Welcome to Diagon Alley
Welcome to Diagon Alley
July 21, 1991 — The Dower House, Godric's Hollow
"Master Harry, Mister Pettigrew, there is a strange owl here," said Nanny at breakfast.
"Let it in, by all means," said Peter, who was floating about an inch above his chair. He didn't eat breakfast anymore, but enjoyed spending this time at the beginning of the day with Harry. It was a time just to talk, before they got involved with their day's activities.
Nanny opened the kitchen window, and a brown owl flew in and landed on the back of the chair next to Harry. It had a parchment envelope clamped tight in its beak, and politely presented it to Harry.
The boy took it eagerly. Sure enough, there on the front was his name in green ink, and on the back was the Hogwarts wax seal. "This is it! It came, Uncle Peter!"
"And did you think it wouldn't? You've had your name on the list since before you were born, Harry. You'd have to have been a total Squib not to get in."
"I was afraid the owl wouldn't make it."
"We changed the wards just so the owl could make it, remember? Or weren't you sure you'd done it properly? And even if the owl hadn't made it through the wards, it could still have gone to the drop box like the other mail, and one of the elves would have picked it up." Peter leaned forward, his crossed arms "resting" on the tabletop. Even after all these years, he still mimicked the gestures of being alive. "Now, are you going to open it, or are you just going to admire the envelope? I think the owl is waiting for your reply."
The owl hooted in the affirmative.
"There, you see? So you'd better read it now. Brandy, could we have a treat for our guest?"
Brandy placed a dish of water and a plate containing owl treats on the table; the owl bobbed its head in thanks and hopped down onto the tablecloth to partake of its snack.
Nanny brought Harry the letter opener from the big desk in the library, and Harry reverently opened the envelope, being careful not to break the seal, but to peel it off intact. He wanted to keep it with his other letters, the ones he had received from his father's friends, Sirius and Remus. (His correspondence was limited enough that every letter was precious to him.) There were several sheets of parchment folded inside the envelope, and he slid them out and opened them.
"Please read them to me, Harry," asked Peter.
" HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY," Harry read, doing his best to pronounce the words in capital letters with due emphasis. "Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE (Order of Merlin —"
"That's just the letterhead. You can skip that. Read the body of the letter, Harry," said the ghost.
"Oh, right." Harry skimmed over the rather impressive list of titles and his own name, finding it amusing that the address was listed as 'Somewhere Safe'. "Dear Mr. Potter, We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31. Yours sincerely, Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress."
"And what else do you have there?"
"It looks like … a list of books and supplies, just like it says in the letter, and a train ticket for the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross station in London. I thought I'd just Floo into Hogsmeade."
"And miss the train ride? We can't have that. It's an important part of the whole Hogwarts experience. Gives you a chance to meet people before they get Sorted. Even the students who live in Hogsmeade Floo to London just so they can take the train back up. They don't actually collect the ticket, you know, but it makes a great souvenir for your scrapbook."
"Do you want me to read the supplies list?"
"Not right now. We'll check it over after we've sent your reply back. There's no point in abusing the patience of the owl."
Since the bird had finished its treats and was now contentedly dozing on the back of the chair, Harry doubted it was feeling particularly abused, but he obediently followed as Uncle Peter floated into the library. Seating himself at the big desk, he drew out a sheet of parchment, a quill and ink, and carefully wrote out the letter the ghost dictated.
"Dear Deputy Headmistress McGonagall, Thank you very much for your letter. I shall be pleased to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry beginning September 1. Yours sincerely, Harry J. Potter."
"Very good," said Peter, looking it over while they waited for the ink to dry. "Your penmanship is improving."
"I've been practicing," said Harry proudly, as he wrote out the return address on an envelope. "The new non-splattering quills help a lot."
"All right, now let's write a note to your godfather and see if the owl will take that to the drop box when it takes this." Peter waited while Harry got out another sheet of parchment, and cleared his throat nervously before he began. This letter was the one that bothered him. While he had permitted Sirius and Remus to correspond with Harry at his birthday and on holidays through the drop box, the boy had never met the two living Marauders. Indeed, what Peter was about to suggest would be his first foray into the magical community at large.
"Dear Sirius and Remus, Today I received my Hogwarts letter. I have written to Deputy Headmistress McGonagall to convey" - here he had to spell the word out for Harry - "my acceptance. I am planning to go to Diagon Alley to purchase my school supplies on July 31, and I would be pleased to meet you both on that day if it is convenient. Perhaps we could take luncheon together. Yours sincerely, Harry J. Potter."
"Are you sure that's what I should write?" asked Harry. "That sounds awfully formal."
"The sort of letter where you're asking someone for something should be formal," said Peter. "And these letters mean that you are beginning to be grown up, and you should write as a grown up. But you could write a P.S. on the bottom with whatever else you want."
"P.S.," wrote Harry, sticking his tongue out in concentration, "I'm really excited about going to Diagon Alley and to Hogwarts. But I'm nervous too. I've never been away from home before and I hope everything will be all right. Is it normal to be scared and excited at the same time? Uncle Peter says it's normal, but I feel like I have eaten all the butterflies in the garden. I can hardly wait. Signed, Harry."
"Perfect," said Peter. "I like the part about the butterflies. Now do an envelope for that one, and then … I think it's time you used that," said Peter, pointing at the box that contained James's signet. "Technically you shouldn't use it until you're eleven, but that's only a few days from now."
Harry put both letters in their envelopes, and removed the precious ring from its box. He used a cantrip to melt some red sealing wax, and pressed the ring down carefully to leave its imprint, carefully speaking the charm to make sure the letters could only be opened by their recipients as he did so.
"Can I wear the ring now, too?" he asked.
"You should wear it when you go to Diagon Alley," said Peter. "It will identify you to Remus and Sirius. Otherwise, you should wear it only for special occasions. Formal events and things like that. There may be a few dances and balls when you're at Hogwarts, and you should wear it then. Also whenever you're meeting important people. And if you need to sign documents of any kind, which I really can't imagne happening until you're an adult, you'll need to use the ring to seal them if you're acting on behalf of the family instead of just yourself. When you come of age at seventeen, you can wear it all the time if you want. You should wear it on your right hand, whichever finger feels most comfortable, and it will size itself to fit."
"That is so cool," breathed Harry, trying it on for a moment before returning the ring to the box.
"Yes, it is. Now let's give these letters to the bird, and get on with our lessons for today. Just because you got your Hogwarts letter doesn't mean you get to skip your Latin quiz."
"That's okay. Even a quiz won't bother me today!" Harry replied with a smile. He gathered up the letters and dashed back to the kitchen to give them to the owl.
July 21 — Minerva McGonagall's Office, Hogwarts
The owl didn't have to stop by the drop box, because the addressees of both letters were in the same place. Sirius and Remus had both returned to Hogwarts and were waiting in Minerva McGonagall's office for the return owl. This was a privilege she wouldn't extend to just anyone, but James, Sirius, Remus and Peter had been four of her favourite students, and the circumstances were extraordinary. Even so, Sirius was abusing the privilege with incessant pacing to and fro in front of her desk, while Remus was seated in a side chair quietly working on correcting a manuscript. "For Merlin's sake, Sirius, sit down! You're going to wear out my carpet with all that pacing. It's barely past noon, and we don't even know if the owl will return today."
"Didn't you send your fastest one?"
"Yes, but we have no idea where it was going. Harry could be living in New Zealand now, for all we know."
"No, it's closer, much closer. An hour from London on my bike, it was. No more than that." Sirius had told select individuals about what he had seen and experienced on his trip to the other world, and Remus, Minerva, and Albus Dumbledore were among that group.
"Sirius, that was in the other place, not this one," interjected Remus. "We don't know if they even used the same place to hide in both dimensions."
"It looked the same, from what I can recall. That Sirius knew where it was, but I can't remember, although I remember everything else about that night. Everything else was the same, right up until … until that moment. Why wouldn't they have used the same place?"
"We don't know everything that led up to it, Sirius. So we don't know if everything was really the same, or if that was just the point where it became noticeable to you."
"Stop being so reasonable. It's not helping," snarled Sirius. Remus shrugged and returned his attention to his manuscript. They had gone over the subject of what happened in the other world so often they'd begun having the same discussions over and over, and there were never any concrete answers.
Harry's letter, of course, had not been the only letter sent out; over fifty owls had gone to the parents of children eligible to attend Hogwarts as first-year students, and some of them were already beginning to fly back through Minerva McGonagall's office window with variations on "Thank you, my little Eddie will certainly be there." Some few came back with notices that the families had made other arrangements for the education of their children, such as the Goodenough family, which, as McGonagall had predicted, had decided to send its eldest son to Durmstrang. With each owl that flew in the window to deposit its paperwork, Sirius jumped up eagerly, only to slump dejectedly when it was not from Harry. By the time fourteen owls had arrived and been relieved of their correspondence, the Deputy Headmistress was annoyed enough to snap sharply, "Mister Black, would you please stop bobbing up and down like a Bumble. I shall turn you into a desk ornament if you keep it up! And I just might forget to unTransfigure you when his answer does come."
Sirius subsided with a grumble.
Fortunately for his intentions not to end up as a paperweight, the sixteenth owl that came through the window bore Harry's response, as well as his note to the two Marauders.
While the two men were huddled over their letter, Minerva briskly made a copy of hers and summoned a house elf to take the copy to Headmaster Dumbledore. A moment later, the small fire in Minerva's office hearth flared up green and the Headmaster's head appeared in the flames. "Minerva, now that we have Mr. Potter's … ah, just the men I wanted to see!" he said, realizing Sirius and Remus were in the office. "Could I see the three of your in my office when you have a chance? Thank you so much." He vanished from the flames without even waiting for their reply, secure in the knowledge that the two young wizards and the middle-aged witch would be along to see him shortly.
July 21, 1991 — Albus Dumbledore's Office, Hogwarts
Dumbledore told the gargoyle to let his visitors up directly, without going through the rigmarole of a password. There was no point to it, with so few people in the school at present. As usual, overstuffed armchairs positioned themselves for his guests' maximum comfort, and the candy dish scurried to the edge of the desk. Severus was the only person besides Albus who consistently accepted its offerings, but it was always hopeful.
"Minerva, gentlemen … Now that we have received Harry Potter's acceptance, we need to discuss what preparations must be made."
Remus and Sirius exchanged glances while Minerva sat upright on the edge of her seat. "What preparations? I'll be attending to all the organization and scheduling matters as usual. He obviously doesn't need muggleborn intake assistance, which was something I was concerned about. There's no reason everything shouldn't go smoothly."
"No reason?" asked Albus. "Aside from the fact that we have no idea where the boy has been living all these years, or who's taught him what?" The customary twinkle was missing from Albus's eyes. "All we know is that we received one letter from someone purporting to be Peter Pettigrew almost six years ago now, followed by a series of letters from someone purporting to be Harry James Potter."
"The letter from Peter had our old passwords on it, Albus, and the letters from Harry have information that only Peter could have told him," said Sirius. "And this letter we got today was sealed with the Potter signet. Only Harry could use that." He passed the letter over for the older man's perusal.
"That's good, that's very good," said Dumbledore. "He wants to meet with you both before school starts. You should do it, of course, it will give us some idea of what he's been exposed to, and whether or not we need to worry about him tending to the Dark or the Light."
"He's just a child!" said McGonagall, shocked. "He's not even eleven until next week! He's far too young to be worrying about him going Dark."
"I assure you, Minerva, that a child can be steeped in Darkness long before he comes to school, and we've all seen the results. The boy who grew up to become Voldemort was one such. I did his muggleborn intake interview myself, and-"
"Voldemort was a muggleborn?" said Sirius in surprise.
"No, a half-blood, actually. Although at the time we thought he was muggleborn, and he'd been brought up in a Muggle orphanage. I didn't find out the truth until years later."
"Why wasn't this common knowledge? The purebloods would never-"
"Alas, by the time I managed to link the half-blood student at Hogwarts, who had disappeared several years after finishing school, with the unknown Dark Lord who sprang upon the wizarding world twenty years later, it was already far too late for that to have done much good. Many of them were bound to him personally by that time, and would not have been able to desert him if they had wanted to. Many of them already knew and didn't particularly care — he backed their agenda, and they assumed they'd be able to depose him easily after their victory. And many of them wouldn't have believed it if the Daily Prophet headlines screamed it, assuming that it would be a ploy intended to weaken Voldemort's position. I wasn't absolutely sure of it, in fact, until after he had fallen, when Severus and Malfoy were able to, ah, 'liberate' some of Voldemort's personal papers." He sighed heavily. "There were signs already in the young Tom Riddle which disturbed me greatly. I kept a close eye on him for the first few years, but he was on his best behaviour then and I never found anything that I could lay directly at his feet. I fear also that I was distracted by Grindelwald's rise to power, which happened concurrently. By the time I had dealt conclusively with him, Riddle had already left school. But you can understand why I am deeply concerned about the young Potter. When a child as powerful as he must be, in order to fulfil the Prophecy at such a young age, is raised in isolation by a person or persons whose motives and allegiances are dubious, we must be careful."
"But he's a Potter. His family has been on the side of Light for generations," protested Minerva.
"And mine has been Dark for as many generations," said Sirius. "Yet I turned my back on it. I understand Albus's caution, Minerva. If we don't know what Harry has been taught, we don't know what he believes or what side he will ultimately be on."
"You talk as if the war were still going on," said Minerva. "You-Know-Who was vanquished years ago, the Death Eater trials are long over, the Death Eaters themselves sent to Azkaban, the Order disbanded for more than seven years now. Surely there's no danger-"
"There is always danger," said Dumbledore. "Severus and Mr. Malfoy are both convinced that Voldemort is not, in fact, dead, but fallen, his power broken. Whether he can regain his power is something that remains to be seen, and on this subject Severus and Mr. Malfoy differ in opinion. I do not know which is correct; we must wait and see. In the meantime, we are faced with the difficulty of ensuring that this boy, about whom we know practically nothing, does not rise to take his place. If he is, in fact, anything like his parents, he will be placed in Gryffindor, and I believe we would need have no further concern for him then; I trust you to keep him on the right track." Dumbledore turned again to Sirius and Remus. "The two of you are already in correspondence with young Harry, and he has asked to meet you in Diagon Alley. I would appreciate it if you would not only meet with him for luncheon, as he suggests, but offer to accompany him when he does his shopping. He did not mention being accompanied by an adult in his letter, and it would not be wise for any child of that age to be roaming about Diagon Alley alone. I want you to talk with him, get to know him. Get him to trust you, if you can. Find out who has been taking care of him, and what they have taught him. If it's Pettigrew, try to get into contact with him so we can find out what exactly happened that night. If he is still loyal to the Light, he may need help, and we should provide it. If he is Dark, we must be prepared to rescue Harry from him and find a place of safety where he may live. But Pettigrew is secondary. Your first concern must be Harry."
Remus stood, looking somewhat disgustedly at Dumbledore. "I'd be doing everything you asked anyway, just because he's a child, the son of my old friends. Light and Dark don't enter into it. He's a child and we have to look out for his welfare." He turned and walked to the door without waiting for Dumbledore to speak again. Sirius nodded apologetically at the older man and hurried out in Remus's wake.
"If you will excuse me, Headmaster," said Minerva, somewhat frostily. "I have to plan for this year's Muggleborn Intakes."
Dumbledore nodded, and she rose and left the office, leaving the old man behind his desk, alone with his thoughts.
July 31, 1991 — The Dower House, Godric's Hollow
Harry's eleventh birthday dawned bright and clear. Normally, Harry was up at dawn, along with the house elves, but today he had climbed out of his curtained bed even before the elves were stirring in their snug little house, and he had put on his glasses and watched the stars fade until the first birds started chirping. Turning on his bedroom light, he once again mentally thanked Uncle Peter for showing the elves how to reset the circuit breaker so the bedrooms had power again; it was much more convenient to switch on the light rather than light a candle or oil lamp. The night before, he and Nanny had carefully selected and laid out the clothes he would wear for his trip to Diagon Alley: Muggle trousers, trainers and shirt for comfort, and a dark green open-front robe with black trim to wear over them. When properly dressed, he combed his hair (although it always stuck up in the back no matter what he did) and ran downstairs for the morning elf-meeting. Ordinarily he helped in the garden in the mornings before breakfast, but Nanny didn't want him getting his good clothes dirty, so he did indoor jobs like setting the table which wouldn't muss him up.
He couldn't eat much breakfast, and spent the next hour alternating between watching the clock and fidgeting with his possessions. Finally, finally, the hour arrived.
"All right, let's go over everything one more time," said Uncle Peter as Harry stood, practically at attention before the fireplace in the parlour, where he had started a small fire. "You have your wand?"
"Check." Harry saluted with his mother's willow wand, which they had decided was the best and safest for him to bring with him today. After some experimentation, they had discovered that the willow wand was best for Harry to use for charms, while his father's mahogany wand was good for the simple transfigurations he'd been able to work. Like most children, his magic wasn't developed enough to do complex transfigurations on command yet, accidental magic being another kettle of fish entirely. The yew wand found in the nursery worked best, apparently, for hexes and jinxes, and presumably curses once he was able to cast them, and also counters and protections, but given how that wand had come to be in the nursery in the first place, Peter wanted to keep its existence a secret as long as possible. The willow wand would do well enough for the simple jinxes that Harry had been able to learn so far. He slid the slim wooden shaft into the sheath attached to his belt.
"Check." Harry buffed it a final time against his shirt and displayed it to Peter. He had decided to wear it on the ring finger of his right hand.
"Money pouch and Gringott's key?"
"Check and check." The pouch already contained a few coins which Nanny had taken out of the goblin pot for him, but the expenditures he would be making today were greater than could be paid from the housekeeping money, so he would have to visit Gringott's to get money from his education trust.
"Pouch of emergency Floo powder?"
"Check." He actually had two of these, one in his robe pocket and one in his trousers pocket. The Floo at the Dower House was active, since James and Lily had been aware that they might have to use it as an emergency escape, but of course the address was unknown to anyone because of the Fidelius. Under supervision of the elves, Harry had made a few practice trips between the Dower House and the Big House at Godric's Hollow, and had learned how to spin through the Floo without falling over at the far end, and how to roll to his feet if he accidentally fell over anyway.
"Check." The list had been carefully marked up to indicate those things that Harry did not have to buy, mostly because they had them at home, such as cauldrons and the History of Magic textbook, which hadn't changed since James and Lily had attended school. Some of the other schoolbooks were the same, too, but Harry had written down the editions of the ones he had and would compare to see if there was a newer edition available. Then he planned to go through all the books and copy the marginal notes from his parents' books; there was no sense in wasting perfectly good notes.
"List of places to go other than buying school supplies?"
"Check," Harry said, waving the second list. "Gringott's to ride in the carts and get money, the Daily Prophet offices to get them to stop offering a reward for finding me — I wonder if I could talk them into giving me the reward for finding myself?" he asked.
"You can try, but I don't think you'll be successful. Maybe you can get Sirius to claim he found you, and split the proceeds. Or you could let Remus claim it. He probably needs the money." Peter thought that such a prank might appeal to the former Marauders.
"I'll ask them," said Harry. "Let's see, um, go to Quality Quidditch Supplies to look at brooms, have lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and ice cream at Fortescue's. Pick up pranking supplies at Gambol & Japes. Get my glasses adjusted at Smith's Opticals. I think that's everything." Harry and Peter had realized the year before that his vision was going bad, just as his father's had, and the eyestrain was causing Harry to use headache potions almost every day. Knowing that wizarding families rarely threw anything away and sooner or later everything wound up in the attic, the elves rummaged through the trunks in storage until they found several pairs of James's old glasses. They weren't perfect, and Harry had neither the spell knowledge nor the control to transfigure the lenses to the correct strength, but they were better than nothing. At Smith's, he could get them adjusted properly — maybe even get some new frames, since the ones he had were old-fashioned and looked kind of dorky, in his opinion.
"Incredibly overprotective house elf bodyguards?"
"Check," said Nanny, popping in next to Harry. She was wearing a new tunic made out of dishtowels, topped with a fashionable shawl that had been a lace curtain in its previous life. Harry really didn't like the idea of her wearing the towels out in public, but as an eleven-year-old he was beginning to understand these things. So that she could have something pretty, he had presented her with the curtain, which she had accepted with grateful tears, and now wore draped about her skinny shoulders. She also carried a leather bag in which to carry Harry's purchases.
"And check." Ferny's voice came from somewhere near Harry. While it wasn't exactly normal for a young child to be travelling about with only an elf for escort, it wasn't unheard of, either. Ferny and Nanny had argued over which of them should go, and it was eventually decided that they both should. Nanny would be visible, and perform the usual tasks of carrying her master's packages and watching out for him, while Ferny would remain invisible in case additional help was needed.
"Okay, now I have everything."
"Not quite. Put on your glamour."
"Oops. Sorry." Harry drew his wand again and waved it at himself, carefully casting the charms Peter had taught him. His hair, while remaining its standard mess, turned to a medium brown and the eyes behind his glasses frames became hazel. Without changing anything else, he looked like a different boy altogether.
"Good. That ought to keep people off you until the Prophet can get a story out. You look enough like James that anyone who knew him could recognize you, but people casually passing on the street won't."
"I know, I know!" Peter did have a tendency to repeat things from time to time. It was apparently one of the occupational habits of being a ghost. "Can I go now?" The boy was practically dancing with impatience.
"You remember who you can talk to and what you're supposed to say?"
"I remember. Talk to Padfoot and Moony, have them take me to the Prophet, don't tell anybody my full name if I can help it, don't tell anybody anything about where I live or who with, or that you're a ghost. Why not?" he asked curiously.
"It would raise more questions that you can't answer and I don't want to answer right now, okay? There are things I'll have to tell you when you're older, but for now we just need to get you off to school. Off with you now," Peter said reluctantly. He was nervous about today's outing. Harry had never been away from home longer than a few hours, and never farther than the village of Godric's Hollow. How would he cope with meeting strangers, with making purchases, and with navigating the crowded streets of Diagon Alley? Peter was sure it was safer now than it had been, say, fifteen years ago, but there were still places where a young boy could not wander safely.
Harry had no such worries. Today was his, today he was free to explore a whole new world! "Bye!" he chirped happily, and grabbed some Floo powder from the jar on the mantel. He flung it into the flames, which roared up green. "The Leaky Cauldron!" he said clearly, then jumped into the flames and spun away.
July 31, 1991 - The Leaky Cauldron
Harry whirled past a series of fireplaces, keeping his arms neatly tucked in so that he wouldn't lose his balance, and spun to a stop in a large, old-fashioned fireplace. He stepped out quickly while the fire was still cool and green, and moved aside to permit a heavyset witch wearing a purple cloak to use the Floo going out. Nanny popped in next to him, and he felt a reassuring nudge which meant that Ferny was beside him also.
The Leaky Cauldron proved to be a pub, of the shabby, old-fashioned sort that occupied some of the back streets of the village of Godric's Hollow, which Nanny and Ferny had never let him go into. There was light coming in from the street through dirty windows, and chandeliers with candles that coated the ceiling with soot. One wall was taken up with a long wooden bar, which was tended by an old barman with a face like a walnut. The opposite wall was where the huge fireplace was. One long table and several smaller ones took up most of the floor space in between. A rickety flight of stairs went up to the first storey, where Peter had said there were rooms where transients sometimes stayed, and there was a kitchen somewhere, judging from the scent of recently cooked food.
One door opened from time to time to admit someone from the busy London street, and Harry had to admit that he was extremely curious about what lay beyond that door. He itched to go exploring. The other door seemed to lead into a grubby back alley, but as he watched, people kept passing through the pub without stopping and went out through the back door, so he reasoned that there must be something other than a rubbish tip out there.
Even at this early hour, the bar had customers; a little man wearing a top hat sat on a bar stool drinking an ale, and three old women sat at a corner table nursing little glasses of something brown. One of them was smoking a long pipe, the smoke adding to the general dimness of the room. A pale young man wearing an old-fashioned suit and a purple turban was finishing breakfast at one end of the long table. Harry, flanked by Nanny and Ferny, uncertainly sat at one of the little tables. He was early, he didn't see either of the people he was supposed to be meeting here, and he was beginning to develop a headache already.
"Here all by yer lonesome, dearie?" a voice asked. He looked up to see a frowsy waitress next to his table. "Yer a little younger than our usual customers," she said, looking dubiously at Nanny, who cowered next to Harry.
"I'm waiting for someone to meet me," he said in a voice which, he was disgusted to note, shook a little.
"'Spect that's all right, then," said the waitress. "Would yeh like a little something in the meanwhile?"
"Um, I'll have a pumpkin juice, please." The woman went away and returned with a pewter goblet full of juice, which Harry sipped slowly while trying to keep an eye on both the Floo and the door.
The fire roared green again, and a sandy-haired man, wearing a Muggle suit with a loose robe over it, emerged. He looked around, and Harry saw that his eyes were an almost unnatural clear amber, and gleamed in the dimness of the pub. He shivered just a little bit, not sure if he should be afraid. Then the Floo flared up a second time, and a tall, slim man with long wavy black hair pulled back in a ponytail stepped out. He was wearing a black tailored robe that looked almost like a long coat over trousers and boots.
The one with the amber eyes spoke first. "I don't see him. Are we early? Or has he gone off by himself?"
The dark-haired man looked at Harry and nudged his companion. "That's him over there."
"But … his hair's all wrong. It should be black."
"How many times did Peter use a glamour in school to look like someone else? It was practically his trademark. Look at the hair. Look at the glasses. Just like James. And the scar's the same as the other one. That's got to be him."
The two approached Harry's table, and he fought down his nervousness.
"Harry? May we sit?" asked the brown-haired man.
"Um, I was told to ask for the password," Harry replied.
"Of course. 'We solemnly swear …"
"…that we are up to no good.' I'm Mr. Padfoot, my compatriot here is Mr. Moony."
"And we are both very glad to see you again after all this time," said the brown-haired man, sliding into the seat opposite Harry's.
"Mr. Padfoot? And Mr. Moony?" asked Harry.
"Sorry. Those were our noms de prank, back in school. I'm your godfather, Sirius Black, and this is Remus Lupin. You can call us Uncle Sirius and Uncle Remus if you like."
"Harry Potter," said Harry, holding out his hand to be shaken with due solemnity by the two older men. During this process, Sirius noticed Harry's signet ring, and nodded slightly to Remus, who finally began to relax. "Pleased to meet you. Mr. Wormtail sends his regards."
"And how is Peter? We haven't heard from him except for that one letter," said Remus.
"He's not able to write," said Harry, cautiously. "I do that for him, or one of the house elves."
"Is he sick? Was he badly injured?" asked Sirius. Although he doubted Peter's loyalties, there was no denying their friendship over the years, and he was concerned about his friend's welfare.
"He told me to tell you that he was doing well enough, and to please not ask questions for now. He'll be able to tell you someday, he said."
"When you go home, can you tell him we're very concerned about him and want to help him — and you — in any way we can."
"I'll tell him. But he's okay, really. He's safe at home, and there's nothing that can hurt him there. He said, if there's some way you could watch over his mother and sister, to make sure they're safe, that's all he was concerned about now. And he's sorry he didn't ask about that earlier?" he finished, uncertainly.
"I think we can do that," said Remus, gently. "Is there anything else he said to tell us, Harry?"
"Yeah, he said you should let me usurp Mr. Prongs' place now that I'm taller than the table. Does that make any sense to you?"
Remus looked blank, but after a moment, Sirius remembered the bit of banter and reminded him of it. That, more than anything, convinced them that it was Peter who had given Harry the information. The Marauder references just might have been uncovered by a spy, but no one else was privy to that last conversation. "Well, usurping is a definite possibility, but you really ought to earn your Marauder name first. 'Mr. Prongs Junior' isn't suitable for a usurper," said Sirius, and then of course he had to explain about the Marauders and their names.
"So I have to do a really good prank to earn my Marauder name?"
"Preferably on Snivellus," said Sirius enthusiastically.
Lupin gave a long-suffering sigh and slipped into Marauder-speak. "Mr. Moony would like to remind Mr. Padfoot that encouraging Mr. Prongs Junior to commit mayhem on a man who is not only old enough to be his father and an Order of Merlin winner, but who will shortly be one of his professors, is a profoundly bad idea. Mr. Prongs Junior should select his own targets from among his peer group in order to establish the new generation's legacy."
It took Harry a moment to sort that out. "I should prank a student? Okay, I can do that. Can we go shopping now?" he asked, with a lightning change of subject.
Sirius laughed. Harry sounded very much like James in that moment. "That's what we're here for. You have your list?"
"Both of 'em. A list of supplies and a list of places to go." He showed both pieces of parchment to the older men.
Remus raised his eyebrows over the lists. "There's quite a lot to do today, so let's go to it. You already crossed 'wand' off the supplies list, though?" he asked, returning the parchments to Harry.
"I've got one," Harry said, sliding his wand out of the sheath. "I think it was Mum's."
"May I see it for a moment?" Remus took the slim shaft and peered at the butt end of it. "Yes, that's Lily's all right. See the initials, LE, she carved on it?"
"She didn't!" said Sirius in surprise, leaning over to look.
"She sure did. She had a sister at home who kept taking her things, so she was in the habit of marking her books and belongings as soon as she got them. She didn't know any better with the wand, so she took a penknife to it."
"And then she was surprised when it stopped working?"
"Right. I only know about it because I was in Ollivander's getting my own wand when her father brought her in to get hers retuned. Ollivander was not happy, let me tell you. Chips and scratches are one thing, but deliberate mutilation of a wand? Sacrilege!" Laughing, he handed the wand back to the boy, who ran his fingers over the barely visible letters before he slid it back into its sheath. "Let's go then."
The two men rose, and Harry gulped the last of his juice before joining them. Harry started for the front door, but stopped when Sirius put his hand on his shoulder. "Not that way. Out this way."
They walked out the back door of the pub into a small walled courtyard, where there was nothing except the predicted rubbish tip and a few weeds. Nanny tagged along after them in proper house elf fashion, and Harry ignored her presence as he had been told to do, although he felt bad about it. Sirius drew his own wand from a forearm sheath and counted bricks, with Harry carefully watching in case he had to do this on his own some day. Reaching the desired brick, Sirius tapped it firmly three times with the tip of the wand. A small hole appeared in the brick and expanded rapidly until there was an archway leading onto a crowded, cobbled street. "Welcome," Sirius said, "to Diagon Alley." They stepped through, and the archway shrank shut behind them.
July 31, 1991 — Diagon Alley
Harry could feel his eyes bugging out, and a grin spread across his face. He wanted to look at everything at once, and wasn't sure what to look at first. There were street vendors, store windows full of magical gadgetry, and wizards and witches in colourful robes, some with owls perched on their shoulders. A gaggle of children scampered by, walking a white ferret on a leash. "Whoa! This is so cool!" He gaped at a display of self-stirring cauldrons, reluctantly allowing Remus to steer him away from them.
"There will be plenty of time to look at things," said the soft-spoken man. "But Gringott's first, and then Smith's Opticals, and then it might be easier to see everything else."
It took them a while to get to Gringott's, partly because of the throngs of shoppers and partly because Harry kept getting distracted by one thing or another and crossing the street repeatedly to look at whatever it was that had caught his eye, whether it be owls in cages at Eeylops or the new broomstick in the window of Quality Quidditch. Finally they reached the large white marble building that housed Gringott's. An extremely large person was walking up the stairs in front of them, making the small goblin at the door seem even smaller.
"Hagrid!" called Sirius, and the large man stopped and turned toward them. Harry stared at the stranger even though he knew it was rude; he just couldn't help himself. The man was eight feet tall if he was an inch, and had long bushy black hair and a prodigious beard to match. Beetle-black eyes shone out from among all the hair. He wore a black overcoat with large pockets, at least one of which was wiggling, over a canvas tunic shirt and striped wool pants.
"Sirius! Remus! Fancy runnin' into yeh here! Ain't seen yeh in dog's years!" the giant said in a booming voice. "An' who's this?" he asked, looking down at Harry, who had belatedly remembered his manners and was trying not to stare.
"Hagrid, this is my godson, Harry Potter," said Sirius proudly, but keeping his voice low enough so as not to be overheard. "Harry, this is Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts."
"Harry Potter!" Hagrid's voice boomed out. "Pleased ter meet ya!" He reached down to envelop Harry's small hand in his huge one, and then suddenly became aware that a number of people on the street were staring at them. "Oops. I should not have said that." Sirius and Remus each took one of Harry's arms and hustled him up the remaining few steps, with Hagrid going behind them to hide the small boy with his bulk. Nanny scampered along with them.
Gossip travelled faster than a phoenix, and within moments a crowd was forming, with the words "Harry Potter" on half the people's lips and "Reward" on the other half. The uniformed goblin took one look at the situation and pulled a golden whistle out of his pocket, giving one sharp blast. Immediately, six goblin guards armed with nasty-looking halberds emerged from a hidden door and blocked the main entrance. Until the crowd dispersed, only those with legitimate business in Gringott's would be admitted, and the goblins would decide what was legitimate.
Inside the Gringott's lobby, all remained calm.
"I'm right sorry about tha', really I am," said Hagrid. "Didn' expect to attract so much attention. Buncha nosey parkers out there anyway."
"That's all right, I think," said Sirius, "but it means we'll have to go to the Prophet right after we get out of here."
"Tha's right, young Harry here mus' be gettin' ready for Hogwarts this year. I knew yer parents, yeh know, and a finer wizard an' witch I never met. Seven years I knew 'em at school, and then almos' another seven after, when you was born. Las' time I saw you, you was only a baby," said the giant. "Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh've got yer mum's eyes."
"I don't remember them," said Harry sadly.
"Well, I do, an' others too, an' I'm sure they'll be glad ter tell yeh all 'bout 'em. You jus' come down to my cottage when you get to Hogwarts, any time yeh want, and I'll sit 'n tell yeh all the stories yeh want. Righ' now I have ter be about a little errand for the Headmaster. But you come see me, eh?" the big man said, clapping Harry on the back so hard it staggered him.
"I'll be happy to," Harry replied.
Sirius and Remus nodded farewell to Hagrid and took Harry to one of the tellers, who inspected Harry's key and checked a large ledger book. "Everything seems to be in order. Go through that door, please, Griphook will be along in a moment to take you to your vault. Your elf may wait for you there. Next!"
"Next" was Hagrid, who had followed anxiously behind them, still trying to shelter them in case a mob broke in trying to get at Harry. He leaned over and whispered to the goblin, showing him a letter of some kind. The goblin frowned at it, then directed Hagrid through the same door. Sirius, Remus, Harry, and now Hagrid waited in a narrow hallway that sloped sharply downwards, and had little railway tracks set in the floor. A goblin hurried into the room a moment later.
"Visitors to the lower vaults? One moment, please." The goblin whistled sharply and a small cart rumbled up the tracks toward them. Hagrid took up almost all the front seat, barely leaving room for the goblin, and Harry was jammed in between Sirius and Remus in the back seat. Nanny looked relieved not to have to get into the cart. "All right there?" asked the goblin. "Off we go!" And the cart plunged back down the tunnel into a maze of passages, careening right, left, right again, middle fork, and down sharp inclines while Harry screamed in glee. Uncle Peter had told him the cart rides were the best part about going to Gringott's.
The cart came to a sudden halt in front of a small door, and Sirius, who was looking slightly green, climbed out and then helped Harry. "Key, please," said the goblin as he hopped nimbly out of the front.
Harry gave him the key, and the little man unlocked the door, which bore the number 348. Clouds of green smoke came billowing out as it opened. When the smoke had cleared, Harry looked in at the piles of Galleons, Sickles and Knuts inside. "Wow! That's all mine?"
"That's your educational trust," said Sirius, who had begun to recover from the cart ride. "Your school fees have already been paid, so now you'll just need to take enough to buy your school supplies and incidental expenses during the year." He helped Harry pile handfuls of coins into his money pouch, which held much more than Harry thought it should. "That ought to last you for a while."
They climbed into the cart again and rattled off, going even deeper and faster. The cart hurtled along a narrow trestle bridge over a deep ravine, and Harry twisted around to try to look over the back of the cart and see what was down there. Sirius and Remus grabbed him and made him sit down facing front again. Suddenly the cart came to such a sudden stop that Harry lurched forward, right into Hagrid's back. The goblin jumped out again, and Hagrid clambered out with some difficulty, leaning against the wall until his knees stopped wobbling. This vault, which was numbered 713, had no lock. To open it, the goblin simply ran his finger down the center of the door, which melted away like mist. Hagrid lumbered into the room, almost filling the door, and came out a moment later, tucking something into his pocket. Harry caught a glimpse of the room as he left it; it was completely empty.
"What did you get?" he asked Hagrid as the big man got back in the cart.
"Can't tell yeh that," said Hagrid mysteriously. "Very secret. Hogwarts business. Dumbledore's trusted me. More'n my job's worth ter tell yeh that."
The ride up was not as much fun as the one down, but Harry thought he saw a dragon down at the end of one of the passages, so he was quite satisfied when they found themselves back in the passage off the lobby. Harry thanked Griphook politely, and the goblin smiled, showing quite a lot of pointed teeth, and bowed in response.
Soon they found themselves out on the street again in front of Gringott's. By this time, the crowd had been dispersed, not many people being curious enough to brave an angry goblin. Hagrid gave them a friendly wave goodbye, and hurried off. Sirius and Remus led Harry down the Alley a short way until they stood in front of another largish building, although its green-painted faÃ§ade wasn't nearly as impressive as the Gringott's building had been. A sign board proclaiming it the offices of The Daily Prophet hung out front.
"And it's show time," Sirius muttered. "I'm going to take that glamour off you for a bit, Harry. Don't worry, I can put it back for you after." With a wave of his godfather's wand, Harry was restored to his normal appearance, and they bustled into the offices of the Prophet.
A clerk at the front desk looked up to greet them. "Welcome to the Daily Prophet, where we print all the news before it becomes old," he said in a bored tone. "May I help you?"
"We'd like to see whoever is responsible for stories about Harry Potter, please," said Sirius.
"The rumour that Harry Potter was seen at Gringott's earlier today is unsubstantiated and there is no reward for reporting it," the clerk said.
"You don't understand," said Sirius. "This is Harry Potter. We want you to write a story that says he's been found, so people won't keep looking for him."
"What? Harry Potter's been … oh, oh my. This is him?" the flustered clerk asked. Harry gave him a tiny wave. "You can prove it?"
"He's wearing the Potter signet," Remus pointed out. "He's the only one that can wear it. Anyone else would lose their hand if they tried to put it on."
"That's proof enough, then. My goodness! Harry Potter, right here in the office!" They were almost immediately surrounded by all the personnel in the office, who all wanted to introduce themselves and shake Harry's hand, but the clerk cleared a path through to an office belonging to an editor named Miles Buncombe, who also engaged a round of hand-shaking once they were in private.
"Now then, Mr. Potter," he said, once he'd got everyone seated in comfortable chairs in front of his desk, "you understand people will be wanting to know where you've been all these years, what happened between you and You-Know-Who, all that sort of thing. We here at the Prophet appreciate your coming to us to tell us your story."
"There's not really much of a story," Harry said. "I've been living in secret with my uncle, and we want to keep it secret. There are spells so we keep our privacy. I don't remember anything about Voldemort because I was too little at the time — what?" he asked as the editor shivered dramatically.
"We don't say his name, Mr. Potter," whispered Mr. Buncombe. "Not even after all this time. You can, after all, because you're the one who vanquished him. You're sure you don't remember anything?"
Harry shrugged. "I'm told there was a big burned spot in the floor where he was. But there was nobody who saw what happened. I'm sorry."
"Big burned spot," repeated the editor, scribbling it down. "We can work with that."
"Mr. Buncombe, we didn't come here to give you a big story," Sirius put in. "We came because Harry will be starting school in the fall, and he will need to be able to do his shopping and so forth without being besieged by people trying to claim the reward for information leading to his discovery, when he has, in fact, already been, er, 'discovered'."
"Oh, er, the reward, yes. We'll be happy to pay that, of course. To whom should we send it?" Harry looked at Sirius and Remus, both of whom smiled and shook their heads.
"We don't need it, Harry. How about Hagrid? He did 'discover' you on the steps of Gringott's, after all."
"Okay, then. The reward should go to Rubeus Hagrid, at Hogwarts."
"Very well, we'll see to that. Now, you're sure there are no more details you recall?"
After repeated assurances that they knew no more details about That Night, and refusals to explain any more about Harry's whereabouts, they were able to make their escape. They ducked into a side alley immediately after leaving the office and changed Harry's appearance again, as well as Sirius's, since he was fairly well known in his own right. They judged that Remus was less likely to be identified.
Their next stop was Smith's Opticals, where "Call me Doc" Elmer Smith measured Harry's eyes with several odd silver implements and told him to find a pair of glasses frames he liked. "Make sure they're something you like, because you'll be wearing them a while," said the jovial blond man. "These glasses will be self-adjusting, and the frames will grow with your face, so the only reason you'll have to come back here is if you want to change the style."
Harry tried on a number of frames before he found one he liked, and then ordered some additional charms on the glasses, such as one to keep them from getting spotty in the rain, and another one to keep them from falling off his face accidentally, since he thought he might be interested in playing Quidditch in the future, and Sirius said one couldn't have a star Chaser losing his glasses in mid-match, now could one? While Doc was fixing the enchantments on the glasses, Harry wandered around the shop and looked curiously at the many articles sold there besides glasses. There were crystals that stored sunlight and released it in the dark on command, telescopes that took pictures of the stars they were pointed at, monocles that would enable one to see through spells, magnifying prisms that cast large images of whatever they were placed on, and many other interesting things. Harry was looking at a glass eyeball that was looking back at him from its shelf when Doc came back with his glasses. "That's for a special customer," Doc said. "Lost an eye during the war against You-Know-Who. I made that magical eye for him; it can see through all sorts of things, see in the dark, you name it. Every so often I think of something new to add to it and he brings it in so I can tweak it. Very challenging work. Now let's try these on and see how they look, eh?"
Harry was very pleased with the silver frames, and happily paid the wizard, buying one of the sunlight crystals and a picture-taking telescope as well.
The next stop was Madam Malkin's for his uniforms. "Why don't you and Remus go on in," said the now red-headed Sirius. "There's something I have to go get, and I may as well do it while you're getting fitted. I'll meet you over in the Apothecary later, all right?"
Remus directed Harry into the clothing shop, saying, "He just doesn't like clothes shopping. Has trouble with salesgirls draping themselves all over him. Can't say I blame him. Let's get this done as fast as possible, eh?"
Madam Malkin herself, a plump witch dressed all in mauve, hurried to greet them. "Another one for Hogwarts? We'll get you set up with the lot, dear, never fear. There's another young man in the back. You just go jump up on the stool next to him and we'll get you all measured up."
Harry and Remus went into the back room, where Remus took one of the chairs for parents while Harry scrambled up on the stool. A pale blond boy stood on the other stool, already being measured by another witch.
"Hello," said the other boy, in a tone which said he was only talking to Harry because he was bored out of his mind. "You're for Hogwarts too, I suppose?"
"My mother's next door buying my books. My father is in an important meeting at the Ministry" said the boy, as if feeling the need to explain why he was here alone. "Is that your father?" he nodded at Remus.
"My uncle," said Harry, going along with the fiction they had decided to use. "And my Nanny."
The boy looked again, and this time spotted the house elf crouched at Remus's feet, rearranging the packages in her bag. "You have your own elf?" said the boy, as if impressed in spite of himself. "You know you can't bring it to school, don't you?"
"Won't need one there, will I?" said Harry nonchalantly, trying to cover the bad feeling that the thought of being away from Nanny gave him.
"I suppose not." The boy dismissed the subject of elves and found something else to talk about. "When we're done here, I'm going to drag my mother off to took at racing brooms. I don't see why first years can't have their own. I think I'll ask Mother to get me one and I'll smuggle it in somehow. Have you got your own broom?" the boy went on.
"Not my own, but I ride the ones at home," said Harry.
"Play Quidditch at all?"
"Don't know anybody to play it with, but I'm looking forward to trying it."
"I do -- Father says it's a crime if I'm not picked to play for my house, and I must say, I agree. Know what house you'll be in yet?"
"Of course not," said Harry.
"Well, no one really knows until they get there, do they, but I know I'll be in Slytherin, all our family have been -- imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I'd leave, wouldn't you?"
Harry grimaced. Of course the self-important little twit would be in Slytherin. He made up his mind to avoid being placed in that House if at all possible. "There's nothing wrong with Hufflepuffs," he said.
"Sorry," said the boy, not sounding very sorry. "I suppose your uncle there was one."
"Gryffindor, actually," said Harry, trying to avoid growling at the pointy-faced boy.
"That's a little better, I suppose," sneered the boy. "Why is he with you? Where are your parents?"
"They're dead," said Harry shortly. He didn't feel much like going into the matter with this boy.
"Oh, sorry again," said the other, still not sounding sorry at all. "But they were our kind, weren't they?" He eyed Harry's Muggle clothing doubtfully.
"They were a witch and wizard, if that's what you mean."
"I really don't think they should let the other sort in, do you? They're just not the same, they've never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What's your name, anyway?"
But before Harry could answer, Madam Malkin said, "That's you done, my dear," and Harry, not sorry for an excuse to stop talking to the boy, hopped down from the footstool.
"Well, I'll see you at Hogwarts, I suppose," said the drawling boy.
Harry didn't answer, but hurried out to the front room, where he ordered five sets of robes, three new casual robes for weekends since he thought he wouldn't always want to wear Muggle clothes, and a new cloak, scarf and boots for the winter. Nanny remained behind to pick up the order when everything was done; she would catch up with Harry shortly.
Remus and Harry stopped briefly to pick up a supply of parchments, quills, and ink, then hurried on to Flourish & Blotts for his books. There were shelves to the ceiling, filled with books of all sizes and colours, covered in everything from silk to leather to some sort of purple leaf. Shop assistants scurried up and down ladders getting books from the top shelves for the customers. Stacks of all the required school texts were set on tables so students could just pick them up, but Harry went through them all checking the editions carefully. Then he went through the shelves looking for other things for supplemental reading. When he was done, he brought his pile of books up to the counter. Remus, who had picked up a few books of his own, raised his eyebrows at the sight of Harry's selections. "You have a little extra there, don't you?" he asked, picking up the Potions reference on the top of the stack. "This is a little advanced."
Harry shrugged. "I'm already ahead on the theory, it's just practice I haven't been able to do yet. Uncle Peter and Brandy showed me how to do some basic potions in the still room at home, and it was fun."
"Just like your mother. Let's hope you still think it's fun seven years from now," Remus muttered, replacing the book on the stack. Nanny caught up with them just as Harry finished paying for his books, and Remus shrank all the packages so she could carry them.
They headed across the way to the Apothecary, which was crowded with boxes of herbs, dried roots, and coloured powders, and bottles and barrels of mysterious slimes, nose-tingling tinctures, and pickled sheeps' eyeballs, among other things. Remus and Harry worked their way through the crowd to the counter, where Remus ordered a kit of basic potions supplies for Harry.
"Make that two kits, please, Uncle Remus" said Harry after tugging on Remus's sleeve to get his attention.
"Think you're going to mess up enough to need two kits?" asked Remus.
"No, but I want to have plenty if I do mess up. And when I get one right in class, I'll want to make it again by myself to be sure I can do it by myself. Potions is important, and I want to do it right."
"Now there's an attitude I wish more children had," said a stranger who was standing nearby. Harry looked up, to see a tall, thin man with dark hair, black eyes, and a prominent nose, looking down at him. "You're starting at Hogwarts this year?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, sir."
"And looking forward to Potions?"
"Very much, sir."
"Good, then maybe I'll have one good student among the usual dunderheads." The tall man looked across at Remus, who had been listening to this exchange with an odd expression on his face. "Your nephew, Lupin?"
The werewolf nodded, not trusting himself to speak at the moment.
"Wonderful. It should make for an interesting class."
Harry's eyes were getting rounder and rounder behind his glasses. He had figured out who this was. "Wait a minute … you're … you're …"
"Yes, I probably am," said the tall wizard in a long-suffering tone that said he was used to people reacting like this to him.
"You're Severus Snape, the author of Snape's Correspondences!" said Harry.
"It was … what?" asked Snape, visibly startled. "Why yes, but how did you…?"
"Wait here, please!" begged Harry, then he scrambled through the crowded store to where Nanny waited with the bag. "I need that package from the book store … not that one, the other one … Can you make it big again? Thanks!" He ripped open the parcel and extracted one of the books he had bought, and then had Nanny rummage through the back for a self-inking quill. The tall man was still at the counter when he returned. Harry held up a copy of a book, Snape's Correspondences: A Concise Guide to Potions Ingredients and their Interactions. "Could you sign this for me, Professor Snape? Please?"
"Of course," the tall Professor said, signing the title page with a flourish.
"Wow, thanks!" said Harry, blowing across the page to dry the ink. "This is so cool!" he said between puffs.
"Why did you even buy that book?" asked Snape. "I required it as a reference for my NEWT-level classes, not the firsties."
"I know, but it looks like it will be useful for lower-level stuff, too. We have Grosbeck's at home and it's so big I can't take it with me, and Uncle Peter said there's only one copy in the library at Hogwarts and all the sixth- and seventh-years hog it all the time. This looks like it's much better organized. And the little magnifying glass you need to read it is fun, too."
"Fun," said the Potions Master weakly. Harry ran back to Nanny to put the book and quill away, then darted over to an interesting looking bin of dried scarab beetles. "Are you enjoying yourself, Lupin?" he snapped at Remus, who was covering his mouth with his hand to hide his grin.
"Oh, quite," said the werewolf.
"I'm sure you are. All that's needed is for Black to be here, too," said Snape, sourly.
"Oh, but I am," said Sirius, who had just arrived.
"This is a new look for you, isn't it?" sneered Snape. "Are you planning on infiltrating the Weasley family?"
"No, just dodging jealous husbands — you know, the usual. Is Snivellus giving you a problem, Remus?"
"No, I was just introducing him to my nephew over there," said Remus, gesturing at the bin where Harry was now carefully picking out the biggest, shiniest beetles.
"Ah yes, the nephew. So what do you think of the boy?" Sirius asked Snape, his eyes gleaming with mischief.
"Seems to have potential. I look forward to teaching him."
"He's going to be a Gryffindor, of course," said Sirius confidently. "I'd lay money on it."
"I'll put a Galleon on that," said Remus, much to Sirius's surprise. "I'm thinking there's a good possibility for Ravenclaw. What do you think, Severus?"
Snape looked at the happy boy with his bag full of beetles. "I'll take your Galleon," he said. "The boy's a born Hufflepuff. Autographed copies, indeed!" He picked up his own order and stalked off, but there was a hint of a smile on his lips.
It was only when he was out on the street again that he realized he'd forgotten to ask the boy's name.
Remus and Sirius watched him go, and dissolved in laughter when he was safely out of the store. "D'you … do you think he had any idea who Harry was?" sputtered Sirius.
"Couldn't have. He was half way civil to him. I'd like to be a fly on the wall of that dungeon when he realizes."
"You and me, both."
"Did you get Harry's birthday present?" asked Remus, as the clerk brought his order to the counter.
"I certainly did. Best owl they had at Eeylops, plus a perch and all the supplies. Beautiful snowy," he said, pointing out the owl in her cage where he'd set it just inside the door. "I'm going to take her back to the Leaky — this isn't the best environment for her. Bring Harry over when he's finished picking out his bugs and we'll try to name her over lunch."
July 31, 1991 — The Dower House, Godric's Hollow
Harry sat on the edge of his bed, happily contemplating the pile of packages from the day's shopping. Tomorrow he and Nanny would pack them in his father's old school trunk. He wondered how many of the books he could read before school actually started. The elves had told him that his owl, who he had named Hedwig, was the most beautiful owl they had ever seen, and promised to convert the gazebo at the end of the garden into an owlery especially for her, but for now she was perched on the back of a chair, with the window open to the summer night in case she wanted to go out to hunt. He thought about all the wonderful things he'd seen today, and the people he'd met, and he smiled as he pulled the curtains around his bed to make his sleeping space small and comfortable.
Today had been the best day of his life.