Hey Everybody. This is a Little one shot just for Easter. As usual I own nothing about Harry Potter, just this idea.
Harry stretched his limbs, lying on his immensely comfortable bed. While not a four poster bed like he had at Hogwarts, the bed was queen sized, had a mattress that clearly hadn't seen much use before he got to sleep on it, a warm blanket with fluffy pillows, which let him curl up perfectly at night. The bedroom, in which this perfect example of a wonderful bed stood, was about as large as the one that his aunt and uncle had at Privet Drive, but it belonged to him alone. The furniture was made of European beech. He had a large wardrobe with three doors on it, drawers, there was a vanity, not that surprising when he thought who the apartment had belonged to before him, a small bookcase and a bedside table. The whole room's floor was covered with a dark yellow, soft carpet and the curtains were a standard white with a flower pattern. It was really nice.
Wizards were actually really stupid, he thought. No muggle would have let a not fully twelve year old boy live on his own without asking hundreds of questions, but they didn't even notice that he had left the Dursleys. His relatives had been too glad to take the deal he had offered them. Thanks to hiding his intelligence the past year, not to mention his true sneakiness, he had managed to pull the wool over all their eyes. Nobody would suspect that he had gained the level of knowledge about the wizarding world that he actually had. Thanks to pulling two all-nighters in the library after getting the invisibility cloak, not going into the restricted section, he did learn his lesson after that first incident, he now knew how things were done.
You kept your money at Gringotts if you lived in England, but there were more banks on the continent. That was actually the only part of monetary deals that the goblins were trusted with by wizards. And there were strict rules in place thanks to a treaty that had been forced upon the goblins after they had lost the rebellion of 1742. The goblins were allowed to guard the wizarding gold and deal with the exchange to muggle currency that occasionally took place, but otherwise they didn't interfere in wizard business. And other business, be it expeditions to the tombs in Egypt that the curse-breakers performed or mining of precious gems, was always done outside of England, where the restrictions for the goblins didn't exist in the way they did in England.
The treaty only included the British Isles. It didn't touch other countries. Which the goblins exploited in any way they could. They were allowed to give loans to wizards, but everything had to be fixed with a formal contract. The complaints of many wizards about the goblins cheating them came from them being too lazy to properly read said contracts. It made Harry promise himself that he wouldn't ever fall into the claws of the goblins for not paying back a loan properly.
The place where most old families stored important documents was well guarded by another group. Dwarves. They had, to earn a living, set up something like vaults with highly secured safe deposit boxes. They had mined deeply and they couldn't stand the goblins, thanks to a long-running rivalry. The upper parts of the mining tunnels were turned into the special vaults. The access to the lower parts was barred to humans, only the dwarves went down there. You had to pay an annual user fee for a safe deposit box, but it was then keyed to your family magic and couldn't be opened by anybody else. The dwarves saw it as delicious irony that they offered the service to guard anything you wanted, though mostly it were documents, which the goblins weren't allowed to do.
Harry had visited the one the one in Manchester during the Easter break. It was very easy. He had told Ron and Hermione that he wanted to have a day for himself and that he would sleep in, so they didn't need to look for him until dinner. He would see if he was at lunch, but if not, it wouldn't be too problematic, as he still had a good supply of sweets that he has asked Oliver Wood to get for him in Hogsmeade. While Hermione hadn't been happy about it, Ron took it easily enough. Harry had sneaked out early in the morning, before any of his dorm mates would even be awake, keeping his curtains shut and spelled closed and silenced. While silencing charms were normally only taught in fifth year, the sheer necessity of getting some sleep with Ron's snoring, made him learn it quickly.
He flew to Hogsmeade on his broom and used the floo at the Hog's Head, after paying for a bit of floo powder with the barkeep. It was known among the older students that if you wanted to make a small trip to the outside, you better went to the Hog's Head, as the barkeep never talked and informed the school. The only way he would talk was if the DMLE demanded it. And even then he would only answer direct questions.
He managed to enter the vault shortly after the facility opened at seven in the morning. During the night it was on lockdown. He quickly was directed to the Potter safe deposit box and had to place his hand onto the door to be checked if he was approved for access. That part only took ten seconds and then the box opened. He took out all the documents in it and paid five galleons to rent a secured room for two hours to peruse the documents in peace. What he found astonished and enraged him. Well, he wouldn't play along with the games that certain people played with his life anymore.
In the safe deposit box he found the deeds to the real estates that belonged to his parents. There were two that were interesting to him. One was a house in Scotland and one an apartment in Ireland. The house was in his father's name and the apartment in his mother's. As a house was too big for him right now, he decided to move into the apartment as soon as possible. There was also his parents' will that was just a basic will, declaring what to do with the properties and money of the Potters. In case one of them survived the other, the spouse would get the whole estate, in case both died, Harry got everything. Though there was an attachment of chosen guardians for Harry in case that they both died. He should never have gone to his aunt and uncle without their express agreement and only as a last case option.
Harry knew that he had been forced upon his aunt by Dumbledore. He had therefore felt the brunt of her anger about having to deal with a nephew she didn't want. He didn't know what had happened to the other ones on the list, but he planned to find out over time.
Well, the envelope with the deed to the apartment worked as a two-way portkey, one to the apartment and one to Manchester, so he had had a look around there after he was done reading all the documents that were important from the get go. He would read his parents' diaries when he had the time to truly appreciate them. Otherwise he knew he wouldn't be able to get anything done. He spent two hours at the apartment, happy to find that thanks to runes being placed all over the place there was little to no dust, which he had expected after it being empty for twelve years, and the furniture was in a good condition. He could move in whenever he wanted to. So, once he had come back to London after the school year had ended, he had made a deal with the Dursleys. He had given them five hundred pounds to tell anybody that might ask for him that he was visiting a friend and simply go home and not look for him. They were only too happy to oblige.
He had taken his portkey from a side alley close to the station and had spent his summer break here since then. It was wonderful. He had no trouble doing all the work in the apartment that needed to be done, as the appliances were all muggle ones, even if there were runes that supplied water, gas and light. For a muggle that was visiting, it would still look like a normal apartment with no magic being involved though. His mother had set up the apartment to her own liking once she had graduated from school. She had inherited it from an aunt that had left this apartment to her and Privet Drive to Petunia. Nobody in the magical world even knew about it, which made it the perfect place to stay for Harry.
He had used the time he had to learn things that he didn't have the chance to at Hogwarts, as he didn't want others to know that he was interested in certain subjects. Hiding his intelligence had been his saving grace at the Dursleys. He would have had much more problems if he hadn't hidden that he was much smarter than Dudley. And with how people were always mocking the Ravenclaws and Hermione for their study habits, mostly because they were jealous of their grades, Harry decided to not show openly how good he really was at using magic. He could have easily beaten Hermione in the end-of-year exams, but why should he put a huge target onto his back, next to the one that Voldemort had already put there?
No, using the ignorance and limited insight of the wizards would serve him much better.
Harry liked that he didn't have to concern himself with the problems of the wizarding world for the whole summer. For some reason the other three apartments weren't inhabited, so he had the house for himself and nobody would ask unpleasant questions. He had made some nice acquaintances in the villagers, especially a group of other teenagers around his age that showed him the best places to chill or have fun. With the weather being really nice most of the time, he joined them in a lot of free time activities like going to the movies, swimming in the village's lake, playing football, hiking, exploring an abandoned old house and for today he had even let himself be talked into joining a cooking course for teens that the local church was holding each year.
This was why he was putting all his things that he needed for the day together to meet Dustin at the village's marketplace. He would show him the way to the parish hall where the course would be taking place. It was just half past seven in the morning and the course would start at eight. It would go on for three days this week and in the end everybody would get a nice participation certificate. Harry left the apartment, locked the door and put the key into his pocket. Then he walked down the stairs, through the door, which he also locked behind him, and turned right to walk the short distance to the marketplace.
When he arrived there, Dustin and Emily were already waiting for him. Dusting was thirteen, lanky and had reddish blond hair, which he wore in a ponytail. Emily was twelve, had waist-length reddish blond hair and liked to wear it open. Emily and Dustin were cousins, Harry knew, and liked to tease each other a lot.
"Good morning," Harry greeted smiling.
"Good morning, Harry. Good to see you got out of bed on time," Dustin teased.
"Just because you sleep like the dead, it doesn't mean that everybody does," Emily deadpanned.
Dustin pouted and Harry chuckled.
"Come on, boys, let's get going," Emily said.
Harry and Dustin nodded and walked alongside Emily. They greeted some other villagers that were outside and reached the parish hall after ten minutes of walking. There was a sign on the door that the cooking course would be done in the kitchen in the basement. Emily knew the way and the boys followed. It was the first time that Dustin took the course, but the third for Emily, as her mother was the one to lead it.
"Ah, Emily, Dustin and Harry," Emily's mother greeted them smiling, "Take a seat, we're just waiting for Amber and Cloe and then we have everybody here."
"Yes, Mum," Emily replied and walked over to some of her friends.
Harry noticed that there were more girls than boys here, but still not in a way where the boys would be totally outnumbered. The two girls that they were waiting for arrived three minutes later
"Welcome everybody. I'm happy to see so many interested in learning a few skills in the kitchen and willing to help our homeless shelter," Emily's mother said smiling, "As you all know, we have three days to learn how to prepare some tasty dishes that are still easy to make. For our new faces, let me tell you a little how this cooking course was started. It began after World War II. Many people had lost their homes to the bombs of the Nazis. Others often took them in, but food was always a problem. We first needed to fully recover to farm the fields properly. There were a lot of repairs to be done. Father Gregory, the priest at our church back then, then had the idea that in a small village like ours, we should simply stick together and organise a common kitchen.
"We needed to split our strength into several fields of action that were needed to rebuild the village. So he suggested that we put all the food we had available together and had a group that wouldn't be that helpful for the other working fields cook for the whole village. Two old members of the parish offered to cook and teach younger teens that couldn't work physically all day how to cook simple, but filling meals with the ingredients they had available. It was accepted by the people and for the next months the villagers all helped rebuilding. Some worked on the fields to grow corn, vegetables and roots, others hunted edible animals like birds, rabbits, deer and the like and others cleared out the debris and repaired or completely built houses. The caught animals were put into two categories. The ones to become food for the village and breeding stock to not have to depend on hunting all the time. You could after all be unlucky.
"Each morning, midday and evening, the villagers would come together at the parish hall, where the ones in charge of cooking would give out the results of their work. Father Gregory would give a small prayer before eating, and then everybody would eat together before going back to work or home. While over time it wasn't needed as much anymore, as people could cook at their homes again, it was kept going strong for two full years, as it saved food by pooling everything together. These days we give the food we make to those that are poor or don't have a home. It helps our youth to learn valuable skills to be able to look after themselves when they have their own homes, and helps those that were unlucky in life to not starve," she finished the short history lesson.
Harry was impressed with the concept. It sounded like a really worthy project.
"What kind of food are we going to make today?" Marcus asked.
"We're going to cook pea soup. It's very filling and, if made well, very tasty. I'm first going to teach you the basic process, then we will start with the practical work. With how many participants we have this year, you'll work with three persons on one big pot."
She then proceeded to explain how to prepare the ingredients like the dried peas, the potatoes, the sausages and so on. It was fun and all the teens eagerly worked, trying to produce the best soup among the group. They also made bread to go with the soup. Harry enjoyed it. It was much more fun than having his aunt bellow orders on what to do at him. And it was gratifying to see the people that got the soup being so grateful that they were willing to help like that. The five pounds participation fee were well spent in his opinion and he also got to eat the results of his work. It was a great experience. The best summer break ever so far.
Harry had found easily into life in the Irish village. He earned himself a bit of pocket money by doing garden work for some elderly people in the village. He was known to go to a boarding school in Scotland most of the year and having moved into the apartment of his mother, which she had inherited from an aunt years ago, during the summer. Of course, after two weeks, the villagers noticed that there never were any adults around Harry.
"Alright, Harry," Mr Callahan, the local police officer addressed Harry, after having asked him to accompany him to the office he had at the municipality, "Please don't be afraid, but there are a few things that we need to talk about."
Harry nodded, having a hunch where this was going.
"You've been staying here for about two weeks now, and I'm happy that you seem to have found some new friends among the village youth already," Mr Callahan said, "Still, it has been noticed that you seem to be living on your own, with no adults taking care of you."
Harry could only nod. There was no sense in denying it. He had feared that it would be noticed, but while he knew that there were spells to make muggles ignore the fact, he couldn't use them thanks to the trace on him.
"I would like to first know your reasons before I have to take official action," Mr Callahan stated.
"I didn't lie when I said that apartment belonged to my Mum, sir. She and my Dad were murdered by a terrorist, who targeted them because my Dad was a policeman working for a special unit that was hunting the terrorist. They had faced the terrorist a few times before I was born already, as far as I could find out from my Mum's diary, which I found in a safe deposit box at the bank with other official documents, once I was told they had the box there. When I was born, they moved around, as my Dad was a target and that criminal would have killed our whole family, had he found them. But on Halloween 1981 he finally found them and murdered both my parents. I survived, which looked like a miracle. Probably my parents managed to injure the criminal so badly that he had to flee. It isn't known if he's still alive and biding his time, or if he's dead already. They never found a body as far as I know.
"I was sent to live with my Mum's older sister, Petunia. But she and my Mum didn't get along, as my aunt was very jealous that my Mum was accepted into an exclusive private boarding school in Scotland while she wasn't. She became bitter and called my Mum a freak. It was the same for me, when I was left with them. I didn't receive any love from her or my uncle and my cousin, seeing that he could get away with anything, started to bully me and beat me up with his gang of friends. Nobody in the town ever helped me, as they believed the rumours my aunt and uncle spread about me being no-good and a burden to them. Last summer I finally found out the truth about my parents. A representative of the boarding school they went to came to visit my relatives and told them that my parents had arranged for my attendance there shortly after I was born. They didn't like it and tried to prevent it, but my parents' instructions for me superseded their wishes.
"My relatives always told lies about my parents, how Dad was an unemployed drunk and my mum did drugs. Supposedly they died in a car crash, which caused the scar on my forehead, that my Dad had caused while driving drunk. After I found out about this apartment, I decided that I didn't want to be at the mercy of my relatives' neglect and the abuse of my cousin anymore and made a deal with them. I told them that I would move out into a place my parents owned and gave them five hundred pounds to tell anybody that came to ask questions that I was staying at a friend's home during the summer. As I was forced to do nearly all the chores at the house while growing up, I have no trouble looking after myself," Harry explained, "I just wanted to be left alone and perhaps have some fun during the summer break until school starts again. I stay at school all year round except for the summers anyway, so getting through two and a half months on my own, is really no problem."
Mr Callahan had watched Harry closely during the whole confession. The boy was a run-away in a sense, but not truly. His relatives were clearly not suited to raise a child properly. The anguish at their treatment was well-hidden, but obviously there. He was good at spotting when a child lied, he had three of his own after all, and Harry didn't lie. His relatives had really, for a little bit of money, let him set out on his own.
"Let's go and I'll have a look around in your apartment, Harry. I can't say that I'm happy with the situation, but I need a bit more information before I decide if I call in higher authorities," Mr Callahan said.
Harry nodded and showed the man the way. Once they arrived, he opened the doors to the house and then the apartment and Mr Callahan had a thorough look around.
He looked into every room and was pleased to see that the apartment was fairly clean and that it was tidy. The dirty laundry was collected in a basket in Harry's bedroom, the dishes were done and in the respective cupboards, all food in the fridge was fresh and nothing rotten and the bathroom was also clean. There were cleaning supplies in a cupboard under the kitchen sink that looked used, but nothing that seemed to pose a direct threat for a young teenager. While he didn't find something like a telly, there was only a radio, that could be because the one that had been here before had stopped working and Harry hadn't got a replacement. With how much the boy seemed to like staying outside it wasn't that surprising.
"Well, this looks okay to me. How often do you clean the apartment, Harry?" Mr Callahan asked.
"Once a week, sir. I found the vacuum cleaner in a cupboard and thankfully it still works. I did some basic cleaning the first day I arrived here and then simply made sure to tidy up after myself where it was needed every day, like doing the dishes and putting dirty clothes into the laundry basket. I normally do the laundry once a week, twice if I have more dirty clothes. There are after all working washing machines in the basement."
Mr Callahan pondered the situation. He hadn't had to deal with a case like this before. The proper thing to do would be calling Harry's relatives to get the boy back, but he wouldn't let child abuse happen when he had anything to say about it. Harry could look after himself, that much was obvious. But letting a child of not even twelve live alone without any supervision was really wrong. Well, perhaps he could find a way to solve the second problem.
"Okay, this would be a huge bureaucratic nightmare, if I went to the higher authorities with this case. Normally I would have to treat you like a run-away and bring you back to your relatives, Harry, but I believe your description of them not treating you properly. So this is what we're going to do. We'll go to and get two replacement keys for the entrance door of the house and the apartment and one will be kept by me and one by Mrs Cole. You get a medical exam from Dr O'Kelly and if he says you are alright, we're going to set up a system that twice a week somebody comes and sees if you need anything. As you're at boarding school most of the year anyway, it would be easiest to let you live here under the watch of the villagers. I don't have to mention that I expect you to behave properly and not give anybody trouble. Then I would be forced to take action," Mr Callahan stated.
"I promise, thank you, Mr Callahan," Harry happily agreed.
He couldn't believe his luck that he was allowed to stay here, even if some villagers would be checking in on him regularly. It was much better than having to deal with the Dursleys.
Thanks to the arrangement, the adults tended to look out for Harry. He was given some explanations about certain things that happened in the village, was shown where to get the best deals for food, clothes and games, got to know the people that basically ran the village and some of the older villagers even remembered his mother while she had lived there for a year after her graduation. Harry loved hearing the stories, especially when they also involved his Dad.
One great event was the surprise birthday party that his new friends arranged for him at the parish hall. Harry had mentioned that his birthday was the last of July and Emily, Cloe and Amber had taken it upon themselves to get the largest room of the parish hall for the party, decorating it and baking him a chocolate, cherry cake for his birthday. The guys had kept him busy during the day, playing football and hanging out, watching an action movie that had just come out on video at Travis' place, who had a VCR in his room, and later directing Harry to the party.
Harry had been really touched that they would do this for him. He had got some cool presents, including a portable CD player, some CDs, new clothes, a pair of good hiking shoes, for their next trip had been the comment from Dustin, Robert and Andrew, who had got them for him together and of course some sweets and the cake. Harry had never had a birthday party before and he massively enjoyed this one. Emily's mother was in charge of dinner and played chaperone for the teens. They celebrated from three in the afternoon to ten in the evening, before Harry thanked everybody for their work and thoughtfulness and they all went home, Travis helping Harry carry all his presents home.
Everybody in the village knew about Harry's background now, but they all went along with Mr Callahan's decision. Harry was a nice boy and it would be morally wrong to send him back to his relatives if they abused him. The priest, Father Ian, called it performing their Christian duty by helping a child in need. And honestly, Harry wasn't alone. The whole village had made it their job to look out for him
Harry was at the church with Travis, Dustin and Brian. Father Ian had asked for some helpers to get the grounds ready for the annual church festival. The bushes needed some trimming, some leaves needed to be raked together, chains of lights secured on the branches, the benches and tables had to be set up and cleaned from being in storage for four months, and many other small jobs. Father Ian directed the boys what to do first. The annual festival was a tradition where there would be a church service in the morning, then some of the village's clubs would show their prepared demonstrations, like the orchestra or the choir, the theatre club and the children's choir.
Lunch would be a barbecue with the members of the voluntary fire brigade manning the three large barbecue grills. The bread was given by the local bakeries for free and many families had agreed to prepare salads. There would be games for small children in the afternoon with other activities for the teenagers, if they weren't busy overseeing the children's games.
Harry was part of the group that carried the benches and tables out and hosed them down with the hose the church had in its tool shed. Dustin had decided that leaning the benches and tables against a large tree and then hosing them down was the easiest way to get rid of the spider webs and dust that clung to them. They only needed to let them dry afterwards before putting them in the yard that was reserved for eating. Travis and Brian were climbing into the trees right now and putting the chains of light up. The weather forecast was promising for the weekend, when the festival would be held, so they were confident that they would be able to sit outside in the dark.
When he was done with the last bench, Harry heard Travis calling him and Dustin.
"Hey, come over here, I found something we could use for the festival!" He heard.
He went to where Travis was and looked over the large relief he had found.
"Don't you think it would be cool to present this to Father Ian as a surprise?" Travis asked.
"You're right, it would be, but we would need to clean it a bit and perhaps give it a bit of a fresh painting," Brian commented.
The relief showed a painting of the biblical story of the feeding of the five thousand by Jesus Christ in six scenes, one following onto the other.
"I think I can get Robert's Dad to let us use his workshop. He would have all the necessary paints we need," Dustin pondered, "But it will be a narrow thing. We only have two days left until the festival."
"Well, we can at least try. If we don't get it ready till Sunday, we can make it into a present for Thanksgiving," Harry commented.
"True. Well, gentlemen, let's finish our normal tasks here and then sneak this out to get started," Travis declared and the other three nodded.
In the end it was a really narrow thing, but Mr O'Reily was very helpful when he heard what they planned to do and helped with his expertise. They cleaned the relief within two hours and had to wait until it was dry for another before they could start with the painting. Harry, thanks to having had to paint all the rooms upstairs at Privet Drive when he was nine, had explained that they needed to avoid painting parts that were directly next to each other, because then the colours would mix and mess this up. The others nodded and they painted the parts in turns, with Mr O'Reily giving them information which colour they needed for which part.
The end result was really beautiful. They left it at the workshop to dry and went home after two days of working on it. They were looking forward to presenting it to Father Ian.
The festival was going well so far. Father Ian had held the church service in the morning with nearly the whole village being present. There were always a few that didn't hold with going to church, but they were a minority in the village. It wasn't too surprising. A small rural village like this one didn't have many things to entertain people and the annual church festival was among the biggest events. So, going to attend the church service for an event like this was nearly compulsory. The choirs had sung their prepared songs, the theatre group's play was met with lots of praise and applause and the barbecue was a major success.
Then Harry, Travis, Dustin and Brian went and asked Father Ian if they could have a moment to present a gift they had for the church. He allowed it with a smile and Travis and Dustin ran around the church to the place where they had stored the relief. They returned with it being covered by a large, white bed sheet.
"Father Ian, we found this in a shed while we were working on getting things ready for the festival. We decided that it would be great to restore it to former glory and give it to the church as a present," Travis stated and Harry and Brian pulled the sheet down from behind.
The spectators cried out in awe over the newly painted relief.
"The lost relief of the Feeding of Five Thousand," Father Ian breathed out, "You said you found it in a shed, children?"
"Yes, Father Ian. We didn't know that it was lost though. It was under a heap of gardening tools and the chains of lights, in the very back of the shed," Travis answered.
"The relief went missing in 1950. We tried finding it, but didn't manage and I feared that it had been stolen. There was a series of thefts in other churches at the time. The relief is three hundred and seventy years old after all and one of the treasures of our small church," Father Ian informed them, "Thank you so much for finding it and bringing it back to former glory."
The boys blushed at the praise. They didn't think they had done that much. Still, the local press agent made some photos of the four boys and Father Ian with the relief between them. He promised that there would be a nice article about their discovery in the paper the next day.
There was a bit of fame coming with the return of an old church treasure, but thankfully people didn't concentrate on him, but all of the boys that had found the relief, especially Travis, who made the actual find. Some professionals looked over their work with restoring the relief with fresh paint and complimented them for a good job. For amateurs they did an amazing job.
Things calmed down a bit after a week and Harry was given the chance to join on a trip that the local riding club had arranged months ago to a horse riding championship in Dublin. He had never seen a riding championship, but he was assured that the Dublin Horse Show was always a fantastic event. As all of the teens around here seemed to go there, even if they weren't in the club, he joined and it had really been exciting. It was completely new for him to see. While not all of his new friends could ride a horse, a few did. He was lectured on the disciplines of dressage and show jumping, which were the most common, but there were also championships in driving a carriage drawn by different numbers of horses or military. He was mostly fascinated by the connection between the riders and the horses. It seemed to be so easy for them to overcome the obstacles or perform difficult figures during a dressage.
He couldn't really determine who the best one was, but he had fun experiencing something new to him. He laughed with the others, ate chips and cake, drank fizzy drinks and did some exploring around the booths that were set up all over the place. He bought some souvenirs and when the bus took them back to the village in the evening, he was really happy that he had gone on the trip.
To Harry's surprise he wasn't called out on his disappearance by anybody in England. He got a few letters from Hermione, which came by return from Hedwig, and two letters from Ron. He hinted at convincing his parents of letting him visit them for a week or so. Harry wasn't too sure if he should go. He didn't want his new home to be found out and interfered with by adult wizards. After all, they hadn't cared for how he lived before and looked away over the issue with the Dursleys. Why would he trust them now? The villagers here had done much more for him than anybody in the wizarding world ever had.
Then again, if he was at the Weasleys when the Hogwarts letter, which should already have arrived by now, came, he wouldn't give up his location. On the other hand, the wizarding world didn't seem to care what was written on the envelopes, which made him believe that they were done automatically by some magical quill. In the end, he decided to err on the side of caution. He wrote Ron back that he would like to come visit the last week before the school year started again. That way he could get to the station with the Weasleys and didn't have to come up with a way to explain why he had walked to the station from the Leaky Cauldron, which was actually the only floo point he knew in London.
His parents' diaries hadn't had any information about any floo points closer to the station, which he found stupid. After all, there were hundreds of students that had to get to the train each year. And few wizards would have cars or other methods of travel that allowed them to easily get to the station without one. So how the hell was that organised? His Mum had always been brought to the station by her parents by car. His Dad had been apparated by one of his parents, but there was a remark that he was one of few that took that way. Seemingly many wizards were wary of apparating with children, thanks to the risk of splinching. Harry could understand it, splinching sounded downright nasty.
In his letter he told Ron to get him at the Leaky Cauldron, as he wanted to visit Gringotts before going to Ron's house. That way he wouldn't need to replenish his funds when the list finally came.
One week until the start of his second year, the list had reached him five days ago, probably they couldn't justify keeping it away any longer, Harry was busy getting all his shopping done. He was sure that the Weasleys were already done with it and he only needed the books and some new robes anyway. He had a goblin take him down to his vault and got twenty galleons and a handful of sickles and knuts respectively. He wanted to get a higher number of wizard clothes to not look too stupid at school this year. Most other students had worn other robes when they weren't in class. He had also stumbled about a shop that sold normal clothes to really low prices, so he got enough clothes to last him a month for a mere five galleons. Including the normal convenience charms like auto-temperature, anti-wrinkling and the like.
Another interesting thing he found out was how the goblins dealt with the muggle currency they got from the muggle parents that needed to exchange pounds into galleons. There was a ridiculous exchange rate for the currency, fixed to ten pounds to a galleons, while Harry knew that a galleon was actually worth more like five times that, considering how much he could buy for one in normal shops, and the 'worthless paper' was destined to be burned by the goblins at the end of the school shopping period, which was about the next day. They would keep a small amount in reserve for when one of the Ministry officials needed to do a job in the muggle world, but they didn't need the amount of money that was given to them by muggleborns.
It offered a chance for Harry to get some cash without cheating and for a bargain. He approached the goblin, offered to take the paper off their hands for five galleons, the whole load, and free them of having to do the work of actually burning it. The goblins considered it a perfect deal, otherwise they wouldn't have got anything for the paper after all, and Harry put about ten thousand pounds into a bottomless bag, which was part of his vault contract with Gringotts. He couldn't wait to deposit all this money at a muggle account, which he had one of, thanks to Mr Callahan taking him to the local bank in the village and opening one for him. Ten thousand pounds was more than enough to pay bills for electricity for the apartment, which would allow him to buy a telly the next summer, and keep the suspicions about the appliances working away.
Harry quickly got the books, which were mainly seven of an author called Gilderoy Lockhart, plus the next Standard Book of Spells, and replenished his potions kit. The clothes had come with a bag that was expanded on the inside and didn't weigh more than half a kilo. Really neat. He made a quick stop at a local bank branch and deposited his unexpected load of cash. Thankfully there was only a machine that took the bills and he had to insert his account information to get it added to the account. A human bank clerk would have asked questions where a child like him would have got that much money. Well, if he could repeat this action the coming summers as well, he would be very well off.
Harry spotted Ron and his father coming from the floo while having a glass of pumpkin juice, with his trunk sitting next to him on the floor.
"Hey, Harry, good to see you mate," Ron greeted.
"Good to see you too, Ron," Harry replied with a smile.
"Good afternoon, Harry, I'm Ron's father, Arthur Weasley," the balding, red-haired man introduced himself.
"Nice to meet you, sir. Thank you for letting me visit," Harry politely greeted while shaking the man's hand.
"It's no problem. Did you already get your shopping done?" Arthur asked.
"Yes, Mr Weasley. I'm done. We can get going, as soon as I've paid my tab," Harry nodded and left Ron to look after his trunk.
A few minutes later they were off through the floo towards the Weasley home, the Burrow.
The last week of summer was amusing for Harry. He played Quidditch with the Weasley brothers, learned what a garden gnome was in the wizarding world, including how you got them out of your garden, noticed that Ron's little sister Ginny had a crush a mile wide on him and that wizards were really lazy with the chores around the house. Anything that Mrs Weasley did and didn't have her children do, who weren't allowed to use magic outside of school yet, were done with her wand. Still, the atmosphere at the Burrow was nice and the week there was a nice vacation of a sort. None of the Weasleys really asked about his relatives, only if he had had a nice summer so far.
He could truthfully answer that his summer had been good. He just didn't mention that he hadn't been at his relatives at all and that the last time he had seen them was at King's Cross Station. He found out that the Burrow was at the outer edge of a muggle village called Ottery St. Catchpole in Devon. There were a few other wizarding families living in the area. The Diggorys, the Fawcetts and the Lovegoods. From what he heard, Mr Diggory was a colleague of Mr Weasley at the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Control of Magical Creatures. Mr Lovegood was the editor of a scurrile magazine called the Quibbler, which published articles about strange creatures and peculiar theories. Mr Fawcett worked at one of the shops in Diagon Alley.
He quite liked Mrs Weasley's cooking, but he would have liked if it would be lighter. She kept to traditional English cuisine and much of that was heavy. Not unlike Hogwarts, where he had noticed the same. But still, the hospitality of the Weasleys was refreshing and the food tasted great. Perhaps he should simply do some exercising in the morning to counter the massive intake of calories. While food in the village had been filling, there was a much larger amount of vegetables and potatoes in the meals. He had learned a lot, be it by helping out in the kitchen for the homeless shelters or simply watching Emily's mother preparing the food for her family in the evening. Harry had been invited twice and had offered to help, but had been politely told that he was a guest and shouldn't feel the need to help.
His inquiries about how they would get to the station was answered that they would take the car. Harry really wondered why they would do that and asked. He pointed out that flooing to the Leaky Cauldron would be quicker and from there it was only either a ride on the tube, as there was a connection from Charing Cross Road to King's Cross Station, or a walk of perhaps thirty minutes. Either way would be faster than driving the car from Devon to London, especially with the normal traffic in the city. But the Weasleys assured him that it would be fine.
The first of September was just hectic. The Weasleys hadn't packed everything for school in their trunks and were running around, looking for this or that. Harry, being smart, had packed all his things except for his toothbrush and pyjamas, or the outfit he was wearing right now, the evening before, ignoring Ron's whining about wanting to play chess. Harry had told him that they could play once he was finished with packing. Ron didn't take the hint and hadn't packed his things while Harry did so. Now he, like all the others, didn't have enough time to eat breakfast, Mrs Weasley was shouting around the house and only Percy seemed to be down to eat some toast that she had made.
Harry resisted shaking his head. This chaos could have been avoided, but then again, the Weasleys simply were a bit chaotic. Mr Weasley was at home to drive the whole group to the station. It made Harry wonder. Last year only Mrs Weasley had been there to bring her children to the train. While it might be that Mr Weasley couldn't get off from work, how had they gone there that year? Percy wasn't really awake yet, so Harry didn't want to start a conversation with him. He had noticed last year that Percy wasn't really safe to talk to before he had had a few cups of coffee or strong tea.
When everything was finally stored in the back of the car, with the car clearly being magically enlarged on the inside, they started, only to return ten minutes later for Fred to get his broom. Only a little later Ginny cried out for her forgotten diary, which in the end made them really late for the train. They raced through the station to catch the Hogwarts Express. The twins and Percy were the first ones to go through the barrier, with Mr and Mrs Weasley and Ginny following after them. Then it was just Harry and Ron. But when Harry tried getting through, he ran into a solid wall.
"What the hell is going on here?" Ron asked, after helping Harry up.
Hedwig was hooting very annoyed at the crash with the wall.
"I have no idea, the wall simply closed on me," Harry said, massaging where his upper thigh had rammed against the trolley.
"Shit, we'll miss the train!" Ron cursed, "It leaves at exactly eleven.
Both boys looked at the clock. It showed exactly eleven o'clock.
"It's going right now. We missed it!" Ron exclaimed in panic.
"Calm down, Ron, we need to think what to do. First we need to get out of the view of the muggles," Harry told him, "Then we wait for your parents. They will come back from the platform soon and they'll know a way how we can still get to Hogwarts. Let's go back to the car."
"Harry, the car," Ron exclaimed excitedly.
"What about it?" Harry asked while calming Hedwig down, who was making a racket.
"We can take it to go to Hogwarts," Ron told Harry in a low voice, "Dad charmed it to fly."
"That's not a good idea, Ron. The muggles would notice and a flying car is not normal," Harry explained.
"It has an invisibility booster," Ron said, "Nobody would see anything. And we don't know if Mum and Dad can get through the barrier. It could be hours until they find us."
"I don't like the idea," Harry said.
"Well, I'm going to do it. We will only get detention if we're late, and I don't want to see Snape's gleeful face being able to give us detention before we even start the year," Ron stated, "If you're too chicken to go, I'll go by myself. I only have to follow the train."
"I'm going to stay here. I'm sure your parents will be back soon and sort this out," Harry insisted.
Ron stomped away to the car and actually went through with his idiotic plan. Harry tried to talk him out of it, but it was no use. He could only watch how Ron and the car disappeared in the sky, the car turning invisible.
"I only hope that won't bite him in the back," Harry mumbled.
He had to wait for twenty minutes for the Weasley parents to return.
"Harry, what are you doing here?" Mr Weasley asked, "And where is the car?"
"Ron took it. The barrier closed before we could get through and I ran into it with my trolley. Ron was afraid that we would get detention if we didn't appear at Hogwarts on time and said that the car could fly and turn invisible and he would take it to follow the train. He feared that you wouldn't come back soon, being stopped by the defective barrier, but I didn't want to risk taking the car. But I still need a way to get to Hogwarts," Harry explained.
"That idiot, wait till I get him into my hands. You did the right thing, Harry," Mrs Weasley assured him.
"Well, the easiest way to get you to the school would be the Knight Bus. That way you can arrive before the other students. Normally it isn't done, but this is an exception. I'll have somebody in the office for magical transportation check the barrier for this malfunction. It normally should only keep muggles out, not close on wizards. I fear somebody tampered with it to sabotage you. I don't know who, but they'll investigate the case," Mr Weasley told Harry.
Then he held out his wand and a purple triple decker appeared. A man in a conductor's uniform came out and took out a small piece of parchment.
"Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for stranded witches and wizards. My name is Stan Shunpike and I'll be your conductor today," he read off the parchment before putting it back into his pocket.
"Mr Shunpike, Harry here needs to get to Hogwarts. The barrier malfunctioned and closed off too early. I'm going to apparate home and call Professor McGonagall to inform her about this. Please deliver him to the gates, I'm sure Hagrid will take care to get him into the castle," Mr Weasley informed the conductor.
"Ah, yes, no prob. Get your trunk inside, Harry, choose a chair, and we'll have you at good old Hogwarts in a jiffy. The fare for the journey is thirteen sickles, but for seventeen you get hot chocolate," Stan informed Harry.
Harry pulled out his walled from his backpack and counted the thirteen pieces of silver into the hand of Stan Shunpike.
"Thanks for the help, Mr and Mrs Weasley," Harry said.
"You're welcome, Harry," Mr Weasley said and then Harry went into the bus.
He took a seat and Stan secured his trunk. Then the bus lurched forward and Harry was thrown back with his chair. He immediately decided to not take this monstrosity too often. Flooing, while not nice, was much less nauseating. Thankfully he was the only passenger and after just ten minutes he reached the gates of Hogwarts.
"There we are, Hogwarts," Stan announced and handed Harry his trunk back. Harry thanked him and stumbled out of the bus, which disappeared with a loud crack from the place it had been, once the doors were closed again.
Harry looked at the majestic castle that had become his first home, but which now was in second place behind the apartment in the Irish village. He was happy that he now could say he had a true home, away from the Dursleys and not known to any stupid meddler in the wizarding world. He didn't know what the new school year would bring, he didn't know what kind of adventure was waiting for him, but he knew that at the end of the day he could count on being able to return to his home over the summer. A home he had come to love during the last summer.
I hope you liked it. There is no Sequel planned, but if anybody wants to take up the idea from here, you're free to do so.