The ending of the war was sudden, like a train-wreck, as cliché as that might sound. But it has a measure of appropriateness. And so, life went on, with a certain feeling of surrealism. Because as much as Harry had realized that, as long as he didn’t die, that he would have a future, he’d have to get a job, he’d be free of the Dursleys, all of that had held an air of impossibility. Until it didn’t. And now he was an adult, a war veteran, and a godfather. To be honest, for a while, he had no idea what to do. For so long, his life had not been his own, and now it was. Hermione convinced him and Ron to—reluctantly—come back to Hogwarts for their seventh year, so they could qualify for any NEWT-requiring jobs. They weren’t the only ones who took up the offer that Professor—now Headmistress—McGonagall gave all the war veterans who missed or had interrupted their seventh year. But Harry, Hermione, and Ron were the only ones who people stopped and stared at in the hall, who were looked at with awe, and he hated it. Finally, he went to Headmistress McGonagall, and asked, begged really, if there was any way he could take his NEWTs without attending Hogwarts in person. He’d never forget the way she smiled with sad understanding at him before telling him of course there was. After all, not everyone went to Hogwarts. After thanking her profusely, Harry packed and left without another word. He knew he was beginning to fracture, and he wouldn’t be able to deal with it if he was at Hogwarts. As much as he loved the school, it was, especially now, a source of pain and trauma.
He found a reasonably priced apartment in the wixen—and that was a new term; Harry was beginning to realize he needed to educate himself on Wizarding culture—quarter of Edinburgh, and a job at a bookseller’s in the non-magical downtown, so no one would stare at him because he was Harry Potter. Once he was settled, he sent off an owl to ‘Mione—with a pang, he’d purchased a handsome barn owl, who he named Bacchus—asking her about mental health doctors. Harry might be out of date with the non-magical culture, but he knew enough from his voracious reading as a small child, and a few scattered health classes, and especially after being around the Weasleys, that the way he handled his emotions, and his childhood, were messed up. And even a complete ignoramus would know that the battle, the war he’d fought, would leave a mark too.
He didn’t have to wait long for a reply. Unfortunately, it came when he was at work.
“Oi, Harry! There’s an owl flapping aroond front! Come see!” Harry groaned as the voice of Elsie MacDougal, his coworker, and occasional pub mate found its way through the shelves. He had a feeling he knew what had happened. Sometimes owls were too smart for their own good. Sure enough, when he had squeezed his way through the narrow aisles of Books By The Loch out to the sidewalk, a familiar barn owl arrowed in on him, a letter clamped in its beak. With a sigh, Harry took the letter from Bacchus, and ruffled the owl’s feather’s affectionately before muttering,
“Off with you now, you blasted bird!” Bacchus whacked him gently on the nose, then winged off. Harry turned nervously to Elsie, who was not alone. Most of the curious onlookers had drifted off when the owl disappeared, but Mr. Atchison who owned the tea shop next door, Mx. Kinnaird, who owned the antique/resale shop across the street, and his boss, Callum Blackwood, were all staring at him, along with her. Harry gulped. “You wouldn’t happen to believe my best mate trains owls?” He asked hesitantly. Mr. Atchison snorted, but shrugged and left. As he passed Harry, he said,
“Laddie, sin’ th’ bird didn’t harm a’body, Ah suppose it doesn’t maiter, but yi’ll need a mair confident excuse than that.”
“Thanks?” Harry said, sort of annoyed, then turned back to the other three. To his considerable concern, Mx. Kinnaird was looking at him with suspiciously knowing gaze. Elsie was just looking at him in plain confusion and skepticism, but Callum was looking at him with an intrigued glint in his eye. Harry tucked the letter in his jacket pocket, then asked, “Are you three going to let this go as a strange occurrence that will never happen again, or am I going to be subjected to an interrogation of sorts?” To his surprise, Kinnaird and Callum shared a look before Callum barked out a laugh.
“Hae na fear, laddie. We wull nae subject ye tae an interrogation. But ye hae th’ strangest luck, falling in wi’ us. And none o’ us recognized ye. Nae ‘til that bird cam.” Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, smudging his glasses—now of a much better quality, and silver in color—and as he wiped them off with a cloth he always kept in his jeans, asked,
“So Callum, Mx. Kinnaird, I take it you both went to a boarding school in the Highlands?” To his surprise, the both of them burst out laughing. He replaced his glasses to see Mx. Kinnaird brushing tears of laughter away. Ze said, gasping slightly, and signing slow enough that Harry could keep up,
“The two of us? Go to Hogwarts? No, we went to the school in Glasgow. Smaller, but just as good. And definitely safer.” Harry frowned, glancing at Elsie, who’d lost her look of confusion. Seeing as there was no surprise on her face, he decided to ask his questions.
“School in Glasgow? No one ever told me about other British schools. And why wouldn’t you two go to Hogwarts?” Now Callum frowned, his eyes flashing an amber that was familiar to Harry.
“Ye pure ken nothing, Harry?” he asked. Harry shrugged uncomfortably.
“I was raised by non-magicals, as I’m sure you know if you know who I am. My mother’s sister and her husband. They hated magic with a passion, and me almost as much.” His boss growled, making Harry jump. Callum’s face softened from the harsh lines it had taken on as he noticed the motion, and he said gently,
“Mibbie we shuid tak’ this inside.” Mx. Kinnaird nodded, and they all went back inside Books By The Loch. Callum flipped the sign to Closed, and the four of them filed up the rickety steps that led to the apartment where Callum lived. Harry found himself in a chair and fidgeted awkwardly as Callum began to make tea. Finally, once everyone had a cup of tea, his boss said, “Sae, howfur much dae ye ken aboot magical culture, Harry?” Harry shrugged uncomfortably again.
“Not much,” he muttered, “Only that I don’t really know anything.” Callum sighed and shared another look with Mx. Kinnaird, who leaned forward, brushing a strand of zir wild hair out of their face.
“I’m the history nerd, so I’ll tell you,” ze said, Callum translating zir rapid hand movements. “There have always been many schools in the Isles. With so many differing cultures, how could it be otherwise? Until a few centuries ago, however, Hogwarts was the best. In Britain, at least. But at that point in time, some rather backwards and prejudiced ideas began to become popular. Unfortunately, they were adopted by those in power, and filtered into both the Ministry and Hogwarts. The other schools, and many individuals, objected. But those in power didn’t take kindly. So, opposing views and individuals who couldn’t get protection from the ICW or hide themselves, were stamped out or oppressed.” Harry frowned, thoughtful. He’d heard none of this before, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t true. He’d be the first to admit that his knowledge was lacking. He was a little bit surprised that neither ‘Mione nor any of his other friends had mentioned it. So, he ventured that question. It was Mx. Kinnaird’s turn to look thoughtful. Their signs were slower, and Harry could recognize some of them this time as they said, Callum still translating,
“‘Mione is Hermione Granger, right? Well, most of those from non-magical families aren’t taught the old ways now. Either because those in the know are worried about negative reactions, or because those in power want to retain control. And as for your other friends, they’ve been taught to keep it secret if they know, and probably assume you were taught, particularly since I assume you don’t remark on it.” Harry nodded slowly, slightly flabbergasted. Elsie, who was next to him, patted him on the shoulder consolingly.
“Having yer world turned upside doon isn’t fin, Ah ken,” she said in a manner that managed to be both kind and condescending. Harry glared briefly at her, then turned back to Callum and Mx. Kinnaird.
“So, I have two questions. Would you two—three, sorry, Elsie—be able to teach me things, and do you think the time is ripe for change, because I know ‘Mione would run with this.” They all, to his gratification, nodded. Mx. Kinnaird smiled at him, and said, slowing zir fingers down,
“You can call me Keating, if you’re going to get to know all of us better, Harry.” Harry nodded uncertainly, then grinned as Callum confirmed what ze had said.
“I have one last question, Callum, Keating, Elsie. Does Mr. Atchison know what’s going on?” To his slight irritation, they all burst out laughing. “What?” he demanded. Elsie, still breathless with laughter, said,
“Ye landed in th’ neuk o’ non-magical Edinburgh that is th’ truly hidden magical quarter. Whit dae ye think?” Harry finally saw the funny part of all of this and joined his friends in their laughter.
With all the fuss and new information, he’d been teased with, Harry completely forgot about the letter that had been its cause until after he stumbled home off the bus, slightly tipsy from a night out with Elsie. He collapsed on his bed, then immediately straightened back up as he heard the crinkle of paper. After casting a Sober-Up charm, he unfolded the letter, written in ‘Mione’s usual brusque, neat style.
Firstly, I hope you’re keeping up with your school work. I was disappointed that you decided to do the correspondence course, but I understand. Sometimes I can barely stand it here too. It’s nice to hear that you got a job and are planning to do some self-education. Having responsibility that isn’t life or death is good for you. Also, it’s nice to know that you’ve finally started doing your own research. Harry snorted at the pointed, but fair snark, then kept reading.
It’s good to hear from you. You’ve been like a ghost, honestly. I know Ron, Luna, and Neville would love to hear from you in particular. Andromeda says that Teddy misses you. He keeps asking where his ‘Happy’ is, apparently. And Sirius is moping around like the Grim his Animagus pretends to be.
Speaking of, I’ll finally get around to answering your question, but please, please drag Sirius with you. He’s coping even worse than you. So, I asked around, particularly the Muggleborns and Half-Bloods, and even my parents, since I brought them back from Australia. They were right pissed with me, by the way, when I restored their memories—which I suppose is only fair—but they still answered my questions. From the witches and wizards, I learned of some Squib therapists and psychologists who you can talk about the war too, though they’re probably swamped. My parents knew of some Muggle ones that can help you deal with childhood trauma.
I hope this was helpful, Harry. I hope we three, Luna, Neville, and Ginny, can see each other in person some time soon. The names are below.
Harry winced at—pretty much all of the rest of the letter, then sat down to write a reply to ‘Mione, thanking her, and detailing what he’d learned. After that, he shot off a note to Andromeda asking when the next best time to visit would be, a letter to Sirius about meeting to catch up, and one each to Ron, Luna, and Neville that were all sort of chatty. He stubbornly avoided the thought of Ginny. He didn’t really know what he thought about her right now. But all of it was too caught up with the war and the trauma of Voldemort. They had both agreed they needed space. Which was part of the reason he was avoiding Ron. He didn’t want to make anything awkward with the Weasleys. The most recent thing he’d heard about Ginny was that she’d tried out for the Harpies.
A sharp pain roused him from his thoughts. Bacchus was looking at him expectantly, shuffling his wings in a clearly impatient way. Harry laughed tiredly, then pointed to the letters. Somehow, the damned bird managed all six, and flew off through the open window. Harry took his glasses off, placing them beside his wand, and closed his eyes. Eventually, he dropped off, his doze shallow, but undisturbed, thankfully.