Harry talks to his aunt about the necessity of his family wanting him, and he and his friends plot at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour.
P.S. I'll see you at the World Cup!
Harry signed his nearly identical letters to Ted and Millie with a hurried scrawl as he yanked his black polo shirt over his head with the other hand. He was going into Wizarding London with his family for the first time, and he wanted them to come away with a good experience.
"For Millie and Ted, Hedwig. Millie's first." Hedwig hooted approvingly, and as soon as the letters were tied to her leg she shot out the window.
His hair sticking out at wild angles, he threw himself down the stairs and into the kitchen.
He looked up at his aunt and grinned. "Morning, Aunt Petunia. Sorry for the wait, I had to write Millie and Ted about a combined-class project I want to work on with them. Hedwig ought to reach them fast enough that Millie should show up while we're still there."
She passed him a mug of coffee and one of the pain au chocolates that he'd discovered in a gourmet boulangerie with Dudley. "So this Madam Hopkirk is going to adjust the levels of magic detection around our house while we're out today?"
"Mmmf." Harry swallowed the hot French pastry and nodded. "That's what her letter said. I get the feeling she's going to switch them over to detecting aggressive magic, since it's rare that a wizard doesn't need to use magic in any given month." He drank deeply from his coffee and shook his head. "Magic makes wizards and witches too complacent. Missus Weasley's a great cook, but I doubt she's ever cooked without magic to aid her."
Aunt Petunia smiled and shook her head back. "Whoever marries you will have a hard time not being impressed with how much you can do without magic." She laughed to herself a bit. "But magic or no, you're absolutely pants when it comes to your hair. Come over here, let me comb it flat for you."
Harry snickered at himself and ducked his head obediently.
"Harry," Aunt Petunia said softly.
"I am glad that we're more family than before. But don't think you're the only Evans who can see political and personal manipulation as a positive tool. What happened at school to make you confront us?"
"There was...a prophecy made last year, a real one," he said as he gathered his thoughts to answer. "It told about the Dark Lord-Voldemort-rising again. The first part's already been fulfilled, since his servant returned to him."
Harry looked into his aunt's eyes as she tucked her comb back into her purse. "I think I can change the outcome of the prophecy without going about trying to stop it. But if I fail, well...the wards on our house only work so long as I consider this home. To do that, I needed my family to want me to consider our house my home. So I manipulated things my first day back, but I didn't lie. Every day since then I've not manipulated you. But if I hadn't, well, we'd be having the same summer we've had in the past."
His aunt gave his shoulder a motherly squeeze and tucked an apple into his hand. "I certainly don't blame you for being clever about it. Matter of fact, Harry, it probably worked out better this way."
Harry grinned with relief at his aunt. "Thanks, Aunt Petunia." He took a bite of his apple and pointed out, "Dud and Uncle Vernon are probably bored silly waiting in the car for us. We ought to get a move on."
Petunia tossed an arm around his shoulders and said airily, "If you insist. I think they'll understand that sometimes aunts have to chat with their nephews."
He laughed and flipped the light switch off as they walked out the door together.
His family was a bit stunned at the bustle of Diagon Alley, but Dudley had a grin on his face as Harry led them out of Gringotts after they'd exchanged pound notes for galleons in one of the queues.
"Goblins, Harry! Gold coins! And you don't get bored over the summer without all this?" He waved a hand about to indicate the street.
"I've been bored before, but if I'm doing homework and exchanging letters with friends, it's not awful, really." Harry shook his head and said, "So I need new robes, as well as schoolbooks and refills on my potions supplies. Anyplace you'd prefer to go first?"
"We should get your texts first," Uncle Vernon offered.
"I want to see what you use in potions, Harry!" Dudley exclaimed.
"Don't be ridiculous, you two," Aunt Petunia said authoritatively. "We're getting his school robes first, before all the other children descend on the shop within the next week."
Harry grinned at his aunt as his uncle and cousin groaned (/"Clothes shopping! Oh, hell!"/). "Madam Malkin's is just down the way here, past Fortescue's Ice Cream Shoppe. We should come back for a bite after we're done."
The bell above the door tinkled merrily as one Potter and three Dursleys trooped in to the store. Madam Malkin stepped out from behind the register to greet them. "Mr. Potter! What a pleasure. It's been a few years, hasn't it? Is this your family? How lovely."
Aunt Petunia intercepted her with the speed of an overprotective bodyguard. "Yes, we're Harry's family. A pleasure, I'm sure. Now, he'll need-" she checked the list he'd written out "-two sets of student work robes, preferably open-front and not pullover-style. A winter coat, not a cloak, ideally in a neutral or dark color. And, apparently, dress robes."
Madam Malkin blinked. "Well then. I can see you came prepared. The work robes for students are over here; we'll need to get your measurements. Hop up on the stool, Mr. Potter, and I'll show your Aunt some of the styles of coats and dress robes we have."
As Harry stood patiently on the stool while the enchanted tape took detailed measurements, Aunt Petunia and Madam Malkin put their heads together. He could hear some of the words:
"Shot up, hasn't he?"
"An excellent height, takes after his great-grandfather, Henry Evans. Now there was a tall man."
"Those dress robes, we can make a bit of a modified muggle tuxedo, if you like. Would be excellent for his build."
"Hmm, black, do you think?"
"Yes, with the gray, and perhaps this dark green for lining on the coat?"
"Mm. Very good....winter coats around here, you said?"
"Knee-length, felted wool with silk lining."
"...Lovely color. That blue for the interior, and the charcoal gray for the wool. I assume you have a down filling in your coats?"
"Of course, and only the highest-grade comes into this shop, I assure you. Would you like any pattern to hold the filling, or just a standard box-baffle?"
Harry felt it necessary to interrupt the scheming. "Standard, please! With a thin filling!"
The two women chuckled and turned as he stepped down from the stool with a sigh of relief.
"Finished with the work robes, Aunt Petunia," he said cheerfully.
"Excellent," she replied with a smile. "We're done, too."
As Madam Malkin's clothes began folding themselves into the boxes on the counter, she rang the purchases up.
"Thirty-eight galleons, nine sickles, Missus Dursley."
Harry gaped. "Err, that's rather pricey, Aunt Petunia. I can cover the dress robes with a bank draft, if you want..."
"Don't be silly, Harry," his aunt responded tartly. "With two boys at boarding schools, a body should expect to pay a bit of money during the summer."
"Mr. Potter," Madam Malkin interrupted, "If you must pay for something yourself, you'll need at least two cloakpins for those open robes. Our full selection is open to students third year and above, you know, instead of the limit on unadorned silver." She ushered Harry to a display case against the wall.
"That one," he said without hesitation. The "that" in question was a chimaera cloakpin set that started as gold toward the lion front and ended as silver at the snake tail. The eyes of the lion head were polished jet.
"A beautiful pair, Mr. Potter," Malkin said under her breath to him. "But are you so sure that you should tell everyone you're just as snake as you are lion?"
He smiled back. "Most definitely, Madam. Most definitely."
After picking up refills of old ingredients as well as new at the apothecary, Harry snagged some different potions knives and stirring rods. While having the shopkeeper's assistant stretch and oil his dragonhide gloves, he explained to a fascinated Dudley why he needed so many variations of the same thing.
"See, we use pewter cauldrons because they don't react to any of the ingredients. However, the rods we stir with have their own properties that can be used purposefully in a potion. A person would use the glass rod if they wanted no reaction. The silver is good for its healing properties, and the copper works well with the more high-energy potions. Gold for its purity in truth serums, and steel for the destructive potions that one makes to harm another, such as, say, Swelling Solution. The opposite, Deflating Draft, would be made with either a silver or glass stirring rod. The same goes for the various potions knives."
Harry accepted the gloves back with a thank you and paid quickly. "I've been wondering, you know, about how a person could incorporate ancient runes into potions...perhaps to make some devices we can't use in magic-saturated areas. Like mobile phones, for example."
A voice stopped him on the way out. "Potter!"
He turned. "Professor Snape, sir." He hefted his bag. "Thought I'd get my school supplies before the madding crowds descended, so to speak. I take it you're up to the same?"
Snape looked at him sharply. "Potter, after hearing what you've told your cousin..." he shook his head. "If you get less than an exceeds expectations in my class I'll want to know why."
Harry just grinned. "I plan on it, sir. Just, y'know, don't pair me with Ron or Neville."
His professor snorted disdainfully. "And if I paired you with a student from my house?"
"Millie and Ted have been my friends for a year now," he said, still smiling. "Draco and I are getting along, I think. I'd be fine if you put me with people who work, really."
"Potter," Snape said intensely. "I don't care if you're friends with students in any house, if you fail your classes or pass with flying colors. But you should know-Alastor Moody is this year's defense teacher. And if he thinks you've been, shall we say, 'corrupted' by my students, he will make their lives miserable, and their parents. Not yours. Keep your head down, do your work. I'm extending you a bit of trust that you're not self-serving like your father. Don't prove me wrong."
Snape slapped some coins down on the counter, grabbed his purchases, and swept past Harry and Dudley out the door.
"Well," Dudley said cheerfully, breaking the heavy silence, "That professor of yours sure knows how to make an exit."
Harry had to laugh at that.
A little past lunchtime found the four of them at Fortescue's eating ice cream while surrounded by bags of Harry's school things. Aside from the robes and books and potions necessaries, Harry had also bought himself a wand-care kit from Ollivanders', and seeker's gloves and a practice snitch from Quality Quidditch supplies.
"What was it you got, Dud?" Harry asked through a mouthful of ice cream. "Apple something?"
"Apple graham-cracker ripple. Grand stuff. Wish supermarkets carried Fortescue's ice cream."
Harry licked his spoon clean of the toffee-marshmallow goo that ran in veins through his cake-batter flavored ice cream. "We could see about buying some in bulk, I suppose. Florean would probably be flattered."
Petunia looked like she was about to respond when twin shrieks of "Harry!" rang out from opposite ends of Fortescue's. From inside, a tall, stocky girl with her hair in a thick braid was walking in his direction carrying a bowl of ice cream and a bag from Flourish and Blott's. From outside, a shorter girl with wild bushy hair waved at him with a book and dodged customers to reach his table.
Harry stood up with a grin.
"Millie! Hermione! It's good to see you both!" He snagged Millie's ice cream and put it on the table before he wrapped her in a hug. Then he turned and gave Hermione the same treatment.
The two girls dropped down in spare chairs, eyeing each other warily and giving polite "'hello's" to the Dursleys.
"So?" Millie asked impatiently after taking a bite of ice cream. "Did the teachers let you in or not?"
Harry beamed at her. "Thanks to you and Ted, they did. Vector's going to give you house points first class of the year, by the way, for tutoring another student on your own time. Same with Professor Babel for Ted, I expect."
Hermione interrupted, wide-eyed. "You're transferring into Ancient Runes and Arithmancy? Why didn't you ask me for help last year?"
Millie smiled, and Harry answered with a little laugh, "Hermione, do you honestly think you would have had the time to help me?" Hermione blushed in response. "You were so tired all the time, I knew better than to ask you. Besides, Millie and Ted found me trying to study the subjects on my own in the library one evening, and simply offered to help. I took them up on it, and, well...here I am."
Hermione finally smiled. "That's great, then." She turned to Millie and stuck her hand out. "Hermione Granger, pleased to meet you."
Millie shook her hand firmly. "Millie Bulstrode. It's a pleasure."
Harry suddenly remembered what Professor Snape had said in the apothecary. "Millie?"
"Professor Snape said that Alastor Moody was going to be our Defense teacher this year. Who's that?"
Millie shook her head. "Sometimes I forget how little you know about the Wizarding world, Harry." She met his eyes seriously. "He's a former auror, a Dark Wizard Catcher. Not like your regular muggle bobbies, but like, umm...MI5, I suppose. Best of the best before he retired. He's paranoid as all get out, and he doesn't believe that anyone should be forgiven for their past transgressions."
Harry let out the breath he'd unconsciously been holding. "Aside from a very amiable professor who turned into a wolf thirteen times a year, are we ever going to get a normal DADA professor?" he asked his friends plaintively.
Millie laughed as Hermione ticked them off on her fingers and the Dursleys looked on, torn between amusement and horror.
"First year, our professor was possessed, and he died. Second year, he was a fraud. He obliviated himself to the point of staying in St. Mungo's long term. Third year, we had an excellent teacher, but as a werewolf, parental opinion forced him to resign. This year, we have a vindictive, paranoid ex-auror."
"So what're we going to do to him, Harry?" Millie asked.
"Mmm, good question." Harry stretched in his seat. "Snape said he might get vicious with students from your house. I say if he does that, we stop going to class. Snape can tutor us."
Hermione gave a little "meep!" but smiled and nodded. Millie grinned. "I like the way you think."
"I say we cover ourselves from potential retribution," Hermione said firmly. "If someone takes a dicto-quill to class, and he abuses his authority during class time, nobody can hold it against us if we have proof to back up a request to leave class."
"I always knew there was a reason you were friends with a genius, Harry," Millie said with a sly smile. "She's how you get away with so much."
Hermione blushed, but Harry just laughed and nodded. "First time we ever broke school rules together, she lied flat out to McGonagall. That cemented it. She was our way to break rules."
"Oh, you!" Hermione huffed, but everyone present could see the little smile on her face.
"So Harry's going to that World Cup of yours, Quidditch. You girls going as well?" Dudley piped up.
Millie nodded. "I'm going with Father and Mum. We're camping with Ted and his father, as well. How about you, Granger?"
"I'm going as a guest of the Weasleys," she said happily. "They have tickets for the Top Box!"
"I'll see you there, Hermione," Harry said with a wicked smile. "I'm playing politician, and one of my potential colleagues outside of the ministry invited me to sit with them in the Top Box as well."
"Oooh, /who/?" Hermione asked, keenly.
"Lucius Malfoy." Harry watched her with a small smile as she opened her mouth to protest, shut it, opened it again, and tried to think of something to say.
She finally asked, with a shrug, "Any particular reason?"
"Sure," he answered. "Wormtail escaped, Dumbledore's convinced that Voldemort" -Millie flinched- "will rise again, soon, and I figure if I can make some unorthodox allies out of his former followers, he won't have anything but a secret hideout and a whiny animagus to the name of his great and glorious cause."
Hermione choked. Millie clapped a few times. "Well said, Harry. Want me to sound out Ted's dad for you? He dotes on his son, you know. Wouldn't want to hurt one of Ted's best friends."
Harry nodded at her gratefully. "That'd be fantastic, Millie, thanks."
Hermione smiled at Harry. "Can't promise I'll be overly friendly, but I'll be utterly civil to Draco Malfoy if he does end up becoming your friend. I'll keep Ron off your back about it, too."
Harry sighed with exaggerated bliss. "I have such lovely friends." He looked over at his relatives. "Don't you think that every revolutionary should have as lovely friends as mine?"
They laughed at his playacting, and his aunt ruffled his hair fondly. "You are so very like your great-grandfather, Harry. He was the most dramatic, manipulative, charismatic man ever to have a seat in the House of Commons. Even his political opponents admired him."
Harry smiled back at her. "Guess I came by it honestly, then."
Hermione glanced at her watch and exclaimed in dismay. "Oh! I have to meet Ginny at the Leaky Cauldron in two minutes! I'm staying with the Weasleys for the rest of the summer." She scooped up her book bag and hugged Harry around the shoulders quickly. "I'll see you at the Cup, Harry! Bye!"
Millie waved her off and turned to Harry. "I'd better be off too. I told Mum I'd be home in time to help her thin the summer herb garden. I'll send you some of the rarer herbs that we cull for your birthday, all right?"
"Thanks, Millie," Harry said, and stood up to give her a hug and pass over her bags of purchases. "See you in a couple weeks, I suppose. Draco and I will look for your campsite."
Harry's uncle picked up a few of the heavier apothecary purchases and raised an eyebrow at him. "Ready to go?"
"Absolutely," Harry said. "I reckon if you still want Fortescue's ice cream we can owl order it." He hefted his clothing purchases and texts, and Dudley reached for the bags with Harry's Quidditch and wand supplies.
"Lay on, MacDuff!" Dudley cried. Harry snickered.
"Back to the land of technology and no magic! Forward, men!"
"Dud, your mum's right. Insanity breeds true in the Evans family."
"Ahh, that'n boarding school makes anyone loopy, Harry."
They chatted and teased each other all the way back to the car, much to the amusement of the adults with them.
An envelope spellotaped to the door was the first thing they saw as they piled out the car and toward the house.
"H. Potter, student," Uncle Vernon read aloud. He passed it over to Harry.
"Oh, Madam Hopkirk's finished up!"
Harry slit the envelope with his thumbnail and shook the short note open. He read it to his family, smile getting wider with each word.
The magical detection wards were, in fact, strangely damaged, most likely due to the strength and the numerous nature of accidental magic during your childhood. The wards have been reset with a responsible muggle-raised student in mind, and are therefore rather insensitive to harmless magic. Charms will not be detected; however, curses, hexes, and jinxes will. Please exercise judicious restraint.
Harry grinned at his relatives. They grinned back at him. Life, it seemed to Harry, was getting pretty good.