Harry had been feeling twitchy and anxious for weeks now. He was nervous about his official reintroduction to the magical world, as strange as it may seem for someone who’d done it before. Once he was in the wizarding world as a Hogwarts student, people would see him as Harry-Potter-The-Boy-Who-Lived. He’d be recognised in public by strangers once more. Many eyes would be watching and judging his actions. Journalists would start writing stories about him again. Being famous gave him a lot of opportunity to carry a good influence but it was stressful, and over the last few years at Privet Drive he’d very much grown to love being overlooked and anonymous. He’d been in control of his reputation and if he wasn’t careful he’d lose that soon.
None of these feelings were helped by Mrs Arabella Figg. Mrs Figg had taken to watching him or having him watched very closely. It had only been going on since May, but it was already grating on his nerves. During his previous years he might see her around the neighbourhood once a week or so. Her cats and kneazles were often around on the warmer days and they appreciated a good chin scratch. He now saw her in person at least thrice a week and nearly every time he was outside, he could look over his shoulder he’d spot one of her felines watching him. No matter the time of day or the weather conditions.
It was creepy. Some of the other children that he spent time with had told him that she’d been asking their parents and neighbours about him. Asking about his activities, his interests, and his overall behaviour. Everyone had found the behaviour rather odd, some of them even considered it alarming. People had taken to avoiding Mrs Figg where possible and kept their answers vague when they did run into her.
Harry swore that he was going to bake them all the best foods he could think of next Yule. He hadn’t expected them to back him up the way they had. He is glad that they did. If only Mrs Figg would take a hint and change her behaviour, then he’d be thrilled.
His best guess for her reasoning is that Dumbledore has asked her for more information about him as it was nearly time for him to go to Hogwarts. Arabella had then realised that she hadn’t babysat him in over two years, that she had never known him particularly well even back then, and so had taken drastic measures to gather information.
Her actions had brought back some of his war-time paranoia. He couldn’t help but scan the vehicles that drove past him, make threat assessments about the people who were walking near him, and spread out his magic like a web to try and detect any foreign magic that was looking to spy on or hurt him. Where are the emergency exits in this building? Is that dog, really a dog? Is that person a real muggle? Is there a listening charm on that tree? Is that a portkey?
It was getting ridiculous. He wasn’t the only one feeling the stress though.
Gem might have laughed at him in the beginning, but now the young serpent was thoroughly annoyed. He didn’t take well to potential threats or the ongoing surveillance attempts which restricted their movements. Gem liked being as free as Harry, but Harry couldn’t risk anyone from the magical world finding out about Gem before they were both ready. So, Gem had to stay inside a lot and Harry was stuck not leaving Surrey for the time being. It was a genuine concern of Harry’s that if this continued for much longer then Arabella was likely to lose a cat to snake bite.
Which made him feel worse because those cats were innocent animals and did not deserve to suffer for their mistress’s actions.
Assuming that things occurred as they did last time then Harry wouldn’t receive his letter until July 12th. That was a big assumption though. In the chaos that had followed Vernon’s increasingly desperate attempts to avoid the letters last time Harry hadn’t paid attention to how late in the month he’d received his first Hogwarts letter.
It had been Hermione who had inadvertently brought it to his attention many years later. It had somehow come up in conversation one night around a bonfire they’d built at a gathering with the extended Weasley family. They’d been reminiscing about their first year at Hogwarts. It hadn’t surprised him that even years after they’d left Hogwarts, she had still remembered the exact date on which she had received her letter and learned about magic. June the 5th. Over a month before the first letter reached Harry. It had struck him as a little odd at the time and he’d found his thoughts returning to the matter repeatedly over the following weeks.
Further questions to his friends and the friends of his friends had revealed that the muggleborn students had all received their letters between the 1st and 14th of June. The halfbloods had received theirs between the 15th and 30th of June. Only the purebloods got theirs from in July. Except for Harry of course.
He’d written a letter to Professor McGonagall to get some answers. She hadn’t disappointed him.
Muggleborns get their letters earliest because the staff need to organise a visit to explain the existence of magic, discuss the options available, and then take the families on a tour of Diagon Alley. The families also need to choose where they are sending their magical child, and it is generally easier and less suspicious if a student isn’t suddenly withdrawn from a school they were due to attend later that year.
Halfbloods get their letters next because they are a mixed group. Some live in the magical world while others live in the muggle world. Some attend muggle school, others learn at home or through tutors. Again, they need time to make the proper arrangements. School officials might get concerned or curious if a child is removed from a school list with only weeks till school starts.
Purebloods get their letters last because they don’t have to worry about the same issues as the muggleborn or halfblooded children. They also generally have made up their minds on where they are attending school, so they accept offers very quickly.
The staggering of the acceptance letters is a good idea. It helps prevent there being a flood of new students all shopping at Diagon at the same time. It also gets the muggleborns sorted before the purebloods, which is often better for both groups. Less tension and all that.
The fact that Harry didn’t get his letter until July last time rankled however. On one hand, it may have been a genuine mistake. Harry Potter was the Boy-Who-Lived. He was being raised by his aunt who knew about the existence of magic. His mother had been known for her control over her accidental magic as a child. Perhaps it hadn’t even crossed the mind of the person who organised for the letter to be sent that he wouldn’t be aware of his power and inheritance. And it was an individual who sent that first letter; interacting with the muggle world was always done through people rather than magic. There is a long history of automated magical systems making mistakes with paperwork and a few near breaches of the Statute of Secrecy as a result. Hogwarts and the Ministry have been more cautious ever since. Although that line of thinking brought into question why they’d sent it through muggle post if they expected him to know about the magical world before he got the letter.
Harry didn’t believe it to have been a mistake though.
Giving Harry his letter late had significantly decreased his chances of finding muggleborn and other muggle-raised students while shopping. And those were the people who he would have connected to the easiest. They would have understood him and had similar questions. Similar backgrounds. Giving Harry his letter late meant that Diagon Alley had been crowded with frantic last-minute shoppers and thus decreased the likelihood of him choosing to spend more time exploring the place. Less time talking to shop keepers. It had decreased the chance of him buying extra things. Giving Harry his letter late had given him less time to study the book materials too. While Hermione was a voracious reader and had an excellent memory, she had also had access to her textbooks (and additional reading materials that she’d bought) from nearly the start of June. Harry hadn’t gotten his books until the end of July (because of the Dursleys) and he hadn’t been given much of a chance to read them after that (again, thanks to the Dursleys).
In other words; it had never been a fair comparison. Not between himself and Hermione, and not between himself and his classmates. He’d found a lot of things difficult at Hogwarts in the beginning: writing with a quill, finding his way around the castle, getting used to his celebrity status, and having a friend his cousin couldn’t scare off. Those were all fairly unavoidable given his background. Feeling that he was unworthy of attending Hogwarts and less intelligent than his classmates should not have been a part of his challenges.
Harry was meditating on the morning that his Hogwarts letter arrived; sitting on his fluffy rug, blue gemstone in his hands, and a nice smelling candle burning on the desk near where he was sitting.
Meditation had been one of the tools he had used to learn occlumency after he had left Hogwarts. It was something he found very useful when trying to relax and so it had become a part of his routine along the way. Later, when the war was in full swing and sleep was impossible, he had used it as an alternative way of resting his body and recharging his magical reserves.
Hopefully, he’d never need to use it that way ever again.
Harry had been focused on getting his magic to spiral in a counter-clockwise direction through his focus stone when the wooden pigeon he’d carved a few years ago became animated and started cooing; signalling that someone or something magical was approaching the front door of the house. Harry opened his eyes quickly, put down the sapphire that he had been holding, and snuffed out the candle with a thought.
His time spent waiting was finally over.
Gem came out of his trance, yawned and stretched out in a deliberately dramatic fashion. The perfect opposite of his agitated wizard companion. It had been over three years since the two had met, but their bond was growing stronger every day, as were the two of them. Gem had once fit onto the palm of a small child’s hand; now Harry, who was nearly eleven, needed both of his hands to do the same thing. Naturally, Gem’s growth was slow going. Magical snakes can to grow to enormous sizes, but it takes many years. His colouration was also changing. When they had first met Gem had been mostly green in colour, with a few red scales in places and feathers that were a mix of green and brown. Gem had more red scales now, in fact Harry would say that nearly a third of his body is covered in red scales. Some are right red; the colour of fresh blood. Others are more like rust. The brown in the feathers had lightened in colour and taken on a more metallic appearance. It looked like they had been dipped in liquid bronze.
He's a beautiful reptile.
“Well? Are you going to check the front door Harry?” Gem hissed at him.
“Ah, right. I was a bit distracted,” Harry snapped out of his thoughts. He pulled his magic in more tightly, on the off chance that whoever was dropping off the letter was sensitive to magical auras. Harry’s aura was different to that of a normal magical child; too mature, too calm. He would be safer keeping it hidden until he was a teenager.
“By my appearance?” Gem asked with his head tilted on an angle. Harry wasn’t fooled. Gem likes to fish for compliments on occasion.
“…Yes.” Harry admitted.
Gem did the snake version of a laugh and moved closer to the window which was streaming light into the room.
Harry got up and silently made his way down the stairs to the front door. It was early on a Saturday morning and the Dursleys were all still asleep in their beds. No need to wake them up.
The letterbox clicked as it opened, and several letters dropped down to the floor. Harry bent down and picked up the one made of parchment. He checked the name on the envelope.
Mr H. Potter
4 Privet Drive
He snorted in amusement. The addresses on the letter were written via magical means, with an ink pot and quill that had been enchanted by Rowena Ravenclaw. He had been wondering, given the protections he had set up around his room, just what exactly Hogwarts had been able to discern about where he resided. The quill had a habit of being annoyingly specific most of the time.
Not this time though. And his letter had arrived at a better time too. It was the 30th of June; close to being late given his blood status and living arrangement but not quite. He wondered briefly about the Headmaster’s reasoning. What had changed his mind? What, exactly, did he know this time?
Harry would figure it out soon enough.
He walked over to Vernon’s study, picked up one of the man’s fancy letter openers, and opened the acceptance letter. He briefly scanned the contents of it, but it was nearly identical to the one he had received last time. It had an acceptance letter that was signed by Professor McGonagall, a list of textbooks, uniform, and equipment that he’d be needing, and tucked at the back was the golden ticket for the Hogwarts Express. The only real difference was the short note at the bottom of the first page which informed him that he could request a member of staff come and act as his guide around Diagon Alley.
He considered it for a moment before dismissing the idea. There was no telling who would be sent to escort him, and as much as he wanted the Potter vault key back now, he didn’t need it. He had enough money gifted to him from Arcturus and Sirius to cover the purchase of his school supplies.
He could worry about getting his inheritence back later.
Harry left a note on the fridge door telling the Dursleys that he would be in London for most of the day. He used to just leave and not say anything but nowadays the neighbours might ask after him if they were talking to the Dursleys. It was better to give Petunia an explanation than leave her to come up with one.
He checked the newspaper for the weather forecast; warm but not hot weather expected.
Good, he can catch public transport then. And grab something to eat and drink along the way.
He got changed into his favourite tie-dyed shirt (which he knows the adult Dursleys hate for its bright and eye-catching appearance (although Dudley seemed oddly fond of it when he saw it for the first time)), navy blue shorts, and his brown leather boots. Into his charmed satchel he packed a hat, a small makeup kit (his scar was very faded, but Harry wanted to make sure that it couldn’t be seen), his charmed money pouch (which Gem tucked himself into), his Hogwarts letter, a robe, and his vault key that’s joined to Sirius’s account (curtesy of said godfather) into his satchel and then set off.
20 minutes later Harry was on the train headed for London.
The first thing Harry did once he got into the Leaky Cauldron was put on his robe over his other clothes. It was a nice robe that stopped well above his ankles, with wide sleeves that Gem could (and did) hide himself in and it was made from a light and breathable material that was perfect for warm weather. The inside was done in an orange-brown colour, the outside was mostly in a pale green, but along the collar and sleeves there were designs stitched in grey of birds in flight and twisting vines.
It was the kind of thing that would help anyone blend into a magical crowd. In fact, the robe might even be considered too tame by some standards.
He then ducked around to the entrance and followed a family that he didn’t recognise into Diagon Alley. They hadn’t questioned his presence, merely taken one look at his robe and then the father had held the door open for him. He’d thanked them politely before walking off towards Gringotts. He needed to make a withdrawal if he was going to pay for all the things he needed for school. The mixed pocket change he had on hand weren’t going to cut it.
“Good morning. I would like to make a withdrawal from this vault,” He said once he got to the front of the queue. He held out the key expectantly. The teller took it with a slight frown.
“Name?” He asked, tersely.
Harry wasn’t offended in the slightest. Tellers at Gringotts are paid to manage people and meet their needs quickly and efficiently. Being social or nice isn’t included in their contracts.
“Henry Black.” He answered. Henry Black is a name linked to the vault he’s accessing even if it isn’t his name. The teller would probably know that it wasn’t his name. From his own experience goblins have a way of instinctively knowing when a human is bullshitting them. It might be part of the reason behind all the human-goblin conflicts in the past. Either way, Harry doesn’t think the teller will care.
The frown on the teller’s face faded away to an utterly blank look.
“And how much would you like to withdraw… Mr Black?” He asked, proving that he didn’t care.
“90 galleons please.” Harry asked without hesitation. That would be more than enough for what he needed to get.
The teller placed the key on the centre of his desk. He ran his hand over it for a moment before tapping away at a device he had that was hidden from view. The key was the returned and a small chest was carefully placed where Harry could reach it.
He took back his key and pulled out his money pouch. Inside the small chest was the 90 galleons he had requested. He quickly transferred the money to the pouch and gave a polite but sincere thanks.
For a moment Harry thought he wouldn’t get a reply but then the teller wished him a good day.
Harry didn’t have an itinerary when he set out to do his school shopping. He knew he would do his clothes and wand shopping at the very end however, as those two were the places he would most likely be recognised. Not to mention he would need to send his reply letter to Hogwarts before the end of the day, but that was what the magical post office was for.
Harry’s satchel was charmed to be bigger on the inside, to be much lighter than it should be, and with a host of protective anti-theft spells that he knew were dubiously legal. Sirius had sent it to him a few months ago to “make up for some of the missed birthdays” as he’d claimed in one of his letters. Harry was very happy to have such a useful gift. It meant that he could start shopping wherever he liked, rather than being forced to have brought a trunk with him or first having to go purchase one.
“Duck feathers… raven feathers… parrot feathers… woodpecker feathers?” Justin Finch-Fletchley frowned in confusion as he read all the labels for the different kinds of feathers used for writing. He understood that some of the quills had spells cast on them, like the one which wrote what you told them to, or the one that corrected your spelling mistakes, but what was the point of all the different kinds of feathers? Professor Flitwick had mentioned in passing that colour changing charms were some of the easiest forms of magic to cast. If a person wanted a specific colour to their quill, why didn’t they just charm it that colour? There were over 20 different kinds of feathers in this shop, and Scribbulus Writing Instruments was the general shop for stationery. Just a little way further into the Alley was Amanuensis Quills, which boasted over 70 kinds of feathered quills. Justin knew because he’d gone in and checked.
“It’s a bit overwhelming isn’t it? There’s so many to choose from.” A voice came from behind him and Justin straightened up and spun around. The voice belonged to another boy, one who was just a bit shorter than him. He had a leather satchel over one shoulder, green eyes and short black hair, and he was wearing a robe. Justin thought he looked a bit like he had stepped out of a fantasy novel.
“I’m Harry,” The other boy said, and offered his hand to Justin. Justin accepted the handshake with a relieved smile.
“Justin. And you’re right. I bought all the books and things that were on the list weeks ago, but we ran out of time to get the stuff that wasn’t listed,”
“So, you’re here to collect all your writing materials?”
“Yes. Professor Flitwick said we could…” He trailed off uncertainly.
“But?” Harry prompted. Justin thought for a moment before deciding to just be honest. The worst that could happen is that the other boy might laugh at him.
“He didn’t say what I should get. Or how much. Mum’s over at the counter talking to the staff, but their advice isn’t really helpful. I think they just want to sell as much as they can,” He admitted, feeling a bit bad for what he had said.
“Ah. Well, I’m going to Hogwarts this year myself. Do you want to stick with me, and go through the shop together?” The other boy asked.
Justin felt the tension in his shoulders vanish. It must be fate. This was exactly what he needed.
“Yes please. And thanks Harry,”
“My pleasure. I’m glad that I can help… Okay, well, let’s start with parchment then. That should be the quickest,” Harry said as he walked over to where there was a table piled high with bundles of parchment. Justin followed immediately.
“The only question you need to ask yourself is ‘how much do you want’? This entire table is standard writing parchment, which is what you want for school. There are other kinds of parchment; like scented ones and glossy ones, just to name a few. You won’t need those for Hogwarts however. Parchment here is sold in bundles, and the size of the bundle determines the price. Smallest is two galleons and largest is 15,” Harry explained.
“How much would you recommend?” Justin asked, having no idea how much paper, sorry parchment, he’d need for a whole year of school.
“I’m going to buy a ten galleon one, but I like to write a lot. Uh, you’re a first year like me, right? Not a transfer student?”
“Yes, I’m a first year,” He answered quickly. He hadn’t even thought about transfer students, but of course there are other magical schools out there.
“Well then, you won’t be writing as much as an older student. I’d go for the five or eight galleon bundles then. You can always buy more at a later stage if you need to,”
“Like during the breaks?”
“Yeah, or you can order things with an owl,” Harry answered. Justin didn’t bother asking how an owl managed to carry anything larger than a letter. It was safe to assume that magic was involved.
“Hmm, okay. I think I’ll get an eight-galleon bundle. Just in case,”
They picked up the bundles they wanted. Harry turned to face him.
“Ink next?” Harry asked.
“Sure. Over on the left I think,” Justin pointed out to where he had remembered seeing a sign. They walked over to where it had pointed and were met with shelves upon shelves of inks. Every colour of the rainbow, including colours that changed, metallic colours, and a whole range of sizes and bottle types. Justin gaped.
“Okay, there are a lot of colours,” He managed at last. “Where do we start?”
Harry indicated the shelf of black inks.
“You’ll need to get a few blacks first. The teachers at Hogwarts only accept homework that’s written in black ink,”
“That’s a bit boring,” He said. The school acceptance letter had been written in green ink.
“Ha, I think it’s because some of them are very old. Their eyes might struggle if students started handing in work written in glittery or orange ink,” Harry said with a grin.
“Are you getting other colours Harry?”
“Yes. I want a green and a red for taking notes. And I really like the look of that bronze colour,”
“Not really. I just think it looks neat,” Harry answered with a shrug.
“Well, I’ll get a few blacks like you. And I think blue and green for my notes. I also want to try the colour changing ink…” He trailed off for a second time. His dad probably wouldn’t like it. His sister might get away with rainbows, but his dad wasn’t as flexible with him. Image and reputation are very important in his family, that was why Justin was going to Eton before they all learned about magic.
He knew his dad was upset that he wasn’t going to Eton, but Justin was honestly looking forward to the opportunity to just be himself. He was going to join the clubs that he wanted to rather than those he was meant to. He would be able to befriend those he liked rather than those from families that were on the approved list.
“Then get it too.” Harry answered sounding far too unconcerned for him to have understood Justin’s problem. He wondered for a moment how different Harry’s parents must be to his own. “Just wait a moment, I’m going to grab us a basket. I don’t want to risk dropping anything,” And Harry dashed off leaving Justin to think for a few moments.
He ran a hand through his curly brown hair, tugging on a few locks.
He supposed he could put what he wanted in the basket and then try and talk his mum into getting it for him. The worst thing she might do was say “no”. She’d always been more sympathetic to his wants than his dad.
“Let’s go Justin,” Harry said once he was back with a basket.
They moved on to where there was a shelf of knives. Justin looked at Harry in confusion. Harry started to explain.
“Quills that don’t have metals tips need to be sharpened so they don’t get dull. There is a spell that does it for you, but it’s quite advanced and it requires a lot of control. When miscast it often destroys the quill,”
“What about quills with metal tips?”
“They’re more expensive and less popular. It’s better that you learn to use a standard quill first. Plus, just so you know, during your exams in the magical world you must use the quill that they give you. There’s been too many instances of cheating for them to let you use your own quill,”
“Yeah. You should get a pocket knife that you feel comfortable with; one that fits nicely in your hand. You also want one that has a locking mechanism on the blade, so that it doesn’t accidently close shut while you’re using it,”
Justin looked at the selection. He ended up choosing a yellow-handled knife with a blade about as long as his palm. He turned to Harry when he saw that he wasn’t also examining the knives.
“Aren’t you buying one?” Justin asked.
“Oh no. Not for me. My grandfather is giving me one for my birthday this year. One that he has had since he was a small boy,”
“That’s cool,” He said reflexively, not sure what he should be saying to that. Most people he knew liked to boast about gifts they’re getting/have gotten, but that was for brand new things. Harry sounded happy to be getting something second-hand, and for all Justin knew maybe the knife is special. Like a family heirloom. Or maybe it’s magical in some way.
It must have been the right thing to say though because Harry smiled at him.
“Yeah, he’s rather good to me. Onto the quills then?”
They walked down the aisle, passing by several other customers, and over to the quills section. Back to where they had first met.
“Uh, let’s choose the feathers we want before we choose what kind, if any, of enchantments we fancy,” And they walked over to the wall of feathers. “Now, goose feather and owl feather are the cheapest and most commonly used for quills. This is because owls are commonly used to deliver the post, at least in Europe anyhow, and geese are simply a popular animal to have on a farm in the magical world-” Harry explained. Too quickly for Justin.
“Wait, farm? What farm? What’s that got to do with this?” Justin interrupted, suddenly feeling lost.
“Oh. Well because of the size of the magical community we don’t have factories mass producing things, except for books and newspapers because we stole the printing press off muggles and some other imported products. All clothing is tailored, all the sweets being sold outside were made by hand, and quite a lot of families grow something in their homes even if they don’t have a proper farm. It’s just the way things are done,” Harry explained in more detail.
“Okay, that makes sense,”
Harry gives him an apologetic look.
“Sorry about skipping through it like that; I get ahead of myself sometimes. Now, where was I? Oh right. Owl and goose feathers are the most common. It would be good for you to buy a few and use them for school. The narrower feathers you see, like the seagull and raven, are good for writing nicer things. They come to a finer point and I’d get one for writing home if I were you. Feathers such as eagle are bigger than the others and more expensive. You use those for writing bigger letters and signing important documents. I’m getting three regular goose feather quills for school. I’m also going to get an owl feather dicta-quill. They write down what you say on command, and that is really good for taking notes. The other enchantments you can get, like the ones that prevent ink splatter, are good for while you’re learning to use a quill. Treat them like training wheels though; you must learn not to rely on them sooner or later. And, grab more quills than me. You’ll want to practice sharpening your quills without fear of what will happen if you accidently damage one.”
Justin thought for a moment and then grabbed a handful of quills. Mostly owl ones, although he does select a raven one. The raven one was enchanted to not drip ink and by having it be such a different colour he’d have no trouble picking out which one had an enchantment cast on it.
“Nice. Let’s go find your mum then.”
They walked over to the counter together. His mum was still talking to one of the shop keepers and he could see that his dad still hadn’t returned from wherever he’d wandered off to. Probably Wiseacre’s. Justin had seen how fascinated his dad had been with the astronomy equipment when they visited last time.
“Justin! There you are. What did you find?” His mum asked. Her eyes moved to focus on Harry. She stared a bit. It was only then that Justin really noticed that Harry was wearing a full-on wizarding robe. He hadn’t been paying much attention to it, but he guessed it must be an odd sight for his mum.
“Hey mum. This is Harry. He’s starting at Hogwarts this year, like me. He helped me pick out the right things,”
“Nice to meet you ma’am,” Harry greeted her with a nod and a smile, which she returned.
“Nice to meet you as well Harry. Thank you for helping my son,”
“It was my pleasure ma’am. Justin told me that Professor Flitwick ran out of time to guide you through this part?”
“Yes. My husband had a meeting to get to that day, and Justin had his cricket training, so we asked Professor Flitwick to be as quick as possible. He said that stationery was a matter of preference and that it would be easy to come back later and choose but, there’s a lot more choice than we expected,”
“He probably thought it would be fine. I’m afraid that Professor Flitwick hasn’t spent much time in the muggle world. To him, knowing what kinds of parchment and quills is used for what is common knowledge. I’d wager that if he needed to make a telephone call, then he’d need to ask for help,”
“Would you be able to make a telephone call Harry?” Justin asked, now curious.
“Yes, I would. But my mother was a muggleborn witch. I’m quite familiar with both worlds,”
Justin frowned at the past tense and was about to ask where Harry’s parents were when his mum caught his eye and shook her head. He closed his mouth.
“So, what did you get Justin?” She asked him. Harry put the basket on the counter and Justin started pulling the things he was buying out of it. The shop keeper came over and started tallying up the cost of the things Harry was buying.
“Well I got this bundle of parchment, Harry thinks it’ll last me most of the year, and I got these inks. The black is for schoolwork, the blue and green are for note taking,”
“That’s a good idea honey,”
“I also want this bottle of colour changing ink if that’s okay? It won’t be for school work, the teachers wouldn’t be happy if I handed in rainbow coloured homework, but Charlotte will think it’s very funny if I write to her with it,” He explained anxiously.
“That’s fine Justin. You don’t have to fight for it. It’s only a small bottle,” She assured him. Something in her expression looked odd for a moment but then it returned to normal. Justin blinked, and wondered if he had imagined it for some reason.
“Thanks mum,” He heard the shop keeper tell Harry that his total was 11 galleons and 6 sickles. “I also chose this pocket knife for sharpening my quills,” He went on and pulled the knife out to show her.
She looked a little apprehensive. Justin swallowed nervously. He remembered how strongly she had objected to his fencing lessons.
“That’s a good choice of blade lad,” The shop assistant said, coming to his rescue. “Just the right size and not likely to cut your own fingers off,”
“Does that happen often?” His mum asked sounding very worried.
“With the boys, sometimes. They seem to think bigger is better, and they aren’t very cautious with them. Girls are usually more attentive,” The young assistant explained with an alarming degree of nonchalance. Justin didn’t think that anyone should be talking about cutting off fingers the same way they might do about the weather.
“And I got these quills. These ones for school, and the no-spill raven feather quill for when I’m writing things really neatly,”
“Great. I’ll pay for this and then we can go get brunch. Ask Harry if he would like to join us please.”
Eric Puckle shifted his weight onto his good leg as he wiped down the counter for the third time. His eyes flicked up every few seconds towards the large clock at the back and then over to the only customer currently in the shop. Just ten more minutes and he could step out the back for a quick snack break. His boss didn’t allow any of her workers to eat inside the shop.
He tucked the cloth he was using away and straightened up. His back cracked a bit and he let out a sigh of relief. He eyed up the young customer who was examining the display of steel-tipped quills with equal parts amusement and exasperation. Amusement, because it was unusual to have such a young person shopping alone in Amanuensis Quills. Exasperation because if the boy left soon then he’d be able to sneak out early for his break.
Amanuensis Quills is a high-end specialist shop for all sorts of writing tools. It didn’t cater to children or Hogwarts students, so it didn’t see much of an increase in sales during the summer. Not like most of the shops in Diagon Alley. In fact, Madam Frost, the owner of Amanuensis Quills, had a habit of asking customers not to bring their children into the store and of refusing to serve children. She believes that children were likely to break things in the shop and doesn’t appreciate the noise they make.
Eric didn’t exactly agree with her. He had watched plenty of children come into other stores that he’d worked at in the past, and he found that children were often just as likely to break something as an adult. He’d even argue that it was more understandable that a child might break something than an adult. However, it was a different story if the parents weren’t in control of their children. And as for the noise they make, well, that really varied from case to case. A child throwing a tantrum was a pain in the ass, but he’d never had a group of kids come in drunk and singing lewd songs.
Yes, that did happen the one and only time he agreed to work through late December. It actually happened three times in one week. With different people each time. One person had even vomited inside the shop.
Eric shook his head at the memory.
He certainly wasn’t worried that something would get broken with the current pre-teen customer who had just selected a rather nice steel-tipped eagle feather quill. No, the raven-haired boy had been nothing but polite and careful.
Eric did want the boy to hurry up though. Madam Frost was out meeting a new supplier this morning, and it was probably his best chance of getting away with an early break. He’d be able to have a bite of food and adjust his wooden leg. His stump was starting to itch.
The boy was very taken with the limited-edition engraved quill-cases though.
Eric thought for a moment and made a quick decision.
“Three galleons for the pair,” He said loudly.
“Pardon sir?” The boy asked, looking a little startled. And possibly more than a little confused.
“Three galleons for a quill-case and the quill you’re carrying,” He explained.
“But sir, the marked price is-” The boy started to protest.
“-Three galleons, just for you. Yes or no?” He interrupted. The boy blinked in shock.
“Yes please.” He answered quickly. Eric smiled.
Haley Sylvester tucked a loose strand of her silver hair behind a tapered ear as her latest customer gathered her recently purchased books away. Summer was always a busy time at Flourish and Blotts. There were Hogwarts students getting ready for their classes, stressed parents looking for entertainment or advice in dealing with their children, and of course the regulars who liked to wander in every week or so for a chat and to browse the shelves.
Haley turned to the next person in line. It was a young boy holding a stack of books in his arms.
“Next waiting please,” She called out with a practiced smile. “Just put them on the counter love. Do you need a bag for these?”
“No thank you ma’am, my own bag will do,” He answered promptly. Haley nodded and hid her frown. He was rather young. Too young to be shopping on his own, surely. It was all too easy to lose sight of someone in Diagon Alley when it was busy. And anything could happen to an unattended child.
She checked each book as she began tallying up the cost, and the books confirmed her suspicions about the boy’s age as all eight books were all the mandatory ones for Hogwarts first years. He would be ten or elevens years old then.
She took a discreet sniff of the air around him. He smelled normal. She picked up the scent of apple, cinnamon, books, inks, cars, and the smell of many people. Nothing that signalled danger though. She’d be able to smell if he was injured, sick, or if he’d been in contact with a predatory species like a hag or a werewolf.
In the end, it really is none of her business. And there’s a good chance his parents are just waiting for him outside. The book shop can get crowded at times. She knows better than to stick her nose into other people’s business.
“That’ll be 13 galleons dear. Can I interest you in a day planner as well? They’re only four sickles,” She reached over to the box that was on the counter and pulled out one of the day planners to show him. The planners had recently become popular in America, but they just weren’t selling in the UK yet. They had ordered too many as well and were somewhat desperate to get rid of them now.
The boy thought for a moment.
“Yes, please ma’am,”
“You’re total comes to 13 galleons and four sickles then,”
The boy handed over the money and quickly put his books and planner into his satchel.
“Thank you and have a nice day,” She said out of habit, before tacking on. “Please take care out there,”
He gave her a nod.
“You too ma’am.”
Severus Snape sneered as he side-stepped two young witches he recognised as fifth year Gryffindors. Summers in Diagon Alley were awful. Hot, crowded, and filled with far too many people he either was teaching or had taught. He missed the days where he could walk through populated magical places in the UK and not be recognised by every witch and wizard under the age of 25.
Normally, he wouldn’t be caught dead walking around Diagon Alley during the summer. He had plenty of ways to avoid it. If he needed to visit Gringotts in person than he would go at night. If he needed to buy potions ingredients or equipment in person than there was a decent apothecary and equipment supplier in Belfast, Northern Ireland, that he could apparate to. Today was an exception though.
If someone asked him and he bothered to answer their question, he might say that he was in Diagon Alley to assess the quality of the potion ingredients and equipment that his students would be using. He might raise the recent issue about the imported crystal phials which had had a fault in them that had resulted in several cases of spontaneous shattering. In truth, he was only here because Albus Dumbledore had asked (ordered) him to. And Albus Dumbledore is not a man one chooses to ignore without very good reason.
The upcoming year is going to be stressful at Hogwarts. More so than any of the recent years. Various former colleagues of his had their children attending Hogwarts this year, and there was also the Potter boy to consider. Worse though was the fact that he seemed to be the only one worried about that rather volatile mix. The others are either excited or indifferent. Severus is quietly dreading the whole thing. He doesn’t want the “pleasure” of teaching James Potter’s son, he doesn’t need another reminder of his greatest failures to be looking at him with luminescent green eyes, and he is feeling quite unprepared for the stress of keeping the worst (mostly the oldest) of the death eater children away from the precious Boy-Who-Lived.
Severus quickly banished the thoughts to the back of his mind. Now is not the time to be thinking about the future. He had a task to do and he was going to give it his full attention.
He stepped into Slug and Jiggers Apothecary, the apothecary that was most favoured by the Hogwarts students and cast his gaze around the shop.
Severus was here to “keep an eye on the old crowd” as the headmaster had so delicately put it. That meant observing people while visiting all the shops that carried goods relating to potions within Diagon and Knockturn Alley. Severus has a well-known reputation for preferring his own company; there was no way he’d be able to attend any of the social gatherings his fellow Slytherin alumni enjoyed without attracting far too much attention. That meant any investigations he was conducting had to be done subtly. He had to make a show of looking into the supplies and materials his students would be using while keeping his eyes and ears open.
It was irritating.
He hadn’t found anything important during the first trip he’d taken this summer but Albus kept asking him to go back. He’d tried putting it off as much as possible but Albus had been especially insistent that Severus visit Diagon Alley again today. Something was bothering the old wizard, but whatever it was he wasn’t willing to discuss it with him. The headmaster had been caught up in his books recently; reading, taking notes, and writing to several of the authors. Severus wasn’t sure exactly Albus was after, beyond the topic being dark magic, because the old wizard was keeping that to himself for the time being. The amount of lemon drops being consumed suggested that while the topic was important, it wasn’t critical (yet).
So, he could leave it alone for now and focus on what is in front of him.
Slug and Jiggers Apothecary is situated opposite Potage’s Cauldron Shop and close to the Leaky Cauldron’s gateway. It is a two-storey building, as is common with the other buildings in Diagon Alley, with the upper level being a separate living space for the Jiggers family, and it occupies an L-shaped footprint. The counter sits near the narrow front of the shop and there are only two entrances and exits. One which leads onto the street and the other which is only accessible through the storage room at the back, which is kept locked and alarmed. The walls, ceiling, and glass windows are covered by an impressive ward scheme. An expensive but necessary precaution given the toxic, explosive, corrosive, and flammable properties of some of the ingredients which are kept in the apothecary. The shop often brings out feelings of claustrophobia with its high shelves and narrow aisles. It is packed with an abundance of many different ingredients, which combined give the apothecary a rather distinct and pungent odour.
Mr Jiggers is slouched at the counter like usual, and he gives Severus a nod when he sees him. There are two other employees moving around the shop. The first is a 19-year-old former Hufflepuff student, Miss Parker, who is showing a couple and their son around the section of beetle eyes. The second is a young wizard who hadn’t attended Hogwarts and he is busy restocking shelves.
As is his habit, Severus scans the store for threats.
He knows Mr Jiggers has an excellent aim and a vast repertoire of hexes, making him a dangerous long-distance fighter. It makes up for his lack of speed or mobility, which become very apparent in a closer fight. Like many wizards Mr Jiggers doesn’t put much effort into keeping up his physical fitness and it shows.
Miss Parker struggles with being aggressive in a duel from what he’s witnessed from her in the past. A common problem among Hufflepuffs. It is likely that if she were sufficiently motivated however she would prove to be quite ruthless. Again, that is a common trait among Hufflepuffs. Her familiarity with long lasting curses comes from her mother’s Japanese side of the family, and he has no doubt that if she chose to perform them than her enemy (and their descendants) would be in for a world of pain. Japanese magical people have practically invented the field of line curses if some of the historians were to be believed.
The young wizard stocking shelves he can’t make many judgements on. Severus can’t sense magical power in an environment that is as magically saturated as Diagon Alley, but the man’s body is tall and muscular enough to be physically imposing to most. It is likely a contributing factor to why Mr Jiggers hired him in the first place.
He continued scanning the other people in the shop.
Over by the unicorn hairs there is an elderly wizard that was using a cane to aid him in walking. Despite this his eyes are sharp, and it took time to spot the minute tremor in his left hand. Possible nerve damage caused by the cruciatus curse? He can’t be sure without a proper diagnosis spell. The old wizard wasn’t the same threat he would have been 20 years ago, but it would be foolish to dismiss his potential. That there is a wizard who has lived through both Grindelwald and Voldemort.
Next to the occamy shells is a wizard that Severus is familiar with as he taught him not that long ago. Mr Beauchamp is a Slytherin alumni, a halfblood, and now a healer apprentice according to his uniquely coloured robes. He exchanges a nod with the man but that is all; they were never close even though Severus did write a letter of recommendation to Saint Mungo’s Hospital to help the younger man get started on his career.
There is a total of four children in the apothecary. The (halfblooded?) son and his parents (the father is wearing auror robes, but the mother’s clothing could be muggle or magical) that are being shown around by Miss Parker still. The father will have a decent amount of skill and practice in a fight, but his wife isn’t very engaged with her surroundings. Nothing about her suggests a background as a trained fighter, and although appearances can be deceptive, it seems likely that she wouldn’t be of much help in a fight. Coupled with a son that is too young to own a wand, if a fight broke out than the father would be distracted keeping his family safe.
A mother with a toddler on her hip and teenage daughter is stocking up a potions kit. He recognises the daughter as Miss Sullivan of Ravenclaw, which means that that woman is her mother Mrs Martinez and the toddler is Miss Sullivan’s half-sister. Mr Sullivan was a victim of a death eater raid when Miss Sullivan was just two years old. Rumour has it that Mrs Martinez is both a powerful and vicious fighter, but if that is the case than it was obviously learned after her first husband’s death. Necessity is the mother of invention though, and he could easily see how a newly widowed mother might find the need to pick up her wand to learn how to fight properly.
The last child in the shop was a young wizard who was shopping by himself. He was young, not yet a teenager but close. He had black hair that was cut so short it showed the shape of the boy’s head. His summer robes fitted him well and he moved in them with an ease that spoke of familiarity. A first year if he is going to be attending Hogwarts; Severus never forgets a student’s face, and he is certain that this is the first time he’s laid eyes on that boy. His parents or guardians either have a lot of trust in him to have him shopping in an apothecary on his own or they don’t care about the risks.
Severus walked over to the dragon blood; he wants a closer look that doesn’t come with the risk of being caught staring. A closer look may provide answers to who this boy is or where he comes from.
There were no distinguishing marks on his skin. Nothing in the manner he was moving suggests any sort of injury or impairment. His basket was tucked under his left arm and he was taking items off the shelf with his right; so, he’s right-handed like the majority of the population. There’s a fold in the fabric of his left sleeve near his wrist, some sort of bracelet or bangle? He can’t quite tell. Whatever it is, it appears to wrap around his arm a few times. The boy moved onto the next shelf and turned his head a bit. Severus was able to catch the light reflecting off the boy’s golden earrings and then suddenly bright green eyes were looking over to him with curiosity.
Severus felt himself freeze at the sight of those eyes before common sense kicked in. He picked something up off the shelf in front of him and then turned away. The child was dressed in high quality green robes, there was no scar on his clearly visible forehead, and he wasn’t wearing glasses. He couldn’t be Harry Potter.
Severus gave himself a moment to take a deep breath and centre himself. He checked over his occlumency shields. It wasn’t a good sign that his mind was putting Harry Potter into impossible places. His paranoia might be finally catching up on him. His shields tightened.
The boy soon took the things he wanted up to the counter, paid for them (5 galleons and 7 sickles he noted, so the boy hadn’t just bought all the ingredients he’d need for potions class which meant he might already have an interest in potions), and then carefully stored them in his bag. On a whim Severus held the door open for the boy as he passed.
The boy looked up, surprised. Then he smiled at him.
“Thank you, sir.” He said cheerfully.
Severus stiffened. People didn’t smile at him.
Green eyes peered at him earnestly.
He shuddered before he could control himself.
He managed to nod at the boy. He wasn’t used to such cheer being directed at him. Only Pomona came close to that with her constant levels of happiness.
There was a soft tinkle of bells as the door to Potage’s Cauldron Shop opened and another customer walked in. Lavanya Shah looked up to see a boy, just a few years younger than herself, walk in wearing a rather nice green robe. It was an odd choice, that sort of stitch pattern wasn’t popular among British wizards. She wondered what his background might be, if perhaps he had spent a lot of time outside of Britain like she had growing up.
She looked up to see that he had bright green eyes which were enhanced by the robe and very quickly she looked back down so that he didn’t catch her staring. Lavanya fought back the urge to blush. She focussed back on what she was in the shop for. Buying a new cauldron for class.
She had accidently melted her old one earlier that year in potions class, much to her own horror and her parents’ disappointment.
Cauldrons happen to be one of the more expensive items on the school list. The material they were made from had to be free from contamination and the cauldrons themselves had to be the right size and thickness. The exact reason why was something that hadn’t been covered in class (yet), but she knew from reading ahead that it had something to do with surface area. That was why even a size 2 cauldron (the second smallest size) made from pewter (an alloy that is much cheaper than gold or bronze, the other most common materials from which cauldrons are made) costs more than her new textbooks.
Lavanya thought they were still overpriced given how easily they got destroyed in class but she wasn’t the one who set the prices on things.
Her mother had been so embarrassed to hear that she had melted a cauldron (“You’re going into your fourth year soon Lavanya, how did you manage to melt your cauldron again?”). Her father was angry about the whole thing, which was normal really. He said it was about the money of course, but Lavanya wasn’t oblivious. He didn’t need to spell it out to her. (“Why couldn’t she have taken after me and skipped the whole magic business?”).
Hence why she was shopping here alone. Her parents weren’t willing to spend their time doing this with her. And hence why she had her head in the clouds. She didn’t want to get back anytime soon. She had enough problems with her own perfectionism when it came to her work, she didn’t need to hear her parents shouting at her about the one class she was struggling in.
“15 galleons for a size 2 pewter cauldron? Do you take me for a fool?”
The cold and affronted tone of voice caught her attention for a moment, but it was the words spoken that held it there longer. She glanced over to see that the green-eyed kid from before was now standing at the counter and arguing with the shop keeper. Curious, she shuffled closer and leaned in to eavesdrop a little better.
“I have no idea what you’re complaining about boy-” The man had snarled with his moustache bristling before he suddenly froze. The air had turned cold, and Lavanya knew that something he’d said had angered Green-Eyes.
“A professional wand, uniquely crafted and then matched by Ollivander himself, even with the heavy regulations and scrutiny of the government, costs seven galleons. And you’re trying to tell me your size 2 pewter cauldrons cost 15. You might be able to trick some people with that but not me. Try again sir,”
Lavanya gave up the pretence of looking like she was doing something else. She wasn’t sure if the kid was in the right or not, but he had the balls to speak his mind and challenge the man behind the counter. This was possibly the greatest thing she’d see all summer.
“This is my shop. I can charge whatever I want,” The man tried again.
“True, you can. However, people are likely to leave if they get wind of you trying to scam them. For the ones you’ve already scammed, hm, you might get into some hot water. I speak for the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black and I’m telling you I could have every Hogwarts student, both current and recently graduated, aware of what you’re doing here within a few hours. Try again,”
Lavanya saw that the man had gone quite pale. She grinned. She quite liked the idea of being considered threatening by virtue of being a Hogwarts student.
“Nine galleons,” He said after a moment.
“Much better.” Green-Eyes answered sounding perfectly amicable and utterly threatening simultaneously. Lavanya giggled quietly. That was an impressive talent Green-eyes had.
He handed over the money, took his cauldron and slipped it into his bag. He then walked off, giving her a wink as he passed by.
Lavanya picked up the cauldron she needed and took it to the counter with a toothy smile.
A minute later she walked out of the shop with the cauldron she had bought for eight galleons.
Euan Abercrombie tugged at his mum’s hand until she let him go. He didn’t need to be holding her hand once they were inside; there weren’t many people inside Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment and he wanted to go off an explore.
Euan gets to visit Wiseacre’s nearly every time his mum brought him to shop at Diagon Alley. It was without a doubt his favourite shop in the whole shopping district. He could be left inside it for hours without getting bored. Which is what his mum did (with Mrs Wiseacre’s permission) when he’d been well behaved. It was a great deal for him. He was happily entertained, and she got the shopping done much faster without him.
Wiseacre’s is an unusual shop. It caters to an eclectic mix of products and people. There are astronomy related things such as telescopes, star and moon charts, globes of the moon and other planets, models of the solar system, and the mysterious armillary spheres which Euan always wanted to touch. There are potions related things like phials, phial holders, and different types of scales. There are binoculars, magnifying glasses, and maps for proper explorers and investigators. Euan has spent hours studying the enormous mappa mundi that hung on the wall. The world looked so big when it was laid out for you like that. And the automatically updating maps were pretty cool too. They changed to show any big changes caused by storms, earthquakes, floods, and more. Crystal balls for divination. Hourglasses and pocket watches and crystals and other trinkets, many of which he couldn’t name. And that wasn’t even getting into the things that weren’t for sale. Mrs Wiseacre had animated several items, so they flew, walked, or floated around the shop. Sometimes they even help her run the place.
He loves nearly everything in that shop. Unfortunately, no one is prepared to buy him anything from there. No matter how nicely or how often he asks.
“You’re too young to have anything from there dearie,” Grandma kept on saying.
“When you’re ready for Hogwarts Euan.” Both his parents said repeatedly.
It wasn’t fair! Just because he was a kid didn’t mean he wouldn’t take care of his things. He didn’t want anything big or super expensive either, but they simply believed that anything from Wiseacre’s was beyond him and every other kid his age.
Seven isn’t that young.
The glass globe on the counter changed to a mauve colour, and in response various other animated pieces emitted a similar colour or a whistling noise. That meant there was a new customer.
But Mrs Wiseacre had ducked out the back a few minutes ago when the shop was empty. She had mentioned that something was broken that needed fixing and had asked him to keep an eye on things in the shop.
Euan dithered for a moment before shaking himself out of it. Mrs Wiseacre had left him in charge. It was up to him to help the customer until she got back and there was no use trying to run away.
He could do this. Even if there was a chance the customer would dismiss him because of his age. He had to do this. If he ducked out the back to get her than something could get stolen while he was away. Then Mrs Wiseacre would never trust him again.
He stood up from where he had been sitting and walked around the aisle with his back straight and his head held high. He turned the corner-
That wasn’t what he was expecting.
He’d thought it might be someone scary. An adult, definitely. However, it was a kid. A Hogwarts aged boy, so older than him, but still a kid. He wasn’t sure if that was going to make things worse or not. Adults could be patronizing, but kids could get mean. And were more likely to get angry at a younger kid telling them what to do.
He had to try though.
“Hello. My name’s Euan, what’s yours?” He asked without really stopping to take a breath where he was supposed to. The older boy looked at him curiously.
“My name’s Harry,” He said after a moment.
“Hullo Harry, and welcome to Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment. How may I help you?” Euan asked in his best imitation of Mrs Wiseacre.
Euan thought he saw laughter in Harry’s eyes but if he did than it wasn’t visible anywhere else.
“I need a set of phials for my potions class,”
Euan felt utter relief. Harry was giving him a chance to prove himself and Euan would do so.
“The standard set comes with five phials and a wooden rack to hold them. Glass phials cost five galleons and crystal phials cost seven. You can get larger sets for an additional cost if you want, however they recommend only five phials for first through to fifth year,” He explained as best he could manage, hearing Mrs Wiseacre saying those words in his head.
Harry paused for a moment to think.
“I would like a standard set of glass phials please,”
Euan pointed to the display table with the glass phials. Harry checked the phials for any cracks or imperfections before choosing a set.
“Is that all you need?” He asked after a moment. He had been hoping for something cool and exciting. Potion phials weren’t all that interesting.
“No, but I need to put this down somewhere. Is it okay if I leave it over on the counter?” Harry asked.
“Ah, yes. Yes. People do that all the time,” Euan affirmed quickly, internally kicking himself for forgetting about that part. Mrs Wiseacre was big on people picking things up one at a time and bring them over to the counter so that nothing got damaged or broken while inside the shop.
“Next on my list is a brass telescope for school,”
Euan nodded and motioned towards the shop front. This was an easy enough request.
“The school ones are next to the window. They’re on sale and cost five galleons each,”
“That’s a very good price,” Harry commented. Euan shrugged.
“Yeah, well Mrs Wiseacre knows that people are doing their school shopping. She tries to make things more affordable for people,” He explained. “Anything else?”
“Brass scales?” Harry asked.
“Those are sitting next to the counter. You’ll need a small one for school. Um, new scales are seven galleons, but we also sell used-ones at three galleons,”
The sound of a closing door interrupts them. Euan looks up to see bright-patterned trousers, shiny bangles and hoop earrings, and a riot of frizzy black hair. It was Mrs Wiseacre walking towards them with a smile on her face.
“Sorry about the wait, I got a bit lost in my head while replacing the cogs of a pocket watch. How may I help you?”
“It’s quite alright ma’am. Your young assistant has been helping me get what I need for school,”
“Euan?” She asked, sounding surprised but happy. Harry nods. Mrs Wiseacre then gently ruffled his hair.
Euan felt his face go red. He almost misses Harry selecting the scales that he wants.
“Huh, well, he does like to be helpful. Is it just school supplies for today young man?” She asked Harry.
“No, there’s one more thing I need. May I have one of those small hourglasses that are behind you ma’am?”
“Of course. Which colour would you prefer?”
“Silver please. With the sand that changes between blue and purple,”
She picked up the one Harry had indicated and then carefully wrapped it in tissue paper. The telescope, scales, and the glass phials were also wrapped up so that they would be protected on the journey home.
“That comes to 18 galleons and 12 sickles. Would you like a bag with your purchases?”
“No, but thank you ma’am,” Harry said as he handed over the money and placed the packages into his satchel.
All except the smallest one, the hourglass, which he held onto. Until he passed it over to Euan.
“Here, it’s for you. As a thank you for helping me with my shopping.”
Julie Farah bundled up the roll of cloth and placed it back on the shelf. Summer meant students, students meant uniforms, and for those working at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions summer meant that all hands were on deck to get through all the orders in time.
Julie was new to the workforce, having only graduated from school earlier that year. With only a few weeks experience Madam Malkin had very kindly stationed her in the backrooms, where she could help with the orders, run errands, and avoid having to interact with any customers face to face. Which was great because then she didn’t have to deal with rude customers and her inexperience wouldn’t be thrown in her face by angry shoppers.
Not that Julie thought she’d mess up a school uniform. They were getting rather repetitive at this point as all the magical schools in the UK used the same cut of robes as the main part of their uniform, cloaks were just cloaks, and the hats weren’t her responsibility. Tina was Madam Malkin’s resident hatter. Julie handled the more common, everyday sort of wear. Summer dresses, robes, trousers, shirts, skirts, and so on.
“Julie! Where are you?!” The voice of her boss surprised her. Julie spun around to face the door.
“Over here Madam!” She yelled back. Madam Malkin appeared just seconds later looking flustered.
“Oh, there you are. I need you to take a customer for me,” She said, putting a hand behind Julie’s back and ushering her out of the room.
“But Madam-” She tried to protest. Madam Malkin cut her off.
“He’s just getting his Hogwarts uniform dear. I’m sorry but I’m flat out helping two other customers. Can you do it?”
Julie grabbed the hem of her blouse tightly. She didn’t really have a choice, and sooner or later she would have to get out there anyway.
“Yes Madam. I’ll be right there,”
And Madam Malkin rushed off to get back to her work. Julie stepped out into the main part of the store front. Both changing rooms were occupied by people that Maxine and Andrew, Madam Malkin’s main assistants, were attending to. In the main store front the three customer stools are occupied. Madam Malkin is somehow measuring the young teenage witch on her left and adjusting pins to the robes being worn by the younger brunette wizard on her right at the same time. Standing patiently near the other side of the shop, next to the third stool that had only been added to help deal with the summer influx of people, was a black-haired boy who was around eleven or twelve years of age.
He was the one she was meant to help then.
Julie walked over quickly, her face a professional mask and her back straight. She’s an adult now. She can do this. The key was confidence. If she could project confidence and professionalism, then he would take her seriously. And if he was taking her seriously, then he’d be more likely to respect her.
She did spare a thought about where his parents or guardians might be but dismissed it. She had bigger things to worry about. And it would probably be easier dealing with just one person rather than a whole family unit.
“Hello. What can I do for you today?” She asked.
“Hi. I’m here for my Hogwarts uniform-”
She tensed, waiting for it.
She blinked in shock for a moment. She knows that she doesn’t always pass as a witch, so to hear a stranger address her correctly on the first try is a pleasant surprise. Had one of her colleagues had a word with the boy? After her shift was over she'd try to find out and make a point of thanking them if that was the case.
“Hop up onto the stool then young sir and I’ll measure you.”
He set his bag down carefully and did as she asked without hesitation. Julie got out the measuring tape, activated it with a tap from her wand, and started to write down the measurements that the tape was gathering for her. It’s important that she does a good job with his uniform. Hogwarts is the only magical boarding school in the UK. If there was a problem with the uniform the poor boy might have to put up with it for months before he could get it fixed. Hogwarts being the oldest and most well-known magical school also meant that doing a poor job could damage her career and the reputation of her workplace.
“So, what’s your name?” Julie asked to draw the boy’s focus away from the measuring tape that he seemed to be eyeballing with some suspicion.
“I’m Henry. And you are?” He asked politely.
She made a note of his name just before writing down the diameter of his head.
“I’m Julie. Are your parents around?” She asked.
He was slightly above average height for his age. Not much baby fat on his face but he didn’t appear overly skinny either. He must be physically active then. She wondered what sports he was into. Her brothers are obsessed with soccer and basketball.
“No Miss Julie. They died a long time ago,”
She stopped writing.
“Oh,” She said, feeling as though the floor had been ripped out from under her feet. Shit. What should she say now?
“It’s alright Miss Julie. You had no way of knowing,”
He was so calm and patient. He really shouldn’t have to be though. He’d probably been fending off similar questions all day. Luckily, she was done with the measuring tape.
Then she sent the measuring tape off with a flick of her finger.
“Okay, let’s start with the robes. Do you know what you want already, or would you like me to explain what your options are?”
“Please explain everything to me,” Henry answered after some hesitation.
“Sure thing,” If he wanted the muggleborn treatment he’d be getting it. “Manny, come here please,”
A life-sized mannequin “woke up” and came over to stand next to the boy. It quickly began to dress itself in the sample robes provided. Julie then began going through all the basic information she had about the uniform.
“For Hogwarts you need black work robes. They are fitted to come down to your wrists and ankles, are made from a blend of cotton and wool that will try to keep you warm year-round, and the robes themselves are a single piece with no buttons or ties. The basic black work robe costs two galleons and five sickles. You can get the work robe enchanted for an extra price, so that it grows as you do,”
Manny the mannequin decided to give its audience a little twirl. Henry smiled at it.
“I thought growth spells wore out fabric Miss Julie. I was told that I couldn’t get my blanket expanded because of it,”
Julie felt her lips twitch before she managed to rein in that smile. Nearly every child asked for their favourite blanket or toy to grow larger at some point. It was certainly a desire she could empathize with.
“They do, up to a point. The spell we use here only triggers an extra three inches of growth maximum to avoid damaging the material. Three inches should keep you covered for a whole year of school, unless you grow a lot in a very short amount of time. With the enchantment each robe costs four galleons however, and some parents prefer to buy the cheaper robe and replace it as needed,”
“I would like two basic robes please, and one that will grow with me,” He said after a moment of thought.
“That’s very sensible of you Henry,” She said as she jotted that down onto his order. “Now, onto the protective gloves,”
“Dragonhide gloves please,” Henry said, before Manny could even try to model the different types of gloves they sold here.
“Those’ll cost three galleons and 11 sickles,” She warned him. They were the most expensive type of glove sold at Madam Malkin’s.
Well, it wasn’t her money. She wrote down the order, putting down the glove size as a child’s medium. They would be big on him, but he would grow. It would hopefully mean that he wouldn’t need to replace them for a few years. She moved onto the next item on her list.
“Do the students actually wear the hats?” Henry asked while pulling a bit of a face. Manny was wearing the tall black pointed hat and Julie had to agree that it was a bit old fashioned. She could understand his reluctance.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know. I didn’t attend Hogwarts,” Her school hadn’t made any hats compulsory, but she hadn’t gone anywhere near as prestigious as Hogwarts.
Next time she spoke with a Hogwarts alumnus she’d ask though. It was a question that she’d be likely hearing again at some point in the future.
“Better get one then, just to be safe,”
“That’ll be one galleon and three sickles,” She informed him as she added it to his order.
“Okay. Cloak next?” Henry asked.
Manny picked up the sample cloak, put it on, and started doing a very good impression of a runway model. Henry laughed at it. Whoever had charmed it deserved an award, Julie decided. Manny was very good at getting customers to relax and enjoy themselves.
“You have a few options here. Eight galleons will get you a standard black cloak with silver clasps, which is the one Manny is now wearing. It is made with a thick and durable wool. If you pay an additional galleon, you’ll get an extra lining of cotton on the inside. There is an option for a growth spell being cast on the cloak as well, which you might want to consider. Unlike the robes, you only need one cloak and some people consider it a good investment. And the standard cloak with the growth spell costs 13 galleons. With all the features it’ll cost 14 galleons. What would you like to get?”
Henry paused for a moment as he thought through his options. Luckily, she didn’t have to wait for long.
“I would like to get a cloak with the cotton lining on the inside, and the growth spell. I want to make sure I stay warm this winter,”
She gave him a pleased nod.
“Alright then. That covers what’s mandatory I believe. Is there anything else I can get you? Pyjamas, socks, undergarments, casual wear?”
“Um, no. Wait, actually, do you still sell labels? I’ll need to have my clothes named,”
Julie smiled and motioned towards the counter at the front of the shop. Next to it was a large hamper filled with carefully wrapped packages labelled “name tags”.
“Yes, we have labels. A set of 20 name tags costs ten sickles. You’ll just need to get an adult to put them onto the clothes and to charm your name onto them. Alternatively, we can put a name tag on the things you’re buying for you for five knuts a tag. Which would you like?”
“I’ll buy a set of name tags please,” Henry answered promptly.
“As you wish. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No, thank you Miss Julie,”
She then quickly added the cost of each item to determine his total.
“Are you paying now? Or will your guardian be doing so later?”
“Okay, that’ll be 27 galleons,” She asked, and he handed over the required money. “And what’s your surname?”
Julie froze for a second. That wasn’t what she had been expecting. But then again, maybe he wasn’t related to those Blacks. It was none of her business though, and really, she shouldn’t judge him. Her family isn’t that great either.
She signed off on the order.
“All done. Your order will be ready this afternoon,”
“Thank you, Miss Julie.”
Daphne Greengrass pressed her lips together firmly as she fought to keep the irritation off her face. She was walking through Diagon Alley with her parents and her sister to get to Ollivander’s Wand Shop. Well, not walking right at that moment. Standing. Waiting for the people in front of her to get out of the way. It was fine that they were examining things on one of the stalls on the side of the road, but they didn’t need to be blocking so much of the walkway while doing so.
The whole point of coming to Diagon Alley early was avoid the crush of people. Coming before she’d received her Hogwarts letter (and they were certain she’d be receiving one thanks to the copious amounts of accidental magic she’d had over the years) would hopefully make finding a wand that suited her easier. There was always a small chance that Ollivander wouldn’t find a wand to suit a person. That risk was a lot greater when shopping in the late summer.
If it happened that Ollivander’s didn’t have a wand that suited a person then they would be forced to look further afield for their wand, or to settle on a less reputable wand-maker. Being in that position was not only embarrassing, but also risky. Poorly constructed wands could act up when magic was being cast. Things might explode or vanish. People had died or been permanently injured from that sort of thing.
It was a Saturday however, and by the time the Greengrass family arrived in Diagon Alley, it was nearly 2 o’clock in the afternoon. There were people everywhere. School shoppers like herself, regular shoppers, and the occasional tourist as well.
It wouldn’t have been so bad had they set out in the morning early like they had planned. Unfortunately, there had been several delays. The family cat Lola had eaten something she shouldn’t have last night and had then gotten ill. There had been vomit on the main stairs and diarrhoea on one of the walls in the library, which had been disgusting. Even after the house elves had cleaned it off the smell had somehow lingered. They had then needed to call on an animal healer to come and attend Lola. They had then restarted their attempts to get ready to leave the house when Daphne’s mother realised that she had lost her favourite pair of earrings. Her mother refused to leave the house until they were found.
In her mother’s defence they had been a gift from her late grandmother but that hadn’t made it any less frustrating to deal with.
It had taken 30 minutes to find the lost earrings. 30 minutes of frantic house elves popping all over the place, of her father casting accio charms, and of her mother being far too emotional for anyone to deal with her before Daphne had stumbled upon the earrings in a locked drawer in the coat room. She loved her family, but sometimes she wished that it didn’t fall on her to be the calm and logical one.
Her little sister had then gotten somewhat upset as they were leaving the house because in all the commotion one of the elves had forgotten to pack the book she was currently reading. By this point Daphne had run out of patience and had then gotten short with her sister.
Which really wasn’t fair to Astoria, who was only nine years old and had had nothing to do with all the previous delays. Astoria had been in tears. There had been another delay for apologies and tea before the family could set off again.
Thankfully, they were here now.
Daphne stepped into the wand shop and fought the urge to shudder. The traces of magic inside Ollivander’s were so potent she could nearly taste them, and they left her feeling itchy.
She looked around for Mr Ollivander and saw that he was placing a wand inside a carry box for another customer. It was a young wizard who was unaccompanied. He had raven black hair, golden earrings, green eyes that were well matched by his stylish robes, and a face many girls her own age would describe as “cute”.
It was probably his first wand, given that the boy looked to be around her age. It was strange; she didn’t recognise him, although some of his features were familiar. She’d likely met some of his relatives then.
Which meant this boy was either a halfblood or a pureblood that had been living abroad until recently. She’d remember him otherwise. She’d met nearly every one of her pureblooded year mates in recent years through various parties and social gatherings; she knew from her parents that so long as the political leanings aren’t too extreme it is expected that she will eventually be marrying another pureblood. Preferably one from a well-established British family. So, her parents made a point of introducing her to nearly every other appropriately aged pureblood. The only family that she hasn’t had any contact with is the Weasleys. They avoid all the social events, even the ones that the Longbottom’s and Bones’ attend. The boy lacks red hair and freckles though, and her cousins have assured that those are the most notable physical traits of a Weasley. So, the boy can’t be a Weasley then.
“A wonderful match young man! Cedar wood-” Mr Ollivander prattled away to his customer.
Cedar wands are well known for choosing partners that are perceptive, strong-willed, and loyal. Daphne is sure that her father had mentioned that witches and wizards that are well matched with cedar wands make excellent allies and terrifying enemies. Her interest in her year mate increases significantly.
“-11 inches-” Mr Ollivander continued.
Which meant that the boy didn’t have any immediate creature blood in his ancestry.
Indicating that he was adaptable both mentally and magically.
“-and with a phoenix feather core. That’ll be seven galleons please.”
Daphne went still. Phoenix feather cores are the rarest wand core that Ollivander uses. Dragon heart-string cores produce bold, powerful, and flashy magic. They are also more easily turned to dark magic and have been known to increase aggression in their chosen witch or wizard. Unicorn tail hair is much milder in comparison. Not as powerful in some cases, but they increase the mental and emotional stability of their witch or wizard and usually favour light magic. Phoenix feather wands on the other hand are hard to master. A phoenix by nature is very detached from the world. They make for powerful wands, but only once their loyalty has been secured.
Coupled with the cedar wood, it sent a very clear message.
Whoever this boy was, he was going to be very powerful in the future if he wasn’t already. She would need to see if they could become friends, or at the very least allies. Daphne knew that she’d be needing someone like that boy on her side if she was going to maintain her neutrality the way she hoped to.
The Dark Lord Voldemort might be gone, but his followers certainly weren’t. And Daphne would do everything in her power to keep her family safe and away from those violent fanatics.
Harry’s last stop was Nabu’s Owl Rental and Post Office, the place where one could pay to have owls deliver letters and parcels or where they could arrange to collect their mail if they didn’t want owls showing up where they lived. Harry was relieved by the time he got there, and so was Gem. His shopping day had gone very well all things considered. That didn’t lessen the impact of the stress he’d been feeling and the fact that it had been hours since he’d first stepped foot into Gringotts.
He had managed to eat full meals and stay hydrated at least.
He bought himself an envelope with an appropriately sized piece of parchment for two knuts. Then he used one of their desks, along with one of their quills and inkwells to write his message. He addressed it to Professor McGonagall, telling her that he was accepting his place at Hogwarts and that an escort to Diagon Alley wasn’t necessary. He then signed it “H. Potter”, a habit he had gotten into ever since his name had been drawn by the Goblet of Fire back in his fourth year. Using initials made it harder for magic to grab onto the name and, not to sound arrogant, in the magical world people would know who he was even without him writing out his full name.
The letter was sealed with purple wax and a stamp that left Nabu’s logo imprinted on the wax, free of charge.
Harry then checked that he’d written the address on the envelope correctly.
He wondered briefly what Dumbledore would think when he got it. The old headmaster had to be up to something; running into Snape in the apothecary couldn’t have been a coincidence. However, it didn’t seem like Snape had recognised him. That man would never have held open a door for Harry Potter. And if Snape hadn’t seen him, then Snape couldn’t tell anyone about him. So, this letter would be quite the surprise for Albus Dumbledore.
Harry wouldn’t be coming back to Diagon Alley this summer. Or be visiting any of the other highly magical areas in the country. He didn’t doubt for a second that after Dumbledore found this letter there’d be more than Snape out and about looking for him.
It’s strange that Snape hadn’t recognised him though. Snape had watched him for a while in the store. They’d been within touching distance when he was leaving the shop.
Was Arabella that bad a spy? Or was Snape not privy to the information she was collecting? Or had his rather mundane disguise really been that good?
Maybe Clark Kent really did have the right idea with glasses and a wardrobe change…
Harry snorted. He should simply be thankful that this trip had gone smoothly and was now done. He was sort of glad he’d managed to say thank you to Snape. Not for holding the door open, which was what it had looked like of course, but for his sacrifices during Harry’s last life. Regardless of the other shit that had gone on, regardless of his own opinions about the man, Harry knew without a doubt that things would have been much worse for him if it weren’t for Snape’s actions. It had felt good to say thanks.
He dragged his focus back to the present moment.
“How much for a letter to Hogwarts?” He asked the wizard at the counter.
“One knut to Hogwarts or any other educational institute within the United Kingdom.” The man answered gruffly. He didn’t even look up from the book he was reading.