This story is Harry Potter fanfiction written just for fun, not for profit. It can also be found on Ao3.
Inspired by a prompt by u/I_love_DPs on the HPfanfiction subreddit:
Harry is a Dementor and that’s OK. Well except for his classmates who will always remember their school years as the worst of their lives.
Harry woke to a woman’s shriek and the slam of his cupboard. He groaned and uncurled himself. He was getting too big. No matter how tightly he squeezed into the corner behind the cleaning supplies, there just wasn’t enough room anymore for him to remain unnoticed. And now his aunt had touched him again.
She couldn’t see him, but she did feel him and the cold that surrounded him. Despite their initial troubles, they’d come to an understanding about that quite a few years ago. He could remain in the cupboard as long as his aunt and uncle could keep their drinks and cleaning supplies in there as well. Uncle liked his beers cold but unfrozen, and the cupboard kept them slightly colder than the fridge ever did.
But their understanding only went so far, and direct touch was definitely not included. Harry was allowed to stay as long as they could look the other way and pretend he wasn’t there at all. That would not work if his aunt bumped against invisible fabric or hands every time she needed something from the cupboard.
Maybe he should move to the crawlspace below the floor. It was already quite cold in there, so they might not notice him at all. Or he could make a little space for himself in the attic. His family didn’t go there often anyway.
But he liked his cupboard. He didn’t want to move to the big dusty attic where he wouldn’t even be able to hear the television. And he definitely didn’t relish the thought of the stone darkness of the crawlspace, with its pipes and plumbing that made creepy noises.
Most of all he didn’t want to move somewhere where his aunt and uncle could really forget him. Here in this cupboard, they pretended he wasn’t there, but they both knew. Even Dudley knew, scared as he was of the cupboard. If he moved out, they could forget all about Harry.
He wanted them to know he was there.
He liked the taste of them, when their emotions changed from contentment to fear and dread when they passed his little door.
Maybe he would just stay, and let his aunt learn where not to put the drinks if she didn’t want to touch him.
Dudley was only scared of him when he was in his cupboard. When he followed his cousin to school on those days that he felt like it, Dudley could be quite nice. He liked to brag to his friends about his ‘ghost friend’. He’d let Harry scare them for him if they forgot who was the leader of their little group.
No one ever messed with Dudley Dursley, for those who tried were soon overwhelmed by waking nightmares and utter despair.
Harry wasn’t sure if Dudley realised they were cousins. He didn’t blame him. It had been such a long time since his cousin could see him. But sometimes he did feel sad about it. He would have liked to play with Dudley and his friends.
On those days that he didn’t feel like going to school but wanted to be out of the house regardless, Harry wandered the neighbourhood. He’d smile at growling dogs and hissing cats, startle a few unseeing passersby, and play hide and seek with Mrs Figg and her friends.
Mrs Figg was the only person in the neighbourhood who could see him. She always screamed when she did, and then ran to her house. Soon after, her friends in the red clothes would arrive to look for him.
It was always fun, until they actually found him that is. The moment they saw him they sent their pets after him, and they were far too scary for the game to remain fun for long.
Harry’s life changed one day a few months after he’d decided to stay in the cupboard. It was on one of those dreary days with a deceivingly light misting of rain. That lovely perfect weather that would give everyone such a lovely melancholy taste.
It was on that day as he decided to leave a little early to wander the streets before school that he found a stack of letters on the doormat. Thinking himself a rather polite ghost, he drifted to the kitchen to put them on the table, only to stop halfway there as he read the address of one envelope made of heavy paper.
Mr H. Potter
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
He hadn’t even opened the letter and he’d already learned something wonderous. His name. Harry Potter. He knew he was a Harry but he never learned his last name before he became invisible.
Potter. What a beautiful name. Much better than Dursley or Polkiss or Figg.
He quickly dropped the other letters on the kitchen table before leaving the house. He relished in the cold misty rain, but frowned when he realised the water might mess up his letter. He found shelter in the garden shed, where finally he opened the envelope to read the rest.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Twice, thrice, he read the letter. From Dear Mr. Potter, to the supply list. Magic, that’s what it meant. He would learn magic.
As long as he figured out what the letter meant by await your owl and found a place where he could buy a wand and a cauldron.
Shouldn’t be much harder than getting a teacher to grade work made by a ghost.
He already had the robes, so he could cross that off the list. Although… maybe he should get some extra? They did say he need three.
He put thoughts of robes aside when he reached the correct door, and rang the doorbell. Harry had realised there was only one person he could ask about all the other stuff. Mrs Figg had many friends who had sticks he now realised were wands.
The woman screamed when she opened the door, so Harry quickly said, “I don’t want to play hide and seek today Mrs Figg.” She stopped screaming, but became even paler than she already was. He saw her hand shaking against the door-handle. “I just got a letter from Hogwarts and I thought you might be able to tell me where I can get a wand?”
“So you… are Harry Potter?” Harry smiled brightly at the use of his surname. Mrs Figg flinched.
“Yes! That is my name.”
Mrs Figg had needed a long time to calm down when she woke up on the couch, Harry standing over her. He’d brought her inside after she fainted, worrying all the while if he should do something to wake her up. What did you do with people who fainted? Were you supposed to shake them? Kiss them? He’d read a story like that once.
She’d woken up by herself before he could decide which to try, and promptly started screaming again. But now she sat on her couch with one of her hissing cats in her lap, and was finally listening to him.
“And you thought you should ask me where you could buy a wand?”
“Well yes. I couldn’t really ask my aunt, she can’t see me, you see.”
“Ah yes.” She swallowed. “Of course. That would be inconvenient.” The hand she used to pet her cat still shook slightly, but she seemed calmer now. “If it’s alright with you, I’ll call the headmaster. He’d be… delighted to realise you were… alive and well.”
“Well I’m pretty sure I’m a ghost. But I am definitely well.”
“A ghost,” she said faintly, “Of course. Let me go call him then.”
“I’m so glad to see you well, my boy.” Headmaster Dumbledore had replaced Mrs Figg on the couch. Mrs Figg was in the kitchen, maybe making tea. He was old, with a very long white beard and bright blue eyes behind halfmoon glasses. He also tasted very very sour.
“When you disappeared from your aunt’s home so soon after you were left there, we feared the worst.” He looked sombre, eyes downcast, lips twisted into a frown. But when Harry tried a little taste again he was still sour. Horrible.
“But I never left my aunt’s house,” he said, voice perhaps revealing a little of his disappointment at the man’s taste.
“Yes, I can see that now, but at the time we were looking for a little boy, not—”
“A little ghost?”
“Ghost, my boy?”
Harry sat straight, explaining his theory with confidence. “I am invisible and I float.”
The man smiled. “That is true, but I’m afraid you aren’t a ghost exactly.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve met many a ghost in my long life. Ghosts are transparent, you look quite solid to me.” He shook his head. “No, you, my boy, are a dementor.”
The sound of something breaking came from the kitchen. He wondered if Mrs Figg was alright, she’d been back there a long time. But that wasn’t important.
“Is a dementor a kind of ghost?”
The headmaster patted his beard in thought. “Not exactly. The ministry classifies ghosts as spirits, while dementors are classified as non-beings.” He frowned. “But I think some people fit non-beings into the spirit classification as well. I’d have to do some research to be certain.”
A silence fell as both contemplated their various thoughts. Harry’s mind was stuck on one particular word. “What does non-being mean? I am, so how can I not be.”
“Ah.” Dumbledore’s hand stilled on his beard. “I’m finding myself more out of my depth with every question you ask, Harry. To be honest I’ve never heard of a human becoming a dementor before. You are quite unique in your circumstance.”
“Are dementors allowed at Hogwarts?”
Dumbledore coughed. “Not traditionally no.” His lips twisted into a smile. “But I’m sure we can figure something out.”
Professor Snape went very pale the moment his eyes landed on Harry. “I’ll leave Harry in your capable hands, Severus. Please make sure he gets all his supplies in a timely fashion.”
“I’m not sure why you can’t lead the… boy around yourself, Headmaster.”
Dumbledore waved a hand. “Oh I have things to do, Severus. You know how it is.”
Professor Snape’s face twisted like he’d gotten a whiff of Dumbledore’s sourness. Harry instantly liked the professor a lot more. “If the aurors arrest me I’m throwing you under the bus.”
“What are aurors? Why would they arrest you? Are they police? Did you do something illegal?”
Harry looked at Snape expectantly. Snape pinched the bridge of his nose and breathed deeply. “The only reason bringing a dementor into Diagon isn’t a crime is because no one thought anyone would try.”
“Why would bringing me be illegal? Is this like—” He found the right word with some effort. “Discrimation?”
“Discrimination,” Snape muttered absently. “And no.” His voice was back to its normal volume, sharp and mean. “It’s not discrimination to not want soul-sucking demons walking around London!”
“Severus!” Dumbledore said, appalled on Harry’s behalf.
Harry drifted closer to Mrs Figg, away from Snape. He didn’t think he liked professor Snape that much after all.
“He’s a dementor!”
“He’s a perfectly nice boy.” Dumbledore shook his head. “I’m disappointed in you, Severus. I thought you would be able to put old grudges behind you—”
“This isn’t about James Potter!”
“So you’ll stop this needless antagonism then?” he said sharply. “You’ll guide him so he can buy his wand and other supplies?” Snape looked mutinous, but Dumbledore continued. “Maybe you can tell him a bit about his mother, to apologise for your rudeness.”
Harry watched in fascination as Snape’s face twisted through several emotions and colours, until it smoothed out again into blankness. He nodded. “Very well, Headmaster.” He turned to Harry, but his eyes slanted a little over Harry’s shoulder. “I apologise.”
Harry stared at the man for a long moment, gauging his honesty. He took a deep rattling breath, tasting Snape. On the surface he tasted rather a lot like aunt Petunia, bitter. But this deeper taste revealed a much richer taste lurking beneath. It tasted good, not at all like the headmaster.
He nodded to accept the apology, although he didn’t think it’d been an honest one, then asked, “You knew my parents?”
He didn’t know if it was his question or the tasting that made the man so pale again, but didn’t much care.
Snape would not let Harry hold his hand. Harry wanted to hold his hand because he felt uncomfortable, and knew kids were allowed to hold hands if they felt that way. But Snape had flinched so hard at Harry’s touch he nearly fell over, and then didn’t say a word to him the entire time at the bank.
The reason he felt uncomfortable was the reactions he got from the people in the alley. Everyone here could see him, which was strange enough in itself, but beside staring, they also screamed, or yelled, or ran, or fainted, or any number of other things.
At least their fear tasted good. He could probably go without food for a week and still not feel hungry.
“—why, its brother gave you that scar.”
Ollivander remained in his spot behind the counter, which made it a bit difficult to figure out what he was pointing at. “The one on your forehead, in the shape of a bold of lightning.”
Harry rubbed his forehead. He did feel some ridges. He scowled. Why didn’t anyone say anything before now. He certainly couldn’t see something like that in a mirror. Useless things that discriminated against ghosts. Well, maybe not ghosts, but dementors. And vampires.
He’d thought he was a vampire for a while, when he realised he didn’t have a reflection like the rest of his family.
Ollivander told him he would be great, just like the person who killed his parents. Harry wasn’t sure if he should take it as a compliment or not, and decided he’d rather forget about it instead.
Once they left the shop Snape explained a little bit more about the night his parents died, and also told him the name of their murderer. Voldemort. The man said the word with the same dark emphasis as he did ‘dementor’.
Harry really didn’t like Snape.
“Where do other dementors live?” Harry asked.
“In Azkaban.” Snape said shortly. “It’s a prison.”
Harry gasped, appalled. “All of them?!”
Snape’s face twisted into a grin. “All of them.”
Harry bit his lip to prevent himself from responding. Snape would just become happier if he got to give him more bad news. Were all dementors criminals? Or were they locked up for a more sinister reason? This was terrible. For all he knew, Snape was lying, but he didn’t think the man would lie about something that would be relatively easy to check. He could ask the headmaster, or read a book.
Yes, that wasn’t a bad idea.
“I want to go to the book store next.”
He returned to Privet Drive with a trunk full of supplies. He had a bit of a problem fitting himself and the whole trunk into the cupboard, and eventually conceded he had to move the cleaning supplies and the beer out. He stuck a little note to the door with an apology about the stuff, and an explanation of why he would be leaving next month.
He spent the rest of said month reading his books and practising spells. By the time Mrs Figg brought him to Kings Cross, he’d learned not just one, but two whole spells. He also learned that Snape had lied about his fellow dementors. They weren’t criminals, they were the guards.
He wondered if he could become a guard of Azkaban as well, or if he could at least meet the others. Maybe they knew some secret spells he wouldn’t learn at Hogwarts?
Even if Mrs Figg hadn’t told him how to enter the platform, Harry would have easily found it by following the few people who could see him. Once he passed the barrier, the people reacted much like the people of Diagon Alley had at first first glance. However, after a minute or two he noticed a difference.
There were still a few screams and quite a few people backing away, and he was pretty sure he saw at least one person faint. But interspersed with those reactions were whispers, pointing fingers, the flash of a camera. People were still scared, but this time they knew him.
Their emotions tasted strange. Fear combined with excitement, dread with curiosity, and most strangely was the absence of the melancholy the people in Little Whinging always felt when he was near. He didn’t like it.
“Have you seen a toad? Neville has lost one.”
The girl stared at him resolutely, seemingly determined not to show the fear she was feeling. Harry smiled at her. She flinched. This was the third person who’d talked to him since he boarded the train. And to think he’d been scared no one would like him.
“Sorry, I haven’t.” Opposite him, the red-headed boy shook his head, still not talking. Harry thought the boy might be mute. He’d not said a single word since Harry joined him.
“You’re Harry Potter, aren’t you? I’ve read all about you. Of course, the books all said you were a boy, only for the papers to now say you’re a dementor instead! Books aren’t often that wrong, you know?” She said it all in a single breath.
“I’ve read some books that I thought were wrong.” His dementor book said dementors liked to give kisses to criminals. Harry would only want to kiss someone nice, certainly not a criminal, so the book was wrong. “But to be fair, I was a boy once, I became a dementor later.”
“That’s right! You’ve lived in the Muggle world all this time. I did as well, I’m the first witch in my family. Oh, I’m Hermione Granger by the way.” Hermione once again said all of it in one breath. When she was done she plopped herself next to the red-head, whom she had yet to acknowledge.
“Nice to meet you, Hermione.” After a moment of thought, he stuck his hand out to shake. He was pretty sure that was the thing to do in this situation. Hermione reached out with only a second of hesitation, but took her hand back the moment her skin touched his.
“Nice to meet you too, Harry. You’re very cold.”
He winced. “Sorry, I forgot.”
She gave a hesitant smile. “That’s alright, I’m sure we can still be friends.”
McGonagall lead the procession of first years through the massive doors. Harry followed behind Hermione, their silent friend behind him. He breathed deeply, taking in the anticipatory and fearful atmosphere of the kids around him. Hermione shivered.
On either side of them were two tables filled with older students. All of them whispering and pointing, just like on the platform. Despite being surrounded by forty others, Harry was sure all of them were staring at him. It was disconcerting, and he breathed in a little deeper to calm himself down.
The whispering got louder.
In an effort to distract himself, he listened to Hermione prattling on about the enchanted ceiling. He looked up for the first time only to find no ceiling at all. Enchanted huh? Or was it just an open roof with good weather repelling charms? They might never know.
A hat began a song at the front of the room. Harry watched the steady drip of candlewax from the candle floating near Ron’s head. The droplets would hang underneath the candle for about two seconds before falling, only to disappear long before they ever hit the ground.
The hat finished its song, and the first name was called out. A girl with blond pigtails sat gingerly on the stool. Set apart from the other first-years, Harry could taste her fear, and then relief when the hat called out ‘HUFFLEPUFF!’. He spent the rest of the sorting curiously comparing their tastes. Many had the faint sweetness of small children, tempered or strengthened by their various life-experiences. There were a few with the strong mushy pride he knew from his uncle. One or two with hints of bitterness, but none who were sour. A blond boy named Longbottom was the most interesting. He was almost… cold. A cold sadness that overpowered any sweetness he might have had.
Then, it was his turn. “Potter, Harry!” The whispers started up again as he drifted to the stool. People craned their necks to get a better look at him. He hoped he looked alright. He still hadn’t found a functional mirror.
The hat dropped over his eyes, mercifully blocking his view of the students. But the relief wasn’t to last long. The hat shrieked.
It shrieked an ear piercing wail that echoed through the hall.
Quickly, McGonagall pulled the hat off him, casting the hall into deafening silence.
“Er, what does that mean?” he asked.
“Nothing to worry about, my boy!” the headmaster said from behind him at the table. “Why don’t you sit with the Gryffindors for now. We’ll sort out your proper placement later so we don’t hold everyone up.”
“Alright,” he said with a smile. Everyone at the table except for the headmaster himself flinched. At least he would be able to sit with Hermione.
It wasn’t long before their silent friend—Ron Weasley, apparently—joined them as well. The last person was sorted, and the headmaster called for the feast to begin.
In the end it was decided Harry would stay in Gryffindor, since the hat refused to come near him again. Harry liked Gryffindor tower well enough, although he might have preferred the dungeons. There wasn’t even a proper cupboard for him to haunt here and he had to sleep in a bed.
Bed problems aside, the tower was alright. There were so many people feeling so many different things. There were windows looking out over the grounds, nice couches and chairs, a radio playing strange wizard channels.
But he had to stay away from the fireplace, since people complained when it went out, and no one except Ron and Hermione seemed to like him at all.
But when he tallied up Gryffindor Tower against Privet Drive, the tower won out by a landslide. The amount of different emotions he could feed on would have been enough for it to win out, but when you added the fact that here there were two whole people who liked him… Well, the Dursleys couldn’t even see him.
It was during the feast last night that Harry discovered Ron wasn’t mute after all. Not because Ron said anything, but because one of his brothers told him. Harry wasn’t entirely sure if it was a joke or not, and was very relieved when Ron proved his brothers right later that morning.
He made up for his earlier silence by talking all throughout breakfast. He spoke so much and so fast even Hermione was impressed, which was saying something.
“That was so boring. How did you two not fall asleep?” Ron asked as they left history. Hermione scoffed.
“It’s history, not a bed-time story. It’s interesting. Right, Harry?”
Harry shook his head. “I don’t know, I wasn’t listening.” Ron looked confused, while Hermione looked appalled.
“But you were staring at him the entire time!” she said.
“Exactly. History is my chance to properly study a ghost without it running away from me.” They all shuddered. The shrieks of the Hogwarts ghosts when they saw Harry as they were waiting to be sorted still fresh in their minds. “I don’t think Binns even noticed I was there.”
He’d come to a few conclusions already. Ghosts were, as the headmaster had said, indeed transparent. Ghosts could float just like Harry, but they could fly higher and go through solid walls and ceilings, unlike Harry. Most interestingly, ghosts tasted much stronger than humans.
“I wonder how close I can get before he notices…”
His other classes were just as fun as History. He learned about plants in Herbology, looked at the stars in Astronomy, impressed Flitwick in Charms by already knowing how to cast Lumos and did not impress McGonagall with his unchanged match.
Defence Against the Dark Arts was different. Different because the teacher never showed up. They had two Defence classes that week, and he didn’t show up for either of them. It was disappointing, but he was quickly distracted by their final class of the week.
“What’s his problem with you, Harry? Did you do something to him? He really seems to hate you.”
Harry shook his head mournfully. “I didn’t do anything. Snape just hates dementors.”
Hermione gasped in shock. “He’s a racist?!”
“Yes. He said it should be illegal for dementors to go to Diagon Alley.”
“There’s nothing to do about it though.” Ron said. “He hates Fred and George as well, and even when they complained no one ever stopped him.”
“No, I won’t stand for this!” she said, gesticulating wildly. “We’re going to tell McGonagall.”
“Are you here to ask about Defence as well?” McGonagall asked when they entered her office.
“No,” Hermione said, appointing herself as their spokesperson. She was so incensed she’d not just dragged Ron by the hand, but Harry as well. She hadn’t even flinched at the cold. “Professor Snape hates Harry because he’s racist against dementors and someone has to stop him.”
“Oh dear,” McGonagall said, “Not him as well.”
“As well?” Harry asked warily.
McGonagall sighed. “I’m afraid the reason professor Quirrell hasn’t been to your classes is because he is deadly afraid of dementors. I was going to ask if you’d be alright with tutoring from your fellow students and self-study, but we can’t very well do that for potions as well…”
Hermione gasped at the revelation of hatred from yet another professor. Ron winced. Harry didn’t react much at all.
“I’ll have to discuss this with the headmaster. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.”
“I guess I won’t go to defence,” Harry said once they were back in the common room. “I don’t want you guys to miss out on class because of me.”
“No!” Hermione said. “If you can’t go, I won’t either. This is discrimination! I won’t stand for it!”
“Yeah, me neither, mate. We’ll stick with you.”
Harry’s vision blurred. “Thanks guys.”
The next morning McGonagall let them know Harry was not allowed to attend defence, but he could continue to attend potions. Dumbledore assured her, she assured them, that Snape assured him he would behave.
Hermione and Ron promptly informed her they wouldn’t go to defence either. McGonagall just sighed, handed them a list of older students willing to tutor them, and wished them luck.
Snape wasn’t any better. It only got worse after Ron called him a racist to his face.
“It’s not racist to not want a demon in my classroom sucking all the happiness away from me and my students!” he raged.
“Don’t like the competition, do you?” Harry muttered. His comment went unheard as Ron bellowed;
“There’s no happiness to be sucked out of any room with you in it!”
Only the sound of their boiling potions could be heard. Everyone held their breaths, awaiting Snape’s outburst. Somehow, none came. He turned to Hermione. “Do you have something to say as well?” he asked. Harry turned to her, only to see the most innocent blank confusion in her expression.
“Why, sir? They’re only telling the truth.”
Needless to say, none of them would be allowed to return. They left the dungeons for the last time. Ron filled with pride, Hermione smug and satisfied, and Harry- Harry was just so incredibly happy to have such great friends.
While their classmates went to defence with Quirrell and potions with Snape, Harry, Ron and Hermione diligently went to the library for self-study. With Hermione’s dedication and the help from Ron’s older brothers, Harry had no doubt they would succeed.
Harry got three presents for Christmas. An invisibility cloak, a sweater, and a pair of gloves. Harry promptly decided he would never take any of them off ever again. With his gloves, he could touch people without freezing them. His sweater had an ‘H’ on it and it was handmade by Ron’s mother and he loved it so so much. The cloak had been his father’s, and the fact it made him invisible was almost negligible beside that fact.
That’s not to say he didn’t love being invisible, of course. No, for the first time in months, Harry felt truly comfortable again gliding through a crowd, feeding on emotions with no one the wiser, no one staring. After a lifetime of being invisible, having everyone stare at him every second of the day was exhausting and weird, and he was extremely happy to not have to deal with it anymore.
That was until three days later when Ron finally convinced Harry he couldn’t be invisible all the time.
They didn’t find another use for the cloak until Hermione returned to the castle. She raced at them like a whirlwind of ideas and plans, and soon enough Harry was roped in. Harry sneaked into both potions and defence under his cloak.
When he reported back to his boss, she grinned, utterly satisfied, and said, “We’re months ahead of the curriculum.”
After a moment of stunned silence, Harry and Ron grinned as well. (Harry was immensely proud neither of his friends flinched when he smiled anymore.)
“You know what’s weird?” Harry asked a few months later.
“Quirrell tastes like two different people at the same time. I’ve never seen that before.”
Hermione froze for a moment, in that pose Harry had come to know as her rapid thinking pose, then burst into movement once more. “We have to tell McGonagall!”
And so they did tell McGonagall, who told the headmaster, who promised to look into it.
Quirrell vanished soon after without a trace or explanation. Some said he was fired, others said he fled. Fled from what? No one knew.
Their exams went well. Ron floated on a cloud of pride all week. He was the only one in his family to take two whole subjects as only self-study. Hermione’s grins were so sharp and violent that everyone in the vicinity flinched. And Harry was happy to have made friends who would stand with him no matter what. They even both invited them to their houses over the summer, even though Hermione’s parents wouldn’t be able to see him, and Ron’s parents didn’t have a lot of money.
Harry thought that if he could have this, then there was no need to ever return to the cupboard under the stairs.