"Mister Hagrid, is it?" asked one of the two goblins.
"Instructions in the letter indicated the vault was to be closed. You will come with us to sign the paperwork for the vault closure."
"Er- right. Harry, come on," said Hagrid, motioning Harry to follow him.
"Mister Potter cannot witness the vault closure," said the lead goblin, his entire face impassive. "We will ensure Mister Potter does not wander."
Hagrid looked torn between duty and keeping an eye on Harry. Honestly, he wanted this over and done with as soon as he could, so he followed the lead goblin into a side office. The other goblin smiled at this, and looked up at Harry.
"Mister Potter, there is another matter to be dealt with now that you are here and alone." The goblin removed from his suit a simple, small leather journal. "Take this, Mister Potter. It was bequeathed to you by your mother, Lily Potter nee Evans. She had very specific instructions on it, Mister Potter." From within the journal he removed a folded sheet of muggle notebook paper and handed it to Harry. He read it.
"Harry, keep it secret, keep it safe. Do not let anyone know you have it. Write in it only when you are alone. Lily."
Harry stared for a long moment at the note, memorizing that neat, simple script, written with a pen. He folded the note back up. The goblin handed the journal to Harry, who placed the note back inside of it, and then placed the journal in his pocket. He would look at it later, just as his mother told him too.
It was, Harry decided, later. He was back at home, his aunt and uncle were hiding downstairs, and it was after nightfall. He took out the journal. It was plain black leather, with straight cut pages. All of the other books were rough cut, which made Harry wonder if the journal was muggle. He opened it, and realized it was a muggle journal. The pages were paper, rather than parchment. He could feel the difference between his calloused fingers. There was something else, about the journal. Something warm and familiar.
But it was blank. He'd hoped for something, anything from his mother, but a blank journal? He sighed. Wait, the note said to write in it… he wondered what would happen if he did…
"I wish I knew what I was supposed to write," he wrote. He lifted the pen off the paper, and then watched as the writing sank into the page. His eyes widened with surprise, but then again, his mother was a witch. Then new words, in a simple, neat script, rose up onto the page.
"Hello. My name is Lily. What's your name?" Harry stared at the journal for a very long time.
"My name is Harry."
"Harry James Potter?" wrote back the diary.
"It's me, Harry. Your mother, Lily. How young were you when I died?"
Harry stared at that statement for a very long time, before he wrote it down.
"Fifteen months. I didn't even know you were a witch until Hagrid got me. I'm going to Hogwarts, soon!" wrote back Harry.
"You didn't know?" wrote back Lily. "Who raised you?"
The entire page seemed to turn black, like whoever was writing spilled a bottle of ink over it, before it sunk back into the page.
"Who put you there?" was finally written back. The writing was much neater, simpler.
"Hagrid said he carried me there," wrote back Harry. He was curious why his mother was like this. After all, didn't she place him there? She started asking him questions about how he was raised. The page turned black a few times, and stayed that way for several long minutes after he wrote about the cupboard. It was getting dark, but Harry could definitely see that his mother's writing was getting choppier and more hurried.
"Are you angry at me?" he finally wrote.
"NO," was the immediate response, written in big letters. "I love you."
Harry stared at those three words for a very long time, tears forming in his eyes, and dropping onto the page.
"Harry, it's getting late. Get some sleep. Put the journal under your pillow," she wrote again, after the watery tears had faded into the page.
"Ok," he wrote back, closing it and placing it under his pillow. He couldn't let go of it, he thought it was all a dream, today. Learning about his parents, learning about the wizarding world, and… and a talking diary made by his mother. How could he not think it was all a dream, as he drifted off to sleep.
During the night, he heard someone in his room, and felt someone sit on the bed.
"Hello, Harry," said a woman's voice. He recognized it, on some level. It felt familiar, even if it was so sad and broken.
"Who…" started Harry, as he sat up. It was so dark, in the room, but then it was lighter, and he could see the woman sitting on his bed. She looked so sad, small tears brimming at her emerald green eyes. Eyes that he knew looked like his. His eyes, that looked so much like his mother's.
"M-mum?" asked Harry.
She nodded, unable to speak. He sat there, unsure of what to do, as his mother moved forward, and he seized up as she took him into a hug. A hug. She hugged him, and kissed his forehead, and she started to cry.
"W-what did I do wrong?" asked Harry.
"Nothing," said Lily. "I just haven't seen you in ten years, Harry. Ten years of waiting, hoping I'd never reach you, and hoping I did."
"Is… is this a dream?" asked Harry, as Lily pulled back, her hands on his shoulders. It felt… strange, to be touched by someone, and not be hurt by it.
"It is," said Lily, smiling. "But it isn't your dream, though. It's our dream. Sleep with the book under your pillow, and you'll always dream with me."
Harry nodded, trying his hardest to stop the tears that threatened to come. Even if it was a dream, it was the best dream he'd ever had.
"There's so much I need to tell you, Harry. But for now, just… just stay with me. I want to… I want to get to know my son."
Harry easily walked through the barrier at platform 9 3/4, and boarded the train. The journal was in his pocket, and his Mother's instructions were clear.
Get to know Neville Longbottom, and avoid a bunch of different people.
Very easy instructions, but Harry felt otherwise. How was he supposed to get to know the boy? He was raised by wizards, and Harry… well… Harry wasn't raised at all, he felt. His mum told him not to worry, and that he'd do fine.
Small words of encouragement, there.
So he found a compartment on the train, managed to shove his trunk onto the rack, and sat down. He wanted to pull out the journal and talk more, but his mum had warned him not to. So instead, he took out one of his books, Potions, and began to re-read the first few chapters of it. Soon enough, the train started to move, taking Harry northward towards Hogwarts. His mother had told him, first and foremost, that he would love it there. That it was full of wonders and strangeness, and there was nothing she could say that would prepare him for the castle itself.
She did, however, prepare him for the classes.
He performed a few of the most basic spells, simple charms that showed he was, in fact, magical. He sat in his compartment, waiting for the train to reach the school. The lady with the carts came by, and asked if he wanted anything. Harry considered the flip-flops his stomach was making, sitting in his compartment, and thought better of it.
The lady smiled at him, looking a little sad, and handed him a pumpkin pasty anyways, before moving on.
He remembered all the occasional bits of kindness of strangers, random people looking at him and his cousin, and being nice to him. Looking so sad and pitying, at him. He never really considered why they did that.
A small, round-faced boy opened the compartment, looking so very sad and scared.
"Have you seen a toad anywhere?" asked the boy.
"No, I haven't," said Harry.
The boy cried about losing it, and Harry realized he had a chance to get to know someone.
"Do you want some help looking for it?" asked Harry.
"Y-yeah," said the boy.
"Neville," replied the boy.
"Really?" asked Neville. "You've got the scar and everything?"
"Pretty sure," said Harry, lifting up the fringe of his hair, showing off the lightning bolt scar. Neville stared at it in awe. "Now come on, let's find your toad."
Harry wanted to ask about the boy's parents, but thought better of it. Instead, they walked up and down the train, looking for a toad.
"So what house are you in?" asked Lily. They dreamed a different room, now, one in Godric's Hollow. It was, Harry learned, the sitting room for the cottage. They never went up the stairs, and they never went near the front hall.
"Gryffindor!" said Harry. "The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin, though. And my head hurt when Snape looked at me."
"How did it hurt?"
"Like... like a stabbing pain in my scar," said Harry.
His mother sat, deep in thought, on the one of the large, comfy chairs of the sitting room. It was, after all, a sitting room.
"You're certain in your scar?" she asked.
"Yeah," said Harry.
"That worries me," said Lily. "I'm going to have to think on that for a while, alright?"
"Alright. Do you think it's bad?"
"I don't know, Harry. I doubt, though, that it's good."
She sat in her chair, staring at Harry for a long moment. He felt uncomfortable, but let his mother stare at him. She leaned forward, reaching out, and touched his forehead, running her fingers along the lightning bolt scar.
It felt like a jolt ran through Harry, and suddenly, there was a rather ugly baby in his arms.
"Er... what?" asked Harry, looking at the baby, wondering just where it came from.
Lily was too surprised to speak, as she stared at it, wondering just whether or not she was right.
"You're pretty ugly," said Harry, staring down at the baby. He cradled it in his arms, some part of him knowing how to hold it, even if he'd never done it before. "Where'd you come from?"
Lily was silent, as Harry held the child in his arms. If she didn't look directly at it, he looked so much like James, holding Harry. It pained her, to look at the two of them, to say what she had realized the thing was. It pained her all the more when it coo'd in delight of just being held. She wondered, then and there, if an experiment could be conducted. And it made her feel sick, like Albus Dumbledore, to think that perhaps he had conducted the same experiment, only the other direction. That, and she wasn't sure how to get rid of such a thing.
"What's your name?" asked Harry, rhetorically.
"Tom," said Lily, recalling what she had been told. "I think you should name him Tom."
"Alright," said Harry, not questioning Lily. And that was the worst part. She remembered how curious he was as a child, how interested in things, how questioning he was. Now it was all gone. She and Petunia were going to have words at some point.
"He's mean!" grumbled Harry. He didn't shout at all, instead holding Tom gently.
"He can be abrasive," countered Lily. "What questions did he ask?"
Harry told her.
Lily stared at him for a long moment, before teaching Harry the duplication charm.
"It shouldn't be to difficult. The important part is getting it right." She walked over into the library nearby, and pulled down what looked like an herbology book. "Practice with this."
It took Harry a few tries, and a little encouragement, before he seemed to get the charm and copied a rubbing of a leaf onto the page.
"Duplicate that onto a piece of parchment, and send that to Snape using a school owl."
"Why not Hedwig?"
"Because Hedwig's recognizable," replied Lily. "This is a secret message."
Harry looked down at the open diary..
"How's a rubbing of a cinnamon leaf a secret message?"
"I'll explain when you're older. Just be sure to not look him in the eye, alright?"
Severus Snape looked at the parchment in his hands for a long moment. He glanced at Potter, who was paying special attention to his breakfast, then back at the parchment.
The problem was, he recognized the rubbing. Oh, it was a bad duplication, but he still recognized it. A master Occulemens had near-perfect recall, and this was something he could recall easily, even if he rarely wanted to. He'd spent a long time looking at the plates of this very book, and he'd compare it to his own copy once he returned to his quarters.
Dumbledore seemed to pick up on his hesitance, and queried if he was alright.
"Just an unexpected response," replied Severus. "It is none of your concern." He tucked the parchment away, and ate breakfast. He'd speak with Potter later.
Hermione Granger had never had friends, before. Now, suddenly, she did. And one of them was... odd.
Their names were Neville Longbottom and Harry Potter.
She wasn't sure how it'd happened, but one day Harry just walked up to her and asked if she wanted help with Defense Against the Dark Arts. Not if she could help them, but if she wanted help. She was so thoroughly confused, that she said yes. And it turned out that Harry was a big help with Defense Against the Dark Arts. He always knew ahead of the lesson plans, and seemed to have a good understanding of the material.
Either way, he was really nice, even though she expected him to turn on her at some point. So she tried her hardest to be his friend back. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but that was what being a friend was supposed to be, wasn't it? Honestly, she had no idea. She was in unfamiliar territory.