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Taking Charge

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26 June 2015

It was Harry’s first night back at the Dursleys, but he couldn’t sleep.

He hadn’t really slept for more than four hours a night since witnessing Cedric’s death. Yes, seeing Voldemort get a proper body and duelling him also kept him awake, but it was Cedric’s death that truly kept him from sleeping.

He didn’t really know him. He was a fellow champion. A fellow student. He was a few years older than him, but still young with dreams, desires, and aspirations. He had a nice and beautiful girlfriend. His parents, teachers and many Hogwarts students adored him. He was an exemplary student with good grades and a good character. He was a Prefect. He was a Seeker. He was a Quidditch Captain. He was a good person. He was so many things … and all those things were taken from him in the blink of an eye. It took one simple spell to end his future. His prospects. His happiness. His life.

It made Harry’s chest constrict. It made him agitated. Terrified. It made him think he could die just as easily and now that he thought about it, there were so many life threatening situations in his life that he wondered how he even managed to survive all that with just scratches and bruises: His first encounter with Fluffy. Quirrelmort attacking him. The encounter with the Whomping Willow. Voldemort’s diary setting a basilisk on him. Escaping the acromantulas in the Forbidden Forest. The dementors in his third year. His fall from the broomstick. The tournament and Voldemort this year and probably plenty situations more.

He was either extremely lucky or life was trying to tell him to get his shit together and stop putting himself in danger before his luck ran out for good and he really did end up dead. And it might not be even by Voldemort’s hand but something much more banal.

Life was such a delicate thing. Always under the threat of death.

He was aware it was natural for all life to come to an end to give space for other life forms to emerge, that death didn’t have to be the end, but rather the beginning … but death still frightened him. Now more than ever.

He supposed he shouldn’t concern himself over it. After all, he was young and full of life, right? Cedric’s youth was proof that just because you’re young, you’re not immune to death. You never know when something fatal might happen, whether it is an accident, a murder, a disease … or suicide.

No one was safe. No one was immune no matter the age (okay, maybe Voldemort was the exception to the rule … somehow).

He didn’t know what death felt like or what came after it. He supposed the idea of the immortal soul able to reincarnate provided comfort, but it was the uncertainty of what happened after one drew their final breath that filled him with dread … that made it hard to breath.

He didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. But what was life in the first place? What constituted being alive?

Was it breathing? Was it eating, sleeping? Was it being healthy? Was it being happy? Was it having sex and reproducing? Was it being at peace with oneself? Was it doing great things that left a physical mark on the world? Was it dying without regrets?

He didn’t know. He supposed it was all those things, but he wasn’t sure. What he did know was that for as long as he could remember his life had never truly been his own. There always seemed to be someone or something dictating his decisions or making the choices, important, life-changing choices, for him, and he didn’t like that.

No one should have that kind of power and authority over him. Yes, it was true that he was still a minor, not even fifteen yet, and that he lacked knowledge and skills to be completely independent, but if anything his life at the Dursleys had taught him was to take care of his basic needs should he ever live on his own. He knew how to cook, how to clean, how to do laundry, how to take out garbage, how to do grocery shopping, how to do gardening …

It was true that he had to learn all that the hard way and at an age where most children only cared about playing games and having fun, but now he could really see and appreciate the value and benefits of all the chores he was forced to do around the house for so many years. If he also learnt how to fix a leak, how to change a light bulb, how to fix an electrical or mechanical problem around the house, that would really make him independent and capable enough to live on his own.

He already had the trust vault at Gringotts filled with money, but maybe getting a summer part-time job wouldn’t be bad either. To keep his mind occupied with other things. Because if he kept his mind occupied, he wouldn’t have time or the energy to think about unpleasant things; Cedric’s death and Voldemort’s return being a couple of those unpleasant things.

But first, he would have to convince the Dursleys to let him work outside the house, to be absent for a few hours a day during work days, maybe an occasional Saturday or Sunday as well.

He needed a plan. He needed to write things down for himself to keep in mind. Not just something short term, but long term goals as well. It would be like writing New Years’ resolutions only that instead of waiting for the New Year to come, he was going to take charge of his life that very night.

He sat up in his bed, got up and started to look for something to write. He found a spiral notebook in A5 format and a few broken crayons. Not ideal, but better than nothing. Then, he sat on his bed again and let the moon give him light.

He decided to write a list. A list of things he would do to be in control of his life and to live happily, peacefully, healthy and for as long as he could. It took him at least an hour to compile it, but by the time he was done, he was satisfied with what he came up with.

HARRY’S LIST OF THINGS TO LIVE A LONG, HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PEACEFUL LIFE

  1. Look out for your health! – Eat healthy and regularly. Exercise (jogging, walking, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, stretching). Do yoga and meditation. Avoid too much stress. Don’t smoke. Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink alcohol (okay, maybe a glass for special occasions … like New Year).
  2. Love yourself! – Because self-love is important.
  3. Live and do things at your own pace! – Life is not and should not be a competition. If you haven’t done something another person has done by a certain age, don’t feel upset or like you’re missing out on something. You’ll do it if and when you feel like it. Don’t force yourself to do something just because other people are doing it.
  4. Get a summer part-time job(s) – something that allows you to build strength, stamina and muscles, and doesn’t require any sort of education beyond knowing how to write, read, add, subtract, multiply and divide. Check your local post office if they need weekly newspaper delivery and check in with the neighbours if they need baby or dog sitting. Then, once you turn 15, check in with a café or a restaurant for waiting tables, cleaning or some small work in the kitchen.
  5. Become more studious, but don’t become obsessed with grades! – Knowledge is power. Educate yourself about the world around you. Real knowledge should never be subjected to a grading system, because no one knows everything about everything so they can’t judge other people based on how little or how much they know about something.
  6. Be more open-minded! – The world and people are not black and white, but all kinds of grey. Don’t judge people before you get to know them! Re-evaluate your beliefs about what you know or think you know. Mainly your attitude towards Slytherins, but also the rest of the Hogwarts houses, as well as certain people in your life.
  7. Be less impulsive! – Think things through. Weigh your options, the pros and cons. Assess the situation. Never jump the gun or willingly and knowingly put yourself in harm’s way (only in extreme situations). However, don’t be afraid to try new things (either sports like martial arts, travelling to exotic places, learning foreign languages or doing things out of your comfort zone, like knitting, sewing, bobbin lacemaking, needlepoint tapestries, crochet and embroidery or colouring your hair in the colours of the rainbow).
  8. Quit Quidditch! – It’s a dangerous sport and it presents an unnecessary risk. At the end of the day, it’s not really important.
  9. Don’t let small things upset you or get to you! – Especially anything insulting that Malfoy and Snape say. It’s not worth it.
  10. Mend/improve your relationship with the Dursleys – Be careful in how you approach them, but no matter what, for your life to be peaceful, you need to be on their good side. Maybe offer to pay for your living expenses. You can still do household chores, especially when it gets too tough for Petunia (it will establish a better relationship … hopefully)
  11. Send a letter to Voldemort – Ask him about his motives, why he wants to kill you so badly. Offer a peace branch and avoid confrontation at all cost. Maybe get to know him. Maybe if you understand him, everything will make more sense.
  12. Improve your relationship with Snape – Maybe do something similar as with Voldemort. Ask him why he seems to dislike you so much. Apologise for all the times you’ve been rude to him, disrespected him, or could have put more effort into your school work, but didn’t.
  13. Find joy in small things! – Sometimes going back to nature is the answer.

It was by no means a complete list, so he could add more principles to follow as he went through his everyday life, but these 13 things were essential bits.

Later, before going to Hogwarts, he would do a poster where he would transcribe a shorter and more concise version of what he had now to hang it above his bed in the dorm so he could look at his list whenever he felt like it.

Now, that he was looking at number 7, he thought he should also write a list of things he wanted to try at least once in his life to see how he felt about them, but were not in any way life-threatening or hazardous to his health (physical or psychological).

He turned the spiral notebook to a blank page, grabbed another crayon in a different colour and started writing his second list.

HARRY’S LIST OF NON-LETHAL, NON-LIFE-THREATENING AND NON-HEALTH-HAZARDOUS THINGS TO TRY AT LEAST ONCE IN HIS LIFE

  1. Try at least one martial art! – Right now only Karate, Judo and Taekwondo come to mind, but add martial arts as you learn more about them.
  2. Learn at least one foreign language! – Pick one that really interests you, whether because it would be useful or because it sounds good (Spanish, Italian, French, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Portuguese, Hungarian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Aztec, Maya, Inca, Latin, Hebrew, Mongol, etc.)
  3. Read at least one religious/philosophical text! – Like the Bible or Quran, maybe something on Buddhism as well. Then all those famous philosophers like Aristoteles, Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche, Confucius, Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc. Just to see what they are about. Maybe they will provide you with practical life lessons to implement in your life.
  4. Travel to exotic places! – Or just another foreign country will do. See the world and explore its wonders.
  5. Try eating exotic food! – Or just try the cuisine from other cultures, nationalities, countries. (Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Mexican, Italian, French, Korean, Indian, etc.)
  6. Try your hand at crafts! – Especially things like knitting, needlepoint tapestries, bobbin lace, crochet, embroidery, and sewing. It’s useful as well as fascinating.
  7. Try doing different DIY projects! – Such as making pompoms, home/room décor, slime, etc.
  8. Try a few fun chemical experiments! – Look up a few basic, easy, non-dangerous chemical experiments you can do at home, but don’t actually do them at home. Ask Snape to let you experiment in a safe room.
  9. Try your hand at drawing and painting! – You might never be an amazing artist, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it.
  10. Try ballroom dancing! – Why not? It looks amazing. (Salsa, Cha Cha, Foxtrot, Waltz, Rumba, Cumbia, Bachata, etc.)
  11. Learn how to shuffle! – It looks so cool, and I want to be cool.
  12. Try to learn how to play at least one musical instrument! – There are many musical instruments, but I am most curious and interested to learn how to play the guitar (especially the electric one) or the drums. Those sound awesome to play as well.
  13. Try acting in a school play! – Convince your friends and schoolmates to set up a short play based on a famous literary play or fairy tale.
  14. Read fairy tales and stories for children! – Hans Christian Andersen and Brothers Grimm pop to mind immediately, but Roald Dahl is a must-read as well (especially Mathilda, The Witches, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
  15. Dye your hair in the colours of the rainbow! – Because why not. I want to see just how it makes me look. It’s not like I’ll wear rainbow-coloured hair for the rest of my life. A month or even a week will be more than enough.
  16. Wax at least once in your life! –I want to understand the pain of beauty. I already respect women and girls, but I have a feeling subjecting myself to waxing might just make me respect them even more.
  17. Get a baby doll with batteries and try being a parent! – Before you start thinking about marriage and kids, see if it’s something you would like to do for the rest of your life, or at least until the kids move out of the house. Divorce exists, but why would you get married in the first place if you were going to get divorced anyway. So, no. If I ever get married, I want to be sure that my significant other is the person I want to spend my life with and have kids.

By the time he reached number 17, he looked at the clock and saw it was already past two in the morning. He closed the notebook and put it under his pillow. Then, he tried to fall asleep until it was time to start his usual day at the Dursleys.

He should take advantage of being alone with his aunt in the kitchen to mention his plans of working part-time, paying for his living expenses, and just trying to improve the relationship to the point of cohabiting in relative peace, with no anger outburst from Vernon or bullying from Dudley. He was certain that if he could convince her, she would be the perfect middle person between him and her husband and son.

They might never have an amazing relationship, but as long as they could live under the same roof without him being a punching bag for Dudley, a stress reliever for Vernon and a house elf for Petunia, he was more than happy to spend his summers at the Dursleys.