Chapter 1

It was as ordinary of a Tuesday morning in late July as one could get: the birds were up far too early, as was the sun; the grass was still wet with dew; children were jumping out of bed, heralding the coming of day, while teenagers burrowed deeper into a pile of blankets and pillows in denial (of the breaking day and of waking up); the control of the world shifted from the nocturnal to the diurnal; and ten-year-old Harry Potter was sharply jolted from a dream by the screeching voice of his aunt.

"Get up Boy!" He sighed, blinking blearily at the underside of the stairs before reaching for his glasses and stretching.

"Up, up, UP!" his aunt screeched again, rapping on the door to his cupboard.

"Coming Aunt Petunia," he stated, still blinking the last wisps of sleep away, giving his head a sharp shake to clear it. This, of course, only caused his annoyingly long hair to slide into his eyes and he wasted a precious moment glaring at it, before making a scramble to get dressed. Having accomplished this, he grabbed his comb and yanked it through his hair, being careful to avoid the walnut sized bump on the back of his head, courtesy of his cousin's gang. He tied his hair back into a loose ponytail and exited his cupboard, stretching up on his toes with his arms towards the ceiling…until his aunt nastily poked him in the ribs from behind.

"Why are you dawdling?" she hissed at him as he flinched away, "It already well past six and you haven't even started breakfast yet! Now get moving!"

Harry moved towards the kitchen, resisting the urge to rub his side or roll his eyes, and therefore break the survival rules.

Show no weakness

Rudeness leads to pain

He moved around the kitchen with ease which showed long experience; taking the bacon and eggs out of the refrigerator, putting toast in the toaster, setting the table, starting tea, and a hundred other mundane tasks that were associated with getting breakfast on the table for the Dursleys. He yawned, although making sure to do it out of his aunt's sight.

Show no exhaustion

It wasn't as if he was particularly annoyed at being woken up so very early in the morning, and he didn't even mind being jolted out of his dream, as it hadn't been at all pleasant, but there were some mornings where he wished he'd get treated like Dudley and be allowed to sleep in, eat as much as he wanted for breakfast, or at the very least, be looked upon with some expression other than disgust.

Even a haircut would be nice, he though in dry annoyance as a long lock of his hair, which he had painstakingly tucked behind his ear, fell across his forehead and into his eyes. His aunt had given up on haircuts after a particularly bad one which had grown back overnight. She'd informed him (before locking him in his cupboard for days) that there was no point in wasting time or money on cutting his hair if it wouldn't stay that way. Since then, it had only grown longer.

Don't hope for anything, it's a set up to being hurt

He sighed again, absentmindedly flipping the bacon, and wondering if he would be allowed to eat any of this breakfast before holding back a snort of laughter. Right, because that's going to happen, he though sarcastically, quickly turning his full attention back to the food as his uncle's heavy steps pounded down the stairs. It would not be good to get into trouble already this morning.

Half an hour later, the Dursleys were sitting around the table eating bacon, eggs, and toast while Harry sat on the kitchen floor eating cold oatmeal. Not that it was that bad, on the contrary, it was the best breakfast he'd had in a while, but that didn't make it taste any better.

"Get the mail, Dudley," Uncle Vernon grumbled around a mouthful of egg.

"Make Harry get it," Dudley whined back.

"Get the mail, Boy!"

Harry set his food aside and rolled his eyes. Make Dudley get it, he thought acidly, knowing far better than to say this out loud, though he desperately wanted to; he didn't have a death wish, after all. He scooped the mail off the floor, pausing for a moment in the entry hall at the unfamiliar appearance of one of the letters. He pulled it out and glanced at it, almost dropping the envelope a moment later upon reading the address.

Mr. H. Potter

The Cupboard under the Stairs

4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging

Surrey

What in the world…Harry stared at the letter in shock. No one wrote him, and even if they had, it wouldn't be addressed this way.

"Boy! The mail, NOW!"

"C-coming Uncle Vernon," he replied quickly, hoping to God they didn't notice his slight stutter. He walked back to the table, hurriedly stuffing the letter into his pocket to examine at some later point when he was locked safely back in his cupboard. There was no way he was going to show even a corner of it to the Dursleys.

Don't show attachment to things: you'll just lose them faster

:~:

Though the letter burned a hole in his pocket throughout the rest of the day, Harry refrained from touching it—even once. Instead, he followed the list of chores (washing dishes, doing and folding the laundry, mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, weeding) as well as multiple other ones which occurred on the spot (buying the groceries and putting them away, making a snack for Dudley, wiping up the mud Dudley tracked in). After making dinner, eating early (before Uncle Vernon got home), and taking a very quick shower, his aunt locked him back in his cupboard, where he remain, silent as the grave, as he listened to the family eating and discussing the day's labors.

His uncle seemed to be in a particularly bad mood, and Harry remained perfectly still until the family had retired to the living room to watch the telly, the sound blaring through the house and blocking any noise he might make. He sighed in relief, another potential beating having been successfully avoided.

Very, very carefully, he pulled the letter out of his pocked and used one of the matches from the box with the cleaning supplies to light his stub of a candle he'd stolen from the cabinet the other day. In the flickering light, he examined the letter again, noting the thick paper, the calligraphy style writing in green ink, and the seal pressed into the wax on the back. After a couple more minutes of contemplation, mainly wondering who would have sent him such an old fashioned letter, he slit the seal open with the pocket knife he'd snitched from Dudley's collection last year and slowly drew out the many papers inside.

Hogwarts School

of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,

Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Mr. Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.

Yours Sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Minerva McGonagall,

Deputy Headmistress

His first thought, upon completing the letter, was: well that explains a lot; and it did. The idea of magic, or at least wizardry explained very neatly various incidents over the past decade, all of which he had been severely punished for and entirely unable to understand: the miraculous re-growth of hair, the ability to get onto the school roof by simply jumping, that incident with the snake on Dudley's birthday, etc.

In fact, it explained everything too neatly, and Harry scowled at the letter before examining the other piece of parchment, which turned out to be the enclosed list of supplies. He sighed. Even if it is true, unlikely, but even if it is, where in London am I going to get any of this stuff? He thought with disgust turning back to the original letter, And what could they possibly mean by 'we await you owl'?

After contemplating the letter for a few more minutes (as well as the envelope), he decided that mail must travel by some other form than the post office, mainly due to the fact that the envelope possessed no stamp. And perhaps they used owls to cart these letters, similar to how they used to use messenger pigeons in ancient history. Yes, that was it, although why they chose owls was beyond him.

Furthermore, this led to the problem of how was he going to get an owl, when clearly there were none in the general vicinity, and even if he did, how was the owl to know where to go, as there was no return address. He sighed, rolling his eyes at the lack of information the letter contained. It's probably just a practical joke played by Dudley, although it seems to have more thought and time into it than he'd care to put, he thought grumpily to himself. Still, in the slight chance the letter was genuine, he decided it would be best to have a reply ready in case he did find some way to deliver it. With that thought in mind, he set about composing his own letter.


Albus Dumbledore was not having the best of days. The annual pre-school-curriculum-staff-meeting had deteriorated into a general round of insults and moaning over how much the students had inevitably forgotten; his attempts to restore order had been met with cold glares; two of the castle ghosts had been missing for the last month and no on knew where they were; the Sorting Hat was complaining about its position on the shelf and demanding a higher place of honor; and no one had accepted a lemon drop from him in weeks. While this situation would have broken an ordinary wizard, Albus Dumbledore was anything but ordinary, and as such, was only mildly depressed.

"Now Minerva," he scolded the transfiguration teacher, "You know as well as I do that divination is an important subject and you shouldn't criticize Sybill so." He regarded her reproachfully as she completely ignored him and continued to rant at the divination teacher about 'prophecy this', and 'seeing the future that', and 'oh, this is just utter nonsense!'

Dumbledore sighed before sending an annoyed glare at the ancient runes and arithmancy teachers, who were snickering quietly, while his potions master looked on, terribly amused. "Leonardo, Sydney, Severus, really," he admonished, before being abruptly cut off as an owl swooped in from one of the high, arching, open windows, dropped a letter on his desk (missing his head by mere inches), and flew out again, presumably headed for the owlery.

Silence descended for one blessed moment as the Headmaster calmly picked up the letter and read its contents, eyebrows rising and eyes beginning to twinkle suspiciously. Upon finishing, he surveyed the room over his spectacles and the top of the letter; a faint smile twitched at the corners of his mouth as he realized everyone was regarding him in quiet anticipation (finally). Never one to turn down such an obliging audience, he returned his gaze to the top of the letter and read it aloud:

"To Whomever it may concern,

I have received a letter claiming that I have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Having been up to this point completely unaware that magic in fact existed, I must say that I'm a tad bit skeptical as to this claim (no offence intended) and I would greatly appreciate a complete explanation of this bizarre idea as well as answers to multiple questions including, but not limited to: where I can obtain the list of supplies, how these letters are addressed (do you actually stalk people down to that level or is it some sort of device that does it), are there any other 'wizarding' schools in Britain and is there any way to contact your competitors or have I already been eliminated from their supposed lists by receiving this letter, and finally, if magic does truly exist (and I'm still not ruling out the idea that this is all a practical joke until someone shows up and gives me a thorough demonstration), then why have I never heard of it before. Even if this is a supposed 'secret', surely there must be some issues keeping it from 'non magic people'. I would appreciate any information you have to offer on the subject of this so called 'magic', and I will reply to you original question of whether or not I shall be attending this school of yours based on the information I receive.

Thank you for your time and effort,

Harry Potter

P.S: Owls? Owls? I must admit that while they appear to be a step up from pigeons, I'm at a complete loss as to why there are still used to transport mail. This is the 20th century you know."

The Headmaster's voice ceased, leaving the room in complete, disbelieving silence. Dumbledore fought to keep the smile that was twitching at his lips down. Up unto the revealing of the letter writer, his potions master had been looking positively amused; only to have a particularly icy bucket of water dumped on him, if one was to judge by the scowl on his face. Minerva was staring at him in stunned bewilderment; Filius was looking absolutely astounded; and Leo and Sydney were exchanging gleeful smirks, no doubt amused with not only the vocabulary, but also the sheer audacity of some of the questions.

"Clearly, we have a problem," Albus stated calmly, his eyes twinkling like stars, as he lost control of the small smile.

"A Problem!" Rolanda Hooch exclaimed, "A PROBLEM! Albus, the Boy-Who-Lived doubts the very existence of magic, let alone the wizarding world, and you think we have a little problem!"

"I quite agree," Leonardo threw in unhelpfully, "That comment on stalking is a big issue. It wouldn't do to have our savior convinced that the wizarding world knows where he sleeps. Honestly, I never thought about it before, but that letter addressing is down right creepy and threatening," he said contemplatively, as everyone turned to stare at him, "I mean, we're practically telling all of the children 'we know where you sleep', not to mention their paranoid parents, what with all the child molesters and kidnappers these days. It's really a wonder that more muggleborns parents haven't called the police on us…"
"Is that all you can think about?" Minerva snapped, outraged.

"Now, now, calm down everyone; this problem can probably be easily solved—" Pomona began.

"Oh I don't know; do we have any other way to address the letters? Maybe we can make the charm a little less personal, what do you think?" Leonardo turned to Filius, who actually seemed to contemplate this question for all of three seconds before Rolanda broke in again,

"LEO! That's not what she meant and you know it!"

"Of course," he smirked at her, "But it's just so fun to get you riled up." The Quidditch coach looked positively incensed and reached for her wand; fortunately, Dumbledore, who had been sitting contemplatively through this exchange, finally spoke up,

"I agree with Pomona," he said quietly, although it had the effect of silencing the entire room. Sometimes it was worth while to be the most powerful wizard of the age. "This problem is easily solved, I'll simply send Hagrid to pick up the boy, take him to Diagon Alley, and give him his ticket. No problem whatsoever!" He beamed at the stunned faces staring at him.

"Hagrid?" Minerva asked after a moment, "Albus, don't you think, due to the boy's disbelief in magic, that we should send someone who has the ability to actually cast spells? Not to mention someone a little more…" she trailed off

"…Gentle, tactful, and a better caretaker for an eleven-year-old," Poppy stated simply. Most of the others nodded in agreement.

"Ahh, but that's just the thing!" Dumbledore exclaimed delightedly, "You see the sight of a giant aught to convince him that the magic world does exist, and it will quickly become apparent to him that Hagrid is as open as they come. So he is simply the best choice to send."

Seeing that they were all still staring at him blankly, as well as preparing arguments as to why this might be a bad idea, he quickly changed the subject. "Now, while I pen a quick reply telling Harry to await Hagrid's arrival, why don't all of you decide how we are going to find the Gryffindor and Slytherin ghosts before the year begins. It would be a major problem if the students arrive and the house ghosts are not here."

"Why don't we just ask the Sorting Hat?" queried Severus, entering the conversation for the first time, "After all," he continued, sneering, "Does it not know where all the ghosts are at all times?"

"Unfortunately, the Sorting Hat is not cooperating right now," the Headmaster said with a sigh, accompanied with a reproachful glance at said Hat sitting on the shelf.

"Nope, not tellin'," the Hat shouted, "Not until you agree to give me more respect around here. And besides, I have a song to compose, and since all of you are critics who don't appreciate good lyrics, I've got to spend more time on it this year!"

"Look," Sydney rolled his eyes, "I just said that it would be nice for once if the Sorting Song actually rhymed. The firsties are too terrified to notice, but all the rest of us go insane listening to one horrid rhyme after another—"

"One horrid rhyme after another, I'll give you one horrid rhyme after another! My rhymes are never horrid, you idiot! How dare—" the rest of its rant was abruptly cut off as Minerva got fed up and flicked a silencing spell in his direction. The Headmaster grinned at her and began to compose his reply as the heads of houses, not to mention the rest of the staff, began to discuss how, exactly, they would find the wayward ghosts.


Harry Potter had to admit (to himself at least) that he was beginning to believe in this strange world that had been presented to him. Despite the skeptical tone of his letter, he was actually fairly convinced that magic existed, not in the least because the next day he'd noticed an owl perched in the tree outside—an owl that was apparently waiting for his reply, as it flew down to the fence he was repainting and proffered a foot. It had taken a moment for him to figure out what the owl wanted, but soon enough, the bird was skyward bound again, his letter grasped in its claws. He'd made the vast mistake of watching it fly off, as his Uncle had noticed his lack of work and given him a sound beating for it, before returning him to his job.

Show no idleness

He'd spent the rest of the day contemplating every single "freakish" thing he'd ever done, as his relatives called it, and trying to find some connecting factor between the events aside from his lack of understanding. He must have appeared to be daydreaming, for after he'd finished the fence, weeded, and mowed the lawn, he'd been called inside and given a loud lecture from his aunt on "concentrating on his tasks and not staring off into space like an idiot". His uncle had entered in the middle of the rant and thus he earned himself yet another beating and orders to clean the house from top to bottom, before dark, or there'd be Hell to pay.

As it had already been three o'clock in the afternoon when he started, he had no chance of completing this task in the amounted time, and after a very physical lecture on laziness, he'd been thrown into his cupboard with no food and the promise that he'd be in there for all of tomorrow. Oh joy, he though in annoyance, as the door was slammed closed and the distinct sound of a lock clicking filled the still, hot air.

He lay back on the thin mattress that passed for a bed and prayed to every God of every religion he was aware of that the Dursleys wouldn't intercept the reply to his letter…if there was a reply at all. He was furious with himself for breaking one of his survival rules, and every time he caught himself thinking wistfully about magic, he'd cruelly remind himself of reality, especially if any of his relatives got a hold of any letter coming from that place. Yes, he'd probably be unable to walk away from that beating, and would undoubtedly starve to death after being locked in his cupboard for a month.

Don't hope, don't dream, and don't believe in a better world, it doesn't exist

:~:

The next morning, Harry was rudely jolted from a strange dream not by the screeching of his aunt, but the unpleasant squealing joy of his cousin. Uhoh, what's going on now? He though with a wince, dressing himself in the rare chance that he'd be let out of his cupboard, although he wasn't looking forward to the venture. Dudley happy was never a good sign, and Harry would undoubtedly prefer the dark, safe confines of his shelter than whatever was going on out there. The choice was snatched from him as his cupboard door was unlocked and his aunt snarled down at him.

"Get moving, you're making breakfast and then Vernon has an announcement to make. No dawdling, now." Harry sighed once before leaving the quiet darkness of his cupboard and joining the rest of the world. He set the table as fast as he could, hurriedly made bacon and eggs (again, as for some reason his cousin wanted them), and slid into the most unnoticed corner of the dining room when his aunt poked him in that direction. His uncle entered a moment later.

"Now, everyone," he began in a low rumble, noticeably excluding Harry in this statement, "I've got some very good news." He grinned at the delighted responses of his wife and son. No duh, Harry thought, Aunt Petunia already mentioned this, just get to the point already. "I've received a promotion at work," cheers from the Dursleys, to Harry's disgust, "and as a present, my boss is sending us on a trip to the coast for three days." More cheers. What the HELL! Harry thought, Somehow I doubt I'm going to be included in this... While Dudley continued to dance around, Aunt Petunia suddenly looked worried.

"What are we going to do with him?" she asked suspiciously, jerking her head at Harry, "He's not coming with us, is he?"

"Of course not!" Uncle Vernon sounded affronted, "We'll just leave him with someone."

"Who?" Aunt Petunia asked, "Mrs. Figg can't take him, she's away on a break, neither can any of the other neighbors, and Marge…"

"Is going with us," Uncle Vernon finished, turning and glaring at Harry as if this was all his fault. Harry quickly fixed his gaze on a spot on the ground, praying for a miracle.

"How about we leave him here?" Dudley suggested suddenly. His parents jumped, having not realized he was listening to the conversation.

"Leave him here, by himself?" Aunt Petunia asked, horrified.

"Sure, why not?" Dudley continued, shrugging, "It's not like he will blow up the house or anythin', where'd he stay, and you could probably assign him a big list of chores to keep him busy while we're gone." He turned back to his food, leaving his parents staring at him in shock, before regarding each other contemplatively and turning back to Harry, who had yet to take his eyes off the floor.

"Well, why not?" Aunt Petunia wondered after a moment, "Dudleykins is right, it's not like he would blow up the house as he'd have no where else to go."

"Hmm," Uncle Vernon glared at Harry for a minute before replying, "Very well," he began his lecture mode, "Now Boy, no destroying things, no letting strangers in, and no freakish business, you hear?" He snarled, "I've got plenty to do without cleaning up after an ungrateful freak like yourself, and you will do all those chores assigned, or I'll whip you so bad you won't be able to walk for a month." He glared at Harry suspiciously.

"Yes Uncle Vernon," Harry said flatly, his eyes remaining fixed on the floor, not even twitching when his uncle seized his chin in a strong grip and stared into his eyes, before landing a punch on his cheek that bent his glasses.

"I though so." His uncle turned away and returned to his breakfast, "Now don't you have work to be doing?" He growled. Harry didn't need to be told twice and he rose, cautiously walking around the table and into the hall, only stopping to take off his glasses and attempt to fix them once he was out of sight.

Show no defiance

Show no power

Show no weakness

He headed towards the kitchen, hearing Dudley excuse himself from the table and leave the dining room. His cousin tapped him lightly on the shoulder as he passed him, giving a jerking nod in the direction of the upstairs bedroom when Harry glanced his way, before continuing up the stairs. Harry quickly entered the kitchen and put away the remaining food before checking to see if the coast was clear and following Dudley up.

"Thanks," he commented quietly from his cousin's doorway, eyeing the messy room idly.

"No problem," Dudley stated uncomfortably from his spot on his swivel chair in front of his computer.

"Out of raw curiosity, why are you being so nice to me, now?" Harry asked, keeping his voice flat. His cousin looked up from the loading screen and glanced quickly past Harry down the hall to where the clear sounds of two people still eating echoed up from the dining room.

"Ms. Harrison was wondering about you," he stated as a way of explanation. At Harry's blink, he elaborated, "She pulled me aside and asked if you were sick or somethin'. She tried talking to you a couple of times, but you always managed to avoid her, so she said she had to ask me," he glanced at Harry guiltily, "She wanted to know why you were so thin and always had bruises, and that she'd caught you working your way through the algebra textbook, and that's a couple years ahead of us, and she'd looked over you shoulder and saw your work, and it was all correct, but you failed the math test that day. She wanted to know if you were doing it deliberately for some reason." Another guilty glance to where Harry was standing stock still in the door, "Don't worry, I didn't tell her anythin' and I got away as soon as I could. I knew Dad would beat you to pieces if those social people came by again."

"Dudley," Harry asked slowly, "What does this have to do with suggesting to your parents that I stay here alone and being nice to me?"

"Miss Harrison was really nice," Dudley continued, ignoring the interruption, "One of the nicest teachers we've ever had. And she was worried about you. No one's ever been worried about you before, except that one kindergarten teacher, remember, the one who got the social people to come around. I don't know," he said, turning to look at Harry again, "But I just thought, you shouldn't have to stay with some crabby lady for a week."

"Four day," Harry corrected unconsciously.

"Whatever. Point is, you won't blow up the house, so why shouldn't you? Now leave," he shot another glance at Harry, and added suddenly, "Please." Harry numbly walked away from the door and back down the stairs, in time to receive the dishes and a list of chores for the day, the promise of being locked in his cupboard apparently forgotten. As he wandered around the house, packing up things for his relatives trip (starting the next day), he felt that tiny flutter of hope blossom in his chest again, the hope that there really was magic. He ruthlessly squashed it. There was no point in ruining his peaceful time by himself by worrying over something he'd stopped believing in a long time ago.

:~:

The Dursleys left early the next morning, the packed car rolling out of the driveway and down the block. Harry watched until they were out of sight, not capable of believing that they were really leaving him home alone for four days. He spent the next ten minutes sitting numbly on the couch in shock, feeling as if he'd been thrown into one of those alternate universes he'd read about in books.

It took the sound of the mail swishing through the slot to jerk him out of his stupor and he slowly got up and walked to the door, fighting ruthlessly with himself and making a vain attempt to crush his hope that a reply had come. He gathered up the envelopes and walked slowly towards the dining room, shifting through them as quickly as he was able. To his surprise and everlasting delight, there was another envelope of old parchment, addressed to him in green inked calligraphy.

Mr. H. Potter

4 Privet Drive

Little Whining,

Surrey

He had to sit down and he stared at the letter, his fingers shaking as they traced the green ink words. It's real, he thought in hysterical disbelief, It's completely, utterly, real. He took a moment to compose himself and make sure he wouldn't burst out into mad laughter, especially after noticing the change in the address from the original one; and then, with shaking hands, he broke the seal and pulled the letter out.

Dear Mr. Potter,

I must say, I was absolutely delighted to hear from you. We are completely sorry that we overlooked the fact that you were living with muggles (non magic people), as all our letters to muggleborns are delivered by hand to avoid confusion such as this. To help ratify this situation, I'm sending a member of the staff from Hogwarts to help you obtain your supplies and explain the magic world to you. He will arrive early in the morning on July 28th, so be expecting him. Again, apologies for any confusion the original letter caused.

Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore

Headmaster

Harry, upon finishing the letter for the third time, silently thanked all the higher deities everywhere for the Dursley's unexpected vacation and his being left at home. He had no idea how his relatives would react to the announcement that he was attending a school of the forbidden M word, but he could come up with dozens of likely scenarios, all of which ended with him dying before September started. No, it would be better for the Dursleys to remain blissfully ignorant until it was too late for them to change anything.

After reading the letter again and feeling a warm, golden glow settle in his chest, he placed it in his cupboard (with the other one) and began on the impossibly long list of chores left for him by his relatives. If he was going to spend the next day 'wizard shopping' (as he'd termed it), then he'd have to get at least have the list done before he went to bed.

:~:

Harry jerked out of his nightmare, breathing as if he'd run for miles and slick with sweat. He lay gasping in his stifling cupboard for a moment before rising and sneaking out into the kitchen, part of his mind marveling at the fact that the door was unlocked. He sat on the floor for a while; sipping a cold glass of water and watching the world begin to lighten as the sun rose. Four AM, he thought groggily to himself, why in the world did I have to wake up so early?

After another few moments of stillness, he rose and headed back to his cupboard to get dressed; a sudden excitement filling him as he remembered that someone from that school was coming later in the morning. With this thought in mind, he picked out his best set of hand-me-downs, the least raggedy ones which fit better than most; the ones he wore to school on the first day, to make the impression that he was not neglected (as that would only lead to awkward questions and problems with Uncle Vernon). He headed upstairs to take a very quick shower, wincing at the soreness in—well—all of his muscles.

One freezing shower later (there was no way he was going to use the hot water and potentially get into trouble when his relatives got home), he dressed himself and eyed his appearance critically in the mirror. A gaunt, too pale face with large, bright green eyes (framed with glasses held together with scotch tape) and a livid bruise on the cheek stared back; long, tangled, dark mahogany hair with red highlights fell to his shoulders (yes, way too long, need to get a haircut); baggy clothes hid the bruises and welts on his back, as well as his unnatural skinniness. Well, overall, I'd say that's not too bad, he noted critically, Now, to do something about that bruise and I'll be good to go.

He grabbed a comb and began to yank it through his long locks, attempting to get the snarled mess to lie strait. The only good thing about having his hair this long was that it didn't hang all over the place anymore (a style that was the reason for his many haircuts prior to the disaster). After sleeking his hair down as much as possible and leaving it loose (it would hide the bruise on his neck), he gazed at the livid purple mark on his cheek. There was no way he was meeting a stranger with that mark on his face, as it would undoubtedly start up a round of awkward questions.

"Magic's real," he murmured to himself, "Magic's real, and so there must be some way to hide this without makeup. What if…" he stared at the bruise, remembering something he'd read in a fantasy book. His teachers had always complained that he had to vivid of an imagination, but just this once it might help.

Screwing his eyes tightly shut, he forced all his concentration onto the image he'd just seen in the mirror, imagining the bruise slowly shrinking from the outside inward, shrinking into the rest of his skin, millimeter by millimeter, fading through the colors, from livid purple to green and brown to yellow to normal, vanishing slowly yet steadily, vanishing across the contours of his cheek, vanishing until…he opened his eyes and blinked in numb shock.

The vivid purple was gone, and only the faintest yellow discoloration hinted that the bruise had even been there. Harry reached up a trembling hand and pressed his fingers to his cheek; it still hurt like the full blown mark, but there was almost no sign at all of its presence. A shaking grin slowly worked his way across his face. He'd done his very first piece of deliberate magic and it had worked.

An hour and a half later found him waiting in the living room, school supply list in hand, awaiting the arrival of his chauffeur, as he'd decided to call the person who would pick him up. Not to his face, of course. That broke a number of the survival rules.

Don't be an idiot

Being respectful never made it hurt worse

Teachers can be as nasty as relatives, so be careful

Truth to be told, he was more than a little nervous. He never liked meeting new people, as he really didn't know how to interact with them aside from being distant and polite. Adults always seemed to look at him oddly and children avoided him (mainly due to the reputation of his cousin's gang), and his uncle had explained that this was because they could tell he was a freak. He didn't exactly believe this, but no other explanation had presented itself so far, and so he accepted it as reality. It hadn't made him like people any better.

Knock! Knock!

A booming sound on the door jolted him from his thoughts and he slowly rose and made his way towards the noise. Cautiously, he undid the lock and opened the door, peering out at the…person who stood there, feeling as though his eyes would roll out of his head. His chauffeur was huge, giant-like, with a long leather coat on and an enormous, bushy, black beard covering his face, and a pink umbrella on his arm. Harry stared up at him in bewilderment.

"Hullo, Harry!", giant-person boomed, "So nice t'see yeh after all these years. Are yeh ready t'go an' get yer things?"

"Y-yes, sir," Harry stuttered, more than a little overwhelmed and trying in vain to remember if he'd ever seen this person before.

"Well, then, c'mon," giant-person gestured, turning and starting to walk down the driveway. Harry closed the door behind him and hurried to keep up.

"Um, sir," he began as politely as he could, flinching when the man turned towards him, "I'm sorry for asking, but what is your name?" he cringed.

"Oh, I'm terribly sorry; forgettin' t'introduce myself an' all," giant-person didn't look annoyed (to Harry's relief), "My name's Hagrid, Keeper o' the Keys an' grounds at Hogwarts." He extended his hand and Harry shook it gingerly. Then, giant-person—no, Hagrid—continued to walk down the sidewalk with Harry scurrying behind, attempting to keep up.

At the end of the block, Hagrid looked right, and then left, for all appearances checking to see if anyone was watching. When it became apparent that no one was in sight, he took his pink umbrella from the crook of his arm and brought it in a downward slash in the air in front of him. Harry dearly wanted to ask what in the world he was doing, but decided it was better to keep his mouth shut. And a second later, there was a terrific BANG and an enormous, triple-decker, violet bus appeared out of nowhere. It took all of Harry's willpower to not fall over in shock.

"'Allo, 'Agrid!" a voice called out as the doors opened, "An' where will you be goin' t'day?"

"Leaky Cauldron, Stan. I've got a job t'be doin'." He stated, putting his hand on Harry's shoulder, who shank but managed to avoid flinching.

"Right, oh, well get on! We ain't got all day, ye'know."

"C'mon, Harry," Hagrid said, prompting him to go into the bus first, "This is the Knight Bus, an' we've got a'ways t'go!" Harry climbed the steps, feeling more than a bit surreal and froze again upon seeing that, instead of normal seats, this bus had armchairs. He blinked, and moved forward, selecting one at Hagrid's prompting. Questions were whipping through his head at light speed, yet he dared not voice any of them.

Show no ignorance

"Now Harry," Hagrid said, settling into the chair next to him, "Yeh jus' have'ta brace yerself an' yeh'll be fine." Harry watched, somewhat incredulous, as Hagrid then pulled a canary yellow thing out of a pocked and proceeded to revel that it was a partially knitted blanket, which he continued to knit. A jolt from the bus—which almost threw Harry across the isle and he only just in time stopped his head from slamming into the glass—and the bus was moving again. Shaking his head and settling down, as much as possible when clinging to an armchair for dear life, he attempted to process the last five minutes of his morning and plan the upcoming day.

After wasting precious moments trying to determine exactly how the bus was moving, as they seemed to be jumping not only all over the street, but also from location to location (not to mention time zones), Harry turned his thoughts inward and began the process of readying himself for upcoming shocks. The bus slammed to a halt, almost throwing him again. He tightened his grip and resolved to ignore most of what was unexplainable around him.

Easier said than done, what with the one guy (did Hagrid say his name was Stan?) shouting the stops in apparently alphabetical order (they were currently on C's), the bus jolting in and out of places, and weird people getting off and coming on.

Right, he lectured himself, You can't just keep showing shock like this, have to learn how to hide it better. Just because you've never seen this world before is no reason to gawk at it, and besides: staring is rude and rude is pain, so be careful! He glanced uneasily at Hagrid as he thought this.

It wasn't that he didn't like the man; Hagrid had been nothing but nice to him since picking him up that morning. Harry just didn't like big people, they reminded him too much of Uncle Vernon and some of the older members of Dudley's gang: basically, people who beat him to pulp on a regular basis. He was very positive Hagrid had not picked up on this unease, yet he strove to shove it further down and hide it better.

Same goes for shock, no more of this 'desperate, need to sit down' stuff, you hear? Just shove it down and blink, if you have to express it at all. And keep your hair in your face. Yes, it's rude, but the less people who see your face, the less likely they'll be to remember it later! He ordered himself, firmly. You can let all the shock and excitement out when you're safe in your cupboard later, not now, out in the open, where anyone can see you.

He jerked sharply when Hagrid clapped a hand on his shoulder.

"C'mon, Harry, this is our stop. See yeh later, Stan!" he called over his shoulder as they exited the bus. "Welcome ter the Leaky Cauldron, Harry," Hagrid said, steering him into the door of a dark, seedy looking pub. Harry blinked a couple of times, allowing his eyes to adjust to the sudden darkness. There was a long bar, where a couple of people dressed in odd clothes sat, all turned towards the door to see the newcomers; a couple of tables were placed hazardously across the floor, complete with mismatched chairs; behind the bar stood an old, stooped man, idly cleaning the countertop.

"Hello, Hagrid," he called out cheerfully, "Will you have your usual?"

"Can' t'day, Tom, I'm on Hogwarts business," he clapped his hand on Harry's shoulder. Harry flinched, mentally berating himself a moment later. No one seemed to notice; however, everyone at the bar turned and stared at him. More than a little nervous from all the attention, he fixed his gaze firmly on the floor.

"Good Lord," the bartender said, leaning forward, "Is this—can this be…" he walked out from around the bar and approached them; Harry jerked his eyes up, startled. "It is! Harry Potter, this is an honor." Harry blinked at him. WHAT? was all he could think before everyone in the bar (all five people) got up and crowded around, shaking his hand.

"I'm so glad to meet you at last…"

"…this has definitely made my day..."

"Wait till I tell Alice about this; oh, she's never going to believe it!"

"Well met, Mr. Potter, well met"

What the Hell is going on and how do all these people know my name? Harry thought frantically. He didn't have much interaction with normal people and absolutely none with wizards, but somehow he felt that this was out of the ordinary. He risked a glance up a Hagrid, eyes pleading to get him out of this situation, as he had really no idea how to respond.

"Alright, gents, that's enough," Tom suddenly interrupted, catching the look Harry had shot at Hagrid (who had totally missed it). "Give the lad some breathing space. You're going to Diagon Alley, are you not?" he asked Hagrid, leading the two of them to the back of the bar and out into a small courtyard.

He walked up to one of the brick walls, pulled a stick out of his pocket, and tapped a specific brick three times. Harry blinked again as the bricks in the wall began to move, twisting this way and that, folding themselves into a solid archway which showed the beginnings of a windy, cobblestone street lined with shops of dubious stability, advertising the most unbelievable things. Despite his best efforts, Harry felt his jaw drop. Tom chuckled.

"Welcome, Mr. Potter, to Diagon Alley."

:~:

Hagrid took off down the Alley at a brisk pace, and Harry jogged slowly in his wake to keep up, gazing as discreetly as he could at all the shops, the items they were selling, and the people. There weren't that many out this early in the morning, but the ones he saw seemed to be wearing robes and carrying the oddest things: pointed hats, more of those sticks (wands, he assumed), bags made of God-knows-what. He was in fact so intent on observing the environment without appearing to do so that he almost bumped into Hagrid when the man stopped suddenly. He caught himself just in time, mentally swearing at his lack of vigilance.

"All right there, Harry?" Hagrid asked, before gesturing to the enormous, white marble building in front of them. "This is Gringotts, the wizarding bank," he explained, "It's very famous an' guarded by goblins, yeh'll see," he finished, starting up the steps.

Goblins? Harry wondered, recalling everything he could remember about them from various fantasy books he'd read, which suddenly no longer seemed a waste of time. Aren't they supposed to be evil? Oh well, no prejudices, this is a new world you're in, don't hate on a species just because of some (probably inaccurate) information you read. With this in mind, he nodded politely to the goblin guard as he passed, and hurried after Hagrid, missing the surprised look on its face at the gesture.

"Mornin'," said Hagrid, walking up to one of the unoccupied goblins, "We've come ter take some money outta Mr. Potter's safe."

"And does Mr. Potter have his key?" the goblin asked politely, turning to Harry.

"Got it somewhere in 'ere," Hagrid began to dig through the various pockets in his coat, missing the way the goblin narrowed his eyes and frowned. Harry didn't. So what's this about? Apparently, I've got a safe, with—presumably—money in it, which makes sense as to why we're here first, as supplies must cost a lot. And Hagrid has my key; for some reason, I doubt he had it to begin with, which means someone else had my key and therefore access to my safe.

Odds were, this person was trustworthy, especially if they sent the key with Hagrid when he went to pick Harry up; however, Harry had always had a hard time keeping things that belonged to him from Dudley (or the rest of the Dursleys), and as such, tended to guard what he considered his very closely. The thought that someone else would have access to his bank account gave him shivers.

"Ahh," Hagrid announced after a span of about five minutes, "'ere it is!" He held up a tiny gold key, which the goblin took and examined closely. At last he straightened.

"All seems to be in order, sir," he said, although Harry got the feeling that this was directed at him rather than Hagrid, "I'll just have someone take you down to the vault, then. Wait here." He went off to get another goblin.

"Yeh've gotta watch these goblins, Harry," Hagrid informed him in a soft whisper, "They're damn good at handlin' money, but they're very tricky creatures. Best not get on their bad side or double cross 'em. Also, they don' like half truths, so when they ask yeh questions, be sure ter respond with the whole."

"Yes sir," Harry said quietly, keeping his face blank. It sounded like blind prejudice to him, but he'd keep it in the back of his mind while he made his own opinion. He sighed inwardly; he hated people who made assumptions without knowing: too many of his teachers had taken the Dursley's word on his supposed bad behavior and tendencies to cheat, and treated him like he was the scum of the earth…on the first day of school before they'd even met him.

He was rather disappointed that Hagrid was proving to be someone who also had these prejudices, although maybe everyone had them, who knew? Might as well still go into this world unassuming. Think about it: you're old enough to make your own opinions and you're in a brand new world, alone. That's all you need to start over. No more of this 'Dudley's more smart than me' act, you're going to be a good student and as unprejudiced as possible!

"This is Griphook," the goblin's voice jolted Harry out of his internal lecture, "He'll be your guide for today." The new goblin nodded at them and started off, Hagrid strode behind. Harry nodded and murmured a polite "Thanks" to the accountant goblin before hurrying after them, and leaving the goblin in bewildered shock.

Griphook took them to a small door leading out of the hall and bowed them through it. Instead of more marble, as was expected given the general appearance of the rest of the bank, the passage they moved into was rough hewn stone with a railway built on the bottom. Griphook whistled and a small cart came hurtling along the tracks. They piled in (Hagrid with some difficulty) and the cart went hurtling off, the air growing colder and damper as they rushed deeper and deeper into the passages. Harry couldn't keep the grin of delight off his face from the sheer speed at which they were traveling, the wind pulling at his cheeks and forcing his eyes to burn.

When they finally stopped their dizzying descent, he was no where near ready for it to be over, but Hagrid looked like he was going to be sick, so Harry figured that it was probably for the best. Griphook got out of the cart and Harry followed him, but when he turned to Hagrid, the man remained sitting and held up a hand.

"Yeh go ahead, Harry," he said shakily, "I'll jus' sit 'ere an' make an attemp' ter recover." Harry nodded and followed Griphook over to the wall which, he noticed upon closer inspection, had a key hole in it. That's a door! he thought in delight, looking for any other sign that there was, in fact, a door there, but saw nothing. I've never seen anything that blended in so well before. Griphook took the tiny gold key and inserted it into the lock, turning and pushing the door open. Harry shielded to the side when green smoke rushed out of the opening and the goblin chuckled.

"Don't worry, Mr. Potter, it won't hurt you," he stated, gesturing for Harry to enter. Harry cautiously pushed the door inward and slipped into the room, only to freeze in shock. He didn't even notice Griphook following him in; his attention focused entirely on the piles and piles of gold, silver, and bronze coins that filled the room.

"Here's a bag to get what you need, Mr. Potter," the goblin proffered a small leather bag to him, "Don't worry about the weight or amount that goes in: you can put as much money in as you want and it will never weigh any more than it does know." Harry took the bag gingerly and eyed the piles of money.

He really didn't want to talk to anyone, aside from being polite, but he had no idea of what these coins were or how much things in the wizarding world cost. It seemed like a great deal of money to him, but perhaps it was just the average amount for the wizarding world. Which meant that he had to ask questions.

"Umm, excuse me sir," he began, his voice barely above a whisper, although he was impressed at how even it came out. The goblin, who had been in the process of leaving, turned back to him, a slightly surprised expression on his features. Harry blushed and cringed, but continued, "Umm, sorry to ask but what are these coins called and what's their relationship to each other?" seeing the goblin staring at him, apparently stunned by the question, he winced again, but finished gamely, "And what do you think would be an appropriate amount for school supplies?"

The goblin stared at him, long enough for Harry to believe that he wouldn't answer his questions, before blinking, shaking his head a little, and scooping up a handful of coins.

"This," he said, holding up the tiny bronze one, "Is called a Knut. There are twenty-nine Knuts to the Sickle," he held up the silver coin, "And seventeen Sickles to the Galleon," he glanced at Harry's face, and then added, "Galleons are worth quite a lot, most items are priced in Sickles. I'd suggest that you deal in Sickles when an item is priced that way, don't show you have tons of Galleons to be throwing around." Harry nodded in complete understanding.

Show no power

"I'd say, for school supplies, you'd need," another glance at Harry, "Would you like me to pick out the amount for you, sir?" Harry nodded vigorously.

"Please!" he stated, and watched as the goblin scooped up handfuls of Galleons and put them into the bag. He added a couple handfuls of Sickles, and one of Knuts.

"Now the way this bag works," he explained, "Is that you think in your head which type of coin you wish to withdraw. If you're thinking about Sickles, only Sickles will come out, and likewise for any other coin. If you need multiple coins, say, three Galleons, five Sickles, and a Knut, think of them in order and withdraw one type at a time. Now, I believe that this is more than you will need for all your purchases, but it's always good to keep some money on you, as you have no idea of when you'll be able to get back to the bank. Gringotts will send you a bank statement, telling you of your withdraws and how much is left in your vault."

"Thank you," Harry murmured politely, clutching the bag tightly to his chest. The gobbling nodded, exiting the vault and locking the door after Harry was out and in the cart, joining them a moment later. Hagrid let out a muted groan and the cart sped back up the way it had come—and even the worrisome issues that he'd have to face upon reaching the surface could not keep the grin off of Harry's face.

The ride back up took a little longer than the one on the way down, and by the time they reached the surface, Hagrid was as green as a lime and looked like he was going to throw up. He staggered from the cart, Harry and Griphook following, and through the door to the main hall, sagging into an arm chair along the wall.

"I need to obtain general information from Mr. Potter," Griphook said stiffly to him, "Will it be alright if we proceed with that?"

"Go ahead," Hagrid managed, "I'll jus' sit 'ere until yeh come back. Don' worry, Harry, won' leave without yeh."

"This way, Mr. Potter," the goblin led Harry down yet another side passage and into a small room containing two chairs and a desk. Harry settled rigidly into one of the armchairs at the goblin's gesture, wondering what in the world the goblin could possibly want to know from him.

"Now, Mr. Potter," Griphook began, pulling a file of parchment out of a drawer and flipping through it, "Were you aware that your bank vault key was in the possession of one 'Albus Dumbledore'?"

"Umm, no sir," Harry replied, not sure what was expected of him, "Up until arriving here, I was not aware that I had a bank vault."

"You were not?" the goblin said sharply, fixing Harry with a piercing look. Harry swallowed hard, but decided a bit of an explanation might be necessary.

"I just recently learned about the magic world," he stammered, "I live with non-magic people."

"Ahh," the goblin sighed, relaxing, "Now this makes sense," he consulted the papers in front of him for a moment, before nodding in apparent satisfaction. "Would you, Mr. Potter, like a key to your own vault? The one key will still remain with its current keeper, but you will have another that will allow you to make withdraws at any time; the keeper of your key is unable to make any withdraws, by the way," he added after a moment.

Harry barely stifled a sigh of relief. Well, that's one less thing to worry about—not only will I get my own key, but the other key holder (isn't that the Headmaster?) isn't able to take my money. Harry nodded, and the goblin withdrew a small, gold key, which looked very much like his other one, from a drawer in the desk.

"Your hand, Mr. Potter," Griphook asked, causing Harry to blink at him in distrust. "The key needs to be 'keyed' to you and your family," the goblin explained with a sigh, "And there's only one way to do that." With another look of distrust, Harry gingerly extended his hand, jumping when the goblin seized it. Griphook ignored him and withdrew a small dagger from a pocket in his coat, making a tiny cut on his index finger. He squeezed a drop of blood onto the clear gem set in the key's ring, and then tapped Harry's index finger lightly with his own; the cut healed closed. The clear gem seemed to absorb the blood and, as Harry watched in fascination turned a vivid, emerald green.

"There are three colors this gem will be," Griphook lectured, "A clear gem, as it was previously, shows that the key it ready to be set to a specific vault. A green gem, as it is now, shows that the key is active to the vault. If, for some reason, your vault is frozen or locked down, the gem will turn black, changing back to green when the vault status reverts to active. Any questions?"

"No sir," Harry commented, taking the vault key Griphook handed him, along with a chain.

"String the chain through the key's ring and wear it around your neck. The key and chain will remain invisible, insubstantial, and, for all intents and purposes, will cease to exist until you are once again in Gringotts, whereupon it will reappear." Harry nodded and did as instructed, slipping the chain around his neck and following the goblin from the room.

Hagrid was where they had left him, looking only marginally better and still quite green. Harry eyed him, his thoughts racing around in his head like a blizzard. Obviously, Hagrid was sent to keep an eye on me as well as make sure I just get my school stuff and nothing else. He'll probably sensor what I get to buy as well, as per staff orders or the like.

Another glace at the almost nauseous man. While I'm sure he means well, I'd much prefer to explore on my own. He's too trusting for his own good, and if I play this right, I could probably ditch my chaperone without appearing to do so and come out of it with both of us the happier. Hmm…now all I need is a map of the Alley and store suggestions.

"Hagrid," Harry began in a worried tone, "Are you alright? You don't look to good."

"Oh, yeh know, Harry, I jus' don' take rides that well," Hagrid explained gruffly, glancing guiltily up at his charge, "I'll be jus' fine in a'moment."

Both Harry and the goblin eyed him doubtfully. Suddenly, Harry's eyes widened and he let a grin spread across his face, mentally cringing on the inside. This showing of emotions was so not him, but he knew he had to act his part if Hagrid was going to buy this excuse, so he played the totally innocent ten-year-old for all it was worth.

"I've got a great idea," he exclaimed, causing Griphook (who had been walking away) to turn back and eye him oddly, "Why don't you go back down to that pub we visited to get here and get something to drink to settle your stomach. I can get my stuff, which won't be too hard, I mean, they probably set aside school stuff around this time of year, and by the time I get back, you'll be better and can explain the wizarding world to me," Harry finished with a beaming smile.

"Yeh sure yeh can get yer things on yer own?" Hagrid asked, brightened by the prospect, but a little worried about letting such a young kid run around Diagon Alley all by himself.

"Oh, I'll be fine," Harry stated in an assuring voice, "Aunt Petunia lets me shop by myself all the time, and says that I'm really responsible." Well, that last part was a blatant lie, but his aunt did make him do all the grocery shopping by himself. Hagrid looked relieved by this statement and smiled at him.

"Alrigh' then, Harry," he said, slowly levering himself up, "Jus' come an' find me once yer finished. I know, I'll take yeh ter that ice cream place an' we can talk there."

"Sounds good," Harry grinned, mentally reeling in disbelief. Surely it can't be that easy.

He waved goodbye to Hagrid, staring in slight shock as the man half staggered, half stumbled out of the bank, leaving him to his sweet freedom. Apparently, it is; God, I didn't expect him to take that hook, line, and sinker so quickly! Shaking his head in disbelief, he walked over to one of the goblins working behind the counter.

"Umm, excuse me, sir," he murmured, causing the goblin to glare down at him, "I was just wondering if you, perchance, have a map of Diagon Alley, please?" he finished quickly, cringing.

The goblin eyed him for a moment, and then placed a piece of parchment on the countertop. He tapped it sharply with his claw and inked lines spread from the tip, molding into a well detailed map with labels; Harry blinked. Wicked!

"Anything else?" the goblin queried in a bored tone.

"Could you please point out where to get school supplies for Hogwarts?" Harry asked with another cringe.

The goblin sighed in annoyance again and tapped the map once more. The small squares and shapes which represented the shops suddenly became color coded, and the key to the map grew several inches. The goblin eyed Harry critically for a moment, and tapped the map for a third time. A section of the Alley which branched off was suddenly barred with red, accompanied by the words 'DO NOT ENTER'.

"Avoid this area," he stated, "You're a little too young for you to be safely wandering around Knockturn Alley, so don't go down this way. Have a nice day."

"Thank you," Harry said, taking the map and walking to the entrance of Gringotts. Some other customers had entered, and a few of them gasped when they saw him, pointing and whispering. Harry did his best to ignore them (as he was used to being pointed at and talked about by his classmates), but he couldn't help but notice that their stares were focused on his face—and more specifically, his scar. Great, he thought, irritated, This is just what I need: guess I'm a freak in this wizard world, too.

Once passed the people, he unhooked his hair from behind his ears and let it slide into his eyes and across his face. He strongly disliked having his hair block his vision (which was bad enough as it was), but it did a descent job of hiding his scar and would probably lessen the number of people staring at him.

Harry sat down on the steps of Gringotts and took a good look at the map, idly wondering what to get first. He glanced at the list of school supplies, mentally adding what else he wanted to get.

Let's see: a trunk would probably be a good idea, what else am I going to carry everything in. I need some regular clothes, as we're probably not expected to wear our robes all the time, and I don't want to wear Dudley's old stuff. More books are a definite. People around here seem to write with quills, so I need to get stationary stuff and learn how to write with the things. I don't know anything about wizarding medicine, but maybe they have a glasses store around here somewhere; it would be a good idea to get at least another pair. I'll have to look into this pet thing, although it would have to defend itself from Dudley. Hmm…trunks first: I have to put all of this stuff somewhere.

With that, he read the map key, which listed every shop and an outline of what it sold. He didn't recognize even half of the items, and ruefully made a mental note to pick up a wizarding dictionary when he got a chance. Finally, he located a luggage store and set off in that direction.

:~:

"Welcome, young man, and what can I do for you today?" the man behind the counter asked as he entered the shop. Harry took a deep breath and mentally braced himself for a lot of long conversations with complete strangers. To say he was uncomfortable talking to people would be a vast understatement, but he knew he couldn't let this show. Time to see if the endless manners drilled into me by the Dursleys are really any good, he thought quickly.

"Hello, I'm looking for a trunk of some sort to store my school supplies in." He answered as politely as he could, very proud that he kept his voice from shaking. The shopkeeper gave him a smile.

"Ahh," he exclaimed, walking out from behind the counter and down an isle, gesturing for Harry to follow him, "Do you have any specifics that you would like with it or a price range?"

"Not very expensive, please," Harry decided to reply to the question he understood, wincing when the shop keeper gave him a knowing look.
"I see; tell me, how much do you know about trunks in general?" he asked.

"Not much, and nothing about magical ones," Harry was reluctant to break one of the rules, but decided that it would be better to admit to a lack of knowledge than make a fool of himself later on; the shopkeeper seemed nice, and Harry trusted his instincts enough to let him have this small piece of information.

"Muggleborn, are you?" the shopkeeper gave him a small smile, "I understand completely. Would you like me to explain the system of trunk choosing to you?" Harry nodded and made an attempt to smile back. Muggleborn, he thought, That must mean non-magical. Or at least, muggle does. I seem to remember reading it somewhere.

"Right," the shopkeeper said, "All these trunks have locks which can be keyed specifically to you and those you choose to let open it. Apart from that, they are made to have features magically installed in them. Here's a list of what those features can be. Read over it and pick four (that's the maximum) or fewer and then look around on this half of the isle and decide which trunk you like best. Realize that one of the features to be added includes an almost infinite space limit, so don't be worried about the size. I'll be in the front if you need me."

With that, he handed Harry a piece of parchment and walked back to his counter to help another customer. Harry looked down at the list, marveling at the options.

List of Possible Trunk Combinations

Invisibility: trunk is invisible to all but you

Infinite Space: trunk can hold as much as you can put in it

Keep Alive: trunk is able to keep animals (or otherwise) alive for infinite time when stored in it

NOTE: animals will NOT live beyond normal life span, but will not need food or water while in trunk

Infinite Compartments: trunk has ability to have multiple compartments to put belongings in

Sleep Scape: trunk can turn into a bed

Travel Friendly: trunk will clean, mend, and iron all clothes once put in it

Grab a Bite: trunk will keep food fresh for a year after it is put in it

NOTE: animal rule does not apply and fresh food will not spoil until a year is over

Stop, Thief!: trunk will whistle loudly any time someone other than you attempts to open it

'Morning': trunk has alarm clock

Place to Sit: trunk can transform into armchair

Switch: trunk can access contents with any other trunk with this feature

NOTE: can lock feature and only allow certain people's trunks to access yours

Light Load: trunk maintains same weight as when empty no matter what is put in it

Wheeee!: trunk can fly (similar to flying carpet)

NOTE: underage wizards are NOT permitted this feature without parental permission

My Home: trunk comes pre-supplied with basic home supplies (cooking utensils and dishes, linens, cleaning supplies, etc)

Speak: trunk will make desired item appear on top of belongings when asked for it

Harry reread the list a number of times, awed by what magic could do and wondering what in the world he would pick. After several more moments of consideration, he finally decided upon the 'Infinite Space', 'Keep Alive', and 'Light Load' features, making a mental note to ask the shopkeeper about the 'Infinite Compartments' one, which may or may not be his fourth choice.

He toyed with the 'Grab a Bite' feature, which sounded exactly like something he would need to survive the Dursleys, but had finally discarded it upon realizing that he would need to get the food to begin with. And what are the odds of that happening? His decision made, he wandered the section of the isle looking at all the trunks, once again marveling at the wizarding world's options.

The trunks were all made of leather and/or metal, but after that the similarities ended. They came in every size, shape, and color: round, square, rectangular, triangular, vivid reds, bright pinks, yellows, blues, greens, browns, black, white, patterns, multiple colors, the list was endless. Harry finally picked a non-script, medium sized, midnight blue rectangular one—the edges, corners, and buckles done in some sort of black metal. The lock looked simple enough, but upon further inspection, he found it was actually quite complicated and framed by snakes. He picked it mainly because it didn't stand out and looked inexpensive and almost second hand (whether it was expensive or not didn't really matter, the appearance was everything).

"Find what you were looking for and decided on your options?" the shopkeeper's voice, sounding right behind him, made him jump, but he managed not to spin around suddenly and congratulated himself on this small victory. Lack of knowledge of surroundings, he mentally growled, You're breaking the survival rules again, so PAY MORE ATTENTION!

"Yes," he replied politely, giving no sign of the mental lecture he was putting himself through, "I like this trunk."

"Good choice," commented the shopkeeper and he lifted it down and carried it to the front of the store, "Sturdy, stains won't show, good clasp and lock, yes, very good choice." Harry smiled nervously at the (unintended) compliment the shopkeeper had paid him and followed him through the isles.

The shopkeeper set the trunk on the counter and turned to regard the wall behind the counter, which was covered with pegs from which keys of various sizes and shapes were hanging. He ran his gaze down the racks, mumbling under his breath, and finally selected a small, somewhat ornate key of the same black metal as the trunk.

"Now," he said, "Each trunk is specifically keyed to its owner. This key will open your trunk; however, the trunk does not just rely on the key to open it. When you insert the key into the lock, you also must whisper a password in any language you choose, although the password feature can be disabled. Now to set and or change the password, you need to tap your wand on the lock and say the current password and then the new one of your choice. Do you have your wand?"

"I haven't gotten it yet, sorry," Harry managed to not mumble the response, as that was impolite, but it still came out way to softly. The shopkeeper didn't notice.

"Actually, that's probably for the better. The trunk features take about ten minutes to set up, so you would just have to wait here anyway. While I do it for you, you can go and get your wand; Ollivanders should be opening right about now. Sound good?" Harry nodded; it would take care of yet one more item on his list and he might need his wand for other shops. "Right, then which functions did you decide on?" Harry told him, and then asked about the 'Infinite Compartment' feature.

"Ahh, that one is very interesting. It allows you to sort your belongings and keep them separate from one another. You can label the compartments according to what is in them, and can have as many as you would like, although, again, it requires a wand. Would you like that to be your fourth feature?" Harry nodded again and said a polite goodbye as he headed over to Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands.

:~:

There were still only a few shoppers on the streets, though it was just after seven in the morning. Harry enjoyed the quiet and walked quickly down the Alley, following the map to the wand shop. He eyed the antique appearance of the building somewhat distrustfully, but the door was open and he had to get his wand.

He slowly stepped into the shop, stopping in front of the counter and waiting patiently, as no one was in sight. He took in the dusty, gloomy appearance of the store; behind the counter there were tall bookcases of shelves, stacked high with long, thin boxes. Rails ran along the top of the shelves, ladders on wheels hanging from them to allow easy access and movement among the cases. Everything was covered with a coat of dust.

"Good morning," said a soft voice. Harry nearly jumped out of his skin and only barely managed to hold back a small scream, which he was thankful for. There was no need to sound like a six-year-old girl. He glanced up to where the voice had come from. An old man with silvery eyes that glowed through the gloom of the shop was standing on a ladder that must have just rolled to its position, as it had not been there previously.

"Hello," Harry said, awkwardly.

"Ah, yes," said the man, "Yes, yes, I thought I'd be seeing you soon. Harry Potter." It wasn't a question. "You have your mother's eyes. It seems only yesterday she was in here herself, buying her first wand. Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work." My mum was a witch? was Harry's first thought to this odd statement, And she came here? Wait, I have her eyes? What? This guy is creepy.

"Your father, on the other hand, favored a mahogany wand. Eleven inches. Pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration. Well, I say your father favored it—it's really the wand that chooses the wizard, of course." So he knew my Dad too? Mr. Ollivander got off his ladder and approached the counter, leaning across it to peer directly into Harry's eyes. Harry fought the urge to take at least a step back and instead stood rigidly still, praying that he'd be able to get out of there soon.

"And that's where…" Mr. Ollivander brushed Harry's hair aside and touched the lightning scar on his forehead with a long, white finger. Harry flinched almost imperceptibly.

"I'm sorry to say I sold the wand that did it," he said softly. "Thirteen-and-a-half inches. Yew. Powerful wand, very powerful, and in the wrong hands…well, if I'd known what that wand was going out into the world to do…"

WHAT? Harry thought, trying to make sense of this man's weird statements, I got my scar from a wand owned by an apparently evil wizard? I thought I got it in the car crash that killed my parents. And why would an evil wizard put a lightning shaped scar on my forehead? Why would he have met me, anyway?

God, he was so confused. First everyone was recognizing him and making a big deal out of seeing him, and now this creepy wand merchant was telling him he got the scar from a wand instead of a car crash. It seems that I'm well known for something. What the HELL did I do?

"Well, now—Mr. Potter. Let me see." Mr. Ollivander pulled a long tape measure with silver markings out of his pocket. "Which is your wand arm?" Harry blinked at him, completely lost.

"I'm right-handed," he said, wondering if that was the information Mr. Ollivander wanted.

"Hold out your arm. That's it." He measured Harry from shoulder to finger, then wrist to elbow, shoulder to floor, knee to armpit, and around his head. Harry stood rigidly still during the entire process; he hated people touching him, but there seemed no easy way to avoid this, so he just had to endure.

"You see, Mr. Potter," Mr. Ollivander lectured as he measured him, "Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no two unicorns, dragons, or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another wizard's wand."

Well, that answers that question. You can use other people's wands, it just doesn't work as well. Harry made a mental note of that, and watched as Mr. Ollivander wandered through the shelves, finally selecting a box.

"Right then, Mr. Potter. Try this one. Beech-wood and dragon heartstring. Nine inches. Nice and flexible. Just take it and give it a wave." Harry eyed the wand a tad bit distrustfully, accepting it as if he expected it to blow up in his hands. Feeling very awkward, he started to bring it down in a swish, only to have it snatched from his hands almost immediately. He jumped.

"Maple and phoenix feather. Seven inches. Quite whippy. Try—" Again, same process, although this time he refrained from jumping.

"No, no, here, ebony and unicorn hair, eight and a half inches, springy. Go on, go on, try it out."

Harry tried. And tried. He had no idea what Mr. Ollivander was waiting for, but felt that it was rude to ask. The wands continued to pile up on the counter, but the more wands that Mr. Ollivander pulled from the shelf, the happier he seemed to get.

"Tricky customer, eh? Not to worry, we'll find the perfect match in here somewhere—I wonder, now—yes, why not—unusual combination—holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, nice and supple."

Harry took the wand and nearly dropped it. A warm invisible glow seemed to be spreading up through his fingers and arm and settling in his chest. He brought the wand down in a sudden swishing movement and it let out a brilliant stream of rainbow sparks, which sparkled into nothing.

Mr. Ollivander cried, "Oh, bravo! Yes, indeed, oh, very good. Well, well, well…how curious…how very curious…" He put Harry's wand into its box and handed it to him, still muttering. Harry, now curious himself, stifled his instinct to keep quiet and managed to breath out a very soft,

"Sorry, but what's curious?" Mr. Ollivander fixed Harry with his pale stare, making him flinch.

"I remember every wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. It just so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather—just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother—why, its brother gave you that scar." Harry swallowed in shock. Oh God, this just keeps getting weirder and weirder. So what are the odds that this guy is telling the truth as opposed to my relatives? he thought, ending with a mental snicker. Right, because that was hard to decide.

"Yes, thirteen-and-a-half inches. Yew. Curious indeed how these things happen. The wand chooses the wizard, remember…I think we must expect great things from you, Mr. Potter…After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things—terrible, yes, but great."

Wonderful, yet another endless storm of questions. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, eh? So this is the evil person? Somehow, I doubt he chose that particular name to go by. Harry paid seven gold Galleons for his wand and left the shop, glad to get out. He didn't like Mr. Ollivander at all, as he was yet another person who went on and on about him. Maybe there's a book on what I did…in another life, perhaps? Does reincarnation even happen in the wizarding world? It's worth a shot. He headed back to the luggage store.

:~:

Ten minutes later, he stood at the door, ready to leave and continue on his seemingly endless list of supplies. The trunk had been fitted with the features, and although he had yet to set a password, he'd been assured that he could easily set it on his own. Now all I have to worry about is how to drag this around with me all day. Well, it's a magical world, so this might be possible.

"Is there any way to make this trunk smaller so I can carry it around?" he asked as politely as he could. The shopkeeper blinked at him for a moment.

"Of course! Sorry, I completely forgot about the fact that you're not used to this world. Here," he made some movement with his wand, and suddenly the trunk shrunk to the size of Harry's thumb.

Harry blinked. I'm never getting used to this magic thing. "This is quite a simple spell to work. When you want the object larger, just think or say 'regular size', and when you want it smaller, say or think 'travel size'. As the spell is already set up, it requires no magic on your part and therefore, you won't get penalized for using magic outside of school. All of the other stores on Diagon Alley will shrink your belongings as well, so don't worry about carrying them. Now, anything else?"

Harry left the shop five minutes later, having paid for his (rather expensive) trunk as well as a small, leather, non-magical bag to carry all his tiny items in. Where to now, maestro? Hmm, bookstore or robes, bookstore or robes…save best for last, so 'Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions' it is.

Madam Malkin's, as it turned out, was even worse for the 'paranoid-of-physical-contact' than Ollivanders had been. Not only did robes have to be fitted (which meant constant contact with the material, which happened to be on him), but Madam Malkin turned out to be the kind of person who gave comforting pats on the shoulder every time she passed. Harry was sure she meant well, and actually liked her a lot, but he had still jerked a little every time she did it. However, he had felt comfortable enough in her presence to ask if there was an ordinary clothing store that sold other than robes, and she had been more than delighted to point him in its direction. He'd left the robe shop with his shrunken school requirements as well as a few extra cloaks and robes: his school clothing tended to get destroyed by the other kids and he had no intentions of being unprepared for such an event.

And now he found himself in yet another clothes store, going through shirts and slacks, looking for the most neutral colors which wouldn't stand out. He was also so used to wearing Dudley's hand-me-downs that he disliked the clothes that were so called 'his size', as they seemed too tight. He finally left that store with a few outfits that, while much smaller than the stuff he had previously been forced to wear, were still a little large on him. And now, finally, the bookstore!

Flourish & Blotts was as wonderfully large and stuffed with books as he had imagined. Harry loved reading; it had appealed to him at first because it was the one thing Dudley avoided like the plague, and therefore the library was a safe refuge. Over the years, he'd grown to liking it for its own sake, and now considered reading to be his favorite hobby: his favorite genre, by far, was fantasy.

And now to be in a store devoted to 'fantasy' stuff, which actually turns out to be real, well…I could easily die from sheer delight. What to read first? He got his school books, as well as multiple other books in each category (history seemed just like a fantasy novel, so he had to pick up some more of those, and this Potions stuff was fascinating, not to mention charms and transfiguration). And then the fun began.

Dealing with books was, literally, the only time he had no fear in asking multiple questions to complete strangers, and now that he was going to be able to buy books, well…forty-five minutes later, he was quite sure he'd driven the really nice shop assistant insane with requests for the wizarding equivalent of 'this muggle subject' or 'muggle/wizarding dictionary', etc. He eventually left the shop, his money severely depleted, with books on myths, mind arts, this thing called arithmancy (which seemed to be the equivalent of math, which he quite liked), ancient runes, and even a book on 'one Harry Potter' (a last minute inspiration on his part that took a great deal of courage to ask for. Turned out, there was more than one book on him, and he had to ask for the one with the most information. Ahh, now he could figure out why he was 'famous').

Another glance at his list and he was off again, to get quills and parchment. The lady behind the counter was very nice and turned out to be a muggleborn herself. She told him, in a grinning whisper, that, although all essays had to be done in ink, notes could be taken with any instrument available, which included pens and pencils. Harry finally left the quill shop with the required materials, as well as a book explaining how to write with the blasted things, extra paper to practice on, and a special dictation quill which could block out all other voices (or not, depending on what was desired) and write down what someone was saying.

A quick trip later and he had obtained his cauldron, scales, phials, and telescope from an odd, small shop. He also picked up a book on mind games and a bag of enchanted marbles (he had no idea what that meant, but he liked marbles, as Dudley had hated them and therefore, they were easy for Harry to get his hands on).

The Apothecary was across the street, and he gathered his 'potion' ingredients, his mind reeling with what he was seeing. The place might smell bad, but the contents were fascinating, and he spent far too much time looking at eyeballs, unicorn horns, beetles, and all sorts of other odds and ends.

He finally dragged himself out of the store, barely managing to avoid a tall, pale man dressed entirely in black who snarled at him as he entered the store. He mentally went over his list: Robes—check; books—check; potion ingredients—check; random equipment—check; trunk—check; wand—check; pet—…? Harry sighed as his feet took in him the direction of the pet store, holding a mental argument with himself.

There's no way in the world that the Dursley's are going to let you have a pet, so why are you even going? Ok, Ok, Ok, you like animals, got it, but seriously, you can't get a cat (do you want to end up like Mrs. Figg?), an owl is too big, although one would be nice, and so that leaves the toad. To the reptile section of the store it is!

Harry entered the shop and walked over to examine the toads. None of them caught his interest, but the snakes, on the other hand…Nope, no way. It says right here an Owl OR a Cat OR a Toad, no snakes! His mental conscious didn't stop him from looking at them, though. He listened to them, smiling slightly.

"Thisss isss ssso boring!"

"I know, have you even taken a look at thessse humansss?"

"They're ssso unintelligent. When I get out of here…"

Harry fought to keep from snickering. Snakes were so sarcastic—he had yet to meet one that wasn't. Seeing a father and (presumably) his son approaching, he ducked into a darker corner of the shop, where the bigger snakes were.

"Oh, look at the snakes, Dad!" the boy (who looked to be about twelve) exclaimed, "Aren't they amazing? I wish I could talk to snakes…" he ended with a sigh.

"Now Sean," his father said, "You know talking to snakes is a Dark ability and should not be asked for; only You-Know-Who and the descendents of Salazar Slytherin can talk to snakes." WHAT?

"I know, but it would still be pretty neat." They moved on, leaving Harry in shock. No, not another thing to be freakish for! Well, that clears up that issue. Great, why me? Alright, now no letting anyone realize you can do this. New survival rule: No talking to snakes in public. He sighed, turning to head out of the section and look at the toads once more when one of the large snakes, a boa constrictor, in fact, caught his eye. He blinked at it, wondering why it looked strangely familiar, when suddenly, it raised its head.

"YOU! Well, I wasssn't expecting to sssee you again, amigo!" Harry stared in shock. No way, there's just no way, he thought giddily.

"I thought you were going to Brazil?" was the only thing he could think of replying, before mentally smacking himself.

No talking to snakes in public

"Well, I tried, but thessse people caught me. They had thessse funny sssticks and kept going on and on about how I wasss a magic sssnake and then they locked me in thisss cage. Ssssssigh…What about you. What are you doing here?"

"Sssame ssstory, except for the sssnake part and the cage. Got told I wasss magical and wasss sssent to pick up my ssschool ssstuff for next year."

"Sssoundsss like fun. Don't sssupossse you could do that thing you did lassst time? What with the glassss and all?"

"Sssorry, that wasss completely accidental. I've got no idea how I did it, and I doubt I could do it again. However…" Harry trailed off. Well, there was one thing he could do, although he'd have to hide him, as snakes were definitely not allowed a Hogwarts. Oh, whatever, he needs my help! He looked at the snake again. "I could buy you, if you don't mind."

"Hmm, an interessssting offer, amigo. I'd be able to ssstay with you?"

"If you wanted to, I think, although you'd have to hide."

"Oh, I'd like to. You're funny and can underssstand sssnakesss. Hiding'sss easssy. Watch." Harry stared in shock as the giant boa constrictor shrunk to the size of a small bracelet, changing colors as he did so. "I think I'll be green today. I alwaysss liked green."

"How did you do that?" Harry asked the snake, weakly.

"Oh, it'sss part of that magic ssstuff; apparently I can change sssize, ssshape, and color at will. Ssso can we go now?"

"You can't let anyone know I have you, asss it'sss againssst the rulesss to have sssnakesss at my ssschool, and I need to know your name."

"Fine with me, and my name'sss Sssebassstian."

"Hello, Sssebassstian, nice to meet you. I'm Harry."

"Hola, amigo!"

"Isss there any way you could change into a sssmall, normal sssnake which sssomeone my age would be able to buy?"

"No problem, amigo!" Sebastian turned into a green garden snake, and Harry lifted him out of the tank carefully.

"I won't be able to talk to you once we go out in public, ssso what do you want from here?"

"Just pick sssome ssstuff, amigo, but I don't need a tank." Harry walked over to the counter and gingerly handed the boa-constrictor-turned-garden-snake over to the shop assistant. He picked out a magically heated rock (a larger one, as he knew Sebastian wouldn't stay small forever), a book on snakes (magical snakes), and a small box filled (magically) with a years supply of dead mice, guaranteed to stay fresh until eaten. Lovely.

Five minutes later, Harry left the shop, the supplies in his bag and Sebastian subtly shrinking until he formed a small necklace-like-thing, hiding under Harry's shirt, his head directly under Harry's ear.

Harry looked down at his map, his eyes skimming the key looking for any shop that might sell glasses. Ahh, there; to The Oculist we go.

:~:

After ten minutes of wandering around, Harry finally entered the store, more than a little wary and slightly annoyed. The map was useful, yes, but there were stores that were not included on it, and this made it very difficult to find small shops. Sebastian had abandoned his place around Harry's neck (if they were looking at glasses, then someone would probably see him as their attention would be focused on his face) and instead had curled up in a small bracelet around Harry's wrist.

As if sensing his nervousness, the snake gave him a little squeeze as he entered the shop, and then settled down, presumably to take a nap.

"How can I help you?" a thin, middle-aged woman appeared behind the counter and looked at Harry inquiringly. Harry flinched, and then gave a timid smile.

"I'm looking for another pair of glasses," he replied quietly. The lady smiled at him, taking a good look at the glasses he currently had on.

"Yes, yours don't look to be in that good of condition. Come on, this way." She gestured, leading him into room at the back of the store. She motioned for him to sit down and to remove his glasses. Harry did so warily; he was completely blind without them and didn't like giving someone that kind of power of him. He thought he heard a slight gasp from the Oculist, but then, as if sensing his nervousness, she began to explain what she was doing and he decided to ignore it.

"Don't worry, this isn't going to hurt at all. I'm just going to check your eyesight. It's a quick spell, aught to take only five minutes, and then I'll be able to tell to what degree your eyesight can be fixed and whether you'll even need glasses afterwards. Now just hold still." Harry, who had already been sitting rigidly, went stiller than death. A moment later, he felt an odd tingling sensation which slowly moved through his eyes and eventually settled directly behind them. He struggled not to blink.

"Well," the Oculist said finally, "You're eyesight's pretty bad. I can fix most of it, but you're going to have to wear reading glasses for a number of years, perhaps permanently."

"You mean I don't have to wear glasses all the time?" Harry asked, his jaw falling open in shock.

"Good heavens, no," she exclaimed, "No, you'll just have to wear glasses for reading, and even then, I think you'll be able to read stuff without them, it just might seem fuzzy and give you a headache." Harry didn't mention that words were fuzzy normally and reading did give him a headache; he just ignored it.

"Now, I just need you to drink these potions; they're only three of them, dear, don't worry; and then I need you to sit still while I perform the necessary spell-work to complete the corrections."

Harry drank the liquids she handed him, grateful that she was careful to make sure he had a good grasp on the bottle before letting go, as he still couldn't see a thing. The potions tasted vile, but he swallowed to keep them down and went still again as she'd told him to.

"Close your eyes, dear." A moment later, Harry felt her wand tip on his eyelid, drawing a faint circular pattern, before repeating the gesture on the other one. His eyes tingled sharply; feeling as if they were full of pins and needles, similar to the feeling in his arm or leg after in had been in one position for too long. "Right, dear, all done. You can open your eyes now."

Harry opened his eyes, blinked once, and then stared and stared. The room was crystal clear in a way he'd never seen it before (although the objects within an arms length of him were still a little bit fuzzy). He could see the sharp outline of the table, chairs, cabinets, the woman in front of him (peering at him somewhat worriedly)…So this is what the world looks like, he thought in sheer, disbelieving wonder, turning his awed face to the lady who had corrected his vision.

"Is everything alright?" she asked, her voice a little worried, "I know the objects in front of you are a little blurry, but a pair of reading glasses will fix—"

"It's clear," Harry breathed, no longer able to keep this new, amazing revelation to himself, "Everything's so clear!" the Oculist blinked in surprise (as this was clearly not the answer she was expecting), before nodding slowly.

"Yes, it's supposed to be clear."

"And it will stay like this?" Harry asked, wonderingly.

"Yes, your vision will remain like this, although if you experience any major headaches or problems with blurry vision, you should stop by and I'll attempt to do something about it. Either way, I'll want to see you again in about a year from now, to see how things are going and update your reading glasses. Speaking of glasses," she turned to one of the cabinets and pulled out a pair of frames and a large mirror.

"Here, put these on," she said, handing him the frames, "They're just clear glass at the moment, as we're simply getting the frame design you want, and then afterwards, I'll spell them for you vision. Now look in the mirror and tell me what design you like best." She tapped her wand on the edge of the frames, slowly changing them from one shape to another.

Ten or so minutes later, Harry all but skipped out of the shop, his new glasses (small, oval lenses with no frame along the bottom) in his bag along with his old ones (which now only contained clear glass, courtesy of the Oculist, who had looked somewhat suspicious at the request but had complied none the less).

Sebastian had slithered back up his arm and was once again curled around his neck under his shirt. Right, Harry thought, his mind still singing with half delight, time to find Hagrid.

Finding Hagrid turned out to be relatively easy. As he walked passed Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor (on his way to the Leaky Cauldron), he noticed the giant man sitting at one of the tables outside, waving at him. Harry waved back and made his way over, with a strict warning under his breath to Sebastian to not reveal himself.

"Hullo, Harry! Have yeh gotten all yer stuff?"

"Hi Hagrid, yes I did," Harry managed to produce a beaming smile (no doubt due to the euphoria of being able to see, which had yet to wear off) and slid into the seat across from him. Hagrid pushed an ice cream sundae across the table to him.

"'ere, Harry. Got yeh some ice cream," Harry stared in shock. Aside from that lemon thing he'd had at the zoo, he'd never had ice cream before, and for someone to voluntarily get it for him…Oh, no. Just because he's being nice doesn't mean he's not after something in return. Yes, you can probably trust him a little more, but he's not your friend just yet!

"T-t-thank you!" Harry managed to stammer, and Hagrid beamed at him. "What can you tell me about Hogwarts?"

"Oh, Hogwarts is the best o' places, it is. Yer mum an' dad jus' loved it there, in fact, I don't be knowin' one person who didn'—"

"My mum and dad went to Hogwarts?" Harry interrupted.

"Oh, yeah. Top o' their class, they were. Head boy an' girl, too. Never a finer witch or wizard in all the world."

"What can you tell me about them?" Harry said, breathless. He'd never met anyone who'd known his parents before, aside from his aunt and uncle, but they didn't count. Screw learning about the magic world; I've got books on that. This guy knew my parents!

And so, for the next few hours, Harry badgered Hagrid for every detail about his mum and dad, for once forgetting his shyness and practically begging for answers. Hagrid was more than willing to oblige, seemingly delighted by the questions and Harry found out more about his parents than he'd ever know before.

His mum, apparently, was the nicest witch in the school, sticking up to bullies and befriending everyone, no matter what the house ("Yeh see, Harry, there're four houses in Hogwarts, an' they all compete with one another, but she jus' ignored those rules an' her best friend was a Slytherin while she was in Gryffindor, like yer dad."). She was amazing at charms and second only to her Slytherin friend in Potions ("It's a very hard class, Harry, espec'ly now with Prof'sor Snape teachin' it.").

His father was one of the most popular boys in the school, and had three other best friends that he did everything with. He was really good at transfiguration and a played Quidditch ("It's the wizardin' sport, Harry, too hard t'explain, but yeh'll see."). He (and his group of friends) were also, apparently, pranksters, and Hagrid laughed himself silly describing some of their better pranks.

All too soon, Hagrid said it was time to go, although he promised that—once Harry got to Hogwarts—he could visit him any time and here more stories. Harry, having for once and for all given up his suspicions of Hagrid agreed with a genuine smile and they left the ice cream shop.

"Oh yeah, wait a minute." Hagrid stopped suddenly and turned around, "I still haven' got yeh a birthday present." Harry almost tripped, his shock finally breaking past the 'blink point' and his jaw fell open. WHAT! No one had ever gotten him a present before, except that one time Mrs. Figg tried to give him a kitten once for his birthday (his aunt had coldly said no). Why would a complete stranger get him a present? Well, ok, not a complete stranger, but still.

"Y-you don't have to; I really d-don't need a birthday—"

"I know I don' have'ta. Tell yeh what, I'll get yer animal. Not a toad, toads went outta fashion years ago, yeh'd be laughed at—an' I don' like cats, they make me sneeze. I'll get yeh an owl. All the kids want owls, they're dead useful, carry yer mail an' everythin'."

Twenty minutes later, they left Eeylops Owl Emporium. Harry's protests that he really didn't need a present had been met by deaf ears, and he had been secretly delighted at the thought of having an owl. Even Sebastian had thought it was a good idea.

"Sssee, once you have another animal, amigo, then it will be even lessss likely sssomeone will notice me. Only I get to help pick. I think I can talk to owlsss…"

So, along with the somewhat questionable help from his snake ("NO! Don't get that one! Thossse thingsss eat sssnakesss!"), he exited the shop carrying a beautiful snowy owl, fast asleep with her head under her wing. As it turned out, Sebastian couldn't directly talk to owls, but they did seem to understand each other (well, the ones that weren't looking to eat him), and this particular one had gotten along better with him then any of the others. Harry couldn't stop stammering his thanks. This was without doubt the best (pre-) birthday he'd ever had.

Things got a little hectic upon their arrival at the Leaky Cauldron, as Tom had a very urgent message for Hagrid from the Headmaster telling him he was needed at Hogwarts immediately. Hagrid felt bad about leaving Harry, but after being assured that Harry could use muggle transportation to get home (Aunt Petunia had sent him on hundreds of missions into the city to get things for her, so he was very used to it) and that Tom was willing to help him with whatever he needed up to that point, he handed Harry his train ticket and left, presumably for Hogwarts.

Harry found that Tom was extremely helpful. The bartender exchanged ten Galleons into pounds for him, which was more than enough for him to pay his way home. He also suggested that Harry tell his owl to fly to his house, as carrying an owl in a cage would certainly attract attention. Harry did so (apparently, the owl could find her way to Privet Drive without much direction) and Tom shrank the cage for him. He also provided Harry with a free meal, which Harry was more than willing to take.

Never turn down charity when you need it

As he ate the startlingly good stew, he glanced idly at his train ticket, before blinking. God, can't wizards do anything normally? he mentally groaned to himself.

"Tom," he stated matter-of-factly, in a polite tone of voice (he still hadn't gotten over his shyness to anyone other than Hagrid), "King's Cross doesn't have a platform nine-and-three-quarters." Tom glanced at him from where he was cleaning the bar and laughed.

"The muggle one doesn't," he agreed, "But to keep our world separate from theirs, we made that platform. Now, to get on it, you just have to walk strait at and into the barrier between platforms nine and ten. Don't worry, you're a wizard and you'll go through it. It's like the Diagon Alley wall; it's not what it seems. On the other side, you'll find the train to Hogwarts. Don't worry about it too much." He added kindly. Harry thought for a minute.

"Can anyone call the Knight Bus?" he asked quietly.

"Anyone with a wand can," Tom answered, "Just bring your wand down in a swish in front of you and it'll appear. Now, if you're done, you'd best be going." Harry thanked him and walked out of the pub, glancing along the street to see it there was a bus station near. A witch pushed passed him, stepped to the sidewalk, swished her wand, and lo' and behold, with a BANG the Knight Bus appeared. Well, Harry thought, This is one way to get home. He followed the witch onto the bus.

The ride back was as jerking as the ride to the pub had been, but at least Harry was ready for it. Twenty minutes later, he staggered dizzily off onto No. Four Privet Drive, yelling a "Thank you" over his shoulder and lurching up the driveway. He jumped violently when he opened the door and his snowy owl swooped in over his shoulder (he'd had no idea she'd be here already) and he walked into the living room after bolting the door behind him, collapsing onto the couch. What a day! He thought as he idly petted his owl's feathers and watched Sebastian change back to his normal size and explore the room, What a day!