Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Power of Knowledge - Chapter 1

The Power of Knowledge
Chapter 1
Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of the year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework, but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.
“Oh, bugger it,” Harry snarled as the torch he was using to read A History for Magic flickered out for the sixth time. Kicking the blanket off of his body and freeing his head and shoulders, Harry furiously unscrewed the torch and took out the batteries. He waited for a few seconds before placing them back in and switching the torch back on. This time, instead of lighting up for a few minutes like it usually did, it just flickered again and died.
It was all Harry could do to not scream out his frustration. There was no need to wake up the entire house. Harry still had a few hours before Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia woke up, and he had planned to finish at least two essays before then.
“If only the bloody torch would work,” the twelve year old grumbled as he closed the book he was reading with a snap, the quill he was using as a pointed becoming a bookmark.
Harry turned his head to look out the window, wishing that Hedwig was here to keep him company. Perhaps if he wished hard enough, she would come soaring through the sky with a dead mouse clutched proudly in her beak. Harry smiled and yawned at the same time; Hedwig would be expecting praise if indeed she had caught a mouse.
Feeling tired but not quite ready to sleep, Harry coaxed his body to sit up and walk over to the window, where he sat on the sill and gazed forlornly out into the quiet street. Though Harry would not admit it out loud, during this time of night, Privet Drive looked beautiful – well, maybe not beautiful, but it held a sort of attractiveness to it that only comes out at night. Perhaps it was the absence of the nosey neighbours and the terror teens that paraded the streets as if they owned the place.
Harry yawned again. It was on that position, perched on the window sill and his forehead pasted on the glass, Harry Potter fell asleep, dreaming of dreams any normal student would classify as nightmares. If only he could finish that essay…
Harry woke to the strange sensation of having his ear being bitten. He jumped in shock, the skin on his forehead in pain as it had freed itself from the glass. Hedwig, on the other hand, flew around him in a tizzy, hooting her disapproval for being dislodged from his shoulder quite unceremoniously.
“Keep the noise, boy, or else that owl of yours would be mincemeat!” shouted Uncle Vernon from all the way down in the kitchen.
Frowning, Harry wondered if he had overslept. He cast his eyes around for his watch, but saw instead an outdated calendar he was using to count the days until the 1st of September. It was a Saturday, and Saturdays were the only days Uncle Vernon woke up extra early to make breakfast. It was a strange concept to Harry, his hippo of an uncle cooking food, but then he must love his aunt very much to give her a day off.
“I’m sorry, girl,” whispered Harry to Hedwig as the bird settled on his proffered arm. “I didn’t know you were there.”
Hedwig hooted once in forgiveness and twice to notify Harry of his mail. Upon seeing the piles of letters and the various parcels that came with them, the now official thirteen year old boy grinned. It was his birthday – how could he forget? He read all the letters and looked through all the gifts, expressing his joy verbally whenever he unwrapped a parcel. His favourite so far was Hermione’s gift: a Broomstick Servicing Kit that was very much appreciated.
There were only two letters and one package left, and Harry reached out to read his Hogwarts letter. He frowned at the mention of needing to have a signed slip to be able to go to Hogsmeade, but then figured that he could as Uncle Vernon later… if his uncle was wanted to come close enough to something as ‘strange’ as parchment to sign it.
From her perch on Harry’s bedside table, Hedwig hooted, as if sensing Harry’s disappointment.
“I said keep the noise down, boy!” yelled Uncle Vernon, which only prompted Hedwig to hoot some more. Harry frantically tried to hush her and only marginally succeeded after bribing her with owl treats.
“Now, who could this one be from?” Harry asked himself, opening the last letter. He already opened his gifts from Ron, Hermione and Hagrid, and he already had his Hogwarts letter. Who else would greet him on his birthday? Judging from the parcel that came with the missive, Harry knew that it was a present – a quite large present – but from whom?
Dear Harry, the letter said. Francis Bacon once said that “Knowledge is power.” He was right. This letter is attached to a parcel containing books – seven magnificent books that hold so much knowledge, they can change the course of history. Be careful with them. Don’t let just anyone read them.
Perplexed but otherwise curious, Harry peeled off the plain brown wrapping of the strange parcel. What was revealed was a box, completely Muggle looking though Harry was sure it arrived via owl post. What other explanation could there be? Harry quickly opened the box and saw that, yes, there were books inside. He wouldn’t go as far as say that they were magnificent books because, well… the books were about him.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
With a muttered curse, Harry picked up the two books and read their respective summaries:
Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by a beetle-eyed giant of a man, enrols at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!
Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last…
“Bloody hell!” Harry cursed again, sounding very much like his best friend Ron. “This is – this is beyond weird, even for the Wizarding World.” Harry turned to Hedwig as if trying to convince her, though he knew deep inside that he was convincing himself. “I mean,” he continued, “I know I’m famous and everything, but I don’t think they’d go as far as writing some sort of biography about me. I’m no Lockhart!”
Harry sat absently on his bed, disturbing Hedwig from her preening. There was silence for a few moments, then: “Bloody hell.” And Harry Potter laid on his back, hoping that the books were just an elaborate prank from someone – Fred and George, more likely. Though, Harry doubted the Weasley twins knew who Francis Bacon was.
“Well,” Harry said to no one in particular. “There’s no other way to find out.”
And so Harry Potter, the boy who lived, spent his thirteenth birthday reading story books about his life.
_Page Break_
It was six days later that Harry finished the first three books and since then, Aunt Marge, Uncle Vernon’s horrible sister, had been living with them. Harry avoided her as much as he could (he still remembered that time he was stuck up a tree until way past midnight because of her and her vicious dog), and so his was spent locked up in his room, reading. He was already way into the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and while it was still odd to read about himself, it was quite gratifying to read about the possible future (though Harry doubted his future would ever include an escaped convict, or an obscure tournament that would bring three different schools from three different countries together in one drafty castle).
Harry was in denial, to say the least. Even though the first two books were as accurate as they could be, Harry still refused to believe that someone named J.K Rowling knows that much about his past, his present and his future. It was all make-believe. Some avid Boy Who Lived fan must have been stalking him the past few years or something like that.
Still, Harry had to admit that the books were good. Reaching out absently for the Goblet of Fire, Harry thumbed through the pages until he was at the page he left off before he had breakfast.
“As you know, three champions compete in the tournament,” Dumbledore went on calmly, “one from each of the participating schools. They will be marked on how well they perform each of the Tournament tasks and the champion with the highest total after task three will win the Triwizard Cup. The champions will be chosen by an impartial selector: the Goblet of Fire.”
The story then went on to describe the Cup, the rules of the game and the various reactions from the students. Harry particularly liked the part where Fred and George tried to put their names into the Cup. Only they would be clever enough to make an Aging Potion and at the same time thick enough to think that they can fool one of Professor Dumbeldore’s enchantments.
Book Fred and George really should have listened to Book Hermione. Harry continued reading with a fond smile, but as he neared the end of the chapter, that smile dropped into a grimace. He knew that it was too good to be true:
There was a long pause, during which Dumbledore stared at the slip in his hands, and everyone in the room stared at Dumbledore. And then Dumbledore cleared his throat and read out – “Harry Potter.”
Harry was glad, once again, that this was happening to Book Harry and not himself. He read through the next few chapters with great speed, growing annoyed at Cedric for not believing him, at his fellow Gryffindors for celebrating even though his being chosen as a Champion was nothing to celebrate, and finally, Harry was annoyed at Ron for his blatant jealousy.
“He should know that I didn’t put my name into the cup!” Harry yelled out of nowhere. Sensing his anger, Harry placed the book down and tried counting up to ten. When that didn’t work, he glanced outside and saw that it was already mid-morning. Perhaps he could go out for a walk.
Feeling that that was a good plan as any, Harry shoved his feet into his trainers and practically ran out of his room. He paused by the door, debating whether to bring the book or not, but then he figured that the reason he was taking a walk in the first place was because of that book, so he left it there on his bed, partially covered by his sheets.
“Just where do you think you’re going?” asked Aunt Marge, taking Harry completely by surprise. Having made a beeline for the front door, he did not see her standing there in the hallway, talking to someone on the phone.
Harry pursed his lips together and, schooling his features to be as innocent as possible, turned around slowly. In exchange for a signed slip to Hogsmeade, Harry promised his uncle that he would be in his best behaviour. He could not let the events of Prisoner of Azkaban come true. He will get his slip signed from his uncle.
“I was going for a walk,” said Harry simply.
Aunt Marge’s eyes thinned into slits. “No, you are not,” she argued. “Your Aunt Petunia has been slaving away in the kitchen all morning, preparing lunch for the family – including you, you ungrateful brat. Forget about that walk. You’re going to help her with the meatloaf.”
Harry looked past the woman’s shoulders and spied his aunt in the kitchen, seemingly busy with preparing the food. But Harry knew better. She was eavesdropping.
“I don’t think she wants my help,” said Harry. “If she does, she can ask me herself. Meanwhile, I think I’ll just take that walk.”
Not waiting to hear Aunt Marge’s response, Harry moved to open the front door. Only he couldn’t reach the knob since a large, beefy hand had grasped his elbow, spun him around. He gave a shout of surprise.
“You insolent boy!” snarled Aunt Marge with equal volume. “My brother and his wife had taken you in out of the goodness of their hearts! And you repay them with this – with this insolence! Why, I oughta use a cane like they do in St. Brutus’. Petunia!”
Aunt Petunia shuffled into the hallway, a look of displeasure on her face. “What’s going on here?” she asked, feigning ignorance though Harry was sure she knew what was going on. Her knuckles, Harry noticed, were white from clutching the wash cloth too hard.
“This ungrateful wretch is refusing to pull his weight around the house,” declared Aunt Marge. “The entire four days I’ve been here, I’ve barely seen him lift a finger. He spends all of his time locked up in Dudley’s second bedroom and,” she pulled on his arm again, “he is refusing to help in the kitchen. I say we cane him.”
“Marge,” said Aunt Petunia, distraught. “Surely you don’t mean – Marge, you’re drunk. How much brandy did you have this morning?”
Aunt Marge did not hear Aunt Petunia’s question. She continued on ranting, complaining about Harry’s idleness and his disrespect for her brother’s family. Harry couldn’t help but roll his eyes at her. Drunk or not, she was over-exaggerating.
“He might be the son of a no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger who happened to marry your sister, Petunia, but he has no excuse to neglect his responsibilities for this family!”
“Take that back,” Harry said, his voice cold. She can insult him all she wanted, Harry did not mind that, having been used to it growing up. But to insult his dead parents? That was going too far.
“Take what back?” jeered Aunt Marge. “You know it’s true. Your father was unemployed, a good-for-nothing -”
“He was not!” Harry shouted. He jerked his arm free from Aunt Marge’s grip, but he did not run away. He held his ground, standing as straight as he could with his hands fisted by his sides. He had never felt so angry in his life, not even when Book Ron was being a git to Book Harry.
“Harry, be quiet!” hissed Aunt Petunia. She stood in front of him, pushing him back up the stairs with her hands as she tried to reason with her sister-in-law. “Marge, dear,” she was saying. “Why don’t you rest for a bit. You look tired…”
“No, Petunia,” refused Aunt Marge, her eyes fixed on Harry. “Proud of your parents, are you? They go and get themselves killed in a car crash, drunk I expect -”
“They didn’t die in a car crash!”
“They died in a car crash, you nasty little liar. They were stupid to be driving while drunk – stupid even to have you at their age – and when they died, they left you to be burden to their decent, hardworking relatives!”
With every word, Aunt Marge was swelling with fury – literally. Because with each word Harry heard, his anger mounted higher and higher. Suddenly, Aunt Marge stopped speaking, as if she had run out of words to verbally insult Harry and his parents. But that was not the case. She really was swelling up, not with fury, but with air. It was uncanny how much she resembled a balloon.
That was when Harry realized that the events in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban were coming true, despite his efforts to not let it. It came to him like Hogwarts Express had slammed into him, taking his breath away. If Prisoner of Azkaban predicted this, then what about the rest of the books? Was he going to be really chosen to be a champion for a tournament he had no plans of entering? Hell – what about the prisoner, Sirius Black? Was he real, too?
Aunt Petunia’s scream brought Harry out of his thoughts. By now, Aunt Marge was twice the size she used to be – and that was saying something. Not knowing what else to do, Harry dodged around the two women and dived for the lock latched on his cupboard door. It popped open magically and Harry wasted no time in opening his trunk to get his wand. Shoving that in his back pocket, he hastily closed his trunk again and grabbed Hedwig’s empty cage.
“What is the meaning of this?” shouted Uncle Vernon from upstairs. In the background of everything, Harry heard a toilet flushing. “Boy, what do you think you are doing?”
“Leaving.” Harry pushed past Aunt Marge; she bounced against the walls like a soap bubble, only she didn’t pop. Harry managed to make it out into the garden before Vernon realized that his sister was now a human balloon.
“You! You put her right!” he was screaming at him. “Come back here and put her right!”
But Harry was not listening. He was turning the corner, his trunk clutched in one hand, trailing behind him, and Hedwig’s cage in the other. He already knew where to go. The only problem now was how to retrieve his books from his bedroom. Those books, Harry thought, are very special. I can’t let Uncle Vernon throw them away or, worse, burn them…
Arriving at Magnolia Crescent where, according to the Prisoner of Azkaban, he was supposed to seek refuge in, Harry sat down on the pavement and took a moment to calm himself. If he could think straight, if those thoughts about a runaway prisoner and enchanted cups would just go away, then perhaps he could come up with a plan.

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