Categories > Books > Harry Potter > The Darkest Hour

The Calm Before the Storm

by Ham 0 Reviews

Sixth Year!PostOOtp Its Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts and he has to make some hard decisions in order to survive. But will these decisions help him or make him weaker? Martial arts, dueling, anima...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Dumbledore, Ginny, Harry, Hermione, Neville, Ron, Voldemort - Warnings: [!] [V] - Published: 2007/04/18 - Updated: 2007/04/18 - 6118 words

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The Calm Before the Storm

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It was a little after dinner, and the inhabitants of Number 12 Grimmauld Place were gathered in the hall to watch a highly interesting game of chess: Ron was playing Alan.

Both were highly skilled players, and they were very well matched. When two players of such caliber played against each other, the game was taken to a new level altogether.

It was a treat to watch the game unfold, the two players thinking ten moves ahead, slyly setting traps, sacrificing pieces in order to get an advantage later on in the game. To some, like Molly and Tonks, the game didn't seem very different than the thousands of others they had seen, and they were quickly bored.

Remus, Arthur, Ginny and Bill, however, who were all chess enthusiasts and had played Ron quite often, found the game to be a treat. It was a challenge to be able to spot the traps, to try and guess what the two players were up to and to see the rapid moves made by them.

Chess was a game of the mind and for you to master it you had to have a great deal of focus, clarity of thought and a certain amount of ruthlessness. It was the mind operating at its peak and it was a glorious thing to see.

They had very different playing styles. Ron relied more on his own instinct and experience. His main forte was defense, though he had the ability to put up a strong offense when called upon.

Alan, on the other hand, was more of an offensive player. He had a lot of knowledge about chess and had watched hundreds of the great chess games and players in action. He had read a lot of books on the game and knew a lot of highly spectacular plays. His style was very adaptable due to all his knowledge.

The game was almost halfway through and both were in a sort of stalemate. Each had lost a number of pieces and the game just got more and more complicated as it proceeded. The table they were playing on was littered with half broken pieces that would revert back to normal once the game was complete.

At first Alan was more than a little excited and awestruck at seeing the animated pieces. But he soon realized that they were more a hindrance than help.

They started out by shouting all kinds of advice at him, contradicting each other. Alan, being the experienced chess player that he was, noticed that most of the advice would actually harm him than do him good. This caused him to become very confused. On one hand was his years of experience in playing chess... on the other were these magical chess pieces who probably knew what they were talking about. Fortunately, Ginny took pity on him and told him to ignore the pieces and play his own game. It became much easier from there onwards.

Harry and Hermione sat a little distance away in a corner of the room, well away from the excitement of the game, as she coached him in the basics of advanced Arithmancy.

He was amazed how simple she made the whole subject seem and he finally began to understand Arithmancy a lot more clearly. What surprised him most about it was that it was the very same thing he was tearing his hair out trying to understand a few days ago and failing spectacularly.

She had a way of getting to the root of the problem extremely fast, discarding the unnecessary and finding the mistakes with a brief glance. He had shown her the problems he had been working on and where he was stuck, and she had immediately seen where the problem lay. Apparently, he had been applying the formulas incorrectly and that's why the equations were always coming out wrong. She had also pointed out that he used far too many unnecessary steps in solving the problem and had shown him a way that would require half the amount of steps.

She then proceeded to drill him thoroughly in all the formulas till he understood them perfectly.

Harry mused that if there was even a slight chance that he might pass the Arithmancy OWL exam, it had only been made possible because of Hermione. He was extremely grateful for having the bushy-haired genius as one of his friends.

He knew that teaching had never come easily to her. She had such a quick mind that it was sometimes frustrating for her to realize that others could not see things as clearly and quickly as she could. Over the five years helping him and Ron with their studies, she had managed to curb her impatience, but sometimes it still surfaced.

Pat sat nearby making notes in her long flowing handwriting, the Muggle Studies textbook open before her. Most of the coursework was extremely easy for her but occasionally she would turn to Hermione for help with some problem or the other.

Suddenly, Harry was distracted by the sound of muffled laughter and whirled around to peer in the direction it came from. He noticed that Sean, Jack and the twins were sitting in another corner of the room far away from everyone else and talking in low voices. He shook his head and grinned. Getting those four together meant a lot of trouble for everybody. All four were pranksters at heart and troublemakers of the first order.

It seemed that he wasn't very wrong in his estimation.

Sean and Jack were busy swapping stories with the twins about the pranks they had pulled. Back in Stonewall High, they had done their share of terrorizing hapless teachers.

"We had this really nasty literature teacher once... name of Harold Hemmingway... got on my nerves," Sean said slowly. "You remember him, Jack?"

Jack nodded. "Horsy faced, wore those horrible tweed suits and had that disgusting habit of spitting while he spoke."

"Yep, that's the one. He had this real mean streak... liked humiliating people, you know? Like he would make the person who wrote the worst essay publicly read it in front of the class, always seemed to take a savage pleasure in failing people. Nearly failed us a couple of times, too," Sean said, a frown flitting across his face.

"Yeah," Jack agreed. "One day he went on for half an hour about how stupid a girl was for writing a substandard essay. It wasn't really her fault either, her mother was sick and she was taking care of her... didn't have time to write anything till the last minute. By the end of it, she was so humiliated that she started crying."

Sean grinned. "We got him real good though. Put a copy of Playboy in his office and hid nearby with a camera and a decent zoom lens. When he picked it up, we managed to get a few shots off that he had a very hard time explaining away."

Jack sniggered. "He was nicknamed 'Dirty Harry' and left soon after that."

The talk drifted to other topics and soon they were discussing their love lives... or the lack thereof.

"Girls! Pah! I'll be damned if I can figure them out," Sean said bitterly.

"You and the rest of us," George said sympathetically. "They tend to get awfully moody."

"Yeah," Fred said with a fearful glance at Ginny. "Especially during certain times of the month."

"Well, you did act a bit stupidly, mate," Jack pointed out.

"I did not! It was a reasonable question," Sean grumbled.

Jack shrugged. "Suit yourself."

"What happened?" Fred asked, leaning forward interestedly.

Jack grinned. "Well, this girl, Meg, agreed to go on a date with him and when he arrived to pick her up she wasn't ready yet. So he's waiting for her... and waiting is something that Sean isn't very good at..."

"She took a bloody hour!" Sean said hotly.

"Yeah, well, she comes down and Mr. Eloquence here goes and asks her why the hell she took so long to dress up for a movie where its going to be dark and nobody can see her anyway. What happened next you can guess..."

Fred and George joined Jack in snickering at poor Sean, and he gave them a dark look.

"So, isn't there some sort of hocus pocus magical stuff to make girls fall for you?" he asked irritably.

The looks the twins suddenly shot at each other made Sean and Jack sit up straighter, expectant grins on their faces.


Five minutes later...


"So... you're saying a few drops of this and any girl will fall in love with you?" Sean asked excitedly, fingering a vial of purple potion like it was the elixir of life.

"No. While you do get potions which do that, they are highly illegal," Fred explained. "We can't very well sell them in the shop, so we came up with our own little version."

"Yep, what this does is enhance any feelings the person who you are wooing has for you and makes them a tad more /friendly/," George said, winking.

"You guys are geniuses!" Jack said with a huge grin on his face.

"Why, thank you," Fred said buffing his nails carelessly on his dragonhide jacket.

"We try our best," George finished modestly.

Sean and Jack didn't respond. They were too busy plotting how they would use the marvelous potion on a number of girls in Stonewall High.

"Guys," Fred said slowly, his voice suddenly serious. "Be careful with that potion. If you get caught with it, it's all our necks."

"Yeah, I'm not saying don't use it... but in your world it becomes a whole different ballgame. Using it for pranking might not be such a good idea," George joined in.

Sean nodded. "We know... using it on somebody who doesn't like us would come too close to rape for us to be comfortable doing it. Don't worry; we will be careful."

Fred grinned. "Ok, then, lets see what else we have to show you..."

"Do you think they'd be interested in seeing the Weasley Blaster?" George asked thoughtfully.

"A truly splendid idea, brother mine!"

"The Weasley blaster?" Jack asked uneasily, afraid that they were going to be shown some sort of gun.

"It's the music system we developed for Ickle Harrykins," George explained.

Sean looked highly excited at this as he had a great love for music. He wasn't disappointed. The system was something from his wildest dreams. No Muggle music system available even came close to the sound quality. The added functions like the sound bubble and ability to run without electricity thrilled him even more. He could just imagine being able to listen to music however loud he wanted at any hour. It would be sheer bliss.

"Guys, how much would something like this cost?" he asked slowly, the longing shining through his eyes.

The twins looked at each other and did a few quick calculations. "Hmm... well... I'd say about two thousand pounds," Fred said slowly.

"Yeah, it cost a lot more to make the first time since we ruined several music systems trying to figure out how they worked," George explained.

"Two thousand pounds," Jack said in astonishment. "That's a lot. Guys... I don't think most people would be able to afford it."

"Yeah..." George said slowly. "It's the Muggle parts that are so expensive."

"Where did you buy them from?" Sean asked curiously.

"Some shop on New Bond Street," Fred replied.

Sean stared at him. "New Bond Street? But that's one of the most overpriced places to shop!"

"Guys... just what system was it that you bought?" Jack asked suddenly. The shape of the music system seemed faintly familiar even though it was changed so much it was almost impossible to tell.

When George named the company which made the music system Jack slapped his head in frustration. "You guys went to one of the most exclusive shops in London and bought the most overpriced system they had. No wonder it cost you so much!"

Fred and George looked at each other, highly irritated with themselves. It seemed that they had spent a lot of money quite irresponsibly. It didn't matter if they didn't know the Muggle world that well or that they had known next to nothing about Muggle music systems. Money wasted was money wasted.

"Next time you guys want to buy a music system, you come to us," Sean said. "We'll take you to a few places where you'll get them at discounted prices. Hell... you can buy parts second hand... sometimes people just use their music systems for six months and then buy a new one... they are hardly used. You can get a great deal if you get lucky."

The twins grinned. "We will definitely take you up on that," Fred promised.

"Yeah, if we can get the Muggle equipment more cheaply, then we can probably reduce the cost to make it," George said excitedly.

"Hmm... tell you what... why don't we go out one of these days into London and we can show you the shops we visit," Sean offered.

"Sounds good to us," George said with a huge grin.

"In return, we'd be happy to show you Diagon Alley and if we can slip away from Mum, a few more exciting places," Fred said with a wink.

Sean and Jack grinned. They already loved the magical world.


~~~*~


Harry got up from his desk after a few hours of intense Arithmancy revision and stretched, trying to work the stiffness out of his body. A few twinges from his injuries still niggled him, but he ignored the pain.

He quickly changed into a pair of shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt and slipped out of his room, making his way downstairs silently.

He missed going for his morning runs and had decided that he would go for one today. He couldn't afford to let his stamina decrease because of lack of exercise.

Apparently, he had not been silent enough, because he heard soft footsteps following him downstairs.

"Morning, Harry," Pat whispered, appearing next to him. "I knew that you might get up early to exercise and I thought I would join you, if that's ok."

"Of course it's ok," Harry whispered back. "Let's go."

They were just about to make for the door when three more sets of footsteps came from the stairs as Sean, Jack and Alan bounded down.

"Oi, wait for us," Sean said in a low tone, causing them to halt. "Some friends you are, going off without us. It's a good thing we always wake up early and heard you two moving about."

"Sorry, mate," Harry said good naturedly. "I didn't know if you guys wanted to come or have a lie-in."

"Nah," Sean said grumpily. "The past week, ever since you left to come here, we haven't been allowed to move out of the house much, as they were still putting up some sort of wards to protect us. Now that we can go out, there's no way I want to stay in bed."

Harry nodded and moved to open the door.

A light pair of footsteps from behind alerted him that someone else was awake. Harry sighed in frustration and wondered whether he had succeeded in waking up the whole house.

A slim figure dressed in a pair of tight track pants and training bra stood at the foot of the steps, eyeing them hesitantly.

"Do you think I could join you guys?" she asked softly.

"Of course, Ginny," Pat said cheerfully. "You don't need to ask."

Harry had barely taken a glance at her when he looked away. She was the last person he wanted to see right now, especially dressed as she was.

Merlin, she looked hot!

He never saw the hurt look in her eyes as she noticed him turn away, and she almost turned back to go up, but some stubborn part of her rebelled. She had decided the day Harry came back injured that she would take his example and get her body fitter and learn how to duel. Next time somebody attacked him, she had no intention of letting him fight alone. To do this, she needed to be able to take care of herself as she didn't want to be a liability to him in a fight.

"Shall we go?" she said coldly, trying to mask her hurt.

Harry wordlessly opened the door and led them outside.

The air was cool and crisp outside and the sun was yet to rise. The teenagers at first set a brisk pace with which Ginny had trouble keeping up. Harry noticed this and slowed the pace down so she could keep up with them.

Truth be told, his injuries had left him less that fully fit and he didn't want to push himself too hard either.

Unnoticed by him, he suddenly found himself running alongside the fiery redhead.

The sun was just starting to rise, turning the sky into a multitude of blues, oranges and pinks. He looked sideways at her and his breath nearly caught in his throat at her beauty. Her face was flushed with the effort she was expending and her long hair, which was tied back into a ponytail, was bobbing up and down behind her. Her delicate neck was exposed and sweat ran down the side and down into the valley between her breasts. For some reason, he wasn't able to stop staring at her bare midriff as it flexed with the motions of her body.

He tore his eyes away before she caught him staring and concentrated on running. This was unbearably hard, and he couldn't help but sneak peeks at her occasionally. Stupid hormones!

Harry was very thankful when they finally returned to Grimmauld Place at the end of their run. He thought he would go crazy if he was in her presence a minute longer. Somehow, Ginny Weasley had managed to get under his skin and had begun to fascinate him in endless ways. It wasn't something he was too thrilled about, especially after he had clearly told her that he was not interested in her and that a relationship could never happen.

He then overheard a conversation that made it apparent that his torture wasn't over yet.

"Your stamina is really good, Ginny," Pat said with a warm smile. "Have you gone running before this?"

Ginny shook her head, panting lightly as she tried to regain her breath.

"That's great!" Patricia exclaimed.

"Thanks," Ginny said with a small smile that made her face light up. She looked at Pat as if she wanted to say something and hesitated. "Listen..."

"Yes?" Pat said encouragingly.

"Do you think you could give me a few pointers in self defense?" Ginny asked quickly.

Pat grinned. "I'll do better than that. While I'm not really that good compared to Sensei Greene, I reckon I can teach you the basics quite well."

"Sensei Greene?" Ginny asked curiously.

"He's the person who teaches us Aikido back home," Pat explained. "Anybody who teaches you the art is given respect by being called Master or 'Sensei'."

"Do I need to call you Sensei Pat, then?" Ginny asked impishly.

Pat burst out laughing. "Heavens no!"

A few minutes later they were all gathered into a large room that Dobby had converted into a gym and began practicing.

Harry found he was more than a little distracted as Patricia began teaching Ginny how to fall without getting hurt. This was quite dangerous; Sean took full advantage of his lapse in concentration, leaving him with a number of bruises. Finally, he had to use his Occlumency to be able to concentrate.

All in all, Harry Potter was not a happy camper.


~~~*~


Ron and Hermione came down just as they were finishing their Aikido practice for the day.

"Morning, sleepyheads," Ginny called out.

"You guys are insane," Ron said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

"It's amazing how quickly you get used to waking up early once you make a habit of it, Ron," Alan said with a grin.

"Yeah, but why can't you do all this at a more reasonable hour?" Ron protested.

"Several reasons," Pat said counting them off on her fingers. "First, the morning air is invigorating and you finish exercising before the sun rises, thus escaping the heat. Second, almost everybody has either school or work, so you can't do it later. Third, you can't exercise after eating or you'll get cramps."

"Ok, ok, I get the idea," Ron said, holding his hands up in defeat.

Molly's voice drifted up just then, calling everybody down for breakfast. Ron was suddenly lost to them as he quickly headed towards the kitchen like a salamander attracted to flame.

Hermione shook her head wearily at her boyfriend's behavior. "You'd think he was starved all his life, the way he reacts to food."

Ron apparently hadn't gone very far, and he poked his head back into the room. "Oi! I'm a growing boy. I need to eat, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

"The only growing you'll be doing is sideways," Ginny snorted.

"Yeah, and if I remember correctly, this is your reaction for all the meals," Harry teased, a large grin on his face.

Ron made a face. "What is this? Pick on Ron day?"

Ginny looked thoughtful. "That wouldn't be a totally bad idea."

Ron opened his mouth to retort and then thought better of it and walked back towards the kitchen, only stopping briefly to look over his shoulder. "You guys coming to breakfast or what?"

Harry looked at the others and shrugged. "I dunno about you guys, but I'd prefer a shower first."

All of them nodded. The run and practice had been hot, sweaty work and a shower sounded very nice.

"You guys hurry down, then," Hermione said with a smile. "In the mean time I'll try and see if I can keep Ron from eating everything."

"There's an easy solution to that Hermione," Ginny said wickedly. "Just remind him again that there are better uses for his mouth then to stuff it full of food."

Hermione went red and swatted Ginny. "Oh, you!"

Ginny skipped away nimbly and headed to her room to shower, followed by the rest of them, who were still snickering at her comment.

Soon all of them began trickling down to the kitchen and started working on large plates of scrambled eggs, sausages, toast and goblets of iced pumpkin juice.

Molly Weasley bustled around the kitchen, making sure that all plates were refilled faster than they could polish them off.

She had been waging a continuous war with Dobby and Winky, who didn't allow her to help at all. The lack of work was alien to her and she had quickly gotten very irritated with the house-elves, and they with her. Finally, both parties had agreed to come to an agreement of sorts: Molly would be allowed to cook the breakfast and dinner as long as she left the lunch to the house-elves and didn't so much as lift a finger to clean anything.

This had still left her with a lot of free time and so she had taken to knitting sweaters and quilts with a vengeance.

"Ok, listen you lot," Molly said reluctantly. "Dumbledore thinks it might be a good idea to let you go to Diagon Alley today to finish your shopping."

She had at first refused to let them to go, thinking it to be too dangerous, but Dumbledore had overruled her. He knew too well the consequences of caging people up. The kids deserved an outing and he knew that Harry would like his Muggle friends to see Diagon Alley.

Harry and the others looked up excitedly.

"There are, however, a few rules," Molly continued before they could say a word. "Remus, Tonks, Alastor and Kingsley will be accompanying you and you will stay with them at all times. If any of you is caught sneaking away from them, your trip ends there. Do I make myself clear?" At this point she glanced at Fred and George, who had joined them a few minutes ago.

"We wouldn't dream of straying away," Fred said a bit too innocently.

"Yeah, and there are a lot more interesting things to dream of anyway," George added under his breath.

"What was that?" Molly said dangerously, turning around to glare at George.

"Nothing, Mum," Fred said with a quick smile. "He was just commenting on how pretty you look today."

"Oh yeah, very pretty, radiant even," George agreed.

Molly snorted. "You used to try that one way back before you started Hogwarts. What makes you think it will work now, when it didn't then?"

Suddenly somebody pressed a small kiss on her cheek. "You do look very pretty today," Harry whispered in her ear.

With all the free time she now had due to the house-elves and the extra money Harry had given them, she had finally been able to take out a bit of personal time for herself. She had taken the time to go buy a new set of robes and get a decent haircut, and it had felt like blissful luxury.

She beamed at Harry and ruffled his hair lovingly, forgetting all about her wayward sons.

Harry winked at the twins as he got up to put his plate into the sink, and they gazed back at him in awe.

Ginny watched the whole scene in part amusement, part sadness. Harry was so great with her mother. He could make her melt with just a few words. He was the only person who could literally get away with murder in front of Molly Weasley.

Hermione, who was sitting by Ginny's side, was hiding a big grin. She couldn't believe how sneaky Harry had become of late. Somehow, he had leant exactly what he needed to do or say to get what he wanted.

Several minutes later they found themselves sitting impatiently in the hall, waiting for Kingsley and Mad Eye to arrive so that they could leave.

Tonks and Remus were already there and were sitting in a corner chatting. Harry was watching them closely. He had a feeling that there was something fishy going on between Moony and Tonks of late. Usually Tonks was clumsy enough, but she seemed to become even clumsier around Remus. She also seemed to be blushing an awful lot at the moment. Harry couldn't help but be pleased. Remus deserved a bit of happiness; his life had been far from easy.

He looked down at his watch to see what time it was and wondered what was keeping Moody and Kingsley. It was not like them to be late. As he was glancing at his watch, he realized with a start that he had not made use of one of its very main functions.

He reached over and quickly pulled a hair from Ron's head, causing the startled redhead to yell in pain and temporarily stop ogling a certain bushy-haired witch.

"Why'd you do that for?" Ron asked Harry angrily.

"Needed your hair," Harry answered absently, as he put the hair on top of the face of the watch and pressed one of the silver buttons. A light blue light surrounded his wrist for a second and then the hair disappeared into the watch. A second later a hand appeared for Ron indicating that he was at 'Headquarters'.

Harry turned to Hermione and Ginny. "Give me one strand of your hair Hermione. You too, Gin."

"Oh, them you ask," Ron said huffily.

Harry grinned. "I'm not quite suicidal enough to try and pull their hair."

"Smart boy," Ginny murmured under her breath.

She and Hermione handed him a couple of strands of their hair and he quickly added them.

He then added Fred, George and Pat in quick order and was about to add the others when he realized that he had run out of hands.

Harry sighed in dismay. "Remind me to stop at the jewelry shop to get more hands added."

The floo suddenly lit up and there was a flash of green followed by Kingsley stepping out of the fireplace. He was followed a second later by Moody.

"What kept you two?" Tonks asked curiously.

"Meeting with Amelia dragged on a bit too long," Moody growled. "Is everyone ready?"

They were more than ready, and Remus and Tonks flooed ahead to the Leaky Cauldron to wait while Mad-Eye gave them his normal lecture of CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Finally, they stepped up to the fireplace one by one, grabbed a pinch of floo powder, and began their journey to the heart of the magical community.


~~~*~


Sean, Jack and Alan looked around in awe. It seemed like every fairy tale they had ever heard was coming alive in front of them.

Harry walked with them, pointing out the shops and what they sold, and answering any questions they had...and it seemed like they were literally bursting with questions. Not that he could blame them, he had been the same way when Hagrid had first brought him here as an eleven-year-old.

Thinking of Hagrid immediately brought up bad memories, and Harry quickly took his mind off that route of thinking.

They decided to head to Gringotts first to withdraw money, and in Hermione's case, exchange Muggle money to wizarding currency. Fred and George left them there and headed off to their shop, where the others would meet them when they came to visit.

Harry explained the wizarding currency to the three boys as they walked towards the imposing entrance to Gringotts and told them what little he knew about the bank's history.

"What in the blue blazes is that?" Sean asked in astonishment.

"Erm... that would be a goblin," Harry said in amusement as he gently pulled Sean's hand down.

"A goblin?" Jack repeated dumbly. "They exist too?"

"Yes, they run Gringotts," Harry explained as he steered his friends past the surly goblin guard who looked like he didn't much appreciate being stared and pointed at.

Harry could sympathize with him.

Alan stopped before the solid silver gates and ran his hands over the inscription on it. "Friendly, aren't they?" he said wryly.

Harry shrugged. "It's just to show that they mean business. You play nice, they play nice. If you try and steal from them, then you pay the consequences."

They entered the bank to see Bill Weasley hurrying towards them. "Hi guys, I just got off the floo with Mum. She told me to get some money out of the vault for you guys to buy your school things."

He turned to Ginny. "Ok, Gin-Gin, Mum told me to inform you that you could either choose a pet or a broom as a reward for being made prefect. What do you want?"

Ginny didn't hesitate even a second. "A broom!"

Bill grinned. "I thought you'd say that."

Ron, Ginny, Hermione and Pat decided to head to Madam Malkin's to buy their robes while Harry visited his own vault. He didn't need to buy new robes since he had already bought them on his previous trip.

Soon Harry, Sean, Jack and Alan were speeding underground in a cart at a breathtaking speed. The boys found the ride to be a huge thrill and were whooping with excitement the entire way down.

To say they were surprised when they saw Harry's vault was a big understatement. They had never imagined he could possibly be that rich.

"Wow, Harry, did you rob Fort Knox or what?" Jack whistled.

Harry just shrugged uncomfortably and quickly shoved money into a bag. He always felt horribly embarrassed by his inheritance.

His three friends were amazed by how lightly he took his wealth. It again showed them what sort of a person Harry really was. No normal sixteen-year-old would have been able to resist flaunting this much money.

The ride back up was much slower, but they seemed to enjoy it nonetheless. When they reached Madam Malkin's, the others had just finished their shopping.

Hermione immediately insisted on going to Flourish and Blotts to purchase their books, but this wasn't met with too much enthusiasm from the others. None of them wanted to lug the heavy books everywhere.

Hermione reluctantly agreed and they headed off to the Apothecary to pick up their potions ingredients.

The boys at first were none too fascinated by this particular shop. Beetle eyes and raw dragon liver didn't make for very good viewing, not to mention the awful smell, but when Hermione started telling them what the ingredients were and what potions they could be used in, they started showing a much greater interest. Both Sean and Jack excelled in science, Chemistry being their favorite subject (though Pat often joked this was because they could experiment with dangerous chemicals). Potions seemed remarkably similar to Chemistry to them, and they listened raptly.

Next, they headed to Quality Quidditch Supplies, where the boys and Ginny went wild. Ron and Harry, Quidditch fanatics that they were, had explained the game to Alan, Sean and Jack in great detail. They fawned over the new brooms and equipment while Ginny chose her new broom.

After a lot of thought, discussion and endless consultation with Ron, she finally settled on a Comet 1000, a new broom that was just slightly slower than the Nimbus 2001.

By this point, Hermione was ready to explode with impatience. The others didn't think it wise to keep her away from her books any longer.

She happily led the way to Flourish and Blotts. Harry and Remus slipped away to Bowden Jewellers to buy more hands for his watch, since he had already brought his books earlier.

Ron, Pat and the others watched in amazement as Hermione quickly went through her book list and picked up all the required texts and a dozen more books for cross-referencing. After that, she headed to the law section and picked up several books on magical law. She was determined to learn all about the laws governing the magical population of Britain so she could go about getting the house-elves their rights in the proper way.

She was looking at a book on Muggle self-defense when Pat finally decided to intervene and took it from her hands to put it back on the shelf. "Some things can't be learnt from books, Hermione," she said gently.

Hermione looked like she was going to object at first and then she nodded. "I suppose you're right."

Finally, only Fred and George's shop was left to visit, and this was what all of them had been looking forward the most.

The shop was visible from a long way off. It was painted a bright orange and lime green and large, flashing neon letters loudly proclaimed 'Welcome to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.'

The display window looked to be a chaotic mess of colourful products and catchy advertisements. Several Weasley Whiz Bangs flew around in another display case and every time two of them met there would be a small explosion and they would multiply into four. A suspicious looking yellow mist was drifting around the door.

Sean and Jack gleefully waltzed in, oblivious to the danger the mist posed and Harry's repeated warnings. They soon regretted it, however.

The mist touched their heads and both of them gave surprised yells. A large flash of light surrounded them, effectively hiding them from view. When the light finally cleared, Harry and the others looked at the two hapless victims and burst into laughter.

Sean and Jack were dressed in tight leather outfits, several studs in their ears and eyebrows. Their hair was changed into identical purple Mohawks.

For a long moment they stared at themselves in horror and glared at the twins, who had by then come out from behind the counter and were snickering at their plight.

Sean finally commented, "You know, this doesn't look half bad."

"Yep," Jack agreed with a large grin.

The twins took them around on a tour of their shop, and Harry was more than a little impressed at the twins' inventing abilities. The pranks ranged from the silly and wacky to the downright evil and ingenious. He was very happy that he had taken the initiative to help them out and had a firm belief that he had made a very wise investment. Even Hermione ended up buying a few things from the shop and all of them left in high spirits.

As they ended the day with large sundaes from Florean Fortescue's, they all thought the day couldn't have been more perfect.


~~~*~
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