For all that the being was a divine being and inescapable fact of existence, Death was also an ass.
The less said about their relationship to begin with—Death deciding the best time for introductions was at three in the morning, Harry's utter terror that he was going mad or that, Morgana forbid, Voldemort was still alive and found his way into his head once more, the months of arguing back and forth over what exactly Death meant by "you have to"—... well, the less that can be said about all of that the better.
At the end of the day he still ended up doing exactly what the asshole wanted.
Of course, that wasn't enough for Death, because—and this couldn't be emphasized enough—the androgynous deity was a bastard. No, Death decided that Harry had to 'pay' for not going along with the fucker's plans like an obedient pet to begin with.
So, as what was totally a 'justified' and 'reasonable' response, Death decided it would be an absolutely great idea to bring the Dursleys along too.
At least the not-quite-omnipotent being was nice enough to wipe their memories, but Harry was still pissed.
The result was, despite this world's problems being far more... blatant... than his own, his childhood passed remarkably similarly.
Vernon—and his name was still Vernon, because of course it was—was the manager of Wind Farm Section 4, part of a huge enterprise that stretched across the mountains which edged the upper part of the district, closest geographically to the Capitol itself. The only people above him, Vernon was fond of saying, were the regional wind manager, the district wind manager, the governor and the Capital itself. He seemed to think that made him powerful.
Petunia—who also got to keep her name—was also hellishly similar to the Petunia he remembered, and despite the lack of suburbs—it was all apartments here, only the wealthiest and the poorest lived in houses— she still managed to run their little grouping of rooms as she had Number 4 Privet Drive. Everything was still regularly cleaned by Harry, Petunia had a nice little garden going on the little balcony they were rich enough to afford, and while there was no cupboard under the stairs to stuff her unwanted nephew into they'd had no trouble finding a trundle bed to hide under the couch during the day. (Harry found this little change to be one of the worst, in terms of his living arrangements. Yes, they couldn't lock him away anymore, but Petunia and Vernon still stayed up for hours watching TV—they genuinely enjoyed the Games when alone, and "outrage" watched when with friends, but the result was much the same: Harry was lucky, now, to get as much as six hours of sleep a night.)
Of them all, Dudley had perhaps changed the most, though his change was mostly external. Due to the truly imposing restrictions on food, no matter your income, he had shrunk from the size of an orca to merely a particularly well-fed manatee. He was also no longer swamped with toys, though this made little change in his personality—he'd barely played with most of what he'd been given in his first life, so the reduction in amount affected him little. The only other true differences was school: here Vernon and Petunia put a true value in learning Capital values, so Dudley quickly learned to parrot the school's propaganda to the genuine applause of his parents at dinner. His school scores were now actually slightly above average in history, political education, and "effort" scores, even if they were well below average in the 'less important' courses like math and science.
Which left Harry.
Or, more accurately Hugo, but if they got to keep their names then he did too.
Harry had figured out very quickly how this was all going to end. This was helped along by Death having no qualms admitting to it—while the mercurial beast didn't visit him that often, when the ass did they saw no point in secrets.
At least, Harry reminded himself, this time he could be prepared. He could exercise, and practice with weaponry, and learn as much as he could about how open his district was to rebellion, and do a hundred other small things to be ready for when everything went to hell.
Not, he reconsidered as Dudley, Godfrey, and Arvin shoved him into a muddy puddle by the school, that that would help in the immediate.
Eight year-old bodies, no matter how hard they tried, were a bit useless when defending against groups.
District Five itself (or at least Harry's little corner of it) was… well, it certainly was no Little Whinging, but it was far closer to that small suburb of Surrey than any place else Harry had ever been. Here, as with Little Whinging, 'keeping up with the Joneses' was first and last on everyone's list of what to do every day.
How big was your house? How much was your salary? How close were you to the Capital?
The Dursleys thrived in the culture.
Even in the miniaturized version of it, the version played out in classrooms and playgrounds, Harry failed.
Harry was born into the upper class, to be sure, but he was awkward, as unsure of himself and his place in the world as he had been in his first life. His aunt and uncle were also no help—in this world his father had been of an even higher class then they, until he and his wife were killed trying to force a revolution: that fact was one that his aunt and uncle never let him forget; far from empowering, attempting revolution was viewed within the District as pointlessly futile, a sign of insanity more than anything else.
He really had no chance—bad enough that his family constantly treated him as lesser, the first day of class his teacher had seen fit to lecture the entire class about the pointlessness of rebelling the second she'd gotten to his name.
Sometimes, though, Harry felt as if… as if actually, the over-the-top dismissal of rebellion attempts were actually desperate pleas for just that to happen.
For freedom to be granted.
It wasn't like life was wonderful, for all that their history books assured them it had once been far worse. It wasn't like the level and unfairness of the District-Capital set-up wasn't clear, wasn't blatant to even the most ignorant of inhabitants.
The Peacekeepers, Harry would reason to himself, might be why everyone was so deliberately calling out the utter absurdity of trying for rebellion. Even when they weren't blatantly watching they might be behind the scenes, might be poking at the edges, waiting for any sign of discontent.
Other times he thought that that thought process was absurd.
He remembered all too well life under abuse—was living it again once more—and he knew that he'd always wanted something to change, to get better, but had never acted on that desire, had known it to be too dangerous and stupid to even try.
Perhaps a more likely assumption was that the population of District 5 was like that.
Of course, it turned out that in his first life he had been wrong; if he'd tried at all, pushed harder, showed his bruises… if he'd demanded to be heard, it seemed like he actually would have been: child services existed in the UK, after all, and cases like his were more or less textbook for intervention at the very least.
But he'd never thought, never even considered that it might work.
This time he wouldn't be so stupid. There was no child services, of course, no entity that he could go to to point out the various crimes of Panem. But he could fight back. Hell, that was the entire reason he'd been forced to be reborn here. So he would fight back, the Dursleys be damned, and he would get those around him to fight with him, the Capital be damned.
He wasn't a child anymore, not in soul. He wasn't inexperienced, wasn't terrified, wasn't ignorant. And his body wouldn't be weak forever either.
He picked himself up from the mud, ignoring the jeering boys beside him.
It wasn't time yet, but by the time it was Harry would make damn well sure he—and everyone else too—was prepared.