Harry Potter and the Hermetic Arts
Chapter 1: "You Don't Say?"
"Yer a wizard, Harry!"
Harry, the short, bespectacled boy with unruly raven locks, garbed in the ill-fitting clothes, regarded the big, hairy bear of a man who had introduced himself as Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, in the same regard as one might an adult who had just earnestly said the world was flat, or a very dull child, say, like his cousin, Dudley Dursley.
"You don't say?" said the boy in the tone one might use with a young child proudly showing a random stranger a hand turkey they had made in class.
"A wizard!" continued the big man, barreling on oblivious to the boy's tone and the changing expressions of the adults in the room.
"You don't say," Harry said again, taking off his glasses massaging his forehead with his thumb.
"Well, didja ever make anythin' happen, anythin' yeh couldn't explain…"
The boy held up a hand, interrupting Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. "So, why are you here?" he asked, already tiring of the rambly nature of the man's talking.
With a grunt of effort, Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts pushed himself off the sofa he had plopped himself onto; beneath his weight, the furniture groaned in protest, and the giant of a man reached into his pocket, pulling forth a white envelope with a red wax seal as he crossed the room to the boy. Towering over Harry, he handed him the envelope, and Harry examined the text, before turning it over and seeing the seal was already broken. Looking up at the big man, he asked, "Have you been reading my mail? That's a crime, you know."
Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts sputtered in indignation, but Harry ignored him, opening the envelope and drawing forth the letter within, unfolding it and silently reading it for merely a moment before folding the letter again. "I'm afraid you've the wrong person," said Harry, as he put the letter back into the envelope before offering it back to the hulking mass standing over him.
"What do yeh mean?" said an incredulous Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts.
"The letter is to a Mr. Poffer," said Harry. "I'm Harry Potter, not Harry Poffer, though I can see why you might give the letter to me, since the envelope is addressed to me, but the letter inside is for a Mr. Poffer, and I'm not he."
"What?" said the giant of a man, opening the envelope and pulling out the letter, unfolding it and reading it. "No, this is fer yeh," said Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, pushing the letter back into Harry's hands.
"Then you should hire somebody who has better penmanship to write these letters," mumbled Harry critically under his breath. "The lower case Ts look like Fs, and the lines aren't even straight."
Silently, he read the letter to himself, then folded it back up and put it in its envelope. "I think we should go."
The tub of fat that was Vernon Dursley jumped up and started to say something, but Harry cut him off. "Uncle Vernon, this man is a wizard, so I don't think you want to antagonize him. He's already smashed his way through a door, and it's already a miracle the shotgun didn't go boom when you pulled the trigger despite the bent barrel."
Vernon Dursley might not be a bright man, but he was in no ways the dimwit who had sprung up from his loins; though he started to say something, he considered his nephew's observations and swallowed, nodding in agreement before shouting, "Get out!"
Casually, Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, pulled a pocket watch from his pocket and looked at it, then sighed. "We're a bit behind schedule," he said. "Best be off," he added, before turning to go, not even checking to see if Harry was following, though Harry was but a step behind him.
The return trip to England proper was by boat, and now, he was sitting on the tube, reading the letter to himself again. Once more coming to the supplies he was to have for the school year, Harry frowned. "Can we find all this in London?" he asked, looking to the eight-and-a-half-foot tall man.
Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, leaned forward conspiratorially and said, in a low voice, "If yeh know where ter go."
"Where ter go" turned out to be a seedy dive bar lit with candles and filled with people dressed as though they thought they were still in the Victorian era. As Harry entered behind the man he was now fairly sure either had a medical condition or wasn't wholly human, as normal people did not grow to be eight-and-a-half feet tall, the barman greeted him cheerfully.
"Ah, Hagrid," said the balding barman with an accent that sounded like his tongue was too thick for his mouth. "Usual, I presume?"
"No thanks, Tom," Hagrid called back. "I'm on official Hogwarts business." With a pat on Harry shoulder, which had enough force to feel like a rather solid thumping, he added, "Just helping young Harry 'ere buy his school supplies."
It took a moment for Harry to place the expression on the barman's face, and even then, he wasn't sure if it was genuine surprise, gratitude, or if his face was just frozen from too many botox injections. Nonetheless, the barman exclaimed, "Bless my soul! It's Harry Potter!"
Suddenly, every conversation in the pub ground abruptly to a standstill as eyes and faces turned towards him. Then, the man sitting closest to him reached over and took his hand, shaking it vigorously.
"Welcome back, Mister Potter, welcome back," said the man shaking Harry's hand.
"You don't say?" was all the boy managed before another voice pulled his attention to a woman at the bar.
"Doris Crockford, Mister Potter; I can't believe I'm meeting you at last," said the woman, also taking his hand and shaking it.
"You don't say?" managed Harry, stepping backwards and bumping into Hagrid's gut. Then, he was swarmed by well-wishers and grateful souls.
Thin man in a turban inched his way through the crowd, before finally coming to a stop before the boy. "Harry… Potter," said the man, in what Harry could only describe as a bad stutter. "C-can't tellya how... pleased I am to meet you."
"Neither can I," said Harry, before sarcastically thinking to himself, I'm not a mind-reader here.
"Hallo, Professor," said the big lumber man to the thin turbaned man. "I didn't see yeh there." Turning to the small boy, he added, "Harry, this is Professor Quirrell; he'll be yer Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."
Harry gave the turbaned man a once-over, then sighed in disappointment. If this was standard of professors employed by the "finest school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world", as Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, had said, particularly for a subject that sounded as important as "Defense Against the Dark Arts", then Harry wondered what standards were like in the rest of the world. Nonetheless, he offered a hand to the professor and said, "Nice to meet you."
Professor Quirrell, Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts, wrung his hands and stuttered a response, but Harry was already ignoring him; already, he found the stuttering annoying, and he wasn't in a class he taught yet.
Hagrid said something, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder, but Harry wasn't really paying attention to the words; he was too busy looking around the tavern and observing just how badly lit and dilapidated the whole thing was, shuddering inwardly at the idea of using candles for a primary form of illumination. This was the world in which witches and wizards live, a world with perpetual bad lighting and LARPers? Nonetheless he let himself be pulled along, through a door into a blind alleyway of a few barrels, glass barrels and three brick walls.
"How'd those people know me?" asked Harry, as soon as the door closed behind them and he and Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, were alone in the blind alley.
"See, Harry, yer famous," said the lumbering lunk, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"You don't say?"
That conversation died an awkward and painful death as the very tall and portly man pulled a pretty pink umbrella from the inside of his coat and began prodding the wall. As he finished, the bricks began to rotate, then parted, forming an archway..
"Welcome Harry, ter Diagon Alley."
The streets suddenly revealed to him looked like they had been plucked from the pages of a Jules Verne novel with its lanterns hanging from the side of buildings to the facades on the shops crammed together along the street. For a moment, Harry thought he was at a steampunk LARPing event, then realized it was unlikely given the immense number of people in robes, which were most certainly not Victorian fashion, and he followed Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, down the street, ignoring his babbling as he looked around, more in disillusionment than wonder. How was it the world of witches and wizards were so far behind modern times?
As they walked by the row of shops, something struck the young raven-haired lad. "Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, how am I to pay for this?" he asked.
"Yeh can call me Hagrid," said Hagrid, before pointing at a building not far ahead. "There's yer money, Harry. Gringotts: the wizard bank," he continued, before Harry cut him off.
"I know how to read; I know that's a bank," said the boy. "How specifically am I supposed to pay, when I don't have any money?"
"Yeh didn't think yer mum an' dad would leave yeh nothing, didja?" said Hagrid, as they entered the bank; inside was a spacious hall filled with many stations manned by numerous bipedal creatures shorter than Harry, who himself was small for his age, with large, erect ears pointing in points and noises ending in points, many of whom were bald or balding.
"Um, Hagrid, what exactly are these creatures?" asked the small child, looking from creature to creature cautiously as the two strode past the innumerous stations where robed seemed to be conducting their own business.
"They're goblins, Harry," said the gigantic man, who looked even more ridiculous when walking by the creatures who barely came up to his waist. "Clever as they come, goblins, but not the most friendly of beasts."
Up until then, Harry had thought Hagrid nice, but hearing him describe clearly sapient creatures as "beasts", he couldn't help but wonder if the tall man was a racist, or if the entire society was strangely backwards.
Striding up to the station at the back of the bank, Hagrid cleared his throat, leading the teller to look up with an expression of annoyance. "Mister Harry Potter wishes ter make a withdrawal," said Hagrid.
Standing up and leaning over the high podium to look down at Harry, the goblin asked, "And does Mister Harry Potter have his key?"
Looking up at the goblin banker with their sharp-toothed mouth, Harry found himself comparing the creature to the pictures he had seen in some illustrations and realized, aside from having hair and a completely different skin color, the goblins he was seeing weren't all too different than what he had seen before, even if those goblins clearly weren't real goblins. Helplessly, Harry shrugged, hands up and palms out, his expression one of powerlessness.
It took Hagrid a moment to realize something was amiss, and another to jog his memories, before he reached into his coat and began to dig around in the pockets. "Wait a minute," he said as he pawed his person. "Got it here somewhere…"
After a long moment of searching, Hagrid's expression brightened, and he pulled a small, ornate gold key from his coat, holding it up. "Here's the little devil."
"Wait, why do you have my key?" asked Harry suspiciously. "I've never met you before today."
"Why, Albus Dumbledore gave it me, Harry," said the big hairy barrel of a man, as though it explained everything.
"Who the hell is 'Albus Dumbledore'?" asked the small boy, growing increasingly suspicious.
"Why, Albus Dumbledore is the greatest wizard…," gushed Hagrid, only to be interrupted by an increasingly exasperated Harry.
"No, I mean, why does a fucker who I've never met in my life have my key?" snarled Harry, then cut off Hagrid before he could say anything else. "You know what? I don't want to know. But when we finish, I'm taking my fucking key."
"Hagrid, is that Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard,'s key?" asked Harry in a tone one might use to explain something to a small, stupid child of five years still struggling to learn numbers.
"Is that Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts,'s key?"
"Is that Harry Potter's key?"
"Motherfucker, are you Harry Potter?"
"And am I Harry Potter?"
"Then give it here before I tell the bank manager here Rubeus Hagrid and Albus Dumbledore are conspiring to take unlawful possession of Harry Potter's Harry Potter's key."
"Gringotts Wizarding Bank frowns upon those who interfere with Gringotts business," added the bank manager, giving the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts a withering look.
A moment of indecision hanged in the air as Hagrid seemed to weigh his options. Then, his shoulders slumped slightly, and Harry knew he had won. "I guess it wouldn't hurt…"
It took Hagrid a moment to gather himself, before something seemed to dawn on him. "Oh, and there's something else as well," said the man as he pulled a twine-tied envelope out of his coat, holding it up and shaking it slight as he spoke, his voice low and conspiratorial, like he was telling a secret. "Professor Dumbledore gave me this. It's about you-know-what in vault you-know-which."
It was at this moment Harry Potter decided Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, might well be simple but almost certainly never to be trusted with anything discrete or important. Even if he was speaking softly, there was every possibility Hagrid could be overheard, and yet he openly talking about something he very clearly wanted to keep secret out in the very public and very busy lobby of the bank, and he had just been browbeaten into submission by a small child.
Harry Potter shook his head in dismay, much to the enjoyment of the goblin at the workstation.
One uncomfortable ride in a mining cart later, not unlike what he imagined a roller coaster might be like if it were to have no safety precautions, Harry Potter found himself standing before an open vault containing heaping mountain of coins, Harry Potter's key in Harry Potter's pocket.
"All yers," said Hagrid proudly, as though he himself had something to do with the accumulation of the fortune piled high inside the vault.
Ignoring the big, portly man, he turned to Griphook, as the goblin who accompanied them to the vault had been called by the bank manager, and asked, "What denomination are these?"
"The gold ones are Galleons, the silver ones are Sickles, and the bronze ones are Knuts," answered the goblin.
Gold, silver and bronze? It was almost like their currency system were from an age long gone. Metal coins were heavy, and paper money had been in circulation for a very long time, so why were witches and wizards using such a backwards method for economic transactions?
Ignoring the burning economic questions, Harry turned towards Hagrid. "How much of this am I going to need for my school supplies?" he asked.
The large man did not answer, but instead scooped a sizable heap of coins into a bag before dropping into Harry's hands, then turned to Griphook and said something, ignoring the small boy struggling with weight of a bag of gold pieces. Once again, Harry found himself bundled into the minecart with the lunk and the goblin.
Another white-knuckle ride in the minecart later, they reached their destination, a vault with no keyhole in its door, but not before the giant of a man's face had started showing signs of nausea and distress. By this time, though, Harry was busy with his own thoughts, so he paid no mind to the words exchanged around him, but his curiosity was piqued when the vault opened, and instead of something obviously valuable, the vault held no more than a brown-paper-wrapped package, no larger than Hagrid's hand, which he used to pick it up.
And then, another minecart ride followed, and the rather large breakfast Hagrid had eaten that morning vacated his stomach through his mouth.
Author's Note: This story is based on a story pitch written by a friend of mine, Shinshikaizer, and posted on r/HPFanfiction. Together, he and I worked out the full mechanics of the magic system Harry would use if he had developed his own magical system based on tabletop RPGs (namely, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, Ars Magic: The Art of Magic, and Shadowrun, all of which were published prior to 1991); though he wrote the original prompt for the story, he left the details to me and agreed that I should have full creative control of the story, so I chose to write what Harry Potter might be like if he had spent three years of his life at a hobby shop when he wasn't at home or school.
Credit and thanks to Shinshikaizer for writing the original pitch.