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Author's Note:

Matt [fake a smile]: This is a story idea that I had a couple years back that never fully came into fruition.  The idea popped into my head one night on my way home from work, and I immediately got to work and wrote the entire prologue that night.  I had some vague ideas about where I wanted it to go, but I just never had the time or motivation to put into the project.  Some time ago I managed to convince Maggie, who has been betaing for me since the later chapters of TC, to pick up this story when she confessed to me that she missed writing.  I've stayed involved in much of the plotting and have acted as somewhat of a beta as well.  I asked if she'd like to post the story here given my involvement with it, and she agreed which brings us to the here and now.  I'll stop jabbering at you now and pass things along to Maggie, AKA Enchanted or Enchanted49.

Maggie [Enchanted]: Last year Matt and I were talking and I was bemoaning the fact that Power was finished and how much I missed writing.  I had a few ideas floating around in my head, but nothing that I was excited about. Power was mostly a series of vignettes rather than a chaptered story and I really didn't think I could write one.  I felt I lacked the discipline, creativity or the attention span to pull it off.

He disabused me of the notion by suggesting I write a story based on a prologue that popped into his head on the drive home one day and wrote down that same afternoon. When I read it, as his beta, I was blown away; I loved it and wanted so much to know what happened to his Harry, the imagery he presented was so poignant that I was drawn in. But he didn’t want anything to take away from Taking Control and I agreed with him, but we both felt this was a story worth writing.

So we decided to collaborate on Hero, the prologue is his, the plot is ours and the writing is all mine.  Being his beta presented a challenge when the roles were reversed, it's been an interesting journey, but we've finally hit or stride.

I hope you enjoyed reading this prologue as much as I did when I read it so long ago.  What follows is the story we’ve spent countless hours discussing and arguing over.  Any credit belongs to him and any shortcomings are all my own.  And now onto chapter one.

Harry Potter was one excited boy.  For the first time, he got to go on a vacation.  He had heard his relatives talking about some of the vacations they had gone on, and they all sounded wonderful.  Swimming at a beach or going to an amusement park; the whole thing sounded magical to his ears.  He had never been allowed to go on any other vacations.  Instead, he was always left with Mrs. Figg, a neighbor of theirs who had a real obsession with cats. 

Harry did not have anything against Mrs. Figg; she was a nice enough woman.  He was allowed to eat three square meals a day and was only forced to do a couple menial chores each day, so he could hardly complain.  But he was also forced to look through countless photo albums of all the cats Mrs. Figg had ever owned – which was a lot! 

Not only that, but her house always smelled like cabbage, and Harry hated cabbage.  He did not complain about the smell though.  One time when his relatives had come back from a vacation, he had complained to his aunt about the smell at Mrs. Figg’s place and asked why he couldn’t come with them.  He had been sent to his cupboard for the rest of the day and forced to eat cabbage at every meal for a whole week after that.  Equally horrible, he was forced to eat it while watching his family eat all of his favorite foods.  Harry learned his lesson not to complain. 

This time, though, he would not be left behind with Mrs. Figg.  This time, he would get to go on vacation with his relatives.  He did not know anything about their destination.  He had heard his aunt and uncle talking about some place called America, but he didn’t know where that was.  He had already been punished once for asking questions about the vacation – he was always punished for asking questions, even if it had to do with a chore he was assigned.  His aunt and uncle didn’t like him asking any questions. 

Harry didn’t mind that he didn’t know all that much about the vacation; it was enough just to know that he was going.  He couldn’t wait. 

The days crawled by for Harry, but his patience paid off as the day finally came.  His aunt, uncle, and cousin all had large suitcases that they loaded into the boot of the car.  Harry had only a small bag with the few extra articles of clothing he had.  His clothes didn’t fit him very well as they were castoffs from his cousin, Dudley.  They were of similar height, but Dudley was much heavier than Harry, who was quite scrawny.  His clothes hung off of him, and he had to use a length of twine as a belt to keep his pants from falling right down to his ankles.

As the car sped toward the airport, Harry excitedly peered out the window at all the scenery passing by.  He had only been in a car a couple times that he could remember, so the experience in and of itself was quite exciting.  He had never been for such a long ride before either, so there was quite a lot to take in from all the cars and buildings and other scenery he got to see. 

It seemed to Harry like they’d hardly been driving at all when they arrived at the airport.  Harry’s uncle handed him his plane ticket as soon as he got out of the car saying, “Don’t get lost!”  The man then opened the boot of the car and unloaded all their suitcases, piling them onto a trolley. 

He wheeled the trolley over to a man who took it from there after taking some information and money from his uncle.  Harry held his bag and ticket close to his chest while doing his best to keep up with his family as they traversed through the airport.  One of the attendants took his bag from him momentarily and placed it on a conveyer belt before he was forced to walk through a weird doorway set up in the middle of a room.  Harry would have been worried about handing over his possessions, but he had observed all the people in line ahead of him go through the same process, and they all got their things back after walking through the doorway.  His uncle was forced to walk back and forth through it a couple times before the thing stopped beeping at him.  Harry wondered what that was all about but thought it was kind of fun. 

His relatives set off after that, not bothering to make sure he was following.  His aunt was holding Dudley’s hand to make sure he didn’t get lost, but Harry hardly expected that treatment.  His aunt never touched him unless it was to throw him into his cupboard or punish him in some other way.  They eventually stepped up to a counter, and Harry sidled up close enough to hear that there would be a half hour wait until the plane began boarding. 

His uncle led his aunt and cousin over to some seats as they waited.  Harry’s eyes locked on an open seat next to his uncle, but as he took a step forward, he caught the man’s gaze.  His uncle’s head shook from side to side, and Harry hung his head in defeat.  He looked around the area and found an open seat that was not too far away and would allow him a view of his relatives so as not to lose them. 

Harry whiled away the time observing the various people in the airport.  He kept silent as he swung his legs slightly – they were unable to reach the ground.  The time passed by slowly, but it was not that long until they were calling for boarding.  A nice woman took his ticket from him with a warm smile and rubbed the top of his head lightly as he stepped into a tunnel that took him onto the plane. 

His relatives were all on the plane already; he had been well behind them in line.  They were all sitting together, but there was no room there for Harry.  He saw people looking at their tickets and matching their seats with the labels designated on the plane.  He was unsure of what he was supposed to do to find his seat, so he stood off to the side as he observed people.  The nice woman who had taken the stub off his ticket entered into the plane and saw him standing there, so she helped him find his seat.  He was in the last row, but he had a seat next to the window which he was excited about. 

The seats next to him were filled with a couple adults, but they didn’t pay Harry any mind.  After a while another woman wearing the same uniform as the nice lady Harry had already met began talking in the front of the plane.  After listening to her, Harry fastened his seat belt and waited for the plane to take off. 

Harry stared out the window as the plane picked up speed and lifted off the ground.  The whole experience was so surreal.  Up until now, he had questioned whether or not this was all just an elaborate joke his relatives had decided to play on him.  He never thought he would be allowed to go on vacation with them, but they were in the air now.  It was too late to leave him behind.  He really got to go!

He watched as the ground grew further and further away, and he was amazed at the view that was presented to him.  He stared with wide eyes as they passed through clouds, and he marveled at the landscape far down on the Earth below them.  It was the most amazing thing he had ever witnessed. 

The flight was long.  Harry spent most of the time staring out the window.  There were movies playing on television sets, but Harry could not hear what was going on, so they failed to capture his interest for very long.  The view was not exciting when they were over water, but Harry still found the whole experience amazing.  They were served some food at one point, which Harry ate gratefully.  He had never been allowed so much food at a single meal. 

When land finally came into view and the plane began its decent, Harry felt a pain form in his ears.  He clamped his hands over them, but it didn’t lessen the piercing sensation.  The pain intensified as they continued to lower closer towards the ground.  Distantly, he heard a voice say something, so he opened his eyes – he couldn’t even remember closing them – and turned to see the woman next to him holding something out to him. 

He looked up into her face and pulled his hands down from his ears as she began speaking.  “It’s bubblegum, dear.  It will help with your ears.”

Harry knew what bubblegum was, of course, but he had never had any before.  He knew it was for chewing though, and not for swallowing.  He had heard his aunt telling his cousin that many times before.  He took the offered piece of gum from the woman and quietly murmured, “Thank you,” to her as he unwrapped it and popped the gum into his mouth. 

He began chewing it and was startled at the blast of flavor that washed over his taste buds.  It was delicious.  More than that though, at just a couple chews he felt the pain in his ears begin to lessen.  It did not disappear completely but faded greatly thanks to the constant chewing.  He turned back to the woman with a smile on his face and thanked her again, much more exuberantly this time. 

“You’re welcome, dear,” she responded.  “I must say, you’re the most well behaved child I have ever seen.  Your parents must be quite proud of you.”

Her comment made Harry’s heart soar.  He thought about his parents a lot even though he wasn’t supposed to.  As long as he didn’t talk about them his aunt and uncle didn’t know any better.  He often wondered what his life would be like with his parents.  Would they love him?  Would they be proud of him?  He didn’t know for sure, but he was so pleased to think that this woman thought so. 

He went back to looking out the window as they landed, and he waited patiently as the plane began to empty before him.  He watched with some trepidation as his relatives exited while he waited for his turn.  He hoped he wouldn’t lose them.  He didn’t want to be left behind now that he was finally on vacation with them. 

When the entire plane had emptied, his row began to file out.  He followed after them as they walked through the airport.  He had to struggle to keep up with the crowd of people, but he hoped they would lead him to his relatives.  They were the only hope he had. 

After several minutes the crowd began to crowd around a conveyer belt.  Harry looked around the area and was finally able to locate his family.  They did not look particularly pleased to see him, but that was not uncommon.  He had long ago accepted the fact that he would never gain the love or approval of his family.  As they said, he should just be grateful that they gave him a roof over his head and food on his plate. 

After a long wait, the conveyer belt began to move and pieces of luggage began appearing on it.  People began grabbing their bags off the belt, and his uncle pulled their luggage off one by one as they all came by.  He loaded them onto another trolley until they had all come through, then he led his aunt and cousin towards a counter.  Harry followed behind, and after talking to the man at the counter, they were all led outside and into a large structure full of cars.  They were led to one car in particular and Harry saw the strange man hand a set of keys to his uncle. 

He loaded the luggage into the boot of the car.  Harry crawled into the backseat as his aunt and cousin got into the car and buckled his seat belt.  His uncle got into the driver’s seat – which was on the wrong side of the car – and they took off from there.  Harry got to see a whole new set of scenery here in what he assumed was America.  It was a very exciting time. 

They eventually stopped before a building that was enclosed by a fence with a gate.  Harry’s uncle turned around in his seat to look at him.  “This is where your trip ends, boy,” the man said unkindly.  “Since the day you first darkened our doorstep, you’ve been nothing but trouble.  We kept you for fear of what would happen to us if we didn’t, but I’ve had enough.  Your parents were freaks, and so are you.  There’s no escaping it, and there’s no use trying.  Consequences be damned, I’ll not have you leeching onto this family for the rest of your miserable life.  Get out of the car.”

Harry reluctantly followed his uncle’s orders.  Suddenly this vacation was not looking so bright.  He was quite frightened at what was happening.  “So long, freak!” his uncle spat out the window as he took off, tires peeling and squealing.  Harry was left standing there, transfixed, watching as the car sped away and out of sight, too stunned to move or do anything.  They had left him.  They had really left him standing there.  After a couple minutes staring down the road where his family had disappeared, Harry finally took a moment to take in his surroundings. 

The opposite side of the street was lined with parked cars.  He could see a couple people off in the distance at a street corner, but the street was otherwise empty of people.  He turned around in a circle.  He was alone, and he had no idea where he was or what he was supposed to do.  He moved off to the side of the gate and sat down on the ground with his back against the fence.

He didn’t know how long he sat there.  It was a long time.  He was startled at the proximity of the female voice behind him as a woman asked, “Can I help you, young man?”

Harry spun around to face the woman who was standing on the other side of the fence.  She had dark hair piled in a bun on top of her head and brown eyes.  Her face had sharp features and she had a strict look about her.  When Harry did not respond, she placed her hands on her hips and asked, "Where are your parents?"
Harry stood as he replied, "My parents are dead, Ma'am."
"Who takes care of you?" she questioned in a brisk tone.
"My aunt and uncle did," Harry responded, "but they left me here."
The woman turned her gaze upwards for a moment, her lips moving wordlessly.  She sighed deeply and turned her attention back to Harry.  He stood up straight under her gaze.  "Come on then," she finally said, opening the gate.  "We've got a couple open beds yet.  We'll take you in at least until things get straightened out."
With a small smile, Harry stepped through the open gate with a murmured, "Thank you, Ma'am."  Inside he was elated; he would get to sleep in a real bed!

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