THE CRUX OF DESPAIR
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters, etc. belong to JKR.
"Mum!" An eleven-year-old James Potter yelled, clutching a letter in one hand as he ran through the palace's courtyard. Servants bowed and smiled warmly at the young king as he passed them. James, very much used to this behavior, hardly noticed.
"Mu-um!" he called again, finally spotting his mother tending to her favorite flowers. Grinning widely, he waved the letter above his head. "It's my Hogwarts letter! You're still letting me go, right? When can we get my supplies?"
Dorea stood as her son approached, enveloping him in a hug and kissing his forehead. It was nice to see her son happy and acting his age for once. When James' father, King Charlus, became ill and passed away three years ago, Dorea had been worried that part of James had died with him. Her son, who had for the most part been a carefree and happy child, became depressed and cryptic. He didn't understand why his father had to die so early; he spent most of the first few months in denial, scrounging the library for a spell that would bring back the dead. But of course that was hopeless.
Then, on top of everything else, the title of king was thrust upon James. His mother - along with his mother's older brother, David Longbottom - were in charge of all the king's responsibilities and duties until he completed his education, but the title still had an effect on the young boy. Knowing that he would become King in full after graduation, James was tutored in everything from self-defense to foreign languages for several hours every day - even during the summer.
James was sheltered by his mother and was rarely allowed to leave the palace grounds. When he did, he was surrounded by guards and disguised. Dorea did want the best for her son, but she was overprotective and went to extreme measures to keep him out of the public eye. Very few people outside of the palace knew what James looked like, and those who did were sworn to secrecy. James didn't even have any friends his own age.
She'd had every intention of hiring more tutors for her son when he reached eleven and simply allowing him to learn magic at home, but David had insisted that James deserved to have a childhood. It had taken awhile, but eventually Dorea came to agree with her brother. As much as she wanted to keep James home with her, he needed the opportunity to spread his wings. He needed to make friends, develop socially, and have fun... he needed to be a kid.
Dorea had been worried that James wouldn't want to be sent away; after all, he'd been kept exclusively at the palace for eleven years now. But when she told James he would be going to Hogwarts, a wide grin had spread across his face. Suddenly her son started acting happier and he talked about Hogwarts constantly, counting down the days until school would start. Dorea had then felt guilty for sheltering her son so much and preventing him from interacting with other children. She knew there was no way she could change her mind about allowing James to attend Hogwarts now, but James still wouldn't have a normal childhood if any of the students knew they were attending school with the king.
So James would attend Hogwarts under one condition: no one could know who he was.
James was a common enough first name, but he'd go by the last name 'Potter' instead of 'Gryffindor,' the last name of the royal family. The Headmaster and James' Head of House would be the only staff members to know of James' identity and James would not speak of his title to anyone. Dorea feared the measures were not enough, but it was all they could do.
But as she pulled away from her son, accepting the letter he extended toward her, she knew she'd made the right decision. "Yes, James," Dorea smiled, scanning the letter. "You're still going to Hogwarts. However, I thought we could send Caroline to Diagon Alley to get your supplies-"
"What? No! I can't even get my own supplies? That's not fair!"
"-because we can't afford anyone to realize who you are before you even enter Hogwarts, James. We must deal with this very delicately. Maybe next year we'll have a better handle on this. I'm sorry."
James glowered, but was silent for several seconds. For a moment, Dorea thought he was actually going to let the subject drop easily. "But what about when I have to get on the train, Mum? I'll have to go out in public then. It won't be any different. Besides, no one is going to know it's me."
Dorea sighed. Her son had a point. "We will discover how to work around all this soon enough, James, but for now I think it is best for Caroline to get your things. You mostly need books and I've arranged for Mr. Ollivander to come by here personally to let you pick out your wand. You can get your supplies next year, I promise. You aren't allowed to take a broom until next year anyway, and we both know that is the only reason you even want to go to Diagon Alley."
That was only partly true. Flying had been James' biggest passion for as long as he could remember; the little free time he got was spent outside on his broom. But that wasn't the only reason he wished to go to Diagon Alley.
"I'm never allowed to leave the palace grounds. I can count on two hands the number of times I've been outside of those" - he gestured to the fancy, gold gates- "gates. I hate it here!"
"I know, James, I know," Dorea sighed, looking at the ground. She hated that James' childhood couldn't be as simple and carefree as other kids', but there was nothing else she could do about it. He was King - even if strictly in title only - and that came with just as many disadvantages as benefits. Soon enough he would be going to Hogwarts, though, and they would figure out how to make his life as normal as possible. "You're going to Hogwarts in September. We'll figure the rest out as we go along."
James ripped the letter out of his mother's hands, then shoved it into the pocket of his silk robes. "We better," he muttered, whipping around and briskly walking away. He hated that he couldn't do anything just because he was the king of the wizarding world. And he was only eleven - it's not like the title meant anything yet. He couldn't even order the guards to unlock the gates so he could go to Diagon Alley and pick out his own school supplies, like all the other Hogwarts students were surely doing.
He hated his life.
If his father was alive, he wouldn't practically keep him as a prisoner in his own home. Maybe James would actually have friends instead of being surrounded by grouchy tutors and servants all the time. God, he still missed his dad. He was dying to get away from this palace for awhile and all the depressing memories it held.
Finally, he would be going somewhere without his overbearing mother or monotonous tutors. Somewhere where no one would treat him like glass because they wouldn't know who he was. Somewhere he could make friends.
September couldn't come sooner.