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Chapter 48: Meeting in Diagon Alley
Meeting in Diagon Alley
Having Dante move in with them brought a whole new definition to the term “moody adolescent”, Severus thought with a sigh some four weeks later. It wasn’t that he expected the boy to be perfect, but to at least try and fit in with his new lifestyle here. He knew that his small house in Yorkshire probably wasn’t what Dante had been used to, living as he had in a posh flat in New York City on Battery Park. But it was not a slum either and the boy ought to have been grateful to have someone willing to take him in at all. But Dante seemed content to be sullen and brooding, going off by himself and spending most of his days alone. The only one he really communicated with was Skull, the rest of the time he spoke in monosyllables, or only when spoken to directly.
Severus had found that the boy actually had other clothes than the ratty jeans and T-shirt he’d been wearing, good ones too, but oddly enough, Dante seemed to prefer the holey jeans and rock concert T-Shirts. Severus wondered if it was a trend in America for teens to dress that way. All he knew was that he would have killed for good clothing like Dante had growing up in Spinner’s End. Harry wore jeans and T-shirts too, but they were at least nice ones, without holes or stains. Severus made sure of that.
Perhaps I’m being too hard on the boy, he mused as he stirred a cauldronful of Pepperup Potion for the Hospital Wing for Poppy next term. He always brewed some drafts for her to use in the infirmary. It’s only been a month, he probably needs more time to settle in. Perhaps he has friends he misses from America. Although Dante hadn’t volunteered any information about his past, not even speaking of his father much. Since Severus hadn’t really known Sulla, he hadn’t felt comfortable bringing the man up either.
As he stirred, the Potions Master thought about next term, and hoped it would be better than last year. Hell, Severus, after what went on then, anything would be better. Thinking about school reminded him that he had yet to take Harry and Dante to Diagon Alley to get their school supplies and robes. Maybe what Dante needed was more of an introduction to wizarding Britain. Maybe it would help him feel like he belonged if he had a wand and books like every other Hogwarts student.
And maybe you need to spend more time with both of them, his conscience reproved. It was true these past weeks he had been brewing and creating new curriculums for class, and so hadn’t really spent much time with Harry or Dante, except at breakfast to go over chores and a few other things. Harry hadn’t seemed to mind, according to Skull he kept busy finishing his school assignments and then flying and writing his friends, or reading in the library. Dante kept busy going for walks and brooding, as far as Severus was aware. Maybe today would be a good time to visit Diagon Alley. You need to get some more ingredients for a few drafts, and it won’t be as busy now, during the middle of the summer, as it will towards the end of August. Yes, perhaps today was a good day to go and get all the school shopping done and over with.
Harry had woken up early that day, showered, and had made himself a bacon and egg sandwich before taking his Nimbus and going flying with Notice-Me-Not charms. He would have asked Dante to come along, but the boy had been sleeping in, as usual, at nine in the morning. Harry wondered when Dante went to bed, as the older boy always seemed to be wide awake at eleven o’clock, which was when Harry went to sleep. Not that it really mattered, but Harry was surprised Severus permitted Dante to stay up till all hours . . . unless he didn’t know what went on in the wee hours of the morning. Harry wasn’t sure what to make of his second cousin. Dante wasn’t cruel like Dudley had been, he didn’t tease or push Harry, but he wasn’t great company either. Dante had rejected all of Harry’s attempts to be friendly, seemingly preferring to be left alone. He reminded Harry of a brooding dragon or an ill-tempered dog. So Harry had learned to just ignore the uncommunicative boy and do whatever he pleased, which lately had been flying and reading up on some new spells in Severus’ library. Harry had noted Dante seemed to like the library too, as he’d caught the older boy in there a time or two, but Dante never said what he was studying in there, and the few times Harry had tried to get him to talk, the other boy had gotten tight-lipped and walked off.
It was too bad Dante wasn’t more like Ghost, Harry mused as he pulled out a clean sheet of paper and began to write letters to Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Draco. Harry had lots of questions about wizards in America, but Dante wasn’t friendly, like Ghost, and so he figured his questions would never get answered. Unless he wrote Ghost. Maybe he should write the shaman, and ask about Shriek and the eggs, though he was sure Ghost would write or Floo call them in the event that the eggs hatched.
How is your summer going so far? Mine is pretty good, though I don’t know if I told you that I have my cousin Dante Prince living with me now. He’s from America, his father was Sulla Prince, the last of his line, and Dad is his guardian now until he comes of age. He’s thirteen and kind of quiet and moody. I think he’ll be a third year when we go back to school, but haven’t figured out where the Hat will Sort him yet.
He’s rather snippy and doesn’t like the whole Sorting business, said he’s not going to be shut in a box or something like that, and they don’t do things that way in America. Well, he’s not in New York now and he’s just going to have to get used to the way we do things over here. Maybe he’s having trouble fitting in here because we’re not filthy rich like his dad used to be. I don’t know.
Do you know anything about Sulla Prince and his family? Dante won’t say a thing, and I was wondering what sort of history they have.
Write back soon,
Harry sealed the letter in an envelope and summoned Hedwig to deliver it. Then he started writing more letters. He hoped his friends were enjoying their summers.
After he had written to Ron and the rest of them, he set aside his quill and looked out the window. It was still sunny, and not raining for once, as it had done for most of the time last week. Harry wondered what he should do now, he was kind of bored, when he heard Severus calling him.
Harry met the Potions Master in the kitchen. “What’s up, Dad? Is it lunchtime already?”
Severus shook his head. “No. Are you always hungry now?” he asked, deadpan.
“Only sometimes,” Harry said, somewhat defensively.
“Perhaps you’re getting a growth spurt,” Severus mused. “It’s about time for one. The reason I called you here is because I thought we could go to Diagon Alley today for your school supplies and Dante’s. I need a few things from the apothecary and I don’t like waiting till the last minute to pick up everything. Too many crowds.”
“Can we stop in Fortescue’s for ice cream?” Harry begged shamelessly.
“We’ll see. Where’s your cousin?”
Harry shrugged. “I’m not sure. He was sleeping when I got up.”
Severus frowned. “That boy would sleep his life away if I let him. Skull, would you find Dante for me and tell him about the trip to Diagon Alley?”
The raven flew up from his perch on a chair back. “Right away, Sev! This should be interesting!”
Interesting is one word for it, Harry thought. He wished now he had thought to tell Draco or another of his friends about this trip, so they could arrange to meet somewhere. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad going alone with Severus and Dante.
Severus took the boys into Slug and Jigger’s Apothecary first, where he purchased the ingredients he needed for some Decongestion Drafts as well as the potion kits and ingredients they would need for next term’s potions class. He got extra ingredients so that if a draft went awry, the boys could compensate for it. Amos Jigger, an old friend of his, generously gave him a discount on all his supplies.
Harry watched idly as Dante appeared to study some preserved newts in jars. “What are those used for?” he asked softly.
Dante, who was wearing worn black jeans and a T-shirt that said Dragons Don’t Make Deals, They Just Make You Into Dinner, shrugged and said, “Some wizards used them for some kind of endurance potions back home. Least that’s how my dad explained it to me.”
“Oh. Was your dad a good potion maker?”
Dante stared at the glass jars. “For some things. But he wasn’t an expert, like Severus.” Though Sulla had been an expert in . . . other areas of magic, Dante thought, biting back a shudder. “How many more shops do we have to go in?”
“Uh . . . well, we need to stop at Flourish and Blotts, the bookstore, to get our texts, and Ollivanders, to get you a wand, and maybe then we’ll be able to get some lunch and ice cream too.”
“Good, because I’m starving.”
“Didn’t you eat breakfast?”
Dante shook his head. “Woke up too late. Besides, I usually skip it.” Which had been true lately, though he had never done so when he’d lived on the ranch. Blue Sparrow wouldn’t have stood for it. But everything had been different since going to live in New York. And even more so over here. He rubbed his stomach and said, glancing at Harry, “How long can rpicking out a wand take?”
“Uh . . . depends. The wand chooses the wizard, you see. So it could take a few minutes or maybe even an hour,” Harry told him.
“Huh? What do you mean, the wand chooses? It’s just a stick, right? How can it choose anything?”
Harry shook his head. “No, it’s more than that. A wand bonds to a wizard, and no two are alike.” He began to explain what little he knew about wands while Severus was being rung up at the front of the store. He showed Dante his own holly wand again, and this time the boy actually seemed interested.
“So, my wand can only be used by me?”
“That is usually correct,” Severus interjected, coming up and overhearing what they were discussing. “Occasionally, another wizard may borrow your wand, but mostly the wand is attuned to you and you alone. A borrowed wand is never as good as one that picks you.”
“What if it breaks?”
“Then you would have to buy a new one, but usually that does not happen. We take extra special care of our wands here, Dante. Now come, I believe Ollivander’s is open.”
Dante said nothing, though he thought that if the wand broke, he’d just use his hands and a few spell components, like he’d done at home rather than waste money on another wand.
The boys trailed him out of the apothecary, eager to get to the wand seller.
Harry shifted from foot to foot as he waited in the back of the small wandshop as Ollivander, Severus, and Dante attempted to find Dante a wand. So far all of Ollivander’s choices were duds. Either the wand didn’t spark, or barely sparked at all. Harry was getting impatient. But things showed no improvement.
“Here. Try this one. Seven and a half, hawthorne with a phoenix core,” Ollivander urged, handing Dante a pale cream colored wand.
As Dante took the wand, scowling, Harry nudged Severus and said, “Dad, can I go over to the bookstore and get most of my books? I have the list right here, and it’ll save time if I go now.”
“I’ll go with you, bran-boy,” said Skull. “There’s too much magic flying about here. That last spark nearly singed my tailfeathers off.” The raven perched on Harry’s shoulder.
Severus glanced over at Dante, who was shaking his head, and said, “This is taking longer than I expected. Very well. But make sure you stick to the list, they should have everything you need displayed on the front tables. I shall be along as soon as Dante finds a wand.”
“Which could take all day,” Harry quipped. “Maybe because he’s from America, no wand wants him.”
“No, I am sure there is one suitable. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, Harry. A wizard—any wizard—can use a wand. Go, we shall meet you there, and if you don’t see us as you pay, just tell the cashier to put the books’ cost on my account. And then wait for us outside.”
“All right, Dad. See you later.” Then Harry scurried out of the wandshop and down the street to the huge bookstore.
Behind him he heard Dante grumble, “This is ridiculous! Why can’t I just pick one and be done with it?”
“Because that’s not how it works,” Severus admonished. “Don’t be in such a hurry. Sometimes, the stronger a wizard’s magic, the harder time the wand has of choosing.”
A long line wended its way in front of Flourish and Blotts as Harry and Skull came up the street. Harry was glad to be out in the sunlight and fresh air, he’d been getting a little claustrophobic inside Ollivander’s. He slowed as he saw the crowd, mostly of middle-aged witches and their children, and hissed, “What’s going on? They having a sale?”
Skull flapped and soared into the air. “I think it may have to do with that big sign hanging there in the front.”
Harry squinted, but he couldn’t make out all the words because of the crowd and he was pretty nearsighted to begin with. “What’s it say, Skull?”
“Let me have a look-see,” the raven trilled, then flew over by the large banner.
Soon Skull returned, landing lightly on Harry’s shoulder. “It’s an advertisement for an early book signing today. Bloke named Gilderoy Lockhart is signing advance copies of his new book, Magical Me. It’s a publicity stunt. There’re reporters from the Prophet here, probably.”
“Gilderoy Lockhart? Now why’s that name sound familiar?” Harry wondered. He fumbled in his pocket for the crumpled up list with his schoolbooks on it. “Oh! I know why—he’s written half the books on here for Defense.” He stared at the list in dismay. “Merlin’s hat, we’re supposed to read all of them? For one class? There’s like eight here, and even though I like to read, this seems like a bit much.”
The raven peered over Harry’s shoulder. “Hmm. Seems a bit full of himself, this Lockhart fellow, eh?”
“Who is he? Do you know?”
“Supposedly he wrote all these books about various creatures he encountered and defeated,” Skull snorted. “If the books are anything to go by, he’s the best combat wizard since Merlin. Better than Ghost.”
Harry shook his head. “No way. Nobody’s as good as Ghost. Or Dad. This has to be a mistake.”
“Or another publicity thing. Sometimes these authors exaggerate,” Skull said. “Well, better get on line before it gets any longer. And hope we’re inside by the time Sev and Dante come out of the wandshop.”
Harry looked at the line. It seemed to grow longer by the minute. He joined the queue, listening to a lot of witches babbling about how excited they were to see the “real” Lockhart, shake his hand, and even take a picture with him if time allowed. Apparently, his new book was all the rage. “Ugh! All these people to see one wizard? What’s he look like, the best thing since ice cream?”
Skull fluffed his feathers. “Humans are strange sometimes. They think appearances are everything. But sometimes what’s outside is not always true on the inside.”
“How true, friend raven,” said a small squeaky voice near Harry’s midsection. “How true indeed. Dobby agrees with the raven one hundred percent.”
“What?” Harry glanced down to see a creature about four feet tall with huge pointed ears, huge eyes that dominated a wrinkled face, wearing a tea towel and no shoes. To be fair, his feet looked too large to fit in them, as did his hands, which looked bigger than his skinny arms. “Who—what are you?” The creature looked vaguely familiar.
“Dobby is my name,” said the creature, bowing.
“He’s a house elf, Harry. Like Prissy,” Skullduggery informed him. “Why are you here? Has your master sent you?”
The strange elf shook his head. “No, Dobby is here to warn Harry Potter.”
“Warn me of what? The long line I’m on? Getting trampled by crazy Lockhart fans?” Harry inquired saucily.
“No! Dobby wishes to tell Harry Potter that something dangerous is coming.”
“Something dangerous?” Skull squawked. “Such as?”
“Dobby cannot say, but knows something wicked this way comes.” The elf hissed, wringing his hands.
“Quit talking in circles!” Skull snapped. “If you know what’s coming, say so. Or has your master forbid you to speak of it?”
“No, Master has no idea Dobby is here. Dobby had to come, warn Harry Potter of danger.”
“What danger?” Harry put a hand on his wand and looked up and down the street, but saw nothing.
“Dobby had dream . . . something bad is coming. Had to warn Harry Potter. Sometimes dreams come true. Beware!”
“You had a dream and now you want to warn me about it?” Harry stared at him.
“Are you a Dreamer? Prescient?” asked Skull rapidly, glaring hard at the elf.
“No . . . but the talent runs in Dobby’s family.”
Suddenly, the crowd surged forward, and Harry was almost knocked into the person before him. He managed to keep his feet, and Dobby suddenly was on one side of him. “Look, thanks for the . . . uh . . . heads up, but maybe you just had a scary dream. Can you tell me about it?”
“Dobby only has feelings. Does not see what happens next.”
“Well, a fat lot of good that does!” Skull snapped. “What good’s a warning without details?”
“Dobby is sorry. Harry Potter must beware. That is all Dobby knows.” Suddenly a shudder shook the elf’s small body. “Dobby must go. Master is calling.”
The elf vanished with a sharp pop.
“Hey! You didn’t even tell us what family you were affiliated with!” Skull cried indignantly. “Silly elf!”
Harry stroked the raven. “Now what? Should we take that warning seriously?”
“I don’t know, bran-boy. The elf was kind of vague. And usually, house elves don’t have dreams. Strange.”
“Should I tell Dad? Or Prissy? Maybe she knows who he is.”
“She might. Most elves know each other, or the family they’re bound to. And I suppose you can tell Sev about this, though what he’ll make of it I have no idea. Warning of a great danger! Ha! Any two bit street performer can tell your fortune like that.”
“I’ll wait till I get my books, then tell Dad when we get home.” Harry decided. He didn’t want Severus to take him home early, he wanted some ice cream and a burger.
After ten more minutes, they were inside the bookstore, where the line snaked all the way to the back, where Gildroy Lockhart was sitting at a table piled high with books and smiling photographs of himself, signing away with a beautiful peacock quill. The famous wizard wore beautiful sky-blue robes that matched his eyes, and a small hat as well perched at a jaunty angle atop his blond locks, which were attractively styled.
Flash bulbs from reporters were going off at least every seven seconds, and Gilderoy looked to have a permanent smile stamped on his face. Harry wondered if the man’s teeth hurt from grinning so much. Gilderoy was good looking, all right, but Harry didn’t think he was “divine”, “ravishing” or “totally hot” the way the witches in front of him were drooling.
“Handsome is as handsome does,” Skull sneered. Clearly he wasn’t anymore impressed by Lockhart than Harry was.
Harry snagged a copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Level Two, along with his potions book and a few others he saw while he waited to get copies of his Defense texts. He couldn’t believe the fuss being made over this Lockhart guy.
“He reminds me of a snake oil salesman,” Skull hissed in his ear. “Sleek, slick, and fake.”
Before Harry could say anything, he was fourth in line at the table, Lockhart looked up . . . and spotted Harry. “Why, blessed Merlin!” Lockhart gasped. “It can’t be! The famous Harry Potter!”
Harry started to back away, but he found his arm seized in rather strong grip as Lockhart dragged him to the front of the line. “Hey! Let go!”
“Now, now. Relax, Harry!” Gilderoy soothed, grinning like mad. “It’s time for a publicity shot. You and me—famous boy wizard and magical me, together on the front page! Whoo-hoo! They’ll eat it up!”
Before Harry could try and get away, he found himself clasped against Lockhart’s side while reporters snapped their picture over and over.
Skull flew into the air, hissing furiously. “Release him, you overgrown peacock! Doesn’t your mirror give you a good enough reflection, you conceited ball of hot air?”
But Gilderoy was oblivious to all but his adoring crowd of fans.
“Ladies and gentlemen! Look whose come for a copy of my book! It’s Harry Potter, the famous Boy Who Lived! How marvelous! Of course, he hasn’t lived nearly the life I have, but that’s all right. You can read all about it in Magical Me! As well as my other signed works. Harry, it must have been a dull summer until you came here for the signing. I have a copy for you right here—along with my other works—free of charge! We celebrities have to stick together, eh?”
Harry wanted to sink through the floor. Now everyone was staring at him and waving. He wished he had remained with Severus and Dante at Ollivander’s. He hated being the center of attention, especially like this. “Uh . . err. . . thanks, Mr. Lockhart, but I really have to be going . . .”
“Gilderoy, my dear boy! No formality between friends, eh?” Gilderoy beamed, poking him in the arm. “And now, I have an announcement to make. Harry didn’t realize this but . . . he’ll be getting to see me all the time now. Why? Because Albus Dumbledore recently hired me on as the new Defense professor at Hogwarts! That’s right . . . because of my sterling reputation fighting baddies, Dumbledore thought I’d be ideal for the position!”
There came loud cheers from the crowd.
Harry nearly went deaf. He tried to squirm out of Lockhart’s arm, but the man had a death grip on him and the surge of crazed fans pressed on him. “Skull! Help!”
“Hang on, kid!” the raven cawed. “Let me go get Sev. Be right back!” He flew off across the store.
Harry hoped he would hurry.
Severus and Dante were walking up the street, Dante wearing his new wand, a hawthorne spiral with a dragon heartstring core. Ollivander said that combination was quite powerful, “A strong wizard,” he’d said to Severus. “But difficult to say where his heart lies.”
“I doubt if he knows that himself yet,” the Potions Master had told the wandmaker as Dante tested out the wand. “We’ll take it.”
Now, five minutes later, the two were heading towards the bookshop, and Severus eyed the crowds warily. They had spent almost two hours here already and he was hoping that people would start heading home for lunch, but it seemed as though there was some kind of throng up ahead, right where Flourish and Blotts needed to be . . . “What in Merlin’s name?” Severus muttered, slowing.
“You having a fire sale?” Dante asked, eyeing the crowd. “Or did Merlin himself drop down for some tea?”
Before Severus could say anything more, Skullduggery appeared, flapping hard. “Sev! You have to get in there! That pretender Lockhart, or whatever his name is, has Harry trapped by the press, and is taking publicity shots . . .”
Severus nearly groaned aloud. “Merlin’s bloody . . .” he throttled off the rest of what he was about to say, remembering that Dante was listening. “Dante, stay here. I’ll be right back, as soon as I help Harry. Gilderoy Lockhart!” he spat. “That interfering puffed up little pissant!” He whirled and snapped at Dante, “Just stay there!”
“Okay,” the thirteen-year-old said, rolling his eyes. “Jeez Louise, what does he think I’m going to do, get kidnapped or something?”
He watched as Severus, black cloak billowing, shoved through the crowd and into the bookstore, following the raven. Then he leaned up against the side of the building, idly twirling the end of his new wand. At first he’d been disgusted with how long it had taken the damn wand to find him, but once he held it in his hand . . . even he had to admit it was pretty cool to feel the surge of magic going up his arm. And there had been this weird connection . . . Dante didn’t know how to describe it, but it felt . . . right.
The wand chooses the wizard. Maybe Severus wasn’t just reciting a load of crap, like my dad used to whenever he wanted me to do something for him . . .
Dante brushed his hair out of his eyes and hoped that Severus would rescue Harry soon, because he was hungry as a starved bear and he thought they’d passed a café on the other side of the street . . .
The next thing he knew, a large hand had clamped down on his shoulder.
“Hey! What’s the big idea?” he cried, whirling around.
The hand was attached to a beefy looking guy in gray robes with a military style haircut.
“Shut up, boy. Been looking for you.”
“There must be a mistake. I don’t even know you—” Dante tried to get away, but he was held fast.
“You’re Dante Prince, right?”
“Yes, but . . . damn it, let go!” he tried to reach his wand, but the big man held him too tightly for him to reach it.
“Good. Then we want to talk to you.”
“Relax, kid. Me and a few friends knew your dad, Sulla, once upon a time.”
“What’s that to do with me?”
“Come along, boy. You’ll see.”
Before Dante could even call out for help, he was picked up and dragged into an alley. An instant later there was a flash and they appeared on a different street, but Dante was too afraid and furious to notice the sign—Knockturn Alley—before the big man opened a door and they went inside.