Chapter 1: Post & Purchases

Harry Potter, formerly of number 4,Privet Drive, Little Whinging, now of number 12, Grimmauld Place, London, was enjoying summer for the first time in his life. A fortnight ago, he had finished his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and he was not living with the Dursleys - his non-magical relatives who hated magic – but instead was living with his godparents, Sirius Black and Francine Griffiths, who were due to get married next Saturday. In addition, he had followed the advice of his best friend Hermione Granger, to "get all your homework out of the way at the beginning of the holiday, so you can enjoy it properly."

Harry's thoughts had stopped for a moment when he had realised he now considered Hermione his best friend. He didn't know when he'd started thinking of her that way, but suspected it was some time in January, after Ron had been expelled from Hogwarts for nearly killing Draco Malfoy by pushing him down the Grand Staircase from outside the Gryffindor common room – which was on the seventh floor. That was all it took for Harry and Ron's already shaky friendship to be broken beyond repair. He was still friends with the rest of the Weasley family, and it was planned for him to visit the Burrow on several occasions throughout the summer. Thankfully, Ron would not be there, as Ginny had told him in a letter that Ron had been "packed off to Great Aunt Muriel's, so I hope he's miserable. She's a hundred years old, and so strict, she makes Snape look tame."

Besides doing his homework, Harry had been busy for the holidays so far. He had been measured for dress robes for the wedding, involved in the rehearsal for the wedding itself (but since he was going to be an usher, he didn't have much to do), and had turned thirteen. Naturally, Sirius had given him a pile of presents almost as tall as himself, thirteen of which had something to do with the number thirteen, including a package of 13 boxes of Every Flavour Beans, a thirteen piece personal grooming kit, and almost embarrassingly, a book titled Thirteen Things a Young Wizard Needs To Know About Young Witches.

Going down to the kitchen for a drink, he found the best man, Remus Lupin, poring over several sheets of parchment. Harry had only met Remus last week, but liked him already. Looking up, Remus noticed Harry. "Ah, Harry, I'm just working on my best man speech. I just hope that the dog puns won't be too obvious." "Dog puns?" Remus chuckled. "You know your dad was an Animagus, and that he could turn into a stag?" Harry nodded, and Remus continued. "Well, Sirius was the best man at your mum and dad's wedding, and his speech was stuffed full of deer-related puns." Harry burst out laughing. "Seriously?" "Of course, I'm always Sirius," interjected the man himself, coming into the room as well.

Sirius took a dramatic pose, and began to speak in a highly formal manner. "Since the first time we met on the Hogwarts Express, James has been a DEER friend to me. He had many enDEERing qualities, and the amount of mischief we could get up to was STAGgerring. But he put the pranking beHIND him when he met Lily. He FAWNed and DOEted on her almost every spare moment he had, for she was, and still is, in a special place in his HART." At this point Sirius stopped, as Harry had burst into a fit of laughter. When Harry had calmed down, there was a tapping at the window. A large brown owl was sat on the windowsill, a Hogwarts letter in its claws.

"That'll be your book list then," Sirius said, "and your Hogsmeade visit permission slip." True enough, the envelope contained a list of books that Harry would need this year, and a form that Sirius quickly signed. Harry scanned the booklist. He only needed a few new books: The Standard Book of Spells – Grade 3, The Monster Book of Monsters, Spellman's Syllabary, and a Runic Dictionary. Towards the end of term, before the holidays, the second years had been required to choose two elective subjects, which they would study at least until their fifth year. After discussing it with his godparents, he had picked Care of Magical Creatures and Ancient Runes. He had been considering taking Divination, but two things had stopped him. Firstly, he had been told in no uncertain terms by Hermione that taking a subject just because it looked easy was a waste of his talents. Secondly, he couldn't take Divination, nor could anybody else, because the subject had been scrapped.

Magrathea Wainwright, who had taken over as Headmistress of Hogwarts following the sacking of Albus Dumbledore in January, had quietly dismissed Sybil Trelawney, the Divination professor, at the end of the school year. Professor Wainwright had given an interview in the Daily Prophet, as part of an article covering the changes she had made at Hogwarts. In it, she had said "I have no patience for a subject which purports that it can be taught, and yet requires its students to either have been born with an extremely rare gift, or be centaurs, for them to be able to study and practice it effectively."

"Somebody's popular today." commented Remus. Three more owls had appeared at the window. One was carrying a fat rectangular parcel, and the second and third each had letters. Harry recognised the third as Draco Malfoy's eagle owl. He took the owls' burdens, and opened them in reverse order. "Draco says he's looking forward to the wedding, and that he's taking Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies this year." Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "A Malfoy taking Muggle Studies?! Old Lucy'll be spinning in his grave!" The next letter was from Hermione. "Ancient Runes and Muggle Studies, she says it'll be fascinating to study Muggles from a wizarding point of view. She wanted to take everything, but Professor Strange talked her out of it, something about paradox loops? Weird."

Harry was slightly nervous about opening the parcel. He could hear faint growling coming from it. There was a note attached, and he recognised the rough handwriting as Hagrid's.

DEAR HARRY,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

THINK YOU MIGHT FIND THIS USEFUL FOR NEXT YEAR. WON'T SAY NO MORE HERE. TELL YOU WHEN I SEE YOU.

ALL THE BEST,

HAGRID.

Gingerly, Harry put the parcel on the kitchen table and carefully undid the rather copious amount of string holding the parcel closed. As soon as he did, the brown paper packaging was torn to pieces by a monstrous and very fierce looking book. The book was covered in short, dark grey fur, and had five beady eyes on its front cover, which read The Monster Book of Monsters. Quick as a flash, Sirius had his wand out and snapped "Incarcerous!" A thick rope shot from the end of his wand and looped three times around the book as it hopped off the table, the rope then tying itself into a neat knot.

Harry had a sneaking suspicion that Hagrid was going to be teaching Care of Magical Creatures. He had previously owned a giant three-headed dog and a baby Norwegian Ridgeback dragon as "pets", so it was clear to Harry that Hagrid didn't share most people's views of what creatures were considered dangerous. It followed that he would probably choose a biting book as a textbook if he ever got to teach anything. "Well, since one of them's already here, we might as well get your books and anything else you need today, Pup." said Sirius.

Thirty-five minutes later, Sirius, Francine and Harry linked arms and disappeared from number 12 with a crack, reappearing in the yard of the Leaky Cauldron, the entrance to Diagon Alley. Harry was used to this form of travel by now, but he still didn't like it. It was called Apparition, and it felt like being sucked and squeezed down an enormous plughole. Entering the Alley, they passed by several of the shops, until Sirius stopped dead outside of Quality Quidditch Supplies. Francine and Harry turned to see what he was looking at. In the window, mounted on a stand, was the most magnificent looking broomstick Harry had ever seen.

THE FIREBOLT

This state-of-the art racing broom sports a STREAMLINED, super-fine handle of ash, treated with a DIAMOND-HARD POLISH and hand-numbered with its own registration number. Each individually selected birch twig in the broomtail has been honed to AERODYNAMIC PERFECTION, giving the Firebolt UNSURPASSABLE BALANCE and PINPOINT PRECISION. The Firebolt has an acceleration of 0-150 MILES AN HOUR in TEN SECONDS and incorporates an UNBREAKABLE BRAKING CHARM.

PRICE ON REQUEST.

"That," Sirius stated emphatically, "is, after you, Francie, the most beautiful piece of art I have ever seen." Francine kissed him before replying "That's as maybe, but the fact is that it's completely useless for anything besides racing in a straight line." Sirius gasped dramatically, placing his hand over his heart and adopting a horrified expression. "How can you say that about such magnificence, Francie?" "Read the card carefully, Siri. "Racing broom" – they admit it's for racing, not Quidditch. "Acceleration of zero to a hundred-and-fifty miles an hour in ten seconds – how long's a Qudditch pitch?" "Five hundred feet.", chipped in Harry. "So even if you started from one end of the pitch, and there was no-one else in your way, you wouldn't reach even seventy-five miles an hour before you had to stop and turn round. And just because the Braking Charm probably means that the broom can go from top speed to nothing in a couple of seconds, doesn't mean that the rider can." "What are you getting at, Francie?" "Ever ridden the Knight Bus?" "Of course I have." "Been standing up while it's moving?" "Yes…" "What happened when it stopped?" "I got… thrown forward… and smacked face-first into the window." "The same thing would happen if you were riding that broom at high speed and had to stop suddenly- you'd get thrown off the end!"

Sirius managed to tear himself away from the Firebolt, and the family continued down the Alley to Flourish and Blotts. "What's the Knight Bus?" Harry asked. "Awful thing," shuddered Francine. "It's supposedly the "transportation for the stranded witch or wizard in a hurry", but I think "purple triple-decker death-trap is far more accurate." When they got to Flourish and Blotts, they found that instead of the usual window display of ornate books the size of paving slabs, there was instead a large iron cage containing about a hundred copies of the Monster Book of Monsters.

As they entered the shop, the manager came over to them. "Hogwarts?" he asked. "Third year?" "Yes," Harry said, "I need –" "Get out of the way," said the manager briskly, pulling on a pair of thick leather gloves and heading towards the cage. "Hang on," said Harry quickly, "I've already got one of those." "Have you?" A sigh of relief crossed the manager's face. "Thank Merlin for that, I've been bitten five times already this morning." The manager's gaze suddenly snapped back toward the cage. Two copies of the Monster book had got hold of a third and were ripping it apart. "Stop it! Stop it!" cried the manager, forcing a knobbly walking stick between the bars of the cage and beating the offending copies with it. "It's been absolute bedlam! I'm never stocking them again, never! I thought we'd seen the worst when we bought two hundred copies of the Invisible Book of Invisibility, cost a fortune and we never found them… Anything else?"

"Er, yes," said Harry, looking at his booklist. "I need the Standard Book of Spells - Grade 3, The Runic Dictionary, and Spellman's Syllabary." While the manager collected the books, Sirius appeared to be thinking about something. "Er… the Invisible Book of Invisibility?" he asked the manager. "It sounds like someone playing a joke on you." "What on earth do you mean?" the manager replied. "Think about it – an invisible book. If it's invisible, you can't see it, so how are you supposed to read it? If I were you, I'd write to the publishers and find out who's responsible for it."

Harry could see from the look of thunder that dawned on the manager's face that he had not thought of that before. Harry paid for the books, and then they left for Madam Malkin's Robes For All Occasions. Harry had grown over the summer so far, and was likely to grow a bit more, so he got some new robes that currently were a couple of inches too long in the sleeve and leg. Madam Malkin assured him that if he overgrew them, it wouldn't be noticeable. Shopping done, they had large sundaes at Florean Fortescue's ice cream parlour before returning home.