The worldbuilding premise of this fic is a heavy focus in the first chapter; I aim not to have too many unpleasant surprises about what you're getting into, so if you read the first chapter and don't like this, the fic isn't for you.

One of the inspirations of this fic was DaystarEld's "Pokemon: The Origin of Species." I borrow certain elements of his premise, which will be obvious to readers of his; however, I have not kept up with his fic and the themes and story I aim to convey are different from what I've read of his. Nevertheless, his story is a worthwhile read if you are interested in a more down-to-earth exploration of Pokemon through a scientific lens.


Mr. And Mrs. Dursley of Number 4 Privet Drive were perfectly normal Galarians, thank you very much. Mrs. Dursley stayed at home to take care of the children, and Mr. Dursley worked at Grunnings, an Excadrill management firm. His company would train Excadrill for use in building projects, taking care that none of them knew restricted moves. Excadrill were mole Pokemon with drill arms and drill heads, so they were very useful in construction, prospecting, and search-and-rescue if trained properly, but unruly ones could collapse multiple buildings in minutes, with countless casualties.

The Dursleys had a son, Dudley, and a nephew, a young Harry Potter. They loved both of them very much. Young Harry's parents had been Pokemon trainers of a sort, and they had died in a tragic way, leaving Harry an orphan, but you never would have known it. The Dursleys had raised both of them as their sons, though the two of them had grown to be quite different. Dudley was a sporty boy; he loved boxing and running and football, and would gladly challenge Harry to a skirmish or two with their friends. But Harry had bigger dreams. Harry dreamed of being a Pokemon trainer, of traveling and seeing the world and making friends on his adventures, and if duty called, to risk his life in service to the region of Galar.

The Dursleys were surprisingly decent parents, but they pooh-pooh'd all of Harry's dreams. Whenever Harry talked about leaving home at ten, even when he was eight, Aunt Petunia would burst into tears and beg him not to throw away his life, and Uncle Vernon would sit him down, and give him a long lecture on how everyone had a part to play in the functioning of society, and that a career at Grunnings would give him as much a chance to work with Pokemon as journeying as a trainer, and his dreams were making his aunt upset so why couldn't he just toe the line and be like Dudley, who had no foolish ambitions of becoming a Pokemon trainer and risking his life on a journey, and were they really such terrible adoptive parents that he wanted to throw his life away?

Harry thought he was old enough to know the risks. There was an old saying — "Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori", meaning "it is sweet and proper to die for one's country." Harry could only assume that his parents had lived by these principles, and had chosen to die for them.

For Galar was not a safe place. Most of the world had problems stemming from the impossibility of coexisting with legendary Pokemon. Legendary Pokemon were seen as manifestations of nature itself. Where they flew, the skies ripped themselves apart with storms. Where they tread, the earth shook and the world itself was contorted. In some places, their coming was dreaded. In others, they were worshiped as gods. And in some ways, they defied explanation by any mortal science.

But Galar's legendary Pokemon were buried far in its past, or exiled to stories of the Otherworld. Galar faced an entirely different problem: that of Dynamax energy. When a Pokemon Dynamaxed, it became very large. There were various scientific explanations: Either the Pokemon created a massive hard-light projection of itself, or it was warping space to appear larger. Either way, the effect was that a two foot tall Pikachu could become a fifty-foot-tall Pikachu. Dynamax was increasingly popular in the Galar Pokemon League, which had skyrocketed in popularity ever since a recent development had made controlled Dynamaxing more possible in gym battles — though only for very brief periods of time. No gym challenge would pass without both Pokemon entering their Dynamax forms, titans looming above the battleground, and it was almost possible to forget the danger of the phenomenon.

There was a darker side to the power of Dynamax. Dynamaxing was not constrained to the gym stadium. Whatever eldritch energy powered Dynamaxing flowed through the fields and meadows of Galar, between rolling hills and rocky moors, through all the wild areas between heavily fortified cities, pooling in places of power. Often, these places of power overlapped with Pokemon dens, where various wild Pokemon would gather, seeking a taste of transcendence. Trainers would organize raids upon these Pokemon dens, with the goal of capturing powerful Pokemon accustomed to Dynamax.

It was an inherently risky venture, but a necessary one. Harry wasn't overly familiar with the developing science of Dynamaxing, but he'd heard that capturing Dynamaxed Pokemon reduced the risk of Dynamax storms, and even a marginal decrease of the risk was worth almost any cost. Dynamax storms were rare enough that every city would face one a decade, but when they occurred, the devastation was unpredictable and extreme.

Rarely, usually no more than once a year, a Dynamaxed Pokemon would burst out of a Pokemon den, having absorbed an excessive amount of Dynamax energy. Even the most benevolent Pokemon with the most predictable Dynamax behavior, became dangerous and almost predatory in the open air. Graceful Butterfree, with their purple bodies, red compound eyes, and gossamer wings, would become harbingers of pollution; the powders of their wings would spread hundreds of kilometers, creating a poisonous and paralytic cloud of death. Peaceful Pokemon, like mighty Wailord, gentle blue seabound giants under normal circumstances, would float over the countryside, huge amounts of water sloughing off of their bodies from some unknowable source, causing massive floods. And some were Pokemon that were dangerous even under normal circumstances, such as spectral Gengar. They were ghostly presences that hid in shadows and stole warmth, predators that consumed life force itself — but under the influence of Dynamax energy, they would become voids of information that survivors would only describe as the endless hunger of death itself. Once the Dynamax phenomenon escaped into the wild, it became too dangerous to fight.

When Dynamaxed Pokemon escaped their usual dens, they would wander the wilds, bringing terrible chaos to the regions below. Wild Pokemon would flee from them, frenzied and terrified by the energy of the storm, lashing out at whatever they encountered. And almost always, the Dynamax storm would head towards a city, a wave of Pokemon fleeing from the disaster it brought, lashing out at whatever they came across. Pokemon trainers would be called to the defense of the city, urged to protect lives at any cost possible, until the Dynamax energy dissipated and the onslaught was over. Every trainer had a duty to the region of Galar. Most would live. Some would die in glorious battle. And some would attain glory, capture powerful Pokemon in the process, and become heroes of Galar.

But that part didn't matter. What mattered was that they would fight until the storm was over, as the Dynamax energy dissipated. For some reason, Dynamax energy didn't last long once it got too close to a city, so if the onslaught could be survived, there would be little danger from the Dynamaxed Pokemon itself. Harry had heard explanations for why this was the case — either the Pokemon Gyms drew the energy away from the storm, or the urban environment was inimical to the mechanisms of Dynamax. He didn't give much thought to it — he was just glad that he would likely never face a fifty-foot-tall Pikachu in single combat.

Not that he would ever have the chance to face any sort of Pikachu in combat. The Dursleys had strictly forbidden him from even considering a Pokemon journey, and had bade him to never even consider befriending a Pokemon. Because of the danger presented by the Dynamax threat, most children needed to seriously consider their future vocations between the ages of ten and sixteen. Harry would have jumped to get a Pokemon as soon as he had turned ten, but Uncle Vernon had taken him to Grunnings on his tenth birthday.

"Working with Excadrill is honest," he'd said, gruffly through his mustache. "It's a good day's worth of work, and it builds character, and it's a way to pay your dues to this country without risking your life."

Harry hadn't argued with him, then, because just because he was relatively sure that he could be a Pokemon trainer if he was just given a chance. It was so unfair that his aunt and uncle stomped on all of his dreams. For the next year, he'd apprenticed at Grunnings, while Dudley went to various human sports training camps. Every day at dinner, Dudley would gush on about how wonderful rugby or football or golf was, while Harry poked at his food and tried not to think too hard about how he wasn't allowed near the Excadrill for safety reasons.

As his eleventh birthday was nearing, and as Dudley was starting to get more and more big boned from the necessities of being a rugby player, Harry was starting to grow resigned to the possibility that he might really be an Excadrill manager for the rest of his natural life. He could see it now — "Harry Potter, 50, Grunnings employee-of-the-year for 40 years in a row, died tragically by walking into the path of a rampaging Charizard. He leaves behind nobody who cared enough about him to possibly explain his behavior."

But that all changed when he stumbled across Petunia and Vernon arguing in the kitchen, a wrinkled letter and envelope on the table behind them.

"This has to be a scam!" Vernon said, his voice on the border of shouting. "Who could possibly want the boy for an elite Pokemon trainer school? He's shown no aptitude, demonstrated no theoretical knowledge — there's no reason anyone would expect him to make good trainer material!"

"His parents were," said Petunia, shakily, "and it tends to run in families."

"What runs in families? What about you, or Dudley?" Vernon said. But Petunia only shook her head.

Vernon took a few heaving breaths, and then bent down so his head was at the same level as Petunia's.

"Pet—love—does the government have a secret child soldier program? Is this what they want him for?"

"Darling, if they did have a secret child soldier program, what makes you think I could tell you?"

"Well, this letter—"

At this moment, they realized that the letter and its accompanying envelope had vanished from the table. Harry had stolen it, somehow evading their detection.

"Oh," said Petunia. "He'll know, now."

"Damn it!" Vernon shouted. "I did not spend ten years crushing that boy's hopes and dreams for it all to go to nothing! I'll go get him."

Harry, however, was as fast a reader as he was an infiltrator. He scanned the letter, a great hope rising in his chest with every word:

Mr. Harry Potter

Second Bedroom

Dursley House

Number 4 Privet Drive

Wyndon, Galar

Dear Mr. Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your message by no later than July 31. Failure to reply will trigger investigation and rescue if necessary.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

He plunged his hand into the envelope and pulled out a folded list.

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, Grade A psychic enhancement rating) for day wear

3. One pair of protective gloves (all-purpose or hand-to-hand combat rated)

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

The Secret History of Galar by Bathilda Bagshot

Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling

A Beginner's Guide to Combat Transmutation by Emeric Switch

One Thousand Pokemon-Based Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore

Field Medicine for Wizards by Arsenius Jigger

Legendary Pokemon and How to Learn From Them by Newt Scamander

The Dark Forces: A Guide to Combat by Quentin Trimble

OTHER EQUIPMENT

1 wand

1 chemistry set (Grade S, field approved)

1 telescope set

Students may bring up to three Pokemon if previously owned.

OUTSIDE POKEBALLS ARE STRICTLY FORBIDDEN FROM USE IN HOGWARTS

A shadow fell over Harry. He looked up to see the hulking form of Uncle Vernon.

"You've read it, I see," said Vernon. "And I'm sure you're smart enough to see that it's all nonsense?"

"If it is all nonsense," Harry said, "then what do you think happens after July 31st?"

"Let me see that," Vernon said, and Harry handed him the letter.

"Trigger investigation and rescue if necessary," muttered Vernon. "If it's nonsense, nothing."

"And if it is something?"

"Then you'll need to make the decision that's best for your future," Vernon said. "You're a smart boy, Harry. I'd hate to see you throw away your life."


July 31st came and went. Nothing happened, and Harry was about to resign himself to a very short life in service to Grunnings. Then on a slow August afternoon, slightly after supper, there was a knock on their door. Aunt Petunia was the one to answer, and Harry strained to eavesdrop.

"Ah," Petunia said after a moment. "It's you."

"I'm afraid so," said a woman. Harry couldn't tell how young she was.

Petunia shouted, shakily, "Dudleykins? Be a dear and go up to your room."

"But ma, I can't save an online game, my ladder ranking—"

"Go," said Vernon. After a moment, Dudley got up and left.

"This is Professor McGonagall," said Petunia. "She's—"

"The Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?" Harry shouted, jumping up from the table. "My answer is yes! I want to be the very best, that no one ever was!"

Professor McGonagall was dressed very practically. She looked much like a stereotypical witch, as she had a pointed hat, but while her robes had a good bit of extra cloth, they looked like they were made of polyester or some other athletic material. She looked like she was equally prepared for either a magical ritual, or a cross-country run, or a Pokemon battle.

"Please excuse the boy," said Vernon. "He's young."

"But this is what I've always wanted!" Harry said.

"You don't even know what you're signing up for!" Vernon shouted.

"I'm afraid that your uncle is correct," said Professor McGonagall. "It is best that you know exactly what is expected of you, and how it differs from what you are dreaming of—though I'm afraid this may be less optional than you believe."

"As long as it involves a Pokemon journey," Harry said, "I'll enjoy it. It doesn't even need the journey."

McGonagall looked at him with a sad smile. "So like your parents you are. You, Mr. Potter, are a wizard."

"I'm a what?" said Harry, confounded.

"A wizard," McGonagall said. "One of the few humans who is capable of using Pokemon moves without aid, to be precise. An ability that most would call magic."

"Don't be absurd," said Vernon. "Humans are human, and Pokemon are Pokemon. There's a difference, and it's real. Pick up a biology textbook."

McGonagall only smiled. Then, she glowed a brilliant white. The light filled the room, shining out all the windows, and Harry had to shield his eyes. Yet he'd seen this before in recordings of League Battles. The move Flash allowed the user to blind foes for a time, decreasing their ability to accurately attack. The effect could be faked using sufficiently strong lights, but this seemed like the genuine article.

"That was Flash!" said Harry, shocked. "You used Flash! You're human!"

"Nonsense, boy," said Vernon. "It's probably some sort of trick—she had a Pokemon make a substitute of her or is using a Ditto to take her shape."

"It's real," said Petunia. "Vernon, it's all real."

But Vernon was undeterred. "Alright, and just how do you exist? Was one of your parents a Pokemon or something?"

"Vernon!" shouted Petunia, scandalized. "Professor McGonagall is a respectable woman!"

"It's quite alright," said McGonagall. "Mr. Potter's father was a Sawsbuck, after all."

"No he wasn't," said Petunia. "James was a human. Barely, from his table manners, but human."

"Yes, he was that too."

"Preposterous," Vernon muttered.

"In the ancient past, verging on prehistoric times, marriage between humans and Pokemon was not forbidden," said McGonagall.

"That's bestiality," said Vernon. "Even an Alakazam only has the emotional intelligence of a three year old!"

"In most cases, yes," said McGonagall. "But in those ancient days, there was no distinction between humans and Pokemon. Humans and Pokemon were one and the same. Pokemon were as smart as humans, and humans had a much greater affinity for the natural world, all driven by some mysterious factor. We call this x-factor magic."

Vernon paled. "Human-level intelligent Pokemon… I can't tell whether that's scarier than humans capable of Pokemon moves."

"Rest assured that such highly intelligent Pokemon are extremely rare, and that they suffer from the same vulnerabilities as any Pokemon. In the ancient past, the ancestors of wizards and witches intermarried gladly with intelligent Pokemon, and to this day we inherit some of their powers. As the myths of Sinnoh tell us, 'There once were humans who married Pokemon. It was a time before there were differences to distinguish the two.'"

"And you think I'm a wizard?" said Harry.

"Has there ever been a time when odd things have happened around you?" said Professor McGonagall. "Perhaps when you fell, the earth came up to meet you, or perhaps things would float around you?"

"Yes," said Harry, remembering a particularly odd incident that had happened at Grunnings.

"Then you are one of us," said McGonagall. "And so you shall come to Hogwarts."

Harry had a thousand questions. If he was a wizard, then was that why Vernon and Petunia hadn't let him train with Pokemon? Did wizards use Pokemon in battle? If wizards were real, why didn't they come to the defense of the cities during Dynamax events? He could go and be a wizard, but he knew his heart wouldn't be into it if he couldn't be a Pokemon trainer and serve his country at the same time.

"Now see here—" said Vernon, "the boy's got a bright future ahead of him—I will not be giving any aid so he can join some namby-pampy cult—"

McGonagall stared at Petunia. "Have you told them nothing?"

Petunia shook her head, mutely.

McGonagall nodded. "You've more control than most. Lily always spoke highly of you, and it is a state secret. Sit."

Vernon and Petunia found themselves sitting, as if by magic.

McGonagall pulled out a thin wooden rod. When she waved it, an image of an Electrode, a round sphere that resembled an upside down Pokeball, appeared before them. She tapped the image, and it swelled. The image of the Electrode glowed ominously purple, as if a veil was rippling about it, dwarfing the land beneath. This was an illusion, but it was true to life. Through the mysterious energies of the Dynamax, Pokemon could expand a hundredfold, defying logic and reason.

"Dynamaxing. I assume that you are both familiar with the term? That you are both… fans?"

"Of course," said Vernon eagerly. "Always wondered what it would be like to have a Dynamax Excadrill. Pity it only works in stadiums. Well, and during the storms. And in dens. But that's too dangerous for my blood."

McGonagall nodded. "The recent incorporation of Dynamaxing in the Pokemon League is the culmination of thousands of years of magical and technological engineering. From our ancient druidic ancestors until now, Dynamaxing has been cultivated and controlled with various degrees of success. It is both a part of our heritage, yet a threat that must be contained. In our children's time, or perhaps our children's children, when energy consumption is such that Galar particles are absorbed as fast as they are emitted, extreme Dynamax events will hopefully be no more than a distant memory."

She waved her wand. "Do you ever wonder the reason why we have such restrictive laws? Why we deem some techniques restricted?"

"Of course!" said Vernon. "Ever since they've started using Dynamax in Pokemon Gyms, I've wanted to see a G-Max Explosion!"

"And that," said McGonagall sharply, "is precisely what we wish to avoid!"

She waved her wand. The Electrode glowed, and then exploded, a wave of white washing outward. There was the distant sound of screams. The image became that of a city. The wall of white overwhelmed it all. When the light had gone, there was nothing. McGonagall waved her wand, and the image zoomed out. Harry wasn't sure what he was looking at — at first, it seemed like water was rushing to fill a pothole. But then the image zoomed out further, and with dawning horror Harry saw the sun rising over the curved earth, and a hole in the sea where Galar had been.

"The storms are bad enough, but thousands of years have gone into reducing the damage they might inflict upon us all. The initial Dynamax event is restricted to certain power spots, and trainers raid those spots often to capture Pokemon with the propensity for Dynamax. But even if we capture 99.95% of possible Dynamaxers, the 0.5% that remains free is enough to trigger the Dynamax storms. The species involved can be any in an area. The manifestation of the G-Max moves are derived from the specimen's knowledge itself, but if Gigantamax occurs, the effects are unpredictable. The threat to human life is unimaginable."

Vernon had gone pale, for once his bluster silenced.

"What's Gigantamax?" Harry said.

"Gigantamax is a form of Dynamax, but where Dynamax merely enhances the subject, Gigantamax causes transformations in physical form," McGonagall said. "While it is rare enough to have escaped popular attention so far, It is far more unpredictable than Dynamax. We cannot predict whether some foreign species of Pokemon will have a Gigantamax form, and whether that form might manifest a truly destructive G-Max Move. And that is why we fight. That is why we put every wizard on the line. Dynamaxing is an existential threat that has been turned into entertainment, but it takes every witch and wizard we have to keep the threat at bay."

"But that doesn't make sense!" said Harry. "Dynamax energy dissipates when it gets too close to a city!"

"A fiction," McGonagall said. "The technological infrastructure of cities wicks energy away from a Dynamaxed Pokemon, yes, but only if that Pokemon has been sufficiently weakened such that the Dynamax process is no longer self-sustaining. It is the job of witches and wizards to weaken the Dynamax in the heart of the storm itself. Do you understand, now, what your life shall become?"

Harry could see it now — a life far riskier, and yet far more glorious, than merely going on raid after raid or traveling from city to city chasing the storm surge: to fight in the heart of the Dynamax storms themselves, striking at nature itself. But how had he never heard about this before? Why didn't more people seek this glory?

"If you told more people—"

"We would be condemning them to death. The natural instinct of the average Pokemon trainer would be to pursue glory or to seek to capture these wild Dynamaxings themselves, but fighting a Dynamaxed Pokemon at the heart of the storm is incredibly dangerous because of the esoteric effects. Witches and wizards are more durable and more agile than normal humans, and even we require years of training before allowing young people to enter the storm itself. If the world knew the truth, people would die seeking glory, instead of serving as best they could."

"More durable and more agile?" Harry said. He didn't feel particularly durable or agile or strong or different from other kids. Right now, he felt targeted by McGonagall's words.

"You'll learn more in your classes," McGonagall said. "Tell me, Mr. Potter, wouldn't you much prefer to learn a move right now? Though more properly, when used by witches or wizards, we call them spells."

After some quick interrogation, McGonagall determined that Harry was most likely capable of using Quick Attack, a move that usually allowed its user to strike the first blow during the flow of combat. However, it had a variety of other applications. McGonagall explained that Quick Attack was used by many witches and wizards to move quickly reposition during battle; it was good for short bursts of rapid motion, but ineffective for longer distances. Furthermore, the user of Quick Attack was acting on reflex, and so the spell was not good precise actions. However, despite its limitations, it was still useful to know, and within half an hour Harry had learned how to move two meters in the blink of an eye.

"Dudley! Dudley! Let's play tag!" he shouted, and the two fled into the backyard.


There was no denying it anymore. Harry was a wizard, and was endowed with great and terrible power. And so his duty to his region was greater and more terrible than most. Vernon was clenching and unclenching his fists, while Petunia was holding back tears, her jaw clenched. McGonagall considered consoling them, but there was no reassurance she could give that would not be a lie.

"How come your lot don't run the world?" Vernon blurted out.

"Excuse me?" said McGonagall. She seemed rather amused by the notion. It was certainly more interesting than the bravado she got from many parents.

"The threat of renegade trainers alone is one that's pounded into our skulls from days that we're born," said Vernon. "One renegade with a fire-type could burn a hundred people to death. One renegade with a poison-type could taint an entire city's water supply. One renegade with an education in psychology and a psychic-type could do unthinkable damage to the fabric of our society. And yet there are what, hundreds of your lot, with the power of Pokemon and the intelligence of human minds. What's stopping one of your lot walking into Motostoke and calling a Draco Meteor and destroying the whole city from space? How have you not conquered the region or the world yet? You're faster than us, and you're stronger than us, and you have bonds with human-intelligent Pokemon."

"A rather astute question, Mr. Dursley," said McGonagall. "Frankly, it's matter of numbers and checks and balances. The Gyms are all aware of our existence, of course, and there aren't that many of us. We're simply able to fight besides our Pokemon in a way most trainers cannot. It's not as possible as you're implying. Such power is… rare, even among us."

"But it is possible," said Vernon. "Microevolutionarily, you have an absurd number of advantages. Why hasn't it happened? One person, with one devastating first strike—"

"Because they fought to stop it," said Petunia softly. Vernon started.

"There was a war," McGonagall said, as softly, even though Harry was no longer there. "One of the four most elite figures of our society, Tom Riddle, the Slytherin, decided that a position of supremacy was the best way to safeguard Galar from the Raids. The other three Elites disagreed. Vehemently."

"Galar doesn't have an Elite 4," said Vernon.

"Not in public, and that's technically not their name," said McGonagall. "But there have been four Elite trainers esteemed in the wizarding community since the time of Merlin himself. They are the four moral fixtures of our society, and while it may not seem so, they serve the purpose that the Elite 4 of other regions do."

"So what happened to this Riddle fellow?" said Vernon.

"Riddle adopted an absurd moniker, and began a campaign of tactical assaults and assassinations, using his abilities to make it seem as if his actions were those of wild Pokemon or tragic accidents. In public, he argued that these attacks were justification for increased control and movement towards wizarding supremacy for the protection of the people, and the adoption of radical societal reforms. He swayed many to his side, and our government was on the verge of implementing the Riddle Plan when the Ravenclaw of the time, Pandora Lovegood, discovered and revealed his deeds, plunging the wizarding community into civil war."

"What about the boy's parents?" said Vernon.

McGonagall frowned. "James and Lily fought at my side, alongside the Gryffindor, Albus Dumbledore. We believed that such supremacy would tear our society apart and risk the peace of Galar. Riddle targeted James and Lily because they were a particular thorn in his side, and because they had rejected his attempts to woo them to his side, but they defeated his followers in every challenge. Then, on Halloween, Riddle himself attacked the Potter home."

McGonagall looked away, her eyes misty. "We don't know exactly what happened next. Nobody does. But the next day, it was as if our nation was waking from a great slumber. The Potter home was destroyed, James and Lily were dead on the floor, Riddle's body was a crumbling husk of ash, and little Harry was unharmed."

"I never knew," whispered Petunia, her face ashen. "I never knew."

"It's possible that Lily and James succumbed in the process of vanquishing Riddle, but understand — facing Riddle in a direct battle was a death sentence. He was the Slytherin, one of the Elite 4, and his powers were almost unmatched. Of all the other Elite, only Dumbledore was of his caliber. I think it far more likely that Lily and James knew they were facing certain death, and made special preparations."

"Special preparations?" said Petunia. "My sister knew she was going to die, and she couldn't let me know ahead of time? Just 'take care of my son, enjoy, and you don't even get a proper goodbye'?!"

She burst into tears.

"Your sister feared making you into one of Riddle's targets," McGonagall said. "Lily was sad that the two of you had grown apart, but as one of Riddle's most vocal opponents contacting you during wartime would have meant your death, so she publicly disavowed you even as she left strict instructions that Harry was to be left to you. She didn't even dare write anything down, in case Riddle survived and came to hunt you down for vengeance. She was protecting you."

"So," said Vernon, "how did this Riddle bloke die? If your moves couldn't kill him, what possibly could?"

"No one knows, but everyone has guesses. The commonly accepted answer is that the cross of James Potter's ancient bloodline and Lily Evans's new and therefore unpredictable bloodline gave Harry some special property that allowed him to resist Riddle's attacks and survive while simultaneously destroying him—which is absurd, as he was a baby. I personally believe that your sister was a very talented witch, and that she could have discovered some spell to protect her son at the cost of her own life, or that the two of them together were willing to sacrifice themselves for Harry. Regardless, Harry is celebrated as 'the boy who lived', and he is a national symbol."

Vernon grimaced. When he spoke again, it was in the voice that McGonagall recognized as 'faux-reasonable'.

"Professor McGonagall," he said, "My nephew is a good boy. Hard-working, intelligent, got a good head on his shoulders and a fine life ahead of him. The problem is that he's got one flaw — a constant hope and dream that he's special in some way. And I only really call this a flaw because it distracts him from being the absolute best that he can be at his work, his schooling, whatever he tries. Now you come here and tell me that he is special, and that your entire community celebrates him as a hero, but he has done nothing to deserve that— it was either a fluke of his birth, or his mother's efforts. I'm sure you can agree with me that such a thing would have very bad effects on a child's development. So, perhaps, you could sit him down and let him know that, if you take him to this school of yours at all."

Professor McGonagall was unaffected. She had been teaching for many years, she had dealt with many generations of angry parents, and she had personally stared down the current Slytherin, Lucius Malfoy, and told him that no matter who his parents were he would have to prove himself. (Sometimes, she regretted pointing that out to him, given his current political stances.) Only rarely did parents ask her to point out that their kids were aggressively average.

"Mr. Dursley," said McGonagall kindly, "Everything you have said is true. But one day, Galar will need your nephew to stand in battle. When that day comes, it is better that he is arrogant and trained, rather than ignorant and untrained. The world will need him, and hopefully he can become the hero it deserves."

Vernon shook his head. "You'll get him killed."

"Make no mistake, Mr and Mrs. Dursley. I will do my best to keep his head from getting inflated. But alas—children are the least predictable of us all."

Petunia still stared into her tea. "He's so young!" she said. "You're going to take him from me, just like you took Lily."

McGonagall nodded, though her eyes were sad. "We have no choice."

She looked outside, where Harry was still laughing and running circles around Dudley with his newfound knowledge of Quick Attack. "I have watched generations of children grow up to be warriors and give their lives against the Wild Dynamax forces. Yet if they did not, if we did not, then all Galar would be overrun by year's end."