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Sitting at the dinner table on your eleventh birthday usually is a time of excitement. It's not really supposed to be a trial. But, I guess when you accidentally blow up your Dads TV for the fourth time, with no idea how, I suppose it wouldn't be usual. I personally, had no idea. But here I was trying to explain it to my parents. And again, I wasn't doing a very good job, I was a bit shy, and I wasn't very good with words, let alone explaining. I shrunk lower into my chair, poking at the meatloaf on my plate, meat loaf was my favorite meal, but for some reason I just wasn't able to enjoy it like I usually do. How could I explain it? It was even worse, because I actually enjoy setting things on fire, and playing with fire works. But this time I hadn't done anything. I was screwed, because there was no way my Mum or Dad would believe that I hadn't done anything. I scowled at my plate, my meat loaf an unrecognizable mushy mess on my plate. I flicked at a pea, it skated across the table, rolling slowly, and halting next to my Dads hand which was flat on the table. I blinked guiltily, my Mum hated food going to waste. I looked up met her eyes, bit my lip and ducked my head once again. I could hear my parents talking about the TV. It had been a lot of money. And we didn't have much.

“Sev, you know what you did to it, right?” My father asked, his face wrinkled in concern. He was desperately trying to work out what had happened. After I had gotten into so much trouble the last three times, I guess he thought I'd have stopped. But the thing is I hadn't actually touched it.

“Not really,” I mumbled, “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t mean too! I was just angry, the stupid channel had canceled my favorite show.” I looked from him to Mum, my eyes pleaded with them to believe me. 

Dad shook his head, he exchanged a glance with Mum, they both knew there WAS no logical reason WHY the television had blown up, particularly since I hadn’t let it over heat, or attached some kind of explosive to it. "Son, I know you think you didn't do anything, but how could it have blown up if you hadn't done anything to it?" He sighed, "It just doesn't make sense, Sev."

“I didn’t do anything to it!” I whined, I knew I sounded childish and pathetic, but what else was I supposed to do? I looked down at my plate, I stabbed at my food viciously. 

“Severus!” My mother said warningly, “Don't play with your food. It's rude. There are children out there starving from no food.” Mum then turned her attention to Dad, "Pete, I know this is hard, but perhaps we just go without for a few weeks? We can't afford to replace it just yet, and Sev doesn't lie to us. We both know that."

"Mary, there has to be and explanation for this," my Dad said, his face twisted in frustration. He slapped the table, "And if Severus didn't do anything, precisely who did?" Dad was getting more irate, Mum was sitting there looking unhappy as Dad started to rant. There was a loud dong that came from the door bell, Dad stopped ranting looking very confused. “Now who would be calling at this time of night?” He wondered out loud, staring at the door that led to the hallway.

“You’d better go check Peter.” Mum said, as the door bell dinged again. She glanced at me; she was worried about me, I could see that. Dad stood and exited the room, his footfalls heavy and thudding against carpeted flooring. I watched him go, his large boots leaving dints in the off white carpet.  Dad returned with a stranger in tow. The man was tall, he wore a blue suit and a purple shirt with a large orange tie. It all clashed magnificently. His dark brown hair was longish and fell into his wise brown eyes. He looked like a man who could be trusted. A man who would be fair to you if you did something wrong. And a man who would be stern if you dared to muck up around him.

“Good evening Mrs Connor,” The man bowed to her, his tie flopping forward to dangle above the floor, “My name is Neville Longbottom.” Neville looked at her, smiling gently. “I apologize for barging in on you all like this, but there is a very good reason for it.” Neville looked at my Dad expectantly, and was waved to sit down. I shoved my food sideways a bit, looking at the strange man. 

“Why are you here? Who are you?" Dad exclaimed, he was looking at Neville as though he expected him to grow an extra head. Apparently a luridly coloured man appearing in our midst was too much for my straight laced father to take in. Mum also looked a bit overwhelmed.

“Sir, if I can explain?” Neville waited until Dad had nodded jerkily in assent before continuing, "Perhaps a demonstration would be best before I do anything?"

“At what?” My Dad asked utterly flabbergasted. He stared at the stranger as if he were a loony.

"A demonstration, I fear you mightn't believe what I am about to say, so I shall show you first, then explain." Neville then proceeded to pull out a long, thin piece of wood, he pointed it at my Mums coffee mug, then with a dramatic wave the mug turned into a kitten. I gaped at it, Mum screamed and Dad yelled.

"What is going on here?" He yelled at the strange man seated next to me. Neville blinked at him, clearly not expecting such a violent reaction. "How did you do that?"

"Mr. Connor, please control yourself, I will explain myself presently." Neville waved his wand again and the kitten was changed back into a coffee mug. I laughed in delight and looked at Neville with awe. He winked at me. "Now, as I said, my name is Neville Longbottom, and I am a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." He paused, allowing my parent to absorb what he had just said.

"Preposterous!" Dad said scornfully, "There is no such thing as magic!" his eyes however were a bit wild, like he didn't quite know what to do, and was only protesting because he thought he must. That if he didn't his world would come crashing down. Neville simply looked at him, waved his wand again and the kitten appeared again. Dad deflated, his eyes looking anywhere at the kitten or at the strange man who sat opposite him. A man who looked like a harmless lunatic, a man who claimed to be a wizard, a teacher of magic. A man who had just turned my fathers complete understanding of the world on its head. "There can't b,." He said weakly.

Neville smiled gently, "There is magic, Mr. Connor, there are witches and wizards everywhere. We work, we play, we live everywhere. We hide, because if we showed ourselves we'd have no way to remain free. We would be enslaved, persecuted, or even hounded to make things easier for non-magical folk." Neville sighed, "I know it's a lot to take in, but believe me, it's true." I watched him, he was so gentle, he even looked like he regretted having to do this to them. I looked back down to my plate, the mashed meat loaf and peas seemed to personify what had just happened. Two peoples preconceived notions of how the world worked was just mashed up and flung about. Destroyed forever. 

"Why are you here telling us this? Surely there are rules if you are a hidden society?" Mum said softly. She was looking down at her hands, they were careworn, scuffed with use and chapped from working. She raised her eyes to briefly meet Neville's, before dropping them again to her hands.

"Yes, there are rules," Neville agreed, "But I need to tell you this, so I can give your son this." Neville then turned his kind gaze upon me, and drew out a letter from his pocket and handed it to me. The paper was heavy, and there was bottle green ink across the front that said:

Mr. Severus T. Prince.
The kitchen table
9 Brewers Lane
London, England

"What's this sir?" I ask him. My black eyes meet his brown ones, and for a moment there is a flicker of something across his face. It goes as quickly as it came. I wait for his answer.

"Why not open it and find out?" Neville says, smiling at me.

I nod seriously. I slide my finger under the seal, noting that there is a crest emblazoned on the back. It was a 'H' and around it was a snake, a badger, a hawk and a lion. I opened the letter, my breath was short with anticipation, somehow I knew that whatever this contained, I knew it would be important, I knew that it would change everything. I unfolded the heavy paper, and took a deep breath and read out haltingly,

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Headmistress: Minerva McGonagall
(Order of Merlin, first class and second class)

Dear Mr Prince,
We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours Sincerely,

Filius Flitwick
Deputy Headmaster.

I gazed at the paper I held in disbelief. "I'm a wizard?" I breathed.

"Yes, you are." Neville said quietly. "And a very good one too, if you're anything like your father."

I looked at my Dad, "You're a wizard?"

Dad shook his head, "No, but it looks like your biological father was. Neville do you know him? We only ever met Severus' mother."

"Yes, I knew him, he was potions master while I was at school. I hated potions, so I wasn't the best student, he loathed anyone who he thought didn't take the best care or attention in his class. We never really saw eye to eye." Neville said this all heavily. He was watching me, I realized, I was overwhelmed. 

"How can I be a wizard?" I asked finally, "I can't be! There must be a mistake."

"Has nothing happened? When you were angry? Or scared?" Neville asked, as though he already knew the answer.

"Today," I said, it suddenly making sense, I looked at Mum, "I accidentally blew up the TV. I didnt mean too." I suddenly looked at Neville, "I really didn't mean to, I'll learn to control it, I promise!" Thinking that now he knew he might not want me at his school. 

"I know, that's what we teach you, control, and other things too." Neville looked at me encouragingly. "So, does this mean you will accept your place?" He asked me, I nodded excitedly.

I froze, "That is, if Mum and Dad let me." I looked at them pleadingly, hoping they would, hoping they would be okay with me being a wizard.

My parents exchanged a look, before my Dad nodded, "Where do we get his things? And do wizards use the same money as we do?"

Neville smiled, "No, we don't, but Severus was left in his fathers will, his biological father, and was left a fair amount of gold as a result. As for where you will get his school items, I will escort you myself to Diagon Alley, on August 18th, if that is okay?"

Mum nodded silently, her hand had at some stage been grasped by my Dads. They looked shell shocked. I sat there, thinking. Who was my father? Who was he to Neville? What had he been like?

Neville stood, "I apologize, but I must leave now, my wife is expecting me home now. Thank you for your hospitality, I'll show myself out." Neville then turned the kitten, which had unnoticed curled up into a ball and fallen asleep, amd then walked out of our tiny kitchen and out the front door, leaving us to sit in silence. Mum got up and served my cake, and cleared away my uneaten dinner. I ate my cake in silence and then bid my parents good night. Barely ten words had been said since Neville had left. 

                                                  *******

It was August 18th, four months after my eleventh birthday, I was standing in front of the mirror in my parents room. I looked at what I was wearing, hoping it would be okay. I had no idea what wizards wore, so I was wearing my favourite outfit. Black jeans, worn and torn around the hems, and a black t shirt. I wriggled into my red converse and tied the laces loosely. My hair was slightly too long, and occasionally fell into my eyes, which were black as a starless night. My nose was a bit too large for my face and hooked. I looked at my reflection and swept my hand through my hair, looking it look windswept. I heard Mum call for me, and I bounded downstairs to find Neville standing by the door. He wasn't as eccentrically dressed as last time I had seen him. He wore blue jeans, black leather shoes and a white button up shirt under a black leather jacket. Mum was looking at him as though she couldn't quite believe what she was seeing. Her brown hair was swept up into a ponytail and her black dress was edged in white. I thought she looked really beautiful. 

"Now," said Neville, "While we are out, Sev you are to call Professor Longbottom. Mrs Connor you too please." Then with that, he escorted us out the door. "Now, Mrs Connor, the best way to get to Diagon Alley is to apparate, however, I don't think you'd appreciate it, so if you don't mind, are you able to drive us there?" Professor Longbottom enquired

"We don't own a car," Mum said looking stressed, "We'll have to catch the tube." 

Professor Longbottom blinked, "I see. Come along then." An hour later we were standing on a bustling street, the people rushing about and pushing through the crowd. Professor Longbottom looked around a bit, then with a nod started to walk towards the corner of the street opposite, I craned my neck, trying to see where we were, but I couldn't find the street sign. Professor Longbottom then led the way into a dingy little pub that somehow want being seen by people. They seemed to look at the big bookshop on one side, and then to the record shop on the other. I stared in amazement at it, the sign above it read "The Leaky Cauldron", it looked really nasty. Professor Longbottom didn't stop to stare, but rather entered it immediately, holding the door open for my Mum and I.

“Do you honestly think it’s responsible to bring an eleven year old to a place like this?” Mum hissed at the Professor, clearly scandalized. She gazed about

“Mrs Connor, its fine. Tom would never allow any alcohol be served to a minor.” Professor Longbottom reassured her, and without further adieu led us through to the bar, nodding at the young barman, who had sandy blonde hair and sported a metallic green scaled coat. "His fathers son through and through," The Professor said with a confident air. Clearly he came here quite a bit. “World’s finest dragon leather, m’boy!” Whispered Professor Longbottom to me, he had noticed my admiring look at the green coat, and winked at my obvious awe.

 Weaving between the crowded areas, we slipped out the back into a sort of courtyard, and here, Professor Longbottom then pulled out his wand, and in a complicated order, tapped the bricks. MAGIC! I said gleefully to myself. I was grinning long before the bricks started moving, long before I saw my first glimpse of Diagon Alley. At the sight I was dumb struck, gaping; I numbly followed Neville into the thronging crowd. My mother clung to my hand, as Professor Longbottom led us through the streets to a gleaming white and gold building with GRINGOTTS emblazoned on its front. I silently followed the professor as he nodded to the bizarre creatures out the front.

“WHAT are they?!” I gasped hoarsely; they were unlike anything I’d ever seen, squat and ugly, nonetheless a keen intelligence shone from their black eyes. One of the creatures reached out a long fingered hand and swung open the door for us. Inclining their heads to the Professor, in what I suspected, was a measure of deepest respect.

“Those are Goblins, Severus, clever as they are, goblins,” Neville murmured, “But not always friendly, you’d best stay close!”I needed no further urging, and was practically under the Professors arm as we made our way to a little goblin at the front desk. “Mr Prince would like to make a withdrawal,” announced professor Longbottom calmly.

“Does Mr Prince have his Key?” Asked the Goblin greasily, leaning imposingly over the desk to peer at me. The Professor blinked, and then waved his wand, the goblin eyeing the wand angrily the whole time, and a tiny golden key flew out from under his jacket and landed with a tiny clatter upon the goblins counting book. Disgusted, the goblin swiped it up, “Be warned Professor Longbottom, we goblins do not like to be reminded of our failure to grasp wand lore.” Neville nodded soberly and followed the goblin to a back corridor. Beckoning us, we climbed into a very small carriage, not unlike a roller coaster cart, and were hurtled down a black shaft.

                                                       ******

Minutes later we found ourselves blinking in the late afternoon sunlight, my pockets laden down with gold Galleons, silver Sickles, and bronze Knuts. I didn’t know where to run first. I started to move, when a stern hand clapped down on my shoulder. Guiltily I jumped. I looked up at Professor Longbottom.

“This way please,” Neville said amused, “Wand first!” And with that announcement, he led the way to a dingy shop. It looked as though it was a sneeze from falling down, the windows were grimy, and faded velvet cushions sat in the window, long thin boxes sat upon them. 

Slipping inside, mum and Neville took up places on two spindly chairs by the shop window. Thin, long boxes lay haphazardly every which way. I looked around, curious and slightly nervous. What if I failed? Would I be shipped back home, and apologetic note in tow? No, I said firmly, I was a wizard. I would be the greatest wizard ever. A slight scuff on the floor caused me to spin around, there a thin willowy woman stood. Her luminous blue eyes regarded us almost in surprise.

“Welcome,” She whispered, her voice so soft I strained to hear it. “You are here to buy your first wand, Mr Prince?” She asked. And then, turned, clearly not wishing to hear the answer. Either that or she already knew. Eerie. I shivered. She returned with two boxes, looking bemusedly at them both, “Neither wand knows if you are its master, they have awaited one for so long.” She sighed. Unable to help myself, I inched away from her. She creeped me out, yet I was still unable to not obey her. She beckoned me over, and handed me an elegant, black wand. 

“Blackthorn, 15 inches, dragon heart-string.” She sighed, “Give it a wave child.” I did, and boxes in their dozens jumped off shelves and landed in undignified piles on the floor. “No, not that one.” She opened up the other box, and pulled out a stumpy white wand, “Snow gum, from Australia, 9 inches, unicorn tail.” She held it out to me. Disgusted, I waved it, a loud bang and the glass in the shop front shattered. “Unusual” She said softly. She moved to the right hand side of the store, and pulled out a faded box, “I doubt, but still...” She trailed off. And with surprising swiftness and apparent irritation; crossed over to me. Twelve tries later the woman came back, a very ratty box in her hands, she lovingly ran her thin fingers over it, holding it out, she murmured, “Ash, 12 inches, dragon heart string”

I waved the wand, and felt a happy glow spread through me, “It likes me!” I said in surprise, I could feel definite approval emanating from the wand. The mysterious woman smiled. 7 galleons later, I owned my new wand. Neville looked back at the woman sadly, before following us out of the shop.

Next we stopped at Madam Malkin’s and bought me, my school robes, it took close to an hour, being pinned and having adjustments made so they fit perfectly. The school robes were dull black, unadorned as we hadn’t been sorted yet. I liked them, even though my mother complained that black made me sallow skinned and greasy looking. I felt offended by that. Then we went to Flourish and Blotts, to buy my school books, despite it saying otherwise on the school list, I really wanted to buy “Hex you enemies, Charm your friends” By Wilfred Narks. But Professor Longbottom wouldn’t let me. 

After that, we bought my potions ingredients, all manner of slimy and disgusting creatures, bottled and pulped the essence claimed to further wizarding kind. I was particularly entranced when I watched a shop wizard add porcupine quills to a potion, turning it green from purple. “Slug killing potion,” murmured Neville to me, "Not particularly difficult." After that, we quickly dashed through the rest of the shopping, as the shops were closing, and bought me parchment, quills and ink and other such necessities, although, not the colour changing ink I’d really wanted. Finally shopping done, and completely exhausted we headed home. I collapsed on my bed, completely exhausted. If this was what the magical world was always like, I’m sure I’d love every minute of it.

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