Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. And so, in a perfectly normal manner, they systematically beat and starved a young boy in their charge. Harry Potter, born to Mrs Dursley's sister, was a short, scraggly youth with the unfinished air of a small colt. His green eyes were hidden underneath circular glasses that were really more Sellotape than plastic, and his clothes looked like they had once belonged to a small whale. Harry never knew why his relatives treated him as they did. Often, he was told that, as a freak, he deserved all that was done to him. Harry supposed that he did deserve it; after all, when he was allowed to leave the house, he saw what perfectly normal children were meant to behave and look like, and he was none of the things they were. When he first started school, all of the other children were talking, laughing, making faces at each other. They seemed almost…Happy. Longingly, he had watched them, but he knew HE was not allowed to act like that. He was different, always different.
Finally, truth about his strangeness arrived, in the form of a letter. Day after day, letters arrived bearing his name. Harry of course, knew that the letters could not possibly be actually for him; as Dudley said, who would want to talk to him? But still he was curious. His uncle had been furious, and destroyed every letter as it arrived. Suddenly poor Harry found himself, beaten harder and harder each day. Blood seemed to stain every piece of clothing he owned, bruises seemed to cover every inch not covered in blood. When the letters were still arriving thick and fast, Harry's uncle had packed the family off in the car, and taken them to the most desolate place Harry could imagine. It was here that his life changed forever.
As Harry lay awake, counting down the minutes until his birthday he thought he heard a strange noise. Loud, heavy footsteps seemed to be coming towards the hut his uncle had hired, but Harry knew that was impossible. They were on an almost inaccessible island; the man who had loaned them a boat told them there was no one living there. Still they seemed to be getting closer until BOOM. The door seemed to cave inwards of its own accord, until Harry realised the dark shape at the doorway was in fact human and not just one the night shadows. Uncle Vernon had crashed into the room when the door fell, and Harry instinctively ducked the blow he knew would be coming. To his surprise, his Uncle seemed preoccupied with the huge man now inside the hut.
"Get out! How dare-!" started Uncle Vernon, but he was silenced when the man himself began to speak.
"Oh shuttup, Dursley. Now, where's Harry?"
Terrified, Harry inched forward. His uncle was shooting him murderous glances, and Harry knew already that he would be punished for this misdemeanour. He had not even asked permission from his uncle to be seen by this stranger after all! It came as no surprise to Harry that when the stranger saw him, his face fell in disappointment. People were always asking to see him, to compare him to Dudley. They always seemed to think he didn't deserve to be in such a fine family as he had, and Harry supposed they were right.
"Oh….er…Harry. I'm Rubeus Hagrid, keeper pf keys and grounds at Hogwarts." the man, Hagrid, said.
Obviously, this man was mad. Hogwarts? It sounded like a nasty disease.
"Yeh know all 'bout Hogwarts, oncourse," Hagrid said, as if he discussed sick pigs everyday.
"No," said Harry softly, eyes trained on the floor.
Hagrid seemed to be glaring at the Dursleys.
"Dumbledore warned me about this. He said yeh might not know an' all. You're a wizard Harry, same as yeh mum and dad,"
"My mother…and father?" Harry gasped quietly. In his mind, his parents were a shining example of who he should have been. His stomach clenched violently at the thought of them; he would have been such a disappointment to them he was sure. It was only after he registered the use of the word wizard that he understood what this giant man was saying.
"Yeah. Yeh know, magic an' all. I reckon it's time yeh read yeh letter,"
Harry took the piece of paper with trembling hands, and read it with disbelief. It seemed like this man was deep in his fantasies about wizards.
"What does it mean, they await my owl in response?" Harry asked tentively.
"Oh that reminds me," Hagrid scribbled something on a piece of paper, and pulled a live owl out of one his pockets. "We'll be pickin' up yer things tomorrow,"
Harrry nodded automatically; he was used to adults giving him instructions after all.
"He will not be going," came a voice to Harry's right. Harry gave a sudden wince. He had forgotten his uncle and aunt were still in the room, along with his cousin who was huddling in one corner.
"We swore we'd put a stop to that rubbish-That we would stamp it out of him!" His uncle said, voice measured.
"What?" Harry could scarcely believe his ears. His uncle was acting as if all this strange man said was true! Could his uncle have finally gone insane? But his aunt was shaking her head in his direction, and something written in her features persuaded Harry at last that maybe this was real.
"We don't want another…FREAK in the family. I knew he would be different, my sister being what she was. When she got herself killed I knew it would be too much to ask to look after the boy, but that man insisted. When she and that boy got themselves blown up…"
"Blown up? I thought they died in a car crash," Harry said, flinching. He knew he should never interrupt, but he was aching to know.
"Blown up? Lily and James Potter were killed by a dark wizard. An' when he tried ter kill you, something' happened an' he disappeared. Yer famous for it, Harry," Hagrid said, still glaring at the Dursleys.
Harry doubted very much that HE could be famous, infamous maybe, but not famous.
"Anyway, yeh go to sleep Harry, I'll sort with yer uncle, but yeh'll be goin' ter Hogwarts,"
They spent the next day shopping for strange wizarding items in a place called 'Diagon Alley'. Harry had never been to London, and remained quiet for the whole time. He did not know what Hagrid had said to his Uncle, and he had no idea how he was going to pay for his school supplies. Maybe they had a special school fund or something? To his surprise, Hagrid first took him to Gringott's, the wizarding bank, and withdrew what Harry supposed was a large sum of money. Hagrid said it had been his parents gold, but Harry was just glad to have enough to pay for school. He did not know what he would do with the rest of the money, it all was too much for him. Hagrid left him alone to go and buy his uniform, for which he was glad. He did not want to be forced to try on anything in front of Hagrid, and did not want any chance of anyone seeing him undressed. Still shivering at the thought, Harry allowed himself to be led to the back of the shop where another boy was being measured for school robes as well.
"Hello," said the other boy carelessly, obviously noticing Harry's shabby appearance. "Hogwarts too?"
Harry nodded, feeling slightly sick as he was measured; the witch kept getting way too close to him. The other boy seemed to be ignoring him, but also seemed bored. Finally he said "My Father's next door buying books, and mother's up the street looking at wands. I'm Draco Malfoy by the way what's your…" Before he could finish, the seamstress interrupted. "You're done dear,"
"Bye," Harry said softly as he left the store to buy his other school supplies. The other boy just stared curiously after him.
After getting his robes, they had bought books, as well as potion ingredients and various other things needed by a trainee wizard. When all this was done, and the only thing remaining on his list was a wand, Hagrid and Harry entered a shop called Ollivanders, makers of fine wands. By this stage, Harry's head was pounding fiercely and he could feel blood dripping down his back. He was glad he had multi-layers of clothing on; otherwise he was certain it would be showing. The man seemed stranger than any Harry had met yet in the wizarding world.
"Ah, Mr Harry Potter is it? I remember each of your parents' first wands. Now, let's see what kind of wand will suit you best. After trying what seemed every wand in the room, Harry finally found one that felt right. Ollivander seemed to want to say something, but Hagrid kept vigorously shaking his head.
"Don't tell him nothin'" Hagrid hissed when he thought Harry wasn't listening.
"Why-" started Ollivander
"Dumbledore's said not ter. Said it's complicated,"
Harry was still puzzling over this comment, when Hagrid led him from the store, almost dragging him out at one point. This was something Harry understood; he had wondered when this gentle giant would hurt him, and now it was happening. Hargrid took him to the station, and found him a train to take him home, although he did not speak to Harry more than he had too. He seemed severely disappointed, but Harry was used to that. He had already resigned himself to spending the next month with the Dursleys, who had undoubtedly already planned their punishments.
Harry glanced warily about the busy train station. So many people and none of them appeared to be carrying owls or seemed anything other than normal. No wait- a tall dignified man strolled past, beside the boy Harry had met in Madam Malkin's, Draco Malfoy. Harry supposed the man was his father, but there wasn't exactly any warmth between the pair despite their family resemblance. It was only when the man opened his mouth to speak that Harry recognised the rich, cultured tones and associated them with Draco's.
"Stupid. Year after year and still you cannot access platform nine and three-quarters first crossing Mudblood territory," Lucius ensured his voice was well heard by some of the more curious muggles. So much for wizarding secrecy!
The short blond boy beside him was looking decidedly paler than the last time Harry had seen him, and only nodded in response. To Harry's great surprise, the two seemed to walk into the pillar between platforms nine and ten and completely disappear!
Shooting fervent glances at the clueless muggles, Harry followed, ignoring loud voices behind him ("Can't I go, Mum, Oh please can't I?") and stepped through the barrier. The sight of milling students took Harry's breath away for half an instant before he himself became a part of the group. He quickly got on the train, finding an empty compartment and stowing his bags. Within seconds of sitting down, the compartment door slid open revealing Draco Malfoy
"Oh you," said Draco dismissively. "Have you heard? Someone's been saying Harry Potter is on the train!"
"Oh," said Harry weakly, turning red.
Draco stared at him, noting the blush spreading across Harry's face.
"It's you, isn't it?" he said with open curiosity. "My name is Draco Malfoy, in case you don't remember. I can help you. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort of wizards after all," he held out his hand, while nodding out the window at a large collection of seemingly distressed redheads.
Harry didn't want to be rude. The boy was obviously a wizard, from head to toe. All he knew was what Hagrid had told him, and that hadn't been very much at all. Hagrid could be wrong about Slytherins.
"Alright then," Harry said awkwardly grasping the proffered hand.
By the end of the journey, Harry knew a great deal more about the school houses, quidditch and the wizarding world in general. Draco it seemed was as unshakable in his prejudices as Hagrid had been. Harry had decided (Draco knew all about the Sorting Hat of course, his father ensured he would be in Slytherin no matter what) that he would just let the hat choose for him. When he said as much to Draco, he merely looked puzzled, as if he would not consider being in any house other than Slytherin. They were soon joined by two heavyset boys named Crabbe and Goyle and two girls, Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode. They seemed nice enough, if a little on the eyes, although Pansy stared at Draco throughout the train ride. Another girl, Hermione Granger, had checked in their carriage for a toad, although Harry thought she looked a bit pompous. Draco said she looked like a beaver and had to be a mudblood. Harry had no idea what this was, and soon forgot it was ever said at all.