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Innocent by MarauderLover7
Chapter 7 : Return To Diagon Alley
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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“I trust everyone here remembers Remus Lupin?” Dumbledore said, beaming around at his staff. It was the Easter holidays - not that that affected Remus terribly much, but the Hogwarts staff members had been quite busy until then.

“Of course,” McGonagall said, favouring her old pupil with a smile, while Flitwick waved happily. “It’s nice to see you again, Remus.”

“You too, Professors,” Remus said nodding at them both. He smiled around at the others; Sprout, his old Herbology professor, Hagrid, who’d hugged him when he arrived, Emmeline Vance who was teaching Defence, and Professor Quirrell, the young Muggle Studies teacher. The last, though, he was not pleased to see.

“Lupin,” Snape said curtly.

Snivellus. The thought came unbidden, before Remus could quite smother it. Damn you, James. You always did say you would corrupt me. “Snape.”

“Now, I trust we all know why we’re here,” Dumbledore said, leaning back in his chair.

“To discuss the Potter boy,” Snape said, with loathing in his tone. “I still fail to see how this affects me, Headmaster. I’m paid to teach, not chase James Potter’s mentally unstable best friend - and any children he may or may not have kidnapped - around the country.”

“I’m asking for your help, Severus,” Dumbledore said in a pleasant, but firm tone. Black eyes met blue and a moment passed before Snape looked away and sighed but didn’t argue any further. Remus was surprised at that, but then again, they weren’t fifteen any more. Perhaps Snape had grown up as much as he had. “I trust you’re still in contact with Lucius Malfoy?”

“It would be remiss of me not to be, after he ‘honoured’ me with custody over his son in the event of his death.”

“Ah, yes,” Dumbledore said jovially. “Draco, isn’t it?” Snape nodded. “He’ll be at Hogwarts-?”

“The year after next,” Snape said curtly. “Along with his brother.”

The year after next... Remus thought. “And Harry.”

The occupants of the room turned to look at him. “If the boy survives,” Snape said, looking unhappy.

“He will be,” Remus said. It was a slim hope that Sirius would keep Harry alive because of the prophecy, but it was hope nonetheless and Remus was clinging to it with everything he had.

Dumbledore cleared his throat gently. “Back to Lucius, Severus; I want you to join his search for the boy.”

“And when might I find the time to do that, Headmaster? Might I remind you that I have a N.E.W.T. class of twelve this year and with examinations a mere two months away-”

“I am well aware, Severus,” Dumbledore said, holding up a hand. “But perhaps an hour each Sunday could be set aside.” Snape harrumphed and folded his arms. Dumbledore fixed Snape with a thoughtful look. “At the very least,” he said finally, “make inquiries about the search’s progress.” Snape watched him, stony faced. “Lucius will be more open with you than anyone else.”

Snape seemed to slump. “Very well, Headmaster.”

“Thank you.” Dumbledore said sincerely. “Remus, I would also advise you to make contact with Lucius Malfoy.”

“Pardon?”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “I know you and Lucius have had strained relations in the past-” That was sugar-coating it in Remus’ opinion. “-but while you’ve been of great use to the Ministry in the past two months, their search is exclusive to Aurors and Hit Wizards and last I heard, you wanted to be actively searching.”

“Well, yes, but-”

“Might I suggest you volunteer to search the muggle world?” Dumbledore continued. “That way, you needn’t have much to do with Lucius at all.”

“I’ll owl him when we’re finished here,” Remus said decisively.

“Excellent. Minerva, have you had any luck at Number Four?”

“I’ve visited three times since February as you well know,” she said stiffly. “None of the neighbours saw anything. It came as a surprise to most of them that the muggles even had another child!”

Dumbledore frowned. “It seems I will need to revisit Petunia Dursley after all.” He sighed. “I imagine she’ll be most unhappy.”

Snape’s lips twitched. “I imagine so, Headmaster.”

Dumbledore gave him a searching look and then smiled slightly. “Ah, yes. I had forgotten.”

Remus shared a look with McGonagall who looked just as puzzled as he felt. “Have there been any further theories as to why the boy was taken?” Flitwick squeaked.

Dumbledore looked to Remus. “If Sirius had wanted Harry dead, he would have been dead by now,” he said unwillingly, though it was true. “The fact that they’re hiding makes me fairly sure Harry’s still alive.” And the prophecy, of course.

“He’ll be a Death Eater,” Professor Sprout said sadly. “That poor little boy.”

“If Sirius wanted to whisk him away and raise him as a Death Eater, he wouldn’t have told the Dursleys he was taking Harry,” Remus pointed out. “They both would have just disappeared. No, he’s keeping him safe so that he can hand him over to Voldemort.”

Mirrored on the faces around him were expressions of mingled pity, worry and - in Snape’s case - revulsion. “That’s all very well and good, Lupin,” the Potions Master said. “But how long until Black tires of waiting and decides to kill him himself?” Flitwick trembled and fell off his chair. “Well, Lupin?”

“How am I supposed to know?” Remus asked heavily.

“I merely thought,” Snape said silkily, “given your history, that Black might have come to you, looking for help... or an accomplice, perhaps...”

“Severus, really!” Professor McGonagall said, flaring up in Remus’ defence. Hagrid stood up, looking angry and then sat down when Dumbledore shook his head. “You’re not fifteen anymore!”

“I’m aware, thank you, Minerva!” Snape said, bristling.

“Then do make an effort to act your age!” she snapped. “The Headmaster was friends with Black too and I don’t see you implicating him! Or me, for that matter!” One of the silver devices on the table in the corner was whirring madly. “Do you think, perhaps, that as his teacher, I taught him everything he knows? That I’m hiding Black and Potter in my office as we speak?”

“No,” Snape said sulkily. “But he’s...”

“A werewolf?” Remus asked tiredly.

Snape gave him a look of pure hatred. “They’re dark creatures. Everyone knows that.” Emmeline’s face contorted but Remus shook his head at her.

“Oh?” Professor McGonagall’s lips were dangerously thin. “I’d have thought you of all people, Severus, would know better than to judge people based on their pasts.” Snape opened his mouth to protest, but didn’t seem able to find the words. Remus had to concede that it was rather funny to watch a thirty-year-old man being lectured by his elderly colleague. “Or do I need to remind you of your less than exemplary record? Or that your questionable past arises from your own choices, while Remus’ arose from circumstances he had no control over-”

“Minerva, that’s quite enough,” Dumbledore said, quietly. Professor McGonagall subsided, her face bright red.

“It’s all right, Headmaster,” Snape said, his face unreadable. “I spoke out of hand.” Remus raised his eyebrows. Snape smiled nastily. “And I daresay Minerva’s merely trying to get her own back... the loss of the House Cup five years running must be taking its toll...” McGonagall’s nostrils flared and she shot Snape an angry look. Dumbledore chuckled. “After all, Gryffindors are renowned for their pride...”

“And Slytherins their humility,” Remus said wryly. Professor Quirrell laughed nervously.

“Indeed,” Snape said, giving him a sharp look. “Are we done here, Headmaster? I have essays to mark tonight if I am to find time to speak with Lucius tomorrow.”

“You may leave, Severus, assuming the others have nothing to add.” Dumbledore looked around the room but everyone shook their heads. Snape got up and left the office, his black robes billowing out behind him.

He still looks like a bat, Remus thought, amused. “Am I needed, Professor?” he asked.

“No, Remus, you may leave.” Dumbledore gestured to the office door. “Good luck with that letter.”

“I’ll need it,” Remus said morosely.

“I’ll walk yeh down,” Hagrid said unexpectedly, getting to his feet.

The pair said their goodbyes and left, and as they were headed down the staircase, Remus asked, “Is everything all right, Hagrid?”

Hagrid patted Remus’ shoulder rather clumsily. “Yeh looked like yeh coulda done with company.”

Remus smiled. “Perhaps,” he admitted. “Thank you.” Remus didn’t end up going straight home. He found himself seated in Hagrid’s hut, with a steaming, flowerpot-sized mug of tea in front of him. “Thank you,” he said again.

Hagrid just waved an enormous hand. “’S no trouble at all,” he said.

Remus added a liberal amount of sugar to his tea and stirred it with a spoon the size of a hand trowel. “So how have you been? It’s been a while since I’ve visited-”

“Yeh’ve bin busy,” Hagrid said, not at all concerned. “An’ good, thanks. Up ter my usual business, I s’pose.” Hagrid got up and pulled a batch of rock-cakes from the oven and set them down on the table in front of Remus. Fang raised his head hopefully and wandered over to rest his head in Remus’ lap, glancing at the cakes every few seconds. “Fang!”

“It’s quite all right,” Remus said, giving the boarhound a scratch behind the ears. He felt a little nostalgic, but also a little pleased when the dog whined happily; he’d been taught where to scratch dogs, by a dog- He stopped that thought in its tracks and took a hasty sip of tea.

There was a knock on the door. “Hagrid?”

“Do yeh mind?” Hagrid asked, glancing at the door.

“Not at all,” Remus said.

“Help yehrself to a cake,” Hagrid said, getting up to open the door.

Remus, who had years of experience of dealing with Hagrid’s cooking, took one and while Hagrid was fumbling with the lock, cut it with a murmured, “Diffindo”, and fed most of it to Fang while Hagrid wasn’t looking.

“How are yeh, Charlie, Tonks?”

“Wotcher, Hagrid,” said a girl’s friendly voice.

“Good, thank you,” a boy said pleasantly. “Are you busy? We thought we might stop by and see how you’ve been.”

“Tha’ was nice of yeh!” Hagrid said. His tone turned a little sad. “I’ve got Remus-”

“Feel free to invite them in, Hagrid,” Remus called.  “I don’t mind.”

Hagrid turned and beamed at Remus - who smiled in response - and then stepped back to allow two older students - seventh years if Remus had to guess - inside. The girl tripped on the welcome mat and the boy caught her without any sign of conscious thought. Clearly this happened a lot. The early April sun followed them in.

“Hello,” the boy, a stocky redhead in Gryffindor robes - and a Quidditch Captain badge - called with a cheery wave. He crossed the hut and offered Remus his hand. “Charlie Weasley.”

“Remus Lupin. I know your parents, I think,” Remus said, smiling. He didn’t mention that it was only because he had known Gideon and Fabian Prewett - and by extension their older sister, Molly - in the war.

Charlie gestured to the Hufflepuff girl - she was slim with a heart-shaped face and short, vivid yellow hair - beside him. “This is Nymphadora Tonks,” he said with a wicked grin.

The girl turned on him, looking annoyed - her hair turned a bright tomato red as if to match her mood - then rolled her eyes and looked back to Remus, seeming curious. “It’s just Tonks,” she said irritably. Her hair went back to yellow as she offered him her hand. “Nice to meet you anyway.”

“You too,” Remus said. “Are you aware that your hair just changed colour?”

“My hair?” the girl asked. Her hair began to flash - red, blue, green, purple, orange, pink, black, white and back to yellow again before the cycle repeated. “I’m not quite sure what you mean.” Remus smiled and a moment later she smiled back. “I’m a Metamorphmagus,” she explained and as she did so her hair grew, became curly, switched to dreadlocks and then returned to the short, spiky style it had been before.

“Impressive,” Remus said. Then he frowned. “Did you say Tonks?”

“Yes, and if you call me Nymphadora I’ll-”

“You aren’t Ted and Andy’s daughter?” he asked, wondering how many Metamorphmagus girls of roughly the right age there were with a bizarre first name and a familiar last one.

“I thought I knew you somewhere!” she said triumphantly, drowning out Charlie’s, “Ah, rock-cakes! Er... Yum...”

“I went to school with your mother’s... sisters,” he said, not able to bring himself to talk about Sirius.

“I see,” Nymphadora said, looking curious. “Then you would have known Sirius Black.”

Remus winced. “I did, yes.” He, Sirius and James had used to babysit her, in fact. He didn’t say this but he was unable to help himself asking, “Do you still enjoy Potions?”

Her eyes narrowed. “How do you know that?”

Remus ended up telling her that he had babysat her before and ended up recounting one particularly eventful visit; she’d been brewing them potions - sugary water, actually - and James had taken it upon himself to charm them all to show the effects she said they’d have. Remus had ended up with spotty, pink skin and a ridiculously high voice, Sirius with a unicorn’s horn and hooves and James himself with cat ears and a tail. The little girl had found it all terribly amusing. She’d then talked Sirius into hiding and taken on his appearance. Both he and James had played along - though they’d noticed immediately that it wasn’t him, because when had Sirius ever worn one of Ted Tonks’ old football shirts? - until she’d gone back to her usual self.

Charlie was howling by the time Remus had finished and he slopped tea all over himself but hadn’t noticed or didn’t care. Nymphadora - Remus couldn’t bring himself to think of her by her last name, feeling it would be impolite - was laughing too, her hair a pleasant orange that almost matched Charlie’s; she’d seemed to recall various parts of the story as they went - she’d been around eight at the time, and old enough to remember. Hagrid had brought a tin of treacle fudge over and was beaming around at everyone as he refilled their mugs. Fang had gone to drool on Charlie.

Remus found himself enjoying himself and feeling lonely all at the same time; on one hand, it was nice to be in such a friendly environment, listing to the friendly banter between the two seventh years but on the other hand, it reminded him all too strongly of when he, James, Sirius, Peter and even Lily had been that age.

 A few years could change everything, Remus knew all too well, and he found himself wondering whether the pair opposite him would be safe from life’s cruelty, if they’d be forced to live through it - like he had - or if they’d be killed by it - like James, Lily and Peter had been. He didn’t let himself think about either of them following Sirius’ path. But Sirius had seemed friendly at seventeen too...

*                      *                       *

“Just so you know,” Padfoot warned, pausing with his hand on the door to Ollivander’s Wand Shop, “this bloke is creepy. And he knows... well, everything.”

“He’ll know who we are?” Harry asked.

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t,” Padfoot said.

“Shouldn’t you wait out here, then?” Harry said, shooting Padfoot a nervous look.

“Nah. Besides, you getting a wand is like you taking your first steps, or saying your first word. I have to be there, it’s my job.” Harry decided they’d leave if there was any possibility of the man calling the Aurors. “In you go.”

Harry stepped into the tiny shop, almost stumbling; he was taller, today, as part of his disguise. Inside was dusty - Harry was well used to dust now - with a counter only a few feet inside the door. Behind that were shelves stocked with thousands of boxes. Padfoot slipped in behind him and closed the door. He cast a doubtful look at the spindly chair in the corner before he sat down gingerly. He sat mostly facing Harry and the counter, but every few seconds his eyes would flick to the window to make sure no one was coming. It was the first time they’d been in the magical world since that night in February and both were a little on edge.

“Good morning,” a soft voice said, making Harry start. Harry heard Padfoot suck in a breath behind him and then shift.

“Er... hello,” Harry said, looking to his godfather for help.

Padfoot just grinned and mouthed, “I told you.”

Harry turned back to the man. He was old, with pale, misty eyes and wispy white hair. Mr Ollivander lifted Harry’s hand and examined it. He was yet to blink. “I wondered if I would see you at all, Mr Potter,” Mr Ollivander said softly. He turned his silvery eyes on Padfoot. “There are some rather unsavoury rumours going around at the moment.”

“We’ve heard,” Padfoot said grimly.

“You have your mother’s eyes,” Mr Ollivander said turning his attention back to Harry. “It seems only yesterday she was in here herself, buying her first wand. Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work.” Mr Ollivander let Harry’s hand fall. “Your father on the other hand, used a mahogany wand. Phoenix feather. Pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration. I do say he favoured it...”

Mr Ollivander brushed Harry’s fringe - blond today - away from his scar. Harry resisted the urge to bat his hand away and flatten his hair. “I’m sorry to say I sold the wand that did this...” he said. “Thirteen-and-a-half inches. Yew. A powerful wand, very powerful, and in the wrong hands...if I’d known then what it was going into the world to do...” He sighed and looked back to Padfoot. “Cypress, wasn’t it? Fifteen inches.”

“And dragon heartstring,” Padfoot said carefully.

“Another powerful wand, if in a different way. And not an evil wand, at least not to start with...” He gave Padfoot a piercing look.

“It was never an evil wand,” Padfoot said quietly.

“You still have it then?” Padfoot hesitated and then nodded. “May I see it?” Mr Ollivander asked.

“As long as you promise to give it back to me, unharmed,” Padfoot said sternly.

“Yes, yes. It was a loyal wand, I seem to remember. I doubt I could resell it even if I wanted to and it would be a shame to destroy something so lovely.” Padfoot gave Harry a look and passed his wand to the old man who stroked it and held it to his ear. Everything was quiet for a moment and Harry took the time to contemplate the sanity of the wandmaker and then Mr Ollivander sighed and passed the wand back to Padfoot.

“No, it was never an evil wand,” he said with a distant smile. “Well now, Mr Potter. You’re here rather earlier than is normal but with you being who you are, I cannot find it in myself to be surprised...” He produced a tape-measure from a pocket in his robes. “Which is your wand arm?”

“Right,” Harry said; Padfoot had let him try his wand to perform a few basic charms, though Padfoot’s wand was rather unpredictable. Sometimes, it would hardly do anything at all but on other occasions it would enhance Harry’s spell significantly, like it had the night they left Privet Drive.

“Hold it out... yes... now stay there.”

“Hold on,” Padfoot said. He waved his wand and Harry shrank a good few inches, back to his normal size.

Mr Ollivander gave them both curious looks. “That could have made things difficult,” he said finally, and then smiled. “It always was a good wand for non-verbal spells.” Padfoot nodded. Mr Ollivander brandished the tape-measure and stepped toward Harry again. “I trust your guardian has briefed you on the rudiments of wandlore?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said. “The wand chooses the wizard, right?”

“So you were listening that day,” Mr Ollivander said to Padfoot. “I was never sure... Yes, Mr Potter, that is essentially it. Each wand is unique in the same way that each wizard is unique.” The tape measure was now measuring between Harry’s nostrils and Harry went cross-eyed trying to watch it. A badly smothered guffaw from the corner made glare over at Padfoot. “We use a variety of wand-woods here, and the cores are Dragon Heartstring, Unicorn Hair or Phoenix Feather...”

He continued to chatter as he measured Harry - why the width of the space between his eyes was important Harry had no idea - and then Mr Ollivander stepped back. “That will do.” The tape-measure dropped to the ground and coiled up, like a snake. He flitted behind the counter. For a moment, Harry feared he might be going to call the Ministry, but he returned within a few seconds clutching a stack of boxes. Harry relaxed. “Try this one, Mr Potter.” Harry accepted a slim, black wand. “Ebony and Unicorn hair. Twelve inches. Precise.” Harry thought that sounded like a girl’s wand but he gave it a wave anyway.

The inkwell on the counter exploded, soaking Harry and Mr Ollivander. Padfoot was chuckling from his corner. “I don’t think it likes me,” Harry said.

“That wand doesn’t seem to like anybody,” Mr Ollivander said, dabbing at his robes with a handkerchief. He gestured for Harry to put the wand down. “Perhaps this one,” he said, offering Harry a slightly crooked wand. “Maple and Phoenix feather. Seven inches. Rather whippy.” This time, Harry had hardly raised the wand before it was snatched away from him. “Pear and Dragon heartstring. Nine inches. Lithe.” This one burned Harry’s hand when he tried to hold it. He swore under his breath - in the two months he and Padfoot had been living together, he’d learned some good ones - and handed it back to the wandmaker.

Padfoot seemed to be enjoying himself, watching Harry reject and be rejected by what must have been forty wands. He’d tried every core Ollivander’s offered, and at least one of each of the types of wood and he was beginning to feel Mr Ollivander was running out of words synonymous with ‘springy’. Harry’d also managed to destroy half the store; he’d set the counter on fire, vaporised one of the legs of Padfoot’s chair, collapsed one of the shelves and made a substantial hole in the roof when one of the wands had released what could only be described as a lightning bolt.

“A difficult customer,” Mr Ollivander said, growing happier and happier with each rejection. “No worry, we will find you a perfect match... Perhaps something more unusual... Yes, I don’t see why not...” He disappeared and returned a moment later clutching a black box. “Holly and Phoenix feather. Eleven inches. Nice and supple.”

Harry took the wand. The moment he touched the smooth wood, heat rushed through his fingers and up his arm, but it was pleasant, not like the burning sensation from the pear wand. He also recognised the feeling; it was the same tingling feeling he’d had before he ended up on the roof of the school kitchens, before Mrs Peterson’s wig had turned blue, and the same feeling he’d had when he locked all of the doors at home in his first week living with Padfoot. “I can feel it,” Harry said uncertainly.

“Give it a wave,” Mr Ollivander breathed, hardly visible behind the pile of wand boxes on the counter.

Harry did and a stream of red and gold sparks burst from the end of it and fizzled in the air around him. Padfoot was beaming. “Oh bravo!” Mr Ollivander cried. “Yes indeed. Very good... and curious. Yes, very curious.”

“What’s curious?” Harry asked, passing the wand back - a little reluctantly - so that Mr Ollivander could wrap it.

“I remember every wand I’ve sold, Mr Potter. Every single wand. And it just so happens that the Phoenix who gave this feather gave another - just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand, when its brother, why, its brother gave you that scar.” Harry shared a look with Padfoot who looked troubled. “Curious how these things happen... I think it is safe to say we can expect great things from you, Mr Potter. After all, He Who Must Not Be Named did great things too... terrible, yes, but great.”

Harry shivered. Padfoot was right. This man was creepy. “What did I feel when I picked the wand up?” Harry asked as he paid.

“Your magic,” Mr Ollivander said, looking pleased with the question. “Wands are only a medium, after all. A very powerful medium, mind, but a medium nonetheless. They have a magic of their own, but it cannot be harnessed without a wizard. A wizard, however, can have magic without a wand.”

Mr Ollivander passed him the brown package that was his wand and bowed them from his shop - though only after Padfoot had re-cast the charm to make Harry taller again.

“That was interesting,” Harry said.

“Always is,” Padfoot said. “Unwrap your wand. As of now, it goes everywhere with you.”

Harry did just that and tucked the wand into the back pocket of his jeans. Padfoot looked like he was going to say something funny but thought better of it. “Where are we going now?”

“Floo Powder,” Padfoot said. “There used to be a peddler by the Apothecary but I think that’s gone...” They wandered for almost ten minutes before they finally found a stall near the Ice Cream Parlour. Padfoot sent Harry to get ice cream while he bought a bag of the sparkly powder and an owl order address from the peddler. “An owl next, I think,” Padfoot said. “Then we’re set up for owl orders and we won’t need to come out as often.”

“I saw an Owl Emporium before,” Harry said around a mouthful of his sundae.

“Eeylops?” Padfoot asked.

Harry shrugged. “I think so.”

“From memory, that was down the Leaky Cauldron end.” Padfoot led Harry down the street and into the Emporium. Harry hesitated, his foot half in the door; it was dark inside, lit only by oil lamps scattered at random intervals and the small amount of natural light that came in through the door. All around them were glistening pairs of eyes, the sound of rustling feathers and quiet hooting.

“Hello, there,” a witch said, making her way over to them. “Do you need help or are you happy looking?”

“We’re looking for an owl,” Padfoot said.

Harry snorted and then ducked, laughing as Padfoot tried to smack the back of his head. “Don’t blame me, you said it!”

Padfoot scowled and tapped the top of Harry’s head. “They aren’t dead at all, are they? They’re hiding in there, mocking me.”

“Who’s dead?” the witch asked, looking worried.

“Er... My last owl,” Harry said, hurriedly assuming a stricken expression. Padfoot choked.

“Oh, I’m sorry, love,” she said, patting his shoulder. She shot Padfoot a dirty look for laughing. Harry nodded, trying to look miserable. “I know it’s hard losing a pet... they’ll always have a special place in your heart though, and I’ve always found it’s best to ease the pain by finding another pet to keep you company.”

“Yeah... er... that’s what I was hoping,” Harry said. “And I’ve always liked owls.”

“So have I,” the witch said. “I’ve always found them to be intelligent creatures, much smarter than cats or dogs - or Merlin forbid, toads - and much more practical. Muggles seem to think dogs can carry newspapers, but I’ve yet to see it.” Padfoot growled quietly. The witch gave him a funny look. “Can I get you a drink, sir?”

“No,” Padfoot said. “You could show us the owls though. That’d be great.”

“Are you looking for anything particular?” the witch asked.

“An owl,” Harry said, with a sly look at his godfather.

“He’s off to Hogwarts this year,” Padfoot lied, nodding in Harry’s direction.

“Oh, enough said,” the witch said brightly. “You’ll be sending packages and letters regularly, I’d imagine?” Harry grinned, nodding. “You’ll need something strong, then,” the witch said, tapping her chin. “Something from our larger range...” She clicked her tongue in thought and then smiled. “We’ve got a few eagle owls,” she suggested. “They’re popular among the purebloods.”

“Yes, I know,” Padfoot said tersely. “I’d prefer something a little different.” The witch looked curious about his reaction. Harry tried to think of an excuse, but Padfoot beat him to it. “His last owl was an eagle owl,” he murmured to the witch, tilting his head in Harry’s direction.

“In that case,” she said hurriedly, “we have great horned owls. They’re a little rarer.”

Padfoot shook his head. “They scare me,” he said. “Something about the eyes... they always look like they’re frowning.” Personally, Harry had nothing against horned owls but he said nothing. It was a shared owl, so they should both agree on it.

“We sold our last barred owl on Monday,” she said frowning. “And we don’t get any more until next week.” Her eyes brightened. “Do you know what, though? We do have something a little rarer if you’re interested.”

“What?” Harry asked.

“We’ve got a snowy owl in at the moment. She’s only young but some people like them better that way, since they’re easier to train.”

Padfoot and Harry shared a look. “Can we see her?” Padfoot asked.

“Of course.” The witch led them through the shop, occasionally shooing one of the free roaming birds out of her way, until they reached a slightly brighter section. There were a number of younger owls - even some cages set up with nesting mothers - and they found the owl sitting imperiously on a perch at the back.

Harry would never have guessed she was a snowy owl; she was grey, and every picture he’d ever seen had shown snowy owls as white. She was covered in an uneven coat of downy grey feathers, though her wings were speckled with black and white. Her golden eyes turned on them, almost haughtily, and Harry almost had to laugh at the way her demeanour contrasted her motley appearance.

“She’s certainly different,” Padfoot said, looking amused.

“She’ll be stunning when she loses her baby feathers though,” the witch said. The owl clicked her beak as if agreeing.

“Can she fly?” Padfoot asked.

“Of course.”

“That’s all that matters, then,” Padfoot said, shrugging. He turned to Harry. “What do you think?” The owl nibbled his finger and rubbed her beak against his hand. Padfoot smiled. “How much?”

“Ten galleons,” the witch said.

“For an owl?” Padfoot asked, arching an eyebrow.

“She’s a rare breed,” the witch said.

“Fair enough,” Padfoot said, fishing in his pocket for the coins.

The witch helped them find a cage that would still be large enough for her when she’d finished growing, and talked Harry - since Padfoot had got bored and was now poking an irritable-looking barn owl - through the basics of caring for her. They also bought some Owl Treats that the woman said would help with training.

They left the shop and all three of them blinked in the daylight. “Let the owl out,” Padfoot said. Harry did and she hopped out and perched on Padfoot’s shoulder. He had a quick look around and, once he’d ensured there was no one around said, “Tell her the home address and have us meet her there.”

“Can’t you?”

“Not if you want her to find it.”

It took Harry a moment to realise what he meant. Then he nodded. “Okay, er... Could you meet us at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place?” Harry felt rather silly but the owl hooted once and took off, her wing clipping Padfoot’s nose.

“Excellent.” Padfoot shrunk the cage and tucked it into a pocket. “She would have been a pain to carry around,” he explained. Harry nodded. The headed up the street again. Harry had thought they were going to the bookshop but apparently educating him in the matters of Quidditch was higher on Padfoot’s list of priorities; he was quite literally dragged through the door by his eager godfather.

Inside was larger than Harry had expected. It was brightly lit, and brightly decorated. One wall - the one that included the storefront window - had broomsticks of every size and make mounted to the reddish wooden panelling that was consistent throughout the entire store. The second wall was dedicated to equipment - large red balls that Padfoot called Quaffles, black ones called Bludgers and tiny Golden Snitches, as well as heavy wooden Beater’s bats, gloves, goggles, boots and every type of padded, protective gear ever to exist.

The other two walls were dedicated to the Quidditch league, with large team banners, team posters and posters of individual players. On shelves below these were books - either about the teams or about individual players - and various merchandise; there were common things like hats, scarves, badges of every shape and size and figurines and there were also autographed robes, bats and balls.

Padfoot dragged him over to a display table by the counter, where little plastic figurines were flying over a scaled down pitch. “See him? The one hovering in the middle?” Harry nodded. “He’s the Seeker...” Padfoot set about explaining the rules of the game. It was easy enough to follow, Harry thought, and he was keen to try it, though he wasn’t sure when he’d get the chance.

“Sorry, love,” a middle-aged woman said, stumbling over a container of broom-polish.

“S’okay,” Harry muttered absently, still watching the little figures.

“And you wonder where Dora gets it from,” a round-bellied man told her affectionately.

The woman harrumphed and for a moment looked quite intimidating; she was tall with grey eyes, brown hair and high cheekbones. The man - her husband, Harry decided - winked. The woman’s face softened entirely as she smiled.

“Hey, kid, come have a look at these,” Padfoot called. He was standing by a broom display, pointing at a barrel of golden balls.

“Are they Snitches?” Harry asked, reaching for one.

Padfoot caught his hand. “Don’t touch one unless you’re buying it,” he warned. “They’ve got flesh-memories and the last thing anyone wants is a Snitch that doesn’t recognise them.” Harry put his hands in his pockets so he wouldn’t be tempted to touch. Padfoot laughed at him. “You’re definitely your Mum’s.”

“What do you mean?”

“James would have begged to buy one by now.”

“I thought you said Dad played Chaser?”

“He did, but he played Seeker too; he was a Seeker to start with though because there were no Chaser positions available when we were second years. From third year until sixth he played Chaser and then in seventh he went back to Seeker.”

“Why?”

“Davey Gudgeon was the year above us - played Beater until his third year and then there was an incident with the Whomping Willow and his hand-eye coordination wasn’t good enough for Beating so he took up Seeking instead.”

“Incident with the Willow?” Harry repeated.

“It’s a tree at Hogwarts. There was a game trending through our second year to see who could get closest... we Gryffindors always excelled, of course, but Gudgeon nearly lost an eye. It stopped after that...”

“Lost an eye?!”

“The tree hit him,” Padfoot said, shrugging. “Very messy.”

“Isn’t Seeking harder than Beating? I mean, the Snitch is smaller.”

“Yes, but the Snitch isn’t trying to hit you. If you miss a Bludger though and it flies into you...” Harry winced; earlier, he’d seen one of the figurines hit by a black ball the size of a ball-bearing. The figurine had lost an arm (though Padfoot had assured him that was an exaggerated effect and the worst that really happened was a fracture). “Anyway, Prongs played Seeker when he left because no one else could - the only one interested was a first year and everyone knows firsties can’t play.”

They drifted over to look at broomsticks - Padfoot was curious about how they’d improved in the last seven years. The woman who’d tripped over earlier was there with her husband; “I still think we should get her the owl,” she said, inspecting a sleek broomstick.

“Dromeda, I’m telling you, she’ll want the broom, not a bird. Besides, she’s already got that ruddy cat-”

“Yes, Ted, but what’s a broom going to help her with?” the woman said, dodging another display. “Owls are practical-”

“Dromeda, she studies hard. She’ll have to if she’s ever going to be accepted by the D.M.L.E..” The woman nodded. “We should get her something fun.”

“This is why you’re the favourite,” the woman said accusingly.

“Of course,” the man said. “It wasn’t my idea to name her Nymphadora...” Padfoot’s head snapped up and his face drained of all colour. The woman shoved her husband, laughing. “Excuse me?” A shop assistant appeared. “We’d like to order a Comet two-sixty.”

“Excellent choice,” the man said, grinning. “We’re out of stock for the moment, unfortunately, but we’ll be getting some in on the sixteenth-”

“That’s fine,” the woman said smiling. “As long as it’s ready to put on my daughter’s bed by the twenty-fourth-”

Harry didn’t hear the rest; Padfoot grabbed him and dragged him behind a shelf stacked with broom compasses. “You know them?” Harry guessed.

“The woman’s my cousin,” Padfoot said. Harry took another skeptical look. He didn’t think she looked like Padfoot at all except for maybe the eyes, but then, he didn’t resemble Dudley. They waited until her back was turned and then slipped out of the shop door and blended in with the holiday crowd.


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