Chapter Three: Diagon Alley Pt. 2

With wands strapped to their forearms the small group of eager young witches and wizards piled out into the street. There were cries to visit the menagerie and moans about the bookstore while Delphi gently tugged on Professor McGonagall's sleeve. The professor looked down with exasperated fondness, "Professor, may I go off on my own for a while? I saw a second-hand robe store back by the tea shop and I'd like to get some other clothes too."

"That might be wise," Professor McGonagall agreed with a hesitant frown. "I am sorry to say the fund isn't what it used to be. Alright, go on – but meet the group back in the Leaky Cauldron by six thirty, and no later."

Delphi promised and then shot off in the opposite direction. The group of muggleborns were herded into Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions as Delphi weaved through the crowds to get to the trunk shop she had seen near the Leaky Cauldron. Inside, the tall muscular shopkeeper was reading a newspaper called The Daily Prophet where the pictures moved on the cover. "Excuse me," she called and when the shopkeeper bent his paper and peered down over his crooked nose she continued, "I need to buy a trunk and a bag."

"We've got all kind of trunks," the shopkeeper grunted before laying his paper down. "There's your standard models that come with up to four compartments. Then there's your academic trunks that hold storage for potions ingredients and a library shelving unit. And then you got your explorer trunks that have a flat inside complete with a loo and a kitchen."

"Er, I'd like an academic trunk please," she said slowly, wondering how on earth one fit a flat in a trunk.

The shopkeeper sighed and pulled himself to his feet slowly as if it caused him great pain to do so. "Alright, what color would you like the leather and silver or gold for the clasps? We just got a new shade of pink in if you'd like."

Delphi wrinkled her nose and shook her head, "Black leather is fine and silver for the clasps please."

"Go ahead and pick out a bag while I get your trunk ready," the shopkeeper started to make his way towards the back of the room before he stopped and turned. "You want any enchantments? Self-shrinking, anti-theft, that kind of thing?"

"All of them please."

With that Delphi watched him turn and disappear behind a thick red curtain. She turned her attention to the bags that lined the walls on hooks. Some of the name cards read things like Feather Light Charmed Bag – 3 galleons and Expanding Storage – 4 galleons. As she progressed further down the wall the name cards became longer and the prices more exorbitant. There bags that wouldn't rip and bags that repelled stains – some were charmed to have a cooling pocket for food and others had a special pouch for quills.

Delphi selected a black bag that's name card read: Fully Charmed – 12 galleons. It came with a warming pouch for hot food, a special place to hold her quills, and it had a weight charm. It was pricier than the others but she thought it'd be well worth it.

The shopkeeper returned a few minutes later as Delphi was browsing with a large black trunk over one shoulder. Deftly, he set the trunk on the floor and groaned as he leaned back up. "Right, so you got two compartments, a library shelving unit, and a potions storage cabinet. I laid on all the basic charms – the feather-light, the shrinking and enlarging charms, and the theft deterrents. All in all, it's gonna run you 'bout twenty-five galleons, thirty-seven if you want the bag too."

Quickly, Delphi counted out enough gold and stacked it neatly on the counter. When she was done the shopkeeper flashed her a grin. "All you need to do to shrink or expand your trunk is tap your wand on the lid. It'll shrink down to the size a matchbox so you can fit it in your pocket."

Delphi tucked her letter from her mother and her bag into the trunk and then practiced releasing her wand so that she could shrink it down. To her delight, it did just that and she slipped her trunk in her pocket next to the bag of gold. Then, with a bright and genuine smile, she turned and headed straight for Flourish and Blott's.

Flourish and Blott's was an odd store to be sure – with stacks of books that defied the laws of gravity as they leaned precariously and twisted into odd structures – but it was cozy and warm. "Hello," she was greeted by a teenage witch with dark blue hair and stars orbiting her pointed hat just above the brim. "First year at Hogwarts?"

Delphi nodded and the witch smiled. "Don't worry, I've been putting together stacks all day. I have a first-year bundle around here somewhere." The witch dipped below the counter and rummaged around, making quite a lot of noise until she popped back up with a stack of books in her arms. "Any other books you need? Or would you like to browse? I can keep these here for you."

"I would like to browse," Delphi admitted, "but I also am looking for books on a person, do you think you could help me?"

The witch smiled kindly and nodded, "No problem kid, who ya lookin' for? We got all sorts of biographies."

"I'm looking for a witch named Bellatrix LeStrange, have you heard of her?" Delphi needn't have asked. The happy smile on the blue-haired witch's lips fell and that was answer enough.

"Why would you be wanting to read about her?" Delphi bristled but tried her best not let it show.

"I just would," she bit out, unable to think of a plausible reason and unwilling to tell the girl that Bellatrix was her mother. "Can you help me or not?"

"Easy there," the witch held up her hands. "I'm not saying I can't – it's just an awfully depressing topic is all. You sure you wouldn't rather read about Merlin or we did just get a new book about Wendelin the Weird."

"I'm sure," Delphi replied coolly.

"Alright I guess," the witch shrugged. "It's your money. We don't have any biographies on her but there are some books that she's mentioned in. A Modern Magical History for one, oh I think she also has a chapter in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts. Hmm, what else…oh yes, there's a brief background on her in Almanac of Artistry – the Most Transcendental Transfiguration. Which one would you like?"

Delphi didn't even pause to consider before she said, "All of them."

If anything, her answer only made the blue-haired witch leerier, but after only a brief hesitation the witch went to work and started combing through shelves. Delphi turned and began browsing the shelves nearest her which turned out to be full of curses. She grabbed Curses and Counter-Curses, Compendium of Curses, and as she turned one more book caught her eye, Hogwarts, a History was on display on a table near the stairs.

Taking her selections, Delphi waited patiently by the register and slipped her books onto the counter near her school texts. The witch returned with three large tomes and plopped them down on top the stack Delphi had added with a thundering noise. "Any other requests?"

Delphi thought for a moment before she responded quietly. "Are there any on a wizard named Riddle?"

"Not that I know of," the girl responded coolly.

"Then no, this is all."

Delphi watched as the girl's brows rose when she found the books on curses in Delphi's stack but she didn't say anything. Most likely she was ready for Delphi to be out of her hair. Delphi counted more gold out of her purse, realizing she had much, much more than she needed and stored her books in her trunk's main compartment. Once everything was shrunk and safely stowed in her pocket, Delphi headed across the street to Scribbulus' Writing Instruments where she purchased fancy quills with long beautiful feathers and more parchment than she could possibly use. She knew she would need extra to practice writing with a quill and ink when she was so used to writing with pencils and ballpoint pens.

Her next stop was Slug and Jigger's Apothecary where the shopkeeper, who wasn't very busy if his empty shop was anything to go by, showed her how to pick the best ingredients. Delphi got two cauldrons along with her ingredients, a small pewter cauldron that her list called for and a silver self-stirring cauldron for her. She collected supplies all over the Alley, from a model of the galaxy that shone and turned for her perusal to a few bars of the sweetshop's dark chocolate.

Finally, Delphi was left with her robes and a pet with over an hour until she had to meet Professor McGonagall back at the Leaky Cauldron. Delphi chose to get her robes first and headed into Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. The herd of first-years following Professor McGonagall was no where to be seen thankfully and Delphi was promptly shown to a small platform next to a boy with wildly curly dark brown hair and sky-blue eyes.

"Alright dearie," the matronly witch who shooed her up onto the platform cooed. "Hold your arms out nice and big, that's right and now spread your legs apart – that's it. Now I'll leave my tapes to get your measurements and I'll be back when it's done."

With that she was gone, off to help a very blonde witch who was thumbing through fabrics on the other side of the store. "Is that your mum?" Delphi asked the boy next to her with a nod of her head towards the witch with Madam Malkin.

"Yes, she's trying to find a suitable gown for the Ministry gala this weekend," the boy told her as the measuring tape wrapped around his head.

"That's nice. Are you about to start Hogwarts as well?" Her own measuring tape decided right then was the perfect time to measure the inside of her legs and Delphi fought down a blush.

"Yes, I expect I'll be a Slytherin – most of my family has been. Though, my Uncle Evan was a Ravenclaw." The boy paused and looked over to her, eyeing her jeans with something close to distaste. "Has any of your family been to Hogwarts?"

Delphi hesitated, wanting dearly to claim her mother loudly and to all that would hear her. But her mother's warning kept bouncing around in her mind and she shook her head. "No, I'll be the first. I'm a muggleborn." The lie was bitter on her tongue and Delphi looked away from the boy's blue gaze. She was sure he probably had heard of her mother if the witch in the bookshop was anything to go by and she wanted to know all she could about her family as fast she could.

But there was danger lurking in this shiny new world and she didn't have the knowledge to perceive it yet. It was best to go slow, to find out all she could on her own before asking questions that bring unwanted attention down on her.

'Such a shame – she's pretty. Mother would have a coronary if she knew I was talking to a muggleborn.'

It wasn't the first time Delphi had slipped into the minds of her peers but she was thankful that it was much easier to stay out of the minds of witches and wizards than it was of muggles. Muggles thoughts felt like cold clammy hands grabbing at her – trying to drown her in a sea of turmoil. Witches and wizards didn't feel that way though, their minds were lighter and brighter – they didn't pull her attention away but rather just sort of nudged her with their presence with more abstract feelings and nebulous intent than actual thoughts.

"So what do your parents do?" Delphi asked when she could think of nothing else to say.

"Do?" The boy repeated wryly with a twist of his lips that Delphi was sure wasn't a smile. "Well my father is in Azkaban so he doesn't do much of anything. Mother attends to the demands of our position but she doesn't actually work."

"Oh," Delphi replied rather dumbly. She wasn't sure what Azkaban was and she wasn't sure if it was polite or not to ask. She decided to risk it. "Sorry, but what is Azkaban?"

"A prison," the boy replied darkly.

The tape measure measuring the boy dropped onto the floor and he glanced down at it before kicking it away. "Well it was nice to meet you – er, I never caught your name."

"Delphi Riddle," she gave him a polite smile and held out her hand as the tape measure wound around her neck.

"Theodore Nott," the boy replied, gently shaking her hand with manners that impressed her. "I guess I'll see you at Hogwarts, Delphi."

"Bye!" she called after him but he crossed the shop with long, lanky legs and Delphi was left by herself.

Theodore Nott and his mother had left the shop by the time the tape measures measuring Delphi dropped to the ground. Madam Malkin came over in a flurry of large skirts and clucked her tongue. "Looks like you're done dearie. Now, are you just wanting the Hogwarts attire?"

Delphi shook her head. "No, you see I'm a muggleborn so I only have muggle clothes."

Madam Malkin was quick to catch on and flashed a sympathetic smile to the her. "And you'll be wanting a magical wardrobe then, is that it dearie?"

"Yes ma'am," Delphi nodded, thankful the woman didn't seem put off by her request.

"Well," Madam Malkin led Delphi over to the counter. "First, I'll need to know how much gold I'm working with."

With one hand Delphi withdrew her money pouch and set it on the counter for Madam Malkin to inspect. "This is all I have on me, but there's more in Gringotts if I need it."

Madam Malkin's brows rose high into her curled bangs as she glanced up at Delphi and back to the pouch of gold. "Not to worry dearie, there's more than enough here to get you looking like a proper young witch. Now, you hold on to that," she slid the purse back to Delphi, "and let's go browse together shall we?"

Taken under the gentle, kind wing of Madam Malkin – Delphi was led around the store to see fabrics and modelled dresses. "Now I know you're wearing jeans – muggles are quite fond of them, but witches don't generally wear pants. It's regarded as more of a masculine type of dress, unless of course you're dueling in the High Circuits. Would you rather stick to pants? If you would I could make some slacks…"

"No," Delphi answered quickly. "I'd like magical fashion – I don't want to stick out more than I already do."

An hour later and her trunk's second compartment full of new clothes, Delphi exited Madam Malkin's with a much lighter purse. She only had twenty minutes left before she was to head back to the Leaky Cauldron so she sprinted across the Alley and ducked into the Magical Menagerie. The shop smelled like a barn and there owls up in the rafters that would swoop down and watch the mice playing jump rope with their tails hungrily.

Delphi browsed even though she knew she was limited on time. She just couldn't get enough of the little balls of rainbow fluff that were called Puffskeins or giant orange snails that crawled up their glass walls leaving trails of neon goo in their wake. There were normal cats that played in their area and super-smart magical cats called Kneazles that wandered around, sometimes taunting and stalking the owls that swooped down.

But as fantastic as the beasts were, Delphi found her gaze repeatedly drawn to large black Raven that nearly three feet tall. It had beautiful glossy black feathers, a sharp beak that looked dangerous, and sharp intelligent black eyes. When Delphi approached the bird, it turned to her with its black eyes and cawed loudly. "Hey there," Delphi greeted the bird in a soothing tone. "You are gorgeous, aren't you?"

The bird ruffled its feathers and puffed up proudly. Delphi grinned and reached out one curled finger slowly to stroke the soft feather just below its beak. The bird preened under her touch and elongated its neck so that she could stroke it. "Aw, you are a beautiful bird. I'm looking for a pet you know," Delphi murmured as she slowly stepped closer and brushed the whole back of her hand against the black glossy feathers. "Would you like to come home with me? It's not much – I live in the muggle world for now. But soon I'll be off to a magic school and there will be all sorts of new sights for you to see."

The raven cawed loudly and nipped affectionately at her finger. Delphi grinned and pressed a kiss to its beak. "Alright my new friend, hop on and we'll blow this place." Holding out her arm, Delphi watched with a large smile as the raven hopped from its perch and landed gracefully on her arm.

"Excuse me," Delphi called out as she reached the counter and found it empty. "I'd like to buy this Raven please."

A dirt smudged face popped out from behind a thick curtain behind the counter and grinned at her before the man came though all the way. "She's a right picky bird miss – damn thing nearly took my finger off the other day. You sure?"

"I'm sure," Delphi told the man confidently as she used her left hand to stroke under her bird's beak. "How much is she?"

"Ravens are our most intelligent birds – wicked smart and can outfly an owl. She'll live damn near fifty years if you treat her right and take care of her." The man told her with a proud smile. "Couldn't have picked a better pet or mail carrier. She's twenty galleons plus you'll need a cage. So, twenty-five after all is said and done.

Delphi left the Magical Menagerie with a large smile and her raven on her arm. As she walked back to the Leaky Cauldron – ten minutes late, much to her chagrin – she started thinking of names.

Professor McGonagall was not happy when Delphi turned up but when she caught sight of the large bird on her arm, her professor gave a reluctant grin. "A good choice Miss Riddle, ravens are exceptionally bright pets and they make fine companions. I once taught a raven how to say spells – long ago when I was new to teaching. It really bothered the students that an animal knew more spells than they did."

"Ohhh," Hermione cried as she hopped up from the table and rushed to Delphi. "Oh, she's gorgeous Delphi. What will you name her?"

"I was thinking Pandora," Delphi grinned proudly and looked to her bird. Pandora had puffed herself up proudly and was preening under the attention.

"Oh, she's wonderful," Hermione sighed wistfully. "I so wanted to go in to the Magical Menagerie but mother saw a snake with a ruby in its head and refused to go in. Father says he'll take me next year and let me pick out a pet."

"Yes, yes, girls," Professor McGonagall jumped in and patted Hermione's shoulder affectionately. "You'll have plenty of time to catch up at Hogwarts or perhaps Miss Riddle could write to you over the rest of summer but for now we must be going or I'll be late for a staff meeting tonight."

Hermione and the other muggleborns piled into their parent's cars as Professor McGonagall held out her arm. "Alright, I live in Cokesworth," she told Pandora who listened to her with her intelligent gaze looking right at her. "You can either fly there and find me or you can try Apparating with the Professor and I."

Pandora squawked loudly and used Delphi's arm to push off, taking flight with her long wings. Delphi watched until Pandora was out of sight before taking Professor McGonagall's arm. "Alright Professor, let's go."

Landing on both feet and not retching was quite a feat that Delphi was proud of when she and the professor appeared in Cokesworth. Only, as her nausea faded – quicker this time, much to her delight – Delphi realized they weren't in front of her foster home. Instead they in front of a dreary townhome with a black door that had had a silver snake's head with a large hoop through its mouth as a knocker. "Professor?" Delphi asked as Professor McGonagall stepped forward and knocked three times. "Where are we?"

Before she could answer, the door swung open and man with oily black, chin length hair and obsidian eyes, was revealed. "Minerva," he greeted in a low growl, "you're late. Albus expects us for conference at seven."

"Oh Severus," Professor McGonagall sighed and Delphi thought she sounded like she wanted to roll her eyes. "You know how the muggleborns are – overzealous and reluctant to leave."

"Hey," Delphi growled as her professor laughed.

"My apologies Miss Riddle," Professor McGonagall grinned with her eyes shining in mirth. "This is Professor Severus Snape, he will be your Potions Master at Hogwarts."

Delphi eyed Professor Snape and his black robes that clung tightly around his chest and arms while his cloak billowed around him like they were wings. "Are you the one who's going to teach me Occlumancy?"

"Indeed, he is Miss Riddle," Professor McGonagall smiled down at her. "Professor Snape here has agreed to meet with you three times a week – for an hour and half each time – until school begins."

Delphi looked to Professor Snape and shot him a thankful smile. "Thank you, sir, you wouldn't believe how awful it is having muggles drag your attention in a hundred different directions."

"I believe I am well aware Miss Riddle," Professor Snape snapped at her. Delphi's spine stiffened as Professor McGonagall clenched her shoulder tighter in warning. "We will meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at five o'clock sharp. I do not permit tardiness; do I make myself clear?"

Delphi nearly scowled at the bitter, angry man but she managed to nod. "Yes, sir."

"Very well," Professor Snape sneered. "Do you know how to get home from here?"

Her immediate response was to say no, however as Delphi looked around she was surprised to find that she did know where she was. She passed by this exact spot multiple times on her walks in search of the mysterious wizard in Cokesworth. Honestly, she almost wished she hadn't met him. He was much more likable when she didn't know him. "I do, sir," she told him sounding as surprised as she felt.

"Very well, go home and I will see you on Wednesday."

Turning and making her way back down the steps, Delphi heard Professor McGonagall say, "Really Severus, must you be so –" and then her voice cut off as the door to Professor Snape's house shut behind her.

Delphi stopped on the sidewalk and turned to glare at the door the two professors had just disappeared into before sighing. She had too much to think about already without adding Professor Snape into the mix. She turned reluctantly and headed back to her foster home.