Ginny's birthday party, not as much fun as you would think. Then there's the small matter of the Quidditch World Cup.
Acknowledgements - The folks at AFC stopped me from making a hideous mistake with this chapter. Thankfully, no one will ever see that version. Zanymuggle handled the Beta work on this chapter and it's being posted now, but I'm sending it off to FairyQilan for post beta work and when I get it back, I'll repost this chapter. No need to make you folks wait any longer.
Chapter 5 – Closets and Secrets
July 31, 1994
“Are you enjoying the party?”
“It’s the best one I’ve ever had, Katie. Thanks for putting all this together.” She doesn’t need to know that it’s the only one I’ve ever had in this lifetime. JP had one pretty much every year; she definitely doesn’t need to know that!
“I’m glad you like it.”
“It’s surprising your parents didn’t stay to chaperone. They don’t know Fred and George are here, do they?”
“I might have neglected to mention them.” She says tilting her head sideways and looking amused.
Katie looks nice, like she spent a good deal of time in front of the mirror today. That’s not a good sign. I could be in trouble. Now, don’t get me wrong. Katie is a very pretty fifteen-year-old girl. If I were a normal just turned fourteen-year-old boy, I’d be looking for ways to prevent her from beating me off with a stick.
I don’t think my name and ‘normal’ are often used in a sentence together unless it’s one like, ‘Why can’t you be normal?’
There’s one sure fire way to tell if I’m in deep shit here or not, “I saw the cake when I was in the kitchen. It looks smashing! Did you do that?”
She smiles and adds with a giggle, “From scratch. I hope you like chocolate, though I was tempted to just have banana splits for everyone.”
Yeah, I’m in it deep. I ignore the banana split comment realizing that I just lost a bet with the Hat, bloody effing piece of cloth! Damn thing will look for her mentioning banana splits the moment I put it on my head. Maybe I can get Ollie to Obliviate me.
“Who doesn’t? I think I saw Ron drooling over it.”
We both trade laughs and I scan the room while drinking some punch. Angelina and Alicia seem to be watching us carefully. Great, it’s a conspiracy! The twins are watching Angelina and Alicia carefully, paying more attention to some parts than others. Down, boys! Ron and Lee are bothering Oliver about all things Quidditch-related and Ginny looks somewhat lonely and out of place, looking at the Sorting Hat suspiciously. It’s a good guess that she’s not in on it, but has pretty much figured out what’s happening. I still can’t believe Ollie went back to his flat and brought the damn Hat back! I sense another conspiracy.
Okay, so let’s examine my options. Dating Katie probably isn’t one of them. I could go out with her a couple of times and then give her the ‘we’re better as friends’ speech. I could ignore all this and play like a dumb kid who just turned fourteen. That would play well into the ‘I’m not ready for anything serious and this is your OWL year’ maneuver. The one nice thing about having the memories of a man-whore in the noggin is remembering how many ways there are to avoid commitment. Sirius and James were quite good at it. Remus struggled, but mostly with his ‘furry little problem’. Peter just struggled with his commitment to good hygiene.
I continue speaking merely to buy time as I move the conversation over towards the furniture. It’s a sad reflection on me that I’m about to ‘use’ Ginny to prevent Katie from ‘putting the moves’ on me, but it’s the best plan I have at the moment.
I sit down on the recliner vice putting myself between Ginny and Katie; after all, I have no desire to be either a rock or a hard place. “Hey Ginny, how are things? When’s your birthday again? It’s coming up soon right?”
Poor thing is probably shocked at me striking up a conversation with her. “The eleventh; are you coming to the Burrow this year?”
“If you’re having a party, it only seems fair that I come to yours as well. I’m not really sure what my plans are. Wood over there gets a couple of tickets to the Quidditch Cup.”
Ginny smiles, “Dad says he’s got the inside track on some really good tickets and he’ll know in a few days. Bill and Charlie are back home, Bill for good. I’d forgotten what a madhouse it is with all nine of us there.”
I shudder comically at the thought of even more Weasleys under one roof. I love the place, but all those years under the cupboard listening to the occasional scratches of a rodent that found its way under the foundation are a far cry from the level of insanity at the Burrow.
Using my newfound – or is that newly rediscovered? – social skills, I manage to keep the two girls entertained without the managing to upset either of them. More people gravitate towards us and I’m safe for the moment.
“How about we play a game?” one of the twins comments. So much for being ‘safe’.
“We could get our brooms and go flying,” Ron offers. I’m surprised he didn’t go for chess. He must really want to be a Keeper.
Katie shakes her head no, “Muggle neighbors. I always have to Floo over to Alicia’s if I want to fly. I’ve got a couple of movies rented, but they’re for later. We’ve got a badminton net set up in the back; it’s an easy game to learn. What have you got in mind, Fred?”
I’m never quite sure how Katie or the other girls can tell the twins apart, other than which girl they stand next to. He chugs his butterbeer and lets out a manly belch. “I was thinking we could have a good old fashioned game of spin-the-bottle, in honor of the birthday boy. Mr. Wood, a silencing charm on the closet if you please.”
Everyone laughs and warning bells start going off in my head. This has all the hallmarks of a setup. “What happens if you land on Ginny?”
“Code of the closet, me bucko – you just have to go in the closet for five minutes. I’d just tickle ickle Gin-Gin for the allotted time.”
“Would that be before or after I knee you in the bludgers, oh brother of mine!” Ginny responds quickly, drawing copious laughter.
“Fine, suppose Ollie ends up with Ginny?” I watch the faces of every male Weasley redden. Ginny’s does too, but from embarrassment. Ten galleons says that butterbeer bottle is charmed and if Ginny lands on anyone, it’ll be me, right after Katie gets her shot. I could work a bit of wandless magic, but I could only summon the bottle towards me. I still don’t have enough control over the banisher to not make it look obvious. With my luck, I’d turn it into a missile and injure someone.
“Then we’d expect Mr. Wood to behave himself.” Fred said very slowly. Someone in the room is bound to have something charmed to control the bottle.
“Come on Harry. Give it a spin, birthday boy.”
Resigned to my fate, I give the bottle a twirl on the table, while sneaking glances around the room. Fred and George are too obvious. Alicia’s fiddling with a bracelet she’s wearing. It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? Hey, there’s a big surprise. It stops on Katie, who’s blushing furiously. I stand up and offer her my hand. “Shall we?”
I lead her into the closet and we’re shut in. There’s a little light coming from the seams of the door. “Hello again.”
She’s awfully quiet. “Hi.”
“Were you in on this?”
“The charmed bottle?”
“How did you know?”
“Trade secret, I’m not at liberty to say, but don’t let anyone know that I know. I intend to exact a bit of revenge.” I lean in and give her a little peck. It’s a nice little friendly kiss. It feels a bit on the awkward side, though. In five minutes, a teenaged JP could have had her knickers around her ankles. Instead, I plan to keep my hands right in the small of her back.
Despite my intentions, I find myself starting to relax and enjoy a good snog with Katie. I even give her a bit of tongue. She doesn’t seem like she’s very experienced; she gives a startled jump when my left hand drifts a little farther down than I intended. I let go immediately.
“Sorry.” We both say at the same time and share a nervous laugh.
This isn’t right. Katie is a ‘good girl’ and not a slag to be used by the likes of me. “What’s wrong, Harry? You didn’t like it?” Her voice rises a bit.
Just great! Say the wrong thing and she’ll be balling her eyes out when they open the door. “No, it’s not that. I liked it too much, I think, but I’m not sure I want to be that kind of guy.” I silently add ‘again’.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’m not sure I want to be a guy that goes into a closet with a girl for a snog for a party game. If I kiss a girl, I want there to be some real chemistry behind it.”
She’s quiet for a moment. “Wow! I never thought you’d be a romantic?” Can’t fault her, Lily hadn’t expected it either – of course JP was using that angle to get closer to her. I’m using it to buy myself a bit of distance.
“I’m full of surprises.”
“You mean we don’t have any chemistry?” Hey look, I’m back in the frying pan!
“Chemistry isn’t running into a closet. Chemistry is a pair of friends hanging out and having fun before going further. Why don’t we try that first?”
“I think I’d like that,” she agrees finally. I breathe a sigh of relief.
“Course you’re going to have to overlook my behavior the rest of today.” I say with my best evil smile.
“I’m going to be teaching Fred and George a lesson in humility.”
The door opens while she ponders that. Everyone in the room is strangely quiet. I wonder what’s wrong now. Ron’s missing.
“Alright, what is it?”
“Sorry, Harry. We didn’t know.”
“Know what?” I say to the twins. I scan the room and see Ollie’s face is bright red. “What did you tell them?”
“It wasn’t me!” Ollie protests. I round on the Hat. I know that look. Spend enough time around the thing and a person can pick up its expressions. It looks haughty and smug.
“What did you tell them?”
“I merely commented on the fact that during the summer you’ve shown no real attraction to any girls your age, but you’ve been spending all this time with Wood over there. I’m no expert in human sexual relations, but your actions indicate that you’re more interested in males.”
“You told them I’m a poof!”
“I told them nothing of the sort. I merely said that you might be confused after that time you walked in on the Weasley boy in the bathrooms. I also said that you would probably snog Bell to validate yourself before telling her the two of you should be friends and take it slow. Having a token girlfriend is a good way of keeping suspicion off of you. It’s a good plan, Potter.” I ignore Katie’s horrified gasp, Ginny’s shocked face, and the realization that Ron’s probably somewhere hurling his lunch right now.
I could probably learn a thing or two from the Hat in humiliating someone. I could also torch it right now without a second thought. There’s evil and then there is evil.
“It’s making that up!”
“I thought you were past the denial stage, HJ.”
“Knock it off, Hat. I am not gay.”
“Anyone in this room ever see Potter kiss a girl before today? Wood? How about you? Ever see Potter checking out all those posters of witches on your walls? Didn’t he make you dinner the other night?”
I scoop up the Hat and head back into the closet. “Excuse us for a minute!”
Back inside the silenced door, I hold it in front of my face. If I know Ollie, he’s dispelling the silencing charm right now. I better not say anything to tip them off about my new memories. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Oh relax, Potter. You spend the last few days moaning about how you don’t want a bunch of teenaged girls coming on to you. I come up with a perfectly good way of preventing that and you suddenly act all angry!”
“And you decided telling them I’m bent is a better solution?”
“I was merely trying to help.”
“I don’t know how much more of your damn help I can take! Plus, I know you. You’re laughing your arse off.”
“I need entertainment too! I didn’t tell them anything that wasn’t true. Well, except for the part on walking in on Weasley – I just assumed living with each other for three school years that had to happen at some point.”
“Have you ever wondered why they never let you off probation?”
“I assumed it was because they were a bunch of self-righteous sacks of ass-spackle who couldn’t take a good joke.”
That is probably true. I hate to admit that a Marauder – or at least the memory of one – had just been taken down by a piece of cloth, but the analytical side of me knows that I am so thoroughly pranked that there is no course of action left on my part. If I ever get the chance, I’ll have to show Sirius the memory of this and let him howl in laughter. I take the Hat off.
“Well played, Hat. That’s a quality prank, if I’ve ever saw one.”
“Indeed, though I barely made an effort, HJ.”
“How long have you been planning this?”
“Since you made the comment about sticking me on the elf’s head. You may be able to make short work of all these humans, but I am in another league, Potter. You’d do well to remember that.”
“I’ll keep it in mind. Now can we go out there and salvage what little is left of my reputation?”
It laughs at me. “Why not, but I can see I already won the bet that Bell would bring up the banana splits.”
We step back out to find the room staring at us again. “I’m guessing you heard?” Heads nod. I smile at the Hat. “You’ve been locked up too long, Hat. You’re out of touch with how sneaky teenagers are these days.”
After the Hat ‘confesses’ to pranking me, things get better. Ron returns and a second confession is required. Finally, with that mess cleared up, we can resume the game.
The rules we are using say Katie now dictates who has to spin the next bottle. She chooses Alicia, whom I assume is going to use her bracelet to select George. Concentrating on my weak wandless summoner, I pull the tip of the bottle towards me.
“Me again! Are you sure this thing isn’t rigged? Well, come on, Spinnet. Guess I have to prove that I’m a guy and all that.”
The angry look on George’s face is worth it as I lead a dismayed Alicia off. The Hat is right – I can run rings around these people! Now normally I like Alicia, but involving herself in one of the Weasley twins’ pranks? Well, there’s a price to be paid for that foolishness. I ‘earn’ a couple of smacks for being excessively fresh and make certain to mess my hair up before coming out of the closet.
I choose my words carefully, “Honestly Alicia, I didn’t know you were ticklish there.” The look on her face is priceless – George’s too! It’s tempting for me to pick Angelina and complete my revenge, but instead, I pick Ollie. He first lands on Ron, but has to spin again until he gets a female. I notice Alicia isn’t using her bracelet. He ends up getting Katie. The game continues with the personal highlight of Ron stumbling out of the closet with a goofy grin on his face after being inside there with Angelina, who comes out rolling her eyes.
Eventually, I end up in the closet with a twelve soon-to-be thirteen-year-old Ginny Weasley. Now fifteen is at the bottom end of the range that I might consider acceptable. This just isn’t!
“So what’s new Ginny?” She’s probably about to panic.
“You’re nervous, relax.”
“I’m not nervous!”
“The fact you are shouting it doesn’t do much for supporting your argument.”
“Sorry. Still, you should relax. Listen Ginny, you’re a nice girl and we’ve never really talked about this crush you have on me. I’m flattered and, in a few years, I might be interested. Right now, I’m not interested in soulmates or fairy-tale love. I’m interested in hanging out with friends and having good times.” I shake my head thinking how JP thought he had that at one point.
“What about Katie?” There’s that Weasley bluntness I’m familiar with. It’s probably her first real step towards treating me like I’m just some bloke instead of her knight in shinning armor.
“I said we could hang out, have some laughs and see if there is any chemistry. I want friends not groupies. Let’s start by being friends. Ron always says how you’re fun to be around, but whenever I’m around you, it’s like you’ve been hit with a confundus charm.”
She starts to stammer a reply, but I just grab her and kiss her. Whatever happens next will probably infinitely more entertaining than what she was about to say as I smother her with a “Mummph!”
She squirms for a minute and then settles down. I let my guard down. After all, I don’t know how serious she was about kneeing a bloke in his bludgers. Not that it would shock anyone who knew my ‘true’ situation, but that had happened in the past – or should I say a past life?
I figure snogging her will either help her get out of this crush thing or it’ll make it so she won’t be able to be in the same room with me. Despite the fact that she’s a year younger than this body, it does still feel a bit squicky. She doesn’t have to know how much the low lighting is helping me out here.
Breaking it off after thirty seconds, I say, “See, nothing to it – two friends and a quick snog. Wanna have another go? It’d be a shame to waste the rest of our time in here?”
She nods and we kiss a bit more. Whoa, watch that tongue there, little miss! I break away again, “I reckon one of your brothers is going to throw the door open early.”
“You should hold on the door shut and when they cancel the silencing charm, I’ll yell that I need a minute to get my clothes back on?” Give Ginny some credit. She’s a devious one.
I laugh. “I’ve got my wand, but I don’t think Madame Hopkirk would consider fighting my way out of a closet ‘reasonable’, but that’s about as close as I’d like to get to life threatening this year.”
We exit to less wolf whistles and more questioning glares then I would have liked, I know I haven’t killed the crush for good, but maybe I made a dent in it. Now I just need to see how good a kisser Angelina is.
The next day, I’m sitting in Puddlemere’s stands watching Ollie make his debut. He’s let a few get by that I thought he should have had, but he’s holding his own. I’m sharing my Omnioculars with pretty much everybody, while all of us are commenting on the chaser play.
“I figured you’d be watching the Seekers, Harry?”
“Seeking is pretty easy, unless they’re trying to impede play or really go after each other. Puddlemere’s third string is Donna Livingston. She’s a speed and finesse player not an overly aggressive player. I’ve seen her enough to know that she’ll rely on her speed to make the catch. It’s all a matter of evading and knowing when to feint and how much you’re going to sell the feint. Chudley’s seeker isn’t worth wasting my time on. Diggory and maybe even Chang are better than him.”
“What about Malfoy?” Angelina asks, searching for a sore spot from her seat at the other end of the aisle. She’s just mad that my hand ‘slipped’ under the fabric of her skirt yesterday and she came out of the closet with a bit of undergarment showing. Fred still hasn’t spoken to me. I’ll probably let him prank me at some point when he calms down.
“If he flew as well as he ran his mouth, he’d be the best Seeker in Europe. I’ll pay a lot more attention to Lynch and Krum at the cup. Lynch is a veteran, but Krum’s a prodigy from what I hear.”
I excuse myself and head to the concession stands and to use the loo. I figure I’ll give Ron and Ginny some early presents and pick them up a set of Omnioculars. Ron’s a bit weird when it comes to gifts, but anything Quidditch related is always accepted. If I picked up one for Hermione, she’d want to record lessons so she could watch them later and be disappointed that only the professional models hold more than ten minutes of footage. I examine the possibility of laying my hand on a pensieve at some point. Those things aren’t cheap. It’d clean out my trust vault.
As I walk onto the mezzanine, I spot a pretty looking witch with brown hair leaning against the wall with a quill scribbling and a furrowed brow. I also happen to recognize her.
“Penelope Clearwater, it’s nice to see you again. What are you doing?” Ginny mentioned that she gave Percy the heave ho at the party yesterday for apparently paying more attention to his new job over his longtime girlfriend.
“Hello Harry. I’m doing a freelance piece for Teen Witch Weekly on Quidditch and other male obsessions that can ruin relationships.”
No bitterness there. “Trying to make a go as a journalist? Good luck with that. Well it’s been good seeing you.”
“You know what would land me a full time job with them?” She’s got a gleam in her eyes.
I know the answer already, “An exclusive with Harry Potter? I don’t know …”
“How about I give you a few quotes for the obsession piece?”
“An exclusive would get my story on the cover … wouldn’t you rather your first time with the press be with a harmless little Teen Witch Weekly reporter, or those nasty folks at the Prophet?” She gives a little mock pout and a little smile. It occurs to me that Penelope is quite attractive, though the idea of Percy’s sloppy seconds doesn’t really appeal to me. Then again, Percy’s probably one of those straight and narrow ‘saving it for my wedding day types’. Sirius had a saying, ‘Don’t worry where the broom’s been, or who might have rode it before – just take it for a spin!’
I can’t help myself. The setup is just too inviting. “I could see my first time being with you.”
Clearwater gasps and blushes brightly, “You naughty little flirt!”
“Well, you were the one mentioning first times. Besides, there is no such thing as a ‘harmless reporter’. I’m here with my friends, but we could meet up after the game?” Ollie will be doing post-game stuff for a while. I could take her back to his flat and see where this might lead. Maybe it’s all the snogging from yesterday, or maybe it’s just a little teenaged hormone-fueled desperation seeping through, but I’m getting a vibe off of the ex-Ravenclaw in front of me.
I scribble Ollie’s Floo address onto her sheet and tell her to meet me there one hour after the game.
A few hours later, I’m answering questions from Penny on Oliver’s couch. She seems to prefer that these days to Penelope. After learning what her favorite dish was, I’ve got Dobby working on a Beef Wellington, after Dobby returned a slightly irate Hat back to Number Four. As tempting as it was to cook for her myself, I figured that would be too obvious. She’s eighteen and I’m fourteen, at least physically.
The secret rests in trying to get her to think that this is her idea. “Okay, what’s your next question?”
“If you could ask your parents one question, what would it be?”
“That’s a mighty personal question, Penny. I’m not sure I should answer that.”
“Sorry Harry. I didn’t know it would upset you.”
“It didn’t upset me, but how about we trade questions. I’ll answer one if you answer one for me.”
She looks nervous and I begin to wonder if she has the stomach for the field. “I suppose.”
“What would I ask my parents? I guess I’d ask them if they’re proud of me. My turn, what did you see in Percy?”
“Gah! Why did you have to ask that? He’s a driven bloke and I found that attractive in school. Okay, here’s a lighter question – any special girl in your life?”
“I have many friends who are girls, but no girlfriends. My turn, what do you look for in a guy?”
“Hey! That’s my name. You look for me in a guy. I’m flattered. Congratulations, you found me!”
“Harry! You’re shameless!” She’s smiling though. “I look for a nice guy who is considerate and thoughtful.”
Our banter is interrupted by Dobby announcing that dinner s ready. We eat and chat. She asks me about what I hope to do after Hogwarts? After talking about my Quidditch aspirations, we talk about being paralyzed by the Basilisk. That leads to fighting against the Basilisk.
“Tell me about Sirius Black?”
“No. We can’t go there.” Dumbledore is supposed to be exerting pressure behind the scenes. “I’ll just say I truly hope he gets justice. Now, how about telling me something about Penny?”
She looks down at her plate. “I haven’t told anyone this before. I found out last year that I’m not a Muggleborn.”
“Were you adopted?”
“No, I was interning at the Ministry and I checked my records. I found out real father is Antonin Dolohov. I guess you know who he is?”
“Yes, I do. Are you okay?”
“Mum doesn’t even know, so I’m betting he bewitched her at some point. You’re the only person I’ve ever told. I thought about going to see him, but got cold feet.”
We move back to the couch and keep talking. She’s sitting a little closer.
“Hermione said that her arm was sore for months after she was paralyzed. Did you have that problem too?”
Penny sighed. “I was crouched over and staring in a hand mirror. My lower back hasn’t felt right since. I even go to see a Chiropractor. He thinks I was in a traffic accident.”
Sensing my opening, I pounce. “I’ve learned a thing or two about massaging from my time on the pitch. Ollie’s got some ointment if you’d like a back massage.”
She’s weighing over my offer and smiling when the Floo comes to life an Ollie stumbles out – wrapped only in a towel.
“Holy shit! Harry! Penelope? What the hell’s going on here?”
“Holy shit yourself, mate! Where are your clothes?”
“I got initiated tonight. Had to run laps around the pitch stark naked. They left and neglected to tell me where my clothes and wand had gone. The changing room had a locking charm on it.”
Ollie’s in damn good shape and the way Penny’s eyeing him up means my window of opportunity just closed. “Hello Oliver. I’m getting an interview from Harry to hopefully make my debut as a journalist. Congratulations on your first professional win.”
He smiles good-naturedly and excuses himself to go put on some clothes. When he returns, it has an even worse effect on Penny. He’s in a pair of shorts and one of those little tank top muscle shirts. I’d almost swear she was about to go get the sauce left over from dinner and baste him in it.
Within thirty minutes, Penny has ‘enough’ on me for her story. She’s developed her own little Quidditch obsession with Oliver and is already asking him questions for her original story. I know when I’m odd man out. Lord only knows how many times Sirius would do the same thing to JP. JP had the looks, but Sirius had that whole rebel against his family dangerous type of guy thing that made the females swoon. I get a grateful hug and a chaste peck on the cheek for my reward as I head off to catch the Knight Bus back for my lockdown. The only ‘action’ I will be getting tonight will involve the Hat mocking me.
It comes as no surprise in the morning when I arrive that I find Penny’s clothes scattered around the couch. It’s time for a bit of payback.
“Ollie! Practice in ten minutes. Shake a leg!”
I enjoy hearing the cursing going on in the room and a thump of someone falling onto the floor. He really has thirty minutes, but he’ll figure that out any second now.
“Harry! Practice doesn’t start until nine thirty!”
“Sorry mate! My mistake, but you really should get there early the day after your first win. You still have to find your wand and clothes.”
“Right, can you give me a minute?”
“No problem. Would you like me to send Dobby in with all these extra clothes that seem to have appeared around the couch?”
“Err yes, that’ll work.” I point to the elf and feeling a bit evil, I also hand him the Sorting Hat.
“That’s a nice tan line you have there, Clearwater. You’re a bit furry though, I’d consider shaving, if I were you.”
A shriek is followed a panicked looking Dobby reappearing in the living room with the laughing Hat. Over top of the hissing of an angry female I call out, “Sorry about that. I didn’t think Dobby would bring the Hat as well.”
Two minutes later, there is a rather loud crack and I hope that Penny didn’t splinch herself leaving as Ollie comes out. “That was low, Harry, but I’m in a good mood this morning, so I’ll let it pass.”
“I was this close to her letting me give her a backrub and you come stumbling in with a towel on.”
“Oh come on! She wasn’t going to go for it, no matter how hard you tried and you know it. There was no sense in letting her go to waste though.”
There’s only one thing worse than pushing a guy to the side and ‘stealing the deal’ with the bird I’d spent two hours chatting up: gloating about it. “I got four words for you, Ollie ‘Percy Weasley’s Sloppy Seconds.’ Now come on, lover boy. You’ve got ten minutes to get your tighty-whiteys unstuck from the scoreboard at the practice facility; otherwise the coaches will make you leave them up there all day.”
I watch him cringe at Percy’s name before he looks serious. “How do you know that?”
“Who do you think gave them the idea?”
August 11th, 1994
Days pass as I keep up my regimen of training and practice. My wandless summoner is getting better. The stunner’s still useless, but then again, the most JP ever really managed was a knocking out chickens with it. I overdid my workout last night and had a strange dream with Wormtail and Riddle in it. Some other guy was there. He looked familiar, but he was too hazy to get a good look at.
Ollie and Penny are becoming quite an item. She even apologized to me for giving me the impression that she was leading me on. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she hadn’t patted me on the head after saying it. Her story made the cover as predicted. All in all, it’s a nice piece devoid of the horrid reporting in the Prophet.
I tumble out of the Floo at the Burrow for Ginny’s birthday. I picked her up some chocolates, since I’d already brought her and Ron a pair of Omnioculars. Ginny’s sent me a few owls since my birthday. It almost looks like she’s trying really hard to be normal. Did my stunt in the closet make things worse?
A mass of brown hair impedes my progress, “Hi Hermione. Good to see you. How was your summer vacation?”
She gives me one of those crushing hugs. Lugging a book satchel around all the time has done wonders for her upper arm strength. “It was brilliant! I would have sent you a letter by post, but I doubted your guardians would give it to you. I hear you’ve been busy.”
“I brought a gift for you too, since you’re obviously done with your summer assignments.” I pull a wrapped gift out of my bag as she crinkles her nose at my gentle ribbing.
“Occlumency: Defending Your Mind, I think I remember reading something about it before. It’s the counter to Legilimency isn’t it? Thank you so much!” She pulls me into another hug, but uses it as an excuse to whisper, “Why do you think we’ll need it?”
“I figured out both Snape and Dumbledore are Legilimens. Plus if they sick bounty hunters on Sirius, someone might try and use it against us. I’ve already been through it and have the basics down. We’ve got secrets to protect now.” My lie is only a slight one; I’m a bit beyond the basics. JP went through it as part of his dueling training. The eyes of an opponent can reveal so much about their next move.
“Oh right you are! Good show.”
Besides, it gives her an extra project that will take away from time she might spend noticing differences in me. If she does figure it out, then I’m already one step ahead of the game where she’s on the road to learning it.
One look at Ginny tells me that I probably messed up. She’s wearing her long hair pulled up into a bun with a skirt and blouse. It’s the new mature look for the now teenaged Ginny Weasley. I can’t imagine what’s brought on this change. Though I have to concede, she did a nice job with the makeup.
I greet her with a hug and she gives me a quick kiss on the lips. After that, I get introduced to the disapproving stares attached to Bill and Charlie Weasley. James actually met a very young Bill long ago. They seem like decent enough blokes, though a tad on the frosty side towards little old me, yet I have no idea why?
I meet that odd little blonde girl from Ravenclaw that Ginny hangs around with. She’s a bit on the eccentric side, but good for a chuckle. Percy’s at the table reading through documents concerning proper cauldron thickness – how very exciting. It startles me how low the suicide rate amongst Ministry workers is. Thanks to the Potter family holdings, I won’t ever have to worry about that!
Molly Weasley sees me and stops her cooking long enough to start fussing over me. “Harry! I was worried those awful Muggles wouldn’t let you come. You still look a bit thin, but at least they’re feeding you.”
I thank her and neglect to correct her about the arrangement I have with my relatives. I also neglect to mention that in a week, I’ll be camped out on Ollie’s couch for the rest of the summer. Minutes later, she’s shooing Percy and all his clutter from the table as we prepare for lunch.
Fred and George are still a bit on the cold side towards me. I’ll have to be careful what I eat today. Quite frankly, they aren’t nearly as good at taking it as they seem to be at giving it. True I did snog both their girlfriends and their sister, but I didn’t start it. Thankfully, the Hat didn’t make this particular outing as the twins start ribbing me about Penny’s article.
“I do believe we need to get our copies autographed.”
“But brother, we don’t have any copies.”
“I do believe our sister has a few to spare.”
Ginny rolls her eyes. “Mum forgot that I already had a subscription and Luna brought all the rest.”
The young witch with the large blue eyes smiles. “Seven has always been a magically significant number. So many rituals involve the number seven, but there are only four that involve fungus.”
All conversation grinds to a halt. I have to keep this girl around; she’s a riot! For a moment, no one knows what to say. Considering I only know of two fungus rituals, I’m almost tempted to ask.
“That was a very nice article Percy’s girlfriend wrote.” Molly says restarting the chatter. She turns to look at her son. “She didn’t happen to mention the letter I sent congratulating her?” Percy shakes his head. Apparently, he’s neglected to mention the breakup to his Mum.
“I thought you two broke up?” Bill says.
Percy responds indignantly, “We’re just taking some time off. Once we’re both settled into our careers, I confident that we’ll start anew.”
I have to hold my tongue to prevent myself from mentioning that I saw Penny reading Molly’s congratulatory note at Ollie’s table while sitting in his lap and feeding him breakfast. Percy would have been the one person more disgusted than I was at the scene.
Ginny, on the other hand, has done a complete one-eighty. She’s gone from wallflower to Lavender Brown clone, and, from the looks I’m getting as she spoons food onto my plate, I’m not the only guy in the room disturbed by this. Even Hermione looks a bit put off by Ginny’s newfound attitude.
Talk turns to something special going on at Hogwarts this year. The oldest Weasleys all share a smile as both Bill and Charlie say they wish they were still in school. Between their little ‘It’s a big secret and you’ll just have to wait and see’ act and Ginny’s attempt at exiting teenaged life after only a few hours, my nerves are starting to fray. Even Percy the human sphincter chuckles about how busy the Head Boy and Girl this year are going to be proving like most secrets in the Magical World, most everyone is in on it but me.
“Alright, out with it!”
“What?” Charlie says probably resenting my tone.
“Are you going to tell us, or are you just going to keep taunting us?”
“Oh ickle Harry’s got his knickers in a twist.”
“Let me put it like this. Every year I’ve been at that school, things have tried to kill me. So, if something out of the ordinary is happening, I’d appreciate a heads up.”
“Easy there Harry…”
“Considering both your brother and sister have been around when things start have gotten sticky, you might want to rethink this little secret everyone seems to be in on!” I don’t show my temper all that often, but I do have one.
I guess I’m pretty good at this whole conversation-killing thing as well. It almost makes me wish I brought the Hat.
Bill looks rather cross at me. “I think you’d best mind you manners and remember where you are, young man.”
I grab for a tight reign on my temper. My response is as calm and even as I can make it. “Fine Bill, you don’t have to tell me. Just remember that I asked.” I stand and look at Ginny. “My apologies, I’m going to step outside and get some air.”
I walk down towards the dock. It’s tempting to just leave. I hate secrets. Secrets killed James and Lily. Secrets kept Harry from knowing anything about his parents or the Magical world. Secrets have me trying and failing to act like a teenager who isn’t destined to fight a Dark Lord. Secrets aren’t good things. The folks in there don’t understand. Then again, these prats don’t know how much I loathe secrets.
Skipping a few stones across the surface of the water, I focus on my Occlumency to try and calm myself. From their perspective, I probably look like the prat to end all prats right about now.
There’s a pop of an Apparition behind me and I glance over my shoulder and take my hand away from my wand. No, I’m not on pins and needles lately, am I? Who doesn’t like dreaming about a fetus-like Dark Lord?
“I had to finish up some things at the office and just got back to find the party isn’t quite the joyous event I’d imagined. My supposedly grown up daughter is barricaded in her room and my wife is being less than charitable with my three oldest sons right now. She stopped Bill and Charlie from coming out here and hexing you, though my guess is that it’s a smokescreen for the twins who went up to their room to concoct whatever punishment they feel you warrant. They seem to have a bit of a grudge when it comes to you lately. Care to explain what’s going on?”
“This so called secret everyone seems to know about, that’s what’s going on. Everyone’s always keeping secrets from me and telling me it’s for my own good. Just look at last year when everyone was trying to keep me in the dark about Sirius.”
“This one’s a good thing, Harry. If I thought it would endanger you, I’d tell you. You have my word. Now what else is bothering you?” Arthur’s a perceptive man. Most assume he’s a hen pecked husband, but he’s obviously had enough practice dealing with angry teenagers.
“Riddle’s out there. He’s trying to find a way back to life and now Pettigrew is helping him.”
“Yes, Ron told me that you heard a prediction from your Divination Professor, definitely troubling.”
“It’s like you said about the twins. Riddle could use this big surprise as a smokescreen to hide whatever he is doing.” I opt to keep my dreams and visions to myself, besides Dumbledore said it himself. No one really believes a teenager.
“Well that true, but I know that Dumbledore is always keeping an ear to the ground. In the meantime, we shouldn’t ignore the threat, but we shouldn’t let it dominate our lives. We need to live and enjoy the good in our lives. Now, shall we go rejoin the party so that my daughter can convince you how mature she has become and her brothers can give you more disapproving glares?”
I smile at him ruefully, “Is this the part I’m supposed to be enjoying?”
“Well, maybe not this part, but then again, you reap what you sow and Ginny hasn’t been acting normal since your birthday party.”
“You do know that the twins charmed the butterbeer bottle.”
“I’d be more shocked if they didn’t, but once in the closet you made the decision to kiss her. I suppose I should be the stern parent at this point and ask you about your intentions towards her, but I think you’ve had enough posturing from the men in my family for one day and I’m reminded that you risked your life to save her. That alone entitles you to some leeway. I would only ask that you not intentionally hurt her.”
“Honestly sir, I don’t want to be anything more than her friend. I kissed her hoping that reality would help get her past the crush she has on me and to a point where she’s her real self around me. It seems I don’t understand teenage girls as well as I thought I did?”
“There’s a support group for those who don’t understand anything female, I believe its membership is roughly half the population of this world. Come on, we’re at about the ten minute point and Molly should be just about winding down. If you stay reasonably close to me for the rest of the day that should keep Fred and George away and ensure that Ginny enjoys the rest of her special day. You will have to apologize to her again, though I’d ask you to merely focus on the actions of her brothers and leave out your concerns about Dark Wizards. Given what happened to her, I’d rather not have her more upset than she already is.”
“I understand perfectly. Thanks.” I doubt that James would ever have been that mature, if the Potter’s had a daughter. We head back towards the Burrow and I go to face the results of my actions.
I’m sure it wasn’t Ginny’s best birthday ever, but it did at least get better after I returned and apologized to her for my rudeness. I stumble out of Ollie’s fireplace and have to crawl to the couch. Someone was nice enough to get me with a Jellylegs jinx right as I was leaving. As if I don’t have enough trouble with Floo travel already! Arthur had probably left on purpose to give his boys an opportunity to do something quick and without much thought, as a means of keeping things from escalating. It was a silent one so my guess is Bill or Charlie.
The minor hex should wear off in a few minutes. I wandlessly summon the Hat from across the room. He always enjoys me embarrassing myself and until my legs go back to normal, I’ve got nothing better to do. I slide it on top of my head and palm a few of the sweets that mysteriously found their way into my pockets probably through a switching spell. Gosh, should I eat one? No, but Ollie should!
‘Oh well played HJ! You managed to get virtually every Weasley with a pecker angry at you. You have talent! So, there’s a big secret, eh? Let’s go to St. Mungo’s, HJ. There’s a painting there that also hangs in Dumbledore’s office. I’ve got enough dirt on Dilys Derwent that her portrait will tell us what’s going on, if she knows what’s good for her. We can go visit the Longbottoms.’
‘Frank and Alice are alive!’ I had assumed they were dead when I realized that Neville lived with his Grandmum. Frank used to swear that woman was trying to run his life. It’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.
‘In the physical sense yes, but they were tortured into insanity. For what it’s worth, the ones who did it are either dead or in Azkaban. I’m sorry, HJ.’ I’m so crushed by the news, that I almost miss the sincerity in the Hat’s apology.
Hat quickly changes the subject. ‘ I’m a bit surprised at Bill though, I would have expected that anal-retentive little wanker Percy to be the one to snap at you. You should have mentioned Clearwater and Wood’s antics on the way out.’
It takes me a moment to clear the cobwebs out of my head. ‘I heard that Bill’s a bit over-protective of Ginny. My guess is he doesn’t approve of his baby sister’s new changes and blames me.’
‘You had to go and kiss the girl.’
‘I know! Not my brightest move, but what’s done is done.’
‘You could always memory charm her, wouldn’t be the first time a Marauder’s done that now would it?’
‘You know that wasn’t me and I didn’t approve of Sirius doing it when I heard about it!’
‘Then perhaps James shouldn’t have arranged a secret, masked broom closet rendezvous with that Slytherin girl he loathed. That’s always the problem when you prank someone, isn’t it? What happens when things go wrong?’
I stand in the lobby at St. Mungo’s listening to the Hat whisper some threatening words to a portrait of a famous witch. They involve a female reporter and the Hat’s recollection that Derwent stole the formula for the bone regeneration potion from a Polish wizard. For an enchanted piece of cloth, it’s quite intimidating. Minutes later, I have my answer and go to pay my respects to a pair of lost souls the Hat reminded me about.
“So that’s what’s going on. They’re hosting the Triwizard Tournament this year. I don’t know what they’re thinking? I remember reading about it and people have died during those things! Don’t worry, I’ll keep a close eye on Neville this year and try to keep him on the straight and narrow.”
Alice continues to stare at me and chew her gum open mouthed. Frank’s just looking at the floor. I feel deflated and bitter seeing the fate of two people James Potter remembered so fondly. That ponce Lockhart deserves to be over there playing with his crayons, but not these two. The Hat is respectfully silent during all this.
In comparison their sacrifice was even greater then the Potters. Laying down your life is one thing, but giving up your sanity. I hope the Lestranges are screaming in agony right now. Maybe one day they’ll come back. James should have trusted these people with their lives, but he didn’t for fear if they had to choose between Neville and Harry, they’d do exactly what James feared he might have done had they trusted him.
Provided I’m not fighting for my life this year or something else stupid comes along, Neville’s my new kid brother. I know the Longbottoms would have done it for me.
Life has gotten a bit better. No more nasty dreams have shown up. Ginny’s becoming more ‘tolerable’, although the day after I had lunch with Katie, she insisted that we needed to go eat sometime. It does feel strange to have two girls competing over who can be closest without really dating me. Well at least if I allow this silly ‘not dating me’ thing to continue, I can use it to keep the rest of the schoolgirls away for now.
On the way out of St. Mungo’s, I bumped into Dung Fletcher faking an injury and trying to get some free pain potions. A galleon or three might have changed hands and he’s keeping an eye out for any Pensieves that might be had for a decent price, so long as I don’t want to ask too many questions about where it came from.
Two days after the wards stopped charging, I left the Dursleys with a cheery ‘see you next summer.’ For now my protection is more important than the ill will I have for them.
After all, it’s not like I haven’t be practically living with Ollie for weeks now. Although he was a bit angry with me for laughing while he tried to figure out how to shrink his tongue after eating one of my mysterious candies that I left on the counter. Fortunately, Penny was there to counter the charm, but had to struggle through her own stammering blushes as the Hat commented on what Oliver could possibly do with the enlarged tongue. Some of the ideas were a bit twisted even for it.
If I increase the magnification on my Omnis, I can see the Weasleys and Hermione up in the VIP seats with the Ministers and the Malfoys. Krum just ran Lynch into the ground for a second time. He’s in a bad way. If I were Ireland’s coach, I’d bring in their backup and have him pester Krum while the Chasers run up the score.
I can’t say that I’d rather be there with Hermione and Ron instead of here in the mass of people next to Ollie. I feel like I can blend in here. Fortunately, Penny had her own ticket courtesy of Teen Witch Weekly. Ron was a bit put off that I had my own ticket already, but that allowed Charlie to go.
I haven’t seen that many people I recognized – one of the Patil twins passed by at the concession stand. It was probably Padma. Parvati generally has a less serious look on her face.
The Veelas were a bit over the top. I fought the urges off, but caught Ollie starting to flex his muscles. A few fistfights broke out in the crowd during the sudden surge of testosterone. Several wands were drawn, but the blokes doing security pulled their heads out of their bungholes and broke it up.
Just what did they think would happen, letting and entire flock of Veela loose on a crowd that has been drinking and partying for the last two days? Of all the stupid idiotic things!
Play resumes after the rather amusing display between the Veelas and the Leprechauns. I can sense the frantic pace of the match building. It’s Krum versus Ireland’s Chasers, who are pouring on the points. The rest of the Bulgarian team has been reduced to mere spectators as I ignore Ollie screaming ‘Did you see that?’ after the Irish Keeper stymies the Bulgarians again.
That’s the problem with having a team that’s ‘just good enough’ for your star to carry you. They made it here as a one-trick hippogriff – Krum or bust – and that trick’s not enough for the Irish.
‘No way the Bulgarians can pull it out now, Hat.’
‘I agree. Krum is the best I’ve seen in several life times. The rest of them might as well be holding his dick when he pisses.’
‘In a few years, I might just see how I stack up against him.’
‘Let me know so I can pickup some money betting against you.’
‘Thanks for the vote of support. You’ve really grown on me this summer, like some kind of festering sore that I can’t get rid of.’
‘Oddly, it’s not the first time someone has said something like that to me.’
‘Have you finished your opening song yet?’
‘There once was a witch from Nantucket …’
‘You might not want to go with that one. It’s funny as hell, but you should remember the children.’
‘You’re right! That’s what’s been missing! I can make her a pedophile in addition to the necrophilia? That would cover the children, rather nicely!’
‘Oh, in that case, you should definitely use that one!’ I’ll be the only person at the welcoming feast with a pair of Omnioculars.
I smile as Viktor pounces on the Snitch in a losing effort. There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’, but there are several of them in ‘I was on the team that didn’t win the Quidditch World Cup’. Maybe, I’m a tad jealous of a player who is a cut above my level of play? Nah, not me!
I get another treat recording Ron as the teams head to the VIP box. He looks like he’s going to pee! The thirty seconds of game footage that I erase isn’t worth nearly as much as Ron looking like a fangirl. It would be worth paying the money for the image to be extracted and turned into a poster!
Too bad the idiots conducting this circus won’t drop the anti-Apparition wards. I could convince Ollie to sidealong me back to our small two-man tent. We stopped by and saw the Weasleys, but staying there would be an invitation for more attention from Ginny and her brothers. Right now, I’m not sure which would’ve been worse. Plus Ollie brought two bottles of scotch with him. We’ve still got almost a full bottle left and it would be a shame to let it go to waste while we wait for a Portkey back to London.
Ollie slips off to go find Penny leaving me with the task of breaking down the tent. Sure, leave it to the guy who can’t use magic! I eye the remaining bottle of scotch and look over at that tent with a trio of New Salem graduates.
‘You don’t have a chance in hell, HJ.’
‘I could probably pass myself off as a youngish seventeen especially after they had a few. I should really mix up a few aging potions.’
‘You’ll need a bottle for each of them if you want to pull that off.’
Scooping up the bottle, I start towards over towards the young women. They’re not looking at me, but pointing over my shoulder. There’s bunch of yelling. Did everyone realize the Leprechaun gold just vanished? Maybe a big fight broke out?
Turning, I look and see the source as people start screaming and pushing each other in a panic. I see Death Eaters floating a group of helpless people through the crowd hurling spells, but not really trying to hit anyone.
‘Well Potter, are you going to run like all these other useless tits?’
I drop a disillusionment charm on myself. Somewhere in London and owl is probably taking off. Although, with the amount of magic being tossed around, the area’s probably saturated already. ‘No chance in hell! I’m going to flip you around. Keep an eye on my back. They could be a bunch of idiots thinking inciting a riot is fun, but if they’re real, they’ll split off into smaller groups in a minute. I’ll dodge along the tree line and try and catch a straggler or two and find out who they are. I’ll hit them hard and fast. Let’s see what Hopkirk thinks is reasonable right about now!’
Five chapters down and I'm on the last day of summer! Considering it took me 17 chapters in Bungle and around 30 in Darkness to cover that same amount of time, it's a friggin miracle! I suppose I'll have to write a Sorting Hat song. Though I doubt I'll use the lyrics mentioned in this chapter. Thanks for reading.~Jim