Harry missed the Wayside House, if not for his adoptive mother, than at least for the much simpler morning routine. In his home, he slowly rose to a semi-awake state when the first rays of dawn fell through his window and onto his face. He would blearily wash up in the bathroom and stumble downstairs to his mother's laboratory, where she was already awake and working. Harry would watch her brew a variety of potions or prepare ingredients for storage, usually reaching full wakefulness just before breakfast was announced for family and guests.
Outside the house, the routine was generally just as slow, but in Europe's western islands, Harry had much to do before he woke. After showering and brushing his teeth, makeup was carefully applied over the curse scar on his forehead before being spelled to not smudge or wear off for the next twenty-four hours. Then Harry touched up the roots of his hair with brown dye while his hair was still wet, rinsed it out again, and put on blue colored contacts instead of clear ones or glasses.
It was necessary for the United Kingdom, and the main reason that Harry hated spending any length of time in that country. Apparently, his scar made him famous for a spell that his birth mother had cast to protect him from a killing curse sent by a dark lord. Even with that covered, Harry had been told that his appearance was nearly identical to that of his birth father, so he had to disguise that too if he wanted to recieve any sort of anonimity among the UK's magical community. It was a hassle, to say the least.
Still, his mother told him that he had to recieve magical training at Hogwarts, one of the three premier instutions of magical learning in Europe. Destiny was at work, she'd said, and while Harry was doubtful as to what destiny meant for him, he knew exactly what his mother's stubborn expression meant.
Nevermind that Harry's French was excellent and he could get by in Japanese. He'd begged his aunt and uncles several times to secretly enroll him to Beauxbatons or Mahoudo Gakuen, where he could be just another normal student, but they gave him very little sympathy. His aunt in particular - she had given him a disappointed look and started, "When I was your age-"
"That's okay," Harry had interrupted quickly, not wanting to get into a long story of her childhood that he'd already heard at least a hundred times. "I take it back."
Once he was done with his work, Harry finally left the tiny bathroom and entered the bedroom that his uncle had rented them at a small inn. "Good morning, Ed!" he called out.
His Uncle Edmund was a tall man with a pale tint to his skin and a lithe form. Although his arms and torso were skinny, not an inch of it was fat - Edmund exercised regularly and sparred with his siblings to obtain his strong and firm muscles. His eyes were brown and thoughtful, and his dark brown hair laid much flatter on his head than Harry's was willing to do. Edmund had a somewhat regal look to him, something that all of his siblings had in differing ways and that Harry hoped he'd be able to emulate when he was older.
Edmund finished fastening the golden collar of his deep red cloak and looked over Harry's face. "It looks fine."
"I spent enough time on it." Harry went to his trunk and began pulling on clothes that were full of wrinkles from the roughshod way that he had packed them. Although the cloth was just as good and stitched together just as well as his uncle's, Harry's carelessness kept them from looking as valuable.
"Just another few days," Edmund reminded him. "You'll be safe enough at Hogwarts without needing a disguise."
"I might do anyway," Harry grumbled. "I have to decide which I hate more - unwarranted attention or waking up an hour earlier in the morning."
"The headmaster isn't an idiot, Harry, or so I'm told. I personally hope he's intelligent enough to look at your facial features, notice your first name and your birthday, and put it all together to make Harry Potter."
"I might be okay if he doesn't announce it. Can you get the wrinkles out?"
Edmund sighed with a smile as he looked at Harry's unkempt outfit. "Do it yourself."
"I can never get them all out, and I want to look decent for the Malfoys later."
"It really is your fault for packing so poorly."
"I know, I'm sorry, so please?"
Edmund waved his wand and murmured a charm, and the wrinkles immediately fell out of Harry's clothes as if frightened away. As Harry stepped forward to begin running out the door, Edmund said deeply, "Harry."
The boy tried to hide a guilty look, but he obviously knew what the scolding tone was about since he removed a wand from his pocket and handed it over to his uncle. "I forgot?" he said weakly. He yelped and ran out after Edmund swatted him on the bum.
"-hopin' he somehow made it here himself," a low, depressed voice was saying as Harry reached the ground floor of the inn. A enormous man, large enough that he might have been part giant, was talking to Tom the innkeeper. Harry waved to Tom, who nodded back at him before looking back to the despondent man. Harry debated listening to the conversation while ostensibly waiting for his uncle, but decided he didn't care enough and hurried on to the back courtyard. "If a great man like Dumbledore can't find him, then-"
The courtyard at the back of the building was surrounded by a brick wall that somehow managed to block out the nearby noise and bustle of the rest of London. It looked as if it was well-traveled but lacked actual attention - the middle of the small stretch of land was beaten dirt while grass and weeds grew rampant along the side walls. Harry bounced his balance from foot to foot as he waited for Edmund, and wished he'd managed to get out before his wand could be confiscated. "Stupid UK and their stupid underage magic laws," Harry muttered.
A hand flattened the hair on his head and Harry squirmed out from beneath the grip. Edmund chuckled and held out his wand, touching several of the bricks in the wall in front of him with it. As his wand touched the fourth one, the bricks shuddered and began moving aside to form an entryway into another place.
Diagon Alley was, to Harry, almost worth visiting England for. Most other countries kept their magic shops hidden, accessable only one at a time through using passwords or magic sigils in otherwise ordinary looking stores and alleyways. Diagon Alley was one of the few places in the world which held only shops catering to a magical community.
They stepped through the hole in the brick wall, which reformed itself after they passed. "Gringotts first," Edmund said, his voice barely audible over the noise of the crowds passing through the street. "I want to get your accounts sorted."
Harry had been informed only a few days ago that not only had his parents paid for his school fees at Hogwarts before they died, but they'd left him all their money as well. The key to his vault was in the care of Albus Dumbledore, although his possession of it was legally in shaky standing - James and Lily Potter's will had left Harry to his godfather, Sirius Black, who was currently serving a life sentence in prison.
Harry's mother had explained the circumstances of his guardianship to him years ago, and always answered any questions Harry had regarding it. Because Sirius Black had never actually been given a trial, Harry had been in a sort of custodial purgatory - prisoners in Britain's magical society could not be considered fit guardians for any child, but custodianship had not ever been passed through proper channels since it was usually done at the conclusion of a trial.
Lily Potter's sister and brother-in-law, who had somehow recieved possession of Harry through Dumbledore, were brought to the attention of the muggle authorities and declared unfit to be Harry's parents. A woman named Susan and her three siblings quietly applied for guardianship of Harry, and with the blessing of the muggle government, it was easy enough to have the proper paperwork filed in the magical government as well. Dumbledore had apparently looked into the matter, but Harry's mother did not trust him and never let the man catch wind of Harry's whereabouts.
All this meant that no one was willing to approach Dumbledore for the key to Harry's vault and bring the headmaster's attention to him any second earlier than they had to. Edmund thought that if they spoke to the goblins who ran Gringotts about it, they might be able to do something without the key.
They walked down the street quietly, as they would had needed to shout to be heard above the din in order to make any sort of conversation. Harry recognized Gringotts when he saw it - the bank had branches all across the world and although the style of the buildings varied, they were always made out of gleaming, white marble.
Two goblins stood on either side of the outside doors, wearing the same colors of gold and red that Harry and Edmund wore on their cloaks. Harry and his uncle greeted the two goblins and were not surprised to be ignored. They repeated the action with two goblins guarding the doors from the inside and recieved the same response. Much like the queen of England's guards, they were not allowed to speak while on duty.
Inside the bank, everything was just as busy as the alley itself. Goblins, wizards, and witches alike hurried about, usually raising their voices in an effort to hear each other over everyone else who raised their voices. Edmund and Harry went to the end of a line that led up to a counter full of harassed looking goblins and set themselves in for a bit of a wait. Despite the size of the line, it advanced quickly, and the two of them found themselves at the counter after roughly ten minutes.
"Key?" the goblin seeing to them said gruffly, holding out a veined and somewhat gnarled hand. Instead, Edmund pulled a ring off of his right hand's middle finger and deposited it on the counter.
The goblin looked at it wearily for only a second before his eyes widened and his nimble fingers snatched up the ring. He peered at it closely and tapped at it several times, muttered a word or two beneath his breath each time. It took ten tries before the goblin was satisified enough to hand back the ring and pull himself onto the counter. "Follow me," he ordered, then hopped down to the ground and hurried off.
The goblin weaved his way through the throng with practiced ease, and people always seemed to unconsciously part before Edmund no matter where he was. Harry had a slightly rougher time of it and had to keep apologising to those he ran into.
They were led through several doors and hallways, each more isolated than the rest, before the goblin abruptly left them in an office. It was simply decorated, with wood paneling on the floor and walls painted white. Behind a desk made of dark wood sat another goblin, old and more withered than his counterpart, who gestured to the chairs in front of the desk before folding his ancient hands together.
Once Edmund and Harry were seated, the goblin spoke. "I am Ragnok."
"I am Edmund Pevensie," said Edmund, bowing from his seat. "And this is my nephew, Harry Pevensie." Harry bowed quickly, his eyes coming back up to focus on the goblin. He'd never had this happen with his uncles' or aunt's banking transactions before, and he knew better than to interrupt and ask about it just then.
"'A king or queen of Narnia and ambassador of Aslan may always have a private audience with a goblin leader, although it may pass that nothing comes from the meeting,'" Ragnok intoned. "This is what we swore when Aslan brought us from his lands and we began calling ourselves 'goblins'. What business of yours requires a private meeting, King Edmund?"
Oh, Harry thought, Narnia stuff. It only ever came up when one of his relatives was dealing with one of the decidedly non-human magical creatures - talking animals, centaurs, mermaids, and apparently goblins all recognized his adoptive family as sovereigns of a place called Narnia.
Harry had asked about it, but they always told him that he would find out eventually, or that the time of the old Narnia was long gone. He'd heard them jokingly call each other by titles before as well - Peter the Magnificent, Susan the Gentle, Edmund the Just, Lucy the Valiant. He thought they all fit well. Except for maybe 'magnificent,' which made Peter sound a bit narcissistic.
"My nephew here doesn't have his vault key," Edmund explained. "It's in the hands of someone we'd rather not deal with just now, so we were hoping something could be done about it. His name would be on file as Harry Potter."
"You've adopted him?"
"Not me, Susan."
Ragnok nodded as if some condition had been satisifed and turned his attention to Harry. "Your vault is your own. With a bit of blood, I can deactivate your old key and tune a new one to you."
Harry looked over at his uncle, who nodded. "Yes, please."
It was over quickly. Ragnok pricked his finger with what looked like a letter opener, dug a key out of his desk drawer and let a drop fall over it, and handed the key over. Harry sucked on his finger for just a moment, until the blood clotted, and took the key with his other hand.
A goblin named Griphook took Harry and Edmund careening down a long passage in a cart on rusty rails and stopped suddenly in front of a vault marked 1013. The new key was used to allow him entry - Griphook looked sullen when it worked, apparently hoping that Harry would be marked as a nasty thief.
There were piles of gold galleons, and even more piles of sickles and knuts. While it seemed like a fortune at first, it was similar to looking at a small swimming pool of loosely piled ten pound bills - it looked nice and was a good bit of cash to have on hand, but it couldn't possibly be enough to do more than buy a house. It would be good to have, but it certainly wasn't a fortune.
"Would it be possible to have the sickles and knuts consolidated to galleons and as few sickles as possible?" Harry asked, turned back to Griphook. The goblin nodded glumly. "How much should I take?"
"I'm paying for all the necessaries, clothes and books, so anything you take is for your personal benefit."
Harry's fingers itched to scoop as many galleons as he could into his money bag, but he knew from experience that spending too much money at once left him with a pile of things he didn't really want when the rush ended.
"First-years aren't allowed to have brooms," Edmund reminded him.
"Right," Harry said absently. So he wouldn't need money for that... Harry put ten galleons into his bag and tucked it into one of his cloak's pockets.
The cart was much slower as it made its way back to the ground floor of the bank. Harry and Edmund made their way through the crowd and back out the front doors as quickly as they could. "Well, where to now?"
"Magie du Soleil!"
"Already?" Edmund glanced at his wristwatch. "Being underground always throws off my timesense." Edmund began walking further into Diagon Alley, and Harry followed happily. Magie du Soleil was a restaurant, too fancy for Harry's personal tastes but a favorite of Edmund and his friend Draco's parents. On the upside, they always had breakfast in a private room, and Harry and Draco were allowed to have their own table so they wouldn't be bored by the adults' conversation.
Edmund was quickly ushered to the private room as soon as he mentioned the Malfoys, who hadn't arrived yet. Harry was looking over the menu, wondering what sort of overly sweet concoction he could get the cooks to make, when the other family entered.
Lucius Malfoy was an imposing man, his dark robes offsetting his pale complexion and light blond hair. Narcissa, his wife, was smaller but seemingly content to be overshadowed in presence by her husband. Her coloring was the same as her husband's save for her eyes - where his were deep grey, hers were a pale blue.
Draco, their son, rushed in behind them, too eager to display proper manners. He shared the same hair and skin tone as both his parents, and while his eyes were the same grey as his father's, his delicate features greatly resembled Narcissa's. Not that Harry would ever call Draco 'delicate' to his face, of course.
"Hello, Mr. Pevensie," Draco remembered to say before exclaiming, "Harry, you'll never guess what came out a week early without being announced!" Then, without allowing him a chance to guess, Draco said, "The Nimbus Two Thousand!"
"No way!" Harry nearly shouted, rising to his feet so quickly that his chair squeaked backwards along the floor in protest.
"Manners," Lucius said disapprovingly.
Both boys froze. "Sorry, Mr. Malfoy." "Please forgive me, father." Lucius inclined his head, and both boys sat down in a more subdued fashion and began talking in low, urgent voices.
Edmund rose from his seat and shook Lucius's hand, then bent over Narcissa's hand and kissed it. "It's wonderful to see the two of you again. I'm sorry it's been so long since we were last able to meet."
"If not for us, then the children." Narcissa watched the two boys with a fond, loving expression. "Draco has so few friends of his age and social standing. I'll miss him about the manor."
"Forgive my wife's sentimentality," Lucius said, amused. She turned a smile on her husband. "I had wanted to send Draco to Durmstrang so he might have a better grounding in the Dark Arts, away from England's prejudices, but Narcissa could not bear to have him sent so far away."
"Harry wanted to be sent to France or Japan," Edmund chuckled. "Having Draco as a schoolmate might lessen the blow a bit."
"Does he have friends in those places?" Narcissa inquired as her eyes scanned over the menu.
"Yes, but I think it was more that he did not like the idea of Hogwarts. Susan feels it's the best place for him, but we've made no secret of our dislike for Headmaster Dumbledore."
"He pretends to be a doddering old fool while stirring all the other children against Slytherin," said Lucius, disgusted. "If not for Severus Snape, that house would be nothing right now. Enacting his own version of a war at a children's school!"
"I think I'd like poached runespoor eggs and toast," murmured Narcissa.
Lucius visibly calmed himself. "Have you chosen yet, Edmund?"
"Yes, I have." Edmund hid a small smile as the couple's arms shifted while Lucius used his free hand to touch his wand to a small, noiseless bell. Without looking, Edmund knew that the two were holding hands beneath the table.
A waiter appeared fifteen seconds later, ready to take their orders. Draco frantically looked over the menu, having forgotten to decide on a meal, and settled rather wildly on mixed berry pancakes and hot chocolate. Harry ordered last, as usual, and asked for, "Waffles made with bonito flakes mixed in, pancakes with strawberries and fluxweed, toast with butter made from the fat of a jabberknoll, and two fwooper eggs, once over easy, all stacked on top of each other in that order."
"That sounds disgusting," Draco informed Harry after the waiter had left.
"I like to try and stump the chefs here," Harry said loftily. "And if I can't, I eat the whole thing in one sitting."
"D'you have a second or third stomach?"
Edmund interjected mildly, "Before the meal arrives, Harry?"
Harry's stomach turned, and not from the thought of the strange breakfast he might soon be eating. "Right. Um..." Edmund gave him an encouraging look. The Malfoy adults seemed to know what was coming, and Draco looked curious. "Well, um. Draco. I have something to tell you about myself, but you can't treat me any differently, okay?"
"Are you secretly the heir of Slytherin?"
"Not as far as I know..."
"Were you born a girl and went through some dark spell to get made a boy?"
"It's not about you being Harry Potter, is it?" Draco asked with deep disappointment.
"No- yes! Wait, who told!"
"I figured it out myself, as I am not an idiot," Draco sniffed. Lucius smiled indulgently and Narcissa chuckled quietly behind her hand. "That time you slept over, I saw you put makeup on your forehead - which is for girls, by the way - and when you took out those things in your eyes, they were a different color. And I thought, my goodness, what reason could a boy my age have for wearing makeup and changing the way he looks and be named Harry? So I figured you're either the Boy-Who-Lived or a girl in disguise. Or just a nancy."
"Is that why you walked in on me in the bathroom that one time?" Harry demanded. "I knew I locked that door!"
"Got it sorted out, didn't I?" Draco pointed out smugly.
The waiter came in shortly after with an expression similar to Draco's - Harry's breakfast had been made exactly to his specifications. To make matters worse. (at least in Harry's mind,) the messy stack of food was absolutely delicious. At least he could have indulged in quiet self-pity if it had been bad!
After breakfast was finished and enjoyed by all, it was time to go. Harry was reluctant to leave Draco, as if the other boy might suddenly decide to tell everyone his true identity once they were out of earshot of one another. "You've got to swear not to tell anyone before it gets out anyway," Harry said urgently as Edmund half-pulled him away. "Okay!"
"Deep breaths, Pevensie!" Draco laughed as he waved goodbye outside the restaurant.
"I can walk on my own," Harry insisted, suddenly turning around the right way.
"That would be a delight," said Edmund dryly. "Would you like to go to the ministry to register your wand or buy school supplies today?"
"We can't do both?"
"I'd rather not."
"School supplies, then," Harry said on a whim. He didn't really care which came first, although buying the things that were listed on his acceptance letter seemed at least slightly more interesting than wandering around a government building. "Can I get a new trunk?"
"What for?" Edmund asked, startled. "That's Peter's trunk, it's older than you."
"It's falling apart."
"It's lasted through several wars-"
"That's what I'm worried about."
"-and it will last through another young boy's misuse," Edmund finished. "Besides, Lu put a brand new set of charms on it just for you, she'd be devestated if I brought it back."
Harry rather thought that by 'devestated' his uncle actually meant 'angry enough to hunt down Harry and ask him what was so wrong with it'. "Okay, fine. Books?"
They wandered down to Flourish and Blotts, not in any hurry to push through the crowds. The bookstore had large stacks on books settled all around the counter and a frazzled looking attendent was pushing one of the stacks into the bag of a girl with brown hair in wild curls and slightly oversized teeth. The attendent looked up at the girl's parents. "Doesn't this thing have an expansion charm?" he asked rudely. "Or a featherweight?"
"I'm afraid we don't know what those are," said a man, probably the girl's father. "Hermione, put that down, you can read it later." The girl, who had picked up one of the books and begun flipping through it, guiltily placed it back on the stack.
"If I may be of service?" Edmund asked, suddenly by the attendent's side. He murmured a few words and flicked his wand at the bag, and the books suddenly fell in as if a great hole had opened beneath them. "There," he said, satisfied. "To pull one out, just reach in and think of which one you need."
"Thank you very much," the whole family said nearly in unison. They blinked at each other and laughed. The older woman was the first to extend a hand as the attendent rang up their purchases. Harry ignored the adults and went over to the girl, who was staring up at Edmund curiously. "Hello," said Harry. She looked over at him suddenly, her movements quick and jerky. "I'm Harry Pevensie. That's my uncle, Edmund."
He held out a hand, which she shook. "Hermione Granger. I'm a muggleborn. Magic is so terribly interesting, isn't it? I could've done with spells like that on my bags for years, Mum's been worried I'll hurt my back and shoulders with the amount of books I carry around."
"Er, yes." There, that was right, wasn't it? Harry was certain there'd been a question in there somewhere. "Are you starting at Hogwarts this year?"
"Yes, I'm really looking forward to it, although I'm terribly nervous as well. I suppose it won't be so bad for you, though, since it looks like your family's already familiar with magic and I really haven't a clue." Her hand made an abortive motion toward a curl of hair, as if she were reminding herself not to mess with it. "There really ought to be books for muggleborns, to tell them what they ought to know, don't you ought- don't you think, I mean?"
"Maybe there are." It sounded like Edmund was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Granger about dentistry, of all things. "Let's look around."
"Oh! Okay, sure."
Hermione seemed to calm down as they browsed the bookshelves together, ducking around and under the reach of any adults in their way. Harry noticed that Hermione had a tendency to open a book to see what the contents were like and get absorbed in actually reading it, and he had to pull her away from her reading several times. By the time the Grangers and Edmund called out for the children to come back, Harry and Hermione each had a copy of Hogwarts, a History, So You've Found Out You're Not a Muggle, and A Young Witch or Wizard's Guide to Practical Etiquette. Hermione tried to argue that Harry didn't need the second one, which Edmund echoed when he saw Harry's book selection.
"You've known about magic since you were five," Edmund reminded him, bewildered.
"It might help me get along with the muggleborn students better," said Harry, shrugging. Hermione beamed at him. If her parents were so interested in dental care, why did they let their daughter walk around with such overly large front teeth? Harry thought she'd look a bit less silly if they were smaller. And if she did something with her hair, but Harry reminded himself that he was hardly one to say such things - Harry's own hair rather resembled a bird's nest and had to be kept short to maintain any semblence of tidiness. As his mum sometimes said, "If we let it get very long, it would form legs, walk off, and likely eat the chickens."
"We really don't have much faith in it," said Hermione. "It's not as if I knew the term 'muggle' just when I'd found out I was a witch, so I can infer that I'll have to figure out some of the terms inside from context."
"I promised to help Hermione out on the train ride if she needed it."
Her parents looked ecstatic, and Mr. Granger swept his daughter up in a sudden hug. "Making friends already!" he crowed. "I'm so proud!"
"Dad!" Hermione protested as she squirmed in his grip.
"We really need to be going, I have some teeth to pull in two hours," said Mrs. Granger. "Edmund, Harry, it was lovely meeting the both of you."
"Bye Harry!" Hermione called out as she was half-dragged out by her father, who was still half hugging her. "See you on the train!"
"See you!" Harry echoed. He turned to Edmund, who was in the process of paying for the books. "So... she's nice."
"Yes," Edmund agreed as he laid out money. "Very talkative."
"I'm so glad I know silencio," Harry said fervently.
"She won't be your friend for very long if you take that route."
"It could be okay. I could tell her it's a friendly gesture."
"Be prepared to spend the rest of your life without a voice, in that case."
Harry let out a deep sigh, throwing his entire body into the gesture, and Edmund laughed and slid the stack of books off the counter and in his own bag.
They went to Madam Malkin's next to pick up Harry's school robes, which were dreadfully plain in his opinion. Harry was used to wearing bright, rich colors, not just boring black on everything. Even his winter cloak was meant to be black! He was placated by being reminded that he only had to wear the black work robes to his classes and could wear his normal robes everywhere else, but it wasn't much to him.
The telescope and potions equipment were all brought from home and didn't need to be newly bought - the former had been a present from someone visiting the Wayside House and the latter had been given to him from Susan so they could work on potions together. Susan and Harry both liked the closeness that came from working on the same task together, even if the potions they were making were different.
Nonetheless, Harry asked to go to an apothecary to spend his personal money on a few ingredients for his own personal ingredients storage. He hadn't been able to bring any from the Wayside House as everything potions-related was technically Susan's and it was hard to bring fresh ingredients to the House and replenish the stores. Edmund agreed that Harry could visit an apothecary, as long as they were quick about it, but he was reluctant to let Harry go to the one of his choosing.
"Really, Slug and Jigger's is just fine," Edmund insisted. "They have a perfectly decent selection, I'm sure you'll find whatever it is you need."
"I won't know until I see it, and Bezoar's Bane has a better selection," said Harry, naming an apothecary in Knockturn Alley.
"That's because half of it's illegal!" Edmund noticed a few curious people looking over and lowered his voice. "And since when do you know what's down that way?"
"Since Lucy needed a distraction so she could get away from the aurors. Explosions coming from the shady part of town do the trick nicely, it seems."
It wasn't often that Harry saw his composed uncle Edmund speechless, but it had just become another one of those times. "I- wait, Lucy did- what did she- no," he finished upbruptly, waving one hand and holding the other to his temple. "I don't want to know. I'll take you there and we'll never speak of this again."
"Suits me. Just don't mention it to Mum, okay?"
"Never again," Edmund repeated through clenched teeth.
"Thanks, Uncle Ed!" And to Edmund's eyes, there was something terribly wrong with the sight of a young boy skipping merrily down a sketchy looking side-street. He sighed and followed after his nephew.
"Look!" Harry shouted excitedly once they were inside the cramped and awful-smelling shop. Jars upon jars lined the walls on tilted and badly-spaced shelves. Taking up floorspace were more shelves filled with animal parts and roots of different exotic plants. Some live creatures were sliming or crawling their way in circles at the bottom of solid crates. "They have Ashwinder eggs!"
"What are those used for?" asked Edmund as he watched a fire-belching slug warily. A few other slugs in the crate seemed to have been reduced to ashes.
"Love potions and curing ague," Harry responded absently as he looked up to the next shelf.
"And do you plan on making a love potion or contracting malaria?"
"Of course not, but it's cool. Mum doesn't have any."
"It certainly doesn't seem like one of the things our visitors tend to need."
"Oh hey, gillyweed! A hundred galleons to the pound, that's really cheap."
The shop owner made himself present at this point, giving Harry and Edmund an oily smile that looked incredibly fake. "I can see you have a discerning eye," the man crooned to Harry. "That is the most quality gillyweed I have ever had in stock, came fresh from off the Corsican coast last week and I've had it under a stasis spell since it arrived."
"The color's perfect," said Harry admiringly. "But I don't really have any need for it." He glanced over at the shelf of jars to his left and Edmund saw his eyes widen and quickly return to normal. Luckily, the owner had his head turned just at that moment and didn't see. "Powdered hens' teeth?" Harry asked casually.
"Oh yes, also very good quality," the man simpered. "The finest hens. What a dunce I am, it seems I forgot to label this one! Only twenty galleons for the jar, sir."
"It looks old," Harry said slowly, allowing doubt to creep into his voice.
"You are quite right, how could I have not noticed? I will reduce the price to eighteen galleons, sir, allowing for the age."
"This is ridiculous," Edmund said flatly, "and we have other things to do. I can't think of a single potion that uses powdered hens' teeth, and the dust on that jar is so thick you could swim in it, so I'm certain it's not a popular commodity. Ten galleons and we'll take it off your hands, or we need to get going."
Both the man and Harry glared at Edmund, who looked unphased. "Bloody ill-mannered nob," the man muttered as he snatched the jar off the shelf and took it back to the front counter. "Haggling is the best part of the whole thing."
"I'm so sorry for my uncle," Harry apologized as he took out the golden coins. Edmund rolled his eyes. "He just doesn't understand."
"He's right, though," the man sighed. When he wasn't trying to be ingratiating and stood straight, he seemed quite normal. "Nothing uses it. Bloody difficult to find, though, so there's that."
"Actually, I found a spell that uses it for the initial casting."
"Fire protection, all kinds. The spell said specifically mentioned dragons as an example."
"Really?" said the man as he took the galleons. "Tell you what- wait, let me introduce myself. Marcus Bane."
"Harry Pevensie." They shook hands, both boy and man giving a businesslike grip.
"If this spell works, come and demonstrate for me and I'll reimburse you the ten galleons in exchange for a copy of it. I'm sure I can find some bottled dragonflame to test it with, and you're not likely to find a better chance at trying it out short of angering a real dragon."
Impatiently, Edmund called out from the front of the store, "Harry."
"I'll owl you to let you know," Harry promised as he hurried out, brushing the thick dust off the jar with his sleeve as he walked around the crate of fire-belching slugs.
"Where to next?" asked Harry as they rushed back to Diagon Alley and made their way back through the crowds. "Is it lunch? I'm getting hungry again."
"A familiar, then I'll drop you back off at the Cauldron and you can tell Tom to put lunch of my bill."
"What, you're not staying?"
"Didn't I say? I have to make a housecall. Just checking up on one of the visitors, now that she's been home for a while."
They'd arrived in front of Magical Menagerie by then and Edmund dropped a kiss to the top of Harry's head, making the boy squirm and bolt several steps back. "Not in public!" Harry hissed.
Edmund chuckled and handed over his money bag, then strode off. Harry was in the Menagerie and looking at some very chatty ravens before he realized that Edmund had entirely avoided answering his question.
Harry ended up returning to the Leaky Cauldron with a fuzzy purple kitten that seemed content to gnaw on Harry's finger rather than be stroked. The attendent had promised that the purple would darken to a deep violet as the cat aged and given Harry a free manual on how to train the kitten to carry messages to the correct recipient. The woman gave a speech that turned into a bit of a rant about how cats were better than owls - cats were a bit slower getting places but could get past all kinds of repelling charms and wards that stumped owls, they were much cuddlier than owls could ever be, and so on. Harry suspected that the nearby Owl Emporium was giving the Menagerie a bit of competition for customers.
The downstairs room of the Cauldron was full of customers, so Harry bought a wrapped sandwich and a bit of extra meat and took it up to his room. He put the kitten and the bits of turkey on a plate, then gave her an absentminded pat on the head before picking up his wand from the bed. Edmund had dropped it there before he left the room.
He dropped the wand back on the thin blanket and pulled a trunk out from beneath his bed. It looked the same as ever - old and leather-covered, but wearing thin and developing large holes where it had a tendency to fall on the ground. The dull metal clasps that held the trunk shut had the letter 'P' scratched in on either side. Harry flipped the clasps open and pulled out a piece of leather with straps and no buckles to be seen.
He closed the trunk again, then placed the leather flat on his bed and his arm on top of it, then snatched up his wand with his left hand and touched it to the leather. The straps instantly reached up and around Harry's forearm, twining and melding together until they looked as if they had always been connected. Harry placed his wand on top of it, and bits of leather crawled over the wooden object to create several loops that held the wand in place. Satisfied, Harry pulled the sleeve of his robe back over his arm and began eating his sandwich.
Harry spent several hours not doing much of anything. He read the introductions to all of his textbooks and the first chapters of all the books he'd gotten for recreational reading. The cat took up residence at Harry's feet, sleeping and sometimes purring and usually gnawing idly on Harry's big toe.
He grew hungry again eventually and went downstairs for more food. The cat followed close at his heels, refusing to be left behind. When he saw Harry coming, Tom handed over an envelope along with another sandwich and a rather large piece of chicken. "Letter came through the floo for you," Tom said gruffly. "The missus dropped some chicken on the floor, didn't think your cat's much of a picky eater."
"Thank you, I'm sure she'll love it."
"Got a name yet?"
"Not yet." The cat began chewing on Harry's ankle, so he lifted her onto the bar and let her at the slightly dusty meat. She attacked it happily. "Do you have any ideas?"
"If you don't mind the thought, the missus' name's Helen."
The cat sneezed with such force that she jumped slightly. "I like that. You know, there was a Helen of Troy who was supposed to be the most beautiful person in the world."
Tom snorted. "Not much in common with the old woman, then."
Harry laughed and watched Helen eat while Tom walked further down the bar to talk to a hag that had been leering at Harry. When the cat was finished, he took the sandwich and letter in one hand and cradled the cat in the other, then went back to his room on the floor above.
The seal on the envelope was made of red wax with gold flakes mixed in, and the image imprinted from a ring was that of a crowned lion with three stars above his head. The wax and crowned lion were used by Harry's mother, uncles, and aunt alike. The part that told him who had sent it was the number of stars - three stars meant the third oldest of the siblings, which was Edmund. Sitting on his bed, Harry cracked the wax and opened the envelope.
I'm sorry to be taking so long, but Susan was right to ask me to check up on this girl - she's gone completely mental in the entirely opposite direction. She's young yet, so I don't want to take her back to the House. We're hoping that a bit of normal socializing can fix the new problem. I expect you'll see her at Hogwarts next year, so let's let it be a long awaited surprise and don't bother me for her identity, if you please.
I'll be back before you wake up in the morning. Don't leave the Leaky Cauldron unless your safety has been compromised on the level of a large-scale fire.
Your faithful uncle,
Where would he have gone anyway? Harry had visited Diagon Alley several times before but was much more familiar with the bazaars in India and how to navigate Japan's spirit roads. Harry rubbed at the makeup over his scar, which did not smear a bit under its preservation charm, then attacked his sandwich. He read while he ate, trying not to drop crumbs in his book's binding, and continued reading until his eyes dropped shut. In the dim light of his bedroom, Harry slept peacefully, a book held loosely to his stomach and his new cat curled up on his chest.
Edmund did not arrive the next morning as promised, but Harry felt only disappointment and no worry. He'd sparred with his uncle before and knew exactly how dangerous and controlled Edmund could be. No, it was more likely that Edmund had gotten caught up in something and forgotten to send notice of another delay, or he'd exhausted himself and slept later than he meant to.
Harry went downstairs for more food and to check for a letter from his uncle - another sandwich was available but there was no message. He took a tin of tuna upstairs for Helen, who woke up at the smell of fish entering the room.
It seemed that Helen found Harry's fingers much less appetizing than the tuna as Harry was able to pet her without getting nibbled back as she ate. He stroked her with one hand and held his wand in the other, examining it closely.
There were many different wandmakers in the world, men and women who had devoted their lives to wandlore and the creation of those magical artifacts. The wands that these people sold were suited for all sorts of different types of people, but rarely would any of their wands suit a wizard or witch perfectly. They were not, after all, custom made.
Harry's wand was his entirely, made perfectly for him alone. And not by a wandmaster like Ollivander or Gregorivitch, but a sorceror who had lived for a very long time and had become a jack-of-all-trades when it came to magic. Harry had been made to help with the process - he made appropriate supplications to an oak tree before taking one of its branches, still green within. Harry had been the one to request and pluck a hair from a lion's mane, and he had practiced creating the shape of a wand with what had seemed like endless pieces of discarded wood before he eventually cut and sanded the oak branch that the tree had given him. The sorceror had told Harry what to do and had eventually bound the magical core within the wand, but it had been Harry himself who did the most work.
All wands bought from a licensed wandmaker working in a country in the International Confederation of Wizards had a single thing in common - a tracing spell. Until the witch or wizard who owned it reached the age of seventeen, the use of magic from the wand when the student was not in school alerted the local government - the Ministry of Magic, in the case of the United Kingdom - that the wand's owner was casting illegally.
It was all fine unless you used an inherited wand or had one made for you by a less-than-reputable sorceror. In those cases, you were required to take the wand to your government to be registered and have a trace put on it.
It wasn't anything Harry or his family was likely to do on their own, but Hogwarts required it from their students, so Harry had to have it done before school started, which was the next day. Harry waited through the morning for his uncle, but when lunch came and passed with no further communication, Harry took Helen and went downstairs to ask Tom for access to the floo.
The old man had stared at him a bit suspiciously. "I remember your uncle saying you were to stay put, lad," said Tom.
Helen kneeded the front of Harry's cloak with her tiny claws, looking oddly content to be draped across his shoulder. Harry blew a bit of purple fuzz from his mouth. "I would, but he's not back yet and I need to get this done before school starts." Tom looked like he was softening. "I'm only going to the Ministry, that's safe enough, right? And I'll come right back when I'm done, I swear."
"You write a note for your uncle," Tom said gruffly, shoving over a bitten down pencil and a grimy piece of reciept paper. "So he'll know you're safe if he comes back before you do."
Harry scribbled down a message - Still alive. MoM. Harry. - and took a small handful of green powder from the pot that Tom offered. A few quick steps took him to the fireplace, where he through in the floo powder and waited for the flames to turn green before he stepped in, one hand firmly on his cat's back. "Ministry of Magic."
The atrium was full of people coming and going, almost as busy as Diagon Alley had been the day before, and Harry regretted coming at the end of the lunch hour. Still, he made his way through the crowd and was careful not to let Helen fall off. "Excuse me," he said breathlessly as he reached the information desk. "I need to register my wand before school starts?"
"Guardian with you?" said the bored young woman before she blew a bubble with the gum she'd been chewing.
"No. Do I need him?"
The gum snapped and she chewed noisily on it once more. "Nah. Just got to ask." Another bubble blown and popped as she touched her wand to a blank badge. "Name?"
Writing appeared on the badge and Harry read it when the girl handed it over. 'Harry Pevensie, Wand Registration.' "Follow the bird, lovey," she said as she touched her wand to a bit of purple paper. It folded itself up into an origami bird, which fluttered its wings once before flying up and circling Harry's head. Harry thanked the woman and followed the bird as it flew off, holding down Helen once more when she tried to swat at the flying object.
The bird led Harry past a lift, up two flights of stairs, down a hall, up another set of stairs, and then down three more. He wasn't even sure if he was at ground level or below by the time he reached the small office that was his destination.
The bird unfolded itself after Helen finally succeeded in one of her attacks, and Harry worried momentarily before watching it slide under the down as if it had meant to release its form all along. "Come in," called a man from inside the office.
The man who solely manned Wand Registration was pleasant if distracted and Harry's wand and paperwork were both taken care of right away. Harry left the office pleased with how it had gone and went back to the strairs, up three flights, down two, through a hall, up one more floor...
By the time Harry realized that he was thoroughly lost, he was too far from the office he'd visited to go back and ask for directions, and some part of him was nervous at the idea of asking a random adult for help. He'd grown up surrounded by adults that he'd trusted and had rarely been without them for any length of time. With a clear destination in mind he'd been able to complete his task, but now he wasn't sure what to do. He couldn't find the lift and the multiple stairways seemed to be taking him in circles.
Harry finally made up his mind to ask for help, but by then he had ended up in a hall where all the doors were marked as courtrooms, and he definitely didn't want to accidentally interupt a court hearing. Harry tried to backtrack but found himself at multiple dead ends.
Finally, just as he was starting to despair of ever getting out of the awful building, Harry spotted pale hair and a tailored, expensive cloak. "Mr. Malfoy!" Harry called out, forgetting manners in his relief.
Lucius Malfoy turned around, a look of confusion quickly giving way to his usual calm. The man who had been walking next to him, short with a somewhat nervous face, turned around as well. "Do you know this lad, Lucius?" the man asked incredulously.
Harry stopped his run when he drew close and flushed, not from exertion but from embarassment. "Er, sorry."
"Quite," Lucius drawled. "Minister Fudge, this is Harry Pevensie, a friend of my son's. Harry, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge."
Harry remembered himself quickly enough to duck into a proper bow as befitted the minister before him. "I'm honored, sir."
"What a polite young man," Fudge said, beaming. "Harry... Pevensie, you said?"
"Named after Harold Warshaw, sir," Harry said, naming the minister of magic from several hundred years ago.
"Ah, of course, of course."
"I'm really sorry to interupt, but I-" not lost, that sounded like he was still a silly boy, "misplaced myself." That wasn't much better, but Harry continued on anyway. "I meant to return to the atrium and found myself here."
"Good heavens, lad, you've misplaced yourself by quite a bit!"
Lucius interjected coolly, "The minister and I have just completed our business. I would be happy to escort you safely home."
Harry was certain that at least one lecture would come out of the day's events, but it wasn't as if he could avoid it at that point. "Yes sir, thank you very much."
"Good day, Minister," said Lucius. Harry echoed him and they parted ways.
Out of earshot from the minister, Lucius looked down at Harry as they walked. "And where is the elder Mr. Pevensie?"
Harry refrained spouting the first response that came to mind, which was asking what his uncle Peter had to do with anything. "Out, sir. I didn't know if he would be home before the work day ended and I really needed my wand registered before school starts tomorrow."
"I see," Lucius said gravely. "Does Edmund know that you're out and about?"
"...No, sir. I left him a note," Harry offered meekly.
"A note." The heavy tone implied what Lucius Malfoy thought of this. "And why did you not ask Mr. Sachs for directions back to the atrium?"
Trust Mr. Malfoy to know the name of a man in a tiny little office at the end of the building! "I didn't think of it until I was already lost, sir."
"Misplaced, I believe you said earlier."
"Yes sir, sorry. Misplaced."
The reached a crowded part of the ministry again and Lucius fell silent. Several halls later, they arrived at the lift, and only when they were in the middle of the bustle on the ground floor did Lucius speak again. "Harry, I am glad you were honest with me, but you must remember that honesty has its time and place. I trust you would not have been so open if, say, a strange woman were escorting you?"
"Of course not!" Harry protested. "But you're okay, aren't you?"
Lucius smiled then, a rare and sincere expression. "Your innocence is refreshing. Floo back to wherever you've been staying, now. I'll give my wife and son your regards."
"Please do," Harry responded automatically with the etiquette that his mother had drilled into him, "and I will pass yours on to my uncle."
Flooing back to the Leaky Cauldron was easy, but all hopes of hiding what he had done disappeared when Harry saw Edmund waiting for him by the stairs. Edmund gave Harry a thunderous look before heading up the stairs, and Harry gazed longingly back at the fireplace for just a moment, as the green flames turned red again. His easiest method of escape gone, Harry sighed and followed his uncle back to their room, steeling himself inwardly for the lecture that was sure to come. Harry would keep his voice low and explain, and he could feel like the true adult when it was all over.
Within the first two minutes, Edmund had to cast a silencing charm around the room to keep their row from bothering everyone else in the building.
"You weren't back yet, and you'd promised!" Harry shouted angrily, waving his wand hand about although the wand itself was tucked securely in his holster. "What was I supposed to do, hope everything turned out well?"
"I told you to wait! It's dangerous for you to be out alone, what would your mum think?"
"Don't bring Mum into this!"
"Lion's mane, you're only eleven years old! No matter how well we've trained you, all it takes it one person to sneak up on you and that's it!"
"Don't give me that shite! When Lucy was my age, she'd fought in a war already!"
Edmund's face flushed horribly, and Harry was almost certain that he was about to get cursed. "When I was your age," Edmund hissed hotly, his voice suddenly low and dangerous, "I'd given the White Witch knowledge enough to start that war!"
Harry had never heard that before. It had never even been hinted in the scraps of tales he'd heard about Narnia, it had never shown in the way everyone else treated Edmund. "What?"
"So don't tell me you're so responsible and self-sufficient, because I thought the same and it nearly got everyone else killed!"
"I, I didn't-" Harry stammered.
The life seemed to drain out of Edmund; he would have fallen to the floor if he hadn't been standing just by the bed. His hands went to his forehead, rubbing away a headache and covering his face from Harry's view. "I was a very stupid eleven year-old," Edmund admitted wearily, raising his face in a brief smile when Harry sat next to him. "My siblings and Aslan all forgave me, but it doesn't negate what I did. All I want, Harry, is for you to think about others before you rush into things. You're an intelligent boy, but you lack foresight. Tom says it was his idea for you to leave a note. Can you imagine how worried I'd have been without it? And how worried I was even with it, knowing you'd been gone for so long and still weren't back?"
"I didn't think about it," Harry admitted uncomfortably. "And, um, I got very... misplaced, at the ministry. I was lucky to run into Mr. Malfoy."
Edmund reached an arm around Harry, who leaned into the embrace. "I've had a great many friends and comrades over the years, but you're the first new family member I've had since Lucy was born. I need to know you'll be safe without anyone looking after you."
"I will. I'll be more careful, I promise."
"Look before you leap, and think before you act."
"Yes, Uncle Ed."
"And for Aslan's sake, don't go off doing things just to prove you're capable."
"Yes, Uncle Ed," Harry repeated. He shoved down his floating annoyance, knowing that he deserved what was being said. Harry missed the warmth when Edmund moved away, but watched curiously as the older man bent down to his discarded cloak and took a bag from an inside pocket. "What's that?"
"Gifts from all of us, for your birthday." Harry's birthday was technically July 31st according to his records, but they'd been misplaced by the foster system and hadn't been found until Harry was eight years old. Since his adoption, they'd simply celebrated his birthday on the anniversary of that date - September 15. "I ought not to give you these after you've just disobeyed me, but there won't be a chance to give them to you later." Edmund drew out a sheathed dagger first, too large to have fit in the small bag without magic, but still very flat. Harry took it carefully and drew the blade, admiring its silvery gleam. "From Peter. You know how he feels about relying too much on magic. It's dwarf-made, or goblin-made, from his coronation."
"It's beautiful." Harry reluctantly slid the dagger back into its sheath. Harry already owned a battle sword, a ceremonial sword, a blunted sword for practice, and two different bows for archery, but he'd never had his own dagger before. He usually just practiced with Lucy's. All his weaponry had been deemed too large to carry around a school full of children, and there was something comforting about having a concealed knife on hand. "Are weapons allowed at Hogwarts?"
"They haven't been disallowed," Edmund said with a wry grin. "Or at least, the rules seem to state that you need to be considered competent with any blade you carry. Shouldn't be a problem for you."
The next item that Edmund handed over was a small scroll. Harry unfurled it and saw a list of six names and tasks, all in Lucy's sprawling cursive. "An old to-do list?" Harry cracked a grin, and Edmund did the same.
"Of a sort. She's been spending the last few months running errands for magical humans and creatures. In return, they've all promised different favors if you should ask it of them."
Harry took a better look at the list, which suddenly sounded very useful.
Acromantulas - Forbidden Forest - ridiculous name for a forest by a school, it's like daring the children - won't eat you
Amelia Bones - MM, DMLE - legal advice
Circe Edgecombe - MM, DMT - floo network, connection or disconnection
Miranda Goshawk - Rowena's Valley - primary source for spellwork essays?
Xenophilius Lovegood - Ottery St. Catchpole - occult information, grain of salt
Unicorns - Forbidden Forest - donate a vial s.5 of blood, follow proper procedure
Happy birthday, Harry! Your favorite aunt Lucy
"What on earth?" Harry asked, bewildered.
Edmund leaned over to look at it. "I think she means to take everything Xeno says with a grain of salt, not that he'll actually give you one."
"No, I figured that out. It's just... some of this looks so useful, and some of it..." Harry swept a hand helplessly over the parchment, then gave a short laugh. "That is so Lucy."
"I daresay it will all come in handy when you least expect it."
"I know; that's why it worries me." He stared at the list a moment longer before shaking his head free of thoughts and rolling the paper back up with a definitive air. "Right. At the very least, I won't have to concern myself about a pack of vicious man-eating spiders."
"That's the spirit." Edmund took something else out from the bag - what looked to be a journal bound in black dragonhide. "This one's from me." Harry took the book and flipped through its lined pages while Edmund explained. "The charms will let you send letters to us and vice versa. There's another copy resting on the mantle of the living room. All you have to do is write a letter to us and add the word 'send' to the end in capital letters, and it will show up in our copy. We can send you letters the same way."
Edmund retrieved a small, white box from the bag as well. "And this contains your new contact lenses. I just finished all the safety checks on the charms." The eyes of any living being were notoriously vulnerable to charms and curses alike, something that prevented magical sight correction from being performed by anyone other than an expert. Contact lenses, being placed on top of the eyes, were safer because if anything interfered with the attached charms, they could simply be taken out. "The edges will blend in with the rest of your eye to make them nearly impossible to see, they're self-lubricating so you won't need drops, there's an extremely mild sticking charm to keep them from falling off, and they're self-freshening so you won't need to replace them for about six months."
"That's magnificent!" Harry said admiringly, reaching around to give his uncle a quick hug. Edmund had essentially fixed every single problem that Harry liked to complain about when he was made to use the contacts instead of his normal glasses. "Thank you! I'll put them on after I open Mum's gift."
Edmund smiled and handed over the last item without any explanation. It didn't need any, after all. It was a small stone ring, decorated by a rearing, crowned lion and two small stars, with the entire design being enclosed by a circle. A shiver ran through Harry. "Mum's ring," he whispered. Harry turned concerned eyes up to his uncle's gaze. "She's alright, isn't she?"
"She's fine," Edmund assured him. "There are still some who remember Narnia and its friends. You're the heir to her nearly forgotten throne, now."
Harry slipped the ring onto his right middle finger, where Susan had always worn it. He knew it would not come off unless he pulled on it with the thumb and middle finger of his opposite hand. It was a trick that had always amused Harry when he was young - it never failed to entertain him, how he could never tug the ring off of his mother's finger and she had to do it the proper way to get it off at all.
"To the radiant southern sun," Edmund murmured. Harry felt homesickness rise up in a rush and had to blink several times to keep from crying. He'd never left home for more than a month, and he'd never been alone while gone. The ring reminded him that no matter how long he was gone, his mother would be waiting for him back at the Wayside House - beautiful and consistent, like the rising of the sun.