This story was inspired by
Harry Potter and the Hidden Kingdom by QuibbleMeThis : https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12534241/1/Harry-Potter-and-the-Hidden-Kingdom ,
Ever Upward by Stranglerfig : https://archiveofourown.org/series/1555645 , and
Harry's Island Home by DireSquirrel : https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/harrys-island-home-harry-potter-that-flies-off-the-rails-quickly.325447/page-1
I could not in good conscience just write this without a disclaimer and promotion for their works. I enjoyed them all, please read them!
As usual, standard disclaimer applies. World and characters belong to J.K.Rowling, and I make no money from this.
Harry James Potter, resident of the tiny cupboard beneath the stairs at 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging in Surrey, rolled onto his side and wrapped his arms around his empty stomach. Light speared into his darkness through the crack between the cupboard door and the jamb, but didn't illuminate his surroundings much. It really only served to further contrast the difference between In Here and Out There. Harry could hear Dudley laughing at Basil Brush on the telly, but it only put a different kind of hurt in his tummy.
So many times he'd asked himself why Dudley was allowed to watch telly and eat whatever he liked and why he got toys and bicycles when Harry was made to weed the gardens and got locked in his cupboard and fed a slice of dry toast once in a while. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon said it was because he was a Freak. That his mother and father had been filthy scum that had rightfully died in a car crash because his father had been a good-for-nothing drunk.
Harry knew better.
He didn't remember his mum and dad, of course, he'd been much too little. He had watched from his cupboard though. He had watched and listened at school. He knew he was just the same as most of the other kids, if a lot quieter. He'd learned very early that loud was painful and quiet was safe.
He had no idea if his mum and dad had died in a car crash, there was nothing to tell him they hadn't, but Harry knew for a fact that both Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon lied. They lied about him being a freak, they lied to the neighbours about him, they lied to each other.
They were liars.
Yes, his mum and dad might have died in a car crash, but Harry didn't think so. He was fairly certain they were dead though, why else was he stuck with his horrid shrill Aunt and her fat lazy husband?
They were horrid, too. Harry didn't feel even a little guilty about thinking so. He would never say so out loud, of course, that would mean more cupboard and more pain and less food. None of the other children he'd talked to at school had cupboards. They didn't starve in the dark. They didn't have scars from being belt-whipped. They had full meals and hugs and their own bedrooms and ate with their families. That was how he knew the Dursleys were horrid. That, and he just knew deep down in his heart that they were mean, bad people. They were Evil, and they had trapped him there. They made him do the nasty chores they didn't want to and treated him badly, just like in the Cinderella book that Dotty Sheridan liked. He liked Dotty, she was nice and she smiled at him. She talked to him when nobody else was around.
He was going to miss her.
The sound of Aunt Petunia ushering Dudley up the stairs broke him out of his thoughts, and he uncurled himself. He tied his blanket around his waist with its precious cargo wrapped inside, nestled against the small of his back. It was the only time Harry had ever been thankful that Dudley was so fat. His old shirt - the one Harry wore - hung off his tiny shoulders and hid what he wanted hidden.
As usual, once Dudley was safely tucked into bed with a night time story, Aunt Petunia tromped down the stairs and unlocked his cupboard.
"Out." She ordered. "Bathroom. Don't forget to wash your hands, freak." Her voice was sharp and thin like a paring knife.
"Yes Aunt Petunia." Harry obeyed with downturned eyes and a soft voice, just like always. Aunt Petunia sniffed sharply as well.
"Wash the rest of you as well, you stink! Five minutes!"
Harry fought to keep the smile off his face and play his part. "Yes, Aunt Petunia."
He walked quickly to the downstairs bathroom. He knew there was another bathroom upstairs, but he'd never seen it. The upstairs bathroom was for decent people, not freaks.
He closed the door behind him and turned the tap on. He really did want a wash, and he really needed to use the loo, but he could do that later. He only had five minutes, but it would be all the time he needed.
He climbed onto the toilet seat, and then onto the tank, careful to make no noise, and gently opened the square window on the wall above the tank. Aunt Petunia had complained to Uncle Vernon about claw marks in the screen from neighbourhood cats climbing on it, and Uncle Vernon had removed the screen to fix it. That had been last weekend, and he hadn't put it back yet.
Harry carefully climbed out the window and hung onto the sill while he closed the window. He knew it was a big drop from where he was to the hedgerow below. He knew it would probably scratch him and catch on his clothes, but he didn't hesitate. He let go of the windowsill and pushed himself away from the wall with his feet.
As he thought, the hedge was scratchy, but it wasn't too bad. He slipped through the branches and crawled toward the neighbour's house once he hit the ground. When he was free of the hedge, he stood and ran as quickly as he could. The night air both chilled him and soothed the hot scratches on his neck and legs while he ran. He stopped to look both ways before he crossed the street, but Primrose Lane was empty of cars when he arrived.
He paused again to cross Magnolia Way, but it seemed that nobody was out, so he ran on. He had planned to go to the park on Wisteria Street, but had nixed that almost as soon as he planned it. He liked it there, and Aunt Petunia knew that. No, he had ditched that plan in favour of one much bolder, much more ambitious.
Aunt Petunia had always wanted to go to Paris, she talked about it endlessly. That's why Harry decided he would go there first, just to be mean back to her for a change. He would send her a postcard.... maybe.
The map on the wall at school said France was south, and that Brighton was between Surrey and France, so that was where he aimed for. He didn't have a compass, that would have helped a lot, but he had a name, and he knew that there were signs on the roadways that said how far it was to different towns. All he had to do was find one that said Brighton and follow that road. He also knew that the sun rose in the east, so if he hadn't found a roadsign by the time the sun came up, he would just head south.
He walked for more than an hour before he saw a sign that welcomed him to Great Whinging, and Harry cracked a smile then. Uncle Vernon complained endlessly of the traffic on the roads. "It's alright through Great Whinging, but buggers you once you hit the A24." He'd said.
Harry didn't know what buggers was, but it didn't sound good. However, the A24 was a major road, and it was on the far side of Great Whinging, so he knew he'd made progress.
He kept to the shadows as much as possible, but it stopped being possible once he got to the big town. There were sidewalks and streetlights, so he didn't bother to hide then, he just walked like he knew where he was going and thankfully no-one bothered him. He got strange looks from a couple walking a small dog, but he smiled at them and kept walking.
Thankfully the sidewalks ran out before long, and he was able to walk in the shadows under the trees next to the road.
He stopped just before the A24 for a rest and to eat one of the slices of toast he'd saved. The road he followed had a bridge over a river, so he carefully went down to it and drank his fill while he munched the toast. It was ever so much better than trying to just eat the dry toast.
Harry heaved a great sigh when he was finished and felt a hundred times better. The air smelled fresh, and he knew he was free. He still had to make it to France, and he wanted to stay free so he knew he still had to hide, but no more cupboard . Not ever. He couldn't stop smiling.
After he felt rested, he resumed his walk alongside the road, and switched to the A24 when he came to it after a few minutes. The signs said A24 North and A24 South, so he went south. He walked for another hour or two, and passed through another town, but he didn't remember the name of it because he was really tired. He wanted a nice spot to curl up, but he thought he'd better push on. He'd planned to sleep during the day and walk at night so he would be less noticed, but it didn't seem to be working.
Finally, after another however-long, he spotted a forested bit beside the road, so he left the road, but didn't go too far. He hunkered down at the base of a tall, thick tree, untied his blanket from around his waist and wrapped himself in it. He took care to keep his remaining piece of toast safe, and rested his head on his knees.
When he woke, the world was already bright. He had to push himself up the tree with his hands, as his back and knees were numb and stiff. After he stood up and moved around a bit and had a wee behind some shrubs, he felt better.
'I should not sleep sat up like that anymore.' He decided, and set out on his way again. He kept the road in sight, but walked within the trees as far as they lasted, which wasn't very far. He passed by small village and then another on the opposite side, and after the sun had started to descend in the west, Harry decided he couldn't take the growling in his tummy anymore and ate his last piece of toast. It wasn't as nice as the first piece of course, because he didn't have anything to drink, but it satisfied the hunger for a little while.
He came to a bit of road next to a town where there were lots of roads all meeting each other, so he had to be very careful and looked both ways a lot before he darted across each one, but after a while he made it through.
As the sun began to sink toward the horizon on his right, Harry's mood sank as well. He was SO thirsty! He was getting hungry again as well. His feet hurt and his legs hurt, so he found a nice spot behind a thick tree. He started to hunker down as he'd done the last night, then remembered it was a bad idea.
There were some shrubs nearby, and he thought it might be better if he could lie on top of those, the tops looked soft enough. He started to put his blanket over the shrub when he heard a voice.
"Who's that? What are you doing?" The voice demanded.
Harry backed up immediately and draped his blanket over himself with just his eyes showing over the top. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean it!" He apologized.
A small, sleek head poked through the leaves halfway down the shrub and looked directly at him. "Well." It said, "There's something you don't see every day."
It was a snake! The snake talked! It had shiny black scales on its top half and cream-coloured ones on its lower half, and it talked!
Harry was so shocked he couldn't think of anything else.
"Why would a Speaker be out here causing an earthshake in my pit?" The snake asked.
"I didn't know there was a pit." Harry replied, fascinated enough to overcome his fear. "Sorry. I was just trying to find a place to sleep off the ground. I tried sleeping on the ground when Uncle Vernon locked me out and the ground is too cold to sleep on."
"Dumb multi-body thing. Don't you know to dig a pit? My pit is lovely and cozy. I lined it with feathers from birds I've eaten."
"That does sound nice, but I can't. I'm travelling south. I only need a good spot to sleep for tonight." He wanted water more than anything. He was so thirsty.
"Hm." The snake nodded, "Might take you a while to dig a pit too. You many-body things are huge."
Harry sniffed. He just wanted to go to Paris. Why did the road have to be so long? Why couldn't he just find another river to drink from? Why couldn't he just find some more food? Nothing was turning out at all like he'd imagined.
"What are you doing with your eyes?" The snake glided out of the shrub farther, and looked to be a long snake. He - she? Got thicker through the middle, and hovered in the air as it looked at him curiously.
Harry scrubbed his eyes with his forearm. "I can't help it. I try not to cry because that just makes everything worse, but I'm so thirsty and hungry and my legs hurt and..." He covered his face with his arms while the tears came.
When he had let all the tears run and they had run out, he looked up again, and the snake was right there in front of him. It licked his cheek.
"Salty." It said. "Very curious. What are legs and why do they hurt?"
"Tears." Harry said. "My eyes leak tears when I'm sad or angry." Harry pulled the blanket up and put his hands on his legs. “These are my legs, they hurt from walking so much.”
"I see... Interesting. Why do only your lower legs hurt? Were you not loping properly like those detestable vulpine?”
Harry didn’t know what a vulpine was, but he’d heard that wolves loped so he assumed it meant walking on four legs. “I don’t lope, I walk on two legs.”
“Hmm.” The snake turned its head this way and that as it eyed him up and down. “You're upset because you're hungry and thirsty and hurting?"
The snake flicked its tongue at him curiously. "Why have you not just used your shiff?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't know that word. What's shiff?"
"Hm." The rest of the snake's long body slithered out of the shrub and it lowered down onto its coil in thought. "How to explain... Shiff is... how you are Speaking. It's the colours in the sky. It's the bond between you and the earth. It's the tingle under your scales that tells you there's danger nearby even when you don't know."
Harry frowned. "I don't think I have any of that."
"You do." The snake bobbed its head up and down. "Not all two-legs have shiff, and not all that do can Speak, but all who can Speak do. You definitely have it, since you are Speaking."
"Okay... So if I have it, how do I use it like you said?" Harry sat up and crossed his legs.
"I don't know how two-legs use it, Speaker. For me it's when I'm hunting, when every part of me is intense and focused on what I want. My prey can’t even move when I do it correctly."
"Intense and focused on what you want." Harry repeated softly. He took a deep breath in and let it out while he focused on the picture of what he wanted. As he did, he felt a kind of warm pressure start to build up inside him. It began in his head and spread down his spine into his chest and arms. When it reached his hands, there was a flowing sensation, and it instantly drained away.
A large pitcher of icewater appeared in front of him. Harry stared at it for a moment, almost not believing it was real.
"There." The snake said. "I told you you had shiff." It rose up and leaned into him, and tapped its nose on his chest twice, then flicked its tongue at him. "Quite the colossal amount, as well. I can fairly taste it."
Harry reached up and stroked the top of the snake's head a few times. "Thank you." He said, "If you hadn't been here I might never have learned."
He picked up the pitcher and guzzled water until he had to stop for fear of freezing his throat. "Want some?" He asked the snake, and offered the pitcher.
The snake nodded up and down, so Harry lowered the pitcher toward it. The snake flicked out its tongue delicately to find the surface of the water, then held the tip of its head there and looked like it was chewing the surface of the water. Harry thought it was really cute.
"Ahh! Refreshing!" The snake said when it lifted its head away from the water. "My thanks, two-leg."
"I'm Harry." Harry said, and took another drink.
"Yes of course you are, you don't have scales. It's all over your head, and even on your face." The snake relaxed back into a coil again.
Harry laughed. "No, I mean I'm Harry. That's my name. I might be a two-leg, but there are lots and lots of two-legs, but only one me. Names are how we tell each other apart."
"Interesting." The snake replied, "Wouldn't it be easier to just use taste? That's what we do."
"Two-legs don't have a good sense of taste I guess?" Harry frowned. "Not as good as most of the four-legs. Probably not as good as you snakes either, since you can tell who your friends are that way."
"Snakes. You're a snake. It's our word for your kind of no-legs with scales." Harry smiled and took another drink.
"Interesting. It's not a bad word, I kind of like it. It sounds sort of slinky."
"Us two-legs are good at names, I think." Harry said sagely. "I don't think it makes up for a bad sense of taste, but at least it's something."
"That's the proper attitude, Harry. Appreciate what you have instead of hissing over what you don't have."
"I'll try to 'member that." Harry said with a serious face. After all, the snake knew what he was talking about, he'd helped Harry to make water.
"Good. Farewell, Harry Two-leg." The snake unwound and headed toward the shrub it had come from.
"You're leaving?" Harry asked, suddenly panicked.
The snake stopped and turned back to look at him. "I have to get to my pit, I don't want to freeze. It's not as bad as the cold season, but the sky-light is almost down."
"Oh." Harry understood, but he was sad that the snake had to go. It was the closest thing to a friend he'd had since school stopped for the summer. Even Dotty wasn't as good a friend as the snake, Dotty had never taught him anything and always ran off when one of the other kids called for her. "I hope you have a brilliant life then, Snake No-legs. I do have to get to Paris as well."
The snake nodded and turned to go. "Have a brilliant life, Harry Two-leg."
Harry took another drink from the pitcher and watched as the snake disappeared under the shrub. He sighed, and then looked at the pitcher in his hands.
If he could make a pitcher of icewater...
He took another deep breath and closed his eyes to concentrate on what he wanted. The warm pressure built in his head and chest and arms, and then flowed out of him when it reached his hands.
He opened his eyes, but there was nothing new there.
"Maybe it doesn't work with food." He said sadly.
He took another drink of water, and just as he put the pitcher down again, something flew toward him so fast that he caught it reflexively, without thinking.
It was silver, and hot in his hands. He carefully put it down and unwrapped the silver paper while his heart beat faster. He tried not to get his hopes up, but...
It was! A hot, juicy hamburger, just for him! All to himself!
Harry tentatively took his very first bite of something he had drooled over for years, and his eyes closed by themselves as he chewed. It was so good! He could even taste the cheese and tomato and lettuce along with the delicious meat! It was the single best thing he had ever put in his mouth, and he devoured it like he couldn't stop himself. When he was done he licked the wrapper to get the bits that had dropped.
He wiped his hands on his trousers and leaned back against the tree. He was... He felt... well full, of course. It was more food than he'd ever eaten at one time before, but it was more than that. It was like his heart was full at the same time.
He washed his hands and face in the cold water from the pitcher, and then stood up. The sun was very close to gone, and it was hard to see things, so he closed his eyes to focus one more time and smiled as he felt the warm pressure build and build all through him. He opened his eyes as his shiff poured out of him, and he felt it drain him that time. It flooded out of him and made him tired, but that was okay because he had a soft warm bed of his very own, with nice thick, soft blankets.
He took his shirt and trousers and trainers off - though really they could only be called once-upon-a-time trainers, as they were little more than a bit of rubber and cloth held together with a lot of gaffer tape.
Harry crawled into bed and looked critically at the shirt, trousers, and "shoes". He would make himself some new ones in the morning. Something that fit, that was his and all his and only his.
Shiff was brilliant!
He reminded himself to thank the snake again before he set off in the morning, and snuggled down into the soft pillow.
He woke to sunshine and birdsong and the rush of the motorway, so after a few minutes spent waking properly, he quickly made himself some new clothes. He made a pair of black jeans, and a soft, comfortable green T-shirt, and best of all he made himself a pair of real Adidas! Just like that bloke at Wimbledon had when he'd seen it on telly. Aunt Petunia had caught him watching and shoved him into his cupboard, but he remembered the shoes.
He thought better of it before he put anything on, and made himself a pair of pants and socks as well.
All new clothes! Harry had such a big smile inside him that it made his cheeks hurt. He should have left the Dursleys ages ago!
He got his new kit on, and retreated a bit from his bed to have a wee. He drank the rest of the water from the pitcher, and then crouched next to the shrub and said goodbye to his best-ever friend. There was no answer, so Harry thought the snake must still be asleep. Even so, he felt great! He had the best night's sleep he could ever remember, and his tummy was still comfortable from the hamburger.
He set off with a smile on his face that didn't droop until the sun was close to setting again. His new shoes were ever so nice on his feet! He made another bed after dinner that night. He tried pizza, and it was just as delicious as the burger had been! He could only eat two slices before he was too full to think about starting another. He'd made himself a water bottle during the day so he could have water whenever he wanted instead of leaving pitchers behind, and just made more water in it when he needed to.
He had another wonderful sleep, and the third day passed much as the second had. On the fourth day just after lunch - slices of leftover pizza - he came to a massive city! Everywhere he looked there were cars and people and homes and shops and huge buildings, but more importantly, beyond it all was a great big strip of blue.
It was the ocean, had to be!
Everything was so bright, so big, so beautiful that he had to just stop and wait while he took it all in. As he did, he noticed a sign by the road that read Newhaven Ferry 30 km. Only, it went left instead of straight. Harry wanted to continue on and see the beach, but he knew it would be a smarter thing to just go to the ferry and complete his escape. Besides, they had beaches in France too, didn't they?
With a sad sigh, Harry turned left and followed the road for the rest of the day. He summoned fish and chips for dinner, and that was delicious too. He stopped for the night in a group of trees only 5 kilometers from Newhaven, so he was confident he would be at the ferry the next day. He had another wonderful sleep in a real bed, and rose the next morning feeling good. He felt strong, stronger than he ever had before, and his legs had stopped hurting, so he felt absolutely grand.
He felt even better when he saw the ferry. It was huge! There was a large crowd of people waiting to board the boat, so Harry just joined the crowd and stuck next to two other kids near his size. As the crowd moved forward, he moved with it. He kept his head down and kept people between him and the person doing the tickets. When the family he was next to got their tickets, Harry made sure he stayed beneath notice. If there was one thing he'd learned from his time at the Dursleys, it was how to avoid notice.
Thankfully, he was successful at it and followed the family onto the big boat, then casually went a different direction once they were on board. There was a large open area for sitting up at the front of the boat, so Harry stayed there and took deep breaths of the ocean smell.
It was lovely.
It was still lovely hours later when the ferry finally started to move. Harry thought it must take a long time to pack cars and people onto the boat. The actual trip itself was wonderful, if short-lived. Harry had never seen the ocean before and he had a strange urge to jump in, but he knew he couldn't swim, so he stayed a healthy distance from the railing.
It wasn't difficult to repeat the process once the ferry docked and everyone started to crowd off the boat. He picked a different family, and kept his head down and moved carefully. He stayed with the crowd of people until they got out of the dock area, then he attached himself to another group that walked further into the town they were in, which was called Dieppe. Harry couldn't read most of the signs anymore, and that made him a little anxious, but there were some that were in English as well as French.
Right, they spoke French in France. He'd heard that from one of Aunt Petunia's travel shows. Well, he would have to learn French then. Maybe some other languages too, not being able to read things made him feel bad.
Dieppe was a nice town, it seemed bright and lively, though it wasn't very big. Most of the people off the boat had got taxis or buses to other places. Dieppe seemed to be mostly just houses and restaurants. He did stop on the beach just for a minute to look back at England.
It seemed small from where he was.
He gave it a rude gesture before he left, the same one Dudley had used behind the teacher’s back. Then he turned and started to walk beside the D915 road that the signs said led to Paris.