I could not believe this was really happening, I could see it happen with my own two eyes, but I still couldn't believe it. I knew a large grin was splitting my face as I saw Dudley squeal when he saw his new tail and both Petunia and Vernon run after him like headless chickens. All the while, I sat back on the dirty floor of the disgusting hut and ate the oddly-delightful birthday cake that Hagrid brought me.
"Well don' jus' be sat around' Harry, we hafta be on our way. Go' so much to do." Hagrid beamed at me, utterly ignoring the chaos brewing behind him.
I nodded, swallowed the piece of cake in my hand, jumped up and started to gather all my stuff. After a life with the Dursleys, I was certainly not stupid enough to want to wait around for the for the aftermath of this debacle particularly considering that for once, they might actually be able to blame this on me.
I followed Hagrid out of the shack in the middle of nowhere and got into Uncle Vernon's boat. It brought me double the joy to think we were leaving them stranded on that island. With a quick tug of his pink umbrella, Hagrid made the boat speed through the water of its own volition. I stared in wonder. As I turned back to face him, I saw him looking at me. But I mean he was looking at me. There were a few tears gathering in his eyes and he hastily wiped them away.
"Sorry about' tha' Harry, dint mean to startle yeh. It's been so many years and the las' time I saw yeh, yeh were such a tiny little thing and now look at yeh, all grown up and off to Hogwarts. I reckon yeh parents would be mighty proud of yeh." Hagrid blurted out.
I was not really sure why this was such a big deal, but something he said caught my interest immediately. "Can you tell me more about my parents?"
His eyes lit up at the question. "Well, let me tell yeh abou' the time tha' your father slammed into another fella on the field when tryin' to impress yeh mother with his tricks in the air."
Wait, tricks in the air?
"I'm still not sure why I had to hide coming through the pub, Hagrid, what's the big deal?" I was annoyed. Hagrid made me hide under his cloak as he swept through the pub. I looked around to where he'd brought me and saw only a dead-end and a trashcan.
"Don' worry abou' tha' Harry. Remember wha' I told yeh this morning. There was a war and your parents died fighting against a very evil wizard. Yeh were the only one…"
"I know I remember." I interrupted, not wanting to revisit those details. It was horrible enough to find out your parents were murdered, but to be the only mysterious survivor. I was not sure how I felt about that yet.
"All those people in the pub." He explained. "They would have loved to meet yeh, bu' tha's a lot of attention fer an 11-year-old boy and I dint want yeh to be feeling overwhelmed, Harry."
I sighed and nodded. That made sense, I wouldn't want all those people to pay attention to me either. They were drinking and I had seen Aunt Marge drunk enough times to know how unpredictable drunk adults could be.
I patted the fringe over my scar and smiled up at Hagrid. "You're right, Hagrid. Thank you."
He waved away my apology. "Enough of all of tha'," he said. He withdrew his umbrella and started tapping the bricks on the wall.
What. Is. Happening. The walls were shaking, the bricks were moving and opening. Just beyond this dead end and trashcan was something I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams.
"Welcome, Harry, to Diagon Alley."
My head is flitting from left to right as I took in the sights and sounds and smells of this incredible place.
I ducked my head as a bunch of owls flew over.
Nobody else seemed to notice this and I shrugged as I continued to smile and take in the brilliance of all that was around me.
As soon as I entered Flourish & Blotts, I saw piles of books everywhere, in bookshelves and towering over themselves in large stacks. There was a pervasive smell of parchment and knowledge. I took out my booklist and began to look around the various sections, generally wandering about while keeping a look out for familiar titles. A few other people were milling about, but the store was generally empty. After fifteen minutes passed and I didn't find a single book from my booklist, I figured I needed some help. I spotted a man sitting on a stool at the back, bent over a book and pushing his hair out of his eyes every few seconds.
"Excuse me, sir." I asked the bespectacled man behind the counter.
He was reading his book very carefully and my question made him stop. He looked up with a crease in his eyebrows. "Yes, how many I help you?"
"I'm looking for some books," I said.
He tilted his head and focused on me, the crease in his brow deepening. "Well that's a good thing, you are, after all, in a bookstore." He finished his sentence with a flourish of his hands to indicate the towers of books all around us.
My nervous smile began to fade and I wanted nothing more than to dissolve where I was standing. "I'm sorry, it's just, I'm trying to find my books for school and can't find any."
He sighed and went back to reading, his finger pointed to the front of the store. "Hogwarts section is at the front, can't miss it, usually," he said, no longer looking at me.
I turned to where he was pointing and saw a stack of books well displayed in the shop front. I bit my lip not wanting to annoy him further and ran up to the book display he was pointing at. I began to rummage around the books. "Aha!" Finally found it!
Standard Books of Spells Grade 3. That sounded familiar.
I pulled out my booklist from my bag and checked the title against the ones provided, no, I needed Grade 1. This really shouldn't be so hard. Surely, if this bookstore had a designated Hogwarts section, they would have the first-year textbooks front and centre?
I looked around and saw a brunette reading. I slowly walked towards her. Deep breaths. This was the first time I would be talking to another student from my new school. There was no Dudley and no Piers to embarrass me and no Dursleys to tell her parents not to let her be friends with me. Hopefully, she would help.
"Um, hi," I said in an unusually high-pitched voice.
The girl snapped up from her book, confused, before she lowered her gaze to look down at me. She broke out into a small smile. "Hello."
I stuck my hands into my pockets as I started to feel my palms sweat. "Hi, um, I was wondering if you knew where I could find first-year textbooks? For Hogwarts, that is."
Her small smile vanished and she looked at me with suspicion. "That's not funny."
I rocked back on the balls of my feet. "Um no, I just, the man at the desk told me to look there." I pointed to the Hogwarts display. "But there are no first-year textbooks there and I-"
With every word I could see her face was becoming harder and harder and finally she cut me off. "Who are you?"
"I'm Harry," I said as quickly as I could.
Her expression froze. "Harry Potter?" She asked.
I nodded uncertainly. She stared right at me, I was beginning to become even more uncomfortable. I cleared my throat and that broke her concentrated staring. "Sorry, I-it's really nice to meet you, Harry. My name is Alicia Spinnet." Her tone sounded odd to me for some reason.
I nodded not sure what to say.
I think she sensed that and launched into action. "Right. Right, you wait right here. I'll go have a word with…with the guy."
I saw her march up to man and break him from his reading. He looked just as annoyed to be dealing with her as he was with me. She had a whispered conversation with him and his eyes bugged out behind his glasses. His head swivelled to look at me and he too, began to stare. I didn't really know what to do, so I just waved uncertainly. He jumped out of his chair, came round the counter and walked right up to me with Alicia hot on his heels.
"Mr. Potter, I am so very sorry, I didn't realise you were, well, you."
"That's okay sir, but can you please point me to the first-year textbooks for Hogwarts?" I asked a little more strongly. The few other people in the store were beginning to notice and look our way and it was making me uncomfortable.
"Ah well, you see…well, we haven't stocked all of them this year." He finished lamely. "We certainly have a few of these books lying around in the back, I can pull them out for you, but there's a couple of updated versions here on your list that we would have to special order."
What? I looked at him with wide eyes and confusion all over my face, "Okay…Is there somewhere else I could find them do you think?"
His face transformed to that of a wounded puppy, like I had just kicked him in the gut. "No need for that, Mr. Potter. Are you escorted by someone?"
"Uh yeah, I'm here with Hagrid, he works at Hogwarts."
"Right," the man said with determination, "I will have the missing books ordered and delivered to him. Hagrid's a good person, I'm sure he will pass them on to you."
"Oh, okay then," I said. I pulled out my booklist and handed it over. "That's all of them."
I noticed that his hands were shaking as he took the piece of parchment from me. "Right. Thank you. So sorry again for this, Mr. Potter."
"That's okay," I said automatically, "I guess I'll just go to have my robes done then. Thank you."
I followed the man up to the till where he continued to profusely apologise as he began piling books from the back of the store on to the till. I took out my coin purse to pay for them.
"No, no, none of that please. This has been very embarrassing for our store and I can never apologise for the inconvenience enough. Please, consider it an apology from us and let us cover the expense." He insisted.
"Oh, thank you but I don't really think I can accept that."
He shot me a look of such deep sadness. "Please Mr. Potter, I insist. It's fine. On the house! I also promise to be ready and waiting with your second-year textbooks next year."
"Well, okay then, thank you." I looked over to Alicia and smiled at her in thanks as well and began to make my way out of the store with the books handed to me thus far.
I paused and turned back around, the doorframe of the bookstore still in my hand as I was stepping over the threshold. She came rushing up to me with a thick tome in her hands. "This is a standard book they always have. It can tell you all you need to know about Hogwarts."
I smiled at her as she gently placed it in my hands. I looked down to read the cover: Hogwarts, A History.
"Thank you, Alicia." I said. I really meant it, she had been very kind and helpful.
"Not a worry," she said with a smile. "Don't worry about the cost either, I convinced Mr. Grumbles in there to add it to Flourish & Blotts' generosity towards you, especially considering that it is on the booklist and he would have sent it to you anyway."
I nodded. "Thanks anyway."
"Come find me on the Express, Harry, I'll introduce you to my friends. You shouldn't be alone on your first trip to Hogwarts, it's unseemly," she said with a big laugh.
"Thanks! I'm really excited about Hogwarts, I can't wait to meet everyone and learn magic! It's going to be a lot of fun!" The words came tumbling out.
"Yeah, yeah it will be. Hogwarts is wicked. You will have a great time. Just remember, whatever House you get Sorted in, you should always come by and say 'hi'." She emphasised.
"Hello! How may I help you?" A large lady with a kind smile approached me from the counter. "I'm Madam Malkin and you're in luck for being my first customer of the day!"
I smiled and shrugged. "I'm here for Hogwarts robes Madam, I'm going to be a First-Year student there this year."
The smile disappeared from Madam Malkin's face and she stumbled where she stood. Her eyes flitted up and I worriedly pressed down my fringe. Hagrid did mention that I was famous. She blinked once. Twice.
"Of course," she said and her voice shook. "Right…right this way young man, why don't you get on the stool right there as I take some…measurements." She choked the last word out and she hid her face from me.
I'm sure my eyes bugged out at this point, which, as I know from Dudley's teasing, makes my eyes look twice as big on account of my glasses. "Is everything okay?"
As soon as I asked her the question, big tears began to leak from her eyes but she continued to nod as if nothing was wrong. "Priscilla!" She called through her tears.
A young girl with bright pink hair came from the back of store. "Yes, I'm coming!" Her smile too disappeared upon seeing Madam Malkin crying.
"Can you please see to Mr. Potter? I'm afraid I need to…need to compose myself." She rambled as she fled and the measuring tape hovering around me fell to the ground lifelessly.
Priscilla barely nodded before Madam Malkin was gone and she came up to the vacated place next to me in a moment, a strained smile on her lips.
"Sorry about that, Mr. Potter." Priscilla's eyes too were misty. "Madam Malkin doesn't usually act like that, but with everything going on and of course seeing you, please don't take it personally."
I'm not entirely sure how else I was supposed to take it. "Did I say something wrong?" I asked worriedly.
Priscilla's eyes widened and she rapidly shook her head, "Oh no no no! You didn't do anything wrong. She lost her grandson, in the war. Seeing you, it probably brought up a lot of memories."
Ah. An uncomfortable burning filled my chest as I nodded slowly. Poor Madam Malkin. The rest of my fitting went on smoothly. Priscilla tried to make some conversion to distract me from what had happened, but I was too weirded out by the whole thing to be able to take advantage of it. She stopped her chatter when she saw I wasn't responding.
As my robes were being wrapped up, Priscilla walked me to the counter where Madam Malkin was waiting, looking much more composed. Her eyes were still big and red and swollen though.
"Here you are, Mr. Potter," Madam Malkin said, as she handed me the package.
"Th-Thank you." I stuttered as we stared at each other and I struggled to understand the look she was giving me.
There was a sharp knocking sound and all three of us turned around to see Hagrid by the store's glass exhibit with a beautiful snowy owl in a cage in his free hand and a big smile on his face. I smiled back.
We were trudging back from Diagon Alley towards the Leaky Cauldron to head back to London. A light shower had broken out, but it was pleasant and cooling after the unusually hot summer day.
I was very confused. I knew Hagrid said I was famous here, but something was definitely weird. Why did everybody act so weird? First at Flourish & Blotts, then at Madam Malkin's.
"I need to talk to you about something, Hagrid."
"Wha's on yer mind, Harry?" He asked turning to look at me as I took two paces to match each of his big steps.
"I didn't meet any other new First-Years while shopping today," I said.
Hagrid stopped for a second, but then kept on walking, his eyes firmly staring down at the ground. "I don't know wha' yeh mean."
"Hagrid, I spent the entire day here. I saw lots of adults in all the stores and even met a nice girl who is already at Hogwarts. But I didn't meet anybody my age, not a one." I took a deep breath and continued to look at Hagrid's carefully blank face. "School is going to start on 1 September, you would think there would be more people doing their shopping."
"Musta been bad luck is all," he said with a frown.
"Hagrid, is there something you haven't told me? Something about the war?" I asked with only a slight hesitation.
I told yeh wha' happened. It's not summat I like to talk abou' Harry. They were dark times."
"No, I know what you mean, but…" I took a deep breath as his pace quickened. "Can you slow down for a second?"
He reluctantly slowed his pace, still refusing to make eye contact.
"I feel like you're not telling me something, Hagrid. All of these people, as soon as I meet them, they burst into tears or choke up or…or…say funny things or don't say anything at all. At all. It's weird! They all know something that I don't." I finally said, frustrated and looked up at Hagrid again.
He took a deep, shuddering breath. "Yer righ' Harry. There is summat more, and I'm sorry, bu' I find it difficul' to talk abou'." He bent to one knee and placed a heavy hand on my shoulder, looking at me with such intensity. "Yer the Boy Who Lived, Harry, tha's, tha's a great, great thing. Bu' there is a very dark past behind tha' title, a past tha' our world has still not forgotten. We try, we keep busy. But there are certain tragedies, there is no moving on."
"Hagrid, I'm scared." I was. What was this about? "Why can't you just tell me?"
I think he could see just how scared I was, he took a deep breath and took his hand off my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye. The sadness, the deep sadness and warmth and love in his eyes dulled and his face looked…empty.
"Okay. Tha' dark wizard, the one whose name we do no' speak, he did many terrible things. Bu' the worst of all his terrible deeds is tha' he killed children. All magical children born over the last three years in Britain, up until the day you defeated him."
I could feel the colour draining from my face. Suddenly, it all clicked into place. Why everyone was upset when they saw me, why I was the only First-Year student at Diagon Alley and didn't meet any other Hogwarts students my own age.
"But-but why? WHY would someone do that?" I couldn't understand.
Hagrid looked pained. "Nobody knows Harry, no' the one. No' even his followers who los' their own children to the Purge."
I could feel myself becoming numb, the pattering rain drops on my skin becoming non-existent. "How many died, Hagrid?"
With shinning eyes, he said, "Too many, far too many."
"But if all of them died." I gulped. "Why did I survive?"
"Yer the Boy Who Lived, Harry. Nobody knows why."
AN: I don't like doing Author's Notes, but this seems necessary since it seems to come up in the comments a lot: Voldemort killed ALL MAGICAL CHILDREN in Britain born after 1 September 1978. So no muggle-borns and no wizard-raised kids.