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Hagrid taught Harry about a lot of things during their first meeting, but he forgot one tiny little detail. Just how DID Harry get back to Privet Drive after that memorable first visit to Diagon Alley?
Hagrid helped Harry onto the train that would take him back to the Dursleys, then handed him an envelope.
“Yer ticket fer Hogwarts,” he said. “First o’ September – King’s Cross – it’s all on yer ticket. Any problem with the Dursleys, send me a letter with yer owl, she’ll know where to find me…. See yeh soon, Harry.”
The train pulled out of the station. Harry wanted to watch Hagrid until he was out of sight; he rose in his seat and pressed his nose against the window, but he blinked and Hagrid had gone.
p. 87, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, American paperback ed.
Harry sighed and settled into his seat. He thought longingly of the wand packed carefully in his new trunk. He wanted to take it out and see if he could do anything besides make sparks, but somehow he did not think it was the best idea on a train full of - what had Hagrid called non-magic people? Oh yes, Muggles. Harry grinned, and instead occupied himself by trying to remember everything he’d learned about that day – goblins, galleons, school houses, robes, and broomsticks! Just thinking about it all made his head spin.
Harry tried to imagine what it would feel like to fly on a broomstick. It was difficult since he’d never even been on an airplane. He wondered if there would be flying lessons at Hogwarts. He didn’t know why, but he felt that flying was something he would be good at.
All of the day’s excitement had left Harry feeling very relaxed. Sinking further into his seat, Harry closed his eyes and pictured himself on a broomstick. He thought he might enjoy Quidditch. He liked football, after all. He had seen a few matches on television. As he drifted off to sleep, he saw himself flying above a football pitch with a black and white ball tucked neatly under his arm. He performed a complicated loop-the-loop and raced toward the goal, which was guarded by the blond-haired boy he had met in Madam Malkin’s. He feinted left and the boy followed. At the last minute, Harry flew back to the right and kicked the ball expertly into the goal. He wasn’t sure how he’d managed to do this while flying on a broomstick, but that was what flying lessons would be for, after all.
Harry’s head lolled to one side, bumping against the window. He woke with a bit of a start, rubbing his head as he sat up. The woman sitting next to him was buying a drink from a snack trolley. Harry was quite thirsty, and reached into his pockets for some money. He pulled out a few coins and looked down at his hand. It was only then he remembered he did not have any Muggle money.
I guess I’ll just have to be thirsty until I get back to the Dursleys, Harry thought. Suddenly, his eyes widened in horrific realization. Wait a minute! How exactly am I supposed to get to the Dursleys? It’s miles from the train station to Privet Drive!
“Did you want anything, young man?” the vendor asked kindly.
“Um, no thank you,” Harry said distractedly. His mind was racing furiously. Harry couldn’t recall Hagrid saying anything about how he was to get home. He pulled the ticket from his pocket, hoping he’d missed some Muggle money for a cab or bus, but there was nothing else there. He was beginning to panic.
“Are you all right, dear?” the woman sitting next to him asked. Harry realized he was breathing very heavily.
“Yes, thank you. I’m fine.” Harry tried to smile at her. He didn’t want to explain his predicament. He doubted she’d believe him, anyway. Harry took a deep breath to calm his nerves. He knew the woman was still staring at him, but he didn't care. He had to figure out how to get home.
Harry spent the last thirty minutes of the journey formulating a rather thin plan. He would nick a trolley from the station and walk home, though he wasn’t exactly sure of the way since the Dursleys never took him anywhere if they could help it. Perhaps he could find a discarded map at the station, as well.
As the train began to slow, Harry’s heart started racing. He knew his plan was quite flimsy, as he had a trunk, an owl and several parcels to carry. However, it was the best he could do. He tried not to think about how difficult it would be to find his way to Privet Drive in the dark. Gathering his resolve along with his belongings, Harry rose to his feet as the train came to a halt.
Getting onto the platform was quite an experience. Harry got stuck in the door, thanks to his wide trunk. When he yanked the trunk through, he banged his owl’s cage against the side of the train, causing her to screech indignantly. The sound startled him, and he tripped over his own feet, scattering his parcels everywhere. As he gathered them all, he decided he was lucky to have made it off the train in one piece.
Looking around the station, Harry spied an unoccupied trolley across the platform. He retrieved it and heaved his heavy trunk onto it. He pushed and shoved until it was secured, and then began carefully stacking his parcels on top. He set off in what he sincerely hoped was the right direction, already winded from the effort of exiting the train and loading the trolley. As he puffed along the platform, he was very aware that the other travelers were staring at him. He simply looked straight ahead and concentrated on finding a map.
Harry spied one sticking out of a dustbin. As he was reaching in, however, he noticed a horrible stench coming from the bin. As badly as Harry needed a map, he did not think he could handle smelling that all the way home. He continued his search.
He found another map, but this one was also in a bin, and was covered in something green and oozing. A third was folded up on a bench, but upon closer inspection, Harry discovered it was of London. Not remotely helpful.
Harry was peering into yet another dustbin when, out of the corner of his eye, he spied a promising looking piece of paper under a nearby bench. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and then dropped to his knees and reached underneath the bench. Just as his fingers brushed the piece of paper, someone jerked him roughly to his feet. Harry turned his head reluctantly, and found himself face to face with Vernon Dursley.
“Where. Have. You. Been?!” Uncle Vernon spat. His face was a dangerous shade of purple.
Harry had never been so happy or relieved to see a member of the Dursley family. He almost felt as though he could hug Uncle Vernon.
“You’re here!” he cried, sighing with relief.
“Of course we’re here, boy. And I'm sure we arrived much drier than you did, since the boat was still outside the cabin this morning." He laughed cruelly at the thought of Harry almost drowning. Harry bit back a smile. Hagrid must've sent the boat back, he thought. "No sooner had we arrived home this afternoon than that oaf showed up again and told us where to meet you. Pity- I was rather hoping he wouldn't bring you back.” Uncle Vernon noticed all of the parcels and the owl. “I hope you don’t expect me to carry all of this rubbish to the car! Hurry up!” With that, he turned on his heel and stomped to the parking lot.
The affection Harry had felt upon seeing his uncle had quickly vanished. As he watched Uncle Vernon storm away, he almost felt that he’d rather walk home.
“What am I thinking?” Harry exclaimed as he grabbed the handle of the trolley and hurried after his uncle. This wasn’t the way he would have chosen to end his birthday, but the quicker he could get back to Privet Drive, the sooner he could get back to dreaming of Quidditch.
Many thanks to our wonderful beta-reader, Night Zephyr!