The Art Of Make Believe
by Abaddon

They were fighting again. But then, they were always fighting. Oh, they'd make a show of it when they had relatives there, or friends over for dinner, or when they were out on a family outing, but all too often that would descend into petty recrimination and sullen bickering over ice cream and chips. Harry remembered the time they went to Brighton Pier. It really didn't deserve remembering.

He didn't think they'd get to the point of throwing glasses at each other; that was usually only once every month or so, and there'd already done it last week. In some ways that was preferable; the smashing of the glass was usually followed up by sobbing, recriminations, apologies and they'd be good and normal for about a week before it started again. Of course, he'd have to deal with sex or rather the sounds of it through the paper-thin bedroom walls, but Harry was used to that. It was one of the many things Harry had gotten from his parents that he figured normal kids were not supposed to, but then he definitely lived in interesting times.

Tonight was just an average, ordinary fight. They'd argue for some time more; his father would slam the door and go out, his mother would retire to the drinks cabinet, and James would return from the pub shortly after closing, amazingly not having crashed the family S.U.V. yet again. Harry wished they didn't drink too much tonight, because tomorrow was Thursday, and his cousin's birthday, and they'd be expected to make the trip over to his family's house in Surrey to wish him all the best. Not that Dudley needed it. No. He was his parent's pride and joy, and the worst part of it was that every ounce of affection and love they showered him was deserved. Dudley went to a posh boarding school in Kent, with surprisingly wicked looking uniforms. In addition he was Captain of the Debating Team, the school's star rugby player, and had represented the district twice in the England Youth Chess Championships. Harry had not even known that England had a Youth Chess Championship until Dudley had enlisted. Oh, he hadn't won, of course, but that hardly mattered. With a name like Dudley, you'd expect him to be a fat pig, but there he was, all six feet, chiselled jaw and blue eyes.

Not literally there of course, as Harry was holed up in his room, 2B pencil at the ready in case the screaming ever stopped. He had some homework to get done, and he was never quite game enough to try the 'Sorry, sir, I couldn't do my homework because my parents have the maturity of a pair of drunken cats. If cats could be drunk. Which of course they can't, so I'll go to my seat now and I guess you had to be there' excuse. He didn't have his nightlight on; technically he was up beyond his bedtime but then considering the responsible adults in his life were acting like people who were neither responsible nor adultlike, he had an excuse. Besides, again with the homework. To aid him, Harry had everything all neatly placed on the mattress under the covers, sitting there with his legs crossed and a flashlight in his mouth, the covers over his head. It was his very own tepee, except Harry was not exactly an Indian.

Things would be so much better if he didn't need a flashlight; holding the bloody thing while he worked caused his jaw to ache. If only he could just use a spell or something like in one of his books. Amidst the general detritus that littered the typical sixteen year old boy's room -- Harry always tried ever so hard to be typical -- were a range of brightly coloured paperbacks and hardcovers, the author's names easily identifiable. Anne McCaffrey. David Eddings. Piers Anthony. His mum had bought him the latest Robert Jordan last week, and Harry had carried the thing to school -- unlike Dudley, he went to a plain old comprehensive -- and ignore the laughter from the assorted jocks and preppy types and general all round cool people. Harry Potter, too sad for even the geeks to associate with.

Of course, that purchase had started another fight, because his father couldn't see why Harry wouldn't make him proud and go get his spine broken playing rugger or something. There was also the worry of paying out 15 pound for a trade paperback (more for a hardcover of course) when half the time they could barely afford the rent. And yet, strangely enough, the house was always well stocked with booze. James worked night duty in an off-licence, having failed to graduate from high school, and Lily worked in a shop in Notting Hill Gate selling dresses to Tory wives that cost more than a month's pay. His mother was full of pipe dreams, keeping Harry knee deep in fantasy novels, talking about going back to college, and the sort of clothing they should have banned after 1975.

In contrast his family were saints. Probably because they actually sort of were. Besides Dudley the Future Prime Minister (Labour of course, the Dursleys did have a social conscience), Uncle Vernon was Manager of a leading environmentally friendly manufacturing firm and Aunt Petunia did charity work for Amnesty International during the weekdays, and helped a local green group cleaning up the neighbourhood on weekends. If they thought of Harry at all, they'd do the right thing and take up a crack habit. Or turn out to be laundering money for the Mafia. Or Dursley would reveal himself to be a secret homosexual!

Anything, so as long as they didn't have to be so wonderful and make Harry feel like a freak in comparison. A closeted gay freak actually, with freaky parents and a family life like something out of a Mike Leigh film. Harry didn't know what the reaction would be if he told his parents. Nasty, most likely, with screaming and frequent alcoholism, rated PG-15 for bad language and adult themes. But if he told his Aunt and Uncle? They'd probably join PFLAG and ask Dudley to set him up with some of his private school chums.

The shouting finally stopped, and Harry counted one, two, three, four, and the front door went slam. Right. If things went to schedule, his mother would creep up to his room, where Harry would be 'asleep', and give him a hug in order to get rid of that whole guilt complex for being a crap parent. True to form, she opened the door with a soft creak, tiptoed over the books, papers and occasional half eaten lunch, hugged him in the sort of way people do when they wish to stop all circulation, brushed his hair back and kissed him on the forehead before leaving. Harry didn't need to open his eyes to see the trails of mascara down her cheeks.

Grabbing the torch and books from under his pillow, Harry for a moment wished his parents were dead. That way he could go live with his family, come out, and heck, they might even be able to introduce him to Prince William.


All the heroes in his books didn't have any parents. Or they were adopted, or fostered, or something like that. If he was wishing, he might as well make it big. Forsaking his English homework -- he could scrawl something out about Lord of the Flies in home period, Harry was clever like that -- Harry checked that the door was closed before unlocking the top drawer of his bedside dresser and pulling out his journal. His journal was a rather naff looking thing, with a leather jacket and a gold fabric bookmark bound into the spine. His mum said it she'd been given it by a passing gypsy caravan; in one of his darker moods, his father said she'd got it down Camden Market one week when he was five. In it he recorded all his most private thoughts, his hopes, his dreams, and the seventh and a half attempts at the Greatest Fantasy Novel of All Time. The half attempt was really a cheap attempt at Lord of the Rings fanfiction, so Harry didn't count it.

It was less safe than the battered old Pentium cobbled together from spare parts in the corner, considering he could have encoded it with passwords and encryptments if he'd just typed it out, but there was something reassuring about the presence of paper, and the feel of a pencil or pen between his fingers, clutching hard enough to lightly bruise the skin if he wrote for too long.

Right. Parents dead. That was how any good book started. Dead how? Killed, Harry decided, turning to an empty page and setting out some basic notes, by an evil wizard. The hero had grown up in secret, cared for by evil relatives who treated him horribly and didn't let him know of his inheritance. Well, if it was good enough for Dickens, it was good enough for him. And yeah, this whole idea was one great Mary Sue self-insert, but fortunately Harry figured anyone he put into the novel wouldn't recognise it was them. Or so he hoped anyway. He briefly considered giving the 'evil relatives' the crack habit and gay son, but making them stupid and Tory was punishment enough. As for the rest of his family, well. Oh! He'd give himself gay uncles. That would be all progressive, and besides, they could give him the sex talk and know what to say.

Harry beamed, pencil notating furiously, almost tearing pages. What could be cooler than gay uncles? Maybe....if they were on the run from the law? Yes! And therefore their love was strained, because they each thought they'd betrayed the other. Or something. Oh well, the details could be worked out later.

The hero would be aided in his quest by an older wizard type, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, but cooler and less prone to die at annoying moments. Yeah. He'd have friends, too, the hero would. Noble and kindly souls from different social backgrounds, cause the hero always had to unite the world in order to defeat the baddie. It was like the political correctness of the fantasy genre. Right. Okay. Harry's mind seized on one of his school's most known girls, a stupid cow with sleek hair and a beautiful smile who always teased him and his coke bottle glasses. She could be one of the hero's friends. And he'd make her a geek, too, with mousey hair and big teeth and see how she liked it. As for her jock boyfriend, well. He could be the hero's comrade in arms, with a family of brothers who were all better than him. They'd be poor as well.

As the hours wound away, Harry felt himself more elated than he had in ages. This sort of revenge was better than sex. He'd quickly shaped out the basic characters of the good guys, and established some plot ideas, but he needed another baddie. A small baddie, as opposed to the big one, for the readers to go boo and hiss at.

The pencil hovered over the page as Harry considered a potential risk, and then lead hit paper and began sketching out the profile. There was a kid in the year above Harry's year -- Darren was his name, and he was witty and charming and gorgeous and blond and Harry had wanted him since seventh grade and that was so very not cool. This time round, Darren could bloody well hang on Harry's -- sorry, the hero's -- every word and see how he liked it. Oh. And he'd get rid of the name. That didn't suit the genre at all. 'Darren'. Nah, he'd be called DragonStar or something cool like that.

Cool was indeed the order of the day. In the end, there'd be some crying and some worries, some cliffhangers, revelations and a few deaths -- maybe even some kissing, but all tasteful like -- and the good guys would win out in the end, because that was what they did. And all though it, Harry would be the hero and everyone would have a fit if he didn't sleep well, he'd be that important.

Yeah. That sounded good.


Harry was woken the following morning by his mother, who looked none too spritely herself. Grabbing an apple for breakfast, he barely managed to make the bus in time for school, and sleepily piled stuff from his bag into his locker before folding the bag up and placing it inside. Locker locked, books in his hands, and journal safe in said locker -- he'd creep to the back of the library at lunch and work on some more. After all, who needed a life (especially his life) when they had fiction, and satisfied, Harry went off to home room.

He managed to stay awake to respond to roll call, before falling into a light slumber, and awoke at Mr. Snicket's hand on his shoulder, gently squeezing. He slipped Harry a note excusing him from first period -- thank God, he was one Lord of the Flies essay short -- and sent him off to the school counsellor.

It was strange. The school counsellor was only part time, and one had to be referred by a teacher. Harry had never been referred although he'd tried rather hard, especially round Mr. Snicket. Finding his way down the maze of corridors, Harry knocked on the door to the counsellor's office, barely glancing at the nameplate. If there was any justice in the world, Mr. Snicket would be a horrible, horrible teacher with bad personal hygene. Who everyone hated. So there.

The school counsellor was younger than Harry expected, a nice lady with a heart shaped face and curly ringlets of black hair. She gestured to the seat in front of her desk, before settling her palms face down on the vinyl surface, and smiled.

Harry sat.

"Please Harry, we're trying to be informal here. Now, I want you to call me Hallie, alright?"

Harry nodded. This was a good waste of a first period.

Opening up her top drawer, Hallie continued smiling, although when he saw what she held in her hand, Harry's own smile dropped significantly. It was his journal. Oh, fuck. School teachers did have the right to search them but he wasn't a trouble student or anything. He was smarter than average, shy, didn't do much or make a scene.

Harry Potter was just a nobody.

"I've been reading this idea you have for a book, Harry, and it's quite amazing," she murmured, turning the pages.

Harry was completely taken aback. "You think so? Sometimes, I wish it was real."

Hallie smiled, and suddenly appeared to be all strange and veiny, not quite human. "Done."

There was a flash of light, and the world changed. Sighing, Halfrek moved to the resident bookshelf in the school counsellor's office: the school kept a selection of books there to positively reinforce reading and self-esteem. She pulled out the copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and began to read quietly to herself.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

Harry was far better off like this, she reflected. No abusive parents, a wonderful life story, a plethora of friends, a rival, an enemy to fight, and a world that hung in the balance, just for him. It was just the kind of escape he deserved.

Vengeance had been fulfilled. Harry could be happy now, and that was all that mattered.


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