Alright, let me be honest right from the start. This is … hmm, well, it's intended as the first story of a series.
I started it ages ago —years ago, even— but never got around to continuing it. I found it recently, dusted it off, did a little editing and then proceeded to hem and haw for a good week or so. In the end though, I decided to post.
But, pre-warning and all: I can't promise to continue the series! I'm not ruling it out, but not wanting to get hopes up either.
So if you think you can enjoy this for what it is —a complete story in an incomplete series— then please give it a go. If not, maybe this isn't the fic for you.
A Good Teacher
Harry had been looking forward to school for the first time ever. Not only did it mean he got away from home, and thus his aunt and uncle —as was always the case— but this year he'd also finally been assigned to a different class than Dudley! And not just Dudley either, but all of his gang too: Piers, Gordon, Malcolm and Dennis.
As he drifted over to the table he'd been assigned, Harry stared at his new teacher. He had been looking forward to this new school year, but now…
Well, he was still looking forwards to it, but Harry suddenly had a feeling things were going to be odd. Several other children in class, he noted, were also staring at the teacher. Then they stared at Harry, then back to the teacher, then at Harry, in a never-ending loop. He couldn't blame them. Everything from the bespectacled emerald eyes to the messy black hair—the resemblance between them was uncanny!
"Alright class, settle down, settle down. Has everyone found their seats? Good." The teacher gave them all a welcoming smile, and clapped his hands. "Welcome to Year Four. My name is—" He wrote on the blackboard. "—Mr Harrison. Simple enough, I think. I'm new to Little Whinging Primary this year, as you might have guessed, but don't worry, I have plenty of teaching experience.
"To start off with this morning, I'm not going to be teaching you, you're all going to be teaching me." Several students murmured in curiosity at those words, especially when Mr Harrison reached down behind his desk and came up with one of those balls with the wriggly spikey surface. "Okay, when I throw you the ball, I want you to tell me your name and three things about yourself. Alright? Okay, let's try it then."
Mr Harrison gently tossed the ball to a familiar-looking girl in the front row—Harry was pretty sure she was in his class the year before last. There was a sudden farting sound. The girl's eyes went wide as the room fell utterly silent. Then one student snickered, and suddenly the whole class was laughing.
"I wasn't me, I swear!" the girl cried, cheeks pink.
Mr Harrison smiled at her. "I know, I know. Guess I forgot to mention, that ball's got a few quirks. Here, chuck it back." When she did, it make a quacking sound. He tossed it back to the girl and it honked like a car horn. Most of the students looked fascinated and a few asked for a chance to catch it. "Not yet! Don't worry though, everyone will get a turn. So, introductions?"
"My name is Marie," the girl said. "Marie Jacobs."
"Tell us three things about you, Marie, Marie Jacobs," Mr Harrison said, leaning forward attentively.
"Well, I have a pet turtle called Speedy." A few people giggled, and Marie grinned, earlier embarrassment forgotten. "My favourite subject is music. And…um… Oh! I painted my bedroom yellow over holidays. Well, my mum painted, but I helped! And I got to pick the colour."
"Wonderful. Thank you Marie. Want to send the ball back this way." There was laughter as the ball made a sneezing sound when he caught it. He sent it on to a boy in the back row that Harry didn't recognise, whereupon it hooted like an owl. "You're next. Tell us all about yourself."
"Hi, I'm Paul Finlay," the boy said in an accent. "I'm new here too. My parents and I just moved down from Inverness, in Scotland. Mum wanted to move back here to be near grandad 'cause he's very ill. Um, does that count as three?" Paul asked, holding up fingers as he counted. "One, I'm new; two, I'm from Scotland; and three, we're here 'cause of grandad. That's three, right?"
"Sounds like three to me Paul. Toss the ball back."
The next while passed in much the same manner. The ball was passed around the class with a different sound effect each time, and each student introduced themselves and said a bit about themselves. Finally, it was Harry's turn. When he caught the ball it croaked, deep like a toad.
"Uh, I'm Harry Potter," he mumbled, nervous at the attention, and especially at the few whispered comments and snickers from a pair of boys who usually laughed whenever Dudley picked on him. "I live with my aunt and uncle. I—" He tried to think of something to say. He didn't really want to talk more about his family, and mentioning his 'bedroom' was a recipe for disaster. "My favourite colour is blue, and my favourite subjects are Maths and PE."
"Wonderful Harry. Chuck us the ball."
It rang like a telephone when he caught it, but this time Mr Harrison didn't automatically throw it out again. Instead a serious look settled on his face, which had up until that moment been only smiling and kind.
Students straightened unconsciously, abruptly realising that there was more to Mr Harrison than fun and games—he could also, apparently, be very stern when he wanted to be.
"Now, I noticed some of you whispering and making rude comments when Harry was talking." He directed a frown at the offenders, who shrunk in their seats. "So, I think I'll take this opportunity to talk about something very important. Girls and boys, I have a very strict Anti-Bullying Policy. If you are found bullying a student in any way —be it physical: like hitting, pushing, kicking, punching, pinching; or with words: name-calling, teasing, mocking, spreading rumours, threatening; also ganging up on a student; or excluding them from joining in groups or games just because you can; basically, anything that makes another student uncomfortable— there will be consequences. Do you all understand? I asked, do you all understand?"
"Yes Mr Harrison," the class chorused in subdued tones.
"Good. Bullying is not cool, it is not clever. It is ugly and cowardly and I think —I hope— that you're all good kids who know better. As to the consequences I mentioned, I work on a 'three strikes and you're out' system. Anyone found bullying will get an automatic detention and a warning. Anyone found bullying a second time, will get a week's worth of detentions, a note sent home to your parents, and a second warning. Anyone found bullying a third time, will be suspended from school for a week."
There were wide eyes at this, but they could all see Mr Harrison was deadly serious.
"In addition, I will arrange a meeting to talk to your parents in person about the problem. I should also mention that if you're found physically hurting another student, you won't get the first two warnings—I'll automatically go on right to having you suspended and talking to your parents. Is everyone clear on my Anti-Bullying Policy?"
"Yes Mr Harrison."
He stared out at them, expression solemn. Then slowly he nodded, his face relaxing back into the familiar lines of a friendly smile.
"Good, let's get back to the introduction game then."
He threw the ball to a girl in the middle of the room who almost fumbled the catch, not expecting it. In her defence, most of them were still tense and wary after his speech. But then the ball let out a thunderous burp, and Mr Harrison grinned, and there was laughter as everyone relaxed and they got back into the game.
And in a corner of the classroom Harry sat with eyes still wide, a feeling not unlike hope in his chest.
Apparently, Mr Harrison wasn't the only teacher who believed in the Anti-Bullying Policy. Or perhaps he'd invented it or brought it with him, and convinced all the other teachers it was a good idea. Whatever the cause, when Mr Harrison and the other fourth year teacher, Mrs White, stumbled upon Harry being cornered and taunted by Dudley and his usual gang —plus one of the whispering boys in Harry's own class— the teachers had promptly assigned all the other boys detention and a first warning.
By the time Christmas holidays arrived, Malcolm, Gordon and Dennis had each received two warnings, along with the standard single-day and week-long detention and letters to their parents. Piers had gotten the same, and then a third strike on top of that, resulting in a week's suspension. Apparently Mrs Polkiss was highly unimpressed when she was called in for the parent-teacher interview and then to take Piers home, and threatened dire consequences if he got into any more trouble. Piers had reluctantly been on his best behaviour ever since, settling for sulking and glaring a lot. As for Dudley…
Well, teachers and students were starting to look suspiciously on the boy who had earned no less than six suspensions, along with a combined total of more detentions than any other student in the school. Especially when contrasted to Harry who hadn't gotten as much as a single warning. Suddenly Mr and Mrs Dursley's claims that Harry was a no-good troublemaker and Dudley a little angel were wearing thin. It was starting to become obvious to people that, actually, they might have had the cousins mixed up and Harry was the angel.
It was strange for Harry, being given smiles by teachers, and even offers to sit with people at lunchtime and play with them during recess. Sure, at first it was just because they wanted to ask if he was related to Mr Harrison —he told them he wasn't, but agreed it was strange how similar they looked— but after that they invited him back because they genuinely seemed to like him. Oh, Dudley had tried to 'discourage' the way people were suddenly welcoming Harry, but pushing another boy off the slide as a warning to 'stop being nice to the freak' had only earned him another, automatic suspension.
Of course, with Dudley being his usual thick self, the punishments weren't working very well. Mostly he just whined about how unfair it all was, believing utterly that he was being hard done-by. His parents didn't help to dispel this delusion. Vernon just cursed a lot about how it was, "Ruddy ridiculous, the way they're discriminated against Dudley for being a little rambunctious. Don't they know that boys will be boys? Ruddy ridiculous!" Aunt Petunia of course spent the week-long suspensions simply doting over Dudley. So much so that it was more a vacation from school than a real punishment.
Nothing Mrs White said seemed to get through to them. But then, after Dudley's latest infraction resulted in fracturing Harry's arm —he attacked Harry outright, in a fit of enraged frustration at the way things had changed lately— Mr Harrison was included in the next teacher-parent discussion with the Dursleys regarding Dudley's behaviour.
Harry had almost forgotten their strange resemblance, so used to seeing it every day, but it was the first time the elder Dursleys had met his teacher and they looked shocked and suspicious. At Mr Harrison's clear obliviousness though, the Dursleys slowly relaxed.
Once things were back on track, the meeting followed the by-now-usual pattern Harry had overheard a time or two: the teachers expressed their concern over Dudley's behaviour, the Dursleys denied there was anything wrong, Dudley smirked triumphantly from his chair at his parents' support, the teachers tried to suggest counselling and anger management, the Dursleys grew outraged at the implications against their 'perfect son', and the meeting was adjourned with nothing accomplished. Except…
For the first time, things took a different turn. After Mrs White left, Mr Harrison lingered and asked to speak to Petunia alone for a moment. Surprisingly Vernon just blinked, looking sort of dazed, then nodded and said he'd take Dudley for ice cream at the place just around the block.
Harry glanced back as he reached the door to see Aunt Petunia sitting stiffly, narrowed eyes fixed on Mr Harrison's right sleeve. But Harry's attention was most caught by his teacher's left hand. He didn't remember the man ever wearing jewellery before, but there in his palm was a clunky gold ring with a black stone, which he was holding out to Aunt Petunia.
Uncle Vernon shut the door before Harry could see more, leaving him no choice but to follow them to the car, and then the café. He sat musing on his curiosity as Dudley devoured his chocolate sundae —naturally, Vernon didn't bother buying Harry one— and then as they drove back to the school.
Petunia eventually emerged an hour or so after they left her alone, face blanched and hands shaking and eyes slightly red-rimmed and shiny. She shook her head and refused to explain when asked what was wrong, just told Vernon to hurry up and get them home.
Harry noticed, during the ride, that she sneaked an awful lot of glances at him in the mirror, and her expression was more troubled than usual.
The next morning, Harry woke up to make breakfast and found Aunt Petunia sitting at the kitchen table, crying. He froze, not sure what to do. Sure, he didn't like his aunt much —mostly in response to not being liked— but he couldn't just watch her cry and do nothing.
"Aunt Petunia?" he said timidly.
Her head snapped up, spotting him at once. She quickly slammed some sort of book closed and stood, turning away to wipe her eyes discretely.
"What are you doing—" She paused, looking at the clock. "Oh, I hadn't realised the time. Yes, hurry up and make breakfast. I'm just going to take a quick shower before I get Vernon and Dudley up."
Harry watched as she grabbed up the book from the table and fled the room, carefully not looking his way. He heard some sounds in the living room, near the bookshelf, before Petunia's footsteps padded up the stairs.
Harry bit his lip, wondering if he dared risk it. But curiosity ate at him until he caved. He quickly got breakfast started, then darted into the living room, eyes scanning the bookshelf. They landed on the leather cover of the book Petunia had been holding. He'd never paid it much mind before, but now he pulled it out. It was some sort of photo album, it looked like. And when he opened it…
"Mum?" he whispered, because who else could it be.
He traced the smiling girl, linked arm-in-arm with a much younger Petunia. She had red hair and was very pretty, he thought. And on the page opposite was another picture of her, a close-up of her smiling face which showed that her eyes had been the exact same shade of green as his were.
The shower upstairs shut off. Reluctantly, Harry put the album back where he found it, vowing to have another look when he got the chance, and returned to the kitchen. He was turning the bacon and cracking eggs when Petunia returned to set the table. By some accident, she met his gaze and froze.
'Lily,' he could have sworn she mouthed, looking into his eyes. And, after seeing that photograph, he understood why staring at his eyes would remind her of his mother. Though, he wasn't sure what brought this on all of a sudden. They'd always been green. It wasn't something new.
Then the sound of Dudley thumping down the stairs was heard. Aunt Petunia looked away, swallowed, and avoided his gaze for the rest of the morning.
It was strange, Petunia was being almost—no, not nice, but less harsh lately. Dudley's suspension was up and when she drove them to school she saw Mr Harrison and frowned, deeply, then looked at Harry in a sad but thoughtful way.
A few days later, Petunia presented him with a shopping bag full of clothes. They were all second-hand —he could tell by the flimsy, papery price-tags, with the size and price handwritten in— but they were also in good condition and actually fit him.
Then, the first free Saturday, Petunia drove Harry to an optometrist to get his eyes checked and new glasses. Everything was so clear, like he never knew it could be with those out-of-the-bin glasses his aunt had gotten on discount at the chemist. They were also a lot less ugly than the old round ones, and didn't have any Sellotape at the bridge from where Dudley was forever breaking them by punching Harry in the nose. On top of that, Aunt Petunia warned Dudley that if he broke the new ones she'd have to replace them, and then, "Mummy won't be able to afford that new television you want for your birthday, and we don't want that, do we Diddy-dums?"
Over the following month, Petunia went on an interior redecoration spree. She replaced the curtains, painted the rooms, retiled the bathroom and got a new kitchen bench put in. She even had Dudley's second bedroom done up so it was less a toy room and more an actual bedroom. Dudley had thrown a right tantrum when he came home to find she'd dumped all his old, broken toys. It was made even worse when Aunt Petunia turned to Harry and said, "Well, get your stuff then."
"What?" Harry asked, confused.
"Your things. Get them and take them upstairs to your new bedroom."
"NO!" wailed Dudley as Harry stood in shock. "No, mummy, I need that bedroom for my toys. He can't have it! DADDY, TELL MUMMY HE CAN'T!"
But Uncle Vernon just frowned, and grumbled, and harrumphed and stormed off. He was obviously upset but unwilling to argue with Petunia. The decision had been made.
Harry suddenly wondered if this was the cause of their quiet, hissed arguments lately and not, as he'd previously thought, the colour Petunia painted their bedroom. "It's salmon," Petunia had tried to claim several times, to which Vernon always insisted, "It's ruddy well pink!"
Either way, for the first time in memory Harry had a proper bedroom rather than a boot cupboard beneath the stairs. Also for the first time, Dudley didn't get what he wanted and instead had to be appeased with promises of an extra-special outing for his next birthday—not just to the cinema or the zoo or something, but maybe a weekend trip to the seaside.
Dudley had not been happy lately, ever since Harry 'unfairly stole his second bedroom'. Dudley had somehow, in his pique, convinced his old gang to help him in a game of 'Harry Hunting', even though most had been carefully on their best behaviour since falling victim to the new Anti-Bullying Policy. It had been the highlight of Harry's week the time Dennis's mum declared that, "I forbid you from associating with that reprobate Dudley Dursley any longer Dennis!" She said it loudly, out front of the school gates one morning, and everyone knew about it by lunchtime.
Apparently the warning didn't stick, because Harry was running, heart racing, sure they would catch up to him and beat him black and blue any second. He sped around a corner with a slight lead on the gang and spotted the bins by the kitchen. He had an idea. If he could get behind them before the other boys turned the corner, he could hide and they'd think he'd already run past.
Harry ran, he dove for cover, and…
…he found himself on the roof of the kitchens.
Bewildered, he stared down at the gang as they raced around the corner, only to be called to a halt as Mr Harrison jogged after them.
"Detention, all of you," he barked.
Dennis paled. "B-but sir, my mum, she'll—"
"Should have thought of that before you decided bullying was a good idea then. Show up for detention tomorrow during recess. Except you Dudley—you're to report every day for the rest of the week."
"What?" Dudley demanded. "That's not fair! Why should I get a whole week's detention if they only get a day?"
"Because they aren't already back on their first warning. Well, they are now, but you Dudley get a second warning from this. Your parents will be getting a letter from school it seems. Again. Now, back to the playground all of you, and be thankful it's not worse. If any of you actually managed to lay a hand on your would-be-victim, you'd have gotten an automatic suspension. Go."
The boys turned and fled, Dudley stomping away and Piers sulking, but the others looked cowed, especially Dennis.
Then Mr Harrison looked up and spotted Harry on the roof. His eyebrows rose.
"Well, I don't suppose they could catch you up there," he commented. "Hold on a moment, and we'll get you down."
Harry was surprised there were no questions about how he got up there, or a lecture on the danger of climbing school buildings. Instead, a ladder appeared at the roof's edge. He wondered where it came from, but supposed he was so busy running away he must not have noticed it. When he reached the ground he turned to Mr Harrison with an appreciative look.
"No problem. Tell you what, why don't you come to the classroom with me and we'll have a chat."
Harry's heart sunk. Perhaps he was going to get in trouble after all. He sighed, hung his head and turned to follow. To his surprise however, when they got the classroom and he settled at his usual seat, Mr Harrison chucked a familiar something at him —'funny-ball' was the name that had caught on after it was first introduced to the class— and it made a flushing toilet sound.
"Notice anything strange?" Mr Harrison asked him, seemingly at random.
"Sir?" Harry was confused.
"About the ball. You notice anything strange about it?"
"You mean…aside from the sounds?"
"Aside from the sounds. And sort of related to them as well." Mr Harrison laced his fingers together and tapped at his lips, staring at Harry with a secretive smile. "Is it very heavy?"
Harry weighed it in his hands. "Not really."
"Make any rattling sounds?"
Harry shook it. "None."
"What about inside? Is it dark inside?"
"Um…" Harry held it up to the light. It was difficult to see anything, even without the spikes. It was just sort of hazy and green, but the light did shine through clearly enough. "Doesn't seem to be."
"So tell me Harry," Mr Harrison whispered, leaning forwards like he was about to reveal a secret, "if it's not heavy, or rattling, or dark from having something inside —something gadgety, say— then how does it make those noises?"
Harry's mouth dropped as he realised that that was a very good question. He stared at the funny-ball in his hand as if seeing it for the first time. He inspected it more closely, but still there was nothing odd about it. Well, except the obvious…
He chucked it in the air and caught it. It made a chirping noise like a cricket.
Mr Harrison rounded his desk then, approaching Harry's own with a pair of scissors in hand. He took the funny-ball and stabbed it. It made a hissing noise as air escaped, and Harry let out a cry of alarm.
"Oh, don't worry," Mr Harrison said as he quickly cut a seam in the deflated ball. "I can get another easy enough—not that I'll need to. But here, have a look."
Harry accepted the remains of the funny-ball back and peered inside. He saw nothing. He reached a hand in, and felt nothing. Confused and frustrated at this making no sense whatsoever, Harry turned the ball inside out.
"There's nothing," he said in awe. "There's nothing to make the sounds. So how…?"
"Inexplicable, isn't it?" Mr Harrison said, grinning. "Sort of like how you ended up on the roof. And the way that, if the staffroom rumour mill is to be believed, you turned Miss Hannity's hair blue in third grade. Strange and unexplainable, all of it."
Harry jerked. He stared up at the man. He licked his lips and went to speak, only to fail utterly at finding words. Did he…know something? Something about the strange things that happened around Harry?
"I thought —for the roof at least— I figured a gust of wind must have caught me mid-jump." But even as he said it, Harry realised how ridiculous that sounded. He stared back at the remains of the funny-ball. "I don't understand."
Mr Harrison's expression turned kind as he grabbed a chair from another desk to sit down opposite Harry. It would have been a comical sight, the tall man folding his limbs into the too-small chair, if Harry's mind wasn't busy trying to figure out something far more important.
"You're special Harry. A very special boy."
"What? No, I'm—I'm nothing special. I'm just Harry."
"You're both. You're Harry, and you're special, because…" Mr Harrison pulled something from up his right sleeve. It looked like a branch, but straight, smooth and tapered, with a grip on one end. "Reparo."
Harry gasped as, in response to the nonsense word, the ball in his hands was suddenly made whole again.
"How?" he asked.
"You're special," Mr Harrison repeated, "because you have magic, like me."
Harry sat stunned. He tentatively ran his hands over the wriggly-spiky surface, turning it this way and that. He squeezed it, and threw it slightly to catch, hearing it make a lion's roar.
"Magic?" he breathed in a shocked whisper.
"Magic. You're a wizard, Harry." A strange smile tilted Mr Harrison's lips as he added, "And a thumping good one too, I expect, with a bit of training up."
"You'll go to magic school when you turn eleven —all young witches and wizards in Britain get invited— but until then… How would you like to get an early start?"
And, well, Harry's answer was obvious. After all, what little boy would say no to learning mysterious magical arts?
Harry took to spending his every spare minute with Mr Harrison, even when some of the other kids looked at him oddly for giving up his recess to volunteer for extra class jobs—or, that's what they thought he was doing anyway.
"There are four types of magic," Mr Harrison explained to him one day. "There's Dark Magic, Light Magic, Grey Magic and Neutral Magic. Most of the magic you'll learn at Hogwarts will be Neutral Magic."
"But what's it all mean?" Harry asked.
"It's to do with emotions. Dark Magic works using dark emotions like hate, anger, a desire to hurt or control someone. Dark Magic is illegal according to Ministry of Magic law. Light Magic is the opposite. It uses feelings like love, joy and compassion. Grey Magic—well, can you guess how that works?"
"With feelings that aren't good or bad?"
"Exactly. Grey Magic work on emotions such as need, desperation, curiosity, want…even fear."
"But wouldn't fear be a bad feeling—Dark Magic?"
But Mr Harrison shook his head. "No, Dark Magic emotions have to be malicious, cruel, intended to harm. Fear isn't very nice to feel, but it's not a bad thing, not in itself. It could make you angry and lash out, because you don't like being afraid. But if you're afraid for a friend, it could just as easily make you feel love and protectiveness. The same goes for feelings like sadness and confusion and awe."
"Okay, I think I get it."
"Grey Magic isn't taught a lot. It's mostly associated with Accidental Magic —though you're just as likely to perform accidental Dark or Light Magic out of anger or joy— as well as magic under pressure. Can you remember some of the things you felt before your Accidental Magic happened?"
"Um…" Harry considered it. "Well, I guess I was pretty desperate before I appeared on the roof. And the time Dudley's jumper shrunk I was feeling a lot of dread about how stupid I'd look in it. I felt the same way when Aunt Petunia gave me a really ugly haircut once. And sad and a bit afraid too, because I was sure everyone would laugh."
"But—" Harry's face fell.
"Well, last year when I turned Miss Hannity's hair blue… She gave me detention, you see, when Dudley let the class pet escape. She didn't believe me when I said Dudley did it and was just trying to stick the blame on me." Harry ducked his head, feeling troubled. "I was really angry."
"Ah," Mr Harrison said, with understanding. "Harry, look at me. It's fine. Really. Like I said before, Dark and Light are both quite common in Accidental Magic, as much as Grey. Our choices are the most important thing Harry. Accidental Magic is just that: accidental. You didn't choose to act out of anger."
"But you said Dark Magic was illegal."
"But they don't arrest kids for Accidental Magic. It doesn't count."
"Right." He nodded. "It's really fine?"
Harry sighed in relief. "Oh, good."
"Ok, let's move on then. So, we've covered Light, Dark and Grey Magic. What do you think Neutral Magic might be?"
"Neutral emotions?" Harry guessed, from the name.
"Sort of. That's a better description for Grey Magic though, oddly enough. Neutral Magic, the most commonly taught magic at Hogwarts, is more about a lack of emotion. It's an intellectual exercise rather than an emotional one—concentration rather than feeling. That's why Accidental Magic is never Neutral, because Accidental Magic is caused by feelings. Neutral Magic doesn't require any particular feelings to work, which is why it's usually less powerful, but still useful."
Harry frowned. "But…"
"But some of the tricks you've been teaching me —like making the flower open and close— I don't really use emotions for them."
"You don't feel need, want, desperation for it to work?"
"Maybe at first. But not anymore, now that I know I can do it."
And then Mr Harrison was beaming. "Exactly! And that Harry, is how you can tell the difference between accidental and wandless magic."
Harry gaped. "B-but you said wandless magic was for really powerful wizards."
"Or really advanced ones. Yes."
Harry just stared.
"Of course wandless magic doesn't have to be Neutral. But if you can manage Neutral Magic without a wand it's definitely not accidental, so it's a sign. Actually another sign is your supposedly 'accidental' magic working according to specifics, rather than instinct, as I've been teaching you. So all this time you've been doing magic that most wizards never manage to master, let alone at eight years old. Congratulations Harry, you're a marvel."
Harry flushed at the praise, ducking his head. He couldn't help the smile that spread across his face. Imagine: he, Harry Potter, was not merely a wizard, but a marvellous one!
Over the summer, Mr Harrison gave Harry something called a 'Portkey'. It was a spell he put on Harry's glasses. Whenever Harry had a break from his chores, he found somewhere private and said the password and then… Well, then his glasses would whirl him away, like a really crazy teleportation device, and land him at Mr Harrison's house.
Mr Harrison's house was nothing like the dull, cookie-cutter Dursley home, but instead a castle hundreds of miles away! Well, Mr Harrison called it a 'keep' rather than a 'castle', but Harry thought it was close enough. It was set on a tiny island out to sea, and looked like it grew out of the rock into a single, great, round tower. Seakeep was its name, and Mr Harrison said he built it himself.
As he explained to Harry: "I'm an old hand at magical construction. I spent a lot of time volunteering to fix up this grand old castle that got damaged in a battle when I was seventeen, going on eighteen. In the process I learned about working with stone and more fortified structures, and the way magic can be seeped into a building until it's almost sentient.
"Then there was an old place that my godfather left me when he died," Mr Harrison added. "My godson's grandmother was quite firm that I 'fix that dump up' before she'd let her grandson anywhere near it. That job taught me a lot about the protective enchantments that could be cast on a house, some of them highly dangerous—my godfather once said his dad was a paranoid old wizard, and he was quite right.
"A while later, my best friend's family home was due for a renovation and I offered to help out. It was in rebuilding that place that I learned the most about designing and making blueprints for magical dwellings. It's not the same as Muggle houses, you see, because you've got to account for laying your enchantments later, and what room arrangements will suit them best. Lots of Arithmancy calculations involved.
"My most recent project, before Seakeep, was when I got back ownership of my mum and dad's old home from when I was little. I was planning a family at the time, and wanted somewhere more welcoming for my kids to grow up. That build taught me a lot about how to hide all the magic going on from Muggle eyes—the house was in a Muggle village, you see, right on the road. Or, well, not really hiding so much as making it seem mundane even when something odd is going on, especially during the construction.
"So yeah, I put all that knowledge together for Seakeep. It didn't even cost very much. Got the land for a steal—a hut on a rock at sea isn't exactly prime real estate. I drafted up plans, set up Muggle Befuddlement Wards so no questions would be raised, and got to work. Tore down the hut and bought up stone from a nearby quarry that was a nice match for the island. I worked the stone myself, infusing it with magic, and bit-by-bit built a keep in the hut's place. When I was done I layered protective and other relevant spells over it all —I was generous with the Undetectable Expansion Charms too, so it's roomier than it should be— furnished it for comfort, and made myself at home. Took me about nine months. Just finished it before summer holidays let out, actually."
Needless to say, Harry was quite impressed. Equally impressive was Seakeep's library. It was easily the most brilliant library Harry had ever seen—light and airy, filled with books on more magical subjects than Harry dreamed could exist. There was even a magical use for maths: the Arithmancy Mr Harrison had spoken of using in his building. Harry spent many a summer day curled up in a window seat, reading about brilliant things like dragons, and Hogwarts, and Quidditch.
There was also an extensive roof garden and greenhouse where Mr Harrison showed Harry how to care for magical plants. And then, with clippings Harry helped to grow —along with a few extra things, owl-ordered from a magical apothecary— Mr Harrison began to teach Harry the basics of Potions brewing.
Over the weekend that the Dursleys took off for Dudley's promised birthday at the seaside, Harry was left with Mrs Figg. Without chores to do, he was free to be absent almost the whole day, since the batty old woman barely noticed him gone so long as he was there for breakfast and dinner.
Harry took full advantage and spent hours and hours at Seakeep over those two days, thrilled when Mr Harrison decided to use the time to Apparate them —another crazy wizard-teleportation-thing— to a field in the middle of nowhere, and teach Harry to fly a broomstick! Not that he needed much teaching. Mr Harrison said Harry was a natural, and Harry had to admit he'd never experienced something so thrilling yet simple as flying.
All in all, it was the best summer Harry ever had.
Fifth year began, and Harry was equal parts delighted to have Mr Harrison for his teacher a second time, and depressed because Dudley was in his class as well.
"Welcome to fifth year everyone," Mr Harrison greeted. "I see some old faces, and some new ones. I'm Mr Harrison. Now, there's a certain way I like to start off a new class. I'm sure those of you I taught last year remember this game." And then he pulled out the funny-ball, earning grins and a few eager cheers from his previous students. "For those who don't know the drill, when you get the ball, you introduce yourself and tell us three facts about you. This is your chance to teach me some things. Ready?"
Mr Harrison then tossed it to one of the girls Harry had shared a class with last year. She laughed as it trumpeted like an elephant, and confidently began to introduce herself. When it got to Dudley, it made an exploding sound.
"I'm Dudley Dursley," he said smugly. "My favourite show on telly is The Great Humberto. Uh…" He frowned, like he was thinking very hard about what else to say. "My favourite food is triple-chocolate sundaes. And…um…" Dudley suddenly perked up, sending a nasty smile Harry's way. "And I live with my mum and dad, and my freak cousin."
When he threw the ball back, it made a sound like gargling after brushing your teeth. Mr Harrison didn't throw it out again though. Instead he had a serious look on his face, and Harry was reminded of the start of last year, when something similar happened.
"Alright class, I know I don't have any students new to the school, so you all must have heard of the Anti-Bullying Policy last year, right?"
There were nods, and a few people shot Dudley disapproving looks. Mr Harrison explained the policy to them all again anyhow. Dudley just crossed his arms and looked defiant.
"Now, Dudley, I know Mrs White had a lot of trouble with you last year about this. I'm hoping we can see some improvement while you're in my class." He had wandered over to Dudley's desk and leaned forward to look him in the eye. "I think you've got potential Dudley, I really do. I think you can be better than a nasty little bully. Do you want to be more than a nasty little bully Dudley?"
Everyone was silent, staring. Dudley's defiance had faded a little. He looked around, unsure, before nodding.
"What was that Dudley?"
"I guess so," Dudley muttered.
"Good, that's what I was hoping. Because I want to help you be a good kid, with a good future. Only I can't do that without your help. Do you want to be a good kid with a good future Dudley?"
"Yeah, that sounds okay."
Then Mr Harrison beamed at him. "Excellent! You and me are going to work together a lot this year Dudley, and we're going to make you the kind of kid you can be proud of being. We're gonna show you that you don't have to do mean things like bully other kids to have fun. We're going to find something that interests you, something you're brilliant at, and you're going to be fantastic! Alright?"
Dudley nodded dumbly. "Alright," he said, looking quite overwhelmed.
"Great!" Then Mr Harrison threw the funny-ball to the next person. "Back to the introduction game everyone!"
"What?" Harry looked up to see Mr Harrison staring at him with concern.
Harry's claim of, "Nothing," only earned him a sceptical look.
"Harry, you've not been listening to a word I've said."
"Sorry, guess I'm not feeling up to it today."
"Not up to learning about becoming an Animagus?"
Harry jolted up straight in his seat. "What?" His eyes were wide. "Really?" he asked with excitement. He'd heard about the Animagus transformation, and learning it would be so cool.
"I've only been talking about it the last ten minutes," Mr Harrison said with exasperation. "But you weren't paying attention at all, were you?"
Harry ducked his head. "Sorry," he said, reminded of his bad mood.
"Harry, tell me what's wrong."
He bit his lip to keep it in, but it blurted out all the same: "Will you even have time to teach me to be an Animagus? Won't you be busy with Dudley?" The words came out more bitter than he'd intended, and he winced. "I mean—"
"Ah, I see." Mr Harrison was giving him a kind, understanding look that made Harry feel guilty for his accusation. "Yes, I have been spending a lot of time with your cousin lately, haven't I? Even had to cancel a couple of our usual meetings each week?"
"Yeah. It's alright though," Harry offered weakly. "I don't mind," he lied.
"Obviously you do." Mr Harrison crossed his arms on the other side of the desk, and rested his chin on them, staring up at Harry for a moment. Harry fidgeted. "Tell me Harry, how have things been with Dudley lately?"
"With his bullying. How bad has it been compared to last year?"
"Well, it—" Harry cut off, frowning. "Actually, not so bad," he realised. "Even at home, he doesn't bother me as much anymore."
"Mhmm, and he's only gotten half as many warnings as he had by this time last year," Mr Harrison told him.
Harry stared. "Are you saying…you've been spending time with Dudley so he doesn't bully me?" It sounded ridiculous, but the results said otherwise. "But how?"
"Well, not just so he'll leave you alone. I'm also doing it for Dudley himself." Mr Harrison sighed and straightened. "You see Harry, there are different ways to mistreat a child. The most obvious, treating them poorly, is only one way."
The knowing look he gave made Harry squirm uncomfortably, and he was glad when the man didn't linger on that point.
"But indulging a child," Mr Harrison continued, "never setting boundaries, never punishing them, letting them gorge themselves rather than limiting their eating—that's all a mistreatment of sorts too."
"It is?" Harry asked sceptically. It sounded like a far better deal that he had. A good one even. "How?"
"Well, let's look at the food thing. Dudley is almost certainly going to have serious health problems sooner or later if he doesn't do something about it. And from what I've seen, it will be him that has to do something about it. Where most kids can trust their parents to help keep them healthy, your aunt and uncle won't hear a thing against Dudley's weight." Mr Harrison scoffed. "Big-boned indeed. They're delusional, and Dudley's going to pay the price for it."
"Oh," Harry said, frowning. "I never thought of that."
"It's not even the worst of it. Dudley's bullying, his cruelty, is of his parents' creation. They never told him when he was doing something wrong. Most kids learn that sort of thing from birth, their parents teaching it to them until it's automatic. But Dudley? He honestly has trouble understanding right and wrong. Now, schoolyard bullying is one thing —and ugly enough on its own, in my opinion— but think bigger Harry. Imagine when Dudley grows up, if he tries that sort of behaviour when someone annoys him at work, or in the supermarket or something. What do you think will happen?"
"I don't know," Harry admitted.
"Well, I tell you what won't happen. It won't be a mere detention or suspension that his parents coddle him over. It won't be a complaint by another parent that your aunt and uncle can dismiss and ignore. No, as an adult, most of his behaviour could be counted as criminal assault, or a few other illegal things. Vernon and Petunia's choice to never punish, never set rules, could one day wind up with Dudley in jail."
Harry gaped. "Really?"
"I didn't—I never thought about it like that."
"Like I said, it's less obvious but no less damaging to indulge a child as it is to shun one."
"So, all the time you've been spending with Dudley…"
"I've been trying to teach him the rules and limits his parents never bothered with before," Mr Harrison said. "It's not easy —it's slow going— but I think I'm making progress. It also helped that I found something he really enjoys, something that gives him an excuse to hang around and listen to what I have to say."
"The cooking!" Harry said with realisation. "I thought he was setting me up for something, when Dudley started demanding he make breakfast sometimes. Why else would he want to take over one of my chores?"
"But Dudley doesn't see it as a chore. He's a bit of an epicure your cousin," Mr Harrison said with a smile.
"He enjoys his food and drink—likes to indulge in tastes and flavours. Of course, that doesn't help his overeating any, but during our cooking lessons I've included a lot of information on the food pyramid, and calorie counts, and daily recommended intakes. I've also spoken to him very bluntly about some of the long-term dangers of obesity. Hopefully some of it sinks in. He has taken an interest in more healthy recipes, so long as they still taste good."
"So, you're teaching Dudley to be a better person…by teaching him to cook," Harry said slowly, trying to assimilate the knowledge. "And it's working. That's—you're either mad or a genius."
Mr Harrison laughed. "Perhaps I'm both."
"A mad genius?"
Harry sighed. He sighed again. He peeped one eye open…and was met with the exasperated expression on Mr Harrison's face. He ducked his head.
"Sorry. It's just—it's hard."
"I know," Mr Harrison said. "But it could be quite important."
"Well, yeah, I wouldn't want someone to read my mind. But…it wouldn't be the end of the world, right?"
Mr Harrison just made a humming sound before clapping his hands. He nodded his head and his expression turned solemn. Harry sat up straighter in his chair, attentive, wondering what Mr Harrison was thinking that had him so serious.
"It's time then."
"Time?" Harry asked.
"Time for you to know about your history."
And then Mr Harrison told Harry a story. He told him about a terrible wizarding war with a man called Voldemort —though everyone called him You Know Who, or He Who Must Not Be Named, so great was their fear— who hated all things Muggle and wanted to 'cleanse' the wizarding world, raising up the Purebloods as the superior race. Well, that was part of it—mostly it sounded like he just wanted to rule over everyone himself, and live forever, and hurt and kill people a lot. He was what Mr Harrison called a 'sadistic, psychopathic mass-murder with a god-complex'. The story got darker and darker, and it seemed like You Know Who was going to win. But then there was a prophecy.
"A prophecy?" Harry asked in a hushed voice, enthralled by the tale. "What did it say?"
Mr Harrison frowned. "I wish I could tell you Harry."
Harry nodded, assuming this meant Mr Harrison didn't know what it said. But he must have known something about it, because he was able to explain that the prophecy drew You Know Who's attention to two young boys, barely more than babies, who he feared might be his downfall. Eventually, he decided which child was the true danger, and he decided to kill him.
"He wanted to kill a baby?" Harry asked with revulsion.
His horror grew abruptly and infinitely greater, and his attention sharpened, when Mr Harrison said that You Know Who found the home of the Potters. There was a battle and he killed first James Potter, and then Lily Potter when she would not stand aside from her baby. Finally, You Know Who turned his wand on the child.
"No, no that's—it didn't happen like that," Harry said shakily. "Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon said it was an accident, a car crash that—" Harry froze, realisation setting in. In a broken voice he said, "They lied?"
"I'm sorry Harry. Yes, they did."
And then Mr Harrison was kneeling in front of his chair, pulling him into a hug. And even though Harry hadn't much experience with that sort of thing —at all— he threw his arms around his teacher's neck and clung tight, hiding his tears.
"But when You Know Who tried to kill that child," Mr Harrison continued the story in a murmur, "when he raised his wand and cast the Killing Curse, something unexpected happened. The curse rebounded. It turned back on You Know Who and he was destroyed, while young Harry Potter survived with nothing but a curiously shaped curse-scar on his forehead."
Harry gasped, and reached up to trace the lightning bolt on his brow.
"And all over the wizarding world people celebrated, and they praised the boy who had somehow —miraculously— saved them. They called him the Boy Who Lived, and as the years passed his legend only grew, until he was quite famous."
"I'm famous?" Harry asked, the shock of that fact enough to push back his tears. He scrubbed his cheeks then, suddenly embarrassed to be acting like a baby, and pulled away from the hug to sit back on his chair. "But why? It just happened. I didn't do anything special…did I?"
"Probably not," Mr Harrison admitted. "It was probably something your parents did to protect you. But still, it was you the curse rebounded off of, and you who survived, so it's you they all praise. Well, not all of them. There were others, faithful to You Know Who and his cause, whose opinion of the Boy Who Lived is a lot less positive—people who were never caught, or bought their way to freedom."
"W-would they try to hurt me?" Harry asked nervously.
Mr Harrison nodded grimly. "That's certainly a possibility. Of course," he added with a proud smile, "they won't be expecting a boy as powerful and advanced as you are. They certainly won't expect one who can keep on fighting even if they took away his wand. Most wizards are useless without it."
Harry gaped. "Is that why you've been teaching me?" he asked in a whisper. "So I can protect myself?"
"Part of it, yes. And it's also the reason I want you to learn this Occlumency, even though I know it's difficult for you—some people just don't have the right natural temperament for it. But, there are some very-not-good people in the wizarding world who might take advantage of your mind being defenceless."
Harry wrapped his arms around himself as he considered. "How? It's not like I know anything that has to be kept secret—nothing that could be bad if they found out."
"Not yet, but that might change. Besides, Legilimency can be used to more immediate effect." Mr Harrison got back up and sat down in his own chair opposite. He hummed thoughtfully before suggesting, "What if someone kidnapped you, and you decided to escape through a window they accidentally left unlocked as soon as you were alone. But before you even got a chance, they read the plan in your mind—"
"And then they could lock the window, and my plan would be ruined," Harry realised with wide eyes. "That's—I guess I see why it's important then. Occlumency, I mean."
"Yeah." Harry nodded, and a determined expression settled over his face. "I will figure it out. I'll work harder than anything, I promise."
Mr Harrison considered him, then smiled. "I believe you will," he said approvingly. "Let's try some more meditation."
A silence fell. Harry's mind couldn't help but go back to the knowledge that his parents were murdered. And the Dursleys had always made them out to be irresponsible drunks, who got themselves into a car crash! Well, mostly only Uncle Vernon spouted those lies lately, but Aunt Petunia still didn't correct him. Harry's fists clenched, anger surging within him.
But then he remembered what he was supposed to be doing, and how important it was. He forced his hands to unclench and his body to relax. Then he took deep, slow, even breaths and tried to clear his mind, to let go of the anger and all the other emotions. It was difficult, and he knew it would take lots of practice and time —certainly more than the last few minutes of recess would provide— but he wouldn't give up till he figured it out.
Harry landed in the receiving room of Seakeep and fell to the floor.
He was a bit early. Okay, a lot early. Normally he arrived mid-morning after he'd finished his chores, but it was barely dawn right now. Harry had woken early and, after spending some time practicing meditation, decided to practice something else he'd been working on with Mr Harrison. Only, it had gone…awry.
Luckily Harry's teacher had told him that Seakeep was always open to him, no matter the time of day, and also that he was always available to help. And, well, Harry was definitely in need of help right now.
"Mr Harrison!" he yelled, voice more than a touch anxious. "Mr Harrison, are you home?"
Either he heard Harry, or had come at the triggering of the wards, because Mr Harrison soon appeared in the doorway and stared. And stared some more. And then had to muffle laughter. Harry pouted, and held up his hands and feet. Except they weren't —hands and feet, that is— but hooves instead.
"Help?" he asked pathetically.
"Of course," Mr Harrison said with mirth, approaching and pulling his wand. "So, some sort of hoofed animal then." He sounded vaguely surprised. "Any idea what, exactly?"
Harry nodded. "I think I'm a horse!" he said with pride.
Mr Harrison froze. "Suddenly her Patronus takes on a whole deeper meaning," he mumbled.
"What?" Harry asked, not understanding, but Mr Harrison brushed him off.
"Never mind that. Let's see here."
He tapped his wand to each extremity in turn, muttering an incantation, and Harry sighed in relief as they turned human once more.
"Well," Mr Harrison said as he stowed away his wand, "I must say, I'm impressed. Few people make so much progress in so little time."
"But I got stuck," Harry mumbled, embarrassed.
"Ah, happens to the best of us," Mr Harrison said, ruffling his hair.
Harry ducked away but grinned. "Even you?"
Harry bounced to his feet as he recalled something: "You said you'd show me your form after I found mine!"
"I said maybe I would," Mr Harrison corrected teasingly. "And besides, you only think you know. You're not positive."
"But sir," Harry whined. "You said it had to be a secret so I didn't cloud my mind with preconceptions. But now I know I'm probably a horse, it doesn't matter."
"Unless I'm a goat, or a cow, or a giraffe—something else with hooves.
"Well…I'm nearly ninety-nine percent sure I'm a horse. I promise not to get confused."
Mr Harrison laughed. "Alright, alright. I suppose it wouldn't hurt. I'm not a hoofed animal anyway. Don't even have four legs."
And then, before Harry's wide eyes, Mr Harrison shrunk and sprouted feathers and a beak. When he was done, Harry was left staring at a handsome bird of prey with uncharacteristically emerald eyes. It launched itself into the air and soared around the room, then made a short but impressively quick dive to perch on the back of a couch. When it shifted back to human form, Mr Harrison was still sitting there, legs dangling down so his feet rested on the cushions.
"Peregrine Falcon," Mr Harrison told him.
"Wow," Harry said, with some envy. "You get to fly without a broom. That's so, so…"
"Wicked," Harry agreed solemnly. He sighed. "Suddenly a horse doesn't sound so great."
"Hey no, none of that," Mr Harrison said, shifting so he was sitting properly. Harry automatically dropped down on the other end of the couch. "You know, I think there might have been a time when I'd have ended up a horse too?"
"You think so?"
"Mhmm. When I was younger maybe, and a bit less battle-worn, a bit less jaded. I didn't learn the transformation till my early thirties, and by then I suppose a more predatory animal was a better fit. But you're not me," Mr Harrison said, peering at him oddly. "A horse Animagus implies nobility, bravery, faithfulness, strength and speed. Not bad, right?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed, feeling proud once more, even if wings would have been awesome. "I guess a horse is pretty cool too."
There was food on the table, and rather than stuffing his face Dudley was standing off to the side, watching. Harry shifted in his seat. He slowly raised the spoon to his mouth as his aunt and uncle did the same. He took a sip and, without thinking about it, his eyes slid closed and he hummed.
"Oh, Dudley, it's wonderful," Petunia praised.
"Delicious," Vernon agreed, taking another hearty slurp.
Dudley beamed. "I'll get the next course ready."
"But Dudders," Petunia called as he went to the leave the room. "What about you? You can't skip meals—you'll waste away."
"Oh, it's fine," Dudley yelled over his shoulder. "I'm eating mine while I cook."
Some time and several courses later, the three diners pushed back their empty desert bowls. They were all blissfully sated, while Dudley was gleeful and smug. Harry had to hand it to him—Dudley really had a talent for food, and not just for eating lots of it. His month away at the cooking camp Mr Harrison recommended had been well-spent.
When Dudley declared that, "I'm going back again next summer," no one even considered arguing. Not even Petunia, who had fretted terribly not so long ago about her 'Duddy-dinkums' being away from home for so long.
When sixth year rolled around Harry found himself with Mr Harrison for a teacher for the third year in a row. He was very pleased with this.
When he realised he was once more in class with Dudley, he didn't let it bother him much. Dudley spent most of his recess time these days in a corner of the school kitchens, which Mr Harrison had convinced the cooks to let him use. Ironically, Dudley was more popular than ever, albeit for entirely different reasons. It was no longer out of fear of getting on his bad side that people sucked up to him—it was so they got to be the ones to taste-test his creations.
At home the kitchen had become entirely Dudley's domain, so much so that cooking was no longer one of Harry's chores. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon bragged endlessly to their friends, co-workers, people at the shop —basically anyone who stood still long enough to listen— about their little 'culinary savant'.
Though, Vernon did insist Dudley should take up a sport as well, just so nobody got the wrong idea and thought he was some 'pansy'. Dudley decided on boxing. Harry felt that the last thing Dudley needed to learn was how to punch better, and was unendingly grateful that Dudley was more interested in hanging around in kitchens these days than in putting his new boxing skills into practice on unwilling victims like Harry.
Harry pictured a single candle flame, small and steady, and he fed every stray thought and emotion into it. As he did so, he repeated his meditation mantra over and over again —Peace, calm, a clear mind— until the words stopped making sense as words, and held only meaning.
"Legilimens," Mr Harrison cast.
Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm—
Confusion! No—he fed it into the flame, which had begun to flicker, and it settled down once more.
Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm—
FEAR! The candle flared. Harry breathed deeply and evenly and fed the fear into the fire. Slowly it settled back down, a harmless candle-flame once more.
Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind.
A flicker of—but no, he was at peace, he was calm, he had a clear mind.
The candle remained steady.
Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind. Peace, calm, a clear mind.
Harry felt the Legilimency magic retreat, and let the chant of his mantra fade. Mr Harrison was beaming at him, and Harry felt a matching expression spread across his own face as he realised what had happened.
"I did it," he whispered in awe.
"You did. Harry, that was fantastic! I'm so proud of you."
Proud—Mr Harrison was proud of him. Harry felt like he was glowing, so bright he could outshine the sun.
Harry felt like someone had dropped a bucket of ice cold water down his back. He swallowed, hoping he'd heard wrong.
"Leaving?" he echoed weakly.
"That's right. This will be my last year teaching you. Well, teaching at Little Whinging Primary. But you'll be off to Hogwarts anyway."
"But—that's—" Harry shook his head. "Why?"
"Because it will be time for me to go," was all Mr Harrison would say, no matter how much or what way Harry asked.
"But I can still come and see you right?" Harry finally pleaded.
As he asked, Harry's hand reached up to grip his Portkey-glasses tightly. Like he was afraid they would be taken from him. Mr Harrison gave him a sad look.
"You'll always be welcome at Seakeep Harry."
But though the words should have reassured him, Harry's stomach twisted, like he'd missed something important, some vital clue. Harry nodded, but the frown didn't leave his face.
Harry worked extra hard in his magic lessons over the coming months. Maybe—maybe he thought that if he did really, really well, then Mr Harrison would change his mind. Maybe he'd decide it was worth sticking around—that Harry was worth sticking around for. When he accidentally let that thought slip, Mr Harrison had ruffled his hair and smiled sadly.
"Harry, no," he said, shaking his head. "Don't you ever think I'm leaving because of you, or because you're not worth it. You're so worth it Harry. Believe that. I'm so incredibly proud of you, and how much you've progressed. And I promise you, if I had another choice, I'd stay. For as long as you wanted me to."
It didn't make everything automatically better, but it did cause some knot within Harry's chest to ease, to know it wasn't some lack on his part that was sending Mr Harrison away—in fact it was the opposite, and Mr Harrison wished he could stay just for Harry.
Still, it didn't stop him working harder and harder at magic. His wandless skills were improving steadily and impressively, his studies were advancing at a good rate, and his Animagus form…
"You're sure you want to try this?" Mr Harrison asked.
Harry nodded. He'd gotten in a lot of practice so far this summer, while Dudley was away at cooking camp. He'd transformed each part of his body dozens of times. All that was left was to put it all together—admittedly, the most dangerous part of the process, but the only way to move forward.
"I can do this," he said with confidence.
"Okay, go for it."
Harry closed his eyes and cleared his mind —Occlumency, he had found, was brilliant for getting into the right emotional mindset for magic— before drawing on every scrap of determination and want and need he could find, and focussing on the change. He started at his fingers and toes, felt the magic sweep over his hands and arms, his feet and legs, then his torso, and finally his head.
"You did it!" Mr Harrison cheered.
Harry opened his eyes and was met immediately by his reflection in the mirrors Mr Harrison had set up for the occasion. He stared in awe, hardly able to believe that the animal was him. The horse was still a colt, but you could tell it would be lean and powerful when it grew. The eyes, surprisingly, were dark —for some reason Harry had half-expected emerald eyes to be his Animagus-marker like with Mr Harrison— but his mane…
He gave a snort of despair as he tossed his head. Mr Harrison snickered and ruffled his atrociously wild mane, so at odds with the rest of the sleek, black form. Ah well, it could have been worse he decided, as he turned in a circle on shaky legs that soon grew confident—he could have ended up with a lightning bolt pattern, in some mockery of those white patches you sometimes saw down the bridge of a horse's face. No, the last thing he'd want was a permanent reminder of his parents' deaths on his Animagus form as well.
"How would you like to go for a run?" Mr Harrison asked.
Harry's excitement emerged as a whinny, and before he knew it they were gone. They emerged on a seemingly-endless plain. Harry almost landed on his face, between the disorienting feeling of the Apparition and the still-new limbs. When he gathered himself and looked around though, he found himself prancing back and forth eagerly. He tossed his head questioningly at Mr Harrison.
"Go on then," the man said. "Have fun. I'll call you back when we have to go."
And then Harry took off, carefully at first, but growing faster and faster as he gained confidence. The way the wind whipped by him, the way the ground sped past…
He felt so free —it was almost like flying!— and suddenly Harry didn't mind at all that he wasn't a bird like Mr Harrison was. This was different, but no less exhilarating.
"It came!" Harry shouted as he arrived at Seakeep. "Mr Harrison!"
"I can hear you," the man said as he entered the receiving room. "No need to yell."
"I've been getting up early every day the last two weeks, and nothing, but then I got up this morning and finally it came!" Harry babbled excitedly, waving a parchment envelope around in triumph.
"I take it you didn't even wait for breakfast before coming over?"
Harry faltered. "Ah, no," he admitted sheepishly. "But Aunt Petunia won't pay it much mind. They've gotten used to my disappearing all the time by now, and just let me be." He sighed wistfully. "Though, it is a shame to miss one of Dudley's breakfasts."
"Come on then," Mr Harrison said, clasping his shoulder to lead him from the room. "I can't promise it'll be to Dudley's standards, but I make a decent omelette. Have breakfast, read your letter, and then we'll see about taking you to get your school things."
Harry froze. "Wait—you'll take me to Diagon Alley?" he asked breathlessly. "Really? Today?"
"Sure. Unless you're busy?" Mr Harrisons asked teasingly, and laughed when Harry hurried to assure him that no, his schedule was wide open.
Diagon Alley was brilliant! Firstly, it was like stepping back in time—and Harry was suddenly glad he let Mr Harrison convince him to wear a set of robes, even if he had worried about looking like a boy in a dress at first. Secondly, everywhere he looked was magic. The witches and wizards used it in every aspect of their lives like it was perfectly normal. Harry was enchanted.
At Gringotts, he saw his first ever non-human beings: goblins. They were a surly bunch, but couldn't bring down Harry's buoyant mood.
At Mr Harrison's direction, Harry said his key had been misplaced, after which he had to fill out about a hundred forms —some with a quill that scratched at the back of his hand painfully— and then get poked at by something called a Probity Probe, and then walk underneath a waterfall of all things, that the goblins called Thief's Downfall. He wasn't sure why, but he must have passed the tests because Griphook nodded, satisfied, and ordered some other goblins to change the locks on Harry's vault. He and Mr Harrison then waited a half hour in the lobby until Griphook had his new key ready, and took them down to his vault.
"Whoa," was all Harry could say when he got a look at the piles of gold within.
"Now remember," Mr Harrison said in a very serious tone—the one that made you pay close attention. "You never, ever give your key to someone else, the same way you would never give your credit card or pin number away in the Muggle world. No matter how much you trust a person, or even if they say they're just getting money to buy your school supplies for you, you just don't. There's no reason to loan them your key when you can just give them a Gringotts Draft."
"Right, you'll need—" Mr Harrison sent a look toward Griphook who nodded.
"We'll have one created when we get back to the lobby," the goblin promised.
Apparently a Gringotts Draft was something like Uncle Vernon's cheque book, except it involved some magic and Harry's vault key, and it would need Harry's blood, willingly given —that was an important distinction, apparently— to make it valid when he signed.
After Gringotts, Mr Harrison took Harry to get his school trunk, so that they'd have something to carry his purchases in. One by one they worked their way down the equipment list, and soon the trunk was filled with Potions ingredients, a cauldron, vial and scales, the assigned textbooks —there was no need for other books, since pretty much every extra one Harry was interested in, Mr Harrison already owned and would let him read whenever he pleased— parchment, quills and ink, dragon-hide gloves, black wizard robes, a pointed hat and a cloak, and a telescope.
And then Mr Harrison led Harry into Eeylops Owl Emporium, a dark and mysterious-feeling place full of rustling feathers and soft hoots. Mr Harrison looked around before leading him over to a corner where there was a snowy owl in a golden cage.
"So, what do you think?" Mr Harrison asked him, staring at the bird with a soft expression on his face. "I'll get you a cat or a toad if you'd prefer, but—"
"Wait, you'll get me?"
"Well, you can take a pet to Hogwarts, and I know it's a week early, but still—I think it's a good enough birthday present."
"Birthday present?" Harry asked, eyes wide. He'd never gotten a birthday present before. "For me?"
"For you. So, what do you think?"
Harry turned to the owl. "I think she's beautiful," he said honestly, and the owl hooted and preened, as if it understood and approved of the compliment. "You don't have to get me anything though."
"But I want to," Mr Harrison insisted.
Then he picked up the cage and headed back to the counter, where he paid for the owl as well as the other bits and bobs Harry would need to keep her. Five minutes later they were strolling down the alley once more. Harry had the cage clasped to his chest so it didn't swing about, staring at the bird within in awe.
"Thank you," he said quietly, but with feeling. "Thank you so much."
Mr Harrison ruffled his hair. "No problem Harry. I'm glad you like her. Thought of a name yet?"
"A name?" Harry asked, drawing a complete blank. "I don't know. Maybe you should name her?"
Harry nodded. "You did buy her for me. Yes, you should name her."
Mr Harrison looked at the owl and smiled. "How about 'Hedwig'?" he asked, and the owl perked up and hooted.
"I think she likes it," Harry said, and Hedwig it was.
Their last stop of the day was a place called Ollivanders to get a magic wand. Harry was sort of ambivalent about it. On one hand: it was a magic wand! How cool was that? But on the other: he didn't really need a wand to do magic, unlike most people, and was a bit wary of them, because Mr Harrison said relying only on a wand made your wandless casting skills weaken.
But then of course, after dozens and dozens of wands, he found his wand. It was like he'd stuck his finger in a wall socket, except it didn't hurt, power just rushed through his body. He stared at the wand, stunned, as the shower of gold and red sparks twinkled out. He knew the theory —wands drew your magic out, and amplified it— but experiencing it was something else entirely. He understood now why even people who managed little bits of wandless magic as children forwent it in favour of their wand…though he promised himself he would not be one of them.
"Curious," Mr Ollivander said, tone slightly ominous. "Very curious."
"Pardon? What's curious?"
Harry was a bit dazed as he wandered out of the shop. His wonderful wand suddenly had a sinister side, and he wasn't sure how to feel about that.
"Don't worry about it," Mr Harrison said.
"But what does it mean, that we both picked brother wands?" Harry worried.
"It doesn't mean we might be—" He hesitated, before forging onwards. "—the same somehow?"
Mr Harrison actually laughed. "Goodness no," he said, so honestly dismissive that Harry relaxed. "No, it just means you're both suited to a phoenix feather core. Going by the lore, it implies you're both powerful, potentially good with a wide range of magic, independent spirits, and special in some way. But consider the woods: holly is considered the tree of life, while yew is the tree of death. They're practically opposites. Anyway, I'll lend you some books on wand lore and the effect of brother wands when we get back to Seakeep. Alright?"
Harry nodded, already feeling much better. "Okay."
"What do you mean, you're leaving? I thought you just weren't teaching at Little Whinging anymore."
It was the evening of August thirty-first. Harry would be starting Hogwarts tomorrow. After informing his guardians of his schooling plans the week before, Vernon had practically lost his mind and tried to lock Harry back up in the cupboard. Harry was not impressed. He snuck out that night when they were sleeping —Muggle locks were nothing in the face of his wandless magic— scribbled a quick note of farewell that he stuck to the fridge, and activated his Portkey. Mr Harrison had been very understanding and more than willing to let Harry stay until he had to leave for Hogwarts. The following days, staying at Seakeep, had probably been the best of Harry's life.
And now this.
Mr Harrison sighed, and gave him a sad smile. "It's like this Harry: things can only be bent so far before they break, and reality's no different. A hell of a lot of work, Arithmancy equations and extrapolations went into determining just how much I could bend things—and Merlin knows I've pushed it to the very limit. Three years was that limit, Harry. Three years, and a whole lot of secrets I wish more than anything I could have revealed. Things that by rights you, and others, both deserve and need to know." He sighed heavily, and dragged a hand down his face.
"I don't understand," Harry admitted in a small voice.
"I know. See, this is the last, biggest secret I'm allowed to tell you. And I can only tell you now because I'll be gone soon." Mr Harrison leaned forward, rested his hands on Harry's shoulders and looked him right in the eyes. "I'm you Harry. That's why we're practically mirror images of each other, different ages aside. I'm a future version of you, and I came back in time to change the world."
Harry stared dumbly at him. "What? That's not—"
"Oh, it's possible alright—just really difficult, and really, really inadvisable. But things didn't go so well in my timeline. We won the war, but were too sloppy, too slow about it. Gave the enemy too much opportunity to be reckless and destructive and draw attention."
"What war?" Harry demanded, but was ignored.
"It spilled out onto the Muggles too often, and with their technology…" He shook his head. "Give it a few years, and what they can do with science will seem like magic. And it'll be too much, too clever, for mere Obliviations to cover things up."
"I don't understand," Harry said, a bit frantically, as Mr Harrison pulled away. "Wait, you have to explain it more."
"I can't. I'm sorry." And then Mr Harrison —his future self?— was fading! "I have faith in you Harry. I have faith I'll be returning to a better world, because I know you can do this. You're ready."
"To do what?" Harry asked, stepping forward and reaching out, but his hand passed right through the man. His breathing hitched as panic set in. "Don't go yet, please," he begged. "I'm not ready, I'm not!"
"I've left you everything: Seakeep and everything in it, including the library."
Harry gasped. "I don't want Seakeep if it means you won't stay!"
"Goodbye Harry," Mr Harrison said regretfully.
And then he was gone.
Harry stood frozen for a moment, before letting his arm fall lifelessly to his side. He swallowed hard and stumbled over to the nearest armchair. He dropped into it like a puppet with their strings cut, then curled up with his knees hugged to his chest.
"What do I do now?" he asked, but there was no longer anyone there to answer him, and Harry felt very, very alone.
More author's notes:
Again, I reiterate: I can't promise to continue this as a series. This story may well just remain alone, complete as-is.
I know, what a horrible way to leave it! But on the other hand: unleash your imagination, readers. I have here a Harry, ready to enter the wizarding world, who is both more advanced and more knowledgeable than in canon. That could make for some fun plot bending.
Again, this might be the end. Or maybe I will find the inspiration to continue. Who knows.
Reviews make me happy (hint, hint).