Characters/Pairings: James, Lily, Sirius, Harry and co. in later installments; canon pairings.
Rating: PG, because Sirius is involved.
Summary: In which Harry Potter goes to the other school for wizards. No, not Durmstrang.
A/N: This idea latched onto me and would not let go. This is gonna go at a breakneck pace because srsly guys, I'm not about to write an epic comedy/adventure in which this happens. I will not.
There was no gruff half-giant coming to whisk him away from his abusive aunt and uncle, partly because giants and humans don't mate* and partly because Harry's parents were never killed by a rogue wizard calling himself the dark lord. This wasn't due to a lack of rogue wizards, unimaginative names for rogue wizards, or claims of dark-lordship; mostly, it was due to the fact that Godric's Hollow was in the Ramtops, and most rogue wizards tended to hang around Ankh-Morpork.
Harry's father was not a wizard, although he had almost run off to become one, because wizards are celibate and James Potter found that celibacy was too difficult a hurdle to cross and, besides, Lily Potter wouldn't have stood for it. As such, Lily did all the magic in the family, as Godric's Hollow's resident witch, midwife, nanny, psychiatrist, and adviser to the local lord, an old friend of James's who happened to become a wolf every full moon.
Harry was their eighth child.
"He's going to go off to become a wizard, isn't he?" Lily said, hands on her hips as she looked down into the crib. The trouble with being the town's only midwife was that there was no one there to be her midwife -- even after seven children, James still hadn't quite gotten the hang of it, and was, as was now becoming usual, having a lie-down and promising that he would never have another child, ever. Sirius, James's best friend and non-blood* brother, found the situation hilarious, but only because he was always off on "business" in Ankh-Morpork when Lily was due to have another child.
Sirius was always off on "business" when there were births around, generally to avoid the irate husbands.
He was also not a wizard, for the same reason as James.
"Eighth son of an eighth son," Sirius said, tickling Harry's tummy. It was refreshing, he thought, to play with a baby that he knew wasn't going to grow up with his eyes. Sirius considered most women (and some men, although no one spoke of it) fair game, but Lily was the exception to the rule, because of his relationship with James and also because she would curse him into the next universe if he so much as thought about making a move on her. "Isn't an old wizard supposed to show up and give him a staff? I thought that was how it worked, right?"
"Oh, he's on his way," Lily replied absently, rubbing her still-swollen stomach and idly considering joining James in celibacy. "He got sidetracked in Lancre, one of the witches there is an old friend of his."
"This would be your second sight talking?" Sirius asked, banking on his vague assumptions about witchcraft to steer him through the conversation. "Or... what's it called? Borrowing? You borrowed the mind of a bird or somesuch?" One of the only things Sirius did know about witches was that they could Borrow the minds of animals, and he had never accepted Lily's staunch insistence that she had never learned to Borrow and didn't want to learn and would he please stop pestering her to teach him and if he wanted to know that badly he could go ask Granny Weatherwax to show him how. He assumed that she was lying to him about her powers, which, to be fair, she usually was.
"No," she answered coolly, "but the Weasleys went to Jason Ogg to get their horse shoed and met him there. He sent back word that he's on his way, as soon as he can best Nanny Ogg in Cripple Mister Onion. I'll look out for him in, oh, seven or eight years."
"Ah," Sirius muttered, unreasonably disappointed. "Well, nothing wrong with a boy growing up to be a wizard. Unseen University is a great place, you know, full of interesting characters."
"What do you know about it?" Lily said sourly, annoyed at the thought of her newest adorable little boy going to Ankh-Morpork for any reason, let alone to become a wizard. She'd only been once, and the smell still haunted her nightmares. "You've never been."
"Says who?" he countered, sounding affronted. "I'm a very important businessman, I deal with the Archchancellor all the time."
"And what's his name again?"
Sirius opened his mouth to respond, and then closed it again, shrugging in a fair attempt at nonchalance. "Who knows? Archchancellors never hang around for very long. Wizardry is a cutthroat lifestyle, you know, wizards are always killing other wizards to... get... ahead..." he trailed off, looking at the little baby who may as well be his nephew. Sirius was godfather to all of James and Lily's children, and he was known to be the most ferocious godfather the Ramtops had ever seen, protecting his charges in much the same way a mother bear protects her cubs. "Oh," he said quietly. "Oh, that just won't do."
"I do not want him going to Unseen University," Lily declared.
Contrary to Lily's prediction, it only took Albus Dumbledore a month to best Nanny Ogg in Cripple Mister Onion, although everyone involved admitted that she let him win more or less to get him out of town before Granny Weatherwax came by and either fell hopelessly in love with him or killed him or both.
Dumbledore was famous as being the only Archchancellor in Unseen University's history to ever willingly step down from the post, ostensibly because he was sick of fielding assassination attempts*, but really because he had decided that he wanted to see the world before he died. He made his way to Godric's Hollow via the most circuitous route physically possible and was, by the time he arrived there, more than comfortable with the thought of dying after handing his staff over to a new little wizard-to-be.
He also brought more than just his staff.
"Really, Mister Dumbledore," Lily said tersely, trying to wrestle the trunk of sweets from the squabbling hands of six of her seven older children. The oldest, who was twelve and thought of herself as Very Mature, was helping Lily to keep the younger ones away from the trunk, mostly so that she would be allowed first choice. "I do think that the children are hyper enough, thanks very much."
"They're young, Mrs. Potter," Dumbledore replied kindly. "I brought them candies from all over the world. It's as much a cultural experience as it is anything else."
"It's a sugar experience, that's all that is. I have enough trouble keeping Sirius from feeding them pure sugar."
"Oh, Lily, that was only once," James said, since Sirius wasn't there to stick up for himself and Lily hadn't been there all the other times he'd done it. "How's this sound? You can each choose one candy from the box, and then you have to wait until after dinner." Lily took a deep breath.
"Yes, that's a good idea," she agreed, privately thinking that she would, as soon as the children's backs were turned, dump the trunk over the nearest cliff (but not before she had tasted a few of the sweets inside. She'd always wanted to try Klatchian Delights.) "Now, about this staff. I don't think -- Dean, your father said one, not one handful -- I don't think Harry should go to the University. I don't have a problem with him being a wizard, but Ankh-Morpork is just no place for a young boy."
"He won't be young when he goes," James said, but in the sulky tones of one who has had this argument several times already and has lost each time. "He'll be perfectly grown-up."
"You can't interfere with fate, my dear," Dumbledore told Lily gravely. "He will be a wizard. Whether he goes to the University is entirely up to him... however, an untrained wizard is a dangerous thing."
"He can train under another wizard," she insisted. "You know, an apprenticeship of sorts, like how witches do it. It's perfectly legitimate, and it doesn't involve that festering cesspool of a city."
"Mrs. Potter, Ankh-Morpork is a truly fascinating city with many interesting things to see and a bevy of learning experiences -- " he started, but Lily cut him off angrily.
"It has no sewer system!" she cried, and Dumbledore blinked. "People throw their chamberpots into the street! He'll die of dysentery before he can learn the first cantrip! I won't have it! No son of mine is going to live so -- so -- unhygenically."
Dumbledore was, for what was possibly the first time in his entire life, taken completely off-guard.
"Also," James said pointedly, "there's all those killers and thieves and prostitutes and things."
"Oh, that," Lily replied dismissively. "He'll have Sirius for a godfather, you as a father, and he'll be a wizard. If he leaves Godric's Hollow without knowing at least fourteen ways to disarm a man, pleasure a woman, and convince others to give him their money, I'll be downright disappointed with the two of you."
James grinned. "Have I ever told you how much I love you?"
"Well," Dumbledore started, and then stopped, and then started again. "Why don't we, ah, let fate run its course?"
"I'm a witch, Mister Dumbledore," Lily said darkly. "I make my own fate."
"The boy's going to grow up to be a great wizard," Dumbledore said.
"Very great wizard," he mumbled, more to himself than anything else.
*Except in certain rare circumstances, none of which are spoken of in polite company.
*According to James's mother, at least, who was very good at counting and even better at lying.
*In actuality, it's the other way around. The Assassin's Guild was sick of trying to kill him. It wasn't necessarily that he flaunted all attempts, or that he killed all the assassins who came to him -- he didn't -- but rather because he had a nasty tendency to invite them in for a cup of cocoa, look over his half-moon glasses at them, and give the cryptic advice on the nature of love. Most of the assassins who tried to kill Albus Dumbledore left the University bewildered and questioning the life choices that had brought them to that point, and many ended up moving away from Ankh-Morpork and doing nicer things with their lives, such as taking up embroidery or opening a confectionery shop for children. Most of the other wizards had stopped trying to kill him for many of the same reasons, except instead of embroidery and sweets, they ended up as advisers for young adventurers on quests.