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Before the Storm

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Chapter 2

 

They put him up at the Leaky Cauldron.

Less than an hour after Dumbledore left Cane came back, reading from a little book she’d pulled from her pocket. Without looking up she informed him that he would be taken to the Leaky Cauldron where a room had already been provided for him until the first of September. His meals, room, and even all the clothes and books he’d need for school would be taken care of, he assumed from a fund the school had for orphans and those who’s families couldn’t afford everything that was needed.

He had no small amount of gold on him as it was. The pouch he used had been enchanted by Hermione a few years ago, it could hold a small fortune and weighed nothing. He also had a wad of muggle cash he could change back to wizarding money once he reach Diagon Alley. It was all the money he had now, his overflowing vault now fifty years out of reach. He should save as much as he could, which meant dealing with the second hand books and clothing he was sure would be the only stores he’d get to spend school money at.

Even though Cane had make it seem like everything was ready for him to leave, it was almost another hour before anyone came to collect him. When the door open again it was Burke, carrying a bundle of black cloth. He fixed Harry with a smile before shaking it out to reveal a set of robes.

“These are my son’s, but I think they should fit.” At Harry’s blank look he elaborated. “You can’t walk through Diagon Ally in muggle clothes.”

“Why....not?” Harry began asking before he remember that this was not his time.

Burke sighed, dropping down in the chair next to him “I know you’ve been traveling with your family and godfather, you’ve needed to blend in with the muggles to do that, right?” Harry nodded tentatively...That fit his cover well enough. “Since Grindelwald’s war, his anti muggle initiative, it’s just easier to wear the robes in wizarding spaces.”

Harry glanced back at the paper, he hadn’t read it but the headline and pictures on the front were nothing to take lightly. The war never reached Hogwarts, it never even reached Diagon Ally. He knew that it would progress as it should, for Harry was not getting involved, so his being there shouldn’t matter. History may have assured him of these facts, but the small things. How the wars effected simple everyday life, hadn’t been quite so thoroughly recorded.

He took the robes from Burke and shrugged them on. He would blend in and not complain. The robes fit surprisingly well, considering they belonged to someone two years his junior. He buttoned them up carefully, making sure nothing of his muggle clothes could be seen under them.

Burke gave him a curt nod and motioned for him to come stand by the fire. From inside his robes Burke pulled out a small jar of shimmery green powder, pulled the stopper and tossed a healthy pinch into the fireplace. As the flames roared up, a vicious sizzling green, Burke turned to him with a kind smile.

“Cane is waiting for you. she has everything all settled. She’ll show you around where you’ll be staying for the next month until school starts.” He patted Harry’s back quickly then yelled ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ into the green flames, wished Harry good luck and stepped away.

several fireplaces zipped passed his eyes as soon as he stepped into the flames, it was a dizzying but fast trip and soon he was spilling out into the familiar lobby of the Leaky Cauldron.

Cane was there, as Burke said she would be. She grabbed him as he fell out of the hearth, steadied him, and let him go quickly. Dusting green powder and soot from his robes and hair, he took a look around, gathering his bearings. Though it was hardly noon, the Cauldron was already quite lively. Most of the patrons were eating lunch, though more than a few of them were already nursing tankards and tumblers. He smiled as he took it all in.

Nothing had changed.

Cane led him to the counter. Hardly anyone took notice of them as they wove their way through the small tables. It was quite liberating, actually. To be out in public and not have people stare. No one gave him more than a passing look! He smiled softly as they reached the counter, and it only grew when Cane called for Tom. Tom! He was still here? Or rather, he was already here...it was going to be hard keeping that in order.

Harry’s small smile slipped, his mouth falling open as Tom bustled in through a back door, arms laden with a tray of drinks and bowls of stew. It was Tom alright. Those kind brown eyes and bright smile could belong to no one else. But this Tom was much, much younger, Harry would be surprised if he were any older than 30. His cheeks were round and rosy, his frame stocky and his arms strong, flexing through the sleeves of his rolled up shirt. He even had hair! And lots of it. All bushy and straw blond.

Harry quickly pulled himself together. It wouldn’t do for him to be gaping at a stranger like an idiot. Like Harry had never seen a bartender before. Tom didn’t know him. No one knew he knew Tom either. He smoothed out his features and breathed deep. He just had to hold it together and he could keep his cover intact.

“Tom,” Cane began once he was near. “This is Harry Evans, the one I told you about.”

Tom placed the tray on the counter, he gave Harry a nod and a bright smile. “Pleasure to meet you, Harry! If you need anything just let me know, we’ll get you set up right away.” He shook Harry’s hand with such force he feared his arm would be yanked out of socket. When Tom let go he took up the tray once more and raced away towards his waiting patrons without another word.

“Come on, I’ve already got your room.” Cane said, leading him to the stairwell. Harry followed without a word, taking in the subtle differences from this world and his own.

Really nothing had changed much. Maybe a few things were different. He couldn’t recall paying too much attention to the drapes, and if there were always a deep red velvet? Or to whether or not there had been a delicate floral pattern to the wallpaper in his time. Too much time had passed since he last walked these halls, too much had happened since then. But when Cane opened one of the few doors on the second floor and ushered him inside, suddenly he was thirteen again. Blessedly on his own and away from the Dursley’s for the first time.

The room was just as cozy and large as he recalled from before, though he doubted it was the same room. A large four poster bed took up most of the room, crimson curtains parted to display a myriad of pillows and fluffy looking blankets in tones of browns and red that brought out splashes of the same colors throughout the room. The drapes were the same thick crimson ones same as were in the hall, a plush mosaic rug took up most of the floor, and even the over stuffed chair bye the hearth was shocking red.

It put him at ease more than the common room of the Leaky Cauldron and Tom’s smiling face ever could. This was the homey comfort he had come to count on from the wizarding world. Tension from his all too exciting day began to fade, his worry ebbed. Leaving his limbs heavy as his eyes began to sag closed.

Cane cleared her throat behind him. “I have a room down the hall, I’ll have to go into the Ministry for most of the week, but I’ll be here in the mornings and back in time for dinner.” She raised her hands to placate him at his sullen look. “I’m not here to get in your hair, you’re old enough to look after yourself mostly. But if you need me, I’ll be here.”

“Okay.” Harry nodded. No matter what she said he was pretty sure she had been assigned by the Ministry to be his babysitter until September first. Luckily he knew his way around Diagon Alley and felt more than confident he could give her the slip when he wanted some time alone.

“You get settled and let me know when you’re ready to go shopping. Doesn’t have to be today, but we do need to get you some robes to wear until school starts.” Harry nodded and when it became clear he didn’t intend to answer verbally Cane nodded back, a tad nervously. “I’ll be at the bar if you need me.”

When she was gone, the door shut firmly behind her, Harry let out a great sigh of relief. He hadn’t properly rested in days and it was beginning to wear on him. Now that things had settled enough that he didn’t readily fear for his life, it might be fifty years in the past but if the Leaky Cauldron had been safe enough for him when a supposed murderer was out for his blood then it was safe now too.

Not that he had been in real danger then, but he was in even less trouble now. In fact he was probably safer now than he had ever been in his life.

He shook his head ruefully. Funny, how that thought was just sad and not reassuring.

He shucked off Burke’s borrowed robes as he approached the bed. They were the only things he had to wear out of this room, he didn’t want them to get mussed up, and he would rather not hand a rumple mess over when he returned them. Kicking off his shoes, suddenly thankful to Hermione for pushing him to get the black leather slip ons, more for their ease of removal and not necessarily for their aesthetic appeal, he crawled onto the giant bed and promptly burrowed into the many pillows. He rolled himself in one of the blankets, belatedly realizing that he was still wearing his glasses.

A smile curved his lips as he wiggled enough to reach his wand. He was in a wizarding establishment, there would be no way for anyone in the Ministry to know that he was the one doing magic. And even if someone did see, Harry Evans didn’t have a record. He would just get a stern reminder to not do magic outside of school.

Once his glasses were safely on the night stand and his wand tucked under his pillow, he laid back into the cushions with content sigh, yawing deeply. Sleep, as always, didn’t come willingly. He stared at the ceiling for a while, listening to the soft noise of the busy street and the gentle murmurs of conversation from the room below.

Now that his mind was settled, it wandered. Bringing up all the things he had pushed aside before in the panic of the moment.

He was alone, in the past. Before he’d always had someone when he had gotten into a scrape. At least to start. He’d never gone in blindly and without back up before....not that he had planned this....not that things ever turned out exactly well when he did have back up and some form of a plan.

He sighed, rolling around to bury his face in the pillows. What would Ron and Hermione do when they found out his was gone? What about Dumbledore!? He was going to come knocking at Privet Drive in a few hours, what would he do when he found that Harry wasn’t there?

The Dursley’s, he knew already, wouldn’t give a damn. They would be happy to be finished with him and tell Dumbledore to shove off.

Voldemort would be happy. The object of his hatred just up and disappearing from the face of the earth! Though that also meant there was no Chosen One there to thwart him now....maybe someone else would step up and do the job. Harry giggled to himself, in Fifty years he would sixty six. Sixty six year old Harry could probably kick Voldemort’s butt a lot better than sixteen year old Harry could.

His smile grew as he realized he could see Ron and Hermione again. How would they react if a sixty year old Harry showed up at their door? Maybe he was doing that even now! He laughed softly as the scenarios played through his mind, finding joy in his silly musings until sleep finally claimed him.

For once his dreams were peaceful, muzzy things.

 

~~~

 

Tom strolled through the crowds of Diagon Alley like a king. No. Like the Lord that he was. People stepped out of his way as he passed, nodding to him and smiling bright. And like any good lord Tom was kind to his people. He greeted them with kind words and a gentle, charming smile.

It was the same every time he ran one of these errands for Mr Borgin. Once he stepped out of the comforting gloom of the trinket shop he had to become Tom Riddle, a sweet, mild tempered teen who everyone loved. He was always careful to be warm to others, to put his best foot forward, as it were.

So, as soon as his feet hit the sidewalk he was sure to always be respectful, always be polite, and above all. He was always Cheerful. Not that he was disrespectful or surly while he manned the shop. It was just that, for the most part, he worked the dark storefront on his own. Able to do his own research, safely able to be himself. Until the bell chimed and he was once more forced to leave Lord Voldemort behind the counter.

The day was bright, one of the rare sunny days in that rather dreary summer. Not that he lamented that fact. He had never understood what everyone saw in the sun anyway. Why they all flocked out to ‘bask’ in its rays. He did so too, for show and only when he had to in order to keep up appearances. Otherwise he preferred being inside, with his books and any interesting artifacts that made their way into his clutches.

It was a feeling that only progressed after the ritual. He cared even less to be among the throngs of the dirty populous. He was more now than they ever could be. So much more!

Yes, more. Not less. Never less. The world might have lost a bit of its golden light. A fact he had accept in the days after the ritual. Every time he held his diary, his horcrux, colors were a little more vibrant, the light just a touch brighter. It hadn’t taken him long to realized what had changed.

Why it changed.

In a way that was something of a blessing. It made trekking through Diagon Alley, with its dazzling white cobbled streets and the constant haze of magic that filled the air, so much easier. And it was with no small measure of delight that he had discovered this change actually improved his night vision. He found himself able to read long into the night without the need of lighting a candle. He could walk out on the night of a new moon and see for what felt like miles. How could an improvement be seen as less?

And if his chest still ached from time to time it was nothing that finding his diary and holding it for a minute or two couldn’t cure. It was just a small inconvenience. A challenge to be met and won.

One didn’t simply back down when things got a little rough. Adaptation was the key to survival. Tom had learned that so long ago he could no longer place exactly when the lesson had hit home. No one was going to hold his hand, the world didn’t just hand you what you wanted. All life did was throw obsticals at you, and you could either roll over and let your dreams pass you by or you could fight your way around the hardships, through them, and take what was yours.

He floated along the cobbled road, for all appearances brimming with cheer. He made small talk with a coffee vendor, and the little witch who sold charms on the corner. The owner of the bookstore came out as he passed to tell Tom he’d just reviewed a shipment of that ancient runes book Tom had asked about last week.

Just another day.

He made his way to the stretch of wall that would lead to the Leaky Cauldron, tapped out the correct sequence to open the archway and swept inside. He put his wand back into robes, smirking when no one could see him. He was seventeen now, no one could say anything against his magic use outside of school. Not that they really had before. Tom was nothing if not careful. But there was just something very soothing in being able to pull one’s wand out without having every adult wizard breathing down your neck.

The common room of the Leaky Cauldron was just as it had been when Tom had first seen it seven years ago. A light fog of smoke filled the hair with a blue, sweet smelling haze. The soft chatter of patrons. The welcoming warmth of the fire that bespoke the promise of food and comfort.

It was a very pleasant place, the first magical establishment that he and many others ever saw after receiving their letters. There was just one thing he didn’t like about it.

“Tom!”

Tom ground his teeth, just managing to keep his smile from slipping in a grimace. The one thing He hated about the Leaky Cauldron, about the wizarding world in general.

“Good morning, Tom.” He said far more calmly than the bartender before him had. He hated the man, hated that he shared a name with such a plain, common, man. In fact, Tom had learned that his name was rather popular in the wizarding world.

It was the biggest reason for the creation of his true name so many years ago.

Tom the bartender, who refused to give people his surname and had disregarded Tom’s when he had introduced himself seven years ago because ‘They were name mates!’, smiled across the worn bar. Meaty hands on his hip, his dull straw hair a mess of flyways and tangles.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they had to share a name, this Tom couldn’t even be bothered to properly groom himself.

But he said none of that, he smile his bright smile and held up the parchment slip he always had on his visits here. “Mr Borgin needs a few things from the other side.” Tom the barkeep knew this, as Tom came in once a month with similar requests. The Leaky Cauldron was the gateway between the worlds, and the workers were more than used to running errands in the muggle realm for rest of Diagon Alley.

Tom the barkeep took the slip, looked it over briefly, and gave Tom a dopey smile before assured he’d have everything ready to be picked up in the morning. He nodded and turned to leave, almost running into a dark haired child who had been trying to leave toward the Alley before his mother had called him over for breakfast.

For the moment the world shifted, fazed into warmth, blinding relief. Unconsciously Tom massaged his chest, it had jolted with something. Not quite painful, just an odd pressure. Annoyance flashed through him for just a moment. But by the time he had composed himself enough the boy was already seated at the table, poking angrily at his food.

He took a deep, centering breath. People really needed to watch their children more closely, but it wasn’t the first time uppity wizarding children had raced out in his path. Oblivious that some weren’t as lucky as them. Growing up in a world where they were understood. Not having to fight for everything in life.

He shook it off, put aside any...jealousy, he might have felt about being denied such a life. Things in the wizarding world needed to change.

But it would have to wait.

Just a few years more.

With a long sign Tom headed back to the Alley. He still had a shipment from Egypt to sift through and Mr Black would be coming by for that cursed money clip later that afternoon.

He tapped out the right pattern to open the wall, put on his most charming smile, and stepped out into the crowded streets of Diagon Alley.

 

~~~

 

Any hopes that Cane would keep her word to stay out of his hair were dashed as Harry tried to make his way to Diagon Alley that first morning. She was already waiting for him in the common room, bright eyed and ready for the day. She called to him to sit and have a decent breakfast.

He was only just able to curb the annoyance that surged through his chest as he stalked over to her. Accidentally bumping into a tall dark haired man on his way, who didn’t even acknowledge Harry’s hurried apology as he scowled, rubbing his chest in anger.

It was honestly kinda nice to be ignored for once. He was take real aggravation over being fawned over any day.

He went to the table, took up a fork, and poked a bit at the meal. He had woken up just long enough the day before to have a nice dinner, stew and fresh bread, with Cane before heading back to bed. It wasn’t much, and she had narrowed her eyes when he’d left the bowl half full and several large chunks of crust on his plate. But it was more than he’d eaten all summer. Even now he was still rather full from it.

Cane took a sip of her coffee as she watched Harry roll a greasy sausage around on his plate, her mouth pressed into a thin line when it appeared he had no intention of actually eating the thing. “I have the funds for you clothes and school supplies. Though we should hold off getting you books until we know what classes you’ll be taking.”

Harry nodded as she spoke, giving up on being able to stomach the sausage he instead too up a slice of toast, slathering some jam and butter on it before taking a small bite.

“Someone from the Ministry should be by later today to administer a placement exam for you.” At Harry’s worried look, his mouth too full of toast to say anything, she said. “Don’t worry. It’ll just let them know what you already know. Help you find the right classes to take, that sort of thing. You aren’t actually being tested for anything specifically.”

Well he didn’t believe that....but it did make sense. Oh god....he was going to be put back in first year potions, he just knew it! The toast went down painfully when he swallowed, his throat suddenly very dry.

Cane didn’t seem to notice.

She stretched her arms above her head as she rose, evidently taking Harry’s subtle pushing of the plate for the end of his breakfast. Which it was. “So we’ll go get you those robes, a few for school and a few for everyday. It shouldn’t take long and then we can be back in time for that placement exam.”

Harry followed her through the pub to the entrance of the alley like he didn’t know the way. Actually he probably shouldn’t know the way, as far as she knew he’d never been there before. It was better that he follow along and act like this was all shiny and new to him. Hard as that was going to be.

Or so he thought, for exactly as long as it took him to step through the archway onto Diagon Alley. Then the ruse seemed so much easier.

It was different alright. There were a few stores with the same name, selling the same old things. Flourish and Blotts was still there, as was Gringotts, of course. A few shops that Harry had never been in before were still there, one selling second hand magical items, and one that sold charmed items, neither of which had ever interested him enough to go into before. He was probably happiest to see that Fortescue’s Ice Cream Shop was right where he knew it to be.

Other things were missing, though that was to be expected. There was a broom shop, but it wasn’t the Quiddich supply store he was used to. This one looked far more....fictional, might be the word. Though where was a broom in one of the windows that caught his eye, a display under it read :Comet 550: and proclaimed it to be the fastest racing broom around.

Harry’s lips twitched as he read the display. He was pretty sure there some Comet 550s in a shed on the Quiddich pitch back at Hogwarts in his time. Pushed way back in a dark corner, collecting dust and cobwebs. Ostensibly they were there as back up in case someone needed to use them. Though the only Harry had ever seen someone even touch them was when Fred and George had challenged each other to duel and used two of the ancient brooms as makeshift swords.

But here, now, in 1945, without any of their charms faded, in pristine condition. Well, they wouldn’t beat his Firebolt, but he would be willing to give it try.

Thinking of his broom sent a pang of longing through him. It was easy enough to think of this as a sort of vacation, until he remembered just how much he’d actually left behind, never to see again.

Cane, misreading his evident malaise, chuckled softly as she doubled back to see what had held him up. “You’ll have plenty of time to ogle over brooms tomorrow, kiddo. But we have an appointment to keep, come on.” She waited for him to turn and follow before she took off again.

He followed, lost in his own thoughts until she stopped in front of an unfamiliar store. It was a large building, several towering stories tall. The entire front wall on the bottom floor was nothing but glass. A large wooden sign painted a garish shade of violet simply proclaimed the store’s name in extremely loopy writing. Jean-Loup’s.

No other embellishment was needed for one to know the purpose of the store. Even if there hadn’t been bolts of cloth, every color of the rainbow and more, tucked high up on the shelves and leaning against the windows. The mannequins that took up most of the windows would have given it away. They were all dressed in fine robes of shimmery silks and flowy cotton. He may not know much about fashion but even Harry could appreciate how fine they looked.

It wasn’t Madam Maulkin’s. Harry had never even heard of this Jean-Loup in the future, for whatever reason he didn’t work out of this building then. Nor was this the shop that Madam Maulkin owned. It was odd how much that bothered him....maybe it was because Madam Maulkin had been on of the first witches he interacted with after learning about the wizarding world. It only made his melancholy deepened.

Until they approached the door and the mannequin closest to the entrance opened it for them! Harry jumped back, peering into the blank face of the dress dummy. But when it did nothing more than stand there holding the door he relaxed. Just a fraction. With hesitant steps, Harry skirted the mannequin and entered the shop. Noting as he passed that all the other mannequins in the room moved as well. Subtle, graceful movements. Almost like dancing, but in such a slow manner than hadn’t noticed it at first.

Cane didn’t take notice of Harry as he gaped at the dress dummies. Stuck somewhere between horror and awe. Cane marched through the room, a woman on mission, and rang the bell at the counter with enough force that the ding resounded through the room.

“One second!” A clear, accented voice rang throughout the shop before a man with wavy, honey brown hair swept through a velvet curtain from the back. He was tall, with broad shoulders, though the rest of him was quite slender. Though that could have just been the cut of his shimmery, form fitting robes. He gave them both a bright smile as his crystalline blue gaze raked over them both. “School robes?”

“Yes, and some for daily wear.” Cane said, all business as she reached into her robes and handed him a folded bundle of papers. “Put everything on this account, it has already been settled with Gringotts.” He took the papers from Cane with a wide grin as Cane turned back to Harry.

“I don’t need to be here for this,” Cane said shortly, and Harry very much got the impression that staying would probably cause her great pain.

He laughed softly at her discomfort. “I’ll be fine from here. I’ll head back to the Cauldron when I’m finished?”

“Yes, that’s good.” She checked her wrist watch before heading to the door. “I have some errands, if I’m not back by the time the proctor gets there I’ll just see you at dinner.”

“Okay.” He called softly as she hurried out the door the mannequin held for her. Harry watched until she disappeared beyond the windows. He might not be too happy with his pseudo babysitter, but she seemed far more uncomfortable than he was. It was almost funny.

The rustling of papers behind him caught his attention. He wasn’t alone here. Though when he turned the man was still looking over them, his smirk, like a satisfied cat, only grew as he read.

“Well then,” He said, tucking the papers into his robes before sticking out his hand to Harry. “I am Jean-Loup. Master clothier. Let’s have a look at you!”

Harry shook his hand in mild trepidation at Jean-Loup’s boisterous tone. “I’m Harry, ah...Evans.” He really needed to work on not hesitating there. Harry Evans. Harry Evans. Harry Evans. He must try to remember.

Jean-Loup gasped, instead of releasing his hand he firmed his grip and pulled Harry over to large standing mirror and had him stand on a small wooden stool in front of it. “Look at you!” His voice was much softer as he leaned close to look at Harry through the mirror. “So delicate and beautiful, such lovely features and the build of a china doll. Are you part veela, perhaps?”

“Umm...” Harry leaned a bit away from the man, obviously he was crazed. “No...I’m not a-”

He was cut off as Jean-Loup made a frustrated noise. His hands reaching up to fluff Harry’s hair. “But who ever is dressing you should be shamed, yes?” He glared at Harry’s glasses like they had done him a personal wrong before snatching them off his face. “This I can work with, though.”

From his robes he pulled a out a wand of a wood that was almost violet. He tapped Harry’s glasses a few times, muttering a string of words that Harry couldn’t follow. When he placed them back on Harry’s face they were different, less noticeable. The black frames changed into a thin gold wire and the shape brought out his cheek bones and made his bright green eyes stand out. The whole process had taken only seconds.

“Such an improvement! Don’t you think, lovely veela?” Jean-Loup asked, leaned over Harry shoulder to smile at their reflections.

“It is...” It was quite a change. Even someone who cared so little for fashion as he had to admit he looked much more handsome without the thick black frames. “But I’m not a veela, sir.”

“Jean-Loup.” Jean-Loup corrected absently, not paying attention to Harry’s protests of veela DNA. He stood back, simply running his eyes over Harry for a while, a finger running over his lips in thoughts. With a snap of his fingers a large screen of carved wood surrounded them. “You must strip down so that I can take measurements.”

Harry sighed, but began unbuttoning his borrowed robe. At leas this part was familiar enough. Behind him Jean-Loup gasped once the robe was off. “What is this?” He called, marching around Harry and pointing to his muggle street clothes.

“Eh, they’re-”

“Hideous. Terrible, bulky underclothes. They look what the muggles wear. Take them off! Take them off!” He yelled, tossing his hands in the air to hurry Harry along. “When Jean-Loup makes you clothes you wear the proper undergarments. Nothing bulky to warp the line. Ah...that is better. Now hold still.”

Harry tossed his muggles jeans and shirt to the floor and tried to stand as still as he could in just his underpants. While he knew some of his classmates who were from wizarding families chose to wear nothing under their robes, he had always worn jeans and a shirt. The school robes were baggy enough and weren’t hot even in the summer sun. It wasn’t frowned on in his time, but it looked like he wouldn’t be getting away with it here.

Honestly that shouldn’t be surprising. He would never forget that wizard at the World Cup who very proudly proclaimed he wore nothing under his acquired nightgown. Really the whole way the older generations of wizards handled muggle clothing should have made it obvious they had nothing under their robes.

It had just never been something Harry had ever wanted to think about.

The magical measuring tape raced across his body. Tickling his ribs, twisting around his ankles, and twinging through his fingers. He knew he was small, and thinner now that he had been a few weeks before thanks to his return to the Dursley’s and only eating once every few days or so. He never had any trouble with his robes not fitting as well from the beginning to the end of the school though. So he kept his mouth shut on the subject and just let Jean-Loup figure everything out.

“You are a Hogwarts student, yes?” Harry nodded and Jean-Loup ducked around the screen for a moment. “What house?” He called over the rustling of cloth from somewhere in the room.

“Erm, I’m a....transfer student.” They would have to sort him again?! He was not looking forward to that.

“Ah, yes. I had a few the year before. Such times we live in.” Jean-Loup murmured to himself as he came back with his arms full of black cloth. “These have just the Hogwarts crest, the house elves fix them for you once you are sorted.” He explained as he handed the bundle to Harry. “Try one on for me.”

Harry hesitated, hand’s stalling on the smooth fabric of the robe he was handed. “This....is this silk?”

“Of course.” Jean-Loup said as though it was completely ordinary to wear silk robes to school. He gazed at Harry curiously, head slightly tilted, his warm, almost violet eyes bright with excitement. “The uniforms are rather standard. Boring. Though mine are the best, if I do say so myself.”

Maybe it was standard in this time. He hadn’t felt more like a fish out of water since landing in this era until he was shrugging on a silk school robe, though. Hopefully that would be the only real change for a while.

He had to admit that the silk was nice. Cool against his skin. Breezy, though the weave felt strong under his finger tips. It was also a bit more form fitting. Closer to the robes that Jean-Loup wore than the ones he’d seen on the aurors. These had a full skirt....for he couldn’t think of any other word for it, loose sleeves that billowed at his hands and fit a bit more snuggly, though not uncomfortably, around his chest and stomach.

“I will add the undergarments to the list, yes? Silk for summer and spring and wool for the winter and autumn.” Jean-Loup made notes on a slip of parchment, talking to himself more than Harry.

After the school robes were tweaked to his liking, Jean-Loup’s face lit up as he swept from the changing area to bustle about his shop, all the while talking to himself about veelas and rare beauties and delicate dolls. Harry just let him be. Jean-Loup was loud, and loud people could be unpredictable. One never knew what direction such high energy could turn to on the drop of a hat.

But Jean-Loup seemed harmless. His only intent was to dress Harry up. Make him ‘lovely’. And Harry couldn’t really care much either way. He had never picked out clothes for himself before, always stuck with Dudley’s hand me downs for muggle clothes. And buying the basic Hogwarts school robes did not count as clothes shopping.

Even now he wasn’t sure if it could truly count as him shopping for himself. As it was Jean-Loup, who hand picked and brought forth every robe, held it to Harry’s face for a while before either tossing it unceremoniously over the screen and out of sight, or ushering Harry into it. All the while going on about empire cuts, and bodices, and hidden hems, and all manner of things Harry didn’t know anything about.

In the end he was unable to leave the shop with anything less than seven casual robes in various shades, two sets of dress robes, one a deep crimson one an dusty rose color that he was unsure of, but which Jean-Loup insisted looked fantastic on him. He had the required three sets of school robes and standard black velvet cloak. Along with two casual cloaks, one a bright white he feared would never stay clean, and the other deep emerald. He had a massive stack of undergarments and two pairs of buckle shoes that he tried to refuse, but that Jean-Loup had placed in his bags and wouldn’t take back.

The whole experience left him confused and tired, which seemed to be Jean-Loups goal. He stood back, grinning like a giant cheshire cat as Harry buttoned up the front of the mint green robes Jean-Loup had picked for him. The cut was slim, very much like his school robes actually, though Jean-Loup insisted they were different. Harry couldn’t for the life of him tell how.

“Almost perfect!” He chirped once Harry had stepped back to get a good look at himself. And like the glasses before, he had to agree that these robes were far more flattering than anything he’d ever worn before. Making him look slender instead of just thin, the color bringing out his eyes and the color in his cheeks to help him not seem so pale. “There is just one thing, and I could not let you leave without it!” From his robes he took out a small amber jar, when he took the top off their little changing area filled with the smell of fresh berries and mint. “Just a little bit, it goes a long way.”

Harry was confused until Jean-Loup took a little on his finger, rubbed it into his hands and then ran his hands over Harry’s hair. The change was instant. Any parts that were still flying free, refusing to be tamed by comb or length, fell into smooth waves.

Harry blinked, turning his head back and forth and enjoying the way his hair was bouncing. Bouncing! For the first time ever! “That’s amazing! Nothing has ever made it smooth before!”

“Because this is French.” Jean-Loup supplied as though it was very obvious. “If it isn’t French it is trash.”

Harry laughed lightly. “Did it grow too?” Now that he was looking at it wasn’t just close to brushing his shoulders any longer, it swept over them and even trailed down lower in the back.

“No, no. It just smooths out the strands. Makes them look longer. Though.” He leaned forward and whispered, like he was imparting a great secret. “It does stimulate the growth. It’s my special family secret.” He placed the jar into one of Harry’s bags. “You tell, Jean-Loup when you run out. More will come.”

“Thank you. For everything.” Harry looked back at the mirror and couldn’t help but smile at what he saw. The color of the robes brightened his face, and along with the new style of his glasses really brought out his eyes. His hair for the first time ever fell in soft waves, framing his face. And the cut of the robes helped him look his age, a more mature cut even on his thin frame. No one would mistake him for a child now! “This is amazing.”

Jean-Loup beamed at the praise. He was the best, so he had said. Harry was more than inclined to agree. He left the shop feeling lighter than he would have thought possible. Only the slight nagging that he should have perhaps paid for a bit of his new wardrobe with his own money to bring back down a bit. Seeing as how most of it was not for school he really shouldn’t have let the Hogwarts fund pay for it all. But Jean-Loup said that the forms had been clear. Everything he wanted was already taken care of. His conscience said he should have pushed harder.

His coin purse on the other hand was happy that his diminished fortune stayed put.

It was later than he had thought it would be. Well past noon, according to the suns position. There was still time before his tests, enough for him to make it back to the Leaky Cauldron and put his new things up, maybe grab a bowl of soup as well. He wasn’t too hungry, but it would probably help his focus for the exam if he had something on his stomach. Or at least he hoped it would. He was horribly unprepared for such a test.

He chuckled softly to himself as he strolled down the cobbled path. He might be nervous having to take tests he’d had no time at all to prepare, but if Hermione had been in this position she’d have lost her mind already. And probably have pulled out most of her hair in worry.

What was the worse that could happen really? It wasn’t like he knew anyone....besides this younger, stranger version of Dumbledore. There was no one to impress or worry about what people might say here. So what if he ended up failing a little? He would probably be given some extra classes, he’d never seen anyone actually held back in Hogwarts before. Not even Neville. And he was much worse in potions than Harry was.

So he might take longer to graduate if he was found lacking. What was the rush anyway? For the first time in his life Harry was going to take a step back, and let thing happen as they would. No more pointless concerns. No more shouldering other’s burdens for them. It was time to slow down and just live.

The pub was much quieter now than it had been at breakfast. Only a few patrons sat at tables, most had papers spread around them and quills busy as they worked in the comforting gloom. Harry passed through with barely a second glance, and if eyes lingered it wasn’t the oppressive stares of those from his time. Judging. Waiting for him to do something extraordinary or reckless for their amusement or benefit.

Once his new robes and undergarments, which he had been mortified to find out were nothing but flimsy, almost shear slips....though they were actually quite comfortable, were properly stowed, he was able to head down for a light lunch.

He got a small bowl of chicken stew and wasn’t even surprised when Tom told him that all of his meals during his stay were taken care of already, refusing to even look at Harry’s money when he tried to pay. The Dumbledore of this time really seemed to take his role of caregiver to Hogwarts students seriously. Never had the Dumbledore of his time gone to such lengths to assure the comfort of a student in need

By the time the Ministry proctor arrived Harry had finished his soup and was pacing, restless, across his room. The wizard was an elder man with kind eyes and bushy grey hair. He explained the process of the test in a soothing voice that, though it was comforting, didn’t dissolve all of Harry’s nervousness. But soon he was seated at the desk, a series of charms and wards around the room kept all from getting in and blurred the view from the window. Presumably so that Harry couldn’t get answers from someone outside, two stories up.

His palms were sweaty, his hands slightly shaking as he set to, even as he worked to control his breathing. Telling himself it wasn’t a big deal really didn’t seem to be helping once he was there and looking the test in the eyes.

But, to his utter amazement and glee, it really wasn’t that bad.

At the first question it was obvious this test was to see his entire magical knowledge. The questions that began the exam were all things he’d learned in his first year. From there it slowly became more advanced. Though even when he was almost two thirds through he was still finding it to be not overly taxing.

Even the potions portions weren’t too hard. Probably because it was more about what herbs and ingredients did what, and how long something should be on the flame, and he was not required to actually make said potions. The theory had always been easier than the practice, in his experience.

Only the last little bit of the test gave him pause, and by then it might have been the time wearing on him. Either way he didn’t care much if he botched a few answers about history. He was never prone to remembering all the dates and details, and knew very few people outside of Hermione who could.

The sun had dipped to the horizon when he was finished. He hadn’t even noticed that his proctor had lit the lamps in his room around them as it grew darker until he sat back, blinking his tired eyes. The proctor, who’s name Harry’s frazzled mind had not been able to latch onto, and now he was a bit too embarrassed to ask, collected the test with the promise that he would have his results and a list for school books within the next day before bustling out the room. Leaving Harry in the near dark alone.

The day had been very tiring. He hadn’t done more than a few random chores in the past two months. Spending a day on his feet, trying on what felt like a entire shop’s worth of robes, and then taking a very strenuous test had left him quite drained.

He crossed the room and turned the lock on the door. Hopefully if Cane came knocking to call him for dinner he would already be fast asleep and able to ignore her.

Well...he doubted he would be fast asleep, but he would ignore her all the same. There was a bone deep weariness in him that couldn’t be helped by a meal he didn’t really need.

He slipped out of his nice new mint green robes, taking pains to smooth them out and hang them in the wardrobe before slipping into the bed in just his under robe. Slip? Shift? Whatever it was actually called he had plenty of them and no actual nightclothes, so they would have to suffice.

He took off his glasses, now delicately reworked. Magic would never cease to amaze him. How something could be reworked to easily. He placed them on the nightstand and burrowed into the plush bedding. His wand placed carefully under his pillow, he curled into the blankets, bracketed on all sides by the many soft pillows. He allowed himself to relax, his heavy eyes falling shut.

And when a knock came at his door an hour later, Harry didn’t even hear it.