~ The rest of Harry's week was one of the freest in his young life. His first visit to Quality Quidditch Supplies was to finish getting Christmas presents for the guys, Oliver, the twins, and Ron. He couldn't help but to stop by every day after that, just to take in the splendor of the newest and greatest broom thus far invented, the Firebolt. He wasn't the only Hogwarts student stopping to gawk either. Throughout the week Harry chatted with a couple of his fellow Gryffindors, and several rivals from the other Quidditch teams, but he ducked out of the shop before the two Slytherins players had a chance to spot him. Harry could easily imagine himself atop the Firebolt, flying faster and farther than ever before. Truthfully, he was sorely tempted to completely empty his vault reserves solely in order to purchase the magnificent broom, but demonstrating not an insignificant amount of self restraint, he never even asked for the price.
Near daily Harry would stop by Fortescue's for more ice cream sundaes, often working on what homework he had the books for. Hermione's letter had arrived on his third night at the inn. He wasn't at all surprised when she had attached a copy of the homework assignments, a pre-study guide for their upcoming classes, and a letter nearly two feet in length. Hedwig really was amazing, she'd managed to fly all the way to France and back in like, two nights. Harry had decided to find an owl service to send Ron his letter, after all, he didn't want to put off his homework and figured it would take forever for Hedwig to fly to France and Egypt, then have to fly all the way back. Tom gave Harry directions to the nearest post office, which was down one of the innumerable side streets, though he had to assure Harry it was one of the safer areas and still within view of Diagon Alley. Harry had really wanted to explore the owl post with its myriad sizes and species of birds; owls, eagles, ravens, and even some kind of large white bird listed as, "overseas deliveries only," but he decided not to linger as, even though Tom had given permission, he was technically breaking his promise to Minister Fudge.
Harry's favorite thing to do over the course of the week took place around supper time, when the Cauldron was always at its fullest. Harry would bring down a book or two, grab a nice hot butterbeer, and plop down to read in his favorite plush chair near a back corner. From there he could eavesdrop on the surrounding conversations, often about the escape of the killer, Sirius Black, or just watch the eclectic mix of individuals coming through the famous tavern. #He got to see all kinds, like funny little witches from the country, up for a day's shopping; venerable-looking wizards arguing over the latest article in Transfiguration Today; wild-looking warlocks; raucous dwarfs; and once, what looked suspiciously like a hag, who ordered a plate of raw liver from behind a thick woollen balaclava.#
Finally the day Harry had been anxiously awaiting arrived. Saturday morning Harry had a quick breakfast and headed out, hoping to run into some more of his classmates before he met up with the Weasley's. Mister Weasley and his lot were supposed to pick-up Hermione on their way to the Alley, but there were still a few hours before he expected them.
The only person Harry managed to run into that morning was Neville Longbottom and his grandmother in Flourish and Blotts. Harry started to say hello, but hesitated halfway over as it appeared Neville was getting told off for something. Harry really did want to say hi, but Neville's formidable looking grandmother was pretty darn intimidating. Just as he was starting to turn away, Neville caught his eye.
"Harry!" Turning back to his grandmother, he persuaded, "Grandmother, look, it's Harry."
Neville motioned Harry over and, very formally, introduced the two.
"Uh, hello, ma'am. It's a pleasure to meet you." Harry began timidly. "Sorry to overhear, but umm, I already purchased my books for the year, so, uh, if you like, I could show Neville which ones he needs since he forgot his list." Turning a bit pink he quickly added, "or the manager could of course, he knows all the books for third year."
Looking down on the two children, seemingly weighing their very souls, or at least that's how she made Harry feel, Mrs Longbottom gave a small nod, "Any help you could offer is more than appreciated young Master Potter. Also, there is no need for such nervousness, child. You should stand tall, both of you, for you are both the heirs of two ancient and noble houses."
With that proclamation, she made her way over to a small sitting area, apparently prepared to wait. Harry and Neville slowly looked at each other, trying very hard not to laugh, they made their way through the aisles collecting Neville's books.
"So, we're both from ancient houses?" Harry asked, curiosity getting the best of him.
"Yes, you didn't know? The Potters go back to at least the 12th century. They probably should have been considered one of the sacred 28, but I'm not aware as to why they never were, the Longbottoms are."
Harry wasn't sure what the sacred 28 was, though he was sure he'd heard the term somewhere, but he put that aside for now, preferring to ask Neville as much about his family history as the boy knew. Neville was happy to oblige. He didn't know all that much about the Potters though, other than a few of Harry's more popular ancestors, plus his family's general ranking in wizarding society, and yet it was still more than Harry had known before. He tried to convince Harry to ask his grandmother about it, but Harry did not hesitate to admit that Neville's grandmother was far too intimidating.
"Maybe you could ask her though and send me a letter, or I guess you could just wait and tell me about it on the train? Pleeeease?" Harry begged, stretching out the word before they both started laughing. "Oh, also about the sacred 28? All I can 'member is that they were important for being really old?"
Neville's jaw dropped in shock, I mean, he knew Harry was raised by muggles, but how could he still be so ignorant of his culture after two whole years at Hogwarts. Then again the closest thing to a class on wizarding culture they had was history of magic, and Binn's never seemed to teach anything important.
"Uh, Nev? Umm" Harry asked, clearly worrying about the bigger boy's reaction.
"Oh... of course, yes, sure, Harry. Sorry, I was just surprised, okay, the sacred 28 are the families that-" and off Neville went with a brief explanation about the history of the families and why they were important, all the while wondering why Harry freakin Potter of all people seemed nervous about Neville's reaction.
After finding all of Neville's books, though they did have to get an employee's help finding the correct book for arithmancy, not at all a subject Harry would have expected from Neville, though he told Harry he was good with numbers, they returned to his grandmother before saying their farewells. Harry darted in for a quick hug, and a quicker "thank you," before running off into the crowd, leaving Neville and his grandmother rather speechless. Neville because of the unusual display of affection, and Neville's grandmother because she hadn't expected her bumbling grandson to warrant a close friendship from so important an individual.
Had they really known the child in question, they would have realized that there were more similarities between the two than differences. True, Harry rarely let anyone past his barriers, but he had already decided that this year he would try harder to open up, at least with those he liked.
Harry headed back to the Leaky Cauldron, excited to finally see his two best friends, and the rest of the Weasley crew again. He spent the next forty minutes sitting in his usual spot, anxiously watching the room. Of course they were late, Harry thought, repeatedly checking the clock over the bar. Still, hard to not be late when you have 6 or 7 people to get organized and where they need to be all at once. Unfortunately, the long wait gave Harry plenty of time to over think his new clothing. He'd already gotten used to them when around strangers, but the longer he sat there the more he worried about what the Weasleys would think, especially since he was currently wearing pink shoes and a black and pink Weird Sisters shirt, not that he actually knew whether or not he liked the Weird Sisters, but Winry had assured him that they were great.
Finally, with a great whoosh from one of the three large fireplaces, Harry's patience was rewarded as the tall red headed form of Arthur Weasley stepped out from the green flames. Quickly scanning the room, without noticing Harry's small form in the corner, he stepped aside and before long the rest of the group arrived, all looking decidedly more freckley than normal. Harry was trying hard to stay still, wondering how long it would take for them to spot him…
"Oye, Harry?! " Ron yelled to the room at large.
Or not Harry thought, grinning like mad at his friend's ridiculousness.
Harry stood and was about to call back when Mrs Weasley lit into her son for causing such a scene, regardless of the fact that she was now making an even bigger scene. Seizing the chance, Harry slowly crept up behind the twins. Ginny almost gave him away as she was the first to notice, but after a quick shushing gesture she figured out what he was up to. Sidling up between Fred and George he only had to wait a moment, first Mr Weasley noticed him, but only smiled, clearly anticipating something. Before he had a chance to figure out what to do next Hermione shouted "Harry!" and ran over to give him a hug, startling the twins as the bushy haired girl barreled straight at them.
The twins jumped aside, only then seeing how close he'd slipped up on then, "Blimey, Harry, how… how did you do...?!" Twin A said.
Followed by, "When did you do?" Grinned Twin B.
Twin A. "Where did you do?"
Twin B. "Why did you do?"
And then together, eyes twinkling mischievously, "And who did you do?!"
Everyone except their mother shared a laugh, though Harry was now blushing. Trust those two to turn his joke back on him, not that he really minded. Mrs Weasley scooped him up in a bone crushing hug. Harry stiffened at the contact, but knew enough to expect it from Mrs Weasley. He did enjoy the warmth of her embrace, he really did, but he still couldn't help flinching at the touch. He was getting better with his friends, but adults were still… anyway, if the Weasley's had ever noticed, they probably just put it down to how hard their matriarch tended to squeeze!
Much to Harry's surprise, Mrs Weasley, Hermione, Percy, and even the twins all complimented his outfit, well, mostly that it actually fit and didn't have any patches. Although, and of course, the twins couldn't help but tease him relentlessly about how 'pretty and posh' he looked in his pink, tailored outfit. The twins might have been the terror of the castle, but there was a reason so many people considered them friends. They paid attention more than most, and because of that they were somehow able to tease, without making Harry feel like he was doing anything wrong. Ron, on the other hand, immediately put his foot in his mouth, but thankfully he apologized… after Hermione, who was not always as discreet as she might think, stomped on his foot.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione made their way back up the alley, Arthur Wesley sedately following along as Ron gushed over the new wand he'd just purchased at Ollivander's. Harry was happy for him as it was common knowledge that a handed down wand rarely worked as well as one that "has chosen the wizard," to quote the spooky, old wandmaker. They had one more stop to make before meeting up with Mrs Weasley's group at Flourish and Blotts to get all of their new school books before heading back to the inn. Hermione had been thinking of purchasing herself an owl ever since last school year, as it would make communicating with her parents during school terms much simpler. Harry immediately offered Hermione the use of Hedwig. As he never really had anyone for her to carry letters to, he thought she would enjoy the exercise, but as 'Magical Menagerie' was well worth visiting either way. Harry led on, having learned the Alley well by now.
As they wound their way through the narrow aisles of the shop, Harry pointed out some of the more interesting creatures. Seeing that the clerk was busily advising someone in the care of a metallic looking tarantula that apparently spun webs of golden thread, (Ron hastily backpedaled, almost knocked over a cage of something slimy) they curiously examined the inhabitants of the various cages.
#A pair of enormous purple toads sat gulping wetly and feasting on dead blowflies. A gigantic tortoise with a jewel-encrusted shell was glittering near the window. Poisonous orange snails were oozing slowly up the side of their glass tank, and a fat white rabbit kept changing into a silk top hat and back again with a loud popping noise. Then there were cats of every color, a noisy cage of ravens, a basket of funny custard-colored furballs that were humming loudly, and on the counter, a vast cage of sleek black rats that were playing some sort of skipping game using their long, bald tails.#
"Hello again, deary, did you want another patch of owl-treat samples," asked the older witch, seeming quite familiar with Harry. Hermione gave Harry a sidelong look, wondering just how often he'd visited. Knowing his love of animals, she wouldn't have been surprised if it had been daily. Before Harry had a chance to respond though...
"Actually," Ron interrupted with a sheepish grin to his friends, "could you take a look at my rat, I don't think Egypt agreed with him."
#"Bang him on the counter," said the witch, pulling a pair of heavy black spectacles out of her pocket.
Ron lifted Scabbers out of his inside pocket and placed him next to the cage of his fellow rats, who stopped their skipping tricks and scuffled to the wire for a better look.
Like nearly everything Ron owned, Scabbers the rat was second-hand and a bit battered.
"Hm," said the witch, picking up Scabbers. "How old is this rat?"
"Dunno," said Ron. "Quite old. He used to belong to my brother."
"What powers does he have?" said the witch, examining Scabbers closely.
"Er —" The truth was that Scabbers had never shown the faintest trace of interesting powers. The witch's eyes moved from Scabbers's tattered left ear to his front paw, which had a toe missing, and tutted loudly.
"He's been through the mill, this one," she said.
"He was like that when Percy gave him to me," said Ron defensively.
"An ordinary common or garden rat like this can't be expected to live longer than three years or so," said the witch. "Now, if you were looking for something a bit more hard-wearing, you might like one of these," She indicated the black rats, who promptly started skipping again.
Ron muttered, "Show-offs." #
At Ron's clear dismissal to the idea of replacing his battered, old rat, the saleswoman pulled out a small red bottle of rat tonic. Before Ron actually had a chance to pay however, an enormous black and ginger cat launched itself from an overhead cabinet, bounded across Ron's head and was almost upon Scabbers when the old rat figuratively flew across the counter and out the door. Ron and Harry rushed out after him, finally managing to catch up when the terrified creature took refuge beneath a refuse bin.
"Blimey, that was close! You okay, buddy?" Murmured Ron, placing Scabbers back in his.
"Wow, he's fast," Harry complained. "Hey, did we lose Hermione?"
"Maybe she's buying her owl?" Ron offered?
The two headed back, but just as the crowd cleared enough to see the shop again, Hermione came out, walking a small tiger on a harness and leash.
"You bought that monster, Hermione!" Yelled Ron.
"Ron! He's no more a monster anymore than you are! Besides, he's beautiful isn't he!? She said he'd been there forever, no one wanted him."
Harry was fairly sure he could see why. He loved cats, but this was not exactly what he would consider a beautiful cat. He was decidedly bowlegged, with strangely oversized ears, and he had that squished face thing some breeds do. His long, orange and black fur was kinda pretty though. It was clear Ron was winding up to start a row, but Harry really didn't want Ron ruining the reunion, so he tried to head the fight off before it could really get going.
"So uh, Hermione, what breed is he anyway? Cause he doesn't exactly look like a normal cat."
After they had all finished up at the bookshop, which took quite a while as Hermione seemed to think she was going to be taking every third year class Hogwarts offered, they headed back to the Leaky Cauldron for dinner. Mr. Weasley arranged for a private dining room, as there were just so many of them.
Dinner was a blast, which considering the presence of the twins, they were lucky that's only meant figuratively. Harry had truly enjoyed his week in Diagon Alley, but he'd needed this closeness. Yes, he'd stopped in and visited with Winry and a few other shops often enough that he had enjoyed chatting with the employees, which was surprising considering how much talking to adults made him uncomfortable, but this was better, even better than the few times he'd come across some other students in his year. He hadn't even realized just how incredibly lonely he'd been for most of the summer till now.
As dinner was winding down, not that you could tell it from Ron, seriously, where did he put it all, Mrs Weasley asked Harry if he was packed and if he'd need any help bringing his things down?
"Er, most of my things are put away… but, uh, what do you mean? What am I supposed to be bringing down…"
It was Molly Weasley's turn to look confused, "Your school things of course. Didn't… didn't Ron..." Her expression rapidly shifted as she pierced Ron in place with a glare, "Ronald Bilius Weasley! Do you mean to tell me you didn't tell Harry that we were bringing him home with us!?! Do you mean to say you could be so thoughtless as to let him think we would just…"
Ron finally overcame his shock and interrupted his mother, otherwise she'd just keep building a head of steam and who knows how long before she'd let him speak. "Mum, mum! Easy, I did, I promise! I sent it." Turning to Harry he continued, "Tell her, Harry, please!"
"I… I didn't get a letter? Hermione's letter told me when we were meeting up. Hedwig's the only one that's brought me any mail this week." Harry responded, looking concerned.
"But I did!" Insisted Ron. "I even sent that clipping from the paper with our pictures in it."
"Well… well, okay. I suppose it doesn't matter. If you're done eating Harry dear, you two better head up and get packed then, okay." Mrs Weasley commented.
"For real!? I can come back to the Burrow?" Harry was practically bouncing in excitement.
"Course we are, Harry. Dumbledore didn't like the idea of you wandering around the Alley all alone for two weeks, sent us an owl soon as he heard. Can't say I didn't agree with him matter of fact," Mr Weasley scoffed, though Harry wasn't at all sure why. "Well, no sense in worrying about it now. Why don't you go help Harry bring his trunk down, boys?" This last he addressed to the twins. "Ron, you might as well finish locking the plates. Somehow you always seem to be eating, and yet you just keep growing up instead of out." The words might have been mistaken for a criticism, but the smile in his father's eyes said otherwise.
Harry jumped up and was already out the door before the twins had cleared the table, but after only a second or two Harry rushed back in, "Wait! You guys can't come up yet! Uhh, give me, umm, five minutes please."
And then he was rushing back out of the room.
Just wanted say that anything with an
is going to be/include direct quotes from the actual books. Sometimes there's no real improving on the original.
Sorry this took awhile, I got caught up in a new (to me) fic called,
It's pretty amazing, though definitely Ron, Dumbledore, and Molly bashing. It's centered around something that happens during the 2nd task of year four.