Re-done chapter 1! Harry decides he's had enough of prejudice and manipulations, and makes his world the best it can be while playing political games with professors and Death Eaters alike.
He smiled and kept up a faÃ§ade of interested happiness as the Hogwarts Express wound its way down the tracks on the long journey to London. Inside his head, echoes of words spoken to him rang out, clearer and more meaningful than before.
"It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
"If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love."
"THE DARK LORD LIES ALONE AND FRIENDLESS, ABANDONED BY HIS FOLLOWERS. HIS SERVANT HAS BEEN CHAINED THESE TWELVE YEARS. TONIGHT, BEFORE MIDNIGHT ... THE SERVANT WILL BREAK FREE AND SET OUT TO REJOIN HIS MASTER. THE DARK LORD WILL RISE AGAIN WITH HIS SERVANT'S AID, GREATER AND MORE TERRIBLE THAT EVER HE WAS. TONIGHT ... BEFORE MIDNIGHT ... THE SERVANT WILL SET OUT TO REJOIN HIS MASTER ..."
Trelawney and Dumbledore spoke over each other until his path was crystal clear in his mind. His life was his, damn whatever prophecies and the Dursleys had to say about that.
When he disembarked at King's Cross, he followed the Dursleys to their car, still planning his summer. He spoke only to make a quick, veiled threat about Sirius to Uncle Vernon. He'd wait it out for a bit after that.
Four Privet Drive seemed almost subdued as Harry sat down to dinner with his relatives on the first day of summer. Dudley was scowling-at fourteen years of age, the school nurse at Smeltings had told his mum that he needed to lose weight, /or else/. Uncle Vernon looked like he was going to choke on all the comments he wished he could make, but didn't for fear of Harry's murderous Godfather. Aunt Petunia kept giving her nephew long, puzzled looks, as though she didn't quite understand things in her own house anymore.
Harry himself, almost fourteen and newly tall, thanks to a potions-induced growth spurt, was reveling in his freedom to read his texts over the summer. He'd been quiet and polite most of the afternoon, but as he saw what was being placed in front of him, Dud, and Uncle Vernon, he made his first objection of the summer.
"Absolutely not, Aunt Petunia."
He stared down in appalled disgust at the toast and boiled cabbage on his plate. His uncle and cousin had the same thing, he noted, just bigger portions.
She stiffened. "If Dudders has to be on a diet, all of us will diet with him."
Harry shook his head as he stood up with his plate in hand. "That's not what I have a problem with. You want us all to diet, fine. But starvation rations will shut down a body's functions. He won't lose weight, but his stomach will decrease by maybe fifty per cent if you keep on with this. He starts eating regular food again, and he'll end up puking."
Harry snagged his cousin's plate as well, and took them both into the adjoining kitchen. "There's spinach in here, Dud, some mash, too," he called out with his head in the fridge. "That and chicken work for you?"
Harry looked over his shoulder. His cousin was staring at him, flummoxed. "Err...Ta, Potter, sounds great."
"Grand. We'll split the leftovers, then."
As the microwave whirred in the background, Uncle Vernon finally spoke up. "Where'd you learn all that about food and health, Potter?"
Harry brought the plates back to the table for himself and Dudley, and gave his uncle and aunt a bitter little smile. "Do you really want to know?"
Uncle Vernon paused, and nodded firmly.
"Fine then." Harry looked him in the eye and said clearly, "You're how I know. The hospital matron had to give me growth potions to counteract twelve years of malnutrition while my cousin was fed two portions." He paused, and said softly, "They weren't all that pleased when I grew seven inches in a week. Funny, that. First time anyone's really cared about my discomfort."
His uncle's florid face went pasty, and his aunt gave a little choking sound. Dud looked up from his chicken and said baldly, "Why the hell don't you hate us, Potter? Nobody'd blame you if you did."
Harry took a large bite of his spinach and contemplated the answer. That's a good question, he mused to himself.
"I expect I don't hate you, Dud, as you and I are both what we were raised to be. Uncle Vernon's got a very narrow view of wizards, so why should I hate him for limited exposure causing his prejudice? I could easily hate him for how I grew up, but I figure I'm a better person than that."
Harry took a drink of his apple juice and shot an indecipherable look at his aunt. "Of the three of you, Aunt Petunia's the one I've the most reason to hate. My mum's own sister kept me in a cupboard."
Aunt Petunia made another one of those little choking noises.
"By the same token," Harry said, "it would be an insult to my mum if I hated her only sister." He stretched in his chair casually, calculatedly displaying the small hole toward the hem of his hand-me-down tee-shirt. The three Dursleys' eyes were riveted at the sight of the tall, elegant boy who wore his rags like silk.
"Hey, Dud," Harry said suddenly, giving his cousin a quick, startling smile, "Feel like going for a jog tomorrow? There's this coffee place a few blocks from here we could swing by for breakfast."
Dudley nodded slowly. "I think I'd like that, Cuz. You're on."
"H-Harry," Aunt Petunia said tentatively, "I expect your glasses are rather out of date. If you'd not mind taking time from your summer studying, would you be interested in going into London with me tomorrow afternoon while I do some errands? We can get you new frames, as well."
Aunt and nephew looked at each other for a long minute, and he nodded with a small smile on his face.
Uncle Vernon gave a satisfied grunt. "I've something to move about upstairs. You three finish dinner." He pushed off from the table and walked heavily up the stairs.
Aunt Petunia forced a smile. "Finished, boys? Harry, you clear the table, and Dudley, you scrape the dishes and load the dishwasher."
When Harry went to bed that night, he discovered that the toys were gone, the bedding was replaced by Dudley's alternate good set, and the old chair and desk had been swapped out for the good ones from the guest bedroom. A note was on the desk:
So you're family after all. Hard to make up for more than twelve years. But we'll try.
Yeah, Harry thought to himself with a satisfied smile as he burrowed under his blankets, it's not a bad start to making things up at all. I wonder what else they'll do to 'make it better'....