Harry Potter’s hands shook as he held the envelope bearing his name, the parchment heavy in his grip. It was real, it was happening. He hadn't really let himself believe it until now, despite the summers at the apothecary, even with the overwhelming evidence he'd seen of the wizarding world. The endless nights he’d spent, wondering with Jax about what it was going to be like, living surrounded by magic and learning among others with the same gifts. Reading his second hand copy of Hogwarts: A History over and over, until the words buried together.
Listening to Mr. Jacobi tell silly stories about moving staircases and talking portraits. About real ghosts that floated around and the giant squid that lived in the lake. About the vastness of the library and how you couldn't hope to read a tenth of it in your entire seven-year residence (though Mr. Jacobi seemed to have given it a good try.)
Even knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Harry had magic, that he could and did use it, he had not dared to let himself hope.
Harry Potter was not a boy who was used to getting what he needed, much less what he wanted with every fiber of his tiny being.
But here, in his trembling fingers: here was the answer. The proof of his worthiness.
“Boy! What is taking so long? Bring the post!” Uncle Vernon shouted from the kitchen, over the thump of Dudley whacking things with his Smelting stick.
Harry’s fingers clutched at the letter, wrinkling the parchment. The warm feeling that had started to suffuse his body turned suddenly icy. He shoved the letter into his shorts pocket, startling Jax. He'd have time to read it later when he was safely away from his family.
Harry gathered the rest of the mail up, bringing it to Uncle Vernon with a whispered apology and started on the breakfast cleanup. Uncle Vernon grunted, choosing to ignore him in favor of reading a postcard from his sister, but Aunt Petunia was eyeing him sharply.
“More tea, Aunt Petunia?” he offered while grabbing the dirty plates off the table, his mask of meek nephew firmly in place. He would not let her ruin this.
She eyed him a moment longer before sharply nodding and going back to fawning over her Diddums at how handsome he looked in his new uniform. Harry didn't let his guard down until he had finished all his chores and was safely out of the house and down the street.
They went to the park. It was a bright summer day and he could hear shrieking laughter from the direction of the jungle gym and swings. Harry steered them over to a secluded corner, settling down behind some bushes and letting Jax slither out of his pocket onto the warm earth before grabbing the slightly creased envelope out.
“Sorry for that,” Harry hissed softly, stroking down his familiar's smooth scales. The purple swirls stood out brightly in the sun. Jax bobbed his head with a dismissive hiss.
“It's fine. Is that it? It smells magical. Are we finally going?” Jax was nudging at the envelope excitedly with his snout, urging Harry to open it.
Still Harry hesitated; what if it was a rejection? A Sorry, Mr. Potter, but you don’t seem to be the right fit for this school. Harry turned the parchment over, running a finger over the familiar crest pressed into the wax seal.
No. He refused to believe that. Harry had magic. If Hogwarts didn’t want him, he’d find another school to take him in. Or buy the bloody books and teach himself.
Filed with a sudden determination, Harry broke the red wax holding the heavy envelope closed and opened the letter. There were two pieces of parchment, the first of which bore the Hogwarts seal in cheerful colors. Harry felt a grin overtaking his face as he scanned the missive.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.
“We did it, Jax,” he whispered. He felt warm and floaty, like he could just drift off into the sky if his serpent weren’t there to ground him with affectionate licks to his nose and cheeks, the little forked tongue tickling. Jax didn’t mention the tears making tracks down his face.
They stayed like that, huddling under the bushes as the sounds of happy children playing surrounded them and the sun rose higher in the sky. They were going to Hogwarts.
Jax had wanted to go straight to Diagon Alley and buy all the things listed on the second form, but Harry urged them to be cautious. They’d have to travel by Floo and Mrs. Figg wasn’t due her weekly shopping trip for a good few days. Aunt Petunia had also been watching Harry a lot closer this summer than previous ones. She hadn’t forbade him his walks or demanded he be back at a certain time, but she watched him all the same, peering through the windows as he worked the garden like she hadn’t done in years. Harry warned off any snakes that came visiting, not wanting them to be caught in any potential crossfire. He could tell it upset Jax, but his friend put on a brave face, a determined glint in his purple reptilian eyes.
Aunt Petunia had also started picking up the mail herself, her lips pursing every time the little door flap sounded. Harry worried that she would start rummaging through his cupboard soon, too. He just kept on like everything was normal: he did his chores without complaint, avoided his cousin and his new Smelting stick, and (unbeknownst to his family) went to the apothecary as usual. He didn’t tell Mr. Jacobi that he’d gotten his letter yet; he wanted to wait until after he’d bought his school things. He didn’t know why he was hesitating on telling the man, who asked eagerly both times Harry had been down there that week if he’d received it yet. Harry figured it was ‘cause he knew the man would want to see it, and Harry was not ready to reveal who he was just yet. Afraid of losing one of the only good things in his life.
So Harry carried on, knowing he had to tread lightly now more than ever. This was too important to rush and risk ruin.
On the day he knew Mrs. Figg would be out, Harry had trouble keeping his calm facade in place. Even Jax was restless. Harry had to leave him in the cupboard as he went to make breakfast, as the snake was too agitated to stay still enough to remain undetected in Harry’s pocket, the one he was nearly too big for already.
Breakfast passed with little fuss, Dudley nearly knocking the orange juice jug to the floor with his stick and Uncle Vernon chuckling and calling him rambunctious. If it had been Harry, he knew it would have earned him a good whack. Normally, that would have made him seethe inside, but not today. Nothing could ruin today.
Harry cleaned up quickly before moving outside. He’d been extra meticulous with the pruning and general upkeep yesterday, so it took very little time to complete the outside chores. As he ducked back into the house he could hear his aunt running a vacuum upstairs and quickly dove for his cupboard.
He had already packed his sock of galleons, books, and the Hogwarts letter into one of Dudley’s old backpacks (it had one broken strap but still worked fine) in case he had to make fast retreat.
“Jax?” Harry called softly, and the snake poked his head out of the top of the pack.
“Is it time?” Harry grinned at his clever friend and grabbed the bag.
“Yes, let’s hurry before she comes downstairs.”
Jax disappeared back into the depths of the pack and Harry swung it over one shoulder. He could still hear the hum of the vacuum as he crept out of the house. It was still a good while before noon, so Harry was cautious as he approached his old sitter’s house. Luckily it looked like she had left already, so he let them inside with the spare key. He had to dodge a few curious and overly friendly cats on the way to the Floo, but it wasn’t too bad. Harry took a moment to pull on a slightly grungy newsboy cap he had rescued from the school’s lost and found, tugging it low over his forehead. He did not want to be recognized and had a feeling there would be a few eyes looking out for black haired eleven-year-olds buying Hogwarts supplies this year.
He hitched the pack that contained everything he cared about in this world higher on his shoulder and grabbed a pinch of gritty powder.
Harry stepped into the flames.
After being once more spit unceremoniously onto the floor of Flourish and Blotts (he managed to right himself without help this time,) Harry made his way quickly to the exit. He knew where to go first and headed up the busy street with determination.
Jax poked his head out of the top of the bag to look over Harry’s shoulder, purple tongue flicking furiously to try and taste all the different things in the air.
“Where are we going?” he asked, staring at the shiny trinkets hanging from a stall they passed.
“To get my wand,” Harry answered quietly, already seeing the little shop at the end of the row. A single slender wand rested on a pillow in the window and the sign hanging over the door read Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. in peeling gold leaf. Jax hissed approvingly, ducking back into the bag as they entered the dimly lit store. It was sort of shabby on the inside but Harry didn’t mind, staring around him at the rows and rows of little boxes stacked on the shelves.
He walked up to the counter. There wasn’t anybody there, but when he rang the small bell there was a muffled shout from the back. A moment later a tall, thin, older wizard with a shock of flyaway white hair and very wide eyes that seemed to bug out a little appeared. This was obviously Ollivander; Mr. Jacobi had told Harry about him when he’d asked about wands and how they worked.
“Ah, yes. Hogwarts is it, young man?” He had a low, raspy kind of voice. Harry nodded, looking up from under his cap and meeting the disconcerting gaze of the wandmaker.
“Yes, sir. I need to buy a wand.”
Mr. Ollivander stared down at him silently for a few moments, unblinking. It was a little unnerving, but not as much as what he said next.
“Of course, Mr. Potter, I was wondering when I’d see you in here.”
Harry took a nervous step back, “How--?”
Mr. Ollivander tapped at the corner of his eye, giving Harry a grin that he really rather wished the man hadn’t.
“The eyes, Mr. Potter, they’re just like your mothers. It seems like just yesterday she was in here buying her first wand: ten and a quarter inches, willow, nice and swishy.” He gestured around the room. “I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter.”
Harry wanted to take another step back; he did not think he liked Mr. Ollivander very much. Instead, he squared his shoulders and stood his ground. No amount of creepy eye bugging and raspy words were going to stand in the way of him getting what he needed here.
“I’d like to buy a wand, please,” he repeated. This time Mr. Ollivander just nodded and gestured for Harry to wait there before disappearing into the back once more.
“It smells really strange in here, like dusty magic but not stale,” Jax hissed from the bag. “Like the room is so filled with power that even the air is made up of it.” This was followed by a series of snakey sneezes. Harry didn’t have time to reply before Mr. Ollivander was back, arms loaded with a multitude of long, thin boxes that he dumped into a pile on the counter.
“Here we go, try this one.” Harry was handed a shortish, dark wand. “Hawthorn, six and quarter, dragon heartstring.”
Harry took it, feeling a kind of tickle run up his arm, but when he flicked it like he’d seen Mr. Jacobi do countless times, nothing happened.
“No matter, no matter. Here, try this: maple and unicorn, eight and three fourths.” That one was snatched out of his hand almost as soon as he’d touched it.
They went through the entire pile that way, some wands feeling a bit warm in his hand while others he wanted to drop as soon as he picked them up. With each failed attempt Harry grew more frustrated, but Mr. Ollivander seemed to get increasingly excited.
“Tricky customer, not to worry, Mr. Potter, we’ll find the right one for you. The wand chooses the wizard after--” He was interrupted by another round of sneezing from Harry’s bag. Mr. Ollivander eyed it curiously.
“Does your pack have a bit of a cold, Mr. Potter?” It was said in such a dry manner that Harry was unsure if the old wizard was joking or not. Either way he shook his head and slid the bag gently to the floor.
“It’s just Jax,” he said, letting the serpent slither up his arm to sit across his shoulders, needing the comfort after the frustration of trying to find a wand.
“Sorry,” his snake hissed, nuzzling at Harry’s temple and dislodging the hat a bit. “There’s too much magic floating around, I couldn’t hold it in.”
Harry stroked between his purple eyes, and muttered back, “It’s fine, not your fault. I’ll try to hurry up.”
Harry looked back to see Mr. Ollivander giving him a contemplative look.
“Curious, I wonder...” He stared a moment longer before nodding to himself. “Yes, I do believe that’s it.”
Harry watched him disappear once more into the back of the store and continued to pet Jax, hoping they could get out of there soon. He didn’t like how Mr. Ollivander looked at him like he could see into Harry’s soul.
The older wizard came back with a single box, setting it almost reverently on the overcrowded countertop. He tapped the lid with a bony finger.
“This is a very special wand, Mr. Potter. The phoenix that gave a feather for it gave one other, just one other.” He opened the box, revealing a wand with an almost honey colored wood, long and smooth. Harry itched to pick it up. “The wizard who owned this wand’s brother also had the gift of parseltongue. Here,” he said as he gently picked up the wand and held it out. “Eleven inches, holly, nice and supple.”
Harry knew, almost before his fingers touched the wood that this was his wand. It sent such a strong, warm zing up his arm that he nearly jumped. He gave it an experimental swish through the air and was immediately showered in green and purple sparks, like glittering rain.
Mr. Ollivander clapped loudly, once.
“Very nice, Mr. Potter, yes, I do believe this is the one.” Harry nodded, clutching it close to his chest, as if afraid it was going to be snatched back like the others. Jax leaned down and flicked his tongue out at it, bobbing his head approvingly, though the effect was slightly marred by another round of sneezing.
“Who owned the other one?” Harry asked as he bent down to fish his money sock out of the bag.
Mr. Ollivander paused in his effort to straighten up the pile of boxes on the counter. He looked like he might not answer for a moment before he finally said, “Why, that is what is most curious, Mr. Potter. Also why I expect to see great things from you. The one who owned the brother to your wand did great things; terrible yes, but great.” He pointed a bony finger at Harry's forehead, where Jax had dislodged his cap. “He was the one to give you that scar.”
Harry did step back then, feeling chilled. The Dark Lord, his parent's murderer. The one responsible for all the pain and misery in his life and so many others.
Harry did not like the idea of sharing anything with Lord Voldemort, but just the thought of giving up the wand in his hand sent his mind into a bit of a panic. No, it was his wand. Magic was magic. What mattered was what you did with it. Harry thought back to the first time he had met Mr. Jacobi, what he’d said about parseltongue and unthinking prejudice. Harry gripped his wand tighter. He would find a way to turn this into an advantage. He would not let any preconceived notions hinder his path. He did not share a wand core with the Dark Lord: the Dark Lord shared one with him.
“How much? I’ve a lot more things to get.”
Mr. Ollivander was looking at him like he could see right to Harry’s very center, but Harry could not tell what the old wizard thought of what he saw. Harry handed over seven galleons for the wand and declined the offer to box it up for him, pocketing it instead. He thanked Mr. Ollivander, righted his cap and shouldered his bag before leaving the dim and dusty shop for the bright and busy Alley.
Jax hissed his gratitude at being away from such densely packed magic and Harry patted his friend affectionately.
“Let’s go to Gringotts next, I don’t like having all our money where it can be so easily snatched.”
Jax readily agreed and they made their way back up the street, Harry fingering the wand in his pocket and not trying too hard to suppress his grin.