A Much Better Day
Harry woke up experiencing two of the three best feelings in the world.
Going to sleep with a headache or cold and waking up without one was the first. Going to bed drunk and waking up, not with a hangover, but instead a slight buzz was the second. Sadly, he had no job and was well rested enough to attack the day, so he couldn't experience the joy of going right back to sleep with the knowledge that he still had hours left before work. The third best feeling in the world. If he had to pick a forth it would be putting on a pair of underwear and socks fresh out of the dryer, but he didn't have one of these.
What he did have was a long list of things to do if he wanted to have a place to sleep in two days and so with a wistful sigh he stretched and dressed himself.
A few waves of his hand later and the clothes he wore the day before flattened themselves as if freshly ironed and the specks of dirt and dust vanished. Another wave of his hand and the slight stubble on his jaw vanished. He waited until he scarfed down the complimentary loaf of bread before casting a cleaning charm on his teeth and tongue then exited his room. He barely remembered to grab his wands before doing so.
He had taken stock of his possessions the night before and counted his blessings. Not only did he have both of his wands, enough money to last him a few days and his perscription glasses, but he was also fortunate enough to have brought along his handy dandy notebook, which he kept snugly tucked away in his breast pocket. Plus his four-color retractable ballpoint pen, of course. Those were a pain in the butt to find sometimes, so he hated losing one. Especially now that he didn't have Bill or Fleur around to enchant them with never-ending ink and never-wearing nibs.
Diagon Alley was much more crowded today but was still a far cry from how it should be. This was especially true considering Hogwarts letters should have gone out yesterday and what shoppers he did see were clearly new and returning students. Mostly new students.
He dodged and weaved between the crowds of parents, Muggle and wizard alike, as if their children were a horde of bewitched knife-keys trying to rip him to shreds. He didn't hate children, and honestly didn't know how anybody could, he just didn't dare risk an encounter with any of his former classmates or their parents. If his math was right, he figured most were only now turning fifteen. That thirteen-year difference in age felt like thirteen decades, and yet he knew he wouldn't be able to keep a cool exterior if he were to meet anyone he witnessed die.
He was almost upon the Gringotts bank doors when he realized he couldn't enter.
Well, he could, but he wouldn't live for very long. Goblins weren't very open-minded nor forgiving creatures, and if he walked in with his bank key, which in all likelihood had an identical twin in this world. The wards would detect the "foregery" instantly and an army of serrated knife wielding warriors would descend upon him. They'd probably then feed whatever quivering ribbons of flesh remained of the 'counterfeiter' to the army of kappa they kept hidden in the waterier areas of their subterranean caverns. He probably wouldn't have even made it to the first teller.
What did that leave him?
He had no money beyond the loose change he carried. His vault key was a liability, one he intended to throw away at the first opportunity. He had no friends, family or coworkers to loan him money. To top it all off he was too upstanding of a citizen to break into places he knew would be easy targets (Cough, Malfoy manor! Cough!) and steal everything not bolted to the ground.
He needed to make a friend. Harry needed to find somebody that he could not only convince of his nature as a visitor from another world, but who would furthermore be willing to help him without share his secret or worse prove to be a danger to him upon learning it. The list of potential allies was thin indeed.
"Johnathan! Don't wave that thing around!" A woman, obviously Muggle, chastised her son. "You don't know what it might do."
The boy, Johnathan, was a soon to be first year and had been playing with his newly purchased wand. His mother was right to stop him. Waving a wand, even without intent or incantations, was a one-way ticket to the hospital.
He watched as a group of three families and their collective litter of four eleven year-olds entered the same shop that Johnny and his sensible mother just exited. He considered the gold lettering above the door and tried his hardest to think of a more trustworthy person in the world who he could convince of his situation. He realized there wasn't one. Except maybe Aberforth. That guy's tongue was the polar opposite of loose. Trying to get directions to the bathroom from him required an entire vial of veritaserum and cruciatus massage, let alone his patron's secrets. If this didn't work, he'd go to the Hog's Head.
Ollivander was on top of his game today and had already situated the first child, a particularly short blonde boy, with a sixteen-inch wand that he would hopefully grow into. Waving around a wand that's almost a third as long as you are tall looked ridiculous.
"There you have it, mister Zeller. And if your sister would come on up here." Ollivander said kindly.
Harry looked and recognized the young Rose Zeller. He vaguely remembered her as a Hufflepuff who had helped Hermione evacuate the house elves during the battle of Hogwarts. She was also one of only three students who Hermione managed to kowtow into joining SPEW.
Rose hopped up to the counter where Ollivander's floating measuring tape got to work as he wrote down the results. As he did this Harry stretched out his senses again and felt as his magic flooded into his surroundings.
He could feel every piece of soft fabric on the bodies around him, every hard edge of furniture and deep groove of engraved metal as if they were all his own skin. This was his greatest power, one he had developed unknowingly and by pure accident during his hunt for horcruxes and later evolved into something altogether new. His ability to sense Voldemort's magic grew into the ability to sense magic itself and then the physical properties of things in general. He could even recall recent event in an area or which an object he held had experienced.
Parvati thought it was psychometry. Lavender argued it was clairvoyance. Hermione had a stranger theory still, but Harry knew it wasn't a psychic ability, per se, it was just a magical technique like occlumency or legilimency. The latter of which is what he was TRYING to learn when he invented the new art. He still had no name for it, but it was damned useful all the same. What he did know about it was that magic was alive, magic was beautiful, and magic did little other that beg to be heard. With his ability he had ears with which to hear and the inquisitive mind necessary to listen.
He tuned out the breathing and heartbeats of those around him, which was always so loud in his ears when he used the technique, and lightly touched the piles upon piles of wands behind the counter with his magic. Wands felt hot to his senses, like the active coals of a grill, but he kept on in search of one that suited Rose the most. The funny thing about wands is that the magic internal to them tends to point towards the magic internal to those around them, as if reaching out to touch their soulmate. Sadly, this only happens if their master was in close enough proximity or else finding missing people for Ron's Auror team would be much easier for him.
More than two dozen wands were doing this pointing now, and not just towards Rose, but towards her brother, her father and the other children. Every magical and nonmagical person in the room. Wands are funny like that, they can bond with or want to bond with Muggles, even though said Muggles could never use them. Love like that didn't have to make sense, not when the wand's most sincere desire was to bond with somebody based on character, which they were superb at judging. Several of them matched Rose' signature to varying degrees, but the strongest reaction to her came from a short wand with the fiery magic of a phoenix tail feather three aisles back.
"Hmm. I think we should try something with cedar wood to start for you." Ollivander said to the girl as he pulled a wand from the stack directly beneath the counter.
Harry knew the wands beneath the counter were created for the sole purpose of being 'test wands'. He used them to narrow down what type of wand a customer was most suited to before hunting down the proper wand from the back. The test wands could be used as a regular wand, theoretically, but they didn't tend to last long.
"I can save you the trouble." Harry offered, gaining the eyes of everyone in the room. "Four inches. Alder wood. Phoenix feather core. Three rows back."
Few people have experienced the full force of Garrick Ollivanders' glare. Harry was one of those few, and even he had difficulty not buckling beneath it despite having earned it eight going on nine times before.
"I'm going to have to ask you to wait outside of my shop while I fit my customers." Ollivander said coolly, before growling a vindictive. "Sir."
Harry smiled confidently, no, arrogantly but did as he was told.
"Call me back in when I'm proven right." He said offhandedly as he exited the shop and stood to the side.
He didn't have to wait long. Exactly eighty seconds later the Zeller family exited the shop. He couldn't help noticing that Rose carried the exact wand he described. The smiling girl even went so far as to show it off to him by wiggling it.
"Hey now, be careful with that thing. It's dangerous." Harry told Rose, returning her smile.
She pocketed the wand with a giggle as her father approached him.
"He wants you back in there, but he's not happy."
Harry thanked the Zeller father and prepared to re-enter the shop. He mentally went through his checklist before turning the handle. Chin up. Shoulders back. Chest out. Aaaaaaand STRUT!
Based on the tenth glare he'd ever received from the wand maker Harry would call his efforts in annoying him a raging success. The two remaining children and their parents stifled their laughter as he entered, adding fuel to the fire behind the old man's eyes.
"How'd you do that?" Ollivander demanded.
"I tend to just..." Harry paused dramatically to tap his forehead. "Know things."
Harry noted the familiar vein popping out of his old friends' jaw as he clenched his teeth. Maybe it was time to reel in his attempts at instigating his senior.
"I can try to do it for these two if you like?" Harry offered, correcting his posture into one a bit more deferential.
Ollivander motioned towards the two children and Harry repeated his earlier action of searching the rows of wands with his mind. Thirty seconds later two groups of satisfied customers exited the store, leaving Harry alone with the shop owner.
Harry waited for his gracious host to break the silence and he didn't disappoint.
"Well? Did you just come in here to embarrass me, or did you want something?" Garrick demanded.
In answer Harry withdrew a wand from his robes, one of the two he carried at all times. He offered it to Ollivander handle first. He took it in the manner of a smith taking a sword for examination.
"Holly." Ollivander observed, carefully listing the wands properties. "Eleven inches and a core of phoenix..."
He locked eyes with Harry, who had to fight the smirk threatening to erupt on his face. It wouldn't do for Ollivander to think him a thief. Harry nodded his head towards the stacks of wands in the direction he knew an identical wand to his own sat.
Ollivander left the original on the counter and disappeared to where Harry indicated. He returned with a box that he handled with shaking hands. Harry hadn't seen the man so nervous since the time he showed him the elder wand. Good thing he hadn't pulled that one out by accident.
Harry sat down on the bench as he waited for the wandmaker to compare them. This took a lot longer than it should have. After comparing them visually and by touch he went through a list of pretty much every spell Hogwarts taught. One by one he compared how both wands performed each spell. When he was finally satisfied in the knowledge that the wands were indeed identical he turned to Harry and stared for some time.
"How?" He asked.
Harry stood up and took a deep breath. He knew that nothing but the truth would suffice, but he still didn't look forward to it.
"Tell me Garrick. What do you know about multiverse theory?"
Ollivander, with a speed that belied his age, drew the recently unboxed wand and with deveral waves layered no fewer than 6 locking spells, 5 privacy spells, 3 wards onto the front door.
Harry took this time to close the blinds.
"Explain." He demanded.
"My name is Harry James Potter. I'm the son of James Potter and Lily Potter nee Evans from an alternate universe. I don't even know if they or I exist in this one." harry explained succinctly.
"They do. But to my knowledge, you don't." garrick
"Good! Voldemort murdered my parents when I was a baby and tried, but failed, to kill me. In the process 'marking me as his equal' and making me the child of prophecy."
Hmm. No taboo triggered. Interesting.
"A qualification Mister Longbottom lacks." Garrick pointed out.
"Indeed. And until 1994 we lived in a mostly Voldemort and Death Eater free world. He was still around but without a body. Long story. That didn't stop him and others from making my first four years at Hogwarts hell. He returned and slowly began to rebuild his forces. I witnessed his rebirth and tried to blow the whistle, unfortunately our Minister of Magic at the time was one Cornelius Fudge."
"Oh no!" Garrick said with a facepalm.
"Oh yes! And for the next year he, most of the ministry and the Daily Prophet ran a massive smear campaign against me, Dumbledore - the headmaster not the barkeep - and anybody who took our side. I'm skipping a lot here, but he conquered the ministry, my friends and I had to go into hiding but continued the good fight until I finally killed him. We rebuilt, I became a Quidditch star, woke up in this universe yesterday. It was 2008 in the universe I left."
They returned to their staring contest. It took less than a minute to share his story, even with Ollivander's excellent commentary. He did always make for a good audience to the skilled storyteller.
"If it were not for this wand, I would never have believed a word you said." He admitted, indicating the significantly more worn stick of holly and the scars from where it had been broken and repaired.
"I know." Harry said smugly.
The image of handing Dumbledore a duplicate Elder Wand and watching him try to figure out how the hell that was possible amused Harry for a few moments.
Ollivander returned the more pristine wand to its box with a sigh, clearly still digesting the unlikely information Harry just unloaded on him.
"Stranger things have happened." Ollivander finally admitted in acceptance. "But why did you come to me instead of somebody more... substantial?"
Harry waited for Ollivander to return this universe's version of his wand back to the shelf and explained his reasoning when he returned with a bottle of firewhisky and two shot glasses.
"Aside from the fact I knew I could convince you?" Harry said. "Having worked with you in the past I knew you don't share secrets. Nor would you incorporate anything I tell you into schemes or machinations like the one other person I am positive I could convince of my origins."
The two of them knocked the glasses back and grunted at the magical and chemical burn as the drink slid down their throats.
"Why couldn't you have just been a wand crafting prodigy who discovered how to magically duplicate wands?" Ollivander bemoaned.
Harry laughed so hard at that one he almost dropped the bottle of whisky he was trying to use to refill their glasses.
"Is that what you thought was going on?" Harry asked incredulously. "That I just, what, broke in here, duplicated this wand, memorized your stock and did it all without your knowing?"
Ollivander could only shrug as he accepted the second glass.
"That or time travel. Either would have made my life a whole lot easier." He admitted before drinking the second shot. "What did we work on together?"
"Experiments involving the twin cores of mine and Voldemort's wands." Harry explained. Garrick was notably nonplussed by his use of the name. "And the Elder wand, which is currently in my possession."
That got him moving. Before Harry's very eyes a safe appeared in the wall. After performing a complicated set of wand movements, putting in a combination code and - most strangely - pressing his thumb into a fingerprint scanner that surely couldn't have been electronic, Garrick withdrew a large sack of what could only be magical coinage.
"This is my entire life savings. Name your price for the memories of our experiments in your timeline it's all yours." Garrick told him.
That was exactly how Harry expected this interaction to go. Minus the fingerprint scanner.
"I'll do you one better. I'll give you all of those memories AND help you with some new experiments." He indicated his wand on the counter with one hand and pointed in the direction of its' counterpart. "We have the opportunity to investigate an otherwise impossible scenario where two completely identical wands interact and are loyal to the same person. A monozygotic set of twin wands instead of dizygotic."
Ollivander made a waving motion for him to get onto that.
"In addition to that I also want to live and work her for the remainder of the summer as my base of operations while I set down roots. Minimum wage for those hourse since I'll be spending them researching and prepping for all manner of ministry licenses and testing that I'll need. As far as the price for everything else, I'll leave it for you to decide as you go through the memories and experiments sicne you're better equipped to determine the finanial value of them."
Ollivander offered a hand to shake.
"You have yourself a deal."
Harry shook his hand gladly.
"Now I'm gonna need a one week advance for working the counter so I can go to Gringotts and open up a vault. But I need you to hold on to this in the meantime." Harry handed Ollivander his vault key. "That is the key to the Potter family vault."
Ollivander examined it closely.
"Why would you want me to hold onto... Wait. Never mind. Stupid question." Garrick stopped himself.
Harry could only laugh at his friend as he reopened the safe and hid the key inside. Harry had broken off from asking stupid questions of his own often enough to relate. His laughter died as Ollivander dropped a signet ring on the counter in place of his key.
"What's this?" harry asked.
"That is my signature stamp." The wand maker answered. "Unless you're planning to contact James and convince him to adopt you, you can't go around using your own name. Until such time as you come up with a new one, you can sign any important documents or purchases with this and claim to be doing errands for me."
Harry nodded as he secured the ring on his pinky.
"They send the documents to me to get a proper signature afterwards so don't go doing anything stupid or illegal with it!" The old man warned.
Harry had the decency to at least act offended at the insinuation.
Harry exited Ollivanders' weighed down with nearly eight thousand galleons. Even with the enchantments on goblin money to make it nearly weightless and the undetectable expansion charm on the bag his belt could barely tolerate the weight of the small sack to replace the weight lost from emptying his brain into Garrick's pensieve.
Pulling out that many memories all at once would leave anybody woozy, and Harry struggled with the mental arts at the best of times.
He had more than enough money to purchase the blood testing he needed a dozen times over again, assuming the price of Gringotts' services hadn't inflated along with everything else. That wasn't an assumption Harry was willing to make. At least he had something to put in his new vault if the tests didn't come up with anything, and this nest egg would go a long way to getting his new life established.
As he walked towards the massive marble bank he finally took stock of the shops that weren't boarded up, making a mental list of the things he'd need to purchase from them. Flourish and Blotts was doing good business but Gambol and Japes was absolutely booming with activity. After all, dark times called for good humor. He passed the same group of first year children from before coming out of the magical menagerie with matching toads and identical smiles. He waved at them as he passed and the Zeller twins positively bounced as they waved back.
Harry froze at Eeylops Owl Emporium.
He must have stared at that door for five whole minutes at the epiphany that struck him dumb. It was a crazy idea, and the odds were almost impossible, but he simply had to know.
He entered the empty shop and the same manager as his timeline looked up from whatever he was reading.
"Welcome sir. What can I do for you?" The manager greeted Harry nodded in way of a hello and hesitated to ask his question.
"I'm looking for an owl." He said.
The manager beamed at him. Business must be slow.
"You're in luck. We happen to sell owls here!" He said in all good humor. "If you'd come on into the back we can find the right one for you."
"Actually." Harry interrupted with a staying wave of his hand. "I'm looking for a very specific owl."
The manager looked him up and down before indicating he should continue.
"I'm looking for a female snow owl. She would be around five years old, maybe a bit older. She has bright amber eyes and is rather irritable."
The manager stared at him some more. Somehow Harry doubted the old man had ever heard such a detailed description from a new customer.
"That was very specific." The manager verified. "And until very recently I had exactly the owl you just described."
Harry's heart sank at the news.
"Well. Thank you anyways. I don't suppose you'd be willing to write a letter to the customer you sold it to on my behalf, would you?"
The manager shook his head and Harry's heart sank even further. If the day became anymore of a disappointment, he'd have to dig it out of the ground.
"I didn't sell her." The manager said. "I tried to for years, but nobody would take her. Last year I found out she was mixed with something magical and handed her off to Sarah at the Magical Menagerie hoping she'd have better luck."
Harry barely managed to utter a proper 'thank you' before running as fast as he could through the exit, entering the much noisier shop moments later.
He waited for the saleswoman, a young witch with short, curly auburn hair, to finish with another customer. Harry didn't need to expand his senses to feel the heat rising to her cheeks or increase in her heart rate as he approached. He only now realized his face was plastered with a smile of pure joy. He needed to be more careful about showing off his teeth like that, he didn't want to cause accidents with it. Not to sound like Lockheart, but it had happened before.
"Um. Excuse me." Harry said, trying to put on a more professional air. "I'm looking for a magical snowy owl I'm told you have in stock."
"Oh! Are you sure?" The saleswoman, Nichole according to her name tag, backtracked. "She's a bit... temperamental."
"That's the one!" Harry confirmed, his smile returning.
Nichole mimicked the manager from Eeylops in skeptically glancing him up and down before relenting. She led him through the towering stacks of cages for several minutes in silence, or as close to silence as things could get in this particular store. Harry had never been this deep into the warehouse-sized menagerie and would have otherwise been ignorant to how gargantuan it was.
"Here we are." Nichole announced as they entered a more open area.
The large stacks of cages parted around a desk on which a single golden cage sat.
Harry fought back the tears at the sight of what sat inside the cage. It wasn't the tears of joy he expected to shed at seeing her, for how could he be happy to see his magnificent friend hunched over, eyes staring at the ground instead of skyward where she belonged? If there were such a thing as a hunchbacked owl, Hedwig looked rather close to being one, and the lack of exercise over the years had plumped her up into an unhealthy shape. That shape being round.
"Oh no, what have they done to you Hedwig?" He whispered as he approached the desk and kneeled beside her cage.
She didn't even look up at him as he approached, but nor did she shuffle away on her perch. It made sense that she wouldn't recognize the name, as did her sequestering away from the other animals. The owl had never gotten along well with other animals, feathered or not. And as Harry listened to the screeching, squeaking and squawking of the veritable zoo around them the reason for Hedwig's deep depression became rather obvious.
"How much?" Harry asked without looking up at the young saleswoman.
"Um. Are you sure you want her?" Nichole asked.
"How. Much." He repeated pointedly, still examining Hedwig's plumage, which was blessedly healthy and clean.
"Oh. I think we charge eighteen galleons for jobberknolls, and she's only a quarter, so she'd come out to twelve galleons."
He reached into the heavy sack on his waist and handed the witch the money. Harry opened the wretched cage as soon as she started counting the coinage. Only then did Hedwig look up at him.
"Come on, girl." He said, putting his forearm out near the cage door for her to jump onto. "I'm busting you out of this joint."
Hedwig blinked at him in confusion. Her head flicked down to his arm and back to his face several times as she considered him with obvious confusion. He knew her to be suspicious and uncooperative at the best of times, and this was decidedly not the best of times.
Eventually she did hop along her cage and onto his outstretched arm. It went a long way to helping him overcome his disappointment at her lack of recognition.
"Oooh, you're heavy." He grumbled as he lifted the owl up to his face.
"Yeah." Nichole said. "We tried to put her on a diet several times, but it always ended in disaster."
Harry could only snort at that. Yeah. Hedwig didn't do diets. When she'd gotten unhealthily large in his fourth year from all the bacon he'd been feeding her he had to start helping her exercise. He even managed to train her in several flying formations on the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch with the book on hawk training he'd dug up in the library. He doubted that same routine would work on her this time. Could she even fly anymore?
His good humor vanished as Hedwig returned to her earlier posture of staring blankly at the ground. He buried his face in her plumage like he used to do on particularly rough days. She reacted by standing at full height, holding her head away from him. It was a posture that showed clear discomfort, and Harry imagined any one of his other friends would react in a similar way if he came right up to them and gave them such an emotional embrace. He didn't care. Even if it was just for a second, he needed to breath in the familiar smell of her feathers and convince himself this was real.
"If you would kindly follow me so we can fill out the bill of sale and transfer ownership to you." Nichole told him.
"I would like that." Harry said, removing his face from the part-jobberknolls' chest.
They were nearly upon the front desk and register when he paused and glanced around the shop. Against all odds he had found his favorite animal in the world, one he had seen die in his. The likelihood that his second favorite animal yet lived was much more favorable.
"Crookshanks?" He called out more questioningly than demandingly.
He turned to look at the sound of padded feet on wood and saw the familiar bottlebrush tail descend from a stack of crates near the front door. The part-kneazle walked up to him as if they were already acquainted. The feline didn't act like most cats and followed instruction from a completely different set of instincts. It's instincts, instead of demanding rudeness at every opportunity like a normal cat, commanded it to obey instruction from those who were trustworthy, which Crookshanks must sense Harry was.
"I'll be taking him too." Harry ordered.
Ollivander's signature stamp was a godsend, as no amount of galleons would have earned him ownership of the two animals without naming the new owner. It broke Harry's heart to give somebody else temporary ownership of the two animals, but he'd transfer the deeds to himself at the first opportunity.
"Will you need a cage or kennel for them?" Nichole offered.
"Nope." Harry rejected.
Twenty-one galleons lighter, Harry made to exit the store.
"Come on you two. I'm taking you home." Harry commanded them. "You've been kept waiting long enough."
Crookshanks followed him with ease, and neither made a single complaint or sign of wanting to run off on their own as they walked down Diagon Alley. Harry took them straight back to the Leaky Cauldron intent on spending the rest of the day with them.
His business with Gringotts could wait.
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