Chapter 1: With Mentions of Arson and Chaotic Cousins
It could've gone wrong a thousand ways. Some would argue that it should have gone differently. Of the many stories that have been retold and universes lived and explored, a remarkable few ever portray the Dursleys in good light. A small handful have featured a change of heart early on, and it is usually believable that Dudley Dursley could experience a change of heart as an adult. Still, there are many more iterations of the Dursley family with little alteration to their original, sad existences, and of those that do differ, it is rarely in pleasant ways. (One such instance hilariously showcased the Dursley family being cursed, Dudley spontaneously being 'gifted' with magic, and then turning completely, intentionally evil anyways.) The point is, Dudley Dursley has long been universally recognized as a bully.
That is not the case for this Dudley.
As result of just a few minor tweaks in his early upbringing, Dudley Dursley is not quite the same child here as he is in a plethora of other universes. He is still often rude, especially to other children, but it is born out of impulsiveness and an apathy to consequences, instead of a want to hurt others. He still gleefully creates conflict, but more often than not, it is with the intention of fighting, not victimized torture. Dudley Dursley, although he does not know it and certainly cannot put it into words, enjoys when unusual and unexpected occurrences interrupt seemingly normal days. In his second year of schooling, after two failed attempts, he finally succeeds in starting a food fight that evolved/devolved into a two-hour calorie-sponsored war. Complete with trench warfare, Guerrilla tactics, and a selective service training program for a special forces team. The epic battle (or, catastrophe, depending on who you ask) was only ended when the school staff- the only people that had actually eaten- finally woke up from the heavily drugged food that had been served (it was ketamine).
(Dudley thinks this makes him a hero- not that he understands what drugs are [YET]- but the Headmistress still has him cleaning chalkboards after school for the rest of the week.)
After a couple of years of having different teachers, Dudley and his cousin ended up in the same class. Harry Potter is an odd boy, and while he hasn't really seen any evidence to support it, he trusts his parents when they say that 'boy' is a freak (because they're his parents, and Potter has always been the odd, unwanted member of the household). Dudley is happy to not have chores, but there are only so many times that chasing his skinny cousin can be fun. Dudley tends to look for more interesting ways to cause a disturbance, and on the whole, hasn't paid much attention to 'that small boy living in the cupboard.'
At age seven, Dudley watches Harry Potter turn their teachers' hair blue and realizes a few things:
1) His cousin is a freak, and it's brilliant.
2) Even without breaking the laws of physics and basic normalcy, Harry Potter is an absolute magnet for the weird and illogical.
3) Dudley Dursley revels in the chaos.
There were many things in Harry Potter's life that didn't make sense. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon's incessant, irrational hatred didn't make sense. The occasional events that occurred around the green-eyed boy, which frequently broke the laws of logic and sometimes the laws of physics as well. Considering how his parents raised him, Dudley's treatment of Harry did make sense, up until it didn't. At some point in their childhood, Dudley decided that Harry had to be some sort of paragon of chaos, and switched from antagonizing his cousin to encouraging the acts of impossible. Harry, who never really had any friends, was always somewhat conflicted over this. It made life outside of Number 4, Privet Drive considerably more enjoyable, but a good bit more confusing as well.
Harry Potter was a strange boy.
Somehow, one of the things that made the most sense in his bizarre life was the chaos currently unfolding in front of him, inside of a rickety old shack in the middle of a storm. It manifested in the form of a massive, wild-looking man named Hagrid who broke into that rickety old shack, not a minute after Harry turned eleven, gave Harry's Aunt horse hooves and his Uncle a pig snout, committed arson in the arson-box [read: fireplace] with an umbrella, and told Harry he was a wizard.
Harry Potter was, indeed, quite the unusual boy.
As Hagrid was making himself comfortable on the couch, he pulled out a slightly misshapen package and handed it to Harry with a "might 'ave sat on it at some poin', but shoul' taste good all th' same, eh Harry?"
Harry stared in awe at his very first birthday present. It did indeed appear to be slightly smashed, but a hesitantly tasted bite proved the cake to be delicious nonetheless. Dudley, being Dudley, had managed to sleep through Hagrid's cannon-like entrance and a literal gunshot, but woke up and trotted over to his cousin when the cake made its appearance. Anything for those sweet, succulent, calories. Neither of the boys had really anything to eat the night before, and in addition to an entire cake now being in the possession of one bespeckled boy, Hagrid was now cooking a handful of thick sausages over the blazing fire (arson!) as he muttered something about rock cakes.
Dudley gestured to the cake, "Do you mind, Harry?"
Harry, who still had not regained the power over speech, wordlessly handed his cousin the sugar-themed birthday present. As Dudley sat down, leaning against the unhappy couch, Harry continued to stare at the man that had just about turned his world upside down. His mouth opened and closed a few times, no sound escaping. Then, almost audibly, the gears finally began to turn in Harry's head.
"Wait, I'm a wot?"
This had undoubtedly been the best birthday in Harry's life. In all fairness, it had become the best birthday barely ten minutes after the clock struck midnight, what with Hagrid's dramatic entrance and revelations, completely overturning the Dursley family order.
Harry trailed after Hagrid, mouth agape as he stared at the beautiful disorder of Diagon Alley. A mother passed them in the opposite direction, tugging along her son by the foot as the boy floated and bounced a few feet above the crowds of the Alley. Harry stared wide-eyed at anything and everything as Hagrid led him into Gringotts. After a brief exchange with a goblin (a goblin?!) at the teller stand, the pair were led down a hall.
Hagrid, who appeared to be steeling himself for something, caught Harry's gaze on him. "Well, bes' be gettin' it on an' over with, eh Harry?" he muttered, waving the boy on.
Harry wondered what Hagrid looked so worried about and why it would be in a bank of all places. Oh well, it couldn't be anything that terrible, could it?
Overwhelmed by the adrenaline rush from the ride, Harry was barely able to process the piles of gold that somehow belonged to him. As it was, his knees were still wobbling slightly some twenty minutes later, as he made his way through the shops with Hagrid. Now that he was finally overcoming his awe-filled shock, Harry was alight with curiosity over this new world he had found himself in. As they collected his supplies like potion ingredients from the apothecary ("still smells better than that one time my uncle tried to cook") and textbooks ("I'm still not wholly convinced Dudley knows what these things are"), Harry was ablaze with questions with just about everything he saw. Hagrid had bought Harry a beautiful snowy white owl, which helped distract from the weird boy fervently muttering about hair products in Madam Malkin's.
There was only one stop left- to Ollivander's, for a wand. Harry was nearly clearing Hagrid's knees with how excited he was bouncing. This was it, everything else had been completely intoxicatingly bizarre, but the wand- the wand- Harry felt, was special.
Over thirty minutes later, the duo emerged from a slightly more run-down Ollivander's than they had entered. Ollivander, defying expectation and pretty much every norm Harry knew about adults, seemed to grow more and more delighted with each destructively failed wand that Harry touched. A match was finally found, however, and the wand in question seemed to deeply intrigue the eccentric man.
When queried, Ollivander's head snapped up from his mumblings. "Well, it's peculiar you see, Mr. Potter. The wand chooses the wizard, and it is very strange indeed that you would find yourself with that wand when it's brother…well it's brother gave you that scar. Took out many a good witch and wizard before it met its match in you." Ollivander's face darkened before he put on a brighter expression. "Yes, yes, the wand chooses the wizard, and you, my dear boy, feel free to choose Ollivander's the next time your wand-related needs arise! That shall be seven Galleons." And with payment in hand, Ollivander ushered the two out of his moderately scorched shop.
Out of the corner of his eye, through the storefront window, Harry noticed Ollivander trip and eat shit, accompanied by a small explosion of sparks erupting above the old wizard. However, Harry had more pressing matters to be concerned with. "Hagrid, who killed my parents?"
Hagrid did not appear pleased with this turn of conversation.
"Hey, Dud, guess what the core of my wand is made of?"
"A phoenix tail-feather."
A shrug, "Oh, alright then."
"No, you don't understand Dudley, phoenixes are immortal. Get this, they set themselves on fire every time they rebirth. That power is in my wand, Dudley."
Dudley's eyes lit up like demented birthday candles. "Arson…"
Harry Potter had never been to a train station before, but he had assumed that he wouldn't have an issue finding the Hogwarts Express. Harry was beginning to learn that assumptions can be dangerous and unhelpful. Not only did he have the heavy congestion of King's Cross to negotiate, Harry was also struggling to simply find the platform. Platforms 8, 9, 10, and 2 ½, the young wizard located easily, but platform 9 ¾ remained elusively nonexistent. In his haste and worry, Harry's search around the station became ever more elusive and frantic, pushing through the crowds as fast as he could. As he passed under the platform 9 sign for the fourth time in as many minutes, he stumbled and lost his grip on his trolley. The trolley skirted off, with Hedwig squawking indignantly.
"No!" Harry gasped, sprinting to catch his belongings. He reached the trolley, only to look up and realize his impending doom that was the next barrier dividing the platforms. Harry squeezed his eyes shut in anticipation of impact, but none came. Looking around, the Boy-Who-Lived let out a deep sigh in relief. He had found the train.
With the help of a couple of older boys, Harry got Hedwig and his trunk onto the express and set about finding a seat. In short order, he found an empty compartment, the train set off, and a red-headed, freckled face poked its way around the door
"Do you mind?" the boy gestured to the empty seats.
"Not at all," Harry replied.
The boy settled in, as Harry fed Hedwig an owl treat. The compartment door slid open again, revealing a kind-looking woman.
"Anything from the trolley dears?" she chuckled, waving to the aforementioned cart of sugary treats.
Harry looked back at his red-haired acquaintance. "D'you want some sweets?"
Thus began the legendary friendship of Harry Potter and Ron Weasely.
As the two boys bonded over candy and imperfect family members, a number of people popped in and out of the compartment. The first was red-headed twins, who introduced themselves as Fred and George. They opened the door just as Harry was finishing a story about Dudley and a potato on top of the school building. Fred and George, upon hearing the end of Harry's misadventure, immediately proclaimed that they shared a bond. Ron shuddered at the manic look in his brothers' eyes.
Later, a short bushy-haired girl swept through the compartment, chattering about a missing toad, a boy named Neville, and about three different textbook readings she had done. Barely two seconds after she left, the window cracked open, and a small green blob landed on the window sill.
Harry and Ron stared.
The toad croaked.
"Should we, you know…" Harry trailed off.
Ron squinted up at the newest member of the compartment. It was wearing a bow tie. "Nah, I think he'll be fine. Look, he's just chillin'."
The toad, presumably Trevor, croaked again. He was, indeed, chilling.
Sometime later, the boys looked up at the sound of a small scuffle outside their compartment.
"...I swear to Merlin, you two...mess my hair up and I'll-"
The compartment door slid open again. A blond boy, sporting a head of heavily styled hair, was flanked by two much larger boys.
"So it's true then. Everyone has been saying up and down the train that Harry Potter has come to Hogwarts." The blond boy flicked an imaginary speck of dust off of his robes.
Harry didn't much care for how the boy had said his name. Play dumb, he thought. "What's a train?"
The blond boy looked as perplexed as Harry felt.
"You're a Malfoy, aren't you," Ron broke in.
"That I am," said Malfoy, throwing a glare at Ron's words, "and these are my friends, Crabbe and Goyle." The boys grunted for their respective names. Malfoy turned back to his original target. "Draco, Malfoy, pleased to make your acquaintance," he held out his hand to Harry, pointedly dismissing the presence of Harry's red-headed companion.
Ron narrowed his eyes. Harry hesitantly reached out, slapped his palm to Malfoy's, and dapped him up.
Malfoy appeared to be in shock.
"I have a rat. Grrr." Ron held up Scabbers, who was looking slightly, but really not at all yellow.
Goyle nudged his friend. "We're hungry, Draco."
Trevor croaked threateningly.
The other klunk of a child grunted and reached for the remaining pile of sweets.
Trevor launched off of the window sill like a bullet, pinballing off of the three intruding boys, and landing on Malfoy's head.
"MY HAIR!" He screeched.
Malfoy and his two midget grunts scrambled to get up and out of the compartment as quickly as possible. A few frantic gasps later, a boy with a scar, a boy with living parents, a toad in a bow tie, and what appeared to be a rat were all that remained in the compartment. The sound of footsteps racing away was quickly drowned out by the ambient noise of the train.
Trevor had somehow returned to his spot next to the window. He winked at Harry.
Ron's stomach rumbled. "Well, now I'm hungry," he complained.
Harry chucked a chocolate frog at him.
"What do you think McGonagall's deal is?" Ron muttered to Harry as they watched the aforementioned woman slap the raggedy Sorting Hat down on the next first year.
Deputy Headmistress Professor McGonagall was indeed in a mood. Something or other must-have set her off, as she had wasted no time in herding the first years into the Great Hall. In fact, under her piercing stare, the sorting was being completed at record speeds. When it was Harry's sorting, he barely had time to realize what the hat was muttering ("Well it's gotta either be badgers or eagles. Oh, I don't know, eenie meenie miny moe, catch a ho-mo-phobe, by its throat. Hmm, snakes it is!") before the hat shouted "Gryffindor!" to the rambunctious cheering of the house of lions. After the final sorting, Ron into Gryffindor, Professor McGonagall raised a hand for silence.
There were laughs and a few whoops to her words, followed by gasps of awe and sighs of relief as the magical kitchen of Hogwarts finally served dinner.
Sometime later, after heaps of food and pudding, Harry deliriously watched Professor McGonagall rise again from the head table. She placed a hand on the shoulder of the wizened old man next to her, sat in what was clearly the Headmaster's throne- chair.
"The Forbidden Forest is as straightforward as it sounds- forbidden." She stated imperiously. "See your captain's or head's of houses for information on quidditch tryouts. Do not go into the third-floor corridor unless you have a genuine death wish."
Fred and George looked deeply intrigued by this. McGonagall seemed to smell that reaction and whipped her gaze around to the twins. "That includes you, Mr. and Mr. Weasely. Now, goodnight to you all." She waved her hands, shooing the students out of the Great Hall.
~Ten minutes later
Harry didn't know how he got to his dormitory. He doesn't know what the Gryffindor common room looks like, barely remembers the portrait that swung open to admit them, is unsure how he was able to navigate the many sets of stairs in this massive castle, and, in the back of his mind, Harry is in utter disbelief that he managed to get off of the bench at Gryffindor Table.
All he knows is that this thing, this bed, is the single most comfortable thing he has ever experienced or could possibly have hoped to encounter. Magic would have to wait, his body decided as it shut down like a computer being whacked with a cricket bat.
Harry Potter closed his eyes, happy.
AN: And so it begins. I already have several chapters written, leading all the way into second year. Just needs a bit more editing.
Feedback helps, both with the story and to keep me motivated. I anticipate some of my author notes being a lot longer than this, but for now I just want to publish.
Hope you enjoyed!