A/N- Gah! Summer break is almost over, and I'm gonna have to (horror of horrors) get a job soon! sigh Well, this is one of my last-chance-for-free-time stories. The real world sucks… ahem Anyhow, I based this loosely off the manga (you know, Japanese comic books? Damn… just lost half of my crowd with that line…) Fruits Basket. No need to fear if you haven't read it, this really isn't it's story line.. but if you really want to know, it's basically about a girl (recently orphaned) who is initially taken in by her grandparents, but when they decide to renovate to make room for their other daughter's family, they ask her to stay with a friend. She, however, is kinda crazy and doesn't want to be a burden to her friends, so she lives in a tent. Yes, a tent. sighs Well, that is, until there's a landslide. Fortunately she's not in it, but meeting the group of three teenaged (ok, one's, like in his 20's) boys that live on the property who are trying to convince her to at least live with them. Call it conscience, call it hormones, but that's just what happens when her "house" is demolished. What she doesn't know, however, is that these boys come from a very influential family who keeps a secret. The highest ranking members of the family are possessed by the spirits of the animals of the Chinese zodiac, so when a member of the opposite sex hugs them, they turn into their representative animal. Awkward? Yes. Fun? Even more so. So by now, you're all wondering (if you're still reading… heehee… I'd just be going on to the story by now…) what the hell does this have to do with Harry Potter, crazy lady? Ahhh, read and you shall find out!
Chapter One- Crappy Birthday to Me…
The sounds of rushed packing wafted up the stairs to greet a bleary Harry on the morning of his birthday. For a split second, Harry thought that perhaps it was his presents being wrapped at the last minute and sat up in bed excitedly. And then reality came crashing down on him, crushing his spirit completely.
What a great way to start out a birthday... Harry muttered to himself, sitting up in bed and ruffling his hair disgruntledly.
Of course, by now he had learned to ignore the disappointment that always came hand in hand with his birthday. It did, however, strike him odd that no birthday greetings had arrived. He definitely had more than three friends now, but far from getting more gifts than usual, the number had dwindled depressingly to zero. Joy. Still, his sixteenth birthday couldn't be spent in bed just because his friends' owls were late (or so he hoped) and curiosity was gradually getting the better of him. He dressed quickly and crept downstairs, where he spied all three Dursleys convened on the living room sofa, Dudley and Vernon taking up over ninety percent by sheer combined bulk, while Petunia sat quivering between them. Harry mused for a moment on how it was a miracle that she didn't suffocate, and that sadistic corner of his mind wondered what would happen if the two took a deep breath at the same time. He shook his head with an evil grin, willing himself to erase the image of an asphyxiated Petunia stuck to Dudley's arse, but was shocked out of his fantasy by Vernon's bellowing voice.
"I WILL NOT RUN AWAY, PETUNIA!!"
Petunia twittered a scold in a much softer voice than usual, and Vernon grudgingly lowered his voice as well. Dudley ignored them both, the horribly tinny music from his Gameboy drowning out any chance of Harry overhearing the conversation. Faced with even the slightest possibility of the Dursleys leaving for today of all days, Harry grinned and decided to creep back upstairs to find his secret weapon. After a few minutes of rummaging through his rather disorganized trunk, he emerged with his prize: the only thing he could use to explain the Dursleys behavior. He slunk down the stairs once more and slowly lowered an Extendable Ear through the two slats in the railing closest to the couch. Dudley's Gameboy music grew louder in his ear, making him want to either slam his head or the toy into the wall until one broke. Still, now he could hear snatches of his aunt and uncle's conversation when Dudley wasn't muttering samurai noises under his breath.
"But Verrrrrrnon, the only time we don't have trouble on this day is when we are away from him." Petunia whined shrilly, "We certainly can't rush Dudley-kins to the hospital again for emergency surgery. It's best to stay out of the way, and—"
"YOU EXPECT ME TO LEAVE MY OWN HOUSE IN FEAR OF THOSE FREAKS???" Vernon bellowed, deafening Harry to everything but a loud ringing.
"Don't worry, mum and dad, I'm learning special ninja moves that I can use against those freakin' wizards." Dudley mumbled, frantically pushing his keypad.
"Dudley-dinkies, how many times do I have to tell you? Just because you play characters with those kind of martial arts skills doesn't mean that you can face a real wizard, dear."
Dudley and Vernon snorted at the same time, reminding Harry of a father-son team of bulls.
"Nonsense, Petunia! Dudley's a national finalist in boxing, you know. He could take down any wizard before they even drew their wands."
"Dear." She said nervously, "I keep telling you, if you don't watch out, you could bring some unwanted attention to us or wake up the Boy or—"
She was interrupted by the doorbell's ring, which made her jump from her seat and position herself in front of Dudley as fast as she could.
"Look what you've done now, Vernon! I told you—" Petunia quavered.
Meanwhile, Vernon had grabbed the nearest available object (a particularly ugly 4-Euro vase Aunt Marge had picked up in Germany) and marched up to the door.
"SHUT UP, WOMAN! YOUR TWITTERING ISN'T HELPING." Vernon roared, opening the door and poising the vase for a blow.
Much to his surprise, however, it was a woman in her middle-thirties waiting on his step, wearing a professional-looking suit. She (and several of the neighbors watering their grass) looked at him strangely and backed away slightly.
"Err… excuse me? Have I come at a bad time?" She said, raising an eyebrow in disapproval at the vase.
"WE DON'T WANT ANY BLOODY SALES! WE JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE!"
By then, Vernon had succeeded in having just the opposite happen. All the neighbors within ear-range were now peering out their windows or bending down on the pretense of caring for their garden plot, watching Vernon Dursley turn purple with rage for no apparent reason. Petunia hurriedly lowered the "weapon" for her husband, grinning at her neighbors as though nothing unusual had happened. The woman glowered and pointed fiercely at her Mercedes, which had the words "St. Mungo's Institute for Incurably Criminial Boys—Social Services" emblazoned on the red paint in silver lettering.
"Mr. Dursley!" She exclaimed, just loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear, "This is abominable behavior! I am Ms. Eliza Ritchford, and I work for St. Brutus' Institute. Every so often during the summer, we conduct surprise inspections on the families of the boys to see if perhaps their behavior is in any way caused by family abuse. In many cases such as your own, a distant relative is adopted and ignored or mistreated by the family, leading to the child's destructive behavior: their cry for help. Naturally, we'll have to have a formal investigation of you and your family, Mr. Dursley. Now, step aside. I'd like to interview Mr. Potter, if you don't mind."
Petunia blanched and buried her head in her hands, mortified, while Vernon continued to turn purple. Several neighbors, in fact, had wagers starting on whether he'd have a heart attack. Odds were leaning heavily towards it.
"Errr, actually, you caught us at a rather bad time. We have to be off to visit a sick relative in Bristol." Petunia stammered, dashing inside to gather up her family's luggage (an admirable feat for a woman so small) and herded her son and husband out the door in no more than two minutes.
"A pleasure to meet you, I'm sure." The woman said, wrinkling her nose in distaste, "We shall be contacting you with a date for the psychological evaluations."
She turned on her heel and entered the house as the Dursleys peeled out of the drive.
"Who the bloody hell are you?" Harry gaped, stunned that the woman had stood up to a man roughly seven times her size who had wielded a vase.
Maybe it's someone from the Order of the Phoenix Harry thought hopefully, but even then he refused to let his hopes get too high.
She shut the door firmly behind her, and Harry half-wished by the intimidating look on her face that he hadn't forgotten his wand in his room when he'd gone to get his Extendable Ears. Then, the woman's features began to shift. The small wrinkles began to fade, her stature grew a few inches, and her slick blond bun slowly turned a light brown and grew in volume exponentially. Within two minutes, a beaming Hermione stood in front of him, arms spread.
"SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HARRY!" She cried, giving him a tight squeeze.
And that was when it all started to go wrong.. Hermione jumped back startled and let out a sharp cry. Where Harry had just been standing was now occupied by a full-sized stag.
WHAT THE HELL? Seemed to be the last thing echoing through her head before everything went black.
A/N- Oh, my… crazy, huh? Told you that you didn't need to know the plot! Whew I have way too many stories left to update right now, but this idea is really fun to me. I'll need at least…eh… five reviews to update immediately. Gah.. I hate doing review ransom, but I have about five other stories going right now… grins Well, I hope you all liked it! More chaos to come in the next chapter! Ron and a few others show up, and Harry figures out what birthday gift his dad left him and the consequences! TTFN, and know that if you review, you get eternal gratefulness and love from yours truly… and the periwinkle box…