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who discovered your secret

Chapter Text

On the street named Privet Drive, in Little Whinging, Surrey, a man lived alone at Number Eight, supposedly. It was apparently difficult to tell. No one besides a boy named Harry Potter, who lived with his aunt’s family at Number Four, seemed to pay the man any real attention. No one else on Privet Drive seemed to be able to pay the man any attention. 

This was very strange in young Harry Potter’s eyes for many reasons, one of which was that the man was the strangest person on Privet Drive by far, and the residents of Privet Drive didn’t like strange appearances or strange behaviours. They usually weren’t shy about sticking their noses in and saying so. Harry would know, because he was strange too, and the residents of Privet Drive often talked about how much they wished he wasn’t there, with hard looks and pinched frowns, with little care as to whether he was in earshot or not. 

Harry Potter was a small, brown-skinned boy with knobby knees and large, circular glasses, with a funny, lightning-bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. On this street of identical houses, with their exactly neat lawns and perfectly manicured bushes, no one else looked like him. The pale man who lived at Number Eight, who kept his house perfectly remarkable in every way, looked even stranger in Harry’s opinion - and yet no one talked about him. 

For example: Harry had unruly black hair which never lay flat, which seemed to grow back even wilder every time his Aunt Petunia tried to shear it off. The man at Number Eight had even longer hair, black and straight to just past his chin, which rightly should have garnered derisive remarks about “hippies and hoodlums” from his aunt’s husband, Vernon Dursley. And yet, Uncle Vernon didn’t even seem to know the man existed and so didn’t spare him a single grumble. 

Harry also wore the hand-me-down clothes of his spoiled cousin Dudley, who was the same age but a plump and burly boy, so the old clothes hung off Harry’s skinny limbs. Aunt Petunia insisted there was no point in buying him better clothes, since he’d only ruin them. The hand-me-downs were often frayed and faded, and soon gained many scuffs and holes from Harry’s many chores, and the residents of Privet Drive agreed that he looked like quite the delinquent. Meanwhile, in this neighbourhood on the hunt for intruding oddness, the man at Number Eight dressed all his black, in long and dusty clothes, and no one said a word about how grim he looked. 

When it came to strange behaviours, Harry regularly got cuffed upside the head for any number of things: for staring too long at anyone and for not meeting someone’s eyes for long enough, for getting in the way indoors and then for loitering in the street suspiciously, and for running across the road and stepping on people’s lawns and almost every slightly wrong thing he did. 

He even got blamed for things he didn’t do! Dudley and his little gang of equally awful young boys had accidentally broken windows, dented cars, and trampled rose bushes without getting in any real trouble. They had purposefully stolen garden ornaments and painted rude things on fences as well, without care for the consequences. Harry got blamed for most of it. He was punished for being a delinquent even when he was sure that Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon knew that it had really been their perfect little angel Duddikins who’d done it. No one ever wanted to hear him out. 

Even when impossible things happened - freak accidents that couldn’t possibly have been anyone’s fault - Harry was punished. The Dursleys had once blamed their undesirable nephew for a sudden change in weather, though they hadn’t directly admitted it. It was agonizingly unfair. 

Meanwhile, the man at Number Eight almost never left his house and he never spoke to anyone when he did, and no one said a word about how rude and unsociable this was. The black curtains in all the windows of Number Eight stayed closed at all hours of the day. No one set out the trash or the milk bottles. No mail was ever delivered. No cars ever sat in the driveway. And there were never ever any visitors. 

Harry would have never even known that anyone lived at Number Eight at all if he hadn’t been looking for them. In the process of looking, sometimes, very rarely, when taking out the trash, bringing in the garden hose, or peering out the windows at night, he would see a man coming or going from the house on foot. The man was usually carrying a case like he was off on important business. 

Once, Harry had seen the man standing at the end of the street, dripping wet, a black figure in the lamplight, looking in the direction of Number Four. The man had stared back at Harry for what had felt like forever, but had probably not been very long at all, before he’d limped inside Number Eight and slammed the door. 

 

 

Harry hadn’t begun looking for the man at Number Eight, not really, until the summer he turned eight, when he was unexpectedly introduced to perhaps the strangest part of all: Number Eight itself. He found that the unremarkable house was quite remarkable after all. It was then that he began to wonder who exactly lived there… and why no one else seemed to be able to pay any attention to the house or the strange man who presumably called it home. 

This was the summer that his cousin Dudley and his little gang put a proper name and dogged enthusiasm to one of Dudley’s favorite hobbies already: Harry Hunting. It was a very simple game. It involved chasing Harry, hooting and hollering, until Harry either got away or got shoved face-first into a mud puddle. Or was repeatedly hit in the face with his own hand. Or was thrown into a pond. Or pushed around in circles until he toppled over into the dirt. Or something. 

Dudley and his friends weren’t very creative, though they put their mean little minds towards trying to be with earnest frequency. They thought Harry Hunting was a lark of a way to spend a summer. 

Harry personally thought differently, but, of course, his opinion wasn’t taken into account. 

One day, a game of Harry Hunting was happening on the street of Privet Drive itself, where there weren’t really any convenient trees to climb or bushes to wiggle through. Harry was so focused on getting away that he didn’t look where he was going. He tripped over a curb, fell onto someone’s lawn, and his second thought (the first thought being “oh no”) was that he was probably going to get into a great deal of trouble for trampling on someone’s carefully maintained grass. 

Harry scrambled around and backwards, a little uselessly, as the shadows of Dudley and his friends fell over him. This was the part where the awful boys tried to have a real imagination for a time. All Harry could really do was wait for them to get bored and give up. 

It was to his surprise that no one pounced on him or leaped forward to get the first good kick in. Dudley and his friends stood at the edge of the lawn, several steps away, shuffling their feet, frowning at him, or squinting at the house behind him. Assuming that an adult had appeared and was about to shriek at all of them to get off the grass, Harry looked over his shoulder. 

No one was there. The black curtains of the house were still shut. A bold number 8 hung beside the closed door. The perfectly unremarkable house seemed to loom over all of them all on its own. 

No one had ever told Harry to stay away from Number Eight - and people had told him to stay far away from their perfect homes before - and he realized here that he wasn’t even sure who lived here. The Man with the Funny Sneer lived at Number Two. The Loud Woman with the Big Hair lived at Number Five. And the Mean Old Couple with the Yappy Dog lived at Number Ten. Harry had lived next to Number Eight for roughly seven years now and he hadn’t the foggiest who was inside. Not a clue. 

He looked back towards Dudley. 

His cousin was scowling at him with a pinched expression, like he was going through great effort to think through something, and he wasn’t moving. His friends were all looking at him in various states of confusion. Even if Dudley wasn’t the fastest and often wasn’t the first to catch Harry if it came down to a chase, he was the leader, and his little budding gang followed him when they played this and every other stupid game. Dudley had stopped, so the game had stopped too. 

Dudley lifted his foot. 

Harry scooted farther back automatically. 

Dudley’s foot fell back down, in the same place, and his face twisted up even more tightly. His fists were clenched. His gaze was slightly unfocused, moving down from Harry’s face to his shoes, and then to the grass. He couldn’t seem to bring himself to take a step forward. 

“...Dudley?” said one of his friends. “What’re we doing?” 

“Are we waiting for something?” asked another. 

Harry stayed very still. Everyone here was confused, but none more than him. 

“...Let’s go do something else!” Dudley declared finally, his face still all screwed up, and he turned his back on Harry with a huff. “I’m bored of this! Let’s go back to the park!” 

“Yeah, alright!” 

“Bet we can break that swing today!” 

Dudley’s first two friends followed him eagerly, with relieved expressions, as though they’d already forgotten about Harry, but the last member of his little gang lingered behind. It was a squirrely little boy named Piers, who had the greatest claim to an imagination of the group and had taken to using it meanly like a duck to water. He always liked to get one last kick or spit in if he could. So, Piers took a step forward like he meant to get that kick. 

But a strange, almost panicked expression overtook him and he spun around immediately instead. His head whipped back and forth as though looking for someone. 

“Mum?” he said confusedly. 

“Whassat, Piers?” 

“Did you hear my mum calling, Dud?” 

“What? Already?” Dudley looked around the street. “But her car’s not here!” 

Piers scratched his head. “I could’ve sworn I heard her!” 

“I didn’t hear anything!” 

“Nope!” 

With one last look in the general direction of Number Eight, not at Harry himself, Piers loped nervously after the others as they wandered in the direction of the park. Dudley and his friends had always found Harry Hunting entertaining enough before. Now, all of them were keeping an uncertain lookout for adults who might tell them off, even though the street was empty. 

Harry stood up on shaky legs and looked back at Number Eight. He had never paid it any attention before. The black curtains were still closed and so was the door, and there were no personal touches about the house or its garden whatsoever, and yet… there was something about it. 

The next morning, Harry cautiously paid the house some attention again, and he noticed that the marks he’d accidentally left on the lawn when he’d tripped had somehow vanished overnight. The grass had apparently grown back in less than a day and already been neatly trimmed. Harry realized then that he’d never seen anyone doing any gardening at Number Eight, even though it always looked perfectly inoffensive, and he’d never heard of his nosy Aunt Petunia complain about it either way. 

So, Harry spent the next year giving Number Eight a great deal of attention. 

 

~

 

When Harry Potter was standing on the empty driveway of Number Eight, no one could really bother him, even when they tried. Games of Harry Hunting always ended mysteriously early when Harry could throw himself on the lawn. Attempts at scolding for staring or loitering always ended in the determined adult in question suddenly remembering that they’d left the kettle on, were expecting an important telephone call, or any number of little emergencies that required running off right away. 

Even Aunt Petunia would suddenly remember leaving a roast in the oven at too high a heat or open bleach in the bathroom! Even though it was never true. Even though it meant leaving Harry amused and bemused behind her, though he was always punished later for not obediently following her back to Number Four. 

When Harry Potter sat on the doorstep of Number Eight, no one even looked at him. 

“Hey, Dud! Where’s your cousin?” Piers said one day, a month after that first failed game of Harry Hunting, as the whole gang trooped by Number Eight. “Thought I saw him around!” 

“I dunno, probably hiding somewhere,” Dudley said carelessly, before showing off the ball he’d taken from another kid at the park. He was apparently, somehow, unable to see Harry sitting on the doorstep of Number Eight with a pilfered comic book, completely in the open, less than a couple dozen feet away. 

It was strange and wonderful and practically magic. 

From then on, Harry thought he might have tried living on the doorstep of Number Eight if it was possible. He spent every second there that he dared. 

At the same time he was discovering the silent wonders of Number Eight, he began paying attention to the rarely-sighted man who apparently lived there. He began keeping track of the man’s strange appearance and stranger behaviours. The man cut such a strange, frightening figure that he made Harry a little nervous about camping out on his doorstep, playing with borrowed toys, wasting the afternoons in blissful safety. 

However, Harry only ever seemed to see the man in passing, turning a street corner at twilight or coming home in the pitch black, once or twice a month at most, even when Harry was looking for him. Some months had passed by without any sightings at all, like the last seven years before them. 

So, as the months went by, Harry worried less about running into him. 

 

~

 

When summer ended and school started again, Harry’s magical hiding spot on Number Eight faithfully waited for him to come back to Privet Drive every day. Harry wished there was something like it at school too. He’d never known before what it was like to have somewhere where no one could bother you whenever they wanted. No one could yell at him there. No one could so much as scowl at the fact of his existence. 

There was something unspeakably comfortable, Harry thought dreamily, in simply sitting around without anyone watching. 

When the weather became too cold to be hanging around outdoors for any real length of time, Harry thought he might die with the pain of missing that quiet, uncomfortable doorstep. The cupboard under the stairs, which was Harry’s cramped bedroom in Number Four, just wasn’t comparable. 

He still didn’t understand why Number Eight hid the people who stayed there, nor why no one said anything about the strange man, who couldn’t possibly have been welcome here. He couldn’t help but wonder what made Number Eight so special. So, one day after midwinter, Harry mustered up the courage to ask his aunt an important question about Number Eight. Petunia and Vernon Dursley didn’t like questions - at least, they didn’t like Harry asking questions, because they didn’t like their nephew or anything that he did - but Harry’s curiosity had become too much to bear. 

“Aunt Petunia,” Harry began carefully, after supper, when everyone was more likely to be in a good mood. “What’s the name of the man who lives at Number Eight?” 

“Hmm?” 

“What’s the name of the man who lives at Number Eight?” 

Aunt Petunia looked up from her magazine, expression pinched like she was about to demand what he’d done to make one of their neighbours angry this time, but then her brow furrowed deeply. Her lips pinched. She turned on Uncle Vernon beside her on the sofa, who was watching telly with Dudley, and she poked her husband. 

“Vernon, who lives at Number Eight?” 

Uncle Vernon didn’t look away from the telly. “Mm? What was that, Pet?” 

“Number Eight! Who lives there?” 

“Mmmm. That, ah, Miller couple, isn’t it, Pet?” 

“No. No, they moved out at least six years ago, maybe seven. Lucinda Miller hasn’t been to any of the neighbourhood meetings for ages. Good riddance,” Aunt Petunia scoffed, before she frowned again. “Who moved into Number Eight after them?” 

Uncle Vernon was barely paying attention. Dudley wasn’t paying attention at all. No one was paying any attention to Harry hanging off of every word. 

“Vernon!” 

“Hm? Oh. Some, mmm, old chap, wasn’t it?” 

Aunt Petunia’s face screwed up just like Dudley’s had, all those months ago, unable to follow Harry onto Number Eight’s lawn. “No, he’s not old,” she insisted. “He’s not married either, even though this is a family neighbourhood. Vernon, do you-?” 

“I’m afraid I don’t know, Pet!” Uncle Vernon snapped. “You’d know that sort of thing better than I would anyway! I’m trying to watch this program!” 

Aunt Petunia settled back with her magazine, her lips still pursed in thought. She didn’t turn around to look back at Harry and Harry crept backwards out of the room, unwilling to risk any more questions today. One of Aunt Petunia’s favourite pastimes was spying on all their neighbours. If she didn’t already know who lived at Number Eight when the man had been there for nearly as long as Harry had been at Number Four, then Harry had the feeling that she’d never know. 

The man at Number Eight clearly didn’t want to meet any of his neighbours. With a house like Number Eight, clearly the man didn’t have to meet any of his neighbours. 

Harry thought he’d rather like to have a house exactly like it someday. 

Over the next week, Harry spotted Aunt Petunia looking in the direction of Number Eight with a frown, but there was nothing to see. The lights were never on. The newspaper was never delivered. The chimney didn’t even smoke. As the weeks went by, Harry’s aunt seemed to forget to find out more about the man who lived there. After a month, Aunt Petunia didn’t pay any attention to the house at all, like she’d forgotten there was anything strange about it. 

It was like the house didn’t exist, except no one actually so much as suggested that Number Eight wasn’t actually there. Everyone agreed that there was a perfectly decent house in the plot designated Number Eight. Everyone agreed that a man lived there alone, probably, though they couldn’t really remember anything about him. Not even his name. They might have seen him before, but they might not have seen him, actually, and it was apparently really difficult to tell. 

 

~

 

Summer came around again and school finally ended, and Harry Potter was going to turn nine years old in about a month. With the weather nice enough again, he had the intention of spending as much time as possible on the doorstep of Number Eight, where he wouldn’t bother anyone and no one would bother him. So long as he did his chores and he came when they shouted for him, the Dursleys seemed to enjoy it immensely when Harry made him disappear and they could pretend that he didn’t exist. Harry quite enjoyed it too. It was a mutually agreeable silent arrangement. 

Harry wasn’t at all expecting, one morning in early July, for the man who lived at Number Eight to come home in the middle of the day. Harry was playing with some old tin soldiers that Dudley didn’t play with anymore, before he was overcome with the sensation of being watched. He looked up to see the strange man standing in the driveway of Number Eight, staring at him. 

The man wasn’t an old chap. He didn’t have any wrinkles, though he did have grey bags under his eyes. He had a pale face, a straight nose, and he was thinner than he looked from a distance. His chin-length hair was tied back, he wore a long dark coat and dusty black boots and black gloves, even though it was quite warm out, and he was carrying a brown leather bag. He had shockingly grey eyes and he looked very surprised to see Harry sitting on his doorstep. 

Harry was frozen. He had no idea what to do. He had never seen the man up close before and very rarely during daylight hours. The man had never caught him passing time on Number Eight’s doorstep before now. 

They stared at each other for much too long. 

“...Sorry,” Harry said finally, hastily gathering up his tin soldiers. Once he’d picked up all the half-broken toys, he stood up and skirted around the man, stepping off his property. 

The man watched him all the while. 

“Sorry,” Harry said again. 

The man looked confused by the apology, but then he nodded, stiffly, and went up to the door. He glanced back at Harry, then produced a key from the pocket of his coat, glanced at Harry again, unlocked the door, glanced back at Harry for a third time, and then disappeared inside very quickly, closing the door carefully behind him. Harry didn’t hear it lock. The man didn’t come out again.  

As Harry wandered, confused and upset, in the direction of Number Four, he was overcome again with the sensation of being watched. However, when he looked back, the black curtains of Number Eight hadn’t moved. 

 

~

 

Harry had spent nearly a year watching Number Eight and the man who lived there. Now, it seemed like they were watching him. He didn’t see the man who lived there at all, not at any time of day, but he couldn’t help the feeling that someone was staring at him almost every time he was in view of Number Eight. 

Being without his hiding spot was miserable. The Dursleys were enormously offended that Harry had apparently decided to exist again. After a couple of weeks of being scolded and shoved and so very disliked for his presence underfoot, Harry warily returned to the doorstep of Number Eight, carrying the stubborn hope that he was simply imagining things. The man hadn’t told Harry to leave his magical house alone. It was possible that Harry was just being silly and that he wouldn’t run into the strange man for another whole year. 

Harry cautiously spent time on the doorstep of Number Eight every single day for a week, a little longer each day, and the man didn’t come outside to tell him to get lost. 

Hopeful and desperate, on the day before his ninth birthday, Harry settled in on Number Eight’s doormat with a book about space that Dudley hadn’t wanted, since it didn’t involve blowing up aliens. It looked as though it was going to be a good day. The old couple from Number Ten and their yappy dog had gone by without noticing him. The missus of Number Three was watering her flowers and, completely oblivious to the fact she was being watched, had kicked over Number Five’s cheery garden signs again. Down the street, the husband of Number Eleven was now washing his brand new car with his son and Harry was relatively certain that they had both forgotten he’d ever existed. 

Harry wasn’t expecting the door next to him to suddenly crack open. He startled and looked up fearfully, finding the strange man who lived there peering out at him from behind a mostly closed door. 

“Sorry,” Harry said again, quickly, and scrambled to leave. 

“Why are you on my doorstep?” 

Harry paused. The man didn’t sound angry, but he didn’t sound friendly either, and his expression looked a little disapproving. His voice was quiet. He sounded quite a bit posher than Harry had expected. Yet instead of looming furiously over his trespasser, the man was still pretty much hiding behind his door, only a sliver of his pale face visible. 

Harry hadn’t so much as suggested to anyone that Number Eight was magical - especially not the Dursleys - partly because he’d begun fearing that bringing it to anyone’s attention would break the spell that let him spend time here unbothered. He had no idea how to explain to this man that his house was magical. Did the man know his house was magical? Did the man not know? He looked like he expected an answer. 

“No one bothers me when I’m here,” Harry said finally. 

Because that, at least, was true. It didn’t make him sound like a nutter either. 

“...Ah,” the man said. 

He didn’t say anything else. His single visible eye just stared at Hary. 

“I can leave,” Harry said, turning to run away. 

“No, it’s… fine.” 

 Harry turned back around, looking up at the man confusedly. He definitely didn’t want to lose his magical hiding spot. Being given permission to stay was something he had never dared to dream possible. If this entire encounter wasn’t so very strange, Harry probably would have considered this very lucky indeed. 

“Just don’t tell anyone about me,” the man said. 

“Alright,” Harry agreed quickly. 

“Don’t tell anyone,” the man stressed, like he didn’t believe Harry wasn’t about to go knocking on all the other doors on Privet Drive. “Don’t talk to anyone about me. Not even the Muggles.” 

“Alright,” Harry agreed again, just as easily, even quicker than before. He didn’t know anyone named Muggle. Then he paused and asked uncertainly, “What… what if I’ve already talked about you to someone?” 

The sliver of the man’s face looked horrified. “Who?” 

“My aunt.” 

The door to Number Eight opened a little more. 

“What did you tell her?” the man barked. 

“I asked her what your name was!” Harry answered, his heart quickening. 

“...Pardon?” 

“I asked her who lived here?” 

Harry was ready for this strange, frightening man to blow up at him, but suddenly he just looked… very confused. He looked confused and surprised rather a lot for someone who was the strangest and most mysterious person on the street, Harry thought, who lived in a magic house that stopped people from paying attention to him. 

“You… did you tell her anything else?” 

“No.” 

“You didn’t tell her what I am?” 

Harry didn’t understand this question. “What… you are?” 

The man didn’t reply. He just kept looking at Harry from behind the door, like Harry was the strangest person on Privet Drive. 

“I pointed out you exist?” Harry said. “Is that what you mean?” 

“...No,” the man said. 

After a quick glance up and down the street, once it was clear that Mrs. Number Three and Mr. Number Eleven and Number Eleven Junior weren’t paying them any attention, the man opened the door a little more and, in the opening, crouched down in front of Harry. His expression was rather intense and his pale grey stare made it worse. He looked actually sort of dangerous now. 

“Tell me exactly what you told your aunt about me. Tell me the exact words.” 

Harry tried his best to remember, but it had been about half-a-year ago now. “Aunt Petunia, what’s the name of the man who lives at Number Eight?” 

There were several seconds of silence after this answer. 

“That’s it?” the man said. 

“Yeah.” 

“You didn’t talk to anyone else?” 

“I sorta… asked some other people if they knew who lived here?” 

“...And?” 

“They didn’t know either?” 

“...Good,” the man said. “They’re not supposed to know.” 

Harry assumed that meant he wasn’t supposed to know either. 

“...How long have you been sitting on my doorstep?” the man asked. 

“Only sometimes.” 

“Since when?” 

“...Since last summer?” 

The man’s eyes widened, then he looked as though he was thinking quickly. “Because… you figured out something was keeping the Muggles away from here?” 

“I don’t know any Muggles?” 

If there was a Mr. and Mrs. Muggle who lived here on Privet Drive, Harry had never met them. Maybe they were one of those couples whose names Harry could never remember - which was quite a lot of them, actually - except “Muggle” didn’t sound familiar in the slightest. It was an odd name. 

“Muggles?” the man frowned. “Are they-? I don’t know what new word they might be trying to make people use now. I haven’t heard of one. No-maj? Mundane? Whatever you call people who don’t have magic,” he explained impatiently. “Most people call them Muggles.” 

Now it was Harry’s turn for his eyes to go wide. 

The man’s brow furrowed. “...Is one of those considered rude now?” 

“You’re really magic?” 

“Pardon?” 

Of course! Number Eight really was magic and so was this strange man who lived here! It felt like the confirmation of something Harry had always known. The Dursleys had always said that there was no such thing as magic or anything like it, but Harry didn’t have much faith in the Dursleys’ opinions. Not before and certainly not after a year of sitting unnoticeable on the strange doorstep of Number Eight, Privet Drive. 

The man closed his eyes and sighed. “You didn’t know?” 

No, of course Harry hadn’t known! He stared at the strange man in wonder. 

The strange, magical man opened his eyes again and looked Harry over uncertainly, before he looked up and down Privet Drive again. “How did you think you were getting through when the Muggles weren’t?” he demanded, before he stood up again, slipping halfway back behind his door. “You can… stay on my doorstep so long as you don’t tell anyone, especially not your aunt or any wizards you know, that I was ever here.” 

“I don’t know any wizards,” Harry promised. 

The man looked confused again. “No witches or Squibs either.” 

“I don’t know any of them either,” Harry promised him. Then, hesitantly but hopefully, he wondered, “Are there lots of wizards out there? ...And witches and Squibs? Are there lots of people who can do magic?” 

Now the man looked completely baffled. “I beg your pardon?” 

“Is… is it possible to learn it?” Harry tried. “Magic?” 

The man stared at him in disbelieving silence for long enough that Harry felt hot with stupidity. All of those had probably been extremely silly questions, ones which Harry probably wasn’t allowed to be asking. The man still didn’t answer when he unfroze, looking past Harry, up and down Privet Drive, like he was worried they were being watched, even though no one was looking their way. 

“...What has your aunt told you about magic?” the man asked slowly. 

Harry blinked. “That it’s… not real?” 

“...Really?” the man said, sounding a little strangled. 

 Well, that confirmed for Harry that this man had never met the Dursleys, who hated anything out of the ordinary and also anything like an imagination, and so despised nothing quite like the idea of magic. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had told him so man times that there was no such thing as magic, Harry thought they probably wouldn’t believe in magic even if someone waved it in their faces. 

When strange things happened around Harry - impossible things, which no one could ever adequately explain - like his appearing suddenly on a school roof or an ugly shirt suddenly shrinking, it was always referred to as his “funny business”. Freak incidents were never “like magic”. It was always anything but magic. 

“Yeah, I’m not even allowed to say the magic word,” Harry confessed, a little embarrassedly. “The word ‘magic’, I mean. Not ‘please’.” 

The man looked distressed now, like Harry had said something terrible wrong and upsetting. The man looked up and down the street again, then he looked over his shoulder, back into his mysterious house. When he looked back at Harry, he seemed to have come to a decision, and he opened his front door a little wider. 

“Come inside,” he said. 

Harry knew he wasn’t supposed to go into the homes of strangers. He had an idea that you were probably especially not supposed to go into the strange magical homes of strange magical people, but he didn’t like that Dursley-ish idea fester. He’d spent a year now imagining again and again what strange things might be inside Number Eight, Privet Drive, and he really wanted to learn more about magic. 

So he went inside anyway.