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Into Dust

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Harry likes mornings, mostly. If he manages to be awake early enough, there's that bit of golden light coming through a chip in the door that, if he stays super still, can allow him to see the stars. He's seen the photos of the Milky Way on the wall on Miss Stevens' science board - these look the same, only maybe with not so many colors. Also, his stars move a whole lot more, like they have other places to be and are in a hurry to get there.

He doesn't usually get very long with them. Already, the dull thump of feet hitting the floor upstairs meets his sensitive ears and he grasps his blanket reflexively in ready defense of--

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

Harry's stars scatter as the stairs above his room rattle. Even though Harry is ready for it, as he is every morning, he still cringes back into his bed when the door bends inward under the rhythmic pounding laid against it by twin meaty fists. He almost feels bad; he can hide, but the door doesn't really have that option.

"Waaake up! Wake up! Harrrry, wake up! I want baaacon. Harry, wake up!"

"I’m up!" Harry replies once Dudley has had his shouting fill, knowing better than to be so rude as to interrupt. His blanket is cast aside and he crouches down by the door in wait for a lighter tread to come down the stairs, and he's not disappointed.

"Out. Now." Aunt Petunia opens the door from the outside and Harry ducks out as he's bid, squinting against the light of morning. "Wash, kitchen, mail. Hop to it."

Harry almost smiles, but doesn't want to test Aunt Petunia by showing happiness so early in the morning. She's in a good mood, though -he's got gotten a single cuff on the head so far! He'd had a headache in class the previous day for having made Dudley only four slices of bacon instead of five. Or, well, he'd made Dudley five but nicked half of one of them out of the pan for himself. He didn't think they'd notice, but they did, and Aunt Petunia had punished him for the half as if it'd been a full.

Washing himself is a quick task - all he has to do in the morning time is run the tap through his hair to remove the stars-- er, the dust, and sometimes a spider. He's always a bit glum when he finds a spider. He remembers two years ago when he was five and named one George after a king… and then never found it again. They're not very reliable pets, are they?

"Hurry up, boy!"

Oh, no, he's taken too long. Aunt Petunia says more mean things than she hits, but Uncle Vernon hits first and yells later… or yells while he hits. Harry barely runs the hand-towel through his hair before he's scurrying out into the kitchen.

"Sorry, Uncle Vernon. Sorry, Aunt Petunia," Harry says in a breathless rush, moving quickly to the fridge. Aunt Petunia has already started most of the fry-up; all he has to mind is the bacon, since he has to get his school things ready, too.

The morning passes in its usual way, only he's lucky to scrape by with only a whack across his shoulder with the car keys for having gotten in Dudley's way on the way outside.

"You should be grateful I drive you anywhere in my car, little freak," Uncle Vernon blusters, as he does every morning, shoving his overfilled suitcase into Harry's foot-space. It manages to clip Harry's shin, which has him scrape in a quick exhale, but doesn't vocalize his pain otherwise because his Uncle is still talking. It'll probably bruise, though. "Filthy as you are. What'll you be doing with an education, anyway? Waste of good citizens' money, taxes for school going to ingrates like you."

It's not like the large man is spitting these words out with intent to make him upset or anything, Harry thinks, his smarting eyes trained on the neighborhood accelerating past outside. He's mostly just muttering to himself, really, harmless stuff that he doesn't have to listen to. Dudley is harder to ignore, though, as he's taken his shoes and socks off to more comfortably kick Harry into the car door. He's got clammy feet.

"Stop that, boy," Petunia raps out sharply at Harry, not bothering to turn her head to check the backseat for the noise's source. She's tuning up her lip-liner in the window, eyes narrowed with her singular focus. "If you give me a headache and ruin my bridge game, you'll regret it when you're home."

Harry doesn't doubt it. Unfortunately, all he can really do to lessen the noise is put his satchel between himself and the handle so it doesn't rattle so much. If his were more like Dudley's, it would help, but Piers and Dudley have kicked at the poor bag so much it looks more misshapen thread than canvas. He doesn't know what's holding it together, at this point. Magic, probably.

When they arrive, Harry tumbles out of the car as fast as possible and races through the doors, eager to be as far away from Dudley for as long as he can manage it. It only lasts until the bell rings and they're all in class, but Dudley's late which adds a minute or two to his Dudley-free time. He counts it a success.

They start with maths, which Harry likes well enough. He has to hold his paper crooked so Dudley can see from three seats away, but he's used to looking at the numbers from this angle now. Then there's science, where they're learning about the difference between solids, liquids, and gases. Dudley is very solid, he thinks, trying not to laugh aloud at the thought. He glances to either side of him, maybe to see if there's anyone he can tell his joke to, but the kids in his class all studiously ignore him. They know better.

Harry blinks a few times and looks back to the teacher, letting his eyes go blurry and then not, blurry and then not. If he does it too much, he'll get a headache, but shifting his focus is a good way to not cry.

Lunch goes as it normally does, with Dudley taking all but his apple because he doesn't like apples. Harry doesn't much like apples himself, but he's grateful that Dudley doesn't think to take the apple too and trade it with Beverly for her crackers, which she never wants.

Harry keeps the apple, though. It fills him up better.

After lunch, there's reading. Everyone's always a little bit sleepy after lunch, so they all sit on the floor with their books in their laps as Miss Stevens reads aloud. Sometimes, she'll have one of the other kids read, but Harry likes her voice the most. She reads so sweetly, with a voice like honey, and she does the best voices. It makes his throat feel kind of tight, especially today for some reason.

"… and even though he was scared, Brian took the blankets off his head. His dad said there was nothing there and Brian trusted his dad to tell the truth."

Miss Stevens looks upon the drowsy children with a quick shade of a smile, the expression verging on something meaningful. "Together, they looked under the bed." She turns her page and there's a delay before the students follow, some quicker on the uptake than others. "'Aha! See? There's no monster. There are only your toys under the bed, Brian," his father said. "'Did you put them under the bed?' Brian nodded his head slowly. "Oh, Brian, you shouldn't…'"

Harry feels something sharp pecking repeatedly into the middle of his back. It's not hard enough to make him bleed, but it does make him lose track of the story in his haste to bat it away. He hears sniggering behind him, but he doesn't dare turn around: he'd never want Miss Stevens to look at him with disappointment like she does Dudley and Piers when they don't pay attention.

The clatter of the offending object hitting the floor makes her pause briefly, but she's back to reading shortly after. He glances down. A pencil. He waits a moment, ear turned slightly to Dudley and Piers - sure enough, they're ignoring him again. He slips a hand to his side and quickly grabs the pencil, stuffing it into the pocket of his too-large trousers.

He's relieved, more than anything; his last pencil got stepped on, so he needed a new one anyway.

Lost in his thoughts as he is, the rest of Harry's day seems to fly by, even recess. He gets chased, of course, and kicked, but halfway through Miss Stevens steps outside to smoke a cigarette right near the spot where Harry got caught so they let him go free.

All in all, it's a good day, Harry thinks on his way home. As he's ducking underneath a hole in the fence of Mr. Jameson's backyard, his two dogs hop up from their respective spots in the shade to prance around his legs and yip their greetings.

"Shhh, shh," Harry bids them, glancing up at the second storey to make sure Ms. Jameson isn't peeking through her curtains. "I don't have anything today. I'm sorry. Tomorrow I'll bring you something, I promise."

Harry makes quick work of getting back to No. 4, even with his slightly longer back-route. It's worth the time it takes to not encounter Dudley on the way, though…

"Boy? Where's Dudders?" Aunt Petunia's shrill voice comes from somewhere in the house. He'd only just stepped through the door - it's like she has powers or something, to know whenever someone goes in or out no matter how quiet they try to be.

"Erm, I walked ahead of him, Aunt Petunia," Harry tells his aunt, trotting closer to the source of her voice so he doesn't get in trouble for shouting, even if it's only to be heard across rooms. "He was with Piers Polkiss."

Harry finds his Aunt Petunia folding laundry in the washing room, her brow shiny with a thin sheen of sweat. She narrows her eyes at this response, surveying his face thoughtfully as though to scour for lies. He and Dudley are technically supposed to walk home together, but it's mostly only for supervision. Aunt Petunia isn't unreasonable enough to be actually angry, he thinks, but she purses her mouth as if she's eaten a lemon anyway.

He thinks sometimes that she likes to be mad and tries to find reasons to be just because.

"Into your cupboard. No snack." Harry almost laughs at this last. He never gets a snack and doesn't expect one even when he hasn't somehow incurred Aunt Petunia's sharp tongue. He doesn't really want to go to his room right now, because today is weeding day and he wanted to see how his flowers are doing… but one look at his aunt's stony face and he knows she's immovable.

"Yes, Aunt Petunia."

Harry's cupboard smells especially musty in the afternoon, the sunlight from the front entrance shining through the decorative glass panes to meet the warped wood of his room's door. It makes it almost unbearably warm this time of day, but it also means he has light to do his homework by.

He does it in the order they're taught throughout the day: maths, then science, then reading. By the time he gets to the reading, having been distracted a few times throughout the previous two by the sounds of Dudley and then Vernon getting home, he doesn't have enough light to finish.

The little cupboard's door is watched for a while, but as late afternoon transitions to proper evening and the sound of something hot and sizzling meets the pan, Harry realizes he won't be let out tonight. Even after this realization, he still hopes; perhaps Aunt Petunia will remember him when they're setting out places at the table, but no. Ceramic and silverware clink loudly and the Dursleys enjoy their dinner without Harry.

He's pretty good about not crying, normally, but he's been a little bit off all day and it's a combination of all of the things that has him doing so a little now. He buries his mouth into the butt of his hand, the pain of teeth cutting into the inside of his lip reminding him of far worse pain that could come from their hearing him snivel. He stays quiet.

Sniffling is annoying, he knows, but it's wouldn't be for no reason, he thinks. He's only had an apple today and he never got to finish Miss Stevens' story. Was the monster really just toys? He'd never heard about monsters being under beds before, and it seems like a whole waste of a storybook to not show you a whole world of monsters to make friends with.

Maybe Brian needed friends and that's why he came up with the idea of a monster just for him. He may have been scared at first, but change is hard. Harry knows that - he's big enough to realize that he doesn't have any friends and that this is strange and that maybe he's strange, and though Dudley might try to kick them too, he still wants them. That's change. It'd be scary, but he wants it. Well, maybe not the kicking part but the rest, he wants.

He wants.

As evening finally transitions to night, Harry lays back against the coat he uses as a pillow and stares up at the uneven ceiling of his room. It's not until the whole house is still and bedded that Harry hears something thumping softly underneath the bed. It's a soft sound, barely there, but he knows every inch of his cupboard and every sound it can produce and the only way to make that particular sound is rubbing something solid and thick against the rotted wood just under his sleeping place.

A thrill goes through Harry, his heartbeat quickening with a mixture of fear and something else he can't put a name to. This has to be a dream; it's never happened to Harry before, and the coincidence… well.

"Hello?" Harry whispers into the darkness, his voice not loud enough to drown out the sound of his heart beating in his ears. For less than second, he considers that it might be a prank by Dudley, but no - the fat boy wouldn't fit under his bed, it being so close to the floor. He could probably fit in his cupboard, sure, but Harry would have definitely noticed.

When he receives no response, he grasps at the edge of his bed and begins to lean over the side, swallowing thickly. There's a moment when Harry hesitates, a shaky breath taken in and held, before he finally peers underneath and sees…

A book. He sees a dark little book, maybe the size of two of Aunt Petunia's hands laid flat side-by-side. That and one of his broken toy soldiers are the only things there. A feeling like being kicked in the belly registers to Harry's mind and he doubles over with his disappointment, coat-pillow dragged over his head as he falls back into the little mattress.

He shouldn't have gotten his hopes up. Just like in Brian's story, it's nothing more than toys. Well, and a book, but books don't make thumping noises underneath the beds of boys like him. He knows that. He knows that, he plugs his ears, and he makes himself go to sleep.

It'll still be there in the morning.