Chapter 5: Diagon Alley
Nanoha ripped open her letter with a touch more enthusiasm than was really required. Three thick sheets of parchment fell out and she snatched them up.
"What do you have there?" Kyoya asked. "Hogwarts stuff?" He picked up the envelope and examined the torn wax seal.
Nanoha glanced up at her big brother. "Yeah," she said brightly, eyes darting back to the parchment. "Final grades from my first year." She put that sheet aside and turned to the next.
Kyoya picked up the grade paper. "I have no idea what these grades mean...third best student in Ravenclaw your year? That's your dorm, right?"
"More or less," Nanoha said distractedly. "They call it a House. It's a lot more important than just a dorm."
"Sounds weird," Kyoya said.
"I think it's a British thing." Nanoha set aside the second letter, which just said that she had been approved for second year classes (hardly surprising, really) and that her tuition had been automatically charged to her account at Gringotts (technically Fate's, really, since the TSAB was still footing the bill.) Her eleven year old brain glossed over all that boring stuff, the third letter was loads more important. "My school supplies," she identified it.
Kyoya looked over her shoulder and peaked an eyebrow. "That's exotic."
"I already have all that," Nanoha said, pointing to most of the "bits and bobs" as Hagrid called them. Nanoha realized how much British slang was entering her vocabulary with a shudder. "Most all I need is a trip to the apothecary for potion ingredients and the books...only two of those are new, these others are all from last year. Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2, and...huh."
Kyoya chuckled. Other than being a spell book that first one sounded normal enough. "What's the other one?"
Nanoha looked up, her expression carefully neutral. "1001 Schoolyard Jinxes for the Creative Prankster."
Kyoya blinked slowly. "That doesn't sound like a school book."
"Yeah," Nanoha said. She couldn't hold back her grin. "This is gonna be a great year!"
Nanoha felt her magic buoy her in pink nothingness for a timeless moment, and then let the feeling pass. It was a bit like falling, or standing in an updraft, her magic blowing up and away and the real world coming back into focus.
The real world being a few feet away from the floo in the Leaky Cauldron.
Nanoha grinned and hurried over to her favorite blonde. "Fate! How are you?"
Fate Harlaown sipped a bit from her pumpkin juice (she was afraid she was 'going native' too) before she answered. "Oh nothing new. You're the first one here."
Nanoha giggled. "I bet Harry's finding it hard to leave the Burrow."
Fate offered her own wide smile at that. Their friend had really loosened up since their little rescue mission.
Nanoha had a cup of tea mostly gone by the time a Weasley twin stumbled out of the floo. "Fred!" Nanoha called.
"George!" Fate waved him over at the same moment.
Fred Weasley walked over and bowed comically to Nanoha. "How could I resist a young lady who recognizes my dashing face?"
George came next, then Arthur Weasley who attempted to corral his young headaches-made-flesh. "Ah, you're the one who gave Ron that little fellytone!" he exclaimed happily when Nanoha introduced herself. "We had a bit of an accident with it, sorry to say."
As Nanoha understood it, the phone had lasted about five or six seconds after Arthur had been alone with it. And had somehow ended up turned into a chicken in an attempt to fix it. She decided not to mention that. "It's good to meet you, sir."
Arthur smiled at this and sat down next to her. "I have been studying ele-cti-trik devices for years now. But I've never seen anything like that square in the back cubbyhole."
Nanoha frowned a bit and pulled out her own phone, holding tightly onto it. She turned it over and her expression cleared. "Oh," she slid open the battery cover. "You mean this?"
"Yes exactly," Arthur said happily.
"Well on a normal cell, this is where you'd find the battery," Nanoha explained, pointing at the chrome and crystal contraption, "but this device is kind of a magical electric generator. It's a big part of why the phone works around a lot of magic."
"Really?" Arthur said excitedly. Nanoha worried she had just made a horrible mistake.
The floo flared again and Ron came running out. "Harry!?" he called.
Arthur frowned and turned around. "Ron?"
"Dad!" Ron came running. "Is Harry here?"
"No he isn't," Arthur said, concern growing. "Did he leave before you?"
Ron nodded. "He stuttered."
Arthur stood straight up, all bumbling joviality gone. "Hopefully he's only a grate or two down. Boys, you know where they are. Go!"
With the red-headed clan scattering, Nanoha looked to Arthur in confusion. "Mr. Weasley?"
"Nothing to worry about, I'm sure. Harry just took a bit of a wrong turn in the floo and we need to track him down." Arthur didn't look as calm as he sounded, but then he seemed more concerned than genuinely worried.
Nanoha and Fate nodded to eachother. "Raising Heart?"
"Stand by, ready."
"You too, Bardiche."
The girls held up their devices. "Set!"
Arthur clamped a hand over both of theirs. "Stop," he said sternly. He got down on one knee and looked into their surprised faces. "This isn't Hogwarts and, space magic or no, you two are underage. It's not legal."
"But Harry," Nanoha protested.
"Is Harry Potter," Arthur finished. "He'll have a crowd chattering around him in no time if he's here. If we haven't have him in a few minutes, then we'll talk about whatever you were planning on doing. Okay?"
Nanoha and Fate offered a mutinous expression but finally sighed. They were trying to put on a good face for the Bureau's sake, and flaunting local laws wasn't exactly smart. "Okay, Mr. Weasley," Nanoha said in a small voice. Fate just nodded reluctantly.
Arthur nodded and let them go. "Now, if I can trust you not to use magic, why don't the two of you run off and join the search? Stay together! I don't want girls your age running around alone."
"Okay," Fate agreed. Nanoha grabbed her arm and half-dragged her out of the pub.
"Start with Gringotts!" Arthur yelled as they broke into the alley proper.
Harry wasn't at Gringotts, they found out a bit later. They saw the Weasleys running around just like they were. "It's been a few minutes," Nanoha pointed out.
"We should talk to Mr. Weasley first," Fate argued.
"HARRY!" The girls spun at the yell and saw a bushy haired girl running to...that had to be Hagrid. A moment later they placed the girl's name, Hermione. And yes, Harry was at Hagrid's side! They ran to join them, Weasleys likewise closing in from all directions.
"Where were you?" Hermione demanded kindly.
"Knockturn Alley," Hagrid answered darkly.
"WICKED!" yelled the Weasley twins.
"We're never allowed there!" Ron added.
"I should think not," Hagrid said sternly.
"What's Knockturn Alley?" Fate asked.
"It's a side alley somewhere around here," Hermione answered, glancing around. "The shops there are supposed to be a bit suspect."
"Like a magical red light district?" Nanoha asked.
Hermione flushed. "More like a grey market," she mumbled.
"What's red lights mean?" Hagrid asked, scratching his head.
Hermione blushed even more furiously.
Nanoha opened her mouth and Fate slapped a hand over it. "You should ask an adult," she said politely.
Nanoha pulled Fate's hand away. "Er, yeah. Um, so what are you doing here, Hagrid?"
"Oh, I'm just here to get some flesh eating slug repellent," he said, holding up a large, opaque jug. "I should be getting back to 'Ogwarts. Professor Sprout will be wanting these before the slugs make another go at her greenhouses."
"Thank you, Hagrid," Harry added. The large man smiled happily and waved as he wandered off.
"Right, well," Molly Weasley said uncertainly, "we need to get your things, dears. Come along."
Nanoha stifled a giggle at Miss Weasley's discomfort and followed. She reached out with her magic and touched Fate. [So, a quasi-legal shopping district,] she sent.
Fate glanced at her as they walked but made no other sign of the telepathic conversation. [We should investigate it,] she sent back.
[Why Miss Harlaown, what would your mother say if she knew you were in such a place?]
Fate rolled her eyes before catching herself and schooling her face into impassiveness. [She'd say I was doing my job investigating all aspects of a foreign magical culture.]
[Mou, you used to be more fun to tease.]
[I used to be nine.]
Nanoha giggled again and broke off from the silent conversation to pay more attention to the book store. Splitting focus was fine for walking down streets, easy classes, small talk, and History of Magic, but when things got strange even her training regimen stepped down to pay attention.
After all, the large signs proclaiming a book signing by GILDEROY LOCKHART looked like they could be interesting.
Nanoha revised that opinion completely when Harry was snatched by a photographer. Lockhart, a tall and admittedly handsome man, looked at Harry the way a lion might look at a particularly juicy steak. He mumbled something at Harry that made the boy cringe, which sadly was the same moment the photographer snapped a picture. "When young Harry here entered Flourish and Blotts to buy my autobiography," Lockhart said, "he had no idea that he would be leaving with my entire collected works," Harry vanished behind a stack of thick books, "free of charge."
The crowd appreciated this and applauded the declaration while Harry staggered away with his burden. "Can we get a trolly early?" he asked Molly weakly.
Molly nodded and took the books from him. "Why don't you go and get your books, dear? I'll get these signed." Nanoha took in Molly's face and wondered why she was so eager to get Lockhart's signature. Well, if he'd done enough to put out so many books (although the alliterative titles were a tad silly) he was probably a great wizard. That made sense.
They had been picking out books only a few moments when a voice spoke up. "Bet you loved that, eh Potter?" Malfoy. Nanoha sighed and turned around slowly to look at the sneering pureblood. "Famous Harry Potter was just about off the front page so you staged another stunt for the mindless public?"
"Leave him alone," Ginny growled.
"Oh look Potter," Malfoy chortled, "you got another pint sized girlfriend. Decided your harem was too Japanese?"
"What?" Nanoha yelped, blushing red. She didn't think of Harry like that at all! She saw Fate placing a hand on the gold triangle that was Bardiche's standby mode, cold anger dancing in her burgundy eyes.
"Calm down, Draco," a cultured voice said and an adult, gloved hand rested on Draco's shoulder. Nanoha looked up to take in the man that had to be Draco's father. Same hair, same fashion sense, same eyes. The aristocratic face was something Draco would have to grow into. "That's no way to talk to your school...friends."
Nanoha caught the hesitation. Clearly, the elder Malfoy knew there was no friendship towards Draco...but Nanoha had forgiven far worse than Draco's rudeness and made fast friends with the rich and vaguely entitled before. She just needed a chance to beat him senseless first. She smiled winningly. "Has your vacation been pleasant, Draco?" she asked kindly.
The look Draco shot her could have curdled milk, but it did nothing to her cheerfulness. "Yes," he ground out after a moment.
"Come on, kids," Arthur called, walking up. "We've got much to do...ah. Lucius." His tone faded from enthusiastic to civil in a heartbeat.
"Arthur," Lucius said in his refined, civil tones. A vague sense of patronizing crept in. "Spending time with your children and their friends, I see. How nice, I was afraid you didn't have the time to spare. All those extra raids." Raids? Nanoha latched onto the word. What raids? "I do hope they're paying you extra for it, but judging by this," he picked up one of Ginny's purchases, a book that wasn't so much second-hand as it was fifth, "I would suspect not."
"Enough to manage, Lucius," Arthur said stiffly, his face turning red. "Come along, children."
Lucius handed the book back to Ginny, his eyes on Arthur. Nanoha watched the two intently as mutual loathing seethed under the polite veneer. "What good is it being a disgrace to the name of wizard if you're not even paid for it?" Lucius said softly.
Arthur stiffened slightly, and Nanoha thought he was going to strike the man for a moment. "We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard," he said, his voice straining slightly.
Lucius smiled, and Nanoha could swear he looked more like a predator than a man for one brief moment. "Clearly," he almost whispered. His eyes slid deliberately over her, and then Fate and Hermione. "The company you let your boys keep...I thought your family could sink no lower."
That was enough to pass Arthur's breaking point and he surged forward with a roar, tackling Lucius into a bookshelf. By luck or design the enraged man's arms pinned Lucius's to his sides, and he could not bring his cane to bear as an effective weapon, although he did flail it about uselessly.
Nanoha changed her mind when sparks shot from the cane, which obviously held the man's wand in it, and Arthur was flung backwards in a wave of power. Without thinking, Nanoha reached out with her own magic to create a series of layered circles to catch Arthur, and Fate had pulled out Bardiche in Assault Mode. The Enforcer trainee interposed herself between the two wizards, much as Chrono had once stood between Nanoha and Fate. "That's enough," she ordered.
Lucius stared at the girl like she was a particularly unseemly bit of mud on his shoe but sheathed his wand after a moment's thought. "Come along, Draco," he snarled.
It was only then that Nanoha took notice of the crowd...and the photographer.
Weatherby and Underage Witches Attack Respected Wizard
Boy Who Lived Meets Famous Author
The TSAB: A Threat to Our World?
Restriction of Underage Sorcery and Why It Matters
Magical Me and Fighting Fans (by Gilderoy Lockhart)
Molly was not amused. Neither were Lindy or Lacrosse. Momoko just held her head in her hands and told Nanoha to get cleaned up for supper.
The media frenzy did not even last a full day, being forgotten two issues later in favor of a ridiculous Muggle Protection Act placed before the Wizengamot.
Things were calm that September morning...well, as calm as things ever got at King's Cross Station. Which is to say it was an absolute madhouse of muggles running every which way, trying to find their trains before they left down one track or another. More than a few children wove through the station with carts of baggage, on their way to one boarding school or another. There were first years still clinging to mommy and bored teenagers anxious to reunite with friends and hormonally-charged fools trying to find secluded places (and usually failing). And that was on top of the usual ranks of commuters, vacationers, businessmen, and others. One could forgive the muggle attendants for not thinking overly much on the odd robe, owl, or pointed hat that vanished somewhere around platforms nine and ten.
Nanoha arrived at the station alone. Fate was teleporting down with Harry directly, so there was no one else making the international trip from Japan. Her mother was worried Nanoha was feeling abandoned, but Nanoha shrugged it off. "It's not like I'll be alone the whole trip to Hogwarts," she protested. "Just the bit to the train."
Case in point, there was the blonde hair and bows right now. Nanoha waved furiously. "Fate!" She spotted Harry next to her, pushing a heavy trolley.
"Nanoha!" came the yelled reply. The two girls ran towards eachother and ended up in a tight hug.
Nanoha pulled back first. "Sorry I haven't been around much." They hadn't seen eachother in person in weeks, after all.
Fate waved it away. "It's okay. You needed to spend time with family. Besides, we weren't exactly in orbit."
"Really?" Nanoha asked.
"It was wicked," Harry enthused, catching up behind Fate. Arf was trotting along at his heel. "We went to a whole other planet."
Nanoha had been to several, but the first time was always something special. "What happened? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Mom wanted you to have more family time," Fate admitted. "And it was really nothing. A freighter lost power and sent out a distress call. Just a big non-event. We entertained ourselves planet side while the techs hacked away at it."
"They had three moons. Three. Moons," Harry whispered excitedly. "I took pictures. Ron'll never believe this."
Nanoha smirked. "We'd better get onto the platform," she said. "The muggles are going to start looking at us strange if we don't."
"You say that like we won't get looks on the train," Harry said ruefully.
They made their way to the hidden entryway to Platform 9 ¾ and took a moment to run the trolley through.
The trolley objected to going through the concrete and tipped to one side with a massive crash, made all the louder by Hedwig's squawking.
"Oi!" one of the security muggles called. "What are you lot up to?"
"Nothing!" Nanoha said quickly, too quickly. The man only grew more suspicious and started walking over.
"Just lost control of the trolley," Harry explained, getting up on his feet.
"We can manage," Fate chimed in innocently.
The guard was clearly unimpressed and stared at them for a good minute. "Alright, you kids hurry along to where you're supposed to be going, and no joy rides. Got it?"
"Yes sir!" the three said at once.
As soon as the muggle was gone, Harry had his hands against the barrier. "Why won't it open?" he hissed.
"I don't know," Fate said.
"Raising Heart?" Nanoha whispered.
[Let's shoot it, Divine Buster,] the device responded silently. A series of figures suggested the amount of power needed to force entry.
[That might not be secret enough for the wizards,] Nanoha suggested shakily.
[I can be shot,] Raising Heart insisted.
Nanoha laughed nervously and looked at Fate and Harry. "I got nothing," she admitted.
Raising Heart absolutely was not in any way disappointed at all.
Fate glanced at the clock and sighed. "We don't have time for Hedwig to get a letter to someone on the other side,"
"If we even knew who to write," Harry added.
Fate nodded at the older boy. "So I guess we need to get to the train some other way."
"Could we teleport?" Nanoha asked uncertainly.
Fate looked over Harry's heavy trunk. "Not onto a moving train."
"What about onto the platform?" Harry asked.
Nanoha shook her head. "The platform's not actually here. Except it is. We're not sure how the Ministry or Founders or whoever did that, so we can't aim a teleport there with our magic."
"Oh," Harry said thoughtfully.
"We could teleport to Hogwarts," Fate tried.
"Snape would kill us," Harry said flatly. "I can just hear him now, ranting about how I think I'm too important to take a train."
"Also, unplotable," Nanoha pointed out. "We don't have coordinates for Hogwarts."
"But you teleported into Hogwarts before," Harry objected.
"When we had someone inside the wards to use as a reference point," Nanoha explained. "We cheated, basically."
"So what can we do?" Harry asked desperately.
"Well, I do have one idea," Nanoha said. "Harry, you have your broom with you, right?"
I'd like to take a moment and address my anonymous reviewers. Thank you so much for your support. Many of you have given me much to think about, and many more have been gratifying in their praise. Sadly I cannot give you all the personalized recognition your attentions deserve.
That said, to the one or two of you that post reviews consisting of the phrase "Still no new chapter?" or a similarly brief, uninformative phrase, I appreciate the sentiment but please, there is no need to submit the same "review" repeatedly. It's not helpful, it's certainly not motivational, and it's a harassment that simply must end. And to the guy that wondered why I haven't written a new chapter for Book One...uh...well if you're reading this I really hope you've answered that on your own just fine.