Chapter 16 - Up, Down, Left, or Right
Harry had never seen so many children in his life. Well, that was not entirely true. After all, Hogwarts housed far more children than the Weasley's. Hogwarts was, however, also vastly larger than the current house he was in. The Weasley household was one that many would call 'homey'. Harry, however, would call it 'a living embodiment of snakes in a can'. There were just. so. many. redheads. It was like he'd open another door and out popped another red head, in his face, and smiling. He was not ashamed to admit he had screamed at one of them more than once. No one commented on the fact that his screaming 'incidents' mostly involved one Percy Weasley. If Percy went to St. Mungos for a hearing exam, no one commented on that either.
Don't get him wrong though, Harry honestly loved the Burrow. Everything here was alive. Sometimes, scarily so. He once walked in on a brush scrubbing the toilet. It had stopped when he entered and he felt as if it were staring at him... Like he caught it indulging in some illicit act or kink. Harry quickly muttered apologies and closed the door behind him. After having a few meals at the burrow, he felt like he had gained at least a stone. Though maybe not so much from eating large quantities but from the sheer amount of butter and lard Mrs. Weasley used in her cooking. Then again, who didn't like butter? It was delicious and filling and he hoped that the Wizarding World had more advanced medical care than that of Muggles. He also hoped the Weasleys had medical insurance all readied up for their eventual heart problems.
Speaking of hearts, he stared at the card with little hearts drawn over it on the bedside table in Ron's room. Apparently, the twins room was already quite full and always quite dirty to Mrs. Weasley insisted he share a room with Ron instead. Mrs. Weasley was kind enough to conjure him up a comfortable cot and a table where he could put his glasses at night. The cot was smaller than the one in his new room at Privet Drive so he was immensely grateful. The male redheads all sniggered when he mentioned seeing the card placed on his bed after spending the day running around with the twins. It smelled flowery. And was covered in glitter. And Harry had a sneaking suspicion that either Fred or George had made it to prank him, writing their sisters name to throw him off their scent. But he was more clever than that. Oh no. They'd get their comeuppance once Hogwarts had started again (why would he pull a prank in a place where it was obvious that he would be the only one who'd actually prank the twins back).
True to his word, he always took care to be especially kind to their special sister. Which was easy since she'd never stay in the same room as him for long. It got to the point where he asked the twins if he had unknowingly started a game of tag with her and had forgotten he was 'it'. They guffawed and encouraged him to try to tag Ginny as soon as he got the opportunity. He hadn't achieved much in that regard though, not quite sure how to go about it without upsetting the special girl.
Mr. Weasley was a riot. He'd often ask Harry the purposes and functions of random objects. Harry had great fun either stretching the truth or making something up entirely. He couldn't wait for the elder Weasley to throw a rubber duck at a fountain and expect it to turn into a real duck. Sometimes Harry would also play chess with Ron. He and the youngest Weasley didn't really have much in common. They would just play wizarding games or the boy would tag along when Harry ran around with the twins. Overall, Harry thought he was a nice enough chap and endeavored he keep the close relations once they were back in Hogwarts.
"Harry, Mum's calling us downstairs. Hogwarts letters just arrived." Ron told him and the two made their way to the kitchen.
"Letters from school," Mr. Weasley said in lieu of a greeting, passing them envelopes of yellowish parchment. "Dumbledore knows you're here, Harry. Doesn't miss a trick that man."
"That's a bit creepy." Harry muttered, accepting the envelope and sitting by the twins who were already reading through theirs.
Fred chuckled when he heard Harry and glanced at Harry's list. "You've been told to get all Lockhart's books too! The new Defense Teacher must be a fan."
"That lot won't come cheap. Lockhart's books are really expensive. Even though he seems to know his stuff." George muttered the last part very quietly so only Fred, Harry, and Ron heard him.
"What did you say?" his mother asked, curious.
"Nothin'!" George said smiling widely at her.
"Hmph... Don't worry about those books. We'll manage." She still looked worried though. "I expect we'll be able to pick up a lot of Ginny's things secondhand."
Harry smiled up at the family. "Don't worry about that. She can have my first year books. I never really used them at school."
Mrs. Weasley looked scandalised, "what do you mean never-"
"Can I really?" the youngest Weasley suddenly spoke to him for the first time.
"Sure," Harry shrugged. "Don't have much use for them anymore. Besides, I think I bought several copies of the books accidentally." (He already had copies of all his books. He went a little overboard breaking the 'books cannot be magically copied' rule.)
"That's very kind of you, Harry." Mr. Weasley sounded relieved.
Mrs. Weasleys tutted at her husband, but nonetheless smiled warmly at Harry. "Thank you, dear."
"Think nothing of it." he shrugged before wrestling the last bacon away from Ron to create his signature sandwich. He almost choked when suddenly Percy walked in, fully dressed and wearing his Hogwarts Prefect Badge on his sweater vest. "Good morning all. Lovely day."
Harry pounded his chest and drank some water offered to him by Fred to stop choking. He hoped no one heard the tiny scream he emitted when yet another red head appeared before he was mentally ready.
"You want me to do what?" Harry stared at Mrs. Weasley like she had two heads.
"Just grab a bit of floo, throw it into the fire, step into the fire, and then shout out your destination." she repeated.
Harry continued to stare at her, bug-eyed.
"He'll be alright Mum," Fred laughed, "Here. Watch me."
And just like that, Fred did the steps as described as his mother and was gone in a flash of green flame.
One at a time, the Weasleys started disappearing in flashes of green flame like it was nobody's business, at least until only he and the elder Weasleys were left behind.
"Your turn, Harry dear" Mrs. Weasley coaxed, holding out the flower pot with what looked like human ashes inside of it.
He grabbed a pinch and threw it at the fire. It turned emerald and he stepped into it, curious. The fire didn't burn at all. It wasn't even hot. Huh. He inhaled deeply to see if it also smelled different and a bunch of ash flew right into his mouth and he started coughing.
"Quick! Shout your destination!" Mr. Weasley warned.
"Di-Dia-gon Ally!" Harry coughed.
Have you ever wondered what it felt like to be a spinning top? Harry hadn't. But he sure was finding out now. He didn't know which way was up, down, left, or right. He had the distinct feeling his limbs were out of place as well. Something hard hit his left (right?) elbow and he tried to make himself as small as possible. He kept seeing flashes of random sitting rooms and was that a dog? His oatmeal-bacon-toasty seemed to want to be released out into the world as well. He was about to give it what it wanted when he felt the world stop and he got spit out of a fireplace.
His face on the floor, his glasses flown off, and his limbs felt like he forgot to put on his seat belt. He sat up, grabbed his glasses from near his foot (and how had it gotten there), and smiled wildly.
He took a look around where he was currently and decided he was definitely not in that sunny happy Diagon Ally that he remembered from last year. This was dark. Like a haunted house complete with random taxidermy human hands and the-like thrown in here and there. There was a bloodstained pack of cards, evil-looking masks, a rusty and bent nail, and spiked medieval instruments hung from the ceiling.
Harry's eyes grew wide. "Wicked..."
Spotting something shiny in the corner of his eye, he quickly reached out and grabbed it. Instantly, alarms started going off and an old man started shouting at the top of his lungs. Harry panicked and light-speed traveled himself, and the golden ring he picked up, out of the store and directly to Diagon Ally.
"Harry! There you are!" Mr. Weasley sounded relieved.
The next thing Harry knew he was being brushed all over by Mrs. Weasley, soot flying everywhere. "You could have been anywhere! How did you get to the Apparition point? Did someone side-along you? Oh that was lucky."
Harry could only nod as she inspected him to determine if she got all the soot off and if all his limbs were in tact.
"Well then, time to head to Gringotts," Mr. Weasley declared once Mrs. Weasley was satisfied.
The group walked towards the big white building at the end of the ally, the twins whispering questions about Knockturn to Harry the whole way.
"Did you see any wenches?" George whispered quickly, glancing at his Mother.
Harry shook his head as they climbed the steps of Gringotts.
"How about any severed limbs?" Fred followed, also speaking low.
Harry nodded as they were bowed into the bank by a goblin at the door.
"Wicked." The two said together, eyes wide.
"What are you boys on about?" Mrs. Weasley asked, her eyes narrowing.
The twins quickly put on their most innocent faces and turned to their Mother as one, "Nothin'!"
"You kids wait here while Harry and I line up." Mr. Weasley smiled at them all and ushered Harry to the teller with the shortest line.
"You alright there, Harry? I know that Knockturn can be a bit overwhelming the first time around. Even for me." Mr. Weasley said as they took their place in line.
"T'was alright," Harry shrugged, "I was only there for a minute."
Mr. Weasley laughed, "that's true. It was a stroke of good fortune you were found by a good samaritan. Was even nice enough to apparate you straight to Diagon instead of walking you out. Though, you probably shouldn't allow yourself to be apparated to a unknown location by someone you don't know in the future."
Harry shrugged non-committedly. He was starting to get distracted by the light being reflected off the gold and gems that the other tellers were examining.
"By the way, Dumbledore owl'd us your bank key so you don't have to worry about converting any muggle money your Aunt gave you."
Harry whipped his head and looked at Mr. Weasley. The man was still smiling genially.
"It was kind of her to pay for your first year things." Mr. Weasley said as he glanced at the goblin ushering for them to move forward.
Harry blinked. "Yes... very... kind..."
"Key?" The goblin asked, a bored expression on his face.
Mr. Weasley handed a copper key from his left pocket to the Goblin, before pulling out a golden one from his other pocket. "This is for the Weasley vault, and this one is for Mr. Potter's vault. He is staying with my family for the summer."
The goblin stared at Harry for a few seconds before sneering. "Griphook!"
No one told Harry that Wizards had their own versions of roller coasters. He had never personally been on one, the Dursleys being as they were, but as he was zipping up, down, left, and right, he could emphatically admit that he loved roller coasters. They practically flew through enumerable twisting passages. Once, he even thought he saw a burst of fire at the end of a passage and twisted around to see what it could be, but was already too late.
"Woohoo!" He shouted, throwing his hands up in the air. The twins followed his example and the three could hear the echoes of their shouts all around them as they zipped.
The cart suddenly went full stop and Harry felt the air knocked out of him. He even heard Fred and George start roughhousing as George's head had apparently hit Fred's with the sudden halt.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley got up from the cart and started going towards the vault with Griphook. The rest of the group got up to the platform and started to stretch their legs.
"This is great!" Harry smiled as the twins began play-wrestling on the platform floor.
Harry glanced at the elder Weasley's as Griphook opened the vault to reveal a small pile of silver sickles and a single gold galleon. Mrs. Weasley swept the whole lot into her bag and walked right back out. As the elder Weasley's rejoined the group, their faces blank but Mrs. Weasley kept throwing worried looks at Mr. Weasley. The group piled back into the cart. Harry was delighted as the trip was almost as long as the trip to the Weasley vault. Though he did not notice all of the Weasley's looking a lot more somber than they did when they first approached their vault. He also noticed passing an underground lake where huge stalactites and stalagmites grew from the ceiling and floor.
The cart stopped at a small door in the passage wall, once again doing so suddenly. The group got out, the elder Weasley's pushing Harry towards the door. Griphook walked ahead of him as the Weasley's fell back behind him. Griphook took his vault key from Mr. Weasley and used it to unlock the door. Green smoke billowed out and as it cleared Harry gaped.
Inside of his vault were mounds of gold, columns of silver, and heaps of tiny bronze coins. His brain short-circuited for a second. This was his. Mr. Weasley gently pushed Harry into the vault and handed him a leather bag to place his money into. Harry grabbed handfuls of each coin before walking back out with a grin on his face.
Back outside on the marble steps, they all separated. Percy muttered vaguely about needing a new quill. Fred and George had spotted their friend from Hogwarts, Lee Jordan. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were going to a secondhand robe shop. Mr. Weasley was suddenly invited to the Leaky Cauldron by a colleague they had bumped into at the bank.
"We'll all meet at Flourish and Blotts in an hour to buy your schoolbooks," said Mrs. Weasley, setting off with Ginny. "And not one step down Knockturn Alley!" she shouted at the twins' retreating backs.
Harry turned to Ron to see that only the two of them were left. He glanced at the ice cream store nearby and grinned at Ron.
"Want some ice cream? My treat." he grinned.
Ron grinned back at him and the two boys started for the ice cream parlour. Ron ordered strawberry and peanut butter ice cream and Harry decided on dark chocolate and cherry. The two boys slurped at their ice creams as they wandered around Diagon Ally. Harry thought Ron was a decent chap before but not came to find that Ron was actually quite witty when given the chance. And the boy was Quidditch obssessed. Harry had to drag Ron away from the Quality Quidditch Supplies store as the boy tried to press his nose against the glass to get a closer look at the wares. Harry bought himself some ink and parchment. They met with the twins and Lee Jordan, who were stocking up on Dr. Filibuster's Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks, and in a tiny junk shop full of broken wands, lopsided brass scales, and old cloaks covered in potion stains they found Percy, deeply immersed in a small book called Prefects Who Gained Power. The group went around for a bit more before heading for Flourish and Blotts. They were by no means the only ones making their way to the bookshop. As they approached it, they saw a large crowd jostling outside the doors, trying to get in. There was a large banner stretched across the upper windows.
Harry read it and stared at the mass of women trying to enter the store.
"Err. Do you think your Mum picked this date to come here for a reason? And you know, asking us all to meet here at this particular time?"
The Weasley boys also stared at the crowd and blinked. "No doubt mate, no doubt."
Resigning themselves to their fate, the boys squeezed themselves into the shop. A long line wound right to the back of the shop, where Gilderoy Lockhart was signing his books, not that they could see the man. They grabbed copies of their books, except for Harry who had told them he already purchased The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 the previous year and only needed the Lockhart books. They finally saw Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in line with Ginny, Mrs. Weasley looking visibly excited and nervous.
"Oh there you are, good," she smiled shakily at them as she patted her hair down. She sounded breathless. "We'll be able to see him in a minute."
Fred glanced at Ginny and asked, "did you go straight here after the bank?"
Ginny rolled her eyes at their mothers back before nodding. Though she squeaked when she caught sight of Harry watching the exchange.
Harry was the first of the group to catch sight of the illustrious Gilderoy Lockhart. Not because he was looking out for the man, in fact he had been laughing and making jokes with Ron and the twins when it happened. But his eyes had been pulled the second he saw the man in his peripheral vision. Not because Gilderoy Lockhart had an Order of Merlin, third class. Nor was it because he was an Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League. Nor was it because he won Witch Weekly's most charming smile award five times in a row. Harry was transfixed on Lockhart because of one thing only.
Gilderoy Lockhart was shiny. The man wore forget-me-not blue robes that matched his eyes. But his hair and hat were pure gold. Harry's eye was trained on the man the second he caught sight of him.
A short, irritable-looking man was dancing around taking photographs with a large black camera that emitted puffs of purple smoke with every blinding flash.
"Out of the way, there," he snarled at Ron, moving back to get a better shot. "This is for the Daily Prophet-"
"Big deal," Ron scowled, rubbing his foot where the photographer stepped on it.
Gilderoy Lockhard heard him. He looked up. He saw Ron. Then he saw Harry. The two stared at each other for a heartbeat before Gilderoy leapt to his feet and positively shouted, "It can't be. Harry Potter?"
The crowd parted, whispering excitedly as Lockhart dived forward, seized his arm, and pulled him to the front. The crowd burst into applause and cameras all flashed all at once. Harry blinked, forgetting the gold right next to him as his eyes adjusted to the light changes.
"Nice big smile, Harry," Lockhart said through his gleaming teeth, "Together, you and I are worth the front page."
Harry grimaced instead. Lockhart seemed to have also been a Quidditch Captain at some point. The hand shake sure felt like it anyway. But Harry was ready. He had practiced.
"Ladies and-oww!" Lockhart promptly let go of Harry's hand. "Quite a grip you have there, young man." he said chuckling a bit and echoing Harry's grimace.
Harry smiled widely and tried to walk back to the Weasley's as Lockhart massaged his hand.
"As I was saying," Lockhart coughed as he stood up straighter and grabbed Harry by the shoulders, "What an extraordinary moment this is! The perfect moment for me to make a little announcement I've been sitting on for some time! When young Harry-"
He tried to pull away again and moved back towards Ron. Thankfully the redhead noticed and moved forward as well.
Lockhart glanced at Ron and smiled wider, "-and his friends here stepped into Flourish and Blotts today, they only wanted to buy my autobiography - which I shall be happy to present them now, free of charge - " The crowd applauded and Mrs. Weasley let out a impressively audible gasp, "They had no idea that they would shortly be getting much, much ,ore than my book, Magical Me. They, along with their schoolmates will, in fact, be getting the real magical me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have great pleaseure and pride in announcing that this September, I will be taking up the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!"
The crowd cheered and the book shop attendants pulled the entire Weasley group to the front with Harry and Lockhart. Mrs. Weasley looked faint as all the children were presented with the entire works of Gilderoy Lockhart. Staggering under the weight, Mr. Weasley was kind enough to take Ginny's books for her, the males all grimaced while they were blinded by camera flashes. The group managed to exit the shop, arms laden with the pristine books but they themselves looking a bit worse for wear.
"Are you all alright?" Mr. Weasley asked as he took his wand out and shrunk all the books, placing them in a bag he had from the store.
"Where's Mum?" Ginny asked, looking around.
Mr. Weasley looked panicked for a moment before Mrs. Weasley appeared, walking out of the shop with a book clutched to her chest, her face red.
Mr. Weasley just grinned indulgently, "you got your copy signed, dear?"
Mrs. Weasley merely nodded and grinned back at her husband.
Harry was distracted as someone bumped into him and his own books, which Mr. Weasley hadn't gotten to yet, fell to the ground.
"Draco. That is not proper decorum. Apologise to the young man." A cold voice spoke from above him.
A tall man with blonde hair was looking down at someone a bit behind Harry. He glanced at Harry's face, lingering a bit at his scar, before lifting his wand and setting the books right on a pile and levitating it mid-air.
"Hey Draco," Harry greeted cordially. Harry felt Ron bristle beside him.
Draco smirked a bit. "Sorry about that. Didn't see you there. Might have been all those flashes that went off as I left the shop."
Mr. Malfoy glanced at the Weasley's at Harry's side and his face remained blank. He looked at Mr. Weasley. "Arthur Weasley," he said as a greeting.
Mr. Weasley frowned, "Lucius."
"Come along, Draco. You can catch up with your... friend at Hogwarts." Mr. Malfoy took one last look at Harry before sweeping away, Draco following behind him. Harry's books flew to his arms as the two left.
"Blimey," Ron scowled as he glanced at the duo, "I still don't understand how you can be friends with the git."
Harry shrugged, "He isn't so bad at school." Somehow, he doubted that tell Ron to tell Draco he had heard of him before would help the red-head.
"Well, let's get on with the shopping then. Ginny hasn't even gotten her robes, cauldron, or wand yet." Mrs. Weasley smiled, utterly happy with her signed copy of Magical Me.
All the boys groaned.
"Maybe I should head home with the boys, Molly. They're all done with their shopping. You and Ginny can take your time getting her things." Mr. Weasley suggested.
The boys cheered.
"Are we going to floo again?" Harry asked Mr. Weasley as they waved at the two departing Weasley women.
"Of course," Mr. Weasley told him.
I know, I know. It's been a while. A LOT has happened. Will endeavor to post more regularly/sooner. My one promise is that I am never giving up on this story.