Gideon and Fabian Prewett were quite happy with life.

Ever since they had named Fred and George as heirs to the House of Prewett, they were allowed [required, actually] by law to help raise the boys in proper pureblood style and tradition. This meant that Fred and George Weasley-Prewett had to learn how to act around certain people and how to behave at certain events; what people to befriend, and what people to stay away from; which social gatherings were appropriate for them to be seen at, and which ones weren't; etcetera.

Both the Lord Prewetts and the Heir Prewetts found this kind of study not only tediously boring, but time wasting as well. Gideon and Fabian probably would have taught the boys the basics and left it at that. Unfortunately for them, Regulus Black took over the etiquette training for all four.

Apparently, he felt that the Prewetts needed some more training in that area as well.

The twins all tolerated it, however, and actually became quite adept at it. Fred and George liked to consider it a grand prank when they were allowed to snub their noses at Draco Malfoy, due to the House of Prewett being of Most Noble and Ancient standing, compared to the merely Junior House of Malfoy.

The twin sons of Regulus, Aries and Rigel, also had to learn all of this. Being the same age as Fred and George, the four boys quickly became friends, particularly due to the new closeness of the Prewetts and the Blacks.

The four were tutored in the basics of magic before entering Hogwarts, as was proper for the Heirs of Houses. They weren't allowed to actually use magic until they bought their wands, but they learned theory and incantations, as well as potions.

The Prewetts and Regulus may have taught them a little more than commonly thought necessary, due to paranoia. The boys however took to it like fish to water, and always looked forward to the next magic lesson. [Classes like History of Magic were not looked forward to with such excitement.]

When they entered Hogwarts, the boys were frightened that their friendship would suffer hardships. Aries and Rigel were sorted into Slytherin, and Fred and George were sorted into Gryffindor. At first people shunned them for 'socializing with the enemy', but that was immediately stopped when Gideon, Fabian, and Regulus gave out an interview to The Daily Prophet restating their alliance and the importance of friendship between the two Houses.

Many people were surprised that the friendship worked as well as it did. Fred and George were loud and impulsive, with explosive tempers and fierce loyalty. They were unbelievably clever, but hated schoolwork with a passion and much preferred pranking. They were wildly popular, and everyone knew that the twins knew every nook and cranny of the castle like the backs of their hands.

Aries and Rigel were quiet and thoughtful, but were violently dangerous when angered. They rarely hung out with anyone other than Fred and George, and so very few people had any ideas as to which people they felt any loyalty or likeness to. They were easily as clever as the Weasley twins, but were much more studious about it, preferring to spend their free time in the library hunting for obscure books.

~§~

Neither the Prewetts nor Regulus trusted Dumbledore ever again. The twins had come to the firm decision that he was both mad and power-hungry, and was willing to do whatever he had to do to stay at the top of the political food chain.

It did surprise them, however, when Regulus did some research and found that Dumbledore truly had fingers everywhere. As Headmaster, he solely decided what each generation would or would not learn; as Chief Warlock, he was aware of and could manipulate any and all old or new laws that the Wizengamot had; as Supreme Mugwump, he had many friends in the International Confederation of Wizards; as adviser to the Minister, he had almost complete control of the Ministry; as Head of the Dumbledore family, he had access to the family's originally small fortune, which had grown suspiciously over the years; and as the Defeater of Gellert Grindelwald, he had the love and respect of the people.

They were shocked at just how many loopholes in the laws applied only to him—and even more so when they realized that through spies or heavy bribes, he had almost no political opponents. The only ones left were Prewett, Black, Longbottom, Malfoy, Greengrass, and, surprisingly, Weasley.

Dumbledore also had direct control of many of the proxies of Wizengamot seats; either lines that had died out, ones that had been handed to him personally by either force or friendship, or ones which belonged to families defeated by him [or the Order] in the war. These included the McKinnons, the Potters, the Selwyns, the Gaunts, the Abbotts, the Ollivanders, and the Gibbons. He also held the seat of Dumbledore, Hogwarts Headmaster, and those of the four founders as his own.

Regulus was quite surprised to find that many more families than he had thought were of Grey Neutrality; families who had refused to pick a side in the war and so had fled the country. These families were presumed to be dead until the Prewetts sent out owls announcing that Voldemort had been defeated. When they returned, these Grey Houses tended to simply sit in on Wizengamot meetings. They paid close attention to who was winning and what seemed most popular, and never chose a side. As they rarely voted, they posed no real threat to Dumbledore, but they clearly couldn't be counted as his opponents either.

Both of the Prewetts had been approached a few times by Dumbledore, asking if they would be the Defense Against the Dark Arts professors. Both turned him down, not wanting to be so close to the headmaster for such a long time. Neither felt safe in Hogwarts, where he was able to watch them constantly.

Since it was expected that they send Fred and George to Hogwarts, they didn't have much choice in allowing the Weasley twins to attend. Gideon and Fabian tried to persuade Molly and Arthur out of it, but both parents refused.

Regulus used Aries and Rigel as his spies within Hogwarts. They usually reported only the activities of fellow students; children of prominent families and Houses, or even talented muggle-borns. Fred and George tried to help with this, but they were often better at creating distractions so that the Blacks could snoop in out-of-bounds areas, such as other dorms.

~§~

The brothers were quite concerned over what had happened the night they had been attacked. Prewett's Folly was an old house of a powerful pureblood family, and as such it had fairly decent protections. The manor itself was designed to trap any intruders and keep them away from the family; this however wasn't much help when the intruders decided to simply blow holes in the walls. The wards were also supposed to be very strong, having been activated at the start of the war.

Gideon and Fabian were worried because the wards had done absolutely nothing to stop the death eaters. They didn't even shown they had been disturbed when the brothers checked them the following week. Thus the Prewetts hired a special team of warders, and completely remodeled the ward scheme, inadvertently leading their little nephew Bill to his new dream when they attempted to break through the new wards to test their strength.

The new wards, placed on and charged by large, strong wardstones, were heavily laced with Muggle and wizard Notice-Me-Not charms, dark creature wards, dark magic wards, and intruder anti-portkey and anti-apparation wards. The heads of the family were the only ones able to enter the wards at will; anyone else had to have their names entered by the Lords in the ward-book. Prewett's Folly was also placed under a perpetual Fidelius, just like Grimmauld Place.

There were only two other people that both the Prewetts and the Blacks allowed under their Fidelius' besides each other—Amelia Bones and her niece, Susan. Madame Bones had eventually become Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, which meant that Regulus was constantly asking for her help in freeing Sirius.

Azkaban prison only allowed visitors twice a year, for ten minutes at a time. Twice a year, Regulus would go and visit his brother. The first time he did, Sirius had been shocked to hear that his brother was alive. Then—he was angry. The guards had been forced to lead him away, Sirius yelling obscenities at Regulus the entire time.

On the second visit, Regulus was able to convince Sirius that he had abandoned Voldemort, and that he knew Sirius wasn't guilty. Year by year, the brothers were able to piece together more and more evidence that Sirius was innocent.

Madame Bones had known of Sirius and James Potter's friendship, and personally doubted that Sirius had betrayed his best friend. As a Law Enforcement Official, it was her job to ensure that everyone received a trial; especially if the man claimed innocence. At every Wizengamot meeting, she and Regulus would fight both Dumbledore and the Minister to allow a trial. And at every meeting, they lost.

Despite Sirius not yet being free, both Prewett brothers and Regulus were quite pleased with how much they had done in the last decade. Not much had been openly done for the public, as they had nowhere near enough support to try and remove Dumbledore from any of his posts, but the two families were very safe and secure, and that was what they had wanted.

Regulus had been shocked when he discovered a horcrux in his former cousin Bellatrix's Gringotts vault. He placed Hufflepuff's cup in the locked box with Slytherin's locket.

The Malfoys, in an attempt to placate him after he threatened to dissolve their marriage about three years after the war, had given him a diary that had been entrusted to them by Voldemort. The diary was also put in the box.

Despite their best efforts, Gideon, Fabian, and Regulus only found three ways to destroy horcruxes—Fiendfyre, basilisk venom, and the killing curse.

Fiendfyre was deemed too dangerous to cast, since none of them knew how to control it, nor did they feel inclined to learn. Basilisk venom was impossible to find, as there had been no known basilisks in over a century. The killing curse only worked on living creatures, which they found out when Regulus attempted to destroy the locket.

However, three horcruxes were already found and in their possession—Regulus was still searching for the rest when not hung up in the Wizengamot.

~§~

Ms. Anthony had realized years ago that trying to help Harry get away from his relatives was a hopeless cause. The child care officers either forgot about the case entirely, or had unfortunate 'accidents' and disappeared off face of the planet. So, she gave up, knowing a useless cause when she saw one. This did not deter the stubborn women from her goal, however; it only made her change her plan.

When Harry was nine years old, Ms. Anthony happened to be walking by while he was doing some gardening. She promptly asked the Dursleys if she could take him home during days when school was out to help her around the house. After many days of frustrating arguing, and no small amount of bribing [in the guise of paying Harry for his 'help'], the Dursleys finally said yes.

This meant that from eight to six or later on any given day, Harry was over at Ms. Anthony's, eating full meals, working on schoolwork, studying karate, and learning how to be a somewhat normal boy. Although he was always shy and wary around people he didn't know, Harry finally learned that it was perfectly fine to eat at the table with other people and expect to be full at the end. It was perfectly fine to go back to bed on a weekend, so long as he didn't sleep in too late. It was perfectly fine for him to have ice cream and sweets, and to watch television, and to play games.

Ms. Anthony was horrified the first time she learned that he didn't even know his parents' names. Unfortunately, she couldn't cajole the Dursleys into telling her, and there appeared to be no actual records of the Potters, other than that they were dead.

Harry was shocked the first time she surprised him on his birthday with a new pair of shoes. She practically forced the Dursleys to make sure he wore them whenever he went out, as she insisted that no one should wear duct taped shoes while working on rose bushes [that was her excuse]. She insisted so much that Petunia finally agreed to make sure that Harry also had his own underwear and at least one pair of sturdy pants to 'work' in.

The only reason the Dursleys allowed this to happen was because it meant they only had to deal with Harry in the early morning and at night. Ms. Anthony took care of all his meals, some of his clothes [though, admittedly, the Dursleys only allowed the shoes, underwear, and pants], and a good chunk of his education. They took this to mean that they were allowed to spend less money on Harry than Ms. Anthony would spend on a goldfish.

The best part of it, Harry thought, was that the Dursleys no longer called him 'boy', or 'freak'. Ms. Anthony had happened to hear Vernon call him Freak one day, and just about had an aneurism. None of the Dursleys were brave enough to call him any other names after that, so to them Harry was simply known as 'Potter'.

It was Ms. Anthony who became the only person Harry ever trusted as a child. He often wondered if that was what it felt like to have a mom. He never asked her.

~§~

The day the first Hogwarts letter came, Harry was already at Ms. Anthony's. Petunia burned it, while Vernon forbid Dudley from thinking about it. Harry was also gone when the next set came. He also missed the third group, but was curious as to why Uncle Vernon had boarded up the mail slot.

When the letters started coming through the windows and cracks in the doors, Harry told Ms. Anthony. The librarian was shocked, having absolutely no clue as to what could possibly be going on. Yes, strange things often happened around Harry, like that time he scraped his knee and she went to bandage it only to find it completely healed, but this was a bit much. Ms. Anthony couldn't very well ask the Dursleys for one of the letters as she wasn't actually Harry's legal guardian, and Harry certainly couldn't ask.

It just so happened that on that fateful Sunday, Ms. Anthony had left town to visit her elderly mother. As a result, Harry had been made to stay with the Dursleys.

When the letters started flying down the chimney, Vernon had a rough time herding Harry away from them all. Moments away from having a legitimate heart attack, Vernon ordered both boys to pack a quick bag of clothes. They left the house ten minutes later, stopping only to leave a hastily scribbled note on Ms. Anthony's porch, saying they had gone away for a few days and taken Harry with them.

When they finally stopped the impromptu road trip, no one was impressed with the rotting shack on the island fortress that Uncle Vernon had somehow managed to find. Dudley kept silently throwing glances at his father, and asking if 'Daddy's gone mad'. Aunt Petunia was trying to talk privately to Vernon; and Harry would have found the entire thing dreadfully amusing if he wasn't so hungry, curious, and cold.

There was a large storm brewing outside the shack, and it wasn't much better inside. The place stank of seaweed, the wind whistled through gaps in the walls, and the fireplace was stone cold. There were two rooms; Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia took one, Harry and Dudley took the other.

Aside from the small overnight bags that had been packed, the only things that they had were a few bags of chips and a long, thin package that Vernon refused to let out of his sight.

Uncle Vernon cackled madly as he tried to light a fire with the chip bags. "Could use some of those letters now, eh?" he said cheerfully to no one in particular.

Harry sat down, pulling his knees to his chest in an attempt to warm himself. He had received more of those letters than the ones on Sunday? He thought about the letters he had received at the hotel; how were they following him? Who wanted to speak to him that badly? Why hadn't Ms. Anthony received any if they could find him even at the hotel? Would they be able to find him here?

Uncle Vernon clearly thought they were safe from any unwanted post here, and Harry had to agree with him. Still…after the trick on Sunday, Harry wouldn't have been surprised.

As the storm raged outside, the Dursleys eventually fell asleep. Harry remained awake, counting down the hours using Dudley's softly glowing wristwatch. He shivered under the thinnest blanket that had been found, glancing enviously at the moldy sofa Dudley was sleeping on. The storm was getting worse.

Still, he thought, he was almost eleven now! The Dursleys, as usual, had completely ignored his birthday. If he was still at Privet Drive, Ms. Anthony would have made him a chocolate cake, and there would be a present on the table. Usually a book, and never something nice that the Dursleys would take away, but all the same, Harry so rarely got presents. In fact, he never got presents, not at all, except from Ms. Anthony. He wondered what she had gotten him this year.

Five minutes to go. Harry heard something creak outside. He hoped the roof wasn't going to fall in, although he might be warmer if it did. Four minutes to go. Maybe the house in Privet Drive would be so full of letters when they got back that he'd be able to steal one away to Ms. Anthony somehow.

Three minutes to go. Was that the sea, slapping hard on the rock like that? And [two minutes to go] what was that funny crunching noise? Was the rock crumbling into the sea? Oh, how he hoped not.

One minute to go and he'd be eleven. Thirty seconds…twenty…ten…nine—maybe he'd wake Dudley up, just to annoy him—three…two…one…

BOOM.

The door shuddered violently. Harry sat bolt upright.

BOOM. The sound came again. Dudley jerked awake, almost falling off the couch.

"Where's the cannon?" The boy asked stupidly, only half awake.

There was a crash behind them, and Uncle Vernon entered the room carrying a rifle—which must have been in that package he had been holding, Harry realized. He briefly wondered if it was even legal.

"Who's there?" Vernon shouted, face pale. "I warn you—I'm armed!"

There was a pause. Then—

SMASH!

The door was hit with such force that it flew right off its hinges [though Harry doubted it would have lasted much longer against the storm anyway]. It landed with a deafening crash on the floor, almost squashing Harry.

Looking up, Harry gaped. A giant of a man was standing in the doorway. His face was almost completely hidden by a long, scruffy mane of hair and a wild, tangled beard. You could barely make out his twinkling black eyes behind all the hair.

The giant squeezed his way into the hut, stooping so that his head only brushed the ceiling. He bent down, picked up the door, and easily fitted it back into the frame. The noise dropped suddenly. The man turned to look at them.

"Couldn't make us a cup o' tea, could yeh? It's not been an easy journey…"

In one big step he strode over to the sofa where Dudley was sitting, paralyzed in fear.

"Budge up, yeh great lump," said the stranger.

Dudley squeaked in terror and ran to hide behind Aunt Petunia, who was hiding behind Uncle Vernon, who was in turn hiding behind his rifle.

"An' here's Harry!" Said the giant.

Harry looked up into the wild mane of hair. The giant smiled, eyes crinkling.

"Las' time I saw you, you was only a baby," he said. "Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh've got yer mom's eyes."

Harry froze. This giant stranger had known his parents? He knew Harry? How?

Part of the boy wanted to eagerly ask questions about his parents; what were their names? What were they like? Why did the Dursleys hate them so much? What did they look like? [Comparing Harry to his parents wasn't enough; what Harry really wanted was a picture or something.] But another part of Harry said—wait. He knew you as a baby? Why'd he leave you here with the Dursleys? Why didn't he ever come see you? Why come now? What did he want?

Before Harry could say anything, Uncle Vernon made a funny rasping noise. "I demand that you leave at once, sir! You are breaking and entering!"

"Ah, shut up, Dursley, yeh great prune." Replied the giant casually; he reached over the back of the sofa, jerked the gun out of Vernon's shaking hands, twisted it like a pretzel, and threw it into the corner. The Dursleys gaped. Harry scooted back, face paling drastically.

Uncle Vernon made another funny noise. Harry couldn't blame him; he felt like making one too.

"Anyway—Harry." The giant turned back to the boy. "A very happy birthday to yeh. Got summat fer yeh here—I mighta sat on it at some point, but it'll taste alright."

The man reached inside his enormously large coat and pulled out a slightly squashed box. With trembling fingers, Harry accepted the gift. On closer inspection, it was revealed to be a large, sticky chocolate cake with the words Happy Birthday Harry written on it in green icing.

Not trusting food from a stranger, although incredibly hungry and not wanting to be rude, Harry set the box down next to him. "Who are you?" He asked.

The giant chuckled at the question. "True, I haven't introduced meself. Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts." He held out a large hand and shook Harry's whole arm.

"What about that tea then, eh?" He asked, rubbing his hands together. "I'd not say no ter summat stronger if yeh've got it, mind."

Rubeus Hagrid's eyes fell on the empty grate with the shriveled up chip bags. He snorted, then bent down to the fireplace. Harry didn't see what he did, but a moment later a roaring hot fire suddenly appeared. The warmth washed around the hut, filling Harry up as if he'd just had a hot bath.

The giant sat back on the couch, which sagged under his weight, and reached into his pockets. He pulled out a copper kettle, a squished package of sausages which Harry though looked slightly green, a poker, a teapot, several banged up mugs, and a bottle filled with amber liquid. He took a swig from the bottle, then set to work making the sausages. Soon, Harry's mutinying stomach was growling loudly.

No one said anything as he was working. When the first six sausages were cooked, however, Dudley started fidgeting. Uncle Vernon snapped sharply, "Don't touch anything he gives you, Dudley."

The man chuckled darkly. "Yer great puddin' of a son don' need fattenin' anymore, Dursley, don' worry."

Despite his misgivings, Harry felt a smile start to creep onto his face. Ms. Anthony often complained about Dudley's sheer size. Thinking of the beloved librarian, Harry felt a sharp pain in his chest. He wondered at that. Did he miss her? Was he homesick? He'd never been away from home before, so he didn't know.

The giant had just taken a swig of tea. "Call me Hagrid." He offered. "Everyone does. An' like I told yeh, I'm Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts—yeh'll know all about Hogwarts, o' course."

"Actually," Harry said, feeling brave enough to voice his thoughts. "I have no idea what 'Hogwarts' is, or what a keeper of keys is."

Hagrid looked shocked. For a moment, he didn't speak. Then—

"What?!" He turned to face the Dursleys, who shrunk back in fright. "Yeh should be sorry, Dursley! Blimey, Harry! I knew yeh weren't getting yer letters but I never thought ye wouldn't even know abou' Hogwarts, fer crying out loud! Did yeh never wonder where yer parents learned it all?"

"All what?" Harry asked, thoroughly confused. So Hagrid had come because Harry wasn't getting the letters—was that it?

"ALL WHAT?" Hagrid thundered. "Now wait jus' one second!" He leapt to his feet. In his anger he seemed to fill the whole hut. The Dursleys were cowering against the wall.

"Do you mean to tell me," he growled dangerously, "that this boy—this boy!—knows nothin' abou'—about ANYTHING?"

Harry was getting indignant now. First, those strange letters had made the Dursleys pull him away from Ms. Anthony—on his birthday. Then, he had to sleep—on the floor—of a hut about to fall into the sea. This giant man broke in, terrified the Dursleys, and started insulting Harry. OF COURSE Harry knew things! Thanks to Ms. Anthony, he was in the top ten of all of his classes!

He voiced as such.

To his disbelief, Hagrid simply waved his hand. "About our world, I mean. Your world. My world. Yer parents' world."

"What world?"

Hagrid looked ready to explode from anger. Harry felt ready to explode from exasperation.

"DURSLEY!" Hagrid boomed.

Uncle Vernon mumbled something. Hagrid stared at Harry aghast.

"But yeh must know about yer mom and dad," he said. "I mean, they're famous. You're famous."

Harry huffed. "Look, Mr. Hagrid. I don't even know my parents' names. I do know they certainly weren't famous."

Hagrid jumped to his feet. "DURSLEY!"

Harry stood up too. "Stop shouting! It's past midnight, and I'm tired!" Hagrid immediately stared at Harry, shocked, and still sparing glares at the Dursleys.

"Mr. Hagrid." The boy said calmly. "Would you care to explain what you're talking about? I have no doubts that I was lied to about my parents. If you know the truth, would you please mind sharing?"

Hagrid looked ashamed. "All righ'." He said finally. He glared at the Dursleys one last time. "But if I hear one peep out of one of yeh—I won't be happy." Hagrid sat back down.

"Harry—yer a wizard."

There was complete silence. Only the storm outside could be heard.

"I'm a what?" Harry asked skeptically. He glanced at the Dursleys, half believing this to be a crazy dream, like the one he'd had about the flying motorcycle a few weeks ago.

"A wizard, o' course." Hagrid replied. "An' a thumpin' good un, I'd say, once yeh've been trained up a bit. With a mum and dad like yours, who wouldn't be? An' I reckon it's abou' time yeh read yer letter."

Harry slowly stretched out his hand at last to take the yellowish envelope, which was curiously addressed to Mr. H. Potter, The Floor, Hut-on-the-Rock, The Sea, in bright green ink. He pulled open the letter warily, and read:

Hogwarts School

of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Mister Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1st. We await your owl by no later than July 31st.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall,
Deputy Headmistress

Questions exploded inside Harry's head. The first one that popped out of his mouth was, to his dislike, "What does it mean, they await my owl?"

"Gallopin' Gorgons, that reminds me." Hagrid said, slapping a hand to his forehead. He reached into yet another pocket and pulled out—an owl. A real, live, rather rumpled and upset looking owl that appeared as if it had been sat on. He then pulled out a long—was that a quill?!—and a roll of—parchment? With his tongue between his teeth, Hagrid scribbled a quick note which Harry could easily read, even upside down.

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

Given Harry his letter.

Taking him to buy his things tomorrow.

Weather's horrible. Hope you're well.

Hagrid

Hagrid rolled up the note, gave it to the owl [which clamped it in its beak], and tossed the owl out the door and into the storm. Harry briefly wondered if that counted as animal abuse.

"Where was I?" Hagrid asked. At that moment, a very red-faced Uncle Vernon stood up.

"He's not going!" He said.

Hagrid grunted. "I'd like ter see a great Muggle like you stop him." He replied.

"A what?" Harry asked. Muggle sounded a bit like a swear word.

"A Muggle." Said Hagrid. "It's what we call nonmagic folk like them. An' it's your bad luck you grew up in a family o' the biggest Muggles I ever laid eyes on."

"We swore when we took him in we'd put a stop to that rubbish." Said Uncle Vernon. "Swore we'd stamp it out of him! Wizard indeed!"

Harry's mouth dropped open.

Until that very moment, Harry hadn't truly believed a word Hagrid had said. But if Uncle Vernon believed he was a wizard, well, Harry would certainly take the time to think about it. It wasn't that hard, either—all the times something strange had happened; his teacher's wig turning blue, suddenly appearing on top of the school roof when escaping from Dudley, talking to the snakes at the zoo when Ms. Anthony brought him there.

"You knew?" Harry said furiously. "You knew I was a wizard?!"

Knew!" Shrieked Aunt Petunia suddenly. "Knew! Of course we knew! How could you not be, my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that—that school—and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was—a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!"

She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. Harry deeply wanted to step in and say something, but he had a feeling that Aunt Petunia had wanted to say this for years.

"Then she met that Potter at school and they left and got married and had you, and of course I knew you'd be just the same, just as—as—abnormal—and then, if you please, she went and got herself blown up and we got landed with you!"

Harry grew white with anger. He took a deep breath, trying to remember the training that Ms. Anthony had drilled into him; never show your anger. Remain calm. "Blown up?" He asked. "You told me they died in a car crash!"

"CAR CRASH!" Hagrid roared, jumping to his feet. The Dursleys cowered back in terror. "How could a car crash kill Lily an' James Potter? It's an outrage! A scandal! Harry Potter not knowin' his own story when every kid in our world knows his name!"

"But why?" Harry demanded. "What happened?"

The anger faded from Hagrid's face. The giant man suddenly looked anxious.

"I never expected this," he said in a low voice. "I had no idea, when Dumbledore told me there might be trouble getting' hold of yeh, how much yeh didn't know. Ah, Harry, I don't know if I'm the right person ter tell yeh—but someone's gotta—yeh can't go off ter Hogwarts not knowin'."

He threw a nasty look at the Dursleys.

"Well, it's best yeh know as much as I can tell yeh—mind, I can't tell yeh everythin', it's a great myst'ry, parts of it…"

Hagrid sat down, stared into the fire for a moment, and then said, "It begins, I suppose, with—with a person called—but it's incredible yeh don't know his name, everyone in our world knows—"

"Who?" Harry asked impatiently.

"Well—I don't like sayin' the name if I can help it. No one does."

"Why not?"

"Gulpin' Gargoyles, Harry, people are still scared. Blimey, this is difficult. See, there was this wizard who went…bad. As bad as you could go. Worse. Worse than worse. His name was…"

Hagrid gulped, but no words came out.

"Can you write it down," Harry asked. "If you can't say it?"

"Nah—can't spell it. All right—Voldemort." He shuddered. "Don' make me say it again. Anyway, this—this wizard, about twenty years ago now, started lookin' fer followers. Got 'em, too—some were afraid, some just wanted a bit o' his power, 'cause he was getting himself power, all right. Dark days, Harry. Didn't know who ter trust, didn't dare get friendly with strange wizards or witches…terrible things happened. He was takin' over. 'Course, some stood up to him—an' he killed 'em. Horribly. One o' the only safe places left was Hogwarts. Reckon Dumbledore's the only one You-Know-Who was afraid of. Didn't dare try takin' the school, not jus' then, anyway.

"Now, yer mum an' dad were as good a witch an' wizard as I ever knew. Head boy an' girl at Hogwarts in their day! Suppose the myst'ry is why You-Know-Who never tried to get 'em on his side before…probably knew they were too close ter Dumbledore ter want anythin' ter do with the Dark side.

"Maybe he though he could persuade 'em…maybe he just wanted 'em outta the way. All anyone knows is, he turned up in the village where you was all living, on Halloween ten years ago. You was just a year old. He came ter yer house an'—an'—"

Hagrid suddenly reached into his coat for a dirty, spotted handkerchief, and blew his nose with a sound like a foghorn.

"Sorry," he said. "But it's that sad—knew yer mum an' dad, an' nicer people yeh couldn't find—anyway…You-Know-Who killed 'em. An' then—an' this is the real myst'ry of the thing—he tried to kill you, too. Wanted ter make a clean job of it, I suppose, or maybe he just liked killin' by then. But he couldn't do it. Never wondered how you got that mark on yer forehead? That was no ordinary cut. That's what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh—took care of yer mum an' dad an' yer house, even—but it didn't work on you, an' that's why yer famous, Harry. No one ever ;lived after he decided to kill 'em, no one except you, an' he'd killed some of the best witches an' wizards of the age—the McKinnons, the Bones—an' you was only a baby, an' you lived."

As much as Harry was trying to pay attention to the unbelievable story, something very painful was going on in his head.

Hagrid, who was watching him sadly, went to say something, but Harry cut him off.

"There was a green light. I know that, because I always see it in my nightmares. And something else—he was laughing. My parents' killer, he was laughing."

Hagrid froze. "Yeh—yeh remember? Blimey, Harry…do yeh—do yeh remember anything else?"

Harry shook his head.

"Ah well, probably fer the best. Took yeh from the ruined house myself, on Dumbledore's orders. Brought yeh ter this lot…"

"Load of old tosh." Said Uncle Vernon, interrupting as Harry opened his mouth. Uncle Vernon was glaring at Hagrid; his face was beet red, and his hands were clenched into fists.

"Now, you listen here, boy," he snarled. "I accept there's something strange about you—probably nothing a good beating wouldn't have cured—and as for all this about your parents, well, they were weirdoes, no denying it, and the world's better off without them in my opinion—asked for all they got, getting mixed up with these wizarding types—just what I expected, always knew they'd come to a sticky end—"

Harry's mouth had dropped open. He would have argued with Uncle Vernon—he had been more and more troublesome for the Dursleys after Ms. Anthony took him in, which was why they sent him over so often, so they didn't have to deal with him—but Hagrid jumped to his feet again, this time drawing a pink umbrella from his coat.

Hagrid pointed the umbrella at the Dursleys like a sword, and said, "I'm warning you, Dursley—I'm warning you—one more word…"

In danger of being speared on the end of a pink umbrella by a hairy giant, Uncle Vernon's courage failed again.

"That's better." Said Hagrid, sitting back down.

Harry turned to face him. "But what happened to Vol—er, You-Know-Who, then?"

"Good question, Harry. Disappeared. Vanished. Same night he tried ter kill you. Makes yeh even more famous. That's the biggest myst'ry, see…he was getting more an' more powerful—why'd he go? Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. Some say he's still out there, bidin' his time, like, but I don' believe it. People who was on his side came back ter ours. Some of 'em came outta kinda trances. Don' reckon they could've done if he was comin' back. Most of us reckon he's still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak ter carry on. 'Cause somethin' about you finished him, Harry. There was somethin' goin' on that night he hadn't counted on—I dunno what it was, no one does—but somethin' about you stumped him, all right."

Hagrid looked at Harry with warmth and respect blazing in his eyes, but Harry, wide awake, felt bitter. All right. He could be a wizard. He'd accept that much. But a one year old kid taking down the most evil wizard of the time? What were these people thinking?

Harry took a deep breath, and looked down at the floor. He didn't want to meet Hagrid's kind gaze incase Harry got too angry. "So, I'm famous? He asked.

Hagrid nodded, grinning.

"So why…" Harry asked slowly. "Did I never know?"

Hagrid looked confused. "What do yeh mean?"

"Why did no one ever check on me? In ten years, I was bullied, and neglected, and treated like an animal. I'm lucky the Dursleys never beat me. Probably just too scared to do it. So why didn't anyone come to find out? Someone must have known where I was. You did. Why did you never come, Hagrid? Why wait 'til now to tell me the truth?"

Hagrid blinked. "Er—"

"I have never received letters, or met someone who appeared to know me, but you say that every child in your world knows my name? I didn't even know my PARENTS' names until TONIGHT! Where were you? Why didn't you come sooner? Those bloody letters have been coming for TWO WEEKS!"

Hagrid looked shocked. "Harry, Professor Dumbledore told me that it wasn't a good idea fer yeh to know yeh were famous. He wanted yeh to have a normal childhood, to grow up away from our world."

"So. I was supposed to go to this school, knowing almost nothing about wizards? What was your childhood, Hagrid? Was it normal? What is a wizard's normal childhood? I'm pretty sure that if both my parents were magical, wouldn't it have been normal for me to grow up actually knowing about magic?"

"Er—"

"And I didn't exactly have a happy childhood. I was miserable until the librarian took me in. Miserable! I had to cook every meal when I was six years old! I had to do all the chores around the house, because 'ickle Duddykins' couldn't be bothered to stress himself, or hurt himself!"

Hagrid looked ashamed. "Sorry, Harry. Dumbledore told me to put yeh at the Dursleys."

Harry almost snapped at that. Wasn't Dumbledore the headmaster? What business did he have in Harry's life? Was there no one else to take him in? Other family, or maybe his parents' friends? If Hagrid had known them, and if they were as nice as he said, wouldn't they have had friends that could have taken him?

Uncle Vernon decided that was the time to step in again. "Haven't I told you he's not going?" He hissed. "He's going to Stonewall High and he'll be grateful for it. I've read those letters and he needs all sorts of rubbish—spell books and wands and—"

"If he wants ter go, a great Muggle like you won't stop him." Hagrid growled. "Stop Lily an' James Potter's son goin' ter Hogwarts! Yer mad. His name's been down ever since he was born. He's off to the finest school of witchcraft and wizardry in the world. Seven years there and he won't know himself. He'll be with youngsters of his own sort, fer a change, an' he'll be under the greatest headmaster Hogwarts ever had, Albus Dumbledore—"

"I AM NOT PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS!" Yelled Uncle Vernon.

But he had finally gone too far. Harry hid a grin as Hagrid seized his umbrella and whirled it over his head. "NEVER—INSULT—ALBUS—DUMBLEDORE—IN—FRONT—OF—ME!"

Hagrid brought the umbrella down through the air and pointed it at Dudley. There was a flash of light, a sharp bang, a squeal, and the next second Dudley was dancing around the room with his hands clamped on his bottom, howling in pain. As he turned around, Harry snickered to see a curly pig's tail growing out of his cousin's trousers.

Uncle Vernon roared like a bull. He grabbed Aunt Petunia and Dudley, and pulled them away into the other room, slamming the door behind them.

Hagrid eyed his umbrella and stroked his beard. "Shouldn'ta lost me temper." He said ruefully. "But it didn't work anyway. Meant ter turn him into a pig, but I suppose he was so much like a pig anyway there wasn't much left ter do." He cast a sideways glance at harry. "Be grateful if yeh didn't mention that ter anyone at Hogwarts." He said. "I'm—er—not supposed ter do magic, strictly speakin'. I was allowed ter do a bit ter follow yeh an' get yer letters to yeh an' stuff—one o' the reasons I was so keen ter take on the job—"

"Why aren't you supposed to do magic?" Harry asked suspiciously.

"Oh, well—I was at Hogwarts meself but I—er—got expelled, ter tell yeh the truth. In me third year. They snapped me wand and everything. But Dumbledore let me stay on as gamekeeper. Great man, Dumbledore."

Harry doubted that this Dumbledore was as great as Hagrid said, but decided not to voice that in fear of gaining a tail.

"Why were you expelled?"

"It's getting' late and we've got lots ter do tomorrow." Said Hagrid loudly. "Gotta get up ter town, get all yer books an' that."

He shrugged off his coat and threw it to Harry, who promptly collapsed under the weight.

"Yeh can kip under that." He said. "Don' mind if it wriggles a bit, I think I still got a couple o' dormice in one o' the pockets."

Harry shuddered.