Disclaimer: Though I hope to have characters of my own to write about someday, this is NOT that day. So if you don't want to read of my writing about other people's characters, there's a back button somewhere on the screen. Use it.
This is AU in that Harry meets the twins in London, rather than his first Weasley meeting being Ron on the train. Since I've only plotted out through the first book's worth of story line, I'm not sure HOW AU it will get yet.
Harry followed Hagrid through the portal revealed by the wall of bricks in amazement. Obviously, he'd never known this kind of thing was possible, much less done. He looked around him, taking in all the people in strange outfits. Of course, to them, his clothing was strange as well, so he took that thought with a grain of salt. There were stores that sold the strange dresses he saw men and women walking around in, and stores that sold animals of all kinds. Harry stared at the store that smelled like Aunt Petunia's garden and the medicine cabinet at the same time for a few seconds, then realized he'd been temporarily left behind by his guide. As he rushed to catch up to Hagrid, he passed by a store with a lot of enthusiastic children in front, and Harry caught a glimpse of what looked like a straw broom in the window. As he continued, following Hagrid to the best of his ability, Harry wondered what was so fascinating about brooms with straw at the end. He vaguely wondered if they were so enthusiastic because the broom was much better at cleaning than most, which would cut down on the time it took to do their chores. Then Harry noticed that Hagrid had stopped in front of a large establishment that looked vaguely like a museum, not that Harry had seen many of those to judge by.
It stood several stories high, and the walls seemed to tell stories with the creatures carved into them. Some Harry had never even imagined in his wildest flights of fancy, and others seemed just like creatures he'd dreamed up late at night and when he was locked in his cupboard. Near the doors stood small beings in a uniform, seeming to both guard the doors and greet those entering at the same time. The front doors had a message carved into them, which made Harry shiver as he realized it was a threat to thieves.
"In here, 'arry," the bearded man said, as he stood, practically blocking the doorway, "We'll get you some money to buy yer supplies with. We just ask the goblins at the desk 'ere, and they'll lead us down." By that point, Hagrid had walked Harry to one of the desks in question, where a smallish, wrinkle-skinned creature with the longest, sharpest-pointed ears Harry had ever seen sat. It's squinty eyes looked up from the desk it sat at, and peered down its long, pointy-as-its-ears nose at Harry.
"Your business here, sir?" it drawled, while still making notations in its ledger.
"Mr. Harry Potter to withdraw schooling funds from his vault," Hagrid answered for the small boy, who was utterly fascinated by the creature.
"Does Mr. Harry Potter have the key?" the goblin now looked like it was suppressing a great deal of glee at the thought of the child in front of him not having his key, and this thought made Harry look up at Hagrid worriedly. Harry hadn't a clue how to withdraw money from anywhere; he'd never even been given money before.
Hagrid blinked then muttered under his breath as he reached into his coat. He dug around for a bit, then pulled out two keys, and handed them to the goblin, "Mr. Potter's key, and the key to get You-Know-What from vault seven hundred thirteen."
At this, the goblin took the keys with a rolled eye, peered closely at both, jotted down something on the paper that must be on the desk, and handed the keys back, "Just a moment, Griphook will be with you to take you to the vault."
Prior to this point, Harry's experience with the phrase, "Just a moment," had meant at least a ten-minute wait. But apparently the goblins believed in saying it and actually meaning it, for just a moment later, another wrinkle-skinned, creature with sharp looking ears and nose approached, nodded to them and started walking to the back of the room. Hagrid followed it, and Harry rushed to not get left behind, even as he took in the seemingly endless desks and doors leading off the main room of the bank. The goblin climbed into what looked like a coal cart, and sat down. Hagrid picked Harry up and settled him into the cart, then clambered in as well.
"Keep your hands feet and anything you don't want to lose in the cart at all times," the goblin muttered as the cart began to move, "Oh, and brace yourselves."
Harry clung to the seat he perched on as the cart took each curve, bend and straightway at what felt to be a breakneck speed. At one point, a jet of smoke shot past the cart, and Harry jumped, looking briefly down the side of the cart. After realizing that he could neither see anything nor was he still within the walls of the cart, Harry jerked back and looked at Hagrid questioningly, "What was that?"
"That might 'ave been a Gringott's dragon," Hagrid looked a little green with the speed and swerves of the trip, "They guard the levels of the vaults. They're also part of the reason why Gringotts has never been broken into."
At this, Harry remembered the ominous message carved into the walls at the entrance of the building, and nodded to himself. He figured the message was another part of why the bank had never been broken into. They reached a leveling point in the ride, and the goblin pulled a lever on the cart. It then careened toward an embankment with huge walls attached. It finally began to slow down as it approached the ground, and reached a stop as it lightly bounced on the bracers at the end of the track.
From there, the goblin led Harry and Hagrid to a door, and took one of the keys from Hagrid. It stuck the key in a lock. Seconds later, Harry could hear gears grinding and screeching as the door slowly swung open. Harry goggled at the piles of coins, and could just barely see that each pile was one of three colors: gold, silver, and bronze. He followed Hagrid in as the large man walked to a pile, pulled out a small bag and filled it with money. Tying it off, he handed the bag to Harry, "There you go, it ought to last you at least through the year. Jus so's you know, the gold ones are Galleons, the silver are Sickles, and the bronze you should remember are Knuts. And it takes twenty-nine Knuts to make a Sickle, and seventeen Sickles to make a Galleon. Got that?"
Boggling some more, Harry scrambled to tuck away the bag of money as he followed Hagrid back out the door. The goblin closed it, and pulled the key from the lock. More grinding and screeching signaled that the door was completely closed and locked again, and with that, all three climbed back into the cart and made another high-speed, Hagrid-turning-green trip through the catacombs.
This time, Hagrid had Harry stay in the cart. The goblin reached out to the door, and stuck in the key, like before, and then scratched the surface of the door lightly. Hagrid piped up, "And if anyone gets too close to the door when it's locked, they get sucked into the vault itself until the next time the goblins check."
Daunted, Harry almost didn't ask, but felt he'd better, "And how often do they do that?"
Grinning, Griphook showed all of his viciously pointed teeth, "Roughly every ten years, we do sometimes forget and check even less frequently though." This said as the huge man walked to the newly opened door, and pulled out a bagged item, quickly tucking it into one of the pockets of his coat, "There we go," he said as he climbed back into the cart.
The ride back was just as interesting as the ride down had been. Figuring that the ride would be slower, Harry was surprised by the speed of the uphill climb and enjoyed the trip even more. A quick glance at Hagrid told the child that Hagrid was even less thrilled now than he'd been on the way down. No one was happier than Hagrid upon reaching ground level again, and the cart rocked with the alacrity the man employed in removing himself from it. Harry scrambled out so as to not be left behind, and followed his guide back out of the bank.
As he was led past that store with all the kids crowded around again, Harry saw more than just the broom with a straw tail. He saw pictures of people riding said brooms, and waving at the people staring through the glass. Harry stopped for a second in amazement. He never would have imagined people would actually try riding brooms.
"Firs' years aren't allowed to have brooms, 'arry," Hagrid had stopped when the boy did, "but that don't mean you can't enjoy lookin'. Yer da' played Quidditch, not surprisin' that you'd be fascinated too."
"Actually," Harry blinked, "I was just amazed at the thought of people being utterly fascinated with brooms. I didn't know there was a way to make them anything more than cleaning tools."
Hagrid nodded with a puzzled expression on his face, "Eh, well Muggles 're odd like that. Fancy using brooms to clean when a simple spell would do it fer you in a blink!"
Finally they moved on, towards a bookstore, where Hagrid told Harry he'd be back with Harry's birthday present and would give it to him when Harry came back from buying the books on his class list. Walking inside, Harry stared up at all of the books, and finally, shyly approached the man at the desk, "Sir, I'm going to be a first year at Hogwarts, where do I look for the books on my list?"
"Ah," the man said, looking up only briefly, "I know just which books you need, if you give me a few minutes, I'll have them ready for you. You can look around for a bit while you wait, if you like?"
Nodding, Harry wandered a little bit within the store. He didn't exactly pay attention to where he was until he bumped into someone. Apologizing quickly, Harry flinched back, and looked at whom he'd nearly knocked over. He blinked a few times as he took in the red hair, freckles and laughing eyes of not one, but two boys who looked to be two years older than he was.
"Oh, do excuse us," the one on the left said.
"We were just engrossed in our favorite subject, and didn't realize we were blocking the way," the one on the right waved a hand through the area around him.
"It's okay," Harry replied, "I wasn't watching where I was going."
"You're going to be a first year aren't you?" the duplicate on the right asked, peering closely at Harry.
"Yes," Harry looked up cautiously at them.
"Ah, that's good," Left side nodded, "Well, to be polite, we'll introduce ourselves. I'm Fred Weasley, and he's my twin, George."
"No no no no," Right side shook his head, "I'm Fred, and he's MY twin George."
As the two playfully bickered over who was Fred and who was Fred's twin George, Harry smiled, and began to quietly chuckle, "Can't one of you be George and the other his twin Fred?"
They looked at him as they suddenly stopped play-bickering, "Well, I suppose I could be George and he my twin Fred," the one on the right said.
"Oh, but I like it better that I'm Fred, and you're my twin George," Left side teased as he leaned on his twin.
"At least I know which is Fred and which is George now," Harry grinned.
"Oh do you?" Right side smirked.
"You both just agreed that you," pointing to the left, "are Fred, and you, "pointing to the right, "are George, so sure, I know which is which."
"Ah, but I could be Fred and him George," 'George' countered.
"Yes, could be," Harry liked this game, "but you both just agreed on who was whom, so now you have to live with it, even if you are still arguing over who is the twin of whom."
"I like this one, Gred," 'George' smirked at his twin.
"Yes, Forge, I think he'll fit in nicely," 'Fred' smirked back.
At this point, Harry realized that neither twin cared who was 'Fred' and who was 'George,' nor did they care who was someone's twin. He shook his head and sighed, "Okay, so now we've got that out of the way, my name is Harry Potter."
"Really?" Fred raised an eyebrow, "You poor thing, I'd hate to be you, what with all the scar-gawkers out there."
"Have you got your books yet?" George pointed at the books the twins were looking at, "we're just window shopping at books we'd like to get. Our mum's already got ours from our older brothers."
"What's Hogwarts like," Harry asked.
"There's so many opportunities to test our products out," George grinned.
"We almost have more opportunities than we know what to do with," Fred agreed.
"But we make do," George laughed, "The school itself isn't bad, and the professors, except for Binns are okay, but we're not there so much for the learning, as to perfect our jokes."
"What's so bad about Professor Binns?" Harry asked, imagining a cruel person who wouldn't let you even breathe without permission.
"He's just so boring you fall asleep inside of ten minutes," Fred shrugged, "Now Potions and Transfiguration are loads of fun."
"Ample chances for pranks," George continued.
"And interesting enough that we don't sleep in class," Fred finished, "though we could do without the Slytherins breathing down our backs sometimes."
"What's a Slytherin?" Harry was puzzled, figuring that he'd learn enough about the two classes with the books.
"Didn't anyone explain it to you?" Fred blinked, "Slytherin's one of the Houses of Hogwarts." At Harry's head shake and continued puzzled expression, he added, "the other three are Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff."
"We're in Griffindor," George put his two cents worth in, "And it's the best of the four."
"Ravenclaw's for the brainy kids, the ones who like to read all day long and don't care about much else," Fred listed.
"Hufflepuff's for the ones who wouldn't hurt a fly if it hadn't hurt them first," George mentioned.
"And Slytherin's for the sneaky ones," Fred hurried to add, "But not that they're all bad," he shrugged, "just sneaky."
"They can't be all bad," George agreed, "or they'd have been disallowed from the school a long time ago."
"Besides," Fred finished, "it's not like the rest of the school's perfect. I mean, us for example."
"Kings of pranks, best at getting away, prime points losers, and all around trouble makers," the twins alternated with each phrase. Harry started to feel as though he was watching a game of tennis. He grinned a little bit all the same.
"Well," Fred sighed, "We've got to go, to peruse the joke shop's supplies."
"We'll see you at school, Harry," George waved a hand as they left, "Take care of yourself, and we might just have a job for you at the school"
Puzzled as to what job they could mean, Harry wandered the store a little more, and found a book on wizarding culture, one on Herboloy, and a few supplemental books for the rest of his classes too. He figured it would be best to prepare for the school before he got there, after all, he'd had eleven years to get used to the culture of his old school. So he might as well get started now for the new school, since it seemed he was expected to already know all this anyway.
When he had found all the books he wanted, Harry returned to the front desk, where his class books were waiting. Combining the two piles, the bookstore owner totaled it up, and Harry paid from the pouch Hagrid had filled earlier. Not sure how to carry all the books out, Harry paused, but the storekeeper simply cast a quick spell that shrunk the books and handed the newly resized pile to Harry, who gingerly took them
As he left the store, Harry spotted the groundskeeper of Hogwarts, not a difficult task, mind you, and approached him. Hagrid held out a wire cage with a snowy white owl in it. As he peered in at her, Harry smiled gently, thinking she was beautiful.
"Here you go, 'arry, yer very own owl," Hagrid waved the cage a little, then pointed at the large trunk the cage rested on, "and this'll be yer trunk fer school."
"What's the owl for?" Harry asked, puzzled, but still happy with the gift.
"Wizards get their mail by owl, 'arry," Hagrid explained, "So if you have an owl of your own, like this gal here, you'll have an easier time of it."
"Oh," Harry gingerly set the cage on the case, and thinking of a name, asked, "I can name her, right?"
"Oh, yeah," Hagrid nodded enthusiastically, "It'll help you identify her and identify with her, and that'll make her more willing to carry your mail for yeh."
"I think I'll call her Hedwig," Harry vaguely remembered hearing that name in his history classes, he thought.
Taking the trunk and cage, Harry walked along the road behind Hagrid, as the man led him to a store named Madame Malkin's. At the door, Hagrid spoke up, I'll leave you here 'arry, to get sized for yer robes, and when yer done with that, ye can go across the road to Ollivander's to get yer wand. While yer doin' that, I'll get the Potions supply kit ye'll need at school."
Opening the door and peering inside the robe shop, Harry spotted a silver-haired boy standing on a pedestal as a witch circled around him with a tape measure flitting about the boy's wrists, arms and his head. Without turning around, the witch called out, "If you'll stand on the platform, an assistant will get to you right away."
Harry climbed on top of the box not far off and stood there for just a bit. As he waited, the blond boy already being measured looked him over, with a sneer that even Harry could recognize. As the assistant witch started measuring Harry with her own tape measure that flew about independently, the other boy piped up, "My name is Draco Malfoy, and I'll be a first year at Hogwarts in September."
Hesitantly, Harry peered at the other boy through his mangled glasses and his scraggly bangs, "I'm Harry, and I'll be a first year too."
"Which house do you think you'll be in," the boy continued without pausing for an answer, "I'm sure to be in Slytherin, as my entire family has only ever been in that house, though I suppose Ravenclaw would be acceptable to my parents as well."
"Uhm," Harry thought about it for a second, "I think I'd be best off in Ravenclaw, I'm certainly not nice enough to be Hufflepuff, and I don't think I have the qualities for the other two houses, so probably Ravenclaw."
The other boy nodded shortly, as the witch measuring him finished. He stepped down and said as he left, "See you in September, and we'll see which houses we're in, hm?"
When the measuring tape finished flying around Harry, the assistant witch told him he could step down. The first witch looked at the notes jotted down and quickly went to the back room. She reappeared quickly with an armful of robes, which she handed to Harry, telling him they would work at least for this year. He was, in her words, to come back next year for a remeasure, to ensure that he hadn't outgrown his robes.
Crossing the street to Ollivander's, Harry opened the trunk and stowed away the robes and his books then stepped inside the store. The dark interior smelled a little musty, and was definitely quite dusty. He looked around at what looked like bookcases, but had smallish boxes set inside the shelves, rather than books. As he approached one shelf of boxes, a thin voice sounded over his shoulder, causing the boy to jump.
"Ah Mister Potter," a thin, pale man with even thinner and paler hair spilling around his head and hanging over his circle-shaped glasses stood behind the desk Harry was next to, "I've been waiting to see you in here. It seems like just yesterday I sold your parents their wands. Ah, but I digress. You will be needing your wand for school and it is my job to see that you get it." With that, the man reached into a shelf for a series of boxes, opened them one at a time, and handed each individual stick to Harry. He allowed Harry to hold onto them just long enough to feel the wood against his fingertips, before whisking them right back out of his grip. After about five sticks, the man left it in Harry's hands, and nodded at him, "Well, give it a swish, lad."
Harry waved the wand gingerly, and blinked as the accrued pile of boxes went flying off the desk. The man quickly took the stick from the boy, and muttering under his breath, disappeared into the aisles of shelves. He quickly returned with another boxed wand, and handed it to Harry, who waved it even more gently than the first. This time, the man's thinning toupee flew off his head, and Harry paled, figuring that by this point the man was going to tell him there was no wand for him, he really wasn't a wizard, or that everyone had been pulling an elaborate prank on him and he fell for it like the dupe he was. As Harry fretted, the man walked back into the aisles again, and disappeared for a minute or two. When he returned, he carried a small box in his hands, and he almost reverently removed the lid, and pulled the wand from the soft cloth it rested on. He handed the stick to Harry and like with the rest of the wands, named the pieces used to create it, "Holly, 11 inches, with a phoenix tail feather core," as Harry took it, the wand felt warm in his fingers and it shot golden sparks from its tip. The man nodded and put the box aside, "That is quite interesting. You see, the phoenix that gave that tail feather only ever gave one other feather. The wand made in that case would be brother wand to yours, and the wizard I sold it to, happens to be the one who gave you the scar on your forehead, lad. Knowing this, I tell you that you are destined for great things, as he was." At Harry's disbelieving look, "Yes, he was destined for great things. Great, horrible things, but great things all the same. Let not this scare you, child."
"These great things wouldn't have anything to do with my House at Hogwarts would they?" Harry tried to calm himself, he didn't like the idea of having the same core in his wand as that of the one who killed his parents.
"To a degree," Ollivander started tidying the boxes scattered about, "Each house helps a child learn what their traits are. They are meant to represent the core of a child as they live and grow. For example, the Slytherins trust none but themselves as life has dealt them a hard hand, often they forget to consider this as they seek revenge against those who've wronged them. The Hufflepuffs are those who have the ability to make friends, trusting in all, until that trust is taken away. The Ravenclaws prefer to research, plan, and theorize, rather than act, and those of Gryffindor are the brave, those who would do rather than wait."
Thanking the man and paying for his wand, Harry left the store, feeling a little more knowledgeable about the Houses of Hogwarts. As he stepped outside, Harry blinked at the sunlight, and spotted Hagrid sitting in a chair by the door. As the tall man stood, he reached into one of the multitude of pockets in his jacket and pulled out a kit. He handed it to Harry, who noticed it was marked for Potions, and asked if Harry liked his wand. Harry nodded as he put the kit into the trunk. Harry wondered how to hide the trunk, and yet still be able to read the books he needed to, to learn more about what he was getting into. Finally he asked Hagrid, and the large man mentioned there was a spell that shrunk things. Harry mumbled the words he'd heard the shopkeeper in the bookstore say as he shrunk Harry's books, and Hagrid nodded. Then he shrunk Harry's supplies, and unshrunk the books, so Harry could read them before starting school. As they left Wizarding London, and Harry happily put the trunk in his pocket, and the books into a bag Hagrid lent him. Luckily it looked on the worn side, so the Dursleys shouldn't get too mad about him having a big expensive bag, and might even leave the books alone. If they bothered to look at all.
Hagrid led the shy boy back through Muggle London, he put the boy on the train back home, and gave him a ticket for the ride to the school. He also gave instructions as to the time to catch the train. Sadly, Harry didn't think to look at the Platform number until he got back to Privet Drive, and thus couldn't ask Hagrid about Platform nine and three quarters.
Okay, first off, I realize I have some events in Wizarding London rearranged. I kind of like them this way. Now I just need to know if there is more description needed, or if I'm gasp too descriptive. Comma check would be nice, but is not mandatory. My computer has a rudimentary grammar check, so any other fine-tuning in that department would be nice. As well as typos. Hate those. Lastly, is this a good start?
(Just a quick edit, someone pointed something out to me, thanks AnnF! Also, thanks to Kyuukami for the edit on Madam Malkin. Finally getting the disclaimer typos fixed while I'm at it.)