Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Four.
Or, "Autistic Potter and the Goblet of Fire."
Note: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made. Not by me, anyway.
Note 2: There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though. And the more this deviates from canon, the less that will happen. But some descriptions and things like that are too good to skip or try to reword.
Note 3: Just as a reminder, so I don't have to shoehorn in descriptions in the text of the story as a reminder, but in this fanfic Harry and Hermione, apart from having Asperger's Syndrome, are both black as well.
Note 4: I'm just as bad as Rowling at forgetting about birthdays of characters other than Harry, at least in this fic. So I'll just act as though Harry and the others remembered in the past offstage, and I'll try to be better in future to at least mention them.
Chapter One: Dog Star Man
Harry had been met at the train station by Dumbledore again, who was his escort to the Dursley house, since Netty couldn't be seen by Muggles. Harry was excited, because in just one short week, his godfather would be picking him up to take him to Sirius's house.
Dumbledore was wearing a purple suit with a silver tie, a purple pork-pie hat, and black shoes with white spats. Harry eyed his outrageous outfit and suppressed a laugh at the thought of the Dursleys' reaction to him.
"Netty has already taken your things ahead, I believe. So if you take my arm, we can apparate there."
Harry nodded, and took the man's arm. This time, Harry managed just barely to avoid being sick. He looked around and saw they were in a blind alley. Dumbledore started walking out of it, Harry following behind.
"I know it was a bit unexpected," Harry said, "but did you get my letter I sent you from the train?"
"Yes, Harry, I did."
"And what do you think?"
"I did as you suggested and checked the room you referenced, and did indeed find the cobra from last year. Interesting that you've managed to keep such good care of it for so long."
"Yeah. But I can't really keep it as a pet, so, uh..."
"Agreed, Harry. As you said in your letter, I agree Cleo is better off in a zoo. I had Professor McGonagall take care of it. It will likely take a few days to be taken fully care of, as there is the Muggle government to deal with first."
"Yeah, that makes sense. So she really is a real snake?"
"It would appear so. If not, then she is such a remarkable facsimile as to be utterly unique, and I cannot imagine such magic coming from a second-year student, even one as clever and academically gifted as young Mr. Malfoy."
"And Snape wanted to destroy her."
"If I got another snake, one that isn't venomous, would that be allowed?"
"Despite what the Hogwarts letters say, we do allow more familiars than just cats, toads, or owls. It's just that it would be rather tedious listing all of what is allowed or not, in the letters."
"So Sirius's house is supposed to be really big, at least on the inside. That sounds neat."
"Agreed. But the best part, Harry," Dumbledore said as they walked down the street, "is that Sirius's parents had put every imaginable ward and security measure on the house. It is also unplottable, meaning it cannot be put on a map. It has everything one could hope for in a secure location, shy of a Fidelius Charm."
"I've been wondering something about the Fidelius Charm, Professor."
"I will endeavor to answer you, Harry."
"Was there some reason one of my parents couldn't have been the secret keeper? I mean, it's like the old adage goes, 'Three men can keep a secret if two are dead.'"
Dumbledore chuckled. "Well, now that is complicated to answer. The simplest answer I can give is that the charm is already highly complex, and part of it is a complex ritual. The complexity of that ritual triples in difficulty if one of the people subject to the charm is the secret keeper."
Harry thought a moment. "But sir, isn't it just keeping the secret of a single location? Anybody could be in there, if they had the secret divulged to them. You could theoretically put a Fidelius Charm on Hogwarts, even, if you needed to, couldn't you?"
"Another part of the difficulty of the charm, Harry, is that if there are people who already know the secret before it has been placed under the charm's protection, the complexity of the whole thing increases the more people knew the secret before the charm went up. If there were three of me, Harry, the three of myself could probably band together to cast the Fidelius Charm on all of Hogwarts, but I'm afraid the effort of doing so would kill all three of myself."
"That doesn't really answer my actual question, which was 'why can't we just cast the Fidelius Charm so that someone living at the secret location could be the secret keeper?'"
"It is a complex answer, as I said. Perhaps I will send you a letter to explain it. It would be rather a long letter. Anyway, we should probably go inside before your uncle has a fit of temper at us on the lawn for talking of magic in front of his house."
"Oh yeah, okay."
Harry knocked on the door, and it immediately flew open, Uncle Vernon glaring at Harry in undisguised hatred.
"Don't worry, Uncle Vernon," Harry said, "I'll only be here a week. You stay out of my hair, I'll stay out of yours, okay?"
Vernon grunted angrily, then said, "Well are you coming in or not, boy? You're letting all the cold air out of the house."
"Sorry, coming now."
Dumbledore stepped inside as well. Uncle Vernon looked like he wanted to object, but he didn't. He just slammed the door behind Dumbledore.
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley," Dumbledore said when he spotted Petunia crossing her arms and chewing her tongue, "lovely to see you again. I won't take up much of your time, but there have been some updates over the past school year that you should be made aware of."
Petunia snorted. Vernon stood beside her and glared at Dumbledore. "Well get on with it, then."
"It seems that Harry had a godfather who was being falsely imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, and so was unable to take Harry in after Lily and James died. His name was cleared at the beginning of June this year, and he has been released. Harry will be going to his home at the end of the week. He needs to stay here for a week to recharge the blood wards that keep him and your family safe from Voldemort and his followers. Harry will also need to come back for a time next summer as well, and on until the summer of his 17th birthday."
The Dursleys nodded curtly.
The little female house elf appeared with a crack. Both Dursleys present jumped (Dudley was nowhere to be seen; probably out bullying some first graders), but had apparently been expecting this enough to not scream.
"Netty is here now for Harry Potter, Dumbledore sir."
"Thank you, Netty. Now, are there any other questions, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley?"
They gave non-committal grunts.
"Excellent. Now Harry, you may go to the library during the day, but take your wand with you. I do not think you will be attacked by anyone or anything from our world, but best to have it with you just in case. With that in mind, I shall now be going. See you at Hogwarts in September, Harry."
"Wait, so does that mean Sirius is picking me up?"
"Yes, he is. I believe he's planning to send you an owl about it, so you two can settle the details."
"Cool. Thanks, sir."
"You are most welcome, Harry. Now one last thing before I leave. Netty, you have brought all Harry's things to his room already, correct?"
"Of course, master Dumbledore sir. Netty is being waiting in Mr. Potter's room for you to be calling Netty, sir."
"Excellent. And now, at last, I go. Au revoir!"
Dumbledore tipped his porkpie hat and went out the door.
"Sirius?" Aunt Petunia said. "Why does that name sound familiar?"
Harry thought about that a moment. Netty looked to him for permission to speak. Coming to a decision, he shook his head ever so slightly. As fun as it might have been to let them scream in terror when Sirius showed up on their front stoop, he worried they might have a gun and shoot him in self defense.
"Sirius Black is his full name."
The Dursleys frowned in thought. It looked painful.
Vernon was the first to figure it out. "What the bloody Hell do you mean, boy? How can he be one of your lot? He was on our news!"
"He, uh... he escaped from our prison. They thought at the time that he was dangerous enough to warn the Muggles, since the crime he was framed for involved the murder of 12 Muggles with a single curse. But this year, we found out one of his supposed victims was the real murderer, and there was proof, so he's free now."
Petunia snorted. "I remember now. They even canceled the hunt for him on the news. And here was me thinking he'd been caught again."
"He was innocent."
She snorted derisively at this. "Not Guilty and Innocent are two different things. Now go get out of our hair like you promised."
Harry sighed, and climbed the stairs to his room. He didn't bother to unpack, but he did look through his trunk and took out a book to read. He wasn't sure he wanted to leave the house or not yet, because the Dursleys got angry if he was out later than Dudley, and he didn't exactly trust them not to damage or destroy library books.
He was just about to read his book when an unfamiliar owl came to the window bearing a letter for him. Getting up, he got the owl some owl treats and took the letter. It was from Sirius.
I made a plan with Hagrid to pick up my motorbike this week at The Three Broomsticks. I don't know if you'd want to ride on it or not, I understand you have a problem with loud noises. Let me know one way or another soon, so I can know whether or not to get you a helmet and dragon-skin bike leathers. Heck, I might get you something in dragon-skin anyway, if you don't have any issues with it, because dragon skin is very resistant to magic, and can deflect a lot of hexes.
Oh wait, silly me, I can just put a silencing charm on the motorbike. There are enough charms keeping us safe from Muggle traffic that the noise isn't really necessary. But let me know if the vibration, the wind, or anything else is likely to be a problem, okay?
Harry sat there and thought about it for a few minutes before replying.
Well, every form of magical transportation I've experienced thus far has been horrible in some way or another, so I might as well try something as relatively Muggle as a motorbike. Silencing it would be great. I've never felt dragon hide clothing before, so I don't know how I'll respond to it yet. I know we have dragon-hide gloves, but I've never felt their outside. Just a second while I go do that now.
Back! Dragon skin clothes should be fine. The dragon-hide gloves are nice and bumpy now that I've finally bothered to feel their outsides.
I'm excited to see what your house is like! I'm excited to have a room of my own that I can decorate as I please and leave stuff there without having to worry the Dursleys are going to burn my things in their backyard.
I know I haven't even gotten there yet, so apologies if this is too soon to ask, but could I have a friend or two over? I'm not sure which one, yet. But I know Hermione would appreciate having somewhere to get away with using magic at without getting in trouble with the Ministry, and Ron already has that.
Also I don't think you've met any of my friends. You went straight from the Hogwarts gates to St. Mungo's that one day. I mean, Ron kinda saw you at the trial and he met you as Shadow, but you never officially met as far as I know of, and there's still Hermione, Antigone, Angela, Danzia, Luna, and Draco to meet besides. So if there's some way to introduce them all to you and vice versa, and you're up for it, that would be awesome. If not, I understand.
Oh and did I tell you I'm a practitioner of the old ways? Well I am. Do you know any stores at Diagon Alley or elsewhere that might have stuff for like, altars and stuff? I want to honor nature, I want to have an altar or two. One at your place and one for school, is what I was thinking. Or maybe Moony knows somewhere? He gave me a bunch of books about the old ways, after all.
Dumbledore was impressed by the security on your house, saying that the only way to make it any more secure would be a Fidelius Charm. I have to say, that is indeed pretty impressive.
Say hi to Ms. Pennyroyal for me if you see her. I know it was her job, but we owe her so much.
Anyway, that's all I can think of for now.
PS = I don't know if you noticed that day or not, but I did; my patronus is a stag! Didn't you say Dad's animagus form was a stag?
The next day after breakfast, Harry found a different owl – a barn owl – with a letter for him from Sirius.
Say hi to my new owl, his name is Frodo. The other owl was an owl post owl. I decided that if we were gonna write a lot of letters this year, I should get an owl, so I went down to the Magical Menagerie and got Frodo here.
I'd love to meet your friends. I'm not 100% sure about the Malfoy boy, but if you trust him, then I guess I'll try to do so too. After all, my parents were just as bad as his. Maybe worse, despite not being Death Eaters themselves. Though I'll admit I was always confused why Narcissa would marry a Death Eater, she never seemed quite as bigoted as her sister Bellatrix did. Never hung out with most of the Death-Eater wannabes in school, Lucius and Snivelus being two major exceptions. Well, and Bellatrix of course.
Anyway, yeah, we can invite some of your friends over. You can start out writing them about their availability this summer. Especially for July 31st, because I want to throw you a birthday party if you're up for it. And if you are indeed up for it, I'd welcome your input to help me make it as friendly to your sensitivities as possible. Let me know if you're up for a party, okay?
According to Dumbledore, I can come get you on the 26th of June. Technically it's a little past a week, but since the 'one week' marker the spell needs is late at night on the 25th, I can't get you until the morning of the 26th. Is 9 am too early for you? Also, I recall you're not fond of flying, so that will make the journey take longer, since we'll have to take the Muggle route and stick to the speed limit.
Well let me know about 9 am on the 26th, okay pup?
Sirius, your lovable dogfather
Harry wrote a quick note back saying that 9 am was fine, and he was looking forward to the day, and then sent it off with Frodo.
"Fly, you fool!" Harry couldn't resist quipping as Frodo flew away into the twilight. But just to himself, in case it offended the owl.
The rest of the week passed slowly. Harry did homework to pass the time, since it occupied his mind and would get the work out of the way for the summer if he did. He ended up finishing it all with two days to spare, which meant he had to find something else to occupy himself with. When he could, he had conversations with Netty, but the two of them only saw each other a short time every year, and the life of a house elf sounded pretty boring to Harry, from what Netty related to him. So he wrote to his friends instead. He didn't have much to say after only a week aside from asking about the possibility of them visiting, but he did it anyway.
Finally, though, the last two days passed. Not needing to pack, since he'd never unpacked, he spent most of the morning in a state of high anxiety. He found himself wishing he'd said 9 am wasn't early enough, because he was up at 6 am and spend the next three hours climbing the walls, figuratively speaking. He ended up in such a state of agitation that he spent the last hour tapping out patterns on the wood of the floor in his bedroom until Petunia screamed up the stairs for him to stop driving her mad with his relentless tapping.
All in all, everyone was thoroughly happy when the doorbell rang.
"You can get it, boy. I've no interest in being civil to one of your lot."
Silently thinking Vernon didn't know how to be civil to anyone, really, he answered the door. As soon as he opened it, Sirius excitedly shouted Harry's name so loudly that everyone in the neighborhood peeked out their windows to see what was going on. Sirius gave Harry a hug, Harry hugging his godfather back. Harry wondered if any of the spying neighbors recognized Sirius from his wanted photos. He looked a lot better now, more well-fed, more filled out in the face, and his hair was clean and trimmed but still long. And he was wearing motorbike leathers made of dragon skin. Harry felt the material under his skin, and reveled in the sensation. He would have to see what the inside felt like.
Wasting no time, Sirius got Harry's own bike leathers out, and Harry got changed in his room. He found the leathers a little stiff but otherwise acceptable. Then Sirius sent Harry's things to his house with his wand, Netty went back to Hogwarts, and Harry followed Sirius outside to his motorbike.
"Sidecar or riding bi—er, well, behind me?"
"Um, I think the sidecar looks more secure. I'm gonna look ridiculous in it, but that's okay."
"Alrighty then. Here's your helmet. Gotta keep you safe."
It was a mostly plain black helmet, with lightning bolts on both sides. Harry snickered at this and got into the sidecar, which was actually kinda comfortable. He found a seatbelt, too, and belted himself up.
"Like the helmet, do you?"
"Yeah, it's funny."
Sirius nodded and donned his own helmet, a plain black affair, but very shiny. The neighbors were staring disapprovingly at Sirius and Harry and the motorbike. But he saw enough to see that they were very surprised when the motorbike didn't make any noise except a little engine noise when he got it started. The two of them put their visors down and Sirius rode off down the road and out of Little Whinging.
With the helmet protecting him from the wind and the vibration of the bike pleasantly stimulating, Harry found to his surprise that the nearness of the speeding-by road only made him a little ill, which he could avoid by closing his eyes and leaning back in the sidecar.
"Hey Harry, can you hear me?" said Sirius's voice from inside his helmet.
"Just a simple spell on the insides of the helmets to let us talk with each other. It would work even if the bike wasn't silenced."
"Nifty. That could come in handy. You should teach it to me."
"I was hoping you'd say that. By the way, I put an engorgement charm on the sidecar, making it much roomier. I think even Moony could fit comfortably in it now."
"It's very nice. I like the vibration. I might even fall asleep."
Despite this, they didn't talk much on the ride over. Sirius liked to concentrate on driving, and Harry enjoyed leaning back. And just as he had predicted, Harry did indeed fall asleep on the drive from Little Whinging to London.
After some time, Harry was woken by Sirius talking to him.
"Ah, you're awake now. Good. I said we're almost to London. Do you want to go out to eat anywhere?"
"Sure. I've always wanted to try pizza."
"You live with Muggles and you've never had pizza?"
"The Dursleys consider it 'foreign rubbish.'"
"Wow. Well I'd better take you to Rubian's. It's the best place I know of for pizza."
A few minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot of a place that looked like an Italian villa, with a large sign saying 'Rubian's' that had a slice of pizza on the sign as well. Harry got out of the sidecar, grateful to stretch his legs at last.
"Aren't you worried about the bike getting stolen?" Harry asked Sirius as they left it behind.
"Not even a little. It's got every anti-theft measure on it possible. Even a wiz- er, one of our lot would have a hard time stealing it. Oh, we can leave our helmets in the sidecar, by the way. Don't worry about rain."
Harry was a little surprised to find that they were at a Muggle pizzeria, but pleasantly so. He was even more pleasantly surprised to find that Sirius had no trouble at all with Muggle money, except that prices had gone up quite a bit since he'd last been out in Muggle areas of the world.
After conferring with Harry on his tastes, Sirius ordered them a pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and black olives. The pizza was huge, too; nearly as big as the table itself. It smelled heavenly, too. Sirius served Harry and himself a pair of slices, and they began to eat.
Both of them moaned in pleasure as they ate their pizzas. Harry, because he'd never had proper pizza before and was suddenly eating the best pizza ever; Sirius because he hadn't had pizza at all for at least 12 or 13 years.
Since Harry had been eying the Parmesan and hot pepper shakers while they'd waited, for his second piece he tried a little of each on his pizza. He liked it so much that his third piece was so red with pepper that Sirius goggled at him, and dropped his jaw comically when Harry ate it all with barely any reaction to the heat of all that pepper.
"Wow. I think even James would've balked at that much hot pepper!"
"I like the sensation it makes in my mouth," Harry said. "I like the burn."
"That one of those 'stims' of yours? A sensory experience that really hits your pleasure centers?"
Harry nodded. "I guess so. You might have to buy me some hot sauce for Hogwarts, now. Not sure I could go back to bland old British food now."
Sirius barked with laughter. "Right, I'll do that. But what are you doing now?"
Harry had been opening his mouth and just standing still.
"Just letting the pepper oils continue to burn. Opening my mouth like this makes a really interesting experience."
Finally taking a drink of his soda, Harry did something similar with that, holding the soda in his mouth for a minute before swallowing.
"The carbonation in my mouth feels awesome too."
Sirius tried it with his own soda for a minute. "I see what you mean. That's a pleasant feeling. Neat. I guess even us non-autistic people can have stims."
They kept on eating their pizza until it was halfway gone and the two of them were stuffed like Christmas turkeys, leaning back in their seats to digest awhile before attempting to get up. Their waiter got them a to-go box for the rest of their pizza and they eventually managed to leave.
Sirius rode the motorbike into a rather grungy looking neighborhood that the Dursleys would have been horrified to be anywhere near, and pulled into a parking space that apparently was in the back yard of his house. The house itself was nestled between two Muggle houses and nobody but them appeared to even be aware of it.
"Welcome to number 12, Grimmauld Place, London."
Sirius took Harry in through the back door, which led into a hallway that connected to the kitchen, among other places.
"Welcome back, Master Sirius," said a very croaky voice.
"Thanks, Kreacher. Harry, meet Kreacher. Kreacher, Harry Potter."
The ancient elf bowed to Harry. Wearing a clean pillowcase with the Black family crest on it, Kreacher looked ancient. His skin seemed to be several times too big for him and though he was bald like all house-elves, there was a quantity of white hair growing out of his large, batlike ears. His eyes were a bloodshot and watery gray, and his fleshy nose was large and rather snoutlike.
"Would Masters like anything to eat?"
"Not now, Kreacher. We just got back from having pizza. Harry had never had any before."
"Kreacher has never heard of pizza before. Should Kreacher learn to cook it for Masters?"
"Uh, sure," Sirius said, shrugging. "I'll find some recipes for you when I can."
"Kreacher could ask other house-elves for the recipe."
"Well you could try, but I don't know how successful you'd be. I don't think I've ever heard of purebloods eating it, unless they were Italian."
"Kreacher knows some house-elves who serve Italian masters. Kreacher could talk with them."
"Really? That's brilliant. Thank you, Kreacher."
Kreacher smiled and bowed. "You are most welcome, Master Sirius. May I go search for the recipe now?"
"If you want to, sure thing."
"Thank you, Master Sirius." In mid-bow, Kreacher disapparated with a crack.
"I, er... I thought you two didn't get on?" Harry asked.
"You're right, we didn't. But, er, something happened that forced a reconciliation. I'd tell you about it, but Dumbledore would want you to learn occlumency before I could do that. All I can say for now is that I helped Kreacher to finally be able to obey my brother Regulus's final order. It had been bothering him an awful lot, apparently."
"Wow. I might take you up on learning this occlumency stuff, just to hear that tale. Is Dobby here, too?"
"Yes, actually. Netty helped introduce us formally. Dobby?"
A much younger elf appeared. "Harry Potter sir! You is here at last!"
Dobby grabbed Harry round the middle in a surprisingly strong hug which Harry returned. Then they pulled apart and Harry looked a little more closely at his elf friend. He looked almost exactly as Harry remembered him; the enormous, green, tennis-ball shaped eyes, the pencil-shaped nose, the batlike ears, the long fingers and feet — all except the clothes, which were very different.
When Dobby had worked for the Malfoys, he had always worn the same filthy old pillowcase. Now, however, he was wearing the strangest assortment of garments Harry had ever seen. He was wearing a tea cozy for a hat, on which he had pinned a number of bright badges; a tie patterned with horseshoes over a bare chest, a pair of what looked like children's soccer shorts, and odd socks. One of these, Harry saw, was the black one Harry had removed from his own foot and tricked Mr. Malfoy into giving Dobby, thereby setting Dobby free. The other was covered in pink and orange stripes.
Thinking of the Malfoys made Harry think of Draco, and suddenly he worried about inviting Draco over. Dobby sensed the change in Harry's face and looked concerned.
"Is Harry Potter not happy to see Dobby, sir?"
"Oh sorry, no, it's nothing like that. I'm glad to see you, Dobby. I'm thrilled you've got a job for Sirius. I just was wondering about something."
"What is it, Harry Potter sir? If Dobby may be so bold?"
"No problem. Um... were you aware that I'm now friends with Draco Malfoy?"
Dobby's face twitched a little, but he nodded. "Master Sirius is telling Dobby about your friendship with the Malfoy boy, yes. Dobby..." now it was Dobby's turn to look thoughtful for a moment before answering. "Dobby would not mind too much if young mister Malfoy were to come over. He is not hurting Dobby, unlike his father. He has not been very nice, either, when Dobby is knowing him, but if Harry Potter says he is mending his ways, Dobby will keep an open mind, sir."
"Well, Dobby, if you ever feel uncomfortable around Draco, like if his presence reminds you too much of your past with his family, you can leave the room whenever you need to without worrying what we'll think about it. Right, Sirius?"
"Right. My godson may not have been beaten or kicked around like you, Dobby, but he knows what emotional abuse is like, and neglect as well, so if you ever feel like being around the Malfoy boy is too much for you to handle, neither of us will mind you going somewhere safe to recover. We want you to feel safe in this house."
Dobby burst into joyous, thankful tears at this, crying into Harry's bike leathers. Harry gently stroked the elf's ears in sympathy.
"Dobby knew of Master Harry's goodness, but Dobby is having no idea he is so blessed to have two good and kind masters!"
After a minute of this, Dobby blew his nose on a handkerchief and dabbed at his eyes with the clean end. "May Dobby go now to regain his composure?"
"Of course, Dobby."
Dobby smiled and disapparated.
"What is it, pup?"
"Is there enough work, even in a house this big, for two house-elves?"
"Not really, no. But Kreacher is getting very old and slow. I mostly have him cooking and keeping the kitchen clean, now. Well, that and the boiler room. He was living in there when the cleaning crew found him. But I have him in a converted cupboard now, with his own bed. Yes, I know those Dursleys had you in a bloody cupboard, but he wouldn't accept his own bedroom no matter how hard I tried to insist, short of ordering him to. And Dobby is sleeping in one of the cupboards as well. But both are quite large cupboards. In fact, in most houses I think they'd qualify as entire rooms. Not as big as your bedroom in that wretched house, but roomy for elves."
"Oh, well I suppose that's alright, then. So then Dobby does the cleaning for most of the house and Kreacher does all the cooking?"
"Er, not all of it, no. I had a devil of a time moderating their squabble over who got to cook. It seems Dobby likes cooking, it got him away from his old masters more often than any other task did, apparently. So they take turns. Kreacher cooks on Sundays through Wednesdays, Dobby cooks during the rest of the week. I've had to keep an eye on him, though; he has a bad habit of shutting his ears in the over door."
Harry winced. "Yeah, he had it pretty bad with the Malfoys. Er... speaking of that, you should watch him around the ironing, as well."
"I know of at least one occasion where he said he had to iron his hands."
Sirius growled angrily at that. "Bloody Lucius Malfoy! I wish there were laws against house-elf abuse so I could nail him for it. Of course, even if there were laws passed now, we wouldn't be able to nail him for abusing Dobby, since that happened when it was legal. But I'm damned well going to get my solicitor to getting me on my family's Wizengamot seat so I can introduce legislation to protect house-elves. In fact, I'm going to owl her right now. You should get changed into something more comfortable, pup."
"Okay, yeah. And I wish you luck on that. I want to help house-elves too."
Sirius nodded at Harry approvingly and went off to go write to Ms. Pennyroyal.
Harry grinned at his godfather's righteous anger on behalf of Dobby, and went to his room to change out of his bike leathers.
Looking around the house, he thought it looked very nice. A little old and creaky, but nice. It was only later, when Sirius explained to him the many changes, that he had any idea of what it had been before. He goggled at Sirius's descriptions: a screaming portrait of Sirius's mother that took four professional arithmancers, a retired auror, and three Charms experts to work out how to remove from the wall; a number of other magical portraits which were now in storage in a Gringott's vault, including one so badly degraded they had no idea who the portrait was supposed to depict.
In fact, one of the few remaining relics left behind was a restored family tree. Sirius explained that several good people had been blasted off by his mother, who were now back on the family tree. But others, Sirius had blasted off himself; Bellatrix Lestrange, for one. He'd done the same for Narcissa Malfoy as well. But there were others who had been blasted off who were back now.
"You'll be meeting some of them, too. Andromeda Tonks, her husband, and their daughter Nymphadora; I've already started writing them about a time to come over. It's a little difficult getting them all together at once, since Nymphadora is a brand-new auror, only just qualified like, last month I think. You'll love them, they're great. The only downside, really, is that Andromeda looks scarily similar to Bellatrix LeStrange."
"No idea who that is," Harry said.
"Bellatrix LeStrange nee Black, a Death Eater currently serving time in Azkaban."
Harry's eyes went wide, and he gasped.
"Like I said, my family were horrible people. Well, except that Regulus – who had been a Death Eater as well – apparently turned against Voldemort in the end, for all the good it did him. Berk may have gotten himself killed, but I'm proud of him nonetheless."
Sirius sighed wistfully.
"Are you okay?"
"What? Oh, yeah. I will be. I was never close to Regulus. Hated the lot of them. But he was still my brother. Ah well, no sense moaning about it. When are your friends coming over?"
"We haven't settled anything yet. But now I know where the house is, I can relay that information to them."
"Excellent. This house is so big, it'll be good to have some more people in here. You can have friends over as many days as you want, Harry. Just make sure to check with me and their parents before letting any of them stay overnight. Especially your friend Luna, eh?" Sirius winked at Harry. Harry raised an eyebrow back.
"Why'd you single her out, Sirius? I'm friends with five girls in total."
Sirius sighed, shaking his head and clucking his tongue. "Never mind, pup, never mind."
A couple days later, Harry received something unexpected from a familiar owl, Mr. Malfoy's owl. It arrived when Sirius happened to be passing, and Sirius stopped him from taking the letter in case it was cursed.
"We've been writing back and forth before without him cursing me yet."
"That may be, but I'd feel safer checking first."
Sirius got out his wand and scanned the letter and the owl for curses or any other kind of spell.
"Well, there's some magic on here, but it seems benign. I'd better investigate more."
A few minutes of waiting later, and Sirius said, "Aha! It's very subtle and well done, to the point I doubt I would've found anything at all if I weren't one of the intended recipients, but I think there's a Blood-Secrets Charm on it."
"Didn't you mention to me once that your friend Draco sent you a letter that added an extra postscript to itself when Hermione bled onto it?"
"Yeah, I did. Is that the Blood-Secrets Charm?"
"Yes. I think it's set to you. That makes sense; he could just ask his son for help, if you two traded hair or blood samples. You should bleed on it a little. Pinprick's worth will do."
Harry took the letter from the owl, which waited there, probably for a response. Slitting the letter open with his wand, he took it out. It looked, outwardly, like another angry letter from Mr. Malfoy, but since they knew it was a decoy, Harry used his wand to produce a tiny drop of blood that he smeared on the page. The parchment burned off the blood and the text of the letter changed before their eyes. Harry read the letter to himself first, then aloud to Sirius.
To Mister Harry James Potter,
I have given the matter a great deal of thought over the summer, as well as discussing it with my wife, Mrs. Narcissa Malfoy nee Black. While I am still concerned for my son's safety, I have decided to make you an offer. I will give the friendship between you and my son my blessing and stop harassing you about it if you will promise on your magic to do everything you can to keep him safe if the dark lord rises again.
If you accept this accord, there are some things I can offer. First is that I will allow him to remain at Hogwarts rather than sending him abroad to another school. I will also permit him to visit you over the summer at your godfather's house, something I would not have permitted before this deal. But I understand your godfather's house is very well protected, so I ask you this: if the dark lord rises again, please implore your godfather to put his house under a Fidelius Charm, and when he does, please keep Draco safe there. He is our sole heir, despite many attempts to produce a spare, and has inherited his mother's stubbornness. I cannot talk him out of his friendship with you, and I have not been able to intimidate him out of it, so I am shelving my pride to ask you and your godfather and yes, even Dumbledore if needs be, to keep my son safe. I have no doubt the dark lord will return someday, and I fear that day is drawing nearer even as we speak.
I would also like your godfather to swear on his magic to protect my son if the dark lord returns as well. I know he has no love for our family, and I understand that, but hopefully he will also understand my desire to keep my son safe.
I realize this is all rather an unbalanced accord, perhaps more so than you do. In truth, if the dark lord rises again as I fear he will, there really would be nowhere safe on this earth for my son if the dark lord were sufficiently determined to hurt him, save possibly under a Fidelius Charm. So you stand to both lose little and win little in the deal, realistically, and my family gains much if you accept it. I do not know what else to offer to balance the equation. I hope that either your Griffindor values will prompt you to accept the accord anyway, or else ask for something else from myself or my wife to balance things out more in your favor.
Whether you accept this accord or not, please also destroy this letter once you have read it and responded to it. I do not wish any physical evidence of this accord between us to remain, in case the dark lord should discover it. He may misinterpret this as disloyalty from me, or use my son against me. As you may have guessed, the parchment is spelled with a Blood-Secrets Charm, so it will look different once activated by your blood for a time, but there is still a risk he may find out, so best to not tempt fate overmuch.
Please let me know your answer as soon as you are able to. You need not rush into a decision, of course, but the sooner we have your answer, the better for our sanity.
Yours in fellowship,
Mister Lucius Malfoy, Lord of House Malfoy
Mistress Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, Lady of House Malfoy
The letter faded back to the decoy. Harry, testing a theory, tried activating the spell again. Nothing happened. The magic was gone, the real message with it. It was a true testament to the degree of their paranoia to want them to destroy the letter even though the magic that made the secret message, along with the message itself, was gone as though it had never been.
"Well that's interesting," Sirius said, stroking his chin in thought. "Hmm... do you think I should discuss this with my solicitor?"
"I don't know. Maybe not. I mean, the more people know a secret, the harder it is to keep. 'Three men may keep a secret if two are dead,'" he quoted.
"I wouldn't go that far," said Sirius. "There are entire branches of governments devoted to keeping secrets from the people and from other governments. Of course, there are spies who can find out those secrets, but still... anyway, moving on. I know Ms. Pennyroyal knows occlumency, so I suppose she's safe to talk with."
"Do you know it?" asked Harry. "Because I don't."
"Well, I was being taught it when I was training to be an auror, but I hadn't progressed terribly far on it when I was arrested, and I've been out of practice for over 12 years."
"Do you think Mr. Malfoy knows about this occlumency thing?"
"It's possible. He was certainly a Death Eater, but kept out of Azkaban. Largely with his money and power, but there may have possibly been more to it than that. Anyway, if he's aware of occlumency, he's trusting us with a secret I'm sure he knows is insecure with you, since you don't know occlumency."
"Well he wants to keep his son safe. That's not a terribly huge secret. I mean, it puts Draco in danger, but Mr. Malfoy can just say his son turned against him. It'd be the truth, even."
"True. Anyway, I'll probably get my solicitor or one of her people to help with this. This is too good an opportunity to pass by."
"Oh? Why's that?"
"According to Ms. Pennyroyal, Lucius and Narcissa are holding my family's seat. I can ask for it back. Might even be able to leverage them to vote however I do."
"I don't know about that second one, Sirius. If he's this worried, he's probably going to have to go back to Voldemort and serve him to keep his family safe, and he can't be seen supporting our side in public."
"Damn, you're right. In fact, even if they do agree to give me my seat on the Wizengamot, they'll have to at least appear to put up a good fight. It won't be easy for them or for us. And their solicitor is Rowle."
Harry winced. "Oh boy. And that man hates to lose."
"Worse, I doubt they'll be able to tell him about the deal. Even if he knew occlumency, his politics are pretty Death-Eater friendly. I think he has at least one relative who was a Death Eater, in fact. So he'll fight as hard as he can, thinking it's what the Malfoys really want."
"Plainly we need to get together with them somewhere and discuss things."
"But how to respond to his letter? I know the spell he used, it's an old pureblood spell, but I don't have any hair or blood or skin of his."
"We can address it to Draco. He hasn't gotten around to teaching me the spell, but I have a small vial of his hair."
"Ah, that's that solved then. You go write out a decoy letter and fetch that hair, and I'll plan out the real response."
It took them over an hour to complete the secret letter to Sirius's satisfaction, but they eventually got it. They sent it off with Mr. Malfoy's owl and destroyed his letter as he requested.
To Mister. Lucius Malfoy,
We received your letter and we wish to discuss this in person with you in a secure and mutually agreed-upon location if you are amenable to doing so. We're also curious if it would be acceptable to have a witness there for the meeting, such as Ms. Pennyroyal – our solicitor – with us. Or perhaps Albus Dumbledore, if you feel you need more security? Aside from the obvious trust issues between us, an arbiter might be useful anyway.
Please let us know as soon as possible what you think of this.
Your in fellowship,
Mister Sirius Black, Lord of House Black
Mister Harry James Potter
Less than an hour later, they got back another response.
To Mister Harry James Potter and Mister Sirius Black, Lord of House Black,
My wife and I agree to a meeting in person. We agree to have Chief Warlock Albus Dumbledore there as arbiter and witness. In light of this, would it be amenable to meet in the office of same, at Hogwarts? If so, and if you will contact the Chief Warlock to arrange a time convenient for him as well as for the two of you, we will make ourselves available at any hour you choose.
Yours in fellowship,
Mister Lucius Malfoy, Lord of House Malfoy
Mistress Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, Lady of House Malfoy
Once the words faded away again, Sirius went into the kitchen and tossed some Floo powder into the fireplace to fire-call Dumbledore. Dumbledore came on through the Floo into their kitchen once Sirius gave him permission.
"Is there any evidence of these letters?" Dumbledore said, sounding wary.
"Just our memories."
"I see. Sirius, do you know how to extract memories for pensieves?"
"I wish to extract such memories to review them, if that is fine by you two?"
They nodded. Within minutes, they were providing Dumbledore with the memories. He went back through to his office. Within twenty minutes, his head popped up in the fire.
"Sirius, Harry, I have reviewed those memories. I believe them to be genuine in this desire. You may let them know I am available at any time to arbitrate the meeting."
"Thanks, Dumbledore," Sirius said.
"You are quite welcome. Of course, I am very curious. This is rather an unexpected turn of events. One which is, at the same time, somewhat worrying."
"Yes, he seems so certain Voldemort will come back soon."
"He may know something we do not, which is relevant. But I must be going now, my knees are complaining. I should put a thicker rug down here in future. Goodbye for now, Sirius, Harry."
They waved him goodbye, and his head disappeared from the fireplace, the green flames returning to normal fire.
Their meeting with the Malfoys ended up getting set for the next Friday at noon. That left several days free, during which Harry managed to settle plans to get Ron and Luna over one day, Antigone and Hermione the next, and Angela on the third. Danzia and her family had plans to go to China for the summer, but she promised to come over on the Saturday following their meeting with the Malfoys (not that she knew they were doing so; they had told nobody but Dumbledore about that).
That first day, an owl and a very large raven showed up at Harry's window. The owl, Errol, smacked pathetically against the closed window and onto the planter box that Harry had been preparing to plant a small garden in. He opened the window to let Errol in, and a raven nearly as big as Errol perched on the sill and cawed at Harry, its leg held out, a letter tied to it. This raven was distinctive. Not only was it bigger than any raven Harry had ever seen before (and Harry had seen a lot of ravens), it also had a white mark on its back that looked a little like the letter W.
"You must belong to the Lovegoods," Harry said as he untied the letter from the raven's leg. "It'd be just the sort of thing they'd do, using a bird that's only active in the daytime, as opposed to owls which are nocturnal."
The raven cawed at him again, in an impatient sort of way.
"Yeah yeah, I'm doing it fast as I can."
He untied the final knot and pulled the message off at last. The raven cawed in a more friendly way and flew inside all the way, snooping around through his things for shiny objects.
"What, you don't want food?"
The raven cocked its head thoughtfully, then cawed again.
"Greedy, aren't you?" he said, giving the raven some owl treats. He hadn't been sure the raven would like them, but it seemed pleased with the offer.
He read the letter, from Luna of course.
This is Writing Desk, our raven. We named him that partly because of the W shape on his back, and partly because Daddy and I love both Edgar Allen Poe and Lewis Carroll. Writing Desk also likes the name Edward, though. We like him much better than owls. He doesn't cough up the skeletons of small animals, for one thing, and he loves shiny objects. He's been collecting things for years, and has quite a huge collection by now; it has its entire room in our house, his collection. Well, it's also the room Writing Desk sleeps in, but mostly it's taken up with shells, buttons, coins, bits of shiny thread, pieces of colored glass, and even the skulls of what we think are deceased friends or family of his. Those he keeps in a special space that looks a lot like an altar, which he decorates with ribbons, wire, and his shiniest trinkets, including several gold galleon coins. He even honors his fallen loved ones once a week by sitting silently on the altar for half an hour, then cawing rather loudly at the ceiling for twenty minutes. It's so sad and beautiful all at once, the poor dear.
Writing Desk likes to collect names, too. Along with his given name and Edward, he will also answer to Karl Marx, Napoleon, Merlin, Black Swooping Death, and Apostle Thomas. We don't know why he does this, or how he chooses the names he collects, but we respect his creativity.
Yes, I would very much like to visit you today if I can. You can fire-call if you want, I'll take Writing Desk home with me in the Floo. He likes it, for some reason. I think he likes being able to go home without putting forth any effort, the laz-
"CAW! CAW! CAWWW!" Harry's reading was interrupted as Writing Desk started cawing loudly, flapping his wings defiantly at a much larger Hedwig, who was shrieking in an outraged sort of tone and puffing herself up angrily.
"Hedwig! Leave him alone, he's Luna's familiar!"
She turned her head all the way around to glare at him, then turned to glare at Writing Desk, who somehow managed – without an expressive face – to look very smug as he continued picking through Harry's belongings for something shiny to take home with him.
-the lazy dear. He even tolerates the Knight Bus, though sometimes he'll land on the back of the driver's seat and screech at the driver as though he knows better than the driver how to steer a bus. Anyway, I can tell you more about him when I come over. When should I come over, anyway?
Sorry for having to communicate with letters instead of the two-way mirror, but Writing Desk and I had a row the other day and he hid it from me to show his displeasure. He'll give it back in a day or two, though; he always does. He's a forgiving soul. And he's good at understanding when something is an emergency; he'll return it if there's an emergency.
I know I've sent you things by owl before, back on your last birthday, but that was a post owl. Writing Desk doesn't like taking most packages, he only tolerates taking letters.
Looking forward to visiting you!
PS = Daddy says to say Hi to you for him.
Harry chuckled at the rich personality of Writing Desk and put the letter down to go fire-call Luna.
Kneeling to put his head in the fire, he said Luna's address and felt his head spin around. When it stopped in her fireplace, it still felt like it was spinning. He wondered what would happen if he were to get sick with his head magically detached from his body like this, until he looked up into the familiar kitchen of the Lovegoods.
"Harry! There you are. My, that was fast. Writing Desk will sometimes take hours extra to make a delivery, just because he values his own time so much, so I was worried it would take longer. Anyway, can I come over, now?"
"Of course you can. Sirius just doesn't want anyone staying overnight without his say-so. But during the day, I think he just wants a little fore-warning, a fire-call or something first."
"Good. Daddy! I'm going to Harry's place now!" she called back at him.
Xeno poked his head out from the other room. "Have fun, my delightful moon-calf! Hi there, Harry!"
"Hello sir. Well I'd better pull my head out of the Floo so Luna can come over."
"Watch out for Floo bugs," Xeno warned. "They'll make your head feel like it's floating along like a balloon on a string if you're not careful."
"I'll keep an eye out for them, sir. See you!" Harry said, and pulled out of the Floo.
Luna came out of the Floo a couple minutes later, and Harry only now registered what she was wearing. She had on a knee-length dress that looked like it had been designed by Picasso, in concert with Rene Magritte. She also wore a red beret on her blond hair, and great big hoop earrings of pink wire with pentagrams of wire inside of them. Her fingernails were also painted, in ten different colors: one color for each finger. Harry saw bubblegum-pink, Kelley green, red, sunflower yellow, periwinkle, gold, silver, lavender, sunset orange, and mauve. He looked down at her feet; she was wearing one white sandal and one green one, and her toenails were all painted different colors too. In this case: forest green, black, dandelion, a metallic dark blue, the 'salmon' shade of pink, indigo, red wine, brown, neon orange, and white.
What was more, she or her father had painted multi-colored flowers and green leafy vines on her face and down her neck to her collarbone, which continued down along both of her arms to her hands. And there was a painting of a hippogriff on her left leg. He didn't understand how he could've missed it during the fire-call.
"Harry, is that your friend Luna coming ov-" Sirius said, freezing mid-sentence when he came in and saw Luna. He gaped at her strange appearance as she smiled and waved at him.
"Er, welcome, Miss Lovegood," Sirius said with a grin, holding a hand out for her to shake.
Luna looked at his hand, held both of hers out to her sides, spun herself rapidly around three times, waited a moment for the dizziness to pass, and only then took his hand to shake it.
"Sorry about that, Mr. Black," she apologized quietly. "But I could feel the shake-wraiths trying to get inside me, and I couldn't risk them passing on to you."
"Er, okay," Sirius said, confused, as Harry tried hard to suppress his laughter.
"Um, anyway Luna, you can just call me Sirius. I shall always think of Mr. Black as my father, I think, and I never much liked the man."
"Okay, Sirius. Thank you for inviting me into your home."
"Any friend of Harry's is a friend of mine."
She beamed at him, then turned immediately to Harry. "So where's Writing Desk?"
"Pardon?" asked Sirius.
"He's my familiar. He's a raven."
When he was able to stop snickering at Sirius's continued bafflement in regards to Luna, Harry said, "He's upstairs in my room looking for something shiny to take with him."
"You left him up there alone?" she asked in concern.
"No, Hedwig is up there with him. Why?"
"Harry! If you leave Writing Desk unsupervised in your room, anything could happen! Come on, let's hurry!"
She took his hand and they ran up the stairs to Harry's room. What they found when they got there was best described as bedlam. Writing Desk was wearing an origami admiral's hat and a sock as a scarf while flying around the room carrying Harry's entire coin purse in his talons; he was trying to get away from Hedwig, who was screeching and flapping after him in a rage, several of her feathers – plucked out – lying on the bed. Harry's Sneak-o-scope was spinning and whistling on his desk, probably in response to Writing Desk, and Dobby had joined the fray and was trying to corral the two familiars. He was somewhat hindered by Writing Desk tossing heavy gold coins at his head every now and then and cawing in a way that sounded like mocking laughter.
"EDWARD WRITING DESK NAPOLEON APOSTLE THOMAS!" Luna said in a very loud and cross voice, "YOU PUT HARRY'S COIN PURSE DOWN THIS INSTANT!"
The large raven somehow managed to trip in midair, falling down and dropping Harry's coin purse. When he got back up – his admiral's hat on crooked and his feathers ruffled – he hopped over to Harry and bowed his head, giving a mournful sort of croak that Harry took to be an apology.
At this, the Sneak-o-scope stopped spinning and whistling. Hedwig looked angry enough to spit nails, but she landed on her perch and preened herself in an annoyed fashion instead.
Harry looked to Luna for direction. She nodded at him, smiling.
"Er, Writing Desk, I forgive you. Try not to do it again," he said.
"Caw!" quoth the raven, and began preening himself as well.
"Miss's raven is being very disruptive," Dobby said. "Begging Miss's pardon," he added, looking scared.
"Oh it's fine, you poor sweet little man."
Dobby blinked at her in surprise, mouthing the word 'man' in bewildered astonishment.
Smiling at him, Luna held out her hand. "Hello. I'm Luna Lovegood. Are you Dobby?"
Tentatively, Dobby took her hand in his and shook it. "Yes, Miss Lovegood, I is Dobby."
"It's an honor to meet you at last, Dobby. Harry has told me so much about you."
"An... honor?" Dobby said, his eyes growing wide as dinnerplates. "Me? Miss is honored to meet... D-Dobby?"
"Of course I am. Any friend of Harry's is a friend of mine. Or at least, I attempt to make friends with them. They're not always interested in being friends with me."
Dobby's eyes dribbled great runnels of tears as he smiled and then bowed to Luna.
"Miss Lovegood is truly as great and as good as Harry Potter, Miss. Dobby is also being very honored to be meeting you, Miss."
"Please, call me Luna."
"Yes, of course Miss Luna."
She smiled at him.
Harry turned to Luna. "You are very colorful today, Luna."
"Why thank you, Harry," she said, curtsying. "I was experimenting with some new art styles earlier – well, new to me – and I wanted some inspiration from Picasso and Magritte."
"Did you get it?"
"Yes. I had just finished a painting of Writing Desk on his perch before you called."
Harry felt a tug on his pants leg and looked down. Writing Desk was looking pleadingly from him to a shiny fifty-pence piece and back again.
"Did you find that in my things?" Harry asked gently.
Writing Desk nodded his feathery head, still looking pleadingly at Harry.
"If you want it, you can have it. But that's it for now, okay?"
The bird nodded, rubbed his head against Harry's leg, readjusting his origami hat before taking off to go play with his shiny new toy.
"Hey Dobby, you've been bored lately, right? Not enough to do?"
"Er, yes, Harry Potter sir. What would you likes Dobby to do for you, sir?"
"Do you know how to knit?"
Dobby bobbed his head enthusiastically. "Yes, Dobby does indeed, sir."
"Well... it probably won't take you long, but I'm hoping you'd be so kind as to knit Writing Desk here his own little scarf."
The bird turned around at these words and cawed, hopping up and down excitedly. Then he flapped his wings and contorted in a weird way, rather insistently.
"Oooh, he's playing charades, Harry! Let's see... two words. First word, something that starts with R. Has two limbs... flies—OOH! A raven?"
The bird nodded, and started miming the second word.
"Feet? Legs? Toes? Wait, talons? No, claws? AHA! You want a Ravenclaw scarf?"
Writing Desk nodded, cawing excitedly.
"Wow," Harry said. "I knew ravens were intelligent, but this much so?"
"Well, Harry, he is a magical raven. Magical animals are more intelligent than their Muggle counterparts. Owls, for instance; Muggle owls aren't really the brightest of birds, at least among birds of prey. But of course magical owls are very clever indeed."
Hedwig looked annoyed for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders as though conceding the point.
"So," she continued, "with Muggle ravens being so very clever, of course magical ravens are even cleverer still."
Writing Desk puffed himself up proudly and gave what could only be described as a regal pose, especially considering the hat he was wearing.
Harry laughed at the bird. "Now Luna, if you inflate his ego too much, he might explode!"
"CAW!" Writing Desk said in a very put-out sort of tone, and went back to playing with the fifty-pence piece.
Harry turned and just happened to notice Errol sitting on his bed.
"Oh crud, I forgot Ron sent a letter too!" he said, running over to get the letter from Errol's leg.
He read the short letter as quick as he could and ran down to the kitchen, Luna – with her raven on her shoulder – following shortly behind.
"What's the rush, pup?"
"In all the excitement of Writing Desk's company, I forgot Ron wrote to me too. The Burrow!" Harry shouted as he stuck his head in the green flames.
"Harry! About time! What took you so long? Did Errol pass out halfway there?"
"No, Errol made it here fine. I just got distracted by Luna's raven."
"She and her dad use a raven instead of an owl."
Ron chuckled. "That figures. But don't you and she have those two-way mirrors?"
"She and Writing Desk – her raven – got into a fight, and he hid her mirror."
Ron laughed again. "A raven named Writing Desk, that's classic Luna!"
When Ron came through the Floo and finished brushing the soot off himself, he looked up and stood transfixed by the weirdness of Luna and Writing Desk.
Sirius barked with laughter. "Close your mouth, Ron, you'll catch flies if you don't!"
Ron closed his mouth and blinked at Luna, looking her up and down.
"Very colorful," he said at last. "Ah, member of the old religion, I see?" Ron continued, pointing at Luna's earrings.
"Yes. What about you, Ron?"
"More of a hybrid, really. I guess. I mostly just like Christmas and Easter."
"They're very lovely holidays, I agree."
"Yeah, plus we get out of school on them."
The three of them, accompanied by Writing Desk, started exploring the house. There were quite a lot of bedrooms, a parlor, a sitting room, a library, a ballroom, and even a dueling room. Ron was especially amazed by the size of the place, with its many levels. Harry was impressed, too, as he hadn't gotten as good a look as he'd wanted to before.
Luna gave her raven a ball of yarn to play with when they went into the massive ballroom to run around in. It was an odd thing to give a bird, but he seemed to enjoy it, attacking it with gusto and rolling around with it.
The three of them had tea that afternoon, Luna giving Writing Desk his own place setting and tea, casting a cooling charm on the tea so he could drink it without getting hurt. The bird also got a biscuit and half a scone, which he ate with excitement.
Sirius, who had been staring at the raven all during tea, got up as tea was ending to sit next to the bird and look right at it. The bird stared back in annoyance.
"Say 'nevermore,'" Sirius told it.
"HAR HAR HAR!" quoth the raven, sounding very peevish.
Sirius laughed. "Worth a try, anyway!"
They ended up staying for dinner, too. Kreacher made steak and kidney pie. Harry thought about using hot sauce, but didn't want to risk offending the elf, so he didn't. For desert they had black pudding and leftover biscuits from tea.
Harry was a little sad when they went back home, but he was looking forward to tomorrow when Hermione and Antigone would show up, and he had lots of fun today, so he fell asleep to pleasant dreams.
Endnote: The character of Writing Desk AKA Edward, etc the raven came about by accident. I forgot about the two-way mirror for several minutes, and decided the Lovegoods would use a raven instead of an owl, and it just kinda snowballed from there. But I like him, I'm keeping him.
I've been ashamed of the diminishing amount of humor in this fic lately, so I'm glad to say I've started making up for that here. :-D And what better way to do so than with Luna?
Speaking of Luna, in the next chapter we will be seeing VERY strong hints about Luna being autistic as well, since I'm certain she was meant to be autistic in canon. (Thus, I don't consider Luna's being on the spectrum to be part of the AU of this story, rather an expansion on canon.) If I ever meet Rowling in person, I'm going to ask her about Luna's and Hermione's neuro-status. (Whether they're autistic or not.)
American readers: I'm an American myself, but I use a lot of British terms in my HP fanfics. Sorry if that's confusing at all.
One last thing: Along with thinking Luna is autistic in canon, I'm really convinced now that Hermione is also autistic in canon. As a friend of mine pointed out in this Quora post of his: What-are-some-of-your-Harry-Potter-theories/answer/Alexander-Antonin Not sure what this says about canon Harry now that it appears two of his closest friends appear to be autistic. (There's also a theory out there that Ron is on the autism spectrum as well, but I don't really see it. I mean yeah, he's a chess prodigy and he focuses on Quidditch a lot, but there are non-autistic people with similar characteristics as well. I'll keep looking for evidence, but I'm not convinced on that one.)