry said this in an even tone, not in the least threatening, but Harry thought it might show in his eyes how serious he was right then.
The silence after that was only broken up by his Uncle’s panting breaths as it looked like his face was trying to flush and drain of colour at the same time. A quick glance at his Aunt showed that she’d long decided to forgo any colour in her face, and had righted and sat on one of the chairs that got knocked down in Vernon’s haste to get at Harry.
“I thought we’d have another year before this…” She said.
“You don’t, Aunt Petunia.”
“We’re normal people, a normal family, except for you, just like my sister, just like my freakish sister… and then she met that boy at that school and had to go and get herself blown up….” She didn’t sound as if she knew if she wanted to be disgusted or weeping, and settled for a strange mix in tone between the two.
Harry pulled out the stack of parchment from his shirt, tucked into the waistband of his trousers, and set it on the table, out of reach of his Uncle.
“I think maybe we should sit down and have a talk now.”
As his Aunt looked over the parchment (his Uncle refused to touch it—“Not good enough to use normal paper, are they? Hmph”) Harry quietly explained where he stood in the Wizarding World, explained about how much he knew about his financial situation in regards to the Dursley’s. Harry wasn’t going to mention anything else that didn’t directly involve the Dursley’s, he wanted to keep the two worlds as separate as possible.
He didn’t want the Dursley’s in the magical world, even in knowledge.
He took part of the stack that his Aunt wasn’t flipping through, and slid it between them.
He let them read through the figures, keeping any expression from his face.
He knew what it said, he could recite the prices in his head, both in Pounds and in Galleons, almost down to the Sickle. Nearly to the Knut.
He’d been Gardening for about 7 years, and while he had no problem doing it, to have a gardener come by every day during the summer would be approximately £225/day, for about half the year. Harry rounded it to about 182 days.
(£225x 182 days)(7 years)=£286,650
Approximately 57,330 Galleons, at 45 Galleons per day.
He’s also been cleaning for about 7 years, but year round rather than only half the year, and to have someone come in and clean the house every day would be £104 per day.
(£104x 365 days)(7 years)=£265,720
Approximately 53,144 Galleons, at 20 Galleons, 13 Sickles, and 17 Knuts per day.
He’d only been mowing the lawns for the past five years, but for the front and back yard, he’d called and checked with the service that dealt with Mrs. Robinson’s awn down the street, for one session mowing both lawns it cost £1100. Harry mowed the lawn once a week, or once every two weeks depending on the weather and how fast the grass grew (also how often his Aunt had Garden Parties), so Harry rounded to about 17 sessions in a year.
(£1,100x 17 days)(5 years)=£93,500
Approximately 18,800 Galleons, at 220 Galleons per session for the sizes of the yards.
He knew his calculations were right because he’d even checked them with a calculator. And then checked again with the Goblins, because if there was anyone who could do extreme math in their heads, especially concerning
money, it was Goblins.
He’d also memorized the figure that would be at the bottom of the parchment, totaling £645,870.
That was what they were saving by taking him in.
Leftovers cost them nothing. He didn’t have a room of his own. He worked for them daily. Schooling, as far as he could tell, was paid for in taxes, and if they weren’t then the money being sent to them from his trust fund would more than pay for that AND for some clothing that actually fit him.
They had even petitioned for the money to be increased by a few hundred Galleons as he was a growing boy.
For the past nine years or so, they’d gotten 1549 Galleons 2 Sickles and 18 Knuts sent to them yearly.
That was £15,600 per year.
That was just below £140,400 for taking care of Harry for the past nine years.
Harry was going to get them to sign the stupid permission form.
That was the figure that he’d saved them from paying, that was the figure that included all the money that they used for their own means, not towards his own.
His Uncle was still muttering about this all being “preposterous”, “ridiculous”, “obscene”, but quieted somewhat when Harry offered to bring out the ads that he’d gotten from the neighbors so that he could check his sources. He added that they were services that their neighbors sometimes employed themselves, and so were the standard for the neighborhood.
Once they’d finished looking through his figures, his Aunt looking rather pinched and his Uncle looking fairly constipated and flushed, Harry brought his demands to the table.
Or he would have if Dudley hadn’t barged into the kitchen.
“Mum! What’s for lunch!?”
“Diddydum, now’s not the time, sweetheart…”
Dudley looked at her, and his face screwed up in confusion.
“But Muuuum, I’m hungry!” His voice got the whiny edge to it that meant a tantrum would be along soon, and Harry sat back to wait it out.
“Go to your room.”
His face turned red, and tears started to drip down his pinched up face as he stomped his foot. His Aunt stood up in a blur of mother-henning, reassuring him tat she’d bring him up a nice big lunch, a nice big lunch for her strapping young man, and wouldn’t that be nice? Yes, now why didn’t he go play videogames like a good boy while he waited. And so Dudley stomped his way up the stairs.
Harry waited to hear Dudley get settled upstairs before taking out the brochure from his back pocket.
“I’m taking these lessons, I just need your signature.”
“Now wait just a minute! I’m not paying for you to—”
“You aren’t paying at all. I am. I just need your signature here and here.” Harry pushed the pen his Uncle had been using earlier that day towards him, and with a huff it was signed.
“I am also moving into Dudley’s junk room and am going to be eating regular meals in this house.”
“What? That’s prep—”
“I’ll continue working on the Garden and am willing to cook, but the rest you’ll have to do on your own.” Said Harry, talking through his Uncle’s spluttering denials.
“What makes you think we’ll go along with this then?! I’ll have none of this freakishness in my house!” Vernon slammed one fist on the table.
“This will happen because unlike what someone else might do, I’m not going to be filing your misuse of funding, I won’t be bringing you up on charges of abuse, I’ll not be demanding my money be repaid in full, and other than gardening and cooking, you won’t be seeing me unless it’s me heading to Dudley’s—my room or else heading out.”
Harry paused to see if they had anything to say about that, and when nothing but huffs and beginnings of words came from his Uncle, and his Aunt stayed silent, Harry continued. He was doing fine, he was sure Max would say, and he only had a few more nails to drive home before he could get away from them and go back to ignoring—and being ignored by—his relatives.
“The money you’ve been taking from me—” His Aunt flinched “Should be enough to take care of any rent or electricity or hydro bills you may think to ask of me, as well as pay for the food I eat from here, and I’ll be getting my own clothing and school supplies from now until I’m 17. I’d also like to men—”
“Why only until you’re 17?”
Harry met his Aunt’s eyes.
“In the wizarding world, you’re legally an adult at 17. As soon as I turn 17, and possibly before that if I can manage, I’ll be out of this house and I won’t ever have to see you again.”
His Uncle hmph’ed, but otherwise said nothing. Harry supposed he wouldn’t argue about a law if it got Harry out of his life faster. Harry did notice his uncle go red in the face at the mention of the Wizarding world, and decided to not mention it unless strictly necessary once they were past this long-overdue conversation.
“As I was saying, I’d also like to mention—and this is just mentioning, I’m not asking your permission here—that I’ll be attending the same school as both my parents went to when I turn 11.”
His Aunt’s face drained of what little colour she’d gained back during the conversation.
“Once again it’s all paid for, and the only thing I’ll ask for is a ride to and from Kings Cross Station at the beginning and the end of the year, and for you to sign any permission forms that may come up.” Before he could muster up the bellowing denials he knew were bubbling up, Harry added “And in return I ignore the money you’ve been misusing. I’ll be gone most of the year, and only back for the summer months after next year.”
Harry sat back in his seat and waited for his relatives to absorb that. Any argument they might have had about him going to Hogwarts should be mollified by the fact that he would be gone for most of the year.
A thumping down the stairs interrupted them, and Harry gathered up what forms his Aunt and Uncle weren’t likely to need to look over.
“Muuuuum! Daaad! Where’s my Luuuunchhh?!” Dudley bellowed.
“I need to get to my meeting, I’ll be back later on tonight to start moving things from Dudley’s junk— to my room, and we can either talk again after that or talk tomorrow. A contract will be drawn up by the end of tomorrow for you to review and look over in regards to me staying in this house and for what’s to happen during the school year.” Harry turned on his heel and left the room, going through the side door of the kitchen to leave around the living room rather than directly through the front hall where even now Dudley was stomping through to get to his parents.
Harry could hear him groaning about being starving, and thought maybe he could stop by the deli for another brie/spinach/chicken sandwich before he went to his meeting.
After his meeting with Max to discuss what happened, Harry moved Dudley’s toys and started sorting through what could be salvaged and what was junk. Anything even vaguely salvageable went into a box to be stored in the garage. Harry had cleaned it nearly a month ago, and knew there was enough room for it now.
Harry ended up dragging three bags of garbage down to the garage to be stored until garbage pickup, and had a small box of Dudley’s things that had been relegated to the junk room due to disinterest rather than the fact that the toy was broken.
There were, to Harry’s delight, a number of rather expensive sketch books and artists pencil sets thrown in the corner of the room, a few pages of each book scribbled on during some phase of Dudley’s before being discarded. These, Harry kept for himself.
With Dudley’s junk taken from the junk room, it was now just a room. A bed with a sturdy, if dirty wooden frame sat in the far corner of the small room, with a wardrobe that once housed an assortment of broken toys beside it. The mattress was lumpy, but bigger than the one that was shoved in the bottom of his—the cupboard. There was a bookshelf, entirely unused for its intended purpose that had been knocked over, and Harry righted it with a smile.
Harry had pulled off the ratty blinds from the windows, and the late-afternoon sun shone into the room. It took some work, but Harry pushed and shoved until the window was open and letting in a breeze.
The netting over the window was ridden with holes and was so covered in dirt and grime that it blocked out some of the sun, so it went with the blinds to be binned.
Harry swept and mopped and used a wet cloth to wipe down the musty walls and could honestly say that cleaning the room out was a significantly different experience since he knew it was so he could have a room of his own.
And so much room he had!
Harry knew he wouldn’t fill it, but it was nice having so much space of his own.
He wiped down the scant furniture next, polishing dirt and dust from it and went outside for a few sprigs of lavender to stick around the mattress and into split seams. That would hopefully get rid of any bugs that likely took up residence in the beaten up old thing.
Harry moved the few things he wanted from the cupboard to his room (HIS ROOM), and obtained a set of sheets from the pantry.
His room was made up as much as it could be, and Harry went down stairs to get dinner ready, content with how things had turned out that day.
Two pairs of grey eyes looked at a sketch, a third pair poring over a different one.
A puzzling boy, they agreed, dressed as poorly as a Weasley—worse than one, if that were possible—but refused a Galleon for his drawings, and had aristocratic features and traditionally long hair. Not as long as the older traditionalists insisted upon, but long enough to indicate a leaning towards pure blood traditions.
His manner and speech spoke towards that as well, even if both were rather abrupt…
They both had a thought on whose name had those initials, who also had green eyes and black curly hair, but he’d been hidden away by Dumbledore, and what were the chances?
Not very likely, they both agreed.
They both looked over to their son, who was still looking over his sketch of a Hungarian Horntail, and silently agreed that whoever the child was, he would bear watching. It was very likely that their Draco would befriend this child at Hogwarts, even if he entered a year after their son.
Draco would steer him right as thanks for the rather personal gifts.
Malfoy’s didn’t like to be indebted in any way after all, even in the way of gifts.
Max sipped at his Firewhisky, feeling the burn down his throat.
The Fucking Muggles the kid had to deal with were right pains in his arse. The burning, itching kind of pain that led one to think of diseases.
And like a disease, he wanted to point his wand at them and use one spell that would make them go away.
Damn it all but the law against unforgivables left him in a right strop some days.
Damn but he was relieved when the kid came back to his shop all right, even if he did need to listen to the kid list out the parameters of a contract for the Fucking Muggles of his.
Figgered he might as well write up his own version of the contract once the kid left, and bring it to the Goblins to look over in the morning.
The contract was sitting on his table, with so many loopholes written into it that anything Harry agreed to could be negated and anything they agreed to could result in them having to find a way to pay back all the money they didn’t use on his kidlike they were supposed to… with interest.
He’d be interested how much interest would have built up after nine or ten or however long it takes them to screw up years…
He barked out a laugh and downed the last of his whisky.
If those Fucking Muggles even look at the kid wrong they’ll regret ever seeing the kid, let alone knowing him.
Heading to his room, he stopped to look at the steadily thickening booklet next to a string-bound book he’d moved to the apartment above his shop.
Nah, he thought. They don’t know a thing about that kid.
Otherwise they’d know not to fuck around with him.
Because fucking around with a kid like Harry, a kid who could make friends with guys like him, make fucking Goblins like him…
You don’t fuck with kids like that.
You don’t fuck with kids. Period.
But you especially didn’t fuck with kids like that.
He brushed the sensitive skin of his eyelids, over his Mark, and thanked that old Bastard Rittevon for giving him this. Because he needed clear sight to see through the bullshit being thrown all over the place.
Needed it to keep an eye on the Kid.
CHALENGE!: Someone mentioned that the summary doesn't do this story justice, so if you have any edited version of the current one, or perhaps an entirely different one to provide, comment them to me :D
Winner gets to see a prompt of a scene they would like to see in the story! Or, if you'd like, just a shout out :P
Hope you all enjoy and continue to enjoy :D
P.S. the prices are ones I've found via google, with some rounding by me. If you have corrections, send them to me and I'll change it up :D
Chapter 34: Contracts, Grant, and Perspective.
So, there was a request to have an age-chapter kind of lead through, a guide or something, to help out (because I know it’s a bit confusing, yeah), and so I spent a couple of hours putting one together.
A couple of hours because I couldn’t figure out where and why my calculations were leaving a gap, and then I realized that I was somehow counting Harry going to Hogwarts a year early.
I personally have an early birthday, in early February, and so Harry’s late birthday was confusing me. Then it kind of hit me like a brick to the head I was too stupid to see, and I realized that I was cutting out a grade because I was having him go to Hogwarts for the year he was turning 11, rather than going to Hogwarts after he’d turned 11.
Grade 1 is the year you turn 6, Grade 2 is 7, 3=8, 4=9, 5=10, so logically, in my mind, 6=11 and so that’s when Harry goes to Hogwarts. Not so.
You must be 11 or about to turn 11 to go to Hogwarts, not be 10 about to turn 11 a good 6+ months after you get there. And Harry in Book 1 turns freaking 11 and then finally gets his letter, for god’s sake! Turns 11, year 1, Turns 12, year 2, how complicated should this be?
So after I spent an hour or so writing out a brief summary of each chapter, with how old he is, and what year it would be, of course I leave my computer, it turns itself off, and when I recharge it and notice that there’s a couple of duplicate documents up (original and recovered), I close one of two of each of them.
And accidentally closed the non-saved, changed recovered version.
So I had to do it again.
Look at the end of this chapter, and I’ll leave you to the story that hopefully doesn’t show my stupidity.
Thanks for the patience, here’s chapter ¼ of what I’m posting today!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The contract was drawn up after Harry had looked over it—he didn’t NOT trust the Goblins or Max, but he learned enough from them that he should always look over the contract, whether he’s the one signing it or not.
The contract was worded in such an official and roundabout way that he knew that there would be dozens of loopholes, but he could only make out a few.
He knew that if his relatives ever raised a hand against him that would count to impeding his schooling. That would result in an immediate, pre prepared file towards child-abuse. If they ever knowingly refused to sign a permission form, another pre-prepared form would be filed to look into the funds sent to the Dursley’s towards his care—an inquiry as to what was used when. And what for.
There were a dozen other things, like withholding food or water or other amenities, all which lead towards some file being submitted for review that would undoubtedly lead to the Dursley’s having to pay something or else having to deal with the Wizarding justice system. The full brunt of which would be leveled against them for the abuse of a child.
Harry had read up on some of the laws, mostly to see what would affect him, but he’d read through the entire section on children’s rights.
He was rather astonished that such a seemingly backwards society—just past medieval, in fact—had such a high regard for the rights of what looked to be a minority.
But then, it seemed to make sense.
With so few magical children born each year (most families stuck to one or two), it was apparently decided that they needed to be protected.
Harry was impressed despite himself, even as he scoffed over some of their other laws.
It didn’t stop him from memorizing any that were directed to those under legal age.
But the contract, he was sure, had much more going for him than it did for the Dursley’s.
They should, he knows, get someone to look over it for them, but when he suggested it to them (if only to be fair—he didn’t outright hate them, just didn’t want anything to do with them), they’d looked scandalized and shooed him from the kitchen to read it over.
He supposed the idea of showing someone ‘normal’ a contract like this was “Preposterous,” and it was practically unthinkable to hire someone from the magical world to look over the contract.
After two hours, Harry was only vaguely surprised they had something to change, and pulled out a quill—Uncle Vernon nearly went purple at the sight of it—to make the changes.
They only didn’t agree to be sentenced under full Wizarding law and insisted that if they were to ever have this looked into, they would not have to deal with any of this ‘freakishness’.
“If I have to sign this I’ll be putting up with none of your freaks’ nonsense.” Uncle Vernon had said as Harry made the notation.
Three days later, the contract was signed, with a pen his Uncle had wielded like a sword until Harry had said it would be alright to use it—he refused outright to use a quill—and Harry was walking through the Alley feeling lighter than he had in a long while.
Harry felt lighter than air while heading over to the Goblins to hand over the contract. It hadn’t been signed IN Gringotts itself only because Harry had requested it, only signed as a witness afterwards by Max who assured Harry that it would hold up in court due to “Other forces, kid”.
Harry trusted him, even if he didn’t understand what he was talking about.
He actually passed the Blond Family close enough for them to see him, and gave a respectful nod to the two parents, and a small smile to the Blond Boy who returned it, barely suppressed in what was an obvious imitation of his parents.
On his way back down the Alley, he thought he caught a flash of Blond again, but was distracted by a short man barreling through the crowd.
Short and familiar, and turning a flushed pink colour already.
Harry tried to backtrack, but the moment he was frozen in surprise was his undoing.
In an entirely casual way the man started to herd him towards his shop, talking the entire time.
“—thought I’d saw you, knew you’d never be able to resist, saw the gleam I did. Now why didn’t you ever come back, you sassed me boy, nothing for me to get angry about but there I was getting all embarrassed, see, you reading my sign back to me an’ all. But ‘ere, I had my wards all checked out—didn’t THAT cost a pretty penny, but had to have it upgraded any-who so I won’t be taking it from your pay—but turns out there was nothing wrong with it, so –aha, here we go, get in now why don’cha, we have so much to discuss—”
And then Harry was once again surrounded by Green.
They traded surprised looks—a few moments of eye contact—and nodded back to the respectful H.P who was broadcasting his happiness without any care to social conventions.
The boy they’d seen before was respectful and poised, only lacking the refined edge to his speech that one gains with age, and lacking the gracefulness of having grown fully into one’s adult body. He had the beginnings of grace, perhaps his parents had taught him riding, or perhaps already had him training on a broom without the children’s restrictions.
This boy was fairly bouncing with joy by pureblood standards, something their own son reacted to with a smile of his own.
Likely, they shared with another look, Draco thought H.P’s happiness was partially due to seeing him.
Draco had been quite insistent his parents allow him to invite the other boy to their mansion, and they had discretely asked around their circle as to who the boy might be.
It was more than time, after all, that they knew the name of the boy Draco had hardly stopped from talking about constantly the past month.
Certainly they ought to stop referring to the boy by his initials.
Before they could do more than return the silent greeting, though, the boy was swept away by the crowds.
“He had a scroll marked for Gringotts.” Murmured Lucius to his wife.
She nodded and gave a Look to a witch who came close to knocking into her.
“Indeed he did. I hadn’t noticed his parents…”
It was very unlikely that a boy of that upbringing—pure blooded or first generation pure blood, an old line somewhere in there for certain, just look at his cheekbones!—would be out and about the Alley without his parents. Her lips thinned at the thought of leaving her Draco to his own devices in the Alley at this age.
She would certainly be having words with the boy’s parents. On this.
She recalled seeing the boy observing them while Draco talked about his upcoming birthday party –long overdue, really—over his Sunday, remembered his bold stare and thinking about his nerve, wondering what he was doing on his own, and what manners had his parents—where were his parents?—taught him that he felt comfortable staring like that.
The boy had occasionally looked back up at them after a time—for his drawing, she supposed, and really it was lovely, motionless as it was—and she’d gotten less outraged and more curious—where were his parents?
They saw him again a short while later, but just as they started in his direction, a short man with an increasingly reddening face fairly swooped in and started rushing the boy into a shop.
Narcissa recognized the shop as one that Severus frequented, and realized that the boy—H.P—must be the amusing boy he’d told them about, the one who’d gotten the overzealous Grant Barley in such a huff.
She supposed that Grant Barley had found the boy then, and followed through with his threat to hire him on. She didn’t like the idea of such a young child working, but she knew that Severus trusted the man—as much as he could, in any case—to know how much work was too much work for one boy.
She shared another look with Lucius, and saw a mirror of her own thoughts.
They would be able to have Severus find out more about the boy the next shopping trip of his, and Draco’s insistence on meeting up with the boy would be appeased.
The boy seemed more than a little shocked, she could tell by his frozen face, but she was assured by Severus’ stories that the man inspired that even in Severus at times, so she put her worry from her mind.
Though, she was certainly going to have words about what is acceptable when looking after such a young charge. To let the boy wander around as he was is intolerable in polite society.
Even Muggleborns have more class than that.
Harry heard the door close behind him.
He thought it would be more appropriate to his state of mind if it had slammed (more like Uncle Vernon) or at least snapped shut (more like Aunt Petunia), but it closed instead with a soft hush.
The man was far from quiet though, and a constant stream of chatter fell from his lips.
“Ho ho! There we are! You’re a ballsy kid, even if you sass me, I have to give you that! I’ve been looking for you for ages and ages, through the window and had to clean them regular like and everything to get a good look. Ol’ Buddy loved that, he did, this’s cleanest these windows have ever been I can tell you that much any-who. But here now, I kept catching glimpses of you through the crowd, and naught much to do but to double check, but then you’d be gone like that—”
Here, he snapped his fingers smartly in front of Harry’s face
“— and then I’d hardly see hide nor hair of you for ages and ages after that! Bud said I should just let you come to me, but here you need a job yeah? Of course you do, you’re a kid, hardly Hogwarts age yet, who’d hire you? No one! Well of course I thought about this and decided, hey, why not let you work for me?”
There was a pause, and Harry felt his eyes widen further than they already were. A job? What was he talking about? Harry hadn’t considered that he might be able to get a job… but then, he was always so busy with his meetings and with Max that he hadn’t really thought about it. But what was this man talking on about? Could Harry really work in a plant shop? His mind was astonished at the idea of so much Green.
“And because of my dear old heart—but not too old mind, I’m a fair ways from Hogwarts but nowhere near what you’d consider really old, nuthin’ like that—but my dear heart said ‘hey now, why not give the lad a chance before planting boot to trousers? Why not?’ Why not indeed. And now here I am, and here you are, and won’t it just be o jolly? Now then, you get minimum wage if you get a Knut, no arguments lad, and maybe there’ll be a bonus waiting for you on your better days.”
“Wait, what do you—”
“And I’ll be giving you a tour after the contracts and all that are signed and all—not that you haven’t given yourself a tour, snooping where you ought not—okay, ought not be able to go, but you sassed me once kid, don’t go making mistakes a second time, in a place like this that’s a big no-no when it could cost us a beaut like our tentacula or one of my gorgeous Dandies, no sir’ee, so I’ll go get that contract figgered out, you just wait here then.”
And with that and a decisive nod, the man turned and disappeared into a door behind the counter.
Rustling sounds and a low mutter of curses came from the open doorway, but all Harry could do was stare where the man was once standing.
Harry slowly moved to look around the smaller front area, looking at the plants displayed there.
He looked at the red-ringed doorway and it’s sign, and thought and repeated what he could recall of the babble spewed in his direction for the last few minutes.
At a plant sop.
Presumably he’d learn more about plants—be able to handle the plants he’d read about, learn more than what books and the plants themselves told him about them—and he’d get paid (a null point; Harry didn’t need any more money, but he’d been learning from Goblins for more than two years now and some things had stuck).
The man came back into the room, grinning, and Harry hesitantly smiled back.
It sounded a bit too good for it to be true.
As the man set down the contract on the counter Harry bent over it to read it through.
As he read what looked to be word-for-word standard employment agreement with a renewable contract, the man spoke again.
“By the by my name’s Grant Barley kid, like the sign. You can meet Bud later, he’s off for the week, some family matter in France of sommat, but you’ll love him. Kind of quiet, but you seem a quiet sort yourself.” He continued on about what he would be doing in the shop, seemingly gleeful at having Harry look after the more problematic plants. It should have made Harry less willing to work in the shop, and it would have had Harry been anyone else. As it was Harry thought about being able to do more than weed around plants, and looked forward to it.
He finished looking over the contract a second time, making sure there weren’t any loopholes or subcontracts and hidden agreements in it, and wet the quill Grant Barley had set y his hand.
“Oh, hey kid, what’s your name anyhow? Should’a prolly figgered that out first things first, but you just let me ramble on like I’m wont to do, drives some people crazy it does, them that like long silences, but not you I can tell, but really you should speak up already kid, what’s your name?”
Harry smiled and signed his name with a flourish he kept for official documents.
He handed it back to Grant and gave a small smile when the small man’s eyes widened.
“My name is Harry Potter. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
So more Grant, Malfoy’s, and look! Harry has a job!
I am going to go out there and assume that the wizarding world is still a bit backwards in regards to the employment of minors, and if anyone has a problem with a 9/10 year old working in a plant shop, well you’ll have to take it up with the Ministry of Magic. I’m sorry, but I don’t make the rules, don’t shoot the messenger and all that ;)
I’ll go on to say that I was nearly horrifically stupid a second time and nearly deleted the recovered file for this as well, which would have deleted two and a half chapters, this one included.
Now onto the age to chapter list, starting with a grade-teacher-age-year list:
When he’s changing ages, it’s during the summer. The years I provide are what year it is when they’re get off for summer vacation.
Grade 1. Mrs. Keen. Harry is 5 turning 6, y.1986
Grade 2. Mr. Ky. Harry is 6 turning 7, y.1987
Grade 3. Mr. Rector. Harry is 7 turning 8, y.1988
Grade 4. Mr. Baryn. Harry is 8 turning 9, y.1989
Grade 5. Mrs. Penber. Harry is 9 turning 10, y.1990
Grade 6. YOU SHALL SEE. Harry is 10 turning 11, y.1991
Hogwarts Year 1
Art teacher: Mrs. Brush
Principle: Mr. Burtensen
The age#/age# means his birthday is somewhere in the chapter, largely unnoticed. Is somewhat confusing since I never mention dates, really.
Chapter 1: age 4 ||Chapter 1-2: age 4||
Chapter 2: age 4/5 ||Chapter 2- 5: age 5||
Chapter 3: age 5
Chapter 4: age 5
Chapter 5: age 5
Chapter 5: age 5/6 ||Chapter 5-7: age 6||
Chapter 6: age 6
Chapter 7: age 6/7 ||Chapter 7-17: age 7||
Chapter 8: age 7
Chapter 9: age 7
Chapter 10: age 7
Chapter 11: age 7
Chapter 12: age 7
Chapter 13: age 7
Chapter 14: age 7
Chapter 15: age 7
Chapter 16: age 7
Chapter 17: age 7/8 ||Chapter 17-31: age 8||
Chapter 18: age 8
Chapter 19: age 8
Chapter 20: age 8
Chapter 21: age 8
Chapter 22: age 8
Chapter 23: age 8
Chapter 24: age 8
Chapter 25: age 8
Chapter 26: age 8
Chapter 27: age 8
Chapter 28: age 8
Chapter 29: age 8
Chapter 30: age 8
Chapter 31: age 8/9 ||Chapter 31-?: age 9||
Chapter 32: age 9
Chapter 33: age 9
Chapter 34: age 9
Chapter 35: age 9
Chapter 36: age 9 (I’m writing this chapter right now, Wed, August 1st, 2012, just finished 35)
Chapter 37: age 9
Chapter 38: age 9
So I hope that clears that up, I just finished re-writing that, minus the small chapter descriptors… I’ll repost this WITH the small chapter summaries for the very, very last chapter of this story. That chapter will be posted when I’ve finished a couple of chapters to the sequel to this, and it’ll include the still-to-be-determined title (feel free to offer suggestions!), and, just a warning, will be posted after I label this story as COMPLETE! (you can do that, right? I think you can).
I’ll likely post it as a first chapter, or end-note-of-first-chapter in the sequel.
I’m really enjoying writing this :)
Hope you’re enjoying reading this
ALSO: Wow, I’m on chapter 36, what’s up with THAT? You will soon be too ;)
P.S. sorry for the slightly shorter chapter (only 5/6 pages say what now?), but a few minutes from now, another chapter will be up, a whopping 14.5 pages long one. I hope you’re happy. The end scene was supposed to be one or two pages long, but it just had to drag itself past that.
Chapter 35: Fan-Mail and Self-Defense
So here’s chapter 35, with a special guest appearance, and a few more OCs (original characters), and if anyone knows about what 9-10 year olds would learn in a self-defense class, I’m all ears.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry hadn’t actually gone through the rush of mail in his mail box since he’d had it set up, so when the Goblin told him that his box was soon going to be filled and he should empty it or else buy another box (the Goblin made it seem as this was the more obvious choice, clearly), Harry was unprepared.
The mailbox that he’d gotten was—as far as he was told—a fairly large one, of the type usually rented by large businesses. It was warded and checked though for curses and other “Nasty Surprises” they’d said, so Harry wouldn’t have to worry about the harmful aspect of hate mail, an idea he found vaguely fascinating.
The only reason why he’d gotten it was because he was thinking of hiring a solicitor, and was contemplating buying one or two small businesses. He didn’t need it, but he might as well be doing something with his money, and if there was one thing that he got from the Goblins, was that they hated the idea of stagnant money.
He’d planned on later asking about what happened to accounts where families had died out, or had been killed off (as seemed to be the case during Voldemort/He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-For-Various-Reasons reign), but was distracted by the small vault-like room filled with bags of letters.
One side of the room was piled high with these sacks, and the other had boxed and lumpy brown packages stacked from floor to ceiling.
There was a narrow path between the two piles, and he walked between them.
He saw each bag had a tag on it, supposedly to detail what was in them. Lifting one, he read:
Harry J. Potter
July 31st, 1989
Harry furrowed his brows in confusion.
Harry was certain he didn’t know nearly as many people as there were letters, and certainly he wouldn’t expect everyone at his school to send him a letter, let alone a gift.
Harry hadn’t ever seen the need to celebrate his birthday—okay, sure, he was jealous when he was younger at Dudley’s parties and presents, and he still looked forward to the few times when Mrs. Figg can’t look after him the day of Dudley’s parties, but that, he felt, was explainable.
Certainly Harry wanted gifts, since they seemed to make Dudley so happy. The idea of getting a gift from his relatives now, of course, was a baffling and unlikely situation, and he was happy that his birthday passed with only a few taunts from Dudley.
If Dudley decided that him not having a birthday party was something horrid and unthinkable, it meant he stuck to verbal barbs. Harry took his lack of bruises as his own special gift from Dudley on those days.
As to Dudley’s parties, Harry knew he didn’t have many friends to even invite to such an event, and occasionally had a short party with Samuel—having to explain the concept each year, and eventually simplified it to “A party to celebrate another year not eaten by owls, foxes, or relatives.”
But Dudley always got to go somewhere interesting, or do something that looked like fun for his birthdays. Going to the theme park, a party in the back yard (though that one was horrible because Piers Polkiss and a few others had started messing with his hedges and pulling petals from his flowers), going to a pool once Dudley had gone and passed is swimming lessons… This past year they’d all gone to a wrestling match, which Harry wasn’t disappointed not to go to. Aunt Petunia didn’t seem to mind she’d been left behind either, and it was a rare moment when Harry felt he had something in common… Though Harry thought it was more the violence for sport that his Aunt shied from, rather than a disinterest in seeing people trading bruises and injuries, and a hesitance at being the dummy when Dudley and his friends tried to practice the moves they’d seen. It’d taken a week of hiding and rung for that to die down.
Harry only ever felt close when his Aunt took credit for his Garden, or graciously took the compliment for his cooking at her dinner parties.
But Harry looked back at Max, who seemed mildly surprised at the contents of his mailbox, but not nearly as poleaxed as Harry felt.
“Yeh read the books, yeh shouldn’a be surprised at this kid. C’mon, we can shrink up th’ packages to bring to yer place, and sort through all this shite mail at th’ Shop.”
Harry snorted to himself, and looked back at the piles.
The books detailing his so-called adventures, the hearsay of what happened that Halloween nearly nine years ago, given as fact, and all of it given in such a way that painted a 15 month-old as a great and powerful and honest and good and heroic character, when, as far as Harry could tell, most children up to about age 13/14 are pretty much sociopathic.
That was something he’d looked up, because though he now knew that the Dursley’s thought him a freak for his magic, there must’ve been another reason for them to believe him to be when, as far as he could tell, magic wouldn’t have shown itself until he was much older.
Harry wasn’t certain though…
He hadn’t ever met a magical baby before, though he had some experience with Muggle ones.
Max muttered something under his breath as he twisted his wand in the air, and the bags of mail started to shrink and float from the vault-like mailbox, where they piled themselves neatly, before turning to the pile of packages.
A slash of his wand and a muttered word and there was a tumble of boxes as 12 glowing packages soared from the pile. They stacked themselves neatly in front of Harry with another swish of Max’s wand.
“S’posedly charmed to keep from being shrunk, bein’ delicate an’ all that, migh’ ‘s well get ‘em over with…”
Harry shrugged and carefully removed the brown paper from the topmost package, revealing glittery wrapping-paper underneath. Clouds made their way lazily across the glittery background, and Harry took a moment to admire it before also carefully unwrapping the gift.
Harry folded the paper and started a pile to one side.
Dudley ripped the paper on his gifts apart into shreds, and Harry always had to clean it up.
Inside, a letter lay on top with his name done up in unnecessarily fancy writing, and Harry moved it to the side.
Inside the box were a variety of fancy quills, and several jars of ink in a number of colours. Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Violet, Indigo, a teal colour that made Harry think of the tropical fish he saw in travel brochures, silvery grey, an ostentatious shade of pink, gold, and peacock blue, as well as a larger jar of black ink.
Why someone thought to send this to him, he didn’t know, but he thought the colours were interesting.
Opening the letter, he found the unnecessarily curvaceous writing inside as well.
Unneeded though it was, Harry took a moment to admire it before reading it. It seemed to use a lot of capitalization, and Harry wondered if it was because the capitalizations were often the more stylish letters in cursive writing.
A Very Happy Birthday to such a Young Celebrity!
I’m sure You’ve heard of Me, but, as an Experienced Wizard to a Young one, You will need all the practice on your Signature as you can get! And Harry, I cannot get this through enough, you should really make sure to always have a quill on hand! You Never Know when a Fan will be about.
Once again, the Happiest Wishes to you, Harry Potter!
Harry stared at the letter, and shook his head.
His writing was getting better daily, and he already had a neat and legible signature, with just enough flair to not look exactly like he was only writing out his name in cursive.
As he was folding the letter back into it’s envelope, he noticed a wizard’s picture inside it, with a cheekily smiling blond man winking out at him. In the same, swirling cursive writing was what Harry assumed was the man’s signature. Autograph he supposed.
Harry sighed and continued going through the delicate packages.
Harry pulled his new trunk behind him, his heart racing.
It was an old fashioned trunk, at least by Muggle standards, with warm brown wood that sighed happily when Harry ran a finger over it’s grain, and copper buckles and snaps that had gleamed dully in the shop’s light.
Harry had had to buy it in order to carry his packages, as even shrunk, there were a startling amount of them.
He hadn’t opened a number of the packages if only because it seemed more important to settle the issue of the letters first.
It’s taken most of the day for Harry and Max to go through it, and they’d sorted it into piles to be responded to differently.
Max helped Harry write generic letters for each category, thankful and gracious for the people who only wanted to thank him for offing You-Know-Who (as though he’d set out as a toddler on a mission to do it) and to wish him a Happy Birthday, a properly appreciative letter for those who only sent well wishes or presents, with a last line to be written once he’d gone through the packages so that he’d be able to reply to them.
They had a couple of bags of letters, with return addresses on them, to bring to Eyelops Owls Emporium, a bulk job that was sure to get a favor or two from the man, to bring the next day. Though it was only the second day after Harry had had his talk with his relatives, and Harry had seen a remarkable improvement to how he was regarded, Harry still stayed away from the house as much as he could. Especially with his last year of Muggle schooling coming up, as well as his self-defense classes, Harry wanted to clear up any unfinished business he might have.
But what was making his heart race now was the idea of what his Uncle and Aunt would do when he brought home his trunk.
And he’d be bringing home a number of bags, and possibly a shrunk set of drawers and a desk as well, tomorrow after he went on a, according to Max, much needed clothes shopping trip. Harry wasn’t much looking forward to it.
He was rolling his magically lightened trunk down the walkway of the house when he saw the blinds rustle in a way that let him know his Aunt had been watching.
His Uncles car wasn’t in the driveway, so Harry breathed a sigh of relief.
His Aunt made verbal and facial remarks to things she disliked, never physical.
Harry opened the door.
Harry closed the door to his room and breathed a sigh of relief.
Though his Aunt had look horrified at the sight of the trunk, and had been scandalized when she’d asked if he’d “dragged that thing all down the road for the entire neighborhood to see,” she hadn’t done anything else.
Carefully pulling his trunk up the stairs, Harry had heard the rattling and chirping noises from Dudley’s room—now his ONLY room—that meant he was playing video games.
Dodged more than one bullet then.
Flipping open the latches, Harry set about stacking the wrapped gifts around his room so he’d still have a place to sleep and move around in.
He placed a few of the actual delicate gifts he’d already opened on the top of the still-too-empty bookshelf, smiling again at the glass dragon he’d been given, and marveling again at the flickering flames inside of it, and then sat himself down with a piece of paper to start opening gifts.
Each gift was opened, admired, each letter read and noted the name and address and gift on the paper he had, and by the time it was done his Uncle had long since gotten back, Harry had already heard Dudley stomp downstairs for the pizza Uncle Vernon had ordered, and it was dark out.
A great deal of his gifts were small knick-knacks and clothing, half of which Harry knew he’d be donating to the nearest salvation army or other organization, and he got disappointingly few books. His bookshelf had maybe a quarter of one shelf full of books, and those were his French, Bulgarian, and schoolbooks, with a stack of unused art books beside.
The ones he did were interesting in that quite a few were children’s books (he’d gotten two copies of Beedle The Bard, and decided to only keep the older looking of the two, maybe donate the other to the school as it didn’t have any moving pictures), but he got no books on plants. He did get a book about Amazing Beasts and Where To Find Them, with a note scribbled inside the cover about how he’d be happy for this gift when he didn’t have to buy it for school, so he was satisfied.
He got a number of pictures, a couple of posters of people in uniforms flying about on brooms throwing balls at each other, some scenic paintings, and a couple of knit blankets.
Those, he immediately added to his bed.
They didn’t match each other at all, but he loved the variety of colours on each of them.
Harry put the books on the bottom shelf, and filled the second to last with the little knick-knacks and baubles he’d gotten as presents. He’d figure out what to do with them later.
Moving pictures and posters he kept rolled and stored in the corner of his room, the scenic paintings he leaned on one wall to be hung up later, clothing was sorted through and tried on as he found what he did and didn’t like, what fit and what was too small or large.
Harry didn’t have a problem with many of the too-large clothing, and hung what he could in the clean wardrobe, folding what he couldn’t in front of it for when he got the new set of drawers.
The rest went into a garbage bag to be brought to the Salvation Army bin at the corner of the supermarket’s parking lot.
That’s where his aunt dropped off the clothing that was in too poor a shape for even Harry to wear, if she didn’t bin it outright.
Harry placed the box with the many colored inks and fancy quills by the place he was planning on putting a desk, and made a mental note that he should also buy more… usual (if that word could be applied while in this house) quills and a stack of parchment.
Harry sighed at the pile of neatly folded paper near the door, and packed it away into his trunk to bring to and be disposed of at Max’s…
If it weren’t for the fact that Dudley might catch a glimpse of what was obviously present wrapping paper, Harry would dispose of it here.
But Harry already had an idea that Dudley would try to break into his room to snoop around, which was why tomorrow, while his Aunt and Uncle were more likely to try to keep Dudley less hostile with treats and presents, Harry was going to hire someone to come by and install a lock on his door.
He glanced once again at the fire-filled glass dragon, and knew Dudley would try to smash it.
He looked at the stacks of unused sketchbooks that were abandoned by Dudley, and knew that if his greedy cousin saw them in his possession, he would whine and snivel about how they were his and he wanted them back.
Likely to make paper airplanes to throw at Harry, he thought rather cynically.
Harry sighed once again and headed out of his room—his room—to go out and tend his Garden.
His mind was already pushing away thoughts of thank you letters and the various missives he would have to send out the next day, filling instead with the calm of Gardening.
Outside the wind made the tree leaves sigh, the tall grasses rustle with relief, and Harry listened to the unique music of his Garden and the limited wildlife of the night.
Harry bought the necessary furniture, the drawers, a desk with drawer space, and, at Max’s insistence, a new bed frame and mattress.
“Posture’s important, kid, a shit mattress’s gonna fuck it all up.”
So Harry bought the larger bedframe and the mattress.
And so Harry lugged the shrunk furniture back to Number 4 Privet Drive, and after reorganizing his room, he waited for the Magi-Lock Smith to get to the house.
He’d picked out the style of lock he wanted, one for the door and one for the window frame (because he knew his Uncle could and would go to extremes if pushed), and had informed the shopkeeper that he was living at a Muggle residence.
While waiting, Harry set the severely shrunk furniture where he wanted them, moving the old mattress and bed frame to the middle of the room to dismantle and deal with later, feeling a tad silly setting up the doll-sized bed and drawers and desk and chair in the approximate places he wanted them, but they grew back to their normal sizes by the time there was a knick at the door
The Locksmith came, installed the locks, gave Harry a small iron key with a Muggle repelling charm on it, and went. Harry was thankful that, in an attempt to calm Dudley’s hissy fit, they’d taken him and a couple of his friends out to lunch.
Letters were sent out after Harry finished giving his signature to them (and now his signature was beautiful, neat, and scrawled out through sheer muscle memory), Harry made sure the Goblins knew that there would be a standard employment contract on it’s way to the bank at some point that day, and set about wandering the Alley for the last part of the day.
He stopped by the grocery store on his way back to the Dursley’s, picking up a package of spinach, a small container of raspberries, and a fruity vinaigrette sauce.
He made it back in time to set up pasta for dinner, and took a bowl and cutlery up to his room to have his salad without his relatives glaring at him. He was a bit unwilling to deal with them at that moment.
It had been a long day.
And he had tomorrow to buy clothing, as he hadn’t had the time that day.
Harry was right I thinking that he wouldn’t enjoy clothing shopping, and resented the full wardrobe even as he saw that he would have more than two pairs of jeans, more than one sweat shirt, and a frankly boggling amount of shirts.
Harry was glad he’d already bought drawers for all this clothing, even if he did have to buy a number of wire hangers to hang up the amount of professional looking dressed up clothing in his wardrobe.
Harry sighed and wondered if he would ever need more clothing, and then smiled because aside from a large growth spurt, Harry would likely not have to go on one of these expeditions again.
The lady at Glad Rags was intimidatingly enthusiastic when Max had told her he needed a whole new wardrobe, a startling turnaround from her initial reaction to seeing Max.
Max had been strange enough, as Harry had assumed that Max would dislike shopping as much as Harry did. This was not the case.
Max shopped like he tattooed, with the utmost concentration on the details and with work to get the most out of what he was doing. This, unfortunately and fortunately, meant that Harry spent most of the day in shops like Glad Rags, including Madam Malkin’s for several wizards’ robes of varying styles for a variety of possible situations.
Harry went to the Dursley’s hoping irrationally not to have to see clothing for a while, before realizing he’d have to put away the massive amount of clothing he’d bought that day.
Harry sighed again and looked out his open window into the night.
One thing Harry realized with his new set up with his relatives was that he was no longer limited to gardening and working out at night.
He experimented with doing these things at various points in the day, but found that it cut into his time with Max and into his time at the Alley.
He also found that if he didn’t do his workout before he went to bed, he had some difficulty falling asleep, regardless of how long or trying a day was.
Some part of him was frustrated at this: that his body would react like this to a change in routine, but it wasn’t something that was seriously detrimental to his system, so Harry kept to his usual schedule.
It wasn’t Great, but it was Good.
Besides, he enjoyed the quiet and stillness of the neighborhood at night.
It was three days before school started again that Harry’s first self-defense started.
It was a close enough walk from Max’s shop, so Harry didn’t have to deal with bargaining a ride from his Uncle.
He’d dressed in comfortable clothing, and had packed another set to change into after the class.
If he’d taken a specific fighting class, like Judo or Kendo or Kung Fu, Harry would have had to get a uniform, but this was a loose self-defense class.
He entered the building to a waiting room, a young woman behind the desk.
“Hey hon, are you here for a class?”
“The 4 o’clock then? You’re nine or ten or so right hon?”
“Alrighty then, if you’ll just tell me your name, I can check you in for class and you can take off your socks and shoes, just put them and your bag into a locker just in there,” she pointed to a door to the left of the room, “and then you can go straight through this doorway to get to the gym.” This time she pointed to the door directly opposite the room.
“That’s Potter with two ‘t’s yeah? And where are your parents at?”
Harry nodded once. “They left earlier.” Which was true, they went out to eat to celebrate a deal his uncle had made at work that day. Thankfully the lady at the counter bought it, and nodded and smiled.
“Go ahead then. By the way, you can call me Sally, hon. Class starts in twenty minutes.”
Harry placed his things in a half-locker out of the way of the rest of the room and padded bare-foot into the gym with a parting nod to Sally.
The gym was very much like the one at his school, with pale wooden flooring, varnished to a plastic-like sheen with lines and loops intersecting each other in varying colours.
A man was on the far side of the room doing stretches, his white shirt showing faint sweat marks under the arms and at the neck.
Harry assumed that he was either an instructor or a student, and either Harry would meet him or not, it didn’t matter, so Harry decided to do his own stretches on this side of the gym.
He went through his usual routine of yoga, and it was when he was finished holding plank position for two minutes and was moving into downward facing dog that the other man came over to him.
“Yoga huh? Well your parents certainly want you limber, yeah? My parents hadn’t even heard of the thing when I was your age, haha!” the man chortled to himself.
Harry held the position for a moment longer, breathing evenly before lunging one foot forward and moving to a warrior’s pose. His sweat made his feet stick slightly to the floor now, but it helped him keep from slipping from the action.
“Aw, silent type huh? Or are you just shy kid? Well, no need for that with me! Oh, you better straighten your right foot, it’s the back foot that need to be perpendicular, kid.
The man bent down and manually fixed his feet to Harry’s shock.
Harry jumped back from him, not liking him so close, and touched one foot behind the other as if to hide them from the man.
His track pants had elastic around the ankles, so Harry knew that he likely wouldn’t have sen his Mark, but he still didn’t like people touching him anywhere around it.
“Hey now, not terribly touchy feely then? Alright, alright, I can deal with that.”
He stood from his crouch and imitated the warriors pose Harry had just been doing, and gestured to his feet.
“Front knee bent at a ninety degree angle—all square like—and front foot facing forward, back leg straight, but your foot here needs to be straight out to the side, for balance.” He moved his feet from the positions and back again, and Harry wearily followed his example, checking his feet this time.
He held the pose with the man before moving into triangle pose, straightening his right leg, turning his hips, and grasping his right ankle, left arm up.
The man followed his move, and together they held it before Harry moved back into downward dog to repeat the two poses on the other side.
“So you must’a been doing this a while, huh? What, your parents start you off at an early age?”
Harry glanced at the man from under his arm.
“Sort of. It was a trend my Aunt took up and then stopped, but I like it well enough to continue.”
Harry focused on his breathing, ignoring the trickle of other students making their way in.
He thought there would be maybe 20 or so other students, so after a certain point, Harry stopped, nodded at the man, and went to sit where the other kids were making lines to sit and cool down from his stretches.
He saw the man from the corner of is eye shake his head and go through a few more poses on his own, and he admired the man’s balance before looking at the other kids assembled.
Most were wearing t-shirts and shorts, but a few like Harry had worn track pants. A few had started rolling the material to make lumpy versions of shorts as the room seemed to warm up a bit with more people in it.
He’d noticed quite a few looking at him and the other man when they’d been stretching, and a few still shot glances at Harry from time to time, obviously curious.
No one asked him anything though, so Harry said nothing.
It was very shortly after that that the man stopped his stretches, and stood at the ‘front’ of the crowd of children.
“Okay chillins! You’re all here—as you should well know—to learn to kick butt while defending yourselves! Or more to know how to defend yourself if you should ever get into trouble, as we all know you’re more likely than not to get into.”
That got him a scattering of giggles.
“So my name is Sebastian Pinotez, I’ll be your main instructor for the next six months, and I’ll be teaching you basic self defense. It won’t be just one style I’ll be working with you on, but several. But, as it’s our first class of many, I’m going to start us off with some introductions for the first half of the class, and the second I’ll introduce you to the most useful think you’ll be learning for this class.”
Harry saw that a few of the boys looked more eager at that, and elbowed and punched each other in a way reminiscing Dudley and his gang.
“So as I said, my name’s Sebastian, you can call me Sebby if you dare, I’ve been teaching for just over 7 years now, know a variety of fighting styles including Judo, Kickboxing, Boxing, Kendo, Kung Fu—of course, how could I teach a class of children without knowing that one!—and a number of other styles to a lesser degree, but I mostly use freestyle outside of competitions. Later, if you want, you can check out the trophy case in the front room, a few of them have my name on them. I don’t think you much care where I went to school, and, oh, what else, I enjoy running, playing with my dogs, and long walks on the beach. Now then, let’s get you all in a circle, and then we can start with your own introductions.”
He did indeed get them set up onto a rough circle, everyone sitting just off one of the painted circles on the gyms floors, and Sebastian pointed to one of the boys who had been punching and shoving the other boys.
“You, I’m not picking on you, but we must start somewhere, so your name, something you like and enjoy doing, and to make things interesting, also tell me your best friend and something you like about them. Go.”
The boy shared a glance with his friend beside him, and smirked.
“Anthony Dibbs, I like hanging out with all my friends and fighting, and my best friend is Stephen here, and I like that he’s always got my back, yeah mate?”
“Yeah, mate,” Stephen replied.
“You next then Stephen.” Sebastian said cheerfully.
“M’names Stephen Dogges, and ditto to ev’rthin’ Anthony said, yeah.” He leaned back looking happy with himself.
It continued down the line, and Harry zoned out somewhat through the names, only coming back to attention when a girl two people away from him said his name—or rather hers.
“Emily Potter, I like flowers and animals, my best friend forever is Molly, my neighbor, and I love that we can talk about anything,” she gushed.
Harry rolled his eyes and held in a sigh. This was done in school so many times at the beginning of the year that it was like hearing the same thing over and over, even if they were new people. Though this group seemed to mention their passion for fighting more often than the kids at his school.
The two boys between him and Emily said their bit, and it was Harry’s turn.
“My name is Harry Potter, and I like gardening—”
“He’s copying me!”
Harry leaned forward slightly to look at Emily incredulously.
“My last name is Potter!” She frowned at him, nose scrunched up in distaste.
Unsure what to do with that declaration, Harry looked to Sebastian to see what the adult in charge could make of the situation. He seemed a rational sort, strange as he was.
“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there are people who share the same last name—who even share the same first name—that aren’t family. Harry here isn’t copying you.”
“But he said he likes gardening too!” she protested, stubborn. Some of the other children traded glances. A number of people
Harry frowned at her.
“You said you liked flowers. That’s different.”
“Same difference! You’re just copying me!”
Harry frowned harder. There certainly was a difference between admiring plants and taking care of them. He really didn’t like this girl.
Sebastian managed to calm her down enough to let him continue, but Harry was a bit busy trying to figure out how this girl managed to connect liking flowers to gardening.
“My name is Harry Potter, that’s P-O-T-T-E-R—” he spelled it out just in case she was really that stupid, and she interrupted him again.
“Hah! It’s only one ‘t’, stupid. P-O-T-E-R.”
“That spells Poter, like ‘poh-ter’, not Potter like ‘pot-er’” Harry protested, and that gained a couple of giggles around the circle that he ignored.
Sebastian sighed. “Why don’t we continue, Harry?”
“I like to garden and draw, and my best friend’s name is Max. I like that he’s different, and that he helps me draw better.”
“Oh, he’s a bit of a better artist then? What’s he draw?”
Sebastian grinned. “Wants to be a tattoo artist when he’s older, does he? I think I wanted to do that when I was a kid too.”
Harry looked at him strangely.
“No. He is a tattoo artist. I visit his shop regularly and he helps me with my drawings.” Harry loved it when Max showed him a new way to draw something, or a different technique to shade or colour.
“That’s a lie! And what do you mean he’s different? You mean weird don’t you? Or is he just an imaginary friend? I bet you don’t even have any real friends so you had to make one up.”
Harry glared at the girl. To even joke about Max being imaginary was Unacceptable.
“Emily, that’s enough.”
This was the first time Harry had actively wanted to hit someone who hadn’t hit him first. He didn’t much like the feeling.
The introductions finally finished, and Harry was ready for the second part of the class already. He needed to run, he needed to climb, he needed to get this agitated energy out of him. He’d managed to get through the rest of the snarky comments from Emily Poter by imagining his mark climbing up his body, imaginary blossoms blooming in a plethora of colours, spiky and painful barbs, thorns, and spines making their way up each stem, puncturing every hateful comment and killing it before it could reach his skin. He imagined the strange every-leaf that his Mark had turning to block the small comments too, the indirectly aimed ones, and their ribbed and veined undersides holding in the rage and vengeful energy inside him, keeping him strong and directing that energy to giving him strong, tough bark to protect him from other attacks.
So when Sebastian stopped them from getting up from their circle, he felt like screaming.
“Now I have very few rules, but if you don’t follow them, you’re out of this class. The form your parents or guardians signed says that they agree that there is no refunds should the rules of this establishment not be followed. Rule one! Try to have fun in this class. Class is twice a week for six months, and longer than that if you sign up for the next class, I’d really rather not having to drag you through this, because honestly, you take from the class what you put into it. I get paid either way, but I’d like not to waste my time. Which brings us to rule number two, which will likely come as a disappointment for a lot of you. No fighting.”
There was a sound of confusion coming from most of the class at that.
“Arent we here to learn to fight then?” Anthony Dibbs demanded?
“Yeah!” piped up Stephen Dogges.
“No, you aren’t. You are here to learn to defend yourselves, which means that if I hear about you using what I teach you to bully other students, you’re out. If you are caught fighting with someone, you will only get one warning before you are removed from the class. Any and all fighting that happens in this building will be by my say so, and you stop when I say stop. This is true at all times. The goal is to get along with each other, and that doesn’t happen easily when beating each other up. On to rule 3. I’d like to think this was obvious, but no stealing, no insults, no put-downs. If you have a problem with another student,” here he looked at Emily and Harry, eyebrows raised, “then mention it to me, and I’ll try to resolve whatever differences you have. If that won’t work, then I’ll make sure you won’t be partnered up. Should any other problems crop up, I’ll add to this list, but these have worked for me in the past, I don’t expect there will be any problems. One more thing for you to know is that every other Thursday the head of this program will be coming in to help with any other problems with the lessons you might have, and will be spending a portion of the class with each of you over the course of the 6 months. Be on your best behavior, because he’s the best, better than me even, as he’s the one who taught me most of what I know. So there’s not much else to say about that. So have fun, don’t misuse what I teach you, and be nice to each other. Now everyone, three laps round the gym and we can get on with our first lesson! No cutting corners now!”
Harry jumped up with the rest of the students, and ran.
It was a relief to get rid of his energy, and he focused completely on his body, ignoring the kids around him.
He ended up doing an extra lap out of necessity, and then walked around while waiting for the rest of the students to finish their laps.
Sebastian smiled when they were all together again, and Harry moved away from Emily when she moved to stand next to him. He didn’t want to be anywhere near her. She was just as bad as Dudley, except that she picked on Max, which made her worse in a way. A huge way.
“Now I said you’d be learning one of the most useful things to know today, and I’m sticking to it. Today we are going to learn to fall.”
Harry frowned. He hoped that didn’t mean that he’d be pushed around the rest of class until he was used to falling. He thought he was used to that enough, thank you.
There was general complaint from the rest of the students, and some confusion.
“Now, now, you may be wondering what I mean. Learning to fall isn’t as easy as falling normally, because when you fall normally, you could get hurt. Learning to fall is learning to fall without getting hurt. Like so.”
Sebastian fell forward and slapped the ground with both hands before he hit and rolled to the side. He got up again and held up his hands for inspection. They were slightly red, but otherwise fine.
“Look, no injury. Now I have experience, and that’s why I can do this directly onto the gym floor, but you guys will be learning on mats. And what we lack in uniform, we more than make up for in equipment.”
He directed them towards a door at the corner of the gym, and started handing out black yoga mats. Harry hadn’t ever used one, and felt the squishy material in his hands before finding a space and rolling out his mat.
“Spread out, you should have enough room to not even be close to touching your neighbor!” Sebastian called out.
Harry saw that Emily was much closer to him than he’d prefer, but she wasn’t directly next to him, so he supposed it was well enough.
He just wished she would be on the opposite side of the gym.
After Sebastian demonstrated how to perform a controlled fall, he told them to practice and keep practicing on their mats, and that he would be coming around to help out each of them.
Harry threw himself into practicing, getting up after each botched attempt and trying again. He didn’t joke with the other students, about how stupid it was that they were learning how to fall in a self-defense class, didn’t pretend to fall by kneeling and flopping on the floor while slapping the ground, he worked.
He worked because he saw that this was important. He saw that this was useful. He saw that this was something he could use.
He didn’t see that the other kids watched him and wondered why he was taking this so seriously. He didn’t see that a couple followed his example, because if he was doing it, it must be useful or something. He didn’t see that others started to take this seriously in an attempt to beat him, taking his work ethic as a challenge. He didn’t see Sebastian looking at him with a thoughtful expression.
He listened to Sebastian’s suggestions, and worked harder still.
At the end of class, when Sebastian had them run one more lap around the gym, Harry did two, and when Sebastian started leading the class through stretches, Harry followed along but did the harder versions of what Sebastian showed.
Harry left the class first, and left the building on his own.
He didn’t see the number of eyes watching him go.
When was the last time I posted something? And then I go and do two chapters at once? About 20 pages between them? Phew.
That’s still kind of an “in your face” to the people who complained about the 3-page chapters that I posted every day last November (EVERY DAY!) who made it sound a bit like I was a slacker (EVERY DAY I SAY!)
But I have to say that the only reason I’m posting both now rather than staggering them is because I’m working in the woods, where I have to go to the main office to get internet on my computer (I have been answering some comments from my phone), and I’m trying to avoid the time vacuum that that place ends up being when I go there outside of work. I’m in the freaking woods! I don’t want to be inside all the time!
So, since I don’t know when I’ll next go to the office on my own, I’m posting both.
Hope you appreciate! Go to previous chapter to get an age-to-chapter layout, as well as teachers-to-age-and-year list. Review if you have any thoughts or opinions you’d like to share. I love them all. Even flamers so long as they don’t just leave an “I HATE IT!” and don’t even leave an explanation or reasoning so that I can work to make my story better.
Still interested in people’s ideas for magical plants. I got a number of good ones in reviews, I’ll post them at the end of next chapter to share, I think :)
Chapter 36: Reputation, and It Ends With Theft
Okay, finished this one after I finished the next chpter, if that makes sense to you, but you’ll see.
Once again, I’m in Grundy/middle of the woods/in the land of no-internet, and so until I get back in a bit less than a month, you’ll be getting bursts of chapters like this. I don’t think anyone will be complaining much.
With the end of next chapter I will have posted about 33 pages for your enjoyment. Chapter 34-37.
Hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Fifth Grade was already looking to be much better than any year of school he’s had yet.
Dudley was in another class, with another teacher, a Ms. Shaw, as well as most of his little gang of deviants. That would have been a bonus on it’s own, but his own teacher was looking to be wonderful as well.
Harry’s teacher, a nice looking woman named Mrs. Penber, started off class with an assignment to write a report on what they’d done that summer, and to have an entire two paragraphs written on something new they learned while outside of school.
It was to be handed in the first thing the next day.
She followed that up with a review session of the last year, something every teacher did as it seemed that no one else but Harry could remember all his or her math equations and science rules.
Mrs. Penber at least made it interesting by mentioning what they would learn at the end of each review, so Harry wasn’t as bored as he usually was.
Harry looked forward to the rest of the year.
After each self-defense class, Harry talked to Max about it. He didn’t complain about the work, and only commented once each time on the horridness of Emily Poter and her insistence that Max was fictional.
Quite a few of the other kids believed her.
“Well that just means I’m too fantastic to be real, doesn’t it? Means they’re missing out.” Max barked out a laugh, his silver tooth glinting in the light.
“’Ey, where’s this place at?”
Harry rattled off the address again, and Max was silent for a moment.
“Maybe I’ll come pick you up after class one day. When the shop’s not so busy.”
Sunday and Thursday weren’t his busiest days, but he had scheduled appointments for touch-ups and new tattoos on his less busy days. Harry appreciated what Max was offering, and only just stopped from asking how much he wanted for the visit.
Something in Max’s eyes said something about them being beyond paying Max to bring Harry places, and Harry felt warm all over for it.
Harry whipped his head around to look at the now cracked window, stopping with a great deal of the rest of the shoppers in the Alley.
Something had hit the window rather hard in Ollivander’s shop, hard enough to crack the musty old window.
Harry had never been in the shop, seeing no need to as he would only, by law, be able to get a wand when he was about to go to Hogwarts or some other magical school, and that was still a ways off. He noticed that a number of the witches and wizards around him glanced at the store’s sign, sighed/smiled/huffed and moved on like it was a regular occurrence.
Harry may have never been inside, but that had certainly never happened before.
He peered at the window—seeing a darker shape pressed against it, something rectangular—before jerking in surprise when a blur of movement snatched the shape from the window and a pale face peered out, distorted by the dirty pane.
Harry raised an eyebrow, unsure as to how much anyone would be able to see out that window especially with the crack, and moved on.
Flourish and Blott’s was said to have a number of new books being sent in, and Harry wanted to have a look.
Baryn sat across from Mrs. Penber, sharing a smile even as they both automatically checked for the new Mrs. Shaw.
Seeing the difficult woman wasn’t in the room, they both relaxed.
Baryn couldn’t be thankful enough that Harry had been split from his cousin and placed in Penber’s class instead.
He didn’t want to think what would have happened had Harry been in her class.
“You’re right about Harry, he’s such a delight to teach! Though I sometimes feel like I’m only reviewing with him,” Penber giggled. Baryn grinned wryly. He’d certainly felt that way when he was teaching Harry.
“He does rather have that effect.” He admitted.
Any and all questions were the sort that one might ask as a reminder, or else a question someone might ask as a clarifying question, rather than as a true request for knowledge.
Sometimes it was frustrating, but often the other students benefitted from it, unwilling as they were getting to raise their hand and risk looking ‘nerdy’ or ‘stupid’.
They talked a while longer about his progress, and Penber was only just admitting to thinking about a project similar to Baryn’s short story project for Harry to possibly include some of his drawings when the door to the staffroom opened.
They both made a face when they saw Shaw walk in, a stack of papers in her arms.
Baryn thought it would have been appropriate if there had been a flicker of lightning just then, or perhaps a cloud of miasma billowing in her wake.
He supposed she was alright enough, until she started speaking as a teacher.
Then, as a teacher himself, he couldn’t help but think she was a right bigoted bitch.
She talked pretty about being fair and treating all her students fair, but he’d had to visit her classroom once to ask her about the staff meeting later that day, and he’d caught her scolding Jenny Grimes for cheating off of Piers Polkiss.
Jenny was one student he remembered as particularly bright, not something he recalled about Piers.
He’d asked her in a low tone after the meeting what she had really been scolding the girl about, since he must have obviously misheard her.
“Oh, Piers caught her snooping off his test! How she thought she could get away with such a thing, I certainly don’t know.” Her look at him insinuated a number of things that immediately put his hackles up.
“I remember Jenny as a particularly bright student, always willing to answer questions in class and help the other students.” He said, tone tighter than usual.
The look she gave him was one of pitying condescension.
“You don’t have to worry, I’ve been working to put it all to rights.”
To rights, he wondered?
She explained that she’d had the whole story out from Dudley Dursley and his friends, being picked on and cheated from and wholly misunderstood, all due to Poor Dudley’s younger delinquent cousin.
“Harry? Harry Potter a delinquent?” he’d asked, flabbergasted.
Her look now told him she believed in it wholly, and told him that she wouldn’t have actually met Harry Potter, or else she wouldn’t have such a ridiculous idea in her head.
“Have you actually met Harry yet?” He’d asked.
She’d tossed back her hair and looked dramatically to the side.
“I don’t need to know a child to understand what they are like… I have a skill, you see. I can see how other children react to hearing about another, and know exactly how they’re like with their peers out from under the watchful eye of a responsible adult. It’s obvious that this Potter boy was and is a delinquent, not to be trusted on his own. On of the rampant cheaters, I’m told.”
By Dudley and his friends, perhaps? Baryn thought. None of the other students had any particular problem with Harry other than his black sheep reputation, one gotten when he was much younger from what he could gather from his previous teachers. Harry was far from popular, but he was the most non-confrontational 8 year-old Baryn’d ever met. The most conflict he’d seen him cause was refusing to draw to the whims of the rest of the students, and that had died down quickly enough when the rest of the students realized they couldn’t wheedle even a sketch from the quiet boy.
He tried to think about Harry as a delinquent, but was unable to wrap his mind around the concept.
He watched her now sit down at one of the round tables, and watched as two of the kindergarten teachers eventually made their excuses to leave the table shortly after.
She was not well liked in the school, even so soon into the year.
He and Penber shared a look, and Baryn once again thanked that Harry wasn’t in her class.
He wondered briefly if perhaps if he brought in Harry’s story from last year from his house, and had her read it if she would change her tune.
He thought about the story, it’s art and story, about Samuel who died (because Samuel died, says a child’s voice from a child’s face, a pair of adult eyes looking out at him), and then thought of Mrs. Shaw who took the word of well-known Bullies as creed, of Dudley Dursley and his group who were famous for trying to suck up to their teachers at the beginning of each new year.
Who tried and failed every year but this one, apparently.
Baryn tried to imagine for a moment what her class would be like had Harry and Dudley been switched, Harry in Shaw’s class, Dudley in Penbers…
He couldn’t think of what would happen then.
Perhaps his worst fears if the rest of Dudley’s group were in the same class as Harry.
Perhaps Shaw wouldn’t seem so insufferable if she wasn’t always talking about Harry (Harry who she hasn’t met but has already judged with her special skill) and trying to convince Penber to see the boy clearly already.
Shaw was convinced that Harry had managed to pull the wool over each of his teacher’s eyes, manipulating even sweet Ms. Keen in first grade (too sweet to see clearly, obviously, says Shaw), following up with Mr. Ky who was awkward when not surrounded by children (Blinded by the packaging, can’t see through to the inside, says Shaw), Mr. Rector who was writing a book on the behavioral patterns of children (You won’t see me buying that book, says Shaw), and Baryn himself.
He’s had practice enough in fooling teachers, says Shaw, that a softie like Baryn was easy.
Baryn had never been called a softie, and knew that while he was easygoing when things were going well, his students knew well enough to not test him with late assignments, because they had until the end of the day to hand in what they had finished or else get a zero.
It was strict, but he, unlike high school and university teachers and professors, had a couple of ‘bonus’ assignments for those who asked for them to make up the grade.
Shaw was set out to gain a supporter in Penber, but was getting nowhere fast. Baryn had thought that the usually very calm Penber would blow a gasket when Shaw had proposed that Harry might be a sociopath, or even a psychopath to be able to fool everyone so thoroughly.
The idea of a child with sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies being able to write a story like “It’s a Circle,” be able to even think about writing a story in honor and memory to a lost friend was ridiculous.
Baryn glanced at Shaw, marking papers across the room, and wondered if she also had a skill when it comes to telling if someone had cheated for an assignment.
He scoffed to himself and asked Penber what her thoughts on that were.
She smiled grimly at him.
“Perhaps she can just tell by the way the student have written their names.”
He shook his head in disgust, and once again thanked that Harry wasn’t in her class.
He felt he would be doing that rather a lot this year.
Harry had always thought it wise to carry his important things with him at all times—primarily his sketchbook—as to prevent it from coming to harm.
It made sense to him, as he wouldn’t have to keep it in his room—locked as it was, it was still too new a situation, three months later—and he wouldn’t have to worry about anything happening to it.
Perhaps when he was done the book he would be able to keep it somewhere stationary—maybe Max’s shop, if he agrees—but he was hardly even a fourth of the way through the sketchbook, so that wouldn’t be happening for quite some time.
But this had always seemed the thing to do. If his bag wasn’t with him it was by him, or else placed somewhere he deemed safe enough for the short time he’s apart from it.
While at his self-defense class, it was in the out-of-the-way locker in the locker room. He was always one of the first out, and he immediately got his bag, brought his bag to the change rooms, changed, and then left, bag still with him.
Always, except today.
Mr. Liam had been working with him that day, the third such class, and Harry found he really liked the older man.
He was older than Max with combed back black hair with grey streaks at his temples and a scattering of white hairs, different to Sebastian’s wavy dishwater blond hair.
He was Asian, which caused a number of demands for him to break boards with his forehead and show them some Kung Fu before a look of such distain crossed his face that rendered them blessedly silent.
“You would be more likely to get that from Sebby here than from me. If you do not take what I teach you seriously, then I will not teach you.”
Hearing the childish sounding nick name come from the serious man cracked a smile on Harry’s face.
Harry heard Emily talking later about how Mr. Liam had to teach them, no matter what, it was his job.
“All this talk about having us kicked out is just to scare us into behaving. They can’t just not teach us. We paid them to!”
Harry’s relationship with her had not improved in all the time they’d had class.
Emily still picked fights with Harry that he didn’t want any part of, and still insisted that Max was imaginary. Harry finally told her that Max would be picking him up after class one of these days, and she just smirked at him.
Every day after class after that she would look at him and say, “Where’s Max, Harry? Didn’t you say he would be here?”
And Harry would rage and rage inside, his outsides calm, and he would go to his protected place, where thorns and leaves and bark protected him, a whole garden inside of him to distract him from his anger.
Except for that day.
Mr. Liam was working with Harry at the end of the day, working with Harry on his breathing and setting him a set exercise routine to practice until the next time he worked with Harry.
Distracted, Harry was one of the last to reach the locker room.
He got there just in time to see Emily and a couple of her friends flipping through his sketchbook, running their grimy, sweaty fingers over the pages and probably smudging all his hard work.
He shot forward and snatched the book from their fingers before they could even think to grab back and possibly tear out one of his pages.
“That’s mine!” he said, holding his book to his chest.
“Liar!” Emily declared, holding out a hand imperiously. “Give it back to me.” Chin jutting out she glanced back at her friends and smirked.
“No, it’s mine. It’s my sketchbook, not yours.” Harry felt all his desperation to check his sketchbook flow through his arms, and he wished they would go away already, leave him be to check without the threat that they would try to snatch it back from him.
He imagined smudged lines and folds in his pages, and wished desperately that his book would be exactly as he had left it, unmarked by any hand but his own. His arms trembled from the force of it.
“What’s the problem here?” asked a voice behind him, and he turned his head slightly to catch a glance of Sally and Sebastian in the doorway before jumping back when Emily tried to grab his book from the safety of his arms.
“She’s trying to say my book is—”
“HE is trying to steal MY art book! I was just showing it to Lisa and Jen and Cassy when he just came in here and snatched it!”
Harry looked at the delusional girl in amazement. Disbelief. Horror at what she was obviously trying to do.
“It’s my sketchbook.”
She sniffed at him, and turned to the adults.
“He’s had a crush on me since first day, and now he wants me ART. BOOK. He’s creepy and I know he just has a crush, so I’ll forgive him for trying to steal my art book. ART. Book. Not sketch.”
She turned to him to say the last part, but turned back to the adults, her expression clearly saying she expected they would see her point of view.
Sebastian shared a look with Sally, and raised an eyebrow at Harry.
“I came in here and they were going through my sketchbook. I keep my sketchbook in my bag with me at all times, because Max gave it to me and it’s special to me.”
Harry tried to get through to Sebastian how important this was to him, and kept his toe even and face serious.
“Oh, you’ve got to be joking me! I’ll tell oyu now what’s in there. A fairy, an ogre, a prince and princess—”
“—what are you talking about? Fairy? Ogre? I’ve drawn no fairies or ogres!” What was the stupid girl even talking about?
“sh—AND it has. MY. Name. In. IT!” She turned to him again, and she had that infuriating ittle smirk o her face like she thought she was being clever.
Harry met her eyes and opened to the first page. It was blank, as was the back of the cover.
He turned the book towards Sebastian and Sally, knowing that a good portion of the class were still in the locker room, watching the spectacle.
“HEY! He erased my name!” She honestly sounded surprised, but also outraged too, like when she couldn’t get anyone to agree that Harry had been copying her, first in name, then in likes. He didn’t look at her.
He didn’t look down at the pages either as he flipped through them.
“Earth Glow with ice cream.” He said. Flip.
“A couple I saw while out eating.” Flip.
“A Dragon.” Flip.
“Lavender and mint in a bundle.” Flip.
“My Garden from the front porch.” Flip.
As he flipped through the pages, Sebastian’s eyes flicked down to the page and back to Harry’s, and it was only when his eyes were on Harry’s that he flipped the page and made sure his voice was steady and even while saying what he knew to be on the pages. To his side, Emily was silent, but he didn’t look at her—couldn’t look at someone who tried to take away Max’s gift to him—and kept going through his well-known pages until he got to a blank page, finishing it off by flipping back to the front and pointing to the corner of the first page where “Property of H.P.” was written, and then closed the pages and held his book to his chest. He could hear his heart beating fast in his ears. They wouldn’t be able to take his book from him. Never.
There was a moment of silence, and then Emily made to speak again.
“Erm, I told you that he’s creepy! He’s like stalking me or someth—”
“Emily. That’s enough.” Sally frowned at her, and Harry tightened his arms around his sketchbook.
Eyes still locked on Sebastian’s.
Oh, Emily pisses me off to write for, but is also easy to come up with situations for.
I wonder if anyone will be able to tell how this is going to turn out…
Well, I have work tomorrow at 8, and I’m beat. Good night all!
(Finished Aug 4, 2012, and it’s just before 12 right now, regardless of when I end up posting this. Probably tomorrow.)
Send me your thoughts and opinions via comments/reviews! I enjoy feedback!
Also, to everyone: What is your favorite scene of the story so far?
Chapter 37: Aunt Petunia
Last chapter until I can next get to the Internet, and I’m currently writing this during a blackout at the park I’m working at… Yay for having charged it last night! (today is August 5, 2012).
So my plan to post this today was foiled. Hope you understand when you do read this, and hope you enjoy the massive amount of work I’m shoving on you all at once.
Look forward to the next batch of chapters! They’re coming out hot and plot-riddled!
ALSO: To the Author of Old Souls (if you’re still reading) I’ve been rereading that entire story while I am here, and you’ve been doing an amazing job, just wanted to say that as it’s hard to review from my phone. Oh Leviathan, he’s such a funny little character :P TO everyone else, look it up and check it out.
So ON TO THE STORY~! Enjoy :P
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
She pulled back the curtains to watch the boy leave for his… self-defense lessons.
As if she doesn’t know that he was planning on using what he learned to terrorize her little boy.
Always carrying around that ratty bag even after he went out and bought himself some new clothes—an entire new wardrobe—and always looking so abnormal.
Long hair, always in a mess, never wearing his glasses, strutting about in that strange way of his.
He likely thought he’d had them sign off their souls (and they didn’t, they’d checked thoroughly for that in that damnable contract) with that swagger.
And she’d finally realized what was so strange about the boy before, aside from the obvious, when he was wearing Dudley’s hand-me-downs to hide it.
He was all skin and bones and muscle.
He must have been planning on beating up her little Diddy-Dums well before bringing up that self-defense program, beefing up while hiding it under his clothing.
No child should have muscle like that so young it was scandalous.
With his new clothing he was practically shoving it into the faces of the neighbors, making her little boy look bad.
Making him look fat.
She was giving him meat on his bones for when he grew up to be a big strong man. She didn’t want her little man to be made fun of for being a beanpole in adolescence, she was a thoughtful mother like that! And the boy was out there trying so desperately to show up Diddums!
She whipped the curtains back into place with a huff.
Freakish boy, ruining their good name as a happy, normal family ever since he was left on their doorstep like the rubbish he was.
He was getting more freakish by the day.
His hair growing back so quickly, his ridiculously green eyes (Lilly’s eyes no don’t think about that), walking around smelling like Mrs. Anderson’s imported perfume...
The day she first caught whiff of it, she’d thought the little freak had stolen it!
Then she realized that the boy wouldn’t recognize quality like that, and assumed he had used more than his bar of soap, and the floral scent of her own shampoo was likely fooling her nose, and so she went to put a stop to that immediately.
When he next got dirty—sooner than she’d like, the filthy boy—she removed all products from the bathroom and ordered him to wash.
The freak still came out smelling of flowers.
She huffed again and set about preparing a snack for her darling little boy.
She frowned when she saw the faint splatter marks on the counter after she was done, and made a mental note to have the boy—
No, she scowled; he refused to even do that, the lazy boy.
That horrible contract with its horrible little threats.
She only wanted a normal life! Se didn’t want any of that unnaturalness in her life!
Didn’t any of the freaks see that?
She put the boy to work because it meant she knew where he was and what he was doing—her little boy was such a little adventurer, he needed all her attention, she couldn’t be sparing it to watch the little freak stumble about.
And she once had him in the room he stole, but then Dudley had needed the extra room for his toys, and, well, the little freak was little. Much smaller than her strapping young boy. He fit well enough under the stairs, and it once again meant she knew exactly where he was and what he was doing at night, safely locked in that cupboard.
She still wondered what insanity had taken her sister when she decided that she was the one to send her freak son to should she and that horrible boy she married be indisposed. And that threatening letter—ugh!
She had made it quite clear that she wouldn’t like to see her sister or any of her freakishness ever again, thank you.
And yet she had still ended up with a freakish little boy with a bleeding forehead—freakish shaped scar—when her freak sister had gotten her and her husband blown up.
And what a way to off themselves! A heart attack not good enough? Couldn’t even get into a normal accident like a car crash? Oh no they have to get involved with a murderous psychopath (all of them were, she was sure) and get blown up.
She ignored the slight hitch in her breath at that thought, and pushed her thoughts onward.
Onward to happier things.
Like her little man was doing so well in his class—separate from the little freak.
Mrs. Shaw was a delight, and she’d already had a number of conversations with her over the phone, talking about her little boy’s progress. She was very sympathetic when she confided that she rarely got to have long conversations about this as usually talk of her nephew—a horrendous boy, absolutely criminal, she assured her—took up most of her time.
Mrs. Shaw had told her that her little man had warned her off from his cousin as well—oh, her little boy was so thoughtful—and was assured by Petunia’s words that Dudley was certainly an honest little boy, very forward with even his classmates.
Petunia mentioned that the other teachers had thought such forwardness as bullying—they both shared a laugh at the prospect of Dudley being a bully, he was an absolute angel—and both agreed that the other teachers were simply not looking at the interactions the right way.
Wasn’t it good that Dudley was being forward? Wasn’t it grand that he knew what he wanted at such a young age? To see such confidence in a young man was reassuring, not a sign of a bully.
Dudley was popular for sure, and if some of the other kids didn’t get along with him, it was surely due to jealousy!
Petunia sighed and said that not everyone could be as outgoing as her son, and she had hoped that any resentment could be reined in enough to keep rumors and slander from being thrown about.
Having the freak in a separate classroom was bliss, and it calmed some of her fears that the boy was using his self-defense classes to bully her little boy.
Why she didn’t hear anything about the freak bullying, she didn’t know.
Perhaps the other children were too scared to come forward.
She thought back to the strangely compact body of her nephew, once hidden by baggy clothes, and the strangeness of it.
She was accustomed, from looking after her little boy and his friends, of seeing the chubby round softness of youth. The round faces that looked up to her, expressions hopeful for a snack, was a common sight to her.
The narrower face and sharp cheekbones had no place on a normal child.
Neither did the compact arms, legs, and torso that made up her nephew.
Such a strange child.
So utterly freakish.
Petunia had done the same chores he had done for years before having Dudley, and she had never gained tone like that. She had never wanted to be described as muscular—heavens no! That would be horridly unladylike—but it took a careful monitoring of calories for her to maintain the figure she did, and the boy ate whatever was put in front of him.
Had she not monitored him, he’d likely eat from the garbage if he could get away with it.
She shivered, revulsion dancing up her spine.
She was only happy that her darling little boy now had a teacher who would give him the attention he deserved.
As for recess—well, perhaps she could enroll Dudley into some sort of defence class of his own.
Boxing perhaps, he would like that no matter how delicate his principles were.
Her little Dudley didn’t like violence, after all.
“FREAK! Where are you!?” she heard her husband call out from upstairs.
Worried, she hurried to the foot of the stairs.
“Where is that boy?” he thundered, looking down at her from the top of the stairs. His face was reddening quickly, and she worried once again for his blood pressure. The boy always did this, and would put her whole family in an early grave through heart failure and death by mortification (a trunk! He’d brought home a trunk, lugging it through the neighborhood!).
A faint rattle and click behind her told that her freak nephew was home, and she turned to look disapproving at him. He really was the worst fate one could wish on anyone.
The freak immediately stopped in the doorway, weary.
Hmph, he knows he’s done something to deserve it, then, she thought to herself.
“What’s wrong with the door!?”
There was something wrong with the door?
“Which door, uncle?”
“You know damned well what door I’m talking about freak! The door’s locked! What did you do to it?”
The boy looked damnably calm after installing locks in their own home, that strange look always in his eyes nowadays, the dead, flat, burning look, and Petunia felt a twist in her stomach.
Vernon took in a breath to tell the boy exactly why that was not done, but the freak interrupted him before he even spoke.
“Uncle, Aunt,” he ran those freakish (Lily’s eyes no don’t even think) eyes over them both, his tone even and even friendly if it weren’t for his eyes—
“I believe you misunderstand the nature of our agreement. I am not living here as your nephew, I am little more than a tenant who has paid well in advance for room and board—” Petunia flinched slightly, but really her little boy needed the money more than the brat did anyway— “and so, as a tenant who has nothing else to link him to those rooming him, I have to interact with you only so much as has been agreed upon. I have stayed to my agreed interaction, as have you, but, as a tenant, I gain the right to privacy, and so a lock on my door was natural. When I turn 17 I will obviously be taking the lock down, both on the door and on the window—”
“—and will then be out of your lives entirely. Having bought my own furniture and things for the room—the bed and bedframe was moved to the attic, Aunt Petunia—I felt the need for some insurance, and as you were trying to get into what is essentially my room for the next seven to eight years without my permission or presence, I feel this decision was needed. Warranted even.”
Petunia felt an ugly flush creeping up her cheeks at the insinuation. As if she would want to steal any of his freakish things. She could still remember the things her sister had brought back form that madhouse. Talking, moving pictures, figurines that moved about, strange jars of things she certainly didn’t want to know about, even chess pieces that shouted at you.
She was about to say something to that degree, but then she met his eyes for one horrifying, terrible moment, and saw all and none of what she expected to see. She stopped short, breath caught somewhere between her chest and Lily’s grave.
Fatigue, weariness, and resignation looked out at her from those eyes (I guess this is goodbye then, ‘Tunia… I’ll miss you, for what it’s worth), stubbornness and determination (but know if you ever make it around Godrics Hollow, you and your family are welcome) underlying it, before steely determination took over the warring impressions.
(All the luck to you, and I hope you make it to the wedding)
“If that’s all?”
Vernon was breathing heavily, but otherwise silent.
Petunia felt the silence of years stretch out before her.
(I love you, ‘Tunia)
The boy nodded, once, shortly, and moved past them both to head up the stairs. Feet quiet on the creaking steps; he reached the top, and glanced once more at the two.
(But this is my life now)
Her own eyes met Green for a moment before he turned into Dudley’s old toy room. He turned into his room, and closed the door.
Okay, so I had part of this written out already, and then lost my USB key, and then rewrite this even though I had planned on having a chapter/part like this much earlier. Much shorter than what I’ve been posting lately, but If I’m not off my mark, I’ll likely be posting 4 chapters at once, so if you’ve a complaint about length, it better be about how it’s too long and you don’t have enough time to read it all at once. Just over this summer I’ve written about 15,000 words, so there ;)
Hope you like, even if I don’t particularly like… I think I might come back and change this chapter, and if I do then I’ll put up a note saying so.
NOTE: I know I overestimated a lot of the prices I had up a few chapters ago, but I don’t want to go back and change it all right now. I’ve gotten a couple of links showing me the errors of my ways (by the way, mowing I accounted for as doing any time the Dursleys can’t think of what else to have him do, and so maybe once every one or two weeks any time there’s lawn activity), so you’ll have to wait for me to go back and do the Great Edit (which happens well after I’ve finished the story btw), so any pet peeves will have to wait.
I also want to just go out there and say that his Mark/Tattoo WILL be a huge part of this series, and for the people who are either squicked by tattoos or just don’t like them, I’m sorry, I hope you’ll continue reading anyway.
I personally don’t think you should get a tattoo unless it means something huge to you and you think long and hard about what you get.
I’m not a fan of these people who have faces tattooed on them (that lady who had the twilight cast across her back? HOLY FRIG! Also people who get tattoos of their baby’s faces. It’s creepy, stick to their names if you need it), or who get random and/or generic sh!t tattoos. Also, while religious tattoos look fine, and usually aren’t the kind you’ll look back on with shame, I’m agnostic and didn’t like it when people shoved their religions in my face at high school, don’t like it now.
Not to generalize, but it’s these people with crosses and stars and various other symbols that end up getting offended at me for my non-religiousness, so I feel I have reason to be weary.
For Harry it means something for him. It’s actually important to him, and not to show how serious about plants he is to others. He hasn’t showed his Mark off, so you should be able to tell it’s for himself, not for others.
And that’s all of my little spiel on my opinion on tattoos and on the length of my chapters. Also prices and editing.
Also, this chapter (minus me talking) is a little less than 4 pages long. Sorry about that, but it ended when it did. With a little more drama than I’d thought would be there, but hey. It’s there.
COMMENT PLEASE! I love hearing from people, and I’m stranded out in the middle of the woods and need the contact!
Chapter 38: The Continuation
The rest of that scene that everyone was freaking out about... as if I would leave it where it was.
Summary: Harry grows up working on his Aunts Garden and develops a love for it, meeting Samuel and eventually Max, who gives him a Mark of his own. He finds Magic to be a Wonderful Thing. Rating may change later. Warning for language
Many many people have been asking about the rest of the Theft scene, some wondering if there’s a continuation, some wondering why the scene was so brief, and others generally unhappy that what they thought would be the next part was, in fact, Aunt Petunia’s point of view.
There IS a reason I had that break there, even if I ended up writing chapter 37 before I finished 36.
Because of the huge amount of questioning reviews (which, if I haven’t answered, it’ because it requires more typing than I’m willing to do on my phone’s little keyboard—No internet, remember? Only a bit on my phone), I may end up posting this chapter on it’s own sooner than planned, with more time inbetween chapters so that I can once again post a bundle of chapters.
You all seemed to like that, even if you seemed shocked (and some, who had prjects/assignments to work on, appalled) that I would post that many chapters all at once.
Thank you for your patience for my brief stint in the woods!
I didn’t want to cut this into more parts, so that’s my reason for the continued
WARNING FOR MAX’s THOUGHTS! Some swearing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 38—The Continuation
Harry closed the door behind him, but kept his eyes open.
They stung horribly, and he felt warm, his breath stuttering in his chest, hitching, before he let it loose in a shuddering sigh.
When the first hot trail of fire ran down his cheeks, he was breathing in short, quick breaths, and the second he finally clenched his eyes shut, feeling a well of tears spilling over.
He stayed at his door, sliding down the old wood to crouch on the floor, hands clenched into fists at his knees.
Harry couldn’t remember the last time he cried—if he’d ever cried—and a distant part of him wondered why it had to be so messy.
He felt his backpack crushed behind him, his folded clothes cushioning his back, and he felt the lead weight in his stomach drop down further.
There was no firm press of bound papers in his back, no line of spirals to dig into his ribs if he shifted weight, nothing.
That weight in his stomach twisted, and he let out a silent sob.
Oh, Harry lost Max’s present for him, he didn’t know what to do.
He’d come straight back rather than going to Max’s shop.
What would he say to Max?
Max had said that he had most of his day booked with appointments, so he would understand—would he?—if Harry didn’t stop by that day, but what about tomorrow?
Harry couldn’t face Max with an empty backpack.
Harry slumped down farther, and quietly, carefully, lay on his side, knees still curled up.
He maneuvered his backpack under his head, and rubbed his face against the rough canvas, listening to the loud beating of his heart in between sniffles.
It was like a tap had been turned on in his nose and behind his eyes, because the tears kept coming.
Stupid Emily and her stupid lies, and Sebastian and Sally being stupid Fucking Muggles for letting her get away with it.
The only good thing about this—if it could be said to be good, and not just not horrible—was that right then his sketch book (what would he tell Max?) was in a locked safe at the Rec Centre where his Defense lessons were hosted, and not being jostled about, folded this way and that, and stained in Emily’s pink Barbie backpack.
Harry eventually moved from in front of his door to his bed, burrowing under his covers until he was crouched by the baseboards. It almost felt like his Cupboard.
I deserve the Cupboard for losing Max’s gift to me. I deserve it.
More tears fell, absorbed into his grass-green sheets, and he welcomed the uncomfortable scratch on his cheeks they provided. He relished in the smothering warm air under the covers. The way his hair stuck damply to his tear-stained face.
I don’t deserve Max, I don’t. What’ll he say when he sees that I was so irresponsible with his gift—what’ll he say when he sees that I trusted a bunch of Fucking Muggles?
Harry knew that it was all business-level politics that caused Sebastian to make the decision he did, and with Mr. Liam’s backing. He knew enough from Emily’s bragging that her parents were both Lawyers—famous ones if she was to be believed—and that there would be consequences if things were not dealt with delicately.
It didn’t matter that his sketchbook was obviously his.
“I’ll have to hold onto this until next class,” Sebastian had said, gently taking his sketchbook from the safety of his arms. “By next class we’ll have this sorted out.”
What was left unsaid was that when this was ‘sorted out’ it would mean that one of the two would be kicked out from the class.
Harry was enjoying the class. Sebastian was still too touchy-feely for Harry to be entirely comfortable with him, but he was enthusiastic and willing to teach Harry just about anything he got up the nerve to ask about.
Mr. Liam was strict, just as Sebastian had warned, and already a good portion of the class had lost the right to have a private lesson time with him during class, which is why Harry had had the chance to work with him so soon. But Mr. Liam was the one to teach Harry about muscle groups, showed him where each of his exercises worked on his body, showed him a number of new exercises to even out his routine, and was even starting to teach Harry the basics on a wide range of defense techniques.
It involved a lot of redirecting an opponents attacks, and moving out of the way, and Harry loved that he was learning exactly what he needed.
Sebastian had even started working with him on it when he saw what he was doing during the lulls in class and during the time he had before class.
So the idea that Emily could end up having Harry kicked out from the class was devastating. Even more so when he was forced to consider that she may end up taking his sketchbook as well. That was unacceptable.
Though he didn’t think Sebastian, Sally, and Mr. Liam would let his sketchbook be stolen, fear clogged his throat.
He’d told Max about how nice and fair they had been so far.
He’d told Max about what he was learning, had even demonstrated the new exercises he was being taught, and had admitted to liking his instructors a bit.
They were nice, and hadn’t tried to get him to do anything he didn’t want to do. Didn’t try to tell him to do anything without first explaining why they wanted him to do it. They answered his questions.
They Talked to him.
So Harry didn’t think that Max would fault him for trusting Sebastian, Sally, and Mr. Liam to the degree he had, no.
But Harry had trusted the other children in the class.
He had, in a way, trusted Emily.
Max had told Harry that he didn’t hate stupidity as much as he hated stupid stupidity.
“That’s being purposely fucking ignorant, kid. That’s knowing there’s a problem an’ ignoring it anyway. My problem with most Fucking Muggles is that they see and don’ do anythin’ ‘bout it. That’s what separates Muggles from Fucking Muggles, kid.”
Harry had seen that Emily was not to be trusted—had told and complained to Max about it, even— and he’d done so anyhow.
By trusting that she would follow the rules.
By trusting that she wouldn’t try to get around the rules.
By trusting that the rules would be taken seriously by any of the students.
Harry hated Emily almost as much as he hated himself right then.
Sebastian put away his personal yoga mat, and went to the instructors change room to have a quick shower before he headed home.
He was worried about the kid.
Since that first day, he’d decided that Harry Potter was a bit of a funny duck.
He’d already figured he was a strange kid when he was doing yoga about 20 minutes before class, but hadn’t really had it sink in until he’d listened to the kid.
Well, it wasn’t so much his voice he listened to as his physical voice. Body language and all that.
Pretty aloof with the other children, a kid used to being, if not the odd one out, then the Different Kid.
Sebastian hadn’t ever been that kid when he was growing up, but his best friend David had, and maybe he would have been as distant as Harry had he and Sebastian never become friends.
The other kids had looked at Harry before class, obviously curious, but while he could tell that Harry could see that, Harry didn’t go out of his way to brag about doing adult things.
He’d figured that’s what the kid would do, once he left Sebastian where he was to go sit with the other children, to show off how adult he was and to tell the others all about yoga and how long he’d been doing it and all that.
Sebastian would have. He had, even, when he was little.
It was David who always pulled him down to earth from his pedestal.
It was David who he went to after that first class, after Harry jumped back from his naturally physical way of teaching (for godssake, he just touched his foot!), after Harry refused to be aggressive in the way the under-10’s were when challenged by their fellows (he was usually good with his students, but he was more than a little exasperated with Emily Poter), how Harry had done more laps than the others (and wow what form, the kid’s parents must have him working with trainers or is at some posh school), how he’d thrown himself—quite literally—into the first lesson (and wow would the kid have gotten quite a few bruises from that.
After a lot of things, really.
Sebastian had gone to David after nearly every class with Harry, but more often than not he had the same answer, or something close to it.
“The best thing to do to get to a kid like that is to figure out what he wants, and then urge him to go for it, helping where you can. It doesn’t sound like he’s as unsure of himself as I was as a kid, but he might have a couple of older siblings, or younger siblings.”
“Overshadowed, huh?” he’d asked, thinking how different that was from his own family, but figured that with how rich the kid’s family must be. Yoga classes and track and field trainers at his age, he must be upper class.
He’d suggested that maybe this class was his way of being independent from his siblings, then, since this wasn’t exactly the highest quality (read: most expensive) class.
David nodded, and Sebastian had taken that as leave to complain and comment on all his other students, lamenting his obvious problem student Emily, and the ones who were most likely to be kicked out for fighting.
David, the psychologist mindset he was perpetually in, suggested what he could do to keep the peace, and though conversation regularly went to the problem that was Emily and Harry interacting, showed the infinite amount of patience he’d had since he’d known him.
Sebastian wondered what David would have to say about the sketchbook situation.
Wondered if he could properly explain the look of utter devastation that crossed Harry’s face when his sketchbook was taken from him, the look of horror when Emily had claimed the sketchbook was hers.
Sebastian knew Emily was lying; she didn’t seem to realize that she got this tone in her voice when she was lying, but without having the matter looked into until at least next class, they were more likely to have legal action taken against the program, and they really didn’t need that.
So he’d had to take the book—and wow were there some amazing sketches in there, that Emily had somehow managed to not smudge—and he’d be returning it to Harry at the end of Thursday’s class.
He just needed to have a talk with David is all, to figure out how he was going to get through filing the paperwork for Emily to be removed from the class without feeling too victorious or relieved about it.
He only worried Harry wasn’t taking it too hard or worrying about it.
Though the kid took the class seriously enough that perhaps he should be worrying…
Harry woke to a damp pillow, but did not let his tears fall outside if his room.
He didn’t go to Max’s shop, and felt his absence like shears twisting under his ribs. He did not think to go to the Alley on his own, or to contact Mr. Grant Barley about not going into work for the next couple of days. He did not think about not being able to be surrounded by Green, and did not think which was worse, the absence of Max or the absence of Green things.
He tried his best to not think at all.
He did not go to Max’s shop the next day either, nor the day after that. Class was a blur of grey and brown things, dead things, unimportant people as bland as their un-inked bodies, as story less as their unscarred skin, and Harry didn’t see anything.
He tried to find comfort in his Garden, but he couldn’t do more than be distracted and kept busy as he worked to keep the leaves he found there from yellowing more, and worked to keep his late-blooming flowers from inexplicable wilting.
By the end of the day, every flower was bare of petals, and each leaf was showing unhealthy yellowing.
Harry couldn’t help but think that even his plants were disgusted with him for losing his Sketchbook.
He was disgusted with himself, and kept his tears for the solitude of his room.
He’d likely never see Max again after he confesses to losing Max’s gift to him.
He did not notice leaves wilting at the thought.
Max watched the door to his shop, thinking.
The kid hadn’t been by his shop for three days now, if he didn’t show up by the end of the day.
Hadn’t even been to the Alley, either, as far as he could tell.
He’d already been planning as much, but perhaps his visiting plan would have to change.
Tomorrow was Sunday, he knew, and the kid had his fucking classes.
Liked the classes, so the kid was likely to be there even if he was feeling sick or whatever it was that had the kid away for so long.
He hadn’t given in to visit the kid when he came down with a Muggle disease, which was the longest the kid had kept from visiting him since he’d first brought him to the Goblins, and the only thing that had kept Max from apparating over and checking to make sure his Fucking Muggles were looking after him alright was the mistaken notion that the kid held him at a distance.
And wasn’t that a Relief/Joy/BuggeringWasteOfTimeBeforeThat when he realized that the kid thought of him as more than that wizard who dropped him off at the Alley.
He certainly never imagined himself as child-friendly, and he supposed he could still count himself as that.
He was just Harry-friendly.
He winced at the thought of having to deal with other brats, and snorted at the kid acting like any of the brats he saw more often than not at the Alley.
Certainly wouldn’t be all chummy with any fucking brat, that’s for sure.
But the kid not coming to the shop was worrying.
He thought some more, and made a decision.
Number 4 Privet Drive, the Fucking Muggle neighborhood, could wait.
The Fucking Muggles the kid lived with could wait.
The kid couldn’t.
“Harry, Emily, we’ll get the issue from last class sorted out at the end of today’s class.” Sebastian told them before directing the class to run laps around the gym.
Harry went through the motions with a heavy heart, wondering if this would really be the last class for him.
He didn’t mind the endless number of pushups and sit-ups, the jumping jacks, the running.
He didn’t mind any of it and had not once complained about the work.
He thought it was wholly unfair that he would likely be kicked from the class.
Emily kept shooting him snide remarks, and he did his best to ignore her. What did he care, after all, if she seemed to know this would be his last class?
The pot of flowers Sally kept by her desk wilted and yellowed.
It seemed to take an inordinate amount of time for the rest of the students to leave, many lingering in the hopes of catching sight of sound of what was going to happen.
Harry hated that they stayed so long, hated that their parents weren’t dragging them off as he’d seen them do before, hated that he had to wait around for what was to happen, hated that he felt like he would cry, hated that Emily seemed to be able to see that.
Hated that her parents stared down at him, an arm around Emily’s shoulder, a hand in her hand, silently accusing.
What did you do to my daughter? Said their eyes.
Why would you be so horrible? Accused their expressions.
How could you?
How could you?
How could I?
Harry stood on his own in the small office space, looking at the shiny white on his well-cleaned sneakers, hands relaxed at his sides so he wouldn’t have the urge to lash out. He counted his breaths. In, and out.
How could I have let this happen?
This is horrible.
I hate this.
I hate Emily.
I was so stupid.
Max will hate me.
Please don’t let him hate me.
The door opened.
Sebastian sighed and held the sketchbook delicately in his hands. He freely admitted to flipping through the pages and admiring the work and care put into the drawings, and amazing over how the pencil drawings hadn’t been smudged by Emily’s rough handling.
He wouldn’t mention this to anyone but David, but this was another reason he couldn’t believe Emily had drawn any of this.
There was time, patience, and hard work put into these drawings that Emily just couldn’t have given.
Emily was a problem student in more ways than one.
Yes, she was a mouthy little girl, but he’d dealt with the type before, and had even worked through it with them, but it was the lack of will to put much effort into the classes that made her more of a problem student.
Sebastian honestly wanted to teach these kids to defend themselves, to teach them to avoid confrontation unless needed, to teach what that need actually was.
And he couldn’t do that if they tried to rush through it all.
He couldn’t do so when they were being encouraged to skip steps by a stubborn little girl who wanted to be able to fight with the least amount of work put into developing the skill.
He couldn’t teach her the values of hard work when she cut corners around the gym when she ran, when she did less of each exercise than the other students, when she taunted other students for trying hard in class.
She wanted to be an action star over night; she wanted to move onto the actual fights; she wanted to give out bruises like candy to the other children; she wanted to do it all NOW.
She didn’t want to work on her holds, or her stance. She wanted to be able to stop anyone in his or her tracks NOW.
She didn’t want to work on her upper body strength she didn’t want to just learn the proper grip. She wanted to be able to flip someone over her shoulder NOW.
She didn’t want to be able to run away from a stronger opponent. She wanted to run after any opponent who would ‘chicken out’ enough to run away.
She wanted to be the meanest, toughest, strongest little girl around.
And no matter how much he worked with her on it, he couldn’t get her to actually work.
You couldn’t get as good at drawing like this without patience and practice.
You couldn’t be this good at drawing with the ego of someone like Emily, and not have mentioned it during class to anyone who would hear.
And he’d feel bad for thinking this if David didn’t agree.
If David hadn’t agreed with Sebastian, if he’d even hinted that perhaps Sebastian was being even the slightly bit biased, he would change his tune. He would sit down and do a serious rethink.
But David could see in a way that Sebastian never could. He looked at people and didn’t see the personality that they projected, he could see past the bullshit and see what they were actually about.
And he could, through Sebastian’s biweekly ramblings, figure out ways to help children he’d never seen.
He saw and knew what to do.
It was why he was such a good therapist.
It was why he’d even bothered becoming Sebastian’s friend.
He trusted David wholly.
And David agreed with him in the case of Emily Poter.
Looking at Harry Potter, standing in the main office looking as if the world was about to end, he wondered if he maybe should have pulled the boy aside to talk to him at the end of last class.
“Mr. Pinotez, I hope that this situation will be dealt with sometime soon? Emily has told us that this boy has stolen something of hers.” Mrs. Poter said, heavily plucked eyebrows raised.
“I would assume that her belongings would be returned.” Drawled Mr. Poter, giving a scornful look to Harry.
Sebastian sighed slightly.
“Harry, are your guardians going to be here for this?”
Harry shook his head minutely, and Sebastian frowned. He couldn’t remember ever meeting Harry’s guardians, or even seeing them after class. That would be something he would have to ask about later.
“There was indeed an issue with theft, and I’d like to remind you all our rules against that. The forms you and your guardians signed agreed that the rules of this establishment would be obeyed, and we have a strict—”
“Yes, yes, we know all that. I have a meeting in an hour and I’d like this to be over with sooner rather than later.” Mrs. Poter interrupted with an imperious wave of her well-manicured nails. Emily smirked, and Sebastian resisted the urge to frown.
Unprofessional, Sebby, Unprofessional… David’s voice said.
A glance at Harry showed that his face was ashen, looking like he might be sick.
He should really hurry and get this over with; he didn’t want the kid to go through this much stress for any longer than necessary, but—
“I’m sure, but I’m required by law to make sure you were aware of the rule before I go any further. Are you saying that you understand that you are still held by the agreement that you signed?”
“Yes, of course.” Huffed Mr. Poter.
Sebastian again looked to Harry, and the boy nodded somberly.
Sebastian bristled at the look the Mr. and Mrs. Poter sent his student, and it was hard to keep his voice even.
“Then I’ll cut straight to it and say that Emily is no longer welcome in my class. Theft is unacceptable in my class, something you were made aware of first thing. Please collect your things and have a nice day.” Sebastian carefully pulled the sketchbook from his desk drawer, and held it out to Harry. “I’m sorry this had to happen, Harry. Here’s your sketchbook back.”
There was a moment of shocked silence before Harry darted forward with the widest smile he’d ever seen on the boy’s face, carefully (but quickly) taking the sketchbook back.
His smile was so wide he could see hints of his back teeth, and if he didn’t know Harry like he did, he might’ve thought it was a rather creepy smile, somewhat.
It was just shy of too wide for a face to hold. Sebastian assumed it was the elasticity of a child’s face that kept it from looking too shark-like.
“That is Unacceptable!”
Burst out the two elder Poter’s. Emily’s face was frozen in shock, but Sebastian saw the quick glance at her parents before her face scrunched up and started turning red. Tears were squeezed from the corners of her eyes, and cliché though it sounds, Seb knew them to be crocodile tears.
There was a knock at the door, and Seb sidled towards it, fielding off the outraged protests the three Poters were spilling out, Emily now bawling.
Cracking the door open, Sally’s face peeked in. She said something, but over the protests of the three in the room (Harry was just beaming in the corner of the room), and he spun around to give them his best Mister-Tian-Look. He’d been on the receiving end of the look enough that he should have it down pat by now. Not as effective as the original, perhaps, but effective.
“Excuse me. I have to take this.” He turned back to he door, trying to pull it a bit wider, but Sally glanced quickly behind her and kept it mostly closed.
“There’s a… there’s a man here. To see Harry. He’s just, just, um. Umm…” She glanced behind her again, and jumped a bit, startled. “Excuse me, sir, if you just wait one moment—“
“Is the Kid in there or am I wastin’ my time?”
Sebastian pulled the door wider at the low voice, and looked past Sally.
A face you’d expect to see hiding under your bed, or perhaps in your nightmares, grinned back at him.
He felt his face go slack even as his shoulders tensed.
Good gods the man had fangs!
Admittedly, it was only one, and wasn’t natural, by the silver shine of it, but his face was as nightmarish as they came, without makeup.
Ropey scars crawled up the one side of his face, interrupting dark stubble that stretched around the man’s grinning mouth.
He was immediately reminded of his nightmares as a child that he’d gotten from reading Alice In Wonderland, of his even now lingering fear of cats.
That smile was too wide by far. Smaller scars marked up the rest of his face, and up his highly tattooed arms, some he recognized as being from knives, and others from things he couldn’t even imagine at.
He would guess that the man was blind by his milky blue eyes, if not for the way they had focused immediately on him, assessing, eyes blinking to show a brief glance of tattoos across his eyelids, ouch, and dark silver-grey hair was only starting to grow back, maybe a couple of months worth of growth.
All in all, scary.
Scary and mean looking.
And looking for Harry.
Protective instinct reared their heads, scenting danger, and he bristled when the man called out “Kid?” like he had any right to be here.
In a moment, the grin was shrunken to a small smirk, one side of his mouth permanently twisted up, the Joker to my Batman, when he recognized something familiar.
Where have I seen you before?
He felt a hand tug at the back of his shirt a moment before being pushed slightly to the side, and for a moment, Seb wasn’t going to move, but in a moment, he placed the face to memory. Max. Max? Max.
It was only slightly different to the drawing in Harry’s sketchbook, less hair, and only smirking, not grinning like a cat from his nightmares.
Seb hadn’t ever heard Harry sound so delighted, or rush towards anyone with such obvious glee. Sketchbook still clutched to his chest, Harry only stopped short right besides the man, beaming up at him. He’d thought that his smile earlier had been wide, but now Harry’s grin was wide enough to match the man’s.
Seb blinked, surprised.
“Excuse me! Are we going to have to wait here all day?” the voice of Mrs. Poter demanded behind him. Seb sighed softly to himself, and caught the man—Max, what the hell was with that?—glancing at him and grinning again.
He opened the door the rest of the way, and walked into the front waiting room, not wanting to be stuck in the same room with all three Poters without any kind of backup (and wasn’t it funny he’d thought of Harry as backup), and saw Harry speaking lowly to Max, quickly, looking anxious. Sebastian suddenly remembered the first day of class, just after Emily had finished being a bother for a bit.
“I like to garden and draw, and my best friend’s name is Max. I like that he’s different, and that he helps me draw better.”
“Oh, he’s a bit of a better artist then? What’s he draw?”
Sebastian had grinned. Had grinned and thought of David, hearing, I like that he’s different, and that he helps me remove my head from my arse on occasion. Harry and Max might not be like Seb and Davey when they grew up, but it had sounded like they might be. Sebastian looked at the pair now and boggled.
“Wants to be a tattoo artist when he’s older, does he? I think I wanted to do that when I was a kid too.”
Harry had looked at him strangely, and now he could see why. Seb would have done the same.
“No. He is a tattoo artist. I visit his shop regularly and he helps me with my drawings.”
Harry had looked so happy right then that most of the other kids in the class had smiled with him.
Harry had visited the man enough that he did what Seb’s cousins sometimes did with him. Imitate gestures, expressions, and interests. He didn’t think Harry’s interest in drawing came from this Max character (if it was, he put in a lot more effort than his cousins did), and he certainly couldn’t see this man as much of a gardener…
Then again, he couldn’t see him as Harry’s Max, either.
Don’t judge the book by its cover, David’s voice said.
Don’t buy a sword for its ornamentation, Mr. Tian’s voice corrected.
He certainly has a lot of… ornamentation, Seb thought to himself, agreeing more with the sword metaphor.
“Excuse me! I demand—”
Mrs. Poter cut herself off at the sight of Max, Mr. Poter stumbling into her back when she stopped so abruptly from storming form the office.
Even Emily stopped crying for a moment to look terrified.
Mrs. Poter took a deep breath, her pearl necklace heaving with her, and she seemed to take courage from her husband backing her.
“I demand you return my daughters sketchbook thing immediately.”
“Ey, there. What’s this then? The Kid says your fucking brat stole his sketchbook.” Max rumbled behind Sebastian. He had to keep a smile from stealing over his face for a moment, before he remembered that Harry was here too.
“Language, Mr. Max.” he reminded the man, looking at him. Max raised a lierced eyebrow, and smirked.
“English.” Was the only reply.
Oh hell, he and David would get along… He thought despairingly. He ignored the fact that he was warming to Max himself.
“I’d hardly take the word of that miscreant above my daughter, sir.” Sneered Mr. Poter, setting one hand on his wife’s shoulder.
“Oh really, yeh think yer bratty li’l girl ‘ere’s not a thief then, eh? When I can tell yeh I know f’r a fact that’s the Kid’s book?”
“And how would you know that, Mr. Max?” Mrs. Poter scrunchd her nose at him and turned to the side, as though to create more distance between them.
Or perhaps to create a smaller target.
“’Cause I’m the one who gave ‘im the book. It’s an old one o’ mine.”
“And I assume you’re an artist of some sort then?” She said the word artist like one might say the word slut.
“He gives people Marks.” said Harry proudly, and Sebastian only now noticed that while one arm was securely holding the sketchbook to his chest, the other held onto Max’s hand like a lifeline, standing close. Max grinned down at Harry for a moment, before turning back to the Poters. Sebastian felt very much like a referee, standing to the side beside these two groups facing off. The grin he gave the Poters was less a smile and more like him bearing his teeth. Showing off his fangs.
“A Tatoo artist, yeah... and,” he added, grin widening even further, if that was even remotely possible, “I bet your li’l fuckin’ brat’s never seen my face in ‘er life, has she?”
Sebastian immediately knew what he was going for, and stayed silent to enjoy the show.
Emily’s face, which by now had dried of tears but stayed blotchy from crying, immediately twisted up in disgust.
“Ew, no way!”
“Are you insinuating that our little girl would ever lower herself to get a tattoo? For God’s sake, she’s not even eleven!”
Max grinned and made a small gesture towards Harry with the hand not occupied.
Harry was smiling still, smaller and with less teeth, and still stood close to Max’s side, and unwound enough to hand his sketchbook delicately to Max.
One handed, Max flipped open the book to one of it’s beginning pages.
“Then she likely never drew this, yeah?”
Sebastian could only see it at an angle, but he knew which page it was on, and from the look of realization on all three of the Poter’s faces as they looked between the picture and the man holding it, they understood.
“U-um, well, I mean, I sort of remember you, you’re the guy from the, the um, tattoo parlor, place, right? I see you when we drive past, I must have, um, Mommy, Daddy? I must’ve seen him, of course, I just have a better memory than you realized, how could you even start to doubt? What, you think I’m a liar? I’m not the one who stole the art book, he is. You have to believe me; you’re my parents. Make them give it back!”
Emily, starting off stuttering, now stood burning with righteous fury, fists on hips as she scowled at Harry and Max.
“Thank you, I’m sorry for any inconvenience—”
“—we may have caused you with this… incident. Mr. Pinotez, I apologize for my daughter’s behavior.”
“Yes, thank you for teaching her these past few months, we are sorry to have to find another institution—”
“Daddy!” Both parents were pulling their daughter to the exit, heedless of her attempts to yank their arms for attention.
“—but if she doesn’t learn proper behavior, there will be consequences when we get home, and I assure you there is no need to talk of this matter any longer, we will recommend you, of course to our associates, thank you for your time, goodbye!”
The door closed softly, slowly enough to hear the beginning of what was sure to be an epic scolding;
“I have never been so embarrassed—!”
“Young lady, you have a lot of explaining to do—!”
before cutting them off with a hushed click.
Harry was beaming up at Max, glancing at Sebastian, and he could recognize that look.
He saw it when parents first showed up to pick up their kids, children proud of their parents.
That look usually said ‘Lookit! Lookit! This is my person/people!’
Sebastian smiled at the pair, and tried not to wince when Max (what is his last name? He can’t keep calling him Mr. Max) return it with his shark-like grin.
“Harry, I am sorry about all that, I hope you understand that…”
“Yeah, legal reasons, right? Thank you for returning my sketchbook.”
Sebastian smiled, and then remembered that he and Max whatever-his-name-is hadn’t been properly introduced.
“Sorry, we haven’t been introduced. My name is Sebastian Pinotez, I’m one of the instructors here.” He held out his hand to Max, and was only mildly surprised to have it taken up and shaken.
Harry beamed. This is my person. Isn’t he amazing?
Harry gave a brief tug on Max’s hand, and when he looked to him, he whispered something to him that made Max relax some. His grin looked less like he was bearing his teeth as a threat.
Seb just caught it, but missed a word. He couldn’t figure out what else Harry could mean, it sounded like nothing that would work in context.
Later, after some small talk where Seb told Max about Harry’s progress (having missed telling this to anyone in Harry’s life so far these past two months), and waved after them as the door clicked shut behind them.
He still wondered what that word could be.
Don’t worry Max, he’d whispered, a secret smile on his face. He’s not a fucking Muggle.
And that’s that for now.
Does that answer the many, many questions? Perhaps.
I’m sure you’ll have more for me.
Feel free to ask/comment/review :)
Also, it’s raining like hell here, just in time for the fire ban (in effect since July 27th, I believe) to finish.
Some campers are pissed, but I’m laughing here in the staff house :P
NOTE: That was a while ago, the fire ban finished before the summer was out, but it was still funny, if irritating. I’m back home again, and hopefully I’ll be able to finish this story by NaNoWriMo so I can do its sequel that month.
Comment/review and tell me what you think, all you complainers :) How’s my solution?
Chapter 39: Multiple Disappearing Acts
So hopefully this chapter answers some questions and worries I’ve had people express… I have to admit, it’s inconvenient that you all can’t just read my mind through the Internet, and know this stuff.
P.S. You all should be happy that there’s mention of a certain Blond Family in this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 39— Multiple Disappearing Acts
“So what’s your excuse huh? I know all the oldsters—not me of course—go on about kids these days, but really, a full four days off work, no owls, no floos, no note or even by-your-leave, and then you’re back after your rather strange choice of days off. I’ll have you know that it was your responsibility to give the Dandies their wipe down yesterday, and now they’re in a right huff. My oldie Dandy is starting to fluff even! In another year he’ll be going to ground, why would you do that to the old seeder? He frets about his petals you know, you’ll have to be extra careful with him today.
But any-who, you better have a good excuse and all that for that many days off, I always hear about kids giving ridiculous excuses, so I’m ready to hear it. Dragons eat your homework? Or, wait, it’d be your schedule, wouldn’t it? Niffler steal your alarm-glass then? Horrible broom accident that knocked you out for only four days? Left no marks of course. How about you were temporarily transported to another dimension? Very temporarily. Well? Don’t disappoint now, Kid.”
Harry was getting used to Mr. Grant’s (he couldn’t just call him Grant, despite his insistence) rambling way of talking, and had, in his few months of working under him, come to understand that it’s his skewed way of saying he liked you.
A very strange way, but Harry could almost understand it. Harry himself didn’t speak much to people in general, but knew he could talk for ages with Max, and he could talk about plants anytime of the day, and while not really speaking, he had silent conversations with animals pretty regularly.
He didn’t have silent conversations with people anymore.
That made this difficult, because now Harry had to explain aloud why he’d skivvied off from work for so long.
He didn’t know how to explain that he hadn’t even been thinking about work those days, hadn’t really thought of anything.
He shifted slightly and absently felt along the veiny underside of a nearby plant’s leaf, and cleared his throat.
“There was an issue… at my self-defense classes…”
After torturously going through the aching four days, having to retell it was like scratching at a welt; pressing on a bruise; rubbing at a burn…
But Mr. Grant didn’t interrupt.
Well, he regularly did it during small talk, whenever there was a pause in someone’s speech, when they were searching, and Harry had regularly overheard a sale that had the customer saying maybe five full words before leaving with half a dozen different plants.
But, though Harry had to stop or slow a number of times in his explanation, Mr. Grant was as patient and focused as he was any time he was dealing with either Harry or and of the plants under his care.
Harry didn’t think this odd.
While speaking, he realized that Max and Mr. Grant hadn’t ever actually met.
He tried to think of a time when they’d even been in sight of each other, but came up blank as new soil.
He was certain he’d mentioned them to each other, certainly mentioned Mr. Grant to Max as he told what he’d learned that day, and interesting plants he’d encountered, and he could clearly remember telling both Mr. Grant and Mr. Bud about Max, especially after they’d found him sketching out the plants he was making notes on in an abandoned notebook and Harry’d explain a new sketching or shading technique he’d learned.
He just couldn’t remember them ever meeting.
His voice shook when talking about Emily, and he found himself admitting his fault in trusting her to obey the rules, his eyes stinging behind his eyelids though no tears fell, and he couldn’t keep a plaintive note from entering his voice when explaining what it was like before he could get his sketchbook back. He tried to keep t out, because it was the one of voice Dudley got when he was trying to wheedle his way out of trouble, and Harry wasn’t trying to get out of anything, he knew that there would be consequences, he was prepared to face them, accept them, and work his way through them.
Not around them.
Never around them.
If there was one thing he’d learned from Dudley, it was that there were always consequences, and even if you managed to make your way around them, they were like an infestation in your garden.
Dudley was the kind of person to move to an entirely new plot of land to avoid the problem, but no matter what it would have to be dealt with by someone.
That someone was usually Harry.
Mr. Grant listened to him, nodding and calm, and Harry took that as a sign that perhaps he would be able to keep his job, that perhaps someone would understand that Max was important.
Important enough that Harry hadn’t even thought about coming to work in the shop, even though he learned the most here, even though he was gardening for hours here, even though everything here was so Green.
“So… This Max guy of yours is actually a bit of an arse then?”
Harry’s brain screeched to a halt.
That wasn’t it at all.
“Well, if this Max guy would drop you because of a bunch of bound n’ charmed paper—no, now don’t give me that look, I know it’s important to you, I see how you tote that around, but that’s what it is—then you got one helluva pair of rose tinted glasses on when you talk ‘bout him, boy’oh.”
Harry abruptly flushed, heat numbing his cheeks. While his stomach twisted its way into knots.
Nonononono, that wasn’t it at all. Harry didn’t really think that Max wouldn’t…
But he kind of did,
But Max wouldn’t do something like that.
Harry knew he wasn’t like that.
So why did he…
He was so certain of it…
Harry could remember the cold certainty that Max would leave him on his own if Harry lost his gifted sketchbook, but…
His cheeks burned more, and he was almost certain they must have been bruising purple by now with the amount of blood coursing through them. His heartbeat was loud in his ears as he tried to reconcile what he knew with what he’d shown himself to believe.
But Max wasn’t—
Something of his thoughts must’ve shown on his face, because Mr. Grant leaned back with a knowing look on his face.
“See? I know you wouldn’t deal with an arse like that, yeah?”
Harry was still trying to think around the new road-block in his mind, but was aware enough to nod.
“Now you’re likely trying to figger out what made you think something like that, yeah? Something like ‘Oh! How could I?’ and ‘What made me think such a thing?’
Well, you can stop that right now you know. You’re a kid, an’ I don’t get the impression you have many friends—dunno why, of course, but then, I don’t know why people seem to dislike my Dandies and my Tentacula so much neither, but hey, that’s the strangeness of the world, yeah? But anyway, not too many friends, and Max prolly gave you the sketchbook when you were just deciding to be friends, yeah? Well, in your little head, you prolly thought that that was a symbol of it or something, and when it was nearly stolen, you prolly thought that without it, you wouldn’t be friends or something silly like that, yeah? Like I said, you’re a kid, kids think these things, I know, so all you have to do is take your head from the potting soil and realize that there are other plants in the dirt—oh, no, that’s what I said to my friend Bo when he broke it with his girl, what I meant to say was you have to take your head from the soil and realize that it’s more than the bound up paper and whatever keeping your friendship alive, or some mumbo jumbo like that.”
Mr. Grant was frowning down at his lap, mouth screwed up into the face he made when he was wondering why he dealt with people at all, rather than just plants. It was the face he made when a Customer asked an apparently stupid question about a plant they were about to buy.
“Do you understand whatever the hell I was on about then? Feel better and all that? ‘Cause I have to tell you,” here he lowered his voice and leaned closer, “Bud was in a right state when his favorite prepubescent kid wasn’t in to work when he was supposed to.” He raise his eyebrows high on his round face and raised his hands, palms out as he leaned back.
“Not me of course, but then, I was here waiting for some elaborate tale, an adventure like, so that I could dress you down and whatever, and here you go giving me something serious like a plague of root rot, and you know what? Now you’ll have to go and show me you’ve been paying attention to what I’ve been telling you, and hop to and weed around the Fennel Bog like I showed you, this time on your own.”
Harry smiled, and got up to go get on the spelled boots, pants, and gloves from the back room when Mr. Grant raised one hand.
“But you’re alright right kid?”
Harry grinned and nodded.
Mr. Grant was a strange man, he decided as he waded through the bog, but he gave Harry something to think about.
And he was feeling better.
Much better than he’d felt in a long time.
Harry had, for the past two years or so, been steadily learning French, but the chance to actually speak it had never come up.
He’d mouthed the words to himself, and had found a couple of books at the library that had simple sentences in it for him to learn about word placement, but there was only so much time that Harry had in his days to work on pronunciation, and so reading and memorizing the somewhat confusing patterns in the French Language were or the night.
But when he finally has a chance to use his still developing knowledge, it comes at a surprising time, and in a surprising place, with the last spectator he would have chosen.
First of all, he was at the local Tesco’s.
Second, Aunt Petunia was with him.
His Aunt was with him because she happened to be outside at the same time as Harry was leaving to do the shopping, and the Neighbors happened to see that he was heading out. One short sentence had turned what would have been a favorable retreat to a tense outing with his Aunt.
“Bringin’ Harry out shopping then?”
So of course his Aunt had to go with him.
So Harry ended up with his Aunt directing him to grab things from his own list, and laugh with any of the neighbors she happens across when wandering through the aisles.
Harry was there with her for a good portion of it, and ended up imitating one of the other children he’d seen on a previous trip.
“What are you having for dinner then?”
“Ah, well, we’re having…”
“We’re having Smothered Chocken and mashed potatoes, aren’t we Aunt Petunia? Aunt Petunia,” he’d confided with the Neighbor of #12, “said I could help.”
Later, Harry wondered if that ‘save’ was the only reason his Aunt didn’t do anything about his encounter later.
Outside, Harry carrying two of the three bags, his Aunt muttering to herself and Harry about the state of things (Harry didn’t know what these things were), when Harry noticed a small group of beautiful people to ahead gesturing to each other and, when he was close enough to hear, speaking in a different language.
It took Harry the entire walk to, and three feet past the group before he recognized that he could understand a great deal of the words.
Words he’d only ever read before.
And now was hearing from others lips for the first time.
“Comment pourrions-nous perdre?” (How could we get lost?) Said the woman. She had silvery blonde hair and a pale blue dress so elaborate it took Harry a moment to recognize them as robes. No one at Diagon Alley wore robes like that.
“Toutes les maisons se ressemblent!” (All the houses look the same!) Replied the man, finishing with vehemence that Harry usually only associated to Uncle Vernon sitting in front of the telly when there’s a game on. He was the only one who hadblonde hair, similar to his Uncle Vernon’s yellowish hair, but more of a gold colour. Harry didn’t know that hair could be that colour. The women
“N'importe qui serait perdu!"(Anyone would get lost!) He finished.
“Maman, Papa, je veux rentrer à la maison! Pourquoi avons-nous de venir à cet endroit puant? Moldus sont partout!” (Mom, dad, I want to go home! Why did we have to come to this stinking place? Moldus are everywhere!) Whined their daughter. She was nearly as beautiful as her mother, older than Harry by a few years, and Harry was certain that she would be much cuter if she would un-scrunch her nose and keep that scowl from her face.
“Nous devons aller chercher votre sœur Gabrielle. Ma petite fleur, pourrais-je vous rappeler que vous êtes celui qui voulait aller explorer en premier lieu?” (We have to go pick up your sister Gabrielle. My little flower, might I remind you that you are the one who wanted to go exploring in the first place?) Reminded the mother softly. The girl shook out her silvery hair and looked away.
Right at Harry. He’d been listening, marveling at the words that he usually took a moment to translate in his head, but was taking in much less time to do.
“Qu'est-ce que tu regardes, moldue?”
Harry translated that to something along the lines of ‘what are you looking at?’ but didn’t know what the last word was. She’d said it earlier, but he didn’t know what to do with the word.
Harry turned fully, ignoring his Aunt’s squawk for him to keep up.
“I’m sorry for listening in, but are you lost?” He asked in halting French. He didn’t like the words from his mouth, they didn’t sound as smooth as the group’s, but was happy that he seemed to be getting his message across.
The adults traded a look and the girls nose scrunched up more.
“Are you trying to get to Diagon Alley?” He asked, going out on a limb. The women were in extremely elaborate robes, and the man, while not in something Harry would call robes, was also dressed immaculately, and Harry could just see the indentation in the man’s sleeve where something long and thin was tucked away.
It could be a knife, he supposed, but figured it could just as easily be a wand.
If they weren’t magical, they would only continue to be confused tourists. His Uncle Vernon had a lot to say about Tourists, but Harry didn’t put much weight into anything that his Uncle said lately.
The couple smiled slightly, distantly, and the girl looked down her nose at Harry.
He didn’t blink.
The group reminded him a bit of the Blonde Family from the Alley, a French version with silver-blond hair rather than white-blond, an older daughter rather than a son (two daughters? They mentioned a Gabrielle…), and Harry figured they should be dealt with the same way.
Politely, helpfully, and with total disregard to any looks and sneers directed his way.
“We are looking for someplace to floo to the ministry… Our daughter is on a tour there.”
Harry didn’t know where the Ministry was, hadn’t ever been there himself, but knew that the Goblins had their floo available for five knuts. He told them as much.
“Gringotts is in Diagon Alley… I usually get there by the Knight Bus.”
“How do you use this… knight bus?”
“You hold out your wand from the side of the road, and the bus will appear. Mr. Shunpike will tell you the cost of getting to where you want to go. It is a bit of a bumpy ride, but I don’t know of any apparition points around the Alley.”
“Ah! Maman, it is like the Chariot Étoile!”
Harry had an idea then, and knelt after setting down his two bags of groceries. Fishing through his knapsack, he was aware of the dubious looks and slight sneer he was getting form the group, and pulled out a notebook.
Flipping to a new page, he pulled a pencil form a smaller pocket on his bag, and did a quick drawing of Tom, writing his name below it and ‘The Leakey Cauldron” above it. His writing wasn’t as neat with a pencil, but it was understandable.
He was about to pull the paper from his notebook when he realized it would be more help if he got Tom to help them out. You could see the top of the bank from the entrance to the Alley, and Tom was usually helpful to everyone, but Harry didn’t know how well any of them spoke English.
It occurred to him then that he could have started their conversation with “Do you speak English?” but dismissed the idea. He liked practicing his French, and had heard his accent getting better through the conversation. It was likely more comfortable for the group as well, for him to speak French to them, though he knew that there were a couple of things he probably said wrong.
But at least he had a chance to listen to people speak the language, and had a chance to try speaking the language himself. Outside of the practice phrases in the English to French books he had, at least.
So, under the drawing, he wrote:
These people need to get to the Ministry of Magic, if you could please direct them to either Gringotts through the Alley or help them yourself, it would be appreciated.
Please and Thank You,
On the back, he wrote, in as legible French as he could manage:
If you go to Gringotts, Ask for Griphook or, if he's busy, Snapclaw, and show them this note. They’ll be able to get you sorted quickly.
He ripped the page from the binder and handed it to the couple.
“Ask to go to ‘The Leakey Cauldron’ and look for Tom, this man,” he gestured to the drawing, “And he’ll be able to help you get to Gringotts. He might have floo access himself, but I’m not sure if it’s open to the public or not, but either way he’ll be able to help you.”
“Come Here boy!” His Aunt, previously forgotten, was standing a little ways away, knuckles white around the plastic handles of the bag, forced smile on her lips.
She didn’t exactly shout, but she said it in a loud whisper that said she was trying not to shout and attract attention, so instead she would whisper really, really loudly.
Harry gave one smile to the group, said goodbye, and walked over to his Aunt, backpack on his shoulders, groceries in hand, and walked off with her.
He looked back once when he heard a sharp crack, despite his Aunt’s hand on his arm urging him faster at the sound, and saw the girl looking after him. When she saw him looking, she stuck her tongue out at him, and then smiled.
Harry raise an eyebrow, and turned away.
Perhaps he would draw them later.
He later asked Max what Moldus meant, and nodded when he was told it was French for Muggle.
No wonder it wans’t in the English to French dictionary.
One day Harry woke up with the inside of his throat feeling like brambles, and his skin feeling too tight. He wondered, deliriously, if he was finally shedding his skin like Samuel had said he would, a million years ago.
He looked woefully at his hands, wondering if that would take off the calluses he’d developed over the years, and wondered if he’d get blisters like he used to.
Then his left pinkie disappeared.
He stared, and wiggled all of his fingers, feeling his not-there pinkie brush his ring finger, and then his palm disappeared.
He stared at his floating three fingers and thumb and thought, That’s inconvenient…
A cough scraped itself up his sore throat, and he was suddenly very aware of his nose dribbling snot down his chin. His right hand tingled before it disappeared altogether.
Harry thought perhaps shedding wouldn’t have been so bad after all…
Walking down to Max’s shop seemed like an impossibly long distance, and Harry would have had to walk it too if he hadn’t stayed for the extra moment at the front door, contemplating that distance.
Just long enough for the rest of his left arm to disappear, along with the left side of his face.
Just long enough for his Aunt Petunia to see it happen.
Driving down to Max’s shop was significantly shorter travel, especially when his Uncle Vernon was driving after having been called back from work.
“I’ll not have the freak invisible around my house!” his Aunt had sobbed over the phone.
Harry wondered what he looked like from the side.
He distracted himself for the entire car ride trying to imagine if anyone could see inside of his head, even as his Aunt fussed and pulled the scarf high over his face when his nose disappeared entirely.
His Uncle scoffed when he was told where to drop him off, but started making a choking sound when Max came outside and wiggled his fingers in a wave to them.
Harry was in the middle of telling them that Fucking Muggles couldn’t see the shop when he was thrust from the car.
Max smirked when he saw him, and some part of Harry relaxed. The squeal of his Uncle’s tired as he drove away drowned out his small sigh of relief.
Max wouldn’t smirk if it were serious.
He smiles thankfully when Max Floo’s Mr. Grant to tell him that Harry wouldn’t be at work that day, but found himself distracted from listening to what Max was saying by the sudden intense worry that his Mark would disappear as well…
That was Unacceptable.
He didn’t have a headache, but he felt fuzzy all the same as they waited in a large white waiting room. He had a hard time concentrating on much, and his head felt cottony, full of air and fluff, and imagined that this might be what a cotton plant might feel like.
Max had said it could be ‘cleared up’ in just over four days.
Harry didn’t pay much mind, but reached out to stroke invisible fingers of the leaves that had sprouted all over the body of a man standing behind them, and smiled when the man jumped, but seemed to relax.
He ran his fingers over the leaves, feeling where they met skin, deciding he was a kind of fern (he’d never seen a fern before, except in pictures), and stared in regret when Max pulled him to sit in the waiting area, chuckling.
He didn’t notice that the man’s growths had unfurled and grown twice their previous size, but listened when Max told him about the hospital.
He thought it seemed good to be able to heal, and wondered where one might learn about it.
“Ah, your first case of Vanishing Sickness, hmm? Always the worst the first time, feel all… airy, and see through, am I right, hmm?” the Doctor Healer Vespus said at Harry’s general direction. He seemed oblivious to the aura of menace that was Max sanding to the one side of the door.
“Like a cotton plant.” Harry agreed.
“Oh, er, well, yes, perhaps that might be so… Ah, and you are…” He looked in askance to Max.
“His current caretaker.” Harry wasn’t looking, but saw the glint from the corner of his eye that meant that Max had tilted his head back in a practiced motion that made his silver tooth glint in the light. He did that when customers were being too snippy, or loitering through his shop. Quite a few young witches and wizards got that look when they chortles and giggled and whispered among themselves while pointing to the various pictures on the walls. Harry thought they were annoying too, and usually stared at them if they tried to coo over him until they went away.
It was something he’d learned about in school.
Harry giggled at nothing in particular, just enjoying the sound even though it hurt his throat.
“Ah, yes, the caretaker of one Harry…”
There was a stretched silence, and Harry wondered if staring at people would have any affect in his current state.
He only just decided that no, it wouldn’t, when the Doctor Healer Vespus started spluttering.
“Potter? Harry Potter? The Harry Potter? Well I never thought I’d see you around… or rather, I thought you’d be sent to see another Healer, perhaps earlier when you got the Dragon Pox! I hadn’t even heard any gossip—not that any will be coming from me, of course, oath of silence and all that, you have no worry, hmm? It is rather an honor to see you—well, of course not literally at the moment, but I’ll have you all sorted out in a swish! Or several, if you want to get literal about it, hmm?”
Harry mused, as he was poked, prodded, made to drink a potion, and gestured around, that wizards were nothing if not literal in their naming, when possible.
He still felt like a cotton plant when he left, but at least he could see his arms and fingers.
Doctor Healer Vespus (“Jus’ Healer Vesus, Kid”) said his face would stop looking transparent in about four hours, but he should be entirely visible by nightfall. He got a potion for his throat, as well as an entire case of potions he was to take daily “since he was missing a rather lot of vitamins and minerals, hmm?” according to Doct—Healer Vespus. He’d told this to Harry while frowning at Max.
“His current caretaker, remember?” was Max’s reply, which made Healer Vespus stop his frowning. Harry thought this wise.
One did not frown at Max.
When people frowned at Max, Max brought out his shark-grin.
Max was always dangerous when he brought out his shark-grin.
Later, he enjoyed Max’s laughter when he told him this, and cuddled under one of Max’s soft blankets on the small sofa at the back of the store, and listened to the soft scratches of quill and pencil led on paper as Max did paperwork and worked on sketches.
So it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’ve mentioned in a couple of review replies that I was planning on doing Nano on this chapter (NaNoWriMo, look it up if you’re confused), but changed my mind. I’m working on a BBC Sherlock story for it, as well as this, hence the wait. It’s the 8th of November, and I’m only a little below what m word count should be by now.
Hope you enjoyed!
P.S. There WAS a Blond family in this ;)
ALSO: If anyone wants to edit my french, feel free :D As you can see I moved from french with English Brackets to all in Italics when Harry's gotten the hang of understanding French, and starts speaking it.
Chapter 40: Fine
An update! Huzzah! I know :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Chapter 40— Fine.
One day Uncle Vernon sees Harry down one of the minty-sour nutrition potions he’d been given by the Healer, a swirling concoction that looked like oil on water.
He catches sight of his Uncle, eyes wide over the vial, and for one moment he’s sure his Uncle will come after him.
The potion couldn’t be more obviously magical if it had a label saying “MADE OF MAGIC” on it, and while Harry knew his Uncle couldn’t do anything to him in accordance to the contract, that knowledge didn’t keep the bolt of fear shooting through his chest as his hind brain told him to run. Go! It said. Run to your room! Now! Now! NOW!
His Uncle’s face was turning puce, eyes bugging slightly, and Harry carefully lowered the empty vial from his lips, and carefully moved backwards, back to his room. Back to his lockable door.
Uncle Vernon took a large breath; one Harry knew was the precursor to a rage filled bellow (“YOU TURNED THE TEACHER’S HAIR BLUE!” His memory supplied him), but let it out in one huge, angry huff through his nose.
“Don’t,” came the low growl, “Let me see any of… that again.”
Harry continued backwards, feeling behind him with one hand to unlock his door, and, eyes still on his uncle, slid into his room, closing the door with a small click.
Taking a deep breath, he tried to calm his beating heart, and imagined his Mark again, this time with bark as thick as his Uncle’s meaty fists, thicker than the door his forehead leant against, thick enough that nothing could get past it to the soft, bruise-able center.
He was fine.
That night he rolls up his pant legs to look and feel his Mark, the topmost sprig just curling up his kneecap, barely any skin shown to about a quarter up his shin, and let out a breath.
He was fine.
He took another. Exhaled.
He was fine.
One day Harry leaves school, walking back to Nr. 4 Privet Dr. even though he knew that his Aunt and Uncle were picking up Dudley.
This is partly because he wants time to think, but was honest enough to know that it was mostly because he wanted to avoid Dudley on his end-of-school/beginning-of-summer-vacation manic bullying.
But he did need to think, so he walked the longer route back, pondering what would be happening in the next year.
Fifth grade was passing, and in a few short months he would be in sixth. In less than a year after that he would be preparing to go to Hogwarts (or another school, his subconscious reminded him).
He’d done research into the classes, and knew that Hogwarts didn’t offer anything like Math until third year, no English, no Science, and the only thing close to learning new languages was Ancient Runes, but then it was all about writing, not speaking another language.
Other schools were similar.
He knew he didn’t want to go far, but the two premier schools even remotely close were Beaubatons and Durmstrang, but they were the same in non-magical offering.
Harry loved Magic, but he enjoyed Muggle studies as well.
He would have to see about taking remedial courses, perhaps sending his assignments to Max to hand in for him, but that meant he needed to do more research.
If he went to Beaubatons, he would be able to practice his French more, and he’d already shown that he could have an understandable conversation with a native speaker (he presumed), and he was learning Bulgarian at a steady pace, though he wondered if he would have to know Russian or German in order to get through going to Durmstrang.
These other schools said where they were in a general sense, but Durmstrang had been the most frustrating in that sense.
Harry thought he would be more likely to go to Hogwarts, but wanted to keep his options open.
He turned his thoughts back to the next year.
He hoped he would be in a separate class from Dudley once more, but didn’t hold out on it.
One school year without Dudley in the same room as him for most of the time had been a blessing, a reprieve, a change from every other year of schooling he’d endured.
He still had to run and hide during breaks, but the classroom was peaceful in a way he hadn’t ever experienced. The other students weren’t suddenly friendly, but without Dudley to egg some on, he was left to his own devices. His teacher ad been nice, if a bit dull, and she was fine with giving him extra work since he had the whole class undisturbed to finish assignments, and had even brought out a sixth year refresher text that worked just as well as a sneak peek into what his next year’s work would be like.
He couldn’t bring it with him back to Privet Dr. but he’d read enough that he should have even less of a problem getting through the first semester, and that hopefully meant he would have enough free time to work on his Hogwarts/Durmstrang/Beauxbatons problem, along with finding out if there was a school that would accept a long-distance student.
He shouldered his bag again, shrugging his shoulders to resettle the straps, and continued thinking.
If he planned it right, everything would be fine.
He would be fine.
Mr. Grant is closing shop early because he has to go with Mr. Bud to settle a shipment deal, which leaves Harry with the rest of the afternoon to himself.
Or, well, it would have.
Instead Harry was being dragged about by the Blond Boy (“Draco, Draco Malfoy. What’s your name?”) who insisted on calling him Hadrian (“Harry…” “Ugh! That’s such a boring name! What’s it short for?” “…” “Must be short for something better. How about Hadrian? Hadrian works”) and who decided that Harry must be fairly new around since he’s only really seen him about the Alley a few times.
When Harry had raised an eyebrow at that, Draco had made a fairly elegant motion that could be a shrug and was probably something he’d seen his parents do, and put in your mind that they were letting the issue slide off them, and so it was sort of an equivalent of shrug… but not.
It was actually rather fascinating to watch, which was why Harry was allowing himself to be pulled along like this.
“Well you’re obviously Pureblood,” Draco sort of nodded at him, making a gesture with one hand that encompassed all of him, “but I’ve never met you before. Who’re your parents?”
Harry shrugged, sidestepping a careless witch. “They died when I was a baby.”
Draco’s eyebrows rose, and for a moment he was shame-faced. “Sorry to hear that…”
“You didn’t do it, and you didn’t know them. Don’t worry…” These platitudes seemed to make him feel better, but Harry didn’t really know. He hadn’t spent much time with other children, not like this, and felt a bit like he was pulling at the strings to his own marionette. Trying to make it look natural, but feeling awkward and jerking and certain that his audience will know he’s an amateur.
Draco didn’t seem to be cottoning on though, which was a strange relief.
“So who’s looking after you?”
Harry almost said his Aunt and Uncle were, but that would be a lie.
“Max Ritter. He owns a tattoo shop.”
Draco seemed to ponder over this for a while before nodding decisively.
“My Father will know him. The name doesn’t sound familiar though… My Father will know though, he knows everyone who’s worth knowing.” Draco gave Harry a superior look, and Harry doubted for a moment if he should be around Draco if he can give such a good Dudley Look.
“He’s very important in the ministry. Makes a number of substantial donations every year.” Harry tried to look suitably impressed all while not really knowing what that meant and why he should care. But it was fine, raising his eyebrows and nodding seemed to work out.
Draco pulled him towards what Harry assume was a sporting goods store (he hadn’t actually made it in there yet), and directed his attention to the broom in the window.
“I’m sure you already know all about it, but that is the Nimbus 2000. It only just came out of production, this one is a model of what we can expect next year.”
Harry knew that brooms were used for flying here, but he couldn’t help but look it over critically. It was very pretty, sure, but there was no way it would be a serviceable broom. Regular use would make the bristles rough and dull the colour, the shape making it doubtfully useful, and while the handle of it was beautifully smooth and polished, would likely feel wonderful in hand, all in all it would not be the broom Harry would choose for cleaning. Harry prudently did not share his thoughts with Draco, who seemed to be admiring it the same way Harry imagined he himself admired his garden. Draco continued to look over the broom, and Harry altered that to maybe how he looked when he saw a plant he particularly wanted to add to his garden.
There were other brooms on display; farther back into the store window and not so opulently showcased, and Harry saw that they had their names with them as well.
Cleansweeps (not likely, Harry thought) seemed to be the most numbered, and Harry wondered at the numbering system. From what he could see, there was a Cleansweep 450, 320, and 360. Just below the Nimbus 2000, there was a Nimbus 1999.
“Have you played Quidditch then?”
Harry shrugged, still looking over the brooms (yes, he would probably choose the Cleansweep 320 if he had to clean with any of these, though the 450 looked like it would be good in corners). “Not really. I know the rules but I’ve never flown before.”
This admittance caused Draco to widen his eyes, and launch into a detailed description of his apparent flying prowess, and Harry nodded at the pauses and tried to keep up. He’d only been curious about sports in the wizarding world, and found the book titled “Everything You Ought to Know About Quidditch, and Several Facts Thereafter” by Matilda Broomstead almost entirely on accident. The entire game seemed to be a mash-up of basketball, football, hockey, and several other sports all up in the air.
The pictures were confusing, but there were several diagrams, and Harry thought he could understand the game if he was watching it. The people with bats were Beaters, the two people flying around seemingly doing nothing were Seekers, and everyone else was a Chaser for their respective team.
He figured it wouldn’t be good to mention this, though, as it seemed like Draco put a lot of weight into the Seeker position.
“Wouldn’t the Chasers be more important then?” he asked. “It seems like the Seeker is more of a last-chance win, or else an extra for a good team. A seeker is a bit… unneeded if the chasers are good.”
Then again, he thought, the difference in a game could turn with a good Seeker, and he couldn’t imagine how fast the snitch would be in comparison to a player on a broom. He asked Draco if a Snitch was so much faster than a player on a broom, and he launched into the difference in speeds, the greater maneuverability of a Snitch to anyone on a broom, the difficulty of finding a small glittering target while searching the skies…
Harry really had no point of comparison, and shrugged helplessly.
“I guess I’ll just have to wait to see or play before I can get a better idea of the game,” Harry compromised.
Draco seemed to think on this, but when they moved on he launched into another in depth analysis of yet another subject, and Harry let the babble wash over him.
Draco was a bit annoying, a bit pretentious, but he was nice enough.
He didn’t even comment much about Harry working in a plant shop, and though he openly assumed that Harry must be bored working with plants, Harry saying he liked plants seemed to say much more for his job than he’d thought.
Draco seemed to catch sight of something that reminded him of Harry’s drawing, and he started talking about how he’d had his drawing framed seeing as it was a one of a kind, and said that even his parents seemed impressed by his drawing of them.
Harry thought he might like Draco.
A bit at least.
Being friends, Harry thought, might be fine.
“This is Hadrian Ritter.”
Harry didn’t correct Draco, feeling a flush of warmth at the idea of sharing Max’s last name, and didn’t clarify that his name was actually Harry, not Hadrian.
(Draco seemed stuck on the name, and as he seemed to do his best to emulate his parents, Harry didn’t know how he would react if the elder Malfoy’s reacted the same to his ‘boring’ name.)
Draco’s parents, still a beautiful couple but more so up close, seemed to relax some at the introduction, and Harry wondered if they relaxed because of his last name or because it was obvious that Draco wasn’t dragging him over to complain about him.
He’d seen other kids do this to their parents, dragging other children over to sort out their problems through adults, and had it happen to himself when other students dragged him before teachers to complain about him staring.
(Honestly, they were so fussy about these things it was ridiculous.)
He hadn’t had any problems lately though, and he wondered if that was something kids grew out of.
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy.” Harry nodded his head to both of them, a polite smile on his face.
Mr. Malfoy inclined his head in return. “Mr. Ritter.”
Lucius shared a look with his wife at the last name, whole conversations passing between them as they considered their next course of action.
Ritter was not Old Blood, but it was Pure, and the only Ritter in England was…
Well. If he was who they thought he might be, it would explain the artistic talent of the boy. Of Hadrian.
Perhaps his middle initial?
Another shared glance showed that his wife shared his thoughts, and both felt a certain amount of relief that they wouldn’t have to deal with the complications of interacting with Harry Potter.
It did bear looking into, however, how Hadrian Ritter had come into Max Ritter’s guardianship.
After all, there were very few families with such startling green eyes to pass on, none of whom would pass their child on to Max Ritter to foster.
Harry smiled at the amount of time Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy spent looking at each other; it was sweet.
Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon shared looks like that occasionally, though Harry saw them do it most when he was going to be asked to do something onerous, so to see other couples do the same thing without getting a feeling of dread made Harry think of the few romance books he’d read from the school library. Mrs. Malfoy was a far cry from the busty heroines with ripped dresses on the cover, and he couldn’t even begin to try imagining Mr. Malfoy wearing leather pants (or chaps—oh my, his mind gave a funny twinge trying to imagine Mr. Malfoy in caps), but this was somehow much better. It gave you a feeling that it was less like ice cream melting down your fingers that you had to lap up quickly, more like a drop of honey across your tongue; something to savor and ponder over.
They did look at him a bit, but Harry could see that it was mostly curiosity.
Harry could deal with curiosity—he could understand it and answer it as honestly as he could.
Draco was still explaining quite a few things he thought Harry ought to know, giving his own looks to his parents that Harry thought must translate as “Look, aren’t I doing well? I’m being a good friend and teaching him things, aren’t you proud?”
The elder Malfoy’s smiled and nodded at appropriate points, and Mr. Malfoy explained a bit of what he did in the Ministry, which was interesting if a little confusing, but it was Mrs. Malfoy that caught his attention.
“You have Warbling Wreaths and Perkolescent Parsemoths? How do you keep them from smothering each other?”
“Oh, I found that if you plant red Persimmons—and only red ones, any other colour gets their roots crushed—around each base it causes them to focus their roots inwards and down rather than spreading them out an clashing with other plants. With their roots contained I could move on to planting Lunaris Glowths.”
Harry sucked in a breath, eyes wide. Lunaris Glowths! They were finicky plants that were more than notoriously difficult to manage! They needed a particular soil composition that was difficult to maintain for any length of time, but with Warbling Wreaths and Perkolescent Parsemoths adding their vitamins—
Mrs. Malfoy smiled, inclining her head.
“I see you’re understanding the situation I had. Our Estate has more than enough room to keep a clearing of 46 by 53 feet for the plants to grow.” She sighed, a musical little sound, “It’s a sight to see at night.”
Harry tried to imagine a field of the glowing, night-blooming flowers, but fell short.
He knew it would be wonderful though.
A thought occurred to him, then.
“But how do you keep Lunar slugs from them? Certainly not any sort of pesticide, not with the delicate soil composition to consider…”
Draco wouldn’t do something as uncouth as making a face at his Mother and Hadrian’s discussion (certainly not in front of his parents), but when he’d introduced Hadrian, he hadn’t expected this sort of conversation to spring up.
Their gardens were maintained as only proper of a Pureblood family as theirs, and his Mother cultivated it to be beautiful—something he could appreciate even without knowing all that went into it, but for Hadrian to be able to have this sort of a conversation…
Well, he wasn’t so childish as to be jealous of his own Mother, but the fact remained that Hadrian was his friend.
And his Father seemed amused by all of it.
Things had been going fairly wonderfully, Draco showing Hadrian the things he’d been missing as a newcomer to Diagon Alley, and he’d been telling him about Quidditch (honestly, imagine never even having been on a broom before!), about all the latest news he’d picked up from his father, and Hadrian had been so impressed Draco knew they were going to be great friends.
However, while he knew Hadrian was interested in plants (he must be, to be willing to work in a plant shop all day), he didn’t know it was this big of a deal for him.
He held in a sigh, and smiled a little.
Well, at least it was a bit funny to see Hadrian so star-struck over his Mother.
When Harry got back to Privet Drive later that day, he fairly floated to his room, elated as he was.
Mrs. Malfoy was a fountain of knowledge on Herbology, different from Mr. Grant in that she knew more about how to let the plants she did have coexist and help in the overall maintenance of her Garden.
Harry was learning new things about the upkeep of individual plants and their effects and what affected them from Mr. Grant every day. He knew about all the sorts of things that you weren’t to do with certain breeds that would encourage growth in others, and he knew which plants weren’t happy being close to one another and which plants had a tendency to poison or smother the plants around them, all things he was learning as he worked, but Mrs. Malfoy…
She knew how to organize her Garden into one self-sufficient entity. It was a unit that looked after itself with little to no assistance from Mrs. Malfoy beyond the unavoidable, and Harry was in awe.
And she’d said she would come visit the shop one day to talk with Mr. Grant and Mr. Bud.
Harry hugged his pillow to his chest, delighted.
He couldn’t wait.
Harry brings a tennis ball in to work one day, and spends the time between tending to the plants and working at the counter playing catch with the long stalks of the Flitarine.
Mr. Grant had gotten a shipment of them in from Japan; a largely defensive plant named after the whip-like noise it made when attacked.
It had a natural sway to it, and the long stalks shivered when watered, and Harry had the night to figure out how he would do his part to keep it healthy when he was looking after the shop on his own. He didn’t have a wand to practice the spells for it, so… Harry reviewed his notes.
You see, the plant was unique in many ways, from the metallic violet sheen of its stalks, to the leaves that curled like fists at the ends, but the fact that it’s defensive mechanism tied into it’s fruit-bearing ability was what had Mr. Grant keeping it in supply.
The Flitarine flared its leaves when attacked, clutched at what collided with it, and flung it back as a defense. The whiplike movement of this in the stalks made the noise, and it’s the repeated action that made its seedpods loosen from the tip and move its way down the stalk. It required quite a bit of movement to get the seeds to the base of the stalks where it would bloom and then ripen into a fruit at the base of the stalks, which could then be harvested. The fruit itself looked like an orange sitting on a starfish, and the juices could be turned into a mist to treat asthma and the pulp was a fix-it for morning-sickness in those women who weren’t allergic to it.
Usually a spell is used to send a shower of stones down on them, but it wasn’t a spell that could be maintained from afar, so…
The Flitarine didn’t have the best of aim, so Harry got very good very quickly at grabbing the green blur from the air before it could knock anything over.
He switched arms regularly to keep from getting sore, and it seemed like the Flitarine was learning how to play catch along with him, fiuring out how to return the ball in his general direction instead of in any random way, so it was turning out to be pretty fun.
Mr. Grant laughed when he saw Harry’s solution, and it turned into a sort of game for him and Mr. Bud and Harry to do when things were going slow.
Harry felt all lit up inside when he saw Mr. Bud playing catch on his break, and he couldn’t help smiling when Mr. Grant tried to catch the tennis ball when it was returned—Mr. Grant wasn’t terribly good at catch, but he was enthusiastic.
Things were going fine.
Harry was preparing strips of chicken to feed the Carnivorous Canori (not to be mistaken for the Herbivorous Canori, a sibling plant that looked almost exactly the same save for it’s fronds being coated in barbs instead of downy fuzz) when the bell above the door jingled.
Harry put down the carving knife and set his cutting board aside, pulling off his gloves as the customer came into view.
It was the man from before (way before), when he was first coming into the shop to check things out… Harry had seen him a couple of times when he’d come into the shop, but he was usually working in the back, or else preparing a shipment, or…
Well. Harry had just not had much interaction with the man, that’s all.
He was as tall and looming as Harry remembered, a hawk nose and dark, lank hair, a perpetual sense of being unimpressed around him like a shroud…
Harry frowned to himself: He shouldn’t have read through that book of poetry in one go, it made him think strange things.
“How may I help you?” He didn’t recall that they had anything on hold for any customers right then.
The Man looked down his nose at him (he couldn’t help but think that it was something unavoidable for the man) and glanced disparagingly at the half-dissected chicken Harry had been preparing before turning back to him.
“I’m to place an order for Wilpertharn yarn and dried Doxie’s bells and their seeds, to be put under the usual Hogwarts order, boy.”
Harry nodded and jot down the order, looking up at the man from under the fold of his headband. Hogwarts, huh? He turned the form, and pointed to the places the man (Severus Snape says the signature) would have to sign.
“Are you a teacher at Hogwarts?” He asked, as the magic on the contract sighed, waiting for the accounts at Gringotts to recognize and approve of the magical signature of Mr. Severus Snape. He got a look.
Harry thought back to what he’d seen of the man’s hands, and tilted his head.
“You don’t teach Botany, do you? Or is it Herbology?”
At the questioning look, he gestures to his hands and said “The calluses, it looks like you work with your hands a lot, and I could see knife calluses, and though there’s no dirt—oh, is it potions? Are you the Potions Professor?” Harry didn’t know much about potions, had an idea of how complicated they were from a glimpse of Moste Potent Potions, but it was one of the subjects he was interested in diving into.
“Yes, I’m the Potions Master at Hogwarts… I expect I’ll be seeing you in class next year.”
It wasn’t a question, but Harry treated it as such.
“Probably. Ah, here you go,” the contract buzzed once and a slip of paper detached itself from the whole, “your receipt for proof of purchase. You will be contacted via Owl to know when your shipment is ready should you feel the need to pick up anything earlier. Will that be all today?” The slip disappeared into Mr. Snape’s robes with a nod, and Harry called farewell before pulling his gloves back on.
He had another three chickens to prepare before he could get to trimming the Magical Fennel for burn salve.
They would need it; they were getting a shipment of Flaming Nettle within the week.
Summer ended, and Harry was soon herded back into school with the other children.
Unfortunately into the same class as Dudley, but everything couldn’t be fine all the time.
He managed to get a seat near the window, and enjoyed the sun on his skin while the other students around him socialized. He wondered whom he’d have as a teacher this year.
The door opened, and everyone found their seats remarkably quickly.
The woman that walked in stole his breath away.
Her hair was a halo of curls, her hairline a straight contrast pulled back tightly with a headband. Her face was glowing in the sunlight coming through the windows, big brown eyes framed by laugh lines, and something inside Harry twisted and turned to goo.
He didn’t know if he liked the sensation or not.
Then she spoke.
“Hello class! Welcome to your first day back from summer vacation! I hope you all had fun… Now then, I’m sure I’ll be getting to know you all very well in the next year, and I recognize a few faces from last year, hi there, but a good number of you don’t know who I am.” She smiled, dimpling, and Harry’s heart leapt.
“My name is Mrs. Shaw, and I’m your Sixth Grade teacher.”
Horrible writers block has hopefully finished…
Seriously, you’ve all been so supportive, and it’s been hard to respond to these reviews with “Sorry, I’m working on it though!” like I have been, so thank you for the support and patience…
So hopefully this makes up for it.
I have a good portion of the next chapter ready, but it’s not quit done yet, so though I’ve been asking tis a lot, patience please!
Also, a few people have mentioned that Harry’s opinion of Quidditch is off, but that’s kind of the point. He’s never seen someone fly, he’s never seen the game played, and honestly if I had just had someone tell me about how great and fast brooms could be and then asked my opinion of Quidditch… well, the Seeker would probably seem a bit superfluous.
So no hate for the position, I’m just keeping things in synch with how I imagine things going.
As it is, I still think 150 points for catching the Snitch seems a bit much.
And yes, I know, Mrs. Shaw… and right after the Malfoy’s too!
What do you think?
Once upon a time there was a storybook.
It was old, its pages soft and ragged from indelicate fingertips flipping its pages, and the spine was nearly worn through with age. The pictures inside were amateurish at best, and the story was hardly multifaceted, but the best stories of your childhood hardly ever have adult things in them.
It’s a simple story, well loved in its life, and it is at once the best and worst thing to happen to Harry Potter.
The first day of class, as per tradition, didn’t have much learning happening.
There were lots of review sheets handed out, a booklet of refresher material they were to finish before next week, and Harry finished most of it in a daze.
Every time Mrs. Shaw looked his way he felt overly warm and tingly, and he might have been able to finish the entire booklet before then if it weren’t for these distractions.
He didn’t much mind though.
He did feel a bit irritated that Dudley apparently had her as a teacher the year before, that because of it Mrs. Shaw seemed to be paying a lot of attention to him and his friends, but there wasn’t anything Harry could do about it.
His eyes met Mrs. Shaw’s, from across the room, and he jerked, hurrying to get back to work.
His face felt ridiculously warm.
In the storybook, there are flowers of all sizes and shapes; petals in every shade and hue the artist could manage, with delicate hands tending them.
They dig deep into the dirt, until even the drawn wrists are smudged, let roots clutch at fingertips like children to a mother, and the plants thrive.
At one point, when everyone is mostly focused on their own booklets, Harry looks to Mrs. Shaw at her desk to find that she’s absently playing with the petals of the cut flowers at her desk.
He twitches a bit, never really liking the idea of clipping plants only to put them in a vase, and baffled as to why she would go to the trouble and then mangle the petals of the tulips… but then the clouds outside parted and she looked out the window with a smile and Harry forot all about that.
She was beautiful.
His fingers twitched, and he wondered if he would do her justice should he draw her.
Bare feet flex in grass, flowers flirting at ankles, and strong legs carry you through the story with words and images, laid along side the strong roots of trees and standing tall with the high grasses of the fields. All sorts of animals flit around; twining through legs, tugging at cloth, and the beasts are sheltered.
High above, where hands strain to reach, birds’ call down with song, and a wide welcome smile stretches far in response.
When Dudley and his friends gesture towards him to Mrs. Shaw, Harry knows it’s nothing good. Realizes that Dudley might’ve been telling Mrs. Shaw awful things about him the previous year—was actually very likely considering the look Mrs. Shaw gave him, and felt like just burying himself.
He really didn’t like the idea of Mrs. Shaw judging him based on what Dudley said… but had hope that maybe he could change her mind.
He would just have to be extra good.
The heavy feeling in hi chest sunk to his stomach at the sound of Dudley and his friends laughing, and he pursed his lips.
No, he would show that he was good. He could make Mrs. Shaw like him better. All the other teachers liked him better, Harry knew, and he could show Mrs. Shaw that he was the better student, too.
If asked, you probably wouldn’t remember much about what the story is actually about, but you would be able to say for sure that it was a good story.
The plotline isn’t fantastic, the art isn’t amazing, but on the whole it is a good story.
If you had to guess at what made this Harry Potters favorite book as a child, you might say it’s the plants, or all the animals, but you’d be wrong.
No, his favorite part was always the main character, the woman tending the plants and animals.
About to leave the class for the day, Harry stopped at Mrs. Shaw’s desk.
She looked up from the forms she was looking at, the welcoming smile dimming when she saw whom it was. Harry pushed on despite it.
He held out the review booklet, pages filled with his neat writing.
“Sorry, I just finished this today, so I was wondering if I could hand it in early…?”
Harry felt sure this would make some of what Dudley said about him seem better. He finished his work early, see? All his other teachers seemed happy when that happened.
The corner of her mouth twitched, but it wasn’t a smile. She didn’t look terribly happy. She took the book from him, flipping through the pages, and gave him a blank look.
“Well? Did you want a pat on the back then?”
Harry flushed, and his stomach twisted. “Um, no, I just wanted—”
Her sigh cut him off. She set his booklet down with a resigned air.
“Okay, look. I’ve been told what to expect from you form other teachers, and really it’s fantastic what you’ve shown them. But know that I’m not nearly so gullible.” She raised her eyebrows at him and tapped her fingers on the cover of the review booklet.
“I don’t condone tattling or suck ups in my class, and when I say that I want something to be finished by the end of the week, I expect it to be handed in along with everyone else. Do you understand me?”
Harry wished he could go bury himself now more than ever, but nodded.
She sat back in her chair and looked at him for a long moment.
“I’ll take this now, but none of this in the future. Now go on, I’ll see you in class tomorrow.”
Harry nodded again, words stuck somewhere in his throat and making it harder to breathe, and left.
Dudley was already gone with Uncle Vernon, of course, so he took a minute to himself to sit at the base of the tree in front of the school.
Sat, head between his knees, and breathed.
He’d never—he just hadn’t—
He sighed, long and hard, and thought that this year might be more difficult than he’d imagined.
Looking at the woman, things might be understood a little better.
Looking at the story itself, many things just make sense.
But looking at the woman in the book, with her wild curls, wide mouth, and smiling eyes, well it’s difficult to see why admiring a character in a book might have worse consequences for the future.
After all, it’s just a story right?
Short, I know, but if the last chapter was a hop into the next story arc, this is the skip, so look forward to the next chapter where we'll jump into it.
Also, I'd like it to be known that I'm finishing writing this last story arc before I post it, so there *is* going to be a bit of a gap, but I want to finish it entirely so I have everything ironed out.
So if you're wondering why I haven't updated in a while, or decide to complain about not knowing why I haven't updated a while, well you should try reading the end notes.