Harry woke early the next morning. Although he could tell it was daylight, he kept his eyes tightly shut.

The sun was shining down on him, early morning light burning through his eyelids. He rolled over, and snuggled deeper down into the thick, heavy blanket he was wearing. Hold on—that wasn't a blanket!

He rolled over again so that he was laying on his back, and pushed Hagrid's coat off of him. He sat up. Apparently the storm had run itself out overnight; the sky appeared relatively clear. Hagrid was sleeping on the couch, arms and legs hanging off the sides. The Dursleys were nowhere in sight; Harry guessed they were too scared to leave the other room until Hagrid left.

As Harry blinked the sleep out of his eyes, he heard a tapping. There was an owl there, much like the one Hagrid had thrown out into the storm last night, clutching a newspaper in its beak. It was tapping persistently on the window.

Harry stood up slowly, stretched, and let the owl in. It did a lap around the room, and then dropped the paper on Hagrid, who didn't twitch. The bird then flew across the room and started attacking Hagrid's coat.

Harry watched in shocked silence for a minute, trying to figure out what the bird was doing. After watching it for a few moments, he said, "Hagrid? There's an owl attacking your coat."

"Pay him." Hagrid grunted into the sofa.

"What?" Harry asked. Did the owl want food? Was that what Hagrid meant?

"He wants payin' fer deliverin' the paper. Look in the pockets."

On closer inspection, Hagrid's coat seemed to be nothing but pockets; bunches of keys, slug pellets, balls of string, small candies, teabags…finally, Harry pulled out a handful of strange looking coins, which he eyed with interest. Did wizards have their own currency?

"Give him five Knuts." Hagrid said sleepily.

"Knuts?"

"The little bronze ones."

Harry counted out five little bronze coins, which were apparently called 'Knuts'. The owl held out his leg, and Harry put the money in a small leather pouch. Then the owl flew off out the still open window.

Hagrid had started getting up. Harry asked him, "Hagrid? Are the owls trained?"

Hagrid looked at him blearily for a moment. "What do yeh mean?"

"They seem really smart. Do wizards train them to deliver mail?"

"Er—" Hagrid looked confused. "Dunno. Don' think so. I'm pretty sure they jus' know what ter do, an' where ter go, if yeh know what I mean."

"So they're not regular owls? Are they magic? Are there any other animals that are super smart like that?" If an owl could be trained to deliver mail like a pigeon, who knew what other animals could do? Harry already knew that snakes were extremely smart; now owls, what next?

"Er—yeah, I suppose they're magic. Dunno."

Harry sighed as Hagrid stood up and stretched. It seemed he wasn't getting a straight answer again.

"Hagrid?"

"Yeah, Harry?"

"Are there any other animals in the wizard world?" Maybe if he went with an easy, basic question, Hagrid would give him an answer.

"Well o' course there are!" Hagrid boomed, looking shocked and awake. "There's cats, an' dogs, an' all the other stuff Muggles got, isn't there?"

"Anything else?" Harry demanded.

"Why sure." Hagrid said, strolling over to pick up his coat. "There's kneazles, an' crups, and lots o' littler things too—personally, I like the big ones." He said excitedly. Harry looked up. "Dragons, an' such. I always wanted a dragon." He said wistfully, staring dreamily.

Harry wasn't sure what to make of that. "Er—ok." He said quickly, and handed the remaining coins back to Hagrid, who took them with a yawn.

"Best be off, Harry, lots ter do today, gotta get up ter London an' buy all yer stuff fer school."

Harry panicked for a moment. Buy school supplies? Of COURSE he'd need school supplies. Hadn't Uncle Vernon mentioned—what was it—spell books and wands? How was he supposed to pay for that? He was sure Ms. Anthony would get anything he needed, but she was all the way in Surrey, and Hagrid was taking him now. Why was Hagrid taking him, anyway? As his guardians, weren't the Dursleys 'supposed' to do that? Even if they didn't, could Hagrid really just take him away? Maybe people who weren't magic—Muggles, Harry reminded himself sourly, still thinking it sounded like a curse word—couldn't go to wizard places?

"Um—Hagrid?"

"Mm?" Answered Hagrid, who was pulling on his huge boots.

"I haven't got any money—and the Dursleys won't exactly be charitable to me—what exactly are you planning?"

"Don't worry about that," Said Hagrid, standing up and scratching his head. "D'eyh think yer parents didn't leave yeh anything?"

"But if their house was destroyed—" Harry began.

"They didn't keep their gold in their house, boy! Nah, first stop fer us is Gringotts. Wizards' bank. Have a sausage, they're not bad cold—an' I wouldn't say no teh a bit o' yer birthday cake, neither."

"Wizards have banks?" Harry asked, surprised. He hadn't really thought about it, but it made sense.

"Just the one. Gringotts. Run by goblins."

Harry dropped the bit of sausage he was holding. "Goblins?!"

"Yeah—so yeh'd be mad ter try an' rob it, I'll tell yeh that. Never mess with goblins, Harry. Gringotts is the safest place in the world fer anything yeh want ter keep safe—'cept maybe Hogwarts. As a matter o' fact, I gotta visit Gringotts anyway. Fer Dumbledore. Hogwarts business." Hagrid drew himself up proudly. "He usually gets me ter do important stuff fer him. Fetchin' you—getting' things from Gringotts—knows he can trust me, see."

Harry chose to ignore the comment about Hagrid picking him up. He didn't need to be crabby this early in the morning. "Why is Hogwarts one of the safest places? I mean, it's just a school, right?"

"Cause Dumbledore's there, o' course! No one would dare try an' get past him!" Hagrid said proudly. Harry only nodded, feeling cynical and hungry. How Hagrid could stomach the cold sausage, he had no idea.

"Got everythin'? Come on, then." Hagrid strolled out onto the rock, Harry following behind.

The sky was quite clear now, and the sea gleamed painfully in the sunlight. The smell of salt and seaweed was so strong Harry wanted to gag. The boat Uncle Vernon had hired was somehow still there, although it was filled with water after the storm.

"How did you get here?" Harry asked, looking around for another boat—or maybe a broomstick. Although he doubted Hagrid would fit on any broomstick, even a magic one.

"Flew."

Ok…so maybe the broomstick theory wasn't that farfetched.

"But we'll go back in this. Not s'pposed ter use magic now I've got yeh."

They settled in the boat after Hagrid lifted it easily and poured all the water out. Even with his giant size, Harry was shocked at seeing Hagrid lift the boat as if it was no heavier than a paperweight. He briefly wondered how the Dursleys would get back, but turned the thought away. Let them figure it out. That, and Dudley's tail.

"Seems a shame ter row, though," said Hagrid, giving Harry another of his sideways looks. "If I was ter—er—speed things up a bit, would yeh mind not mentionin' it at Hogwarts?"

Harry shrugged, not really caring one way or the other if Hagrid was allowed to do magic or not, but eager to see some. Hagrid pulled out the pink umbrella again—hadn't he said his wand had been snapped?—tapped it twice on the side of the boat, and they sped off towards—presumably—land.

"Why would you have to be mad to rob Gringotts?" Harry asked curiously as they sped underway.

"Spells—enchantments." Answered Hagrid, unfolding his newspaper. Harry resisted the urge to say, 'Well, duh!' "They say there's dragons guardin' the high security vaults. An' then yeh got ter find yer way—Gringotts is hundreds of miles under London, see. Deep under the Underground. Yeh'd die of hunger tryin' ter get out, even if yeh did manage ter get yer hands on summat."

Harry sat and thought about this while Hagrid read his newspaper, The Daily Prophet. Harry had learned from Uncle Vernon that people liked to be left alone while they did this, but it was very difficult, as he felt he'd never had so many questions to ask before.

"Ministry o' Magic messin' things up as usual." Hagrid muttered, turning a page.

"There's a Ministry of Magic?" Harry asked.

"Course," said Hagrid. "They wanted Dumbledore fer Minister, o' course, but he'd never leave Hogwarts, so old Cornelius Fudge got the job. Bungler if ever there was one. So he pelts Dumbledore with owls every morning, askin' fer advice."

Interesting, Harry thought. So Dumbledore turned down the post, but still plays the part? "What does the Ministry do?"

"Well, their main job is to keep it from the Muggles that there's still witches an' wizards up an' down the country."

"Why?"

"Why? Blimey, Harry, everyone'd be wantin' magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we're best left alone."

At this moment the boat bumped gently into the harbor wall. Hagrid folded up his newspaper, and they clambered up the stone steps onto the street.

Hagrid attracted a lot of stares as they walked along, and Harry couldn't blame the passerby. Not only was Hagrid twice as tall as everyone else, he kept pointing at perfectly normal things like parking meters and saying loudly, "See that, Harry? Things these Muggles dream up, eh?"

"Hagrid," Harry said, panting a bit as he ran to keep up. "I thought you said it's important that Muggles don't find out about magic?"

"Well o' course it's important that they don't!" Hagrid said.

"Then why are you shouting about perfectly normal Muggle things for the whole world to hear?"

"Er—" Hagrid looked puzzled for a moment. "Never mind, Harry—here we go."

They had reached the station. There was a train to London in five minutes time. Hagrid, who didn't understand 'Muggle money', gave the bills to Harry to buy their tickets.

People stared more than ever on the train. Hagrid took up to seats and sat knitting, much to Harry's amusement, what looked like a canary-yellow circus tent.

"Still got yer letter, Harry?" He asked as he counted stitches.

Harry took the parchment envelope out of his pocket.

"Good," said Hagrid. "There's a list of everything yeh need."

Harry unfolded a second piece of paper he hadn't noticed the night before, and read:

Hogwarts School

of Witchcraft and Wizardry

UNIFORM

First year students will require:

1. Three sets of plain work robes [black]
2. One plain pointed hat [black] for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves [dragon hide or similar]
4. One winter cloak [black, silver fastenings]

Please note that all pupils' clothes should carry name tags

COURSE BOOKS

All students should have a copy of each of the following:

The Standard Book of Spells [Grade 1] by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling
A Beginners' Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble

OTHER EQUIPMENT

1 wand
1 cauldron pewter, standard size 2]
1 telescope
1 set brass scales

Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS

"Can we buy all this in London?" Harry wondered.

"If yeh know where to go," said Hagrid.

~§~

Harry had never been to London before. Although Hagrid seemed to know where he was going, he was obviously not used to getting there in an ordinary way. He got stuck in the ticket barrier on the Underground, and complained loudly that the seats were too small and the trains were too slow.

Harry tried to keep him quiet at first, and eventually gave up. If Hagrid wanted to get in trouble by shouting like that, well, Harry would just slip quietly away and find someone else to help him with this magic stuff.

"I don't know how the Muggles manage without magic," Hagrid said as they climbed broken-down escalator that led up to a bustling road lined with shops.

Hagrid was so huge that he parted the crown easily; all Harry had to do was keep close behind him. They passed book shops and music stores, hamburger restaurants and cinemas, but nowhere that looked as if it could sell you a magic wand. This was just an ordinary street filled with ordinary, non-magical people. Could there really be piles of wizard gold buried miles beneath them? Were there really shops that sold spell books and broomsticks?

"This is it," said Hagrid, coming to a halt. "The Leaky Cauldron. It's a famous place."

It was a tiny, grubby-looking pub. If Hagrid hadn't pointed it out, Harry wouldn't have even noticed it was there. The people hurrying by didn't glance at it. Their eyes slid from the big bookshop on one side to the record shop on the other as if they couldn't see the Leaky Cauldron at all. In fact, Harry had the most peculiar feeling that only he and Hagrid could see it. Was it hidden by magic? Before he could ask, Hagrid had steered him inside.

For a famous place, it was very dark and shabby. A few old women were sitting in a corner, drinking tiny glasses of sherry. One of them was smoking a long pipe. A little man in a top hat was talking to the old bartender, who was quite bald and looked like a toothless walnut. The low buzz of chatter stopped when they walked in. Everyone seemed to know Hagrid; they waved and smiled at him, and the bartender reached for a glass, saying, "The usual, Hagrid?"

"Can't, Tom, I'm on Hogwarts business," said Hagrid, clapping his great hand on Harry's shoulder which made his knees buckle painfully.

"Good lord," said the bartender, peering at Harry. "Is this—can it be?"

The Leaky Cauldron had suddenly gone completely still and silent. Harry had a feeling he wasn't going to like what happened next.

"Bless my soul," whispered the old bartender. "Harry Potter…what an honor."

He hurried out from behind the bar, rushed toward Harry and seized his hand, tears in his eyes.

"Welcome back, Mr. Potter, welcome back!"

Harry wasn't quite sure what to say. Everyone was looking at him. The old woman with the pipe was puffing on it without realizing it had gone out. Hagrid was beaming.

"Er—hi?" Harry said timidly.

Then there was a great scraping of chairs and the next moment, Harry found himself shaking hands with everyone in the bar.

"Doris Crockford, Mr. Potter, can't believe I'm meeting you at last."

"So proud, Mr. Potter, I'm just so proud."

"Always wanted to shake your hand—I'm all of a flutter."

"Delighted, Mr. Potter, just can't tell you, Diggle's the name, Dedalus Diggle."

Harry shook hands again and again, nodding politely and wishing it was over. If Ms. Anthony were here, she would have whisked him away from all this, complete strangers coming and saying hello like that—Doris Crockford kept coming back for more.

A pale young man made his way forward, very nervously. One of his eyes was twitching.

"Professor Quirrell!" Said Hagrid. "Harry, Professor Quirrell will be one of your teachers at Hogwarts."

"P-P-Potter," stammered Professor Quirrell, grasping Harry's hand. "C-can't tell you how p-pleased I am to meet you."

"What classes do you teach, Professor?" Harry asked.

"D-defense Against the D-dark Arts," muttered Professor Quirrell, as though he'd rather not think about it. "N-not that you n-need it, eh, P-P-Potter?" He laughed nervously. "You'll be g-getting all your equipment, I suppose? I've g-got to p-pick up a new b-book on vampires, m-myself." He looked terrified at the very thought.

Harry frowned to himself, briefly wondering what kind of teachers Hogwarts had. If Hagrid, who he supposed technically wasn't a teacher, and Professor Quirrell were any example, Harry wasn't too sure he'd learn all that much. A Defense Against the Dark Arts professor who was scared of a vampire book?

The others wouldn't let Professor Quirrell keep Harry to himself. It took almost ten minutes to get away from them all. At last, Hagrid managed to make himself heard over the babble.

"Must get on—lots ter buy. Come on, Harry."

Doris Crockford shook Harry's hand one last time, and Hagrid led them through the bar and out into a small, walled courtyard, where there was nothing but a trash can and a few weeds.

Hagrid grinned at Harry.

"Told yeh, didn't I? Told yeh you was famous. Even Professor Quirrell was tremblin' ter meet yeh—mind you, he's usually tremblin'."

Harry dug his feet into the ground, coming to a stop. "Why didn't you warn me?" He snapped.

Hagrid blinked. "What?"

"You told me I was famous. Famous for what? Surviving the night when my parents were murdered. So why, exactly, Hagrid, did you not warn me that people would be so enthused to meet me? I just got mobbed!"

Hagrid shrugged it off, making Harry grow even angrier. "I told yeh, Harry, yeh're famous fer killin' You-Know-Who, an' that's why people like yeh."

"You said Voldemort wasn't dead." Harry accused, making Hagrid wince at the name. "Just weakened and hiding."

"Eh—" Hagrid started counting bricks above the trash can. "Three up…two across…" he muttered, ignoring the question. "Right, stand back, Harry."

He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella.

The brick he had touched quivered—it grew wider and wider—a second later they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archway onto a cobbled street that twisted and turned out of sight. Harry's eyes widened, and his mouth dropped open, anger forgotten.

"Welcome," said Hagrid. "To Diagon Alley."

He grinned at Harry's amazement. They stepped through the archway. Harry looked over his shoulder and saw the archway shrink back into a solid wall.

The sun shone brightly on a stack of cauldrons outside the nearest shop. Cauldrons—All Sizes—Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver—Self-Stirring—Collapsible, said a sign hanging over them.

"Yeah, you'll be needin' one," said Hagrid, "but we gotta get yer money first."

Harry wished he had about eight more eyes. He turned his head in every direction as they walked up the street, trying to look at everything at once; the shops, the things outside them, the people doing their shopping. A plump woman outside an Apothecary was shaking her head as they passed, saying, "Dragon liver, seventeen Sickles an ounce, they're mad…"

A low, soft hooting came from a dark shop with a sign saying Eeylops Owl Emporium—Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown, and Snowy. Several boys of about Harry's age had their noses pressed against a window with broomsticks in it. "Look," Harry heard one say. "The new Nimbus Two Thousand—fastest ever—" There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange sliver instruments Harry had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eel's eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills, and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon…

Ms. Anthony would have loved this.

"Gringotts," said Hagrid proudly, pointing ahead.

They had reached a snowy white building that towered over the other little shops. Standing beside its burnished bronze doors, wearing a bright uniform of scarlet and gold, was—

"Yeah, that's a goblin." Said Hagrid quietly as they walked up the white stone steps toward him. The goblin was about a head shorter than Harry. He had a swarthy, clever face, a pointed beard and, Harry noticed, very long fingers and feet. He bowed as they walked inside. Now they were facing a second pair of doors, silver this time, with words engraved upon them:

Enter, stranger, but take heed

Of what awaits the sin of greed,

For those who take, but do not earn,

Must pay dearly in their turn.

So if you seek beneath our floors

A treasure which was never yours,

Thief, you have been warned, beware,

Of finding more than treasure there.

"Like I said, yeh'd be mad ter try an' rob it," said Hagrid.

A pair of goblins bowed them through the silver doors, and then they were in a vast marble hall. About a hundred more goblins were sitting on high stools behind a long counter, scribbling in large ledgers, weighing coins in brass scales, examining precious stones through eyeglasses. There were too many doors to count leading off the hall, and yet more goblins were showing people in and out of these.

Hagrid and Harry made for the counter.

"Morning," said Hagrid to a free teller. "We've come ter take some money outta Mr. Harry Potter's safe."

"You have his key, sir?" The goblin was blunt but polite, although he eyed Harry curiously when Hagrid mentioned his name.

"Got it here somewhere," said Hagrid, emptying his pockets on the counter. Harry raised an eyebrow as Hagrid dumped a pile of moldy dog biscuits on the goblin's book of numbers. Hagrid had the key to Harry's money?

"Got it." Said Hagrid, laying a tiny golden key on the counter.

The goblin peered at it closely. "That seems to be in order."

Harry snatched the key off the counter before Hagrid could take it back. The giant was ruffling through his pockets again, handing the goblin something from Dumbledore, and didn't notice Harry swiping the key.

It was small and unimpressive, but Harry felt a certain glow from holding it. It was his. Something from his parents. Even if it was just money for school, they had wanted him to have it.

The goblin was saying something to Hagrid. "Very well. I will have someone take you down to both vaults. Griphook!"

Griphook was yet another goblin. Once Hagrid had crammed all the dog biscuits back into his pockets, he and Harry followed the goblin towards one of the doors leading off the hall.

"What's in the other vault?" Harry asked.

"Can't tell yeh that," Hagrid said mysteriously. "Very secret. Hogwarts' business. Dumbledore's trusted me. More'n my job's worth ter tell yeh that."

Harry shrugged in response. He had been curious, but he wouldn't go prying into other people's business.

Griphook held the door open for them. Harry, who had been expecting more marble, was surprised. They were in a narrow stone passageway lit with flaming torches. It sloped steeply downward and there were little railways tracks on the floor. Griphook whistled loudly and a small cart came hurtling up the tracks toward them. They climbed in—Hagrid with some difficulty—and were off.

They hurtled along a maze of twisting passages at breakneck speed. The cart seemed to know the way, as Griphook certainly wasn't steering. Harry was reminded of a roller coaster, as he tried and failed to keep track of the many twists and turns.

His eyes stung as the cold air rushed past them. Once he thought he saw a burst of fire, and eagerly looked for a dragon, but they had already passed. They entered a cavern, passing an underground lake.

Harry glanced at Hagrid, who hadn't said a word the entire trip. He was tinged green, and looked like he was going to be sick. When the cart stopped beside a small door in the wall, Hagrid got out and leaned against the wall to stop his knees from trembling.

Griphook unlocked the door. A lot of green smoke came billowing out, and as it cleared, Harry's eyes widened. Inside were mounds of coins; gold, silver, and bronze.

"All yours," Hagrid smiled.

As Harry blinked, he was suddenly glad the Dursleys didn't know about this. Gold was gold, even wizard gold, and he was sure they wouldn't have hesitated to empty his vault if they had known about it.

Hagrid helped Harry pile some of the coins into a bag.

"The gold ones are Galleons," he explained. "Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle; it's easy enough. Right, that should be enough fer a couple o' terms, we'll keep the rest safe for yeh." He turned to Griphook. "Vault seven hundred and thirteen now, please, and can we go more slowly?"

"One speed only." Replied the goblin in a monotone.

As they went even deeper, Harry was trying to remember the wizard money—seventeen Sickles to a Galleon, twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle—Hagrid thought it was easy? It made no sense to Harry. He wondered how much was in the vault, and how many pounds equaled a Galleon. Did Gringotts do conversions to Muggle money? Harry might have to look into that. It would be nice to have some spare money around sometimes, even if he'd have to hide it from the Dursleys.

Vault seven hundred and thirteen had no keyhole. "Stand back," said Griphook. He stroked the door with a long finger, and it simply melted away. Harry raised an eyebrow, impressed.

"If anyone but a Gringotts goblin tried that, they'd be sucked through the door and trapped in there." Said Griphook.

"How often do you check to see if anyone's inside?" Harry asked.

"About once every ten years." Replied the goblin with a rather nasty smile.

Harry peered around Hagrid to see what was in the vault. He wasn't sure what he was expecting—it was a high security vault, but it did belong to the headmaster of a school, maybe it held rare books?—but the only thing that was there was a grubby little package wrapped in brown paper. Hagrid plucked it up and stuffed it in one of his pockets.

"Come on, back in this infernal cart, and don't talk ter me on the way back, it's best I keep me mouth shut." Said Hagrid.

~§~

One wild cart ride later they stood blinking in the sunlight outside Gringotts. Harry was still a little shocked after seeing his vault, but he was excited to see the rest of the alley.

"Might as well get yer uniform," said Hagrid, nodding toward Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. "Listen, Harry, would yeh mind if I slipped off fer a pick-me-up in the Leaky Cauldron? I hate them Gringotts carts." He did look quite green still.

"All right." Harry said amiably. "Actually, Hagrid, can I come too? I didn't really eat much this morning." Half a cold sausage and a bite of squashed birthday cake weren't the most filling meal.

Hagrid smiled at him. "Why, sure yeh can, Harry!"

A moment later they were back in the Leaky Cauldron. There weren't as many people in it this time around, and Harry had made sure to cover his scar with his bangs. Hagrid immediately made his way to the counter, where Tom gave Harry a subtle wink, and started filling a large glass.

Harry was standing off to the side of the counter, waiting to ask for food. Unaware of his celebrity status, the other customers of the Leaky Cauldron were ignoring him. The old women and Dedalus Diggle were gone, as was Professor Quirrell. Doris Crockford was gone as well, but there were several new people to make up for their loss.

There was a small gaggle of serious-looking wizards and witches sitting at a large table near the middle of the room. They were discussing something quietly, but seemed to be arguing about it. Sitting at the counter with Hagrid were two little old men, both of which kept asking Tom to top off their glasses. Along the back wall in a dark corner were three tall wizards sitting with a few teenagers. Harry couldn't see them very well from his vantage point, but they appeared to be eating lunch.

Harry started to step up to the counter to ask for a sandwich when someone crashed into him from behind. He heard a wild curse, and would have hit the floor when someone grabbed hold of his shirt collar and yanked him upright.

He spun around, and saw two of the teens who had been sitting in the back. The one who had run into him was covered in freckles and had bright red hair, and was rubbing his elbow, which Harry assumed had been knocked against the wall. The other boy had black hair, pale skin, and crystal blue eyes.

"Sorry about that." The black haired boy offered. "We weren't watching where we were going."

"Yeah," the other one added, "sorry."

"That's all right." Harry said quickly.

The black haired boy nodded politely at him, and poked his friend. "We should introduce ourselves. I'm Rigel Black, and this oaf is Fred Weasley."

They held out their hands, which Harry shook.

"I'm Harry Potter." Harry winced, expecting a reaction. He was pleasantly surprised when all that the boys did was widen their eyes slightly, and look impressed.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Potter." Fred said, a large smile upon his face. "Call me Fred, and him Rigel."

"Er—" Harry assumed the invitation to call them by their first names was some sort of wizard etiquette. "Ok. Call me Harry, then."

Rigel frowned slightly at him, but Fred seemed pleased. "Getting your school supplies?" The redhead asked.

"Yeah." Harry nodded. "You too?"

Fred shook his head. "No. We're here with our uncles, they needed new cauldrons. We'll be getting our stuff next week."

"Who are you here with?" Rigel interrupted his friend brusquely. Fred turned to stare at him, looking surprised, Harry guessed, at the direct rudeness of the question.

"I'm here with Rubeus Hagrid." Harry said, pointing. "He's showing me around. We stopped for lunch. Apparently, Gringotts carts don't agree with him."

Rigel's eyebrows jumped up, and Fred spun back around to stare at Harry. "Hagrid? Why not your guardians?"

Harry snorted. "My relatives don't like magic, and the woman who takes care of me doesn't know about it. I only found out about it yesterday, myself." He froze, wondering for a moment if he shouldn't have said anything. The looks on the teens' faces was pure shock.

"Er—I don't mean to sound like I'm prying," Fred said slowly. "But why were you raised by relatives who don't like magic, never told you about it, and let someone else take care of you?"

Harry shrugged. "I have no idea."

Rigel frowned. "That'll be why Hagrid took you to Gringotts, then. So you could look at the Potter Wills, and see if there was anywhere else you could go?"

Harry's mouth dropped. "Wills? My parents had wills? What do you mean? I only got some money out of my vault to buy a few things."

Fred held up a hand. "Wait. You're saying you only saw one vault?"

Harry looked at him, shocked. "I have more than one?"

Rigel looked at him, concerned. "How many keys did you have?"

"Hagrid only gave the goblins one, but I snagged it before he could take it back. How many should there be?"

"Hagrid had the—Harry, I think you should talk to our uncles. The only vaults which have a key are the trust vaults, and the only person who should have had it are your guardians. The ones appointed by your parents, not the ones you were raised with. Goblins are crabby little things, but they take their job seriously. They wouldn't hand the key off to just anyone without a very good reason."

Harry's eyes widened. What—had someone been stealing from him? His trust vault? There was more than one? Why had Hagrid had the key? The Dursleys weren't his guardians? Had his true guardian had the key, or someone else? Who was his true guardian? Why hadn't anyone said anything about his parents' wills before? Why hadn't he known any of this?

"Ok." He agreed almost desperately. "Will they be able to tell me anything?"

Fred laughed. "Harry, my uncles are the Lords Prewett, heads of House Prewett, with seats on the Wizengamot and an old bloodline. Rigel's uncle is Lord Black, with the same titles and a bloodline just as old. If anyone can help you, it'll be them. Plus," he added as an afterthought, "I'm pretty sure Uncle Regulus' brother knew your parents, so he should be honored to help."

Harry was shocked into silence. Lords? Wizengamot? Houses? Bloodlines?

"All right. Where are they?"

~§~

Fred and Rigel led him to the back of the Leaky Cauldron, where he was introduced to their respective twins, George and Aries. They then introduced him to their uncles.

Gideon and Fabian Prewett were tall, with fiery red hair, dozens of freckles, and deep brown eyes. Regulus Black was also tall, but had shockingly pale skin and cold blue eyes. All three of them looked eerily like their nephews.

"Honored to meet you, Mr. Potter." Mr. Black nodded to Harry. "Would you care to dine with us?"

"Er—" Harry wasn't sure what the correct response was, but Mr. Black had asked, and Harry was hungry. "Yes, please."

"Tom!" One of the Prewetts, the one with a long scar on his cheek, called for the bartender, who hurried over. "This young gentlemen is going to be dining with us." Turning to Harry, he asked, "I'm afraid this won't be very formal. A sandwich alright?" At Harry's exuberant nod, Tom hurried away.

"So." Mr. Black intertwined his fingers and placed his elbows thoughtfully on the table top. "Boys? Is there a particular reason you invited Mr. Potter over here, or is this a social visit?"

Fred leaned across the table. "Uncle Regulus, he's here for his school stuff, and Hagrid's taking him! What's more, he's lived with these horrid sounding Muggles and didn't even know about magic 'til yesterday, and—"

Rigel cut him off. "He didn't even know he had any money, thought his trust vault was all, he didn't even know his parents left wills!"

"And Hagrid had the key, which doesn't make sense, and he doesn't know who his guardian is, and I don't think he's been checked up on, I mean, he didn't know about magic, what else? And—"

"Those Muggles sounded just awful and he said that even though he lives with them, someone else takes care of him, and I don't—"

One of the Prewetts slammed his hand down on the table. "Quiet!"

The two teens stopped talking, both midsentence with their mouths hanging open, and their twins watching them, baffled.

The other Prewett waved his wand. "There. I hope no one minds some privacy spells. Now, would someone care to explain exactly what that was all about?"

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat between Fred and Rigel. The former looked at him encouragingly.

Rigel bowed his head, clearly thinking. "All right. Fred here decided it would be nice to crash into Harry and fall into the wall. Harry mentioned that he was here for school supplies, and that Hagrid had brought him. He then said that he's been raised by Muggles who hate magic, and that someone else, another Muggle, takes care of him. He didn't even know about magic until yesterday, so I'm also guessing that he didn't know about his fame." He glanced at Harry for confirmation.

Fred continued. "He said he'd been to visit his vault, which we took to mean trust vault. He said that Hagrid had had the key, and that he didn't even know that he had more than one vault, or that his parents had made wills."

Harry shrunk a little in his seat as all the occupants of the table turned to stare at him. Mr. Black in particular seemed to be extraordinarily angry, if the tight lines on his face were anything to go by.

Gideon Prewett sighed. "All right. Mr. Potter, we don't know anything about your situation, other than that things were clearly handled illegally. We can try and help, but we're going to need information in order to return it. Understand?"

Harry nodded slowly. "Yes. But—" He paused, not wanting to sound rude to the men when Fred and Rigel had been so nice to him.

"But what?" George prompted.

"Er—why would you help me?" Harry asked. "And why should I trust you?"

The three men looked at him approvingly.

"Well, it's nice to know you have some common sense." Mr. Black said. "I will help you because my brother was one of your father's best friends, and I will honor that relationship. Also, as a prominent member of the Wizengamot, it is my duty to help an heir to a line as powerful as the Potters. As for trusting us, that's entirely up to you. We will be honest, and deal accordingly with any illegal activities surrounding you. The Prewetts are allied to House Black, and will help you simply because I will. They are however also bound to assist because they are also on the Wizengamot. Are you willing to let us help you?"

Harry narrowed his eyes. If Mr. Black's brother was a friend of his dad's, then what had happened to him? Would they really only help him because of—what was a 'line' anyway? And did him being the famous Harry Potter have anything to do with it?

"Ok. What's the Wizengamot?"

Eyebrows were raised all around the table. The Prewetts waited until Tom had dropped off Harry's sandwich, then said, "I forgot you said you'd been raised ignorant of wizards. The Wizengamot is one of the ruling government bodies. It is made up of old, powerful wizard families, and it's what makes the laws that the Ministry then enforces. You do know about the Ministry?"

"Yeah, Hagrid mentioned it. He said the Minister, Fudge or something, was a real bungler, and always asked Dumbledore for help?"

There were snickers. "Cornelius Fudge is much like the Ministry—corruptible. He's a fine talker as well, that's what got him the position."

"Ok. So, how are we going to do this? Can I just ask questions, or will you ask questions, and answer mine as we go along?"

The three men looked at each other. Fabian Prewett shrugged. "Fine by me. Should we send the kids off while we do this? Might take a while, the bloody-boy-who-lived knowing zilch about wizards."

There were immediate protests.

"We're the ones who found him!" Fred said. "We should be allowed to stay."

"We might be able to help! We know stuff, too!" Aries pleaded.

"Please let us stay?" Rigel requested. "This should be fun, and we can even do a bloody essay on it if you want, if it means we can stay."

"Come on, it can't hurt, right? I mean, does Harry have a problem with it?" George asked.

"I'm fine with it." Harry said quickly. "I've never really talked to other kids before."

That seemed to seal the deal. The four teens could stay, so long as they were quiet. The Prewetts conjured up a Muggle notepad and something they called a 'dicta-quill', saying that this way they'd make sure not to miss anything important. Apparently they had once been Aurors, the magical equivalent of police, and they had a feeling this would make a case.

"First, who raised you?" Mr. Black wanted to know.

"Um, the Dursleys." Harry answered. "Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and Dudley."

"Who's Dudley?"

"My cousin."

"How is old is he?"

"A few months older than me."

"Are you related to your aunt or uncle?"

"Aunt Petunia was my mom's sister."

"You said they raised you, but didn't take care of you. Care to explain that?"

Harry shrugged. A long time ago, he had never liked to talk about the Dursleys, but knowing that at least one person [Ms. Anthony] would do anything for him had caused him to open up in the hopes that maybe someone could properly punish them. One of the plots he and Ms. Anthony had come up with was to tell any person who asked about the Dursleys, to see whether they forgot, or actually helped. Maybe the wizards would have a better chance than the child care officers.

"I lived in a cupboard under the stairs for years. I had to do all the chores, and cook all the meals, and wasn't allowed seconds at the table. If I made a mistake, I got yelled at, and if I ever used magic, I was called a freak and locked in my cupboard. Dudley and his friends always bullied me, and the Dursleys never hit me themselves, but they encouraged him to. Dudley never let other kids near me, so I never had any friends, and for a long time I wasn't allowed to get better grades then him. I was only allowed to wear his old clothes, which were ripped or stained and about five sizes too big."

The dicta-quill was scratching across the pad madly, spraying ink over the table. Everyone stared at him.

"Blimey." Gideon said. "When we offered help, we weren't expecting an abuse and neglect case from the boy-who-lived!"

"When did it stop?" Mr. Black asked.

"When I was eight I befriended the school librarian. She always let me hang out there, and scolded Dudley for beating me up. The year after she tricked the Dursleys into letting me come over to her place every day, and she made sure I had food and rest. They wanted to be normal in the neighborhood, so she duped them into letting me wear new shoes and pants, giving me Dudley's second room, and stuff like that. She taught me karate, and helped me do well in school, and didn't care if weird stuff happened around me."

Mr. Black looked pained. "What's her name?"

"Ms. Anthony. I mean, Ava Anthony."

"Would she be willing to testify against them in a wizard court?" Fabian asked.

"You mean she could know about magic?"

"In some cases, yes. With your fame you could probably just ask, and the Minister would hand you the paperwork on a silver platter."

"Oh, Rigel mentioned something about my parents having wills?"

Mr. Back nodded gravely. "They were sealed when you disappeared, but the goblins keep the original copies and allow immediate family to see them no matter what the Wizengamot says."

Harry breathed out. "Ok, yeah. I'd like that."

"You visited your trust vault this morning, you said?"

"Yeah, but what's a trust vault? I mean, how's it different from a regular vault?"

Gideon answered. "First you have to understand that there are several types of vaults, Mr. Potter. The first is the type that Muggles can open; low security that are open for schooling purposes only. The second is the trust vault. That's usually only opened by wealthy wizard families. Those vaults are to be used only for school supplies, and sometimes a little pocket money. Next is the family vault. That's where the family keeps all of their money. The fourth type is the House vault. Do you know what a House is?"

Harry frowned. "A place to live in?" He said uncertainly. Fred snorted, and one of the Black twins kicked him.

"All right, we're going to have to go into a little bit of history and politics here. Stop me if it gets too confusing."

Harry nodded his understanding.

"Magic, once in a person, tends to stay in families. There are rare cases, but we won't worry about those. So, if a father is a wizard and the mother a witch, then it's likely that the kids will be too. Then come the grandkids, and the great-grand kids, and next thing you know everyone in the family for a thousand years has been a witch or wizard. But it wasn't just one family that did that; you had, say, thirty. So now there's thirty families that have had magic for a thousand years. No one remembers if they had magic before that, or if it just randomly appeared in a Muggle child, a muggle-born. So there's thirty families that can say, 'Hey! Our ancestors have had magic for a thousand years, so we must be better and stronger than the ones who never had magic!' Then these families group together, because there's not that many of them, and they want to keep magic strong, but they need some form of government because more and more witches and wizards are popping out of nowhere, and the older families want to be in charge, so they start a group called the Wizengamot."

"You said they make the laws." Harry recalled.

"Yes. There's a bit more to it than that, but that'll suffice for now. So, you have thirty families in this group. Who's going to be the leader? Who's going to be the representative for each family? Father, son, mother, nephew, who will it be? And so came the Houses. Each family formed a House, and the Houses were ranked on the age of the families; Most Ancient and Noble, Ancient, Old, Lesser, Junior, Minor, and Foreign. Usually the oldest male in the direct line would take on the Lordship; father to son, that sort of thing. If the oldest didn't want it, it went to the next. If the males were unable to do it, then the Ladies would cover for their Lords, or a regent would be made until the heir could take over. If there were no direct heirs, then the Lords could choose anyone that was related. The Lords were the political leaders of a family, and the Head of a family was the one in charge of the actual family. Following?"

"Yeah. So…a House is basically an old family with political power?"

"Close enough. Yes. That should cover them enough for now. Anyway, the House vault, or vaults, in some cases, would hold family artifacts that had been passed down from generation to generation."

"What House did the Potters have?"

"The Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. I am Lord and Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, and Gideon and Fabian are Lords and Heads of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Prewett."

"What's a Foreign House?"

"That would be an old family from another country. They are respected because of age, but are not particularly powerful here because their family is not from here."

"Why do some families think that they're better than Muggles?"

Everyone stiffened. Harry wondered if he'd done something wrong.

"Er—Harry…" George started.

"No, it's all right." Gideon interrupted him. "He should know. It is the foundation of our society, after all. What you have to understand, Mr. Potter, is that this is the largest issue in politics, and has been since before the founding of the Wizengamot. Some families feel they are better simply because we have been gifted with magic, and Muggles weren't. Some families even go so far as to compare Muggles with animals. Others think the opposite; that Muggles are ingenious things for managing to do so well without magic. And others, very few others, just appreciate the simple fact that they are people just like us, and magic has very little to do with it."

Harry frowned, remembering Hagrid in the Underground. "So lots of people think that Muggles are—inferior?"

Mr. Black spoke up. "Actually, we have a fairly solid mix at the table right now. The Blacks have been known to be a very dark family for centuries, and have always looked down upon Muggles. I personally don't consider them inferior, as you said, I just don't care for them very much. The Lords Prewett are two of the few that recognize Muggles as people. And the Potters were of the opinion that Muggles are amazing little creatures. Although I'm sure your father never called your mother that. Lily Evans had quite the temper."

"So my dad was a –a Lord?"

"Yes. That would make you an heir."

"What's that mean?"

"Normally, heirs wouldn't do anything until they were of age, in which case the current Lord and Head could step down, or they would wait until their predecessor passed away. Your case however is a little more complicated. As an orphaned heir with no immediate relatives, a proxy would hold your spot until you became fifteen, unless you were emancipated earlier. You would then accept the Lordship, and take control of your family's holdings. As of now, it is up to your guardian to take proper care of you and—" Mr. Black paused. "Damn."

Harry jumped at the sudden curse, which had attracted the startled attention of the Prewetts.

"What?" Gideon asked. "Please tell me—"

Mr. Black stood up. "I have to go. Mr. Potter, I would be honored to ask you to stay a few nights at my home?"

Harry blinked. "Er—ok."

"Aries, Rigel, go to Grimmauld and help Kreacher prepare a guest room. Gideon, Fabian, please finish up here. There's something I need to check." There was a sudden pop, and Mr. Black had vanished.

Harry's jaw dropped. 'What was that?" He managed to ask.

"I'm not sure." Fabian replied distantly. "He's not usually the one to come up with harebrained schemes, so I assume it must be important."

"No—he just vanished!"

"Oh, apparation. Yes, you'll learn that in a few years. Now, where were we?"

"Uh—something about my guardian."

"Oh yes." Gideon remembered. "All right. Boys, why don't you Floo over to Grimmauld and prepare that room? We might finish some of Harry's shopping today and stop by around dinner. Alright?"

Harry watched in bewilderment as the teens said goodbye and hurried over to a large fireplace near the bar. They each reached up, grabbed some sort of powder, stepped into the fire, and vanished in a burst of green flame.

"What—"

"The Floo Network. Let's you travel fireplace to fireplace so long as it's hooked up."

"Wicked." Harry said in awe.

"Now—Hagrid?" Gideon started in surprise, making Harry turn and jump.

Somehow Hagrid had finished his drinking, gotten an owl, and came over to their table unnoticed.

"Hiya, Gideon, Fabian. Been a while." He said happily. "So, Harry, saw yeh met the Prewetts and Blacks. Nice kids, they are, real nice. Anyway, I stopped out an' got yeh a birthday present right now, figure yeh can do the rest o' yer shopping, an' I need ter get back ter Hogwarts. Take right good care o' her now, Harry, an' I'll be seein' yeh."

Hagrid made his goodbyes, handed Harry the snowy owl, and hurried to the fireplace. He just barely managed to fit through it.

Harry looked at the owl. Its large golden eyes blinked at him. "Hello," he said. "You're very pretty."

"Hagrid has good taste." Fabian nodded at the bird. "She's a smart one, and won't be easily hindered from her job. Are you going to name her?"

"I think I'll wait. I've never had a pet before, so I want her to have a really good name."

The redhead shrugged. "Suit yourself. Now, I've absolutely no idea what we were talking about, so shall we stop by Gringotts, and get some shopping done?"

"Er—alright." Harry said, feeling a little unsure. He really wanted to see his parents wills in particular, but he was a bit shocked from learning everything so quickly. He felt like, well, like someone had just him he was a wizard who stopped an evil dark lord as a baby.

"Quick question," Gideon interrupted, frowning into a napkin he'd picked up from the table. "Regulus left a note. Mr. Potter, have you ever had inoculations? You might know them as vaccinations."

Harry narrowed his eyes, trying to remember. "Er—no, I don't think so. No, I haven't."

The older man sighed. "All right. That means we'll have to go to St. Mungo's first. Can't have an unvaccinated child running around Diagon Alley."

"What vaccines?"

Fabian shrugged. "Dunno. Usual, probably. Dragon Pox, Spattergroit, Scrofungulus, Vanishing Sickness, stuff like that. Remove any infant blocks placed on your magic, too."

"Infant blocks?"

"When kids have really powerful accidental magic, there's often a danger that they'll hurt themselves or others, so healers are allowed to place boundaries on their magic levels. It doesn't stop much, just a bit, so it's safer. But they should always be removed before going to Hogwarts, or you can have big problems learning spell-work."

"St. Muggos is the hospital?"

"St. Mungo's, yeah. Other side of London. Shall we head over?"

"Er—all right. But can we tell Ms. Anthony where I am? She'll be worried if I'm gone."

Gideon reassured him. "We'll send her a quick owl, and show up later explaining magic. It won't be too hard to get the paperwork; not once people hear she's been caring for the boy-who-lived. Right now, St. Mungo's first, then Gringotts. Want me to hold your owl?"

~§~

Regulus Black arrived just as the prisoners of Azkaban were finishing lunch. If you can call it lunch; Regulus wasn't even sure it counted as food. He nodded to the guards who brought out his brother, and waited until they had back out of hearing range.

"Sirius," he said urgently. "I need you to tell me; are you Harry Potter's godfather?"

~§~

AN: Next, St. Mungo's and Gringotts! Gonna be fun!