Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related terms and characters are the property of JK Rowling. The use of copyrighted material is for non-profit entertainment purposes only, and in no way constitutes a challenge to the existing copyright.
A/N: There's a reason behind the sluggishness of the recent updates to MEtyK: It's time to clean the story up a bit.
Or a lot.
When I started this story, my first ever, I knew that the first few chapters would be choppy and inconsistent compared to the later ones. Boy was I right. I am committed to this story, and I want to put out the highest possible quality. This began as a writing exercise, and I'm continuing to learn as I go, so it's only fair to go back and correct my work, just like any other self-respecting writer would do to a manuscript.
I present to you a completely overhauled version of More Equal than you Know, one chapter at a time; much of it is the same, but I've spaced things out a bit more, and adjusted situations to conform more directly to the reality I have created. This isn't just a run-through to correct typos and grammar; I've removed, added, and changed entire sections of story to increase readability, as well as the reader's immersion into the story and the world.
WARNING: There will be some obvious minor inconsistencies as I go though adjusting chapters, so bear with me. When in doubt, the overhauled chapters are correct, and the later chapters will change to reflect this.
I've maintained parts of the first person, but I've come to realize the inferiority of the tense that I'm writing in. There is far less to work with when the writer is trapped behind the eyes of the protagonist, so I've found what I thought was a very creative method to overcome that.
In the end, it's much the same story that you've all enjoyed. I hope you continue to do so.
I hope to God that I've taken care of all the bookkeeping issues, but as always, let me know if you find any.
--MORE EQUAL THAN YOU KNOW--
She walked slowly towards the house, anticipation and fear building. Despite her experiences, it was rare for her to be alone, even for a short while. Her scalp ached, reminding her how tightly she had braided her hair – not one of her brown curls were free today, looped and twisted tightly against her head. She ignored the pain as best she could; it served as a practical reminder to be cautious. Her wand twitched in her hand, as though it expected combat.
It was a small, insignificant white speck in the middle of the prairie field, nothing but grass and the occasional tree for miles around, the sun and a spattering of clouds the only objects in the blue sky. There was no road or driveway. There was no need for a fence. Despite its brand-new appearance, there was a feeling of ancient timelessness to the place.
He wouldn't be here.
It was at once her greatest fear, hope and pride that she knew him so well. Despite the effort it took to find this place, the small clues he had left, he would not be here to meet her. Not in this place, so different from the reality they both knew; from the darkness that threatened them and their loved ones.
The front door was unlocked and opened silently and easily to her touch. It exposed a modest interior, opening directly into the living room with only a modest space for shoes and a side-closet to hang coats. The inside walls were as white as the outside, and sunlight poured through the windows, giving the room an almost ethereal brightness.
The kitchen was only a doorway away, but her instincts led her up the stairs to her left, to the second floor. A small bathroom greeted her at the top of the stairs, just beside the door to the master bedroom. Two smaller rooms further down the hall caught her attention briefly, but her focus returned to the bedroom now in front of her.
She entered quietly, feeling like a dark stain on this otherwise perfect house. Her discomfort fled immediately as she spied a small tome on the bed, its weight creating a small dent in the covers. A small smile played at the corner of her mouth as she spied the title on the cover, one word spelled out in small golden letters.
She picked up the book with reverence, sitting carefully on the edge of the bed. Elation and despair warred within her; as she had suspected, he was not here. He had left this book for her, the familiar feel of his conjurations and enchantments playing across the cover. Unable to restrain herself longer than the few seconds it took to erect a perimeter alarm, she opened the cover and began to read.
It's hard to be optimistic when the world uses you as a crutch.
That sounds a bit over the top, I guess, but I'm one of the few people in the world that can say it and not be lying. I'm sorry that I wasn't able to meet you directly, but the timing of everything to come is so bloody specific that I really don't have more than about five minutes of leeway at any point in time. You knew that, I'm sure, but I'll ask you to forgive me all the same.
This book is more than just a letter for you: It's also a container for the most important memories of my life. I'm leaving this to you, as a gift, a reminder of all we've shared, as well as my legacy should I fail later today. Show this to anyone you trust, so that they know what they're up against, and what we've accomplished so far. Use this to build your allies and pick up where I've left off.
On the other hand, if I'm still alive by the end of this, we can use it to tell our story like some insipid muggle home video. I'm rooting for this option, naturally.
Once you turn the page, the show starts: Seven years of Hogwarts, Voldemort, doom, and gloom that I'm sure you're just dying to relive. I'd suggest you take the time to go through it now, before you leave. Nothing can bother you in this place; I've made sure of it.
In case of the worst, I want you to remember the two most important things I could ever tell you: I love you, and I'm proud of you.
Seizing her courage, she turned the page, and fell immediately into a kaleidoscopic tunnel. Several hours passed, before the book released her to reality. Her mind whirling, she grabbed the book and turned on the spot, the crack of her disapparition causing the bed sheets to flutter. So many others needed to see this; she had so much to do.
Several hours later, a select group of witches, wizards and muggles stood around the book, the last testament of Harry Potter. After only a moment's hesitation, one of the people reached forward and carefully turned the page, before crying out and vanishing, only to reappear in the hallway of a muggle household, standing beside the pale illusion of a smirking Harry Potter.
Did you enjoy your trip? It's quite the rush, I know. Take your time, all of you. Get comfortable. I'm sure Hermione's told you all about where you are, so I'm not going to bore you with explanations of Pensieves and their derivative magics. You'll be able to hear my general train of thought, too, so be careful not to block it.
For now, the part that you all need to know is that Voldemort attacked me and tried to kill me on October 31, 1981. He failed, and the Avada Kedavra curse backfired on him as pure magical force, destroying his body. In the process, it was believed that some of Voldemort's power was absorbed into me, granting me power and giving me the lightning-bolt scar on my forehead. In fact, it was supposed to mark me as his "equal," as I would find out later.
It did not. There is no part of Voldemort inside me. In fact, any part of him in contact with me at that point would have been destroyed; due to my mother's sacrifice, we were now as opposite as the north and south poles. The curse changed me, however, because it acted as a conduit along which Voldemort's magic and my own collided. Voldemort's power rammed right into my tiny little one-year-old magic core, overwhelming it and forcing it to adjust or perish in the onslaught.
I survived, so I guess I adjusted.
Everyone should already know a bit about my early childhood. Dumbledore, in a mix of desperation and hope, placed me in the care of my mother's muggle relatives, the Dursleys. That's whose house you're standing in, by the way.
The good news was that I was completely safe from Voldemort's remaining forces while I grew up, and the wizarding world was not aware that there was a child whose magical power was astronomical for his age; the bad news was that the Dursleys hated magic and everyone associated with it, including my mother. They took that hatred out on me as often as they could, especially when one of my frequent bouts of accidental magic occurred.
My torment lasted until just after my seventh birthday. My accidental magic had done nothing but increase, and everything came to a head that summer. Let's look, shall we?
"C'mere, Harry!" Dudley called. "I've got sumthin' to show ya!"
Harry bolted as fast as he could across the house, several times faster than his fat, lumbering cousin could follow. This was nothing new; Dudley had a new toy construction vehicle, a gift given to him just two days ago, on Harry's birthday. The injustice of that wasn't on Harry's mind, however. His more pressing concern was that the new toy had sharp edges, which Dudley would gladly hit Harry with repeatedly. So, Harry ran.
Harry slammed the kitchen door shut, flipping the small lock. Dudley knew better than to damage the door or house, so Harry was safe for the moment. It was a short moment, though, as the front door opened, and Uncle Vernon waddled in, his thick moustache twitching from a long day at work. His beady eyes flicked between the locked kitchen door and Harry, and he turned his large frame to his nephew.
'What did you do, boy?' he asked threateningly.
There was a sudden pounding on the door. 'Dad!' screamed Dudley. 'Help me! Harry's done something to me! Help!'
Vernon moved faster than his rolls of flab should allow, rushing to the kitchen door and unlocking it. Dudley shoved past him, intent on attacking Harry. Not willing to take a beating from both his uncle and his cousin, Harry vaulted over the back of the sofa with practiced ease, quickly putting the coffee table between him and his cousin as well. Dudley ambled around the couch, and started to move around the coffee table, Vernon coming around the other side. Harry chose the lesser of two evils, and dashed for Dudley, shoving the round boy with every ounce of strength his thin arms could muster. Dudley fell away with a surprised yelp, and Harry moved on.
Less than two strides away, a thunderous crash echoed through the room, and Harry turned to stare at the sight of his cousin's flying form tearing through the wall more than ten feet away, landing on the kitchen table, which screeched across the floor.
That was impossible.
So entranced with the unbelievable sight, Harry put up no resistance when Uncle Vernon grabbed him. 'Get in there!' he shouted, moving Harry towards the cupboard where they kept him. With a forceful shove, Harry fell inside, and the door slammed shut behind him, the lock clicking into place. His shoulder ached slightly from Uncle Vernon's grip, but it didn't keep his mind away from what had happened, as well as the possible implications. Dudley had flown across the living room and through the kitchen wall, and Harry had done it to him.
'Cool,' he muttered.
An ambulance rushed Dudley to the hospital, both Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia beside themselves with worry. Harry stayed in his cupboard, temporarily forgotten until either this uncle or aunt decided it was time to punish him. That wouldn't happen this time, he vowed. He had thrown Dudley through the wall; how hard would it be to knock the cupboard door off? Harry pushed with everything he had, but no matter how hard he tried, the door wouldn't budge.
Again and again, he tried to break it, sweat dripping down his skinny body. His black hair, normally wild and uncontrollable, stuck to his face and neck with uncomfortable wetness. He was desperate now. He knew his aunt and uncle would be home soon; he was never wrong about such things. If they returned and he hadn't escaped, they would beat him to within an inch of his life. Panic clouded his mind, and he banged furiously against the cupboard door.
A familiar sensation of animalistic fear overtook him when he heard the front door lock click open. The cupboard door flew across the hall, slamming against the wall.
Harry scrambled out the opening, turning to look at the shocked faces of his aunt and uncle. Vernon recovered quickly, his face reddening in anger. Harry rushed towards his uncle, his panic focusing into an all-encompassing rage. As his uncle bent forwards to grab Harry by the shoulders, Harry grabbed the fat man around the knees and threw sideways as hard as he could, nearly growling in satisfaction as his uncle's hands disappeared. He turned to watch a second unbelievable flight, as Vernon sailed up and over the couch, slamming into the electric fireplace mantle, and falling heavily to the ground. Despite his poor vision, Harry could see blood on the mantle.
A moan of fear turned his attention back to his Aunt Petunia, who shrank away from him like the Devil. She didn't seem surprised, though, just scared. Maybe she knew something about this already. Harry moved towards her, and she shrank back, cowering in the corner of the stairs. 'D-Don't hurt me,' she pleaded, her voice barely a whisper.
'Okay,' growled Harry. 'I won't hurt you. Tell me what I want to know.'
It was a night for many questions and many answers that my Aunt Petunia did not want to give.
Yes, witches and wizards are real; yes, I am a wizard -- a freak, in her words; yes, my parents were wizards, and some evil wizard killed them, then some old man left me here with a letter, explaining that I would be safe if Aunt Petunia took me. The answers were short and to the point, and left my 7-year-old head spinning. I was a wizard. Damn! It was easy to believe since I always performed little displays of "magic" as far back as I could remember, but now "magic" was Magic: a very real thing. It was hard getting to sleep that night.
My aunt left me with a small box that contained a golden signet ring with a flawless ruby and what I assumed was my family crest on it, two wands which I figured were my mother's and father's, and a key for vault 687 in Gringotts Wizarding Bank. There were a few photos of my parents as well, and I was amazed that the photos were moving. I spent many a day looking at those pictures, and wishing that my parents were still alive.
The Dursleys still tried to be mean to me, but they didn't cross any significant lines after that incident. I had to fight Dudley's entire gang once after this, but that was also painfully one-sided and nowhere near as satisfying as throwing my Uncle Vernon across the room. I suppose that I was a bit vindictive with at times, but I didn't go out of my way to harm them, and I felt it was more than fair, as they certainly didn't go out of their way to feed me. If, by any chance, the Dursleys are looking at this, I have a message for them:
Harry scribbled across his schoolbook, thoroughly bored. Math was such an annoying class, and the teacher was brand-new, which meant there was no fun allowed. He was too new to know to check a quiet student's work, though, so Harry spent his time doodling, the actual assignment long since completed.
Since his night of triumph against the Dursleys over the summer, Harry's life had changed. The Dursleys were anything but nice, but he had his own room now, with brand new furniture, new clothes, proper glasses, and anything else Harry wanted to keep him and his magic away from them. A small part of him wondered if he was just bullying the Dursleys the way they bullied him, but he rationalized it the best he could: Yes, he was, and yes, they deserved it.
It had gotten easier and easier to use magic since the summer. Not only could he make himself stronger, but faster, too. Dudley and his gang had ambushed him, and they bent a shovel on his head before Harry took it from them and beat them senseless. A shovel across his head, and it didn't hurt.
School had gotten easier, too. Ever since the summer, whenever he wanted to remember something, he only had to think about it and touch his magic and poof! There it was. Tests and assignments had never been so easy. Some of his classmates actually spoke with him now, since Dudley couldn't terrorize them any more, and teachers were quick to place students with him, since Harry was now top of the class.
Top of the class, best football player for his age group, top reader notorious for finishing at least two books a day, and remembering every single detail, and popular for both helping other students and keeping Dudley on a leash, Harry's life should have been perfect.
It was boring, though. So utterly, depressingly boring. No matter how advanced the books were, no matter how much praise the teachers heaped on, there was no challenge to anything he was doing. What was the point of magic if it made your life pointless?
Deciding to follow his rebellious instincts, Harry excused himself to the loo, and promptly left the school. There was a mall nearby; maybe he could find something fun to do there.
There's no point showing you memories of my trips to the mall. All you'll see is my listening intently to street kids talking, stealing the odd candy bar when I was hungry, and escaping several near-beatings by outrunning my would-be attackers. I even had the chance to watch a prostitute at work, wondering with a horrified expression on my face if adults actually did those things to each other.
Looking back, that memory's actually funny, but no, you can't see it.
I eased my boredom by living on the street as much as I could. I still returned to the Dursleys to sleep, but I stayed away from them other than that. Every now and then, I visited the local library, and devoured books for hours on end. I had honed my memory to the point where I just flipped pages continuously, book after book. The librarian thought I was crazy, but I was quiet, so she never bothered me.
When I wanted money, I worked. Since I had no lack of strength or stamina, I was the community's best yard labor. I treated the house like a hotel: I ate and slept there, but otherwise I was at the library, the park, the local mall, the school... anywhere but home. The Dursleys were all too thrilled to let me do as I pleased. I cooked my own meals, did my own laundry, and earned my own money doing work for the community. I paid for most of my own new clothes, a new prescription set of glasses, my own groceries, and any other incidental things I needed like haircuts. In any other community other than Little Whinging, I probably would have starved. This was a community of lazy middle-class people though, so I scraped by until my eleventh birthday.
'Happy Birthday, Harry,' he mumbled to himself. It was a decent birthday, with a few small tokens from the teachers and other students. There were no parties, though, and he certainly hadn't made any friends he'd trust to bring home to the Dursleys. His classmates were happy with him at school, but still too fearful of Dudley to see him after class. The "friends" he made on the street were hardly the type he wanted to know his address. He hardly cared for the false sweetness of his aunt and anything she might do for him, so he celebrated his birthday by himself, lighting a small candle in his room after his customary countdown to midnight, and enjoying the glint of the firelight off the new watch he bought himself.
There was a tremendous pounding on the back of the house, startling Harry and eliciting shouts of surprise from his aunt and uncle. A visitor? At midnight? Intrigued, Harry crept out of his room and down the stairs, after the lumbering footsteps of his relatives. He stopped at the base of the stairs as a shouting match ensued. Whomever they were arguing with had a loud, rumbling voice that carried right across the house.
There was a moment of silence, and then his uncle stepped out of the kitchen. 'Boy,' he called, seeing Harry at the stairs, 'you have a visitor. Talk with them and then make them go away.'
Wondering which of his friends could possibly think to bother his at home, or even find him Harry stepped outside and froze in shock. Towering above him, resting his arm easily on the edge of the house's roofing, was a man. A giant of a man.
'Happy Birthday, Harry!' the man boomed. 'I see ye're doin' well for yerself. Name's Reubeus Hagrid; yes' call me Hagrid, everybody does.'
'Um… hi, Hagrid,' Harry mumbled. 'Err… how did you know it was my birthday? I'm sure I'd remember you if we'd met.'
'Dunno 'bout that. Last Time I saw yeh, ye were barely more'n a year old.'
'A year…' Harry suddenly lit up. 'Does that mean that you knew my parents?' Hagrid nodded, and Harry nearly jumped in excitement. 'Could you tell me about them? Please?'
Hagrid's laughter boomed down the street, and he sat down on the ground still seeming to be miles above Harry. Harry likewise sat, and listened in rapture as Hagrid began to tell his stories.
Reubeus Hagrid, a man who I am proud to say became my first friend. Hagrid had come to wish me a happy birthday and introduce me to the magical world to which I belonged. After eating his homemade cake and reminiscing about my parents until morning broke, the two of us were on our way, looking over the supply list of my Hogwarts Letter.
Hagrid rambled on about the wizarding world as he took me through London to the Leaky Cauldron, a wizarding pub that served as the doorway to Diagon Alley, a small wizarding community built around the street from which it took its name. When the bartender, Tom, recognized me and exclaimed loudly, the entire place went quiet, then exploded in cheers. About three hundred handshakes and backslaps later, Hagrid tapped the wall, which shuffled its bricks into an archway to Diagon Alley.
Gringotts was their first stop, where Hagrid gave Harry a copy of his bank key left with Professor Dumbledore 'Jest in case those muggles held out on yeh.' A wild ride down to the vaults showed him that his parents left him a vault loaded with gold. The Potter family account was large and out of his hands until he reached majority, which wizarding society defined as having satisfactorily completed the OWL exams after five years of schooling. Harry's trust fund held 10,000 galleons worth of coin, but Hogwarts tuition came directly from the main Potter vault. That meant that aside from school supplies every year, he was free to spend it as he wished. Smiling at the thought of finally having money to spend, Harry counted out a thousand galleons into a bag, and chatted with Hagrid about what shops he should visit.
On our way out, Hagrid made a stop at another vault, 713. Harry wondered at what item Hagrid had removed from the vault, but he was quite tight-lipped about it. Not wanting to strain his new friendship, he let it go. On the way out, Harry converted 10 Galleons into roughly £500 to use for new muggle clothes and such later. There would be no more yard work, especially with such steep conversion rate. Hagrid needed to disappear for a while to unload whatever item he had just taken, and Harry assured him several times that he was perfectly fine on his own. They agreed to meet back at the Leaky Cauldron later in the afternoon.
After hours of questioning shopkeepers and standing in line, Harry finally had what he needed: A wand, a trunk that could shrink itself, a seemingly bottomless book bag to take to classes, the best model telescope available and a model of the stars and planets that defied muggle physics. He picked up the entire seven years' worth of Hogwarts texts so he could read ahead, and every Potions apparatus and reagent available to students. All of these things he tossed into his trunk, along with rolls of parchment, quills, and ink. After seeing the selection available, he bought his school and casual robes in the finest silk available, charmed to be resistant to damage and to adjust for a few inches of growth.
Harry was disappointed to find out that glasses were still as good as the wizarding world could do for eyesight, but he picked up a pair of glasses with a very thin gold wireframe to match his signet ring, which he wore constantly on his right middle finger. He was used to the style of circular lenses, so he kept that shape, but wizards could thankfully keep the glass as thin as the frame and still hold to any prescription. The store owner convinced him to spend a little extra -- and another hour in the store -- for a couple of minor but permanent charms to keep the glasses durable, scratch free, substance-resistant and just about impossible to remove from his face if he wasn't the one doing it.
All told, 945 Galleons and change, four hours, and the use of Madam Malkin's changing room, and Harry finally looked like a wizard, with 45 Galleons left to spend through the school year. Satisfied that he had everything he wanted to have, Harry walked back to the Leaky Cauldron, where Hagrid surprised him with a birthday present, a beautiful snowy owl.
'Hedwig,' Harry decided when Hagrid asked him to name his pet. 'I'll call her Hedwig.'
Did you enjoy that trip? Wasn't it fun to trail after an excited and inquisitive eleven-year-old? I learned a lot about wizarding society on that shopping trip. I also learned that Ollivander is a creepy man who knows too much, self-shrinking trunks are bloody expensive, and wizards really needed to research contact lenses.
Hagrid took me home shortly after I met him at the Cauldron and I spent the better part of a week pouring over my schoolbooks. I finished most of them, but magic being just as much a physical exercise as a mental one, I couldn't do much with my newfound knowledge. Besides, I won't be so egotistical as to imply that I understood everything I could recall. Remembering something and knowing how to use it are two drastically different things, especially with magic.
By August 5, I resolved to return to Diagon Alley, intent on answering the questions that plagued me.
Harry sat quietly in the back of the taxi, trying to ignore the driver's horrible voice as he sang to the radio.
Magic was interesting to read about; he needed a wand to do anything remotely useful aside from his usual tricks, but underage wand magic was traceable. Since he lived in an isolated muggle community, practicing was impossible. Wizards of sufficient skill could cast spells silently, relying only on their wand, but they sacrificed some of the spell's power in doing that. Wizards that were very powerful could cast spells that would fail for weaker wizards; they could even manage to force spells to work even without the wand, but their control would be crude at best. There wasn't any useful information on why this was the case, though, which confused him.
Harry supposed that enough skill and power, and you could do away with wands and words entirely as long as what you were doing was very simple and well below your power limits. The books said nothing about it, though.
'There a convention somewhere near here?' the taxi driver asked, eyeing Harry's clothing.
'No,' Harry said, fighting a blush. 'It does kind of look like that, though, doesn't it?' The cabbie nodded, and returned to his off-tune singing. Harry played with the hem of his shirt self-consciously. While robes looked great on wizards, they made him feel like a Star Wars fanatic in the muggle world. Still there, were perks to wearing robes that no pair of jeans could match, such as not needing underwear. He idly wondered if witches wore any underwear. Since tradition stated the outer robes stayed closed, wouldn't jeans and a T-shirt be okay to wear, instead of the belted tunic and trousers? He'd probably have to wear the boots, though; sneakers were decidedly non-wizarding wear.
Those questions faded to the back of his mind as the taxi stopped in front of the Leaky Cauldron. Paying the man for his time, Harry pushed the door to the pub open, and walked towards the alley entrance.
Today's trip was a fact-finding mission about Hogwarts and learning magic in general, so Harry decided that the first place to look and ask questions was the book store. He entered the store quietly, and walked to where he had found his textbooks.
'Excuse me,' he heard from behind him, 'are you going to Hogwarts this year?' Harry turned to see a short girl with an immense mop of bushy hair. She smiled tentatively, revealing a slight overbite. Her sweater and jeans identified her as muggleborn; Harry thought darkly that her clothing might be the reason that she would be asking another student for information instead of adults.
'Yeah,' he said, holding out his had. 'Harry Potter.'
'Hermione Granger,' she replied, shaking his hand lightly.
'I don't mean to start in the deep end, but have any of the adults given you problems so far?'
Hermione looked down a bit and nodded meekly.
'Tell you what,' he said, sending an annoyed look towards the shopkeeper, 'why don't you get your parents and come with me. We'll get your school robes first, and a casual set that you can put on in the shop. Once you're dressed like a witch, no one can single you out, and this gets a lot easier.'
'I'm here alone,' she said. 'My parents have been quite busy with their work. They're dentists, you see. A dentist is-'
'I know all about it,' Harry interrupted. 'I was raised by muggles, so I'm new to this all, as well. I think I can answer your questions, though. Let's walk.'
'Do you know anything about our classes?' she asked, once they were outside.
'A bit,' Harry replied. 'There seemed to be four major classes: Charms, Defense against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Transfiguration. They're the practical stuff. The other courses seem to be the theory behind those other four. Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures are useful for Potions and Defense, you see. If you know what exists in the world around you, so you're more prepared to deal with it and use it.'
'Okay; do they all work like that?'
Harry nodded. 'I think so. Arithmancy and Ancient Runes are like that for Charms and Transfiguration. Ancient Runes isn't just runes, but the studies of Old Magic. A thousand years ago, wands didn't exist. Wizards carved runes of power into large staves, and used them in grand rituals involving circles, inscriptions, chants, candles, incense, mystical symbols, and the like. You can tell it's where all the muggle ideas of wizards come from.' Hermione giggled a little, and Harry continued. 'According to our textbooks, wands are a refined form of staff, with a magical core that can channel our magic and replace the whole ritual with elaborate wand movements. The simple "swish-and-flick" we're going to learn about would be useless without a wand. There's a lot of Old Magic still around, though, so they keep the class around. It's what New Magic's based on, too, so it's probably a great help to know about.
'Arithmancy is kind of like wizard-math. If you ever want to make a spell of your own, this is what you take. Everything to do with how and why wands work is covered in Arithmancy.'
'That sounds like a wonderful class,' Hermione said as they walked down the street.
'Sounds it. Astronomy's there, too. I've read into it a bit, and it's pretty much the same stuff for wizards. It's important to magic in general. If you believe the books, "planetary movements, as well as those of the Sun and Moon, affect the creation of potions as well as the power and effectiveness of magic in general."'
'Our books say that?'
Harry nodded, chuckling. 'It sounds high and mighty, but there some cool stuff in there. I can't stand math, but I love what I've read about magic. You need to do math to do magic, so…'
'I guess you're stuck, then.'
The conversation paused as Hermione was fitted for robes. Harry noticed that she picked up only two sets of regular school robes, and was reluctant to pick up the casual ones.
'If you need a Galleon or two, I can cover,' he whispered to her. 'I found some good deals on stuff when I did my run, so I have some spare change.'
'It's all right, I…' Hermione looked once more to the robes she was getting, and the price. 'Okay,' she sighed. 'Thanks, Harry.'
'No problem.' He passed her a handful of Galleons, more than enough to cover any purchases she might have made.
Soon, they were clear of the store, and attracted significantly less attention from the crowds in the Alley. Hermione shook her head. 'That's so unfair,' she muttered. 'It's not like I chose to be muggleborn or anything.'
'Don't worry about it,' Harry soothed. 'If you care about it, just say your family's French, so of course no one here's heard of your last name. You were raised here, though, so you're going to Hogwarts.'
Hermione's eyebrows rose. 'Wow, you make lying sound easy.'
'One of my many ways of surviving the day,' Harry said with a shrug. 'Anyways, did you want me to finish rambling about Hogwarts?' Seeing her nod, Harry picked up where he left off.
'There are also 'background' classes; that's what I'd call them, anyways: Divination, History of Magic, and Muggle Studies. Divination's mostly theory on the different types of divination. Some wizards are actually supposed to be able to see the future, but I haven't met any yet. You're supposed to be able to use divination tools accurately, though, so there might be something to it.
'There's Muggle Studies, which is a joke. They're pretty good on the basics, but ask a wizard to plug in a toaster…' he trailed off as Hermione erupted into a fit of laughter. 'Seriously, they make everyone take the course for the first couple of years, but it's worthless to anyone who's been anywhere near muggles.
'History of Magic is basically the flip-side of Muggle Studies: Who wizards are, where we came from, society, politics, and other boring junk. That pretty much covers the first five years of classes.'
'Do we take all twelve classes each year?' asked Hermione, looking a little lost.
'Nope,' Harry shook his head, 'there are seven that we have to take for the first two years. Charms, Defense, Potion, Transfiguration, History, Muggle Studies, and Astronomy. The other five are from third year up, and we get to choose what we take. I think Hogwarts demands that you take at least six classes to fifth year.'
'Oh, well that's not a bother,' she said, relief apparent in her voice. 'Do you know anything about scholarships or anything like that?'
Harry shook his head. 'Sorry, but no. You might get some more information about the school though, now that you're a French Pureblood and all.'
'Stop that!' she said, giggling. 'I never said I'd use your lie.'
'You never said you wouldn't.'
Their banter continued until they reached the books store again, Hermione collecting her year's supplies as they went, with Harry urging her to spend the Galleons he gave her on higher-quality items. Eventually the sky darkened to evening and Hermione sighed, looking at her watch. 'I have to go. Is there a way I can get in touch with you?'
'Now that I've met you, yes,' said Harry. 'I have a Mail Owl named Hedwig. If I write a letter and put your name on it, she can find you. I'll tell her to wait around so that you can write replies.'
'That would be wonderful! I've wondered a bit about how they use owls to send letters. Isn't it dreadfully slow?'
'Nope! Hagrid said they can Apparate from one place to another, usually within a block of their destination.' Harry took in Hermione's blank look. 'Teleport,' he corrected. 'Apparate means teleport; you'll read about it right away. Mail Owls are trained to Apparate between locations, and home in on people that their handlers are familiar with.'
'That's wonderful!' she exclaimed. 'Alright then, I'll leave a window open, and I'll hear from you soon! Bye, Harry!'
'Bye!' He watched her disappear into the Cauldron. Harry stayed in the pub, ordering dinner for himself before hailing a cab to return home.
Hermione was a very diligent writer, Harry found.
He wrote to her that very night, only to have a lengthy reply arrive within the hour. Hermione was full of questions about magic and the wizarding world in general, and Harry answered as best he could. She was very smart, the kind of person that teachers thought Harry was. She hadn't been using magic to cheat in her classes, though, so Harry thought she might be a real genius. School textbooks could only answer so much, and he very quickly planned another excursion to Diagon Alley. Hermione wasn't able to come, but he promised her he'd write her as soon as he got back.
This was true freedom, he thought, sitting again in the back of a taxi. Money was a real powerhouse; it enabled him to travel where he wanted, to eat when he felt like it, and it gave him access to information he wouldn't otherwise have. At the rate that he could read and Hermione could ask questions, he wondered if he should save time and just buy every book in the store.
This would the last trip to the Alley, he decided. Already his pile of Galleons had dropped to 28, though much of that was a loan to Hermione. He also had accrued a massive collection of Knuts and Sickles; he held on to those, though, as they were useful for buying food and sweets. Still, there was no reason that muggle restaurants wouldn't do to sate his hunger at a slightly cheaper cost.
After perusing the bookstore for the fifth time in two weeks, Harry left with the last two books he felt were worthwhile. One of the books, an Atlas that showed a world map, was one he would have to mail to Hermione. The continental landmasses depicted in the Atlas were much larger, and more islands existed than muggles had accounted for. Complex wards obscured wizarding communities from sight, squeezing those areas so that for all muggle could see and understand they didn't actually exist.
The other book was a thin manuscript called Magical Responses to Muggle Technology. All modern weaponry from handguns to nuclear bombs had been accounted for; the average shield spell would stop any number of bullets easier than it would stop most hexes, and the wards that shielded the magical world from muggles took into account such things as nuclear radiation and sudden blasts of heat and force. The more he read, the more he fell in love with the magical world, the ultimate escape from the life he detested.
As he left the store, he ran into a blond-haired boy who looked as though he was shopping for school supplies. 'You Hogwarts?' the boy asked, looking Harry up and down thoughtfully. Seeing Harry's nod, the boy stuck out his hand. 'Draco Malfoy.'
'Harry Potter.' Harry shook his hand, and watched as Draco's eyes flicked to his scar.
'Harry Potter,' echoed Draco, his grasp on Harry's hand tightening a little. 'Imagine meeting you right in the middle of Diagon Alley. Rumor has it that you're kept locked away with muggles.'
'That's true enough,' Harry conceded as he retrieved his hand. 'They're not the most charming people around, but I've learned a thing or two, and some not-so-accidental magic keeps them from being too annoying.'
'Really? You've got to tell!' Just as Harry opened his mouth to speak, Draco shouted 'Mother! Father! Look who I've found!' His father rewarded Draco with a sharp rap from his cane, while his mother looked Harry over with a critical eye. The three Malfoys looked remarkably alike; Draco's father was a tall, slender man, with long blond hair and the steel-grey eyes that Harry had come to expect from pureblooded families. Mrs. Malfoy was similar, her hair braided in a complex bun and curls, her features just different enough from Mr. Malfoys to indicate that they came from different families, her grey eyes perhaps a shade darker. Draco was the perfect blend of his mother and father, with his father's hair, mother's face, and his eyes a shade between both. Harry was certain that all three wore evergreen robes that likely cost as much as Harry had paid for his entire wardrobe.
'It's not nice to interrupt people, Draco,' his father chided him. 'It's also not polite to shout across the Alley. I apologize on behalf of my son, young mister… Potter?' Mr. Malfoy's eyes were riveted to the scar on Harry's forehead, and his eyes. Green eyes seemed to be rather uncommon to wizards, he noticed. For the first time, Harry wondered just how well known he was.
Seeing Draco's embarrassment and feeling the need to exude politeness in the face of the elder Malfoys, Harry held out his hand. 'That's right. Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Malfoy, Mrs. Malfoy.'
'The pleasure's ours,' Mr. Malfoy replied, shaking Harry's hand firmly.
'I'm surprised that you're in the Alley alone,' Mrs. Malfoy commented, looking around. 'Aren't you minded by muggles?' Harry could hear the distaste oozing from her mouth. This family, obviously, was not one he would introduce Hermione to. Not without careful preparation, at least.
'I've been fending for myself for quite a while, Mrs. Malfoy. The muggles are a horrible lot, so I stay away as much as I can. Diagon Alley's as good a place as any.'
'He was about to tell me how he used magic on them!' Draco exclaimed, earning himself another rap from his father.
'He has a name, Draco. Can't we take you anywhere?'
'Why don't we retire for lunch, dearest?' suggested Mrs. Malfoy. 'I'm sure that young Mr. Potter would enjoy seeing a proper wizard's home for the first time. Is that agreeable to you, Mr. Potter?'
'Err, that's great, Mrs. Malfoy, I'd love to.'
'Wonderful! In that case-'
'Draco!' The call cut across their conversation; Harry and the Malfoys turned to see a small family approach them, a young girl with her parents. Unlike other young witches Harry had seen, this one had her black hair cropped short, bobbing around her ears. Her father shared her black hair and dark eyes, while her mother sported long, auburn hair, her eyes a lighter shade of brown. Their robes were similar to the Malfoys', though with noticeably less embroidery.
'I wondered if I'd see you today,' the girl continued. 'The Alley's got great stuff this year. I've already -- who's this?' she turned to Harry for the first time. 'Is this a friend of yours, Draco? Pansy Parkinson,' she said, giving her most charming smile.
'Harry Potter,' he replied, keeping an eye on Pansy and her parents to gauge their reactions; he wasn't disappointed. Pansy's eyes widened a bit, and her smile, if anything, was larger. Her parents also brightened at the mention of his name.
'We were discussing lunch at our place,' Mr. Malfoy said, gaining everyone's attention. 'If that's suitable to you as well, Marius, Livia, perhaps you might join us?'
'Oh, yes!' Pansy chirped, before turning to her parents, 'Mum, Dad, please?'
'Of course, darling,' her mother said. 'Shall we?'
Pansy reached forward and grabbed both Draco and Harry by the arms, chatting gaily away about what she had bought earlier, while both sets of parents talked in hushed tones behind them. Draco tried to tune Pansy out, focusing on the shops around him. Harry felt obliged to continue the conversation, so he nodded and asked questions in the right places to show he was paying attention. Pansy was delighted that he responded at all, and soon had both arms on Harry's, while Draco put as many feet between him and Pansy as he could get away with. Harry swore he heard the adults chuckling behind him.
Lunch was thankfully bereft of the formal table manners that Harry was dreading. A round table magically enlarged to have just enough seats for the seven of them appeared in the front dining room of the Malfoys' expansive manor house, and the adults talked amiably as Harry, Draco and Pansy traded stories. A much-bedraggled House Elf saw to the preparation and serving of the food, but his ears perked up a bit when Harry whispered his thanks to him as he took his plate.
Pansy proved to be great fun. She had the ability to lace her words with sarcasm but keep the conversation just light enough that her parents couldn't scold her. She was definitely a girl: She enjoyed fashion, makeup, professional Quidditch players and money. She was on the edge of pureblood customs, though; she kept her dark hair cropped to just below ear-length as opposed to letting it grow like most other witches, and her past-times included such un-ladylike things as Quidditch and hexing household items. She laughed uproariously at Harry' stories of using magic against the Dursleys, and he promised to show her how he'd done it once they were at school.
Draco was far more reserved, trying valiantly to act every bit the man that his father admonished him to be. As a result, his stories were censored and dull until his parents were out of earshot. Once he was free, Draco reverted to the excited if slightly arrogant boy that Harry had first met. Draco tolerated Pansy as a necessary evil, while Pansy must have been playing up to Draco. Harry gathered, much to his chagrin, that Pansy had shifted targets.
The meal ended with promises to see each other on the train to Hogwarts, and Mr. Malfoy brought Harry back to the Leaky Cauldron, where Harry assured him he could conduct himself home. A couple of potential friends, and some interesting answers for Hermione, he thought, waving down a taxi. Not too bad.
I'm sure that if I'd known who I was dealing with, I'd have refused lunch. For Pansy's sake, though, this was worth it.
I kept up my letters to Hermione, studying my textbooks as thoroughly as I could. Magic wasn't like your average article or chapter in a book; memorization alone wasn't always enough, so I literally fought with the information sometimes. Still, once it was in my head, I could remember it perfectly, and internalized as many of my books as I could, one year at a time.
Hermione seemed determined to be top student in our classes, so I didn't tell her about my ability to memorize things. In hindsight, this was a bad idea that came back to bite me later, but things worked out well enough.
Faster than I could imagine, September 1 came around. I sent Hedwig on to Hogwarts directly, and took a taxi to King's Cross. Seeing other students messing around with huge trunks and carts, I felt very good about myself walking towards the platforms with only my book bag out and my trunk comfortably in my pocket, the size of a six-sided die. While most families probably couldn't afford the luxury of a 300 Galleon trunk that shrunk itself and reduced its weight, it certainly made life easier. Without any information in the letter about it, I wondered how the hell a Platform 9 3/4 could even exist; a question I had never thought to ask. Sheer luck saved me when I ran into the Weasleys; Mrs. Weasley showed me how to get onto the platform, and after a round of introductions in which everyone seemed shocked, I ended up sitting with Ron Weasley, the Anti-Draco, while we waited for my friends.
I'm being serious; whatever Draco was, Ron was the opposite. Draco had most people's respect but struggled to prove himself to his father; Ron had his father's respect but struggled to prove himself to everyone else. Draco was loud and arrogant, but quick to forget; Ron was quiet and self-depreciating, but carried grudges. Draco had money, but his parents spent very little time with him aside from necessary outings; Ron's family was poor, but they stuck together and cared for each other.
Watching Ron and Draco eye each other in the compartment was priceless. It was an interesting lesson in wizarding politics: Malfoys and Weasleys do not get along.
Hermione was using my French Pureblood lie, so she was well- greeted by everyone. Pansy seemed to vie with her for my attention, and Draco and Ron were far too interested in glaring at each other to participate in much conversation.
Ron seemed very self-conscious about his patched and worn robes, which were greyer than they were black. Hermione and Pansy had standard black robes of reasonable quality, and mine and Draco's were pitch-black silk that cost your average Ministry worker's monthly salary. Hermione had the same reaction to my robes as Pansy: Ooh'ing, ahh'ing, and feeling the fabric. Ron tried to ignore his robes, but he was flushed red with embarrassment, and stayed that way until we got off the train. I tried to stay polite and keep the conversation going for his sake, but I wondered if this was going to cause problems. I certainly didn't feel like tiptoeing around Ron, but he seemed like he'd be a good friend if I gutted it out. I figured that our first year in school would tell me how that would go.
Hagrid helped them carefully into a boat. 'No funny stuff,' he warned, 'these boats take four at a time; they'll take five, but stay still.'
'Thanks!' I called to him as he turned to leave. Hagrid waved back, and turned to deal with the other first-years.
Hermione found a neutral topic. 'Have you all thought about what House you'll be sorted in?' she asked everyone.
'Not really,' Harry said, shaking my head. 'My parents were in Gryffindor, so I might end up there. I really haven't decided, though; all the houses have good point. You seem like a good student, so I think you'd like Ravenclaw the best. I hear that they're supposed to be the brains of the school.'
Hermione giggled and nodded. 'That's what I was thinking,' she said. 'Ravenclaw or Gryffindor would be good. I don't think I'd work out in the other houses.'
'Slytherin for sure,' Draco said. 'It's been a family thing for ages, and I really don't want to disappoint my father. Most of the kids I know will be in Slytherin, too.'
'Same for me,' Pansy said with a small sigh. 'Not only does my family want me to be in Slytherin, but I don't think that the other houses are really interesting.'
'Gryffindor for me,' Ron said. 'All my brothers are in Gryffindor, and it would suck to not be in the same house as my brothers.'
'Well this is great,' said Harry with a smirk. 'All my friends are going to be in different houses. I guess I should go for Hufflepuff then?' The sounds of everyone's protests were loud enough that Hagrid bellowed at us to shut up.
Hogwarts Castle was so enchanted as to nearly be alive. Stairs moved; suits of armor walked around on patrol; ghosts fluttered around renewing the pale white lighting charms in the hallways. Harry felt as though he had stepped a thousand years into the past. Harry could taste the history of this place, its power and its status. Even the patched old Sorting Hat seemed to belong here, radiating an aura of knowledge and experience.
Hermione's sorting took some time, as she seemed to be debating over something with the Hat. Finally, the Hat opened its tear and cried 'RAVENCLAW!' Hermione was ecstatic as she tore the hat off her head and bolted over to the Ravenclaw table to a polite applause. The school's ambient magic charmed the edges of her outer robe and blouse a deep blue.
Draco's sorting was the quickest; the Hat screamed 'SLYTHERIN!' before it even hit Malfoy's head. Malfoy's robes were charmed a deep forest green around the edges, and he went over to his seat amongst more robust applause. Judging by the mass of redheads at the House table, Harry knew that Ron would get a similar treatment from the Hat and end up in Gryffindor.
Pansy's sorting was a bit longer, but the Hat announced 'SLYTHERIN!' in a loud and certain voice, and Pansy happily walked over to her house table and sat near to Draco as her robes changed, too.
A thousand whispers began when Professor McGonagall called Harry's name. Everyone knows who I am, he realized. He walked towards the Hat like a convicted man waiting to hear his sentencing. Despite his best intentions, he would probably hurt someone's feelings today. The animosity between Draco and Ron that both Slytherin and Gryffindor were poor choices. While Pansy would likely be more accepting, the way that Slytherins and Gryffindors eyed each other from across the Hall made him think that a Gryffindor/Slytherin friendship would be strongly discouraged by both houses.
Hermione would be the most open and accepting person, no matter what House he was in. It was comforting to know that at least one person was going to be his friend by the time tomorrow morning came along. A large part of him thought that Ravenclaw would be a nice House to belong to, while his more rebellious side urged him towards the Hufflepuffs, just to stand out a little.
Ah, yes, Potter... the Hat said to him as it felt through his mind. It pushed his memories around as if it was rummaging around an old trunk, looking for something. Well, you're an interesting soul. Powerful, yes... Very headstrong, independent but willing to give… good mind... Oh my, this will be difficult.
I really don't like this Sorting thing at all, he thought, hoping that the Hat could hear him. It's going to cost me friends.
Perhaps, the Hat replied, and Harry could hear the disembodied sound of someone chuckling. Well, it seems as though the choice is yours after all. The only real difference is in outlook... and who you want your friends to be.
What will it be, then? Will you bring change from without, or work from within?
Harry wasn't sure about what the Hat was talking about, but he had the faces of Draco, Ron, Hermione and Pansy firmly in my mind as he argued with myself, trying to decide who he wanted to stay with more... or if he would given in to his radical side and choose Hufflepuff. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Harry made his choice, and the Hat opened to speak.
The book had calmed; no one was fighting it now. Hermione smiled and walked away quietly, certain now of her success. Harry's instructions had been very specific and she only had a few hours to work with. It was time to begin.
A/N: Reviews are welcome! Hope you enjoyed the new style.