The Potioneer's Assistant Rebrewed
[A/N: I first wrote the original TPA back in 2017 and now I feel it's time for an update. The original was chock full of tropes, head-canons, and useless subplots that overly crowded the flow of the story plus since then, my writing and storytelling style has improved. You know it's time to update your stories when re-reading them has become cringe-worthy and painful. The Dursleys in the original were the classic semi-abusive type but in this update they'll be a heck of a lot nicer. I will also keep the tension and conflict in longer too since I've been told that I tend to remove the aggressors too quickly from my later stories. Finally, in the original story I glossed over a lot of the nuts and bolts of how the PA operated in order to speed things along. This time through however, Harry will be explaining the details more. I'll leave it up to you the readers, if you think I'm getting too technical.]
The Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, London
"Well, here it is, Harry. The Leaky Cauldron; it's a famous place," the large man named Hagrid, accompanying Harry informed him. To the newly turned eleven year old boy, the place didn't look like much. It was dimly lit, the windows were rather grimy and the patrons were oddly dressed. 'I'm glad that Miss Honeybloom and Mr. Cody took me here before or I think I'd be panicking a bit!'
Harry grimaced at the thought of being informed that their child was a witch or wizard without any warning. 'Wizards don't have an ounce of logic. You'd think that there would be a department within their ministry that would send someone out to the parents of the mundane born magical children and give them a proper introduction to the world their kids will eventually join.' Hagrid had shown up out of the blue at his aunt's and uncle's home the day before his eleventh birthday, banged on the door (nearly ripping it out of the frame) and announced that he was here to take 'young Harry to get his school supplies.' When Uncle Vernon had declared that Harry wouldn't be going anywhere with anyone without a proper introduction, Hagrid scrunched his face up in confusion and claimed that Albus Dumbledore had said he sent them a letter about the return of Harry to his 'rightful place.' This did not sit well with Vernon and Petunia Dursley, thank you very much. They hadn't received any sort of correspondence regarding a shopping trip and that Hagrid would have to return to wherever it was he came from! To tell the truth, Harry didn't like being ordered around either, especially under the knowledge that it was Albus Dumbledore giving the orders.
You see, Harry was raised by his aunt and uncle as well as his mundane (he hated the term 'muggle') 3rd and 5th level primary school teachers (a mundane-born witch and a Squib, or non-magical child, from a magical family, respectively) to question the motives and grandiose speeches made by the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore. It was Dumbledore that dropped Harry off at his aunt's house early one November back in 1981 in a basket with only a note attached to his blanket. The 'old fool' as his aunt would refer to him as, never even knocked on the door to let them know that Harry was sleeping on their porch. It was only after Petunia found him the next morning, slightly blue and freezing cold, was his existence discovered. The note was, according to his aunt, condescending and oddly worded. In it, she learned that her baby sister and brother-in-law had been murdered and their 15-month old son was to be placed into their care. Dumbledore instructed the Dursleys to raise Harry as one of their own and that there would be no contact from the magical world until it was time for Harry to be returned. Whenever Harry thought on that memory, he could only shake his head in derision. 'This is who Magical Britain has declared to be the Leader of the Light and the greatest wizard since Merlin? We're also lucky that Uncle Vernon's job paid so well otherwise who knows what could've happened if they couldn't afford to care for me.'
Hagrid did return; all apologetic and demurely informed the Dursley adults that Albus said that the letter that he'd sent was attached to Harry's baby blanket and that he, Hagrid, was sorry for being so loud and demanding. Vernon accepted the apology and suggested that Hagrid take Harry shopping for his supplies on the weekend as they had previously arranged plans. So it was the first week in August that the big man returned and took Harry on a whirlwind shopping spree within the magical commercial district known as 'Diagon Alley.'
Flashback to 1987:
When Harry had reached his 3rd year in primary school, Harry was already an accomplished gardener according to his family; Aunt Petunia loved to brag to anyone who would stand still to listen that her nephew was the family greenthumb. Petunia did all the heavy lifting like bringing in the bags of fertilizer or the bigger tools but it was Harry that had the knack to get the plants to grow super-well. Petunia claimed it was the Evans' genes coming through and that it was usually found amongst the female side of the family. That set off Dudley; he'd tease Harry about being a pretty, prancing fairy dancing amongst the flowers. Harry's response would be to turn the hose on his cousin and start a water fight with the backyard turning into a muddy mess and two unrepentantly grinning boys standing defiantly together against a 'disapproving and aggrieved yet not-so-secretly pleased' aunt/mother.
The Dursley backyard garden was full of huge blooms of flowers and other plant-life. They had a pond with a couple of fish to keep the mosquito population in check, a place for frogs and plenty of hanging birdfeeders. His true passion was in creating a journal in which he dutifully wrote and drew all of the plants and animals that he'd find in the garden. While he didn't realize it at the time, Harry Potter was an actual wizard. It was only after his first lesson with Miss Honeybloom on the history of magic that his aunt had shown him his mother's books and journals about some of the classes she took while at a school weirdly called, 'Hogwarts' when he brought home his worksheet to show off. One set of books that fascinated him more than the others was the topic of potion-making. It was right after that a parent-teacher conference was arranged when Vernon and Petunia discovered that Harry's teacher was a mundane-born witch who had become disenfranchised with the magical world for various reasons and returned to get her teaching credentials. The three adults quickly hit it off and became fast friends, especially when Petunia found out that Belinda was in the same year and House of her sister!
Under the guise of educating her class in what she called, 'Medieval Britain Culture Month,' Miss Honeybloom taught the kids about the British history of magic, Herbology was explained as medieval botany with Potions described as medieval chemistry class. Some of the parents were rather hesitant about this possible blasphemy (especially the history of how the early settlers believed in a range of deities) being taught to their children but after sitting in on a couple of classes, they relented and thought it was a fun way to get the kids to pay attention. Miss Honeybloom would dress up and lead a lecture on the various characters from British history using their contributions and how it benefited the population of their nation. Another fun class was the teaching of how to read and write in runes. The kids (and some of the attending parents) received worksheets with the instructions for a runic scavenger hunt. The first person who got all the questions right would win a shiny crown.
In his 'Potions' class Harry learned how to identify and prepare the various ingredients of the day then how to brew them in a pot to create the desired effects. The potion they were learning how to make that week was a glow-in-the-dark concoction that when smeared on a flat surface and exposed to direct sunlight for a couple of hours would shine a bright yellow in a darkened room. Belinda noticed Harry's tilt of his head as he first read through the recipe and walked over.
"Is there a problem, Harry?" she gently inquired.
Harry slowly shook his head, "No, I don't think so. It's just that one of these ingredients just doesn't seem to be…right." He reached behind him and dug out his journal from his backpack and flipped it open to a specific page. He dragged his finger down until he located the bit of information he was looking at and slowly nodded, "I thought so. Your recipe calls for eight sunflower petals; my notes say that ten would be better and to specify which type of sunflower."
Belinda gently took the journal from him and examined the notes for herself, "Yes, you are correct Harry. Ten would be better… Does it explain why you should use a particular type of sunflower? Ah, yes it does. A yellow sunflower will produce a bright sunny effect while a red/orange sunflower will make the light appear as if during a warm afternoon. Why don't you try both recipes and write up what you noticed about the differences?"
The other kids were curious as to why Harry had two pots set up for their experiment but were quietly reminded by their teacher to focus on their own work and not worry about what someone else was doing. When Harry handed in his dual experiment, he idly commented that it was a shame that there wasn't a way to run the experiment without having to touch the ingredients.
Belinda nodded, "Well, there is a way using what is known as a computer. A computer is an electronic device used for storing and processing data, typically in binary form," at his confused look she explained that binary was a way of describing things using 1s and 0s. He still didn't get it but she promised that a colleague of hers was more fluent in describing technology than her and that she'd talk to him about holding a demonstration at some point in the year.
Harry was led through the crowds in Diagon Alley towards a large white marbled building with name 'Gringotts' on the lintel. Inside there were strange looking beings that Hagrid described as Goblins and that they were fiendishly clever though not the friendliest of sorts. After witnessing a scene where an adult wizard imperiously demanded to be taken to his vault, Harry was beginning to understand why the Goblins were so surly.
It was their turn and Hagrid rumbled that, "Mr. Harry Potter would like to make a withdrawal." The teller held out a long-fingered hand for 'Mr. Harry Potter's key' and had to wait in annoyance as Hagrid rummaged around in his overcoat for it. Harry's face grew puzzled as he wondered how it was that Hagrid had this key and his aunt or uncle didn't. He didn't say anything at the time but after a harrowing cart ride down to and back from his vault, he decided that maybe he should look into it. He was lucky that Hagrid wasn't feeling too well and asked him if Harry'd mind to wait for him to nip into the Leaky for a 'pick-me-up.'
"I understand, Hagrid. Go and have that drink. I'll just wait here in the lobby," Harry soothed and patted the big man on the arm. Once Hagrid was out of sight, Harry returned to the teller's line. The teller spotted him, waved him over and growled, "What is it this time?"
"With all due respect sir, I don't know how Hagrid ended up with my vault key and after his conversation with my aunt and uncle about how I was to be educated by the 'Great Albus Dumbledore,' I suspect foul-play. Is there a way to get a new key made and lock out the old one?"
The teller was surprised on a number of things; first was the respect given by this wizarding child and second was the suspiciousness towards the Headmaster of Hogwarts. He gestured towards a rune-inscribed bowl, "You would need to shed three drops of your blood into the bowl to get a new key made. It will cost you two Galleons from your vault. May I ask why you have such reticence regarding Albus Dumbledore?"
Harry thought for a moment, "I was raised to not trust anything he says or does. His motives and words do not match up to his accomplishments." He hesitated a moment more, "I know that my aunt and uncle would probably like to speak with whomever it is that's in charge of my family's money. They've told me that the Potters are an old family and they would most likely have an Account Manager. Would it be possible to get his card or whatever it is that your people use to give to them?"
The teller smirked back at him, "You really are a remarkable young wizard, Mr. Potter. There are not many within the wizarding community who would be so knowledgeable or proactive in securing their knowledge of our ways and services. You are respectful and humble; those are good qualities I feared your kind had forgotten." He handed over a card with the Potter Family Account Manager's name, Daggerclaw, and contact information (both magical and mundane.) Harry thanked the teller and went in search of Hagrid.
Last week of August, 1991, Dursley Residence
Dudley was lying out on the front lawn belly down, a cluster of rocks and branches in front of him. In his hands was something that resembled a rifle and it caused the neighbors to grow concerned enough to call the police. When they arrived they witnessed a somewhat skinny kid with raven-black hair running across the lawn and a heavier child giving chase and yelling, "You better run, runt! I'll get you and give you what you deserve!" The two boys disappeared around the corner towards the backyard.
The PC lead gave his partner a worried look as they hurried up to the front door. After knocking and waiting a moment, they were greeted by the bizarre sight of Petunia Dursley wearing an apron, work goggles on her face and a bandolier fashioned from an old belt with little water balloons containing some kind of colored liquid hanging from it.
"Mrs. Petunia Dursley?"
"Ah! Officers, what can I do for you? Wait. Let me put the battle on hold for a moment." She hurried back inside and picked up a can with a horn attached to the nozzle from the table. A blast of noise prompted both boys to appear with curious looks on their faces.
PC Barnes introduced himself and his partner, "We're here in response to a neighbor's concerned call that a child was carrying around what appeared to be a rifle and when we arrived we witnessed the larger one chasing the smaller child yelling something about getting what he deserved. Would you care to explain what is going on?"
Both boys started cracking up as they divested themselves of their gear and wiped their feet on the mat. Petunia sighed in exasperation as she too, removed her goggles, "Those neighbors! Too nosy for their own good, I tell you." She turned and told Dudley to go get his dad from his garage workshop. "What you were seeing was our annual 'End of Summer Water War.' One last blast of fun and childish abandon before the 'drudgery of school' starts up again."
Vernon came in, surprised to see a pair of constables in his foyer. Petunia brought him up to speed which caused him to grumble about nosy neighbors as well. He took in the sopping wet mess that were the two boys, "Who won?" Both Dudley and Harry raised their hands while Petunia snorted in laughter.
Sunday 1 September 1991, King's Cross Station, London
The Dursleys and Harry arrived at the station about an hour or so before the train to Hogwarts was scheduled to leave. Petunia wept quietly about how her little nephew was going away while Dudley and Harry rolled their eyes. Vernon kept clearing his throat while trying (and failing) to look composed, "You do your best to learn everything you can while staying out of trouble, you hear me? I don't want to be getting letters from your teachers that you've been getting detentions or whatnot. I especially don't want to get anything more from that headmaster of yours."
"I promise, Uncle Vernon. I'll do my best and make you proud of me," Harry replied with finality.
Harry managed to find and get onto the magical platform with about forty-five minutes to spare. He found a compartment and got his trunk loaded then settled himself in for the long ride up to Scotland, slightly wishing that he hadn't let his owl fly on her own. Hagrid had gotten him a beautiful female Snowy Owl as a birthday present and also as an apology for the way he behaved during their first meeting. Harry eventually named the owl 'Hedwig' and that morning before leaving for the station, he suggested that she take the time to fly up to the school on her own so she could learn the best routes and hunt as she saw fit.
As settled into the bench, he pulled out his latest creation. The new and revolutionary device known as 'The Potioneer's Assistant.' It was the culmination of many years of hard work and studious learning of subjects like computer science, programming, circuit design and magic. At first glance, it resembled a leather-bound book (if the book only had a half inch of pages) but when the cover was lifted, it looked like it would've belonged on the set of Star Trek. The face was a shiny, mirror-like screen and had a series of ports along one side. A button that turned the device on/off was located on the left while a removable touch pen was secured in a slot on the bottom right.
Harry pressed the power button and the Assistant began its power-up routine.
Flashback to 1988:
Mr. Robert Cody was as unlike a teacher as one could imagine yet he projected an air that left no one in doubt that he knew what he was talking about. He would wear the most outlandish shirts that looked like they'd barely survived an explosion in a paint factory and always with a lurid purple tie. Miss Honeybloom had explained to Robert who Harry was and his family, Robert immediately warmed up to the boy.
"I've always dreamed of meeting the Potters. They were always on the forefront of experimental magics and weren't afraid of muggle technology."
Harry scrunched his face up, "I don't like that term.' Muggle…' it sounds almost like an insult. I prefer 'mundane.'" Robert accepted that.
"So Miss Honeybloom tells me that you had an interest in computers?"
Harry pulled out his journal and explained that he had become curious if there was a way to run potion experiments without having to waste time and money on ingredients if the recipe didn't work properly, "Miss Honeybloom mentioned that there was a device known as a computer that could do this but she said that you'd be able to explain it better than she could."
Robert flipped through the journal, impressed with amount of detailed notes and high quality of the drawings, "Well, making a computer is rather difficult, Harry but it can be done. I daresay that it might actually be easier to make one because you and Miss Honeybloom can do magic."
Harry's head tilted in puzzlement, "Why can't you do magic?"
Robert smiled sadly, "I was born incapable of doing magic. I was fortunate though that my parents were progressive to send me to a boarding school to get an education."
Harry paled at the implied flip-side of that explanation and shook his head to clear it of bad thoughts.
For the better part of the year, mostly on weekends; Harry would get his aunt or occasionally his uncle to drive him to school so he could take part in learning everything there was about the burgeoning world of computer science. When Vernon found out about this, he would join in as well since the mainframes at the company he worked for were cumbersome and the upper management was looking to invest in the newer, faster desktop computers.
It was hard work, that much Harry agreed with himself on but it was his idea to create something to help him learn potions when he eventually went to Hogwarts and also he wanted to be able to prove to himself that magic and technology could exist side-by-side. Miss Honeybloom would occasionally tell stories about how the small transistor radios the mundane-born would bring to school would eventually fizzle out because they were told that magic and technology didn't mix. So with childish determination, Harry dove into his lessons on the history of computers, database programming, advanced mathematics far and above what any other child his age would have cause to learn, circuit theory and design.
Granted, Mr. Cody watered down the subjects as best he could since Harry was only 8 years old and hadn't had the years of previous schooling under his belt but Harry plowed on bullishly. Once the general theory and applications of computers were covered, Robert and Belinda walked him through the magical subjects like arithmancy, runes, charms and transfiguration. At one point, Vernon had suggested that they combine all the notes and lesson plans that had been developed for someone Harry's age to learn and combine it all into a reference book.
As a reward for completing all of his schoolwork and also for getting involved with the computer science lessons without complaint; Belinda took Harry to Diagon Alley for an afternoon. She put a baseball cap on his head to hide his famous scar and his instantly recognizable messy raven-hair head and transfigured his glasses to look a bit different that his usual aviator-style pair. There he got to see where all the different shops that she and Robert had mentioned during some of their breaks between classes. Harry even got a chance to see what sort of nonsense there was surrounding the hype over the mystical 'Boy-Who-Lived' hullabaloo. There were many books written that speculated on what happened that Halloween night but none of them had any specific answers. Some even went so far as to say that 'Harry Potter said this' or 'Harry Potter suspected this to be true.' It angered him but Harry knew there wasn't anything he could do without causing a scene.
It wasn't until nearly Christmas of 1988 that the first generation of the Assistant was powered up for the first time. It was large (about the size of the mundane American computer company Apple's 'Apple II.' It was heavy and bulky and was only going to be used as a test-bed anyways so the fact that it wasn't in the least portable made no difference to the erstwhile researchers. It had a dual power source (ambient magic and a regular power cord); the processing core had 48kb of RAM, a MOS6502 chip and a 4 inch monitor plus built-in keyboard. It featured two ports to plug in commercially available floppy disk drives or a lead to plug in a larger television screen. 'Wordstar' was used for word processing and an early version of dBASE 2 for database management. Despite the limitations brought on by the fact that it was a first generation device, Harry had a lot of fun trying new things. Even when he got the computer to fail (sometimes spectacularly), he would just write down what he had done and the results of the experiment into his ever-present journal.
It soon wasn't uncommon for Petunia to find Harry curled up on the couch with stacks of printouts and drawings surrounding him as he busily scribbled away on one calculation or another. Even Dudley, never the most observant child, had complained that he didn't get to play with his cousin as often as he would've liked. The other neighborhood kids either lived too far for him to walk to or in the case of one boy named Piers Polkiss, too determined to become a hoodlum even this young in life.
Vernon offered his garage workshop to hold their magical computer experiments away from potential prying eyes and magical police interference. When asked why, Vernon shrugged and said that despite all the accidental magic that Harry had displayed over the years, no one had stopped in to see what was going on. That led to Miss Honeybloom casting about to see if there were any wards set up to disguise the property. She discovered a set of wardstones placed around the boundary of the property as well as a central wardstone located underneath Petunia's prized rosebushes with a magical signature that pointed to Albus Dumbledore (Petunia and Vernon weren't surprised that the old fool set something up and not tell anyone.)
During one break in activities, Robert complimented Harry on his stick-to-it attitude towards learning all these new subjects when most kids his age would rather be outside playing at the park (Harry would always shrug and blush at the praise.)
Fast forward to the start of summer 1991 and second generation of The Potioneer's Assistant was as different from other computers on the market as the Wright Brothers' primitive airplane was to modern jet fighters. It was thin, lightweight and sleek and looked 'oh-so-cool' as Dudley would quip. It had the latest magically modified Intel 486 PC 8MB processor core on a specially printed motherboard, runic heat sinks that kept everything from melting, an improved dual ambient magic/mundane 12VDC power rune array plus a separate transformer power cord neatly wrapped up in the carrying case, GUI controls with dedicated touch pen, it was able to import pictures from a built-in magical camera located on the cover. It utilized the latest edition of MSOffice (Word, Excel, Powerpoint and calculator); it had ports for an external hard drive and a printer. There was going to be one more feature but it wasn't going to be done in time before Harry left for Hogwarts: A magical version of wireless communication to the mundanes' world-wide web. It would allow the PA to be connected to the mundane Internet without using a bulky dial-up modem their computers used. After Harry finished drooling over the presentation, he remarked that Hogwarts and the world wouldn't know what hit them.
Harry was resting comfortably on the bench when the train gave one last blast of its whistle and lurched into motion. He started grinning wildly: He was finally going to Hogwarts! Yeah, he would have to put up with nine months of potential Albus Dumbledore interactions but if he got sorted into the right House, maybe the Head of said House would limit the interactions. The PA was finally done powering up so Harry opened up the program he'd personally developed called, 'The Potions Lab' and clicked the button to create a new potion. A new screen popped up showing a cutting board and mortar and pestle in the upper right hand corner, a set of knives and a couple of other tools on the left completed the 'preparation station.' From a pull-down menu, he clicked on the tab for creating an oil base then selected which oil he wanted. As an experiment, Harry chose a lightweight coconut oil. From the next pull-down menu, he selected onion juice, jewelweed and neem oil. It seemed odd that he'd need two different oils but according to the Lab's threat indicator, there wouldn't be any harmful interactions. He squinted at the indicator bar, 'As a matter of fact, I don't think it's even twitched once.' Just out of curiosity, he added Erumpent Hair and immediately the indicator clicked over to full red and the screen flashed ominously. Grinning to himself that the safety feature of the program was indeed working as it should be, he removed the hair and everything went back to normal.
After a while, Harry gave up on the PA and returned it to his trunk. He glanced around and out the window for the barest second before deciding to go wander up and down the train to see if there was anyone who wanted to be friendly. Stepping out into the aisle, Harry was confronted with another reality of the illogicalness of wizards. If wizards had the capability of expanding the space within a bag (something he'd seen in Diagon Alley) why couldn't they do the same for the aisle within the carriages? He squeezed past a group of older boys wearing green and sneering at everyone smaller than them or wearing a color other than theirs. Ahead of him, there was another group of similarly sized boys wearing red on a collision course with the boys in green. Deciding that he didn't want to be part of the scrum, Harry ducked into a compartment that already had two people inside, one slightly pudgy sandy haired boy and a girl with bushy brown hair.
"Whew! Hi, I'm glad I decided that a surprise visit was better than being part of…that," he gestured to the now growing pile-up of bodies and flailing arms outside the door. He gestured to the empty seat next to the boy, "Do you mind?"
"N, nn, no…" the boy stammered, his eyes widening as he apparently recognized Harry from somewhere.
The girl turned her own wide eyes onto Harry but her appearance was more of general excitement than recognition. When she smiled, Harry saw that she had the cutest dimples and a pair of incisors that stuck out a tiny bit.
"Hi! My name is Hermione Granger. What's yours?"
Harry smiled, "Hello, Hermione Granger. My name is Harry Potter." Both kids squeaked in surprise and he cocked an eyebrow up, "Did I say something wrong?"
Hermione shook her head which caused her bushy hair to bounce, "No, it's just that we're surprised that you're on the train."
Harry looked puzzled and cocked his head to the side, "Why wouldn't I be? How else would I get to Hogwarts?"
Hermione was seemingly at a loss for words so the boy took over, "Hi, Ha…Harry. My name is Neville Longbottom and I think what she meant was, why you don't have your own personal method of transportation like a portkey or an elf?"
Harry snorted and shook his head slightly. When he looked back up, he saw the dejected look on Neville's face, "Whoa, easy there Neville. I wasn't laughing at you; more the idea that I would have my own train or something. I was raised mundane so the idea of…what did you call them? Portkeys? Elf? It's completely new to me."
Now it was Hermione's turn to cock her head in puzzlement, "But all those books about you!" Harry sneered a bit which she just waved her hand dismissively, "I don't mean those kids' books where you go out and battle some silly creature. I'm talking about the books like 'The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.' Not one of them mentioned that you live like, what did you call them?"
Harry harrumphed, "I call the non-magical people like my family, 'mundanes.' To me calling someone a 'muggle' sounds rather insulting and I've seen those books you were referring to. They're utter garbage; I've never been interviewed for anything that happened that night. How could I know what was going on? I was only fifteen months old. I think the best way for you to get to know me is to just ask me questions. I'm not going anywhere until we get to the station so… (he shifted in his seat to get comfortable) what would you like to know?"
Neville chuckled at the look on Hermione's face as she tried to find the right questions to Harry's challenge, "Okay, I'll start. What's your favorite color?"
Harry grinned happily, "Sunflower yellow, next."
"What's your favorite food?"
"Individual dish or cuisine?"
Neville pursed his lips, "Umm… dish."
"Tacos." Hermione nodded happily to that. Neville just looked confused, "What are tacos?"
"Only the world's most perfect food after pizza," Hermione gushed then launched into a long-winded explanation as to what was inside a taco.
Harry laughed at her enthusiasm but raised his hands to ward off a hurt look from the girl, "Easy, Hermione. I'm not laughing at you, merely your enthusiasm for explanations. Do you have a question for me?"
"Um… What's your favorite hobby?"
Harry grinned widely, "Working on my computer I made along with my primary three and five teachers."
Hermione blinked, "You made a computer?"
Harry held up a finger and announced he would be right back and dashed off out the door. When he returned a few minutes later, he was dragging his trunk behind him. He pulled out his PA then stowed his trunk on the rack. Neville noticed some movement on the floor, dove for it and climbed to his feet cradling a toad in his hands.
"Sorry. This is Trevor; he keeps trying to escape from me."
"'It's too bright and noisy in here.'"
Hermione blinked again and subconsciously pulled out a jumper and wrapped it around the toad before placing it gently on the seat next to her. When she looked up, she noticed that both boys were staring at her oddly, "What?"
Neville pointed to the bundle where his toad sat, "Why did you do that?"
Hermione glanced back at the bundled toad and back again to Neville, "Trevor said it was too bright and noisy so I figured if I wrapped him up in something that could block out most of the light and noise, he'd be more comfortable."
Neville was thoroughly confused now, "Trevor said? You can speak to toads?"
She shook her head, "No but I could understand what he said. It's like that with any animal that has a vocal cord. If they can make some sort of meow, bark, neigh, whatever; I understand it as if they were speaking English."
Harry was impressed, "Wow, all I can do is speak to snakes and the occasional lizard that wanders into my aunt's backyard. I wonder what Hedwig sounds like?"
"My owl. She was a birthday gift from the guy who took me to get my magical school supplies."
Neville turned his attention back to what Harry had just said, "You said you can speak to snakes?" Harry nodded, "I'd keep that quiet if I were you. Most folks around here consider that to be a trait of a Dark Wizard."
Both Harry and Hermione snorted in aborted laughter before Harry explained, "I don't know what's wrong with this culture. Speaking to snakes or understanding what other animals are saying should be no different than going to another country that doesn't speak English. It sounds weird until you either learn it or have it translated. So I can speak to snakes, to me it's no different than knowing how to speak Spanish."
After a couple turns of round robin questioning, the three kids turned their attention to the PA which Harry was happy to show off. A lot of the terminology and technology that went into its creation soared past Neville but he just went along with it. Hermione on the other hand, had a computer back home that she spent many hours on learning how to type, play games and draw pictures. Harry handed the PA over to her and explained the features of The Lab and let her play with it while Neville watched over her shoulder.
Watching Neville as he quietly pointed to one thing or another on the screen reminded Harry of the book that he, Mr. Cody and Miss Honeybloom had compiled together. He opened up his trunk and dug around through his bookshelf section for a few moments before finding his target.
"Aha! Here, Neville. This ought to help you understand at least the basics of what the computer is and how it works."
Neville gave him a stink-eye as he read the title, "Computers for Dummies, Harry? Really?"
Harry snorted and dropped his head a bit before looking Neville in the eye again, "Sorry, it's sort of an inside joke amongst mundanes. It doesn't mean that I think you're a dummy."
A bit unsure, Neville took the book and thanked Harry before settling in to read.
The Hogwarts Express pulled into the tiny station for the town of Hogsmeade and began disgorging its passengers. The older students headed towards some creaky carriages that seemed to move under their own power while the first year students were herded together by Hagrid who arrived swinging a lantern then led down to a beach where a string of boats waited to take them across the lake. Hermione and Neville joined him in one along with another boy by the name of Justin Finch-Fletchley. Just after they left the beach, Harry heard the distinctive cry of an owl and before he knew it, Hedwig landed on the gunwale of the boat.
"Hello, Hed. Glad you could join me."
[You're welcome, my chick. Thank you for the suggestion to fly here. It really was a nice flight.]
Harry glanced over at Hermione who quietly translated what his owl had said for him. He nudged her with his arm and smiled his thanks. This led to a flurry of questions from Justin who'd overheard the conversation to which Hermione was happy to answer.
In antechamber just off the Main Corridor, Hogwarts Castle
The Deputy Headmistress had finished her speech and suggested that they smarten themselves up before she returned to take them in to be sorted. Harry overheard a few scattered and whispered questions as to how they would get sorted along with some boastful responses that they'd have to answer a series of questions or that they'd have to wrestle a troll. Harry just rolled his eyes and shook his head. Neville leaned over and asked him if he knew how they were going to get sorted.
"It's a magical hat that peers into your mind and examines what your personality is like. It's in that Hogwarts history book."
Hermione's eyes went wide as she crowded into his personal space, "You've read that book too?"
Harry pulled back a bit, "Yeah, it's on the list so I have to assume the teachers wanted us to read it."
Hermione blushed, "Sorry, I get carried away with learning new things and it makes me really happy to find people who are just as interested." Harry patted her on the shoulder.
"If you could choose right now, which House would you want to be sorted into?" she asked him.
Harry's lips pursed, "I think Hufflepuff."
A blonde-haired boy with a haughty attitude sauntered over and sneered, "Did I hear you correctly, Potter? You actually want to be in the House of the leftovers?"
Harry sighed. He remembered this boy from Madam Malkins, "Yes, Draco, I do. It's the House that seems to be the friendliest. It's a place where there's not only the meeting of the minds but also those who can Dream. Dream up new ideas, new methods, new anything. It seems like the sort of place where someone can have an idea and not get laughed at because 'it's never been done before 'or 'that's a dumb idea.' To me, Hufflepuff House is the House of the Dreamers, The Do-ers, The Musicians, and The Magic Makers. What about you? Where do you hope to go?"
Draco sniffed, "We Malfoys have always gone into Slytherin. It's the House of the Aristocracy of which I am a proud member."
Harry patted him on the shoulder, "Then I wish you well."
The Sorting Ceremony, Great Hall
After a rather ragged and discordant song about the sort of people the Founders looked for, the Deputy Headmistress, Professor McGongall, began calling out names alphabetically to come and sit on the stool while she places the hat upon their heads.
"Abbott, Hannah!" "Hufflepuff!"
"Bones, Susan!" "Hufflepuff!"
On and on the names went until they got to the letter G. "Granger, Hermione!" A long pause then… "Hufflepuff!" Harry clapped and cheered loudly for his friend.
When the list got to the letter L, Neville became visibly nervous. Harry put his hand on the boy's shoulder, "Relax. Whatever happens, I'll still be your friend." Neville's name was called and he squared his shoulders and marched up to the stool. A few moments later (and it appeared that the hat was arguing with Neville) the hat let out an aggrieved sigh and called out, "Hufflepuff!"
Finally, it was Harry's turn… He sat down on the stool and the hat started to yell out, "Gryff…no, that's not a good place… Raven…no, again not the right place… Definitely not Slytherin… Better be…Hufflepuff!"
Please let me know how I did. Too slow? Too fast? Too technical or not enough? I can only get better with your help.