Ginny's Gift Chapter 01
The house at number 4 Privet Drive looked dark and silent from the street. This was as it should be as the hour approached midnight, and respectable people like the elder Dursleys were in bed asleep. Two residents of the house were still awake, however. It was the summer holiday, and so, as one would expect, the two teenaged boys who lived there, one seventeen and the other almost that age, had not yet retired for the night. Harry could hear Dudley moving about his bedroom. Harry's over-large cousin was most likely listening to music with his headphones, but Harry was still very careful to be as quiet as possible. He was busy packing his trunk, for the following day he would leave this house and never return. Of course, the Dursleys knew nothing of this plan, and he intended to keep them in the dark for as long as possible.
Harry dropped an armful of socks into his cauldron and looked over at the luminous numbers on the clock. It was 11:55. In exactly five minutes it would be his seventeenth birthday, and he would no longer be an underage wizard. In five minutes he would be allowed to do magic whenever he wanted. Then he'd be able to make short work of his packing. He sighed impatiently. Time would pass more quickly if he did something, rather than idly sit and wait. He knelt down by his bed and reached underneath it to pry up the loose floorboard and empty his secret stash of food, parchment and quills. He deposited all this in his trunk and looked at the clock again.
He began on the wardrobe, removing several pairs of oversized jeans and then paused a moment to look into the mirror. He didn't look tangibly different now that he was almost seventeen. Round glasses still partly hid his strikingly green eyes; his hair was as chronically untidy as ever; his scar was occasionally visible under his fringe; and he was as skinny as he'd ever been. In fact, he'd shot up quite a bit in the last year or so, which served to make him seem even skinnier. He was taller than both his Uncle Vernon and cousin Dudley now, which meant any hand-me-downs he got were too short and too wide. He'd never manage to catch up to his friend Ron in height, though.
In the mirror, he could now see 12:00 reflected backwards. He grinned and pulled out his wand. He was about to mutter an incantation which would send all his clothes flying into the open trunk at the foot of his bed, when a tapping at his window stopped him. His eyes flew to the window and from there to the wall separating his room from Dudley's. The ensuing silence told Harry that Dudley had not heard anything out of the ordinary. Harry opened the window to admit Hedwig, who had just returned from the Burrow, bearing an envelope so thick it must contain more than one letter. No sooner had she entered than another owl, one Harry did not recognise, followed swiftly on her heels. This one bore a parcel.
Harry relieved both owls of their burdens. The strange owl flew off immediately after drinking from the water tray in Hedwig's cage. Harry wondered about the parcel. He would be leaving for the Weasleys' in the morning and had reckoned he'd be getting his presents there. He hadn't expected anything tonight. However he recognised the writing as Sirius'. He tore at the wrapping and drew out a book entitled Dr. Zog's Practical Spells for Wizards. Harry frowned slightly. Why would Sirius get him a spell-book? At the end of the upcoming school year, he'd have finished his magical education. He ought to know everything he'd need to get on in the world by then.
He set the book aside on his chest of drawers for the moment and picked up the scrap of parchment which had fallen from the parcel. On it he read:
I'm sorry but I won't be able to come to your birthday party tomorrow at the Burrow. Dumbledore is sending me to the continent on a mission for the Order. I can't say anything further. I'm sending you your present. James, Remus and I found it very useful when we were younger. Enjoy your birthday. I know you're in safe hands with the Weasleys.
He felt a wave of disappointment at the thought of missing his godfather, but he knew that Sirius must have important business to miss his birthday.
Harry looked dubiously at the book once more. He picked it up from the chest of drawers, opened it and began to page randomly through it. At first glance it looked like an ordinary spell book, but then a word caught his eye, and he felt heat flood his face. He turned more pages, and realised a major portion of this book was devoted to contraceptive charms. Upon closer inspection, he saw that there was also practical advice on technique, silencing spells, spells for escaping jealous boyfriends… There were also sections of the book devoted to sobriety charms and hangover cures. Harry thought he might find that part useful, at least. Perhaps he'd find a good charm to cure headaches.
Harry was extremely grateful he had not received this particular gift in front of the Weasleys. The twins especially would never let him live it down. Upon reflection, he was also glad Sirius had not been able to give this present to him in person. He would have been very embarrassed to have to admit in front of his godfather that he had no pressing need at the moment for these sorts of spells. Ron, on the other hand… He wondered if he even dared show this to Ron. Ron and Hermione had been a couple since last year, but Harry didn't really like to speculate on what his two best friends got up to when he wasn't around.
He set the book down for the moment and turned to the letters he'd received from Hedwig. There were three in the envelope, the topmost from Ron.
Harry. Everything is ready here. We'll be coming to pick you up tomorrow morning at 10 sharp. Be ready. You'll get your present tomorrow. Happy birthday. Ron
The next parchment was written in Hermione's hand.
Dear Harry, Happy birthday. I arrived here a day early to help Mrs Weasley get ready for your party. See you tomorrow. Love from, Hermione
Harry suspected that the reason Hermione had come to the Burrow a day early had more to do with Ron than any party preparations.
He turned to the envelope once more. He thought it was oddly heavy for two short notes. It was actually the third letter that explained the weight. There seemed to be more than merely a third piece of parchment, but Harry disregarded this for a moment. He was much more intrigued about the author of the third note, for he thought he recognised Ginny's handwriting. He'd never received a letter from her before.
Dear Harry, I know you'll be coming over to stay tomorrow, but I wanted to give you your birthday present now. The reason for this is, it needs to be kept secret for it to work properly, and I reckoned there would be fewer questions this way. Don't show it to anyone, and don't wear it yet! It's supposed to have protective properties if everything is done right. Happy birthday, Ginny
Harry stared at the letter. He imagined the secrecy was mostly to stop her older brothers teasing her because she'd given him a birthday present. He paused for a moment and considered what this might mean. Ginny had never been anything more than his best friend's little sister in his eyes, and she'd certainly never given him a birthday present before. He knew she'd had a crush on him in the past, but he didn't think she could possibly still have it. No, this must be a gesture of friendship, and nothing more.
He put his hand into the envelope and pulled out a silver chain with a white gem stone hanging from it. He thought it was a rather odd gift for her to give him; it looked as if it might be a piece of her own jewellery. Was he supposed to wear it? Not yet, at any rate, but that would hardly go over well with the other boys in his dormitory… He put the stone in his hand and felt a strange thrumming coming from it. Whatever else it was, it definitely had some sort of magic in it. He looked back at Ginny's note. Protective properties, she'd said, but she didn't explain how to benefit from them. Well, he mused, he'd be seeing her tomorrow. He could ask her about it then.
An odd noise from Dudley's room broke through his reverie. Harry shuddered. Dudley was at it again; Seamus would say he was polishing his wand. Harry cast a Silencing charm in the direction of Dudley's room. He froze for a moment, half-expecting to receive a nasty memo from the Improper Use of Magic Office, but relaxed after a few minutes when no new owl came to his window. He was glad he could finally shut out the noise and not have to worry about being expelled from Hogwarts.
Harry concentrated on his packing in order to block out the nasty mental images of what was transpiring in the next room. He looked with disgust on Dudley's old clothes and wondered why he was bothering with them. He took them out of his trunk and left them in a heap on the floor. Tomorrow he was leaving, and he saw no point in taking a reminder of this place with him. He still had plenty of money in his Gringott's vault. All he'd have to do was exchange some of it into pounds and go shopping for some proper clothes.
He made short work of the rest of his packing with a wave of his wand and crawled into bed.
Harry woke up the next morning later than he'd meant to, and it was already 9 o'clock by the time he went downstairs to breakfast. He'd had to resign himself to putting on Dudley's hand-me-downs one final time; he could always burn them later. Dudley hadn't yet put in an appearance. Uncle Vernon was sitting at his place at the table, his nose buried in the morning paper. Harry had helped himself to some toast before Uncle Vernon set his paper aside and acknowledged his presence.
"About time you got up."
Harry didn't bother replying. He went on eating his toast. He reached for more, and Uncle Vernon put out a hand to stop him.
"That's enough for you. You've had your share. You'd eat us out of house and home if we let you."
Harry told himself it was best to ignore his uncle, although he dearly wanted to point out the irony of his uncle's statement. He'd be gone in less than an hour.
"Your aunt has some chores for you today, boy," Uncle Vernon continued. "You'd best get on with them."
Harry looked up at his uncle at this and fought to keep a straight face. Perhaps he could have some fun with this after all. "I don't think so."
"WHAT?!" Uncle Vernon's face had turned purple in record time. "Petunia, did you hear the tone he just took with me?"
Aunt Petunia turned from where she was frying up a pound of bacon for Dudley's breakfast. "He gets more ungrateful every day, he does. To think we've put a roof over his head and clothed him for all these years," she said huffily.
In the mean time Uncle Vernon's purple face was now less than an inch from Harry's. "Don't you ever dare to talk back to me that way again! Now get to work!"
Uncle Vernon opened and closed his mouth a few times in shock. Aunt Petunia screeched. From upstairs there came a heavy thud which shook the entire house and caused several items from Aunt Petunia's ceramic salt and pepper shaker collection to shatter onto the floor; Dudley had apparently been shocked awake by his mother's shriek and had fallen out of his bed in surprise. Heavy footfalls on the stairs announced his imminent arrival in the kitchen.
Uncle Vernon had grabbed Harry by the shoulder and was attempting to drag him to his feet. Harry voluntarily stood up, so that he could look down on his uncle. Vernon Dursley had had a bit of a shock when he'd picked Harry up at King's Cross at the end of last term and seen that Harry had grown taller than he was during the previous ten months. Harry could tell the older man was rather intimidated by Harry's new-found height, even if his uncle still outweighed him by a good two stone.
"You will show your gratitude for all we've provided for you by doing as we tell you," Uncle Vernon was saying in a strained voice, as he tried to pull Harry bodily from the kitchen. His way was quite thoroughly blocked by Dudley who now stood in the kitchen door.
"What's he done now?" Dudley asked.
"No need to worry your head, Duddikins," simpered Aunt Petunia.
"Yeah, you don't want to strain your brain," Harry couldn't resist adding. Uncle Vernon gave Harry's arm a nasty wrench, and Harry decided he'd had enough. He drew his wand.
Vernon and Dudley both blanched and shrunk back. Aunt Petunia let out another scream and nearly dropped the frying pan containing Dudley's bacon onto the floor. "You put that away, boy. I know you're not allowed to do any of that unnaturalness here. You'll be expelled from that, that school of yours." Uncle Vernon was trying to sound sure of himself, but he couldn't quite carry it off, shaking as he was.
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Have you forgotten what day it is?" he asked quietly. The Durselys apparently had forgotten, for none of them supplied an answer. "I'll remind you then. It's my seventeenth birthday. In my world, I'm no longer considered underage. In other words, I can do magic whenever I like and no one will bat an eye."
"I WILL NOT HAVE THAT IN THIS HOUSE" Uncle Vernon thundered, but he didn't manage to sound convincing for all his volume.
Harry merely shrugged. "You won't have to worry about it much longer," he informed them. "I'm leaving today. In less than an hour as a matter of fact."
Uncle Vernon was looking at him suspiciously, but before he could say anything, Aunt Petunia wailed, "But who's going to weed the garden and mow the lawn? And the windows are filthy!"
Harry cast a glance at the spotless windows and then looked pointedly at Dudley. "You could get him to do it, you know. Or you could hire someone. I don't much care one way or the other. Now if you'll excuse me…" Harry made to leave the kitchen, which was going to be a difficult prospect as Dudley was still blocking the way. Harry pointed his wand at his cousin. "You know," he said, acting as if he were seriously considering the matter, "I bet a good shrinking spell would do wonders for you. I could probably melt enough fat off you that you'd actually find a school uniform that fit. Might even find yourself a girlfriend." Dudley flushed bright red at this, and Harry knew his point had been taken. "Now if I could just think of the right one to use…"
Dudley quickly moved out of his way, leaving him to face Uncle Vernon. "Wait just one second there, you. Just how are you planning on leaving?"
Harry grinned innocently. "The Weasleys are coming to pick me up. You remember the Weasleys, don't you?"
The look on Uncle Vernon's face told him that the Weasleys most certainly were remembered and not fondly. "No. Absolutely not. I will not have that family destroy my house again."
"Mr Weasley cleaned up the mess last time, didn't he?"
"Well, yes, but… but that's not the point. I won't have… wizards—" he almost choked on the word "—popping in and out of my fireplace and fondling my plugs."
Harry had to fight very hard not to laugh at his uncle's last declaration. "If that's the way they decide to come, I don't see that you'll have much choice in the matter."
Harry pushed past his uncle then and went back upstairs, ignoring his uncle's bellow. In reality he had no idea how the Weasleys were planning on coming to get him this time. He was still hungry—two slices of toast were not enough to fill the belly of a seventeen year old boy—and he rummaged in his trunk for some snacks, thinking happily that soon he'd be able to eat Mrs Weasley's good home cooking to his heart's content.
Time began to creep by at a snail's pace. At five minutes to ten, Harry picked up Hedwig's cage, magicked his trunk down to the hall and sat on it to wait. The Dursely's stayed behind the closed kitchen door. At ten precisely, the doorbell rang, making Harry jump. He hadn't been expecting the Weasleys to arrive on time nor in a way that necessitated ringing the doorbell. Yet, when he answered the door, Ron was standing there with Ginny and Hermione. Harry grinned at them, and they grinned back.
"Ready to go, Harry?" asked Ron.
"Yeah, let me get my trunk. Hi, Hermione, Ginny." Hermione looked tanned and happy, Ron looked as freckled and good-natured as usual, but Ginny looked pale and drawn, as if she'd recently been ill. They were all dressed in Muggle clothes.
As Harry turned back for his trunk, he noticed that the kitchen door was open a crack. "I'm off," he called down the hall, and the kitchen door snapped shut. Harry didn't expect any more of a response than that. He magicked his trunk out to the front step, suppressing the urge to let out a whoop of freedom.
"You'll have to carry it from here," noted Hermione, taking Hedwig's cage from him. "Can't risk the Muggles seeing you do that."
Harry took one end of his trunk and Ron the other, and they made their way, followed by the girls, to an old-fashioned dark green Ministry car driven by a liveried, tight-lipped chauffeur, who now got out of the car to put Harry's trunk into the boot.
As Harry got into the car, he took one final look at the Dursleys' house in spite of himself. He had to laugh at what he saw. His aunt, uncle and cousin had their faces pressed to the living room window to watch him go. His aunt had her hand over her heart, no doubt shocked to see him leaving in what must look like a Muggle limousine. Dudley merely looked more porcine than usual with his nose plastered to the glass. Harry waved at them, and their faces disappeared as if by magic.
"Dad was able to call in a favour and get a Ministry car," said Ron, once they were all crowded into the back seat and heading for the motorway. "It's brilliant. We made the trip out here in no time."
Sure enough they were soon speeding along, Harry, Ron and Hermione chattering about their holiday plans as they fairly melted in and out of the traffic. Harry found himself wishing they could slow down a bit, but at the same time hoping they'd reach the Burrow soon. He was wedged in between Ginny and Hermione, and he found himself glancing over at Ginny's profile, wondering again why she looked so tired and about the birthday present she'd sent him. He couldn't ask her about that, though, with Ron and Hermione there. Ginny had wanted her gift to remain a secret. So instead he turned to her and asked, "how've you been, Ginny?"
She jumped slightly, as if she hadn't expected him to talk to her. "Oh, fine."
"Are you sure? You look like you've been ill." Harry cringed as soon as the words were out. He doubted she appreciated what he'd just said to her.
"I've just been having some trouble sleeping lately. It's nothing." Her voice carried a tone of finality. Harry took the hint and did not pursue the matter.
He lapsed into silence for a while, but then he glanced surreptitiously at Ron and Hermione to make sure they weren't paying attention. "I got your owl," he said in an undertone. She met his gaze then, and he was surprised to note just how richly brown her eyes were. "Thank you for thinking of me."
She looked down, and he thought she might be going red. "You're welcome." Silence fell between them again, but it wasn't long before they were driving up the lane that led to the Burrow.
A/N: I didn't put this at the beginning, but the standard disclaimer applies. I don't own the Harry Potter characters, the spells or the settings. They belong to J. K. Rowling and Warner Brothers. I'm not making any money off this, but I'm having a good time anyway. Also the necklace idea is drawn fromThe Lord of the Rings. Arwen gives a white gem on a silver chain to Frodo near the end of the story.