The Professor Arrives
Harry Potter picked up the letter and stared at it, his heart twanging like a giant elastic band. No one, ever, in his whole life, had written to him. Who would? He had no friends, no relatives but the Dursleys… he didn't even belong to the library, so it couldn't be a rude note asking for books back. Yet here it was, a letter, addressed so plainly that there could be no mistake:
Mr. Harry J. Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
The envelope was thick and heavy, made of yellowish parchment, and the address was written in emerald-green ink. There was no stamp. Turning the envelope over, his hand trembling, Harry saw a red wax seal bearing a coat of arms; a lion, an eagle, a badger, and a snake, all surrounding a large H.
"Hurry up, boy!" shouted Vernon from the kitchen. "What are you doing, checking for letter bombs?" He chuckled at his own joke.
Harry headed back to the kitchen, tossing his letter into his cupboard and closing the door. Vernon would never let him see it if he knew, he thought, heart pounding with excitement. Harry's fat old uncle went out of his way to make Harry miserable, punishing him for things that he couldn't possibly have done, making him live in a small cupboard, keeping food from him… If you could think of something to make another person unhappy, Vernon did it to Harry. He even allowed Dudley to hit Harry, as long as he didn't do it in public. The Dursley's were, after all, obsessed with public appearances.
Harry dropped the other letters and went back to his seat. Dudley had a big chair with armrests and an incredibly soft plush cushion, and was eating fresh pancakes with syrup. Harry had a small stool, which had no top, having long ago lost the wooden seat. He arranged himself as best he could on the four wooden legs, and spooned up some oatmeal from the small bowl in front of him.
Vernon ripped open a bill, snorted in disgust, and flipped over a postcard. "Marge's ill," he informed Aunt Petunia. "Ate a funny whelk. I told her to stay away from that foreign food…" Harry ignored this, letting the inane chatter fade away, and concentrated on his oatmeal.
A few minutes later, Harry had finished his pitiful meal. He waited, trying to be patient, as Vernon continued to read through the letters, and finally interrupted him. "Sir, may I be excused?"
Vernon glared at him, his default expression when looking at Harry. "Are you finished?"
Petunia peered at his bowl, which was scraped clean. "He's done, dear," she said grudgingly.
"So may I go?" Harry said hopefully.
"Fine, go," Vernon shrugged. "But don't make any noise."
Harry slipped away, only barely holding back from running to his letter. After carefully shutting the door to his cupboard and turning on the tiny lamp he had stolen from Dudley, he tore open the letter and pulled out what was in it. On thick, heavy paper - no, it was more like parchment - he read:
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft
Headmaster: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore (Order of Merlin First Class, Grand Sorcerer, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards)
Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment, as well as a ticket for the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross Station. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress
Minerva G McGonagall
Harry read it again, finding it hard to believe. A school of magic? He was going to a school of magic? It had to be a prank of some sort, a joke. Another trick by his 'family', trying to make him despair. There was no reason to think that it was real.
And yet… something within Harry seemed to perk up, thinking 'yes, this is true'. He felt an odd surge of joy when he considered going to this Hogwarts, and the name of Dumbledore seemed somewhat familiar… Harry absentmindedly slipped out the other sheet of parchment in the letter, the list of things he'd need to get. He hoped that the school had some sort of loan system that he could use, though, as he didn't have any sort of money to buy things with.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black, student form)
2. Three sets of under-robes (white)
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide)
4. One winter cloak (black)
Please note that all pupils' clothes should carry name tags.
All students should have a copy of each of the following:
Beginner’s Spellwork, by Miranda Goshawk
The History of Magical Britain, by Bathilda Bagshot
Basic Transfiguration, by Emetic Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, by Phyllida Spore
Draughts and Other Potions, by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander
Darkness: What it is and how to survive it, by Harrison Dresden.
Cauldron set (pewter, standard size)
Glass or crystal vials (standard set)
Brass scales (standard size)
Potions equipment (student set)
Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad OR a snake OR a dog. For magical analogues, send an inquiry.
Parents are reminded that first years are not allowed their own broomsticks.
Harry gaped. This was… this was ridiculous. Wands? Robes? Where on earth was he supposed to find this stuff? He didn't notice that he had stopped thinking of the whole thing as a joke, instead wondering if there was a way to contact Hogwarts and get some help. The letter had mentioned his owl. What was that about? Did they expect him to just go out, catch an owl, tie a letter to its leg, and say “off you go, girl?” Eventually, he decided that there was no other way to do it; he'd have to send them a letter.
Of course, he had no paper, pens, or stamps. But he knew that Vernon had a home office upstairs, and there would probably be some in there. Harry stole a quick look at his relatives, still eating their massive breakfast. Petunia had finished hers and was now reading the newspaper, but it didn't look like any of them would be leaving the table soon. Typical, their day didn't really start until eleven. Harry had to get up at six every day to make all of this for them, and not a bit of it went to him.
Harry banished his old grumblings about the Dursleys and quietly climbed the stairs, carefully stepping over the creaky stair halfway up. It wasn't hard to find the door to Vernon's office, and a quick search through the drawers of the large wooden desk uncovered a piece of paper and an envelope. He found a stack of stamp sheets and slipped out a single sheet from near the bottom, tearing off one stamp and putting it back in the middle; no sense in letting them find out, after all. Harry then swiftly looked around for a pen that wouldn't be missed, finally taking one from an unopened box and closing it carefully. The black-haired boy quietly snuck downstairs just as he heard Petunia close the newspaper and ask, "What would you like to do today, Duddykins?"
Harry stifled a laugh as he reentered his cupboard and pressed the paper up against the wall. Uncapping the pen, he carefully wrote:
To Professor McGonagall,
Before frowning and adding:
Or whomever it may concern,
I received an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, but unfortunately, I don't know where to go to purchase the necessary books and equipment. I also don't have any money to buy them with. Is there a student loan program of some sort? Finally, I need transportation to King's Cross.
Harry read it over; was it formal enough? After a moment, he added:
I apologize for the inconvenience.
And then signed it. He waved about the sheet for a moment to dry the ink fully before folding it into his envelope, addressing it simply to:
Last, he added the stamp. He gave his letter, the first he'd ever written, a look of pride. He'd done quite well, he thought, and stuck it under his baggy shirt. "Sir!" he called, stepping out of his cupboard.
"What is it, boy?" Vernon shouted.
"I'm going out for a bit of a walk."
"Be back by two!" Vernon ordered. "We're going out to the zoo again, and leaving you with Mrs. Figg this time!"
"Is her leg better now, sir?"
"Yes, yes, now get going!"
Harry smirked as he walked outside and headed down to the pick-up letterbox on the corner. That had been easy.
About a week later was Harry's birthday – not that the Dursleys cared. Harry was hoping to get another letter from Hogwarts soon, so he volunteered to go get the mail that morning. Vernon glared at him suspiciously before giving him permission, and he struggled not to dash down the hall in anticipation. Surely, they would have responded by now, right?
But when he bent to pick up the mail, he couldn't see another letter in distinctive yellowish parchment with emerald ink. His heart sunk as he straightened up, and he turned and began to walk back to the kitchen.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Harry froze. Someone was at the door. "Get the door, boy!" Vernon shouted from the kitchen, so he dropped the letters and turned to open the door. It took him a moment to unstick the handle, but he soon swung the door open.
Standing there was a small man, only slightly taller than Harry's four and a half feet. He was old and wrinkled with a wide smile and twinkling brown eyes. Completely bald, his wispy white mustache stretched several feet from his face, and he wore deep red robes with a golden collar. A pointy hat that matched his robes sat on his head, and as Harry met his eyes, he felt a small shiver go down his spine. "Hello!" he squeaked. "My name is Professor Filius Flitwick, from Hogwarts. May I come in?"
Harry blinked. "Er, yeah, sure. Sir!" He called down the hall to Vernon. "It's a professor! I'm taking him to the sitting room, okay?"
He heard Vernon talking to Petunia for a moment, saying, "Why would a professor come? Dudley did fine in school…"
Harry only caught a few words of Petunia's response; "ungrateful brat… my god… eleven…"
Professor Flitwick frowned as Vernon and Petunia came out from the kitchen. The big fat man took in the little professor with a growl as the tiny man smiled. "He's not going," Vernon snapped. "We swore when we took him in we'd put a stop to that rubbish, swore we'd stamp it out of him! Wizard indeed!"
"What?" Harry sputtered. "So this is real, and you knew?"
"Knew!" Petunia shrieked. "Knew! Of course we knew! How could you not be, my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that-that school-and came home every vacation with her pockets full of frog spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was - a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!" She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed she had wanted to say all this for years. "Then she met that Potter at school and they left and got married and had you, and of course I knew you'd be just the same, just as strange, just as… as… abnormal… and then, if you please, she went and got herself blown up and we got landed with you!"
Harry had gone very white. As soon as he found his voice he said, "Blown up? You told me they died in a car crash!"
The professor stepped back, eyes wide, as Vernon stepped forward and grabbed Harry's arm roughly, causing him to cry out in pain. "You're going back into your cupboard," he snarled. "And you!" he roared, turning on Professor Flitwick. "Get out of our house!"
Harry tried futilely to escape Vernon's grasp, but it was no use. He was in for it now; it looked like Vernon might bring in the belt again, which he hadn't done for years, but instead he just dropped Harry into the cupboard. "Let – me – go!" he shouted, struggling, but Vernon just smacked him, hard enough to make his ears ring.
A moment later, there was a bang and a flash of light, and Vernon went flying away from Harry. Harry scrambled to his feet to see Professor Flitwick, now standing in between him and his relatives, holding out a long thin rod of wood. His eyes smoldered with anger. "What's all this?" he demanded. "Do you regularly grab your nephew so hard it hurts? Do you normally strike him? I don't want to interfere with your family life, but this is too much!"
Vernon tried to step forward, making as though to punch the professor, but seemed to press up against an invisible barrier. He was clearly beyond words, and just gave a snarl.
Flitwick snorted angrily and slipped the stick – no, the wand – inside his robes, turning and striding off past Harry. "Come with me, Mr. Potter," he called, and began muttering under his breath. "I'll have to speak to the Headmaster about this. Really, it's a disgrace… Harry Potter with these lunatics…"
Harry stared at his aunt and his uncle, pressed up against an invisible barrier, which hadn't moved or gone away with Professor Flitwick. He stepped forward and reached out, wondering if he would be able to feel it as well, but the barrier seemed to slide away as he stepped forward, and now pressed Vernon and Petunia back into the kitchen, where Dudley watched with horror.
"Come along, Mr. Potter!"
Harry ran after Professor Flitwick, who was walking to the end of the street. "Professor!" he called. "Where are we going?"
Flitwick stopped at the corner, waiting for him. "I will be taking you to Diagon Alley, to purchase your school supplies," he said, and held out a hand. "Come, take my hand."
Harry took it and opened his mouth to ask about the money, but before he could, Flitwick began to turn on the spot, and a moment later the question fled from his mind.