As the dragon loomed over them, Cora took a pebble from a pouch around her waste and chucked one in the direction of the corner of the cavern.
"The dragon is blind… poor thing," said Cora.
The sound of the pebble echoed around the cavern and the dragon stopped to investigate the corner of the cavern as the cart rattled past.
Eventually they reached Harry's vault. Cora helped Harry out of the cart. Griphook unlocked the vault door and there was a puff of green smoke. When it cleared, Harry saw piles of bronze knuts, columns of silver, mounds of gold coloured galleons … "All yours Mr Potter," said Griphook.
"It should see you comfortably through school, my love," said Cora, the light of the vault shining off her green nose and cheeks.
"This is all they had?" said Harry.
"They spent most in the wizarding war – and leased the Potter manor out too," said Griphook.
Cora looked troubled. "Well there you go, then. That was a good reason."
One wild cart ride later, they were outside Gringotts again and it was time to get Harry fitted with new robes.
"Madame Malkin won't let a hag in her shop," said Cora, wrinkling her shiny green nose. "I'll be waiting outside."
Madame Malkin was a smiling witch dressed all in mauve. "Hogwarts dear? Got the lot here. Another young man being fitted up."
The other young man was a boy with a pale, pointed face and silver blond hair that looked slicked down.
"Hullo," he said. "Hogwarts too?"
Cora had advised Harry to try and get on with everyone. "Yes!" he said. "Good to meet you."
The boy nodded. "Know what house you'll be in?"
"Not yet," said Harry. "And it's difficult to decide which is best."
"I know I'll be in Slytherin. All our family have been. Imagine being in Hufflepuff. I think I'd leave, wouldn't you?"
Harry thought that was melodramatic, but he thought he should be agreeable. "Maybe. Maybe I would."
The boy pointed. Harry saw Professor Quirrell skulking around the street. "Look at that man."
"That's Professor Quirrell. He works at Hogwarts."
"Yes. The Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher. I understand the Defence teachers are a sorry crew, and he's no exception. He's scared of everything. What a wash out."
"I thought as much," said Harry, happy at least that Quirrell hadn't singled out his mother to act scared in front of. When I saw him in the Leaky Cauldron, he was frightened of his own shadow."
The boy laughed and they left on cheery terms having shared that bit of gossip about a teacher.
They stopped off in the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Cora had a plate of raw sheep's liver which she tore into with great gusto and Harry had sausage and chips.
"That went alright, dear?" asked the hag, gazing at him with dark eyes, bits of liver around her mouth.
"I think so. Hogwarts students seem a friendly bunch."
"Yes, you do need to be around magical kids your own age," she said, her voice quivering a little.
They stopped in Flourish and Blotts for school books. Harry noticed a book, Curses and Counter-Curses (Bewitch your friends and befuddle your Enemies with the latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue Tying and much much more) by Professor Vindictus Viridian.
"Look at that," he pointed.
Cora nodded. "There, you see, your magic does work differently to mine. A lot of it is about using books."
They visited the apothecary which smelled of bad eggs and rotted cabbage. Cora sniffed the air deeply. "I can't help it… this is making me kind of hungry."
"You've just had lunch, Mum," said Harry laughing at her.
While Cora bought some basic potion ingredients, Harry looked at the strange items on offer, including unicorn horns (21 galleons each) and black beetle eyes (five knuts a scoop).
Outside, the hag checked the list. "A birthday present, next. I've been saving up for one."
"Oh Mum, you don't have to."
"Nonsense, Harry. I'll get you a familiar. Not a toad. I find them tasty, but they're useless. How about an owl to carry your post?"
They made a quick trip to Eeylops Owl Emporium, which was dark and full of rustling and hooting. Cora could see in the dark, no problem. Harry now carried a large cage with a beautiful snowy owl. He kissed Cora in thanks (she still smelled of liver) and they rubbed their noses together.
"Now you need a way to channel your magic," said Cora. "That way it can be directed as you want and with the right guidance, you can stop it building up in you."
She pointed at a narrow and shabby shop. Ollivanders Makers of Fine wands since 382 BC.
"That long?" said Harry.
"I know, love. It boggles the mind," said Cora.
A tinkling bell rang somewhere in the shop as they stepped inside. It was dark and dingy and piles of long boxes for wands all around them. They kept hold of each other's hands. Cora made a sniffing sound. "I don't like it here. So much pent up magic. It's unnatural. Ah. You must be Mr Ollivander. How do you do?"
Harry suddenly noticed an old man with glowing silver eyes nearby them.
"Greetings, hag. You can't be here to buy anything. But Mr Potter is. I remember, Mr Potter, when your true mother bought her first wand. She was a real, rosy cheeked beauty of a witch. Not green and strange."
"Alright, don't throw that at me," snapped Cora.
"I remember when your mother bought her first wand. Ten and a quarter inches. Willow. Nice wand for charm work. Your father favoured mahogany. Eleven inches. Pliable. Excellent for Transfiguration."
"Good to know," said Cora.
"And that is where…," Ollivander pointed at the scar.
"Watch it," growled Cora.
"I regret to say that I sold the wand that did it," said Ollivander. "13 and a half inches. Yew. Powerful wand, very powerful, and in the wrong hands…" he sighed and shook his head.
"Yes well… no use thinking of that now," said Cora, her green face crinkling into a scowl. "Let's get on with finding Harry a wand."
After setting an enchanted tape measure to measure Harry, Ollivander made him try out different wands, but none of them seemed to satisfy him. Eventually he seemed to have a thought. "Try this one. Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches…"
At the touch of the wand, a warmth spread through Harry's fingers. He swished it down and the shop filled with golden lights, lighting up the stacks of wand boxes and his mother's green face.
Cora clapped and whooped. "You did it. Now you needn't have pent up magic in you."
Ollivander wrapped the wand. "Curious… curious…"
"What's curious?" said Cora, raising her eyebrows.
"That Mr Potter should be destined for this wand … The phoenix that supplied the feather gave one another. Curious that Mr Potter should be destined for this wand when its brother gave him that scar."
"That's enough of that." snapped the hag, breathing through her nose, her breast rising and falling.
After paying for the wand, they left Diagon Alley and made their way though the leaky cauldron and then down the passage in the subway back to Cora's cave in the sewers. She collapsed onto her bed of animal skins. "Back again."
Harry sat with her and she put an arm around him. "I didn't want to say anything in the shop, but with Mr Ollivander, you can see that magic can do weird things to a human if it is pent up, or even if it is not. Powerful wizards and witches go a bit strange when they get old. Talking about stuff like that in front of you… honestly."
"It's a bit scary, going to Hogwarts for the first time," said Harry.
She touched his cheek with her clammy hand and sniffed. "You'll do fine, sweetie. Think of it as a big adventure."