For Your Own Good
With effort, Harry suppressed a grin. "Harry Potter, Professor," he said, taking the hand offered to him. "But you knew that."
"I did, and would have even if we'd met under different circumstances." The Professor shook his hand firmly and released it. "You're very like your father, although you have your mother's eyes. But I'm sure you knew that."
Weighing truth, lies, dreams, reality, Harry decided on a middle course. "I didn't, really," he said. "I haven't ever seen a picture of them, or heard very much about them. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia don't like to talk about…you know. That sort of thing."
"I see." Professor McGonagall nodded once, though her lips were very thin. "Well, then, let me be the first to say it, though I'm sure I won't be the last. You look almost exactly like James Potter as I remember him when he arrived for his first year at Hogwarts. But your eyes…" She touched the side of Harry's chin lightly, and he looked up, startled. "Yes, Lily Evans's eyes to the life. No one who knew your parents will ever doubt who you are."
Harry grimaced before he could stop himself, and Professor McGonagall frowned. "Is something the matter?"
"No," said Harry automatically, and found himself on the receiving end of a piercing green glare, very like that of the tabby cat he'd seen so many times over the past few days. "A little," he emended. "Professor…am I famous? Did I do something, or have something happen to me, that means people would know who I am?"
Professor McGonagall exhaled, her expression flickering through exasperation and satisfaction before settling on determination. "And this," she said, more to herself than to Harry, "is what comes of leaving people letters."
With a little shake of her head, she brought her attention back to Harry. "Yes," she said shortly. "Yes, Harry, you are quite famous. As for whether you did something or had something happen to you, that has been a matter of debate for a number of years. But we'll have our entire trip to London to discuss that, and…" She trailed off, looking Harry up and down. "Why are you wearing those things?" she demanded, gesturing to the T-shirt which fell almost to Harry's knees and the jeans he'd had to turn up four times and tie around his waist with a bit of rope.
Harry shrugged. "Because everything else I have is bigger."
"You get what your cousin's finished with, I assume? Don't answer that," Professor McGonagall added before Harry could say anything. "I have eyes. But I refuse to take you to London looking like a ragamuffin out of Charles Dickens. Hold still."
Seemingly from nowhere, a slim rod of wood sprang into her hand, and Harry stared in awe. He'd seen such things as magic wands and arm-holsters for them in his dreams, but to have them confirmed in real life sent his heart jumping into his throat, even as he held obediently still.
The Professor swirled her wand once around his form, then slashed it right and left, ending with a delicate tap against the taped-up bridge of Harry's glasses. With a little rustle of cloth, the shirt and jeans shrank to fit him comfortably, and the glasses vibrated once, all over, before settling back into place (Harry had to fight the urge to sneeze). Professor McGonagall glanced down, made a sound like "Hmph", and waved her wand across Harry's battered trainers as well, repairing the places where they'd been starting to fray. "There," she said, starting to tuck her wand back into her sleeve. "Much better." She paused, then conjured a full-length mirror beside them. "What do you think?" she asked, waving Harry towards it.
A grin like the ones Henry often wore sprang to Harry's face as he inspected his reflection. In his newly fitted red shirt and blue jeans, well-worn but serviceable trainers, and round-framed glasses now missing their tape, he looked more like his dream counterpart than ever.
Except for the skin and such, but who cares about that.
"It looks great, Professor," he said, smiling up at her. "Thanks."
"Not at all." Professor McGonagall flicked her wand in the opposite direction, making the mirror disappear, and slid her wand away again. "Come along, Harry. We wouldn't want to miss the train."
"The train?" Harry hurried to keep up with the Professor's swift strides. "Don't…people like us have other ways to get around?"
"We do, but why waste a perfectly good train which is going our way in any case?" Professor McGonagall glanced down at him. "I won't lie to you," she said. "There are people in the magical world who are the equivalent of your aunt and uncle, only the other way about. Hostile towards what they don't understand, either contemptuous of it or frightened by it. But that's a part of your story, so I won't go much further into it quite yet. I'll only say that I have never considered Muggle things—non-magical," she added explanatorily, "to be inherently worse than magical ones. Occasionally they're even better. But that, too, can wait. Have you had breakfast?"
"Breakfast?" Harry had to work to get his mind back that far. The kitchen of number four, Privet Drive, already seemed like a distant memory. "Ah, no. I'd just finished doing the sausages when you got there, so I hadn't had a chance to eat yet."
"Hadn't you." Professor McGonagall's curious sequence of expressions flickered across her face again. "Well, there's no reason you should go to London hungry. There ought to be at least a sandwich shop in the train station, and I'd imagine they should have something you'd like…"
Ten minutes later, Harry sat beside Professor McGonagall in a pair of seats on a train bound for London, a bacon-egg-and-cheese wrap in his hand and a covered cup of orange juice beside him. Professor McGonagall had done something else with her wand—"a spell a colleague taught me," she'd explained briefly, "to help keep private conversations private"—and was now checking over the pages of a small book.
Harry bit into his wrap, catching a bit of bacon which had tried to escape, and tried to get his thoughts in order while he chewed. It wasn't easy. Most of his mind was taken up with a jubilant chant of I'm going to London, and then I'm going to wizard school, and the Dursleys don't know anything about it…
The conductor came by to check on their tickets. As Professor McGonagall handed them over, a horrible thought occurred to Harry.
"Professor," he said when the conductor had walked away again. "I…I don't think I have any money. To buy what I'll need, I mean." Another thought followed close on the heels of the first. "And I forgot my letter, with the supplies list in it. It's back in—where I sleep, at my aunt and uncle's house."
"I'd thought of that, as it happens." Professor McGonagall extracted a familiar-looking object from one of her pockets. "It seemed unlikely you'd be carrying it on your person, and I didn't want to give your relatives any time to think about what I was doing, so I brought a spare. Though I do have to ask." She held out the letter, tapping her finger against the second line of the address, underneath Harry's name. "Is this entirely accurate?"
Rather than answer, Harry took another bite of his wrap, and Professor McGonagall sighed. "I'll take that as a yes," she said, returning the letter to her pocket. "As for money, I think this would be a good time to discuss certain realities of the wizarding world. Such as a bank called Gringotts, at which most magical families maintain a vault. Including yours, Harry." From another pocket, she removed a small golden key. "If your aunt and uncle had ever bothered to apply to us, they could have had any amount of money, within reason, that they needed to take care of you. But I suppose some people simply glory in being martyrs, even when it's unnecessary."
Harry swallowed, which was a little harder than usual. His face didn't seem to want to let go of its smile. "So my dad's family was magical, then?" he asked when he had his mouth clear to speak. "And my mum's wasn't?"
"Right on both counts." Professor McGonagall settled back in her seat, picking up the cup of tea she'd bought herself along with Harry's wrap and juice. "There have been magical Potters for a very long time, but your mother was what's called a Muggleborn. Her parents, and her sister, as you're well aware, were all completely un-magical. No one knows quite how or why Muggleborn wizards and witches occur, but most people whose parents, either one or both, were magical themselves are perfectly willing to welcome Muggleborns into magical society." Her lips pursed briefly. "Most of them."
"But some of them don't," Harry finished. He'd long since learned, in both his personas, to hear what wasn't being said between the words of what was. "Was it one of those who…"
"Killed your parents? Yes." Professor McGonagall's eyes gazed past Harry, into the distance outside the window, but she wasn't looking at the scenery.
"You were born into the middle of a war, Harry," the Professor said at last. "Like all wars, it had a reason for beginning, but this one was even less pardonable than most. A man, if we may call him that, saw an opportunity to gain power in the closed-mindedness of the families who have been magical for a long time, who pride themselves on that fact and call themselves pureblood. He painted himself to them as the great champion for whom they'd been waiting, who would sweep away from our world the elements they consider undesirable and place them in the positions of power they believe they should hold, by right of having magical ancestors. And to better strike fear into the hearts of these 'undesirables', he took a name for himself."
"A name?" Harry picked up his orange juice. "What does a name have to do with anything?"
"Names have meaning, Harry." Professor McGonagall glanced over at him and smiled briefly. "Like yours. 'Leader of armies'. But this man's name had more to do with renouncing any real humanity he might ever have possessed, and spreading terror by giving the impression that he truly was something not quite human. Even today, when he has been gone—thanks to you—for nearly ten years, few wizards and witches dare to say his name out loud."
"Thanks to me?" Harry couldn't quite get his mind around this, though in the back of his head he heard murmurs of a story in his dad's and uncle's voices, a story about his birth parents and a cottage in a place called Godric's Hollow and a powerful, complicated spell. "But—what is his name? Or what was it?"
Professor McGonagall's face was very still. "Voldemort," she said at last, with a small exhalation of distaste. "Lord Voldemort, as he styled himself, though only his followers ever called him that. But I would recommend you not say either version aloud in any public place. He was generally spoken of as You-Know-Who, or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." A tiny spark of laughter lit in her eyes. "To give him his more formal title."
Harry buried his answering laugh in his juice cup. "So he killed my parents?" he asked. "Because they wouldn't do what he wanted?"
"They would not," Professor McGonagall confirmed. "And neither would they stand aside and let him kill you. But after they were both dead, when he turned his wand on you…" She shifted to face him. "The Killing Curse has never been known to fail," she said. "Not if the caster can find enough hatred or anger in his soul, and You-Know-Who had those in plenty. But somehow, when he attempted to kill you, Harry, the curse had different effects than it had ever had before. It left you alive and well, marked only…" She lifted her hand to her own forehead, and Harry brushed his fringe aside to expose his lightning-bolt scar. "Yes, with that. And You-Know-Who vanished from that night. No one has seen or heard of him from that day to this."
"What about his followers?" Harry let his fringe fall back into place and picked up his wrap again. "What happened to them?"
"Some were arrested for their crimes, and sent to the wizarding prison, Azkaban. Others claimed they had been forced to do what they did, placed under the Imperius Curse, which subjects one person to the will of another." Professor McGonagall sniffed. "A great many of those claims were not checked very strictly, I'm sorry to say. The Ministry of Magic wanted to suppress any further unpleasantness. All the more reason for you to be careful what you say, Harry, and who you say it to. Some of the other students in your year, or already attending Hogwarts, may well share their parents' sympathies."
Harry gulped a little, and Professor McGonagall sighed. "Not the way I'd wanted to introduce you to things, but I felt you should be warned ahead of time. Now, there must be a great deal you want to know." She smiled again, her eyes softening with the expression. "Where shall we start? With your parents?"
"Yes, please, Professor." Harry brushed crumbs off his knee. "Did you know them?"
"I did. We first met when they were my students, at Hogwarts, both in my subject of Transfiguration and as members of Gryffindor House, which I head. We have four Houses at Hogwarts, into which students are sorted based on their personalities and what they want most in life…"
By the time the train reached London, Harry's head was swimming a little, though not, he suspected, nearly as badly as Professor McGonagall might think. For every fact she told him, two more popped up inside his mind, spoken in voices he had never heard with his waking ears but all of which, astoundingly, seemed to be true. When she mentioned that Gringotts, the wizarding bank, was run by goblins, to Harry's horror he found himself blurting, "Oh, like—" and had to take a hasty bite of his wrap to cover. He didn't think he was up to explaining that his imaginary adoptive mother had an equally fictitious aunt named Amy who worked at Noxet Bank, the American equivalent to Gringotts.
Though that might explain how we all ended up in America, in the dreams. Harry followed Professor McGonagall out of the train station and towards the nearest Underground stop. If Mom, Thea, whatever I want to call her, has family there, and they were trying to protect me because I'm The Boy Who Lived…
The thought of family and protection funneled him back to Professor McGonagall explaining that he'd been sent to live with the Dursleys precisely because they were his only living relatives, that the ties of blood had made it easier for magical protections to be set up. "If I'd intended you harm, I wouldn't even have been able to approach the house, much less walk in the front door," she'd said. "I'd imagine there have been quite a few attacks warded off through the years without your aunt and uncle ever knowing anything about them."
But if they had known, they'd probably have pitched me out the door and figured they were well rid of me. Harry watched the lights flicker on the walls of the Underground. Professor McGonagall had returned to her little book, but Harry was sure she was keeping her ears open for the announcements of stops and stations. Not all families take care of each other the way mine does…
Henry's, I mean. The way Henry's does. Impatiently, Harry shook his head, and directed a hard look at his fair-skinned hands. I keep falling into that, because I feel like Henry today, being out with somebody who isn't shouting at me or pushing me around or ignoring me, wearing clothes that don't feel like they were made to fit two of me. But I can't let myself forget, or I'll say something I shouldn't know, and I have a feeling that won't end well.
Just for one second, though, he allowed himself to daydream that he was Henry Blake, not only in his dreams but for good and always, and that the person taking him to buy his school supplies was not a professor he'd just met but one of the people who'd raised him, who were his parents in all but blood.
Blood. The word rang distant bells in Harry's mind. All that stuff about purebloods, how they live and what they want, I've heard it before. Only it wasn't anything real, or at least not meant to be. It was in a story, I think…
He smiled. Of course, stupid me. How could I forget about the Townhouse books? Dad wrote them about the way he grew up, and I know he came from one of the stuck-up pureblood families, his parents threw him out of the house for dating Mom because she was Muggleborn! Not that it bothered him much, he was sick of them by then, so he just moved in with my birth dad's family until he was old enough legally to get a place of his own—
"Harry." Professor McGonagall tapped him on the shoulder. "Our stop."
Shaking off the momentary dream, Harry got to his feet. A few flights of stairs later, they emerged onto a bustling road lined on both sides with shops. Professor McGonagall walked purposefully down the pavement, Harry keeping close to her shoulder, until she came to an abrupt halt between an enormous book shop and a record shop which was scarcely smaller. For an instant, Harry amused himself imagining the trouble he and his dad would have extracting Jeanie and Aunt Gigi and Pearl from the one place, Mal and Uncle John and his mom from the other…
Stop that. He pinched the inside of his elbow sharply. No more dreaming. This is real.
"Take a look around," the Professor invited him. "What do you see?"
"I see…" Harry glanced around. "Well, there's a little pub right there." He squinted at the grubby, faded sign hanging over the door. "The Leaky Cauldron? That's kind of a funny name. I'm surprised more people don't notice it." Considering this, he looked back at the Professor. "Or is there a reason they don't?"
Professor McGonagall only smirked faintly and motioned towards the door.
The interior of the Leaky Cauldron matched the exterior, being what Aunt Petunia would have scornfully called "shabby" and Aunt Gigi would have referred to as "lived-in". Harry got a quick impression of a few old women sitting in a corner with tiny glasses of sherry, a little man in a top hat talking to the toothless bartender, before Professor McGonagall's firm hand on his shoulder steered him swiftly through the bar and out into a small courtyard at the back where a rubbish bin stood against a brick wall. "Watch carefully, Harry," she said, taking out her wand again. "Start at the top of the bin, three up, then two across—"
"Was something the matter inside there?" Harry asked, looking over his shoulder at the pub behind him.
"I didn't think you would care to be fussed over." Professor McGonagall lowered her wand. "Was I wrong?"
"No." Harry shook his head hard. "No, you're right. I don't want that." He grimaced a little. "But I probably can't get away from it forever, can I? People are going to know, as soon as I say my name. Some of them even when they look at me."
"Some of them, yes." The Professor crossed her arms, looking thoughtful. "And you're quite right that you can't get away from it forever, but perhaps for today it could be avoided. Nothing says we have to give your name at the shops, after all." She tapped a finger against her lower lip. "We'll need to tell the goblins at Gringotts, but goblins don't tend to gossip with humans. And Mr. Ollivander, the wandmaker, ought to know for his records, but we can leave your wand until last. The only question is, if I should run into an acquaintance, and they ask who you are…"
"You could say I'm one of your new students," Harry suggested. "It's even true."
"It is." Professor McGonagall chuckled. "Though if they should ask for a name—"
"Henry." Harry shut his lips tight over the surname he'd been about to add. The Professor looked surprised enough at how quickly he'd come up with a response. "Sometimes," he said, choosing his words very carefully, "I have dreams. Dreams about being somebody who's a lot like me, but who's not quite me. He has a family, and friends, and he's happy. And his name is Henry." He tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry. "Is that wrong?"
"No, Harry," said Professor McGonagall, more gently than he had yet heard her speak. "Not in the least. I can't blame you for wanting that life, and giving it to your alter ego—your other self," she explained when Harry looked blank. "And I do wish, if it helps at all, that my presence here with you hadn't been necessary."
For one moment, she laid her hand on his shoulder. Then, briskly, she turned back to the wall and laid the tip of her wand against the brick she'd pointed out earlier, three up and two across from the top of the rubbish bin. "Watch closely," she said. "Henry."
Harry bit back an inappropriate snicker and observed. With three taps from Professor McGonagall's wand, the bricks of the wall politely rearranged themselves into a neat archway, beyond which he could see a winding cobblestone street, lined with shops which looked far more interesting than the ones on the road outside the Leaky Cauldron.
"Welcome," said Professor McGonagall, putting her wand away, "to Diagon Alley."
A couple of wild cart rides later, they stood outside the snowy marble edifice of Gringotts, Harry still rather awestruck by the weight of the bag of gold in his hand, and the small wad of paper bills in the pocket of his jeans. Professor McGonagall had had one of the goblins change a few Galleons into Muggle money for him, "just in case," she'd said with a smile.
"Where to first?" the Professor inquired now, unfolding the supply list from her pocket and holding it where Harry could see it. "We could stop at the Apothecary to get your potion supplies, or go to Flourish and Blotts for your schoolbooks—and yes, I saw you looking in that window at Quality Quidditch Supplies, but you know perfectly well you're not allowed your own broomstick this year," she added sternly. "Not that I wouldn't be tempted to bend the rules in your favor if you're anything like the flyer your father was, but we'll have to wait and see about that."
"What about my uniform?" Harry asked, looking at the top of the list. "Plain black work robes, hat, dragon hide gloves—"
"The gloves we'll get at the Apothecary, but for your robes and the rest, the best place would be Madam Malkin's." Professor McGonagall inclined her head towards the shop of this name, subtitled Robes for All Occasions. "You'll need something to go under your robes, as well, if all your clothes look like what you came out wearing this morning. They have a Muggle-Wear division in the back, so I'll handle that for you while you're being fitted, if you don't mind?"
Harry shook his head, and together they crossed the bustling thoroughfare and entered Madam Malkin's shop. Professor McGonagall nodded to the squat, smiling witch dressed in mauve and disappeared between racks of robes.
"Hogwarts, dear?" said Madam Malkin before Harry could speak. "Got the lot here. Another young man being fitted up just now, in fact. Come with me, we'll get you all set…"
In the back of the shop, near a three-sided mirror, a boy with a pale, pointed face and neatly combed white-blond hair was standing on a stool while another witch pinned the black robes he was wearing to the proper length. Madam Malkin indicated the next stool over to Harry, who climbed up and waited while another long black robe was thrown over his head.
"Hello," said the other boy, glancing over at Harry with a small smile. "Hogwarts, too?"
"Looks like it." Harry resisted the urge to frown. The other's face and voice seemed somehow familiar, but he was quite sure he had never seen this boy before in his life.
"My father's next door buying my books and Mother's up the street looking at wands." The boy cast his grey eyes up towards the ceiling. "Why, I don't know, since the wand chooses the wizard so I've got to be there in person, but I suppose she's making sure it's all up to her specifications. Nothing subpar for her baby boy."
Although this could easily have reminded him of Dudley, Harry found himself instead paradoxically warming to this stranger. The tone of voice had been somehow both sarcastic and loving, as though this boy were exasperated with his mother's fussing over him but had accepted that he was unlikely to change her.
"Do you know what House you'll be in yet?" the other went on, his fingers moving restlessly against the side of his robe in what looked like a definite pattern. "Most of my family's been in Slytherin, but just imagine. Common room under the lake, so everything's bound to be eternally damp, and enough backstabbing and social-climbing Housemates you'd never get a peaceful night's sleep…don't tell anybody, but I'm hoping for Hufflepuff, like my cousin." The corners of his eyes crinkled, as though he were repressing a smile. "Not that I'm going to be able to keep that quiet for long."
Harry stood very still as a sudden conviction rushed over him.
"And watch me forget my manners." The other boy held out his hand. "Draco Malfoy, and feel free to laugh, I usually do, though never in front of my mother. She's so proud of having found a name that combines both family traditions, I don't have the heart to tell her I hate it…" He stopped, regarding Harry uneasily. "I'm sorry, have I got dirt on my nose?"
"No, no." Harry laughed, a bit unsteadily, and accepted the offered hand. "It's just—" He swallowed against his nerves and took the plunge. "You look different."
"Beg your pardon?"
Harry coughed once, preparing to do something he'd only done a few times in the schoolyard for laughs, and never where Dudley could hear, since he had a feeling his relatives would have regarded it as more 'freakishness' on his part. "Do I remind you of anyone?" he said softly, in his best approximation of Henry's mid-Atlantic American accent.
"Remind me—" The grey eyes went very wide. "No. You're not."
Lifting his hand to his forehead, Harry swept his fringe momentarily aside, revealing his scar.
"Merlin's reeds." Draco Malfoy, which Henry Blake knew as the birth name of his cousin Mal, pressed his fingers to his temples. "You are. And you're also—" He blinked a few times and looked Harry up and down. "Did you just say I look different?" he demanded.
"Oh, shut up." Harry glared at him. "Like it changes anything."
"I didn't say that." Draco held up his hands for peace. "But you have to admit…"
All at once, Harry saw the funny side of it, and had to press a hand across his mouth. Draco grinned, the sidelong expression Aunt Gigi called her son's Han Solo look. "I didn't know what to expect from today," he remarked, "but it wasn't this."
"You and me both," agreed Harry fervently, just as Madam Malkin said, "That's you done, my dear," from somewhere around his ankles.
"Meet me at Florian Fortescue's in ten?" Draco hissed as Harry stepped out of the now-pinned robe.
"I will." Hopping down off his stool, Harry hurried towards the front of the shop, his mind in a whirl.
I've wished all my life that my dreams could come true, but even with magic, I didn't think it was possible.
But if some of the people in them are real…
Well. There you have it, the seminal moment for this fic. I've always enjoyed that little encounter in Madam Malkin's, both in the canon book when I read it originally and later playing off it in my fan fiction, and now I've launched what looks like it could be another epic from that starting platform. I do hope you're enjoying it.
Next time: the boys have a talk. With ice cream. Because ice cream makes everything better. Thanks, as always, for reading, and I'll see you then!