This is Part 4 of the "Perfectly Normal" fic series, that begins with "The Definition of Normal".
The first story in the series sets up the point of divergence, where Harry strives to be more "normal" to please the Dursleys. The second and third stories give alternate versions of the first and second books of the Harry Potter series. This fourth fic will include some key events from HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban, but will otherwise bear little resemblance to the canonical story, having drifted well away from canon over the course of the series.
If you love slow and realistic character development, a smart & manipulative Harry, pure-blood culture, sane!Voldemort, and new twists on an old story, then give this series a try! Series content is rated K+ with no warnings except for child neglect/abuse (roughly at a level as per canon).
Harry gained another cousin at the start of summer. Oh, not a Dursley, there were quite enough of them in the world already, even if Dudley was starting to grow on him lately. Dudley had even been helping hide his pet snake from his aunt and uncle. No, Harry gained a new cousin when he'd run into Narcissa Malfoy at the St. Mungo's two hundred galleon a plate fundraising dinner at the end of June.
He was attempting to make awkward small talk with some people four or more times his age at his assigned table in the Ministry ballroom as he sipped a Butterbeer, while they lingered over goblets of fine white wine while awaiting the arrival of the entrée. He tugged nervously at the tight collar of his dress robes – the gold embroidery on the black fabric looked lovely, but made the edge of the high collar a little scratchy where it kept rubbing against his neck and chin. It really was a bit small now – he'd bought it on his first visit to Diagon Alley, and that was two years ago now. He felt glad he'd dressed up for the occasion, though – everyone present was either wearing formal robes or a fancy outfit with a vest and cape, or an old-fashioned gown. And there was not a single person there anywhere near his own age, much to his embarrassment. He wished the person at St. Mungo's he'd been corresponding with had warned him of that. He guessed they were just too keen at the thought of securing another donor for the privately-funded hospital, not that he could do that much to help them while he only had access to his trust vault.
When the pale-haired witch in a tight-waisted mushroom-coloured evening gown with puffed sleeves stopped by his table, he assumed at first that she was another fan coming to congratulate him on his parents dying (well, not that they said or meant it like that, but that's how he took it). Or perhaps someone who was going to hint about how they knew about his talent as a Parselmouth, and how impressed they were about that, and did Harry know how important and powerful and pure-blooded they themselves were?
"Mr. Potter," the witch said politely, with a small curtsey, "it's a pleasure to meet you at last cousin, my son Draco has told me so much about you."
"Oh! Mrs. Malfoy," he said, standing up politely and bowing as he gave her silk-gloved hand a polite peck, "it's a pleasure to meet you too, ma'am. And thank you again for the Christmas gift; Storm loves his enchanted rocks."
"Is he here this evening?" she asked curiously. Harry glanced nervously at the people at his table watching their conversation intently.
"Well ah, yes, but in my pocket. I didn't want to upset anyone. But it's not safe for him at home without me – the Parkinson family's gift was a lovely one, but I'm not really supposed to have a pet at home, and they certainly wouldn't approve of a snake. Especially not a magical one."
"Are you saying you have your pet snake with you? Here?" asked an elderly witch at his table. She seemed more fascinated than alarmed, which was reassuring.
"Yes, I'll show him to you if you like?"
Storm was happy to escape the smothering confines of Harry's robe pocket and be carefully passed around for admiration of his beautiful shimmering rainbow scales. And Harry was thrilled that people didn't panic at his quietly hissed instructions to Storm to behave. One old man nervously excused himself to mingle elsewhere, and another refused to hold Storm, but those were the worst reactions he got.
"So may I call you Harry, cousin? For my husband has no objections to my claiming the relationship between our families. I was Narcissa Black before I joined hands with Lucius – my great-aunt Dorea, your grandmother, used to come to our family celebrations all the time. We are second cousins."
Harry hesitated, but only briefly. While Draco's father made him nervous, she seemed nice enough, and claiming a relationship really was mostly just a polite formality (unless done by the Head of a family), not used for much except to help build alliances or acknowledge that you were too closely related to marry. And the latter certainly wasn't a consideration in this case!
"Certainly, cousin Narcissa," he said politely. She smiled delightedly at him, and as he reclaimed his snake, she offered to furnish him with some introductions to various people attending the event. She apologised to him as they wandered off to mingle that neither her husband nor son were attending the event on this "evening of the summer solstice", with a meaningful look.
"Just the two of them? Draco doesn't have any siblings, does he?" Harry asked curiously.
Narcissa looked sad and wistful for a moment. "I regret to say he does not." She forced her face into a smile again. "So what is your design in coming hence this evening, what goal are you trying to accomplish?"
She must have been a Slytherin, Harry thought. "Uh, well it seemed like a good cause, mostly," he said. "Because unlike in the Muggle world, it seems that the hospitals here rely entirely on donations, and on fees charged to patients, to fund everything. And I'm also interested in eventually becoming a Healer."
"Well then," she smiled, "let me introduce you to my dear friend Healer Miriam Strout, who works in the Janus Thickey Ward, and the very charming Healer-in-Charge Hippocrates Smethwyck, who holds a very prestigious position in running the 'Dangerous' Dai Llewellyn Ward, and whom many say is next in line to take over St. Mungo's when the current Warlock retires."
Harry didn't really mind the motherly Healer Strout, who clucked over him being at the event without his guardians, and worried about his snake. But he got on better with Healer Smethwyck, who was well used to odd creatures, as creature-induced injuries were his ward's area of specialisation. Storm also approved of the latter Healer the most, who was happy to fearlessly admire his brilliant scales up close.
"Now that's a creature I've only seen in books," he said, holding Storm up and turning him about so the light glinted off his scales, bringing out the bright rainbow shimmer. "There was an interesting case I heard about where a champion racehorse lost a leg to one of these beautiful snakes. The jaws clamped down, you see, and since it's illegal to kill the Wonambi and due to the difficulties of regrowing limbs severed by magical creatures, they eventually... Well, perhaps that's not a story to be told over dinner!" he laughed boisterously. "My wife's always telling me off for that sort of thing. To cut a long story short, they regrew the leg just fine, and the snake wasn't harmed." Storm, unsurprisingly, loved the partial story when Harry translated it for him.
Healer Smethwyck told him if he didn't end up being a Healer, with a talent like that there'd be a grand opportunities for him harvesting snake venom and parts for potions ingredients.
As a bell rang to announce the start of the feast proper, Harry gave a polite bow in farewell, which Healer Smethwyck returned after a startled smile. Narcissa promised to come and find him after dinner, which he found he didn't mind at all.
There was a rather mysterious meal full of unidentifiable foods that required far too many forms of cutlery, including a dessert of sugary flowers that floated in the air above your plate and bobbed up and down while you tried to catch them with little silver tongs. They stopped trying to float once you dipped them in the berry sauce. Thank goodness for the book on dining and party etiquette that Mrs. Parkinson had recommended he buy back in first year, or he would've been completely lost.
After dinner, Narcissa smugly reported to him that the Minister for Magic would like to be introduced to him, if he didn't mind. Harry wasn't keen on the society photographer who hovered to take yet more photos of him, but was very interested in the opportunity to meet the Minister. And Minister Fudge was very interested to meet him, or at least be photographed shaking his hand.
"You're most welcome to stop by my office if you want to come and take a tour of the Ministry some time, Harry!" he said, still shaking his hand.
Harry knew an opportunity when he heard one. He just hoped he wouldn't stuff it up. "That would be marvellous, thank you so much, sir! I'm hoping to visit the Ministry soon, Minister Fudge," he said, with a polite smile. "It would be good to finally sort out reclaiming Potter Cottage for the Potter family."
"Ah, yes, one of our most popular historical landmarks," smiled Fudge. "Your family's sacrifice has not been forgotten, I assure you. It's much beloved by the public. Why there's a Knight Bus special tour that stops there every week, simply packed with well-wishers some days."
"And the Cottage was left to me explicitly in my parents' will," Harry said, glancing at the society photographer who was continuing to take photos. "It's been difficult sorting things out with the Ministry administration!" he laughed. "They've been simply marvellous, really, but all that red tape is hard for a boy like me to navigate. I'm not even allowed to make repairs to the roof, let alone claim it properly. A bit of attention from you Minister, and I'm sure it could all be sorted out much faster. I'd really appreciate the assistance if you can spare the time from your busy schedule."
Fudge kept smiling, though perhaps a shade less genuinely, and dropped Harry's hand at last.
"Oh, you poor thing," cooed Narcissa, smoothing a hand comfortingly over Harry's tidy hair. "Of course you want to reclaim your parents' old cottage. The previous administration and your parents' executor made a rather singular call there, didn't they? I must admit I had never thought about the matter before! But I'm sure Minister Fudge will sort out such a grievous mistake now he's aware of it too. Why to think, the Boy-Who-Lived, an orphan, his family home stolen from him by a mountain of paperwork!"
Harry spotted her approach, which he hadn't thought of or considered before - people usually never felt sorry for him about anything so it wasn't a technique he used much. But she knew the Minister better than he did, and thus probably knew what would work best. He looked up at Narcissa with calculatedly big wide sad eyes and a tremulous smile. "It's hard sometimes, knowing that I don't really properly own my parents' home like they wanted me to. I think they'd be sad about that."
The society photographer for the Daily Prophet was scribbling some notes down on a roll of parchment, and Fudge's smile became even more tight and thin.
"Well don't fret another minute, I'll sort this out, Harry," Fudge said firmly. "The wizarding world owes you a great debt, and I'd be happy to help correct the errors of the previous administration in this matter."
Harry made appropriately grateful and flattering comments to the increasingly happier and relieved Minister, and later politely and quietly let his new cousin know how much he appreciated the assistance.
"It's quite all right, dear," she said softly. "The Ministry does tend to stick its nose into matters where they're really not entitled to, to interfere in the private lives of citizens. They do need to be reminded occasionally that they shouldn't try to seize so much power; it wasn't what the Ministry was established for. I truly relished the opportunity to help. If I might enquire without giving offence – who was your parents' executor? For I must say the whole business seems poorly handled."
"Well, it was going to be Sirius Black, but… you know. It ended up being Dumbledore." Harry rolled his eyes.
Harry was delighted to receive an official letter from the Ministry only a few days later, noting the revocation of Potter Cottage's status as a historical landmark. There was also a small package with four additional amulets enclosed, permitting access through the wards, which were apparently all the ones remaining. The letter explained that the existing wards would remain up as a courtesy, but he was of course welcome to modify or dispel them if he wished, and that naturally no further Ministry funds would apply for house maintenance or warding.
Harry did a little happy dance in his room, with a bewildered snake the only witness. This was the best holiday ever.
The first week of July also saw Harry visiting the Grangers, before they left for their holiday in France. With the knowing approval of his aunt and uncle, even!
"Dentists, you say?" his uncle had rumbled. "If they make regular trips overseas they must be doing well for themselves. And they got in a fight with them in that 'Alley' place, and then stalked off? You've only met them the once?"
Harry affirmed the details that he'd already told him.
"Well, they sound like an acceptable family to associate with. I'll even drive you there, if it's not too far," he offered generously. Or perhaps not so generously, if you allowed for the fact it would save him Harry's train fare and give him an opportunity to show off his new company car to a well-off couple.
So after a phone call to confirm his visit, Uncle Vernon indeed followed through with his promise, and dropped Harry off on Saturday morning for a weekend stay with the Grangers (who offered to bring him home on Sunday evening). It went amicably enough, though his uncle lost interest in socialising once he realised the Grangers had no connections in the construction industry. Hermione was beyond excited, and her parents were happy to have one of her friends visit for the first time in years, apparently.
"I'm only sorry we can't host you for longer, Mr. Darcy," said Mrs. Granger teasingly. "But we leave for Paris on Monday, so this was the most we could manage."
"Come on Harry, I want to show you my room!" Hermione said, bouncing excitedly, and Harry followed obediently. Harry teased her about the excessive number of books she had, triple-stacked on her bookshelf and still overflowing, and complimented her on the beautiful furniture she had (it was all so nice and clean, just like in Dudley's room). He also admired her new pet – a barn owl.
"Isn't she beautiful!" cooed Hermione. "Who's a beautiful and clever owl? It's you!" she said, ruffling the feathers around its head gently, which it seemed to enjoy. "Look at that little white heart shape around her face, isn't she sweet? And her golden-brown spotty feathers!" The owl nibbled at Hermione's hair affectionately.
"She's great! What did you call her?"
"Diana, after the Roman moon goddess of the hunt. Graeco-Roman names are especially popular in wizarding culture, and I thought that one suited her the best. Oh, she was so happy I bought her. She was stuck inside this tiny little cage at Eeylops Owl Emporium, and I wanted an owl anyway, so I simply had to buy her. And only ten galleons!"
Harry listened patiently to Hermione lecture all about barn owls, and why you should never poison mice, and how Neville was going to watch her owl while the Grangers went to France.
"Can I introduce Storm to her, so they make friends?" he asked, when he got a chance.
"You brought your snake?" she asked, startled.
"Yes, I have to hide him at the Dursleys, and he would've been miserable hidden in my wardrobe for the weekend without being brought out for some light and air. Dudley caught me letting him have a slither around the garden last week, but he's promised not to dob. He thinks a pet snake you can talk to is 'wicked', even if I do have a 'girly-looking' one."
After their sleepy pets were acquainted, Hermione helped Harry improvise a temporary tank for Storm to nap in out of a cardboard box, some dirt and leaves from the Grangers' garden, and a dessert bowl filled with water.
"Is it just my imagination, or is he a lot bigger than when you got him?"
"Oh, he's definitely grown. He's shed his skin a couple of times."
They spent the morning out at the movies watching "Groundhog Day", which they both agreed was fabulous, and ate far too much greasy popcorn. The afternoon wasn't what Harry would consider a highlight of his visit, but was politely appreciated all the same – a visit to the dental surgery for a free check-up. Luckily his teeth were in good condition, though they did nag him that he needed to brush twice and day and floss regularly (he got a free toothbrush and toothpaste to help with that). They also said he should have dental check-ups every six months. That seemed crazily often to Harry, but he guessed a dentist would be pretty biased on the topic. Even Dudley didn't go that often.
On Sunday the family played Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble together, and Harry marvelled to see Hermione's parents take it in laughing good humour when they were beaten at something, even by Harry. They were really nice. They didn't even let him help with the washing up! And when he and Hermione were distracted at lunchtime on Sunday chatting about Harry's correspondence course results he'd just gotten (As for Maths and Science, and a B for English) and about what he was doing next, and forgot to make themselves some food, her mother brought them both some ham and salad sandwiches and some sliced apples and oranges.
"I'm very sorry, I forgot to make us something," worried Harry anxiously. "I didn't mean to."
"It's quite alright," Mrs. Granger smiled. "You're our guest, you don't need to make your own lunch. Just bring the plates to the kitchen when you're done."
He let out a big sigh of relief, which got him a laugh from Mrs. Granger, and an odd look from Hermione.
"Would you really get in trouble for that at home?" she asked, after her mother had left the room.
"Yeah. Well, not for forgetting to make myself something - I'd just have to skip lunch. But if I was supposed to cook for others and I forgot, I'd be in trouble for sure."
"Your family is weird."
"Yeah, I guess so. Your family's great! Want to swap?" he asked cheekily.
Harry was sorry he had to leave that evening – it would have been nice to stay longer.
"I'll see you at Neville's at the end of the holiday! Don't forget about our H.E.L.P. Society meeting!" she yelled, waving goodbye enthusiastically as her father pulled out of the driveway.
"I won't forget! See you then!" he called, waving goodbye though the open car window.
Hermione wasn't the only friend he kept in contact with over summer. Neville sent an occasional owl, which he was invited to borrow to send his own correspondence with, if he wanted. Draco sent some notes on basic Occulumency exercises, all about what Muggles would call meditation, and what Draco called "calming the mind and getting in touch with your magical nature". He also sent a Daily Prophet clipping of his mother and Harry with the Minister at the St. Mungo's benefit, featured in the society column. Daphne and Pansy chattered about their holidays. Tracey didn't seem especially interested in corresponding for whatever reason, so he only heard from her very rarely. And Harry wrote back to them all, as well as to his many assorted other correspondents on an increasingly large list. He'd had to switch to writing letters on notepaper, having run out of parchment – he hoped the traditionalists wouldn't mind. At least the accusatory letters accusing him of being the Heir of Slytherin and petrifying people had finally ceased. He still had a few people sure he was the Heir, but those still writing to him about that were approving of that rumoured status.
Millicent said her father didn't approve of her writing to young men. So when Harry decided that out of all his friends (not counting the erstwhile Ronald Weasley) that Millicent would probably be the most likely to be interested in his extra tickets to an Appleby Arrows Quidditch match, he wrote to her father to invite her and a parent or chaperone to accompany him, and that Millicent was invited purely a a friend of course. He didn't want a repeat of that embarrassing business with the Farley family.
Millicent, being a big Quidditch fan, was thrilled to be invited, and brought along her father and Daphne (who wasn't a big Quidditch fan, but apparently who would "never forgive me" if she wasn't invited, according to Millicent).
The team's manager, Jacob Williams, was thrilled to finally see Harry at one of the Appleby's matches (especially given they won!), wearing his pale blue Appleby scarf with the whizzing silver arrows, and sitting in their supporter's section (to a happy round of handshakes and bows from fans all around him, which Harry endured with increasingly practised ease). Jacob gave them all a tour of the small stadium after the game finished, and they got to shake the player's hands. Millicent was thrilled, and babbled happily about how she wanted to be a Beater, and got a signed poster of her own to keep, as well as a lightly damaged Beater's bat autographed by the team's two Beaters.
"We go through so many of those in a season, you wouldn't believe it! The Bludgers are even tougher than those you have at Hogwarts matches, and there's stricter controls on what kind of enchantments you can put on the bat," explained one of the Beaters.
"They say I have got a good build for a Beater," the blocky girl later said proudly to her father. Compliments on her plump figure were pretty rare, in her experience. "They said if you're a thin wisp of a thing you can be knocked right off your broom. I'm going to exercise to build up my arms – you have to be strong to be a Beater."
Daphne hovered, interested but not fascinated, while Harry chatted to the team's Seeker about whether there were similar changes to professional grade Snitches, and what kind of a time commitment it took to be a professional Quidditch player (surprisingly to him, it was pretty much a full-time job).
After an exchange of farewells, including to the very stern-looking and watchful Mr. Bulstrode, Harry headed home on the Knight Bus.
A/N: We read at the start of PoA that Harry has been on holidays for 5 weeks before his 13th birthday on the last day of July, therefore, the summer holiday starts roughly at the beginning of the last week of June. (June 21st is the solstice in 1993.)
With thanks to LokiFirefox for the inspiration for Narcissa's manipulation of the Minister. Thanks to Narcissa's hints/threats, the Minister has narrowly escaped being featured in an article in the Prophet titled, "Orphaned Boy Hero Made Homeless by Dumbledore and Ministry!"
Thanks again to my Britpicker, Jennybeth98, for all her help!
BTW, scene breaks were previously written with a row of asterixes, but I realised that fanfiction dot net has been automatically editing them out. :P So now they'll appear with -000- as a scene change marker. I may go back and edit the older stories in this series accordingly, when I get some free time. If there's some errors (e.g. typos, punctuation) in the earlier stories that bugged you, now would be a great time to send a polite message letting me know about stuff that needs fixing (since I'll already be editing all the chapters).