Title: A Year Too Soon
Author: NHunter
Genre: General, Adventure, attempt at Romance later on
Rating: eventually M
Warnings: AU; Possible violence, strong language and other adult stuff; Crazy author...

Disclaimer: I DO NOT own "Harry Potter" franchise. No profit is being made. Same goes for any books, video games, anime or manga I may or may not use for ideas.

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A Year Too Soon
Chapter I: A Letter That Changed Everything

The day started much like any other for Harry Potter. He was woken up pretty early in the morning by aunt Petunia and told to his usual chores. Which, among other things, included checking the mailbox and disposing any unwanted commercials... That was when the things started getting strange. Among an assortment of other letters, there was a thick envelop made from some material Harry didn't readily recognize. And, if what was written on this envelop was to be believed, the letter was addressed to him. That was really odd: no one would ever write a letter to a freak like him!

Things only got even more strange when his aunt saw the letter. She became paler than a ghost. Then she practically tore the envelop out of his hands and ordered him back into his room, the cupboard under the stairs. She even threatened him with the most severe punishment she could think up on the spot to make sure he remained in there until she allowed him out... Whatever that letter was, it most definitely was something really abnormal. Alas, to Harry it looked like he would never learn what was so special about that letter.

Meanwhile, the patriarch of the Dursley family – the very epitome of normality as he himself would like to think – waddled down the stairs and found his wife staring in shock at some odd letter.

"What's wrong, Pet?" He asked, not knowing why that thing had such an effect on his lovely wife. His question seemed to break the woman out of her thoughts.

"Not here." Petunia said, before motioning her husband to follow her into the guestroom – a place where their freakish nephew wouldn't be able to overhear them. One there, she tried to explain. "Vernon... They... The freaks promised us that... that we would not hear a word from them until the boy turns eleven... And yet..." She then handed the envelop over to her husband, thus finally allowing him to see that it came from 'Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry'.

"Maybe the freaks made a mistake?" The walrus-like man asked as he inspected the letter in vain hope that it was merely some sick joke. Unfortunately, the damn thing seemed to be quite real and authentic. "Maybe if we don't reply, they will leave us alone for another year?"

"No." Petunia cut him. "If I know one thing about the freaks, it's that they are persistent. If we simply ignore this letter, they will send more. Maybe even more than one at a time too. And the people might notice this. Do you really want the rumors about us receiving packs of strange letters start circulating around the neighborhood?" Vernon had to agree with that: the normality of his life was already endangered by the presence of the freak in his house, no need to endanger it even more.

"Than we shall write them we're not interested and tell those freaks to never bother us again!" He boomed. Petunia thought about it for a few long seconds, before giving her answer:

"I actually think we should accept the offer and send the freak to that freakish school." This surprised her husband greatly.

"Why would we do something like that? Didn't we agree to do our best to stomp the freakishness out of the boy?" Vernon asked, still very tempted to tear the accursed letter into tiny bits. And then do the same to whichever freak wrote it.

"And it obviously didn't work." The woman pointed out. Indeed, despite the Dursleys' best attempts, they weren't able to do anything about their nephew's bouts of accidental magic. "But think about it, he'll be considered an adults by the freaks either when he turns seventeen or when he finishes his schooling. By sending him to that freakish school now we will have him out of our house almost a whole year early!" Now that was a good point, Vernon thought.

"But what about?.." Knowing her husband as good as she did, Petunia could predict his question.

"The headmaster of that freak school had assured me in his letter that we won't have to pay a single penny for the boy's education there. I think, he even said that we won't have to spend anything on his school supplies..." She drifted away for a second. "The boy will have to buy his things on his own, though. I'm never going back to that unnatural place ever again."

"Is that really a good idea, Pet? To let him wander around on his own for long, I mean." The Dursley patriarch asked then. "What if he gets lost and starts to ask for direction? People will get curious why a freak like him is on his own. And they then can trace it back to us. Imagine what rumors people will start spreading if they learn we send the boy to shop for school without supervision." Now it was Petunia's turn to nod in agreement.

"I'm still not going back to that place." She insisted. "Perhaps, we can ask one of the freaks that run the school to come and take the boy there? One of them did that for my... sister back when she got accepted. I don't think my mother and father had to pay for that either."

"That could work." Vernon said. Then he made a pause as he studied the envelop. "But how are we going to tell the freaks that we accept their offer? There is no proper return address here."

'Oh damn it!' Petunia thought. Freaks used owls to deliver their mail, and the normal people didn't have any owls as pets or whatever. How was she supposed to send the response letter?

~/ *** \~

Minerva McGonnagal was a stern, no-nonsense witch that held several important positions within the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She was the Transfiguration professor and the head of one of the school's faculties; she was also the deputy headmistress. And thanks to all those jobs she had quite a lot of things to do both during the school year and during the holidays.

Right now, at the end of July, she was bringing the list of the students that were accepted into Hogwarts and will start their education there come September the first to the headmaster of this fine establishment for his approval. This list was actually generated every year by magic and, since the system had worked perfectly for decades if not centuries, no one really paid much attention to the names that appeared on this list. Well, not at this point, at least.

"Have we received answers to all of the invitation letters sent?" Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore – the man with more titles than he could remember himself – asked as he signed the list without bothering to read the names on it. The deputy headmistress gave him a nod in response. "Then, starting tomorrow, have the staff begin introducing muggleborn and muggle-raised to the magical world, Minerva." Dumbledore said.

"Of course, Albus." Professor McGonnagal replied, before taking the signed parchment from the headmaster's table and leaving his office: even during the summer months the man was very busy and she didn't want to take more of his valuable time than was absolutely necessary...

Seeing as this year there were no children coming from the muggle orphanages – those could only be handled either by the deputy headmistress or by the headmaster – professor McGonnagal simply made her colleagues draw the names of the children they will be introducing to the magical world from her hat. And since she too didn't suspect that the system had added an unexpected name to the list, she just cut the parchment into pieces without even bothering to read the names that were there.

Professor Filius Flitwick, a short man who had a goblin as one of his closer ancestors, squeaked and almost fell out of his chair when he read the names he drew from the hat. But since it was a common knowledge that he was easily excitable, no one really paid any attention to that. And Filius was secretly glad for that: it meant that he will have better chances of directing one Harry Potter, the son of Lily Potter nee Evans, to become one of this 'Claws. Of course, the Charms professor knew that Harry wasn't supposed to become a Hogwarts' student for another year, but stranger things happened in the magical world, so he decided not to think too much about this.

~/ *** \~

"Alright, boy, listen here and listen well." Uncle Vernon said as he walked the floor in front of Harry. "We were recently given an offer we couldn't possibly refuse. So, starting this autumn, you will be attending a special school for freaks just like you. It's a boarding school... ah... somewhere." Making a pause to take a breath, the walrus-like man continued: "And you will be staying there throughout the whole school year; I don't want to deal with your freakishness in my house any more than absolutely necessary. With me so far, boy?"

"Y-yes, uncle Vernon." Harry stammered automatically, his brain still trying to process what the man before him had just said.

"Next Tuesday, a ...professor from your new school will come to our house and take you... ah... to a freakish district so that you get whatever unnatural stuff you will need in your freakish school. And make sure you are on your best behavior, boy, or so help me if they refuse to accept you because of your rudeness! Got it?"

"Yes, uncle Vernon." The young Potter replied, still having no true idea of what was going on.

"Good." Vernon continued. "Also, we, in our infinite generosity, decided that it is about the time you move out of your cupboard. From now on you will be living in the attic. Cleaning it up and moving your things there is your job, boy. So, go get started before I change my mind and have you live under the stairs for the rest of your miserable freakish life."

"T-Thank you." Harry said, not yet believing what he had just heard... There was a long pause, which was broken by uncle Vernon:

"What are you waiting for, boy? Your new room will not clean itself!" Letting out an unintelligible sound, the green-eyed Potter bolted out of the kitchen and upstairs, intent on making the attic into a proper room – his room – as soon as possible.

~/ *** \~

Even now, several days after his talk with his relatives, Harry still could hardly believe that he wasn't just a freak. Magic was real and he was someone who could use it, a wizard. What's more, there actually was an entire school that taught magic to people like him! And he was going to attend it come September the first!

The young Potter still had troubles believing all this even as he sat impatiently in the kitchen, waiting for someone from that school to arrive – according to uncle Vernon, this person then would take him to a magical shopping district hidden somewhere in London so that he can get whatever weird stuff he will need for his magical classes.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the doorbell rang. And being an eager ten years old, Harry immediately bolted to the door. He didn't open it right away, though. First, he tried his best to quickly preen his new clothes: the Dursleys had given those to him so that he would look really presentable and the wizards – or, the freaks, as his relatives usually called them – would have one less reason to stick their noses into their lives... That done, the green-eyed boy finally opened the door and... At first he thought that there was no one there, but a few moments later the young Potter finally noticed the professor that was supposed to guide to the magical shopping district.

The said professor was diminutive man, probably not even three feet tall, and even outside of his short statue there was something about him that wasn't quite human... He was wearing a rather normal, if horribly outdated, dress coat. Which, Harry supposed, was a good thing: he could imagine his aunt having a heart attack had the man showed up in some garish robes or whatever outlandish clothes the wizards were depicted in in the fairy tales.

"Would you happen to be Mr. Harry Potter, young man?" The diminutive wizard asked in a somewhat squeaky voice as he looked up to meet Harry's eyes.

"Y-yes, sir." The younger magical replied after a moment or two of silence.

"Good." The man said. "I'm Filius Flitwick, and I teach Charms at Hogwarts." He introduced himself.

"Charms, sir?" Harry asked curiously: the letter telling him that he was accepted into Hogwarts didn't have a list of classes he will be taught there. Likewise, while the list of course books he needed to buy had several books about spells, none of those book had the word 'charms' anywhere in their titles.

"I take it, your guardians haven't explained you much about the magic?" Professor Flitwick asked after a few moments of silence. Harry shook his head.

"They did explain me that I was a wizard and that all the strange stuff that sometimes happened around me was magic, but they refused to tell me anything beyond that." He said.

"I see..." The older wizard replied. "Don't worry, Mr. Potter, I'll do my best to answer the many questions you undoubtedly have." The professor promised. "But, perhaps, this isn't the conversation we should have while standing in the doorway." The green-eyed boy couldn't help but nod in agreement. "Than, why don't we start our journey to the Diagon Alley? - That's the magical shopping district in London and the place where we'll buy your school supplies."

"Ah, sir..." Harry breathed out.

"What is it, Mr. Potter?" Professor Flitwick asked, unsure of what was troubling his young charge.

"How will I be able to pay for those things, sir?" Harry asked: his relatives had made it clear that they weren't spending a single penny on his 'freakish stuff'. He vaguely remembered his aunt implying that he might had some magical money, though.

"You don't need to worry about that, Mr. Potter." The Hogwarts' Charms professor said. "Your parents had without a shadow of doubt made sure that you'll be well-provided in case something unfortunate happened to them." Harry nodded, happy to be told that his late parents cared about him.

"In that case, I'm ready to go, sir." He said, stepping out of the house and closing the door behind himself.

"Alright then, Mr. Potter. There is a lot we need to accomplish today." Professor Flitwick said jovially. And so the two of them began walking away from #4, Privet drive. Which kind of confused Harry: shouldn't wizards be traveling via flying carpets or something? His guide noticed this: "We won't be walking for long, Mr. Potter. Once we reach a less public area, I'll summon us a ride to London." Harry nodded. It actually made sense that the Charms master wasn't going to use his magic in the middle of a street: everyone would have known that Magic was real if wizards and witches cast their spells whenever and wherever they felt like. "Also." Professor Flitwick continued. "I'm sure you have questions that you'd like me to answer. In fact, I remember you asking about Charms back there, but, perhaps, there are some other questions that you would like to get answered first?" Harry nodded.

"You said that my parents left me some money. Did you know them, sir?" The older wizard nodded. "Can you tell me more about them?" The young Potter asked.

"But of course!" The diminutive man replied. And, after a moment of silence, he began his tale...

That's all, folks!
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