Prologue: Perchance To Fly

If one were an owl soaring over the British countryside on a cool midsummer morning bearing a letter that would shortly change a young boy's life quite drastically, one might be given to wax poetic about the fields and dells and picturesque little villages gliding past below. One might marvel at the importance of the task one has been given, and anticipate the pleasure one was about to impart. One might go so far as to turn a couple loop-de-loops on the dulcet breezes from the sheer joy of being alive and doing what one does best.

But this owl was an ornery old barn owl, and if one were him, one would fly grimly on through the dissipating fog, anticipating with neither pleasure nor pain the reaction one's burden was about to cause. One would simply deliver the letter and be done.

As Potter Manor came into view over a low hill a couple of kilometers outside of Godric's Hollow, the large bird slowed, rehearsing its letter's address: Harry Potter, south-west bedroom, Potter Manor, Godric's Hollow, West Country, England. Very simple.

The owl gusted over the low stone wall surrounding the property, ruffling his feathers at the annoying buzz of protective enchantments. The darn things itched like anything. Now, south-west bedroom…

But wait, it couldn't –? That wasn't the boy himself, was it? That scrawny little scrap of cartilage jogging along the inner perimeter of the wall? The owl surveyed him critically, and decided two things: yes, it was the boy to whom the letter was addressed; and, if he was a mouse, he would definitely not eat him. Not nearly enough meat on him yet, and that unruly black patch on top would be horrible coming back up.

Nevertheless, the owl was not there to decide on the hypothetical culinary quality of skinny human males. He was there to deliver a letter. So, pulling in his wings, the owl took a steep spiraling dive down at the little human below…

Harry enjoyed his morning run on general principle, but this morning's was particularly fine. The sun was rising beautifully in the east, the horizon a wash of peach and orange. His parents and Tom would be home from France very soon, and his dad was going to teach him and his friends to fly. To fly! And after all, it wasn't every day a boy turned eleven.

A sharp pain at his shoulder pulled him out of his pleasant mental ramblings. It felt like a pinch or a large hailstone – or an owl dropping a letter from above. The crotchety-looking animal settled in a nearby tree and watched him disapprovingly.

Harry grinned at it and bent to retrieve the letter. All of his parents' mail would have been taken to the back window of the kitchen for Tipsy to collect, and he would see anyone who would send him a birthday card later in person, so that had to mean…

He turned the thick, creamy paper over in trembling hands. Yes! Yes! The Hogwarts crest! That wonderful, magical, promising crest! He gave a wild, exalted "WHOOP!" of joy and sprinted up the south field to the kitchen entrance at the side of the large manor house, leaving a disgruntled barn owl behind.

"Tipsy!" he shouted wildly, "Tipsy, I got my letter! I got my Hogwarts letter!" He dashed around the scrubbed kitchen table, laughing exuberantly and catching the small, green house elf up in a lung-emptying hug.

"Master Harry, that is excellent news!" the tiny creature squeaked when she had been put back on the floor and regained her breath. "Tipsy just knew Master Harry would get his letter on his birthday! What an excellent birthday surprise!" She pushed her tiara back on top of her knobby head, beaming widely. Harry had given her the tiara a little over a year ago, after begging his Uncle Sirius to put a Perpetual Sparkle Charm on it, and the bauble was Tipsy's most prized possession.

"Isn't it perfect? Isn't it grand?" Harry continued rapturously. He hadn't even opened the envelope yet, wanting to prolong the moment. "I can't wait to show Mum and Dad and Uncle Sirius! Oh, and Tom will be stark raving envious! I'm going to go show the portraits!"

"Master Harry, Master Harry, did you still want Tipsy to wait to make the special birthday pancake breakfast?"

"Oh, yes, I want to learn to do that. Just a moment, Tipsy!"

And with that, the skinny, bespectacled, tousle-haired, and newly-eleven year old boy tore out of the kitchen, through the dining room with its Floo fireplace, up the stairs, down the wide hall and skidded to a halt at the entrance of the Potter Manor library.

"I just got my Hogwarts letter AND turned eleven," he announced proudly to the five portraits arrayed along the wall next to the windows.

A chorus of approval went up.

"Well done, young Harry!" cried Melody Potter, nee Peverell. "Congratulations!"

"You'll inherit the key to your trust fund now that you're schooling age!"

"Wonderful job, my boy!" called Aldous, the very first Potter.

"Happy birthday!" added Abram.

"Always knew you could do it!" from the pompous Gregory Potter, ex-Defense professor.

"Oh, hush, you old coot, of course he could do it, he didn't need you telling him…" Gregory and Melody weren't known to get along.

"Now, madam, a little encouragement goes a long way: I learned that in my days as a teacher you know."

"Fiddlesticks to your days as a teacher! Well done, Harry!" cried the cheerful and elderly Edith.

"Thank you, everyone," Harry said, smiling. He loved the portraits, and their banter was reminiscent of all the days spent studying in the library on his own, with only them and the books they recommended as company.

"What did your parents say?" Aldous, the oldest portrait called from down the wall.

"They're not home from France yet, but they will be soon. Dad's going to teach us all to fly!" His heart fluttered at the prospect. He had never been allowed to fly properly before, not on a real broomstick. Dad had always wanted to teach him and Tom, but Mum said it was too dangerous.

"Well, bully for you, my boy! Now go eat: you're half starved, by the look of you." The portraits chuckled and Harry dashed back down the stairs, grinning ear to ear.

The pancake breakfast was a disaster and a catastrophe and a mess all rolled into one, but, Harry reflected, the end result was doubly delicious because of all the errors and mistakes. Tipsy gave up on him half-way through, which probably didn't help matters at all, but she partook in the eating of them, and proclaimed them to be "You know, not too bad, considering." Especially when smothered in honey and strawberries and cream.

Cleaning up after themselves took the better part of two hours, after which Tipsy suggested they clean out the rest of the house too for when the Master and Mistress Potter and young Master Thomas arrived back, and Harry threw himself into the task with gusto. Everything would be perfect when Mum and Dad and Tom got home, and then his friends would come and they'd all learn to fly, and it would be perfect. His birthday would finally be perfect. Mum and Dad had promised they wouldn't forget after last year.

By 1 that afternoon, Harry and Tipsy had run out of things to dust and scrub and mop, and she had retreated to the kitchen again, leaving Harry in the large dining hall with the fireplace that was connected to the Floo Network, patiently waiting for the flash of green light that would signify his family was back.

But half an hour passed, and then another, and Harry began to drowse. It felt like he was melting into the sofa, and the fire was awfully warm and yellowy and green and –

GREEN!

He sat bolt upright, ignoring the shudder that always happened at the flash of green light, eagerly anticipating his mother, his father, his brother, and getting…

Roderick Malfoy.

The boy stepped from the emerald flames as if off of the red carpet, showing all the poise and breeding inherent in his name – until his grey eyes flashed and he broke into a mischievous smirk. He was about six months older than Harry, though two inches taller and much paler, and more sturdily built than his friend. His parents' influence showed only in his white-blonde hair and the unquestionable quality of his clothing. Otherwise, as he liked to say, he was his own sort of person.

"Hello, Harry! Happy birthday, mate!" he thrust out a hastily wrapped package before plopping onto the sofa next to his friend. "You look about knackered. Your mum have you doing your room on your birthday or what?"

"You've beaten them here, actually. But yes, I have been cleaning some. We made a proper mess in the kitchen making breakfast this morning."

Roderick grinned. "Anything I could have poisoned my brother with?"

"Sadly, no; the food itself was fine."

"Rubbish."

"Sorry."

They were silent for a moment, watching the flames.

All of a sudden, Roderick leapt to his feet: "DID YOU GET YOUR HOGWARTS LETTER?!"

Harry jumped up too. "YES! An owl dropped it on me!"

"Brilliant!"

"We're going to Hogwarts! Hogwarts!"

"Hogwarts! Away from my stupid prat brother and my father!"

"Yeah! Hogwarts!"

And that was how Daphne Greengrass discovered them a split second later when she literally somersaulted out of the fire.

"Delf!" the two boys chorused, helping the disheveled ten-year-old to her feet. She was skinny and pixy-ish with a sharp chin, a mess of wavy dark-brown hair and large eyes that were sometimes, well, any color. She was currently rather exasperated, so they were a sort of browny-orange.

"My brother pushed me!" she exclaimed by way of explanation as soon as she had all her hair out of her face and all her limbs oriented correctly. "Right as I was stepping in. I'm lucky I didn't wind up at… Plodder's… Cabin!"

"Is that a real place?" Harry inquired dubiously.

"Well, even if it wasn't, I would still go there," she said crossly, eyes snapping orange. Harry pursued the issue no farther. "Anyway, happy birthday, Harry," she said, smiling cheerily, her temper forgotten in a heartbeat. Delf was just like that sometimes. She handed him a gift wrapped in blue paper with a white ribbon, which he accepted and put on the side table.

"Where are your parents?" she asked, peering around curiously.

"Not here. Either you're early or they're late, and I bet it's the second. You know how Tom can get sometimes." The other two nodded sagely. Thomas Potter, Harry's nine-year-old brother, was notoriously uncooperative. They were patient with him though: it just came with the territory of being the Boy Who Lived. Allowances had to be made sometimes. Harry had been making allowances ever since he was three, when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named killed Grandma Potter and tried to kill Tom, giving him his famous crescent scar. Harry come out lucky, with only a crooked little scar on his forehead from debris of the house falling around him and a lifetime of coming second in everything.

"Where are they again?" Roderick asked.

"France. The Magical British Embassy is putting up a memorial for the War, and they wanted Tom there." Normally his uncles would have been there too, but this year his birthday fell on the day after the night of the full moon, so Uncle Sirius was helping Uncle Remus recover. Harry was disappointed about this, but not upset.

"Right," Roderick said vaguely.

"So what should we do?" Delf voiced the question they were all thinking. With no parents around, the main attraction clearly couldn't start yet.

"Well, you've never been here before. Want a tour?" Neither the Malfoy nor Potter families were keen on having their children traipse around the others' house, so the Greengrass' home was the usual meeting point for the three of them. Roderick and Delf were visiting the Manor for the first time in their whole friendship.

"Yeah, sure!" the other two chorused.

First, of course, he took them to the kitchen, where they met Tipsy and she gave them ginger snaps. So provisioned, they meandered around the rest of the bottom storey, seeing the large sitting room across the entrance hall and the coat room, where Harry showed off his secret way of peeking out at the near-by front door so you could see who was arriving and if you had to keep hiding.

The staircase took them to the second storey landing, where they were given brief viewings of Tom's room (the door tastefully decorated with a Chocolate Frog card bearing a picture of none other than Tom himself) and his parents' room which Delf quickly declared 'boring' and Roderick corrected her to 'spare and sophisticated'. She retorted than he was a 'perfectly aristo bourgeois prat' who should be 'ashamed for using words like that at the age of eleven'. Sensing an argument that wouldn't be serious but might take a while, Harry distracted them by showing them his room, which was smaller (and, to his mind, much nicer) than his brother's or parents'. His windows faced south and west, and were the first things to see when the door opened in the north wall.

"You see, this is exactly what I thought your room would look like," Delf said with satisfaction as she stepped across the threshold.

"And you're properly loyal, I see," Roderick noted approvingly, nodding to the Quidditch posters of the British team on the wall above his desk.

Delf pointed at his bookcase. "Have you read all these?" she demanded incredulously.

"No, of course not," Harry replied, smiling. Seeing his friends in his room was strange, but he liked it. "Those are the ones I want to read by the end of summer."

She nodded, distracted by one of the titles she saw.

"Did you get your Hogwarts letter?" Roderick demanded of her, sidetracked once again.

"YES!" she exclaimed, whirling around.

"We're all going to Hogwarts!" Roderick crowed triumphantly.

"We'll have the whole library there!" Harry exclaimed rapturously. "And I'll be away from Tom! Not just the brother of The Boy Who Lived anymore!"

"And my brother too!" Roderick cried. "He'll have to stay and I won't see him for months! And my dad either!"

"Who cares about any of that?" Delf interjected. "We'll get to learn, and properly use magic! REAL magic!"

"We'll get to learn magic," Harry and Roderick repeated in rough, awed unison. They all took a second to let that sink in, but then the moment broke and they all jumped up and down, shouting, "Hogwarts! Hogwarts! Hogwarts!"

"Hey, wait. Wait, wait, wait. Why don't we go to Diagon Alley?" Roderick and Delf were silenced by the audacity of Harry's suggestion. Go to Diagon Alley? Alone? Without parents or anyone? How… how… how tempting. "We could do our Hogwarts shopping all by ourselves!" Harry was warming to his theme. "One of the portraits told me I get a trust fund when I turn eleven. Just think: we could get books and robes and wands, our own wands."

"Yeah," Delf chimed in. "And when we get back your parents will be here and your dad will teach us to fly."

"Exactly!" Harry smiled happily, ignoring the twinge of anxiety at the mention of his parents being home. Today wasn't just a birthday: it would be an adventure. Even if his parents were late coming home from France, going to the Alley would be an adventure on its own.

"But… what if they come home and you're not here? What will they think?" Roderick asked.

"We'll tell Tipsy where we're going. Come on, Roderick, let's go!" Delf encouraged.

The blonde boy hesitated. "Well… alright, fine. But if we get in trouble, I'm throwing you both right under the Knight Bus."

Harry grinned. "Understood."

They had all been to Diagon Alley before, of course. It would have been nigh impossible for a young witch or wizard to make it to the age of eleven (or, in Delf's case, ten and eleven months) without having visited the famed street.

But now, oh, now. Now it was all theirs! They had no parents dragging them thither and yon on some mysterious adult errand; they had no whiny younger siblings to dictate the course of the outing; they had only themselves and the wide, wide world.

First, of course, they went to the bank, as they would be needing money to do those more interesting things like buy candy and books and wands. Gringotts was only more impressive than ever since there was no one tall and confident to hide behind, but Harry took a deep breath and marched on in through the main front doors, flanked by his two friends. He really did try not to gawk, but his efforts were largely wasted. The place was just so….brilliant. The second set of doors had the same inscription as they always did, but it had never seemed so… direct. All that about finding more than treasure had a rather ominous ring to it. Which, Harry supposed, was the point.

Gulping anxiously, Harry approached the long counter at the far wall, where a row of surly-looking goblins sat engaged in various important-looking money-related activities. Harry went up to the one with the least grouchy-looking face and cleared his throat nervously.

The goblin peered down at him as if inspecting a bit of lint. "Yes?"

"Er, um. Hello. My name's Harry Potter, and I turned eleven today."

"Congratulations," the goblin said sarcastically, looking back down at his ledger.

"Well, what I meant was, don't the Potters all get trust funds opened to them when they turn eleven?" His stomach twisted. Had the portraits been having a joke on him? He'd never heard of this trust fund business before they mentioned it, and wouldn't his father have said something to him? Wouldn't he have known?

"Hm…" the goblin muttered, reluctantly returning his attention to the overly-serious trio before him. "And can you prove your lineage? You could be any urchin off the street seeking to gain from the Potter's fortune for all I know."

Harry's heart sank. Proof? It had never entered his head he'd need to prove who he was. He had thought no further than opening his trust vault and having a birthday adventure with Delf and Roderick. They must think he looked like a fool by now. "I'm Harry Potter," he mumbled. "I turned eleven today." The goblin regarded him dispassionately for a moment and then reached into a drawer on his left and pulled out a small clear glass sphere, no bigger than a baby's clenched fist. He handed it to Harry, who examined it curiously.

"What is your name?" the goblin asked.

"Harry Potter, like I said," the boy replied, puzzled. Blue-ish grey fog swirled within the sphere.

"What is your age?" the goblin asked.

"Eleven years old today," Harry said, beginning to catch on. The blue tinge intensified.

"Why have you come here?" the goblin asked.

"To recover the key to my trust vault, as is the right of every Potter when he comes of age," Harry proclaimed triumphantly, and the sphere shone pure blue.

The goblin smirked. "I suppose you are who you say you are." He recovered the little ball from the boy, ignoring Delf's wimper of desire to examine it. "Very well, Mister Potter, if you would just wait here a moment." He disappeared as he hopped off his tall stool, leaving three excited children in his wake.

"That was amazing!" Delf exclaimed. "It was like a Remembrall and a mood ring and a Miracle Fish

all rolled into one!"

"What's a mood ring?" Roderick inquired.

"Yeah, or a miracle fish? What's wrong with regular old kippers?"

"Well, you know that old man who sells silly gimmicks right near the wall portal from the Leaky

Cauldron?" The boys nodded. "My dad bought me a few things there once, and mood rings and Miracle Fish are funny Muggle inventions for telling what mood you're in. Mood rings change color and Miracle Fish just sort of sit there in your hand being useless. Rather daft, if you ask me. After all, if you can't tell what mood you're in, why should a bit of plastic?"

"Sort of like your eyes, Delf," Harry cut in eagerly. "They change color with your mood. You've got mood ring eyes!"

"Oh, stuff it," Delf muttered, blushing a little bit.

At that moment, the goblin returned, announcing his presence by ducking under the counter and standing grouchily before them. He dangled a tiny golden key on a thin bit of string in front of Harry's eager face. "Your key, Master Potter. Now, if you will be so kind as to follow me, I shall escort you to your vault."

They followed him across the foyer to one of the many small doors in the wall, which opened into an ominously dark and dank… cave? Railway ties stretched away to their right and left, but straight before them was a black void which Harry would not have hesitated to dub 'bottomless'. Lanterns hung on each side of the doorway behind them, and the goblin took one off its peg, making the shadows undulate weirdly.

The goblin whistled shrilly, and, lo and behold, a simple four-wheeled trolley that looked suspiciously like an ancient coal cart rolled into view from their left. A pole was erected in one corner of it, the purpose of which was soon explained as their guide hung the lantern from the hook at the top. "Well, climb on in. I haven't got all day, you know."

But the three friends hung back, wide-eyed and nervous. "Do you think it'll fly off the rails?" Roderick whispered worriedly. "If it gets going fast enough and hits a curve wonky or something?"

"I don't like to think what would happen to us if it did," Harry returned, eyeing the gulf before them distrustfully. The little gold key was slick in his sweaty hand.

A moment of tense silence. Then, "Well, wasn't this meant to be an adventure?" Delf demanded hotly. The boys shook themselves out of their stupors and grinned sheepishly.

"You're right," Harry said, expressing a bravery he didn't really feel. "Let's go." They clambered into the trolley and settled themselves on the two narrow benches within, Harry sharing the front one with the goblin, and Delf and Roderick behind.

From the first screechy lurch of the trolley, Harry knew they were in for a ride exactly as petrifying as they had anticipated. The lantern above them did very little to light the tracks before them, and the banker didn't seem to navigate or direct the cart at all, which Harry didn't find incredibly comforting. And then all of a sudden, the tracks just – disappeared. Delf's shrill wail of terror in his ear as they plunged into the darkness was all that kept Harry from thinking he'd suffered a heart-attack of fright and died right then. For what felt like several agonizing eons, their tiny cart swooped and swung through the darkness, first sailing one way before suddenly careening another direction entirely.

Harry almost couldn't believe it when the blasted thing finally skidded to a halt. They were there. They had made it! They weren't dead! He, Delf and Roderick scrambled madly out of the cart, almost too shell-shocked to say anything at first. Then, there were a fair number of celebratory exclamations before Roderick shushed the other two and gestured to the door set in the wall next to them. Harry almost hadn't noticed it with everything else. "Go ahead, mate," Roderick suggested. "We've come this far; don't want it to have been for nothing, do you?"

"Definitely not," Harry agreed, and advanced towards the door.

The goblin cleared his throat. "If you don't mind, it's bank policy for one of us to open the vaults."

Harry blinked. "Oh. Alright, here," he said, feeling slightly put out at his lost piece of adventure.

The key slid easily into the lock, and he dimly heard the sound of some inner mechanism tumbling into place. The door swung open. Harry's jaw dropped.

He had known in a conceptual way that his family was very rich. They had a big house and nice clothes and expensive books and furniture. But somehow it had never connected that they had so much money. There were mounds of it, piled all over the floor and reaching most of the way to the ceiling in some cases. Big gold Galleons, silver Sickles, little Knuts. And this was only his trust fund, an insignificant portion of their true fortune. It was all Harry could do to keep his eyeballs in their sockets.

"Done drinking it all in?" said a sarcastic voice at his elbow. Harry looked down and saw the goblin standing next to him, arms crossed, looking impatient. "If you wouldn't mind collecting what you came down here for, we could all get on with our lives, don't you think?"

"Oh, er, right," he muttered, making a mental note to ask Master Jerome about goblin etiquette, and cast about for something to carry the money in. Spying a small leather pouch on the floor a few feet away, partially buried under a mountain of Sickles, Harry fetched up against another problem: how much should he take? He had never shopped for anything before. What would the prices be like? What if all this money wasn't actually as much as it looked like?

After a few moments of indecisive agony, he settled on fifty Galleons, twenty Sickles, and fifteen Knuts. That ought to about cover it, whatever 'it' turned out to be. And, he supposed, he could always return if he had to, though the idea sat like a cold stone in his gut.

The return trip was reassuringly sedate, however. It was mostly uphill this time around, meaning that there could be no sudden plunges into utter darkness like before.

But still, even once they were outside again in the midsummer sunshine, they all three agreed that Gringotts was a decidedly unnerving place.

But with the sun above and the Alley before them, their leftover discomfort didn't stand a chance. They meandered happily among the shops, stopping at Florean Fortesque's for ice creams, then for a look in the exotic pets dealership (where Delf discovered she had a hitherto unknown deep fear of poison-spitting tarantulas, which the boys found perfectly reasonable), and then Roderick had the brilliant idea for Harry to actually open his Hogwarts letter and see where he had to go.

Mildly surprised that he hadn't thought of that earlier, Harry pulled out the envelope, which had gotten slightly squashed from being in his pocket during the trip in the Gringotts cart. He broke the seal almost worshipfully, and pulled out the sheet of parchment.

"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," he read aloud as the others clustered close behind him. "Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore (Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand blah blah blah, oh, here. Dear Mr Potter, We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of necessary books and equipment. Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July. Yours sincerely, Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress." Harry blinked at the page. "But that's today!" he exclaimed.

"Of course," Delf said. "When did you get this?"

"This morning. I was just so excited that I forgot to open it or anything. I even forgot to meditate! Master Jerome says we must meditate every day so that we can learn the mind arts someday, and I've been really good about it." The other two exchanged a glance, each asking the other 'have you been doing that?' and each responding 'nope'. Harry tended to be a more dedicated student than the other two.

"Well, there's a post office a little way behind us. We can go there and send your note back."

They did just that. The other two scouted out an owl that didn't take their fingers off when they reached for it while Harry scrawled, As of July 31 when I got the letter, I accept the spot at Hogwarts offered to me. Thanks, and sorry for being a wee bit last-second about it, Harry Potter. It felt a bit stiff to him, but he couldn't think how better to say it without coming off cheeky.

Back in the street, they examined his list together, sorting the items by how interesting it would be to get them and coming up with, in order of least interesting to most,

'random other materials' (consisting of a pewter cauldron, crystal phials, telescope, brass scales, dragonhide gloves, and various potions ingredients)
Uniform
Books
Wand

They also decided they needed new trunks to be well and truly prepared for Hogwarts, and that went on after 'random other materials'.

'Random other materials' took several stops to fulfill. First they visited the cauldron makers, who advertised everything from giant iron cauldrons that Harry, Roderick and Delf could have sat in comfortably and had room for more to tiny fragile glass ones that barely would have fit a drop of water. Harry purchased his boring pewter, size 2 cauldron, brass scales, and set of crystal phials and asked the wizard at the counter to shrink them for him for ease of transportation. The man obligingly did so, explaining that the enchantment would end at dawn the next day. The trio left the shop, a well-pleased Harry bearing a cauldron the size of his cupped hands, which held his other purchases.

Next they visited the apothecary, and 'ooh'ed and 'aah'ed over the incredible diversity of ingredients. Delf admired the unicorn horns while Harry dared Roderick to eat a pickled Bowtruckle liver, until his unimpressed friend pointed to the small placard at the front of the bin which read 'poisonous'. Slightly subdued, Harry collected the items specified on his list and had the witch at the counter shrink them, including the dragon-hide gloves, and they left shortly thereafter.

Getting his astrology things proved rather difficult, though for quite an unforeseen reason: a mere hundred meters away from Weird Willy's Astrology Shop, Home of Weird Willy's Famed and Absolutely Accurate Fate-Predicting Frog, Delf pulled up short outside a shop Harry's mum sometimes went in. His dad had always taken him and Tom elsewhere when she did though, so he had never paid it much mind. But now, with all the attention born of curiosity and adventuresomeness focused upon it, it became very interesting indeed. Wooden mannequins strode about in the large window display, wearing… well, what would those be called? They weren't bathing suits, clearly, and even girl's underthings weren't so… see-through.

"What are those?" Delf demanded of nobody in particular, voicing the question that was certainly also occupying Harry's mind.

"I saw my mum in one once," said Roderick in a low voice. "When I was a little kid, I went down to the kitchen for a glass of water, but when I was going back upstairs with it, I tripped and dropped the glass, and I got a bit in my knee. Mum and Dad came out of their room to see what the noise was about, and Mum was like that," he indicated the figurines "and Dad was… um." He trailed off, suddenly red in the face.

They all glanced at each other uncomfortably, and turned, in the same moment, towards Weird Willy's. A brass telescope and star chart were acquired with no fuss, though the Famed and Absolutely Accurate Fate-Predicting Frog (actual name: Herbert) told Harry he'd have his heart broken by the end of the day. He also told Delf that she should focus on Mars for good luck in the next month, and warned Roderick to stay away from people whose names began with D.

"Well," he said as they left, "at least that lets me avoid Dad and Draco, eh?"

"Yeah, and me," Delf noted.

"Why, that's no problem: I've secretly hated you for years anyway."

"Oh, very funny!" She punched him on the arm. Harry laughed.

The Trunk Depot wasn't difficult to find: the storefront was shaped like a gigantic steam trunk. The roof/lid opened and closed slowly, looking for all the world like a humungous monster trying to gobble up the sky.

The merchandise was surprisingly interesting: there were trunks that packed and unpacked themselves, trunks that cleaned the clothes put into them, trunks that never got filled up, no matter what you put in them. Trunks in various National Quidditch team colours. Tiny little trunks like hatboxes, and giant ones that looked like they would fit dragons. Trunks that sang with the lid opened, trunks that could be instructed to spit stinky ink if the wrong person opened it. Roderick excitedly identified one that had a false bottom, creating a secret chamber. It made use of a mechanical Muggle trick which none of them really understood, but, the salesman boasted, it was completely undetectable by magic. It was quickly decided that they all needed one, and Harry bought his with all due haste. The other two made arrangements for two to be held for them when they came back to do their own shopping with their parents.

When they left the shop, Harry's trunk was the size of a shoebox, having had the same enchantment as his cauldron placed on it, right down to the time it would wear off. He was excessively pleased.

They were just getting near Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions when Delf gasped excitedly and pointed at a nearby window display, which proffered a staggering selection of different colours and shapes and styles of picture frames. She pointed at one in the upper right corner of the window. It was silver, about thirty centimeters per side, with three spaces for photos, two above and one below. "We should all get one of those!" she cried, seized by one of her random spurts of enthusiasm. Her eyes were bright green with excitement. "Then we can all put our letters in one space, our marks in another at the end of the year, and a photo of all of us at Hogwarts in the third! Come on, let's all go in and get one. Roderick, do you have some pocket money? It says they're two Galleons each: is that alright? Come one, come on!"

She conducted all the business with the skeptical-looking witch at the counter, and the frames were purchased with little fuss, and Delf discovered a passion she never knew she had either, which was scrapbooking (the boys found this less reasonable than a terrible fear of poison-spitting tarantulas, but didn't say anything). By the end of the 20 minute detour, each of them had one of the silver frames tucked under their arms, and Harry and Roderick had collectively bought Delf quite a quantity of scrapbooking materials, including three of the books themselves, as an early birthday present. Her plan was to make them all scrapbooks of their first year a Hogwarts.

After that, they spent fifteen minutes or so in Madam Malkin's, where Delf and Roderick entertained Harry by putting on fancy dress robes and pretending to be mad posh while Madam Malkin's assistant pinned Harry's robes to the right length.

"Maw-ster Malfoy," Delf chortled as they left the shop (and a rather vexed-looking Madam Malkin) behind them.

Books were next on the agenda, so they headed off for Flourish and Blotts, where Harry had them shrink his set again so they fit in his shoebox-sized trunk. By then there was only one thing left to get: a wand.

Harry paused reverently outside of Ollivander's shop. How often he had passed this shabby, narrow little building, longing for the day he would get to go inside and get his very own wand. The wand on the dusty purple pillow in the display gleamed in the afternoon sunshine, and hazy dust motes swarmed behind the glass.

Harry was so excited as he stepped into Ollivanders shop that he could hear the blood pounding in his ears with every heartbeat. He could feel the latent magic of the place. All of that potential packed into so little room…. The air buzzed with it. An old man looked up from a fat book on his desk when the bell announced them.

"Ah," he greeted them warmly. "Here for our wands, are we?"

"I wonder what else people come in here for," Roderick murmured.

"Contraband," Delf whispered back. "Clearly."

"Yes, but just for me, actually. These two are coming back later," Harry said politely, shushing the other two with a gesture behind his back.

"And you'd be a Potter, I can see that," Mr Ollivander said, coming around the counter. "You look just like your father, you know. Though those could be no one else's but Lily's eyes. I can still remember when they came and got their wands here, oh, twenty-some years ago now. But who are these? You're a Malfoy, obviously." Roderick looked slightly affronted. "But the young lady?"

"Daphne Greengrass," she said firmly, just as Harry blurted, "This is Delf."

"My, my," the old man tittered. "Where does one come across a name such as that?"

"My little sister used to not be able to pronounce my real name," she explained, glaring her orange glare at the other two, clearly angry at them for making her explain the nickname to yet another stranger, "—and these two prats kept it going."

"My sympathies, then," murmured the wand seller tactfully. "Now then, Mr Potter. Shall we begin?"

Harry nodded, suddenly nervous. Neither of his friends had any older siblings, so all they had to go on was hearsay. Would he have to prove himself worthy somehow?

"Well then. Which is your wand arm?"

"Er. My right, I suppose."

"Very well, very well, hold it out – like so, if you please, yes –" he pulled a small tape measure out of a pocket and proceeded to make a series of measurements that got more and more unorthodox as they continued. Shoulder to wrist, elbow to thumb joint, shoulder to waist, around his head, kneecap to chin, between his nostrils – by this time Mr Ollivander had left the tape measure to its own devices and was busy pulling slim boxes out of the floor-to ceiling stack behind him. "Let me see. Your mother's was willow, your father's mahogany, so perhaps we shall begin there. Though bear in mind, familial history has little to do with the selection of wands: it is the wand, after all, that chooses the wizard, not the other way around. That will do." This last was addressed to the tape measure, and it crumbled to the floor. By this time there was a large stack of slender boxes piled upon the rickety desk. Harry glanced back at Delf and Roderick, who both looked rather nervous at the wealth of words and wands the elderly man seemed to possess. "Well, let's just take a start with these then, shall we?"

Mr Ollivander handed him wand after wand to test out, but before Harry could do anything much but hold them and feel slightly foolish, they were snatched away from him again and another quickly replaced it.

"Ebony and unicorn hair, eight and a half inches, springy! No, no, willow and dragon heartstring, ten inches, very stiff," he flitted here and there among the shelves, pulling boxes out seemingly at random. "No, of course not, ash and phoenix tail feather, six and three quarter inches, pliable! No? Well, then, a bendy nine inch maple and dragon heartstring? No, no, not at all—!"

Harry had no idea what the old man was looking for, but, contrary to what Harry expected, he only seemed to become more excited as the stack of rejected wands grew.

"Ah! Ha-ha, here boy, just for a lark, give this one a swish: holly and phoenix tail feather, eleven inches, quite supple, here, just to see."

Harry gripped the wand gingerly, expecting it to be yanked out of his hand yet again as countless others had before. Instead, a warm sensation spread up from his fingers and all the hairs on his body seemed to stand up at once. Waving it experimentally, a fountain of golden sparks jetted out of the tip. He stared at the bit of wood in amazement. Delf and Roderick, when he shot a look at them, looked amazed and enthusiastic, but Mr Ollivander was positively thunderstruck.

"Why – why, my dear boy, this is – remarkable, I dare say – I dare say, I hardly expected… I mean, if anyone, your brother is the one I would have – why, I dare say!"

"You keep saying that," Delf cut in impatiently. "What's so special about this one?"

"Well, young lady," Ollivander said, drawing himself up a little bit. "It just so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather makes up the core of this wand did not only donate one feather, as is customary, but two. The other was placed in a wand of yew and sold many years ago, many years before you were born, Mr Potter. And how strange to think that – that the brother of this wand would go on to give your brother his crescent scar and change the world forever."

Harry gaped. "He Who Must Not Be Named got this wand's brother? Then… Tom should have it, not me. Here." He tried to thrust the wand back into Ollivander's hands, but the man danced away behind the desk and mountain on wands.

"No no, Mr Potter, once the wand chooses the wizard, the bond is made! No other wand would ever do as well. But it is curious…. Very curious that this wand should choose you…"

Harry looked down at the wand uncomfortably. The smooth holly felt warm against his hand. He could do magic with this wand, the wand that had chosen him. But its brother had killed Grandma Potter, had scarred his brother after doing its best to kill him. Its brother wand belonged to Voldemort.

But….

"Fine," he said, looking up from the fist clenched around the wand, his wand.

He paid seven Galleons for his wand, and he and Delf and Roderick left the shop.

The afternoon suddenly seemed less warm, less like a fun adventure and more like the part where the adventure goes a bit dodgy and the hero's a wee bit scared. Roderick, sensing his shift in mood and perhaps feeling some of it himself, suggested they head back to Harry's house to have cake and presents and learn how to fly. Harry gratefully agreed and they headed back to the Leaky Cauldron. Spotting the gimmick vendor by the wall portal, he bought Delf a mood ring for two Knuts, saying wryly, "Let's see how often it matches your eyes."

They took the Floo from the Leaky Cauldron. Delf took a stop at her house to drop all her scrapbook stuff off, so she went first. Harry went next, stepping into the emerald flames and saying clearly "Potter Manor." A sensation of spinning, of a myriad of fireplaces and rooms, and then he was standing safely in his own fireplace, looking out at the large dining hall he had left only a few hours earlier.

"Mum!" he called, stepping from the hearth. "Dad! I'm home! Where is everyone? Tom? Hello?" Tipsy appeared in the doorway leading from the kitchen, fingers tangled miserably in the folds of her linen pillowcase.

Harry's heart sank.

"They isn't home yet, Master Harry. They's very late." Her giant eyes welled with tears under the crooked tiara.

Just then, the fire flared green behind him and Roderick stepped from the flames.

"Hullo again. Still waiting for Delf then, are we?"

"Yeah, her and my family both. I hope the Floo Network's going alright. Oh, you know what? They probably took a Portkey instead! I bet they just got the destination clause of the spell mangled. They'll be here as soon as they get it all sorted and Apparate back." Harry nodded firmly, putting on a show of certainty he didn't feel at all. They had promised. After last year, they had promised not to forget again.

The flames became emerald once more, and Harry's hopes rose in spite of himself, but sank once again as Delf's skinny frame stepped clear of the mantelpiece.

"Long time no see." She grinned. Then, seeing the boys' expressions and Tipsy's quiet tears in the corner, she became quite grave. "What's the matter?"

"We think Harry's parents' Portkey went wonky and they're late," Roderick explained succinctly.

"Ah." Delf nodded. "Well, what say we have your birthday tea without them? It's their own loss, wouldn't you think?"

Harry nodded, grinning wanly. "Yeah, let's do it," he agreed. "But first… could you please promise not to tell anyone what Ollivander said about my wand? Especially not my parents or Tom: I think they'd be really freaked out."

"Sure, mate," Roderick reassured him. He mimed turning a key in a lock at his temple, trapping the information inside.

"Yeah, I mean, it's not like I'd ever have a chance to say 'Hey, Mr and Mrs Potter, did you know Harry's wand has a brother that belongs to You-Know-Who and nearly killed your second son as well as Mr Potter's mum? How does this make you feel?'" Delf agreed, wrapping the whole thing in sarcasm, as was customary for her. Harry smiled at his friends thankfully.

Tea managed to be a surprisingly cheery affair. They had treacle tarts, little cucumber sandwiches cut into triangles, raspberry jam tarts, scones with melted cheese on top, and lemonade. The other two convinced him to open the gifts they had brought, calling it a preview of when his family got home with all the things they got him in France.

Harry happily complied, ending up with a nifty basic potioneering kit from Delf and a cool little knife whose blade changed shape when he twisted a knob on the end of the handle from Roderick.

Afterwards, they hung about in the library for a while with the portraits, who were full of odd bits of information and advice about Hogwarts, such as,

"The Come and Go Room is your friend."

And, "Tickle the pear in the basement if you're nippish between meals."

And, "Use my Cloak sparingly, you hear me, boy?"

And, "Get on outside and have some real fun: you don't want to listen to us blather all day."

So they went outside into the afternoon sunshine and threw stones at the apples on the highest branches in the small orchard by the north wall. This got boring really quickly though, since Roderick had the best aim and wouldn't let the other two win at all.

Finally, Harry burst out, "Oh, bugger it all, let's just teach ourselves to fly already."

The other two stared at him, mixtures of excitement and wariness writ wide over their faces.

"Yeah, alright," Delf finally agreed, nodding. "Bugger you parents: they're not here yet, so we'll just have to do it ourselves."

"Well, hang on…" Roderick said cautiously. "I'd think about this. I, at least, haven't flown a lot before. Wouldn't it be smart to have some supervision at least?"

"Come on, Roderick, don't be a spoil-sport. It's Harry's birthday. Besides, we don't have to do anything dangerous or anything."

"Right," Harry agreed eagerly.

So they all trooped around the house to the shed against the east wall. It was where James kept all of his old brooms he no longer used, but weren't in bad enough condition to get rid of, and the family owl, Godric Merlin Gryffindor liked to roost there when it rained. The padlock on the door was large and solid, albeit rusty, but the key hung on a peg under the eaves. Harry got on Roderick's back and grabbed it easily, and 30 seconds later, they were in to choose their brooms.

They each picked out decent Cleansweep models and crossed the lawn to halfway between the shed and the apple trees. Dredging up memories of the times he had seen his dad skirmish against his uncles and old school friends and Quidditch teammates, Harry instructed the other two to hold their brooms on their right-hand side.

They all mounted somewhat awkwardly, and then everyone seemed to wait for someone else to kick off first. Finally, after several moments of nervous glances shot back and forth, they all kicked off at the exact same moment and took to the skies.

From the first rush of air against his face, Harry knew this was precisely where he was meant to be. This was what the day was all about: not Gringotts, not picture frames, not getting his wand. He was in the air, going up, up, up! And as far as he was concerned, he was never coming back down again.

He watched as the features of the grounds, so familiar from the earth, became smaller and stranger from his new vantage point. The trees were just bushy clumps of greenery now, and the roof was the only part of the house he could see. Roderick and Delf gusted around below him, and he waved exuberantly down at them. Roderick was getting the hang of steering, like Harry, but had stayed closer to the ground to do so. Harry reflected that that might have been a smart idea.

Delf, on the other hand, was having a bit of a hard time. She was gripping the handle like it was an angry snake, and the wind was pushing her farther and farther towards the trees by the north wall. She was wobbling back and forth on the broom like it was twisting around beneath her and trying to throw her off.

"Relax your grip!" Harry shouted over the distance. "Pull up a bit or you'll hit the trees!"

But she didn't hear him, and the breeze was picking up. Roderick was beginning to swerve around a bit too, fighting the wind to try and stay level.

'That's wrong,' Harry thought to himself. 'You can't beat the wind. You just have to let it carry you.'

Delf's sudden shriek distracted him from Roderick's flying techniques. Her bristles had become entangled with the little branches at the very top of a tree. Her vise-like grip was doing her no good as she began to slide off the front of the broomstick. Harry estimated quickly: the drop was close to 10 meters. Maybe not far enough to kill, but enough to do some serious damage.

Harry let instinct take over as Delf slipped off the end of her broom and screamed shrilly…

Down, down, down Harry pelted, like a comet, like lightning, his right arm stretched out as far as it would go. He had to catch her, he had to! She was screaming, she needed help, she needed him! Down, down, down, he had her! Tucked tight against him, but only meters from the ground now, too fast to stop, too fast –

Crack!

Something exploded in his arm. Someone was screaming. Was Delf alright? Why was it so dark?

He came to on his back, on the sofa in the dining room. His whole body was numb. Delf, Roderick and Tipsy hovered over him anxiously, their faces blurry.

"Wha…?" he mumbled, the syllable containing all the questions teeming in his brain: What had happened? Was Delf alright? How did he get inside? Why did his body feel so funny? Where were his parents?

"You caught Delf out of thin air! It was wicked!" Roderick exclaimed.

"Are you alright? You saved me!" He could hear the tears behind his other friend's voice.

"Master Harry is so brave!" Tipsy blubbered. "Tipsy always knew Master Harry was kind, but never that he was so courageous! He saved his friend!" the house elf wailed loudly and began blowing her nose on a large spotted hankie.

"You… sort of broke your arm though, mate," Roderick added quietly. Tipsy's howls increased in volume, and Delf began to sniffle too. Harry looked down at himself, and discovered his body to be rather awkwardly swaddled in a blue woolen blanket. There was a large purple-red stain above his torso. His left arm was crossed over his chest, and seemed to be the source of the problem. Harry was mildly surprised he could think about it so candidly.

"We've been trying to decide if we should take you to St Mungo's or not, but you were only unconscious about two minutes after we had Tipsy bring you in—she levitated you. Do you think you could move enough to make it to the fireplace?"

"No, I don't want to go. Mum's a Healer. She'll be home soon and help me."

"Harry, it's nearly six. Do you still think your parents will be home tonight?" Roderick sounded worried.

"They have to. They promised." He didn't see them glance at each other, but he knew they did anyway. Tipsy sniffled loudly and mumbled "So kind, so kind…"

"Harry, your bone's poking out your –"

"I'm waiting for Mum."

Tipsy shrieked "SO KIIIIIND!" and sprinted back to the kitchen, where there were presumably more hankies to replace her already-sodden one.

A pause.

"Right. Then I guess we're waiting with you."

Delf nodded firm agreement.

Harry began to get some feeling back as the next half-hour progressed because Tipsy's magic was wearing off. First his toes tingled, and then they became freezing cold. His gut began to churn as pins and needles convulsed down his spine. His temples began to pulse in time with his heartbeat and sweat broke out across his forehead. Last to come awake was his broken arm.

At first it felt like a great snake had come alive inside his skin. It slithered around for a while, became comfortable, but then it bit. Tipsy had used some kind of house-elf magic to dull the pain a little bit, and had nearly stopped the bleeding, but it still felt like his whole arm was on fire, like there was lava flowing in his veins. He wished he could chop it off. He wished he would pass out again. He wished the pain would stop. The stain on the blanket slowly spread.

The clock struck seven, then seven-thirty. When it got to eight, he said to his friends, "You're supposed to be going home now. Your parents will wonder where you are if you stay any later." Speaking made his head throb, and whoever was whacking his arm with that axe really had to stop.

"Not a chance!" an orange-and-hazel-eyed Delf shouted, leaping up from her seat at the foot of the sofa. "We're not leaving till your mum gets home and fixes you!"

'Orange for anger,' Harry thought irrationally. 'Hazel for worry.' He grimaced. "Please. You can't help me by sitting here waiting for them. Just go home. It'd make me feel better knowing you aren't wasting your time with me."

Roderick scowled. "But then who'll look after you? You might die right here and no one would know for ages." He looked a little guilty for the display of ill faith in the Potters, but didn't retract it.

"Tipsy can watch me. She's done it when I've been ill and stuff. Besides, it won't be ages. My parents will be home really soon. They'll probably get here as soon as you've gone." Harry no longer believed this, but he didn't want his friends to know. His parents had forgotten again. He didn't know when they would be home. But he didn't want his friends to have to wait with him till they came through that fireplace. He didn't want the shame of seeing their pity grow with every passing minute as they saw how late it got. If they went home, he could tell them his mum and dad had come home five minutes after they'd left. He didn't want Delf and Roderick to know his parents didn't love him.

"Please," he repeated. "It's what I want. You're not doing anything Tipsy couldn't do, and they'll be home soon."

Roderick continued to scowl and Delf's lower lip trembled under sad-grey eyes as they agreed to leave. Delf brought Tipsy from the kitchen while Roderick Flood away to Malfoy Manor, then stood over him, staring like she wanted to say something but couldn't think of how to start. Finally, she just rubbed a lock of dark-brown hair across her cheeks to remove any residue of tears and turned smartly into the emerald flames. She was gone in an eye-blink.

Tipsy spooned broth and warm water into his mouth as the evening progressed. His arm never stopped its stabbing pain, and the flames never turned green to announce his parents' return.

Harry heard the clock strike nine, then ten, but he passed out shortly after that, some tiny sliver of his heart still hoping….

"Great Merlin, Harry!" was the sound that woke him around nine the next morning. Stupefied with sleep and pain, he couldn't warn his father not to pull the blanket off him, and that's exactly what happened. Harry screamed. His arm had swollen to the point of being nearly unrecognizable overnight, and was colored something like salami. The pale bone poked grotesquely out of his skin, and all the blood had hardened and congealed, making his front ghastly and disgusting. Harry hadn't seen it yesterday, but he knew it must look a lot worse than it had. James was cursing loudly somewhere close by. "Lily! Lily, come quick, Harry's broken his bloody ARM—"

A short, panicky scream. "Harry, what happened?!"

There were paragraphs and paragraphs of things Harry wanted to say to them. Paragraphs of flying, of falling, of breaking, of waiting, of waiting, of waiting.

But all that came out was "Tried flying…. Fell…."

A/N

Welcome readers, to my new story! This has been in the works for a LONG time, so a few notes on the aspects of canon I'll be using: believe it or not, I started this before the Cursed Child or any of the backstory on the Potters' history came out, so I just plumb made my own history up and I'm way too lazy to change it now that we have actual information. I've relied mainly on the books, with some aspects of the movies if I happened to like something better, and some things obviously had to be different for this story to work, like James and Lily surviving and Sirius not being in Azkaban. IDK, just go with it. :P

As for the AU, readers familiar with the genres of Harry Potter fanfiction will probably see where this is going, but I'm not going to label it as anything so that new readers can enjoy the story as it unfolds. I do want to say though, this is not going to be Potter-bashing. There will be conflict within the family, but nothing actively abusive.

But anyway, as it says in the description, this version of Harry is two years older than canon: his brother Tom is canon-Harry's age. I've also aged Daphne up (she will consistently be called Delf in the narration, and I named her that BEFORE the Cursed Child came out, for the record! Probably gonna die a little mad about that). Tom and Roderick are my two main OCs and they are going to be very prominently featured.

Updates will be on Saturdays, one chapter per week (except this week you get two, because getting the prologue alone is sort of cheap imo). I think that's all that needs saying! I hope you enjoy!

Half credit for this story goes to my friend fire1: we developed and outlined this idea together and there's no way it would exist without her. Go check her page out!

All characters are owned by JK Rowling, Warner Bros, etc.

E.I. signing out