A/N: Hello my friends! It's been far too long. I've been tied up with real life and some personal struggles, but I'll spare you the boring details. I finally got down to putting the finishing touches to this chapter. I want to promise you that the wait for the next chapter won't be nearly as long as it was between the Prologue and this chapter, but it seems that whenever I do promise regular updates, something happens in my life that keeps me from writing.
Disclaimer: I still don't own the rights to Harry Potter. Sad? Yes. Surprise? No.
"So lonely before, I finally found~, what I've been looking for." - Lucas Grabeel, What I've been looking for
Chapter One: Diagon Alley
Harry sat up in his bed with a start, just as the lights were switched on and his aunt and cousin entered the room. For a moment, he felt disorientated as to where he was, the images from the dream he had been dreaming still fresh in his mind, but it didn't take him long to re-orientate himself. The blurry images of an empty white space and silhouettes wearing all-covering black cloaks soon gave way to the present, as his aunt approached him with a small birthday cake in her hands.
Grinning to himself as he recalled what day today was, Harry sat up in his bed and reached for his glasses, calling them to himself from the bedside table with a small burst of "accidental" magic. He heard his aunt's sharp intake of breath at the obvious display of magic, but she didn't say anything, probably because it was his birthday and she didn't want to ruin the mood. When his magic had begun to reveal itself 5 years ago, Petunia had been insistant that he didn't use it knowingly in front of Dudley, since his cousin tended to become nervous when Harry did "freakish things".
However, Dudley didn't seem to mind at all as he went over and placed the small giftbox wrapped in paper that he had brought in Harry's lap. The two cousins shared a look, before the Dudley flashed Harry a brief grin and rolled his eyes in the direction of his mother, showing that he too had picked up on Petunia's obvious dislike of the magic Harry had performed. Truth was, Dudley didn't really mind Harry using magic around him anymore, but neither of them had bothered to tell Petunia that they had come clean about the issue.
"Come on, Harry! Blow out the candles and make a wish!" Petunia said as she leant down so the birthday cake was on level with Harry's face.
Feeling his heart swell with happiness, Harry took a deep breath and blew at the candles with all his might. He noticed with satisfaction that he was able to blow out all the candles in one fell sweep this year, something he had failed to do last year. Closing his eyes, he did as his aunt had encouraged him and made a wish. He repeated he wish over and over in his head, silently hoping that this year it would come true. However, his thoughts were interrupted by his cousin's impatient voice.
"Aww, come one! Are you gonna' open that thing or not?!" he exclaimed, pointing at the giftbox in Harry's lap.
Harry sighed at his cousin's behavior, but couldn't help but smile. It had been almost an entire year since he had seen his cousin, but Dudley sure hadn't changed one bit. He was still as impatient as ever. Grinning mischievously, Harry grabbed the giftbox and lifted it slightly.
"Patience is a virtue, Dudley." he said, fingering the giftbox teasingly but refrained from opening it, knowing that it would kill his cousin seeing the giftbox being ignored like that.
And his cousin didn't disappoint him.
"Whatever! Just open the damn thing, or I will open it for you!" he growled, reaching out with his hand to try and grab the giftbox from Harry.
His hand was however slapped away by Petunia, who promptly scolded her son for his rude behavior and told her son that Harry could take as much time as he wanted to open his gift. It was his gift, after all. While Petunia scolded her son however, Harry felt his own curiousity get the better of him. Carefully removing the wrapping paper, Harry found a small rectangular box inside. Feeling his curiousity spike at this, Harry opened the box and looked inside.
The box contained a locket made of cheap nickel. Frowning, he reached inside and picked the locket up. No offense to Petunia or anything, but he didn't think he had a lot of happy memories from neither Privet Drive, nor Cokeworth, which was where he and his aunt had moved after Petunia and Vernon separated. Turning the locket over his in hand in slight confusion, he shrugged and pushed the little button that allowed it to open up.
Inside the locket, a picture of two young women had been placed. It wasn't a wizarding photo as the pictures didn't move, but Harry instantly recognized the two people in the photo. One of them was wearing a flowing white Bride's Dress, against which her auburn hair stood out greatly. Her soft lips were drawn out in a happy smile and her emerald green eyes practically sparkled as she held her arms around her older sister, who was looking off to the side and looked like she was desperately searching for a way to escape her sister's embrace.
"It was taken during Lily's and James' wedding. Lily insisted that Vernon should take a photo of us together, as we rarely saw each other. " Petunia said, her cheeks having obtained a slight shade of pink as she looked at the picture from above Harry's shoulder, obviously a little embarrassed about her own antics in the photo. "I didn't know what to give you, now that you're going back to the Magical World, but I was looking through an old photo album the other day and thought you might like this."
For a moment, Harry just stared at the picture of his mother and aunt. He didn't know quite what to say. His mind barely registered Dudley's complaint about "boring" and that his cousin left the room, but he didn't react to it. They looked so different in the photo, his mother and aunt. He had seen photo's of his mother before, but he had never seen the two sisters together in the same picture before. The contrast they made was... astounding.
However, as soon as the initial shock wore off he felt his heart swell with happiness, and he wasted no time in closing the locket and hanging it around his neck, before turning to his aunt with a smile.
"Thanks! I will always have it with me!"
Petunia let out a sigh of relief as he said those words. Like always, she had been worried about what her nephew would think about the gift she gave him. Ever since her divorce from Vernon, their economy had been hard pressed and if it hadn't been for her inheriting her parents' estate in Cokeworth... well, she didn't dare think about how things would've turned out.
"I'm glad you like it." she said as she got up and picked up the cake. "I'll go downstairs and prepare breakfast. I think Snape said he would drop by to pick you up in about an hour so I would get dressed as soon as I could if I were you."
Hearing that Snape would be here to pick him up soon, Harry felt excitement rise in his chest as he got up and got ready for the day. This was the day after all, the day when he would finally get to return to the Magical World!
While Harry was celebrating his birthday and preparing for his trip to Diagon Alley, pandemonium was breaking lose in another house in another part of Great Britain. Unlike the Evans Residence, which was located in central Cokeworth, this house was located in the countryside, on the outskirts of Ottery St. Catchpole. The mother of the household had just caught her twin sons, Fred and George, trying to sneak dungbombs into their older brother Percy's room, and was currently giving the two pranksters a piece of her mind. Her frustrated yells could be heard all the way up to the first floor, where a young girl was sitting alone in her room.
She was the youngest out of 7 children, and the first girl to be born into their family for several generations. However, to her that was just the problem. She was the last born, which meant that she would be left alone once the school year started. All her brothers would be leaving her behind, even Ron, who was just a year older than her.
A single tear rolled down Ginny Weasley's cheek as she thought about it. While Ron was probably the most annoying out of her 6 brothers, that didn't mean she wanted him to disappear. She had told him too many times to count that she wished he would just leave her alone, but she had never meant it like this, not for an entire year. What made things even worse; it appeared as if he was just glad to be rid of her and finally get out of their home and "do something with his life". Ever since his Hogwarts letter had arrived, he had barely payed any attention to her at all.
As the shouting downstairs fell silent, Ginny sighed and fell back against her bed covers, fixing her gaze on a spot in the ceiling. She didn't know how long she was lying there, but eventually there was a knock on the door. Ginny didn't bother answering. Whoever was at the door would enter regardless if she told them to stay out or to come in. And sure enough, just a few seconds later the door creaked open to reveal her mother.
"Ginny dear, are you still asleep?" she whispered softly, as if she was afraid of disturbing her.
Ginny had to resist the urge to roll her eyes. "How would I be able to stay asleep after that?"
Her mother sighed and closed the door as she entered her room. Ginny still didn't move from her bed and kept her gaze firmly fixed on the spot in the ceiling. She didn't like it when people took pity on her, but telling her mother to leave her alone would just spark another argument. And deep down, Ginny knew that her mother's worries were justified. While she was still very much a child, she wasn't stupid. Skipping meals and locking herself up in her room was not healthy, neither physically nor mentally.
"I'm sorry if I woke you up." Her mother said as she went over to the basket in the corner to collect her dirty clothes.
Even though her mother was picking out what needed to be cleaned from Ginny's used clothes, Ginny could still feel her eyes constantly wandering over to her still form on top of her bed sheets. After a few minutes, Ginny couldn't take it anymore and sat up in her bed, though she still refused to look her mother in the eye.
"Mum, why are you really here?" she asked, trying her best not to sound rude or annoyed.
Dropping all pretense and allowing the pile of clothes she had gathered to fall to the floor, Molly Weasley went over and sat down next to her daughter on the bed. She bent forward to try and seek eye contact with the young girl, but Ginny stubbornly looked away. Sighing in defeat, Molly put a comforting hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"I'm worried about you, Ginny. We all are. You haven't been eating properly and I know you've been having trouble sleeping as well." she said with a surprisingly soft voice.
Oh, so that was why she hadn't wanted to disturb her if she was sleeping. And truth to be told, Ginny really had been having trouble sleeping properly lately. Just last night, she had been lying awake for hours on end, twisting and turning in her bed, unable to relax enough to fall asleep. Thinking about it, Ginny felt her eyes sting slightly as she was reminded of the nightmare she had been having of being left alone at home and not finding anyone in any of the rooms of The Burrow. She had been running around their garden and searched for anyone, any sign that she wasn't alone but no matter how much she screamed and called for her brothers or her parents, she had gotten no response.
Seeing that she was finally getting a reaction out of her daughter, Molly decided to push on. She reached out and pulled Ginny into a hug. While the girl didn't return the gesture, she didn't resist it either and in Ginny's case, that was as good as acceptance.
"I know this is hard for you Ginny, probably even harder than it was for me to see Gideon and Fabian leave me behind, but you're taking this too far. I know you love your brothers, but it's not like they are gone forever. They will be back in less than a year." she said, slowly stroking her daughter's long red hair.
"You're not really helping..." Ginny mumbled into her mother's shoulder.
Molly just sighed and continued stroking Ginny's hair. She knew that she had never been very good with words, her husband was usually the one who had to soothe their children when they were upset about something. Not knowing what else to say, she tried to come up with something else, anything, that might help cheer Ginny up, at least for the day. They would be going to Diagon Alley today, but if Ginny stayed like this she wouldn't be able to come with them and even though she knew her daughter was very intelligent and independant, she didn't feel comfortable about leaving her alone in this state.
"Would you like me to read something for you?" she asked as she spotted a certain book that was lying on Ginny's bedside table.
Although she couldn't see it, she could feel Ginny nodding her accetance against her shoulder. Carefully releasing her daughter from her grip, Molly reached over and grabbed the book. She didn't even ask what story Ginny wanted to hear from the book. When it came to her daughter, there was only one story that was good enough that she would even consider paying attention to.
"The boy who lived..." Molly began as she read the title of the story she was about to read.
While her mother was reading her favourite story, Ginny took a deep breath and leaned back against the wall and tried to relax. She felt a little bit better now. Listening to this story always cheered her up somewhat. It was a truly fascinating story, about an infant boy who brought about the demise of a Dark Lord that haunted the lands, but what was the most fascinating about it to Ginny was that it was, supposedly, a true story.
The Dark Lord from the story was the same one that had terrorized the Wizarding World just prior to Ginny's birth, Lord Voldemort. Even to this day, people still feared to speak his true name, instead opting to call him "He-who-must-not-be-named" or "You-know-who". Ginny's family was no different. Her parents, as well as Bill, Charlie and Percy, had all been alive and were old enough to remember the terror Voldemort's mere existance had caused at the time of his reign.
To Ginny, the story was both a captivating fairy tale and a mystery that had yet to be solved. She had been 5 years old when she had first heard it, and ever since she had been fascinated by the mere thought that an infant boy had been what stopped a wizard that was so powerful that even the famed Albus Dumbledore had feared a direct challenge from him. If not even Dumbledore had been able to stop him, then how had an infant with no specific magical abilities been able to do it?
"...and the Dark Lord turned his wand on the infant Harry Potter..." her mother's voice broke into her thoughts.
As they closed in on the best part, Ginny strained her ears and turned her attention back to her mother. This was where it all began, and where it all ended. The mystery that no one had been able to solve. Since all eye witnesses had been killed in the attack, no one knew for sure what had happened at this point, except that when it was all over, all that was left was an infant boy with a lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead, sleeping in the ruins of his home.
"He came through for us in our time of need and if fate wills it, he will do so again. Because if fate wills it, even the most fragile of creatures can save the world, just like it happened for Harry Potter, the boy who lived." her mother finished as she closed the book.
Ginny sighed contently as she felt herself relax completely for the first time in days. No matter how sad or angry she felt, that story always managed to soothe her, if only somewhat. And right now, she would take whatever comfort she could get. She knew she was being childish about this whole issue with her brothers leaving her behind, but she was after all a child.
"Thanks mum." she said sincerely. "I feel a little better now."
That drew a slight smile from Molly Weasley's lips. "I'm glad to hear it. Now, I would appreciate it if you would go downstairs and eat something before we leave for Diagon Alley. You won't be able to do any shopping on an empty stomach."
Ginny frowned. Diagon Alley? That was today? She must've really been depressed to have lost her grip on time like that. In her mind, it should still be two days until they were supposed to go. However, this new knowledge served to cheer her up a little more. While it was also a painful reminder that all her brothers would indeed be leaving soon, she knew that visiting Diagon Alley was always fun. There were always so many things to look at and if she behaved, her dad usually awarded her with an ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream parlor.
"Okay, I'll be down in a sec." she told her mum and moved to get out of bed.
Her mother smiled at seeing her daughter in better spirits again, before she picked up the dirty clothes she had gathered earlier and left. While Ginny prepared herself for the day, the story she had just been told kept running through her mind, like it had so many times before. The boy who lived... now that she thought about it, he should be old enough to start at Hogwarts this year. She had worked out that "Harry Potter" should be about the same age as Ron, so since Ron was going to start Hogwarts this year, so should Harry.
Ginny felt her heart skip a beat as a thought occured to her. If he was going to start Hogwarts this year, then that would mean he would need to get his supplies, which in turn meant that he would be going to Diagon Alley one of these days! It was a longshot but... a girl was allowed to dream, right? With that thought in mind, Ginny hurried to clean herself up before she went down to get something to eat. Suddenly, a trip to Diagon Alley had become that much more attractive for her.
Harry felt his heartbeat pick up as he grabbed and handful of Floo Powder from the bowl Severus offered him and turned towards the fireplace. After "Uncle Sev" had picked him up at his house, the wizard had told him that they would be travelling by Floo Powder to the Leaky Cauldron, and from there venture into Diagon Alley. However, since Harry's House wasn't connected to the Floo Network (it was a muggle home after all), they had to use Severus' fireplace at Spinner's End, which was just down the street from where Harry and Petunia lived.
The walk here had been pretty quiet, but that was to be expected. For as long as Harry had known him, Severus had always been a very withdrawn and stoic person, rarely speaking unless he had to or felt the need to. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, since Harry was usually more than happy to speak for enough for both of them, but today he had other things on his mind.
"Remember what I told you, Harry." Severus said as Harry threw the powder into the fireplace, causing the flames in there to turn green. "Don't reveal your identity to anyone, unless I am there with you."
Harry stopped, just as he was about to step into the flames. His mind still couldn't quite grasp the fact that he was, supposedly, a celebrity in the wizarding world. He had been told the story many times, but it all just felt so surreal to him, as if it had been part of someone else's life. Regardless, he was not stupid. He had seen on TV how some people behaved around celebrities and would prefer to stay as far away from that kind of behavior as possible.
"Right." he said as he stepped into the fireplace and felt the green flames tickles at his feet. "The Leaky Cauldron!"
Severus watched with a heavy heart as the flames engulfed Harry and the boy disappeared. While he would never admit it out loud to anyone, not even Dumbledore, he had grown to regard the boy as somewhat of the son he never had. The fact that the boy was in fact the son of the only woman with whom he would've possibly wanted to build a family certain didn't help.
It was strange for him to feel this way about anyone, but it reminded him of the way he had felt about Lily all those years ago. He felt a certain protectiveness around them, like he would do anything to keep them safe. When he was with Harry, he felt like a completely different person. He didn't feel like the cold-blooded monster he knew that he was; he felt like just "Sev", like the boy who used to tell his best friend stories he had heard about the Magical World while they watched the clouds drift by.
'Lily...' he thought as he grabbed a handful of Floo Powder and prepared to follow his surrogate son. 'I hope you're seeing this. Your son... I know you would've been proud of him.'
With that, he tossed the powder into the fire and jumped in after Harry. He held his breath to keep the ash from multiple fireplaces he spun by from entering his mouth and eventually, the spinning stopped. While he stumbled out of the fireplace, Severus silently cursed Dumbledore for insisting that letting Harry use the Floo was safer than Side-Along Apparating him. No matter what the old man said, they were NOT going to use that godforsaken fireplace to get back home again!
The first thing he noticed when he stepped out of the fireplace was that the inn was unusually lively. A large crowd had gathered in the center of the inn. Severus tried to ignore all the ruckus and instead looked around to see if he could find Harry but when the boy was nowhere in sight, he felt dread overtake him. Slowly, he turned back towards the large crowd that had gathered in the center of the inn.
"Doris Crockford, Mr Potter. I can't believe I finally get to meet you!"
Severus groaned. That was all he needed to hear. Without wasting any time, he pulled out his wand and pointed it towards the ceiling. A loud "Bang!" echoed throughout the inn, silencing the crowd and causing all eyes to turn towards Severus. He slowly lowered his wand and put it back inside his robes, never taking his eyes off the stunned crowd that was now staring at him as if he was crazy.
"I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to give me my charge back." he said and waved Harry, who was now visible in the center of the crowd, over to him. The poor boy wasted no time in complying and quickly elbowed his way out of the crowd and made his way over to Severus. "Thank you. Now, get back to wasting your time."
With that, he led Harry out through the backdoor. The boy twisted uncomfortably as they passed the crowd, but thankfully nothing happened. Once they were out in the backyard, Harry turned to look up at his savior.
"Uncle Sev, I swear I didn't tell anyone..." he began, but he was silenced as Severus waved his hand to dismiss his explanation and brought out his wand again.
"It's not your fault, Harry." he tiredly as he tapped a certain brick in the brickwall with the tip of his wand. "I should've known that someone would recognize you. It's hard not to when your father was as well-known as he was and you look so much like him."
Harry frowned slightly at the tone in Severus voice. They had never discussed his father but when others, like Professor Dumbledore or Hagrid, spoke about him, they usually referred to him by his first name, James. And it was something about the way Severus spoke when he mentioned Harry's father... It sounded as if just mentioning him left a bad taste in his mouth.
However, he soon got other things to think about as the bricks in the wall began to move and shift places until they formed an archway, and Harry was treated to his first view of Diagon Alley. The mere sight of it took his breath away. People, magical people, moving about, completing their purchases. Signs that were showing special offers hung everywhere and the different shops had all kinds of weird products on display; cauldrons, owls, strange devices that Harry had no idea what they were for. If Severus hadn't pulled him along, Harry felt like he could've stood there for at least an hour, just taking it all in.
As it was however, they were on a schedule. While they had the entire day to complete their purchases, Severus wanted to get started as soon as possible. Harry didn't argue with him about it, he was just as eager to get started as his surrogate uncle. That didn't stop him from staring at everything they passed in fascination, however. Severus practically had to drag him away from the display window of Quality Quidditch Supplies, where the new Nimbus 2000 was being displayed for the public to see.
"I'll let you drool over old guaffles and stitches when we're done with your purchases." Severus remarked, slightly annoyed at Harry's sulky attitude at being pulled away from the Quidditch Shop.
"Quaffles and Snitches!" Harry growled, knowing full well that his Uncle was just mocking him. It had been Severus who had first told him about the most popular Wizarding Sport in the world, so he knew exactly what the different balls were called.
Their first stop was, of course, Gringott's the Wizarding Bank. On the way there, Severus had explained that Harry had a Trust Vault at the bank, that would supply him with enough money to last him through his school years. The Goblin at the counter further explained that, being the last descendant of a very Ancient Pureblood Family, Harry had also inherited several heirlooms and a large amount of gold that was being held in the Potter Family Vault, which he would gain access to once he turned 17 years of age.
Throughout the explanation, Severus kept a very stoic and stiff face, which further added to Harry's curiosity about what the relationship had been between his father and his surrogate uncle. Since he knew that his mother had been muggleborn, this "Ancient Pureblood Family"-line could only be from his father's side and the way Severus almost grimaced at the mention of the Potter Family told him that Severus and his father hadn't been the best of friends. He stored that information away for later questioning.
"Oh, and this is from Professor Dumbledore. I'm sure you know what that means." Severus said as he handed a blank envelope to the goblin at the counter.
The goblin took it and opened it, quickly skimming through the content of the letter. Without uttering a word, he simply nodded towards Severus in recognition, letting him know that he indeed knew what the letter meant. With that, he waved a younger goblin, Griphook, over to them and told him to take Harry and Severus to Vault 687 and Vault 713.
After a fairly long cart ride, which Harry described as "funny" and Severus described as "horrible", they arrived at Vault 687, Harry's Trust Vault. As the door swung open to reveal the money left to him by his late parents, Harry couldn't help but gasp. Inside were mounds of gold coins, columns of silver and heaps of little bronze knuts. And this was just a tiny part of what the Potter Family, and by exntesion him, owned at this point, according to Griphook. However, amidst his sense of wonder at the fact that all of this was his, another thought made its way to the forefront of Harry's mind that made his mood dampen considerably.
"Pardon me for asking, Mr Griphook... but is there any way to exchange some of this for Pounds?" he asked carefully, not sure how the goblin would react to his request.
Griphook frowned. "Muggle money? What in the world would a young wizard such as yourself want muggle money for?"
Hearing this, Severus (who had been doing his best to look away from the "Pottergold" so far) turned to look at Harry with a frown. However, one look at the young boy was enough to make him smile slightly. That was such a Lily-ish thing to do. While Harry explained to Griphook that he was living with his muggle aunt and that their economical situation was far from the best, Severus decided to pick out enough gold for their purchases, as well as some pocket money for Harry. When they were done, the three of them headed towards Vault 713.
"What's in Vault 713?" Harry asked curiously as he watched Griphook work his way through the extreme defense mechanisms that surrounded the vault in question.
Severus shrugged and crossed his arms as he waited for Griphook to finish. "Nothing you should concern yourself with, Harry. Albus just asked me to pick something up for him while we were here. It's nothing special."
As he watched Griphook finally finish turning off all the defense mechanisms, Harry silently doubted that "nothing special" would warrant this many defense mechanisms. They had literally been standing here for 10 minutes straight while the goblin worked his magic at the traps and locks. However, he didn't comment on it. If Severus didn't want him to know, then he wouldn't tell him regardless of how much he pried for the information.
Once they were out of Gringott's, Severus immediately steered Harry towards Flourish N' Blotts, where they bought the nescesary books for Harry's first year education. Given Harry's habit of reading, Severus also allowed his young charge to buy two additional books to keep him company during the remaining weeks before the start of the School Year. Given the choice, Harry eventually settled for Extented Guide for Basic Potions and Simple but Unnesceary Spells.
From there, they went on to buy Harry's more practical school supplies, such as his cauldron and the nescesary ingredients he would need for his Potions Class. While they were at the Apothecary, Severus also had to pull Harry away from a "funny-looking Mickey Mouse head in a bottle", which was in fact a very poisonous plant called the "Rat's Ear". It wasn't until they went to get Harry his school robes that something happened.
Just as they came up on Madam Malkin's, another boy was leaving the shop with his mother. Both of them had pale skin and blonde hair, and the boy appeared to be around Harry's age. The woman didn't appear to have noticed that Harry and Severus had entered the shop, as she was facing the counter and had her back turned towards the exit. The boy, who appeared to be bored out of his mind while his mother was having a casual conversation with Madam Malkin, was another matter.
"Hello." he said to Harry, not even looking at Severus. "Are you also going to Hogwarts?"
Harry, not wanting to be rude, offered him a smile and held out his hand. "Well, of course. Why else would I be carrying around all this stuff?"
As he said it, he motioned to all the bags he and Severus were carrying with them. The boy let his gaze wander over the bags slowly. Harry got the impression that he was somehow sizing the bags up. After a few seconds, he looked back up at Harry and nodded approvingly, before he took a step forward and held out his hand for Harry to shake.
"You seem all right. What family do you descend from?" he offered as a greeting.
Harry frowned. What kind of a greeting was that supposed to be? If he had thought the boy weird, not to mention a little rude, to begin with, he definetely did so now.
"What do you mean?" he asked, not taking the hand.
The boy raised an eyebrow, as if he thought Harry was the weird one.
"Well, it's obvious that you hail from an Ancient Pureblood Family. There's no way a filthy muggle would be able to afford what you have."
Severus, who had been quiet ever since they entered the shop, took a step forward and put a steady hand on Harry's shoulder, glaring daggers at the boy in front of him. While he had never met the boy in person, there was no doubt in his mind who this was.
"If you must know, Mr Malfoy," he practically spat the name at the boy. "Harry descends from the Ancient House of Potter and the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black, through his father's line."
As if Severus voice had been some kind of trigger, the woman that was standing by the counter, Harry guessed it was Malfoy's mother, stiffened and spun around to face them. Her already pale face somehow managed to grow even paler as her eyes locked on Severus, who was still glaring daggers at her son. The younger Malfoy in question had also turned his attention to the man behind Harry, and his eyes widened.
"Hey, I know you! You're that filthy mudblood-lover my father told me about!" he said and pointed his finger rudely at Severus.
Harry had heard enough. Gritting his teeth, he glared at Malfoy and subconciously reached out with his magic. A second later, Malfoy was tossed across the room like a raggdoll and crashed painfully into the counter, causing both Mrs Malfoy and Madam Malkin to scream in horror. Letting go of his bags, Harry was just about to take off after the blonde boy and beat some sense into him when Severus grip on his shoulder tightened, enough to hold him in place.
"That's quite enough, Harry." he said firmly. "Calm down!"
Seeing the look in his "Uncle"'s eyes, Harry reluctantly backed down, though he kept glaring daggers in the direction of the counter, where the blonde boy was crying like a baby at being tossed half way across the room. While he himself would probably be pretty hurt at being tossed around like that, Harry couldn't bring himself to care right now. To say that he was angry at Malfoy for insulting his "Uncle Sev" would be an understatement.
Severus eyed Harry for a few more seconds to make sure that he wouldn't try anything. While he was proud about Harry's ability to control his underage magic, that also made it that much harder to keep him contained if he was angry or upset. This had particularly been a problem during Harry's younger years, but they hadn't seen a relapse like this for almost 2 years now.
When he felt certain that Harry had reeled in his temper, Severus turned his attention back to the counter, where Mrs Malfoy had somehow managed to calm down her son. The boy in question had a large bruise on his cheek from the impact against the counter, but otherwise appeared to be fine.
"I apologize for the inconvenience, Narcissa. I hope your son wasn't hurt too badly." he said as he met the young woman's eyes.
He didn't need to use his legilimency to see that Narcissa also picked up on the fact that he had said "too badly". Her eyes narrowed slightly as they glared at each other. While the two of them had never really had any personal issues with each other, it was no secret that anyone who even remotely had supported Voldemort regarded Severus as a traitor of the worst kind, their dislike of him only rivalled by the distrust his new allies felt towards him, with the exception of a select few.
After a few seconds of glaring, Narcissa silently pulled out a few Galleons and gave them to Madam Malkin as excuse for the trouble and pulled her son to his feet. The young Malfoy was glaring daggers at Harry and if looks could kill, Harry felt certain that they would both be dead by now. As Narcissa led her son out of the shop, he stopped briefly just beside Harry.
"I'll see you at school." he growled, before he left.
Harry did not miss the hidden meaning behind those words, and simply nodded at the boy. Once the Malfoys were out of the shop, things proceeded smoothly. Harry got the impression that Madam Malkin wanted to get rid of them as fast as she could, because she worked through Harry's school robes at a remarkable pace and appeared to draw a sigh of relief when everything was paid and accounted for.
"I'm disappointed in you, Harry." Severus said, once they were out of the shop. "You should know better than to use your magic like that."
Keeping his gaze stubbornly fixed on the ground in front of his feet, Harry kept walking forward. Severus just sighed and put a hand on Harry's shoulder to keep him from wandering away. Reluctantly, the boy turned towards him, but still kept his gaze stubbornly fixed on the ground. As he watched and waited for Harry to say something, he was reminded that the boy was in fact just turned 11 years old. With his intelligence and general behavior, it was easy to forget that he was still a child sometimes.
"I didn't like him." he said finally.
Severus sighed and crouched beside the boy. "That doesn't mean you can go and throw him across the room like that. Some people might just write it off as accidental magic, but you and I both know that you did not do that by accident, did you?"
After hesitating for a moment, Harry shook his head. No, it hadn't been completely by accident. Harry bit his lip as he thought about it. Deep down, he knew that what he had done had been wrong. "I'm sorry."
As Harry finally looked up and met Severus gaze, he could tell that that the boy was truly sorry for what he had done. Despite the fact that Severus wanted to press the importance of controlling one's temper in situations like that, he found that he couldn't really blame Harry for getting angry at the Malfoy Heir. He had been quite irritated by his behavior himself and he knew that had that been Lily he had insulted, he would've reacted the same way, possibly with an even worse outcome since he had known quite a few nasty curses at that age already.
"How about we take a break from shopping for a while? There's an ice cream parlor not far from here and we're in no rush to finish for today." he said, hoping to lighten the mood. It was Harry's Birthday, after all.
Eager to forget about the encounter with the Malfoys, Harry nodded his head in acceptance and allowed Severus to steer him towards Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. The first thing that Harry noticed about the Parlor when they got closer was that it was a fairly big establishment. There was both an outdoor dining and a door that he guessed led into an indoor dining. There was a counter that faced the outdoor dining, by which Harry spotted a group of 3 equally red haired people buying ice cream as he and Severus approached the parlor.
Just as Harry and Severus entered the outdoor dining, the youngest of the three, a girl about whom Harry guessed was a few years younger than himself, turned around with a large Ice Cream Cone in her hands that Harry swore must be held together by magic. The girl giggled happily and began her treck down the rows of tables and chairs towards where a pile of bags had been left, probably the red haired family's bags by the looks of it.
"Don't run with your icea cream, Ginny!" the red haired man by the counter pressed. "If you stumble with it, your ice cream will be ruined!"
Barely had the words left his mouth before Ginny's foot got stuck under the leg of one of the tables and she lost her balance. The girl waved her arms around in a vain attempt to regain her balance, letting go of her ice cream in the process and sending it flying high into the air, straight towards where Harry and Severus had just entered the dining. Reacting on instinct, Harry held up his hand and reached out with his magic, causing the ice cream cone to slow its descent towards him until it eventually landed safely in his hand, somehow still in one piece.
Silence filled the outdoor dining as Harry stood awkwardly with the girl's Ice Cream cone firmly in his hand. Harry felt his cheeks heat up in embarrassment as four pairs of eyes stared at him. Not knowing what else to do, Harry slowly walked over to the girl and held out the cone towards her.
"Uh... I think this is yours." he said awkwardly.
The girl accepted the cone and piped up a simple "Thank you!". The two of them stood awkwardly in place, neither knowing quite what to say. Despite his awkwardness, Harry took the time out to eye the girl with mild interest, his encounter with Malfoy still fresh in his mind. He doubted that Malfoy's behavior was a common greeting towards strangers in the Wizarding world, but it never hurt to be careful. Thankfully, the girl displayed none of the arrogance that the blonde boy had.
She appeared to be just as curious about him as Harry felt about her. Her large brown eyes were studying him from under her long mane of red hair. She tilted her head to the side slightly, as if she thought he would look different from another angle. Whatever she had seen from that other angle must have satisfied her, because she smiled at him when she straightened up her head again.
"I'm Ginny! Nice to meet you!" she said cheerfully.
Harry smiled and was just about to return the greeting, but something held him back. The incident at the Leaky Cauldron earlier that morning came floating back to the forefront of his mind, and brought with it a sense of hesistance. While the Ice Cream Parlor was currently empty, aside from himself, Severus and Ginny's family, he still didn't fancy more overdramatic handshaking.
"Well, aren't you going to introduce yourself, Harry?" Severus voice sounded from just behind Harry, causing the boy to jump in surprise.
Looking up at his surrogate Uncle hesistantly, Harry found Severus nodding discreetly at him to show that these were people he could, hopefully, trust not to act up upon hearing his name. Hoping that his uncle was right, Harry turned back towards Ginny, to find that girl frowning at him in confusion. Her father and older brother (Harry assumed that the younger of the two red-haired men was her brother) had also walked up to them and were standing behind Ginny, her father with his hand on his daughter's shoulder. Taking a deep breath, Harry prayed that third time would be the charm.
"I'm Harry. Harry Potter."
Silence followed his statement. Harry twisted uncomfortably where he stood as the red haired family stared at him with wide eyes. Ginny's eyes had grown to the size of pingpongballs, and her cheeks had attained a healthy shade of pink that highlighted the freckles that covered her nose and cheeks. After a few seconds however, Ginny's father seemed to snap out of his initial shock and offered Harry a kind smile.
"I see. Well, it's nice to meet you, Harry. My name is Arthur Weasley, and this is my son, Percy." he patted his son on the back as he introduced him. "And well, you've already met Ginny."
Hearing the casual greeting, Harry let out a breath he hadn't been aware he had been holding. He felt his heart ease up at this sign of normality. After the incident at the Cauldron and his encounter with Malfoy, Harry had begun fear that he would never fit in with the wizarding world. He had been raised as a muggle, so muggle norms were what felt natural to him.
As Percy went on to introduce himself and greet Severus, whom he of course knew from Potions Class at Hogwarts, Harry found himself smiling. Aside from the fact that Percy seemed a little overly formal when talking to Severus, the Weasleys appeared to be nice people. With that thought in mind, he turned back towards Ginny to find that the girl was still staring at him.
"So uhm... Ginny? How old are you?" Harry asked, trying to start a conversation.
That seemed to finally snap the girl out of her stupor. She shook her head wildly, as if to clear her thoughts, causing her long red hair to flow around her head. Harry still felt a little bit awkward about their meeting, but he supposed that with his fame, people were bound to be at least a little shocked when they recognized him, or when he introduced himself. It wasn't like he really looked like a celebrity, he looked just like an ordinary boy. Or at least, he liked to think so.
"I'm 9 years old." Ginny said, having recovered from her stupor. "So... are you looking forward to starting Hogwarts this year?"
For a moment, Harry felt tempted to ask how she knew that he would be starting Hogwarts this year, but the moment quickly passed. He had read the story about himself and he knew that at least the original version of it stated the exact date of Voldemort's Attack on him and his parents and his own age at the time. Anyone who didn't have a pea for a brain would be able to work out what year he would start attending Hogwarts.
"I've been looking forward to it, ever since I found out about my magic." he said with a grin.
With that, he cast a look over his shoulder to see what had become of Severus. His surrogate uncle had said that they would buy ice cream and take a break, but at the moment he was busy talking to Mr Weasley and Percy. By the looks of it, it would take a while before they would be buying anything...
"Do you want to have a taste?" Ginny's voice brought his attention back to the girl in front of him.
She was smiling nervously at him and holding her own ice cream cone up in front of him. Harry felt slightly embarrassed that he had been so easily figured out by someone he had just met, but at the same time he felt touched that the girl would offer him her own ice cream.
"Really?" he asked, not sure if he dared to believe it or not.
Ginny nodded at him with a smile and breathed a sigh of relief, as if she had been nervous he would turn the offer down. The sight made Harry feel a warmness spread through his chest. This girl was so different from the other magical child he had met earlier. She was so sweet and kind, Harry got the distinct sense that they would get along just fine, once they managed to shake the awkwardness of their meeting.
Together, the two of them went over to the counter, where Florean Fortescue had placed a cup with a bunch of plastic spoons on a shelf. The shelf however, was placed a little too far up against the wall for any of them to reach, which was probably kind of the point of it; to keep children from reaching them and toss them around. However, Harry had learned long ago that if he couldn't reach it with his hands, there were other ways of getting ahold of it.
Reaching out with his magic, he grabbed the cup with the spoons and carefully brought it down from the shelf. Ginny's eyes widened in surprise and wonder as the cup hovered in mid air and slowly floated down to land in Harry's outstretched hand. After grabbing two spoons from the cup, Harry allowed it to float back up to the shelf and put it down in he exact same spot it had been standing before he had moved it.
"How did you do that?" Ginny asked in awe, looking from Harry, to the cup on the shelf, and then back again.
The question made Harry's brow furrow in thought. He didn't really know how he did it. It was more instinct than anything else. The first time he had done it, it had really been by accident. He had sneezed and released a burst of accidental magic, which caused the book he had been reading to fly high into the air and hit the ceiling, before it fell back down and landed in his face.
After that, he had spent countless hours tickling his nose to try and replicate the effect. It wasn't until Severus had explained to him that he did not nescesarily have to sneeze that he had stopped tickling his nose. He still remembered Aunt Petunia's face when she had caught him pulling the feathers out of his quilt.
"I don't know, really. It's more instinctual than anything." he said, then paused for a moment, trying to think of a way to explain it. "I remember that it used to happen by accident at first, but with some training I learned how to control it. I live in a muggle area, so I couldn't have my magic accidently bursting through at any given time or I would end up causing trouble for my aunt and myself, so I worked really hard to bring it under control."
Ginny listened to his explanation with interest. Ever since she was a child, her mother had told her that it was impossible for a child to control their accidental magic but the way Harry described it, it sounded just like anyone would be able to do it with enough practice. It was simply a matter of "Practice makes perfect".
"Then... do you think I would be able to learn how to do that as well?" she asked curiously.
Harry took a moment to think about it while he took a bite out of the ice cream. Once he had swallowed, he simply shrugged.
"I don't see why not? I mean, it's not like you would know unless you tried it, right?"
From there, their conversation took off. On Ginny's insistance, Harry explained how he had learned to control his accidental magic and Harry found that he actually enjoyed talking to her about it. Before they knew it, they had finished Ginny's ice cream, but their conversation didn't let up because of that. After their initial awkwardness had worn off, they branched out and began talking about all kinds of stuff, not only about Harry's control of his accidental magic.
Harry learned that Ginny had six older brothers, one of which was the same age as him and would start Hogwarts this year, and Ginny in turn learned that Harry had grown up with only his Aunt keeping him company, aside from the occasional visit from Severus or a select few other wizards and witches. She stared at him in disbelief when he told her that he had never had a friend before.
"But I thought you said you went to a muggle school?" she asked with a frown. "Didn't you make any friends there?"
Harry just shrugged. "Not really. My aunt didn't really have the best of reputations in the neighbourhood and the fact that I was seen hanging out with Uncle Sev a few times didn't exactly help matters. Most of my classmates thought I was just creepy or weird for one or another reason, so I focused more on my studies or practicing my magic."
Ginny kept staring at him, as if she expected him to burst out laughing and tell her it was a joke. The thought that Harry Potter, the Harry Potter, had grown up without any friends just seemed... wrong to her. It really made the gears turn in her head. In the wizarding world, Harry Potter was a celebrity, a fairy tale hero, the most famous wizard of their generation. But in the muggle world, he had been "creepy and weird"?
It really put into perspective that there was more to him than just the fame and the stories about him. As she thought about it, Ginny realized that Harry wasn't a hero. He wasn't anything like the knight in shining armor that the stories made him out to be. He was a boy, just like any other boy his age. He had went to school, he had tried to make friends, he ate and slept just like a normal person because he really was a normal person.
"Ginny! It's time to go!" her father's voice broke into her thoughts and called the two children's attention away from each other.
They both turned their heads to find that Mr Weasley, Percy and Severus had approached them, apparently done with their conversation from earlier. Reluctantly, Ginny got up from her seat and walked over to her father and older brother, before turning around to face Harry.
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Harry." she said with a smile.
Severus watched quietly as Harry said good bye to his new friend. He remembered all too well how much that one first friend meant to someone who had grown up without any friends to begin with. In that area, he and Harry were the same. They had both grown up without a true parent's love and without any friends. While he knew that Petunia had done her best to raise Harry well and eventually had come to really care for him, it wasn't the same as having a parent.
Once Harry and Ginny had said good bye and Harry had promised that he would send her a letter once he was home, Severus began to steer him towards Ollivander's so he could get his wand. The two of them walked in silence, each submerged in their own thoughts, until Harry looked up towards his surrogate uncle with a grin and broke the silence.
"Uncle Sev? Do you believe in Birthday Cake wishes? You know, when you blow out all the candles and make a wish?"
Severus frowned as he looked down at the young boy who was walking beside him. While he knew about the tall story that one would get a wish fulfilled if they managed to blow out all the candles on their birthday cake in one blow, there were no scientific evidence that such a magic really existed. He knew that the Ministry had researched the subject at one point and come up blank.
"Not really. Why?" he asked, wondering what Harry was getting at.
The boy sighed contently and his grin widened until it went from ear to ear. "Because I made a wish this morning when I blew out the candles on my cake, and I think that wish was just fulfilled. I wished for a friend."
A/N: So, there were some changes to this chapter compared to the original Hidden Prodigy chapter. I'd really like to know what you thought about those changes in a Review, as long as you can keep it constructive. Also, as I'm sure you've noticed by now, I have taken to the habit of including a quote from a song at the beginning of each chapter that I think fits the mood of the chapter pretty well. What do you think about that? It's not very relevant, but I think it is a nice touch.
Anyway, please review and let me know what you thought of the chapter, and then I hope to see you again next time!