The Potter's house was almost fully isolated, nestled into a small hollow between a couple of grassy hills. Few people ever saw it in their lifetime, and the few people who did had lived there for decades. A single dirt road led through a pass to the outside world, but it was seldom used and had almost fully grown over with grass and shrubbery. It was a regal house, a beautifully constructed masterpiece of decoration and construction. It had been around for over two hundred years, but appeared to be surprisingly well kempt for its impressive age.
It was an extraordinary house, and befittingly, it belonged to an extraordinary family that had kept it and cherished it for generations: the Potter family.
The Potters were wizards; and from as far back as the family tree could discover, they had always been wizards. Nothing so shameful as being otherwise had ever even occurred to the Potters. They were purebloods, and quite comfortable in their status, to a point where they almost took it for granted.
The current generation of Potters only had two children, a boy and a girl, ages nearly-eleven and thirteen, respectively. They made an ideal family; four people living happily in the luxury that they had inherited from their ancestors. The current living Potters consisted of the mother, Roerva; the father, Edward; the son, James; and the daughter, Katherine. And they were all wizards.
Except for James. James, almost turned eleven, hadn't yet received his acceptance letter to the respected wizarding boarding school, Hogwarts. He knew that he was a wizard; he already knew how to perform some minor spells with his father's wand and was able to complete them satisfactorily enough to prove that he did indeed have magical power, but he wasn't official.
Katherine, often called Katie by the members of the family other than her mother, squandered no opportunities to tease her little brother about the fact. "Oh James!" she'd often call up the enormous staircase. "Breakfast is ready! All the real witches and wizards are already down here enjoying it!"
Her mocking never failed to bring tiny James bounding down the stairs, a scowl on his face and his cheeks red with resentment.
Breakfast-time at the Potters was typically a quiet affair, quiet, that is, until the morning owl flew in from the kitchen window.
Katie grasped the bird in midair and pulled the envelopes off its feet. She shuffled through the mail, grinning slightly as she read aloud what they contained. "Father's got a message from Mr. Malfoy, Mother's got that recipe from the Blacks that she's been wanting, and Edith finally sent me that thing I've been asking for… but nothing for poor ickle Jamesie-poo."
James' face fell. "No letter from Hogwarts?"
"Nope, no letter from Hogwarts. I'll bet you're a squib!" Katie cackled.
The slap came across her face so fast she didn't even hear it coming. "Don't ever suggest such a thing again," Father said harshly, his cold voice echoing in the huge room.
Everybody froze, unsure of how to react to Father's outburst. An icy silence blanketed the table, arresting the words and actions of the family. Timidly, Katie broke the silence with a quiet voice.
Mother smiled softly and took the mail out of Katie's hands. She shuffled through the contents that Katie had described, but paused when she reached an envelope with ornate green script on the front. "Oh dear, Katie, there is a letter for your brother!"
James raised his head and a grin spread across his face. He reached his hand across the table for the letter, grabbed it quickly, and happily read the writing on the front.
Mr. J. Potter
The Third Bedroom to the Right
He quickly tore open the letter, ignoring Katie's scowl. He read over the words, a grin spreading slowly across his face. "You've been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…"
"Congratulations, darling," Mother said lovingly. She glanced meaningfully at Katie. "It's official."
"It's official," murmured James incredulously. "I'm official!"
He stood up so quickly that he knocked his thighs against the table and ran over to hug Mother.
"Guess what, Daddy? You get to take me to Diagon Alley now, you promised!" James hopped up and down excitedly.
"I promised I'd take you on your eleventh birthday, and that isn't for another two weeks," Father smiled. "But… I think I'll make an exception. Just this once."
Katie poked her food with her fork. "Can I come?" she said, almost inaudibly.
Mother answered for her. "Of course you can. We're all going! Let's make a day of it."
Father nodded. "We'll have a day just for our family. We haven't had one of those in a long while."
Katie smiled. She knew her father had forgiven her for what she'd said earlier, and she forgave him for the slap. After all, it would be something awfully shaming, for the entire family, to have had James be a squib.
It was the first time James had set foot in the Leaky Cauldron. He swivelled his head from side to side, trying to take it all in. It was so different from anything in the wizarding world that he'd ever experienced. The loud shouting, the dingy walls, the sticky tables and the dim lighting. It's a whole different world out here, he thought.
Father put a protective hand on his children's shoulders, steering them through the chaos. Katie acted bored and nonchalant, as though she'd seen the scene so many times that she was jaded from it.
Finally, they escaped the mess of the pub and emerged in a brightly lit alley with a brick wall in front of them.
James looked confused. "Is this Diagon Alley?"
Mother smiled comfortingly. "Almost, darling. We'll let you do the honours, James."
Father reached for James' small right hand and placed it over his own large wand-hand. Together, the two hands clasping the same wand, they tapped a seemingly random series of bricks on the wall.
Father smiled as they tapped the last brick. James stepped backwards, disbelieving, as the bricks moved and separated to reveal an archway into a busy street of buildings and shops.
"Welcome," Father said. "To Diagon Alley." He paused for effect. "Once you cross the threshold of this archway, you are a true wizard." He stepped across, as though to prove his point. Mother followed. Katie snorted at the childish ceremony, but stepped across as well.
James was left alone on the Muggle side of the archway. He inched forward, aware of the magnitude of each of his steps. Soon there was only one more to go… his left toe touched the brown cobblestone of Diagon Alley, and Mother and Father let out a mighty cheer. Father ushered him into the hustle and bustle of the street, patting his son on his back in congratulations.
"All we have left to do now is get you a wand and you'll be an official wizard, son."
They walked out of Flourish and Blotts an hour later, a wheelbarrow full of shiny new schoolbooks for both children. James held A Standard Book of Spells, Grade One in his grasp, poring eagerly over the many spells.
"Look, Father, a spell to make your skin turn colours!" James squealed excitedly.
"And what possible use could that be?" drawled Katie, absolutely bored to tears of the whole ordeal. "Camouflage yourself so that you could hide in the Forest and not get bloodied up by seventh years?"
James was ready to spit out a nasty retort, but paused as he looked up. He found himself staring at the sad face of a small redheaded girl. She was gazing forlornly at the owls in the window of Eeylops, clutching a set of dingy, used schoolbooks that had certainly not been well cared-for.
James tapped his mother on the shoulder. "That girl, Mother, she looks lost, don't you think?"
Mother turned around quickly and followed her son's pointing finger. "James, darling, what girl?"
James looked up into his mother's face. "The red-haired one, she has very bright red hair."
Mother sighed. "I don't see any girl, honey."
James looked anxiously back at the window to Eeylops, but the little girl was gone. "She was just there…"
Katie snorted. "Look, Father, not only is the little prat brainless, he's hallucinating as well!"
Father placed a heavy hand on Katie's shoulder. "Stop harassing your brother, Katherine, he hasn't done anything to you."
"He hasn't done anything to me today."
Father chuckled. "True." He turned to his son. "James, how would you like to get your wand next?"
James lit up with excitement. "Would I ever!" He dropped the Standard Book of Spells into the wheelbarrow and grabbed his father's hand, pulling him fiercely towards Ollivanders. Father called back to Mother, "Take Katie to Madam Malkins and see if you can find one of her friends, I'll take care of this one!"
They soon reached a narrow, shabby little shop sandwiched between two large emporiums. The front of the shop was distinctly unimpressive; it displayed a dark, dirty door and a window that looked like it hadn't been cleaned since the shop had opened. James tried to open the door, but found, to his surprise, that it was locked tight. He tugged on the door, but it wouldn't budge.
James turned to Father. "What's happening, how come we can't get in?"
"Well, the space for customers is very small, so Mr Ollivander wisely lets in only one customer and family at a time. I suppose there is already someone in there."
"How come we can't go in and wait in there?" James whined impatiently.
"Because it's dangerous!"
Father sighed. "You'll understand better when we get you your wand."
James scowled. He pressed his face up to the window, trying to see what was going on inside. The darkness of the shop combined with the dirty window didn't let him see much beyond occasional sparks. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, although Father claimed it was closer to five minutes, a warm, bright light filled the shop. The door opened and released a dazed first year, clutching a white wand tightly in her first.
Father quickly pushed James through the door. It shut ominously behind them, leaving them to rely on the dim lamp on Mr Ollivander's desk for light.
Mr Ollivander smiled. "Hello, Edward Potter, and your son…"
"James," Father supplied. "James Edward Potter. He's going to be a first year."
"I see." Mr Ollivander reached a wrinkly hand under his desk and pulled out three boxes, motioning to James to open them. Tentatively, James reached for the darkest box and pulled out a light-coloured stick of wood.
"Maple," Mr Ollivander said tonelessly. "Ten inches long. Swishy. Give it a wave, Master Potter." The venerable wand-maker smiled at Father as James waved the wand to no effect. "And how has your wand been working for you, Edward? Thirteen inches, rosewood, if I'm not mistaken?"
"You never are, sir, you never are."
Mr Ollivander nodded, expressionless, and pushed another box at James "Twelve inches, oak, with a unicorn tail hair. Useful for curses. “James picked up the wand and swung it around aimlessly. Father grabbed his hand. "No, son. Quick, steady, purposeful movements. Like this." Father guided James' hand and pointed it at a vase, then jabbed the air quickly. The vase shattered.
Mr Ollivander chuckled and pushed another thin box at James, then continued to talk to Father. "And how is your wife? Roerva, correct? She bought her wand at Gallinger's, in Hertfordshire, if I'm not mistaken."
"Right again on all accounts, Ollivander."
The two adults turned to James as forty wandboxes jumped off the shelves and flew towards them like spears. Mr Ollivander took the wand away from James, causing the boxes to fall to the ground, and used his own to lift the boxes back up.
Ollivander shook his head. "You're going to be a tricky one, I can already tell. Quite a temper you've got there, and you're a bit mischievous too."
James grinned happily.
"We're going to have to go into the back of the shop for you, my dear boy," as he said this, Ollivander whisked himself away to the storage area in the back. He pulled out three dusty boxes, piled them on top of one another, and brought them out, setting them on the desk. James reached for the one on top, but Mr Ollivander stopped him and placed his hand over a box that was coloured a brilliant red. "Try this one first."
James pulled the top off the box to reveal a long, skinny wand of a light reddish colour.
"Holly," supplied Mr Ollivander, his eyes focused intently on James holding the wand. "Eleven inches, a phoenix feather core…"
James waved it purposefully, but nothing happened, not even sparks.
Mr Ollivander nodded briskly, grabbed the wand out of James' hand, placed it into the box and shoved it back on a shelf, out of sight.
"We'll give this next one a go, then, Master Potter." He handed James a greyish box. James opened it and pulled out a dark reddish stick of wood. His fingers tingled eerily as he held it, looking to Mr Ollivander for further instructions.
"Mahogany, eleven inches, dragon heartstring core. Very good for transfiguration. Give it a wave."
James complied, and was rewarded with a warm glow throughout his body. A soft yellow light came from his wand, lighting up the dim walls around them.
Mr Ollivander nodded gravely. "That's the one, Master Potter. Will you be paying now, then?"
Father walked up to Ollivander's desk to pay, while James stood in the middle of the room, staring incredulously at his wand. His very first wand that was all his own. Not Father's, not Katie's, just his.
James grasped it tightly and proudly as Father led him out the door.
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