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A Different Beginning

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"Um, Mr. Hagrid?"

"It's jes Hagrid, lad."

"Um, Hagrid? Where are we going exactly? I don't think you can buy cauldrons in London."

"Sure ye can. Ye jes have to know the right place to shop!"

"And you know such a place?"

"Aye. Diagon Alley. Wizarding shopping area. It's hidden. Ye have to know where to go. In fact, here we are! The Leaky Cauldron."

Hagrid pointed proudly to the battered wooden door that held pride of place between two other shops. Harry looked at the people walking by and he could swear their eyes just jumped right over it. When he said as much to Hagrid, he beamed at him with pride.

"What'd I say? I knew ye'd be a thumping good wizard!"

Harry smiled shyly back and followed him into the pub. It was an old looking place, dimly lit, made of wood, filled with bluish-grey pipe smoke in the rafters. A cheerful fire was burning at one end. There were stairs leading upwards. Harry wondered if that was where they were headed; who knew how wizards did things? He'd been so lost in looking around in interest, he hadn't noticed the attention he and Hagrid were getting until he heard someone cry out "Bless my soul! Is it? It is! Harry Potter!"

Harry jumped and turned to face the crowd. Nothing good every came of adults screaming his name. When he looked he saw a half dozen adults all rushing at him, each of them with manic glints in their eyes, reaching for him with claw-like hands. Harry yelped in fright, ducked and threw his hands up over his head to protect himself, while dodging behind Hagrid. Having a ten-foot tall man with him had to be good for something, right?

Sadly, it wasn't as simple as that--the crowd pushed forward and tried to get to him still, and Hagrid twisted and turned trying to yank Harry out to face them. The original yells had become ugly muttering after he hid; he was getting rather irritated with Hagrid trying to shove him out there. Nothing good had ever come of being in the hands of adults that sounded like that--those sorts of mutters meant being smacked, no dinner, being locked in his cupboard for weeks at a time.

Hagrid finally gave up, around the same time he heard the bartender telling everyone to let him be. Hagrid seemed a bit irritated by the whole ordeal, to tell the truth. He started towards a door at the back of the pub, which left Harry exposed to all the irritated people in the common room. Harry scurried after him, keeping the large man between him and the rest of the people there.

"What was all that about?" he demanded once they were outside in the dead end alley behind the pub, standing amongst the trash bins.

"I'd like to know that myself. What did they want?"

"They wanted to welcome ya back ter yer world! I told ya ye was famous!"

"They didn't look very welcoming. They tried to mob me."

Hagrid huffed and indicated the wall at the back. "Diagon Alley."

Harry looked at the brick wall and back at Hagrid. "Um. It's very…nice."

"That's just the entrance! It's hidden!"

"Ah."

Hagrid poked one of the bricks with his pink umbrella. The bricks began to roll away from the center until an archway with the words "DIAGON ALLEY" overhead was revealed. Beyond it, Harry could see a long, winding alley filled with shops and strangely dressed people. Harry gasped and couldn't help the smile that broke across his face. Now, this was more like it! He finally tore his eyes away and found Hagrid grinning at him smugly.

"Welcome to Diagon Alley, Harry. Best get going. Lots ter do. Gringotts first, I think. Need ter get yer money so ye can do yer shopping."

"I have a bank account?"

"Sure you do."

"How much money do I have? Will I have enough for everything? Hey…do I have to pay for Hogwarts? How much is it?" he asked worriedly.

He had seen a few news reports about the rising costs of public schools. He knew some of them could get pretty pricey.

"Uh…well, er, I dunno, actually. I suppose ye should ask one of the goblins as works there. I wouldn't bug them any other time though. Dangerous little buggers, goblins are."

"What…you mean they'll attack me?"

"Well…no. Goblins are proud folks that's all."

"Oh."

"Here we are, Gringott's"

Harry eyed the strange little men that stood to either side of the doorway nervously, but all they did was bow slightly as they went in. They were tiny, about Harry's height, with dark clever eyes, neat little pointed beards…and very sharp teeth.

He took a good long look, but he didn't get any real sense of danger from them; he kept Hagrid's warning in mind nonetheless. He looked around the bank in interest after they got into one of the lines.

There were several goblins on high stools at the front, some waiting on customers, some weighing large jewels, some exchanging what looked to be regular money for small pouches of gold coins. The pillars and the roof overhead were cunningly carved with reliefs of goblins, and all manner of other strange creatures.

"Next!"

Hagrid stepped up to the counter and Harry scrambled to catch up to him.

"State your business."

"Harry 'ere needs ter make a withdrawal from 'is vault"

"And does Mr. Potter have his key?"

"I need a key?" Harry said worriedly.

"Oh, hang on, I got it right here"

Hagrid began pulling all manner of things from his pockets and piling them up on the counter, much to the goblin's obvious irritation. Harry eyed the goblin nervously and wondered why Hagrid hadn't been more prepared--he was the one that had warned him against annoying the creatures!

Harry cleared his throat to draw the goblin's attention in hopes of distracting him from the expanding pile of junk on his desk.

"Um, excuse me. I was wondering, um, can I find out how much money I have…Oh! And um, whether Hogwarts has already been paid for or if I need to do that? I don't mean to be a bother or anything…but um, I didn't even know I had a bank account until today or that I was a wizard or anything, so uh…kind of a lot to take in."

The goblin didn't look too impressed, so Harry just smile weakly and side-eyed Hagrid who had finally withdrawn a ring with what looked to be hundreds of little gold keys on it. He flipped through them and withdrew one.

"There ya go. That one's yours."

"That's a lot of keys. Wow. Why do you have it?"

"Perfesser Dumbledore gave it ter me o' course!"

"That's the headmaster of Hogwarts, right? Why'd he have it? It's kind of weird, isn't it? I don't know him or anything. I mean, it's probably a good thing my relatives didn't have it or they'd have robbed me blind years ago and I never would have got it back, but it's still strange."

"Bite yer tongue! Great man, Dumbledore is! I also need to get the you-know-what from vault seven hundred and thirteen" Hagrid continued, facing the goblin again.

He handed over a letter which the goblin perused for a moment, before glancing at Harry thoughtfully. "Griphook." the goblin called.

A second goblin emerged from the back.

"Take Mr. Hagrid to seven thirteen."

"Come on then, Harry"

"Not so fast. Mr. Potter will be going elsewhere."

"Uh…but I supposed ter stay with him."

"Mr. Potter will be perfectly safe. He'll be sent down to his vault after he speaks with his account manager."

"I’m supposed to go with him."

"An employee of Gringott's will be with him. Smashammer!"

A third goblin emerged from the back.

"Take Mr. Potter to Pickaxe. Next!"

Hagrid dithered unhappily, but his goblin escort was getting irritated, so he finally followed him while Harry followed the other down another hallway. Harry was led down a long hallway with doors to either side. He was led nearly to the end. Smashammer knocked at the door, opened it and gestured Harry inside, shutting the door behind him. The office was relatively small, containing only a desk, with an older goblin seated behind it. There was a single wooden chair in front of it. The walls were filled with file folders to either side, though the wall behind the goblin held a shield with a crossed battle-axe and warhammer.

"Mr. Potter, I presume? Have a seat. Chop chop. You're not the only client I have today."

"Oh, um, sorry."

"I understand you've some questions about your account?"

"Uh, yeah, a few."

The goblin nodded and tapped one of his long, thin fingers on the desk twice. One of the folders disappeared from a shelf to the right of his head and reappeared on the desk where his finger had been a moment ago. He flipped it open and scanned the papers within one after another, nodded to himself and faced Harry again.

"Alright, now that I've familiarized myself with things, what were your questions?"

"Uh…How much money do I have?"

"Altogether or in your trust vault?"

"Trust vault? I mean…there's more than one?"

The goblin sighed.

"Yes, Mr. Potter. Your trust vault was opened a few days after your birth. That seems to be a tradition in the Potter family. Your parents placed a thousand galleons into it, and then added a further nine thousand early October 1981. Between November 1st 1981 and November 1st 1982 a total of four thousand galleons in donations were deposited by well-wishers after the destruction of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, there was also a fifty-thousand galleon deposit by the ministry for the destruction of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. A year after that a bequest from a Mrs. Alice Wentworth was deposited--four hundred and twelve galleons. She also seems to have left you a small farm. Three months after that a bequest from Montrose Lardbottom was deposited-- fourteen hundred galleons. A year after that a bequest from a Madame Olivia Evergreen for seven thousand eight hundred and two galleons."

"Uh, wow. Um. How much is that in regular money?"

"Three hundred sixty eight thousand and seventy pounds sterling."

"And that's just my trust fund?"

"Yes."

"Uh…how much is in the other vault?"

"There are three. Your family vault, which has ten thousand galleons. Your mother's personal vault which holds no money, but has several trunks and boxes, contents unknown. There is also your grandmother's dower vault, which holds jewelry and several portraits."

"Wow. Uh… It's weird that my parents' account has less than mine… I guess that's from all the bequests and all…"

"From what I'm seeing here your father emptied his own accounts and his mother's dower vault in funding the Order of the Phoenix. It would be completely empty of funds but for the fact that it has been ten years and there has been some dividends from businesses deposited in that time."

Harry just gaped at the goblin in astonishment.

"All of them should be accessible with your current key. I understand you had some questions about your key's whereabouts?"

"Uh…yeah, I mean, I don't know the headmaster. I didn't know I was a wizard until this morning."

"Albus Dumbledore seems to have appointed himself your magical guardian an hour after your parent's demise. He sent instructions today that he was to receive all your financial statements and have approval over all your withdrawals, and access to your vaults."

"Uh…"

"Do you wish Mr. Dumbledore to have such access?"

"No?"

"Key please."

The goblin withdrew a stone bowl from beneath his desk, into which he dropped Harry's key when it was handed to him. He dribbled something into the bowl and waved his fingers over it. There was a flash from within the bowl. When it cleared he withdrew the key and gave it back.

"Are you aware that anyone you give your key to is then authorized to access your vaults?"

"No?"

"If someone tries to take your key it will register as being stolen should they try to make a withdrawal. If you give it to them it will not. That means they could in theory come to the bank and empty out your vaults with no one the wiser. Should such a thing come to pass you will have no recourse for the theft because you yourself authorized the withdrawal. Don't give anyone your key unless you trust them to not make free with your money and family heirlooms, and even then be wary."

"I will."

"Should you need to make a large purchase for which you haven't gold enough on you to pay for you can ask for a bill of sale and press your key to the box at the bottom. That will authorize the seller to take payment from your vault for the specified amount. It is the same procedure should you owl order."

"Owl order?"

"Most of the shops on the alley have catalogs they will give you if you ask. You can order and have items sent to you by owl, though it isn't recommended to do it too often as there is usually a surcharge for delivery."

"I see. Thanks."

"Was there anything else you wanted to know?"

"Hogwarts tuition. Has it already been paid or do I have to pay it, and how much if that's the case?"

"Tuition for all seven years was paid right after you were born."

"Oh. Good. Uh. I guess that was everything. Thanks for your help."

Pickaxe nodded and the door opened behind him. "Smashammer will take you to your vault now if you wish."

"Uh, yeah. Thanks. Uh… could I go to my mum's vault too?"

"Nine thousand eight eighty one." Pickaxe replied.

Smashammer nodded and started back towards the front of the bank. Harry scurried after him. Smashammer led Harry to an archway just behind the tellers and into a mine cart. The cart moved once both of them were inside, though they didn't go very far, just a few hundred feet or so. Smashammer hopped out and Harry climbed out after him.

"Key?"

Harry handed it over and watched in interest as the goblin inserted the key into the small hole in the center of the wall and then ran his finger down it. A seam was revealed where his finger passed and then separated into two doors which swung wide. There were a number of boxes and several large trunks inside. Harry wandered in and read the writing scrawled down the sides of the boxes in magic marker--they said things like 'grand dining room', 'study' 'guest bedroom'--there were six that said that. He peered in the one that said 'study' in curiosity and then frowned in confusion.

"Doll furniture?"

"Probably shrunk." Smashammer snorted.

"What…you mean it's real furniture, just shrunk down?"

"Most likely."

"Neat."

He checked the rest of the boxes. They were all filled with piles of shrunken furniture, rugs, tiny suits of armor, tapestries, knick-nacks and books.

"Wow. Look at all the books. Shame I don't have anywhere to keep them."

"You should take a look at the trunks. Could be one of them has bookshelves."

"You can do that?"

"You can do all sorts of things." Smashammer shrugged.

"Cool."

Taking his advice, he went to the nearest trunk. There was a ring of keys stuck to the lid, beside the coat of arms that graced the top.

"I wonder why so many keys?"

"Eh? There's a bunch?" the goblin inquired from the doorway, sounding bored.

When Harry glanced over, he was leaning back against the cart with his arms folded.

"Oh…sorry I'm taking so long."

"No worries. I get paid regardless of how many folks I take down a day. Take however long you want. You said there's a bunch of keys? Do they have numbers on the top?"

"Um, yeah, one two and three, why?"

"There's probably three compartments in it. Each key opens a different one. Use the first key, open it and that'll be the first. Close it and use the second, when you open it there should be a different compartment. And so on."

"Huh. Neat."

Harry did as instructed. He opened the trunk and found several books, a set of scales, a set of vials, a cauldron, a set of knives wrapped in a roll of leather. He picked up one of the books and read the cover. "Goshawk's standard book of spells, grade one." Wait a second…"

He dug out his school letter and flipped to the second page where it gave a list of school supplies. He flipped through the books and found most of them on his list, as were the other items held within. A couple of the books on his list were different, but this trunk was still going to save him a bit of shopping. There was also a letter addressed with his name, which he hadn't seen at first as it had fallen down beside the cauldron. With shaking hands he pulled it out and broke the seal--the same coat of arms that was on the top of the trunk.

Dear Harry,

Both of us hope we're just being paranoid, and this letter will never actually be read. Hopefully we're both there with you and we can all have a good laugh about how melodramatic we were when we were younger… But just in case the worst has happened, we didn't want you to head off to school without a few words from mum and dad.

The handwriting changed then and became loopier and a bit neater.

Your godfather is a wonderful man, but I'm sure he'll forget all sorts of things, like making sure you have plenty of clean underwear for your months at school.

Lils, relax. I'm sure Sirius has things well in hand.

Just in case he doesn't, make sure you have plenty of warm clothes. I'm sure he'll remember the winter-weight uniforms…at least he'd better. Plenty of socks, make sure you bring a dressing gown, slippers and warm pajamas. The castle gets drafty and you'll appreciate having them. Notebooks too. Don't just rely on parchment. It's terribly hard to organize your notes if you only have parchment. I learned that the hard way. Invest in a few ever-inking quills too…

Lils! Sirius went to Hogwarts too. I'm sure it'll be fine! Son, don't worry about all that. I guess what I want to tell you most is to have fun.

Study hard, you mean!

That too, but really we learned the most when we were researching things we were interested in, as opposed to just what we studied in class.

Harry, you are not to be a prankster, do you hear me?

Be a prankster if you want to

James!

Just establish yourself as a rule-abiding bookworm first. We established ourselves as troublemakers from the get-go, so no matter what happened we always got the blame---granted, we were usually responsible, but sometimes we actually weren't! I'm sure there'll be some established pranksters there already. Let them take the blame. It will make your life much easier, believe me!

Honestly! Harry, I want you to study hard, pay attention in class and get good grades. A good education is the start of a good life. The more you know, the more options you'll have in life. Don't let it go to waste!

While I agree with your mother that you should do well, don’t forget to have fun. I guarantee once you're out of school, the things you'll remember most about your Hogwarts years is not the essays you've written, but the fun times spent with your friends. Get out there, meet people, join clubs, play quidditch, play pranks, goof around and goof off. All work and no play makes Harry a dull boy! I suppose what we're trying to say is that we want you to make the most of your school years.

As you've seen, we set this up for your first year of school. Three compartments, which should be plenty of space for school. Put your clothing and uniforms in the top compartment and leave it unlocked once you're at school. The house elves will complain if they can't put your clothes back after they wash them. Keep everything else in the other two. They'll be secure as you have the keys. The trunk also has a shrinking function that you can activate with your wand once you have it. Just tape the crest on top and say 'big' or 'little' to make it shrink or enlarge as needed. There's a key ring in the cauldron that clips to your belt that will stretch so you can use the keys on it. Put your vault key on there as well. It has an anti-theft function. Whether taken or lost, whoever has it will feel compelled to give it back to you.

Enough of all this stuff. We should probably wrap this up. Best of luck in school. Be good, study hard, but most of all have fun. We love you, kiddo.

Best of luck, sweetheart. Hogwarts will be some of the best years of your life if you let them be. Make friends, learn a lot, get good grades. Love you. More than anything. Remember that.

Sincerely, and with all our love,

Mum and Dad

Harry wiped at his eyes as he finished the letter.

All his life, until Hagrid showed up, he'd been told his parents were a drunken layabout and a whore that cared more about partying than about him, and hadn't cared enough about him to not drink and drive. Finding out they'd been heroes, and having proof that they were good, loving parents that had worried about him and worried they wouldn't survive long enough to see him off to school and so had made arrangements to make sure he wouldn't do so without giving him advice and their loving wishes, healed a wound that had been with him as long as he could remember.

He folded the letter back up carefully and put it back in the cauldron for safe keeping. The trunk and school supplies were nice, but his parents words to him were worth more than all the gold in Gringott's. He closed the lid and put the second key in, curious if there was anything else.

There was a single book in the second compartment that when examined proved to be a handwritten notebook entitled "The Marauders Guide to Mischief". There was a note inside the cover that said only 'Carry on the legacy, my son. P.S. Don't tell your mom.'

Harry got teary eyed again and smiled so wide his cheeks hurt. He put the book back and checked the third compartment, but it was empty. He locked the trunk and took a peek at the others there, but they had old clothes and things in them. He looked around at the vault to see if there was anything he'd missed, but he didn't see anything. He grabbed the trunk and headed for the door.

"Where to next?"

"My trust vault. I still have some school shopping to do."

"Can do. Hop in."

The second vault was a lot deeper in the bank, though from the look of things there were levels deeper yet. The goblin took his key and ran his finger down the door again. This time, a big pile of gold was revealed. Harry gasped at the sight. He'd been told there was a lot of money in there, but hearing it and seeing it were two different things.

"Um…any idea how much I should take?"

Pickaxe pulled out a small bag from the cart and handed it to him.

"Few handfuls should do. If you run out you can use your key in a pinch."

"Yeah, that's right."

He shoveled a few handfuls in, then a bit more when he considered his mother's words about warm clothes, fancy quills and other things that weren't on his list. He really didn't have any warm clothes, thick socks, nice underwear, pajamas…any of it, really. He was going to have to buy a lot more than he'd been expecting, even with the stuff his parents had left for him.

"Hey, do you exchange gold for muggle money?"

"Upstairs. You want an exchange?"

"Yeah. It's probably not a bad idea to have a bit. What's the exchange rate?"

"Five pounds per galleon."

He scooped up another handful to exchange and they headed upward. Hagrid was waiting when he got back to the surface, looking antsy and ill at ease.

"Harry! Bout time. I was beginning to wonder. What's that ye got there?"

"It's a school trunk my parents left for me. It's already got some of my school supplies in it!"

"Ah, see? What'd I tell ye? A finer witch and wizard ye'd never meet. We'd best get a move on. We already been here longer'n I wuz expectin'. We'll head ter Madame Malkins first, get yer uniforms. They'll need to be made. We can pick 'em up after we get the rest of yer stuff."

"Just a second. I need to get my exchange first. Oh, nevermind." he added when Pickaxe handed him a stack of bills.

"Oi, here now, Dumbledore didn't say nothing about this…"

"I don't really see where it's his business. It's my money, and I'm going to be stuck with muggles for another month."

"I'm of half a mind ter make ye put it back. Never mind. No more funny business now."

"Okay." Harry sighed, hefting the trunk.

"Hey, could we get my wand first, so I can shrink this thing?"

"Heh. Ye'll need a bit o' learning afore ye ken be doing that!"

"It's built in. You just need to tap the crest and say 'small'."

"That so?" Hagrid looked around to see if anyone was watching them and tapped the trunk with his umbrella. "Small"

The trunk obediently shrunk down to a much more manageable size.

"There ya go. Our secret, right?"

"Sure…except I'll need it big again to put the rest of my stuff in."

"Right. Eh, I'll jes be sneaky is all. Uniforms. Let's go."

Hagrid led him to 'Madame Malkin's Robes for All Occasions' and rubbed at his stomach.

"Say, Harry, ye don't mind if I head off for a bit o' a pick me up, right? I don't mix well with those goblin carts."

"Oh, uh, sure, I guess."

"Good lad, Harry. I'll be back in a bit."

Harry smiled stiffly at Hagrid before he retreated, then squared his shoulders before stepping into the shop. There was a bored looking black boy on a stool with a robe being pinned into place on him on one stool in the center of the room, while a girl with dark hair was being measured on the second.

"Be right with you, deary. Feel free to look around."

"Uh, do you have a catalogue?"

"Right there next to the till, luv."

"Thanks."

Harry flipped through the catalogue and was cheered to see he could get most of his clothing needs seen to right here. That was a relief. Hopefully the shopkeeper could point him towards where he could get the rest. He should probably get some boots or something too while he was here. It snowed a lot in Scotland, he was pretty sure. It'd be nice to have warm, dry feet for once. Dudley's worn, holey old trainers didn't help much with that.

"We're ready for you dear."

Harry wandered over and climbed up on the stool.

"Hogwarts, dear?"

"Yes. I need regular and winter-weight robes. I also need a whole new wardrobe. I'm hoping you can point me towards where to find everything I can't get here."

"Sure thing deary. Two and two for uniforms alright?"

"Sounds fine."

"Colors for the rest?"

"I'm partial to jewel tones, solid colors. No flowers or stripes or anything."

The shop girl measured him and put a robe over his head and pinned it in place, before bringing out different colors and materials for him to pick for the rest of his clothing. He might have splurged just a bit--he'd never had anything new before, certainly nothing made just for him, and a lot of the fabrics were pretty and soft to the touch. He listened to the lady's suggestions and got a mix of things in colors that could be easily mixed and matched with one another.

He felt a bit odd when he realized just how many clothes he'd ordered, but consoled himself that it was still nowhere near the amount his relatives had, so he really wasn't being greedy or anything. Hagrid was looking a bit impatient by the time Harry got outside, and the ice cream cones he was holding were melting a bit.

"Took ye awhile. Here, that's yours."

"Thanks. I had to wait when I got in."

"Fair enough. Books next, I think."

"Actually, can we go in there first? I need new shoes."

"That ain't on yer list. Dumbledore said ter only get stuff that's on yer list."

"Shoes aren't listed because it's assumed you already have them. I need new ones."

"What's wrong with the ones you got?"

"They're too big, full of holes and taped together. My feet'll probably fall off if I go walking around in the snow in them."

"Dumbledore said…"

"Hagrid. I'm here to get stuff I need for school. I need shoes."

Harry did his best to keep his temper. He'd only known Dumbledore's name for two days now, and he had to say, he was already getting a bit sick of hearing it. Who did this guy think he was anyway? Aggravated now, Harry finished off the last of his ice cream and licked his fingers clean as he walked to the shoe store.

Hagrid didn't look too happy, but that was too bad. His mum had spent half the letter they'd left for him talking about warm clothes for cold weather. He was taking that seriously. He had no desire to freeze most of the school year just because some guy he'd never met was being really damned nosey in his business.

What kind of headmaster didn't want his students to have warm shoes for the snow? He splurged again and got both comfy every day shoes, and a pair of warm, waterproof boots as well. Given how much trouble Hagrid had given him over the 'unauthorized stop', he waited till he was looking away and then darted into the next shop Madame Malkin had pointed him towards so he could stock up on underwear, socks, pajamas and a dressing gown. He'd gotten a nice pair of slippers in the shoe store.

Hagrid was rather annoyed when he discovered Harry had given him the slip and gotten yet more things that weren't on his list. He growled irritably and drug him off towards the apothecary and told him sternly there'd be no more funny business or unauthorized spending on this trip. Harry nodded meekly and decided not to mention that he'd gotten catalogues from every shop he'd been to so far. He was glad the goblins had mentioned such a service existed.

Hagrid wouldn't let him buy extra books, wouldn't let him get notebooks or 'fancy' quills, or anything that wasn't directly mentioned. He had to argue to get a satchel to carry his books to and from class, and then argue some more to get 'extras' like space expanding and feather-light charms put on when the shopkeeper mentioned them.

By the time they were heading to the wand maker's, Hagrid was aggravated and ill at ease and muttering about Dumbledore, and Harry was quietly fuming.

"I didn't get anything extravagant! I mean, yeah, I was looking at the solid-gold cauldron, but I didn't try to buy it. I only got stuff I actually needed."

"Dumbledore said…"

"I don't care what Dumbledore said! I don't even know that guy! My parents left me a letter and I got the stuff they wanted me to get! Dumbledore gets no say."

"He's just looking out for ye." Hagrid said warningly.

"Not very well if being warm, dry and able to do my school work effectively is a problem." Harry growled back, before stalking towards the wand maker's.

A blonde family was exiting the wand shop as Harry approached. The boy with them looked to be his own age. He was proudly waving his brand-new wand around and bragging about all the great things he was going to do now that he was a proper wizard. The boy's mother smiled down at him indulgently. His father rolled his eyes at the boy's chatter, but even he looked more amused than angry.

Harry headed into the dimly-lit shop once they were clear and looked around in interest. It was a rather plain shop. There was a clear spot at the front for customers to stand, and a couple of old, worn chairs. Next was a tall counter that ran the width of the shop, and behind that rows and rows of shelves that went floor to ceiling and disappeared into the dim reaches of the back of the shop, each filled with thousands of oblong boxes filled with wands.

There was a electric feel in the air that passed over his skin like a tingle when he entered, as though all that potential magic was dancing about in the air just waiting to be used.

"Mr. Potter. I've been expecting you."

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when he was suddenly addressed. He hadn't seen anyone else in the room with him.

"Mr. Ollivander, I presume?"

"Indeed. Why, I remember when your parents came in to choose their first wands, it seems like only yesterday. I say choose, but of course the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around. Your mother as I recall favored a willow and unicorn hair wand, very springy, good for charm work. Your father favored a mahogany wand with a dragon heart-string core, which was pliable and good for transfiguration. I must admit I am curious to see who you favor. Which is your wand hand?"

"My right, I suppose, though I'm somewhat ambidextrous."

"Indeed? How marvelous. Hold out your arms and hold still, yes, just like that."

A measuring tape unwound itself from behind the counter and began measuring Harry from fingertip to fingertip, head to toe, across the shoulders, around the waist…and even the space between his nostrils. Ollivander was already moving, pulling numerous boxes from the shelves.

"Let's try this one first, shall we?"

Ollivander handed him wand after wand, some he allowed him to wave around, others were snatched back the moment they touched his hand. The pile of discarded wands grew taller and taller, but oddly this seemed to make Ollivander more excited the longer it went on.

"A tricky customer, eh? I wonder…"

Ollivander peered at him searchingly for a moment and then went deeper into the store and returned bearing a dusty box.

"Eleven and a half inches, holly and phoenix feather. Give it a wave."

Harry had been growing more and more nervous the longer the search went on, and had begun to fear that perhaps he wasn't a wizard at all. All his doubts were erased the moment he touched the latest wand. It felt like a piece of him that had been missing all his life, though he hadn't realize until this moment, had slotted itself into place. The blood in his veins sung in joy. He could not have stopped the wide, joyous smile that broke across his face at the feeling.

"Give it a wave."

Harry did just that and laughed out loud at the gold and silver sparks that fountained out of the end and filled the shop like a multitude of stars.

"I believe we have found your match. It is curious that that particular wand should choose you though."

"Curious? Why is it curious?"

"The phoenix that donated the feather in that wand only ever donated two. The second is in the wand belonging to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. The very wand that gave you that scar" he explained, reaching out one long finger towards the scar in question. "If I had known what that wand was leaving here to do… But in the end it would not have mattered. You Know Who was a great wizard. He did many terrible things it is true, terrible, but great."

"How can you stand here and tell me how great the wizard that killed my parents is?"

"My apologies, Mr. Potter, I did not mean it in that way. I meant only that the decisions he made, the works he created, and the path he walked shook the world. He was great in that, for a period of time, the very fabric of the world moved around him and danced to his will. And now you, Mr. Potter, have been chosen by the brother wand to his. I think we can expect many great things of you as well, Mr. Potter."

Harry was a bit subdued and lost in thought when he returned to the alley proper to find Hagrid again. Try though he might to shake them off, Mr. Ollivander's words stayed with him. "We can expect great things of you."

Between that and his parents' exhortations to study hard and do well, for the first time in his life he felt a small stirring of ambition in his heart. All his life he had wanted nothing more than to be invisible. Yeah, it burned when his aunt and uncle went on at length about how brilliant and wonderful Dudley was, when he knew he had to actually work at keeping his grades lower than his, so he wouldn't be punished.

He had never been allowed to succeed at anything but drudgery and misery, and it had never won him praise, only a slight lessening of pain and hunger. It really occurred to him for the first time what it meant that he would be going off to Hogwarts for most of the year. He had already realized it meant he'd be away from the Dursleys, and he'd been eager to go for that reason alone--that it was a school of magic of all things was just icing on an already delicious cake. But now, he realized fully that he would be away from the Dursleys.

There would be no Dudley around to draw unwanted comparisons, no aunt and uncle watching with gimlet eyes for him to get ' uppity'. He could actually try to do well in his classes, and score to his actual abilities on tests. He could hang out in the library and read and learn to his heart's content, not because he was hiding from Dudley and his goons, but because he wanted to.

There would be no Dudley around to beat up and drive off anyone who showed an inclination to be friendly towards him. He could have actual friends, and spend time with them and have fun because he'd be away from the Dursleys.

All his life to date he'd been silently counting down the days till his eighteenth birthday because it meant he could part ways with his relatives. He hadn't been sure what would become of him then as he'd have had no money, no food and nowhere to live--but it meant freedom and that had been something to look forward to. It had just fully sunk in that he had (limited) freedom for more than half the year, nearly a decade earlier than he'd dared hope for it.

He could study hard, learn all he could and have the life of his choosing when he was done with school--and he had a safety net in the form of the money his parents' had left for him until he found his feet. Wait…hadn't Pickaxe said some old lady left him a farm? He might even have a place to live!

"There ya are, Harry. Took you a long time again." Hagrid grumbled, though mildly.

"Mr. Ollivander had trouble finding me a wand that fit. It's okay though, he eventually found one after about five hundred tries. Okay, it probably wasn't actually that many, but it sure felt like it."

"Well, as long as ye got it. Oh, here. This 'ere lovely is fer you. It's yer birthday, right? Wouldn't be right iffn I didn't get ye a birthday present."

Harry's face flushed red, and his earlier annoyance with Hagrid melted away as he was presented with a beautiful snowy owl in a golden cage.

"You didn't have to."

"I wanted to. Here ya go. She's a beaut, isn't she?"

"She's beautiful. Thank you Hagrid."

He reached through the bars on the cage to stroke lightly at her feathered breast. She nipped very gently at his finger and made a noise that sounded like 'preck' rather than the 'whoo whoo' he'd been expecting.

"I thought owls hooted."

"Some of 'em do. Snowies bark, some of the other kinds shriek."

"Huh. I didn't know that. You don't see many owls around my neighborhood. I'm usually inside or asleep while they're out."

"Well, now that we gots yer wand I guess it's time ter get ya back ter yer aunt's house."

"I still want to get my notebooks. My mum said I'd need them to take notes in for class and it'd be easier to keep them organized rather than putting everything on parchment."

"Yer list…"

"My mum gets final say. She's dead, but she took the time to write me a letter to tell me what kind of school supplies I'd need. It'd be like denying her final wishes."

Hagrid blanched and nodded decisively.

"Right. I suppose Dumbledore can't rightly complain about a few notebooks."

"We have to pick up my uniforms before we leave too."

"Right, right. Almost forgot. Thanks fer reminding me."

After collecting the last of his school supplies, they finally left the alley. It was getting dark--they'd been gone the whole day, near enough. Hagrid allowed them to stop for a hamburger on their way back to the Dursleys once he realized Harry was probably hungry--which he was. He'd not eaten the whole day.

"Hey, Hagrid? How do I get to Hogwarts? I don't know where it is, and if it's way up in Scotland, I'm pretty sure uncle Vernon won't drive me."

"Blimey! I nearly forgot! That'd of been a fine pickle! Ye take a train. Hogwarts Express. Leaves from King's Cross station. September 1st." he explained.

He dug around in his pocket and withdrew a plain envelope which he handed over with a flourish. Harry pulled the ticket free and looked it over.

"Hogwart's Express. Platform 9 3/4. 11 am, September 1st." he read out. "Wait…Platform 9 3/4? Is there such a place? Oh! Is it hidden like Diagon Alley is? How do I find it? Do I have to poke a brick like you did? Which one and how will I know if it's the right one? Is it hard to find?"

Hagrid finger-combed his beard and looked slightly sheepish.

"Gosh. Nearly forgot ter tell ya how ta find the ruddy platform! I seem ter be making a mess o' things today, eh? It's not hard ter find. Jes find th' pillar between platforms nine and ten. It looks solid, but it ain't for wizard folks. Close yer eyes if ye needs to, but you can just walk right inter th' pillar and go on through. Easy peasy."

"Walk into the pillar, huh? Yeah…easy peasy. I hope you're right about that. I'm gonna be irate if I smash myself into a wall."

They both had a good laugh at the mental image.

All too soon, it was time to go back to the Dursleys. Harry was beyond relieved to find the door still unlocked. He wouldn't have put it past them to lock him out; heaven knows it wouldn't have been the first time. His aunt, uncle and cousin were watching tv when he came inside. They all turned to look at him.

"I'm back." Harry offered nervously.

None of them said anything, though Dudley hunched down and covered his butt before scurrying into the next room. Hagrid had given him a pig tail, and as far as he knew it was still there. He had laughed at the time, but he knew it would cause his aunt and uncle no end of trouble. Maybe he should look at his school books and see if he could figure out how to fix it. He had a month till school started.

His aunt and uncle went back to their show and ignored him, still without having said a word--they didn't even comment on the owl he'd brought home with him! He crept upstairs to Dudley's second bedroom--his room now-- and quietly shut the door. He twisted the lock in the door handle--he wanted to go through his new stuff and didn't think his relatives would appreciate seeing cauldrons and magic books strewn across the room. He set his owl's cage on the desk by the window.

"You want to get out for a bit, girl? I imagine you're a bit cooped in there."

He opened the window and then carefully pulled the owl from her cage. Her talons were sharp against his wrist and arm, even though he could tell she was being careful. He stroked lightly at her feathers again and carried her to the window, wincing just a bit as she pushed off into the night. He watched for a bit as she flew away and hoped he hadn't just made a terrible mistake in letting her go-- Hagrid had said owls were really smart, and she could deliver mail and stuff. She certainly seemed to understand him when he talked. He was even pretty sure she'd answered back a few times. He would just have to trust that she would come back.

He took the water dish from her cage and filled it in the bathroom before putting it back, relocked his door and pulled his shrunken trunk free from his pocket, enlarged it and settled himself on the floor in front of it. Once it was all emptied out, he grinned and rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment at just how much stuff he'd bought, though in his own defense, he'd had to buy a lot of stuff he was probably expected to already have--like shoes, warm clothes and underwear.

Keeping his parents' instructions in mind, he carefully folded and packed the first compartment with just his clothing. The second compartment received his school books, quills, ink bottles, rolls of parchment, notebooks, eraser, the stationary set he'd splurged on--it was embossed with his initials, which made him grin when he saw it again. It was the only real extravagance he'd allowed himself; he didn't have anyone to write to, so fancy stationary was a bit of a waste, really. He also carefully packed the seal he'd found in the trunk. It was just a large fancy 'P', and had its own little wooden box that held it and some sealing wax.

The final compartment received his cauldron, scales, dragon hide gloves, potions ingredients, knives, crystal vials, telescope, etc. He also put his new shoes in there. He didn't dare wear them where the Dursleys could see. At last, all that was left out was the 'Marauder's book' his father had left for him, and a book his mother had left for him along with his school books. The note inside the cover said it was tips and tricks that would help him get a good start with magic, and would help him out in school. It was all stuff she said she wished she'd known when she started--useful stuff, as opposed to the pranks she assumed 'Sirius' would have shown him if they didn't make it.

Harry slapped himself in the forehead.

"I'm so stupid! I meant to ask Hagrid if he knew who he was! Augh!"

Oh well, it would just have to wait till he saw him again, he supposed. In the meantime, he had some reading to do. He pushed the trunk into the corner and settled himself on his bed on his stomach and started reading.

My Dearest Harry,

As I'm writing this, you're asleep in your crib across the room. You're smiling, so hopefully you're having pleasant dreams.

I hope this will all end up being unneeded, but as the days pass I feel more and more that my time on this earth is coming to a close. Perhaps we've some seer blood amongst our ancestors, or perhaps it is simply the worries of a young mother who has seen too much since she left the safety of Hogwarts. I hope it is the second, I fear it is the first.

Either way, I wanted to leave a little something to help you along once it is time for you to head off to school, your first step towards becoming the fine wizard I know you will one day be. If the worst comes to pass and your father and I are not there to raise you, you will be raised by your godfather, who like your father is from a long line of wizards and grew up around magic.

I can only hope that even growing up around it that you will find the same joy and wonder in discovering magic that I did. I have always thought it a shame how much the wizard born take the tremendous gifts that we are born with for granted.

As you probably know, I'm what is known as a muggle born witch. My parents, and my sister Petunia, who you've probably never met, were as unmagical as could be. For some reason, I was born with the ability to wield magic. I was lucky in that I didn't have to wait until I received my Hogwart's letter to learn of the existence of magic as most muggle born do.

There was a boy in my village who told me I was a witch when I was seven. I was quite offended at first, as in the muggle world at least, no one means anything good if they call you a witch! His name was Severus Snape. He told me all he knew, though as only his mother was a witch and we all lived in a muggle area, he could only tell me so much.

He was my best friend for many years, though in time we grew apart. We were sorted into different houses once we arrived at Hogwarts. I went to Gryffindor, where I met your father and your godfather, and Severus went to Slytherin.

One would think that in having such a head start I was leagues ahead when we finally arrived at school, but sadly that was not the case. The truth is both the wizard born and muggle born start off at much the same level, the only real advantage the wizard born have is that they have grown up around magic and have a better idea of what is possible. The flip side of that is that they take it for granted, whereas the muggle born are filled with wonder and curiosity upon first learning about it.

In that at least I think we muggle born are the lucky ones.

Magic has been part of my life for a good many years now and I've seen both the wonders and the horrors that it can bring forth, and I still find myself filled with awe even all these years later. I can only hope that you too can find that wonder, my son, even if you've grown up around it long enough to find it commonplace.

You may wonder at this book I've put together for you. I will explain it simply as a helpful guide to little tricks that will make your life, and school work, easier. I can only wish I had such a guide when I started school. Alas, I had to pick it all up in bits and pieces along the way. Luckily for you, my darling son, your mother is a kind and thoughtful person who took the trouble to compile it all here for you so that your own start will be much smoother.

I've no doubt you know all sorts of prank spells, if your godfather has anything to say about it. Sadly, while being able to make someone fart on command might be great for a laugh in the common room when you're eleven, such things aren't very useful otherwise. The things I've gathered here for you will be, and they're things I doubt somehow that he'll think to teach you.

Luckily for you, little man, your mother is watching out for you!

You will be ahead in one thing I had difficulty with at least. You probably grew up writing with a quill. I most assuredly did not, and there is a definite learning curve involved. It was a good thing I thought to try out my quills before I got to school and then practiced before heading out once I saw what a mess I made! Ink everywhere, my writing slanted across the page, and I snapped one before even getting to the castle because I pressed too hard.

You're probably laughing at me, as you've likely used one long enough you don't remember how difficult it is at first! Even so I included a way to make your quills unbreakable, and to repair them if they snap, and also to clean up ink splotches, and to make lines to guide your writing that will fade away before you hand in your paper, as they were all things I myself found useful. The teachers take off points for sloppy writing and messes, so they're all things worth knowing, even if you yourself aren't in need of such crutches.

Best of luck to you, my darling son, as you take your first steps towards becoming a wizard! All my love to you forever.

Your loving mother,

Lilian Rose Potter nee Evans

October 17, 1981

Harry finished the letter that took up the first two pages of the book and blinked tears from his eyes. He felt a chill in his bones as his eyes fell on the date. Just two weeks before she and his father had died facing Voldemort, and she had known her end was coming. Even knowing that, she had still taken the time to look out for him as best she could when she was no longer there.

He re-read the letter a second time and mused on how different things had turned out from what she seemed to expect. He didn't grow up around magic, he didn't even have the slight head start she herself had. He re-read the section about the difficulty with quills and decided he'd best follow her example and practice while he had time. He certainly hadn't grown up writing with quills either, so he would take her warning to heart.

More curious than ever about what sort of things she thought he needed to know, he eagerly started on the text. He read until late into the night, fell asleep and then picked it up again in the morning. She didn't just leave spells and instructions. The whole thing was peppered with small anecdotes and comments about her own school days. It was easy to pretend, for just a little while, that she was there with him, telling him these things herself.

There was a lot of useful stuff there too. Apparently you could pack your whole trunk in a second by pointing your wand at it and visualizing everything folding itself up and packing itself. There was a charm to polish shoes, one to freshen breath and neaten hair, to take wrinkles out of clothing. There were spells to help find references you needed in the library, to generate a bibliography, to edit essays, fix mistakes, check your spelling, tidy up wrinkles and splotches of ink.

Each spell had an animated wand illustrating the movements, the incantation (with pronunciation guide) and tips to making it happen, along with advice for if things went badly and he needed to start again. "Don't worry, darling. Everything included here, and 90% of what you'll be learning the first few years can be undone with a nice, forceful 'finite incantatum' and then you can start over. Before you ask, there are ways to make enchantments permanent, but you'll not be learning any of that for a good many years yet. Build firm foundations before you try getting fancy."

He re-read the sentence a second time and then realized this might have been just what he needed to fix Dudley. There was no love lost between him and his relatives, but it was still something he should try to fix before they had to go look for a surgeon that didn't ask too many questions. He could hear the Dursleys up and moving around. Chances are he'd be called to help make breakfast soon in any case. Might as well get on that and broach the subject of removing the tail while he was thinking about it.