Hoping For a Better Future: BOOK ONE

One day after the end of Harry's third year, he wanders the castle when suddenly a whole package of books falls on his head. Read my version of Reading the Harry Potter Books! =D

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7. V - Diagon Alley (Part 1)

Disclaimer: Everything belongs to JK Rowling, I own nothing. Writing in bold
comes directly from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

V – Diagon Alley

Everyone cheered at that. However, Sirius felt a bit depressed at the chapter's title. It should have been him that escorted Harry on his first Diagon Alley visit. Or better yet, it should have been Lily and James that took their son to buy his school supplies. He sighed sadly. Harry looked up at him in concern, but Sirius just pulled him a bit closer to him.

Harry woke early the next morning. Although he could tell it was daylight, he kept his eyes shut tight.

"It was a dream," he told himself firmly. "I dreamed a giant called Hagrid came to tell me I was going to a school for wizards. When I open my eyes I'll be at home in my cupboard."

"You are so pessimistic sometimes," Hermione complained.

So would you be if you grew up like I have, Harry thought to himself, but did not express his thoughts aloud.

There was suddenly a loud tapping noise.

"And there's Aunt Petunia knocking on the door," Harry thought, his heart sinking. But he still didn't open his eyes. It had been such a good dream.

"Yeah, only it wasn't a dream," Ron said with a grin.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

"All right," Harry mumbled, "I'm getting up."

He sat up and Hagrid's heavy coat fell off him. The hut was full of sunlight, the storm was over, Hagrid himself was asleep on the collapsed sofa and there was an owl rapping its claw on the window, a newspaper held in its beak.

Harry scrambled to his feet, so happy he felt as though a large balloon was swelling inside him. He went straight to the window and jerked it open. The owl swooped in and dropped the newspaper on top of Hagrid, who didn't wake up. The owl then fluttered on to the floor and began to attack Hagrid's coat.

"Don't do that."

"It won't listen. Newspaper owls usually peck the recipients until they pay them," Tonks said.

"And you know that how?" Sirius teased her. Tonks' hair turned a violent red colour as she glared at her cousin.

Harry tried to wave the owl out of the way, but it snapped its beak fiercely at him and carried on savaging the coat.

"Hagrid!" said Harry loudly. "There's an owl –"

"Pay him," Hagrid grunted into the sofa.

"Hagrid, you idiot," moaned McGonagall. "He doesn't know about owl post or currency yet nor does he have any on him!"

"What?"

"He wants payin' fer deliverin' the paper. Look in the pockets."

Hagrid's coat seemed to be made of nothing but pockets – bunches of keys, slug pellets, balls of string, mint humbugs, tea-bags … finally, Harry pulled out a handful of strange-looking coins.

"Give him five Knuts," said Hagrid sleepily.

"Knuts?"

"The little bronze ones."

Harry counted out five little bronze coins and the owl held out its leg so he could put the money into a small leather pouch tied to it. Then it flew off through the open window.

Hagrid yawned loudly, sat up and stretched.

Once again McGonagall was left speechless. "If you were going to get up anyway, why make Harry pay for it?" she wondered sarcastically. Harry tried to come up with a good excuse for his friend, but couldn't.

"I think he wanted Harry to try and figure out our currency for himself, so that he could become independent sooner," said Remus, trying to excuse their friend.

"Or he just didn't think of it," Tonks chirpily inserted.

"Or that," Remus sighed, knowing his giant friend.

"Best be off, Harry, lots ter do today, gotta get up ter London an' buy all yer stuff fer school."

Harry was turning over the wizard coins and looking at them. He had just thought of something which made him feel as though the happy balloon inside him had got a puncture.

"Oh no," said Ron. "Not the happy balloon!"

"Hermione," Harry mumbled and Hermione immediately punched Ron on the arm.

"Ow! That hurt, woman!" Ron growled. This earned him another smack.

"Ow, would you stop hitting me already!" Ron yelled. The whole room was watching the two in amusement. Remus, trying to prevent another bloodbath from occurring, quickly read on.

"Um – Hagrid?"

"Mm?" said Hagrid, who was pulling on his huge boots.

"I haven't got any money – and you heard Uncle Vernon last night – he won't pay for me to go and learn magic."

"Don't worry about that," said Hagrid, standing up and scratching his head. "D'yeh think yer parents didn't leave yeh anything?"

"But if their house was destroyed –"

"You thought we keep our money in our houses?" said Tonks with mirth in her eyes.

"Hey, all I knew about wizards was what I read in fantasy books!" Harry defended himself. "And all the stories I read said that wizards had dragons that protected their treasure hordes or hid their treasure in chests. What was I supposed to think?"

"I read about that too," Hermione stated.

"They didn' keep their gold in the house, boy! Nah, first stop fer us is Gringotts. Wizards' bank. Have a sausage, they're not bad cold – an' I wouldn' say no teh a bit o' yer birthday cake, neither."

"Wizards have banks?"

"Just the one. Gringotts. Run by goblins."

Harry dropped the bit of sausage he was holding.

"Goblins?"

"Yeah – so yeh'd be mad ter try an' rob it,

"So, Harry," teased Neville. "When are you going to rob it then?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "I mean, with what all you've been up to and all the impossible things you did, I think you'll do it sometime in the future," Neville continued.

"A bet?" said Tonks, grinning impishly.

"You will not bet on Harry robbing or not robbing Gringotts," said Sirius, suddenly feeling protective of his godson, and drawing Harry into a one-sided embrace. Harry reddened at the gesture, but felt touched as he felt Sirius' protectiveness. Remus smiled at his friend, and read on.

I'll tell yeh that. Never mess with goblins, Harry. Gringotts is the safest place in the world fer anything yeh want ter keep safe – 'cept maybe Hogwarts. As a matter o' fact, I gotta visit Gringotts anyway. Fer Dumbledore. Hogwarts business." Hagrid drew himself up proudly. "He usually gets me ter do important stuff fer him. Fetchin' you – gettin' things from Gringotts – knows he can trust me, see.

"Got everythin'? Come on, then."

Harry followed Hagrid out on to the rock. The sky was quite clear now and the sea gleamed in the sunlight. The boat Uncle Vernon had hired was still there, with a lot of water in the bottom after the storm.

"How did you get here?" Harry asked, looking around for another boat.

"Flew," said Hagrid.

"Flew?"

"Somehow, I still can't imagine Hagrid flying," Harry mumbled. Sirius heard it and snorted.

"He flew on a Thestral," explained Dumbledore. Harry looked confused for a moment before his expression cleared.

"Ah," was all he said. Everyone stared at him again.

"What?" he asked, starting to feel a bit awkward.

"You know what a Thestral is?" asked a baffled Hermione.

"Sure I do," said Harry, becoming a bit irritated. "It's a huge winged horse that you can only see if you've witnessed death."

The professors were impressed.

"I do read my schoolbooks, you know," continued Harry sarcastically. "Plus I do seem to remember that a book called Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was on our booklist in my first year."

Hermione blushed. "Sorry," she muttered.

Ron only shook his head, acting as if someone had just died. Harry ignored him, still feeling a bit annoyed at everyone thinking he was thick. Though, he supposed, he didn't give them any reason to think he wasn't. He knew his grades were only average – but they had already found out why he kept them that way and he didn't want to think about it any further.

"Yeah – but we'll go back in this. Not s'pposed ter use magic now I've got yeh."

They settled down in the boat, Harry still staring at Hagrid, trying to imagine him flying.

"Seems a shame ter row, though," said Hagrid, giving Harry another of his sideways looks. "If I was ter – er – speed things up a bit, would yeh mind not mentionin' it at Hogwarts?"

"Only Hagrid," McGonagall muttered to herself.

"Of course not," said Harry, eager to see more magic. Hagrid pulled out the pink umbrella again, tapped it twice on the side of the boat and they sped off towards land.

"Why would you be mad to try and rob Gringotts?" Harry asked.

"Spells – enchantments," said Hagrid, unfolding his newspaper as he spoke. "They say there's dragons guardin' the high-security vaults. And then yeh gotta find yer way – Gringotts is hundreds of miles under London, see. Deep under the Underground. Yeh'd die of hunger tryin' ter get out, even if yeh did manage ter get yer hands on summat."

Harry sat and thought about this while Hagrid read his newspaper, the Daily Prophet. Harry had learnt from Uncle Vernon that people liked to be left alone while they did this, but it was very difficult, he'd never had so many questions in his life.

"Ministry o' Magic messin' things up as usual," Hagrid muttered, turning the page.

"There's a Ministry of Magic?" Harry asked, before he could stop himself.

"Course," said Hagrid. "They wanted Dumbledore fer Minister, o' course, but he'd never leave Hogwarts, so old Cornelius Fudge got the job. Bungler if ever there was one.

"Too true, too true," Harry commiserated. Ron sniggered at that, although it wasn't a funny topic.

So he pelts Dumbledore with owls every morning, askin' fer advice."

"But what does a Ministry of Magic do?"

"Well, the Minister of Magic does nothing but accept bribes from a certain blonde wizard whose name I shall not mention, and finds a scapegoat anytime he's in trouble of looking bad for the press," Harry said, getting angry at the thought of Fudge sending Hagrid to Azkaban just because 'he had to be seen doing something'.

"They also send people to Azkaban without giving them a trial," Sirius added, looking grave and dark as he remembered how they stuffed him in Azkaban before he could tell them what really happened.

"Who did that?" Moody growled suddenly, making some of the people in the room flinch as they did not expect him to say something.

"It was Crouch," Sirius said emotionlessly.

"When this reading is done, I'll make sure they give you a trial," Tonks said, and Moody nodded seriously. Sirius looked at his cousin and his old mentor, deeply touched at the efforts the two would make to give him his freedom.

"Thank you… both of you," he said with a trembling voice. Harry snuggled closer to his godfather, trying to reassure him but not knowing how to. He was happy to see that he was doing a good job of it as he saw Sirius relax and pull him closer to him. Laying his head on Sirius' shoulder, he turned his attention back to Remus who continued reading.

"Well, their main job is to keep it from the Muggles that there's still witches an' wizards up an' down the country."

"Why?"

"Why? Blimey, Harry, everyone'd be wantin' magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we're best left alone."

At this moment the boat bumped gently into the harbour wall. Hagrid folded up his newspaper and they clambered up the stone steps on to the street.

Passers-by stared a lot at Hagrid as they walked through the little town to the station. Harry couldn't blame them. Not only was Hagrid twice as tall as anyone else, he kept pointing at perfectly ordinary things like parking meters and saying loudly, "See that, Harry? Things these Muggles dream up, eh?"

"Well, Hagrid isn't known for his subtlety," McGonagall sighed. Everyone in the room who knew Hagrid had to agree with her. The teenagers snickered.

"Hagrid," said Harry, panting a bit as he ran to keep up, "did you say there are dragons at Gringotts?"

"Well, so they say," said Hagrid. "Crikey, I'd like a dragon."

McGonagall's face went blank in shock.

"You mean to tell me-" she cut off. "He really got a dragon?" Her voice sounded dumbfounded. Harry couldn't look her in the eye.

"What dragon?" asked Sirius, anxious.

"You'll see," mumbled Harry into his shoulder. Remus was already starting to hate this phrase.

"You'd like one?"

"Wanted one ever since I was a kid – here we go."

They had reached the station. There was a train to London in five minutes' time. Hagrid, who didn't understand "Muggle money", as he called it, gave the notes to Harry so he could buy their tickets.

"How is it hard to understand Muggle money," Hermione said exasperated. "It has clear, large numbers on the paper bills!"

People stared more than ever on the train. Hagrid took up two seats and sat knitting what looked like a canary-yellow circus tent.

"Way to act inconspicuous," Ron muttered. Harry, Hermione and Neville all gaped at him in surprise.

"What?" Ron asked suspiciously.

"We had no idea you knew such a big word," Harry teased him when he finally found his voice. The whole room, bar Snape (he smirked) and Moody, snorted. Ron, on the other hand, was glaring at his friends.

"I hate you," he told them.

"We love you too," Hermione informed him cheerfully with just a slight blush on her cheeks.

"Still got yer letter, Harry?" he asked as he counted stitches.

Harry took the parchment envelope out of his pocket.

"Good," said Hagrid. "There's a list there of everything yeh need."

Harry unfolded a second piece of paper he hadn't noticed the night before and read:

HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY

Uniform

First-year students will require:

1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear

"They're only good for putting out fires, as far as I know," Harry commented, remembering his first practical Charms lesson. Everyone who was in that classroom grinned as they remembered their classmate Seamus Finnegan, who still didn't succeed in turning water into rum and often put things on fire when he became frustrated. Luckily, his eyebrows always grew back.

3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
4. One winter cloak (black, silver fastenings)

Please note that all pupils' clothes should carry name tags

Set Books

All students should have a copy of each of the following:

The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) by Miranda Goshawk

A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling

Ron sniggered. "Waffling, get it?" he explained when he received questioning gazes. Hermione rolled her eyes.

A Beginners' Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble

Other Equipment

1 wand
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 telescope
1 set brass scales

Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad

PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST-YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS

"Except if you're Harry Potter," teased Ron, while the other two Gryffindors chortled at the look on Harry's face.

"Can we buy all this in London?" Harry wondered aloud.

"If yeh know where to go," said Hagrid.

Harry had never been to London before. Although Hagrid seemed to know where he was going, he was obviously not used to getting there in an ordinary way. He got stuck in the ticket barrier on the Underground and complained loudly that the seats were too small and the trains too slow.

McGonagall didn't say anything this time, but everyone could hear her exasperated sigh.

"I don't know how the Muggles manage without magic," he said, as they climbed a broken-down escalator which led up to a bustling road lined with shops.

"They manage just fine," Hermione said, feeling slightly insulted. Harry had to agree with her in that. The magical world didn't have electricity that powered so many Muggle inventions – like mobile phones, televisions, computers,… the Muggles created atomic bombs which could destroy a city in a matter of minutes. Take Hiroshima and Nagasaki for example! Plus, they went into space! Harry was always fascinated by Astronomy, even though he never showed it in school. It was fascinating watching the planets and their moons. He often wondered if there was life on other planets.

"Yes, they do," he supported Hermione. "They invented so many things! Like rockets that they launch to space! They walked on the moon and made a huge telescope called Hubble that they use to take pictures of faraway galaxies that we could never see with our telescopes."

"On the moon?" yelped Ron in total disbelief.

"But, how could they breathe?" he asked.

"They made these suits that could withstand high temperatures and pressures. And they have a helmet that has UV protection so that the Sun won't harm your eyes and they have these oxygen tanks that they carry on their backs so that they can breathe," Hermione explained.

"Amazing," McGonagall breathed. Even Dumbledore was deeply impressed by what the Muggles had accomplished. While he knew that they went to space, he had no idea what else they did to explore it. He felt deeply ashamed of himself for not keeping up with the Muggle world more often and more in depth.

Hagrid was so huge that he parted the crowd easily; all Harry had to do was keep close behind him. They passed book shops and music stores, hamburger bars and cinemas, but nowhere that looked as if it could sell you a magic wand. This was just an ordinary street full of ordinary people. Could there really be piles of wizard gold buried miles beneath them?

"Yep," Ron said with a grin.

Were there really shops that sold spell books and broomsticks?

"Sure there are," Neville added, catching on to what Ron was doing. Harry just rolled his eyes.

Might this not all be some huge joke that the Dursleys had cooked up?

"Didn't your uncle say that he doesn't approve of imagination in the first chapter?" Remus asked. Harry stayed quiet.

If Harry hadn't known that the Dursleys had no sense of humour, he might have thought so; yet somehow, even though everything Hagrid had told him so far was unbelievable, Harry couldn't help trusting him.

"This is it," said Hagrid, coming to a halt, "the Leaky Cauldron. It's a famous place."

It was a tiny, grubby-looking pub. If Hagrid hadn't pointed it out, Harry wouldn't have noticed it was there. The people hurrying by didn't glance at it. Their eyes slid from the big book shop on one side to the record shop on the other as if they couldn't see the Leaky Cauldron at all. In fact, Harry had the most peculiar feeling that only he and Hagrid could see it.

"That's because they can't," Tonks chuckled. Harry rolled his yes.

"I was eleven and just found out about magic!" he complained. "I'd like to see you do better."

Everyone smartly stayed silent at that, though you could see Sirius' and Remus' lips twitching as they fought their smiles. Harry noticed that and elbowed the two Marauders in the ribs. While they grumbled and licked their wounds, Harry waited for Remus to continue reading, wearing a satisfied smirk.

Before he could mention this, Hagrid had steered him inside.

For a famous place, it was very dark and shabby. A few old women were sitting in a corner, drinking tiny glasses of sherry. One of them was smoking a long pipe. A little man in a top hat was talking to the old barman, who was quite bald and looked like a gummy walnut.

"Oh Merlin," Sirius managed to say through this laughter. "A gummy walnut…" Then he descended into laughter again. Most of the room did, as a matter of fact.

"How do you come up with such things, Harry?" Remus asked as he dried his eyes, because he was laughing so much that his eyes started tearing up.

"It's a talent," Harry uttered matter-of-factly to the renewed laughter. Even Snape's lips were twitching a bit as he tried to stay quiet. Dumbledore's eyes were twinkling like a 100 watt light bulb as he chuckled under his breath. Moody's fake eye was twirling around his eye socket as he stared at the boy.

The low buzz of chatter stopped when they walked in. Everyone seemed to know Hagrid; they waved and smiled at him, and the barman reached for a glass, saying, "The usual, Hagrid?"

"Can't, Tom, I'm on Hogwarts business," said Hagrid, clapping his great hand on Harry's shoulder and making Harry's knees buckle.

"Way to be discreet, Hagrid," said McGonagall once she managed to calm down a bit.

"Good Lord," said the barman, peering at Harry, "is this – can this be –?"

The Leaky Cauldron had suddenly gone completely still and silent.

"And welcome the fans!" Ron said dramatically. "Ow!" was heard a second later as Hermione socked him in the arm again.

"Bless my soul," whispered the old barman. "Harry Potter … what an honour."

He hurried out from behind the bar, rushed towards Harry and seized his hand, tears in his eyes.

"Welcome back, Mr Potter, welcome back."

Harry didn't know what to say. Everyone was looking at him. The old woman with the pipe was puffing on it without realising it had gone out. Hagrid was beaming.

Then there was a great scraping of chairs and, next moment, Harry found himself shaking hands with everyone in the Leaky Cauldron.

"Doris Crockford, Mr Potter, can't believe I'm meeting you at last."

"So proud, Mr Potter, I'm just so proud."

"Always wanted to shake your hand – I'm all of a flutter."

Hermione giggled. "That sounded like something from a Victorian romance novel," she explained as she received questioning looks.

"You read something other than textbooks?" said Ron and Harry simultaneously and with mock horror on their faces. Hermione didn't deign them with an answer to the amusement of the other occupants of the room.

"Delighted, Mr Potter, just can't tell you. Diggle's the name, Dedalus Diggle."

"Oh no," McGonagall murmured.

"I've seen you before!" said Harry, as Dedalus Diggle's top hat fell off in his excitement. "You bowed to me once in a shop."

"He remembers!" cried Dedalus Diggle, looking around at everyone. "Did you hear that? He remembers me!"

Harry shook hands again and again – Doris Crockford kept coming back for more.

Sirius snorted at that.

A pale young man made his way forward, very nervously. One of his eyes was twitching.

Harry's, Ron's and Hermione's eyes narrowed at the description. They all knew just who that was. Harry was mentally kicking himself for not suspecting Quirrell sooner – he had seen him in Diagon Alley the day he tried to steal the Philosopher's Stone after all – and he never saw Snape around.

"Professor Quirrell!" said Hagrid. "Harry, Professor Quirrell will be one of your teachers at Hogwarts."

"Not that he taught us much," Harry mumbled so quietly that even Remus, with his enhanced hearing, could hardly hear him.

"P-P-Potter," stammered Professor Quirrell, grasping Harry's hand, "c-can't t-tell you how p-pleased I am to meet you."

"Merlin, that stutter was so annoying," Ron sighed exasperatedly.

"What sort of magic do you teach, Professor Quirrell?"

"D-Defence Against the D-D-Dark Arts," muttered Professor Quirrell, as though he'd rather not think about it. "N-not that you n-need it, eh, P-P-Potter?" He laughed nervously. "You'll be g-getting all your equipment, I suppose? I've g-got to p-pick up a new b-book on vampires, m-myself." He looked terrified at the very thought.

But the others wouldn't let Professor Quirrell keep Harry to himself. It took almost ten minutes to get away from them all. At last, Hagrid managed to make himself heard over the babble.

"Must get on – lots ter buy. Come on, Harry."

Doris Crockford shook Harry's hand one last time and Hagrid led them through the bar and out into a small, walled courtyard, where there was nothing but a dustbin and a few weeds.

Hagrid grinned at Harry.

"Told yeh, didn't I? Told yeh you was famous. Even Professor Quirrell was tremblin' ter meet yeh – mind you, he's usually tremblin'."

"Is he always that nervous?"

"Oh, yeah. Poor bloke. Brilliant mind. He was fine while he was studyin' outta books but then he took a year off ter get some first-hand experience … They say he met vampires in the Black Forest

"No, not vampires," Hermione sneered.

"Why do you lot hate this poor fellow so much?" Sirius asked and was rewarded by not just glares from the trio, but even Snape, Neville, McGonagall and Remus glared at him.

"Believe me, Sirius," Harry said, harshly. "This one is definitively not a poor fellow."

and there was a nasty bit o' trouble with a hag – never been the same since. Scared of the students, scared of his own subject – now, where's me umbrella?"

Vampires? Hags? Harry's head was swimming. Hagrid, meanwhile, was counting bricks in the wall above the dustbin.

"Three up … two across …" he muttered. "Right, stand back, Harry."

He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella.

The brick he had touched quivered – it wriggled – in the middle, a small hole appeared – it grew wider and wider – a second later they were facing an archway large enough even for Hagrid, an archway on to a cobbled street which twisted and turned out of sight.

"Welcome," said Hagrid, "to Diagon Alley."

He grinned at Harry's amazement. They stepped through the archway. Harry looked quickly over his shoulder and saw the archway shrink instantly back into solid wall.

The sun shone brightly on a stack of cauldrons outside the nearest shop. Cauldrons – All Sizes – Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver – Self-Stirring – Collapsible said a sign hanging over them.

"And the first thing you notice in Diagon Alley are cauldrons," Sirius shook his head, as though he was gravely disappointed in Harry. Harry blushed a bit, but stayed quiet. Snape gave him a strange, calculating look that Harry didn't know what to think of.

"Yeah, you'll be needin' one," said Hagrid, "but we gotta get yer money first."

Harry wished he had about eight more eyes. He turned his head in every direction as they walked up the street, trying to look at everything at once: the shops, the things outside them, the people doing their shopping. A plump woman outside an apothecary's was shaking her head as they passed, saying, "Dragon liver, seventeen Sickles an ounce, they're mad …"

"Why not just say a Galleon? Why seventeen Sickles?" asked a puzzled Hermione.

"You'd have to ask Mrs Weasley that," Harry grinned. Hermione gasped in surprise.

"That was Mrs Weasley?"

"Yeah, I recognized her when I met her at the train station later," Harry confessed.

A low, soft hooting came from a dark shop with a sign saying Eeylops Owl Emporium – Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown and Snowy. Several boys of about Harry's age had their noses pressed against a window with broomsticks in it. "Look," Harry heard one of them say, "the new Nimbus Two Thousand – fastest ever –" There were shops selling robes, shops selling telescopes and strange silver instruments Harry had never seen before, windows stacked with barrels of bat spleens and eels' eyes, tottering piles of spell books, quills and rolls of parchment, potion bottles, globes of the moon …

"Gringotts," said Hagrid.

They had reached a snowy-white building which towered over the other little shops. Standing beside its burnished bronze doors, wearing a uniform of scarlet and gold, was –

"Yeah, that's a goblin," said Hagrid quietly as they walked up the white stone steps towards him. The goblin was about a head shorter than Harry. He had a swarthy, clever face, a pointed beard and, Harry noticed, very long fingers and feet. He bowed as they walked inside. Now they were facing a second pair of doors, silver this time, with words engraved upon them:

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn,
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.

"Who came up with the poem?" asked an ever-curious Hermione.

"I believe it was Ragnok the Pigeon-Toed," answered Dumbledore.

"The guy who wrote Little People, Big Plans?" queried Harry to the disbelief of the entire room.

"You read that book?" Snape said, impressed against his own will. Harry blushed under the scrutiny of so many wizards and witches.

"I was curious about the goblin race," he mumbled.

"That is an amazing feat, for someone as young as you," Dumbledore added. Even he hadn't read the book until he was way into his hundreds. And for Harry to read it when he wasn't yet fourteen… Remus was feeling very proud of Harry and decided to heck with trying to keep a safe distance from the boy and pulled him into a warm hug.

"Remus?" asked a completely bewildered Harry into his shoulder.

"Pup, don't worry," Sirius calmed him down. "Remus is just overwhelmed by the hidden meaning of you reading that book.” Seeing Harry looking confused from Remus' arms, he explained, "Reading the book means that you're not as prejudiced about non-human species as other wizards. And reading it at such a young age is unheard of. People are usually afraid of what they don't understand and try to shun it – it's the same with magical creatures, such as goblins, werewolves, vampires, etc… Harry, do you understand what that means now?"

Harry shook his head.

"That you're a very special young wizard," Remus whispered in his ear, making Harry blush profoundly. Hermione was feeling a bit ashamed. She had been afraid of professor Lupin for a while when she realized what he was, and Ron did yell at him to leave him alone in the Shrieking Shack… that must have hurt the gentle werewolf very much.

Remus patted Harry's back one more time, and then put him back in-between Sirius and him. Harry took one look at Sirius' encouraging stare and snuggled closer to Remus as the werewolf continued reading the book.

"Like I said, yeh'd be mad ter try an' rob it," said Hagrid.

A pair of goblins bowed them through the silver doors and they were in a vast marble hall. About a hundred more goblins were sitting on high stools behind a long counter, scribbling in large ledgers, weighing coins on brass scales, examining precious stones through eyeglasses. There were too many doors to count leading off the hall, and yet more goblins were showing people in and out of these. Hagrid and Harry made for the counter.

"Morning," said Hagrid to a free goblin. "We've come ter take some money outta Mr Harry Potter's safe."

"You have his key, sir?"

"Got it here somewhere," said Hagrid and he started emptying his pockets on to the counter, scattering a handful of mouldy dog-biscuits over the goblin's book of numbers.

"The goblin must have liked that," Neville wrinkled his nose a bit.

The goblin wrinkled his nose. Harry watched the goblin on their right weighing a pile of rubies as big as glowing coals.

"Got it," said Hagrid at last, holding up a tiny golden key.

The goblin looked at it closely.

"That seems to be in order."

"An' I've also got a letter here from Professor Dumbledore," said Hagrid importantly, throwing out his chest. "It's about the You-Know-What in vault seven hundred and thirteen."

"Hagrid, did you already forget about Lily's insatiable curiosity? You should have never said anything in front of her child," sighed McGonagall.

"You do realize you're talking to a book, don't you professor?" said Sirius cheekily, ignoring the glare that followed.

The goblin read the letter carefully.

"Very well," he said, handing it back to Hagrid, "I will have someone take you down to both vaults. Griphook!"

Griphook was yet another goblin. Once Hagrid had crammed all the dog-biscuits back inside his pockets, he and Harry followed Griphook towards one of the doors leading off the hall.

"What's the You-Know-What in vault seven hundred and thirteen?" Harry asked.

Everyone who knew Lily Potter rolled their eyes at that, although Snape did it so no one noticed… except Harry of course. Drat that boy, Severus thought to himself when he saw Harry looking at him with a curious expression on his face again. He smirked in his direction and was satisfied when the boy blushed and moved his stare elsewhere.

"Can't tell yeh that," said Hagrid mysteriously. "Very secret. Hogwarts business. Dumbledore's trusted me. More'n my job's worth ter tell yeh that."

"You should have just told him and be done with it," Tonks suggested.

"That would have been safer, indeed," McGonagall agreed.

Griphook held the door open for them. Harry, who had expected more marble, was surprised. They were in a narrow stone passageway lit with flaming torches. It sloped steeply downwards and there were little railway tracks on the floor. Griphook whistled and a small cart came hurtling up the tracks towards them. They climbed in – Hagrid with some difficulty – and were off.

At first they just hurtled through a maze of twisting passages. Harry tried to remember, left, right, right, left, middle fork, right, left, but it was impossible.

"That you remembered even that much is a great feat," said Neville, who was notorious for being a very forgetful boy. Just this year he became infamous for forgetting the passwords to the Gryffindor Common Room.

The rattling cart seemed to know its own way, because Griphook wasn't steering.

Harry's eyes stung as the cold air rushed past them, but he kept them wide open. Once, he thought he saw a burst of fire at the end of a passage and twisted around to see if it was a dragon, but too late – they plunged even deeper, passing an underground lake where huge stalactites and stalagmites grew from the ceiling and floor.

"I never know," Harry called to Hagrid over the noise of the cart, "what's the difference between a stalagmite and a stalactite?"

"Stalagmites grow from the floor and stalactites hang tight from the ceiling," Hermione informed him.

"I know that now, though I liked Hagrid's explanation better," retorted Harry with a grin.

"Hagrid actually knew the difference?" Ron said tactlessly once again.

"Stalagmite's got an 'm' in it," said Hagrid.

"A great explanation," snorted Neville.

"An' don' ask me questions just now, I think I'm gonna be sick."

He did look very green and when the cart stopped at last beside a small door in the passage wall, Hagrid got out and had to lean against the wall to stop his knees trembling.

Griphook unlocked the door. A lot of green smoke came billowing out, and as it cleared, Harry gasped. Inside were mounds of gold coins. Columns of silver. Heaps of little bronze Knuts.

Harry grew very uncomfortable as the inside of his vault was described. He didn't want everyone to know how much money he had, especially Ron, because his best friend hated being poor.

"All yours," smiled Hagrid.

All Harry's – it was incredible. The Dursleys couldn't have known about this or they'd have had it from him faster than blinking. How often had they complained how much Harry cost them to keep? And all the time there had been a small fortune belonging to him, buried deep under London.

Hagrid helped Harry pile some of it into a bag.

"The gold ones are Galleons," he explained. "Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle, it's easy enough. Right, that should be enough fer a couple o' terms, we'll keep the rest safe for yeh." He turned to Griphook. "Vault seven hundred and thirteen now, please, and can we go more slowly?"

"One speed only," said Griphook.

They were going even deeper now and gathering speed. The air became colder and colder as they hurtled round tight corners.

They went rattling over an underground ravine and Harry leant over the side to try and see what was down at the dark bottom but Hagrid groaned and pulled him back by the scruff of his neck.

"Gryffindor recklessness," muttered Snape, making sure no one heard him.

"It was like riding a rollercoaster," Harry remembered.

"I hate rollercoasters," Hermione moaned as she remembered how sick she was the only time she got on one and felt lucky for the first time that she didn't have a vault in Gringotts.

Vault seven hundred and thirteen had no keyhole.

"Stand back," said Griphook importantly. He stroked the door gently with one of his long fingers and it simply melted away.

"If anyone but a Gringotts goblin tried that, they'd be sucked through the door and trapped in there," said Griphook.

"How often do you check to see if anyone's inside?" Harry asked.

"About once every ten years," said Griphook, with a rather nasty grin.

"Cute," commented Tonks.

Something really extraordinary had to be inside this top-security vault, Harry was sure, and he leant forward eagerly, expecting to see fabulous jewels at the very least – but at first he thought it was empty. Then he noticed a grubby little package wrapped up in brown paper lying on the floor. Hagrid picked it up and tucked it deep inside his coat. Harry longed to know what it was, but knew better than to ask.

"Come on, back in this infernal cart, and don't talk to me on the way back, it's best if I keep me mouth shut," said Hagrid.

"Poor Hagrid," said Hermione.

 

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