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beginnings are like endings only with more ambiguity

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Harry walked over to the Ravenclaw table and sat. His legs trembled as he watched the sorting, eyes on his classmates as he searched for potential friends. Harry clapped for Ron when the hat placed him in Hufflepuff, sparing a thought for the redhead who wanted something to distinguish him and now had an entire house of people who don't expect him to live up to anyone's legacy. Harry would be expected to live up to his own legacy, Harry thought bitterly.

But first, he was allowed to eat. He had accidentally sat himself with a group of second years who were too busy catching up with one another to talk to him, a situation that suited Harry just fine. Harry could never talk well after his dissociative episodes. Harry was able to enjoy his fill for the first time since his parents died. The Dursleys' never exactly starved Harry, but he had never been able to eat as much as he would like. Now he had nobody to stop him from indulging.

After dinner was a speech that Harry sat through with barely-open eyelids, holding his head up with his hands to stop from falling asleep on the table right then and there. He didn't hear a word the Headmaster said, other than that the third floor was off-limits to anyone who did not wish to die a most painful death. Harry didn't want to die any death. Well, maybe if death meant he could sleep...

First years followed the Ravenclaw prefect, Penelope Clearwater, to their dormitory for the night. Harry was on autopilot for the walk, moving from room to hallway to room to thinking 'that's my trunk, guess I sleep here' and falling asleep on top of the blankets. In doing so, Harry missed the announcement that the first-years were to have a health checkup that next morning. He also missed out on learning the names of his roommates.

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Harry woke up to the usual darkness - the darkness he had expected to be in every night he slept in Dudley’s second bedroom - and went to grab his clothes from under his cot to dress the usual way (where he always keeps one article of clothing on while maneuvering the other because he can feel his aunt’s eyes on him), only the clothes weren’t under his bed. He sat up, confused, and a torch lit up the space. He was not in his cupboard? Where was he? Had Uncle Vernon finally sold him into slavery or an orphanage?

”Oh, Harry, you’re up! I never got to introduce myself to you yesterday but I’m Anthony, Anthony Goldstein. Do you want to go to breakfast together?” A white face peered around the curtains separating the beds from one another. Hogwarts. Right.

”Er - yessir - only - clothes?” Harry’s habit of using short phrases in the morning had yet to abandon him. His uncle had always been angrier before his day at work, and his aunt touchiest then. Harry felt like a wall of glass separated himself from the other the normal people. The feeling stayed as Anthony gave Harry privacy and the brown body began dressing itself as Harry watched, removed. Harry’s body followed Anthony and the first year Ravenclaw girls to the Great Hall, in yet another trip the boy would never be able to remember for use navigating the castle. 

“Er - sorry - I’m not myself before breakfast.” Harry apologized, having set up the same plates he served to his family relatives and unthinkingly ate the food before his dissociated state was gone.

”Me neither, mate. You’ll see me on Yom Kippur - the Jewish day of atonement that involves fasting - I will likely not say a word all day then. If I’m even here. I don’t know how Jewish holidays work at Hogwarts. Hey...” Anthony saw another Ravenclaw wearing a yarmulke, one who looked like they were older, and asked his question. Harry felt like the stupidest person in the room, a novelty considering his upbringing.

And that was another thing that surprised Harry to no end: Ravenclaw, along with being the house for wisdom and knowledge, was the house of questions. Not a single person appeared to anger as the younger students peppered the older with questions about Hogwarts. Some, like the Grey Lady - a ghost! - and the Prefect Penelope, welcomed questions.

Harry, who had grown up under a mantra of “No questions!”, wouldn’t indulge in his curiosity with any other people yet, but knowing he could if he wanted to loosened a muscle in his chest he had never noticed had been contracted his entire life.

 The first day was a day of orientation for first years, with the Arithmancy Professor acting as the Charms Professor so Professor Flitwick could get to know his young eagles as they got to know the castle.

Harry was good at memorizing his whereabouts when he wasn’t dissociated. He had never been in a magic castle, but the magic of Hogwarts appeared to contain a rhythm to it, the way his relatives’ routines or his peers’ games of Harry Hunting did. Harry Potter had the way to the greenhouses from the castle doors mentally mapped, and in the afternoon he was able to make his way from the Great Hall to the library without asking questions (although he did surreptitiously glance at the students he had heard discussing their study plans to learn if he was going in the right direction).

 The only words Harry Potter exchanged with his Head of House that first day were the responses to the short Professor’s many attendance checks. When Professor Flitwick entered the first year boys’ dormitory to lead the boys to the Hospital Wing, Harry had fallen asleep, on top of the bed rather than in it, with his trainers still on his feet. The half-goblin took pity on the first year who had been the child of his prodigy, and figured he would escort Harry to the Hospital Wing after classes the day after their first day of classes.

 Then Michael Corner was diagnosed with early-stage dragon pox, and Flitwick had to help Madam Pomfrey vaccinate the Muggleborns, and the boy who lived escaped from the half-goblin’s thoughts for a while.

When Harry woke up the second day, there was no Anthony Goldstein to remind him of where he was. That was left to a rather irritated second year, Cho Chang, who walked in on Harry cleaning the windows of the empty common room.

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Harry Potter grew up knowing he was being watched. He knew it the way he knew he was eleven years old - the knowledge impacted his every action and, more importantly, his every interaction. From the neighbors and teachers to the Santa Claus impersonators at the mall, Harry never had a single moment, a single interaction, without the assumption or knowledge that it was being observed by his aunt. Whenever he forgot, in the few minutes he would pretend to be a normal child, one allowed to have secrets, his aunt would find out, and he would be punished for daring to forget his place, daring to pretend that a freak like himself deserved a shred of privacy. Harry Potter was not to be trusted.

In many ways, Harry's childhood on Privet Drive prepared him well for his first experience in the Wizarding World. The worst part of suddenly being famous, after all, was the loss of privacy. Harry never had that, and therefore he never knew the difference between his former infamous reputation and his new famous one. Either way, he was being talked about by the other kids. Either way, he wasn't normal.

"Our newest celebrity" the Potions Master sneered, and the tone was that of a thousand other adults Harry had introduced himself to, the tone of "of course, you're the little Potter boy. You're the newest troublemaker." 

"Yessir, I'm here." And Harry stuttered out his lack of knowledge about Potions, recommended the Professor call on somebody else, and the idiocy hurt, the way it always hurt, but Harry was not embarrassed. Embarrassment only occurs when you had any dignity to begin with. The difference between James Potter and Harry James Potter, other than that they wore different ties, was that Snape could hurt James Potter because James Potter had been arrogant. The Potions Professor could not hurt Harry because Harry didn't care about what his classmates thought, or what he deserved. Harry never angered the way James had, the way any normal child would have. He took the mistreatment like he had been treated this way his entire life, because he had, and that infuriated Snape more than a million sarcastic remarks would have.

If Severus Snape cared about his students, he would have seen Harry's casual acceptance for what it was. As Severus Snape was, he saw the boy as his childhood nemesis with a new form of torture under his belt, and the Gryffindors were to pay for it. Neville Longbottom left most classes in tears, if he wasn't in the hospital wing.

As for Harry's other classes, Harry loved them. He sat up front in Transfiguration, with a closeup view for Professor McGonagall's Animagi transformation from cat to person again. Harry Potter made a nice impression on both Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout, the only thing of concern being that he never looked at their faces. 

Harry's favorite class, however, was History of Magic. He watched the ghost with bright eyes, taking detailed notes not only on what the Professor said, but also what he called them. Harry was determined to find out what time the man died, and why he stayed at Hogwarts rather than move on. Did Binns notice he was disliked by most of the students? If so, why did he act like he didn't? If he did, why continue? Harry knew that if he had had any way to go from being hated to being liked, he certainly would have done whatever he could do to be liked. 

Harry didn't have to worry about being disliked anymore, not now at Hogwarts. His classmates all talked to him, which was more than any interaction he ever had beforehand. Harry didn't realize, by the end of that first day, most of the other kids have already become close to one another. He didn't realize, as he took detailed notes on the length of Binn's pauses as well as the House Elf Rebellion for Michael Corner, the rest of the grade was making friends.

Harry Potter was used to being watched, so he didn't notice that most of his interactions with the other students were only their watching him and whispering, rather than genuine attempts to get to know him. Harry didn't realize that he still had yet to experience friendship.

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On Harry’s first weekend of the year, Professor Flitwick finally was able to get to Harry. The boy had attended Charms, obviously, and he appeared to enjoy the class, but the class was mostly lecturing and practicing, meaning that Flitwick rarely was able to interact directly with students. The Professor saw Harry as the boy was walking on his way to the library.

”Mr. Potter, I’ve been meaning to catch up with you!” The half-goblin began, startling the boy. Luckily for Harry, Flitwick’s height meant that the Professor couldn’t touch him to lead him to wherever his Head of House was leading him to, but, as the Charms’ Professor walked slightly faster than Harry, Harry still felt nervous.

‘Hi, Professor Flitwick. What do you want to talk to me about?”

”on the first day the other first years had their medical checkups, but since you were already sleeping I decided to leave yours until today because you have no classes to miss. Is right now a good time?”

Harry froze internally. Health checkup was what his aunt had used as her first excuse, back when Harry was small and had never learned how medical professionals were supposed to act. Not that he ever saw one, no, “We’re not wasting our hard-earned tax dollars on the freak!” Uncle Vernon used to shout, which gave Aunt Petunia an in to pretend to care about Harry’s health. 

“I want to make sure you’re developing normally,” his aunt used to say as she fondled his genitalia. “Your uncle thinks you’re a waste of money but I can tell if something’s wrong by feeling it. I was training to be a nurse before I met him,” Harry was young, and almost never had been touched purposefully by anyone since his parents’ death, least of all his so-called family.

”Harry? Harry?” Harry had continued following Professor Flitwick even as he was experiencing the flashback, but Harry’s lack of response worried the professor.

”Health checkup. Yes, right. Okay. I’m okay. Better to get it over with now than later.” Harry’s reply was from the mouth of a boy dissociating, but the cheerful half-goblin was reassured by the verbal response. The two walked in silence to the hospital wing.

”Hello? Filius, what now- oh, Mr. Potter! You’re finally receiving the beginning of the year checkup! Wonderful, sit down on the bed right there,” the Mediwitch pointed to the bed closest to the door, but Harry’s body was not cooperating with the instructions. “Or, perhaps, Filius, you should wait outside for your student. I will have him back hopefully soon.” The movement of the short Professor startled Harry’s eyes into focusing, and his stomach pooled with dread as the man left, the door closing loudly behind him. Harry sat.

”Now, Headmaster Dumbledore told me you’ve been raised by Muggles, so you have likely never experienced a Mediwitch’s physical, correct?” Harry nodded, in his mind already undressing for what he assumed came next, despite knowing his aunt had lied to him about healthcare. 

“So what I will do is scan each area of your body with my hands, starting by gathering your temperature.” And warm, female hands were pressed against Harry’s forehead, against that hideous scar, and then they were gone but Harry still felt them. “Okay, that is around the average range. A little low, but no fever. Next I will need to insert my fingers in your ears to check your hearing.”

”Why- why can’t you just use your wand?” Harry asked, desperate for the contact to end. Stop, please.

As she answered, the Mediwitch continued her checking of his senses, beginning with hearing before poking his lips to determine taste, and stroking his face to ensure that his skin was properly sensitive to contact, pain, pressure, and temperature shifts. ”The wood and the cores interfere with my ability to discern the natural workings of your body. Since wood was once living and most cores belonged to creatures still alive when the wand was made, oh your hearing is moderately absent, now look straight at me, the cellular structures are too different from human ones to allow the Healer to discern the homeostasis of the body. Harry, when was your prescription last updated?”

Harry was still dissociated, still mentally elsewhere, still. He was not used to being called by his name. He was not used to anything about the situation he was in.

”Okay, I will ask again later. You appear to have sustained at least three concussions, impacting your prefrontal cortex.” Now the Mediwitch did use her wand, spelling all the results on to a sheet of parchment. “Now, in order to get a comprehensive medical history, I will need you to undress. I will step into my office to give you some privacy.”

Taking off his robes felt foreign, but the situation of falling out of Dudley’s castoffs, allowing gravity to do most of the work before slowly unbuttoning the shirt, this was familiar. He was naked, and his body began reacting from the moment Madam Pomfrey re-entered the room.

“Okay, I’m sorry I have to do this, but I’m going to need to touch you yet again for some time to obtain your heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, lung capacity, and more.” Harry nodded, and the Mediwitch began to touch his chest, only flat palm against skin, unlike Aunt Petunia’s caresses, yet still felt similar to the out-of-it mind. Skin was skin, after all.

Harry only vocally reacted when the Mediwitch touched his right rib, third above his stomach. The rib had previously been broken, and the Mediwitch decided to scan from a distance of two centimeters from the skin for the remainder of the chest. Two other ribs had also been broken, and none had received medical treatment. Harry was reliving the incident he had broken them, when Dudley had chased Harry into the abandoned croquet field and began beating him with the racquet. Harry had screamed and screamed for help, and his uncle came out, but rather than help him, Uncle Vernon had just held him down as Dudley continued, now aware he had parental support.

Harry was not present for the rest of the checkup. His body sat on, but no memories of the experiences would be created. Madam Pomfrey called Professor Flitwick back in to discuss the very obvious probability of abuse as well as the treatment Harry would need, but Harry was still dissociated. 

Harry came back on the way to the library, Professor Flitwick all apologies and aspirations for the future. Harry silently walked to the library.

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Harry Potter had never been allowed into a library before. Well, no. A few times, in primary school, his class would go to the school library for some reason and he, as a member of the class, was allowed along. But Harry had never been able to find books in a library, to browse, to wander. He was a stranger in a new land. He was a Ravenclaw in heaven. He was given a much-needed entrance to reality, and, oh! What a reality it was!

 The doors were ornate, wooden doors, both hand-carved and painted with the motifs of Hogwarts - badgers in their dens and bushes, an entire pride of lions on a savannah, eagles soaring and serpents hunting, all colorful with House pride and moving with ancient magic - charms or runes, Harry didn’t know, but he feel the age of the doors. He gasped at them, and stared, and the doors seemed to sense when he was finished, and opened without a touch.

 The inside of the library was even more entrancing than the outside- even more entrancing than the castle’s exterior, even! The books seemed to float to the patrons of their own accord, the shelves were dancing and reorganizing themselves as the students needed, the librarian’s desk was at least a kilometer above the ground, maybe more, floating as she watched the chaos below. Multiple large signs were on the sides of the shelves, as they would be in Muggle libraries, and Harry walked up to the closest shelf and read.

 

RULES OF THE HOGWARTS’ LIBRARY

ONE. NO STUDENTS ARE ALLOWED TO BRING IN ANY FAMILIARS WITH FUR OR FEATHERS, MEANING YOUR CATS AND OWLS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER WITH YOU. WARDS SURROUNDING THE LIBRARY WILL ALERT MADAM PINCE IF ANY BANNED ANIMAL ENTERS THE ROOM AND IF A STUDENT DELIBERATELY DECIDED TO ALLOW THE ANIMAL ENTRY, THEY WILL BE PUNISHED. ALLERGIES ARE SEVERE HEALTH HAZARDS AND THIS IS A SCHOOL, NOT A ZOO.

TWO. NO STUDENTS MAY CHECK OUT ANY BOOKS FROM THE RESTRICTED SECTION WITHOUT CONSULTING MADAM PINCE. NO STUDENTS MAY BROWSE THE RESTRICTED SECTION UNLESS THEY HAVE EXPLICIT PERMISSION FROM A PROFESSOR. THE BOOKS ARE ABLE TO DEFEND THEMSELVES, AND MADAM PINCE WILL NEED TO TRAIN ANY STUDENTS WHO NEED THEM IN HOW TO HANDLE THEM SAFELY.

THREE. ANYONE DISRUPTING THE ABILITY OF OTHERS TO LEARN AND USE THE SPACE PRODUCTIVELY WILL BE WARNED, AND LATER ASKED TO LEAVE.

FOUR. ANY STUDENTS WHO VANDALIZE, TEAR, BURN, TRANSFIGURE, HEX, OR OTHERWISE CAUSE INJURY TO THE BOOKS, SHELVES, DOORS, OR OTHER STRUCTURES OF THE LIBRARY WILL BE BANNED. REPEAT OFFENDERS OR STUDENTS ATTEMPTING DARK ARTS ON LIBRARY PREMISES RISK EXPULSION.

FIVE. ANY STUDENTS WHO INSULT, MAKE COMMENTS ABOUT, OR OTHERWISE EXPRESS DISRESPECT TOWARDS BOOKS WITH MUGGLE ORIGINS OR STUDENTS BROWSING BOOKS WITH MUGGLE ORIGINS WILL BE PUNISHED. THE LIBRARY WILL ALERT MADAM PINCE OF ANY SUCH CONDUCT.

SIX. ALL LIBRARY BOOKS WILL VANISH FROM THE CUSTODY OF THE PERSON BORROWING THEM ON THE DUE DATE. TO RENEW A BOOK, YOU MUST CONSULT A PROFESSOR OR PREFECT BEFORE THE BOOK IS DUE. 

SEVEN. NO POTIONS MAY ENTER THE LIBRARY. ANY PERSON CAUGHT WITH A POTION ON THEIR PERSON WILL BE APPREHENDED BY THE LIBRARY WARDS. POTIONS ALREADY INGESTED BY PERSONS MAY ENTER THE LIBRARY WITH THE PERSON WHO INGESTED SAID POTIONS.

Harry finished reading the rules and grinned. He had not broken any of them yet, and he would not need to interact with the librarian to check out books. Not only that, but the library had a Muggle section! Harry had always been curious about the world he lived in, with his entire childhood being defined by don’t ask questions. Harry wondered what the differences between Muggle and Magic libraries were. The bookshelf on the histories of libraries floated towards Harry as he thought, and Harry began browsing. 

Harry left with full arms and a newfound appreciation of life. He also left with the resolution that under no circumstances would his relatives keep him from being able to use a Muggle library again. He had magic on his side, he had knowledge on his side, and he had reading to do in the meantime. Harry Potter left the Hogwarts library knowing that he would be back. He left it feeling like he had found his soulmate. Harry Potter was entirely content with the world.

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The Ravenclaw table had no shortage of students reading while eating. Well, really no Hogwarts House had a table without at least one student reading while dining, but the Gryffindors and Slytherins usually wait until after they’ve made friends already, later in the school year. This year had an exception in the Muggleborn Gryffindor Hermione Granger, who had yet to befriend anyone and doubted that talking while eating would do anything more to endear her to her classmates. But other than that, students often reading while eating their food - all books from any Magical source would’ve been charmed against staining or water damage before publication, so no risk of incurring Madam Pince’s wrath was invoked. The Great Hall was filled with forks poking absently at plates while the heads of the mouths receiving the food remained inside of books.

Harry Potter, however, was not one such student. Not yet. He was too shocked at just how much food there was, how much variety existed, how much choice he had - just how different his life was in almost a week. Harry would never dare read at the table because he didn’t want to risk being unaware, risk vulnerability to his plate being snatched or the food disappearing before he could eat it. Before, he could never read at the table because he could never read in front of his relatives without being called a swot or lazy and being made to do chores, and because he never sat at the table with them. Now that he had visited a library, however, he understood the urge to, although he still looked at his focused on reading classmates with some bewilderment. His book on the way time magic interacted with the protections on libraries before the Muggle/Wizarding split occurred was just so interesting and related to his curiosity about History of Magic more broadly, and his mind was still preoccupied by theories about the existence of the time capsule dimension, an idea he had read about where the wizards of Alexandria had stored away the information within the the Library of Alexandria, so that even though the physical copies burnt, the knowledge still existed, only now lost almost entirely to Muggles. Harry ate until his stomach felt like it needed a break. Harry had skipped lunch that first Saturday for the same reason - he wasn’t used to being fed that often, and when he ate three meals that first week he would find himself puking most of it back up and feeling tired anyway.

Harry only ate. He did not participate in conversation with his classmates. After dinner, he returned to the Library, where he stayed until he tired and found some older Ravenclaws to follow back to the dormitory.

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The Sorting Hat had been right, in that Harry would have fallen apart had he had a female Head of House. What the Sorting Hat forgot, however, was that reminders of the past do not always come in authoritative packaging. Harry was reminded of his Aunt in other ways, ways harder to avoid.

Luckily for Harry, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff had many classes together, meaning Harry could reconnect with Ron and learn magic with a known friend. In the classes without Hufflepuff, Harry partnered with Anothony Goldstein or Terry Boot, but he couldn't tell if the boys actually liked working with him, or were just partnering out of convenience or - as was often the case in primary school- as a way to get more information to take the piss out of him with later. 

But all classes have two houses in them, at least. The first year class was simply too small not to. And while Dumbledore took pleasure in scheduling joint Gryffindor-Slytherin blocks, leaving Ravenclaw with Hufflepuff, the schedule did mix up a bit. The few classes where Ravenclaw was not with Hufflepuff, it was with Gryffindor.

Harry had no problem with most of the Gryffindors. Seamus Finnigan's penchant for setting himself on fire was humorous, a virtue not often found among the far-less-accident-prone Ravenclaws. Neville Longbottom, too, commiserated with Harry over both being despised by the Potions Master, albeit in different classes. (Professor Sprout paired them up in Herbology, and it's hard not to talk while planting) But the Gryffindor girls, there was a problem there.

Her name was Hermione Granger. She was the one with her nose in the air when it wasn't in a book, looking down at the other Gryffindors as she corrected their spell work. She was bossy, and a tattletale, and she looked at everyone with an air of disdain, as though she knew she was better but was too polite to say so outright. She corrected Harry's Herbology work physically, by grabbing the shovel out of his hands and shrieking at him and Neville, who apologized the way preteen boys do when they aren't actually sorry.

In short, she reminded Harry far too much of another woman who corrected his gardening, who looked down on others, who had that same look in her eyes that Harry came to associate with discomforts of various sorts. She reminded him of Aunt Petunia.

Harry knew he was being ridiculous, that she was just an eleven year old girl with no friends, but he couldn't stop the flashbacks when she had grabbed him in Herbology. He couldn't stop himself from dissociating sometimes when he accidentally caught her gaze, his mind stuck on another gaze watching him as he dressed, watching him and touching him and "into your cupboard, no food for two days! You freakish devil, bewitching me with temptation!" He couldn't stop himself from flinching, from choosing to not browse areas of the library she was in. He couldn't control it, his feelings about her, and so he hated himself for them. He tried to suppress them, as he did every emotion from Back Then. He failed at every attempt.

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Harry was not exactly a stellar student. Part of this had to do with being in Ravenclaw - expectations were you either knew what was going on or had enough sense to ask for help, and Harry, after the upbringing he survived, understood very little of what was going on, but also had the Rules ingrained into his psyche. Don’t ask questionsAnd at first, Harry didn’t know how much he didn’t know because the year was just starting, and introducing topics was always a time where he felt overloaded with information even back in Muggle school, where he eventually began to understand a few weeks into the year. The problem was, at Hogwarts, he didn’t have the threat of being noticed by the teachers hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles, keeping his grades above failure while remaining below Dudley’s. No, at Hogwarts Harry just had class after class of notes and practicals and fending off Snape’s insults and then more notes. Harry tried to make sense of what he was supposed to be learning, but by the time he understood one concept the professor had moved on to the next and his notes showed this, with random quotations from various lectures interspersed in what was otherwise his own thoughts as he frantically tried to figure out what he missed. 

The other reason Harry’s academics were achingly ordinary was that he had eleven years less experience than the majority of his classmates. The differences extended beyond magic - Harry spent hours in the library just reading about how essays were supposed to be organized. Harry had overheard Granger yapping on about how Muggleborns were all attending tutoring sessions, but Harry was not about to willingly go spend more time with that witch. Besides, he wasn’t a Muggleborn. Just a freak, like always. 

All these problems accumulated in the form of first term grades. Halfway through October the students all were to go find their House Heads to go over the comments various Professors left, because the term was only halfway through so students would be able to fix their achievement if necessary. Harry allowed this announcement, like most others, to go in his good ear and promptly get lost in the crevices of his mind while he read about the actual crevices he could create in his mind to protect himself against Occlumens. Michael Corner had recommended the book when he saw Harry reading a book on repressed memory written by Muggles. 

Harry’s blissful ignorance lasted until Charms class. There he was asked to stay after class for a bit, in a tone that Flitwick had only ever spoken in back in that awful September health check. Harry’s mind fell through the crevices, and he failed to write a single word of the lecture down, instead remembering that hideous Hospital Wing, that bizarre scan.

After class, Flitwick luckily gave Harry an out. ”Harry, I believe you forgot to come find me yesterday to receive your midterm comments. Would you like them now?” Harry shook his head, and the half-goblin sighed. “Alright, but we need to discuss them. How about we meet up in my office after dinner?” Harry nodded, and fled the room to meet up with Ron. He spent the rest of the afternoon near the Hufflepuff Commons playing Gobstones with Ron, his head once again empty.

After dinner, it would fill with dread.

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Harry had no intention of attending dinner. His anxiety at the upcoming discussion regarding his grades, alongside the general nausea that always accompanied too long a game of Gobstones, killed his appetite. Ron, on the other hand, had no intentions of skipping dinner, but the lengthy game of Gobstones had made him restless, and he wanted to be there for Harry.

"I can walk up with you to Ravenclaw, if y'want."

"I want." And the two began walking in companionable silence.

 The walk up to Ravenclaw tower was more of a trek, really, because Hufflepuff Commons was in the basement, near the kitchens, and Ravenclaw Tower's entrance was on the other side of the castle, on the fourth floor. At least, today it was on the fourth floor. Entrances, like the majority of landmarks in Hogwarts, enjoyed wandering about the castle. When the year had began the entrance was by the Great Hall, but the eagle knocker grew bored and flew up a few flights of stairs.

"And you're saying Flitwick doesn't charm the eagle still? Professor Sprout sticks the barrels to the stone on a nightly basis to keep Peeves from locking us in!" Ron had listened to Harry explain why the walk was so much longer than it had been in September, and was now angry at the half-goblin not only for creating his friend's anxiety, but enabling the inconviencing of the entirety of Ravenclaw House.

"He claims that navigation is a life skill we can best learn young, while our brains are still plastic."

"What's plastic?"

"It's a Muggle chemical that makes up grocery bags and toys and is very flexible." 

"Weird. My dad might've mentioned it a few times - he's an employee at the Ministry's Department of Misuse of Muggle Affairs or something like that. Stops the charming of biting teapots and shrinking keys and the like."

The two walked and chatted up two flights of stairs. Then they hit trouble. As Ravenclaw was in a tower, it's near Gryffindor, the only other tower renovated to be a living space. Therefore the boys were able to be walking in the same direction as one Hermione Granger.

"Hey Harry! Ron!" The girl ran to catch up with them, enthusiastic in a way that only heightened her impression as the severely lonely Gryffindor.

"Hey Hermione," Ron responded in a monotone. Gryffindor and Hufflepuff shared Defense, so Ron was well-acquainted with the girl's attitude and eagerness to correct other's mistakes.

Harry looked down at his ratty trainers, suppressing the urge to hyperventilate. If you act like she isn't watching, she'll stop, he thought, remembering the way his aunt used to watch him.

"Where are you two headed? I'm going to meet with McGonagall for the Muggleborn tutoring."

 A silence ensued. Ron elbowed Harry after a few painfully awkward minutes, prompting the shorter boy to respond. "Ah! Uh, Ravenclaw Tower, Flit- Professor Flitwick's office. To discuss grades." There. Done. Not too hard, Harry thought to himself, willing away images of his similarly stuttered out answers to Uncle Vernon's questions. Uncle, Aunt, why did Hermione have to look and act so much like his aunt?!

Hermione was surprised by how- nervous, she supposed, the Boy-Who-Lived seemed. His reputation was nothing like interacting with him, she thought, before speaking. "Without dinner? Professor McGonagall provides food for the tutoring sessions, would Professor Flitwick do the same just for one student?"

"'m not hungry." And you're not in your cupboard, either, you freak, so stop acting like it, he angrily thought to himself. But the three of them had reached the end of the hallway, and instead of a staircase they were met with a door. A door eerily reminiscent of Harry's cupboard. "Where're the stairs?"

"Behind the door, probably," Ron responded, giving the handle a turn and tug. No response. He tried the other way. Also no response.

"Let me try!" Hermione shouted, bossily pushing the redhead away with her body before turning the knob. Again, nothing. "I learned a spell for this the other day - allhamora! No, wait, hang on, alohomora!" The door opened as she whipped her wand in the motion, as though she was directing the knob.

Hermione walked right on in, while Harry stayed behind just long enough to hear Ron mutter "Know-it-all," They had gone barely a foot when another door appeared, and again Hermione opened it using magic.

What appeared to be three huge, slobbering Black labrodors were chained up on the other side of the door. Harry moved closer, trying to see if the stairs were anywhere to be found. He was frighteningly used to dogs menacing him, and appeared to Ron to be entirely unafraid as he dodged sharp mouthfuls of teeth. Harry’s heart was in his throat, but fear could not make him forget the task at hand, which would also get him away from the dogs.

Hermione had been scared still. Harry, failing to find the stairs, ushered her out and shut the door, narrowly avoiding being bit. "Where'd the stairs go? Ron, did we make a wrong turn-"

"Stairs! There's a bloody Cerberus in the school, and this lunatic is still thinking about stairs?!" Ron exasperatedly talked to Hermione as though they were friends.

"How were you not a Gryffindor?" Hermione asked Harry.

Harry answered without thinking. "Professor McGonagall reminds me of my aunt, I'm scared of her, so the Sorting Hat decided that Gryffindor was a bad fit."

"You-" Ron sputtered, while the three finally found the stairs, which had reappeared. "You're not afraid when a three-headed dog is trying to make you his dinner, but McGonagall scares you?!

"Professor McGonagall," Hermione corrected. "And speaking of dinner, we're near Ravenclaw Tower. I need to go, I'm already running late, but thank you both for talking to me! Friends?" She held her hand out to the boys. Both shook it, Harry more bewildered than anything, before Harry stopped, answered the Eagle, and prepared to wait for Professor Flitwick.

"I can walk with you to tutoring?" Ron offered. He didn't want to be alone, not after the Cerberus run-in. Hermione  nodded. There are some things you can't survive without becoming friends. Almost being attacked by a three-headed dog was one of those things.

Chapter Text

Harry resumed his Occlumency book. He had owl-ordered it on Michael's recommendation, as books on Occlumency were not able to be found in the Hogwarts library. That, Harry would learn in his reading, was because Occlumency was considered a Dark Art, along with Legilimency. Harry found that to be stupid. Hogwarts taught Defense Against the Dark Arts, after all, and Occlumency defended against Legilimency, which genuinely seemed Dark to Harry. But he would have to find another book to discover why Occclumency was labeled a Dark Art. Maybe the wizarding world had public libraries. Harry would prefer that over using his Gringotts key to purchase books, but he could not resist learning about Occlumency. He wanted to be able to defend his mind, while currently he couldn't even defend it from itself. What was he thinking, telling Hermione about his fear of McGonagall? She was smart, she might then notice he was scared of her! Although actually talking to her and seeing her freeze up when they found the Cerberus dislodged some of the resemblance between the two in his thoughts. Aunt Petunia never froze when scared, she fought.

About an hour passed with Harry sitting against the wall, reading half the time and losing himself in thought the other half. He had almost forgotten why he was sitting outside Professor Flitwick's office in the first place when the half-goblin showed up.

"Hello there, Mr. Potter, I hope you weren't waiting long," Flitwick announced, causing Harry to promptly jump to his feet. The professor used the same charm Hermione had used to unlock his office, and Harry warily peeked in before following the professor and finding a seat on a fluffy chair. He could touch the ground as all the chairs were made for people Flitwick's size, a rarity Harry rather liked. Harry could more easily run for it if he needed, he thought. But he wouldn't need to, he reminded himself sharply.

"Mr. Potter, I am sure you are aware midterm comments came out a few days ago?"

"Yessir!" Harry said while nodding redundantly.

"Most students sought me out yesterday to find out their progress," Professor Flitwick started, trying to gently make his confusion over why Harry didn't known.

"I- I wasn't aware we were supposed to, sir. In Muggle school the professors found the students to tell us how well we did."

"You're not in trouble, don't worry! I was merely curious, that's all, as to why you were willing to wait so long. Do you not want to know how you're doing?"

"I have some sense of that already, sir."

"I see. Well, now we can discuss them. You're bordering the line between Troll and Dreadful in Potions-"

"Professor Snape-"

"I am well aware of Professor Snape's biases against you, Mr. Potter. Your classmates have complained, wanting to ensure that you didn't get penalized for his disdain. His comments, however, do have some merit regarding your essays. He wrote that you ramble, and you don’t have paragraphs. I myself have noticed the same thing, as have Professors McGonagall and Sprout.”

”I’m sorry, sir.”

”Now, now, it’s not your fault - you went to Muggle schools, correct?” Harry nodded. “May I ask how you did there?”

Harry breathed deeply, memories of peeing in the darkness of his cupboard when he accidentally let the fact that he had been holding back in class slip out in front of a teacher keeping him from honestly answering. “I was okay, rather ordinary.”

”You, Mr. Potter, are anything but ordinary. Your understanding of theory in my class is exceptional, as well as your grades in Astronomy, where you are on the way to earning an Outstanding. Professor Sinistra says you are remarkably good at navigating through the darkness of the tower, as well as your daytime work. Your grades are Acceptable in most of your other classes.”

Harry stared down at his ratty, stained trainers. Please don’t accuse me of cheating, please let me stay he prayed silently. “My eyesight’s bad, I needed to learn how to navigate. Please, Professor, can I just know what I failed in so I can try to fix it?”

”well, your work in Severu- Professor Snape, excuse me, is the most clearly rushed, but I don’t fault you for that. You do best in the classes with math bases - Theory, Defense, Transfiguration - you obviously study, and overall your practical work is where you are expected to be. Just your written work - especially for Transfiguration and Defense - shows you’re not understanding the concepts, or you are not able to make them translate into words. Would that be correct?”

”Which one, sir?”

”Either. I want to help you, Harry, all of us Professors, we all do but in order to do this I need to know where you are at so I can talk to your other Professors.”

”Er, in Defense I know how to do the spells, only when I wanna write about them the knowledge just blanks. And Professor Quirrell wants us to write about how the spells connect and also the theory behind why the magic is defensive versus offensive and I don’t know how to explain it because I’m not even sure I understand the material but being near Professor Quirrell give- my head hurts when I’m around him too long, I don’t know why, I’m not trying to insult him, sir, I promise! But yeah anyway that’s why I haven’t tried to ask for help. In Transfiguration I understand how all the things work with my magic, but I can’t turn the knowledge into words and also I have trouble focusing during the lectures.”

”yes, Professor McGonagall mentioned that you were frequently absent-minded in her class. Your Herbology Professor said the same thing. Can you please explain why, if you know?”

Harry’s mind went straight into the crevices he didn’t want them to, the ones that prevent him from focusing in class - his aunt and her bewildering hatred for him that occasionally shifted into this odd possessive behavior that Harry felt was wrong but didn’t know why. He did the only thing he could - lied. “No, sir, I don’t know why.”

”That’s okay. Harry, how would you like to attend a tutoring program? Or have a prefect help you with the essays? Both of these are options I think might help.”

”prefect, please.” Harry said, hoping that Penelope Clearwater might help him out. Harry had witnessed her helping out some of the second years, and she seemed very kind, like a born teacher.

”Okay. I will discuss your problems with Ms. Clearwater and we can work out a schedule. Are you okay if I show her the comments?”

“May I read them first, sir?”

”Of course!” Professor Flitwick handed over the parchment. Harry agreed, and was told to meet again in two weeks to discuss how he was doing and meet up with Penelope. Harry exited, and immediately began to make the walk up to his dorm.

He was asleep within the hour, but his dreams were plagued with memories of school and the punishments that came with it.

Chapter Text

Harry noticed the next time he had Defense class - a class he unfortunately had with the Slytherin first years - that the class for once didn’t have the telltale garlic stench Harry had come to associate with the class. He turned to Terry, “D’you think he’s absent?”

“I hope so - the last time I practiced the Bogie hex I only made Michael’s nose bleed.”

“Yeah, thanks” Michael sarcastically replied. “Once I master the hex...”

“We all know,” Anthony commented, as Terry raised his hands up in surrender to Michael’s wrath.

“If he is absent, who do you think the substitute will be?” Terry asked his friends, changing topics.

”Professor Snape will be filling in.” A Slytherin sitting behind the Ravenclaws piped up. Harry looked, and the person who spoke was one of the boys who was friends with Draco on the train. Draco hadn’t tried talking to Harry since Harry refused his handshake, nor did he try spreading rumors or hexing him. Harry was still wary, especially as the boy-

(Anthony asked the Slytherin “What’s your name, by the way?”

”Greg. Gregory Goyle, technically, but I prefer Greg.”)

Gregory Goyle was large, like Dudley, and was now easily befriending people Harry knew first, like Piers would do to ruin Harry’s reputation. Harry shook his head - he was not going to be prejudiced against fat people, even if they were friends with Draco bloody Malfoy, who was sitting right next to Greg and was staring at the Ravenclaws like they were a particularly large and nasty spider he wished to kill. Was he staring at Harry? Harry was directly in front of Draco, he realized belatedly.

 The door opened and crashed close as Professor Snape made his usual dramatic entrance. “Professor Quirrell is unwell, so I will be teaching Defense for the next few days. Books away, wands out.” Oh no. Oh no no no Harry was not prepared for this he hadn’t practiced he-

“Potter and Goyle, you’re partners. Try not to seriously injure your classmates, although I cannot say it would be much loss if you were to only blow yourselves up with your incompetence.” Behind him, Harry could hear Draco and the other large Slytherin- a group of Slytherins now, actually - all snickering at Professor Snape’s barbed taunt. Harry stood and readied his wand as the partnering continued. “Mr. Boot and Mr. Malfoy, you’re partners. Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Crabbe, same. Mr. Nott and Mr. Corner...” and on it went. Harry breathed a sigh of relief when Snape was no longer in close proximity to his person.

”You ready?” Goyle asked. Harry nodded, and tried to shield himself from the hex but forgot the incantation. Red light instead of the green came out of the Slytherin’s wand, and Harry’s instincts had him duck rather than guess at the spell. The spell hit the boy behind him - Malfoy.

Half of a bat wing appeared to be flopping out the Malfoy heir’s skull. “Oh - shite - I’m sorry Dra-“

Draco glared in contempt at Greg and Harry. ”Don’t talk to me. Professor! Professor, Potter tried to hex me and ahhhhh!” The pain kicked in, and blood had begun to stain his illustrious blonde hair.

”Potter, 50 points and detention! Goyle, take Mr. Malfoy to the hospital wing.”

Harry’s classmates tried to plead the case for Potter being innocent. Snape would hear none of it, and Goyle left too quickly for any answers to appear. Harry was staring at the ground, trying to ignore his beating heart, his body’s reaction to Malfoy’s glare and Snape’s anger being make himself small don’t talk he hates it when you talk back he could kill me and I’d get yelled at I can’t afford anger I can’t I can’t I-

Potter, I told you to leave my classroom at once! Detention!” Snape shouted at the unresponsive eleven year old.

Harry’s feet led him out of the classroom and straight to the library. In his usual place sat Hermione Granger reading a Muggle book on evolutionary biology. Harry sighed, but he was already triggered and he was not going to be comfortable regardless so he sat next to her. Ron wanted them to be friends after the three-headed-dog fiasco, after all.

Chapter Text

Hermione finished her chapter and bookmarked the page before noticing that the Boy-Who-Lived had silently joined her in reading. “Harry! Hi, how are you? Do you have a free block too?”

Harry shook his head, his irritatingly long hair falling in front of his scar. “Professor Snape is substituting for Professor Quirrell today, and we were practicing the Bat-Bogey Hex, and my class is with the Slytherins, and Gregory Goyle hexed me and I forgot the spell so I ducked and it hit Draco Malfoy, who blamed me for the spell, and so Professor Snape kicked me out of class.”

”Is that even allowed?”

”Do you see Dumbedore disciplining professors anywhere?”

”No, but according to the handbook, disputes between students are supposed to be handled by the Head of House - oh.” Hermione suddenly remembered Professor Snape was the Slytherin Head of House. “Anyway, that’s dreadfully unfair of him to kick you out. You didn’t even do anything.”

”I’m used to it. Professor Snape hates me.”

”He hates me too. The professor actually vanished my potion the other day, and he did nothing when Blaise Zabini called me a Mu- the M word in class the other day.”

”Bloody git.”

The two read in silence for a bit, Harry feeling strangely lighter after complaining about his travesty of a day. So this is what it feels like to rant with a friend, he thought. Felt nice. Hermione didn’t remind him of Aunt Petunia when she was smiling.

Hermione glanced over at Harry, curiosity burning about the book he was reading that didn’t even have a title on the cover or the spine. Finally, she risked speaking again. “What’re you reading?”

”Occluding octopuses and other defenses of the mind: a guide to keeping legilimens and empaths out. It’s about how to protect your mind from magical attempts to penetrate your nervous system, whether they’re intentional attacks or happenstance empathic connections that certain Beings conduct automatically. Did you know that goblins are able to avoid emotional reactions because their nervous systems evolved to conduct Occlumency automatically, without conscious behaviors involved?”

”I didn’t- Muggleborn, remember?”

”Well, yeah, but you read so often that I thought you might know things the average Muggleborn wouldn’t.”

”Well, I mostly read to keep up with my Muggle subjects from back home, honestly. And, that book’s not in the Hogwarts Library.”

”Nope.” Harry surreptitiously glanced over at the librarian’s desk - she was at a faculty meeting. They wouldn’t be in trouble. Good. Hermione burst through his hypervigilant worries with a question.

“Could I borrow it when you’re finished?”

”Sure. Y’know, I was also raised by Muggles.”

”Really? But you’re- you seem so acclimated to the magic world! How do you do it?”

”I hide my anxiety and fit in by copying the wixen-raised people’s mannerisms. Also I don’t socialize much.”

”I’ve noticed. Thank you for being friends with me, by the way. I don’t have very many people who want to talk to me.”

”Me neither.” Hermione looked like she was about to contradict him, but he held up his wand. “People want to talk to the Boy-Who-Lived, not Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Can-Barely-Hold-A-Quill-Properly.”

”Well I like Harry Potter.”

”Thanks. I’m gonna read now, because I have History in fifteen minutes and I want to finish this chapter before then.”

Hermione nodded her consent, and resumed her own book.

Chapter Text

Harry took notes in History of Magic. He was not the only Ravenclaw who did so, but he was one out of a few, especially now that the school was a few months into the year. His notes were scrawled on parchment, and his quills would often run out of ink without him noticing. The notes looked something like this:

Goblin War of 1240 AD - when Muggle Crusades happened

House Elves were originally goblins but human wizards bred them into domestication, genetically altering their DNA until House Elf became its own species

The Goblins won most of Gaul and the Germanic area in the aftermath of 1240

Binns referred to Terry as Mr Bellweather. Anthony was “Miss Goldstein” maybe he had some f relatives in class when Binns was alive? 

Battles were fought with swords - goblins still use swords now. Wizards rode hippogryffs on to the battlefield, which was mostly on goblin home territory

house elves were the most consequential outcome of the war - according to Gender in Wixen Society it was the domestication of House elves and the ensuing freeing up of home labor that enabled upper class witches to become educated and more easily viewed as equal to wizards than in the Muggle world - was the war good then? Ask Hermione maybe??? Or Ron

ghosts can use chalk - how does that work? 

Time moved far too quickly for Harry’s liking, and soon Padma Patil was waking up the other Ravenclaw boys so the House could go down to supper. Harry immediately upon hearing the movement shoved his parchment into his knapsack, knowing if he carried his notes he ran the risk of them being stolen or lost. 

Harry had forgotten about the class disaster that was Defense until, midway through the meal, Greg the Slytherin came over to apologize.

”Hey Harry, I’m really sorry about earlier today - I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’m just trash at Defense even when Quirrel is teaching. I didn’t mean to get you in trouble, and I tried explaining to Professor Snape after you left that it was really my curse but he wouldn’t listen. I’m sorry I got you into detention, you’ll probably have to clean slugs out of cauldrons.”

”Er- it’s okay?” Harry was not expecting this. He had forgotten about the detention. He glanced around Greg, and, back at the Slytherin table, Malfoy had a cold pack magically held to his head.

”Greg’s telling the truth, he did vouch for you with Snape,” Michael Corner piped up.

”I believe you,” Harry said, not truly believing him. Although, he would believe Snape would refuse to listen to anyone if the alternative was an excuse to hate Harry.

”Okay, I think your detention might be soon. It’s a long walk to the dungeons.” Greg then ran out of the Great Hall, leaving Harry to look up at the staff table. Sure enough, Professor Snape was missing.

Harry made his way down to the dungeons, his previous okay mood disappearing with every step. “Potter” Snape liked to sneer at him. Just like his primary school teachers. Troublemakers don’t get to be called Mr. Mister. Potter, Potty wee Potter, the neighborhood boys sometimes teased. Harry sighed, steeled himself, and knocked.

 The door opened, although Professor Snape was not on the other side having opened it. Harry forgot, sometimes, that magic made inconveniences like opening doors as simple as a wave of a wand.

”You’re late.”

”I’m sorry, sir.”

”You should be. What were you thinking, deliberately harming another student in my class?! Does P-PPP-Professor Quirrell allow you to get away with hexing your classmates?” Harry thought the question was rhetorical until Snape stood and stepped closer, reminding Harry of his uncle, who would shake him at a time like this. Or throw him into a wall. Stone walls would hurt a lot more than the walls of his cupboard did.

”No sir! I’m sorry sir!”

”You will be, once I’m finished with you! Hand over your wand.”

Harry’s hands were shaking, his entire body was tense in case his premonitions of violence were correct. He couldn’t move fast enough. “Now, boy!” Snaps barked, and Harry threw his wand at the angry Professor.

”How disrespectfully you treat your possessions, Potter. Didn’t your aunt ever teach you any manners?”

His aunt teaching him manners looked like showing him compliments and rewarding him with rewards he never wanted. Looked like punishing him for eating too quickly after four days without food, because they were at church and the neighbors were watching. Looked like nails digging into young skin after the boy was too sarcastic. Manners, Now boy! Boy, the difference between boys and women, “you’ll need to earn my love” hissed into a confused nine year old ear before he saw his aunt naked for the first time, first but far from the last far from the last the last time hurt him and he spent the entire time being referred to as some other boy named Severus who had stolen her sister away and- hadn’t Flitwick called Professor Snape Severus? No, Harry, no you’re thinking too much too fast this is Hogwarts your aunt would never punish him by referring to any of the freaks at Hogwarts Hogwarts is safe Harry wants so badly to be safe but he feels like he’s being watched even when he knows he’s alone he always being watched

”Potter!” Professor Snape says after staring at the boyHarry (his name is Harry, not boy) for far too long a time, not that Harry noticed, lost in flashbacks as he was. “You’ll be cleaning out cauldrons.” Another wave of the wand and three cauldrons thunk onto the table in front of Harry, startling him with the loud sound.

Cleaning, cleaning Harry knows, and his hands are moving of their own accord as his mind remains in an ugly floral patterned bed with an ugly manners-obsessed woman in the house of Number 4 Privet Drive. Ugly, boy, you’re lucky I would ever deign to touch an ugly freak like you. You’re lucky to be alive, when if your mum knew what was best she would’ve drowned you at birth. Or starved you like Vernon wanted to do when you were left on our doorstep. You’re nothing more than an ugly burden of a child, and you are earning your keep by pleasing me. You know nobody will ever believe your filthy little lies, boy, as hands touched and then clawed at his private’s as his body responded of its own accord - cleaning he’s cleaning for his aunt detention

”Potter, you’re free to leave. I don’t want to have you here again, so stay out of trouble.” And Harry runs out the door, but before he does, he swears he hears the Potion Master mutter ‘freak’ under his breath. 

The climb to Ravenclaw Tower never felt so much of a struggle as Harry desperately tried to keep both his memories and his body under control. Neither one was his.

Chapter Text

 Harry was not good at keeping track of dates. Time in terms of minutes and hours, he had to know far earlier than his classmates did, but beyond what day of the week it was, months and years passed without the Boy Who Lived aware of specifics. Hagrid gave Harry his first ever birthday gift - proving without a doubt that Harry was indeed eleven - but the beginning of the school year did not incentivize Harry to keep a calendar. Harry just knew he had been in school for a while, and the time was approximately two weeks away from when Professor Flitwick talked to him about schoolwork.

 The night after his detention, Harry’s nightmares woke him up at three in the morning. His mind was anxious for reasons that he didn’t think had anything to do with the nightmares, so Harry decided to read instead of merely lying awake listening to his heartbeat and breathing quicken. Gender in Wixen Society was due in November, so Harry read a chapter on Hijra/Kinnar Wixen. He had a Muggle flashlight he used to illuminate his reading because he was not reliably good at the Lumos charm, so he did not realized he had forgotten his wand in detention.

At around 5 am, Harry grew more and more curious about his Occluding Octopuses And Other Defenses of the Mind, and he was no longer retaining what he was reading in the library book, so he switched books. He finished the chapter on Occlumency in Goblin and Goblin-derived species by the time (7 am) the Ravenclaw lights and alarms began ringing, alerting his roommate it was time to wake up.

”Whhyyy do we have to be up so fricking early???” Anthony complained as he tugged his socks on. Terry nodded and groaned in agreement, while Michael had informed the group that he needed a long shower and would be late to breakfast earlier. Harry watched his roommates, unable to move in his exhaustion from staying awake so long.

”Harry?” Terry questioned the small boy, who had slept in his robes. “We need to go to breakfast, c’mon.” Harry stood, his mind a blanket of fog different from dissociation but still having similar effects on his ability to react and interact.

”Harry? What’s up with you today?” Terry questioned, worried about his quiet and exhausted roommate. Terry didn’t understand why Snape wouldn’t listen to Michael and Padma and even Gregory Goyle the Slytherin, but the stubborn professor insisted Harry take a detention, and the boy seemed like he had been gone half the night, if the way he wobbled down the stairs was any indicator.

”Boot, you idiot!” Sasha Flint, a second year who had been following them, interjected. “Don’t you know what day it is?”

”Halloween?” Terry didn’t know what that had to do with Harry acting mentally impaired.

Anthony suddenly remembered. “Shoot, Boot’s Muggleborn.” He then lowered his voice, looking behind him, where Harry had slowed down and remained unresponsive. “Terry, Halloween is the day the Potter’s were killed. The end of the Britain Wizarding War.”

”Shite.” And the group had made it to the Great Hall.

Harry’s ears were ringing. He had heard the other Ravenclaws. “Potter’s were killed.” The phrase brought to mind green light and a memory from when he was five or six - ‘they died in a car crash, don’t ask questions’ Uncle Vernon had been the one to break that news, and later Aunt Petunia broke Harry’s nose in punishment, as Harry was not in school yet. Nobody cared. Don’t ask questions. Don’t ask questions. Don’t-

“Harry? Aren’t you going to sit down?” 

“I need to go to the bathroom.” Harry left, his eyes accidentally seeing Snape in his peripheral vision as he left. Freak.

Harry didn’t go to the bathroom. Harry wandered the halls, hoping to get lost. Hoping to end up finding that three headed dog again so he could be bitten and mauled like he deserved for having killed his parents.

He couldn’t do this. He had to go to class. He had Transfiguration first, so his legs took him to the classroom and he sat in his seat. He was tired. He wasn’t hungry. Freaks don’t get candy, idiot- Dudley and Piers then beat him with their collecting bags for having had the audacity to try to take a fun sized piece off the floor while cleaning Dudley’s room

Harry opened his bag for a distraction. His Occlumency book, perfect. Harry noticed the next chapter was on how to identify a legilimency attack if you already had traumatic experiences. (The first chapter had outlined how an ordinary mind would suffer after a legilimency attack, meaning memory loss and emotional reactions apropos of nothing, but as those were already symptoms of trauma, different symptoms occur in an already mentally weakened mind, as the deluge of cortisol that trauma creates impairs magical defenses of the mind as well as the ordinary functioning.) The book really moved all over the place regarding topics, Harry thought- his first coherent thought of the day.

Harry was suffering the symptoms of a Legilimency attack. But Harry routinely had unconnected memories pop into being unwanted ever since he had been informed he was a wizard. Maybe - could Hagrid have- no, he wouldn’t. The half-giant was too kind. Too stupid to learn legilimency even if he weren’t, a voice like Piers Polkiss piped into Harry’s mind. Hearing your thoughts in someone else’s voice was another symptom, as was nightmares and decreased appetite. Maybe Snape-

“Mr Potter - you’re early!” Professor McGonagall entered her classroom to this surprise, and she was anxious about the young Ravenclaw. “Did you have breakfast?”

Harry looked up, eyes widened, and instinctively moved as far from the woman in his seat as he could. “Yes’m.” Seeing people from your past in ordinary present experiences - Aunt Petunia worried was an Aunt Petunia secretly furious but required to maintain a facade. What had he done? He looked around, nobody else was in the room. Oh no. Oh no...

”Harry - are you okay?” The boy had begun looking around frantically, as though he was expecting an attack.

”Yes, I’m fine, I’m at-“ Harry’s mind finally caught up to reality, and he spoke more to himself than her. “Hogwarts, I’m at Hogwarts, no one can touch me here, I’m fine. I’m sorry, can I be excused? Today’s Halloween and I can’t focus - I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked-” Other students began entering the room and Harry was drawing attention to himself.

”No, you can. I’m sorry, of course today would be hard for you. I’ll give you a note for Madam Pomfrey, how about that?” Harry nodded - was the room spinning? He felt like he was going to throw up.

Nausea - another symptom of a Legilimency attack in all minds, both neurotypical and traumatized - McGonagall could she feel his fear? Oh god she’d know she’d know she could do anything she wanted to his body and with magic oh no—

She handed the boy a slip of parchment. Harry ran out the door, almost knocking over Mandy Brocklehurst in his haste.

He didn’t go to Madam Pomfrey - she’s a Mediwitch they teach Mind Arts in medical school according the book and Harry can’t-

Harry’s feet took him to the library. He found an unused room of spare shelves, and placed his bag down. Wand, Harry needed his wand, rubbing the wood always calmed him, he emptied his knapsack.

No wand anywhere. Harry couldn’t do this. His accidental magic blew out the torches, leaving him in the darkness of his cupboard. Halloween was always spent locked up, when his aunt wasn’t feeling sentimental and possessive about the living reminder of her sister’s death. God, the spare guest bedroom she only ever took him in, never allowing Dudley to enter, the room once upon a time made Harry feel special. Hands fondled him and Harry was not cognizant they were only his own hands, only his own tearing and itching at the places his aunt made him feel good in because he didn’t want to feel good, freaks don’t deserve to feel good, and his aunt knew he punished himself for her actions, she had ingrained that shame into him, taking away even the small pleasures that the child could’ve had from a sexuality developed far too young. Harry hurt himself as his aunt would have wanted to hurt him, hitting himself in the head the way she had when he was too young to hate himself, as she knew that she could be gentle and pretend to love him and the boy would still believe that he was a monster for allowing her access to his prepubescent body, never mind he was nearly drowned or beaten to death the few times he tried to stop her. The boy was a monster in the cupboard, crying and disgusting until his bleeding and bruised disgusting body fell asleep.

 The library wards alerted the librarian to injured students in her domain, a little known and rarely necessary precaution against students deciding to harm one another among the aisles. They did not, however, alert her to where the child may be, and so she had her army of prefects search the premises. Fourth year Cassius Warrington found the unused supply closet, and when he entered he found the Boy Who Lived unconscious with his pants down. Alarming was the mildest word that could be uttered, and the librarian obliviated the student before flooing the child to the hospital wing.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up to disturbingly bright lights on the ceiling. He must’ve been taken to the hospital wing, he thought to himself. And of course, in that very instant, as Harry blinked the sleep away from his eyes, Madam Pomfrey rushed over.

”Harry? Are you in any physical pain?” She had treated the superficial wounds he had caused himself, and spelled some pain relief potion into him, but she needed to know if it had worked. The boy child shook their head, prompting a “Good, thank you for responding, love, I know you don’t want to be here, but I want to make you better, both physically and emotionally. I’m sorry that the last time you were here I made you uncomfortable and revealed your secrets, but Professor Flitwick needed to know about your injuries so we could work to ensure you’re not forced back there. “

Harry could not take in the information. Madam Pomfrey just apologized - to him?! Adults didn’t just do that, not unless they want something. Harry had nothing to give, not on Halloween of all days. He swallowed, mouth dry in the aftermath of his stupid crying fit earlier that afternoon. Merlin, as the other wizards say, he was embarrassed.

”You’re thirsty - I’ll go get you a drink.”

”You really don’t have to-“

”You’re awake!” Professor Flitwick burst out from Madam Pomfrey’s office on a broomstick, prompting a chuckle from Harry. He hadn’t expected that Professors were allowed to ride on brooms indoors - Harry assumed broomsticks were more like Muggle bicycles than anything else. The Professor seemed thrilled he had amused Harry, but that thrill turned into a guilty look as the Mediwitch returned. She held a glass of clear liquid.

”Drink this, you’ll feel better.” Harry drank, wary of what was in the glass but unable to disobey a direct order in front of the Professor. Drinking the liquid made him feel worse, as it was thicker than water and tasted slightly salty. 

The drink brought a feeling a dread curl in him even as he put the glass beside the bed. “What was that? What I just drank?”

Professor Flitwick sighed and answered the question, knowing the truth would feel like a betrayal to Harry, but also knowing Harry would hate him more if he stayed silent and let Madam Pomfrey do the explaining. “That was Veritaserum. I’m sorry,” and the half-goblin might’ve said more but Harry couldn’t hear beyond the rushing in his ears. Veritaserum. They’re going to know and I cannot hide Harry thought.

Madam Pomfrey began the interrogation. “Why did you hurt yourself?”

”Because I’m a disgusting freak who needs to be punished.” The eerie monotone was expected, but the disconnect between the tone and the words still caught Professor Flitwick by surprise.

”Perhaps I should be more specific. Why did you center your self harm on your genitals?”

”Because I don’t deserve to feel pleasure. I liked being touched there but I’m not allowed to like punishments because I’m a freak who ruins good normal people’s lives, and so I needed to turn the pleasure I felt from the punishment into the pain that I deserved.”

”Who- who touched you there?” Madam Pomfrey, normally calm even in the face of horrifically infected wounds, was shaken by the blasé revelation that Harry had been molested. He was under the influence of Veritaserum she had brewed herself, and the way Harry stated the facts meant that he truly believed what he was saying was true, and he didn’t seem to think that being “punished” by someone touching his genitals was wrong. If he had even the slightest inkling that what he experienced was not normal deserved, the potion would’ve made him say so.

”Aunt Petunia. She likes to touch me while I’m trying to do chores and then punish me for being distracted by it. She also watched me when I was changing through a hole in the corner of cupboard where she could see me from the kitchen. And when I‘m really bad, she takes me into the guest bedroom and, at first she would pretend she was performing a health check, but as I got older and better at not asking questions she would take off her clothes and make me touch her body and she would also touch me and I didn’t mean to seduce her - I just wanted to be loved, but I think maybe my accidental magic warped the messaging or something because she only ever pretended to love me when we were in the guest bedroom. She was the only person who ever touched me.”

“Harry,” Professor Flitwick said, almost positive the child was not transgender and wouldn’t be hurt by his name. “Magic does not work that way. The only thing that accidental magic can do psychologically is increase impulses that the person already has. You did not seduce her, nor did you ever cause any of her actions. You would not have had enough magic in your body to force her to do anything, most full-grown wizards can’t cast the Imperious Curse. I know you’ve been trained to believe otherwise, but I want to tell you anyway: her predation of you was not your fault, and you are not a freak.” Harry was looking at Professor Flitwick as he gave him this speech, and Harry was unable to maintain eye contact because his eyes were once again filled with tears. The Sorting Hat had been right to lead Harry to this man.

Meanwhile, Madam Pomfrey was still thinking legalistically. ”How old were you when this first started?”

”I don’t know. Aunt Petunia had been watching me in the cupboard for as long as I can remember, and I was never told my birthday until Year Three of primary, so I didn’t know how old I was. The first time she touched me while I was doing chores was in the spring of my first year of primary, and her making me touch her began after Uncle Vernon threw a dish at my head because I undercooked the steak... I think I might’ve been in Year Two by then, but I’m not sure. Dudley turned seven the following summer, and Aunt Petunia made me massage her breasts and touch her private parts after the party because I wasn’t able to stay quiet and she had to cover for my existence by claiming Dudley had a pet bird. I hadn’t been allowed to use the bathroom all day, I couldn’t help that I made noise! Anyway, I don’t know exactly when it started - my Aunt and Uncle routinely varied my punishments over time so I wouldn’t be able to expect what would occur if I made trouble. Her touching me and making me pleasure her was just one of many punishments they used.”

”What triggered you to punish yourself this time, though? Your aunt isn’t at Hogwarts, so what made you leave the classroom and hide in the supply closet in the library?”

“Halloween was never a good day for me. Freaks don’t deserve candy, and my parents died, and I believe someone might’ve cast a Legilimency attack on me but I’m not sure who or when it might’ve happened because I’m an idiot who never pays attention to his surroundings and I thought McGonagall could tell I was terrified of her and that meant she knew she could do anything to me without consequences because she would know about my aunt and I just couldn’t handle being near people and I’ve been having flashbacks semi-regularly ever since I was sorted because the Hat knows that I get disconnected from reality because I dissociated during the Sorting and the Hat told me this wouldn’t just go away. I want to go away. Maybe I should’ve gone to third-floor corridor - certain death seems better than a future where I’ll have to feel all these emotions that come with having been forced to be completely honest. I hate you, Madam Pomfrey, and I hate this room, and I hate my life! I’d rather be dead than here.”

”Why do you hate me?”

”Because you remind of all the well-meaning teachers that promised me they cared but then heard Dudley’s lies and believed him over me. Because you made me relive the time Dudley broke three of my ribs and I thought I was going to die. Because you’re forcing me to answer these personal questions about my personal life, and now everyone knows that I’m a freak, and I’m famous, so you’ll probably go running to the Daily Prophet the minute I’m ‘dealt with’ and I hate being tolerated almost as much as I hate pretending not to exist and you’re the embodiment of everything I was never allowed to be around as a kid. I hate you because emotions are irrational and I would rather be angry at you than at myself, who is the real person to blame in this godawful situation.”

Harry finally had enough. As the two adults sat, slack jawed and unreasonably surprised by an abused child having emotions, Harry ran out the door. He ran and ran until he was in the dungeons. Snape had class now, and Harry needed to steal back his wand before he would begin researching what options he had other than staying at Hogwarts as the world’s most pathetic pity recipient or suicide. Suicide would not be the smartest option, considering he had told them that he was thinking about it. Harry had no idea what to do next, but first - thievery.

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Harry needed his wand, and he needed to find Snape’s office. Finding Snape’s office was somewhat easy, as it had a sign in red paint that said “TRESPASSERS WILL BE DISEMBOWELED” on it for when the Professor was teaching. Harry scared at the door. He didn’t want to be disemboweled but he needed his wand. The wand chooses the wizard, so couldn’t the holly and Phoenix wand choose to go back to Harry? 

As Harry thought about his wand and whether or not it was sentient enough to do magic that he could not do himself, his wand was only just behind the door. It sensed its wizard’s magic, and felt the pull of emotional magic, of desperation and self-hatred. The Phoenix feather had some properties of its once-embodied bird-self, and all of Ollivander’s woods are fireproofed against interior flaming (that’s why only Garrick Ollivander was able to make wands out of Phoenix feathers). The wooden door of Professor Snape’s office, although warded against all forms of Being Magics, was not sturdy enough to withstand wand flames. Ironically, had Fawkes wanted to flame the door, he’d have been unable to, but his tail feather from a half-century gone body easily ignited the wood. Harry coughed, his weak lungs unable to withstand the smoke, and he began trembling despite the heat. What had he done?

He blinked the smoke-induced tears away, and realized that, in the middle of the door that was slowly turning into embers, his wand moved towards him. As if it could tell its owner was afraid, the holly-and-Phoenix-feather wand immediately ceased flaming as it made its way to Harry. 

“Nice,” Harry said to his wand, and checked it for tampering. Of course Snape’s morals were low enough that he had placed Charms meant to cause the owner nightmares, irritability, and a disgusting odor that the wand’s owner would be unaware of. And, of course, as a first year, Harry would be unable to remove the Charms, despite being able to detect them. That settled his decision-making, then. He was going back to Diagon Alley. He knew he would need money in both British currencies, and possibly Euros as well, depending on exactly how famous he actually was. Wizarding libraries would be ludicrously easy for a homeless eleven-year-old to hide in, he knew that from the very first book he had ever read at the Hogwarts’ one. 

Harry began making his way back upstairs to the Owlery. Hedwig needed to be released so she could send letters to his friends once he figured out where he was going. Then Harry would steal one of winged-horses Hagrid kept a herd of (Hagrid refused to neuter the Thestrals, and the herd was bordering on 500, one wouldn’t be missed even though Hagrid could see them) and begin soaring south. He would travel until he found a Muggle town with a road atlas, after which he would begin on foot, abandoning the Thestral at the nearest wildlife center. Harry didn’t want to be doing this, but he wanted to be exposed to whatever horrible situation his experiences being public would get him into even less. 

Hedwig flew off uncomplainingly, and Harry was well-loved by the Thestral after feeding it a dead squirrel he found in the forbidden forest. His plan was ready for action.

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Harry was used to boredom and so for the first few days of his trip, he didn’t talk. He watched the scenery go by, watched as the Forbidden Forest became mountains became grasslands became farmlands. He listened as the Threstral’s hooves clomped upon leaves and grass. He had practice sleeping sitting up from primary school, and dreamed of being back at Ms. Figg’s, listening to her cats hiss at one another. 
Hissing became something Harry did to keep himself occupied. Eventually he began hissing to himself. “Sssstupid Snape stealing my wand and stupid Madam Pince taking me to the Hospital Wing and stupid Pomfrey feeding me truth potion sssstupid stupid stupid.”

”Sssstop dwelling on sssstupid foolish humans, you foal. You’ve left for greener grasses, and you’re gonna find a better place than that overcrowded sssschool.”

“Who- who’s there?” Harry asked, although he could feel the vibrating throat of the Threstral. They couldn’t talk, could they?

”Tis I, your Thestral. You ride on me for days without conversation, and I’ve grown bored. We’re social being, thestrals are.”

”You can talk? Why didn’t Hagrid tell me you could talk? How did you learn English, anyway?”

”‘Tis not English, youngling, but Parseltongue.  Sounds of the ssssnakes and snakelings. We thestrals come from the crossing of a dragon herd and a centaur herd, hundreds of years ago, that bred and became a new speciessss. Dragons have Parselmagic and centaurs have language, so the magic gifted to our species at birth enabled us to speak the tongue of Parsel as well.

”Oh. How do centaurs know language?”

”They learn when young the tongue of the land they live. French centaurs parle Francois, Spanish centaurs speak Spanish, the centaurs in the new world speak the forgotten languages of the tribes they reside on the land of. Language is a messy magic - I’m not sure why we can understand each other but you cannot communicate with dragons.”

”I don’t know either. I don’t know anything. Where are we?”

”I don’t know the human names for this land. I will get you to your Diagon Alley, fear not. I’m following the wind currents to navigate.”

”Cool.”

And with that, Harry had little trouble braving the frosty autumn traveling with his new friend. He liked having friends, and learning all the Thestral knew from centuries on Hogwarts land. As for the Thestral, they too liked conversing with the human and having the opportunity to spread their wings or run out on their hooves as they wished, with no parents in the herd to stop their antics.

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Ron,

this is Harry, to prove it one of the first things I learned about you was you hate corned beef. 
don’t worry about me - Flitwick has the house elves supply all Ravenclaws with regular healthy meals (Pince can’t stand it but Flitwick has more power as our Head of House) and I still get them so I haven’t been expelled yet.

i left because I thought I would get expelled - I’m sure the Hogwarts gossip has spread that I set the door to the Greasy Git’s office on fire. Really, it was my wand that did it - Phoenix feather is hard to control and the bastard had legilimied legilimized practiced Legilimency on me.

I finally got Agrippa so I’m sending it in the envelope (your dad will love that this letter is sent on Muggle paper with a pencil - pencils are little wooden sticks with graphite down the middle. I’ve left one in the envelope too.Ask Hermione if you want to know more)