Summary: Rescued from life on the streets, Eric Sirius Stark is about to discover the wonders of a hitherto unknown magical world. Spells, intrigue and monsters await, buried between class and friends and rivals where no one completes their education unscathed. Enter stranger, but take heed…
Disclaimer: JKR owns the entire Harry Potter franchise. In the deep unlikelihood I get any money for this, I'd have to send most of it to her, so don't bother suing me; I'm just a poor college student.
AN: Spent the last few months writing false starts on Harry Potter AU's before giving up. Still wanted to write a story, so I went with an OC. Review if you like it, kindly forget about my story if you don't. I wouldn't mind flames, but they're rarely constructive. If you hadn't guessed from what you've read so far this story is slightly AU, mostly to include my character whose existence will be explained later, but also because a number of things are going to conform more to my impressions of cannon information that hinted at things but didn't outright explain them. I will try to keep people in character, but in the inevitability that I, and really almost all FF authors, fail I do apologize in advance.
Belfast, Northern Ireland, August 13th 1991
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall stared at the eleven-year-old boy, her mouth hanging open in shock.
"Hey, witch lady! You all there? You can say something you know…" The young boy was waving a bowler hat with a few pounds in change and bills in front of her face. The boy's face was smudged with dirt and his hair was a dark, almost bloody, red in color. Grey eyes stared intently into hers. "You asked to see the show, witch lady, and I performed so you gonna pay up or do I hafta summon your purse and pay myself?"
That startled McGonagall out of here reverie.
"No. No, dear boy." Taking out her coin purse, she extracted a gold galleon and placed it in the hat, along with the green inked manila envelope addressed to Mr. Eric Sirius Stark. Dirt-stained fingers snatched out the coin and stared at it in wonder. He quickly bowed and a wave of violet light skittered over his form, scouring away the dirt and grime of street life, mending his cloths and, Minerva would later swear to Albus, pressing and starching them as well. When he next spoke his voice was as suave and cultured British as his ten-year-old vocal cords could manage; an affectation that came off being more amusing and cheesy than sophisticated.
"My deepest thanks, dear lady. Is there anything else this humble sorcerer can do for your person?"
The deputy headmistress smiled at him warmly. "I am Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, young master Stark." She replied, a small quirk to the hard line of her mouth. She watched in quiet amusement as the boy's eyes went wide again at her words. "I have come to invite you to attend this year, if you so desire." She watched as the boy's eyes lit with wonder and then fell. Wondering what he was thinking the transfiguration teacher simply watched on in silence, waiting for him to respond.
"I am deeply honored to receive your offer of apprenticeship Master Sorceress," the boy said quietly "but I'm afraid I'm going to have to decline." He finished slowly.
"Oh?" McGonagall asked, her brow lifting in surprise.
"Indeed Madam," the young boy replied, carefully enunciating each word as if afraid of making a bad impression. "You see, I have no money for an apartment, let alone tuition. I get by on the books at the shelter, but that's hardly a proper scholastic resume."
"No need to worry, child. Hogwarts offers scholarships to young wizards such as yourself and when the castle informed us of your situation, I was dispatched to make an assessment. May I ask who taught you magic? Most new students need to be told that they're wizards before they start using their powers regularly. That's something I must actually caution you about. It's against our educational decrees to practice magic outside of school prior to graduation."
The boy paled. "No one taught me Ma'am. I learned on my own after making black fire. Some older boys were shaking down my fellow street urchins and I didn't have enough money, so they started kicking me. The next thing I knew, flames as black as night were pouring off my body; turned all my cloths to ash. Most of the spells I use in my act were developed off books I've been reading at the shelter ever since that day. Everything's sort of hit or miss, but I've gotten pretty good."
Gently placing a hand on the young boy's shoulder McGonagall began steering the boy towards the alley where she had apparated in. "Well, let's head in for your supplies and you tell me about your training while we walk."
"Well, you saw my show. There's the simple stuff like meditation, breathing exercises, focus practice. I'm working on magic sensing, that's coming along well. I still can't see magic, but I can feel it if I focus well enough. Telekinesis is easy enough, it's the first thing I learned to do consciously, as are small charms like cleaning myself up and those color changes you saw in my show. Summoning and conjuration are much harder, but I've gotten them down recently and that's been really good for my shows. I'm working on a way to summon myself so I can do the transported man show, but it's slow going. I've also been working on invisibility, intangibility, transformation, healing and physical enhancement, but so far progress is depressing. I can become transparent by bending light around me, and lift more if I focus, but both fail if I lose my concentration even for a split second. Evocation is still mostly beyond me, sadly. I know I told you I could make black flames, but that only works when I'm uncontrollably angry, but none of the basic elements come easily. Divination is pretty much a bust as well outside of magic sensing. If I had to guess, I'm probably the equivalent of a first year trainee."
A first year… McGonagall thought wildly. The boy's destroying dozens of society's illusions about magic and he thinks he's only a first year. I shudder to think what he thinks he should be able to do after graduation. "Hold tight to my arm and try to relax." She told him, voice slightly shaky.
She felt pressure on her arm and mused quietly about how she was about to demonstrate something the boy had been failing to achieve. There was a rush of wind and a vicious crushing sensation as she apparated both of them from the alley to the street in front of a pub. Eric promptly let go of her and fell on his rear as the touched down just outside the door to the Leaky Cauldron.
"Y-yo-you figured it out! O-of c-course you figured it out, you're a professor; they probably teach teleportation at school. How did you do that? The compression, a wormhole? Dark gods; that would be useful! It would mean that distance is meaningless! How did you do it? Please!?" McGonagall stared down at the child, startled by how pathetic the boy looked. The desperate look on his thin face tugged at her heart.
"It's called apparition, Eric. It's taught in sixth year and requires a license like a Muggle car. I can tell you how to do it, but not only is it dangerous for those with proper training, the ministry can track where apparitions occur like the Muggle Governments with their cars."
She didn't mention that they couldn't tell who had apparated, only when and where it had occurred, but he could figure that out by himself later in life. Preferably after he'd safely attained his license. She looked down at his crestfallen face and sighed. "Come, we have a scholarship to attend to and supplies to buy. I'm also going to call the headmaster. Since you've been living on the streets we'll have to set up some place for you to live. I don't suppose you know any orphanages or families that would take you in? We can't, in good conscience, let you live on the streets."
Eric gave her a dirty look. "Six years too late to start caring. Mom was killed when I was five, been living on the street ever since. Don't know about dad, mom met him in a bar one night," he replied as they entered. McGonagall gave him a worried look as they walked through the dark, dirty bar. This wasn't turning out well. She was going to have serious talk with Albus while Eric was being fitted for robes.
They reached the back door without incident and Minerva poked the brick that opened the portal to Diagon Alley while Eric watched intently. The point where her wand met the brick turned black and stretched out, first to form an oval, then an arched inky doorway before clearing to reveal the Alley. She heard Eric mutter something about a tesseract and making stable portals and smiled. The boy was headed for Ravenclaw, unless she missed her mark. So curious about how things worked; and skilled too, if his blatant and intentional use of wandless magic was any indication. Outside of accidental magic when you were a child, wandless magic was supposed to be something left to legends like Dumbledore, Flamel, Baba Yaga and Merlin.
Eric's head whipped back and forth constantly, trying to get a good look at everything as they made their way down the street to Gringotts bank. Minerva was certain he would have been running around, trying to explore everything, if she hadn't been there.
Reaching the great golden doors, she was forced to stop as Eric read the inscription on the door. "Headmistress, what do they mean about finding more than treasure?" the red-haired boy asked, staring at the doors intensely as if judging how much they weighed and what he could get for them.
"Well, many of the larger vaults are guarded by powerful enchantments or rare and dangerous magical creatures. The Hogwarts Trust vault for example is guarded by a Carpathian Wyvern, which resembles a small white dragon. Keep in mind that even a small dragon is the size of a house and possesses a powerful resistance to magic so only a fool would try to rob them, not to mention that most wouldn't want to risk offending the goblins by trying in the first place. Goblins wield their own powerful sorceries, exist on cruelty and make up the majority of the wizarding world's bankers and solicitors."
Eric Stark paled dramatically. "Got it. Don't mess with a goblin, just smile and nod."
"An insightful statement, Mr. Stark," the goblin at the door said, pointed teeth barred in a grin. "But don't be too worried. Wizarding law still protects wealthy wizards from… most reprisals." The red armored imp added clearly pleased to impress upon Eric that he was not one such individual.
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes Minerva steered her charge through the doors and up to an open counter. "Excuse me," she said stiffly. "We're here to access the Hogwarts trust vault."
"Ah, good afternoon, Mistress McGonagall. You have the key?" The professor nodded and the Goblin turned around. "Gamric! Take these two to vault 13. Gamric will show you the way," the small green form said, turning back to them. Minerva nodded and ushered Eric after their guide. Loading themselves into a wooden mining cart, the older witch told her charge to hold on tight and they were off. The cart blasted forward at breakneck speed turning this way and that, flashing past tunnels and heading deep into the bedrock beneath London. They made turns many times and at several of the tunnel entrances Eric felt a rush of static flash over them. Curious, he closed his eyes and began breathing and focus exercises. Several minutes later, a faint buzz formed at the edge of his awareness and grew in his mind into a purple flame around his center. Shortly after, two more appeared beside and behind him, the professor and the goblin he realized. McGonagall's flame was a good deal stronger than his and moved in patterns he couldn't quite conceptualize while the goblin beside him felt… orange somehow. Then another wave of static rushed over them and Eric lost control as an enormous feeling of power slammed into his mind.
"Beautiful…" he murmured aloud. Where his magic was a single 'color' and felt like a campfire, the wall of static was a mad whirlwind of colors so intense they felt as if they had burned themselves into his consciousness. That must be one of the goblins protections he mused. Opening his eyes Eric grinned madly. Magic was so cool.
Nearly ten minutes later, they reached a large room with a large set of double doors made of a rich oak and bronze. The door was emblazoned with a metal crest as large as McGonagall wrought to look like the Hogwarts badge on the older woman's robes.
"The key?" ground out the diminutive monster sitting beside them. Nodding, the professor removed a medallion from her pocket and pressed it into a stone obelisk near the door. There was a flash of light as the engraved metal settled into a groove in the stone and the metal fused to the monolith. There was a thumping sound and the doors shuddered before grinding open slightly. "Your withdrawal bag," Gamric said, handing Minerva a small leather pouch.
They entered the gap in the doors and Eric gasped, fighting faintness as he took in the bounty descended before him. The room was cavernous, easily capable of fitting the imperial opera house within its depths and was piled full of golden coins. Millions upon millions of half-ounce disks stretching out as far as he could see; the ocean of gold broken by sheer valleys that dipped down to reveal paved walkways of platinum. Off in one corner a mountain of gems glittered; rubies and emeralds shone beside sapphires and many others. Here and there along the walkways were a number of items set upon pedestals that seemed completely out-of-place. There was a partial set of armor here, some folded robes there, one pedestal was embedded with a sword and another held a pair of shiny black shoes. There was a frieze along the upper wall he couldn't easily make out and tapestries hung from the ceiling like sheets of a canopy bed. It was a lot to take in to say the least.
"Scholarship," McGonagall said firmly, holding her sack up to another stone obelisk, marble this time. There was a jingling atop one of the piles of gold and coins began pouring into the bag. "This vault is the Hogwarts trust, a fund which is managed by the Board of Governors. It was started by the fortunes of the four founders of Hogwarts and many alumni have contributed to its growth over the last eleven hundred years. As you can see, it has grown quite large. The trust is left largely untouched and gathers a yearly interest that goes to pay for things like scholarships for Hogwarts' less fortunate students, the rather generous salaries we pay our professors, supplies to run the castle and repairs for the various damages that the old structure often accrues. Most of the interest from the vault actually goes to fund the care and expansion of the magical game preserve that surrounds the castle. We house the largest population of magical plants and animals in Europe and the creatures and the wards separating them and modifying their habitats need constant maintenance. If you want to know more, you should consider talking to Rubeus Hagrid. He manages the habitats of Hogwarts more dangerous inhabitants."
Her piece said, the scholarship money collected, McGonagall ushered her shell-shocked charge out to the waiting cart and they were off. Eric turned to the goblin driving the wooden bucket.
"Mr. Gamric, sir? Are Gringotts coins pure metal?" Seeing the beginnings of a snarl on the face of the Goblin turning to face him, he quickly amended his statement. "It's just that each coin is easily half an ounce and a bag full of gold should be much heavier."
The Goblin looked at him suspiciously as if trying to discern a reason to get violent. After a few minutes he huffed. "Goblin coins are only forged from the purest metal. They're light because of the enchantments we place on them. Same magic that keeps them out of circulation in the Muggle economy; it's funny watching all the Muggle students as they try to trade them outside where gold is worth more." His piece said, the diminutive demon turned forward again and missed the determined frown that appeared on Eric's face. McGonagall didn't, though, and it sent a chill down her spine. The boy was going to try something, she was sure of it.
The cart came to a stop soon after and the trio clambered out. The goblin went off one way without so much as a backward glance and they left the bank. Back in the Alley, the duo headed for Ollivander's. When they reached the drab grey shop, McGonagall smiled warmly as her charge got visibly excited and started babbling some nonsense she couldn't make out at 'a mile a minute' or so the saying went. They went into the shop where Mr. Ollivander was servicing another customer. They watched as the man excitedly ran back and forth pulling out wand after wand until he fit the girl with a ten-and-a-half inch Blackthorn, griffin mane core, thick but pliable, good for dueling.
As the girl and her mother left, Garrick turned to them, his pale silver eyes magnified by a pair of absolutely ridiculous glasses till they seemed to take up half his face, and smiled. With a negligent wave of his hand the pile of several dozen wands lifted themselves off the chair they had been discarded on and repackaged themselves before flying off. "Minerva! How pleasant to see you again, my dear. New student? Or were you here to take me up on that offer...?"
"Not this time, Garrick. Young Mr. Stark here needs his first wand."
"Hmm… Mr. Stark, you say?" Ollivander said, getting down in the young boy's face and staring at him closely.
"Is there something wrong, Garrick? We are in a bit of a hurry after all," the deputy headmistress remarked pointedly.
"It's nothing, really. I just thought I recognized the boy, but there haven't been any Starks in wizarding Brittan for nearly three hundred years. Who were his parents?" the man continued, as he brought out a measuring tape and note pad. Eric squirmed uncomfortably as the tape floated across his body measuring the most bizarre things, such as the distance between his pupils and the length of his nose.
"I'm muggleborn, sir," Eric cut into the conversation. "Never knew my dad, mom died when I was five." Ollivander frowned again.
"You have your mother's name, then." Eric made as if to ask what he meant by that but the old man launched into an explanation of wands and their properties. "Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magic substance, Mr. Stark. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons among others. 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." He walked over to a shelf and pulled out a long thin box. "Here, try this one. Alder, 9 inches, Bowtruckle spine core. Nice and pliable, good for transfiguration. Go on, give it a wave."
Eric took it and slashed it through the air. When nothing happened immediately, Ollivander snatched the wand away and deposited it on the same chair the last customer had used. He returned moments later muttering to himself. "Beech, 11 inches, unicorn hair. Rigid, good for charms." That wand too followed its predecessor. The next, cherry and unicorn hair sent tingles up his arm and he mentioned it to Ollivander, but it was snatched away as well. The next several wands were different combinations with either cherry or unicorn hair. It soon became apparent he was getting the most reaction from cherry wands, and Mr. Ollivander was becoming quite excited as the wands began to pile up. The twelfth wand, cherry 12 ½ inches, dragon heart string felt warm as it made contact with his hand. "This one feels like testing a hot bath, sir." The young boy commented as he waved it lazily through the air.
"No, no, we're getting close though Mr. Stark. I can feel it."
Three wands later, Ollivander came back, looking smug. "Here you go," he said, looking like a cat that had eaten the family's canary. "Go on, give it a wave." Eric did so and the wand began spitting out basketball-sized bluebell flames that crackled with purple accents as they floated harmlessly around the shop. "An excellent match, Mr. Stark. That'll be 13 Galleons."
As Minerva walked up to pay the wand maker, Eric looked up at the man. "Um, sir? What kind of wand is it? You never said."
The man smiled from the counter where he was counting out the coins before putting them in a bag. "Nine inches, wood from a very old cherry my family has used quite often and the heart string of a particularly intelligent dragon. Icelandic blue to be precise, so named for those blue flames your bonding produced. I must warn you, though, while I've made quite a few, I don't often get to sell cherry and dragon wands. You see, it takes a master of exceptional control to properly handle the power of one. This particular wand has four brothers, but I've yet to sell them; most of my customers seem to prefer Welsh Greens. I think we can expect a great future for you; a great future indeed."
They left the store and headed to a travel shop on McGonagall's insistence. After shutting down a very enthusiastic sales girl who tried to entice them to buy magical luggage, they purchased a large steamer trunk, and then proceeded to Flourish and Blotts. Eric had pleaded with her to get practically his own personal library but they had merely acquired the school's list. Madam Malkin's and the apothecary passed quickly, though Minerva had taken some time off during Eric's fitting to speak to Dumbledore. By dinnertime they were back in the Leaky Cauldron, eating a simple stew.
"Eric," McGonagall said as she neared the end of her bowl. "The headmaster asks if you have a nearby homeless shelter or soup kitchen, and, if not, would like to extend an offer to you of staying in the Leaky Cauldron for the duration of the summer."
Eric was silent for several long moments. "That's very generous of him," he replied taking another slow bite of soup. "What does he want in return?"
Despite the phrasing, McGonagall didn't think it was meant as a question so much as a statement of guilt. Almost as if the boy had been expecting something nefarious along similar lines.
"He seemed quite concerned that one of his students was living on the streets taking care of himself," the older woman said primly. "It's a rather unusual situation and while I don't know much about how Muggles handle things, it's considered rather improper in our world. The founders used to adopt such children and house them at Hogwarts, but it was rare enough that the tradition has been lost in the last several hundred years. The situation just hasn't come up in a long time. Most orphan students are already in homes by the time they receive their letter."
Eric still looked suspicious but accepted the chance to stay at the Inn for the next two weeks. With that the elderly professor took the building's fireplace to Hogwarts. She had much to discuss with the headmaster.
Eric sat in his new room, staring at the gold coin McGonagall had given him for his magic show. It was light and easy to handle, no real sense of weight. Enchanted against sale in the Muggle world, he thought viciously. We'll see about that! The gold twinkled back at him, mockingly. As if the goblin hadn't been enough, he groused. Settling into the lotus position like the Zen books he'd found at the homeless shelter said, he placed the coin before him and began breathing slowly. In to a count of nine, out for the same, hold for a count of five and repeat. Comfortable, and without the distractions of the cart, Eric fell into the trance after two minutes of repetition. As his core came into awareness the young boy noted how it seemed to be burning cleaner than before. If he had to describe it out loud, he'd have called it the difference between the flickering light of a Bunsen burner and the precise cone of a propane torch.
Moving toward and then inside it, Eric embraced the power and slowly more objects began to light up in his mind. A vein of power trailed down his arm and off to the side somewhere. Following it he found a brilliant mix of blue purple and earthy brown and red. The power gave him a mental image if a black birdlike form and fierce alien intelligence; his wand, then. Focusing on another of the tingles niggling at the edge of his mind, he felt more growing earthy things and a random collection of animals and insects he couldn't begin to identify pressing against his back. Those were most likely his potions supplies, piled in the cauldron inside his trunk. He found it interesting that they had their own magical energies, but after a few moments of contemplation, it made a strange sort of sense. These people believed that potions had real power to them, enough that they had made an entire class just for the subject. If the concoctions didn't have some sort of magical properties, what would be the point?
Turning back to his search, Eric finally found the golden coin less than a foot in front of him. The magic felt slippery somehow, scrabbling at the very edges of his mind. It was orange like the goblin had been before but trying to grab hold of it in his mind was like trying to grab hold of an oily fish he'd found off the Clarendon Quay one day. Trying to get a good grip on it took several hours and he fell out of his trance from frustration many times before he finally had it.
The coin floated before his consciousness, streams of orange fire running in and out of it. Eric studied it closely, trying to discern a way to sever those magical bonds. It was 3:51 in the morning when he came across the answer. The numbers at the bottom held the greatest concentration of the orange fire. The serial code he remembered one of the wizards downstairs explaining to him. Every goblin made coin had one. It identified where the coin was processed, the goblin who had crafted it and the number of coins said goblin had made prior.
Coming out of his trance the young boy considered briefly. He glanced up at the bird house clock and the wall as he thought about how to use this information. It would be useful if he could simply tear the magic away from the markings but maybe it would be better if they simply were removed entirely? He could figure it out in the morning, he decided. He had a hammer and several scraping tools back at his hideout and now that he'd seen real teleportation, it shouldn't be too difficult to reproduce.
Decided, he stood up and popped the stiffness out of his limbs. Seven hours in the same position couldn't be good for your health, he decided as he crawled into the first real bed he'd had in years.
Dumbledore gazed placidly at his transfiguration professor, as she systematically destroyed her fabled reputation for calm and proper bearing. It was quite fascinating to watch her rant, really. Her wild gesticulations did absolutely wonderful things to her breasts, he noted. It was really a pity he was gay. Still, this boy she was talking about… To be able to perform wandless magic as a youngster wasn't so unusual, but to do it intentionally? That was rare. The last one, to his memory, had been Lily Evans. Wonderful girl, in a better world she could have brought real change to their sedentary world with that mind of hers. Her death had been such a pity, he mused idly.
Then there was the boy before her… Ironically, the same one who had murdered poor Ms. Evans. Tom had always been an unpleasant boy, he remembered, nothing like dear Gellert. Where Lily and Gellert had wanted to help people with every other breath, Tom, though he kept up the face of a model student, had only ever shown a willingness to help himself, and the more people it hurt the better. He'd have to keep a close eye on this new child. Seeing Minerva flop, quite unladylike, down in the squishy purple armchair across from him, he decided to speak up.
"Now that you're in a calmer frame of mind, Minerva," Dumbledore admonished gently, "what were your impressions of the boy? Did he seem kind? Honest? Or was he rude and selfish? Don't hold back in your assessment, blunt honesty is often the best for characterization, I've found," he finished, blatantly ignoring his own habits regarding such mannerisms.
"He was very much the showman," she said slowly, carefully going over her memories of the child. "He played the crowd like a professional, getting everyone involved and doing his best to make people laugh. Though that may have been because he wanted money, he was sizing me up as well. If I hadn't been so surprised by exactly what he was doing, I think he might have gotten me to smile a bit and once he found out who I was, he became quite the gentleman. I'd hesitate to place him in Gryffindor though..."
"Oh?" Albus cut in. "Why ever not? He sounds quite like the Weasley boys to me."
"Well, it was the things he said during our trip that got me. He's a very curious boy, constantly asking question about everything. He wanted to know how everything worked and obstinately refused to accept the explanation that it was simply magic. Many of his questions were actually very insightful and well thought out. Things I'd have expected out of a brilliant sixth or seventh year." She paused then, as if considering.
"Yes?" he prompted.
"There was one thing that concerned me, though," the younger witch said slowly. "He was very suspicious of your offer to pay for his stay at the Leaky Cauldron and indeed the entire situation with his Hogwarts scholarship. He kept getting jumpy whenever things were offered to him, as if he expected me to ask for something even more valuable in return or to suddenly take everything away. He may also be considering trying to cheat the Gringotts gold exchange," she added as an afterthought.
"Really?" Dumbledore asked, amused. "Do you think he'll manage?" the old wizard queried, as his thoughts raced over his new charge's obvious trust issues. This could be a problem. He'd have a talk with Filius later. He wasn't about to let another paranoid and potentially violent child run around with that kind of power unchecked. Not after Tom… not ever again.
"He mentioned the ability to sense magic shortly after I met him. If anyone could figure out how to properly cheat the goblins' enchantments it would be him."
"Indeed," he said slowly. Indeed… and with Mr. Potter coming back... well, the next seven years were going to be interesting indeed.
Holes, he thought fiercely. There is a hole between me and my destination. I will step forward and pass through the hole, and then when I am done I shall be at my destination, whole. Concentrating on the memory of the crushing, pulling feeling of his trip with McGonagall, Eric lunged forward. He'd been doing this since breakfast earlier that morning and was on the edge of a breakthrough, he was certain of it. He'd managed to teleport to the other side of the room a little over half an hour ago by complete accident, so he knew he could do it, now he just had to figure out how he'd done it and repeat the process.
He stumbled and caught himself. Damn, another failure. Sitting down, he started meditating. Achieving his trance state, he turned his focus inward instead of heading straight for his magic. Within seconds the hazy walls of his old room appeared around him. Walking over to one of the walls his brow furrowed again and a picture frame appeared, the image inside it shifting and sliding as if in a movie. He watched it, paying close attention to the sensations that poured off the image like a miasma. He'd spent the last two hours and 50 some minutes calling up his power and lunging forward, trying to force his magic to carry him through an imaginary hole in the space between points. He watched obsessively as he finally, in a fit of frustration shifted across the distance, the image seeming to melt and then snap back into focus as he caught himself against the far wall. How had he done it? HOW?
He watched the memory again and again, looking for minute details in thought and action. It was there; it had to be. Some minute detail, some action or gesture that set this attempt apart from the previous ones. Eric stayed that way for nearly an hour, viewing things at various speeds, picking apart every thought, feeling and emotion he'd experienced at the time, as if it might be the vital clue to his success.
On a whim, he brought up the memory where the elderly professor had taken him along in her own teleportation and played them side-by-side. After another twenty minutes, he saw it. Slowing both down dramatically, he watched them together. There it was, as he was hopping around in frustration at being unable to perform the magic he spun around. Playing right beside it McGonagall made a sharp turning motion as they were sucked into a point at the corner of his vision.
He fell out of his trance and back to the real world quite abruptly as the realization hit him. Power, destination and focus, that was what the guy at the bar had been talking about destination, determination and deliberation weren't enough he'd said. You needed something more, he'd insisted, but Eric hadn't understood the man's lurching as a description of the movement.
Standing up and stretching out till things popped, he stumbled back to the wall and focused. Eyes narrowed, mind focused, power rising, his destination in mind, Eric twisted sharply and felt himself being yanked through a pinpoint hole just before his vision. Bands of force pressed against his torso, shoulders and waist, his eyes and ears pressing into his skull and the world melting from one perspective into another. Everything stopped and he stumbled against the far wall.
He'd done it… He had done it!
Eric bounced happily around the room giggling and clapping his hands in elation. He was free! Free, free, FREE! No more being stuck in dead end alleys running from larger boys, no having to worry if he could fall into his power fast enough to defend himself. No fear of killing anyone else with the black fire if he could just escape with a thought and a twist. Maybe now he could figure out how to call it out deliberately now without those silly irrational fears mucking things up. He still had nightmares about those boys' faces crisping and flaking away as the ebon energy lapped across their skulls.
He shuddered, memories crushing the happy, heady feelings of success. He ruthlessly began to repress the memory, as he had many times before; it had taken the shelter volunteer Jessica months to get him to the point where he could function again and sleep without night terrors from that incident and he was not about to succumb to it now. Not when he was so close. His mind's eye flashed briefly over the look of sheer terror that had replaced shock as they realized what was happening, the blood curdling screaming as their bodies bubbling and flaking away broke them free of the shock. It still felt odd to him that he was glad how much this memory disturbed him, as if it was a line that kept him safe so long as he didn't step over it. The fact that he still worried over how they must have felt, or who, if anyone, was going to cry when they didn't return home.
That and the fact that it was an accident which happened in self-defense were the chains with which he bound the thoughts. While he may not have been a murderer, a killer he definitely was; and he was glad for that small bit of difference. After all, what kind of person would he be if the end of three young boys at his hands did not shake him? As long as it did not bring him pleasure… he would cope. He would persevere as he always had.
Much calmer, he began focusing on his hideout of only a few days ago and vanished. Reappearing with a soft whump of air, Eric caught himself against a wall and looked around. It was his cellar all right, not two feet from him was the cardboard shanty nestled up behind the heating element for the apartment building above him. Walking into the hole of the hideaway he started pulling it apart. As the layers of the hovel came away Eric packed the hidden caches of bills and small bags of coins into another bag he drew from his pocket. Old people hid their money under the mattress; he hid his in the frame of his house. He had learned long ago never to carry around more than a few pounds at a time; many areas of Northern Ireland were ruled over by gangs of one type or another and a small kid with money was an easy roll. All told, he had nearly 700 pounds in change and small bills. It was a fine haul and if he played it right would inure the goblins to his activities when he started playing the currency market. Somebody taking things too fast was more than likely what had caused the goblins to catch on and enchant the coins in the first place.
Four years of pretending he didn't make more than a quid or two each show had always netted him sympathy from his crowd and his growing skills with illusions had been put to work to make him look unbearably cute and his hat empty, making people feel guilty enough to throw real cash at him. He'd never gone hungry when he could help it, that was for sure. The first six months as a run-by pickpocket and digging through trash cans was enough for him.
Pulling out a little magic to smooth and sort the bills into stacks, he conjured paper bands to bind each. He repeated the process with the coins, polishing them and stacking them by type in little rolls of paper like you saw in a bank. Once done, he began loading the rest of his possessions into the pack, shrinking them so that everything would fit. Tools and clothes were carefully arranged over a layer of bills and his weapons were wrapped up in a blanket and placed on top. Finishing, he shrunk the sack , stuffing it in his pocket, leaving just a little bulge and turned the corner out of his crawl space.
Right into the barrel of a shotgun.
"Well lookey here, pikey thinks e' can rabbit o somin. Where you offa?" asked the one holding the gun.
"You mad as a box o frogs iffn you thing you can skip out naw," said a scrawny man hiding behind the gun toting ones bulk. "You still owe us 100 nicker eer the last job. Where is it?"
"Ned, Scrapps, good to see you. I dona suppose you's give a bloke a time a day?" Eric said, raising his hands carefully.
"Ye ad the time a day a fortnight ago," growled Ned. "Naw cough it up, pikey!"
"I told you, I had nofin to do with tha heist," he begged desperately as he stalled for time. Focus, focus, focus dummy! Destination, determination, deliberation, twist!
His attackers were saying something and shoved him with the barrel of the gun. Taking the opportunity he turned the fall into a twist and forced power into the idea of being somewhere else. There was the sick feeling of being dragged through a colander and he was back in the Leaky Cauldron. Collapsing to the floor Eric let loose a deep sigh of exhaustion. Safe. He had done it. He was safe now. You couldn't hurt someone you couldn't hold onto, and you couldn't cage in a teleporter.
He lay there dozing, thoughts swirling in a massive haze for nearly two hours, when a chime came from the mirror. "It's dinnertime, dear," the charmed glass above the headboard said. "Straighten yourself up, you look scruffy!"
Smiling, Eric pushed off the floor and ambled his way down the stairs. A quick glance at the clock above the bar told him it was 6:31. Dinner was stew again, the same from last night, if the taste was any indication. Probably the same pot, too. Ah well, he thought morosely, at least I'm not the one paying for it. Stark mused, thinking of Hogwarts and their 'scholarship'. He wondered how far it went for those who had homes and places to stay… Did it just cover tuition? The only criteria McGonagall had placed on it was that it was given to magical blood that couldn't afford to attend otherwise. But did that include shiny new equipment? Even if it was the bare minimum, it seemed a little off.
The boy finished his stew, contemplating his situation in silence. At 7:13, he handed his bowl back to toothless Tom and headed for Civilian London. Muggle London he reminded himself, that's what they called it, and what he should start calling it, too, he supposed. It just sounded so strange. Muggle. It felt like it should be a curse word or something else demeaning. And perhaps it was; it signified to his new community that these people were lacking somehow. As if; perhaps they weren't good enough, because they didn't have that essential spark that made you a wizard. Eric frowned. That didn't sound good at all. Such belittlement built contempt more often than pity and he had seen well enough what that led to. And him being a 'muggleborn', he was likely to be painted with a similar, if not the same brush.
Eric Sirius Stark felt a sudden chill creep up his spine.
Shaking his head, he asked a passerby where to find the nearest bank. The man looked at him suspiciously and gave directions. Presently, he arrived at a Lloyds bank, a common establishment in London. Walking in, he reached for his magic and put up an illusion of disinterest. Once he was sure it was established he conjured stilts and wrapped himself in an illusion of a 20 something in jeans and a cardigan. The illusion wouldn't hold very well if someone tried to touch him and wasn't easy enough to pull off in a dangerous sort of situation but it was simple enough he could play quick and dirty with it instead of needing to meditate before performing.
He took the time standing in line to pull out and un-shrink his bag. Reinforcing the disinterest spell, he levitated everything out of it and repacked the personals before stowing it back in his pocket. By the time he got to the teller he had the money stacked, marked and ready to go.
Behind the counter a cute brunette in a sheer business suit marked with the banks symbol smiled warmly at his illusion. "How may I help you today, Mr.?"
"Stark," the sorcerer replied. "I don't have an account here, but I've heard for a small fee you'd be willing to consolidate bills and coins into larger notes?"
"That's not entirely true, Mr. Stark," the woman said frowning slightly. "We are fully capable of trading cash for higher marked bills but we only offer that service to our customers. If you'd like to open an account however, I would be happy to assist you with our full range of services."
It was Eric's turn to frown this time. Bugger. Banks often required you to keep a minimum balance in your account and provide a minimum deposit when opening one. This was a fairly ubiquitous establishment so the fees would likely be small, but it was the principle of the thing that bothered him now. Making a quick decision he smiled at the woman. "Well, in that case would you mind assisting me in setting up an account? I do seem to be the last person in this line." He finished with a smile. It was 7:40 and the door said the bank didn't close till nine, so he should have time.
Visibly biting back a sigh, the woman smiled and began walking him through the process. He provided the address of the Leaky Cauldron as his own, when asked. The woman was suspicious when he claimed not to have any social identification. He claimed status as a Romani to cut down on her questions, but eventually they got through everything. The minimum cash deposit to open the account was 100 GBP and the minimum balance turned out to be 50, which surprised him. His total cash on hand came out to 734pounds 27pence. That left him with 684 pounds to trade into galleons. Reduced to 13 bills if he took it all with him, he looked at the woman's notepaper and decided to leave the last 4 pounds. 680 pounds would net him 136 galleons (137 with the one Professor McGonagall had given him), 137 multiplied by 1050 GBP an ounce divided by two for each coin being half an ounce… would bring him up to about 72 thousand pounds.
Eric grinned under his illusion. He was going to be rich.
Assuming, of course, that he could disenchant the goblins' gold and he found a soul willing to handle that much metal from a complete unknown.
The boy left the bank and disappeared in a nearby alley. Coming to a nauseating halt in the yard connecting Diagon Alley to the Leaky Cauldron, he proceeded to open the portal and seek out the goblins. Gringotts, it turned out, was open 24/7/365. The reason for this was fairly simple, as he found out later in his reading. Goblins were naturally nocturnal and had a fairly large clientele of dark creatures that, along with having money and an aversion to sunlight, had the common sense not to conduct their business in easy view of the distinctly prejudicial wizarding community. So when a lone human entered a bank full of vampires, hags, a banshee, were-beasts, and what he could have sworn was a Drowolath woman sitting on a house-elf borne throne, the attention such a human would garner was more than just mildly disturbing. Fairies flitted around the ceiling with a trio of harpies and a dragon crouched along its curvature. All in all, it was not the safest place for him to be. Most of these beings would view a human child as a snack, should civilian fairy tales be believed.
Eric ducked back behind the large engraved doors, hoping against hope that none of the creatures within had noticed him there staring. Perhaps he should come back in the morning? Yeah, he decided. It's for the best. One on one these creatures could be dealt with, peacefully at best, violently at worst and he'd be able to walk away, but in small groups or enormous ones like this? Discretion was definitely the better part of valor.
Albus Dumbledore sat in his office, examining the Sorcerer's Stone. It was a fascinating piece of work. It completely circumvented Gamps' 8th Law about the five principal exceptions to elemental transfiguration. Just add power and the stone would sweat a clear liquid that revived dead animals, turned metals to gold, stone to gems and firmed sections of dry wrinkled skin on his arm. The temptation to drink a stein full of the elixir was enormous. His mind drifted through dreams of resurrecting Ariana from her grave and running off with her and Gellert, living happily into eternity.
Fawkes trilled at him admonishingly and he saw that he'd been channeling energy into the stone and it was dripping elixir all over his desk, which was steadily transforming into a tree and wrapping around the stone and his now young, arthritis-free hand. He yanked his hand out of the hollow in the plant and stopped the flow of power. This was exactly what he'd taken the stone in order to stop, he reminded himself fiercely. He set the stone on a small silk pillow and placed both in a gold-lined box. He needed to get rid of this mess before the staff meeting to discuss the protections for the stone.
The meetings would be held individually, so that no one person beyond himself would know how to attain the stone, but he already had a good idea what the protections were going to be. Anyone who knew the people involved could probably guess, but that was where things would break down. Everyone else would only be able to guess. He already knew what he intended to do. There was a rather ancient ritual called the Will of the Elders that he intended to employ. Set up correctly, the spell acted a manner much similar to a muggle repelling charm, but the ritual could be used to target anyone the caster designated or didn't designate. In this case, he intended for the spell to subtly push the idea that the stone was useless and should be left alone, to increase steadily as the seeker approached while allowing someone who didn't want the stone to pass through unhindered. It was quite brilliant if he did say so himself.
There was a knock on the door and Dumbledore stowed the stone in his desk. Severus was here, so things were about to begin in earnest.
The next morning, Eric sat in his room with a knife in one hand, his golden coin in the other. Careful not to cut himself, he drew a groove through each of the letters on the coin's ID number. Turning it over, the boy repeated the process. He didn't really expect this to work, but should it prove to be so simple, who was he to argue?
His task done, the young street urchin settled down to meditate, the coin in his hands. When he had achieved the proper state, he turned his focus to the gold in his hands. As expected the orange magic was still there. Erring on the side of caution, he took fifteen minutes to tune his sight to look at the coin's enchantment as closely as he could manage. The flow wasn't as clean and ordered as it had been before, but the result wasn't anything to brag about either. However, this did seem to confirm that the best way to get rid of the magic standing between him and riches would be to do something about those marks.
Coming out of his trance, Eric brought out a hammer and a small iron rod. Using his power to provide a solid platform for his work, Eric used the hammer and dowel to flatten the characters into the coin. Once both sides were clear of the targeted markings he went back into meditation and repeated the previous inspection. This time the damage was more pronounced, but there was still nothing worth celebrating over. Determined not to be discouraged, he retrieved the knife and conjured a handkerchief before proceeding to gouge the soft metal where the markings had resided. Once he was certain he had shaved away all the tainted gold, he used his magic to telekinetically squish the shavings into a small ball and held them in either hand. With all of this practice meditating, he'd probably be ready for battle meditation by next summer rather than when he hit middle age.
That amusing thought running through his head, the last Stark dove within himself again. Perceiving the coin once more he was frustrated to see that the magic was still there on both pieces of the coin. Going even deeper than he had the first time, he saw that both pieces were still connected by a thread of magic. Extending his own power forward to cleave the strand proved futile as both sides reached out to reconnect to each other rather than a one way attempt to connect the formerly runed metal to the rest of the coin. His frustration roughly snapped him out of his self-induced fugue state. Flexing his will, he crushed the metal into a single solid lump and glared poisonously at it. He knew the thoughts were childish, but he still couldn't help silently ranting at how a stupid piece of metal dared refuse him.
The boy's magic crackled and hummed around him in response to his agitation. He formed both hands into claws and pretended he was tearing the armored goblin from the Gringotts' gates apart when he felt something shift in the room. He was still holding the ball of gold in a telekinetic grip and there, floating beside it…was a small mote of pale orange light.
He looked back and forth at his hands in amazement. It couldn't possibly be that simple, could it? How had he even done that? Grab and tear, rend and break… he had wished to destroy a goblin… and the only thing goblin related in the room had been separated from its housing. A chill crept up his spine. Could he do that to magical creatures? Or was it limited to magical items. This could get really dangerous. He'd have to consult some books; but where to find the right ones? His mind blew over everything he had read at the homeless shelter's book exchange. The D&D players handbook had mentioned that ability to remove enchantments from magic items as a part of the craft magic items and armor feat. It had been very vague about how to do so, concentrating more on the point values of materials and their products than the actual performance of any magic. The fantasy world had provided a lot of good ideas for what to do with his powers, but he hadn't paid much attention after it had become clear there was very little on the actual performance of such.
The question now was what to do with the magic. Would letting it go send it back to his precious gold? Would it dissipate or perhaps warn the goblins of his skullduggery? There was that one book on Chi that said you could consume magic from the land to fuel your body and techniques, could he do the same with this magic? Was it even safe to do so? So many questions...
There was really only one way to know. Floating the ball of gold over to his hands, he tried to push the goblin magic away and released his hold on the foreign power. With his power no longer containing it, the orange energy faded from view and disappeared. Holding the ball of gold firmly in his palms, Eric fell into meditation one last time.
Once his magical awareness was established, he turned his focus to the lump of metal in his hands and growled. The magic was back, but it had an unfocused, nebulous feel to it. It was as if the energy had known there was a purpose to being on the gold, but couldn't remember what it was and was stubbornly clinging to the metal like some demented fan-boy. Imagining the mouth of a dog he'd seen savaging a cat in a back alley one day, he focused his energies on the orange magic and ripped it away from the nugget in his hands. After a few seconds of deliberation, he began trying to tear the magic apart, hoping that if it had no flow to follow that it would simply dissipate, but after an hour of no luck, Eric was ready to give up. Time was wasting, and he needed as much as he could get if any of his plans were to work themselves out.
Turning his focus from his magic to his memories, he went over all of the books he had read since discovering his abilities. Most of them had been donated to the shelter by a group of new-agers. Pagans and the like; or at least people who thought they were. Zen, Wicca, Taoism, a variety of fantasy novels, an original printing of the first edition Dungeons and Dragons set complete with prayers diagrams and magic theory and a set of Tarot cards that he still had in his pack. The cards were useless, unfortunately, but they made a good part of his act and with his magic allowing him to pull out any card he wanted on a whim he could make up any story he thought the customer might want to hear. Skimming through the information he had absorbed over the last four years of reading and rereading them, he hit upon something he thought might work.
Wiccan priestesses believed that they could cleanse houses by using rituals to drain negative energy into stones. Granite specifically, but the details weren't really important. If the concept was sound he could do something similar with the goblin magic and attach it to something else. Thinking of a rock yard he'd played in during his time in Ireland, he flexed his magic and summoned a fist-sized stone. Ripping the alien energy away from the gold one last time, he pushed it into the stone and held it there, willing it to settle where it was encased by the rock and his magic for several minutes before Eric backed off and took a look at his handiwork.
Vicarage House 58-60 Kensington Church Street, London…
A smiling Eric Sirius Stark strode out of the Gold Star Trading Post, wrapped in the illusion of a businessman in a bowler hat. The image was a cliché in the extreme, but it seemed somehow appropriate to him. His chunk of gold had netted him another 420 pounds. It was nearly 100 pounds below the current trading price for the material, but he was still explaining his lack of identification away as being a Romani so getting that much had been a trial of negotiation and posturing.
Eric shrugged to himself. He now had 1100 pounds to take into Gringotts so what did it really matter? Even being cheated a fifth of the price, he'd still be making some serious bank. 1100 pounds at standard exchange became 220 galleons. Each galleon was half an ounce so that meant 110 ounces of gold at 1000 pounds an ounce. He'd have 110,000 pounds at the end of today if everything went well. If he got cheated again, that'd still be nearly ninety thousand pounds.
Walking into a nearby alley, he gathered his power for a jump and disappeared.
Reappearing in the shadow between two shop fronts in Diagon Alley, Eric walked up the steps of Gringotts and got in line behind a silver-haired man with a cane. The line slowly wound down as wizard after witch were led away by a steady stream of goblin assistants. As a regal looking blond man with a cane was led off to speak to his account manager, Eric stepped up to the desk and peeled away the forward part of his illusion so that, with him holding onto his stilts within the shell of power, it looked as if he were driving a life sized robot suit. The goblin at the desk blinked, momentarily taken aback before grinning in appreciation. "How may Gringotts assist you today, human?"
"Eric Stark," he said gesturing and causing the stacks of Muggle money to float their way onto the desk before the goblin. "I've recently completed a rather profitable job in the Muggle world and would like to trade my money for wizarding currency. I have things to purchase in the alley you see."
"Of course you do," the stiff-suited gremlin said patronizingly. "Let's see here." He licked his fingers and thumbed through the bills. "That's 1100 pounds sterling; the current exchange rate is 4.9 pounds to the galleon with a service fee of 2 galleons… Would you like a pouch to hold your 222 galleons?" Eric shrugged and accepted the pouch as it was tossed to the desk in front of him. "We'll be in contact with you, Mr. Stark. I can assure you there will be some parties very interested in that disguise of yours."
Now it was Stark's turn to look startled. The goblins wanted his method? Didn't they have their own sorceries? And why would they even need to hide themselves around humanity; weren't they relatively well entrenched in wizarding society? They were the world's bankers and lawyers after all. He did his best not to hurry as he left.
When he arrived back at his room, he pulled out the pouch and poured out the coins. It wasn't that he didn't trust the goblins to give him proper change, but… Well, he didn't trust them. Even without the professor's warning that they 'existed on cruelty', they gave him the same feeling as he'd gotten of a number of drug dealers. Malicious, corrupting, predatory... Shuddering, he used his emotional rise in power to draw the energy to the surface and began levitating the coins into neat stacks of ten and lining them up. There were indeed 22 stacks as well as 2 extra.
Using his telekinesis, he began crushing the coins together 20 at a time, into eleven 10 oz. masses of burning metal and a single one oz. blob. The metal heated up on its own as the coins' forms were warped and twisted by the conflicting pressures. Completing the formation of the balls of gold, he used more of his power to force the cooling of the artificially light metal and set them on the ground. Pulling out the stone he had used to anchor the goblins' magic from the last attempt, he began tearing away the sorceries one ball at a time. The magics were just as confused and muddled as they were when he had last done this, but the sheer volume was so much more this time that he had to take several breaks for snacks and water down at the bar. Eventually, the entire mass of energy was stored in the rock beside him.
The power of 223 enchantments snapped and hissed from the stone on the floor and Eric studied it in interest. Picking up the stone proved it to be feather light and the visible aura of power around it seemed to roll away from his flesh as he touched it. He tossed it up and watched it float back down to his hand. Fascinating. Closing his eyes for a moment to gather himself, he flexed his power and encased the goblins' magic again, forcing it to contract within the stone. While he was doing this Eric diverted some of his power to reshape the rock into a better approximation of a ball and removing air pockets and fissures where he noticed them. As he finished this he released a lot of the force holding the foreign magic confined and turned it to summoning sand to coat the outside of the ball. Soon, a small but visible layer of glass covered the stone and he fully released the sphere from his power.
The magic no longer leaked out of the stone as it had before, snapping and hissing violently, but swirled and roiled within its crystal shell, causing the thing to light up like a disco ball he'd seen in an American movie once. It would make a brilliant paperweight, he decided.
Turning back to his gold, he reshaped the balls into ingots like those he had seen on display in the Gold Star, even going so far as to meditate so that he had the image perfectly in his mind while he worked. This time he took his metal to the bank. After a meeting with the manager he walked out with a healthy account of 100 grand and ten thousand in his pocket. Life was good. He entered Diagon Alley after a quick stop at the Cauldron for some dinner and sent a post Owl to McGonagall. Life was good.
Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, professor of transfiguration, stared at the letter in her hand in disbelief. She'd hadn't even left the boy alone for a week and already he was claiming to have found gainful employment and offering to repay her the scholarship and his time at the inn, copper for copper. She glanced worriedly out her office window, searching for something wrong. She was not a superstitious woman but surely this might be the first sign of the apocalypse? The poor penniless street rat offers to repay his scholarship when established pureblood families like the Weasleys had spent centuries requiring the school's support. What was next? Arthur winning the Daily Prophet's yearly galleon draw? A muggleborn Minister of Magic?
Perhaps it would be best if she just ignored this? She doubted it would simply go away, but it might cut down on the number of headaches the boy produced…
Standing up, Minerva grabbed a pinch of floo power from the jar on the mantel and stepping into the fireplace called out "Leakey Cauldron", throwing the powder at her feet. Never let it be said Minerva McGonagall backed down from situation just because it was uncomfortable.
Eric walked through Diagon Alley a bright smile on his face and a slight skip in his step. 2000 galleons chimed pleasantly in his pouch, waiting to be spent. First things first, he intended to upgrade his trunk. In his mind, this was far more than a question of vanity, but rather utility. Several of the trunks he'd inspected previously had cavernous compartments that could fit anything from a small storeroom to a fair-sized apartment within them. If he had one of those, not only would he have a place to put all of his belongings, he wouldn't have to worry about where to sleep when summer came. Setting up his pocket-sized cellar with a bed and fireplace would allow him to have all the comforts of home with him wherever he decided to go and connect him to the larger wizarding world at all times. Add a camouflage spell to the setup and he wouldn't have to worry about pesky callers either. He wondered briefly if he could set up electric lighting and a computer in there as well. Magic could produce electricity, so why not?
Arriving at the shop, Beyond Boarders Magical Luggage, he asked for a catalogue and sat down to browse its contents. What he found surprised him. Instead of a list of the ready-made trunks that littered the main floor in ordered stacks, the catalogue was a list of attributes for custom-made luggage. There were a number of options on the list such as self-cleaning, self-organizing, signature attuned locks, contents cushioning charms, a feather light enchantment, options for trunks with the standard single compartment or as many as twelve separate simultaneous storage spaces, an unbreakable spell and even a summoning matrix so that you could never lose your luggage if it was stolen.
In the end, Eric decided to go with an already enchanted single compartment steamer trunk with an infinite expansion charm on the inside that would allow him to expand the inside to any dimensions he desired, so long as he was willing to pay the energy cost to adjust the borders. The trunk he chose also came with the full complement of charms for good measure to the tune of 210 galleons. 1050 pounds he thought, trying not to choke as he counted out the gold. Still, it was worth it, he thought as he walked out the door with his weightless, indestructible trunk, idly playing with the carrying size settings set by the handle. Opening up the lid, he smiled as he saw a set of velvety off-black stairs leading down into the box's unknown depths. Oh yeah, this was going to be fun.
Walking out of the establishment he began to fantasize about what he would do with his new portable safe house. Since the space inside was technically infinite, being limited only by the number and complexity of its borders he could literally have anything he wanted stored within. He'd have to plan this out carefully, he decided. did he want an apartment, fortress or an island? he was planning to store most of his belongings down there so there was also the question of if he'd still need the trunk Professor McGonagall had bought for him or not it seemed like such a shame to get rid of it... maybe he could use it to store special items? Like a safe or something... if he could learn warding then it could become something like the Dr. Fates vault or Elemisters lockbox where the legendary heroes of DC comics and D&D had hidden dangerous artifacts away from the world. These pleasant fantasies running through his mind he continued on his shopping trip.
He was about to enter Flourish and Blots intent on creating his own library when he saw a familiar face calmly marching down the street. Shrinking the trunk down until it fit in his free pocket he ran over to the aged woman, smiling. "Professor!" he called, "Professor! Thank you for coming! It's good to see you again."
"And you too, young master Stark. Now, what is this about paying back the scholarship to Hogwarts?" the silvered brunette asked firmly.
"Right to business then. Can I offer you a refreshment at least?" he returned with a frown, gesturing to Florien Fortesque's ice cream parlor just up the street. He watched as the woman's lips pursed before looking back at him. He gave her a bright hopeful smile and her shoulders sagged. Big softie, he thought, recategorizing the woman as he'd learned to do so many years before; he'd have to remember that.
"If you insist," came the reply. "Rocky road." Eric rushed off to order, knowing his soon to be teacher was following behind him. When he returned to his teacher's side with the requested treat and licking a cone of mint chocolate himself, he was sure the corners of her mouth had turned up slightly.
"Now Mr. Stark, what is this about you paying back your scholarship goods and tuition? It's not completely unusual for poor families to need tuition assistance to attend and we're happy to provide. When I last saw you, you had little more than a hat of change to your name."
"True, but think back to when you first met me. I was doing magic without a wand and you offered me gold for it." He said turning serious. "That might only be a quid to you, but in my world, that means something. With a single piece of gold, you paved my way out of the streets and I made it work for me. You put me in your debt in more ways than one that day. Paying you back is the least I can do. It's not as if it would inconvenience me now," he finished, leaning back in his chair and staring at her solemnly over the top of his ice cream.
The professor raised an eyebrow at him. "So you just happen to have 900 galleons on you, just ready to burn?" She saw his wince and pressed on. "Don't be silly child, your tuition is paid for and your materials were cheap. Don't bother your… self…" Floating before her eyes was a steady stream of gold clacking its way into stacks of ten before her eyes. "Where? How?" she breathed, unable to conceive how a muggleborn could possibly have achieved this in such a short time.
"I told you, professor. In the muggle world, gold means something." He pushed the collected coins across the table at her. McGonagall stared, unable to say anything as her mouth dried and her throat stuck in shock, She just sat there blinking as her ice cream melted in front of her. "Professor? Professor! Are you alright?" McGonagall came back to reality to find a concerned Eric crouched on the table, shaking her, a concerned look in his eyes.
"I… Uh, I d-don't..." she stuttered.
Eric looked down at the mess he'd made of the gold on the table and the number of people now staring at them and put up his disinterest illusion. "A little too much?" he asked, looking embarrassed.
The witch gathered herself and after several moments contemplation spoke mechanically. "Hogwarts tuition is 500 galleons a year and your school supplies were a mere 20, the most expensive thing on the list was your wand and only because of the safety restrictions on your unusual combination of core and wood. Even that would have been considerably less if I had taken you to second-hand shops to gather your supplies."
"You don't want to ask me how I got this much gold?" the young boy asked, an impish grin on his face as he resorted the money, leaving 520 on the table, winking at her.
"I'm sure I don't want to know, Mr. Stark. So long as you didn't try something stupid like robbing the goblins I'm sure it'll be safer for my sanity if it remains a mystery." She said, mechanically collecting the gold in a leather pouch. "Good day, Mr. Stark. Please do me the favor of not causing this kind of chaos when you're at school, will you? We already have the Weasley twins, I don't think the castle could handle much more." With that she walked away.
His thought process having been derailed by his meeting with the professor, Eric went into a nearby alley to play with his trunk. Setting it down and opening the lid, he descended the steps to look around and decided what he wanted to do with the place. What he found was a small landing just big enough to stand on. Frowning, he tried to remember what the salesman had said about the magics that had been chiseled into the trunk's interior. The space was set up with an infinite expansion charm the man had said. At the cost of his magic, it could be made to expand to literally any dimensions the user wanted.
Shrugging, Eric placed his palms on the wall before him and concentrated on a hallway. To his satisfaction, the blank wall in front of him recessed to form a long tunnel just a few inches taller than him and wider than his outstretched arms. The expansion was accompanied by a slight draining sensation in his gut and he smiled. So far, so good. Kneeling down, he placed both palms on the floor and built an image of what he wanted in his mind. Once he felt ready, he pushed the thought into the chest and braced himself for the drain.
It was a good thing he had, as the underground compartment of the trunk expanded and shifted to fit its master's will, Eric was overcome with a deep-set sensation of nausea. When it finished he tried to get up and stumbled against the wall of his new stairwell. Seeing the twisting spiral stair he smiled. The trunk, now a square measuring 5 by 5 feet opened to a spiral staircase that descended into a larger well with plenty of walking space all around. The space was lit from nowhere in particular giving the place an odd surrealism due to the lack of any shadows. Directly in front and behind the stairs were two arched openings that exited into another circular track, three feet wide and six tall, both ceiling and floor curved to make it look like the burrow of some magical entity, which in fact it was.
From the intermediate ring, one could get access to five more oval doorways to any of five large rooms, all unfortunately empty for the moment. The rooms themselves made a massive ring around the central structure enclosing them in a five-sectioned doughnut with more doors in the separating walls. There were only two irregularities in these rooms. One of them had a deep depression where Eric had intended to place a swimming pool and the other, right in front of the stairs, was covered in row after row of protrusions that ringed the room from top to bottom, being meant to hold his growing collection of books.
Removing his first trunk from his pocket, Eric opened it and carefully levitated his current collection of schoolbooks onto the shelves. He'd hoped for wood and carpet, but this would have to do until he could visit a store for furniture and appliances.
Clambering out of his new port-a-home he went straight back to Fortescue's for another ice cream, this time ordering a full pint of dark chocolate chunk. He was scraping the bottom of the dish an hour later and feeling significantly more human. He gathered his trunk from the alley and went to the apothecary. Once there, he bought an enchanted silver knife and self-stirring ladle, both capable of taking instructions. Furthermore, he expanded his inventory of ingredients so that he had a sampling of everything in the shop. He didn't buy much of each because he didn't know what would be useful, but he should now be able to experiment with the year's text, and who knew, maybe some of it would be valuable in the real world. He smirked as he thought of the world's doctors breaking their minds over one-shot health potions and cackled madly as he unloaded and labeled everything on the back shelves of his library.
Finishing, he stopped by a specialty robe shop and decided to look around and see if there was anything useful. LaSalle and Nordstrom's Quality Tailors was the fourth shop he tried and, while it didn't sell Hogwarts robes, it was the first place that didn't give him strange looks when he asked about enchanted clothing. Despite this, they didn't offer anything he had asked for. That wasn't to say they weren't willing to try and accommodate him, simply that his ideas apparently hadn't crossed their minds before this. What they did offer upon his walking through the door were dress robes in a variety of styles and fabrics, wizarding garb of every foreign country except America, who apparently were very insular when it came to their relations with wizarding Europe, a variety of invisibility cloaks featuring preset disillusionment, user-powered disillusionment and demiguise silk cloaks, and finally their big ticket number, the one that had caught Eric's undivided attention.
Chameleon robes were the personal invention and pride of Mr. Nordstrom's father, the shop's founder and sole holder of the patent. In England, at least. The robes were enchanted with a powerful transfiguration spell sewn in runes along the seams and borders. Drawing upon the user's power, the robes would change into anything the wearer specified. The only limit to the clothing apparently was that it had to be made of cloth as it would change into neither hide nor metal. Eric happily promised to purchase one and they spent the next hour discussing additional enchantments that could be added to the ensemble. When he left Eric held a ticket detailing his order or two chameleon robes with additional charms for self-cleaning, self-repairing, cooling and warming charms to maintain any desired temperature, an air freshening charm to deal with fumes and strengthening charms to make the robes resistant to damage. The clerk told him to come back before he left for King's Cross in September to pick them up. As he took the ticket, the tailor also added that if it was finished earlier, then he would send an owl with the price and notice of pickup.
Next, Eric entered Flourish and Blotts bookshop and promptly purchased the entire standard book of spells, years two through seven before he began browsing the shelves in earnest. Many, well really almost all, of the titles and authors meant nothing to him so he quickly gave up trying to browse that way and began opening to random pages and reading for several minutes before adding them to the pile or putting them back. When that yielded little of interest he went to the manager, who could typically be found wandering the aisles offering suggestions on various books to customers as he passed. The man seemed quite pleased to help him and offered him a steady stream of advice in response to his questions. Eventually he just gave up and set 100 galleons aside, spending the rest on as many different books as he could get Mr. Blotts assurance were non repeating tomes of practical magical knowledge. He was sure he would get to reading them eventually.
His final stop was Morpheus Brothers' Enchanted Furniture store. There, he bought a magical oven, refrigerator (an icebox the clerk insisted), a four-poster king sized bed and, telling them it was a bath, got his pool installed. The end price came out to 27 galleons 13 sickles and 6 knuts. When he asked why all that effort and material had been so cheap the man had laughed and explained that most things in the wizarding world could be made by any wizard with a passable knowledge in charms and transfiguration so the truth of purchases was that instead of buying something you were, more often than not, renting the proprietor's brain rather than buying a material item. The primary exception to this was when purchasing potions materials such as magical animal parts or magical plants, which couldn't simply be copied or enlarged by some hooligan with a wand.
Having bought everything he could think of that would be useful, Eric trotted up the dark alley to the Leaky Cauldron. Sitting down, he ordered a steak (cow, apparently Tom had numerous kinds in the back, including veal, ham, snake and, oddly enough, dragon) and opened Hogwarts a History.
AN: Ok, Before anyone asks, Yeah, I know, the gold thing is a little odd, but I had to think of some possible reason none of the muggleborns or their parents ever thought to exchange wizarding gold in the normal world. It just didn't name any sense to me, the potential gain of doing so was just too obvious for no one to have taken the idea and run with it. So, I came up with a reason. People have thought of the increasing price of gold and how much they could stand to make off the goblins by playing the markets, but the Goblins thought of that too and either prevented it or put a stop to it after someone went hogwild and blew the whole game.