As a young child, Harry Potter comes into the possession of a book that will teach him a quality more valuable than all of the gold in Gringotts bank - MANIPULATION.
Over the following weeks, Harry dove into the book like he never had before, the possibility that it could be from his long-dead parents spurring him on. It was not an exciting book - indeed it was rather boring. The text-book format along with many long words that Harry could make neither odds nor end of were really quite tiring to the skinny nine year old. Not to mention that he had to keep the book a secret from his relatives so that they didn't take it away from him.
These things did not, however, stop him from learning from the book. He realized quite quickly that the best way to manipulate is to play off of people's emotions and experiences - in other words, become their companion and try to relate to the person. See things from their point of view and you'll see how they might react to any situation. If you can do this, you can do anything with them. You can manipulate events to your satisfaction and, in the end, nobody will know the difference aside from yourself. Harry was enraptured with the possibilities; he could have control over any situation... including his own. If he could somehow play off of the Dursley's emotions, he could maybe somehow make things a bit better for him. He could get a room of his own, and move out of the dark cupboard that had served as his living place since before he could remember. He could get friends. He could get enough food to fatten himself up a bit.
He could finally get a life. These thoughts were the thoughts that drove him on past what he thought possible. After every page, he would go back and read it through multiple times, making sure that he had missed nothing, and more importantly, committing anything of note to memory. In this way, he crawled tediously through the book. So far, he had not tried out too many of the methods in it - indeed, there was a warning from the author that advised the reader not to until they had unlocked the secrets of the human mind. It said that this was crucial to success, and using the techniques before one had a firm understanding of them could ruin your success in later attempts.
Harry, not wanting to botch his future manipulations, held off from trying anything until a certain day in July: his birthday. It was, according to the local news stations, one of the hottest weeks since a drought in the early 1950's. The temperatures where up to 105° plus, and they didn't appear to be falling. The grass which the Dursley's took such pride in had long since wilted into an ugly brown color, although they were not alone in this matter. The trees looked almost dead, and anything that once held green color now only contained vestiges of its former brilliancy. A water ration had been installed by the government, and none of the Dursely's were happy about it. In fact, Vernon had even called to complain - the telephone call had lasted an entire hour in which his face proceeded to get redder and redder until Harry thought it would explode. In the end it was Petunia, worried about her husband getting a heart-attack, that gently had to to tell him to get off. He did so, with a slam, and proceeded up the stairs to his room to cool down.
Harry thought that now would be an ideal time to approach his aunt about food. Her disorientation thanks to her husbands anger would provide the perfect cover for his manipulation... or that was the theory anyway.
"Aunt Petunia?" The woman's sharp, pale features were fixed on the telly, although they didn't seem to be taking anything in. Harry had no doubt that her thoughts were directed towards her husband's anger issues.
"Hmm?" Harry was quite thrilled - he had never gotten such a response before. Usually it was a, "What do you want?" or more often no response at all. From here, the work was easy going. The book had said that a good first response often led to more and more affirmative responses after that.
"Do you think that maybe I could... have some food?" Harry cursed internally at his lack of confidence. Confidence was supposedly crucial in situations such as this. His aunt's eyes flicked towards him, still glazed in thought. Harry held his breath while he awaited the answer. It seemed like ages but it was really only seconds until she seemed to suddenly snap out of her trance and reply.
"Food?Since when have you asked for food?" Harry winced on the inside, but kept a neutral look on the outside.
Confidence is the key. Confidence is the key.
"Well Ihaven't had food since yesterday afternoon, and don't you think now would be a good time for it?" One of the early statements in the book was that, if the first part of a sentence evaluated as true, it didn't matter so much what the second part of the sentence contained- it would recieve a "true" from the subconcious as well. Petunia turned her head towards the tellevision again and nodded absentmindedly.
"Yes, Isuppose..." She trailed off, seeming to leave the sentence unfinished. Harry smirked at his success and dashed into the kitchen. Opening the pantry, he shuffled throughout the food items and looked for something that would last him a good long while. Eventually he settled on an entire box of crackers and he made his way back to his cupboard. Hiding a good many of them behind the mattress, he finished off the rest quickly and then grabbed his book and headed out to read. It was, for once, a nice day out and Harry planned on taking advantage of it. He crossed the street and traveled along the sidewalk until he reached the park, where he eventually settled underneath a grand oak tree, away from the prying eyes of the gossiping mothers and their snooty children.
It wasn't long before Harry heard the high pitched laughs and snorts of his cousin Dudley and his friend Piers. They were walking towards him and Harry dearly hoped that they would stop before they got to him. He quickly shoved the book underneath himself and closed his eyes in a pretend sleep.
"Hey Dudley! Look, it's Potter!" Harry felt his limbs go cold as he realized that Piers Polkiss had found him. He squinted through one eye and saw the older and taller boy approaching him quickly. "Budge up Potter." Said the bully, his stance somewhat intimating to Harry, who made a show of pretending to wake up suddenly. Piers laughed crudely. "What's the problem, you stupid little ninny?" He jeered at Harry. Beside Piers, Dudley grinned and unfortunately in the process showed off all of his yellow teeth.
"Yeah. What's the problem, freak?" Harry's ego had long since been reduced to nothing and these verbal blows had no effect. It was like punching air.
"Nothing's the problem Dudley." His cousin stepped up to Harry and grabbed his shirt before pulling him up.
"Don't talk back to me you little freak. I tell dad and he'll be so mad that he'll-"
"Hey Dudley. What's that?" Harry felt as though he had been doused in cold water as he saw that Piers was pointing towards his book. Dudley gave the other boy an angry look for interrupting him while he was performing his favorite past-time, but looked at the book anyway. Aslow grin spread onto his face.
"Well, well, well. What did the freak steal today?" Harry shook his head in fear.
"I didn't steal it. I just... I just found it." Harry had no doubts that manipulation could help him here - his only choice would be to run for it. Just as he was about to do so, he saw Piers pick up the book and hold it on both sides.
"I say we rip it in half." His somewhat small muscles flexed preparingly, and Harry saw red. That was his book, maybe his parents book, and definitely a book from a relative. He would not let it get ripped in half. His anger, which he didn't know he even possessed, seemed to explode from his body. Literally. Both Dudley and Piers flew backwards as if punched by a martial arts expert and hit the ground five feet away. Both groaned heavily.
Harry stood there, amazed at what just had happened. He looked down at his shirt, still rumpled by Dudley's hands, and then at his arms, which hung at his sides uselessly. That blast... It seemed like it had come from an invisible person. At that thought, Harry looked around alarmed before he realized that such a thing was ridiculous. He bent over and scooped up the book before rushing off, leaving the two older boys lying on the grass moaning. Harry knew he was in for a beating when he got home, but he didn't have anywhere else to go. Sighing forlornly, he trudged back to number four Privet Drive and prepared himself for the beating he was certain would come.
Harry wasn't far off when he thought that he would get a beating. The next day came bright and early with a rather loud wake-up call from his Uncle Vernon, who gave him a rather harsh spanking for the strange occurrence. To tell the truth, Harry wasn't even sure that it had been him who had done the explosive bit of martial arts. It seemed like there was some other power at work... but Harry didn't let himself ponder upon that too long. Whatever it was, he wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. Nothing good could come from such things, that much he knew.
To occupy himself, Harry read rapidly through his book on manipulation at atruly astounding rate for a nine year old. While most children his age would become bored of such a thing before they were through the first chapter, Harry kept at it relentlessly with the hope of learning something about his parents or ancestors. As of yet, the Potter name hadn't even been mentioned. It had, on the other hand, mentioned some other people that Harry had never heard of before, such as 'Wendelin', 'Merlin' and other assortments of odd names that didn't even seem English. Harry didn't think to go to the local library to look these names up, but even if he had he would have found nothing.
It wasn't long before he was all the way through the seventh chapter, and only about thirty pages were left in the book. Chapters eight and nine (the whole entirety of the rest of the book) where written in completely different handwriting than what had been written before, and it was ten times harder for him to decipher. The pages were jammed full of words, and the longer Harry tried to make sense of the words, the worse things seemed to get. Unfortunately, Harry felt like these were the most crucial pages in the entire book, and he didn't want to try any major manipulations without having read and memorized the contents first.
So slowly, gradually, Harry made his way through the pages. He had to go letter by letter, word by word, and sentence by sentence, but soon enough it became, if not easy, at least somewhat less hard for him to read -almost like a puzzle; the further along you get in the puzzle, the easier it is to piece it together. And so Harry went, deciphering the text, pondering its meaning, and the committing it to memory as best he could.
Just as the weather was beginning to shift towards the darker tones of winter, Harry finished the book. It was late at night, and he was dead beat, but he had to admit that it felt extremely good to be finished with the thing. Of course, he was disappointed that it had never mentioned the Potter name, but he supposed that the knowledge he had gained from it was far more valuable than any family history he could have learned. Now all he had to do was apply that knowledge and he would be set for the rest of his life. Of course, the book had made things sound so easy, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Harry hadn't yet thought of a good way to begin his machinations to the Dursley family, and he feared that the longer he waited, and the older he got, the harder it would be.
It wasn't until one cold day in December that he finally got the chance to apply his learnings.
"Boy, listen to me very carefully. If we hear one single word from Mrs. Figgg about you putting one single /toe /out of line, I'll be personally giving you a whipping like you never had before. Do you understand me?"
"Yes Uncle Vernon." The large man nodded satisfactorily before backing away and walking out to the car, Harry following behind him. Staying as far way from Dudley as was humanely possible in a vehicle that size, Harry stayed quiet while they drove over one block to where Arabella Figgg lived. Hopping out, he walked to the door and rung the bell just as the Durselys took off towards what Harry assumed was the nearest theater. Shivering slightly in the cold air, he looked back over his shoulder at the row of neatly trimmed houses along the lane. Most were painted a uniform white, and the lawns couldn't have been better cared for if a professional gardener owned the places. Harry sighed and waited for the sound of footsteps to draw near to the door.
"Harry my dear, come right in. I say, it is a bit nippy outside isn't it?" Harry liked Mrs. Figg if only because she seemed to genuinely take interest in him, unlike so many others around the neighborhood. In fact, Harry doubted that there was even one person besides her whom he could same the same for. Mrs. Figg would listen to him when he talked, and she didn't make fun of his baggy clothes or clumsy glasses. Other than those qualities, however, Harry couldn't say that he really had anything in common with the lady. She was a very big fan of cats, and had quite a few of them, but Harry had had a rather irrational dislike of cats ever since one had clawed him when he was a younger child. He put up with them though just so he could stay"friends" with Mrs. Figgg.
"I've made some cookies, if you'd like some." Harry smiled widely and nodded. This was another reason why he liked Mrs. Figgg so much. Walking to the kitchen with her, he sat down at the table before immediately getting up again -- now was an ideal time to worm into her good (or better) graces.
"Would you like me to help you Mrs. Figgg?" He asked, careful to keep his voice even. She looked at him, surprised, before nodding happily and gesturing for him to come over.
"I'll be taking these out of the oven now, and if you could just pour us some milk and get out the plates, everything will be set."
"Yes ma'am." He did as she asked quickly and then sat down as she finished with the food.
It was little things like these that counted, or so he had read. To the human mind, there was only a small difference between doing one small act of kindness and one large act of kindness. After a little while, the big one fades away, but if you continue to do small acts, those are the ones that stick.
"Here we are." The delicious scent of cookies wafted into Harry's nose and made his mouth water immediately. He was quite familiar with the smell, but the taste on the other hand...
It wasn't long before he finished the first cookie, and he asked (very politely) if he could have another. She smiled generously and gave him two instead. After finishing both of those, his stomach was mostly full, and he gave off a sigh of contentment.
"Thank you for the cookies Mrs. Figgg. They were wonderful." She thanked him in return for coming over to visit an old shrew like her (to which he protested vehemently), but she looked speculative. As Harry waited for her to finish her own cookie, she tilted her head as if in thought and then asked him a surprising question.
"Harry, my dear, I was just wondering..." Harry, who's attention had been diverted by one of the cats clawing at his chair leg, immediately snapped his head to listen attentively. That was another tip the book gave -- good listeners are far more popular than good talkers.
"Yes, Mrs. Figgg?"
"Well, Idon't mean to put this crudely... but how much do the Dursleys feed you?" Harry was astounded. Nobody had ever asked that question before. Suddenly though, an idea sparked in his head.
"I... um..." Hesitancy worked just as well (and maybe even better) as a flat out reply would have. Mrs. Figgg got a far-away look in her eyes, and she munched on her cookie absentmindedly.
"I'll be giving them a call soon." She said, more to herself than anything. On the inside, Harry crowed at his success. If Mrs. Figgg called the Durselys and asked about his situation, he doubted that they would have any easy time covering everything up -- all of the neglect, hatred, and violence that had been visited on him over the years. Could this be his chance to be done with it?
It wasn't long before the Dursleys were back and Harry had to go home. He did so with a happy heart, which he doubted that any of his family actually noticed. They never had before anyway, so why would they now? As soon as they got home, Harry practically ran to his cupboard; he planned to give the book another readthrough and see what he had missed the first-time.