Reading Chapter Four: At Flourish and Blotts
Life at the Burrow was as different as possible from life on Privet Drive.
"I should think so!" Mrs. Weasley said before she could stop herself.
The Dursleys liked everything neat and ordered; the Weasleys' house burst with the strange and unexpected.
Fred and George grinned. "That why we love it."
Harry got a shock the first time he looked in the mirror over the kitchen mantelpiece and it shouted, "Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!"
"Why does it do that?" Harry asked.
Ginny shrugged. "I think Bill did something to it one time after mum started going off about his hair."
The ghoul in the attic howled and dropped pipes whenever he felt things were getting too quiet, and small explosions from Fred and George's bedroom were considered perfectly normal.
"Were those the beginning of…?" Harry trailed off but the twins beamed and nodded.
What Harry found most unusual about life at Ron's, however, wasn't the talking mirror or the clanking ghoul: It was the fact that everybody there seemed to like him.
"Almost everybody," Harry muttered, looking up at Percy. He might not have been Harry's favorite person in the world, but the fact that Percy thought he was "dangerous and unbalanced" did hurt a bit.
Mrs. Weasley fussed over the state of his socks and tried to force him to eat fourth helpings at every meal.
"You really are too thin dear," Molly said to Harry who just sighed.
Mr. Weasley liked Harry to sit next to him at the dinner table so that he could bombard him with questions about life with Muggles, asking him to explain how things like plugs and the postal service worked.
"Fascinating ." he would say as Harry talked him through using a telephone.
"I should have gone through that with Ron," Harry mused, causing Hermione to laugh and Ron to scowl.
"Ingenious, really, how many ways Muggles have found of getting along without magic."
"It is," Hermione agreed, mentally going back to before she knew about magic.
Harry heard from Hogwarts one sunny morning about a week after he had arrived at the Burrow. He and Ron went down to breakfast to find Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Ginny already sitting at the kitchen table. The moment she saw Harry, Ginny accidentally knocked her porridge bowl to the floor with a loud clatter. Ginny seemed very prone to knocking things over whenever Harry entered a room.
"Sorry about that," she mumbled to Harry who shrugged it off.
"It's okay, I thought it was cute," he answered, causing them to both blush and several people to exchange knowing glances.
She dived under the table to retrieve the bowl and emerged with her face glowing like the setting sun.
"Very poetic Harry," Hermione said, trying not to laugh at her friend's expression.
Pretending he hadn't noticed this, Harry sat down and took the toast Mrs. Weasley offered him.
"Letters from school," said Mr. Weasley, passing Harry and Ron identical envelopes of yellowish parchment, addressed in green ink.
"Why's it always green?" Neville wondered.
"Because it's a certain Professor's favorite color." Remus said, nodding up at the table where McGonagall sat in her emerald robes.
"Should've guessed," Neville laughed.
"Dumbledore already knows you're here, Harry - doesn't miss a trick, that man. You two've got them, too," he added, as Fred and George ambled in, still in their pajamas.
For a few minutes there was silence as they all read their letters. Harry's told him to catch the Hogwarts Express as usual from King's Cross station on September first. There was also a list of the new books he'd need for the coming year.
SECOND-YEAR STUDENTS WILL REQUIRE:
The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 by Miranda Goshawk
Break with a Banshee by Gilderoy Lockhart
Gadding with Ghouls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Holidays with Hags by Gilderoy Lockhart
Travels with Trolls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Voyages with Vampires by Gilderoy Lockhart
Wanderings with Werewolves by Gilderoy Lockhart
Year with the Yeti by Gilderoy Lockhart
"How many books has that idiot written?" Remus asked in surprise. When he had been in school, Lockhart could barely write an essay, let alone a book.
Fred, who had finished his own list, peered over at Harry's.
"You've been told to get all Lockhart's books, too!" he said. "The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher must be a fan - bet it's a witch."
Harry shook his head. "So much worse."
At this point, Fred caught his mother's eye and quickly busied himself with the marmalade.
Hermione also blushed and was wondering what people would say when they found out about her crush on Lockhart.
"That lot won't come cheap," said George, with a quick look at his parents. "Lockhart's books are really expensive..."
"Well, we'll manage," said Mrs. Weasley, but she looked worried. "I expect we'll be able to pick up a lot of Ginny's things secondhand."
"Oh, are you starting at Hogwarts this year?" Harry asked Ginny.
She nodded, blushing to the roots of her flaming hair,
"Thanks," Ginny muttered, running a hand over her hair.
and put her elbow in the butter dish. Fortunately no one saw this except Harry,
"Of course you did," Ginny sighed. She really had been a bit obvious then. At least now she could hold a conversation with Harry without too much embarrassment.
because just then Ron's elder brother Percy walked in. He was already dressed, his Hogwarts prefect badge pinned to his sweater vest.
"He wore his badge outside of school?" Hermione asked, forgetting for a moment that Percy was in the room.
"Yup day and night," the twins answered, giving Percy their best glare.
"Morning, all," said Percy briskly. "Lovely day."
He sat down in the only remaining chair but leapt up again almost immediately, pulling from underneath him a molting, gray feather duster - at least, that was what Harry thought it was, until he saw that it was breathing.
"Errol," the Weasleys sighed both fondly yet exasperatedly at their owl.
"Errol!" said Ron, taking the limp owl from Percy and extracting a letter from under its wing. "Finally - he's got Hermione's answer. I wrote to her saying we were going to try and rescue you from the Dursleys."
"He said those exact words as well," Hermione said.
He carried Errol to a perch just inside the back door and tried to stand him on it, but Errol flopped straight off again
"Poor owl," Luna sighed.
so Ron lay him on the draining board instead, muttering, "Pathetic." Then he ripped open Hermione's letter and read it out loud:
"`Dear Ron, and Harry if you're there,
"I am!" Harry said helpfully.
"`I hope everything went all right and that Harry is okay and that you didn't do anything illegal to get him out,
"Well, it wasn't illegal," Ron defended himself as Hermione shook her head.
Ron, because that would get Harry into trouble, too. I've been really worried and if Harry is all right, will you please let me know at once,
"Aww I didn't know you cared so much 'Mione." Harry teased.
"Oh shut up."
but perhaps it would be better if you used a different owl because I think another delivery might finish your one off.
"And yet he's still alive, nearly five years later," Fred mused.
"I'm very busy with schoolwork, of course'- How can she be?" said Ron in horror."We're on vacation!" - and we're going to London next Wednesday to buy my new books. Why don't we meet in Diagon Alley?
"Let me know what's happening as soon as you can. Love from Hermione.'"
"Well, that fits in nicely, we can go and get all your things then, too," said Mrs. Weasley, starting to clear the table. "What're you all up to today?"
Harry, Ron, Fred, and George were planning to go up the hill to a small paddock the Weasleys owned. It was surrounded by trees that blocked it from view of the village below, meaning that they could practice Quidditch there, as long as they didn't fly too high.
"But how could you practice without the right equipment?" Hermione wondered.
They couldn't use real Quidditch balls, which would have been hard to explain if they had escaped and flown away over the village; instead they threw apples for one another to catch.
"That's how," Harry said to Hermione.
They took turns riding Harry's Nimbus Two Thousand, which was easily the best broom; Ron's old Shooting Star was often outstripped by passing butterflies.
"I like butterflies!" Ron said. "It's better to follow the butterflies," he said grimly, and Hagrid shuffled in his seat and Harry shuddered a little at the memory of Aragog.
Five minutes later they were marching up the hill, broomsticks over their shoulders. They had asked Percy if he wanted to join them, but he had said he was busy.
"Why didn't you ask me?" Ginny asked sternly and her brothers shrugged.
"We didn't know you liked Quidditch," George answered smoothly.
Harry had only seen Percy at mealtimes so far; he stayed shut in his room the rest of the time.
"Even then he stayed away from his family," Ron said loudly and Percy flushed.
"Wish I knew what he was up to," said Fred, frowning. "He's not himself. His exam results came the day before you did; twelve O.W.L.s and he hardly gloated at all."
"Ordinary Wizarding Levels," George explained, seeing Harry's puzzled look. "Bill got twelve, too. If we're not careful, we'll have another Head Boy in the family.
George sighed. "And we did."
I don't think I could stand the shame."
Mrs. Weasley looked ready to say something, but she saw her third eldest at the main table, ignoring both her and his father, so she said nothing.
Bill was the oldest Weasley brother. He and the next brother, Charlie, had already left Hogwarts. Harry had never met either of them, but knew that Charlie was in Romania studying dragons and Bill in Egypt working for the wizard's bank, Gringotts.
"Dunno how Mum and Dad are going to afford all our school stuff this year," said George after a while. "Five sets of Lockhart books! And Ginny needs robes and a wand and everything..."
"You shouldn't have had to worry about that," Mr. Weasly said, his face rather red.
Harry said nothing. He felt a bit awkward. Stored in an underground vault at Gringotts in London was a small fortune that his parents had left him. Of course, it was only in the wizarding world that he had money; you couldn't use Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts in Muggle shops. He had never mentioned his Gringotts bank account to the Dursleys; he didn't think their horror of anything connected with magic would stretch to a large pile of gold.
Harry snorted. "They probably wouldn't care if it was Hagrid giving it to them."
Mrs. Weasley woke them all early the following Wednesday. After a quick half a dozen bacon sandwiches each, they pulled on their coats and Mrs. Weasley took a flowerpot off the kitchen mantelpiece and peered inside.
"We're running low, Arthur," she sighed. "We'll have to buy some more today... Ah well, guests first! After you, Harry dear!"
And she offered him the flowerpot.
Harry stared at them all watching him.
"To be honest, I thought you all had gone mad," Harry laughed.
"Well if we are, then so are you mate," Ron joked.
"W-what am I supposed to do?" he stammered.
"He's never traveled by Floo powder," said Ron suddenly. "Sorry, Harry, I forgot."
"Never?" said Mr. Weasley. "But how did you get to Diagon Alley to buy your school things last year?"
"I went on the Underground-"
"Really?" said Mr. Weasley eagerly. "Were there escapators ? How exactly-"
"Er…those are escalators Mr. Weasley," Hermione corrected.
"Not now , Arthur," said Mrs. Weasley. "Floo powder's a lot quicker, dear, but goodness me, if you've never used it before-"
"He'll be all right, Mum," said Fred. "Harry, watch us first."
He took a pinch of glittering powder out of the flowerpot, stepped up to the fire, and threw the powder into the flames.
With a roar, the fire turned emerald green and rose higher than Fred, who stepped right into it, shouted, "Diagon Alley!" and vanished.
"Oh yeah, that was helpful," Harry said rolling his eyes at Fred.
"You must speak clearly, dear," Mrs. Weasley told Harry as George dipped his hand into the flowerpot. "And be sure to get out at the right grate..."
"Forgot that bit huh mate?" Ron teased.
"The right what?" said Harry nervously as the fire roared and whipped George out of sight, too.
"Well, there are an awful lot of wizard fires to choose from, you know, but as long as you've spoken clearly-"
"Honestly I was just becoming more and more confused." Harry said.
"He'll be fine, Molly, don't fuss," said Mr. Weasley, helping himself to Floo powder too.
"But, dear, if he got lost, how would we ever explain to his aunt and uncle?"
"They wouldn't mind," Harry reassured her. "Dudley would think it was a brilliant joke if I got lost up a chimney, don't worry about that-"
Fred and George looked at each other, their eyes sparkling and grins on their faces.
"Well... all right... you go after Arthur," said Mrs. Weasley. "Now, when you get into the fire, say where you're going."
"And keep your elbows tucked in," Ron advised.
"And your eyes shut," said Mrs. Weasley. "The soot-"
"Don't fidget," said Ron. "Or you might well fall out of the wrong fireplace-"
"Of course I would be the one to say that." Ron rolled his eyes.
"But don't panic and get out too early; wait until you see Fred and George."
"You know, all of that advice really didn't help my nerves," Harry informed them.
Trying hard to bear all this in mind, Harry took a pinch of Floo powder and walked to the edge of the fire. He took a deep breath, scattered the powder into the flames, and stepped forward; the fire felt like a warm breeze; he opened his mouth and immediately swallowed a lot of hot ash.
"That's why you take your breath before stepping into the fire," Ginny said shaking her head.
"Well how was I supposed to know?" Harry defended himself.
"D-Dia-gon Alley," he coughed.
It felt as though he was being sucked down a giant drain. He seemed to be spinning very fast - the roaring in his ears was deafening - he tried to keep his eyes open but the whirl of green flames made him feel sick -something hard knocked his elbow and he tucked it in tightly, still spinning and spinning - now it felt as though cold hands were slapping his face - squinting through his glasses he saw a blurred stream of fireplaces and snatched glimpses of the rooms beyond - his bacon sandwiches were churning inside him - he closed his eyes again wishing it would stop, and then...
"I've never heard Floo explained that way," Luna said dreamily. "It truly did sound unpleasant."
He fell, face forward, onto cold stone and felt the bridge of his glasses snap.
"Out of curiosity how many times have you broken your glasses?" Hermione wondered and Harry shrugged.
"How many times have I broken them? Not many. Other people? A fair few."
Dizzy and bruised, covered in soot, he got gingerly to his feet, holding his broken glasses up to his eyes. He was quite alone, but where he was, he had no idea. All he could tell was that he was standing in the stone fireplace of what looked like a large, dimly lit wizard's shop - but nothing in here was ever likely to be on a Hogwarts school list.
A glass case nearby held a withered hand on a cushion, a bloodstained pack of cards, and a staring glass eye.
"Wonder if that was anything like Mad Eye's," Harry wondered aloud.
Evil-looking masks stared down from the walls, an assortment of human bones lay upon the counter, and rusty, spiked instruments hung from the ceiling. Even worse, the dark, narrow street Harry could see through the dusty shop window was definitely not Diagon Alley.
"You landed in Knocturn Alley?" Remus moaned. "Of all places…and in Borgin and Burkes too of course," he continued to mumble.
The sooner he got out of here, the better. Nose still stinging where it had hit the hearth, Harry made his way swiftly and silently toward the door, but before he'd got halfway toward it, two people appeared on the other side of the glass - and one of them was the very last person Harry wanted to meet when he was lost, covered in soot, and wearing broken glasses: Draco Malfoy.
"Of course," all of the students groaned.
"Why does he always seem to show up whenever he's least wanted?" Neville asked.
"If that was the case, then he would be showing up a lot Neville," Ron told him.
Harry looked quickly around and spotted a large black cabinet to his left; he shot inside it and pulled the doors closed, leaving a small crack to peer through. Seconds later, a bell clanged, and Malfoy stepped into the shop.
The man who followed could only be Draco's father. He had the same pale, pointed face and identical cold, gray eyes. Mr. Malfoy crossed the shop, looking lazily at the items on display, and rang a bell on the counter before turning to his son and saying, "Touch nothing, Draco."
Malfoy, who had reached for the glass eye, said, "I thought you were going to buy me a present."
"Spoiled git." This came from, surprisingly, Hermione.
"I said I would buy you a racing broom," said his father, drumming his fingers on the counter.
"What's the good of that if I'm not on the House team?" said Malfoy, looking sulky and bad-tempered. "Harry Potter got a Nimbus Two Thousand last year. Special permission from Dumbledore so he could play for Gryffindor. He's not even that good,
"Not that good? He's brilliant!" The students shouted, even the non Quidditch fanatics.
it's just because he's famous... famous for having a stupid scar on his forehead..."
"Well at least he got that bit right." Harry mumbled, brushing his bangs down over his scar.
Malfoy bent down to examine a shelf full of skulls.
"...everyone thinks he's so smart, wonderful Potter with his scar and his broomstick-"
"Sound like someone's jealous!" The twins sang out.
"You have told me this at least a dozen times already," said Mr. Malfoy, with a quelling look at his son. "And I would remind you that it is not - prudent - to appear less than fond of Harry Potter, not when most of our kind regard him as the hero who made the Dark Lord disappear - ah, Mr. Borgin."
"Most of our kind. Meaning once a death eater always a death eater." Remus said with a quelling look at the book.
A stooping man had appeared behind the counter, smoothing his greasy hair back from his face.
"Wonder if he's any relation to Snape," George muttered to Fred who coughed to hide his laughter.
"Mr. Malfoy, what a pleasure to see you again," said Mr. Borgin in a voice as oily as his hair. "Delighted - and young Master Malfoy, too - charmed. How may I be of assistance? I must show you, just in today, and very reasonably priced-"
"I'm not buying today, Mr. Borgin, but selling," said Mr. Malfoy.
"Bet he didn't like that," Neville remarked.
"Selling?" The smile faded slightly from Mr. Borgin's face.
"Good bet," Harry agreed.
"You have heard, of course, that the Ministry is conducting more raids," said Mr. Malfoy, taking a roll of parchment from his inside pocket and unraveling it for Mr. Borgin to read. "I have a few - ah - items at home that might embarrass me, if the Ministry were to call..."
Mr. Weasley and Madam Bones sat up a bit straighter at that.
Mr. Borgin fixed a pair of pince-nez to his nose and looked down the list.
"The Ministry wouldn't presume to trouble you, sir, surely?"
"You bet they would." Mr. Weasley muttered under his breath.
Mr. Malfoy's lip curled.
"I have not been visited yet. The name Malfoy still commands a certain respect, yet the Ministry grows ever more meddlesome. There are rumors about a new Muggle Protection Act - no doubt that flea-bitten, Muggle-loving fool Arthur Weasley is behind it-"
"Oi!" Except for the teachers and Ministry members, there were several shouts of protests.
Harry felt a hot surge of anger.
Harry gave Mr. Weasley a smile which Arthur returned gratefully.
"- and as you see, certain of these poisons might make it appear-"
"I understand, sir, of course," said Mr. Borgin. "Let me see..."
"Can I have that?" interrupted Draco, pointing at the withered hand on its cushion.
"Ah, the Hand of Glory!" said Mr. Borgin, abandoning Mr. Malfoy's list and scurrying over to Draco. "Insert a candle and it gives light only to the holder! Best friend of thieves and plunderers! Your son has fine taste, sir."
"Did he just call Malfoy a thief and plunderer?" Ron wondered. "I think I like this guy."
"I hope my son will amount to more than a thief or a plunderer, Borgin,"
"Doubtful," Ginny snorted.
said Mr. Malfoy coldly, and Mr. Borgin said quickly, "No offense, sir, no offense meant-"
"Though if his grades don't pick up," said Mr. Malfoy, more coldly still, "that may indeed be all he is fit for-"
"Not even that." This time it was Hermione who said it.
"It's not my fault," retorted Draco. "The teachers all have favorites, that Hermione Granger-"
"Is easily one of the brightest witches Hogwarts has ever seen!" Harry finished hotly.
"Thanks Harry," Hermione said with a grateful smile, "But I doubt that."
"I wouldn't be so sure," Remus said with a soft smile. "You truly are a very bright witch." People nodded in agreement and Hermione blushed.
"I would have thought you'd be ashamed that a girl of no wizard family beat you in every exam," snapped Mr. Malfoy.
"Ha!" Harry laughed.
"Ha!" said Harry under his breath,
"You really haven't changed Harry," Luna said airily.
pleased to see Draco looking both abashed and angry.
"It's the same all over," said Mr. Borgin, in his oily voice. "Wizard blood is counting for less everywhere-"
"Wrong thing to say to a Malfoy," Remus shook his head.
"Not with me," said Mr. Malfoy, his long nostrils flaring.
"No, sir, nor with me, sir," said Mr. Borgin, with a deep bow.
"In that case, perhaps we can return to my list," said Mr. Malfoy shortly. "I am in something of a hurry, Borgin, I have important business elsewhere today-"
They started to haggle. Harry watched nervously as Draco drew nearer and nearer to his hiding place, examining the objects for sale. Draco paused to examine a long coil of hangman's rope
"Why would anyone want to buy that?" Ginny asked, wrinkling her nose a bit.
and to read, smirking, the card propped on a magnificent necklace of opals, Caution: Do Not Touch. Cursed - Has Claimed the Lives of Nineteen Muggle Owners to Date.
"How can he smirk about that!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Because he is a pure blooded git who thinks everyone else is inferior." Ron answered.
"Oh come on mum!"
Draco turned away and saw the cabinet right in front of him. He walked forward - he stretched out his hand for the handle "Done," said Mr. Malfoy at the counter. "Come, Draco-"
"That was close," Ginny breathed.
Harry wiped his forehead on his sleeve as Draco turned away.
"Good day to you, Mr. Borgin. I'll expect you at the manor tomorrow to pick up the goods."
The moment the door had closed, Mr. Borgin dropped his oily manner.
"Good day yourself, Mister Malfoy, and if the stories are true, you haven't sold me half of what's hidden in your manor..."
"Oh I hope those stories are true…" Mr. Weasley said darkly. Meanwhile, up at the table, Fudge was looking rather uncomfortable since he had on occasion listened to Lucius Malfoy and respected the man immensely…if it turned out that some of things in Malfoy Manor were dark artifacts, his career would be over if it ever got out.
Muttering darkly, Mr. Borgin disappeared into a back room. Harry waited for a minute in case he came back, then, quietly as he could, slipped out of the cabinet, past the glass cases, and out of the shop door.
Clutching his broken glasses to his face,
"Impossible to see out of those," Harry mumbled.
Harry stared around. He had emerged into a dingy alleyway that seemed to be made up entirely of shops devoted to the Dark Arts.
"Knockturn Alley," Remus grimaced.
The one he'd just left, Borgin and Burkes, looked like the largest, but opposite was a nasty window display of shrunken heads and, two doors down, a large cage was alive with gigantic black spiders.
"Why do you always mention the spiders?" Ron asked with his eyes closed.
"Aww is ickle Ronnikins still afraid of the wee spiders?" George cooed.
"You would be too if you met a giant spider that wanted to eat you." Ron mumbled the last part but Remus heard and cast a sharp glance to see if he was joking or not.
Two shabby-looking wizards were watching him from the shadow of a doorway, muttering to each other. Feeling jumpy, Harry set off, trying to hold his glasses on straight and hoping against hope he'd be able to find a way out of here.
An old wooden street sign hanging over a shop selling poisonous candles told him he was in Knockturn Alley. This didn't help, as Harry had never heard of such a place. He supposed he hadn't spoken clearly enough through his mouthful of ashes back in the Weasleys' fire.
"You think?" The twins said dryly.
Trying to stay calm, he wondered what to do.
"Not lost are you, my dear?" said a voice in his ear, making him jump.
An aged witch stood in front of him, holding a tray of what looked horribly like whole human fingernails. She leered at him, showing mossy teeth.
Fred wolf whistled and George laughed.
Harry backed away.
"I'm fine, thanks," he said. "I'm just-"
"HARRY! What d'yeh think yer doin'down there?"
"Oh thank goodness Hagrid," Remus sighed in relief.
"Knocturn Alley can't be that bad," Fred pointed out but Remus shook his head.
"You would be surprised. Not many people even want to go near there if they can help it."
Harry's heart leapt. So did the witch; a load of fingernails cascaded down over her feet and she cursed as the massive form of Hagrid, the Hogwarts' gamekeeper, came striding toward them, beetle-black eyes flashing over his great bristling beard.
"But what were you doing down there then Hagrid?" George asked the large man.
"Wait an' see." Hagrid said gruffly.
"Hagrid!" Harry croaked in relief. "I was lost - Floo powder-"
Hagrid seized Harry by the scruff of the neck and pulled him away from the witch, knocking the tray right out of her hands. Her shrieks followed them all the way along the twisting alleyway out into bright sunlight. Harry saw a familiar, snow-white marble building in the distance - Gringotts Bank. Hagrid had steered him right into Diagon Alley.
"Thanks for that Hagrid," Harry said.
"Not a problem," Hagrid said, waving a massive hand.
"Yer a mess!" said Hagrid gruffly, brushing soot off Harry so forcefully he nearly knocked him into a barrel of dragon dung outside an apothecary.
"Good thing you didn't," Harry said, wrinkling his nose.
"Skulkin'around Knockturn Alley, I dunno dodgy place, Harry - don' want no one ter see yeh down there-"
"I realized that ," said Harry, ducking as Hagrid made to brush him off again. "I told you, I was lost - what were you doing down there, anyway?"
"See even Harry agrees with me!" George cried.
"No one disagreed George," Ginny said, rolling her eyes at her brother's antics.
"I was lookin'fer a Flesh-Eatin'Slug Repellent," growled Hagrid. "They're ruinin'the school cabbages.
"See?" Ginny and Hagrid said to George who just shrugged.
Yer not on yer own?"
"I'm staying with the Weasleys but we got separated," Harry explained. "I've got to go and find them..."
They set off together down the street.
"How come yeh never wrote back ter me?" said Hagrid as Harry jogged alongside him (he had to take three steps to every stride of Hagrid's enormous boots). Harry explained all about Dobby and the Dursleys.
"Lousy Muggles," growled Hagrid. "If I'd've known-"
"You and me both," Remus growled.
"Harry! Harry! Over here!"
Harry looked up and saw Hermione Granger standing at the top of the white flight of steps to Gringotts. She ran down to meet them, her bushy brown hair flying behind her.
Harry moved away from the glare Hermione was sending him.
"What happened to your glasses? Hello, Hagrid - Oh, it's wonderful to see you two again - Are you coming into Gringotts, Harry?"
"Let him breathe Hermione!" Ginny laughed and Hermione blushed again.
"As soon as I've found the Weasleys," said Harry.
"Yeh won't have long ter wait," Hagrid said with a grin.
Harry and Hermione looked around: Sprinting up the crowded street were Ron, Fred, George, Percy, and Mr. Weasley.
"Harry," Mr. Weasley panted. "We hoped you'd only gone one grate too far..." He mopped his glistening bald patch. "Molly's frantic - she's coming now-"
"Where did you come out?" Ron asked.
"Knockturn Alley," said Hagrid grimly.
"Excellent!" said Fred and George together.
"Not excellent," Remus corrected, shaking his head.
"We've never been allowed in," said Ron enviously.
"I should ruddy well think not," growled Hagrid. Mrs. Weasley now came galloping into view, her handbag swinging wildly in one hand, Ginny just clinging onto the other.
"Oh, Harry - oh, my dear - you could have been anywhere-"
Gasping for breath she pulled a large clothes brush out of her bag and began sweeping off the soot Hagrid hadn't managed to beat away. Mr. Weasley took Harry's glasses, gave them a tap of his wand, and returned them, good as new.
"Thanks for that by the way," Harry told Mr. Weasley, who waved it away as nothing.
"Well, gotta be off," said Hagrid, who was having his hand wrung by Mrs. Weasley ("Knockturn Alley! If you hadn't found him, Hagrid!"), "See yer at Hogwarts!" And he strode away, head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the packed street.
"Guess who I saw in Borgin and Burkes?" Harry asked Ron and Hermione as they climbed the Gringotts steps. "Malfoy and his father."
"Did Lucius Malfoy buy anything?" said Mr. Weasley sharply behind them.
"No, he was selling-"
"So he's worried," said Mr. Weasley with grim satisfaction. "Oh, I'd love to get Lucius Malfoy for something ..."
"Well you won't have to because hopefully he'll be in Azkaban for a long time when this is over." Harry said, looking up and glaring at Fudge. "If there aren't any more breakouts of course."
"You be careful, Arthur," said Mrs. Weasley sharply as they were bowed into the bank by a goblin at the door. "That family's trouble. Don't go biting off more than you can chew-"
"So you don't think I'm a match for Lucius Malfoy?" said Mr. Weasley indignantly,
"I never said that," Mrs. Weasley told her husband gently.
but he was distracted almost at once by the sight of Hermione's parents, who were standing nervously at the counter that ran all along the great marble hall, waiting for Hermione to introduce them.
"But you're Muggles!" said Mr. Weasley delightedly. "We must have a drink! What's that you've got there? Oh, you're changing Muggle money. Molly, look!" He pointed excitedly at the ten-pound notes in Mr. Granger's hand.
Hermione laughed. "Dad was a bit confused at first."
"Meet you back here," Ron said to Hermione as the Weasleys and Harry were led off to their underground vaults by another Gringotts goblin.
The vaults were reached by means of small, goblin-driven carts that sped along miniature train tracks through the bank's underground tunnels. Harry enjoyed the breakneck journey down to the Weasleys' vault,
"Of course you did," Hermione said, rolling her eyes fondly.
but felt dreadful, far worse than he had in Knockturn Alley, when it was opened. There was a very small pile of silver Sickles inside, and just one gold Galleon.
The Weasley's blushed at that sentence, even Percy, who felt bad for his siblings, but if his parents hadn't stood by Dumbledore…
Mrs. Weasley felt right into the corners before sweeping the whole lot into her bag. Harry felt even worse when they reached his vault. He tried to block the contents from view as he hastily shoved handfuls of coins into a leather bag.
Back outside on the marble steps, they all separated. Percy muttered vaguely about needing a new quill. Fred and George had spotted their friend from Hogwarts, Lee Jordan. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were going to a secondhand robe shop. Mr. Weasley was insisting on taking the Grangers off to the Leaky Cauldron for a drink.
"They enjoyed that," Hermione told Mr. Weasley.
"We'll all meet at Flourish and Blotts in an hour to buy your schoolbooks," said Mrs. Weasley, setting off with Ginny. "And not one step down Knockturn Alley!" she shouted at the twins' retreating backs.
"Mum! How can you-"
"-have so little faith in us?"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione strolled off along the winding, cobbled street. The bag of gold, silver, and bronze jangling cheerfully in Harry's pocket was clamoring to be spent, so he bought three large strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice creams, which they slurped happily as they wandered up the alley, examining the fascinating shop windows. Ron gazed longingly at a full set of Chudley Cannon robes in the windows of Quality Quidditch Supplies
"He was drooling over them," Harry informed the room.
until Hermione dragged them off to buy ink and parchment next door. In Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop, they met Fred, George, and Lee Jordan, who were stocking up on Dr. Filibuster's Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks,
"Ah so many options that can be done with those marvelous things," the twins sighed and Remus snickered to himself as he remembered some of the things that had been done with those fireworks.
and in a tiny junk shop full of broken wands, lopsided brass scales, and old cloaks covered in potion stains they found Percy, deeply immersed in a small and deeply boring book called Prefects Who Gained Power .
"A study of Hogwarts prefects and their later careers," Ron read aloud off the back cover. "That sounds fascinating ..."
"Go away," Percy snapped.
"Course, he's very ambitious, Percy, he's got it all planned out... He wants to be Minister of Magic..."
Percy blushed a brilliant red as Fudge turned away from him ever so slightly and Ron was fighting the urge to laugh.
Ron told Harry and Hermione in an undertone as they left Percy to it.
An hour later, they headed for Flourish and Blotts. They were by no means the only ones making their way to the bookshop. As they approached it, they saw to their surprise a large crowd jostling outside the doors, trying to get in. The reason for this was proclaimed by a large banner stretched across the upper windows:
will be signing copies of his autobiography
today 12:30 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.
"Oh joy," Harry said grumpily.
"We can actually meet him!" Hermione squealed. "I mean, he's written almost the whole booklist!"
The crowd seemed to be made up mostly of witches around Mrs. Weasley's age. A harassed-looking wizard stood at the door, saying, "Calmly, please, ladies... Don't push, there... mind the books, now..."
"Oh yeah, they were calm," Ron said sarcastically.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione squeezed inside. A long line wound right to the back of the shop, where Gilderoy Lockhart was signing his books. They each grabbed a copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 and sneaked up the line to where the rest of the Weasleys were standing with Mr. and Mrs. Granger.
"Oh, there you are, good," said Mrs. Weasley. She sounded breathless and kept patting her hair. "We'll be able to see him in a minute..."
Most of the males in the room were giving Mrs. Weasley looks that varied from exasperation to disgust.
Gilderoy Lockhart came slowly into view, seated at a table surrounded by large pictures of his own face, all winking and flashing dazzlingly white teeth at the crowd. The real Lockhart was wearing robes of forget-me-not blue that exactly matched his eyes; his pointed wizard's hat was set at a jaunty angle on his wavy hair.
"He hasn't changed much," Remus muttered.
A short, irritable-looking man was dancing around taking photographs with a large black camera that emitted puffs of purple smoke with every blinding flash.
"Out of the way, there," he snarled at Ron, moving back to get a better shot. "This is for the Daily Prophet-"
"Big deal," said Ron, rubbing his foot where the photographer had stepped on it.
"I really wish you hadn't said that," Harry mumbled.
Gilderoy Lockhart heard him. He looked up. He saw Ron - and then he saw Harry. He stared. Then he leapt to his feet and positively shouted, "It can't be Harry Potter?"
The crowd parted, whispering excitedly; Lockhart dived forward, seized Harry's arm, and pulled him to the front. The crowd burst into applause. Harry's face burned as Lockhart shook his hand for the photographer, who was clicking away madly, wafting thick smoke over the Weasleys.
"Nice big smile, Harry," said Lockhart, through his own gleaming teeth. "Together, you and I are worth the front page."
"Ha! I'm on the front page more often than you ever have been," Harry laughed humorlessly.
When he finally let go of Harry's hand, Harry could hardly feel his fingers. He tried to sidle back over to the Weasleys, but Lockhart threw an arm around his shoulders and clamped him tightly to his side.
"No such luck," Neville laughed.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said loudly, waving for quiet. "What an extraordinary moment this is! The perfect moment for me to make a little announcement I've been sitting on for some time!
"When young Harry here stepped into Flourish and Blotts today, he only wanted to buy my autobiography –
"Not even," Harry said his expression one of revulsion.
which I shall be happy to present him now, free of charge -" The crowd applauded again. "He had no idea ," Lockhart continued, giving Harry a little shake that made his glasses slip to the end of his nose,
"At least they didn't fall off," Hermione pointed out.
"There is that."
"that he would shortly be getting much, much more than my book, Magical Me . He and his schoolmates will, in fact, be getting the real magical me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have great pleasure and pride in announcing that this September, I will be taking up the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!"
"That git was your teacher?" Remus asked and they all nodded. "No wonder you were behind. Between him and Quirrell…"
The crowd cheered and clapped and Harry found himself being presented with the entire works of Gilderoy Lockhart. Staggering slightly under their weight, he managed to make his way out of the limelight to the edge of the room, where Ginny was standing next to her new cauldron.
"You have these," Harry mumbled to her, tipping the books into the cauldron. "I'll buy my own-"
"Did I ever say thanks for that?" Ginny muttered to Harry. "Well, thanks."
"Bet you loved that, didn't you, Potter?" said a voice Harry had no trouble recognizing. He straightened up and found himself face-to-face with Draco Malfoy, who was wearing his usual sneer.
"Famous Harry Potter," said Malfoy. "Can't even go into a bookshop without making the front page."
"Jealous much?" Ron snorted.
"Leave him alone, he didn't want all that!" said Ginny. It was the first time she had spoken in front of Harry.
"At least what you said was right." Harry sighed.
She was glaring at Malfoy.
"Potter, you've got yourself a girlfriend!" drawled Malfoy.
Both Ginny and Harry blushed that time, much to the twin's amusement.
Ginny went scarlet as Ron and Hermione fought their way over, both clutching stacks of Lockhart's books.
"Oh, it's you," said Ron, looking at Malfoy as if he were something unpleasant on the sole of his shoe. "Bet you're surprised to see Harry here, eh?"
"Not as surprised as I am to see you in a shop, Weasley," retorted Malfoy. "I suppose your parents will go hungry for a month to pay for all those."
Ron went as red as Ginny. He dropped his books into the cauldron too,
"Do you have any idea of how heavy that was?" Ginny asked, trying to recover from her embarrassment.
and started toward Malfoy, but Harry and Hermione grabbed the back of his jacket.
"Why did you hold me back?" He asked them heatedly.
Harry shrugged. "Figured it wouldn't be a good idea for Malfoy to go running back to his father all beaten up."
"Ron!" said Mr. Weasley, struggling over with Fred and George. "What are you doing? It's too crowded in here, let's go outside."
"Well, well, well - Arthur Weasley."
It was Mr. Malfoy. He stood with his hand on Draco's shoulder, sneering in just the same way.
"Like father like son," Harry said.
"Lucius," said Mr. Weasley, nodding coldly.
"Busy time at the Ministry, I hear," said Mr. Malfoy. "All those raids... I hope they're paying you overtime?"
He reached into Ginny's cauldron and extracted, from amid the glossy Lockhart books, a very old, very battered copy of A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration.
"Obviously not," Mr. Malfoy said. "Dear me, what's the use of being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don't even pay you well for it?"
There were several shouts of anger and many red faces in the room after Flitwick read that sentence. Once everyone had somewhat settled down, he continued.
Mr. Weasley flushed darker than either Ron or Ginny.
"We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy," he said.
"Ye' tell 'em Arthur." Hargid said, nodding.
"Clearly," said Mr. Malfoy, his pale eyes straying to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, who were watching apprehensively. "The company you keep, Weasley... and I thought your family could sink no lower."
There was a thud of metal as Ginny's cauldron went flying; Mr. Weasley had thrown himself at Mr. Malfoy, knocking him backward into a bookshelf. Dozens of heavy spellbooks came thundering down on all their heads; there was a yell of, "Get him, Dad!" from Fred or George; Mrs. Weasley was shrieking, "No, Arthur, no!"; the crowd stampeded backward, knocking more shelves over; "Gentlemen, please - please!" cried the assistant, and then, louder than all-
"Break it up, there, gents, break it up-"
Hagrid was wading toward them through the sea of books. In an instant he had pulled Mr. Weasley and Mr. Malfoy apart.
"Hopefully you got a few good hits in Arthur?" Remus asked, smirking slightly, ignoring the looks of disapproval he was getting from both Mrs. Weasley and Professor McGonagall.
Mr. Weasley had a cut lip and Mr. Malfoy had been hit in the eye by an Encyclopedia of Toadstools.
"Brilliant." Fred, George, and Remus all said at the same time.
He was still holding Ginny's old Transfiguration book. He thrust it at her, his eyes glittering with malice.
"Here, girl - take your book - it's the best your father can give you -"
Ginny shivered. That was how it all began… Feeling her shiver, Harry turned to her.
"It's all right Ginny. No one hates you, or even blames you." He whispered but she didn't acknowledge him.
Pulling himself out of Hagrid's grip he beckoned to Draco and swept from the shop.
"Yeh should've ignored him, Arthur," said Hagrid, almost lifting Mr. Weasley off his feet as he straightened his robes. "Rotten ter the core, the whole family, everyone knows that - no Malfoy's worth listenin' ter - bad blood, that's what it is - come on now - let's get outta here."
The assistant looked as though he wanted to stop them leaving, but he barely came up to Hagrid's waist and seemed to think better of it.
"Good idea," Ron laughed. "Hagrid would have just hugged him."
They hurried up the street, the Grangers shaking with fright
"They didn't understand what it was all about until I explained it to them," Hermione told the room. "Then they were quite happy that you defended them Mr. Weasley."
and Mrs. Weasley beside herself with fury.
"A fine example to set for your children... brawling in public... what Gilderoy Lockhart must've thought-"
"Who cares?" Was the general murmur.
"He was pleased," said Fred. "Didn't you hear him as we were leaving? He was asking that bloke from the Daily Prophet if he'd be able to work the fight into his report - said it was all publicity-"
But it was a subdued group that headed back to the fireside in the Leaky Cauldron, where Harry, the Weasleys, and all their shopping would be traveling back to the Burrow using Floo powder. They said good-bye to the Grangers, who were leaving the pub for the Muggle street on the other side; Mr. Weasley started to ask them how bus stops worked, but stopped quickly at the look on Mrs. Weasley's face.
"I can explain it later Mr. Weasley," Hermione offered.
Harry took off his glasses and put them safely in his pocket before helping himself to Floo powder. It definitely wasn't his favorite way to travel.
"I don't blame you Harry," Hermione said. She didn't like Floo travel either, almost as much as she liked brooms.
Flitwick coughed. "Well that's the end of this chapter. Who would like to read next?"
"I will Professor," Hagrid said, taking the book, which seemed just as small in his hands as it had large in Flitwick's.