The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
It should have been a spell to give good luck. It was dreadfully simple, really, and James considered himself to be more than decent with Charms. He had graduated with an O from Hogwarts in his seventh year. He knew he wasn’t a Master like Lily; Transfiguration was his own strength.
But he had to do something. This was his son; this baby was his to protect, to love, to nurture. The protection shouldn’t be left to Lily alone.
James knew what she had planned was far grander; more flashy and bold, leaving nothing to chance, though she had given him few details. He was a Gryffindor, though, and knew every boy and man also needed an element of luck.
It wasn’t any where near the strength of a Felix Felicis potion, of course; it was merely a dash, a sprinkling, of fortunate coincidence in the important times of life.
James cast the spell, and smiled as the baby stirred and sighed. With a kiss to its soft cheek, he left the room, a content cast to his honest face.
Of course, there was more to creating a spell than merely speaking the latin properly. If James would have spent more time, perhaps read some of his own wife’s notes, he would have known that the movement of the wand is just as important; as is the the will of the castor.
New spells are a tricky business.
James had wanted his son to have good luck and fortune; instead, he had cast upon him a charm to make good choices. The choices that were the most fortunate for him; the choices that, with luck, would give the child more success.
But there is a fine line between a charm and a curse, and it sometimes lies in whether the afflicted would have chosen the enchantment at all.
Perhaps it would have all turned out right, if not for one more minor mistake.
Magic’s definition of a good choice is not always similar to that a Gryffindor father would choose.
The toddler stared into the monsters red eyes, and made the choice not to cry.
His mother lay on the floor, still in a way she never was when they played. He didn’t have a word for what that stillness was, but it made him afraid.
When he was afraid, he would cry, because he had learned that crying meant comfort, tender touches and soothing words and loving kisses. But the monster was staring at him now, and the monster had done something to his mother, the one who normally brought comfort.
So he did not cry, but watched the monster as it approached, green eyes wide and solemn.
“This? This will defeat me?” The monster mused in a oddly normal voice, and the boy considered if he should cry on the chance that his dad would come. But his dad had been rough lately, with loud words and shouts and swift gestures, frenzies, and the boy was afraid of that too.
He did not cry.
The red-eyed monster smiled at the boy, and lifted the stick in his hand, the same stick the boy had often seen in his parents hands. The magic thing, the thing that made things happen, good things and bad.
The monster paused, eyes narrowed, considering.
“Perhaps… perhaps there are other ways.”
He stepped closer, reached out a single finger to the child. The boy knew what this meant. His mother liked this game, the game of reaching and tugging and smiling.
The boy grasped the finger in his small fist.
The pain was startling in its intensity, and far greater than any fear he had of the monster.
The boy cried, great heaving wails, cried and waited for the comfort, waited for his mother to rise off the ground and hold him, his father to rush into the room and confront the monster that hurt him, waited and screamed, his voice drowning out the curses of the monster.
The green light bloomed between them, the reward for his screams being more pain this time instead of relief, no father and no mother, only the red-eyed monster and his green light, the air suffocating and dark.
The boy fell to his crib, and the monster was gone. He sucked in air, hiccuped. He opened his mouth to cry, and then paused.
He had cried before, and the green light had come. Perhaps the rules had changed again, like when he was no longer allowed in the kitchen, or when he could no longer play with toys when they snapped. The boy lay in his crib, silent, besides the occasional hitching sigh, and made the good choice.
Crying brings no comfort.
He didn’t speak often. He had learned that speaking seldom accomplished much for himself, though his cousin profited greatly. Another rule; the same action does not receive the same result if taken by a different person.
But in his silence, he found his own power, and began to make his own rules.
In his second week of school, he learned to read, and learned that boys slept in beds and not cupboards.
He looked down at the simple words and simple pictures.
See Jane sleep. See Jane in her bed. Jane sleeps in her bed.
The boy cast a glance around the classroom, and easily tore the paper from the primer. That afternoon, he placed it on his aunt and uncles bed.
That night, the second bedroom became his.
The choice not to speak was profitable at times.
He knew he was far more intelligent that his peers. He did not understand why they did not follow the rules. He did not understand why they made the same mistakes, why they took the long route, why they were difficult. He listened to them bicker, and whine, and fight, and change nothing.
He did not bother with bad choices.
Instead, he learned. He read books about people, simple picture ones at first, until he built the skill to read longer and harder words. He became known at the small school library, an oddity, but a quiet one who bothered no one.
He learned about bad choices and good ones, and that sometimes the good choices became bad if further good choices were not made. He learned the differences a situation makes upon a choice, and learned that good and bad often had little to do with right and wrong.
He became frustrated with the children around him, that they did not see this fact, but he remained silent.
He made the choice to blend in, to study further, to explore this world around him that was so foreign and made little sense.
His cousin was large. A big boy gone to fat, though beneath it rested power. The boy knew he would never be as strong as his cousin; but the world is made of balance, and the boy’s strength lay in speed.
In the boy’s books, Dudley would be the villain; the bully, the tyrant.
Because the boy did not want his cousin to win, he must be the hero, and make a heros choices. But often the hero’s choices were not good; they were right, and that made things much more difficult.
The boy decided he would be a hero that made good choices only.
That afternoon, Dudley pushed him down, and laughed.
The boy stood, and withdrew the thin knife he had stolen from his aunt’s kitchen, and easily pushed it through his cousins leg. The larger boy howled, but he had chosen his place of aggression too well. The playground was secluded and empty, large trees blocking the view from the road.
“Freak! I’ll tell mummy! I’ll tell!”
The boy remained silent, but withdrew the knife with a sick sucking noise. Dudley stumbled and fell, fat tears dropping down his cheeks. When the curses finally fell silent, Dudley looked up at him, and there was fear in his eyes.
The boy deiced he preferred fear to scorn, and spoke softly.
“Tell, and I will do worse.”
It was simple. The boy had learned to love simplicity, how the lack of details often made others fill in the blanks with what they wished to hear.
Or what they feared to hear.
Dudley paled further, and his gaping mouth snapped shut. The boy gently laid the knife down beside his cousin. Brown eyes followed it, then snapped up to his. Dudley swallowed, and the boy watched his throat bob with a tilted head.
Then, Dudley nodded, once.
The boy smiled and walked away.
The boy’s name was Harry Potter. He had always seemed to know this, but the name was seldom used in reference to himself at home. At school this changed; He was Mr. Harry Potter to the teachers, and Harry to his classmates. The boy began to think of the rule of names, how power was given to titles, and friendship extended with the giving of first names.
Harry did not give his name, because he did not want ignorant friends. At first, the boys and girls of his classes used it without his permission. But Harry would not respond to them, and they began to stop.
Harry learned that when one ignores others, one is often ignored in turn. Eventually. It was a rule he preferred.
Harry walked down the street, and heard the girl begging.
“Stop! Oh, please, stop! It’s mine! Stop!”
Dudley and his two friends, nearly as large as he, gathered around the crying girl, and jeered as they emptied her pink book bag upon the dirty street.
His cousin jeered.
The girl only cried. She looked like a small rabbit surrounded by a pack of dogs.
Dudley saw him coming, and paused.
His two friends still smirked, flexing fat-wrapped muscle. But Dudley did not smile, or speak. He had learned from his cousin as well.
Harry stopped beside them, and looked down at the girl. Then he met his cousin’s eyes.
Harry said simply, and saw Dudley flush, his eyes falling to the floor. Harry walked on, ignoring the girls weeping, and heard the questions the two other boys growled in his direction.
Dudley responded softly.
“Leave him alone. He’s crazy.”
Harry hadn't said what was pitiful about it, because it would require too many words, and words were precious. The girl was pitiful; tears solved no problems. Dudley was pitiful, for targeting such a weak victim. The boys were pitiful for following him in it.
But why should Harry interfere? There was a choice there, as well. Harry was learning that there were good choices, and better choices, and the best choices. Just like there were bad choices, and the worst ones.
Harry walked home, the girl forgotten, as he considered the rewards a good choice brings.
“Help me, Harry! Please.” Dudley begged in a whisper.
They were ten; and Dudley no longer picked on young girls in the street. He had taken what he wanted to hear from Harry’s words years ago, and decided that the condemnation was against himself. His gang went for bigger prizes now.
Harry lay back upon his bed, staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom, silent.
Another rule; the quieter the one who listens, the more the ones speaking will strive to fill the silence.
“I didn’t mean to, it was an accident! Mum and Dad will kill me. We were just trying to steal that new bike, we know a guy who buys them for pounds. No one was supposed to be there! I just... I thought if I hit him, just a little, he would go unconscious and we could get away. But he saw me, Harry! And I was so angry, and… and he’s not breathing. Piers ran away, and I can’t do it on my own. Please.”
Harry considered his choices.
Dudley shouldn’t be worried about his parents. He should be worried about far greater authorities. But his cousin’s mind was small, though his frame was not.
He could let the boy fail, and be rid of him. But there might be unintended consequences to that action.
This man was already dead. The harm had been done. And if Harry did this, he would be rewarded with a loyalty that goes deeper than mere fear of physical retribution.
Harry sat up in the dark room, and met his cousins eyes.
And he prepared himself for the messy choice of hiding a body.
Harry was always alone. He read his books alone, and when the stillness became too much, he took to running alone. In both movement and the lack of movement, his mind turned and spun, calculating always.
He turned his runs into a mathematical equation, learning the streets around his aunt’s house, calculating distances and times and risk. Every step was a choice; a choice to go faster or slower, further or turn back, push harder or rest.
And Harry always made a good choice, and mostly made the best ones.
He was lean and quiet, and in the last years the indifference of his peers turned to respect and a small portion of fear.
Dudley’s gang ruled the school, and only Harry walked immune to them. Because the powerful gave him respect, Harry in turn was made more powerful than they. It was a rule Harry filed away carefully in his mind.
The month before his eleventh birthday the letter came. His aunt retrieved the post, and paled. Harry watched her eyes dart to him, to her husband, to Dudley.
He saw her consider her choices.
Then her eyes met his own, vibrant green in a pale face framed with messy black hair, and her shoulders dropped.
She dropped the letter beside him, and turned away.
Harry read it, and never once thought it was false. He had known he was different.
Now he knew why.
His aunt answered his questions in a blank voice, her eyes filled with sorrow and hate, staring into some past place and seeing ghosts.
She took him to the wizard’s alley, because Harry had no owl with which to answer the letter to the magical school of Hogwarts.
Harry learned many things that day, and more rules than he could number.
Not all wizards were the same.
Blood and name both held deep meaning.
Harry Potter was the Boy-Who-Lived.
No one could tell him who You-Know-Who is.
Harry didn’t let his mind grow confused with the influx of information. Did not allow his eyes to cloud in amazement and wonder at the sight of magic.
He created a box in his mind, a new one tucked beside all the others, and memorized everything.
He made the best choice he could; he immediately sought out information, for without knowledge, he could make no other good choices.
He did not leave the alley, and knew his aunt did not expect him to. He had money now; old money, Potter money, a vault filled with golden coins. He did not need his relatives, muggles, non magical folk.
He made the choice to abandon them with a smile.
The first week was spent in reading, in delving into magic and its world. He had responded to the letter; he acquired his supplies, and a hundred more useful things.
The wand was the most memorable.
Ollivander, the wandmaker, was as quiet as himself, and Harry enjoyed the silence. He tried wand after wand, until one responded in tongues of green and gold fire.
“Interesting.” the man murmured, and Harry watched him and learned a new rule.
Eventually, one must speak to receive answers.
“What is?” Harry finally asked.
Ollivander spoke, his tone rueful, and Harry tucked the information away.
His wand was brother to another, the wand of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the one who gave him his scar, the one who killed his parents, the red-eyed monster of his nightmares.
Harry had found the wizards name in books only, and looked up its meaning, and questioned.
Had the wizard run from death, or considered it to flee from him? What, exactly, did Voldemort seek to gain in such a name?
Another rule; There is reason behind every choice, good or bad, right or wrong. And those reasons were seldom unimportant.