Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals 2

Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, is a young and abused Black boy with Asperger's syndrome, and is hated by his guardians, the Dursleys. A little over a week before his birthday, he discovers that he is also a wizard, and the Dursleys knew all along. Not only is he a wizard, but he's also famous in the wizarding world! An AU fanfic.

(Transgender character introduced in chapter 7)

Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals
Fayanora

Author's note: Harry Potter is J.K. Rowling's work, not mine. I only wish I'd written it so I could be wealthier than the queen, but alas, such is not the case.

Chapter Two: Snakes and Ladders

Years later, Harry woke up to his cousin Dudley stomping on the stairs over his cupboard, having been interrupted from a very good dream. “Wake up, Potter! Wake up!”

Automatically, Harry came out and began making breakfast, as his aunt and uncle had insisted he cook for them since he was three years old. He quickly shut down memories of standing on a stepladder - crying as hot grease from the bacon burned his young skin, and went about his duties. It was Dudley's birthday, and he knew from painful experience that the slightest mistake would cost him dearly. Despite this, he did get brave enough to carefully pour the remaining bacon grease onto his plate after he was done, and put his toast on top of it, so he could get some protein for the day in the form of grease-soaked toast, since he wasn't allowed butter or jam. And since the Dursleys would not let him stay in the house unsupervised, he was looking forward to spending time with Mrs. Figg, the batty old cat-obsessed neighbor that was his occasional sitter. The smell of all those cats was difficult on his senses, but Mrs. Figg had a soft spot for him, and always fed him well whenever he was over, so he could endure the smell for her.

This was rather saying a lot more, for Harry, than it would of your typical boy. For the 10 year old black boy had an especially keen sense of smell. So keen that Petunia would call him a liar if he let slip that the smell of her flowers when she had a window open was giving him a headache, and Vernon – his uncle – would occasionally wallop him, to “give [him] something to have a real headache for.” But by now, Harry had gotten used to both his nose and his ears causing him headaches from excessive stimuli, and had taken to wandering far away from number 4 to earn money doing chores for other people whenever he could get away, just so he could buy pain reliever, which he hid in a hole in the wall inside his cupboard under the stairs, a hole he plugged with a piece of drywall he'd bought with some of his earnings.

Sitting down to eat with the others, Harry had to ensure his very loud cousin assaulting his ears with his fervent present unwrapping, and then his spoiled whines when he got fewer presents than last year, a tactic calculated to guilt trip his parents into getting him extra presents. Harry may not like his cousin very much, and Dudley may not be very book smart, but he was clever enough when he put his mind to it. The trouble was, he rarely put his cleverness to anything good.

The telephone rang, and Petunia got it. Shortly thereafter, she said, “It's no good, Vernon; Mrs. Figg is ill, she can't take him.”

“No! He can't come,” Dudley fake-wailed. “He r-ruins everyth-thing!”

Harry's stomach fell. As much as he hated the smell of her house, he liked Mrs. Figg a lot. “I could always take care of her. I wouldn't mind bringing her chicken soup, or bringing her a hot water bottle, or whatever.”

“And have you tracking home whatever damn bug she's caught, and getting Dudders sick,” Uncle Vernon growled at him. “I don't bloody think so.”

“Okay, then you could always let me stay here. I could stay in my cupboard and read.”

Vernon glared at Harry in a familiar way, a sneering way. It was part outrage over the thought of Harry staying behind, and part disdain for Harry's habit of reading.

“Reading,” Vernon sneered. “Like any normal boy reads for enjoyment. But you're not normal, are you boy? Of course not. Ugly, no-good, worthless... just like your horrible father. Why your damned mother had to marry someone... someone like him , I'll never understand.”

Harry ignored this rant; it was as familiar to him as Vernon's belt was to his backside. It was unpopular to be openly racist, so of course his uncle could not go right out and say what was really on his mind; he had to talk around it.

“And comb your hair!” he barked at Harry. Harry ignored this, too. Everyone present knew very well that nothing short of expensive hair treatment in a salon would have any hope of taming his wild hair. And the one time they'd given in and tried it, it hadn't worked. His aunt had even shaved him bald once – a style that looked horrible on him, no matter what his uncle said, and it had grown back by the next morning. The whipping he'd received for that still made him wince to think about.

“Vernon, what are we going to do with him?”

“What? Oh yes, thought you could change the subject, did you, boy? Well no siree. You are not staying here, either. I will not come home to the house destroyed, no I will not.”

“Well what about your sister?” Aunt Petunia asked him.

“Don't be ridiculous, Marge hates the boy more than we do. No, he'll have to come with us.”

Dudley, of course, did not like this one bit, and began to fake-cry and scream again. But the doorbell rang, which shut him up at once, because Dudley's friend Piers Polkiss was at the door, to join them in the trip to the zoo.

As Harry walked to the car, he stomach felt like it had snakes crawling through it. This was too good to be true; there was no way he was going to get to the zoo without something very bad happening. Predictably, Vernon gave him a stern lecture about 'no funny stuff' during the trip before letting him into the car. Harry wasn't stupid, he knew something was different about him other than being black and being mentally... he stopped himself from saying Vernon's favorite word, 'abnormal,' and instead thought mentally divergent , a word he had read in a book many weeks ago. It was a good word, a nice way of saying he wasn't like most boys. But there was more, of course; weird happenings centered around him that his aunt and uncle knew something about, something they were keeping a secret. What exactly that was, he wasn't sure. But he'd read an X-Men comic once, and ever since then he thought he might be a mutant. He knew it was a work of fiction, but it was the only explanation that made sense to him, for some of the weird things that had happened to him growing up.

The zoo trip was good, better than anything he'd had in his whole 10 years of life. He got a lemon ice lolly when the lady at the ice cream shop had asked him what he wanted before the Dursleys could get away, and when Dudley had a fit over his Knickerbocker Glory being too small, Harry got to finish it after Dudley got a replacement. And the whole time, the snakes in his belly grew more and more agitated. This was all going to go wrong somehow, it was just a matter of time. Knowing this, he could not relax. He had to remain vigilant, so he could spot the danger and prevent it.

When they got to the reptile house, Harry went away from the Dursleys and Piers so as to avoid trouble. Nervously looking around, he walked right up to a gigantic boa constrictor that Dudley had already gotten bored with. He barely noticed the snake, but it noticed him.

“You look scared,” it said, quite clearly in English. This did not help Harry's nerves, and he frantically looked around to see if anyone else had heard. Even when he saw that they hadn't, he barely calmed down at all. I cannot have a snake talking to me right now, he thought.

To his horror, he realized he had actually said that aloud. But again, nobody noticed.

“You understand me?”

Harry sighed, resting his head against the glass. If this was the other shoe dropping, he might as well earn it.

“Yes, it seems I do. Not sure how, though. Maybe I'm a mutant.”

“I don't know what that means.”

“It means-- no, never mind. It's too hard to explain. Anyway, where are you from?”

The snake jerked its head, directing Harry's eyes to the sign. Boa Constrictor, Brazil.

Resigned to the inevitable, Harry asked in a tone that was a little hysterically amused, “Was it nice there?”

The snake jerked its head again. Bred in captivity.

“Ah,” Harry said. “Well, we have something in common, then. I never knew my parents.”

“Is that unusual with your species?” the snake asked.

“Yeah, it is. You see--”

“DUDLEY! MR DURSLEY! YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT THIS SNAKE IS DOING!” That shout was all the warning Harry had before Piers and Dudley shoved him out of the way. He felt a surge of anger as he glared at them, then did a double-take as the glass disappeared and the snake slithered out.

It was absolute bedlam. Everyone was screaming and running around, except for Harry, who was in shock. The snake slithered up to him and said, “Thanks, mate. I'm going to see if I can get to Brazil. Wish me luck!”

“Uh... good luck,” he said after the snake. Then the snakes in his belly turned to ice as he felt his uncle glaring at him knowingly.

That's it, Harry thought. I'm dead. He's going to murder me at last.

~

Vernon did not murder his nephew, but it was a close thing. Once they were safely home, the man was too angry to do more than lock Harry in his cupboard, but the next morning after breakfast, he summoned Harry to the living room and whipped Harry as hard as he could with the leather of his spare belt. Harry silently bore the punishment, even though it only angered his uncle more, because he refused to give Dudley any more ammunition against him than the spoiled brat already had.

What was far harder to deal with was being locked in his cupboard until the start of the summer holidays, and given even fewer meals than usual. It was a situation that called for a skill Harry had learned from a library book years ago. Using an old hairpin, Harry picked the lock on his cupboard door and snuck out in the dead of night to pick a few things out of the fridge that nobody would miss, especially given how much Dudley ate. Harry would say Dudley ate Harry's weight in food every day, but honestly, it was more like Dudley ate his own weight in food every day.

He chided himself silently for picking on Dudley for his weight. Dudley may pig out shamelessly, but there were lots of people who were overweight for reasons they had no control of. It was far more satisfying, anyway, to pick on Dudley for being a spoiled rotten waste of air.

Once he was let out of his cupboard, he immediately left the house to go to the library. Some of the books he'd gotten out were months overdue because of the snake incident, and he dreaded having to pay the fines. To his astonishment, though, the librarian took pity on him and waived the fines. He tried to pay her what little he had in his pockets, but she refused to take it. He decided, on balance, to not check any more books out, just in case he got in trouble again. Instead, he spent as much time as possible reading in the library.

Weeks later, while Aunt Petunia was dyeing some of Dudley's old clothes gray for what she claimed was the uniform at Harry's new school, Stonewall High, the mail came, and he was forced to get it. When he picked it up, he saw a strange letter written in glittering green ink, addressed to him. It even had his cupboard on it. Whatever it was, he knew if any of the Dursleys saw it, they would confiscate it from him and likely destroy it. Thinking quickly, he shoved it into his sock and handed the rest of the mail to his uncle. Then he went into his cupboard for his coat and left the house, heading for the library.

Harry loved the library not only because he loved reading and learning, but also because Dudley would never be caught dead in a library. In his favorite secluded corner, Harry retrieved the letter from his sock, opened it carefully, and read it. He had to re-read it several times to be sure it really said what it did. Even then, the had to put it down and think.

“Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” he whispered to himself. A school of magic. Did this mean he was a wizard? Did this mean all the weird stuff in his life – his hair growing back overnight, finding himself on a roof somehow, the incredible shrinking sweater, talking with a snake, disappearing glass, and more – was magic? Could it be? He thought back to the day of the snake incident, to what he'd said as he desperately tried to explain himself to his uncle. He had said “it was like magic,” and his uncle had nearly blown a gasket, shouting “there's no such thing as magic!” Almost like... he was trying to convince himself, as much as convince Harry?

But Magic was impossible, wasn't it? Still, he'd known something was unusual about him; he'd known for a long time. Was magic any more unbelievable than being a mutant? Could it really be magic? Or was this a practical joke? But who did he know who would bother with something like this, or had the brains to think of something this clever? No, hard as it was to believe, he believed. Or at least, he believed enough to decide to write back. He had no idea how to write back, but he reasoned that since it had come in the post, maybe the post office would take it. He would have to buy a stamp, though, even though there was no stamp on the letter.

The letter had been sent by Professor M. McGonagall, so he decided to address the letter to her. Pausing long enough to buy an envelope from one of the librarians, he went back to his corner and tried to think what to write. After long deliberation, he began.

Dear Professor M. McGonagall,

I was astonished by your letter, and honestly I am having difficulty believing it's real, but things have happened in my life that convince me you are being honest. I have a great many questions, but I have to start by saying that I don't think my aunt and uncle will let me come to Hogwarts. They hate magic and they hate me, and they are opposed to anything that would make me anything less than miserable. It was only from quick thinking that I was able to hide your letter to read it, I am certain they would have burned it if they'd found it first.

Also, I have no money, except what little I manage to secretly earn to pay for medication for headaches I'm prone to, so I would frankly be astonished if they paid my tuition, or paid for any of the things your letter says I'll need. So that's another obstacle to my coming. But if there is any way possible for me to come, I would love to get away from these people and come to Hogwarts.

Oh, and I don't think it would be wise to send me a reply in the post. The odds are high my aunt or uncle or even my cousin would get to it before I did, and doubtless burn it. What's more, if they found that I had hidden this first letter and sent you a reply, I know they would punish me, and I've only recently stopped being punished for the last weird thing that happened, in which I accidentally set a boa constrictor loose in the local zoo by accidentally making the glass vanish without a trace.

I have no good suggestions for how you should respond to this letter, unless by some chance you were willing to drop by, but if you do, you should be ready to defend yourself; my uncle gets very violent when he gets angry. He has a little more self control around adults than around me, but I don't know by how much.

Hoping to hear from you soon,

Harry Potter

Harry re-read the letter a few times to make sure he liked it. When he was satisfied, he started on the envelope, and was immediately stumped. The return address on the letter didn't even say what country Hogwarts was in; for all he knew, it was in China. So, thinking the whole time that this was a poorly thought out system, and that people who knew nothing of this Hogwarts ought to be sent a person to explain rather than a letter in the post, he just wrote “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” as the address. It felt silly to him; even Santa Claus had a better address than this school did.

He left the library and went to the post office, bought a single stamp, and dropped it in the box, hoping it wasn't a joke, hoping the letter would get through somehow, and wondering what would happen if it really were real and not an elaborate prank by person or persons unknown. And so it was that he spent the rest of the day lost in thought, nearly earning himself another whipping when he almost burned dinner, and later fell into a fitful sleep.

~

The next day seemed normal when Harry woke up, and his doubts tripled. He tried to push them down, though, and focus on his cooking. He wondered how long it would take the letter to reach Hogwarts, assuming it wasn't a bad dream or a trick. What he had not expected was for the doorbell to ring after breakfast, soon followed by Uncle Vernon roaring in rage and fear. Harry ran toward the sound of his uncle's anger, against every survival instinct he had, to see what was the matter. He found a very angry woman with black hair in a tight bun and an austere appearance waving what looked like a twig at Uncle Vernon like it was a weapon, and shouting at him to calm himself. Vernon – who would normally have been shoving her out the door by now – was regarding the twig like it was a gun pointed at his face, and backed off, letting the austere woman come into the house and close the door behind herself.

He regarded this woman with confusion. Figuring out that the twig must actually be a wand, he figured this must be a Hogwarts representative. But aside from the wand and her age, she didn't look like a witch to Harry. She was dressed in a black dress that looked a bit old fashioned, but was clearly not a... well, he didn't actually know what to call the clothing witches tended to wear in TV and movies. Robes, perhaps? No, this was clearly a dress. A dress from the turn of the century perhaps, but still a dress and not robes or a cloak or whatever.

“Ah, there you are Mister Potter. Yes, you look just like your father; Arabella wasn't lying, then. Not that I thought she was, but... oh yes, and your mother's eyes. Lily's eyes...”

“Vernon,” Aunt Petunia shouted, running into the room at last. “Vernon, what is...” she trailed off, staring blankly at the woman. Then she noticed the wand, and shrunk back. “WHO ARE YOU?” she demanded of the woman, “AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE?”

The austere woman regarded his aunt with a frown over her glasses. “I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You are Petunia Dursley, I presume?”

“YOU'RE NOT WELCOME HERE,” Vernon shouted, his face turning puce. “LEAVE AT ONCE, YOU ARE TRESPASSING ON PRIVATE PROPERTY!”

“I will do no such thing. You let me into your house of your own accord.”

His uncle's face turned an even darker shade of puce. “UNDER THREAT OF INJURY!”

“Yes,” the woman said with derision. “Do you really wish to explain to a muggle policeman why you felt threatened by an elderly woman wielding a small piece of wood?”

Vernon opened his mouth to speak, but had no rebuttal. So Harry spoke instead, filling the silence.

“Muggle?”

“It is what we in the wizarding world call those who have no magic, at least the ones that do not live in the wizarding world.”

“There are non-magic people who live in your world? Why?”

“They are called squibs. Born to magical parents, they have no magic. The opposite of a muggle-born witch or wizard.”

“SHUT YOUR--” Vernon began, but Professor McGonagall wordlessly cast a spell on him that made his voice vanish, which she then did to Petunia as the horse-faced woman began to scream. This hadn't really helped matters, though, as the two were now gesticulating madly and trying to attack the professor, who had to keep them at bay with some other spell from her wand.

“WILL YOU TWO STOP BEHAVING LIKE A PAIR OF BABBOONS, OR AM I GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE YOUR SILENCE PERMANENT?”

At this, the two Dursleys blanched, but stopped moving, save to back away from the professor.

“Good heavens, I am getting too old for this kind of nonsense,” she said to herself. Then she turned to the Dursleys and said, “Please sit down, we have things to discuss. And if you refuse to sit down, then I shall turn you into rats.”

Terrified by the prospect of being something so dirty and disgusting as a rat, Petunia quickly sat down in the nearest chair, and Vernon followed suit, sitting in another chair. Harry and Professor McGonagall sat down across from them.

“Good. Now--”

She was interrupted this time by a knock on the door, a knock that rattled the house.

“Oh for goodness sake, Hagrid,” the professor shouted at the door as she got up to open it, “please do try to be more careful. I do not want to have to repair their home if I can help it.”

“Sorry bout tha, Professor,” said a very large voice from the door as an even larger man came inside. He was so vast that he had to duck to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling.

“Oh, it's fine, Hagrid. I didn't mean to snap at you, it's just these muggles are the worst I've ever met in thirty-five years of this job. Oh here, let me conjure you something to sit on in there, Hagrid. You'll never get in here unless I shrunk you.”

“Tha's okay, Professor. I can stand.”

But the older woman insisted on conjuring the giant man a chair, and so Harry saw his first proof of magic.

“It's REAL! Magic is REAL?”

The two new faces stared at him, agog, for a moment. Then Hagrid got angry and faced his aunt and uncle as best as he could from the entryway. “YEH MEAN TER TELL ME HE ENT EVEN BEEN TOLD NUTHIN BOUT OUR WORLD? HARRY JAMES POTTER, MOS' FAMOUS PERSON IN OUR WORLD, AN' HE'S NEVER BEEN TOLD ABOUT MAGIC?”

“Of course we didn't tell him,” Petunia snapped, surprised to find her voice returned. “My dratted sister being what she was. We swore, when we took him in, we'd put a stop to all that dangerous nonsense. And yet here you are anyway, breaking into our home, threatening us--”

“YEH THINK YEH BEEN THREATENED SO FAR DURSLEY, YEH'VE NO IDEA WHAT--”

“Hagrid, do please calm yourself!”

Hagrid's face was covered by his big shaggy beard, but his eyes looked abashed. “Sorry, Professor McGonagall.”

“It's quite alright, Hagrid, just try to remain calm.”

“Wait,” said Harry, rubbing his head. “Wait, I'm trying to think. But so much noise, I can't... god, my head...”

“A headache, Mister Potter? Like the ones you mentioned in your reply?”

“WHAT? Am I to understand, boy, that you've been writing these freaks?”

“And no doubt hiding his... his dratted acceptance letter from us too, Vernon.”

“Here, Mister Potter, Poppy – our school nurse – gave me a few vials of a headache cure after I showed her your letter. Drink one up, it will get rid of the pain.”

Harry took the proffered potion and drank it up. Now that he had seen proof of magic, he trusted this woman. Hard as it was for him to trust adults, he trusted her anyway for some reason.

“Thanks, that's better.”

“YOU NEVER ANSWERED US, BOY! DON'T THINK YOU CAN--”

“SHUT UP, DURSLEY, YOU GREAT PRUNE! DON'T MAKE ME COME OER THERE AN' INTRODUCE YEH TO YOUR OWN--”

“HAGRID! Calm yourself!”

Hagrid muttered an apology, glaring darkly at the Dursleys. Harry wondered, suddenly, where Dudley was in all this. Then he spotted his cousin far away, hiding but still watching the scene unfold.

“Anyway,” Harry said. “So, I don't know where to start. Wait, no, I do. You said I look like my dad?”

“Yeah,” Hagrid said before McGonagall could answer. “Yeah, now yeh mention it, yeh do look zactly like yer dad. But yeh got yer mum's eyes.” His own began to water, tears rolling down his beard.

“So you two knew my parents?”

McGonagall nodded, her own eyes tearing up. “Y-yes, Mister Potter. I've been teaching in Hogwarts since 1956. I taught your mother and father when they were in school. And Hagrid here has been keeper of the keys and grounds at Hogwarts for 49 years, so he knew them as well.”

“An a better witch an wizard I ent never known. Kind, yer mum was. And yer dad, too, in 'is own way. Bit of a prankster, yer dad. Sad it was, when You-Know-'Oo kill--”

“I FORBID YOU TO SPEAK,” his uncle bellowed.

“I'D LIKE TER SEE YEH TRY AN STOP ME!”

Harry was confused and angry. He rounded on his aunt and uncle and shouted, “YOU TOLD ME MY PARENTS DIED IN A CAR CRASH!”

Hagrid stood up and left a divot in the ceiling with his head. “A CAR CRASH!? A CAR CRASH KILL LILY AN JAMES POTTER!? IT'S AN OUTRAGE! A SCANDAL! I'VE 'ALF A MIN' TER TIE YER LIMBS INTO A--”

“HAGRID!”

Hagrid, apparently, was too incensed to do more than growl. And Harry was starting to feel angry himself, from what he'd heard. But more pressing was his curiosity.

“Murdered? My parents were murdered? By who?”

Both Hogwarts representatives looked discomfited. McGonagall spoke first. “Well, Mister Potter, you see... just like muggles,” she gave the Dursleys a glower, “not all witches and wizards are good. Some go bad. The wizard who murdered your parents was the most powerful evil sorcerer in over 100 years. I don't know his real name, but he went by a pseudonym which is infamous; so infamous that, well... even though the war has been over for almost 11 years, most of us are still too terrified to speak that name. But, well, let me write it out for you.” She summoned a quill, ink, and parchment from nowhere, eliciting squeaks of fear from the Dursleys, wrote something on it, and handed it to him.

“Voldemort?” The reaction this name elicited in the two Hogwarts representatives was even more pronounced than the Dursley's reaction to the word 'magic.' Hagrid jumped so much in fear that the chair he was sitting on got flattened, and the house shook. And Professor McGonagall, her hand to her chest, looked like she was in danger of having a heart attack.

“Yes, that... that is correct, Mister Potter. Now if you please, I beg you not to say the name again.”

“Alright, I'll try.”

“Anyway, this... this He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, he went to your house on Halloween, and... and killed Lily and James. Then he tried to kill you, but for some reason that nobody knows, he couldn't. Scores of powerful witches and wizards he murdered, maybe even hundreds, and you, just a baby boy, somehow survived.”

Harry didn't know what to say, so he said nothing, just looked pensive.

“Yeah,” continued Hagrid from McGonagall, “an yer house blew up an all, too. Fished yeh outta the wreckage meself, an brought yeh here on Dumbledore's orders.”

Harry glared at these words. “Dumbledore is the reason I ended up here? Here with these people who hate me, who beat me, who don't feed me enough?”

Both of them had the decency to look very uncomfortable, at least.

“Er... Harry, yeh see... well I guess Dumbledore – an I can hardly believe I'm sayin this, but... I guess he misjudged yer aunt and uncle. I guess even Dumbledore can make mistakes. He swore up an down yeh'd be safe here, that the Dursleys would care fer ya like a son...” Hagrid stopped talking upon seeing the expression crossing Harry's face.

“Well they sure as--” he stopped himself saying something rude. “They didn't. Dudley is far from malnourished. Dudley has no burn scars, or scars from being whipped till he bled. Dudley isn't treated like a slave or worse. Dudley isn't hated so much that the word 'hatred' hardly seems strong enough.”

McGonagall looked shocked. She looked like the news was making her ill. Then she looked murderous. With deadly quiet, she said, “Harry, I promise you... I don't know what exactly I will do, but these... these monsters will pay for their crimes. I shall have you see Poppy after the Sorting, she can take a record of the abuse, that will be the first step. But please don't be angry with Professor Dumbledore; even I never would have dreamed anything like this would happen. I guess we're both too trusting, him and I.”

There was almost a whole minute of silence, before it was rudely broken.

“If you think I'm going to pay for some crackpot old fool to teach him magic tricks, I--” Vernon's surprise rant ended when Hagrid nearly put his head through the roof, and McGonagall pointed her wand at Vernon's heart, murder in her eyes.

“I warn you, Mister Dursley, if you insult Albus Dumbledore again, you will both live out your remaining days as seats in a very filthy public toilet. You would deserve far worse.”

At this, Vernon got very small, and both him and his wife turned a very sickly looking pale.

“HA! Couldn't 'ave said it better meself, Professor.”

“See, it's like I told you in my letter,” Harry said, pushing his feelings back down in order to charge ahead. “I haven't the money to go, and they're not going to let me.”

“Mister Potter, the laws of our world – of the wizarding world, I mean – clearly state that young witches and wizards must receive a magical education, to control their gifts. As you age, your power will only grow, and power without control could end up coming out very dangerously. There's no telling what could happen if you don't learn that control,” she said, pointedly looking at the Dursleys. “You could end up blowing the house up, or worse. Anyway, you do not have to go to Hogwarts for this education, as there are other schools, such as Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, both on the European mainland. But you need to go somewhere to learn, and as Hogwarts has accepted you, if you wish to go, legally nobody can stop you from going.”

“And besides which, yeh've--”

“Hush, Hagrid,” she said, giving him a significant look. He looked perplexed for a moment. Then, understanding lit up his face and he nodded.

“Anyway, as I was about to say, there is a fund for students who cannot afford tuition and supplies. Since your guardians will not pay your way, the fund can pay your way through all seven years of your education.”

“Oh. Well that's one hurdle overcome, I guess,” he said. He looked at the Dursleys, then back at McGonagall. “But how will I get there? I doubt these two will take me.”

“I will have Hagrid here collect you on the first of September, if you wish to go. He will be authorized to get you to Hogwarts in any way that does not violate wizarding law. Well, except for magic.”

“Er, yeah,” Hagrid said. “Strictly speakin, I'm not allowed ter do magic. But nothin short of a dragon or a manticore could stop me gettin' yeh ter school, an yeh can bet on tha'.”

“Why aren't you allowed to do magic?”

“Er, Professor, have yeh told 'im bout Platform 9 and ¾ yet?”

“Platform WHAT?” exclaimed Mr. Dursley.

“Never you min', Dursley. Ent noneyer bin'niss.”

“Yes, good idea, Hagrid. At King's Cross Station, there will be what appears to be a blank wall between platforms 9 and 10. You run at it, with your eyes closed if it helps, and it will transport you to platform 9 and ¾.”

“Hold on, let me write that down,” he said, scribbling it down on a piece of spare paper.

“At any rate, Hagrid will also take you to Diagon Alley today to get your school supplies.”

“Today?”

“Yes, it's still plenty early enough. Hagrid, Albus gave me a pair of portkeys to give you for the trip. They both activate by a countdown from 3 while you're holding them in your hand.” She handed him a filthy rubber duck and a crushed McDonald's cup, to Harry's confusion. Hagrid took them and put them in his pocket.

“Understood, Professor McGonagall.”

“As for me, I will be returning home to have a nice long soak in a warm bath. It has been years since I had a day as stressful as this one. Well, Mister Potter, I shall see you on the first of September.”

“See you,” Harry said back.

Professor McGonagall stood up, got out her wand, turned on the spot, and disappeared with a loud CRACK that startled the Dursleys onto the floor.

“Harry, come over 'ere an put a hand on this,” he said, holding out one end of the crushed drink cup. Perplexed, Harry nonetheless did as instructed.

“Good, good. Ready? Good. Now three, two, one!”

Harry felt a jerk behind his navel, and the sensation of wind rushing past him for about 10 or 15 seconds, then fell over sideways into a table that hadn't been there before, knocking someone's beer over.

“Oy, watch it!”

“S-sorry,” Harry said. But the man had barely finished his exclamation before diving out of the way, barely missing getting crushed by Hagrid's immense form, which crushed the table instead.

The man passed out from terror, and a toothless, wizened old man came over and helped Hagrid up, then pointed a wand at the table and repaired it magically.

“Wh-where are we?”

“You're in the leaky cauldron,” the toothless old man said, pointing his wand at the passed-out man, waking him. “Next time, Hagrid, don't portkey into my pub?”

“Sorry bout that, Tom. Professor McGonagall forgot ter mention where tha portkey went ter.” He regarded the other one with great wariness. “Sure hope this 'un don't take us inter your house later, or somebody might hafter fish us outta the wreckage.” He put it back for now, and started to head toward the back of the pub, when a man in a purple turban came up to Harry.

“P-p-p-p-potter. P-p-p-p-pleased t-t-to m-m-meet you. I'm P-p-p-p-professor Quirrel.”

He shook the man's hand as Hagrid explained that Quirrel was the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. And then Tom the barman made an exclamation about Harry, and suddenly every witch and wizard in the place was swarming him, trying to get a handshake or a word from him. And despite the headache cure McGonagall had given him, he felt it returning.

“Hagrid. T-too many p-people. Can we get out of here?”

“Okay, evryone, tha's quite enough. Poor lad's gettin' a headache, and we've got ter get his school things. BACK, I say!”

Tom, despite having started the ruckus, helped Hagrid calm it down, and Hagrid led Harry out the back to a brick wall.

“Here, Harry; before we go in, I got another headache potion for yeh. Poppy gave me a bunch, too, an told me how ter use em. Yeh can have up ter four in an hour, but best ter not do any more. She said it could make em worse past that point.”

“Thanks, Hagrid,” he said, taking the potion and feeling relief speeding to his head. “Do you happen to know if there's any risk of drug interaction if I were to take my ibuprofen after that point?”

“Er, no idea, sorry. I don't know nothin bout muggle med'cine, an Poppy dinnit say nuffin bout it. Anyway, yeh better enough ter watch?”

“Yes.”

Hagrid nodded approvingly, then showed Harry how to open the entryway to Diagon Alley with a pink umbrella that Harry suspected was really a wand. He tapped a certain brick in the wall, and a hole opened up smoothly and quickly into an archway before them.

What lay before him was a wonder to behold, and he took a moment to feel the awe before going in. It was a good thing, too; after just a couple minutes, he began finding it harder and harder to enjoy Diagon Alley. There were lots of familiar sounds – animal screeches, bangs, cracks, and pops – that startled him ever few seconds, making his heart race and his airway constrict. He tried calming himself, but it was difficult; a difficulty made worse by the equally overwhelming visual noise. Without his glasses, he was probably legally blind, but that didn't mean his vision couldn't still be overwhelmed. It was all making him sick, and he had to lean against a wall, cover his ears, and shut his eyes to block it all out, and it still wasn't enough.

“Oy, them Dursleys really did a number on-- oh, sorry. I'll shush up.” Hagrid waited patiently, looking with great concern at Harry for several minutes, before saying, “Er... d'ya want me ter give yeh a piggyback ride?”

Harry looked up at Hagrid, thinking. They had things to do, and if he was stuck here trying to cope with the noise...

“Yes, please.”

Riding on Hagrid's shoulders helped, though he had to look into the sky to cut down on the visual noise. Before going to Gringott's, Hagrid stopped by at a small shop that sold earmuffs with a silencing charm on them. He put them over Harry's ears; Harry looked foolish wearing earmuffs in July, but he quickly recovered almost fully with the absolute silence that the earmuffs afforded him. At another shop, Hagrid added a pair of extra-dark sunglasses to Harry's sensory-coping arsenal. That done, they finally headed toward the giant white stone building that was the wizarding bank, Gringott's.

Harry took the sunglasses and earmuffs off inside, just to test the waters. The bank was busy, but much, much quieter than outside had been.

“Young Harry Potter wishes ter make a withdrawral,” Hagrid told one of the goblins. Harry tried to get a good look at the goblin without staring; he had no wish to be rude.

“And does young Harry Potter have his key?”

“Aye, got it right here. Oh, and there's something else as well. Important Hogwarts bin'niss.” Hagrid handed the goblin a very secretive looking piece of parchment, then whispered, “It's about the you-know-what in vault you-know-which.”

Harry supposed Hagrid thought Harry couldn't hear him, but with Harry's hearing being what it was, Hagrid might as well have been using his normal voice; the whisper was just as clear.

“Very well,” said the goblin. “Griphook!”

Another goblin, much younger than the first, grabbed a lantern and led them into a cart like the mine carts in old shows about the American 'wild west.'

“Hang on ter yer valubles, Harry, an yeh might want ter close yer eyes, this is gonna be a rough ride. Even I get sick on these damned carts.”

Harry nodded, and closed his eyes just in time for the cart to go whizzing off at breakneck speed, twisting and turning this way and that. Hagrid sounded very ill, but managed to keep his food in. Harry was not so lucky, managing to hold it in just long enough for the cart to jerk to a stop before tossing his breakfast over into the abyss below.

Luckily, the goblin patiently gave Harry a couple minutes to find his land legs again, and staggered over to the vault door. It was only then that he registered something that had been said earlier. “Wait, did you say I had a key? Where are we, Hagrid?”

The goblin answered instead. “Vault 687, held in trust for Harry James Potter, by his parents, Lily and James Potter.”

“My parents had a vault here?”

“Yes,” Griphook replied. “Very old wizarding family, the Potters. They go back all the way to the Peverells at least.”

Harry had no idea what that meant, so he just nodded. He watched the goblin place a small golden key into a lock and turn it, opening the vault door. Then he looked in, and began to gibber. Before his eyes was an enormous pile of gold, and smaller piles of silver and bronze. This was more money than he could ever have imagined. There was no way the Dursleys knew of this, and he wasn't going to tell them, ever; they would steal it from him, even if it meant coming into the wizarding world to do it.

“How... how much?”

“I don't know the exact figure off the top of my head, Mister Potter, but I would estimate at least fifteen million galleons. It is quite a large vault.”

“How much is that in pounds sterling?”

“At the current exchange rate, a galleon is worth about five pounds. A sickle is worth about 30 pence, and a knut is one pence.”

“I'm a millionaire?”

“Yes, Mister Potter,” Griphook said with a grin, “you are. Happy early birthday, Mister Potter.”

“From dirt poor to independently wealthy in less than a day. Wow.”

Using the information Griphook had given him, Harry took out 60 galleons, 100 sickles, and 25 knuts and put it in his bag. Then he asked the goblin, “You mentioned an exchange rate, so I take it that means I could exchange some of this for pounds?”

“Yes, Mister Potter. You can exchange money with any of the tellers upstairs.”

He nodded and got back into the cart. He and Hagrid then endured another ride to a deeper vault, vault 713. Harry barely had the presence of mind to pay attention to Griphook opening that door, but caught a glimpse inside. The only thing in that vault was a grubby little package, which Hagrid collected. He wondered what could be that valuable, that it would have its very own vault all the way down here.

“Er, don't mention this ter anybody, Harry; it's secret stuff. Come ter think on it, maybe I shouldn't have gotten it with you around.”

“Don't worry, Hagrid, your secret's safe with me.”

Apparently his word was good enough for Hagrid, and so he had a moment of cheerfulness before they had to endure the trip back up. By this point, Harry had nothing left in his stomach, so he was dry heaving over the side. They quickly got out, and as soon as the both of them got their land legs back, they went to the teller, where Harry got gave the goblin 4 galleons and some sickles, and got about 20 quid in muggle money in exchange. Then he put his earmuffs back on, but Hagrid was too woozy to trust himself to carry Harry, so instead, they went hand in hand to the Leaky Cauldron to get some soup and pumpkin juice for Harry, and an enormous tankard of ale for Hagrid.

“Drinking on the job?” Harry teased.

“Aye, jes a lil pick-me-up. Don' worry, I'm so big I'd haf ter drink at leas' four times this to even start ter get tipsy.” He drank half of it in one gulp before continuing, “Sides which, if I never got ter drink on the job, I wouldn't get ter drink very often.”

When they finished their meal and felt human again, Harry put his earmuffs on and braved Diagon Alley with Hagrid again. He found, with the earmuffs on, that the visual noise was tolerable, and so with relative ease they went all over the place, getting books, a cauldron, potions supplies, and more. Finally, the last thing was a wand.

“Listen, I'm gonna get yeh a birthday present. I know it's a bit early, but I won't be able to come round again til the first o' September. Don't look at me like that; I don't spect yeh've ever had a birthday present before with them Dursleys. It's me own money, an I want ter get yeh somfin. I know, I'll get yeh an owl. Dead useful they are, carry yer mail an all. Yeah, you get yer wand 'ere an I'll be back before three shake of a bowtruckle.”

Hagrid, humming happily, wandered off to find Harry an owl, and Harry went into Ollivander's and looked around.

“Hello?” he called out experimentally.

Suddenly, a pale-eyed old man rolled into view on a ladder. “Ah, Mister Potter, I wondered when I would meet you. Oh, and here's another customer, too. First come first serve, miss... uh, miss...”

“Granger, sir. Hermione Granger. And these are my parents,” said a black girl, her hair even wilder and bigger and bushier than his own, grinning back at her mother and father, both of whom were also black.

“Hmm, Granger, eh? Any relation to Hector Dagworth-Granger?”

“Doubtful, sir. I'm muggleborn.”

“Ah yes, good good. Well anyway, Miss Granger, Mister Potter was here first, so I shall tend to him first.”

She nodded, and the three of them sat down. Mister Ollivander began measuring him with a measuring tape that was moving of its own accord, while he looked through boxes. What followed was 15 minutes of trying one wand after another without luck. Instead of being frustrated by this as Harry was, Mr. Ollivander got more excited with every failed wand. Finally, though, he paused at one wand and said, “I wonder,” before picking it up and handing it to Harry to try. Harry swished the wand like all the others, not expecting anything to happen, and was pleasantly surprised to find it created sparks.

“Wonderful, wonderful! Here, let's get you paid up, and I'll box that up for you. After all, students are not allowed to do magic except in Hogwarts, at least until they come of age.”

As he took Harry's money, he muttered to himself. “Curious, very curious...”

“Sorry, but what's curious?”

Olivander eyes the Grangers briefly, then cast some sort of spell wandlessly.

“There, silencing charm. Now they can't hear us. What is curious, Mr. Potter, is that the phoenix whose tail feather comprises your wand's core gave only one other feather. Wands choose their wizards, Mr. Potter, so it is curious that you should be fated to this wand, when it's brother gave you that scar.

“Ah,” Harry said, feeling ill. “Are you sure they can't hear us?”

“I would not tell you something so grave and private if I thought there was any risk of another overhearing us, Mr. Potter; on that, you have my word.”

Swallowing a hard lump in his throat, Harry took his wand and moved away from the register. Hagrid still wasn't back yet, so Harry waited while Hermione got her wand. It only took Ollivander five tries to find her a wand. Where Harry's was made of holly wood with a phoenix feather core, Hermione's was vine wood and dragon heartstring.

Hagrid finally showed up, tapping the window gently to show he couldn't come in. He was holding a lovely snowy owl in a bronze-colored cage.

“Oooh, what a lovely owl,” Hermione exclaimed. “Oh mum, can I get an owl too?”

“No, dear, not this year anyway. Your father and I will think about it.”

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Hermione.”

“You too, Harry. See you on the train, I hope.”

Harry waved goodbye, put his earmuffs back on, and left with Hagrid. Before long, they were taking the rubber-duck portkey back. To both their relief, the portkey took them to a sheltered part of the Dursley's back yard. To their consternation, however, this startled Petunia, who was gardening, and she screamed, running into the house in terror.

Hagrid did not go right away. During their soup earlier, Harry had mentioned his cupboard under the stairs, so the giant man was going to have a few words with the Dursley's. Before he left, Harry was able to move all his things into Dudley's spare bedroom. With Hagrid's help, they cleared out all of Dudley's rubbish and chucked it in the bin, which caused a whole new ruckus. Eventually, though, Hagrid terrified the Dursleys into submission, and Harry watched Hagrid reuse the first portkey and vanish into thin air. Already, Harry began to count down the days til September the first.

~

Note: Don't worry, things will get better for Harry in the next chapter.



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