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Jack Dawkins and the Brave New World by EvanAsh

Format: Novel
Chapters: 3
Word Count: 7,076
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Drama, General, Action/Adventure
Characters: James (II), OC, OtherCanon
Pairings:

First Published: 12/01/2010
Last Chapter: 01/17/2011
Last Updated: 01/17/2011

Summary:



Jack Dawkins is no ordinary boy. He's intelligent, literate, mature and Most Likely To Become The Next Dark Lord. But shhh. He doesn't know that part yet. He doesn't even know what a wizard is. Banner by MajiKat.


Chapter 1: Prologue
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Jack Dawkins knew, in an abstract sort of way, that he made adults uneasy. He didn't know why, although he thought it might have something to do with the inexplicable mishaps that followed him around like a stray dog he'd fed once and could never be rid of again. He was partly correct. His teacher was certainly not made more comfortable by the knowledge that his recently retired colleague had nearly broken a hip when her chair fell to pieces beneath her, just as she was scolding Jack particularly forcefully for the consistently tattered state of his homework.

However, incidents like these were not the core problem that grown-ups had with Jack. He wasn't a child, Mrs Melton, the neighbor, had insisted once, after a few more glasses than she was used to, and although the friends from out of town had dismissed this notion out-of-hand, she was remarkably spot-on.

Jack, although, if anything, somewhat small for his age, had all the mannerisms of a person decades his elder. He followed the advice often given to other children his age and thought before he spoke, but on Jack, this trait was eerie. It was crafty, his teacher, Mr Baker, said. He wrote in a report sent home that Jack was the most deceitful and manipulative boy that he'd ever laid eyes on, but this was alright. Jack's father never read the reports anyway, and his mother was many years dead.

It was Jack's habit to sit quietly, move confidently and speak to no one as though they were anything but his equal. It was the last especially that got Mrs Melton's goat. Children shouldn't speak as though adults were their equals. It was conceited. It was arrogant. But she didn't really blame him. He couldn't help being odd, without a mother, and everyone knew his father had simply fallen to pieces after Mrs Dawkins' death. The boy needed taking in hand. And Mrs Melton would have volunteered for the position too, if it wasn't for her own small girls. Mr Melton had disappeared not long after the youngest one was born, and it was enough for her to do simply keeping them away from Jack's influence.

Not that Jack had ever given the girls any encouragement. He displayed a remarkable lack of interest in his peers, but this seemed to be exactly what fired their imaginations and stoked their curiousities. And there was opportunity, especially of late. Jack was making a great deal of money this summer, doing odd outside jobs up and down the street, and Melissa, Mrs Melton's youngest daughter, was making quite a hobby of following him around. She was out there right now, Mrs Melton grimly noticed as she glanced up through the kitchen window. Not even attempting to speak to the boy, which was a blessing, although perhaps if she did, the boy might be rude and send her away. What sort of eleven year old boy would bear being pestered by a nine year old girl for any length of time at all? But Melissa was simply watching, with big blue eyes, while Jack snip-snipped away at those hedges across the street.

Mrs Melton's frown deepened. No, Jack wasn't cutting hedges at all. He was turning around to speak to a very strange-looking woman. She didn't look related to anyone who lived on the street, and Mrs Melton was certain she'd never seen her visiting before. There was no car, and there was something about the woman's clothes, but it was impossible to put her finger on what it might be. It wasn't the clothes themselves, perhaps, but something odd about the way she wore them. A foreigner? No, there was something very familiar about all this, lurking in the corners of her memory. Mrs Melton made up her mind in an instant, flung the window open and called to her daughter. "Melissa?" Come away from there this instant. "I need some help with the dishes, dear." Melissa obeyed with unusual alacrity. She seemed to sense something about the woman as well. Mrs Melton sighed with relief as she waited for the sound of the door opening. It didn't really matter if Jack got mixed up with that woman and her distinctive otherness; he was strange enough as it was, and maybe it would suit him. But she remembered what had happened the last time that she'd ignored her feelings, and her own daughter's life would be better off without any more of such people.

Chapter 2: No Ordinary Boy
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Professor Penelope Clearwater had introduced countless Muggleborn students to the wizarding world, but it wasn't yet a task with which she felt comfortable. She was a Muggleborn herself, which was half the reason that she nevertheless continually allowed the other professors to coerce her into taking them all, instead of dividing the share fairly among the heads of houses. She remembered her own first introduction, and she remembered how terrified she'd been, and that was with the friendly face of now-Headmistress Pomona Sprout doing the honors. She simply could not imagine allowing the well-meaning but socially bumbling Professor Longbottom to put anyone off by providing such an eccentric first glimpse of the wizarding world. And as for Professor Yap.... She almost shuddered to think of it, and the sun was uncomfortably warm today. Was there some secret school rule that allowed the only the most intimidating graduates of Slytherin to return as the House's Head? If anything, Yap was even worse than his predecessor, Snape. Severus might have turned out to be a hero - it was the version that Potter was standing behind, anyway - but that didn't change the fact that if a Muggleborn had ever agreed to follow Snape into a mysterious new magical world, then Professor Clearwater would eat her shady-brimmed hat, which she now adjusted in what she hoped was an elegant and impressive manner as she stepped forward to approach the dark-haired boy.

"Excuse me, young man. Your name is John Thomas Dawkins?"

He nodded, warily, which Penelope decided was to be expected. She approached most new Muggleborn students with their parents present, in their own homes, but occasionally the files had little notes, as this one did, to approach the children independently. It usually happened with orphans or children in foster care, but sometimes even when the sole surviving parent was simply very sick. Cases such as these were more delicate to begin with, and a stranger on the street who knew his full name surely did nothing to tip the balances back in her favor. She smiled, but that didn't seem to work either.

"Is there somewhere we can talk?" she asked significantly, very aware of the young girl standing just a few feet away. Before John could respond, however, the girl's mother called from a nearby house and the two were left somewhat alone.

"Here will work now, won't it?" John asked, and sat down on the doorstep as if the question were already settled. The expression on his sharp features was more curious than anything else, but it appeared that he was not forgetting his understandable reservations just yet.

Penelope bit her lip. "Well, I suppose if it must. It's just that I'd rather not attract attention from any of the neighbors, and this will be startling news." John did not move, speak, or appear to be impressed. Penelope stood in silence for a moment, wonder if perhaps she ought to sit as well, as undignified as that would be. Then she cleared her throat, peering awkwardly down at where he sat, obscured by her own shadow. "My name is Professor Penelope Clearwater. I teach at a school called Hogwarts. It has an odd name to your ears, but it's a very special school for people with extraordinary powers. People like you." It was usually best to start simple and blunt.

John looked blank. "Powers? Like psychics and things, do you mean?"

"Like wizards and witches, although a little like psychics, yes, if it helps you to understand. It's a school of magic."

"How much does it cost?"

This was not a question that Penelope had ever been asked after telling an eleven year old that magic existed. "Pardon?"

"That school you said. Hogwarts. How much money does it cost to go?"

"Well... quite a bit, actually, but we have a very good scholarship system," she hastened to assure him, as the disappointment registered in his eyes. "If you'd like to come, the headmistress and I will make absolutely certain that it happens. Albus Dumbledore - well, he was a very prominent headmaster, a wizarding hero, in fact - he said that if a person had the ability, then they ought to be taught. And Headmistress Sprout follows Dumbledore's example as closely as she's able. You're a wizard. She won't keep you out over something like gold. I promise."

John took a moment to think this over. "If you want me so bad," he said amiably, "then I guess it's a yes." He had the air of a person who considers all of the important questions to have been dispensed with. Everything left was merely clarification of petty details. "I can move things with my mind," he confided, "but not very far, and not if I'm thinking about it. What sort of magic is taught at a school then? How to do the same thing, but on purpose?" It was clear that he did not find this a very impressive prospect, but was willing to give it a fair trial.

"Much more than that," she promised. "But as I'm sure you can realize, with a little thought, magic is a bit of a secret. Muggles - that is, non-magical people - are really not supposed to find out, if we can help it. Is there somewhere more private we could go? I could give you a demonstration."

John nodded, slowly, and Penelope made a small movement towards the door they were standing in front of before she remembered that the address didn't match with the one she'd been given and John pointed at one across the street.

Penelope was sure she saw a face disappear from the neighbor's window, and the faded blue curtains certainly flicked closed as they passed, but she gave it no thought. She made more a point of noticing that the house they approached was distinctly less well-kept than any other on the street, which was not, on the whole, anything like the higher-scale streets she'd ever visited. Inside, the house was little better. John led her through a small entranceway to an only slightly larger living room. The entranceway was covered with dust, but the majority of the surfaces in the living room were covered with dirty dishes. In the adjoining kitchen and dining area, the sink was filled with empty bottles. Penelope pulled her gaze away as John offered her the sofa and dragged a chair across from the dining table to a space across from her.

"We have to be quiet," he informed her. "My dad's sleeping upstairs."

She nodded. "Well, John-"

"Jack."

She nodded again and continued. "Well, Jack, there are many different kinds of magic taught at Hogwarts. They range from simple charms," she produced her wand and nonverbally lifted an empty bowl from the end-table to her right and floated it over to a clear space on the counter beside the sink; her eyes followed the bowl, and so she did not notice the fleeting anger on Jack's face as she did so, "to the slightly more complex branch of transfiguration." She turned the spoon still lying on the end-table into a fork and back again. "As you probably noticed, most magic requires a wand." She held hers up for emphasis.

"Where do I get one of those? Are they expensive?"

"Diagon Alley. That's the next thing I was going to mention." She produced a bag of gold from her purse. "This is from the scholarship fund, and it should cover all of the necessary supplies, which are listed here." She handed him the envelope and explained exactly how to reach Diagon Alley. "You can ask Tom the barman if you need any help. He's getting on in years, but he's still as willing as ever. Or if you'd like, I could accompany you."

"I'll be alright," he said immediately.

"You'll be able to get to London on your own?" she asked. "Your father-"

"I have money for a bus," he said, and there was something fiercely defensive in his eyes, so although it was the second time that he had interrupted her - behavior that most of the professors would not tolerate at Hogwarts - she simply nodded. The defensiveness had reached his voice when he said, "My father is sick."

Penelope deliberately did not look over to the sink, but continued to nod. She was doing a lot of that, she realized, and she wasn't sure that she liked it, or that it was the appropriate response. "Of course."

"He is."

She said nothing, not knowing what to say, but Jack did not fill the silence, so eventually, after nearly a minute had passed, she decided to change the subject. "Well, you'll have to get there twice. The train will take you to Hogwarts from King's Cross Station. There are more details in the envelope I gave you."

Jack immediately opened it and scanned the pages. "Nine and three quarters? There's a platform like that?"

"Yes, but Muggles don't see it. It's hidden behind a barrier, and you have to just walk on through, even though it looks like a solid wall." Jack's expression grew odd and she got the impression that he was imagining exactly what would happen if she wasn't telling him the truth, or if, for some reason, the magic didn't work for him. "Try and get there early," she said. "There'll be lots of other young wizards and witches around, and you can watch them, or ask one of them for help. Most of us are friendly enough."

Jack shrugged. "Alright then. Is there anything else I need to know?"

"I don't think so. Oh, the coins. The gold ones are called Galleons, silver ones are Sickles and the other ones are Knuts, with a k. It's twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle and seventeen Sickles to a Galleon, and... oh, I can't remember what the exchange rate is, with Muggle money, but you don't have to worry about that anyway. All of the prices at Diagon are fair, so just pay what they ask you." She ran a hand through her hair, thinking very hard about anything she might have forgotten, but nothing came to mind. There was plenty more to know, of course, but it would all be explained along the way, and there was no sense giving him too much to digest, so to speak, all up front. Although he seemed to be taking it exceptionally well. She frowned. "You know, you don't seem at all surprised about this. It's highly unusual."

Jack shrugged again, his expression decidedly disinterested in what she considered to be usual. "Well, there can't not be magic in the world. I know there is. I've seen all sorts of weird things. The only thing I wasn't sure about was what form it would take when I finally met it straight on."

Penelope pondered this rather odd statement, and concluded that Jack must have seen a wizard or a witch performing magic at some point, but hadn't had his memory wiped, because of course he wouldn't have shown up as a Muggle on the Ministry's sensors and he didn't seem to have made a commotion about it. "Well, alright then. That makes things easier. Now, I'd better head back, I have all sorts of lessons to get planned before September." She stood, and Jack stood as well. "Be sure and head to Diagon as soon as you can. Shops don't usually ever run out of supplies, but you don't want to get the copy that's had its cover all bent in the bottom of the box." He nodded and Penelope Disapparated right from the Dawkins' living room. She told herself that it was simply for convenience's sake, since there was no reason not to, the boy already being so accepting of magic. But secretly she felt a smug satisfaction at the confidence that finally she had done something that he wasn't likely to take in his stride. She only wished she could have seen his expression.


Chapter 3: First Impressions Come In Threes
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Bastian,

Don’t play stupid with me. You still read the papers, don’t you? We both know what this means. You haven’t given up on us entirely or you wouldn’t have helped me. Now make your decision once and for all. Are you with us or against us?

Nathan



Every moment that Jack spent in this strange new world brought another wonder to his eyes, to his ears, or even to his nose. He didn't have money to spare for ice cream, but he peered through the window glass at Fortescue's flavors board for a full minute anyway. He'd always found the thought of even pistachio ice cream to be strange, but this was something else entirely. Who in the world wanted blood flavored ice cream? Or ice cream that tasted of grass? He finally shoved off only because the man behind the counter waved at him with a friendly smile, and while people were often friendly when they thought one was bringing them money, they didn't usually stay that way for very long after they had realized their mistake.

In any case, there was plenty else to fuel his growing astonishment. An entire shop appeared to be dedicated to brooms, and even more surprisingly, a lot of boys close to his own age were fascinated with the one displayed in the window. Jack cautiously joined the edge of the crowd, conflicting images of housecleaning drudgery and witches in aging fairy tale picture books converging in his head.

"My parents are getting me a new one for my birthday," one of the older boys was saying. "It's just a better version of the Cleansweep, but it'll still go much faster than that old mop I was riding around on last year." Which answered that question, he supposed.

A brief glance at a price tag just inside the shop, and another question was answered as well. Jack wandered away again, strictly schooling his thoughts towards more affordable goals. Just across the street, for instance, was a newspaper stand. Hardly sounded as exciting as a flying broom, but motion on the front page had caught Jack's attention, and he was drawn hypnotically closer. It was nothing too impressive, he told himself. Pictures moved on television all the time, but the difference was that even though Jack knew only vaguely how televisions worked, he knew that if he went to all the trouble to find out, then the answers would all make perfect sense. About these moving pictures, he knew nothing of the sort.

"Muggleborn, eh?" Jack turned to find himself scrutinized by a scowling young man in clothes that Jack could tell from experience had not been bought with this particular man in mind.

"I think so," he said, when he realized the man was waiting for an answer.

"On me." A newspaper slightly more worn than those in the stands was thrust into his grasp by calloused hands with dirt-stained fingers. "You've got a lot to learn and not much time to do it in."

Jack nodded his thanks, but the man was already turning his back and striding away. He reached a corner where Diagon turned into a much shadier looking street, glanced behind him, and briefly met Jack's eyes. Then he was gone. Jack took his newspaper to a bench he'd spotted earlier, near Fortescue's.

Werewolves Riot At Banning Manor, the headline read. At the stands, Jack had been too fascinated by the pictures themselves to pay much attention to what they were showing, but now he could see that they were snapshots of some sort of mob. Werewolves, he supposed, although for the most part they didn't look much different from Professor Clearwater, or the man at the ice cream stand. Not as well dressed and angrier, perhaps, but that was all. He turned his attention back to the words.

Werewolves rioted yesterday at the family residence of prominent Ministry worker, Baywulf Banning. Mr Banning is considered primarily responsible for many of the recently enacted security measures against rogue werewolves, including the highly contentious Werewolf Registration Requirement Act, which makes it a crime punishable by life in Azkaban for a werewolf to remain unregistered after a period of thirty days following their infection.

Twelve of the rioters were arrested, but only ten will be charged with offenses ranging from murder conspiracy to destruction of property. The press was not allowed to speak with any of the ten still imprisoned, and both of the released werewolves were unavailable for comment. However, an anonymous member of the MLE informed this reporter that all werewolves present at the riot are believed to be properly registered and that the trigger for the violence appears to be the recent failure of a bill that would have made the werewolf registry confidential, and which Mr Banning refused to support.

"The facilitation of prejudice is not my intention," Mr Banning said, on the first of July when he announced his opposition. "But it is my belief that withholding such important information from the public will only lead to greater suspicion and animus among the general population. Individual werewolves may find themselves temporarily inconvenienced, but they must understand that free access to the registry is the only way that mothers and fathers will ever rest easy in their ability to protect their children. Surely we have not already forgotten the lessons we learned from the horrendous, however brief, reign of the dark wizard Voldemort? Our ignorance and secrets nearly caused the downfall of our entire civilisation, not two decades hence. I mean only to prevent the same from happening again."

An anonymous werewolf, who was not involved with these riots, nevertheless confided in this reporter that, even among those of his kind who do not and will not ever condone violence as an appropriate response, the feelings of these rioters are widely shared. "With all due respect, he [Banning] hasn't got a clue what he's talking about. He's an excellent politician, but however much support he garners in the Ministry, the fact remains that the situation of werewolves in England today is far more complex than he likes to pretend. Heavy-handed, black-and-white thinking will only cause an escalation. I've been saying it for years, and these riots are just the beginning."

Mr Banning was unavailable for further comment.


Jack looked back at the photo, but noticed no more details for knowing a part of the story behind it. At least it seemed to explain the blood flavored ice cream. Jack could not imagine a world in which werewolves and blood flavored ice cream existed, but vampires didn't.

The rest of the stories were not quite as interesting, which was why they were not the front-page headlines, but he skimmed them anyway, from falling cauldron prices to the opening of an Order of the Phoenix Museum, which gave him a little more information about the dark wizard that Mr Banning had mentioned on the first page, although not very much. He'd hated Muggleborns apparently, because that, according to the blurb, was the main group which the Order had rescued from his clutches. There was no information on who the Order was, or how they'd defeated him, however. Presumably, this was old news for most of the wizarding world.

When he was finished with the paper, Jack left it folded on his seat, checked the time and continued on his search for the best stores in which to buy his supplies. He was a little more familiar with the layout of Diagon now, and within a handful of minutes located a bookshop with a sign in the window advertising the newly arrived shipments of school books. Jack checked his reflection beside the sign and carefully smoothed away the confusion lines around his eyes. He momentarily wished that he'd been able to locate a clothing store first, especially after he had so easily been spotted by the man at the newspaper stand, but there were other children walking around in normal clothes, so he doubted that he would draw any stares. He would have to make up for his obvious unfamiliarity with the wizarding world in other ways. Besides, he couldn't waste any more time in wandering if he wanted to get home in time to make dinner, so with a final deep breath, he opened the door and walked straight into a man wearing something green that Jack still had a very difficult time not thinking of as a dress. So much for good impressions. The first person he'd met, if such a word could be used for the very brief encounter, had known before hearing a single word that Jack was out of place, and now he'd collided with the second one.

"I'm sorry," he apologized quickly. His voice was polite, if tightly controlled against the effect of nerves. "I didn't see you there."

The dark-haired wizard turned and smiled. "Don't worry about it. I shouldn't have been standing so close to the door." Now that Jack was focusing on the man's face, instead of his strange attire, he looked surprisingly normal. There was a jagged scar on his forehead, but other than that, it was almost shocking to find this face in the middle of so much outlandishness. "Are you one of the new first years?"

Jack nodded wordlessly.

"So is my son. He and his mother are over at Madam Malkin's and I decided it would save time if I picked up the books while I waited."

"Madam Malkin's?"

"Robes shop."

"Good to know."

The wizard looked as though he couldn't decide whether or not he was supposed to be amused, so Jack quickly changed the subject. "Do you know if this shop sells used editions of the textbooks?"

"I think so. Most of the books on James' list are the same they've been using for years. Some of them are the same ones we were using when I was a student, for that matter. Don't bother getting the Defense book, by the way. Neville said the teacher that they thought they were getting backed out at the last minute, and the new new replacement will be assigning a different one. That's Professor Neville Longbottom, by the way. You'll have him for Herbology, and he could also be your Head of House, if you're Sorted into Gryffindor."

There was something about the man's watchful manner that suggested Jack was in some way being tested, so he merely shrugged and looked noncommittal until the man prompted him more bluntly. "Do you know what Sorting is?"

"No," he was forced to admit.

If it was indeed a test, he didn't seem to have failed it quite yet. "Students at Hogwarts are magically Sorted into four different Houses. Each student's House determines where they sleep and when they go to each class. The Sorting is a unique system."

Jack knew that some normal — Muggle — schools used Houses, but he didn’t say so. The man was probably referring to some other aspect, one that he hadn’t told Jack about yet, and there was nothing worse than correcting someone who wasn’t actually wrong. He waited until it became clear that the man was determined to wait him out instead. There was no point to a battle of wills, he decided. “And how is the Sorting done?”

“By the student’s dominant personality traits. Gryffindor is for the bravest, Ravenclaw for the most intelligent, Slytherin for the highly ambitious and Hufflepuff for those who do not fit well into any of the other three Houses. It’s not a bad House though,” he added, although to be honest, the judgment hadn’t yet crossed Jack’s mind.

“Fascinating.” It sounded a little more sarcastic than Jack meant it to, but he couldn’t change that now, so he met the man’s questioning eyes blankly.

“Hmm. I suppose.” Jack relaxed as the wizard finally looked away. “Well, it looks like the potions books are just over here, so I’ll start with that one. They usually have the school ones right out front this time of year.”

Jack hesitated, then followed, a few steps behind, glancing down at the letter in his right hand as he did so. “Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger.”

“Exactly. Same one I used in my own first year. They don’t change much in the first few years, because the basic principles of magic don’t really change either. You’ll probably need more recent ones in the later years though, and I'm sure this is a newer edition than the one that I was using anyway.”

Jack spotted the row of books seconds before the wizard pulled one off of the shelf and pointed to another shelf lower down. “Those look like used ones there.” They did look rather more battered than most of the other merchandise, and they were labeled cheaper too. “What’s next? Let me see your list, I think I left James’ back at Madam Malkin’s.” Jack was almost certain there had been a paper in the wizard’s hand just minutes earlier that resembled his letter remarkably in size and apparent weight, but before he could say so, the man had taken charge of Jack’s list in a manner too easily assuming of permission to even be considered rude.

Moments later, Jack was almost impressed. “John. That’s a good name.” So that was the game. Not bad at all.

“I go by Jack.”

“Still good, and it suits you better, if you don’t mind me saying so. My name’s Harry Potter.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr Potter.”

“You can call me Harry.”

“Thank you, Mr Potter.”

This time, the man was definitely amused, although he attempted to conceal it. “Fair enough. One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi next, if that’s alright with you.”

“No objection.”

It didn’t take Potter long to locate the rest of the books and Jack simply followed along behind him, memorizing as well as he could the directions that Potter casually gave him as they went along, to the wand shop and the apothecary and all manner of other places, some of which Jack had already seen, such as the broom store and Fortescue's. He didn’t like the odd glances that the man kept giving him, but he was used to getting similar, at least. No matter what adults might claim, they rarely liked the idea of a young person capable of taking care of themselves. Because that made adults somewhat unnecessary, didn’t it? Even more, he didn’t like the odd looks that Potter was getting from the shop’s other patrons. He didn’t need to be getting advice from someone who apparently didn’t know how to fit in either, but he was able to exit the shop quickly and without incident, so the man’s help couldn’t be entirely worthless.

“Are you going to Madam Malkin’s next?” Potter asked. “I need to head back there too. James should be done getting fitted by now.”

A red-haired woman and a boy of about Jack’s own age were leaving the robes shop, laughing together, as Jack and Potter approached. “Harry!” the woman called when she saw them. “We were supposed to meet up with Hermione and Ron almost ten minutes ago.”

Potter waved back and shook Jack’s hand goodbye before hurrying to catch up with them. “Who was that?” he heard the woman ask as the family walked away.

“First year,” Potter answered. “He looked a little... lost.”

Jack walked into the shop just as a cheerfully whistling woman stepped out of the back room.

“Ooh, another one.” She laughed. “Just step in the back there. Hogwarts, right?”

Jack nodded, but she barely seemed to notice, too busy bustling him along and pulling something long and flowing over his head. “Sorry for the rush, but we’re understaffed just now and there’s always so many this time of year.” Jack stepped up onto the footstool, somewhat stunned, and the woman busied herself with a flurry of pins. She’d been working for less than a handful of seconds when the door swung open again with another shop employee escorting an occupant for the second footstool.

“Alright?” the other boy, a dark-haired and extremely heavy-set affair, asked pleasantly, but didn’t wait for an answer. “Know who I just saw outside? Harry Potter. Walked right past him and almost said hello.”

“Harry Potter?” Jack asked cautiously.

“Yes, you know, Harry Potter! The Boy Who Lived? The Chosen One? Rescued the world from the most powerful dark wizard in living memory? Harry Potter.”

Jack thought of the stares in the bookshop and the dark lord Voldemort's name in the paper. “Oh, right. Harry Potter.”

“Well, don’t sound so blasé about it. Or don’t you believe me?”

“Not really.”

The other boy sighed dramatically. “Story of my life. The one interesting thing that’s happened to me all day and the child says he doesn’t believe me.”

“Child? What are you, twelve? Very adult.”

“No, I’m eleven, more’s the pity. There was a sea, a literal sea, of Muggleborns down at the apothecary. Kept asking the most ridiculous questions, and their parents were no better, held the line right up. I, for one, had difficulty even finding the line, never mind reaching it. Three big seventh year blokes come in, push right through, get out in five minutes. I ask you, is that fair? I’m not sure whether I’d rather be big, or just have thrown all the Muggleborns out.”

Jack thought the boy was plenty big enough already, for an eleven year old. “Are they all that bad then?”

“Well, no.” He looked worried, all of a sudden. “You don’t think that sounded prejudiced, do you? I mean, it’s true, and it’s not like I want to kill them or anything, I just wish they wouldn’t hold me up. It’s annoying, you know?”

“Exactly.”

“Yes.” The boy smiled, relieved. “Yes, that’s exactly it. I don’t hate them, I’m just too keen about them, that’s all. My mum says I have to start watching what I say, now that I’m starting at Hogwarts though. My dad was on the other side, see, with the Death Eaters, and so a lot of people will be watching me really closely. But I figure I can prove myself easy enough. I’m a friendly guy. Anyone with brains can see I take after my mum anyway, except for my size. Did your parents have anything to do with it?”

Jack, who had been rapidly inventing what he would say when this topic was inevitably broached for some time now and wasn’t yet finished, played for time. “What, with your size?”

“Haha. With the war.”

He shrugged. “My dad’s a Muggle and my mum died when I was very small.”

“Oh, I see. Well, maybe you can look around for her at Hogwarts, you know? Ask the professors or hit the library, see if she was mentioned in any of the old news articles.”

“Good idea.”

“It would be so cool if she was in with Potter and them, wouldn’t it? I hear some of the teachers go really easy on those kids. Let me know when you do go looking and I’ll help, okay?”

“I... think I’d rather do it alone, thanks.”

“Oh. Yeah, I understand. We can do something else. Quidditch. You play Quidditch?”

“Qu... not very well.”

“I can help you practice though. I’m a Beater, I’m really good. We can borrow school brooms some time and I’ll show you a few tricks. I bet I’ll have you ready to try out for the real team by third year at the latest. Sound good?”

“Sure.”

“Great. I’m Timothy Goyle, by the way. Do you know what House you want?”

“Jack Dawkins. I was thinking maybe Slytherin.”

From the way that Timothy’s face lit up, it was the right answer to give. “Me too. Definitely. And that’s a good thing, because there’s no way I could explain training another House’s future star player to Professor Yap.”

“That’s,” Jack thought back to what the apparently famous Harry Potter had said about Professor Longbottom, “the Head of Slytherin House? Wasn’t his name on my letter? Bastian Yap?”

“Yes, yes and yes. He was made deputy headmaster a few years back and my mum threw a fit about it. I guess they used to be friends or something, but after Hogwarts he really distanced himself, thought she was bad for his career or something, what with marrying my father. My mum hates him something fierce. I’ve been mentioning him as much as possible ever since I got my letter,” he finished, in the same gleeful tone that he’d been using throughout. “Always makes for a brilliant show. Or a distraction, if I need one. I haven’t cleaned my room once this entire month.”

Both of the witches finished at about the same time, saving Jack from the impossible puzzle of how to reply to such a story. Timothy left in a hurry, saying he wanted to get some ice cream before his mother caught up. He invited Jack, but Jack declined, with the very real excuse of the remaining supplies that needed buying, and sighed with relief on his way to the apothecary, where he did not find a sea of Muggleborns, to his disappointment. The conversation with Timothy, even more than the newspaper articles, had left him with a broad understanding of exactly how much he did not know and he had been hoping to overhear somebody else’s confusion getting cleared up. Although this goal remained unaccomplished, he was able to gather his supplies in record time, something that the stench made him very happy about.

He picked up his cauldron and telescope, then headed to his final destination: Ollivander’s.

It was a smaller and dustier shop than most of the others he had visited, and somewhat anticlimactic as the thought of wands had been very entrancing ever since Professor Clearwater's magical demonstration. He was greeted by a sleepy and startled-looking young wizard who seemed entirely uninclined to look Jack in the face. “First wand, eh?” he asked, rubbing his nose and looking at a patch of air a few feet above Jack’s head. “Best place for it. Well, let’s get this started. Which is your wand hand?”

“Do you mean... I’m left-handed.” Measuring tapes with minds of their own were zipping about him and Jack was forcibly reminded of Madam Malkin’s.

“Try this one. Yew and dragon heartstring.” The stick was in his hands and gone before he could ask what he was meant to try with it. The next five or so went through the same process, simply with different qualities called out in a bored tone of voice. When one of them finally sparked — literally, as it turned out — the wizard was no more interested than he had been with the ones that hadn’t. “Pine and phoenix feather. Very good wand." Jack might have been pleased with this, had the wizard not sounded as though he said those exact three words in response to every eleven year old's first wand. "Seven Galleons for that.”

Jack had reason to be glad that he’d managed to save a few Sickles on the books, because seven Galleons for a wand was just about everything that he had left. He considered returning to the bookshop to see if he could find some sort of affordable overview of the wizarding world for Muggleborns, but then considered that although at the beginning of the day, his confusion had been obvious to the man at the newspaper stand, and most likely to Harry Potter as well, he'd been able to bluff his way through the conversation with Timothy well enough and people Timothy's age were going to be the people that Jack mostly associated with for the entire next year. He might stumble a bit, but no one paid that much attention to anyone else during their own first week at school. He decided to save the Sickles. He would manage to sit with Timothy on the train to Hogwarts instead. Timothy would do most of the talking, and between his school books and whatever he could prod Timothy into revealing on the train, Jack had little doubt in his abilities to figure things out on his own.


Nathan,

I did one favor for you because you said it would be the last time. I’m no longer interested. I will have nothing to do with these events. M was right. I’ve found my place and you ought to find a new one as well.

Bastian




A/N: Thank you for reading, everyone, and I hope you've enjoyed the story so far! If you have time to review, I would be very grateful and especially interested in hearing what you think of my characterization. Particularly my interpretation of Harry and the idea of Timothy, but all of the characters, really. I'd also like to know what you think of the letter technique to introduce the other players of the plot before Jack is really aware of it. Were the letters intriguing or did they just make you go 'huh?'

Finally, for anyone trying to guess ahead, Bastian, Nathan and M have all been mentioned in this chapter, outside of the letters. Bastian is the easiest one to spot, of course, but if you have guesses as to who the other two are, please let me know. I'd love to hear what you're thinking!


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