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What An Unfortunate Child

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There was sadness in her face as she told him that he looked a lot like his father. Harry gave the woman a confused look. “You know him?”

She blinked a few times, and then nodded once. “Oh yes. I was one of his professors. Probably his least favorite, considering how many house points I had to take away from him and his friends. They were quite the set of trouble makers.”

It wasn’t hard to imagine that being the case. Petunia and Vernon hated Harry’s parents, and they were the picture of ‘perfection’. “It’s cool that we saw each other then,” Harry told her. “Did you know my mom too? I think they went to school together.”

The woman seemed slightly surprised by the question, but then she nodded once. “Yes, I knew your mother as well.”

Harry’s eyes widened, and he clapped his hands together in excitement. “Can you tell me about them? Please?” Then he remembered his manners, and stuck out one of his hands. “I’m Harry!”

She cautiously accepted his handshake. “Yes, I know who you are. I am Minerva McGonagall.” As she shook his head, his sleeve rolled up a bit, revealing the edge of the bruise that had been left behind by Vernon’s tight grip. “Are you alright, Harry?”

Even if this woman did know his parents, it didn’t mean that it would be okay for Harry to talk to her about what his aunt and uncle called ‘private business’. So he just shrugged and then nodded. “Yup, I’m fine.”

Minerva pursed her lips together. “I see.” She looked around the grocery store where they had bumped into each other. “Where are your guardians?”

Harry proudly held up the hand basket he’d been carrying around. “I’m shopping!” he announced. He’d been told a million times before not to show his money to anyone other than the cashier, but this wasn’t money, it was the product of his hard work searching around for all the right items in all the right brands.

One of Minerva’s eyes twitched. “By yourself? Does this happen often?”

She didn’t sound angry, so Harry nodded. “Yup!” Then he leaned forward and lowered his voice to bring Minerva in on a secret. “Sometimes if there’s change under ten p, I can keep it and nobody will notice.” Then he leaned back, still grinning. “Isn’t that cool?”

Minerva smiled gently. “Yes, it is very cool that you are able to handle such a responsibility.” She hesitated for a moment before asking him, “Do you know a neighbor of yours named Mrs. Arabella Figg?”

Harry shrugged. “She smells kinda funny and has a lot of cats. I used to go to her house when I needed a babysitter, but I’m old enough to stay home all by myself now, so I don’t see her anymore.”

Minerva knelt down in front of Harry. “You want to know more about your parents, right? Well then can I tell you a secret? You have to promise not to say anything to anyone else?”

Harry’s eyes widened at the idea of being let in on a secret, and he nodded, a solemn look on his gaunt little face. “I promise that I won’t tell anyone else.”

She leaned in closer, and spoke in a whisper. “Your parents were magical, Harry. Your dad was a wizard and your mother was a witch. And they loved you very much and would have never wanted for you to end up…” she trailed off, looking slightly uncomfortable. “Are you happy with your aunt and uncle, Harry?”

He hesitated for a moment too long before shrugging. “They’re nice,” he said slowly. It had been drilled into him a long time ago that that was always the answer he should give if anyone asked him about his life with Petunia and Vernon. It was obviously a lie, and Harry didn’t understand why it was a big deal for him to just tell the truth, but he had learned his lesson well enough to know that it wasn’t something he would even attempt.

Somehow, Minerva seemed to figure out that it was a lie as well, and she sighed. “It’s okay, Harry. You don’t need to protect them. If they’ve mistreated you in any way at all, then you can just tell me, and I promise that I will get you out of there.”

Well that was a new one. He’d never been offered a way out of his relatives’ house before. It sounded almost too good to be true. Maybe this was all actually some kind of trap, and as nice as Minerva seemed, she was just a friend of Petunia’s out to trick Harry into giving a bad answer that would get him into trouble.

But something about her made him think that that couldn’t be the case. There was a gentle wisdom in her eyes that seemed out of place for anyone who associated with the Dursleys. She somewhat reminded Harry of a teacher he’d had a couple of years ago. It had been the first year that he and Dudley had ended up in the same class, and the teacher seemed to immediately notice Dudley leading the bullying against Harry, and at first she’d tried giving Dudley detention. But Petunia and Vernon had adamantly argued against the punishment and threatened to get the woman fired. Harry had been sure that that would be the end of her kindness, but surprisingly enough, it hadn’t been.

She had started giving Harry ‘detentions’ nearly everyday. It was easy enough for his aunt and uncle to believe that he got in that much trouble all the time because of how much of a freak he was, and the teacher never actually put the detentions into Harry’s discipline file. Instead, she would use the extra hour after school to help him with homework or just chat with him, and it had been the best few months of Harry’s life.

Harry shifted his grip on the handles of his basket, and then gave Minerva a shy look. “You’ll really take me?”

Minerva blinked a few times before answering. “Well, I don’t know if I personally…” Harry tightened his grip until his knuckles went white. He barely knew Minerva, but he could see that she was a good person, and he couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t end up somewhere worse if he was just going to be placed somewhere random. She sighed, and then bowed her head down. After a moment, she reached up to gently hold the sides of Harry’s arms. “I’m sure we can work something out. Why don’t you put those groceries away, and we can go somewhere else to talk about this?”

Before Harry could say that he’d get in a lot of trouble if he didn’t actually return with everything on the shopping list he’d been given, he heard his name being called, and he squeezed his eyes shut. “Hey look, it’s scary Harry! Finally find yourself a girlfriend?”

Harry turned around to see Duncan, one of Dudley’s friends, and one of Harry’s tormentors. And Duncan looked viciously gleeful to have spotted Harry. Duncan’s mom was probably nearby, but she wouldn’t come to Harry’s rescue even if she was standing right there. He waited for whatever else Duncan was going to throw at him.

But then, Minerva straightened up and strode over to Duncan, towering over the boy. She peered down at him from underneath her glasses, and gave him a rather intimidating frown of disappointment. “Is that really any way to conduct yourself in public, young man? Have you learned nothing of common decency or being polite? Because I fear I must inform you that your behavior is simply atrocious, and shall not be allowed to stand.”

“Oh yeah? And what are you going to do about it?” Duncan sneered. But there was a slight tremor in his lip that wasn’t usually there, which seemed to be a sign that he was actually at least a little bit frightened by this woman.

Minerva put her hands on her hips. “I believe that most young children prescribe to the idea of a St. Nicholas who brings them toys and candy once a year?” Duncan nodded hesitantly. “Well I happen to be personal friends with Nicholas, and though you have clearly remained on his ‘nice list’ through some tragic mistake, I would be more than happy to make sure that this problem is corrected. I’m assuming that you would not like to receive lumps of coal for your winter holiday?”

Duncan gulped. “You’re making that up,” he accused in a wavering voice.

Minerva reached into one of her pockets and pulled out a long, thin wooden stick. “I can assure you that I am not,” she told him gravely. She flicked the stick forward once, and then suddenly there was snow falling down just on Duncan. His eyes widened, and he opened his mouth like he was going to scream, but Minerva wasn’t finished talking. “Now unless you would like something even worse than coal, I strongly suggest that you apologize for what you’ve said, and then be on your way.”

Duncan peered over at where Harry was still standing awkwardly. “Sorry!” he shrieked before turning and running away. He slipped a bit on the bits of linoleum flooring that had the fallen snow on it. Once he was gone, the snow stopped falling, and what was left melted away completely, like it had never even been there.

Minerva put her stick away, and then turned back to Harry, who was staring up at her in awe. “Do you really know Santa Clause?”

She shrugged, and reached down to straighten her dress, even though it didn’t seem to have anything wrong with it. “Not exactly. I know a man named Nick, and he has a rather saint-like patience with certain children.”

“Then how did you do that with the snow? It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen before!”

She held out one hand, and Harry moved the basket so that he was only holding it with one hand so that he could hold Minerva’s with the other. They went around the store to put back the few things Harry had already gathered, and then they left the store. “I told you, your parents were magical. I am as too, and I suspect that you are as well. For a child your age, it is illegal to do intentional magic outside of a school setting, but there are so many opportunities to learn even before you are ready for school. I think that you’ll take well to a different setting. Before we make anything official, though, we need to speak with Dumbledore. He is the headmaster at Hogwarts, which is the best known wizarding school in Britain. He was the one who placed you with your relatives in the first place, which is why I would like to have some words with him.” She looked down at Harry curiously. “When’s the last time you ate?”

He stopped to think about it for a moment before answering. “There were some leftover eggs from breakfast.” They’d been slightly undercooked, but he’d still been grateful for them.

Minerva didn’t look happy to hear that, but she didn’t yell at Harry about it. “I suppose that should make this easier on you. Most people find the sensation rather sickening at first, and end up vomiting.”

Harry was about to ask what she was talking about, but once they rounded the corner into an empty alleyway, he understood. It felt like someone was trying to twist him inside out, and he wanted to start screaming, but he couldn’t even feel his mouth. The only thing he could really feel was the way that Minerva’s hand squeezed his tightly. Just short of being painfully so.

As soon as it felt like the ground beneath his feet was solid again, Harry collapsed down to his knees and started dry heaving. It took a few minutes before he was able to open his eyes without feeling like his head was spinning around, and then his eyes grew even wider as he saw that they were standing somewhere that he had never been before. “How…?”

Minerva reached down to help him up, and waved her stick. His stomach seemed to settle down once she did that. “Magic. You will be able to do stuff like this someday for yourself. For now, follow me, and do make sure that you stay close.”

It was easy enough to understand why she had to specify that instruction. There seemed to be something incredible going on every few feet as they traveled through the small town that Minerva had brought them to. They went inside a small building, and Minerva handed over some strange looking coins to a man behind the counter. When they went back outside, there was a large cart with a skeletal looking horse waiting for them. Harry rushed over to the odd creature. “Whoa, what is this?”

Minerva’s eyebrows went up. “You can see it?”

Harry nodded. “Duh. It’s so big, how could you miss it?” Then he immediately realized how rude that sounded, and shook his head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“It’s alright,” she said gently. “I was only asking because these are magical creatures, call thestrals, and they can only be seen by those who have witnessed death. I suppose that this means you must’ve witnessed the death of at least one of your parents, and for that, I am terribly sorry.”

It took a moment for Harry to process the idea that he might have seen his mom or dad die. But no matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t call to mind even a single description of them, which meant that he must not have seen them. “Do you have to see another person die? One time I watched Dudley kill a snake.”

Minerva blinked a couple of times. “I… I had never considered the idea of an animal death. It is possible that that could be true, but I will admit that magical theory has never been my main area of expertise. Regardless, we will be using these creatures to travel to Hogwarts. And do be sure to thank them once we have arrived. They usually rest during the summer.”

After a few minutes of Harry looking around, trying to take in everything about the odd village they’d just been in, they headed into a forest, and he figured that everything would look about the same for a while. Then he turned to face Minerva instead. She was looking over a yellow-ish paper that she’d pulled out of her pocket, but she seemed to notice Harry staring at her pretty quickly, and she peered up at him with one eyebrow raised. Harry flushed at being caught, but then decided to ask a question. So far, Minerva hadn’t done anything to discourage curiosity. “Can you see them? The the- thestarels?”

“Thestrals,” she corrected almost like it was habit. Then she gave Harry a long look before nodding once. “I can. When I was a much younger witch, a student died while I was at school. I didn’t witness the crime, but I suspected my biggest rival, and could not report him because the headmaster favored him and I had no evidence. I did confront him myself, and of course he denied being involved at all. Because they were frightened, my parents forced me to return home until the killer was caught and Hogwarts could be declared safe. While I was at home, one night someone broke in and came to my room to attack me. My parents fought him off, and he was killed in the process, right in front of me. No one ever found out who had sent him.”

Harry stared at Minerva with wide eyes. He hadn’t expected anyone to ever share such a personal story with him, let alone someone who hadn’t even known him for an entire day. “Were you hurt?”

She shook her head. “Nothing serious, though I have some scars that I will never be rid of.” Then she cleared her throat. “We should be at the school soon. I’ll need to speak with the headmaster alone to begin with, but then I shall come get you, and all three of us will talk together.”

The idea of being left all by himself in a completely unfamiliar place seemed scary, but with Minerva already doing so much to help him, he could only nod politely and not offer any arguments. Minerva pressed her lips together, but didn’t say anything else.

The rest of the ride passed by in silence, though Harry couldn’t stop himself from letting out a loud gasp when a large castle seemed as if it appeared out of nowhere. It was bigger than any building he’d ever seen before, and was surrounded by luscious green lawns and a thick forest, and Harry was already itching to run around and explore all of it.

But after they passed through the massive gates, Harry dutifully held Minerva’s hand as she led him inside the castle. There were paintings on every wall, and after glimpsing movement out of the corner of his eye, he just had to stop and watch and see that yes, the subjects of the paintings were moving around and chattering quietly amongst themselves. It was more incredible than anything from the movies.

They walked down a long corridor until Minerva slowed to a stop in front of a seemingly normal section of the wall. But Harry was already beginning to understand that nothing about this place was normal. He was half-convinced that this was all just some fantastic dream, though if that was the case, he certainly hoped that he would never wake up.

“Lemon drops,” Minerva said in a brisk voice, and then part of the wall slid away to reveal stairs. She hesitated for a moment before gently tugging Harry onto the staircase. Before he could even take one step up, the whole thing started moving, basically just like an escalator. He wondered if it was powered by electricity or magic.

When they got to the top, there were two doors. Minerva opened one, revealing a small room with chairs lining three of the walls and bookcases filled to the brim all along the last one. “I’ll be in the room right next door,” Minerva promised. “Do you think you can wait here for a little while?”

Harry nodded, and then watched as she left. The door closed behind her, so he couldn’t even get a glimpse at what was in the other room. He paced around for a few minutes just to try and burn off some of the energy and excitement that had built up in him at seeing this incredible place, and being introduced to the world of magic, and getting away from his aunt and uncle and cousin.

Once he’d calmed himself down a bit, he went over to browse the bookshelves. He watched in amazement as the covers seemed to flicker and change right in front of him, changing designs and pictures. It happened on books that had absolutely nothing to do with each other, as he noticed while going from books such as ‘101 Ways to Utilize Your Toad’ to ‘Cooking with Brandywine- How Much is Too Much?’. Delighted by the titles, he found more amusement in reading them than in actually picking up any of the books to peruse the contents. He also walked past ‘So You Think Your Aunt is Not a Squib but a Witch Repressing Her Memories?’ and ‘Cats, Bats, and Rats: The Ultimate Guide to Which Magical Pet is Best for You’.

Some of the book titles made absolutely no sense, like ‘13 Potions That Will Increase Your Libido, and 2 That Will Increase His’ and ‘Every Charm You Need To Know To Get Through Your First Sexy Sleepover’. Others were more ridiculous, like ‘Gone Home: The Story of a Girl Who Returns to Her Place of Residence’ and ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do: A Comprehensive Guide to Training Your New Pet Monkey’.

After looking around for quite a while, he spotted a book that seemed like it might actually be helpful to him, ‘Hogwarts: A History’. Harry had to stretch up on the tips of his toes to reach it, but he managed to successfully pull the book down off of the shelf. He began thumbing through it curiously, not expecting to see his name written out casually.

Harry squinted his eyes in concentration, and then moved over to one of the chairs. Just before he got the chance to sit down, though, the door to the room opened and Minerva stepped in. “Are you ready to meet the headmaster?”

Harry set the book aside for later, and hopped back to his feet to follow Minerva into the other room. This one felt like more of a cluttered mess, though there wasn’t much time to look around because Minerva was guiding him into one of the seats facing the giant desk, which had an old man sitting behind it. He nodded once. “So you’re Harry, then? It is a pleasure to meet you. I’m Albus Dumbledore.” He glanced at Minerva for a moment before focusing back on Harry. “Minerva here has had some rather interesting tales to share with me. However, I feel as though I must assume that they are exaggerated. You may not love living with your relatives, but I can assure you that that is the safest place for you to be.”

Minerva scowled. “Albus, leave the boy alone. He has no reason to lie, and you can see the bruise for yourself, as well as the fact that he is clearly much to thin for a growing child. It doesn’t matter how protected he is from You-Know-Who if he is in a different sort of danger while there.”

Harry crossed his arms over his stomach, and hunched forward uncertainly. He didn’t want to make Minerva get into trouble, or cause a fight between anyone. “It’s okay, I can just go back,” he said in a small voice.

Minerva shook her head insistently. “Be honest now, Harry. Do you feel safe with your relatives?”

Harry thought of how sometimes he felt so hungry that he would go out into the backyard and eat dirt from the garden to fill himself up, and how he was always messing things up and getting hit or yelled at, and how Dudley and his gang were constantly following Harry around to beat on him or throw all kinds of insults at him. He wanted to be honest with Minerva, considering how kind she was being to him. So he slowly shook his head.

Minerva turned back to Dumbledore with one eyebrow raised sharply. “If you fear for his safety, then allow him to be placed into my care. I am more than capable of protecting him from any threats.”

Dumbledore rested his elbows on his desk and steepled his fingers together. “I really do not think that that would be-”

“Splendid,” Minerva cut in. “I’m so glad that you agree.” She stood up abruptly, and held out one hand towards Harry. He eagerly jumped up to grab on, and follow her away. She kept looking back towards Dumbledore’s office as they walked, a suspicious look on her face, but then she looked down at Harry, and offered him a small smile. His shoulders slumped down in relief at the thought that maybe his problems here had actually been solved.

,,,

5 Years Later

,,,

Harry pushed the door open with more force than necessary as he ran into the room, jumping up and down to wave around the letter clutched tightly in his hand. “Minerva! Look! Look! Look what I just got?”

She made a small noise of irritation before sliding a bookmark in between the pages of the book she’d been in the middle of, and then looked up at Harry. “You’re acting as if this is any kind of surprise.”

True, his accidental magic had been showing for years, and Minerva had been teaching him a lot about magical theory, and even sometimes let him use her wand to practice when she was in a good mood, but somewhere deep down, Harry had been afraid that he wouldn’t get his Hogwarts letter. The few times he’d met Dumbledore, he’d gotten the impression that the man didn’t like him very much, and since it was Dumbledore’s school, he’d worried that he wouldn’t be allowed in.

But now he’d gotten his letter and everything was going to be great. “When can we go get my school supplies? Look, there’s an entire list of things in here that I’ll need! And look! You’re going to be one of my professors!” He couldn’t stop jumping around in excitement, and Minerva seemed mostly amused by his enthusiasm.

“You already have plans for today, don’t you? I thought I heard you say you wanted to spend your birthday with your friends? So we can go to Diagon Alley tomorrow.” She paused for a moment before giving him a stern look. “And you are to call me Professor McGonagall in front of the other students.”

Harry nodded, easily accepting the rule, and then hurried off. The past few years, he’d been attending a muggle primary school, because Minerva said that it was still wise to keep him out of the public eye for as long as possible. She’d explained to him why he was considered famous to wizards and witches everywhere, and that once he was seen in the magical world for the first time, he’d never be able to go back.

But Harry hadn’t minded at all. He got to experience magic at home with Minerva, while being in a position to make friends and enjoy schooling at the same time. It was a lot easier to get along with the other kids without a Dudley around to scare away potential friends, and when he was able to wear clothes that actually fit him and weren’t entirely washed out dull colors.

His best friend was a girl named Emma Fitzgerald, and even though he couldn’t share the full extent of his life with her, she knew that he’d been really hoping to get into the same boarding school that his parents had attended. He ran to get dressed, and then ducked back into the sitting room to give Minerva a quick farewell and kiss on the cheek before heading out.

It didn’t take long to get to Emma’s house, where he was treated to a surprise party with all of his other friends as well. They played music and ate cake and watched movies and it was a great time. Once it started getting darker out, Harry knew he would need to return home, so he thanked everyone for their gifts, and then pulled Emma aside, a gleeful grin on his face. “I got in!”

She mirrored his excitement, and they both gripped each other’s arms as they jumped up and down. “I’m so happy for you!” But then her joy seemed to die down. “But that means that I won’t be seeing you once the school year starts. All we’ll have is emails.”

Since Harry already knew that Hogwarts didn’t support muggle technology around campus, he shook his head. “Ah, not exactly. They don’t have internet at school. They, uh, think it’s too much of a distraction to the students. But we can write letters to each other! It’ll be like something out of an old book.”

Emma sighed. “Oh, alright. Go off to your barbaric school that has no internet, and we’ll write letters. And you better still come and see me over vacations!”

The past few years, Minerva had returned home over vacations to be there with Harry, but he wasn’t sure if they would keep doing that now that he was going to be a student. As far as he knew, professors tended to stay over vacations because there were always at least a few students who did. But he would figure that out when it got closer. “Of course,” he promised. They exchanged a long hug, and then Harry gathered up all of his presents before going home.

When he got there, there was a nice dinner waiting for him, along with more cake and presents. Harry hugged Minerva as he thanked her for everything, and then he headed up to bed. He assumed that if he went to sleep now, it would feel like morning in no time, and then he would be able to see Diagon Alley.

,,,

Once they actually got to Diagon, Minerva led Harry to Gringott’s bank, where he found out for the first time just how much money his parents had left for him. It was much more than he had expected based on what Minerva had told him. She told him that he wouldn’t need any of it, because of course she wasn’t going to make him pay for his own school supplies, but that he could take some out in case he wanted to buy anything ‘frivolous’.

And then they were ready to shop, and Harry couldn’t stop himself from practically bouncing off the walls in excitement. He kept his hair brushed down over his forehead to cover his scar, not wanting anything to interrupt his fun.

Each store that they went into seemed even more wild than the last, and Harry was having a grand time. At one point, he went to grab a set of gold scales, but Minerva only had to give him a single look for him to set it down and grab a brass set. Once they’d gotten more than half of his things, they stopped for ice-cream, and then they went to Ollivanders.

This was what Harry had really been waiting for. There was no one else in the shop at the moment, and the man behind the counter looked up from a magazine that he’d been flipping through. “Hello, there.” His eyes drifted to Minerva, but he didn’t say anything to her, just paying attention to Harry. “Are you here for your first wand?”

Harry grinned and nodded. “Yes sir!”

They tried several, none of which seemed to work based on how frustrated Ollivander seemed to look. And yet he also seemed excited at the same time. When Harry looked back at Minerva, he caught the small, fond smile on her face as she watched him try out one wand after another.

And then, finally, Ollivander opened a box and prompted Harry to pick up the wand inside. This one just felt… right to him. Like he’d been meant to hold it all along, and a strange blast of wind blew up into his face. The look on Ollivander’s face was unreadable. “Ah, I should have known. Mr. Potter, is it?” He nodded towards Harry’s scar, which had just been revealed. Then he kept going before Harry even nodded. “I should have known that this would be the right one. Eleven inches, holly, nice and supple, with a phoenix feather core. The phoenix who donated that feather only ever gave one other, which is the core of a wand that I will never forget. Thirteen and a half inches, yew, and sold to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

That’s when Minerva stepped forward. “That’s quite enough of that. How much for the wand?” She handed over the money and then led Harry out of the store. “Your robes are the only thing left on your list. Will you be alright on your own while I run other errands?”

Harry nodded, and went inside of the store that Minerva had led him to. A chubby woman led him into the back, where he was instructed to step up onto a weird platform while a tape measure flew around him. There was a pasty-skinned blonde boy on the pedestal next to his. “Are you a first year too?”

The blonde glanced over at Harry, and then nodded. “Yes. I’m hoping to end up in Slytherin. What about you?”

Of course Harry already knew about the houses, and even though it sounded to him like Slytherin was the worst one, Minerva had lectured him about not judging anyone just based on their house, because good and bad people could come from any of the four. “I’m not sure,” he finally said. “My first instinct would be Gryffindor, but I’m probably biased about that.”

“Does it run in the family or something?”

Harry shrugged. “Well, both of my parents were in Gryffindor, but I never really knew them. My guardian is the head of the Gryffindor house, along with being the deputy headmistress of the school.”

Draco turned to look at Harry more fully, even though it led to the tailor making a bit of a fuss about her measurements. “Professor McGonagall is your guardian? You must be joking. She has no wards.”

Harry shrugged again. “She’s mostly tried to keep me separate from all of this,” he gestured widely as if to encompass all of Diagon Alley. “I’m Harry, by the way.” He held out his hand.

There was a long pause, and then Draco accepted the handshake. “Well, if McGonagall is your mother then that should make it easier to avoid getting on her bad side, even if her house is supposed to be rivals with the one I want.”

“You mean you want to be friends just to take advantage of my connections?” Harry snorted. “Good luck. She’s too tough to go easy even on me. But I guess this means you really are fit for Slytherin, right? Oh, and she’s not my mother.” He wasn’t sure why, but it felt important to him to tack that on.

Draco shrugged. “Sorry. But also don’t go thinking that this all goes one way. I’m from one of the last great pureblood families, and I’ve got loads of money and connections of my own.”

An image of all the gold in his bank vault swam before his eyes for a moment. “Ah, I don’t think money is something I’m in great need of at the moment.”

Then the tape measures finally pulled away, and Harry was instructed to hold his arms out as he was draped in clothes, and they were carefully tailored to fit him perfectly. Magic really was so useful. It was a shame that muggles couldn’t experience any of the benefits of it. “It’s actually kind of funny that I’d meet the charge of the head of Gryffindor, because my godfather happens to be the head of the Slytherin house.”

“So then we’re either going to both get into twice as much trouble, or only half as much,” Harry snorted.

A tall man with long blonde hair stepped into the back of the shop and cleared his throat. “Come along, Draco, we still have other errands left to run.”

Draco nodded, and accepted the bagged up clothes the tailor handed to him. Then he looked back at Harry. “Nice to meet you. See you on September 1st, Harry…?”

Well it’s not like Harry had actually believed he would be able to keep his identity hidden forever. “Potter.”

Draco’s eyes widened, and Harry could see the way that Draco’s father also seemed suddenly invested in the conversation. “Harry Potter? As in the Harry Potter?”

Harry reached up to push his bangs to the side so that his unique scar was on display. “Nice to meet you too, Draco Malfoy.” He watched in amusement as Draco continued to stare at him, until his father put his hand on Draco’s shoulder and guided him out of the store.

It didn’t take much longer for Harry’s clothes to be finished, and then he stepped outside. Minerva was standing in front of the shop, and she was holding something that she hadn’t been before. He tilted his head curiously, and she gave him a small smile. “I know that you wanted a pet, and this way you’ll also be able to have an easier time staying in touch with your friends. Consider her a late birthday present.” She lifted the cloth up to reveal a cage with a snowy owl inside. Her eyes were closed, and she was apparently asleep at the moment, but Harry already loved her.

He hugged Minerva carefully, not wanting to knock the bird around. “Thank you so much!”

With everything on his list obtained, they returned home so that Harry could organize and pack up everything. When the owl woke up, he declared her name to be Hedwig, and then fed her a couple of treats. She nipped gently at his fingers for more, but he was determined to show some restraint so that she wouldn’t get too spoiled rotten.

The next two weeks seemed to pass by in a blur, with Harry spending most of his time with his muggle friends, and getting a few last minute lessons from Minerva before she would be too busy.

And then, halfway through August, it was time to go to Hogwarts. Minerva had to be there early along with the other professors so that they could start preparing for the new school year. Usually Minerva would go back and forth in those two weeks, just like she did during the entire year, but now that Harry was going to be a student, she could actually live in the school and have more time for her students and her work without having to worry about the commute.

Since he hadn’t yet been sorted into any house, Harry was going to stay in Minerva’s quarters until September 1st. He had a pretty good time running around and getting to know the castle better. No matter how long he’d known about the magical world, there would always be something new waiting to surprise him.

Then it was time for the rest of the students to arrive. Minerva offered to let Harry take the train to King’s Cross so that he could ride back with the other students and get a chance to get to know them, but he’d decided to savor his last few hours of being the only student in the school.

It was dark out by the time Harry was ushered down to join the rest of the first years, who were all standing around awkwardly outside of the Great Hall. Draco made his way through the small crowd to find Harry. “Hello there. I looked for you on the train, but I guess I didn’t look well enough.”

“Ah, I wasn’t on the train. I came here with Mi- with Professor McGonagall a couple of weeks ago.”

Then there wasn’t time for anymore chatter, as Minerva appeared to lead the nervous first years into the Great Hall. There was a long list of students to wait through as they were each sorted. When Draco was called for Slytherin almost before the hat even touched his head, Harry offered the boy a thumbs up in congratulations.

A few more people went, and then it was Harry’s turn to make the nerve-wracking climb up to that stool. He could feel everyone staring at him intently, whispering amongst themselves in reaction to his name. He sat down, holding tightly on to the sides, and then Minerva placed the hat down on top of his unruly hair. He still had no idea which house he actually wanted to be in. The hat spoke in a low voice, about how he had a lot of potential to be great in Slytherin. It gave a dramatic pause, as if waiting for Harry to disagree, but when he didn’t that’s what the hat called out.

The Slytherin house immediately began cheering loudly, but Harry ignored them for a moment to look back at Minerva. He hoped that she wasn’t disappointed, since she was obviously a very pro-Gryffindor person. But she just gave him the same small smile she did when he aced an exam or made a new friend.

His shoulders slumped down in relief, and then he made his way over to the Slytherin table. He dropped down next to Draco, and a bunch of other students began patting him on the shoulders and introducing themselves and grinning at him. It felt nice to be so accepted by them, and it was nice to already know at least one other person at the table.

Once the sorting was finished, the food appeared, and everyone dug in. Minerva was a good cook, but she had nothing on the house elves that provided Hogwarts with these meals. He was just about to reach for some more, when he was suddenly reminded of Dudley completely pigging out.

It had been a while since he’d given much thought at all to the Dursleys. But now he felt like there was a pit in his stomach, and whatever was left of his appetite quickly left. In fact, he felt like he was going to be sick.

Draco poked him in the arm, and then leaned over to talk to him quietly enough that the others sitting nearby wouldn’t overhear. “Are you alright? You look a bit green all of a sudden.”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” he whispered back.

Draco paused for a moment, and then nodded. “Alright, leave it to me.”

Harry furrowed his eyebrows, confused about what it was exactly that he was supposed to be leaving, and then watched as Draco pulled out his wand and waved it around under the table a few times. Several of the students around them turned pale and began looking around uneasily.

Most of them only waited a few seconds before scrambling to their feet in their hurry to leave the Great Hall. Harry shot Draco a grateful look before hurrying after them. He didn’t want to be sick in the same room as the rest of the Slytherins, so he ducked away from the small crowd, who were all far too distracted to notice, and headed for the bathroom on a different floor.

It wasn’t until he heard the echo of footsteps on stone that he realized Draco had followed him, but there was no time to talk as he darted into one of the stalls and dropped to his knees to start heaving into the toilet. He was embarrassed to be like this in front of someone who was a potential friend.

To his surprise, he felt a comforting hand start rubbing circles on his back as he finished getting rid of everything that had been in his stomach. When he was done, he slumped back against the wooden wall of the small cubicle. Draco waved his wand again with a soft murmur, and then Harry’s face was clean of sweat and vomit. “Thanks, but you didn’t have to help me.”

Draco shrugged. “My dad told me that I should try and get close to you because you’re a big name, and even if you’re just a kid, your words probably hold more power than you realize. So I’m going to do my best to get close to you in order to be your friend, because I think that that’ll be the best way to get my dad off of my back that I can think of. And you seem too interesting to not try and get to know you better. Oh, and there is the part where we’re in the same year in the same house, and someone has to make sure that you aren’t a total embarrassment to the rest of us.” Harry snorted at that, and then they both just sat there in silence for a few minutes until Draco cleared his throat. “So what made you suddenly so sick? Worried about how McGonagall is going to take the news of you being in her rival house?”

It would be a perfectly good excuse, but Harry didn’t think that it was a good idea to start a new friendship off with lies, so he shook his head. “No. She’s not upset or disappointed or anything. She knows that I’m my own person. And she is the one who’s always telling me to not let bias interfere with how I see the other kids at school, so even if some bad people have come from Slytherin, it doesn’t mean that every Slytherin is bad. And there could be bad people from any of the houses.”

“Except Hufflepuff.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah, you’re probably right. I don’t think anybody who gets put in Hufflepuff could possibly be bad.” Even though it wasn’t that funny, both boys kept laughing for a while. Eventually, though, they stopped because their mouths and stomachs were sore, and then Harry sighed. “We probably already missed being led to our dorm. Any guesses about what the password might be?”

Draco shrugged. “With how many others were sick, I’m sure that we won’t have to wait long for someone else to show up and let us in.” They got to their feets, and made their way down to the dungeons. The hallways down there felt almost too cramped and narrow, and Harry found himself clinging to Draco a little excessively. But he couldn’t help it; he just hated being stuck in small spaces. But when he had Draco by his side, it wasn’t quite so bad.