"Witness the might of the Eternal Warlock!" Harry proclaimed to the front lawn of number four, Privet Drive. "Mwahahaha!"
"Harry, could you help me in the kitchen?" Aunt Petunia called through an ajar window.
He struck the ground with the butt of his staff. "You ask this of me, who possesses the ultimate power?"
"Put that power to good use and shell these peas," she said. "Make sure to wash your hands first."
"Yes, Aunt Petunia." Sighing, he hid the well-polished stick behind the flowerpots and traipsed inside.
Over the years, his guardians had become grudgingly tolerant of him and Dudley playing samurai or superheroes or whatever other wicked stuff they saw on the telly, but Petunia liked tidiness in her garden, and he didn't want to lose his Staff of Doom. After all, he'd spent a week drawing mystical runes on it using a felt-tip pen nicked from Dudley.
The reason for Vernon's and Petunia's aversion towards all things fantastic eluded him. Why, the first time he and Dudley had raced down the stairs pretending to shoot ki blasts at each other, Harry's aunt went white as a sheet and his uncle nearly had a conniption. The boys were forced to endure a stern talking-to, with Petunia asking her Duddykins whether Harry had done anything weird, before the adults allowed the play-acting to continue—after a careful explanation that none of that 'nonsense' was real, that is.
Vernon still grumbled about 'that foreign rubbish rotting their brains' whenever he spotted the cousins watching Dragon Ball, but Dudley was rarely denied anything, and it would have been hypocritical of his parents to permit only one of the boys to enjoy their favorite animated series.
A classmate Harry had confided in guessed that the Dursleys were ultra-religious. He said his cousin from the countryside was forbidden from watching TV and reading any comics or books not approved by his parents, for they were filled with the words of the devil. Harry just nodded in sympathy back then, thinking that his own situation was different. The Dursleys and the little Potter did go to church on Christmas and Easter, but God never came up in a day-to-day conversation in their household.
Most nine-year-olds wouldn't have dwelled on this mystery for long, but he figured that his guardians, perfectly normal people that they were, wouldn't be acting this odd without a reason. Furthermore, Harry himself vaguely recalled a couple of incidents from his early childhood when unexplainable stuff occurred around him.
That being said, he couldn't make anything weird happen no matter what occult invocations he spoke while brandishing his staff, nor how much he strained his muscles while pretending to power up, so perhaps it had just been his imagination. Either way, Harry knew better than to ask his family for clarification.
At least he could play whatever he wanted these days, with Aunt Petunia adopting a weary resignation towards his antics. Harry was still careful not to go too wild within eyeshot of his uncle, who could be downright scary when angered; he usually retreated to his room or the nearby park after Vernon came home from work.
"Oi, cuz, I got homework that needs doing," Dudley said, blocking the corridor with his meaty arm.
"Get on with it, then," Harry shot back.
"I'll give you my pocket money," Dudley offered, jingling the coins in his fist.
He stared at him with distrust. "Money first, or you'll just 'forget' again."
"Heh. Whatever, I'll just ask Mum for more."
Accepting the coins and Dudley's exercise book, Harry proceeded into his room. This was a frequent occurrence lately, and he suspected his 'help' was the only reason his cousin was maintaining his mediocre grades. Dudley had lost any motivation for schoolwork and spent all his time in the company of the school's most notorious bullies. He'd also grown to be nearly twice Harry's size—in width, if not height—which came in handy when extorting lunch money.
Owing to their familial relation, Harry was never a target of Dudley's gang, but the boys never talked in public anymore. Harry was told he was too lame to hang with the cool kids, and his cousin denounced ever having any interest in 'stupid Chinese cartoons'. That stuff was for specky geeks, after all.
As a result of them drifting apart, the last two years of primary school weren't very pleasant. Harry never made many friends, and without Dudley's imposing presence to deter them, his rowdier classmates were free to deride him for being too skinny, wearing dorky glasses, or loudly discussing an ongoing show during recess with a rare fellow soul. Perhaps he'd have renounced his favorite pastime, were it not for the anime club at the local library.
After pestering his aunt into allowing him to join, he never missed a meeting. The group would watch various series and movies, and squabble about whether subs or dubs were superior until they were blue in the face. While the senior members treated him like a snot-nosed brat, he could feel an undercurrent of camaraderie through their shared hobby. For Harry, it was the best time of the week.
Their de facto leader was Brandon, a chubby teenager who peppered his speech with Japanese words and butted heads with anyone who dared disagree with his opinions. The others considered him obnoxious, but Harry didn't mind him much, even though he did insist on calling Harry a kouhai and ridicule all of his childhood's favorite series. Brandon was always teaching him new words, and he also brought in the most interesting shows.
It was here in the library that Harry's life was forever changed.
"It's after hours, and you know what that means, gentlemen," Brandon said, glancing at his watch before rising from his chair. "We turn the kiddy garbage off and put on some quality entertainment. I got something amazing this time—the uncensored hot springs episode alone is a masterpiece."
"You guys are so gross," a female voice said from the back. "I'm out of here."
Chairs scraped the floor as the majority of the club filtered out of the room. Brandon locked the door and headed for the computer, peering at the handful of boys who stayed. His eyes lingered on Harry.
"Maybe you should go home for tonight. This stuff's not for kids."
"But I want to watch! Please, senpai!"
Brandon's pudgy face colored slightly. That was the first time Harry had used the word despite all his previous attempts to get the younger boy to call him that. "Fine, just don't tell anybody."
"You didn't bring porn, did you?" another teen asked.
"Pfft, it's nothing but wholesome fanservice!" Brandon scratched his pimply chin and began fiddling with the computer. "Don't fret, it aired on TV in Japan—although how they get away with showing this, I haven't the foggiest. Living there must be awesome... There we go."
Harry gazed at the projector screen with bated breath, caught up in the riveting story of an average teenager who discovered a hidden power, transferred to a special school, and inexplicably ended up living with a bunch of cute girls. Salacious shenanigans like the main character walking in on a girl getting changed or tripping and accidentally groping her chest had him blushing, and he was glad the lights in the room were off.
"Er, guys... what is this kind of show called?" Harry asked in what he hoped was a nonchalant tone.
As usual, Brandon was eager to flaunt his knowledge. "That, my friend, is a harem."
"A harem," he repeated wistfully, now watching the protagonist receive scrumptious lunchboxes from three different girls. Harry's own school lunches were bland and soggy, and Aunt Petunia's fad diets were even worse. "I think I'd like one of those."
Scattered laughter greeted his words.
"It's every man's dream," Brandon said solemnly. "Sadly, that's something that can only exist in the pure world of 2D."
Harry nodded thoughtfully. This anime was like nothing he'd ever seen before, and he had to have more. His aunt had promised to buy him his own computer if he continued getting good marks at school; if he was allowed to keep it in his room, perhaps he could look up those sorts of things with the Dursleys being none the wiser.
Joining the club aside, Harry's most life-altering event transpired during dinner with his family prior to his eleventh birthday. A sharp crack sounded somewhere in the street, causing Petunia to drop her fork with a clatter. She clasped it again and stilled, fingers whitening with tension, then relaxing as the silence outside stretched on.
Then the doorbell rang, and Petunia nearly jumped out of her chair. Oblivious to his wife's distress, Vernon raised his head from his meal and stood with a grunt. Harry followed his uncle with his eyes, curious about what visitor could be calling this late.
"Good evening, Mr. Dursley. My name is Minerva McGonagall, and I'm the deputy headmistress at—"
"Look here, we don't need whatever it is you're... selling..." His voice faltered.
"Vernon!" Petunia rushed to the door. "Vernon, she's one of them!"
"I can ruddy well see that!"
Harry glanced at Dudley, but his cousin obviously had no more idea of who 'they' were than he himself did. Taking care not to scrape his chair against the floor, he stood and tiptoed to the kitchen door. From that spot, McGonagall's crisp voice could be heard clearly.
"Mrs. Dursley, it's good to see you in such high spirits. May I come in? We have things to discuss."
There were heated whispers that Harry couldn't make out before the front door banged shut. Petunia hurried back into the kitchen, her face paler than he'd ever seen.
"Dudley, go play upstairs. Harry—living room, now."
It was a testament to how severe she looked that even his cousin obeyed without talking back. Harry gulped and followed her to the living room, where he was greeted by an unusual sight.
Minerva McGonagall turned out to be an elderly woman—a lady, he corrected himself—who wore a long black coat over a dress straight out of a historical drama. Sitting on the couch with her back ramrod straight, she held what appeared to be a pointy hat in her lap. Uncle Vernon occupied the armchair on the opposite side of the coffee table, his mustache quivering as he scowled in the guest's general direction.
Harry lingered at the threshold until his aunt ushered him in and sat him down on the second armchair. Petunia herself remained standing, as though hinting the unexpected visitor not to overstay her welcome.
The lady smiled at him gently. "Good evening, Mr. Potter. My name is Minerva McGonagall, and I'm a professor at Hogwarts. Do you know what that is?"
Harry clutched the armrests, uneasy at the attention. "No, ma'am."
"It's a good thing I decided to come in person, then," McGonagall continued with a slight frown. "Hogwarts is Europe's premier school of witchcraft and wizardry. You have a place there, just like your parents did before you."
Harry choked back his laughter at that ridiculous statement when he saw the pained expression on his aunt's face. He glanced at the hat the purported professor was holding.
"Are you saying I'm supposed to be a witch... er?" He imagined himself swinging a silver sword and slaying monsters.
"Women are witches, Mr. Potter—you, on the other hand, are very much a wizard."
He leaned forward eagerly. "You mean I'll be able to do magic? And wear a pointy hat and everything?"
McGonagall smiled, stroking the brim of her iconic headwear. "Why, certainly. The hat is a part of the Hogwarts uniform and is worn on formal occasions. As to your first question, that's what our school is for." She paused, glancing at the Dursleys. "Muggle parents often require a demonstration before they're convinced this is not a practical joke of some kind, but I'm not sure it is necessary in this case..."
Harry bounced in his seat. "Oh, please!" he uttered before his guardians could protest.
"Very well." McGonagall produced a thin stick—an actual wand, Harry thought with a thrill—and gave it an intricate twirl, pointing at the coffee table. The wooden construction shuddered and collapsed into itself, turning into a colorful garden gnome.
"Whoa..." Harry gaped at it, hardly believing his eyes. The woman was a real witch. She did magic. And, if she was to be believed, he could learn it too! He lifted his head, about to pelt the professor with a million questions, but they stuck in his throat when he saw the state of his family.
Vernon was crossing himself—he never did that—while Petunia whimpered, covering her mouth with trembling hands. Noticing their alarm, McGonagall sighed and raised her wand again.
"There's no need for dramatics," she said, disdain coloring her voice. An almost careless gesture returned the coffee table to its original state. "It was basic Transfiguration—you must've heard about it from your sister, Mrs. Dursley, seen it—"
"M-my sister," Petunia interrupted, finally finding her voice, "my sister, whom you took away from us and got killed!" Sobbing, she drew closer to Vernon, who squeezed her in a one-armed hug.
"I thought my parents died in a car crash," Harry said in a betrayed voice. Magic didn't seem so neat all of a sudden.
"Poppycock," McGonagall said firmly. "James and Lily Potter were murdered by a Dark wizard, one whose name we dare not speak to this day. He was the one who gave you that scar"—Harry's hand shot up to his forehead—"vanishing in his attempt on your life. Your story is famous in our world, Mr. Potter."
"Enough," Petunia demanded. "He's just a child!"
"You would deny him his heritage? The knowledge about the fate of his own parents?" The witch's voice became agitated for the first time that evening.
"If it protects him, yes." Petunia raised her chin. "I'm not going to let you take my nephew away like you did his mother."
McGonagall pursed her lips at the accusation, but her next words were conciliatory. "No one is going to force Mr. Potter to attend, of course—he can decide whether he wants to or not himself. I merely wish to make certain he is aware of his options."
Petunia sniffed. "Do you expect me to trust you people to keep him safe?"
"Harry, why don't you go to your room," Uncle Vernon interjected, patting his wife's hand gently. "We have a lot to discuss with the professor here."
Given how it was his future that was being decided, Harry was reluctant to leave, but Vernon's tone brooked no argument. He nodded and left, closing the door behind him and wincing when the voices of the three adults quickly rose in volume and pitch.
Knowing full well how much the Dursleys valued obedience, he didn't loiter outside the door but went up the stairs and began preparing for bed. Dudley's incessant questions were deflected on autopilot as his mind reeled with all he'd learned. He was a wizard—he was capable of doing magic—except it wasn't all fun and games. His parents, apparently a witch and wizard themselves, had been murdered.
Even when he lay down in bed, his thoughts kept him awake. He felt a pang of anger at his guardians for never telling him the truth, but then he remembered how scared Aunt Petunia had been at the prospect of McGonagall taking him away. He'd always had to work harder than Dudley to gain his family's approval—not that he would ever voice the complaint—thus his aunt acting so protective of him made him happy. Yet it was also worrying, for it meant the magical world was truly dangerous. Well, hopefully less dangerous now that the bad guy was gone.
"Magical world," Harry whispered, his eyes wide open yet seeing mysterious castles, wondrous creatures, and ancient forests rather than the familiar darkness of his bedroom. It wasn't much of a choice, was it? He'd been fascinated with fantasy worlds for most of his short life and was just told that one actually existed. There was simply no way he'd let this chance slip by! And if there were evil wizards lurking about, it was only smart to learn as much magic as possible so he could defend himself.
Emboldened by his decision, Harry got up, stepped into his slippers, and sneaked downstairs. He followed the sound of hushed conversation to the dimly lit kitchen, where he found Vernon and Petunia talking over a cup of tea.
Harry shifted his feet, the small noise causing his aunt to look up sharply. Her expression softened when she saw the boy and she beckoned him closer, ruffling his messy black hair.
"Has that McGonagall lady left?" he asked quietly.
Petunia pursed her lips. "Yes, and not a moment too soon."
"All those things she said—they were true, weren't they?"
"They were," she said with a sigh.
"I'm sorry," Harry blurted out after a short silence. "You know, for being a—a wizard."
Vernon and Petunia exchanged uncomfortable glances. "It's not your fault… son," Vernon said gruffly. "You can't help it, being born this way."
Petunia nodded and patted Harry on the head. "Do you even want to go to that madhouse of a school? The witch swore it was safe, but…" Her disgusted expression clearly showed what she thought of McGonagall's promises.
Harry nodded guardedly. "I do."
The Dursleys exchanged another long look, then Harry's uncle reached into his pocket and withdrew a thick, yellow envelope.
"Then I guess we'll have to make arrangements for your shopping trip."
Harry beamed, his genuine happiness lightening up even the somber expressions on the Dursleys' faces.
Harry eyed the shabby storefront with suspicion. It didn't look like much, but it was the only place to get a wand, Hagrid had said. He pushed the door open and stepped inside, the noises of the Diagon Alley fading as he crossed the threshold.
He gasped when his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. The shop was much larger than its exterior suggested, with rows upon rows of dusty shelves extending into infinity. Trying to figure out where they ended was making him dizzy.
"Wands. Lots of wands," he murmured.
"Very astute, Mr. Potter," a reedy voice said behind him. Harry whirled around to find a white-haired man watching him with startlingly pale eyes. "Good afternoon, and welcome. I was wondering when you'd show up."
"Er... hello, sir," Harry said, a little freaked out. The man had known who he was without even seeing the infamous scar. "I'd like to—"
"Buy your first wand, of course. How time flies! It seems only yesterday your parents were here to purchase theirs. Ten and a quarter inches, willow, for your mother; eleven inches, mahogany, for your father. Both well-suited to their particular talents—then again, no one leaves this place without a perfectly matched wand."
Harry considered the seemingly endless stock and gulped. The wandmaker led him towards the counter, then disappeared between the shelves as though swallowed by the darkness. He came back carrying a teetering stack of boxes in his arms.
"Shall we begin, Mr. Potter? Simply take the wand and give it a go," Ollivander explained, dumping the cases on the counter. "Here. Maple and unicorn hair, seven and a half inches, nice and springy."
Unsure what to expect, Harry picked the wand up and waved it around. The shopkeeper promptly snatched it back, muttering something under his breath, then thrust another one at him. "Ebony and phoenix feather—an unusual combination, but eminently effective in capable hands. Give it a try."
Harry pouted when his hands didn't appear to be capable, but Ollivander had another suggestion already. "Dogwood and unicorn hair, exactly ten inches—oh dear."
The wand made a loud ripping noise, and Harry let go in surprise. While embarrassed, he was still heartened to get a reaction; he'd been starting to think he had no talent for wizardry at all.
The next wand was pine and dragon heartstring, and for the first time, Harry felt a pleasant warmth emanate from the wood. When Ollivander extended his hand, he was reluctant to give it back, which didn't escape the wandmaker's notice.
"An affinity for pine? Hmm. A bit of a loner, are we?"
Harry ducked his head bashfully. When he raised it again, he saw that Ollivander was off to bring more boxes. Five pinewood wands were tried and rejected, Ollivander making thoughtful noises as they went through the stock. He then reached for a particularly dusty box at the bottom of the pile.
"Red pine, twelve inches, rather stiff. Dragon core, one of my... less popular variants."
Harry looked askance at Ollivander but picked it up. When his fingers gripped the smooth handle, an electrifying tingle shot up his arm, filling his body with heat. He gave the wand a broad sweep, shooting out multicolored sparks that lingered in the air.
"Mwahaha!" he laughed, feeling heady and energized. "Tremble before my power, mortals!"
"I am quaking in my boots," Ollivander said dryly, bringing him back to earth. "I knew this wand would find its master one day. Alas, not many wizards acquiesce to a core of a dragon's baculum."
"Also known as the penile bone," Ollivander said. "I do not have a diagram on hand, but the name should be self-explanatory."
Harry scanned the wandmaker's face for signs of mockery but found none. "So inside this, there's a dragon's..."
"Penile bone, yes. A splinter of such, if you wish to be exact."
Harry chuckled nervously. "Mr. Ollivander, please—surely you're just poking fun at a clueless Muggle-raised wizard like myself?" He slowly lowered the wand to the counter, but couldn't bring himself to let go.
The man drew himself up. "Mr. Potter, I treat my craft with the respect it deserves. Along with its heart, the baculum is a dragon's most magical part. The only reason I seldom use it anymore is that customers ofttimes refuse to buy wands with these cores."
"I wonder why," Harry muttered.
"Nevertheless, these tend to have much the same characteristics as heartstring cores, which is to say they are powerful and temperamental," Ollivander continued a little indignantly. "Paired with pine, they make the most adaptive and quick-learning wands."
Harry looked at the wand longingly, then at its maker who was gazing at him with affront. He sighed. "Alright, I'll take it, but you have to keep this a secret. No telling anyone—not even my kids, if I ever have any."
Harry left Ollivander's and looked around, quickly locating his towering companion. Hagrid's enormous strides soon brought him to his charge and he beamed at the boy, looking immensely pleased with himself. His shovel-like hands cradled a round cage with a large white bird inside.
"Ain' she a beauty?" The half-giant proffered the cage, causing the bird to flutter its wings to regain balance. "My present to yeh, Harry. Happy birthday."
The creature stared at Harry unblinkingly with its yellow eyes. He shuddered. "Look, Mr. Hagrid, I appreciate the gesture—"
"It's jus' Hagrid. Told yeh that already, didn' I?" He patted Harry on the shoulder with his free hand.
He winced, knowing things were about to get awkward. "Right. Hagrid, thank you for the gift, but—how should I put this—I don't really want an owl."
"Don' want her?" Hagrid's jaw hung open. "Owls are dead useful, they are. How else are yeh goin' ter write yer friends over the summer?"
He shrugged. "I'll just text them or something."
Hagrid glanced at him, then at the cage. "But I thought every boy yer age wanted one!"
"Sorry," Harry said with a grimace. "A bird like that would stand out in the suburbs, and Aunt Petunia would never allow it."
"Well, is there any other animal yeh'd like instead?" Hagrid asked hopefully.
"Not really. I just don't fancy cleaning poop every day." Hagrid's face fell, and Harry felt a pang of guilt. He added quickly, "If it was something cool, like a pseudodragon, I'd make an exception."
"Ain' tha' the truth," Hagrid said. "Bin petitionin' the Ministry ter let me breed dragons fer years, but they haven' budged yet. Lemme return this beauty ter the Emporium, then—if yeh're sure?"
"I'm sure," he confirmed.
They walked side by side, Harry shooting the downcast Hagrid furtive looks as he struggled to keep up. He wished he knew a way to cheer him up.
After they left the noisy and smelly owl shop, Hagrid stopped and stared at the younger wizard, frowning and scratching his beard for a good minute before perking up.
"How abou' a nice trunk? Everybody needs one."
They went to a boutique down one of the side alleys, where Hagrid got him an exquisite leather trunk enchanted to open only when its owner gave the correct password. Harry had a hard time figuring out the wizarding currency, but judging by the shopkeeper's smarmy demeanor, this model was fairly expensive.
"If young sir would kindly place his thumb on the handle—"
Harry obliged, eager to leave the shop. He jerked his hand away a second later and stared at his bleeding thumb.
"Ow! Bloody thing pricked me," he said incredulously.
Hagrid boomed a laugh. "Blimey, Harry, didn' even have time ter warn yeh. Don' s'ppose the lad could get another try?"
"I'm afraid the spell is quite permanent," the shopkeeper said, still smiling. "Top notch security, you understand."
Harry popped the sore digit into his mouth. "Wha' are you on abou'?"
A/N: Much like The Geek, this won't be a serious story. Some familiarity with anime might be necessary to enjoy it. Rated M mostly for coarse language and violence.