If I owned the characters, I wouldn't be writing fics, now would I? I'd be living in a million-dollar mansion with House-Elves waiting on me hand and foot.
Harry woke up early, still on what he called "Dursley Time", but he was shocked to find his scar was not in mind numbing pain. After half an hour of staring at the inside of his eyelids, he decided he probably wasn't getting back to sleep anytime soon. He grabbed some clothes, grinning at his lack of socks, and went to take a shower.
Fifteen minutes later, he descended into the Common Room, clean and clothed. He hadn't expected too many people up this early, especially on a Saturday, and he wasn't wrong. The Creevey brothers were in the corner looking at pictures, Hermione was in a chair near the fire reading, and Fred and George had a large purple sack and were giggling like idiots. Harry made a mental note to avoid that part of the Common Room as he walked over to his friend.
"Morning, Hermione," he yawned, sitting in the chair next to her. "What're you reading?"
"Hmm?" Hermione asked as she looked up from her book. "I'm sorry, Harry. I wasn't listening. I'm reading this American novel." She held it up so Harry could see the title.
"To Kill a Mockingbird," he read aloud. "I think they made us read that in Muggle school. It was odd, to say the least."
"Don't ruin it for me!" she cried. "I'm only halfway done."
"Okay, then." Harry picked up a Transfiguration text from the table in front of him and looked through it absentmindedly. He came across a chapter he found interesting about turning phoenixes into buzzards and vice-versa. "This could be useful," he muttered to himself. Professor Dumbledore had mentioned that Fawkes had been coming down with a fever, and the upcoming burning day would no doubt be detrimental to his health.
Just as he got to the theory behind the spell, Ron and Ginny stumbled into the Common Room. Ron had, apparently, not taken a shower yet. As if moving with one mind, they both plopped down on a sofa next to him. "Morning guys," Ron mumbled, eyes still half closed. "What's new?"
"I think I may have found something to help Fawkes," Harry said. "He'd just have to be Transfigured—"
"Nobody cares," Ron and Ginny interrupted. Ginny then continued, "Sorry, Harry, but Weasleys are not morning people."
Just as Harry was about to thank Ginny for pointing out the obvious, Hermione suddenly exclaimed, "'Doooo-Jesus'?" Her three friends looked at her looked at her. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Harry shrugged. "I never did figure that out. Now, if you three will excuse me, I'm going to go find someone who cares." He stood and tucked the book under his arm.
"You mind if I join you, Harry? We can go to breakfast together afterwards," Ginny said, rising from her seat. Harry, being Harry, had little desire to turn her down.
"Very well. Shall we go, Milady?" Harry said with a courteous bow.
"Let's, good sir."
As they walked away, they heard Hermione mention something about bad grammar, to which Ron replied, "Grammar? Harry and Ginny speak the language of love."
Harry and Ginny walked hand-in-hand to the gargoyle that marked the entrance to Dumbledore's office. After some guesswork by the two, they finally found the right password ("Mint Skittles") and were able to enter.
Entering the office, they saw Professor Dumbledore standing over his Pensieve, reliving some old memory. As they waiting patiently for him to finish, Harry's gaze fell on the ill bird. He looked very haggard, as if he'd not moved for months.
"Harry, Ginny," Dumbledore said suddenly. His voice startled Harry, and looking at Ginny, he saw that he wasn't the only one. "What can I help you with?"
"Actually, Professor, I was hoping I could help you," Harry said, and winced. I sounded like a Muggle salesman, he thought. If Dumbledore had noticed, he pretended not to. Ginny, however, gave him a bit of a look. "I found a spell for Fawkes," he explained, handing Professor Dumbledore the textbook. "That way, you won't have to worry about a burning day."
Suddenly, Harry realised how stupid he'd been. It was a fifth-year book, and Dumbledore was the greatest wizard of modern times. Of course he'd know this, you idiot! his brain screamed at him. He wasn't surprised at all when Dumbledore chuckled a little. "I can't believe I didn't think of this," Dumbledore said, more to himself than to Harry and Ginny. "And I was a Transfiguration teacher."
Harry stood dumbfounded. Dumbledore continued, "I guess that we all make mistakes." Harry shut his mouth, which he realised he'd had hanging open.
Ginny, who'd been silent the whole time she'd been there, finally spoke up. "Sir? You were a Transfiguration teacher?"
"Yes, Miss Weasley. Years ago." With that, Dumbledore got up and walked over to his pet. He pointed his at Fawkes and muttered the spell, and in a flash of light, a buzzard sat in his place. "There we are."
Just as Buzzard-Fawkes started to get used to his new form, Ginny's stomach rumbled rather loudly. Stifling a laugh, Harry asked the headmaster if they could go on to breakfast. "Certainly," the Headmaster replied. "Oh, and twenty points to Gryffindor. Well done, Harry."
"Well, done, Harry!" Ginny echoed as soon as they were out of Dumbledore's office. She kissed him on the cheek, and he blushed.
"It was nothing," Harry replied. "I didn't do the spell, I just found it."
"It was too, Harry," Ginny insisted. "Dumbledore himself didn't think of it. Neither did McGonagall, and she's teaching it now."
Harry was going to reply, but then the exchange student came around the corner at a run. "What's her name?" he asked Ginny. "I can't remember."
"Imogen… something," Ginny answered.
As she reached the two, she stopped long enough to yell, "Ginny! Harry! Babies! Right now! More babies! Bring on the babies! AHHHHHH!!!" She then resumed running.
Moments later, Malfoy tore around the corner, apparently chasing the American. "Get back here with my underwear! Strawberry is hard to come by!" he screamed.
Malfoy blew past the two, and Harry turned to Ginny. "That was… odd," he observed, looking down the corridor at the irate Slytherin.
"She's not as bad as that Paula girl," Ginny retorted.
"That's true. The other night she said to me, 'Harry, I need you to lie on the floor for a few months. Could you do that for me?'"
They resumed their walk to the Great Hall, and, realising it was still early, expected it to be somewhat empty. To their great surprise, it looked as if most of the school had already arrived. Harry and Ginny took their usual seats across from Ron and Hermione, and Ginny asked, "What's going on?"
Ron, his mouth full of bacon, replied, "Mgnl tld ss t cmm errl."
Hermione translated the bacon-speak into English. "Professor McGonagall told us to come to breakfast early. Professor Dumbledore has some sort of announcement."
"Why didn't he mention it to us when we were in there?" Harry wondered aloud.
"Maybe he wanted to tell the whole school all at once," Ginny ventured. "Or maybe he was still distracted with Buzzard-Fawkes."
They expressed a few guesses as to the nature of the announcement, from Snape and McGonagall's engagement to what exactly the newest Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was (Ron insisted that she was a vampire). Eventually, Dumbledore took his usual seat, and the whole room became quiet.
"Welcome students!" he said jovially, a twinkle in his eye. "I apologise for waking you so early, but this news must be told. It has come to my attention that while, academically, we are one of the finest schools in the world—" here he had to stop for applause—"we are oblivious to other cultures."
Dumbledore stopped for a moment, and a confused silence overtook the room. Dumbledore continued, "Therefore, for the next month, we will experiment with other cultural influences, be they magic or Muggle." A cross look then graced most of the faces of the Slytherin table.
"Meals will be culturally different, perhaps Chinese one night and French another." Ron grimaced at the mention of French food; he never did fall in love with bouillabaisse. "Language classes will be offered to those who want them, and those who are already fluent are invited to help teach." Hermione and Ginny, both of which were fluent in French, looked delighted. Harry had an odd look on his face, and Ron buried his head in his arms. "And finally, Quidditch will be temporarily replaced by American football."
There were very few faces in the room that weren't outraged by this. Cries of objection reached out from each and every table, especially Gryffindor. With a wave of Dumbledore's wand, though, all the voices were silenced to hardly a whisper. "That's better," he said. "Now, this will start tomorrow. For those of you who may be interested in the football teams, please see Madam Hooch."
Their voices were returned, and one would not have to listen hard to hear grumbling. Ron picked at the rest of his bacon, and, while Harry visibly had some reservations about the loss (albeit temporary) of Quidditch, he still had the odd pensive look on his face he'd had since Dumbledore's announcement of language classes.
"I can't believe this," Ron whined. "Just when I make the team, he takes it away."
Hermione was usually the voice of reason in this type of situation, and this time was no exception. "Oh, come now, Ron," she said, taking a drink of pumpkin juice. "Culture will be useful one day, whether it be sports or food."
"That's easy for you to say," Ron snapped. "You couldn't care less about Quidditch. Harry, help me out here!"
"Ginny, tell your brother how useful such things would be," Hermione insisted.
Knowing full well what happens to someone when they get in the middle of a Ron-Hermione tiff, they did the only logical thing. Taking a final drink of their juice, they left.
"Where're they going?" Ron asked Hermione, as they watched Harry and Ginny walk away.
"I don't know. You know, in America, one would say that they 'split'," Hermione replied, a grin on her face.
"Why didn't you react like Ron did?" Ginny asked Harry once they reached the Common Room.
"Because I don't pick fights because my girlfriend's cute when she's angry," Harry answered.
"Because I want to give this culture thing a try. I like the idea. Besides, I've never really seen a sport that I wasn't a major part in since I thought I was a Muggle." Harry sat down, and Ginny sat next to him.
"You mean you're not trying out for the football team?" Ginny asked.
Harry scoffed. "You haven't seen much of American football. It's brutal. Think of a game made up entirely of Millicent Bulstrodes running towards you. That's my experience with the game." He shuddered at the thoughts of the horrors of Muggle gym class.
At that point, Ron and Hermione entered the Common Room. Seeing that Ron's ears were red enough to blend in with hair, and that Hermione's hair was even bushier than usual, Harry and Ginny assumed that they had made… up.
"Feeling better about the Culture Month, Ron?" Ginny inquired, holding back a snicker.
"Yes," Ron responded. "Especially French," he added with a look at a now very red Hermione.
"I can't believe you're actually joining the football team, Ron," Harry said for the millionth time as they got back from dinner the next day.
"Not joining," Ron pointed out. "Trying out for the team. And I must go to the field… now." Ron turned the other way and ran towards the door, and Harry fell into step with his girlfriend and other best friend.
"And since it's Sunday," Hermione was saying, "we get to learn Spanish today, and Thursdays, and French on Mondays and Fridays."
"Spanish today?" Harry interrupted.
"Yes, Harry, haven't you been listening? Are you going to take it?" Hermione asked quickly, the way she says anything pertaining to academics.
"Sort of…" Harry replied, but didn't say anymore as they arrived outside Flitwick's classroom.
"Ah… you're just in time," the tiny professor said. "Please, students in the front, helpers in the back."
Hermione and Ginny sat as close to the front as they could, Hermione eager to learn anything new. Harry, however, sat in the back between Blaise Zabini and Angelina Johnson. Ginny gave him a perplexed look, and he mouthed to her I'll explain later.
Professor Flitwick started class then. "Hola, students! And helpers."
There weren't too many students there. Hermione, Ginny, Harry, and Angelina made up the only Gryffindors. There were no Slytherins at all except Blaise, and a Hufflepuff seventh year and a first year were the only representatives of their house. By far, the most there were Ravenclaws, making up at least half of the class.
Flitwick continued, and Harry focused on remembering his verbs. Dibujar is "to draw", I think. And leer is "to read"…
"So helpers, you will see to any questions they might have, and if you have any problems, don't hesitate to ask me," Flitwick finally ended. He handed out some sheets of parchment for the students to work on, and retreated into his office.
Harry and the other four helpers circulated around the classroom. He was shocked when neither Hermione nor Ginny had their hands up, but assumed that their French fluency helped them in this class as well.
Class went by quickly. It was boring, for the most part. The most exciting happening was when a Ravenclaw fourth year asked how to say "Pink sock" in Spanish. Blaise had to help him, but they eventually got it translated to "El calcetine rosada". Harry quickly decided that Blaise was the only amiable Slytherin.
As Harry, Ginny, and Hermione walked back to Gryffindor Tower together, Ginny finally brought up the subject of Harry's linguistic ability. "It's really Dudley's doing," Harry explained. "He was watching television, and he decided that he wanted to learn Spanish. He took a few courses, did horribly, and the Dursleys decided that I would help him.
"Anyway, he never did get it, and when he quit, I think they put me in the cupboard for a week." Harry said this all without emotion. He was used to such things, after all.
However, emotion was not missed by the two girls. Harry was crushed between the two girls as they hugged him from either side.
"Poor Harry," Ginny said into his side. She seemed very near tears.
"I can't believe they would do that," Hermione said to his shoulder.
Harry tried to ask to be released, but all that got out was "Need… breathe…"
Once they realised that he was turning blue, they released him. "Thank you," he said. He then acknowledged their proximity to the tower. "Hey, there's the Fat Lady."
Hermione ran up and gave the password ("Hearthrug") and they entered, Harry's hand in Ginny's, and wondering if Ron made the football team.
Should I continue, or just leave my mediocre story on a quasi-cliffie?