Shopping in the Alley
Harry yelped as the world shattered and fell away from him and the Professor, leaving them suspended in darkness. Something pressed in around Harry from every angle, as though he was being forcibly squeezed through a tight rubber hose, and all warmth fled from his body. The only thing that kept Harry from going mad, he thought, was the sensation of Professor Flitwick's warm hand on his, the only remnant of the normal world. The darkness closed in oppressively as time dilated, and Harry soon became used to the crushing cold and became bored. After what seemed like years…
The darkness shattered just as the world had, and fell away to reveal another place entirely. The sensation of slowed time fled, leaving Harry feeling as though he had only just been on Privet Drive, less than a second ago.
"That was," he said, as calmly as he could (although his voice shook), "very unpleasant."
The professor let go of his hand and peered into his eyes. "I'm very sorry," he said, an edge of anger from the Dursleys still in his voice. "I forgot to warn you. How do you feel? Any shivers? Cold feelings in the small of your back? Any unusual aches and pains?"
Harry considered himself. He was slightly cold, but then the Dursley's home was heated all year round. There was a dull pain in his arm where Vernon had grabbed him, which was probably already bruising, but that was normal, and the twanging from his left knee, which had once been dislocated by Dudley (the Dursley's hadn't taken to the hospital, so it was still untreated) had started up again. He shook his head; nothing unusual.
Flitwick looked him over and frowned. "I'll do a full diagnostic once we get into the alley," he muttered to himself, then pointed across the street from the alley they were in. "Do you see that building, Mr. Potter?"
"The Leaky Cauldron," Harry read from the sign. It was a tiny, grubby-looking pub. If Professor Flitwick hadn't pointed it out, Harry probably wouldn't even have noticed it was there. The people hurrying by certainly paid it no attention. Their eyes seemed to slide from the big book shop on one side to the record shop on the other as if they couldn't see the pub at all. In fact, Harry had an odd peculiar feeling that yes, only he and the Professor could see it. Before he could mention this, though, he had been steered inside.
For a famous place, it was very dark and shabby. A few old women were sitting in a corner, drinking tiny glasses of sherry. One of them was smoking a long pipe. A little man in a top hat was talking to the old bartender, who was quite bald and looked like a toothless walnut. The low buzz of chatter stopped when they walked in. Everyone seemed to know Professor Flitwick; they smiled at him or nodded respectfully. The bartender reached for a glass, saying "The usual, Filius?"
"I can't, Tom, I'm showing a muggle-raised student around," said Professor Flitwick, nodding to Harry. "Good Lord," said the bartender, peering at Harry, "is this - can this be -?"
The Leaky Cauldron had suddenly gone completely still and silent. "Bless my soul," whispered the old bartender, "Harry Potter... what an honor." He hurried out from behind the bar, rushed toward Harry and seized his hand, tears in his eyes. "Welcome back, Mr. Potter, welcome back."
Harry didn't know what to say. Everyone was looking at him. The old woman with the pipe was puffing on it without realizing it had gone out. A moment later, Professor Flitwick whipped out his wand and cracked it over his head, causing a feeling like cold water to run down Harry's back. For a moment it seemed that his ears were clogged with cotton, for he couldn't hear anything of what the professor was saying to the people who all seemed to want to rush in to meet him, but he managed to catch the last part. "…want to overwhelm him, after all. I should've told him about it before taking him here, but it slipped my mind…"
"What slipped your mind, Professor?" Harry asked, smacking himself on the side of the head to try and dislodge whatever was there.
Professor Flitwick turned back to him and smiled a little nervously. "Let's get somewhere private to talk about it, shall we?"
Harry followed the professor to the back of the pub and through a brick wall that opened with a tap of Flitwick's wand, past several brightly colored and loud shops, and into a little side alley. The tiny man flicked his wand and a shimmering veil of mist appeared in between them and the main street of Diagon Alley, cutting off all sounds.
"Now then," he said, turning back to Harry. "I understand that you don't know much about our world. But know this; there was a war, just a little under ten years ago…"
Harry listened carefully as Professor Flitwick described the horrible happenings in the war. Nearly half of the British wizarding world had been killed, nearly everyone who tried to fight back was killed or tortured into insanity, and the Ministry of Magic nearly crumbled. All on the word of a single wizard and his followers, the Death Eaters and their leader (and despite the mists Professor Flitwick still dropped his voice to say the name), Voldemort.
"What happened to him?" Harry asked. "I mean, obviously the war is over…"
Professor Flitwick looked very uncomfortable. "It's a long story, I think, and no-one really knows what happened that night," he said quickly. "You-Know-Who went after your parents, and killed them both. It was terrible, from what the Auror's were able to discern. Your father fought bravely, but was slain, and then he turned to your mother… he killed her quickly, without a battle of any sort, as far as is known, and then he turned his wand on you.
"But even though he cast the spell at you - the most deadly spell ever devised, one which kills anything that lives with a single touch - it didn't work. And when he tried to kill you and failed, the curse… well, it rebounded on him, and struck him instead. Some say he died. Rubbish, I think. I doubt he was still human enough to die. Some say he's still around, just going after a different part of the world, Australia or Japan, perhaps. Most of us believe that he's still out there somewhere, but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on. Because something about you finished him, Harry. Something happened that night that he hadn't considered I don't know what, no one does - but something about you stumped him."
Harry looked down at his feet. It was all just too much. Magic, leaving the Dursleys, and now he was some sort of hero? For something that happened when he was one?
Professor Flitwick laid a gentle hand on Harry's shoulder, but Harry flinched away from it. "Haven't you ever wondered where you got that scar on your forehead?" he asked quietly. "Why it never healed? That's a curse scar, Harry, the kind you get when strong Dark magic touches you. Harry, I know you find it hard to believe, but it's the truth."
Harry looked up a little bit, meeting Flitwick's kind brown eyes. "Can we… can we go get my school supplies now? With something so that people won't recognize me?"
The professor waved his wand and banished the shimmering mists. "Already done, Mr. Potter, back in the pub when I cracked you on the head," he squeaked, suddenly cheerful again. "You're now blonde with no scar, and will be for several hours. Come on, let's start with Gringotts."
Gringotts was quite fun; the goblins were cordial to Harry and very nearly warm to the professor, and the rollercoaster-like car was the best thing Harry had ever done. He had never been allowed to ride coasters with the Dursleys, having always been left behind with Mrs. Figg when they went to amusement parks. The closest he ever came was the time when he was seven that Mrs. Figg's hip was being replaced, so the Dursleys left him in the food court area (with no money for food, naturally) for the whole day. The delicious smells of fries and ice cream tantalized him while he was unable to eat for nine hours, until they finally brought him back to the house and gave him a single slice of plain, rather stale bread.
But he banished this memory from his mind and just enjoyed the ride. As he whooped with joy, Professor Flitwick spoke to their goblin attendant, something about a 'you-know-what' in vault seven-hundred-something that was going to be picked up later that day. Harry found it rather boring in comparison to the feeling of air rushing along his face and the incredible speed, especially when the cart turned nearly right angles, sending Harry, laughing, into one side. Oddly enough, during these turns both the goblin and Professor Flitwick remained exactly in their seats, apparently not at all affected by the whiplash.
Harry's eyes stung as the cold air rushed past them, but he kept them wide open. Once, he thought he saw a burst of fire at the end of a passage and twisted around to see if it was a dragon, but too late; they plunged even deeper, passing an underground lake where huge stalactites and stalagmites grew from the ceiling and the floor. "I never know," Harry called to Professor Flitwick over the noise of the cart, "what's the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite?"
"Stalagmite has a 'g' in it, like 'ground,’" Professor Flitwick told him. "And stalactite has a 'c' like 'ceiling.’" He then returned to his conversation with the goblin.
Eventually, they reached a small door with an ornate red 'P' on it, and the goblin unlocked the door. A lot of green smoke came billowing out, and as it cleared, Harry gasped. Inside were mounds of gold coins, columns of silver, heaps of little bronze bits.
"All yours," smiled Professor Flitwick.
All Harry's - it was incredible. The Dursleys couldn't have known about this or they'd have had it from him faster than blinking. How often had they complained how much Harry cost them to keep? And all this time there had been a small fortune belonging to him, buried deep under London. Flitwick helped Harry pile some of it into a bag. "The gold ones are Galleons," he explained. "Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine bronze Knuts to a Sickle; it's easy enough. Let's see, that's thirty galleons; should be more than enough."
"How much is in here?" Harry asked, still amazed.
Flitwick took a quick glance around the room. "I'd say about 6,500 Galleons," he estimated. "Maybe closer to 6,400. Of course, this is just your trust vault; the Potter family vault proper would be significantly larger.”
"What's that in pounds?"
"I think that 1 galleon is equivalent to 100 muggle pounds," Flitwick said as they stepped outside. "Is that right, Griphook?"
The goblin shrugged. "I pay little attention to the affairs of muggles," he said shortly. "But yes, I believe that is correct."
Harry's jaw dropped. 640,000 pounds! That would, he guessed, easily carry him through all of school and well into adulthood in the muggle world. And the full family vault was even larger!
Harry barely noticed the return trip, still at the same incredible speed, and followed Professor Flitwick outside in a near-trance. He was only shaken out of it when the professor was greeted by a man as large as he was small.
The big man was at least twice Harry's height, probably more, and nearly as wide. His black hair melded seamlessly into his beard, and both stretched out along the huge, tattered coat. Something looked to be actually living in his beard, and there were definitely several somethings moving inside the great coat.
"Morning, Professor!" the enormous person said in a surprisingly precise (but very loud) voice. He had no trace of any accent, British or otherwise.
"Good morning, Hagrid," Flitwick smiled up at the huge man. "What're you here for?"
"The you-know-what in vault you-know-which."
"Ah, yes, of course."
"And who's this young fellow?" Hagrid boomed, grinning broadly at the rather intimidated Harry.
"Hm? Oh, yes. A muggleborn student starting at Hogwarts this year," Professor Flitwick covered smoothly. "Harry Dresden, is that right?"
Harry blinked. "Hm? Oh, yeah, that's me."
"I've just taken some money for him out of the Hogwarts vault," Flitwick continued. "I'm sure we shouldn't hold you up, though, Hagrid. I'll see you back at the school, yes?"
"Of course, Professor," Hagrid agreed. "I'll see you there too, Harry, yeah?"
Flitwick led Harry to a clothing store called Madam Malkin's, and waved him in on his own, saying "I don't like having to lie to people, especially friends, like Hagrid. I'll just pop into the Leaky Cauldron for a moment for a pick-me-up while you get your robes fitted, yes? And I’ll pick up parchment and quills for you as well." So Harry entered Madam Malkin's shop alone, feeling nervous.
Madam Malkin was a squat, smiling witch dressed all in mauve. "Hogwarts, clear?" she said, when Harry started to speak. "Got the lot here; another young man being fitted up just now, in fact."
In the back of the shop, a boy with a pale, pointed face was standing on a footstool while a second witch pinned up his long black robes. Madam Malkin stood Harry on a stool next to him, slipped a long robe over his head, and began to pin it to the right length.
"Hello," said the boy, "Hogwarts, too?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"My father's next door buying my books, and mother's up the street looking at wands," said the boy. He had a bored, drawling voice. "Then I'm going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don't see why first years can't have their own. I think I'll bully father into getting me one and I'll smuggle it in somehow."
Harry was strongly reminded of Dudley. "Brooms fly, right?" Harry asked, wondering if that bit of folklore was correct.
"Of course they do," the blonde boy drawled. "You're a muggleborn, aren't you?"
"Not really," Harry said. "My parents were killed by Vol– er, You-Know-Who, so I was raised by my muggle relatives. But my real parents were a witch and wizard."
"I see," said the boy, raising an eyebrow. "What's your name, anyway?"
"I'm Harry Potter," Harry said casually. "How about you?"
But the other boy had fallen silent. "Are you really?" he asked, seeming to be somewhat short of breath.
Harry rolled his eyes. "No, I'm the Prime Minister. Yes, of course I'm Harry Potter! Trust me to know my own name."
"You don't have a scar," the boy said suspiciously, holding in a chuckle, or perhaps it was a derisive sneer.
"I'm under an illusion or something so I don't get mobbed," Harry stage-whispered. "Don't tell anyone!"
The other boy did chuckle this time. "Well, it's good to meet you, Potter. I'm Malfoy – Draco Malfoy. Since you were raised by muggles, you probably need a quick run-down on the world, don't you?"
Harry was somewhat surprised by Draco's abrupt change of subject, but then again, it was always good to learn more, especially about the world he planned to spend the rest of his life in. "Sure, that would be great!" he said.
Draco smiled, though it bore more than a passing resemblance to a sneer. Harry got the impression that the blonde didn't smile often. "Well, first of all, you need to understand the difference between purebloods, halfbloods, and muggleborns," he began. "Purebloods are wizards with no muggle blood, or at least not for a long ways back. Technically, you're pureblood if your ancestors are wizards for two generations back - parents and grandparents - but most purebloods have much finer ancestry that that. The Malfoy family, for example, goes back almost a thousand years, wizards all."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "If your family is that old, they must be pretty rich, right?"
Draco grinned, a genuine smile. "Oh yes. Almost as rich as yours, Potter."
Harry wondered idly how much money was in the family vault rather than his trust vault. "I think I can guess about muggleborns; they'd be wizards born to muggle parents, right?"
"Of course," Draco agreed. "And then halfbloods are everyone in between; you're a halfblood, because your mother's parents were muggles. If you marry a pureblood witch, though, your children would be purebloods again. Though most of us would still look down on them, because they do have muggle blood."
Harry thought about this for a moment. "Let me guess," he said dryly. "If you know how closely related to a muggle you are, you're too closely related?"
Draco actually laughed at this. Like the first smile, it seemed as though he rarely did it, but he really needed to. "An apt description! Yes, that's about it."
But before Harry could answer, Madam Malkin said, "That's you done, my dear," and Harry, sorry to stop talking to the boy, hopped down from the footstool.
"Well, I'll see you at Hogwarts, I suppose," said Draco.
"See you." Harry waved and went to go find Professor Flitwick.
They bought Harry's school books in a shop called Flourish and Blott's, where the shelves were stacked to the ceiling with books as large as paving stones bound in leather, books the size of postage stamps in covers of silk, books full of peculiar symbols, and a few books with nothing in them at all. Flitwick had to levitate Harry away from Curses and Countercurses (Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue- Tying and Much, Much More) by Professor Vindictus Viridian.
"I was trying to find out how to curse Dudley."
"I'm not saying that's not a good idea, but you're not allowed to use magic in the Muggle world except in very special circumstances," said the professor. "And you couldn't work any of those curses yet anyway; you'll need a lot more study before you get to that level."
Flitwick wouldn't let Harry buy a solid gold cauldron, either ("It would react badly with lots of potions. There’s a reason the standard cauldron is pewter."), but they got a nice set of scales for weighing potion ingredients and a collapsible brass telescope, along with a little silver magnifying glass. Then they visited the Apothecary, which was fascinating enough to make up for its weird smells. Barrels of slimy stuff stood on the floor; jars of herbs, dried roots, and bright powders lined the walls; bundles of feathers, strings of fangs, and snarled claws hung from the ceiling. While Professor Flitwick asked the man behind the counter for a supply of some basic potion ingredients for Harry, Harry himself examined silver unicorn horns at twenty-one Galleons each and minuscule, glittery-black beetle eyes (five Knuts a scoop).
Outside the Apothecary, Flitwick checked Harry's list again. "Just your wand left – oh, and I haven't bought you a birthday present."
Harry felt himself go red. "You don't have to –"
"I know I don't have to. But you are an uncommonly mature young man, Harry. I wish you hadn't had to go through what caused it, but you have, however much it was. I would wager that you've never received a proper birthday present, have you?" Flitwick observed Harry calmly, eyes seeming to bore right into Harry's mind.
"Well, not really…" Harry squirmed, uncomfortable with the subject.
Flitwick sighed. "I really need to talk to Albus about them," he muttered. "Well, Harry, what shall I get you? I doubt that your relatives would allow you a pet. Something else, then. A book, perhaps? A spell book wouldn't do you much good yet, and storybooks don't quite seem the kind of thing you're interested in… hmm… I know!" Five minutes later, they walked out of Flourish and Blott's again, with Harry the proud owner of Magical Abilities: Metamorph, Parseltongue, Aurumsight, and More, a book on rare magical powers. Harry was quite intrigued by the descriptions of some of them (Thaumoception; the ability to sense your surroundings via currents of magic, for example), but Flitwick told him that most of these abilities, which were mainly hereditary, hadn't appeared in generations, and he was unlikely to have any. Harry couldn't stop stammering his thanks, even so.
"Don't mention it," said Professor Flitwick airily. "I doubt you've had a lot of presents from the Dursleys. Just Ollivander's left now - only place for wands, Ollivander's, and you've got to have a wand." A magic wand... this was what Harry had been really looking forward to.