Author's Note: Yet another birthday chapter in one of my stories is done. I'm not sure how so many of my stories got birthday chapters in progress at roughly the same time. It actually caused me to pause several stories, because it was too confusing to write the different ones at once. I've tried to give each of them a unique feel, and this one isn't the last one I need to write, but the next two will be Ginny's, not Harry's.
This particular story is on a wrap up trend, though there are several twists and turns left. It will probably remain a stand alone, as I really don't see how a third year would be much different from others I've read and plan to write.
Chapter 11: For the Good Times
Ginny Weasley, or as she was for the summer, Ginger Prince, didn't often get up early enough to make breakfast. The potions she'd been on until recently to get enough sleep hadn't helped, but she'd had three potion free, nightmare free nights in a row, so she could actually get up before the sun crept over the warehouse behind Number Seven Spinner's End and into the kitchen window overlooking the small back garden and alley between the two buildings. It wouldn't creep into the rooms that she and Harry used for another hour, due to the sign on top of the building. In fact, in another five minutes, that sun would no longer be casting its beam into the kitchen.
This morning was Harry's birthday, and she'd told her that she was to sleep in, not leaving the room until at least nine thirty, if not ten. Ginny intended on serving breakfast in bed to the Boy-Who-Lived-Turned-Girl, as Harry referred to herself a couple days ago. Ginny had asked Harry what her favorite breakfast was, and had been somewhat disappointed. She'd hoped for a big menu with lots she could cook. Harry liked frosted flakes, orange juice, and buttered toast with
grape preserves. At least she could make the toast.
Ginny was well aware that Harry would wake up early no matter what the order had been given. It was ingrained into his very soul. The only reason Harry ever had a late breakfast was his unreasonable desire to eat with Ron. Ginny was of the opinion that anyone who desired to eat with her brother, who still hadn't learnt how to close his mouth when he chewed, had a few screws loose. She was hopeful that Doctor Chalice had tightened them over the summer. Before the nightmares, Ginny had been an early breakfaster, and it would be nice if Harry ate it with her, especially since she didn't really have many friends at Hogwarts due to Tom.
The silver toaster dinged and Ginny grabbed the toast out of the air as it shot upwards. She tossed the toast onto a plate, buttering with the stick of butter she'd placed just the right distance from the toaster so that it would be just soft enough when the toast was done. Ginny had gotten used to the muggle appliances, and would be especially missing the toaster. She loved her toasted rye bread, even if no one else in the family did. Of course Harry wanted white bread, but there was no accounting for taste.
"Birthday breakfast in bed?" Professor Snape asked as their guardian for the summer entered the kitchen. He was coming up from the Potion's lab in the basement, and appeared to have been up for some time.
"Yes, hopefully Harry hasn't gotten up already," Ginny said, putting the plate of now buttered toast on the tray she was about to take upstairs.
"Inform him that I've arranged for him to go inside his material grandparent's house today, and we will need to leave here by quarter past ten," Snape said.
"I will, Professor," Ginny said heading out of the kitchen, carefully balancing the tray, so none of the orange juice sloshed out of the glass that she'd filled just a bit too high. Somehow she got to the top of the stairs without spilling it, though she had a bit of a problem opening the door to Harry's room.
"Can I open my eyes and get up now, Ginny," came Harry's pillow muffled voice.
"Okay, sit up at least," Ginny replied. "I really don't understand your aversion to sleeping in when you can."
"I told you, I just can't do it," Harry replied, sitting up. "I wake up every single day at exactly six minutes after six in the morning. I even automatically adjust for British Summer Time. It has been engraved in my very being, and only extreme exhaustion or illness has ever stopped me from waking."
"Or your period," Ginny noted, placing the tray across Harry's lap.
"Don't remind me," Harry growled. "The Headmaster would be wise to stay away next week."
"Probably," Ginny said, as Harry began to dig into his cereal. "Oh, the Professor says he's taking you to see the house your mum grew up in, so you've got to be ready to go by ten. And don't wear that orange and purple combination you tried last week."
Harry groaned. "It wasn't that bad," Harry said, putting down his spoon to take a bite of his toast. "And you're the one who told me to grab a skirt instead of the jeans."
"You've got to stop grabbing the one on top," Ginny groused. "You're giving girls a bad name."
"I'm a boy, and planning to be back that way as soon as they let me," Harry replied. "I mean, it's been nice here in Spinner's End, and I've had fun as a girl, more fun than I've ever had as a boy really, but well, you know."
"Yes, I know," Ginny replied. It had been fun going around Cokeworth with Harry, and not having to do any chores so far this summer. Ginny didn't count cooking as a chore, though she was not quite sure if Harry did. They had certainly enjoyed cooking together in Number Seven's muggle kitchen. She figured it would be a lot different when she returned to the Burrow and Harry joined her there. He'd be a boy again, then, and probably be with Ron, leaving her alone in her room for the rest of the summer. She intended to enjoy being Harry's friend as long as she could. "As soon as you leave with the Professor, I'll start on your cake. Hopefully it will be done by the time you return."
Severus Snape hadn't been quite sure that the timing would be welcome, but he was at the mercy of the estate salesman. It was messing up the plans that he was sure Harry had been thinking about for weeks when for her birthday. Then again, Granger wasn't arriving until just before noon, and he was sure that the connection to Lily would be a welcome one. After all Harry had heard way too much how much he looked like his father. Now that she looked like her mother for the summer, it was going to be a good thing that Harry got a good look at how Lily grew up.
Severus had already shown Harry the park where he'd met Lily, as well as the school that both of them had gone to the last year before Hogwarts. (Severus had gone to another school which had closed before that.) The notes in Severus's first year potion book had been eagerly consumed, along with a "potion" for peppermint candy that had been tucked between the pages for years without Severus noticing it.
Today, however, he stood out in front of the house where Lilly had grown up in for the first time since just before his seventh year. Beside him was, for the summer at least, Lily's daughter Harikleia "Harry" Prince. The house was for sale, and he'd talked with the estate agent in order to allow Harry to see the house before the crowds.
"Is this really the house that Mum grew up in?" Harry asked, looking up at the stone cottage.
Severus looked down at the red headed girl that today looked even more like her mother as she stepped off the side walk on to the strip of shaded grass. Here under the dappled shade, he realized that when he'd helped Harry chose her summer wear he'd steered her towards outfits in colors which his mother had liked. The current deep green shirt and blue jeans were just like what her mother had worn after her second year. After this it was going to be very hard to see Harry Potter as his father. "Yes," he confirmed dryly yet again.
The door of the house opened up, revealing the estate agent, Mrs. Colburg, who fortunately for Severus did not look at all like Mrs. Potter. Seeing Harry approach the door would have been even more of a flashback for him if her predecessor, Mrs. Wheeling, had been doing the open house. Then again, he expected that Mrs. Wheeling would be over at some point, if she wasn't lurking somewhere in the house. After all, it was via Mrs. Wheeling that he'd got the special showing.
"You would be Harry," Mrs. Colburg asked. Harry nodded. "You look so much like your mother. I was a couple years ahead of her in school, in Petunia's class. I heard about your uncle's death. Please convey my condolences to your aunt from her old friend Lottie.
"Now, Harry, you'll be happy to know that this house is selling fully furnished, like it did after your grandparent's deaths. The owners in the interim have done only minor updates, and generally kept the same feel throughout the house, so despite the passage of years, the house is still remarkably like it was when your mother and aunt grew up. The kitchen has a few new appliances, and the bathroom was gutted and rebuilt, but I was somewhat surprised to discover that the your mother's room looks much like it did then, down to the what I swear must be the same scarlet bedspread that your mother got after her first year in boarding school."
"Really?" Harry said incredulously.
"Oh yes," the estate agent replied. "Old Mister Greer bought the house, and lived here with his daughter until recently. He was a competitor for Mrs. Evans before you grandfather married her, and told me I wasn't to do one bit of staging to change the place as, and I quote, 'Violet had the best sense of what a comfortable English family home should be like, and anyone who can't see themselves in the house she set up don't deserve to own it.' I have to admit agreeing with him. If it stays on the market for years, then so be it."
Severus took a look around the front room, taking in the comfortable sofa, the oak rocking chair, and Mr. Evans's leather recliner. The curtains were a slightly lighter shade, he though, but otherwise it was much the same as it had been so. It felt like he'd come home again, something that Spinner's End had never quite made him feel.
"Tell him about the history of the house," Severus asked, as Harry took in the room.
"Oh yes, this cottage was built in 1772 for the newly married third son of a local spinning mill owner. It was built of local stone, and purchased by your great-grandfather just after the first world war. After your great-grandfather was widowed, he passed the house on to your grandparents. It probably should be a listed building, but it seems to have escaped that for the moment. I suspect that it will be soon, though as far as I can tell nothing really important happened here, or no one important visited here. Certainly no one important lived here.
"I would beg to differ," Severus said almost inaudibly.
"Severus Snape!" a definitely aged Mrs. Wheeling said, as she entered the front room from the door to the kitchen. "As I live and breath, I never expected to see you on this side of Cokeworth."
"I called you to arrange for Harry to see his mother's old house," Severus pointed out dryly. "You expected me to be here today."
"True, true," Mrs. Wheeling said. "Harry, go on up the stairs. Lottie and I made sure that your mother and aunt's rooms were arranged as much as possible like they were when the lived here. Your mother's was the one right to the left of the top of the stairs, and your aunt's at the very end. I think best that you get to see them on your own. Go on girl."
Once Harry disappeared up the stairs, Severus turned towards the two estate agents. "Thank you, ladies. You have no idea how much this is going to mean to Harry."
"Oh pshaw, after we heard what happened to the poor child's parents, well it is the least that we could do."
"I don't think it was the least," Severus said, picking up a frame from and end table. "I'm pretty sure that you've seeded your copies of some of the pictures that used to be here around the place. In fact, I'm sure this one was replaced by another one years before Mrs. Evans died, Lottie."
It was a picture of Lottie, Petunia, and Lily, in the tree house in the back yard. Mrs. Colburg had the grace to blush.
"I assume you want to show Harry the tree house?" Mrs. Colburg said. "To be honest, I'm not sure I can still get up there, not with my knee."
"I wouldn't let anyone else show it off," Severus stated firmly. "Now, I better see what Harry is up to. You have no idea what that child can get into in just a few minutes."
"Oh, I think he'll be perfectly alright, Severus," Mrs. Wheeling said. "We can catch up a bit. Now what is this I hear about you being a professor at some boarding school in the Scottish Highlands?"
Hermione Granger had been told that Harry was a girl for the summer, but until she arrived at Number Seven Spinner's End, she hadn't really believed it. She didn't exactly think Harry was lying, but really, a temporary summer sex change? She did agree that Harry needed to see a psychologist. She also had a sneaking suspicion that Harry had been abused at the Dursleys, but wasn't sure what to do about it, especially since Harry wouldn't confirm even the smallest injury. The boy was almost maddening when he insisted everything was fine.
Professor Snape had met her on the walk, and directed her into number seven. Number Seven Spinner's End seemed to be a well worn place, with an air of a family home that had lost its primary caregiver. Certain things, were cleaned and well cared for, but others, though part of the family charm, had be neglected somewhat. It was obvious that a few things had been removed at some point, but not replaced with the same care that the original decorator had given.
She could hear the voice of Ginny in the kitchen indistinctly, apparently arguing with Harry behind the closed door.. Harry's voice was a bit different as a girl, a bit higher pitched, which Hermione figured was to be expected.
"No, Harry, I'm not letting you see the cake yet," Ginny said, as the door opened revealing a pair of young red-heads. "I told you I'd make it, and you could stay the heck out of the kitchen. Hi, Hermione." She then slammed the door leaving Harry on the other side.
"I just wanted some tea," Harry groused, flicking a strand of hair out of her face. "Hi Hermione."
Hermione smiled. She wasn't quite sure what she expected Harry to look like, but the long red hair framing her face was not it. It seemed that at some point she'd gotten new glasses, with gold frames around those still green eyes that she admitted to finding a bit captivating a time or two. It was different, though when her best friend was a girl. It looked like Harry had gained at least four inches with the transformation and the summer, but didn't have a bigger bust than Hermoine did. "Hi, Happy Birthday, Harry," Hermione said. "Has it been a good day for you so far?"
"When it's not Privet Drive, it's always a good day," Harry smiled, with the same slight tilt that he'd always had. "Come on, let's go up to my room. But today has been a great day! This morning Professor Snape took me to see the house that my mother grew up in. We even crawled up in Mum and Aunt Petunia's old tree house. Apparently Mum once accidentally made it bigger on the inside, once, and the Professor recreated it.
"The estate agents were old friends of the family, and they set up the place they way they remember it was when Mum grew up, too. I hear all this stuff about Dad, but Mum, well, it's really nice to hear about her too. I finally feel like I know more about her, maybe even more than I do about Dad. I'm so glad I got to spend the Summer here with Snape."
"Even though you had to be a girl?" Hermione asked. She'd been thinking about what it must be like, since her first call to Harry. She'd even talked to her mother about it, resulting in a rather embarrassing talk about boys and how she was growing up. Really. She knew about that. And anyway, Harry and Ron didn't think about her that way, though she could admit only to herself that she might just want them to see her as a girl, sometimes, maybe.
"Well ... it isn't that bad, really," Harry said, as they reached the door at the back of the house on the upper floor that was apparently to Harry's room. "It's kind of fun sometimes, because no one from Hogwarts knows that I'm Harry Potter. I'm Professor Snape's niece, who they better behave around. It's so fun watching the Slytherins who come to visit treat me entirely different than they do at Hogwarts." Then her grin got really big. "And apparently Draco has a crush on me."
"Draco Malfoy has a crush on you?" Hermione asked, as the door opened. Hermione was surprised to see that the room had character to it. It was obvious that Professor Snape had let Harry decorate. There was no other explanation for the poster of an old Gryffindor Quidditch Team, which Hermione couldn't identify anyone on. It certainly wasn't either of the two that had been produced during the past year and were the reason why Madam Hooch now had brand new brooms for flying class. There was also a rather large painting of a ghostly buck and doe in a ghostly forest above the bed. Beside the bed was a crystalline doe that had slight glow to it.
"Boy does he," Harry said. "He's been here twice now, and it's really funny. Well, actually the first time I was a bit annoyed at him. I had just got my first period that morning and he came across me when I just wanted to get more tea and head back up to my room and take a nap with the everlasting hot water bottle. He introduced himself as Malfoy, Draco Malfoy."
Hermione found herself giggling, as they both sat down on Harry's bed. "Like he was James Bond?"
"Yes, but I doubt he even knows he's doing the muggle spy's lines," Harry replied. "I told him if he didn't take his hand off my hip, he'd never be able to raise a glass with again. Apparently that was enough to devastate him. When he came over last week for a potions tutorial, Professor Snape actually told him to pay attention to his potions instead of his nieces."
"And would you have by chance been dressed in such a manner as to inflame Malfoy's hormones?" Hermione asked.
"Ginny's been telling tales!" Harry said. "I swear it was all her idea! I don't want boys after me. I didn't realize how much that outfit revealed until he left!"
"And Professor Snape said nothing?" Hermione asked, recalling Ginny's description of the outfit. Both of them had been wearing the two piece swimming suits that Ginny had managed to get Snape to buy for them, with a green skirt over the bottom. They were apparently perfect for sunning, and never ever would be bought by Mrs. Weasley.
"He's apparently waiting for that some time in the really distant future when Draco finds out exactly who his first crush was on," Harry said. "Though he thought there should have been just a bit more coverage, for safety's sake, of course."
Hermione couldn't stop giggling. In fact she was on the edge of needing to seek out the bathroom before she brought it back under control. Once it was though, she looked straight at Harry and said in her most serious pronouncement voice, "This summer on Spinner's End has really been good for you. I'd never be able to giggle like this with you at Hogwarts."
"Well, we're always on some quest at Hogwarts, and it is school," Harry replied, seriously. "But, yeah, I think I really needed to see Doctor Chalice. I was really a mess. Still am, a little, but she's helping me. This summer has ... well, it's like a big weight has been lifted off me. I actually had fun doing potions yesterday. Of course I'm still expecting another period in six days, so it's not all good, but well, being Harikleia Prince is much better than being the Boy-Who-Lived. I just hope that I can be Harry Potter when its all over, not the fairy tale knight in shining armor that everyone seems to think should be."
"Ron and I will make sure you can be you," Hermione promised. "Though I really think that knight part might actually be a bit of the real Harry Potter too. You did jump down a hole and rescue a fair maiden from a fantastic beast just a few months ago, after all."
"Maybe, but can I just have a normal year next year," Harry sighed. "No Dark Lords possessing professors, no beasts petrifying friends, just, you know attending class, and maybe winning a Quidditch game or two?"
"No promises, Harry," Hermione said. "But we can try."
Hermione enjoyed the day at Spinner's End, with the potions lesson, and Harry's birthday cake. Ginny could really bake. Her parents were coming to pick her up after dinner, in fact they would eat dinner with her at Spinner's End. Ginny was apparently preparing dinner, and Harry had asked her to join him in her room.
When she stepped into the room, there was an entirely different atmosphere in the room than it had when she'd first been in it. Harry was looking down at his feet while nervously twirling his auburn hair around one finger, as he sat across the bed. The weather had even changed to fit, the bright sun shine of the morning that had streamed through the window replaced with a cool cloud cover and breeze of the impending late afternoon summer storm.
Hermione carefully sat down beside Harry, and waited for him to speak.
"Hermione, Doctor Chalice says I need to talk to someone my own age who I trust about what Uncle Vernon did to me," Harry began. "I guess that means that means you."
"Go Harry," Hermione said softly. She'd expected that this was going to happen, and had talked to her parents about how she should handle it. Her parents had actually caught on that Harry might be abused long before Hermione had. In fact when her mother had first brought up how she should deal with classmates that where abused, she had no idea that her mother had thought Harry had been abused. After just one encounter on the platform, her mother had caught on to something that Hermione had not seen all year about her best friend. And still it had taken until October before she even put Harry on the list of people she thought might be why her mother gave her the refresher. It was something she'd kicked herself for when Harry had admitted it briefly on a phone call earlier in the Summer. He'd then pushed her off saying more.
"This is hard," Harry said suddenly, after a long silence.
"Just start where it began," Hermione prompted, holding back herself from the many questions in her mind that had almost reached the tip of her tongue.
"My first complete memory is Uncle Vernon having slammed me into the cupboard under the stairs," Harry managed to say. "I'm not sure what I did wrong. It probably had to do with magic, somehow. Doctor Chalice said I might not have done anything wrong. She's managed to convince me that most of the time I didn't do anything wrong, but it's taken most of the summer for her to do so. In any case, I ended up bruised and huddled on my mattress in the cupboard, without any supper. Missing supper was a regular part of my punishment, to the point that Madame Pomfrey has considered putting me on potions to correct my growth."
Hermione totally lost track of time as Harry poured out his story on how his Uncle had treated him. At first it seemed like the words were draining the energy from him, as he described the beatings, confinement, and hunger. Hermione placed her arm around his shoulders, displacing the auburn hair, and tried to give comfort. She didn't interrupt, she let Harry talk.
Eventually Harry got to the day that Snape had taken him to Spinner's end, and then his Uncle's death. As he finished that last bit, Hermione found herself practically holding Harry against her shoulder to shoulder.
Hermione had asked for it, and Harry was her friend. She knew, after speaking to her mother, that it wasn't her job to push Harry towards anything because of what she'd learned about him. Her mother had made sure she understood that before she left for Spinner's end. It had been impressed rather hardly on her, actually. She found it hard, but she didn't demand anything of Harry. Instead she waited, her arm hugging around his shoulders.
There was a minute's silence before Harry began to speak again. "If you'd told me that Professor Snape would rescue me from the Dursleys, I word have sworn you were insane. Of course I didn't know that he was one of my mum's childhood friends. Hermione, this has been my best summer ever. In fact, the best part of my life ever. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm a girl at the moment, it would be prefect."
"I have to admit that it is very strange to see you as a girl," Hermione remarked. She could accept it, but connecting the black haired boy she'd gone to Hogwarts to the girl now beside her was still something she wasn't quite ... well, it didn't seem right.
"If you think it's strange, you should see it from my side," Harry replied. "Fortunately for you the potion I'm on only works on boys. Also fortunately for me I have to take a booster every six days. If I don't, I'll be a boy again on the seventh day. If it wasn't for the fact that not taking the booster would set the deadline for the end of my time here, I'd refuse to take it. When the Professor tells me that I'm taking the last dose, or have taken it, I'll do cartwheels down Spinner's End."
"You know how to do cartwheels?" Hermione asked, somewhat surprised. It did not sound like something that given what she know knew about he grew up, Harry would have learned.
"Ginny told me every girl should know how to do so, and spent half a day teaching me," Harry said with a half smile, discarding a bit the dower look he'd lapsed into as he told Hermione about his life at the Dursley's.
"I can't do cartwheels." Hermione's admission slipped out, almost without thought.
"Let's go out in the back garden and I'll try to teach you," Harry said, standing up, and obviously pushing aside his last thoughts about how he had lived on another street.
Harry Potter laid back on her bed. This had been the best birthday ever. She'd seen her mother's childhood home, and even got to explore the tree house and the charms that had been accidentally created by her Mum. Some of her Mum's old friends had even shared their stories with her. That had been, to quote her other best friend Ron, bloody brilliant.
Then Hermione had come.
It was different talking to Hermione, then talking to Doctor Chalice. She'd talked about the whole prior year, letting Hermione know about some of the things that happened while she was petrified. She had also told Hermione about everything her Uncle had done to her. Once she had gotten started, it was surprisingly easy for her to do, much easier than it had been when she was talking to Doctor Chalice. That might have been because she knew Hermione better and it wasn't the first time she told anyone. It was also a lot easier to say something now that Vernon was dead.
He knew that Vernon wasn't coming back as a ghost. He didn't meet the qualifications, and if he were to, well Harry knew exactly who to call to have Vernon banished. It was in the copy of his mother's Defense Against the Dark Arts text for her third year that Professor Snape had managed to obtain somehow.
Harry got up and went to the window, opening it up to let in the cool night air for a bit. Her room had gotten a bit stuffy after she'd had to close the window when the thunderstorm had hit. She looked down at the alley behind the small back garden, noticing a tabby cat darting down the alley, before sliding under the back gate and transforming into his Head of House.
"Professor McGonagall," she called out.
"Good Evening, Miss Prince," McGonagall called up. "Is Professor Snape still up?"
"Last I checked," Harry replied. "I'll be right down to let you in. I think there is still birthday cake left." Harry turned around and left her room, heading towards the stairs. There was one good thing that could happen on her birthday after all, a visit from her favorite professor.