Chaos and Mischief
A/N: There are many underappreciated superpowers beyond simple common sense. Such as: actually knowing what you want (or what you refuse to accept), asking good questions, and following through on one's commitments. I'm going to see what Harry can do when equipped with all three.
Harry had had the best day of his life today...until Hagrid said that Harry should return to Privet Drive until the first of September when he'd get to go to Hogwarts.
Harry agreed, but resolved not to do it. He was free of his...relatives and wouldn't be returning to them.
Hogwarts had sounded like a fine solution to many of Harry's problems until Hagrid seemed to make Hogwarts contingent on Privet Drive. No bloody way.
So Harry seemed to leave the Leaky Cauldron for the bus or the train or any other way to return to Surrey, just as Hagrid expected.
Instead he waited outside.
Harry spotted a cap in a nearby alleyway, retrieved it, and put it on. It smelled not so fresh but Harry had survived worse.
He walked back inside the Leaky Cauldron and the cap hid his hair and that silly scar that everyone wanted to look at.
Harry got himself back into Diagon Alley then said, "I can't believe that worked."
Now that getting into Diagon Alley was possible, he began to consider his next most-important problems. Carrying around an owl cage and a massive trunk was the most immediate one.
He had a quick chat with his unnamed owl and discovered she'd prefer not to be in the cage. So Harry let her out, then returned the cage to the shop where Hagrid had bought it. He got back a few coins.
Next he went to the luggage store where Hagrid had pushed this trunk on him. It just wouldn't do. Too bulky.
He returned it and got a backpack with an 'extendable expansion' charm, or some such. Harry still didn't understand a lot of the words they used here.
His next problem… He looked for his owl. She was distinct and...there. She was perched on a building's roof looking down on Harry. Good, she was close by and safe.
He needed to think. He didn't want to return to Surrey and the Dursley family. He was no longer interested in Hogwarts because it would mean spending time with his aunt, uncle, and cousin. So, what to do?
Harry felt a little hunger distracting his mind. He could eat in the Leaky Cauldron, but he feared he'd be noticed even with the smelly hat.
He decided to spend a little bit of his remaining coinage at the ice cream shop, Fortescue's. He'd feel better after he got something in him. It had been a spare few days on the eating front lately.
He enjoyed the three scoop sundae he'd ordered, then he noticed several newspapers on nearby tables. He gathered them up and started searching for ideas. He knew what normal newspapers were like, so he hoped there were ads in the magical ones. He needed more information than what he had – and he'd visited only half a dozen stores today. But the Alley was quite large.
He started with the Daily Prophet, ignoring most of the articles that didn't make sense to him. Not yet at least. He was looking for the names of stores here in Diagon Alley. He might be able to ask for help in Flourish and Blotts, the bookstore, but he could do this search now.
Harry quickly found ads for two inns to stay at in Diagon Alley. There could be a lot more than two.
He found a travel centre listed, too, that was of interest.
He saw day schools that advertised in the paper, he saw another one that was hiring a caretaker, so there were more options than just Hogwarts.
He saw the hours listed for the Diagon Library.
He got less of use from the Rome newspaper, but he got a few more tips from the Dublin newspaper. There was another place, Hogsmeade, referenced in that one.
Harry walked by all the inns he'd seen ads for, then discovered a few more that hadn't run ads. He walked into the one he liked best.
They had a room. Harry signed the ledger and paid most of the remainder of his coins for a night. The desk witch didn't ask a question as to why a child wanted a room. All the better for Harry's purposes.
He saw a small rack of brochures and stopped to examine them. He found one transportation system called the Knight Bus. He saw a listing of attractions available on something called the Floo system. He saw references to portal network stores, apparently Harry could walk through a door in Diagon Alley and wind up in Rome or Dublin or Boston.
He took some brochures for places of interest. Tintagel and the ruins of Camelot seemed interesting, not least because the Tintagel School was listed as being close by.
There were guild halls mentioned, each one with tours or museums on offer. A healer's guild, for example. There was the Museum of Flight in Mold-upon-Wold, where two broom makers were based. The Puppet Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Wasn't that where Shakespeare was from?
Once in his room, Harry opened his window and let his snowy owl inside. He talked with her a little, then left her to rest. Harry needed to get back to Gringotts to collect more money.
Harry reserved three more days at the Inn before he left the next morning. The owl was happily asleep on the back of a chair, but Harry left the window open.
He decided to start with the travel center.
He walked inside and found displays near the door, then dozens of closed doors throughout the rest of the space, which was much larger than it looked from outside.
Harry looked at the displays and got a sense of what he could do at the travel centre. He also listened to the sales wizard explaining things to another patron.
"No, no, the floo is temporary portals. It's an old magical innovation, been around a hundred years or better. It sticks around because it's cheap to put in every home. These portals are newer, a bit expensive to set up, but far more pleasant to use. You just step through, no spinning or flying or getting covered in soot."
Harry looked at the large chart of destinations and prices. A return ticket to Tintagel was three sickles. Harry had always wanted to go to the beach. He didn't consider that horrible little shack on a rock to be a good visit to the sea.
He paid his sickles and a store employee took him to a particular door far inside the building.
"Number 73. Number… Ah, there it is. Says here, you'll arrive at the gift shoppe for the Tintagel tour. Keep your ticket and they'll let you back through when you're ready."
Harry thanked the man. He also wondered that no one asked about where his parents were or why he was alone. Different culture?
Harry stepped through the door and blinked a few times. The light was brighter here and it was very much a gift shoppe.
"For the tour?" a witch asked.
Harry nodded and looked around. Ages 11 and up were six sickles.
He paid and took that ticket, too. Before he left the shoppe, he looked back and saw that there were several portal doors. The one he wanted was for Diagon Alley. Easy enough to remember.
There were signs outside pointing to the tour and to the nearest village and to the Tintagel School.
Harry took the tour and enjoyed the entire thing. There wasn't much left to see, especially of the Camelot ruins, but some of the signs explained what the different legends and sources reported. Harry was just one of many visitors and felt happy that he wasn't being mobbed like he had in Diagon Alley.
When he finished, he walked toward the village. He was looking for the school. It was summer, but it was a Tuesday, so Harry hoped someone would be around to explain what they taught and how it all worked.
The school building was built of local stone. It was dark, but the walls were filled with windows so it looked welcoming from the outside. Harry walked inside and consulted the map. He figured he was looking for Admissions. It was just down the hall to his right.
He walked inside and saw stacks of information. He picked up a number of parchments and took a seat. The one person behind the desk already had a line of people she was talking to.
The first parchment started with a history of the school. It sounded standard to Harry's inexperienced mind until he found this paragraph: "We operate under the Education Charter of 1498, not the Hogwarts Charter of 1013. For students eleven or older, we do not require parental permission to join the school nor to accept an apprenticeship..."
Harry kept reading, but the document moved on to different, though interesting, information.
Tintagel School welcomed children as well as adults. The children mostly came during the morning and early afternoon. The adult classes, for those seeking high qualifications or looking to expand their skills, began in the late afternoon, though many were in the evening.
The next pamphlet explained that. Once someone decided on a future career, at age 15 or later, one could make an arrangement with someone already in that career to learn from them. Tintagel School was willing to oversee the process if the master didn't want to deal with his guild hall or the Ministry of Magic. (Which Harry hadn't heard about before, though he'd only been skimming the newspapers yesterday.)
Harry read about the classes available at Tintagel. He was interested in the details listed in one paragraph: "We participate in the England-Wales Consortium. We teach all the classes we require here, but we realize student needs may require advanced courses beyond what we teach. Our students may take one course per term at another school in the consortium. At present, London Excelsior, Birmingham Day, Portsmouth Naval Academy, Technical College of Manchester, and Cardiff School are involved. We have a separate reciprocal relationship with Derry School in Ireland."
Now Harry had a longer list of schools to consider. Did none of them send out invitations like Hogwarts did? Harry would have appreciated more of a choice back when it seemed to be just Hogwarts.
He continued reading, then went up and asked a few questions he hadn't found answered. They did offer boarding but the deadline to apply for that option had passed. Day students could be accepted until August 20, for a September 5th start.
Harry thanked the admissions witch and took even more material with him, a listing of the courses and which books each course required.
Over the next three days, Harry ventured to Ireland, the United States, and Australia through portal doors. He visited a tourist spot in each country that was close to one or two schools he'd heard of.
Harry now had quite a long list of schools.
He had what courses were taught at six different schools along with their required book lists, plus what Hogwarts had given him.
He took the time to compare now that he felt comfortable navigating between London and elsewhere in the world.
Hogwarts had no classes Harry recognized. Well, they didn't disclose what the classes were, but there was the booklist. So Harry assumed that meant there were no choices available.
All the schools Harry had information from taught Charms and Transfiguration. Some had Defense Against the Dark Arts, others had Dueling: both of those classes seemed to use similar sounding textbook titles. Some taught Magical Theory, others didn't. Some had Potions, others didn't. Only Hogwarts seemed to have Astronomy.
Other schools had enchanting classes offered. One had a number of them: enchanting brooms and flying carpets, enchanting tools, enchanting kitchen wares. It seemed to be a school specialty.
One school focused on working with creatures Harry mostly didn't recognize, but all the schools had at least some courses on animals.
One taught healing in a major way.
The Tintagel School, plus the consortium it was involved with, had the most offerings. Between them, they seemed to cover about every profession Harry had seen in the newspaper ads. One could learn to put up a building, or print a newspaper, or become an expert in the law, or unravel tricky wizard traps, or magically prepare food for an entire restaurant of guests. Or learn to sail a massive boat.
Harry had also learned about student hostels. They were available here or in Ireland and also Australia. Not so much in the United States, it seemed. Harry could get a student room here in Diagon Alley, or somewhere else, then be a day student wherever he liked.
He could keep looking at schools. Or see if there were books in Diagon Alley that listed and compared them. He had some time before he had to decide, but not time to make it to every English-speaking school, after all.
He thought he'd seen enough to decide.
"Well, are you ready to take a letter for me, girl?" Harry asked.
His still-unnamed owl barked at him.
"I suppose we need a good name for you." He pulled over a few books he'd been consulting. He flipped to the index of one and called out some interesting names. His owl made a lot of disagreeable noises until finally she made a churring noise. Harry turned to the name in question and read off some of the details discussed about the name.
He filled out the application for Tintagel School and sent it off with Hedwig.
Then he went exploring the student hostels in the outer portion of Diagon Alley. Some were like living in a cupboard again. Some were like having a small house. Now that Harry had some money, he knew which version he preferred.
He took tours of three of the hostel buildings. All of them were old buildings that had been remodeled. One was full apartments, including a small kitchen. The other two included an enchanted cold closet and one, two, or three daily meals from the house elves.
That was how Harry began to learn about house elves and so much more.
In the end, he signed up for a term's accommodation, starting that afternoon. He got a bedroom, a study, and a bathroom of his own for a reasonable fee (at least reasonable considering how much gold he had).
"Now the building is warded, but you'll be added to them as a resident. You can also ward your rooms. Here are three firms on Diagon who do that, but there are others in Hogsmeade or Smithwick Street in Manchester who do that," the caretaker, Mr. Smoot, said.
"Wards are protections then?" Harry asked.
The wizard nodded. He also picked up a pamphlet and added to what he was giving Harry.
So Harry signed his name and now had twenty-four hours to bring 96 galleons to this office.
By the time Hedwig returned, Harry had been to Gringotts for gold and had moved himself from the inn into the hostel. He even had a bit of a view onto Diagon from the third floor. He'd need a few more things otherwise his place would look pretty empty.
Perhaps the books that all the schools recommended, or most of them?
Harry did read the letter Hedwig brought, then gave her a nice treat before her nap.
He was a student at Tintagel School starting in just a few weeks.
"It's such a nice room, Hedwig. You never saw the other place in Surrey, which was never a home. This place will be home for a while. But I'm going to step out and buy a few more books." He had written out a list.
When Harry returned with his purchases, he found his flat felt rather like home, too.
The wards? That reminded Harry, he needed to see about getting some added.
The warder, Ms. Branchcross, had wide eyes. She'd cast a bunch of spells, then done them all again.
"Just moved in today?" she asked.
Harry shook his head. "Yesterday afternoon."
"You do a ritual or something? There's wards here, thick and strong ones."
"No," Harry said. "I just said it felt like home to me."
"Well, given we don't know what happened when you were young, Mr. Potter, that could have been enough. I could add in a few bits..."
"Stand right there. I think this will need your permission. I wouldn't want to come afoul of these wards."
"What do they do?" Harry asked. "You said they were strong, but strong in what way?"
"It's complicated. I can work out at least two bits of it. Should someone attack you, the attack would get turned back on all the attackers. Should someone you not know seek you out, their knowledge of you will leave them."
"Just when I'm here?"
"The wards are based here, but they're already stronger than they were when I arrived. I'd say they'd stretch anywhere you care to go."
"How does all that work then?"
"No idea. I've been warding for sixty-three years. Never seen a thing like it. I don't do much with the really old estates, perhaps that's how the wards on some of them work. But this is a lot older style of magic than I've ever learned."
"And you can examine them because I hired you?" Harry asked.
"I think that's it. Exactly it. If I were to tell anyone else what I'd found, I suspect my memory of today would just disappear."
"I'm sorry about that," Harry said.
"Don't be. If you knew how to set this up for other people, there would be any number who would want them."
"So it's old magic, you think."
"Potter's an old family. This might have been kicking around for a long time. But it didn't save your father. So it might just be something on you."
"Something my mum did?"
Ms. Branchcross shrugged.
"Whatever it is, be careful with it."
"Don't do anything to give it up," Ms. Branchcross said. "Certain contracts may interfere. Old ones, too. A really old apprentice contract style. Or perhaps starting at an old school, one of the Greek ones, the oldest ones in Africa, maybe even Hogwarts."
"I heard about Hogwarts but have made other plans. You know anyone who could advise me on it?" Harry asked.
"I could give you a few names at the Warding Guild, wizards who like the really old stuff. A few oddballs at the Curse-Breakers' Guild Hall. There's a healer at St. Mungo's, too. He learned warding from the medical end, fixing things that went strange with wards."
Harry took down all the names and planned to send letters. It might be good to get a health check, too.
Harry then watched as a few new wards were added, and accepted, into whatever it was Harry had already unknowingly installed on his flat.
"That's all the gaps I could see. Building has a few wards, but your spot here is warded better than about anything else in Great Britain, I'd say."
"How much do I owe you?" Harry asked.
Ms. Branchcross quoted a figure that Harry thought was too low so he paid it and added several galleons on top as a tip.
"A pleasure. If you need more help, I'd be glad to help. I don't want to come afoul of the wards you carry, so I won't be talking about this to anyone."
Harry just nodded since he had no idea what he should say.
"Not broken or fractured. Stretched, I would call it. It happens, but usually in researchers of the esoteric. Not young gentleman," Healer Rosscombe said.
Harry was listening and trying to understand, but a magical core was a new concept to him.
"Is there anything you can do?" Harry asked.
"Didn't I say? It's already healing. Something happened that stopped the stretching of your core. There is still a stretch, but it's mending itself now."
Harry nodded. He explained what he'd learned from the warder, Ms. Branchcross.
"You have a ward tied into your core, that's the guess? Let me see if we have any spells to assess that. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Harry got the sense that his issue, if it was one, was a rare thing.
Healer Rosscombe returned with three books and three more colleagues. Harry was now interesting, it seemed.
He allowed the four healers to cast about twenty spells on him. The four of them were scribbling notes and comparing them with each other.
"Branchcross got a lot of valuable insights with whatever spells she used," Healer Rosscombe said. "They are definitely tied to the concepts of home and family, so they should continue to travel with you as you age. I had wondered if they would collapse at some point. Seems they'll continue on. Be careful of entanglement with even older styles of warding or contracts. You'd want to be cautious of working for certain ancient institutions. Maybe even visiting some places could be tricky."
"But they're not hurting me?" Harry asked.
"No. Merlin, not at all. They will be a huge boon to you," one of the other healers said. "I'm jealous."
"The warder said she was going to keep what she learned to herself so as not to trigger them," Harry said, both as a request and a warning.
The four healers all agreed. They also had more insights. Harry asked for a written report. He just didn't understand enough about magic to make sense of things. Not yet at least. But if he had the terms written down, he could eventually learn what he needed to know.
The three visitors left after quite some time, then Healer Rosscombe gave Harry a more standard examination.
Harry wasn't surprised when he was told he had poor nutrition and needed to fix things before puberty really got started. He was all for it and was glad for a course of potions to help fix things further.
He left with the potions and a draft report on the warding tied into his core.
Harry took a portal door from the Diagon Alley Travel Centre to Glasgow, then walked to the building he had directions for. The Curse Breaker Guild Hall didn't look very magical at all.
There was a welcome witch in the main lobby. "Hello, I have an appointment with Jeremiah Botts at half past nine."
The witch touched her wand to a particular part of her desk. "I've just let Mr. Botts know. He'll be down for you shortly. Take a seat."
Harry thanked her, then started to take in the room. It was an older building, but magic Harry had started to be able to feel made it look clean and fresh. He saw there was a display on one wall so went over to examine it. There were a few pamphlets and Harry grabbed one of each. He'd had a lot of good luck doing that so far. Always better to learn. He at down and began to look at them.
The first one, on decursing family properties, was interesting and concerning. How did they get cursed in the first place? The pamphlet didn't speculate, just outlined the steps for decursing a place.
Harry also got to read about cursed objects and curses that were placed on family lines. Scary.
"Mr. Harry?" someone asked.
Harry looked up. "Are you Mr. Botts?"
"Come with me."
Harry followed behind, but they didn't go upstairs. There was a meeting room on the floor they were already on. The magic inside was quite tight compared to the rest of the building or what Harry had at his flat. This room had its own wards, Harry guessed.
"My name is Harry Potter. I don't know why someone wrote down my name as Mr. Harry."
Mr. Botts just nodded. "Odd. But you wrote about a ward that a warder identified on you?"
"Ms. Branchcross gave me your name. She's also the reason I saw a specialist at St. Mungo's yesterday. This is the draft report."
Mr. Botts accepted the parchment that Harry passed over. He read quickly.
"May I?" He pointed toward his wand.
"Please. I was hoping for your thoughts."
So Mr. Botts began casting spells, one with a pause, then another with a long pause. He never spoke the words aloud. There were a dozen spells in total.
"Well, your core was stretched, that's true. I'd say you were covering people with little to no magic, struggling at that. An older female relative and a male one the same age?"
Harry thought about it. "My aunt and my cousin?"
"Sounds about right."
"But they're muggles."
"Your mother had magic, more than enough to practice as a witch. That means your aunt and cousin are magical, just low potential. Squibs or lower."
Harry just nodded, making sure to commit the words to memory. Not that he'd ever repeat them to Petunia or Dudley Dursley.
"The ward you have on you is plenty impressive. Never expected to see something like it again," Mr. Botts said.
"You've seen it before?"
"On three buildings. One fortress in ruins and two tombs. Celtic. But any true records of how the magic was done were destroyed long ago, the Romans managed that much. We think the effect is from a complex ritual that requires a sacrifice of a life, a willing sacrifice. So, in your case, your mother or your father."
Harry felt his throat constrict. This helpful thing came at the cost of a life. That was the most generous gift Harry could imagine, but it came with a huge amount of guilt. He would rather have a mother and a father than this ward. But he couldn't undo what had happened.
"How Lily or James Potter reconstructed a lost ritual, I have no idea. No notes have ever surfaced. No factual stories floated about what happened that night. Plenty of fancy, but nothing true." He touched the St. Mungo's report. "The healer is right about these cautions, about staying unentangled from even older magics. This ward will serve you for life, perhaps even stretch to your descendants, if you keep clear of magics that are able to interfere with it. My analysis spells show that your stretched core is healing compared to what's noted here. On the plus side, your core will be unusually robust because of the stretching phenomenon you underwent."
"You found no clues in me about how it was done?"
"I can try a few more spells. Perhaps you were inscribed with runes or something. But the ritual components were likely set up in the place where you were hiding. The reports are the reaction largely destroyed the upstairs. Years ago, too, too long ago to know what happened by magical trace exam."
Mr. Botts did. He shook his head after, though. "Nothing old still readable, sorry. We can take care of that curse scar, your ward is already trying to destroy it."
"My scar? You can get rid of it?"
"I can get rid of the magic still inside it. Something nasty. I'd drain it right now then your own magic will finally heal the wound."
"Drain magic? It wouldn't drain my magic, just the magic in the scar?" Harry asked.
"We've had diverters like this for four hundred years. They make curse breaking much less dangerous for everyone involved. The most important part of them is that they target exactly what kind of magic they'll divert and drain. They can lock into a particular magical resonance. You have your core magic, that ward on you, a few other things, plus the nasty magic in your scar. I'd half wondered if the famous Potter hair was a family curse, but it's not. Just genetics."
"So it's safe?"
"We don't use them on wizards often, mostly on enchanted objected that someone has ruined. Got some beautiful item with helpful magic but someone spiteful added a nasty to it, the diverter can pull out the nasty resonance and leave just the object and the beneficial magic."
"Please do it," Harry said. "Thank you."
Mr. Botts opened a cupboard at the side of the room and brought out a few objects plus one bottle and a brush.
"This is a bit of glue. It'll hold the magic diverter to your head."
Harry looked at the several odd objects. "Will I need all of these?"
"One of them will work. This is the weakest, we'll start there. Work up if we need to. When we don't need to retain or deconstruct the curse, we just shunt the power to this building's wards. How we have strong ones even though we've only been in this building twenty years."
Within three minutes, Mr. Botts proved he was right. The 'weakest' diverter did plenty.
Harry felt a new lightness inside his magic. He also felt a twinge in his eyes, like his glasses were suddenly too strong. He'd have to keep checking on that. Perhaps the scar had given him his vision troubles?
Mr. Botts removed all the glue from Harry's head and put his tools away.
Then he cast any number of spells again. "That stretching effect in your core is gone now, fully healed. Whatever nastiness was in your scar was holding up that healing. When you start learning magic, I'd aim for control of what you have rather than any exercises your teachers may assign for building reserves. Your body's been handling massive amounts of magic for ten years. You already have the magic 'muscle' to work quite advanced magics, you just need the foundations now."
"Thank you." Harry knew he didn't understand exactly what Mr. Botts said, but he knew enough that he'd be careful as he started.
"Do you know anyone else I could speak to about Celtic rituals and what my parents might have done?"
Mr. Botts was quiet a bit. Then he rose, got a quill and parchment, and sat down to write some words. He passed the parchment to Harry.
Harry looked at the list of names and institutions. He'd consult them, perhaps not right away. He'd be better off knowing more so he could ask better questions, then understand the things he was told.
"There is one other name I'd add. Your fame will get him to respond if nothing else does."
Harry frowned at the reminder of where that fame came from.
"A pain, isn't it? My grandfather invented a candy that's still famous. Bertie was his name, Bertie Botts. My brother and older sister work at the company that still makes them. But everyone in school knew my family name. Your situation is even harder, but you're strong."
Harry just nodded. He didn't think he was all that strong.
"My list there is cursebreakers I've worked with or ones I've read who did articles on Celtic rituals. There is someone who knows a lot more wizards and witches than I do: Horace Slughorn. He taught me potions years ago. He was still teaching when your parents were students at Hogwarts. Collector of rare information. He buddied up to interesting students so he could coax information from their family sources, learned plenty of unsavory tidbits over the years. He'd share some of it, too, in a bragging way. He probably won't have anything himself on Celtic rituals, he'll just know about a few sly people with interesting and unpublished Celtic ritual theories."
Harry took the quill and wrote down 'Horace Slughorn, potions/rare information collector.'
"Best thing for you, if you do ever figure out how that ward came about, never admit that you worked it out. People would hound you like they hound Nicholas Flamel about his Philosopher's Stone. Don't tell me or anyone else you consulted. Just stop asking around. Whatever ward it is has been proven to reflect a Killing Curse. I can guess what else it might do, I read the report from St. Mungo's and did my own tests. But we don't know for sure. You don't want to have anyone decide to test it, either, by cursing you."
Harry nodded his head rapidly. "Thank you for the names. And the advice."
"If you'll wait here, I'll dictate a report you can take with you."
"How much for your time?"
Mr. Botts named a figure that had Harry blinking. But for what the man had done, Harry was willing to pay it.
Harry counted out the coins, one hundred forty of them, before Mr. Botts returned with three parchment sheets. Harry thanked the man and left with the St. Mungo's parchment and this new report. He felt a lot lighter even though it was only a little magic that had been taken from him.
He needed to go to Gringotts soon and refill his almost empty coin purse. Though, first, he needed ice cream to celebrate.
Harry spent the next day at the closest library, two bookstores, and the Tintagel School library seeing what books were available on rituals, specifically Celtic ones.
Then Harry spent part of a day visiting Godric's Hollow where he'd lived when his parents died and he survived. He spoke to a little old lady who lived next to the home in question, apparently she'd babysat him when he was tiny.
He found he was able to get inside the ruined home that kept out everyone else. The wards his parents had used all those years ago were still working, at least in part.
None of the home seemed familiar.
Harry explored everywhere he could. The upstairs nursery was a disaster, but magic kept the open roof from letting in rain, snow, dust, and leaves. Harry found darkened symbols on some walls and part of the intact floor.
He had paper and a pencil with him so he traced the symbols and wrote where he'd found them. There was so much blackening in the room he knew he hadn't found all of the symbols that might have been here, but it was enough to start him hunting.
The next day Harry discovered that Mr. Botts was correct. According to a book in the Diagon Library, the symbols Harry had traced were Celtic, though Harry was a long way from understanding exactly what they meant when used in a ritual.
Harry spent an evening cooking in the shared kitchen in his hostel. He met several other of the students. None of them would be going to Tintagel as there was a hostel near Tintagel School that was more convenient for those students who didn't want to live in the school's dorms.
The witches and wizards Harry met were all at The London Excelsior School of Deep Mysteries. They were largely from non-magical backgrounds or with only one magical parent. Most of them still visited their families, but found it easier to study when they had a dedicated space for it.
"Excelsior's better than Hogwarts. Come and go as you please, take a class or not rather than having all these requirements. Five years of Astronomy plus a ghost on the faculty, just kill me now. For Excelsior, you just need six NEWTs, your choice of which ones, to graduate," Betty Thomsicle said.
"Excelsior is great, but I also take a fun class at Portsmouth in the summer term," Titus Marchbanks said. "Far better to sail there. Never been to Tintagel, but it's also Consortium and is probably great. Easy enough to transfer if you wind up liking one's specialty over what your school offered."
"The Hogwarts Charter is the problem. Letting you get a wand at eleven is the last presumptive adult thing they let you do. Treat you like a kid if you show up, take away your presumptive rights until you're seventeen and actual adult. One of the teachers becomes your guardian, you have to get permission to do anything, no literature or arts classes, just slow, basic classes in magic. Can't even leave the place except for long breaks, no taking an advanced class elsewhere. My mom went, but she was glad to learn about the other schools before she had me," Callidora "Callie" Brown said.
"The problem is they don't tell you, they're allowed to send out their letters and they just don't tell you there are other options. My grandfather went there, but my dad and uncles didn't," Johannes Perkins said. "My uncle still has a Ministry job. My dad runs a clock factory. I'm not much for clocks or the Ministry, but I'll be fine."
Harry finished making the sausage and broccoli pasta and fed everyone who had been waiting. Harry had made this dish several times and this was the first time he got a reasonable portion, including some sausage. He liked the house elf food he was paying for, but found he did like cooking once or twice per week. For himself and potential friends.
"Delicious. You training to be a cook?" Betty asked.
"Just a hobby I enjoy."
"You can cook for me anytime," Titus said.
Harry had to visit Tintagel School today and meet with a counselor to select his first year classes.
He'd been preparing for this meeting for some time. None of the schools really explained things well in their written materials, but Harry had read all the course- and book-lists to get a true sense of things. Plus he'd asked around the Excelsior students and anyone else he could.
The best advice he'd gotten was: once you know what mastery you want, work backwards through each prerequisite you had to achieve, but do them before they held you up.
Harry didn't know which mastery he wanted, he barely knew any magic at all. He was possibly interested in several areas. So he charted many of them out, just so he could do some exploring for now.
If someone wanted to be an enchanter, it all started with five to seven years of charms (depending upon the school), plus three to five years of transfiguration. The programs Harry had seen required Ancient Runes and two to four years of different enchanting electives. Then an apprenticeship with an enchanter and the creation of an original enchantment or making enchantments cheaper or safer or better in some way. Then passing the mastery exams and the review by five enchantment masters.
A potioneer, working toward becoming a master, required slightly less work, but only slightly less. Years of potions, years of herbology, years of creatures classes, at least a year of alchemy, plus an apprenticeship and an original potion.
A warder or a cursebreaker had somewhat similar requirements to each other, though each was governed by different guilds. Years in all the wanded classes, years of Ancient Runes and Arithmancy and (for some schools) magical theory. Then an apprenticeship. Mastery didn't require original wards or curse breaking techniques, though that was a possible way to success. No, either path required defeating a devilish sequence of curses or working out how to weave additional wards into an already warded estate while repairing its weakened components. Very advanced stuff, it sounded like.
Harry wanted to get in the basics for all these possible paths in his first year.
His second motive was to start learning enough to eventually answer his questions about this ward of his. He'd like to start learning about runes, specifically Celtic ones, and rituals.
He also wanted a fun class every term, too. Maybe making and enchanting brooms? Or learning to sail at Portsmouth in the summer term?
Harry took a portal door to the Tintagel museum gift shoppe and waved at the staff. He had become a familiar face after he bought an annual pass for this route, only three galleons, much cheaper than two hundred return tickets during the year.
The counselor was on the school's third floor. "Call me Oliver," he said.
Harry remembered from the appointment letter that his last name was Blush-Wicketts. Such odd names some wizard families hung onto.
He looked young to Harry. "Are you still a student here?"
"I finished three years ago. My apprenticeship in cloth manufacture and enchanting was going well until Madam Arachne became quite sick. Until I find a new master, I'm helping out here. I remember being a firstie and feeling the stress."
"Do you already know what you're trying to become?" Oliver asked.
"Well, I was raised in the Muggle world, so I don't. For now, I'd like to not close off too many options. I'd like to get started with the wanded classes, start potions eventually, dabble in some enchanting and warding, but also take a fun class when I can squeeze it in."
"Good, good. You're smart to be doing your first year here, electives are already possible. Hogwarts waits two years. Excelsior in London doesn't allow any in the first three terms, only in the summer and onward, if you take classes in the summers."
Harry pushed a list across the desk.
Oliver looked at it.
"You wrote down that you want four terms of charms and four of transfiguration. We teach smaller sections here. If you just say 'any section will do' they'll pick one at random. You'd do better to match what you need to the teachers who can best provide it. I still recognize all the names for these classes."
"Good. Who should I ask for?"
"Charms. Fall semester you should go for Smythe-Patton, she's a very good teacher for beginners. Winter and summer there's a retired enchanter teaching. Called Bodwampt, Maurice Bodwampt. You can ask him questions after class about enchanting, he's a great storyteller. Spring, oh, you need a bit of magical theory. Try Grubbly-Plank, he only teaches one term, rest of the time he's tied up at the Ministry. Oddball wife who loves animals, don't get him started on her."
Harry asked about some of the other teachers, but found Oliver's reasoning sound. Though he wasn't so sure about learning from a theory-loving teacher.
"You wouldn't want theory first term, but getting in some during the first year will really help. Makes learning harder Charms so much easier. You have a spot to learn some Latin in first year, too, that will help."
Harry agreed. "What about Transfiguration. Are there teachers I should or shouldn't have?"
Oliver studied the list. "None are great for beginners, but put off LeRoi and Wilburs until you're a third year."
"Both are very good, but so passionate and unhappy with teaching beginners. They were much better with students who had some preparation."
Harry made his choices from the remaining options, one term with each of the four remaining teachers.
"I'd like to wait a bit to start potions, maybe spring term or summer."
Oliver nodded. "Then push off herbology and creatures until your second year. I see you wrote down introduction to runes. Any particular interests there?"
"The local ancient runes of Britain. Celtic, right?"
"Then you'll want Bergen. She specializes in Norse and Celtic. A bit of an accent, but she was good."
"You can do the broom making class, which involves enchanting it, too. But the requirement is broom flying lessons."
So Harry filled up more slots in his fall and winter schedule.
"What hobbies you want to pursue?"
"I do like to cook," Harry said. "Muggle style."
"Larousse is the grandson of a famous French chef. I never took him, but my friends raved."
Harry nodded and he had another course for the spring.
The rest of the schedule filled out easily with maths and literature and history, though Harry made to sure to get some muggle and some magical.
"Seven courses each term, good. That makes for an easy first year. Some try to cram in eight or nine each term. No, I recommend starting easier, like you have."
Harry thought seven sounded like a lot, but he knew he could ask for help should he need it.
"That'll be 133 galleons, it's 19 galleons per class, for the fall."
"It's due by Wednesday next week."
Easy enough. "Is there anything else I need to do?" Harry asked.
"You have your medical form in?"
Harry shook his head.
"Just confirms you have immunity against dragon pox and a few others. St. Mungo's can do it. The nurse here can do it, come to think."
"That's on the second floor?"
Oliver nodded. "Get your payment in and the medical stuff. Then just show up when classes start."
"I'll do all that. I was thinking I'd go on vacation for a few days. See New Zealand, maybe South Africa."
"Sounds fun. I wrote to a master in South Africa so I might have to move there for a time."
"Best of luck finding someone," Harry said.
"Apprenticeships can be tricky. I was looking for something specific. If you don't get picky about who you apply to, then you could wind up doing whatever takes the master's interest. I wanted someone focused on what I wanted to do. My family runs a clothing business in Dundee. This is really what I need to know."
His advice on picking classes or class sections had been very much like that. Harry would have to remember this for the future. "Thanks for your help."
"Send me a note if it does help. I've counseled for a few years now. I rarely find out."
"I think the Latin will help, as will the teachers you suggested for Charms and transfiguration."
"Good, good. Enjoy your holiday."
Harry went to New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Hawaii, and the hidden island of Mirabel, which had the magical world's only amusement park so far. What Disney wished it could be.
Harry returned to his flat on in the late afternoon of September 4th. Titus had been making sure Hedwig had enough water but she had wanted to hunt down her meals for herself.
Harry stepped inside the door on the ground floor and found any number of people jabbering at him.
The caretaker of the hostel, Mr. Smoot, got all the residents quiet so he could explain to Harry. "Big to-do in the Prophet on September 2nd when you didn't turn up at Hogwarts."
Harry shrugged. The more he'd learned about that school – and the Charter that the students agreed to live under for seven years – the less Harry had liked it.
"Aurors got called to search for you. The relatives you had lived with were arrested over the way they treated you."
"Good," Harry said. "Too many years too late, but good."
"Then they figured out you'd enrolled at Tintagel School. They got your address from there."
"Oh, no. Did they make a mess?" Harry asked.
"No, never set foot inside. A bunch of them came charging down Diagon then a certain distance away from here they all stopped and couldn't remember why they were there. Knew they were Aurors, but nothing for the last few days. The next ones who came lost a month or two. Some folks in the Ministry kept pushing and pushing. And pushing. Somehow Fudge, Dumbledore, Malfoy, and a bunch of others were basically obliviated back to babies."
Harry thought all of this sounded familiar. It was the ward tied into his core, wasn't it? It had protected him and his flat even when he was elsewhere.
"Seventeen Aurors got hit, some lightly, some real hard. Twenty-four others in the Ministry or elsewhere, all basically useless now, because someone got angry you didn't turn up."
"I never wrote a letter saying I was coming. Never wrote an application," Harry said.
"You're in the right. Hogwarts was a right mess anyway, when people started to look. That was in the Prophet today."
Mr. Smoot held up the paper. "The Acting Headmistress, she'll be lucky to keep her job at all given what the Prophet's saying, got quoted, 'Only a Potter could cause this much chaos and mischief without intending a bit of it.'"
At that Harry did have to smile. He just wanted to be away from the Dursley family. Now he was. The ward his father or mother had given him seemed well fortified to ensure it. He or she was responsible for the chaos, but from choices made years ago.
"I had nothing to do with any of this. I'm just going to start school tomorrow."
"You'll find no one's looking too hard to ask you any questions. People seem to realize something's up."
For now, that suited Harry just fine.
A/N: That's the power of the blood ward, once it ignores ungrateful relatives, isn't fighting against a horcrux, has a host with a strong core and body, hasn't come into conflict with strong, ancient wards like Hogwarts's, and hasn't tangled with an artifact like the Goblet of Fire. Dumbledore was right about their value, he just did all the wrong things to ensure they were useful.