Chapter 15 – Directions, for bearing and conduct
Now, it had been years since the Potter heir had… experimented with other sentient creatures. Well, without their consent at least. He had learned, after extensive trial and error, that some actions were unacceptable in the eyes of society. Such as burnt bacon, that was unacceptable. Getting grades that were higher than Dudders': that was unacceptable. Harry smiling in his Uncle's general direction: that was also unacceptable. He had spent years of his life observing his family, and how they reacted to him, to have a set of unwritten rules to which he assumed were acts that were socially acceptable and unacceptable, and in turn, were breakable and unbreakable. Of course, no one told him that his family wasn't exactly… well… in all honesty, his family was nowhere near the standard to which anyone should base their social cues on. Alas, Harry had to work with what he had and knew. Using his observation skills to guide him, he had a new unwritten rule to add to his growing list of unacceptable behavior. No guests allowed without his Aunt or Uncles' consent. To his defense, he'd never had any guests before. How was he supposed to know?
Well, none of the Dursley's seemed to care about that tidbit. So here the young Potter heir was, lying down on his least favorite bed, in his least favorite room, in all of Privet Drive. He sighed. It was taking all his effort not to goo up the place. But making a mess was, unfortunately, also unacceptable. At first, he was extremely upset and bored. until he found something else relatively new in his room. It was hidden beneath a few unopened books, having probably rolled under the unused bookshelf. He found himself a laser pointer. He had spent an embarrassing amount of time playing with the little red light, his eyes watching carefully as he pointed it all over his room. He had taken to keeping the small toy in his pocket.
He turned his head to his window and smiled. His Uncle had also granted him a few new improvements to his room to make his incarceration a bit more tolerable (not that his Uncle saw it that way). His window now had the added beauty of shiny metal bars that sparkled when the sun hit them right. Harry spent hours staring at them when they were first installed, using the laser pointer on them when the sunlight just wasn't enough. Locks were also placed on the other side of his door. His Uncle would come up to them and test them out one by one to make sure that they were in proper working order. Harry would rush to the door when he heard his Uncle's heavy footsteps approaching. He loved listening to the odd clicks, clangs, and bangs that the individual locks would make. And best of all, he had a cat flap. A cat flap! His Aunt would use it to slide in food three times a day. It was amazing. No more doing the dishes or slaving away at the stove. It was an automatic food delivery system. It was almost like a vacation. And in his mind, he imagined that it was not his Aunt pushing in the food, but an adorable cat in a tuxedo. Harry even meowed a few times at the flap as his food slipped in. He would always let out a laugh when he heard his Aunt scamper off at the sound.
And sure, his days locked in that relatively new room of his were incontestable… at least in his family's eyes. But his nights? Well. Those were his alone. He would phase through the locked door and roam around the dark house. He even went for a walk to the park once. And he was planning on doing so again that night. He strained his ears to catch the sounds his family made before going to bed. He heard heavy footsteps, flushing toilets, and running faucets, and, finally, slamming doors. These were his cues that it was now safe to wander.
Grinning, he jumped up and headed to his door. He phased through and made his way down the stairs and out of the house. He took in a huge breath of air and sighed. Ah, he missed the outdoors. He stretched out his limbs as he walked towards the park.
He loved that park. That was where he discovered that he could break rules and society's notions of what was impossible. Some of his favorite early memories were made during his days at this park. But now that he was a bit older, he realized that he loved the park at night. There were virtually no other visitors, save the occasional person passing through. But tonight, he was the sole visitor of Privet Drive Park.
Despite his past visits, there was still one thing he had not been able to do at the park. And it was his wish that he would finally get to do so that night. He was finally going to sit on the swings, go as high as he could, and jump off of it. He had always wanted to do so, ever since he was smaller. But Dudley, seeing his interest, had always made sure to occupy the swing sets with his friends. Harry had no choice but to watch from afar as Dudley stood around it (Dudley actually couldn't fit on the swings anymore. His bacon-crusted-bottom couldn't fit on the wooden plank). But tonight, Harry would finally please a childhood desire and play on the damn swings.
He stood in front of the swing set and took a good look at the parts. Hm. It looked stable enough. The seat looked sturdy. So did the chain, just having a small amount of rust. Deeming the set good enough, he smiled a bit and sat down. Hm. He experimented a bit by pushing and pulling himself back and forth with his feet still on the ground. Slowly he started to use a bit more force. He grinned when he finally lifted off enough that his feet would not touch the ground. This was exhilarating! Not as good as an owl, or even a broom, of course. But there was just something exhilarating about this experience… This was amazing. Now he knew why those children always used to hog the swings.
He made himself go higher, and higher. He was going so high that he was almost at leveling off with the steel rod to which the chain was attached to. He held tight, waited until he was at the highest point, and jumped off. For a second, he thought was going to crash and break at least a dozen of his bones. But as the ground drew nearer, he tucked in a bit and distributed his weight as he landed. He rolled into the grass as he did, laughing the whole time. Laying down on the damp grass he couldn't stop grinning. It was a beautiful night, why not star gaze a little? He raised his hand up and traced the sky. As if he was a painter working on his masterpiece. He traced his fingers over the moon, its glow so bright that he didn't even mind so much that it was shining the color he hated. His fingers flitted around as he dotted the sky with its stars, varying in sizes and connecting together like his cousins' childhood connect-the-dots books. There were some clouds that he waved his hand over, as if spreading the paint he put on his canvas. And he traced out the path of the car that-
He sat up, eye twitching as he realized what it was that he was actually seeing. He rubbed both of his eyes and looked up again. He was not hallucinating. And he watched, fascinated, as it flew over to Number Four.
Could he be so lucky that he would be getting two unexpected guests in the span of a summer?
Tilting his head, he immediately light-speed traveled to back to his room. He appeared in a shadowed corner, near the little chair that Dobby used as a personal whacking device.
"Psst," a familiar voice came from the car. "Potter! Psst!"
"D'you reckon he's asleep?" another familiar voice asked.
"'Dunno. Should we throw a pebble or something?"
Harry grinned, identifying the voices. He stepped towards the window. "Were you just flying by the neighborhood then? Thought you'd just swing by?"
The two red-haired fiends stopped bickering and looked at Harry in shock.
"Mate. We got worried, see, you didn't answer our letters for ages!"
"Errol kept coming back with them unopened!"
"Dad said he asked about it, and you should have been getting our letters."
"Thought we'd do a little recon and see if you were alright."
Harry's smile widened. "Of course I am. Never got any letters though."
The twins shared a look, an unreadable expression passing between them. They both glanced at the bars, thinking that it may be the cause. "Mate, we don't want to intrude on your business..."
"But why are there bars on your window?" Neither of them mentioned the most alarming thing they noticed. There was no sign of any bars on any of the other windows on the house.
Harry gave them a puzzled look. "What's wrong with it? I think it gives my new room character. It's loads better than it was before."
The twins shared another look. "What was it like before then?"
He thought back to his beloved cupboard, he smiled a bit, before he remembered that he could no longer return to it. He frowned then sighed heavily. He smiled wistfully (which made him look sadder than a kicked puppy). "I used to live in the cupboard under the stairs."
As the Potter heir was reminiscing, he missed the looks of alarm that passed on the twins faces. They glanced at each other again before nodding.
"We've come to take you home with us."
This startled Harry out of his internal cupboard-themed montage. "What?"
"Yeah, tie that around the bars," said Fred, throwing the end of a rope to Harry.
Harry stared at the rope, then at the twins. "If my relatives wake up, I'm dead."
"Don't worry," George smiled at him, "Trust us."
Harry nodded before tying the rope tightly around the middle bar. Fred revved up the engine and Harry realized what the twins were planning. He panicked. "Hold on, I like the ba-"
He didn't get to finish his sentence because, with a crunching noise, the bars were pulled clean out of the window. Fred had driven straight up in the air. Harry's jaw dropped as he saw his bars dangling a few feet above the ground. George hoisted them up into the car and the twins high-fived. Fred reversed the car to be as close as possible to Harry's window.
"Get in!" They said together.
Harry was too shocked to do anything but comply. Before he got too comfortable, George turned to him and asked, "Hang on, have you've got your wand, and books, and stuff?"
He slapped his forehead. "Right."
Harry climbed back into his room and grabbed his things from the loose floorboards. He started placing them in his trunk that he casually enlarged with a thought. It was a good thing, then, that his room was so dark that neither of the twins saw him do so.
Climbing back onto the car, he glanced at the bars on the seat next to him. "Say… can we put the bars back?"
The twins glanced at each other again, "Err... Why would we want to do that?" Fred asked.
Harry quickly made an excuse, no way was he going to admit that he stared at shiny objects in his spare time. "That way, it'll make my Uncle go crazy not knowing how I got out. I'd be like Houdini! And he wouldn't be able to say that coz he doesn't like to admit that magic is real. He'd be hemming and hawing and not being able to actually say anything."
Both twins guffawed before helping him straighten out the bars and putting them back on.
"Blimey! This is harder than I thought it would be." George puffed out.
"Almost done," Fred mumbled, trying to jam one of the corners in. He underestimated his strength. The corner pressed in before, making a little crunch noise. This was their only warning before the whole thing fell to the ground with a thunderous clang.
"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL WAS THAT?"
The three shared a glance, transfixed, as his door flew open. They all stared at his Uncle. His Uncle's face went through a myriad of colors once more, before bellowing, "Petunia! He's getting away!"
Harry shrugged before saluting his Uncle. "See you next summer!"
"Step on it!" George shouted at Fred as he put his seatbelt on.
Fred wasted no time in putting as much distance between them and Number Four as he could. All three could still hear his Uncle bellowing below them. Harry suddenly wondered if it was socially acceptable for him to leave without his relatives' approval. Then again, he'd done it before... There was a precedent. So he let himself relax and laughed with the twins. The two started debating their top five favorite colors on his Uncle's face.
"So where'd you even get a flying car?" He asked them, patting the seats next to him.
"It's our Dad's, enchanted it himself. He's mad about muggles." George smiled.
Fred, who Harry newly discovered knew how to drive, added, "He likes buying muggle things, taking them apart, and putting them back together. Puts spells between the parts as he pleases."
"Which is ironic, since he's the works at the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office."
The twins went on and started describing the rest of their family. Harry was fascinated. They went on about their Mum, who was apparently quite a frightening woman. They clearly idolized their older brothers Bill and Charlie, both out of Hogwarts. Harry had already met Charlie during that loud dragon drop-off. He still winced when he remembered how Hagrid had been that night. Their third elder brother, Percy, was apparently a prat. Though, Harry had a feeling that the twins nonetheless looked up to him too. They complained about Ron, both clearly fond of their younger brother despite what they were saying. When it came to their only sister, both twins just shared a look before being more or less being quiet about her. In the back of the Potter heirs mind, he remembered the young special girl at the station last year and his mouth formed an 'o'. He made a mental note of being extra nice to her when they met. Unbeknownst to him, the twins were holding back laughter since they couldn't wait for their baby sister to meet her long-time crush.
"We'll be there in a bit," Fred called out.
"Just as well," George shrugged. "It's getting a bit light."
The car started to fly lower and Harry observed the dark patchwork of fields and clumps of trees below them. Pretty soon, the car touched the ground and came to a rolling stop next to a strangely designed house.
Harry took in his first look of the Weasley home, and he grinned. It looked like it was originally a large stone pigpen, but it jutted out at least several stories above ground. It was a house that defied the law of gravity and physics, leaning every which way per layer. It looked like organized chaos decided to make a house and stopped half-way. Harry was in love.
"This is brilliant."
Both twins grinned at him and helped take his trunk to the front door.
"If we're lucky, we can sneak in, then up to our room. We can tell Mum-"
"You can tell Mum WHAT exactly? Maybe where you happened to be last night? Or how about why the car was gone? I have been losing my mind with worry! Beds empty! Car gone! No note! Ooh, your Father will hear about this! Never, none of my other boys ever did anything like this. You could have died! And your Father, Merlin, you wait until your Father gets home."
"Err… Hello." Harry said awkwardly, stepping out from behind the twins. He had to wonder if Fred and George's actions were unacceptable behavior. Going by how Mrs. Weasley was reacting, he guessed probably not. Fred and George were wincing as they experienced the full brunt of her displeasure.
And just like a tap, that displeasure disappeared when she turned to him. "Very pleased to see you, Harry, dear. We were quite worried when your letters kept coming back. Come in and have some breakfast."
Well, maybe it was acceptable behavior... if done by adults. Maybe Fred didn't have a license? Either way, he made a mental note to look into it a bit more.
She turned and walked back into the house. Harry turned to look at the twins, they just shrugged.
"She's mad too."
He just smiled at them, "I'll say it again: this is brilliant."
Their kitchen was a lot smaller than the Dursleys', and it was a lot more disorganized. But Harry knew which one he preferred. The Weasley kitchen was alive. Pots and pans were cleaning themselves, a kettle was pouring hot water into several cups with tea bags, dishes were drying themselves with some levitating cloth, and eggs were cracking themselves over a large bowl. There was a clock on the wall opposite him which only had one hand and no numbers. Instead, presumably, the Weasley Matriarch's schedule was imbued where the numbers ought to be. Things like Time to Make Tea, Time to Feed the Chickens, and You're late. In seemingly random spots of the walls were bookshelves. They were stacked with books like Charm Your Own Cheese, Enchantment in Baking, One Minute Feasts – It's Magic!, and Give Me Another Loaf – Real Bread Talk! Mrs. Weasley also seemed to surprisingly enjoy some sort of heavy rock music, judging from the guitar riffs playing softly from an old radio. According to the disc jockey, it was the Galloping Gargoyles best hits from the 60s. There were a wooden table and chairs in the middle of the kitchen. Harry was pulled down between the twins.
Mrs. Weasley threw dirty looks at the twins as she went about cooking breakfast. She dropped sausages into a frying pan and magicked the eggs into another. She kept mumbling under her breath, not so quietly, things like "don't know what you were thinking of," and "completely irresponsible", and "never would have believed it."
She banged the dishes piled with eggs, sausages, and bacon in front of the Twins, throwing them dirty looks. She then gently placed a plate of bread in front of Harry.
"I don't blame you, dear," she smiled. "Arthur and I have been worried about you, too. Just last night we were talking about coming over and checking on you ourselves if you hadn't replied to their letters by Friday. But really" (She placed two large spoonfuls of eggs on his plate) "flying an illegal car halfway across the country – anyone could have seen you-"
As she turned away, both brothers began to pile sausages and bacon onto Harry's plate.
"It was cloudy, Mum!" said Fred, as he ate a bit of his own bacon.
"You keep your mouth closed while you're eating!" She snapped.
"There were bars on his windows!" added George.
"And you!" said Mrs. Weasley.
"Oi. What's goin' on here?" a voice mumbled from the stairs. Ron Weasley stood in a rumpled shirt and pajama bottoms at the foot of the stairs. "Oh. 'Ello Harry. G'morning."
Harry greeted the boy in kind. Just as he was about to ask Ron how his summer had been, a small squeal was heard then loud footsteps, and finally, a door banging.
Ron looked up the stairs and sighed. "That was Ginny."
"I'm sure she'll make your acquaintance later on." Smirked George.
Both twins starting shaking, though Harry didn't know why. He sniffed his bacon before shrugging and eating it anyway. Everything was delicious. The party became quiet, only the sounds of scraping cutlery and chewing filled the air until Harry felt like his stomach was full to bursting.
'Now this', Harry thought, 'was how one properly treated guests!'
Fred yawned loudly, "Blimey. I think a nice warm bed is-"
"Out of the question!" Mrs. Weasley snapped. "It's your own fault why you've been up all night. You will de-gnome the garden for me."
Fred sat up. "But Mum-"
"No buts!" She turned to George. "You will help your brother!"
George groaned but did not protest.
She turned to Ron and Harry. "We can set up a bed for you in Ron's room, dear. Merlin knows what's going on in the Twins'. You can head up to bed in a jiffy. Just give me a minute to conjure up the bed for you."
"I'll help Fred and George. I'm not tired at all." Harry smiled.
"That's very sweet of you, dear, but it's dull work," said Mrs. Weasley. "Now. Let's see what Lockhart's got to say on the subject-"
George groaned as Mrs. Weasley got a very large tome from the stack on the mantelpiece. "Mum, we know how to de-gnome a garden."
Harry looked at the cover of the large tome. At the very top of the cover, in gold glittering letters, were the words Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Household Pests. The rest of the cover was a huge photograph of a good-looking wizard with hair as shiny as the lettering, and bright blue eyes. The photograph was moving as the man, presumably, Gilderoy Lockhart himself smiled at them all. Mrs. Weasley beamed down at him.
"He is marvelous," she said. "He knows is household pests, all right, it's a wonderful book…"
"Mum fancies him," said Fred, in an overly exaggerated stage whisper.
"Don't be ridiculous, Fred-" Mrs. Weasley began but Harry cut her off.
"May I borrow the book, Mrs. Weasley? I've never read it and I don't know much about Wizarding pests."
She looked taken aback. After a heartbeat, Mrs. Weasley smiled at Harry. "Of course, dear. Maybe you can teach a thing or two of his tips to the twins while they're de-gnoming."
She placed the book in Harry's hands. He almost dropped it with how heavy it actually was.
The twins trudged off with Harry and Ron following them. Ron was not interested in de-gnoming the garden but had nothing better to do. So he decided to watch.
Harry sat down by one of the walls and propped the book on his lap. He searched for the right page and started to read the entry on gnomes.
'A Gnome, or Garden Gnome, is a magical creature whose correct taxonomical name is Gernumbli gardensi. They are locally found throughout Europe and North America. An adult Gnome can reach the size of approximately one foot. Typically brown in color, they have disproportionately large heads. Although classified as XX by the Ministry of Magic, meaning that these creatures are harmless and can be domesticated, they have razor sharp teeth and tend to bite. Their feet are also hard and bony, making them very good burrowers.
Gnomes typically live in burrows underground, known as gnomeholes, where they depend on the roots of plants as sustenance. Although, they reportedly also enjoy worms and Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans. Coincidentally, the Authors favorite flavor of Bertie Bott's is chocolate. Then again, who doesn't love chocolate? Although themselves brown in color, after extensive research, the Author discovered that the Gnomes do not like chocolate flavored beans. Instead, they seem to prefer beans in bright red colors such as the liver flavored ones, a flavor which the Author does not like. Though their preference may be due to the color, and not the actual flavor of the bean.
The proper procedure for Gnome-control is to have a large box, a stick, a piece of string, and plenty of worms and beans. One must take a lot of worms and beans, and place them in an area that the Gnomes may sniff out. Place the box on top of the bait, making sure to place the stick on one edge of the box to prop it up. Tie one end of the string around the stick. The smell of the bait will lure the Gnomes out of their Gnomeholes. Once the Gnome is under the box and eating the bait, pull the string attached to stick. The box will fall and you have caught the Gnome. The Author wishes you the best of luck, and accept your deepest gratitude in discovering a new way to get rid of Gnomes without touching them.'
Harry glanced at Ron, who was happily munching on a pack of Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beans. Then he turned to the twins who were shuffling towards a bush.
"That's a Gnome," mumbled Ron as he spat out a green bean.
"Gerroff me! Gerroff me!" squealed the Gnome.
It looked like a large leathery potato with small arms and legs. George grabbed it by the ankles and started to spin around and around. When the velocity of the spin was at its peak, George let go and they watched as the gnome flew thirty feet into the air and landed in the field over the hedge.
"Don't worry. It doesn't hurt them." Ron told Harry. "You just have to make them really dizzy so they can't find their way back to the gnomeholes."
"Pitiful." Fred mocked his twin. "I bet I can get mine beyond that stump."
The twins started the de-gnoming in earnest. They were teasing and mocking each other as they competed for who could throw the gnomes the farthest. Harry glanced at the pile of discarded green beans by Ron.
"Can I have that?" He asked.
Ron looked mildly disgusted. "Uhhh… Sure?"
Harry looked around and saw a box and shovel by the shed. He took both and started to set up his trap as the book said. He got a string and stick from inside the shed, and propped up the box over the discarded beans. He shooed Ron away from his trap and the two hid in a bush.
"What are you doing?" Ron asked Harry as he chewed on a cherry flavored bean.
Three Gnomes popped out of the ground and started running towards the beans. When they were all under the box, Harry pulled the string.
Harry rushed to the box and sat on top of it.
Ron followed after him at a more sedate pace. "Err.. what now?"
Harry glanced at the book again but the Author now kept going on about how thankful the reader should be. And conveniently, the Author had also listed his favorite surprise gifts to receive. He frowned and put his hand in his pocket. He felt something thin and cylindrical. Pulling it out, he smiled.
When Harry looked up, he saw a bunch of gnomes poking their heads out of their gnomeholes.
"They're not too bright," Ron smirked. "The moment they know the de-gnoming's going on, they storm up to have a look. You'd think they'd have learned by now to just stay put."
Harry's smile widened, an idea forming in his mind. He pressed the little button on the side of his toy and pointed it to an area near one of the gnomes. Once the light was in the gnomes line of sight, it turned to it, transfixed. Harry got off the box.
"Ron, when I tell you to, get off the box and pull it aside."
Ron looked at him as if he was mental.
"Just trust me."
Ron nodded to him.
Harry moved the light towards the box, and the gnome watching followed it.
"Now!" Ron jumped off and pulled the box aside, exposing the three gnomes once again.
The light stopped between all three. They looked down, their pupils large. Harry started to move the light again.
"What in Merlin's-"
Harry paid no mind to Ron. He did not notice that the twins had stopped throwing the gnomes, especially since the ones they were going to had now joined Harry's little herd. The three Weasley boys all came together to the once upturned box, turned it upside down again, and sat on it. Their jaws were dropped as Harry led a merry band of thirty-or-so garden gnomes around their backyard. Harry slowly started to climb a low-lying branch of a tree, and when he had enough of a vantage point, started to twirl the light around and around. The garden gnomes started to follow, hitting each other and falling down as they struggled to follow the light. It was like watching a hive of drunk and confused bees try to communicate with each other in their discombobulated state.
"Hey, George!" He called.
Fred and George looked up from their own hypnotized gaze at the gnomes.
"Is there a gate or something I can lead them to?"
The twins stood pointed him towards a small gate that Harry hadn't noticed before. Harry made the light go through a convoluted path towards the gate, twirling the gnomes the whole time. Finally, as the gnomes reached the stump on the hill outside the property, Harry clicked his laser pointer off. The gnomes immediately snapped out of their state. The dance they performed took its toll and they all flopped to the ground. Some tried to stand but were too dizzy to keep upright for more than a second. The Weasley boys turned to Harry, their jaws still dropped.
Harry blinked. "What? I just followed the book."
They all turned to the forgotten book by the box. The picture of Gilderoy Lockhart winked at them.
"I guess we were wrong…" George whispered. "Gilderoy Lockhart knows his stuff."
Fred groaned. "Don't tell Mum."
Harry had to wonder if, in the Wizarding World, it was socially acceptable, or even expected, that children actively attempt to prove their parents wrong. As he watched the three brothers agree not to tell their Mother about what they discovered, Harry had to concede. Perhaps he should take his wizarding social cues from the twins. After all, in the wizarding world, when had they ever steered him wrong?