People usually say that the first chapter or the prologue is the most important. I disagree. It's the second chapter that adds flair to the story and aims it in a definite direction. The first chapter is merely an idea, a coalition of random thoughts, but the second? Now that is where the story truly begins.
Disclaimer: Freedom grants you the wings to soar the skies. But the higher you rise, the lower you fall. You can only swim against the waves for so long before the ocean drowns you.
Careful lest you fly too close to the Sun, Icarus
I do not own Harry Potter.
The summer always presented him with more time than he desired. While the other students relished in the freedom of their homes, Harry had to deal with his Aunt and on weekends, his uncle, for the entire day. That mere thought was more than enough to quell his happy spirits and make him drown in a sea of despair.
While one might think that he must be exaggerating, the fact that he found himself mowing the lawn on a bright Monday morning, while the Dursleys ate the Breakfast he prepared, should be sufficient proof of his despondent mood. It was a good thing that he ate a few eggs from his secret stash before he appeared in the kitchen for his daily chores.
His uncle drove off to his office in his car but not before smirking condescendingly at Harry while eating a strip of bacon. What his uncle didn't realize was that it only reinforced Harry's decision to steal another twenty pounds from his Uncle and a new comic book from Dudley. Ah, how he loved his dim-witted relatives.
Collapsing on the soft grass beneath him, Harry stared at the flock of birds gliding in the air and the image of the bright blue sky once again diverted his thoughts to the question that was plaguing his mind for the last few days: Could he settle with what he had?
It was a troubling thought as deep down, he clearly knew the answer. God, No.
For years, he had this thought lingering in the back of his mind; could he survive without the Dursleys? Every single time, to his consternation, the answer was a resounding 'no'. It might be the lack of belief in himself since he had always been regarded as a no-good freak or it could even be the realization that he would be leaving the only family he ever had. Though they might not be on even terms, the blood of his mother flowed through the veins of his aunt, and in a way, he would be forsaking the heritage of his mother.
His mother and father were drunks who lost their lives in a car crash. Such a depressing thought. He had heard it time and time again but it was so hard to believe the words spewed by his relatives when his heart wouldn't accept the fact. Couldn't accept the fact.
In the end, any of it might not matter and he could be bound to live his whole life as a slave to the Dursleys and that was what pained him the most. More than the notion that his parents wasted their whole lives in an inebriated stupor, only to die at a young age, leaving their only child in the hands of their uncaring relatives. He was not resolved to throw away his precious life.
The pack of cards resting in his pocket confirmed his resolution; a silent promise to himself that he would take control of his life.
Well, he had spent enough time on melancholic thoughts for one day. It was about time to test his new theory and while it might take a while, he was sure that his aunt wouldn't care if he dropped dead on the lawn. Well, she might be worried about the state of her pristine garden but the concern vanished after that point. So, why not devote his time to an experiment that might or might not take him far away from his relatives?
The hypothesis was that he could teleport to the position where his card was situated but he did not have an estimate of how far he could traverse with the use of this skill. The distance was definitely greater than the height of his school - There was no way in hell that he would ever forget that experience - but his data was limited to that single scenario.
So he devised a plan that might discover the range of this technique: Stick one of his cards to the back of a bus and when the bus halted at one of the designated stops, he would teleport to that place. While it was a solid plan, the problem was that if it failed, he would lose one of his invaluable cards. Well, as wise men said, 'Only those who risk going too far can find out how far they can go.' It perfectly depicted his current predicament.
As a precaution, he already boarded one of the buses the previous day to note the distance it traveled between each stop, and to be honest, the numbers were not in his favor. He tested his skill to a great extent but this would be a sure-shot scenario; either he could do it or he would fail.
He waited at the designated stop in Privet Drive, ignoring the people who were staring at him curiously – For the last time, I am not lost, Dammit! Can't a kid travel in peace? – while tapping his foot incessantly on the concrete to subdue his agitation. The bus arrived a minute late, during the time which Harry was forming megalomaniac plans of taking over the world and as the people swiftly boarded the bus, he slipped between them to reach the end of the vehicle. He positioned the card, seven of spades, securely behind the number plate and ambled over to the benches once again. Now, all he had to do was wait until the bus reached its destination.
There was a particular reason why he selected the Seven of Spades for this experiment. He found that certain cards possessed certain powerful traits, as in the sense that they could be more effective than the other cards for a particular technique. The unique trait of a card was determined by how often it was used for that particular technique and whether that was the card that was initially used to test that skill. Another peculiar thing he noticed was that even after repeated and extensive use, not even a single card had a scratch on them but after witnessing a card cut through a wall, it was not hard to believe.
The seven of spades was the first card he utilized for teleportation and hence, it was more effective; like a dozen times more effective for that particular skill. The king of diamonds, which he employed to drill a hole through a wall - He still couldn't believe it that actually worked - could even cut through metal like it was paper and while the remaining cards could also achieve this feat, the results were much more pronounced when the king of diamonds was used.
He checked the time on the clock that was attached to the wall behind him and it seemed that in a minute, the bus would reach the next stop. Taking his time, he strolled down to a deserted area as people usually lose their wits when they notice a boy vanishing off the face of the earth, and psyched himself for one hell of a trip.
Concentrating on the tugging feeling in the back of his mind, which was so faint that it took him a few moments to just perceive it, he disappeared...only to appear at a short distance from his vantage point. 'What the hell happened?'
Before he could ponder over this unexpected result, he felt the connection between the card and his mind fade a little and with a desperation that only comes with the fear of losing something precious, he tried to teleport again. This time, it must have worked as he felt the houses around him pass in a hazy blur and before he could lose focus, he closed his eyes and searched for the feel of his card.
With a painful smack, he hit the back of the bus and gently slid down the metal surface to land on the road. This teleportation would be the death of him someday. He just knew it.
"Are you fine, kid?" The driver who came to inspect the reason for the sudden noise asked in a worried tone and Harry simply waved him off with a smile.
"You kids these days should look where you are going," The man grumbled as he returned to his seat.
"Good advice," Harry concurred but the foolish grin on his face contradicted his words. What he just did was as dangerous as it was exciting and he simply couldn't resist the urge to do it again. It must be how riding a roller coaster must feel like...well, a roller coaster ride that ends with you being smacked face-first to the back of a bus but well, it was the novelty of the experience that mattered.
Dusting off his clothes, Harry searched for another deserted area to perform the feat again but only after noting the distance and time it took for the teleportation. This time, he came to halt a few feet away from the bus, and at his delighted cheer, some of the passengers, along with the driver, glanced his way. The passengers went back to what they were doing after a moment, probably because kids cheering for no utter reason must be common these days but the driver narrowed his eyes as he stared at him. The man must be wondering why the hell this exuberant kid was following the bus or how on earth the kid reached the bus when there was no other vehicle in sight.
Now that he thought about it, it must be the second reason.
But the suspicions of some urban driver did not dishearten Harry and he methodically noted the time and distance before strolling down to another abandoned area. This cycle continued a few more times and after the first encounter, Harry made sure to stay out of sight of the cynical driver and since no police officers were chasing after him, he must have succeeded.
Though the trip was thrilling, Harry was bound to get tired after a few more attempts and that moment came when the bus was about to enter the city center of London. After the final teleportation, Harry felt as though his entire life energy was forcibly sucked out of his body, and while taking deep breaths, he leaned over the side of the bus. It was a good thing that he ceased his adventure at this point as he was sure that once he entered the city, someone was bound to notice his abrupt materialization and as it was proved time and time again, people noticing a shocking thing would never end up being a pleasant experience.
"Were you traveling on top of the bus, boy?" the driver appeared out of nowhere, startling Harry out of his reverie and Harry once again found himself on the road while staring at the face of the man hovering above him.
Now, he had no choice but to say 'yes' as there was no believable explanation for the fact that he traveled all the way from Little Whinging to London without the help of any transportation.
Harry ducked his head into his chest and nodded morosely and by the time he looked back up, he was pouting with a few crocodile tears forming at the edges of his eyes. "I'm sorry but my relatives never let me out of the house!" he gently swabbed the tears out of his eyes. "I was saving the money for my return trip"
While only one of those statements was true, the driver had no reason to know the truth, did he?
"Even then, it's a pretty dangerous thing ya did there", the man groused but his tone softened a bit. "Now that you're here, what will ya do?"
"I'll take the return bus home", Harry replied easily and the man had to struggle not to deadpan at the answer.
"That's a...good thing to do", the driver agreed and informed him about the bus he should take to reach Privet Drive. Though the info was utterly useless to him, it was the principle that mattered and Harry did his best to appear as inquisitive as possible.
"Thank you, Mister", Harry bowed and the man ruffled his hair before sauntering over to the front of the bus.
"Take care, kid", the man added with a wave of his hand. "And don't repeat it next time."
"Sure", Harry chirped as he waved back before bouncing over to a nearby alley, which was situated between two tall buildings. The seven of spades was clenched tightly between his fingers and Harry had faith that as long as he had these cards with him, he was fairly safe. Even under the afternoon brightness of the sky, the alley was relatively dark but instead of wisely avoiding the shady area, he dared to explore the place.
It was not because he was suddenly feeling heroic enough to deal with the underground mafia of London or stupid enough to engage in a fistfight with a street thug but because he heard the one word that lured him into scouting the alley. Poker.
While it was true that he could do feats with cards that most humans only dream of, he was oblivious of the one thing that any person with a deck of cards would be aware of. Card games. You could only play with yourself for so long before you end up bashing your head on the wall and while he was moderately familiar with some of the popular games, he had little to no knowledge regarding how people actually played those games. Since engaging in a contest with anybody from Privet Drive would lead to him being locked behind the door of his cupboard for a week, courtesy of his relatives, the only choice he had was to learn from someone who was too far away from the hawkish gaze of the Dursleys.
With that decision in mind, he bravely infiltrated the secret safe-haven of the criminals of London, only to pause in his steps as he noticed the number of people in there. 'I was just joking about this being the safe-haven!'
Heads turned at the sight of him and instead of fidgeting nervously like he was compelled to do, he walked straight to a man sitting on the ground. "Can you teach me how to play?"
The people looked at each other before cackling with laughter and Harry had to suppress his urge to pout like a child who was denied a bedtime story. "Lookie 'ere, lad. Ya need some serious money ta play 'ere. Do yeh have any pound bills stored in yer little pocket?" the drunk man stammered as he patted Harry's pockets. For the first time in his life, Harry was strangely happy for not having any money with him. Definitely happy, he decided after the man hiccuped as he drank some more from the cup in his hand.
Instead of hurrying out of the alley in fear, Harry merely sidestepped the man and walked forwards. He would not be discouraged by a single drunk idiot, no matter how much he hated the people who were alcoholics. These intoxicated morons reminded him of the fact that his parents must be the type of people he was witnessing right now. That was the last thing he needed in his life at the moment.
He surveyed the alley for any person who seemed sober and it appeared as though the lady luck was shining her grace upon him. A few feet ahead of him, a tall but slim man was leaning against the wall in a gloomy corner and though it was hard to see how the man looked in the dark, it was evident that he was not inebriated like his fellow companions.
"Hello, mister", Harry called out as he stood before the man. "Can you teach me how to play?"
"Ah...what?", the man furrowed his brows before he comprehended what the boy was asking. "Oh. Sorry, kid. I can't."
Harry was about to leave, apparently unaffected, to continue his futile efforts but halted in his steps when the man shouted over to him. "Hey, kid. Wait a minute."
Harry twisted in his heels to face the man, who was staring at the card clenched between his fingers. "Can you show me the card?"
Harry thought for a moment before hesitantly handing it over. He was the one who's in desperate need of help and trust was required when dealing with favors. Had the alleyway been a little less dark, Harry would have noticed the slight widening of the man's eyes. "Can I know your name, please?"
Ok. This was going a bit far and was definitely treading on the boundaries of being personal but it was not as though he was someone relevant or famous in this world. So, with great reluctance, Harry answered the question. "Harry. Harry Potter."
The man almost dropped the card he was holding in his hands but righted himself at the last moment. "Ah. Nice to meet you, Harry."
Harry nodded in return, though it might not have been visible under the poor lighting conditions. "And you are, Mister?"
"Um...you can call me Moony".
"Really? Moony, eh? You are a genius at picking names," another man commented from the side with a snicker. Harry tilted his head to meet the eyes of a short but stout man.
"Shut up, Elliot", Moony snapped but there was no real bite in his tone. Only a hint of tiredness.
"What! That's not your real name?" Harry yelled as he pointed his finger at the man accusingly. "It's not fair".
"You've got some nerve kid", Elliot commented as he placed a hand on Moony's shoulder. "Don't go around shouting at people for not being fair. Everybody won't be as forgiving as our dear Moony."
Harry jumped back a little at the veiled threat...or advice – that was not exceedingly clear at the moment. His little detour might not be as good of an idea as he had presumed.
"Don't worry. Elliot gets a bit twitchy during the night", Moony shoved his friend away with a gentle push. "I'm sure you'll get to know my real name after a few days."
"So...um, when do we start?" Harry shifted on his feet as he held his deck of cards in his hand.
"As soon as we can, Harry", Moony informed in a calm but exhausted tone. "It's already too late but I hope I can make up for it."
Harry got the distinct feeling that Moony was not talking about a simple game of cards.
Remus had never believed in vague concepts like destiny or fate. He was a man of logic in general and not a few times, his friends accused him of being ruthlessly pragmatic. But staring at the green-eyed boy before him, who was innocently shuffling the cards in his little hands, Remus was hard-pressed to disregard such foolish notions.
The excruciating ache in his chest returned with a vengeance as he gazed upon the child of his two best friends and the guilt churning in his heart was literally eating him alive. What kid comes all the way to an unsafe alley in London - Dear Merlin, London! - to play a card game? That literally hollered of the unloving environment the boy lived in. He knew he should have ignored the wise rants of Dumbledore and rushed over to adopt the child but his furry little problem and the fact that he couldn't even fend for himself let alone another child, had clouded his decision. But it seemed that Harry would have been better off if he lived with a werewolf instead of his upstanding muggle relatives.
As the full moon was nearing, he was about to meet his friend Elliot, who stole a batch of wolfsbane potion and it happened that his friend was betting with some of the muggles who were playing poker. The wizard obviously had an unfair advantage but his friend's only reasoning was that 'What they don't know won't hurt them." Somehow, Remus felt that this muggle saying was not apt for this situation.
At first, he chalked up the boy as another kid who lost his way but when he heard the other muggles howl with laughter, he grew curious. He pleasantly rejected the boy's request but when he noticed the glowing card in the boy's hand, his interest had piqued.
He was not a scholar in the field of wand making but he had enough knowledge to identify a medium for magic when he saw one. How the hell did this kid even turn a simple playing card into a conductor of magic? Either he had huge reserves of magical power or he was a prodigy in the field of magic manipulation and the terrifying fact was that both of them were not the attributes you usually find in the wizarding world. In fact, the only people he knew who possessed this level of skill or power were Albus Dumbledore and Voldemort himself.
But what he could have never anticipated was that he would come across Harry Potter himself in a freaking alley. Honestly, when the boy told his name, Remus had to quell the oncoming heart attack, and even after that, he was startled enough that he actually dropped what he was holding.
"What game are we playing Moony?" Harry's quiet voice shook him out of his stupor and Remus blinked in surprise before the question registered in his mind.
"Um, since we are the only two people playing here", Remus gestured over to both of them as he spoke. "Let's play Blackjack. Do you know how to play Blackjack, Harry?"
Harry nodded fervently. "I have a basic idea."
Remus was suddenly grateful that he had played enough muggle card games when he was a child since his mother was a muggle and he occasionally played with his friends after Lily taught them how to play. The days spent in hiding were that boring.
"Good. I'll be the Dealer and you will be the player."
Remus started the game with absolute confidence that he could easily win against a child but after a few rounds, he was beginning to think that underestimating the kid might not be the wisest thing to do at the moment. The game continued for a few minutes during which Remus hadn't even won once and in fact, the only game he won was the first one. Had they been betting, Remus would have been drowning in a hundred pounds of debt by now and that was because the bets he generally placed were rather low. He thought that Blackjack was a game based on luck but the kid couldn't be that lucky, could he?
Wait a minute…why does it remind him of the time he had played this game with Lily? Oh, Merlin! "Harry, are you counting the cards?"
Harry looked up from the three cards clutched in his hand with a puzzled look on his face. "Isn't that how we play this game?"
Did this kid actually count all of the 52 cards in under a minute? Lily would have been so proud if she could witness how much her little child had grown and James would be running around boasting that his kid inherited his wits. Then Sirius would retort something with a snicker which would cause James to deflate as a punctured balloon and Remus would once again be the peacemaker between his two violent friends while Lily would watch from the sidelines with a tired smile on her face.
And then Harry would giggle cutely making Lily squeal like a school girl….No. Stop. That was all in the past. Lily and James were dead and Sirius was rotting in an Azkaban cell. And now Harry came all the way to London to learn how to play card games. Merlin, he still couldn't believe it. This kid must have inherited his unshakeable determination from Lily and his penchant for trouble from James.
With a proud smile on his face, Remus answered. "Well, most people can't do that but it's fine", he nodded to himself before adding hastily. "At least I think so."
"Oh!" Harry rubbed the back of his neck as he smiled sheepishly and that simple action hit Remus like a bullet to his heart. Harry had no idea how much he looked like his father at the moment and Remus would be damned if he didn't tell him that.
"So, Harry, did your parents actually allow you to come here on your own?" The smile on Harry's face abruptly vanished at the question and for a moment, Remus cursed himself for being an insensitive bastard. But the problem was that Remus had to know how much Harry actually knew about his parents.
"My parents died in a car crash", Harry mumbled with his eyes downcast but Remus heard it clearly. So clearly that the words were ringing incessantly in the back of his mind, raising his blood pressure to phenomenal levels with each iteration. Car crash? Car crash? James and Lily died in a fucking car crash?
The street light at the end of the alley burst in a shower of sparkles, startling all the people in the alley and it was a wonder that that was the only damage inflicted upon the vicinity. Elliot stared at him with a hint of worry in his eyes but at the moment he was far too angry to care about appearances. Remus was certain that the only point in his life when he was this angry was when Sirius was revealed to be the traitor and at that time, it was not because of his inaction.
But now? The savior of the entire wizarding Britain wasn't even aware of his parents let alone his legacy and that was entirely his fault. His fault because he had been a coward who couldn't even gather the courage to look after the child of his best friends. Dead best friends. Pathetic. Utterly pathetic.
"Harry", Remus called out after making sure that he would not take out his anger on someone nearby. "How much do you know about magic?"
The moment the word 'magic' was uttered, Harry's body was wracked with a shudder and as Remus noticed it, the wolf stirred inside him in a fit of rage to tear the despicable muggles into shreds.
"There is no such thing as magic", Harry parroted the words that his uncle repeatedly beat into him. Yes, the muggles were definitely going to die miserably on a full moon and if Remus had his way, it would be an extremely painful but enjoyable experience. Painful for the muggles and enjoyable for him.
Remus took a deep breath while massaging his temples and voiced the idea that was running through his mind since he heard about the 'car crash'. "Harry, do you think your relatives will mind if I kidnap you?"
Author's Note: A short but important chapter. It should have been longer but it's Friday and I can't end up writing the whole night.
So, what do you guys think? Did you expect this? Just leave a simple Review on your way. A short and sweet, 'Oh my god! That was totally unexpected' will suffice. Thank You.
The next update might be on Monday or Tuesday. Or is it Wednesday? These timelines are so confusing.