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Under The Surface

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Strangeness was not allowed here, at number 4 Privet Drive. Harry had come to understand this early, however, he found that strangeness seemed to follow him everywhere, and his Aunt and Uncle blamed him. When things flew from the shelves, when toys changed color, or when an object changed shapes, he found himself facing the shrill, cruel screeching of his Aunt and her knife-like words that never seemed to fail to cut deep, or the fist (or, if it was especially bad, the belt) of his Uncle.

The worse of the two was difficult to decide. His aunt always seemed to know what to say to get to him. From his worthlessness, to his scrawny figure, to his parents who never wanted him, the boy was stripped from top to bottom and picked apart. He’d stand there clutching his oversized trousers, head low as his thick, unruly hair covered his teary eyes. If she caught him crying, it’d just get worse.

“Don’t you get to crying, boy,” she’d snap at him. “What’ve you got to cry for? We should’ve left you in the streets the second we saw you. You’ve been nothing but trouble. You should be grateful we’ve given you a roof over your head. It’s more than you deserve”

Then she’d go on to describe the way his parents talked about him; how they knew from the moment he was born that he’d amount to nothing. She’d lament about how she knew any child of her sister’s would be a troublesome, unruly one, but she didn’t think any child could match the awfulness of Harry. She’d state that his parents had likely died to escape from him, which would always be the point he started crying if he hadn’t begun already.

His uncle, on the other hand, wasn’t as eloquent in expressing how pathetic Harry was, but wasn’t silent either. He’d grab the boy, normally by the tangled mat of hair on his head, and hit him relentlessly. In the face, in the gut in the chest. Wherever he could reach, getting out the frustrations of the day. Or, he’d remove his belt, fold it over itself, and repeatedly whip the boy on the back and on his legs, raising welts and cuts upon his skin.

No plea stopped his rage until it was spent, so Harry would spend the time curling in on himself and blocking out the torrent of mismatched words that were directed at him, calling him worthless, good-for-nothing, horrible, disgusting, and anything else that was passing through the man’s mind.

When either had finished, he’d be sent back to his tiny cupboard under the stairs where he’d nurse his wounds, mental or physical, and wait.

He wouldn’t be spoken to or acknowledged while there in the cupboard. He had no way to pass the time, no way to know when it was or when he’d be let out. Frequently, if he had done something especially damning, he would be left there for what he could only assume was days without being let out. Having soiled himself several times, and both greatly starving and dehydrated, he’d cry against the door, hardly able to raise his voice enough to ask for just a bit of water. They’d be merciful eventually, allowing him to wash up for ten minutes where he’d spend most of it drinking the water from the sink, then he’d jump into the cold shower (freaks like him couldn’t use the hot water, and he wouldn’t have time to allow it to heat up anyway), clothes and all, and wash until his aunt banged on the door and demand he come out before he wasted all the water.

If he was quick in cleaning out the foul-smelling cupboard, he’d be given some food before being tossed into his next chore.

And so it went for years. He hardly spoke, communicating in quick nods and bowed heads. He couldn’t argue with any task given to him. Should he have already done a chore he was ordered to do, he would do it again. Once, he had voiced that he had completed his chores given to him, which had landed him a burned forearm, too many welts to count, and three days in the cupboard with no light and no communication. He never argued with anything his aunt or uncle asked of him again.

As for his cousin, everything the troublesome boy did was blamed on him. Every broken plate was Harry’s fault, every mood swing and temper tantrum. No, even with his deeds in front of his parents gaze, he could do no wrong, and when the boy could walk, he began terrorizing Harry, purposely doing things to get the boy in trouble, getting his friend’s to join him in chasing Harry down the street, into the woods, into any hiding spot he could find. And if Harry was caught by his cousin that grew larger and larger every day, he’d be beaten and tossed around like he weighed nothing, thrown to the ground and stopped on, trying to remain motionless so his cousin would get bored and leave.

But there were moments of peace. Time where his relatives left on vacations he wasn’t invited to. Time where he could sit in the back by the garden and be alright. Time to himself. He lived only for these moments of peace.

He went for years like this, hopping from one peaceful moment to the next. Often, these moments were few and far in between, but it was all he could look forward to. And he survived for eight years before his poor luck got the better of him.

He had been shopping with his aunt, which was a rare treat unto itself. He hardly got the chance to leave the house, so he was under strict orders to behave himself. His aunt had needed his help in the many groceries she was buying, which would be used in making a dinner for the social she had planned that night.

Harry knew the social would mean his relatives would be on high alert. He would likely be providing the food, yet never seen by any of the guests. No, he’d be shut away in his cupboard long before the guests would be filing into the home, complimenting his aunt on her wonderful cooking skills. Still, this provided him a chance to venture outside the confines of the Dursley home, so he took it gratefully.

This also meant that his aunt couldn’t be as openly horrible. He knew he’d be berated harshly later with every foul thing she had on her mind to say, but for a time he could enjoy, though he’d be beaten for thinking so, her unwilling silence to his clear wrongdoings.

He wandered the aisles, searching for each ingredient she barked his way, squinting his eyes at the labels. He attempted to be quick, but flinched when he put the wrong ingredient into the cart.

“I said low-fat, boy!” She hissed at him, keeping her voice down begrudgingly. “Are you deaf?”

He quickly bowed his head and removed the offending object, squinting closer to the cans to find the correct ingredient. His hands were already shaking, and he recalled he hadn’t eaten since the morning before. If he could be good, he’d be able to eat, but the labels only got harder to read as his shaking worsened, and her impatience grew.

“Hurry up, boy!” She snapped, a little too loudly, and suddenly his hand slipped, causing the can he had been holding to fall. Without thinking, afraid to make noise, he tensed, and the can abruptly stopped its descent.

His breathing stilled. He didn’t need to look up to know his aunt was staring at him with hardly contained fury, face red and hands shaking.

Strangeness was not allowed…

The can dropped.

She marched quickly to him, grabbing him by the upper arm. Her thin frame was misleading; the woman’s iron grip was strong enough to bruise, but he kept his pain hidden.

“What have we told you, freak?” She said lowly, eyes darting around to nearby customers. None seemed to be taking notice, but her precious reputation was in danger should one of them have seen.

Harry couldn’t breathe.

“You’ll be hearing from Vernon when we get back,” she threatened quietly, and Harry could hear his heart in his ears, feel it pulsing up his neck and down to his toes, but he bit his lip to keep his impending whimper down. He should’ve known better… He deserved it…

Harry attempted to disrupt his aunt as little as possible for the rest of the trip. He wouldn’t be seeing the outside world for a long time, he knew. He wondered at if he could sneak away an apple, but then again, if anyone found out, whether his aunt or someone else, he’d be lucky to be fed before the next week.

The moment he got home, his aunt went to his uncle sharing the news of the great atrocity he had committed, heavily exaggerating the details.

“That freak! You should’ve seen what he did. In public! We were surrounded by dozens of other people! It’s a miracle none of them saw! I’m certain he was trying to get their attention, the ungrateful brat. Wanted to ruin my perfect night with his freakishness.”

If he had the voice to, and a much wilder attitude, he might have attempted to correct the unfair telling of the event. But he had neither the attitude, nor the voice to correct his aunt. The mere suggestion that he should would send him into a fit of panic, just thinking of the beatings that would follow such ungratefulness.

His uncle, red in the face, made good on the threat his aunt had given him. Punched in the face, chest, and stomach, he was held up and against the wall by his hair alone, even as he attempted to curl in on himself, while his aunt tore into him verbally, recounting the ways he was a worthless, ungrateful, stupid freak. He briefly heard his cousin’s laugh from a few feet away before his head was slammed into the wall and the world was sent sideways, his hearing overcome by a distinct ringing sound.

He became acutely aware that he was still being beaten. His uncles belt was off and his shirt was above his head. The leather smacked down harshly on his still-healing back, opening old wounds and creating new ones over his bony spine. Harry’s breathing came out in strangled spurts, hardly there to register what was going on anymore.

Eventually, he must’ve passed out, as the next moment found him lying on the cool ground in his dark cupboard. Voices from outside swam into his senses, and he supposed he must’ve been out for a while, as it seemed like the party was already ending.

He quietly assessed himself, checking what was broken. His wrist was tender, where he’d fallen on it most likely, but he could bend it. His ribs, however, had at least a few cracked or broken among their numbers.

Had it not been for the dizziness in his head, he might’ve been concerned about said dizziness. His head felt like it was split open, and he was disoriented and faint, so he lay there, staring blindly up at the ceiling, the darkness making it all the more impossible to reorient himself, as he couldn’t tell if he had lost consciousness again or not, until he woke up somewhere else.

The truth was that he had lost consciousness again. Petunia and Vernon had sent their son to bed and sat down for an evening tea when the door was knocked on. Cursing the guest already for the rudeness of their visit at such an hour, Vernon stood to answer the door, his wife staying behind, but listening all to intently, as she was so used to doing.

The person behind the door was actually two people, a man and woman. The woman, Olivia Shaw, a stocky middle-aged woman that definitely stood less than five feet, had rimless glasses and an all-to-calm expression, as though she could witness a massacre and not be fazed in the slightest. The man, Basil Truscott, on the other hand, was tall and muscular, holding an extremely bored countenance, casually looking Vernon up and down. He was there for extra protection for Olivia (though should a fight break out, he doubted Ms. Shaw would need any help), and seemed to be almost begging something to go wrong to rid himself of his intense boredom.

“Good evening,” the woman said evenly, her voice having the fakest sort of sincerity that the Dursleys knew well. “I hope you are well.” Vernon grunted a nearly amused snort at her comment.

“Good evening…” he mocked sarcastically. “What the bloody hell do you want at this hour?”

“Ah yes, I didn’t mean to interrupt your night,” she said, though clearly having no true remorse behind her words, “I was simply wondering about the young wizard you have living here.”

The words were said with such simplicity, that it took Vernon a while to realize just what had been said. He sputtered a moment, attempting to gather himself, then his face turned an ugly shade of purple.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he snapped defensively at the unfazed woman. “Don’t come back here.” And with that, he attempted to slam the door in their face. The man, however, slapped his hand on the door quickly, easily reaching over the woman and stopping the door on its way to be shut, still seeming as unexcited as ever.

“I believe you do know what I’m talking about,” the woman said, as behind Vernon, Petunia stepped in to see what was happening. “I saw today he displayed magic at the grocer. I simply came to offer you my help.”

“We don’t want help from any of your kind,” Petunia snapped, stepping closer and glaring at the woman, even as Vernon continued to attempt to push the door closed, but Basil’s hand remained unrelenting.

“Oh I believe my offer of the utmost interest to you. You see, I’d like to take him off your hands.”

Vernon stopped abruptly, staring at the woman, and Petunia seemed taken aback at first, but her expression quickly changed to suspicion.

“Why?” She asked evenly, her eyes narrowed curiously, attempting to hide her interest at the idea of dumping the boy off with anyone else.

“We have a great interest in young witches and wizards such as the boy you have here,” the woman stated, casually adjusting her glasses. “We will house him elsewhere, and you needn’t hear from him ever again. All we ask is that you forget we were ever here.”

The Dursleys mulled this over between them, glancing to one another. Such an opportunity was nearly too good to be true, and was also quite a rare one. Both knew that they didn’t want to pass it up.

“That’s it?” Vernon asked.

“That’s it,” Olivia responded.

“And we’ll never hear from him again?” Petunia asked, knowing the implications of such a statement, but not caring in the slightest.

“Not at all, the boy is as good as gone from your lives.”

That was the sentence that sealed it. Vernon all but threw the cupboard door open, grabbed the unconscious boy, and threw him into the arms of Basil, who slung him over his shoulder and casually sauntering over to the edge of the property, disappearing once he hit the sidewalk, taking the boy with him.

“Thank you so much for your cooperation,” Olivia said, a smile on her lips that never reached her eyes. “It’s been a pleasure. Have a nice evening.”

And then she was gone.