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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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