Disclaimer: Sadly, not mine.

Chapter 11

Summer Ends

Before Harry knew it, the last week in August had arrived. He had originally intended to arrive at the Burrow on Tuesday and travel to the school train with the Weasleys, but since he had finished summer classes long before he had originally expected, he arrived on Sunday instead. Mrs. Weasley, who had not seen Harry since meeting the Hogwarts Express at King's Cross in June, was amazed at how happy and healthy Harry looked. A summer of good food, fresh air and exercise, and caring guardians had made a world of difference in Harry's appearance and demeanor.

Ginny kept teasing him about his tan and longer, more in-control hair. Whenever she could, Ginny would intentionally muss Harry's hair commenting that she missed the previous messiness. Harry took her teasing with good grace, but felt a tingle down his spine each time Ginny touched him.

When Hermione arrived, she, too, was surprised at his appearance. The studious girl was more interested in his summer studies, though. She badgered him mercilessly about his summer exams, disbelieving that he could have learned two summer's worth of information in only six weeks. In desperation, Harry resorted to owling Andie to beg for copies of his summer exam and OWL results to end the torture.

Even after seeing the scores for herself, Hermione insisted on questioning Harry thoroughly about his summer activities. Hermione seemed to take it as a personal affront that, in spite of the fact that Harry's tutors had assigned no homework other than optional background reading and had given no tests, he had more than out-scored her in every summer subject they had in common. She was also disappointed that her only non-outstanding OWL was in defense against the dark arts, in which she had scored an exceeds expectations. Ginny, Harry, and Ron wanted to scream at her complaints, after all, the girl had scored ten outstandings, including one in a subject she had not even taken (muggle studies), surely she could live with one exceeds expectations.

Ron and Harry had quietly compared their OWL scores before Hermione arrived. With the exception of defense against the dark arts, in which Ron had scored an exceeds expectations, and history, in which Ron had scored a poor, they had the exact same grades. They secretly agreed that Hermione needed at least one non-outstanding grade to keep her humble, and Ron was thrilled Harry had been the top student in defense.

At Ginny's belated birthday dinner on Friday night, after a relaxing week spent playing quidditch and chess, Hermione made a comment about being surprised they had not waited until the weekend to celebrate. Mrs. Weasley explained that she and Mr. Weasley were attending the ministry's end of summer ball the next night. Harry added that he and the Tonkses were attending as well. When Ginny teasingly asked why couldn't she go if Harry was, Mr. Weasley went into a long explanation of how each ministry employee was allotted two tickets with the option to purchase two more for ten galleons each. Then Harry explained that, because of the full moon making it impossible for Remus to attend, Harry was using Tonks's second ticket.

Hermione began teasing Harry about not being able to sit through the entire evening the way he had at the Hogwarts Yule Ball in their fourth year. After sitting through multiple comments about his shortcomings as an escort, Harry informed Hermione that he had already attended several dinner/dances that summer and had had no complaints from the young ladies with whom he had spent his evenings. Ginny mentioned that Harry had been an excellent dance partner at his birthday party, and Ron added that he had seen Harry dancing with several different girls who all appeared to be enjoying themselves.

Hermione was flabbergasted. When had her awkward with girls, lazy about schoolwork, messy-haired best friend turned into an attractive, confident, studious stranger? When she half-teasingly, half-seriously asked, Bill, who had been quietly listening to his younger siblings and their friends, interjected, "It was spending all that time with the Delacours. If they couldn't teach him grace and poise, no one could."

Then he winked at Harry, who realizing Bill was trying to wind up Hermione, added "Yeah and six weeks spent serving as Gabrielle's, Isabella's, and √Člise's dance partner during their lessons didn't hurt either."

Hermione, who considered the Delacours to be less than intelligent because of their veela heritage, commented, "Well, I'm you learned something while you were in France."

To continue teasing her, Bill and Harry began a long conversation in rapid French, which rather left Hermione out since, although she spoke the language well enough to avoid needing to take the beginning class, she would be taking the advanced course the next summer. She was taken aback when the rest of the Weasleys joined in the conversation. Even though intellectually she knew that all pure-blood wizards studied French as children, she had never actually heard anyone magical other than the students from Beauxbatons speak the language. Hermione realized she would have to revise her beliefs about the way wizards raised their children as she had honestly discounted Harry's assertion that all pure-blood wizards were tutored in French and Latin as children earlier that summer since she had subconsciously equated "pure-blood" with "snobbish" and the Malfoy family.

The ministry end of summer ball was a perfect end to Harry's summer. After obligatory dances with Tonks and Andie, Harry joined a table filled with teenagers that included Neville Longbottom (as a Wizagamot member, his grandmother received two tickets), Luna Lovegood (her father attended as part of the press corps), and fellow Hogwarts students Susan Bones (whose Aunt Amelia was head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and Tonks's ultimate boss), Marietta Edgecomb (her mother worked in the floo regulatory department), and Zacharias Smith (his father was a member of the Wizagamot). Harry, Neville, and Zacharias took turns dancing with and procuring refreshments for the young ladies at their table. While Harry was dancing with Susan, he saw Draco Malfoy on the far side of the room dancing with Pansy Parkinson, but that was as close as he came to his least favorite school mates.

About mid-way through the evening, Harry spotted Mrs. Weasley talking to a severe-looking elderly woman. Deciding to see if his friend's mother needed rescuing, Harry made his way over to Mrs. Weasley and asked her to dance. The relieved expression on Mrs. Weasley's face made Harry's impulsive decision worthwhile. At King's Cross on Monday, to the astonishment of one Hermione Granger, Mrs. Weasley effusively praised Harry's dancing and conversational skills. Ron and Ginny were completely unsurprised.

Rather than spend his last Sunday at Casablanca lazing around, Harry spent the morning carefully packing his school trunk. For the first time, Harry actually owned more clothes and books than would comfortably fit in his trunk. When Andie suggested leaving most of his summer clothes behind, Harry was honestly surprised. Had he left anything at the Dursleys', his relatives would have burned it. In the end, Harry compromised and left most of his summer clothes and about half of his winter ones. Andie promised to owl him anything he needed and reminded him that he would be able to take the rest of his winter clothes with him after Christmas. Harry had not even thought about spending Christmas with the Tonkses since he had always spent the winter holidays at Hogwarts.

Once his trunk was packed with everything but last minute items (tooth and shaving stuff, anti-perspirant, hair styling products, etc.), Harry spent the rest of the day enjoying the pool and the company of his family.

The next morning, the three house elves each made a point of saying good-bye to Harry. Throughout the summer, they had come to love the polite young man who always remembered to thank and compliment them on their work. Tangie packed Harry a small hamper containing sandwiches, a thermos of pumpkin juice, crisps, owl treats, and a spill-proof container of water for Harry and Hedwig to enjoy on the train. Ninie had gone behind him and repacked his trunk so that his clothes would not wrinkle, and Potsie had surreptitiously cast featherlight charms on Harry's trunk to make it easier to carry.

What Harry had expected to be the worst summer of his life had turned out to be the best one ever. Sirius had definitely known what he was doing when he put Harry in his cousin's custody.

The End