Chapter 2 – At the Burrow

"I never made it to Brazil."

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Harry woke up the next morning and screamed. The Brazilian boa constrictor was curled up on his bed like a pet dog. It took a while for Harry to remember what it was doing there.

"What isss wrong," the enormous snake hissed.

"Nothing, I was just surprised to see you there," Harry answered. "I'm afraid I can't take you to Brazil. It's very far away."

"I don't like it here," the snake said. "There isssn't enough food."

"I can take you to Hogwarts," Harry offered. " There's probably a lot of food for you in the forest. But it's really cold in the winter."

The boa constrictor seemed to think about it. "In the winter, could you keep me somewhere warm?"

Harry pondered this. He couldn't keep it in the castle; no one would take kindly to an enormous snake. But there was someone… "I know!" Harry said. "You can stay with Hagrid in the winter! I'm sure he won't mind; he'll like it. He will probably even feed you."

"Good," the snake answered. "Can you take me there?"

"I'll try, but I'll have to put you in a box of some sort. It would have to be really big." Harry wondered how he could keep it at the Burrow for a month without anyone noticing.

Just then, Pigwidgeon flew into Harry's room and started flying around in circles, oblivious to the enormous snake that was snapping at it. Harry grabbed the little owl.

"You can't eat any owls while you're here, by the way," he told the snake.

The snake dropped its head obediently. "Yesss," it hissed.

When Hedwig flew in a moment later, the boa constrictor didn't even twitch. Hedwig screeched when she saw the enormous snake and beat her wings furiously.

"Hedwig, calm down!" Harry said. "It won't hurt you, I promise!"

Hedwig settled down immediately, cast one wary look at the boa, and flew to her cage.

"I'm going down to breakfast. I'll try to bring you something," he told the snake.

Harry dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen. The Dursleys were sitting at the kitchen table and they jumped when they saw him. Harry ignored them and piled his plate with as much bacon as he could. Then he grabbed some ham from the refrigerator and some leftover chicken. The Dursleys looked at him strangely.

"I'm awfully hungry," Harry said, then went back up to his room. He gave the plate of food to the snake, who swallowed it gratefully.

Harry himself couldn't eat. He was very excited that he would be spending a whole month at the Burrow with his two best friends and the Weasleys. He didn't know when they were coming, though. Harry once again checked that everything was packed, then paced his room wondering how he was going to take the ten-foot long snake to Hogwarts.

Just then, Harry heard a loud BANG! from outside and rushed to the window. The Knight Bus was parked in front of the house, and Ron stepped out, followed by Fred and George.

"They're here!" Harry raced downstairs. The Dursleys were looking out of the window apprehensively. Harry ran outside to greet the Weasleys, and Mrs. Weasley rushed over to him.

"Are they treating you well?" she asked anxiously.

"Er… yeah… ignoring me is much better than usual," Harry answered.

Mrs. Weasley's eyes flashed, but then Mr. Weasley came over. "So Harry, how are you doing? You don't mind if I go inside, do you? Look at the plugs?"

"Sure, go ahead," Harry said with a chuckle. Mr. Weasley was fascinated with Muggles.

Fred and George spied Harry and came over grinning. "Hey Harry!" said Fred.

"So," said George in a whisper. "Did you get our – ahem – package?" They cast a wary glance at Mrs. Weasley.

"Yeah, thanks. I haven't tried them all, but so far, so good."

"We couldn't have done it without you," they said gratefully.

Ron finally made his way to Harry and grinned. "Alright, Harry?"

"Yeah. Come with me. I have to show you something," Harry said quietly. They walked into the house. Mr. Weasley was examining the toaster and Mrs. Weasley was making forced conversation with Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. Harry saw Dudley standing awkwardly in the living room, and beckoned him over.

"Dudley, this is Ron. Ron – Dudley," Harry introduced them.

"Uh… hello," Dudley said softly.

"Come on," Harry said. "I have a bit of a problem." He led them to his room, and before opening the door, he warned, "Now don't scream or anything."

Seeing that Harry was serious, Dudley and Ron looked at each other nervously. They walked into his room and Harry shut the door behind them. When they saw the boa constrictor, Dudley jumped and backed away, while Ron stared openmouthed.

"Is-isn't that the snake that escaped from the zoo that one time?" Dudley stuttered.

"Yeah, but don't worry, it won't hurt you," Harry said. "If it didn't listen to me, Hedwig and Pig would be half-digested by now."

"What is it doing here?" asked Ron.

"Well, it's not going to make it to Brazil, so I'm taking it to Hogwarts."

"Oh, great idea, Harry," Ron said sarcastically. "And where exactly are you going to keep it?"

"Hagrid," Harry answered simply. "But how are we going to take it to your house without--"

The door opened and Fred and George walked in. "We've come to take your trunk--"

"Whoa… introduce us to your friend, Harry," said George, gesturing to the great snake.

"Oh, this is a Brazilian boa constrictor," Harry said. "It's, er, a present for Hagrid. Do you know how we could get it on the bus without anyone noticing?"

"Duh," Fred said. "You shrink it."

"But we can't do magic," Harry said.

"We don't need to," George explained. "We sent you those chocolates, didn't we?"

"Oh! But don't they wear off after about a minute?"

"Not with animals," said George.

"You see…" began Fred. " We tested them on little Pig here--"

"You what?" Ron yelled.

"…And they lasted about an hour or so."

"What?" Ron yelled again.

But Harry was already digging through his trunk. "Found them!" he said, taking out the box of chocolates. He gave one of them to the snake. "Eat it," he hissed.

The snake automatically ate the chocolate and began to shrink until it was no more than two feet long. Harry waited expectantly, but it didn't start growing again.

Fred and George high-fived each other. "Gred and Forge do it again!"

Harry grabbed a shoebox and put the now-little snake inside. "Okay, I think we had better bring all this down to the bus," he said.

Fred and George took the trunk, Harry took Hedwig's cage and the shoebox, and Ron carried Harry's Firebolt. Looking around for something to carry, Dudley took the box of chocolates that had been left behind.

They made their way down to the Knight Bus and brought Harry's things inside.

"Neville!" It was Stan Shunpike, the conductor of the Knight Bus. "Look Ernie, it's 'Arry Potter! 'Ow are you, Neville? Do ya remember me?"

"Yeah," Harry answered, wincing as the conductor wrung his hand. "The name's Harry."

" 'Course it is!"

Harry managed to get away from Stan and noticed that Ginny was there, watching him. "Hey Ginny," he said with a grin.

Ginny blushed. "Hi," she said timidly.

"All right, everyone on the bus!" came Mrs. Weasley's voice. "Come on, now."

Dudley made his way over to Harry. "Here," he said, handing Harry the chocolates. "You almost forgot these."

"Oh, thanks," Harry answered. "See you, Dudley. I'll send you an owl."

"Bye," Dudley said.

Harry turned and boarded the bus, with one last wave to Dudley.

Harry sat down on one of the beds with Ron as the bus began to move. He put the shoebox on the bed beside him and the chocolates he hid under one of the pillows. Ron was still holding Harry's Firebolt.

"Still the best broom there is," Ron said admiringly. "I wonder if Malfoy's got one yet. He always has to have whatever you've got - can't stand the competition."

"Yeah, well Malfoy's an ugly git," Harry said. "What do I care what broom he's got? He's not even good at Quidditch. So anything new?"

"Ginny's still got a crush on you, Harry," said Ron quietly with a bit of a smirk on his face.

"Anything new?" Harry repeated. He glanced surreptitiously at Ginny. She was still watching him.

"You've changed, you know," Ron said.

"Changed? How?" asked Harry.

"Well, you've grown a lot. You don't look like a lost little boy anymore. You're more serious, I guess." Ron smirked. "Ginny's noticed."

"Really, Ron? So what's NEW?"

"Okay, okay! Well, did you hear that Hermione's been made a prefect?" Ron asked. "I bet she's thrilled."

"Yeah, but here's the thing. I've been made a prefect too." Harry held his breath waiting for Ron's response. To his surprise, Ron started laughing.

"Good one, Harry! You, a prefect!"

"No, really Ron!" Harry said.

Ron stopped laughing. "Seriously?"

Fred and George had heard, and they came over. "What's this, Harry? You're a prefect?" asked George.

"Yeah," Harry said miserably.

"Great!" said Fred. "You can give us special treatment!"

"But I don't really want to be a prefect," Harry said.

"Nah, it's okay, Harry," Ron said. "Think of all the things you can get away with. As long as you don't turn into a second Percy."

The bus suddenly came to a screeching halt.

"We're here!" called Mrs. Weasley.

Everyone filed out of the bus and looked up at Hermione's house. It was about the same size as the Dursley's, but a different style. Hermione came running out.

"Harry! Ron!" She hugged both of them. "You've both grown! Her eyes lingered on Harry.

Harry noticed that she had grown, too. Her hair was no longer bushy, but straight and shiny, and she was taller than the last time he saw her. He also noticed that she was wearing her prefect badge.

Harry rolled his eyes. "A bit excited about being made prefect, are we?"

Hermione blushed.

Then Ron noticed the badge. "Hermione, why are you wearing that when we've still got a month before school starts?" Ron asked incredulously. "You're turning into Percy!"

Hermione turned and busied herself with a basket, blushing profusely. "Help me get Crookshanks into this basket, will you? He's hiding under the car."

Harry and Ron crouched down to see the cat spitting madly.

"Are you mad?" Ron asked. "That cat's vicious!"

But Harry was staring at Crookshanks in surprise. He could hear the cat talking.

"I'm not going in there!" Crookshanks spat. "You can't make me get in that thing!"

Making sure that no one is listening, Harry said to the cat, "Shut up and get in the basket."

Crookshanks looked at Harry strangely, but stood up obediently and got into the basket. Harry shut the lid and turned to Ron and Hermione, who were arguing. "Crookshanks is in the basket!" he told them.

"See?" Hermione said to Ron. "Harry got Crookshanks in!" She took the basket from Harry and brought it onto the bus.

"How did you do that?" asked Ron.

"I'll tell you later," Harry answered, looking around.

Hermione said goodbye to her parents and everyone filed back onto the bus. Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down on an empty bed.

"So how was your birthday, Harry?" Hermione asked.

"Did you get our present?" asked Ron.

"Yeah, thanks. It's awesome. But my birthday was just plain weird," Harry said. "Everything happened at once."

"Why?" asked Ron. "What happened?"

"Later," said Harry.

Fred and George had come over and looked at Hermione's prefect badge.

"So Hermione's a prefect, huh?" asked Fred, winking at Harry. "Don't you think it's a bit early to be wearing that badge?"

Hermione hastily took the badge off. "I see none of you have been made prefects," she said.

"Why?" asked George. "Because none of us are wearing badges?"

"Yeah, Hermione," added Ron. "How do you know none of us aren't prefects?" The four boys exchanged knowing looks.

"Because I use my head," she said haughtily. "None of you would ever be made prefects."

"Why not?" Harry asked. "What if--"

Harry froze. A vision flashed before his eyes. "The snake!" he whispered urgently to Ron. "Where is it?"

Ron looked at Harry, puzzled. "We left it at that other bed – where Ginny's sitting."

Harry got up quickly and went over to the other bed. Ron followed. Ginny looked at them curiously.

"It's going to grow!" Harry whispered. "Hurry up and help me find it!" Harry and Ron looked under the surrounding beds for the shoebox.

"What are you looking for?" Ginny asked.

"A shoebox – have you seen it?" Harry asked hurriedly.

"You mean this one?" Ginny gestured to the box beside her.

"Yes!" Harry dug the chocolates from under the pillow, took one out, and put it in the shoebox, hissing, "Eat it!"

The snake obviously ate it, since it didn't start growing suddenly. Harry let out a sigh of relief.

Ginny looked at him curiously. "Did you just speak Parselmouth?"

"Yeah," Harry answered. He lifted the lid and showed her the snake.

"And aren't those chocolates…?" Comprehension dawned on Ginny's face. "How big exactly is that snake?"

"About ten feet long."

Ron emerged from under the bed. "You found it! How did you know it was going to grow?" he asked.

"Er, I didn't. Just in case," Harry lied. Ron looked at him skeptically. "Come on," Harry said. "I have to show Hermione."

They turned and started to go back to their seats. Harry felt bad about leaving Ginny by herself.

"You can come sit with us if you want," Harry told her.

She blushed, but got up and went with them.

"What was that all about?" Hermione asked. Harry showed her the box, and she gasped. "What in the world?"

"It's a present for Hagrid," Harry said.

"Isn't it a bit small for Hagrid's liking?"

Fred snorted. "It's really ten feet long. We shrunk it."

"You what?" Hermione said disapprovingly. "You see, this is why none of you would ever be made prefects. You think it's nothing to carry around a ten-foot long snake."

"How much would you bet on it?" asked George.

"I'd give 50 Galleons to the one of you who would ever be made prefect," said Hermione.

"Well, Harry," Ron slapped him on the back. "You've just earned yourself 50 Galleons."

Hermione just stared. "What?"

"Harry's a prefect too," George said.

"Yeah," added Fred. "You now owe him 50 Galleons."

"Ha, ha, very funny," Hermione said sarcastically. "It's extremely unlikely for Harry to be made a prefect, since he breaks rules at least once a week…"

"Fine, don't believe us," Harry said. "You'll see."

The Knight Bus screeched to a halt. "The Burrow!" yelled the driver. Everyone grabbed something and filed off the bus. Harry made sure he didn't leave anything, then took his things and got off.

"Come on, Harry," Ron said. "Let's take your stuff up to my room."

Harry followed Ron to his bedroom and set his things down in a corner.

"Don't put your Firebolt away," said Ron, grabbing his Nimbus 2000. "Charlie will be home soon and then we can play Quidditch."

Harry had heard a lot about Charlie Weasley. He was a really good Seeker and could have played for England had he not gone to Romania to study dragons.

Harry grinned. He took out his Firebolt and Quidditch balls, and followed Ron downstairs. They headed outside and mounted their brooms.

"I'll race you!" Ron challenged.

"You haven't got a chance," Harry answered.

They raced back and forth, and Harry showed Ron a few moves. He let Ron fly his Firebolt for a while, and he rode Ron's Nimbus 2000. Fred and George came out to join them, each taking a turn on the Firebolt.

"Hey Harry! How's it going?" Charlie had arrived and he looked up at Harry, grinning.

Harry went into a dive and landed next to Charlie. "Care for a Quidditch match?" Harry asked.

Charlie grinned and summoned his broom. "You're on!"

Fred and George set up the goalposts, while Harry went to get the balls. Ron and Charlie were trying to persuade Ginny to play, to no avail.

"Oh come on, Ginny," Harry pleaded. "We need you – three on three."

Ginny turned bright red. "Fine," she mumbled, and went to get her broom.

Harry tried to ignore the Weasleys, who were all smirking. "So it's me, Ron, and Ginny against Fred, George, and Charlie," he said.

"Right," Charlie answered. "We'll only use one Bludger since we don't have full teams. Hermione, will you release the balls?"

Everyone got into position as Hermione came over. "Ready?" she asked. They nodded, and she let the balls loose.

Harry flew up above the rest of the Weasleys, searching for the Snitch. Below him, Ginny had the ball and was speeding towards the goalposts. She dodged George and passed the ball to Ron, who dove under Fred, and passed it back to Ginny. She threw the Quaffle right through the hoop.

Whenever Fred and George got hold of the Quaffle, Ron raced to the goalposts to block them. With Ginny as offense, and Ron as defense, Harry's team was soon up by sixty points.

Then Harry glimpsed the Snitch near one of the goalposts and sped towards it. Charlie saw him and flew right in front of Harry, blocking his path. Caught by surprise, Harry dived to avoid colliding with him and when he looked up, the Snitch was gone. Charlie grinned at him mischievously.

Harry flew back up and scanned the field once more. Ron had just blocked another shot from Fred, and Ginny was speeding towards the goalposts with the Quaffle. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Charlie flying determinedly towards the other side of the field. Imitating the other Seeker, Harry pulled right in front of him, blocking Charlie's path. Charlie dodged him, but lost sight of the Snitch. Now it was Harry's turn to grin mischievously.

Harry knew he had to try harder if he wanted to beat Charlie. He flew high over the field, searching for the Snitch. A plan formed in his mind.

Harry suddenly pulled into a dive, aiming for a spot near the ground, and just as he predicted, Charlie was on his tail. As he barreled down towards the grass, he saw a glimpse of gold to his right, and pulled out of the dive. The Snitch was hovering right over Hermione's head, who was watching the game from the ground. Harry raced towards it, and Hermione screamed like mad, running for cover. Then the Snitch was in his hand; Harry had caught it and won the game: 230 to 0.

Everyone cheered. Ron and Ginny were overjoyed and Mr. Weasley, who had been watching the game, was congratulating them. Mrs. Weasley was jumping up and down, while Hermione was frantically avoiding any broomsticks while trying to regain her composure. Fred and George looked at each other conspiratorially.

Charlie came over, grinning, and shook Harry's hand. "Good one, Harry," he said.

Fred and George had landed next to Harry. "Harry," began Fred. "We have something to tell you."

"On behalf of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, which is actually only us three," said George, "we've decided to make you team captain!"

"Me?" Harry asked, surprised. "Really?"

"Yeah, you can put me on the team," Ron said.

Harry grinned. "Well, we need a Keeper and three Chasers. We'll hold tryouts at Hogwarts. In the meantime, you should keep practicing."

"Just watch," George whispered to Fred. "He'll be the next Oliver."

* * * * *

Harry's days at the Burrow passed enjoyably. The events of Harry's birthday were for the most part forgotten, and when not flying on his Firebolt or playing Quidditch, Harry spent his time with Ron and Hermione. They played wizard's chess and Exploding Snap, tested new tricks from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, and in Harry and Ron's case, finished their summer homework.

"Come on, Hermione," Ron whined. "Can't I see what you wrote for your Potions essay?"

"No," Hermione snapped. "You'll never learn that way. Besides, you should have finished your homework by now. I did mine in the first week of holiday so I would have more time to read up on next year's lessons."

Ron snorted. "Come on, Harry. Let's go to breakfast. I think I lost my motivation for studying - for the rest of the year."

There was only a week left until September the first, when they would be leaving for Hogwarts, and that day was when they were going to Diagon Alley to get their school things. Right after breakfast, they would be leaving by Floo powder. Harry rummaged in his trunk for his moneybag and list of school supplies for the coming year. He gasped when he came upon the Animagi book from Sirius.

"What?" asked Hermione anxiously.

Harry slapped himself on the forehead. "Oh man… I can't believe I forgot to tell you guys!"

"Tell us what?" asked Ron.

"Remember how I said that my birthday was really strange?" Harry asked. They nodded. "Well, when I woke up, I--"

There was a knock on the door and Ginny poked her head in. "Mum says you guys have to come down to breakfast. We're leaving soon."

"Tell her we'll be right down," Ron said. When Ginny had left, he turned back to Harry. "Well…?"

"It's a long story. I'll tell you when we get back, but you have to take a look at this book!" Harry handed Hermione the old book.

She opened to the first page and gasped. "Oh my gosh! Where did you get this?"

"Sirius sent it to me on my birthday," Harry answered. "So what do you say? Are you up for it?"

Ron grinned. "You bet! That would be so cool! I wonder what animal--"

Hermione looked at Ron disapprovingly. "But it could be dangerous. What is something goes wrong? And as a Hogwarts prefect, I don't--"

"Oh lay off with the prefect stuff, will you?" Ron said in disgust. "You don't see Harry having a problem with it."

"Well, Harry's not a pre--"

"Look Hermione," Harry said impatiently. "If you don't want to be an Animagus, fine. We'll do it ourselves." With that, Harry turned to get a quill and piece of parchment."

"But I – I never said I didn't want to. It's just that--" Hermione began weakly. "Oh sod it! Give me that parchment, Harry. I'm going to make a list of what we'll need to get in Diagon Alley. You two go down to breakfast. I'll be there in a second." She was already flipping through pages and taking notes.

Harry and Ron looked at each other, trying not to laugh, and headed downstairs to breakfast.

"Leave it to Hermione, and nothing can go wrong," Harry said.

Ron agreed. "Already studying for next year…"

They went into the kitchen and saw the Weasleys all at the table. Harry sat down and started piling bacon onto his plate.

"All ready to go to Diagon Alley?" asked Mrs. Weasley.

Harry nodded. "Hermione's still making sure she didn't forget anything."

Mrs. Weasley chuckled. "Always the organized Hermione."

They were cleaning up after breakfast, when Hermione finally appeared. She mumbled a hurried apology and grabbed a piece of toast. At last, Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys gathered in front of the fireplace and Mrs. Weasley held out the Floo powder to Fred and George.

Then it was Harry's turn. Mr. Weasley grabbed his hand and stepped up to the fireplace. "We'll go together, Harry. Wouldn't want you to get mixed up again."

Harry crowded himself into the fireplace as Mr. Weasley yelled, "Diagon Alley!" 'Diagon Alley,' he thought. 'Here I come.'

A/N: Okay, I'm pretty sure that the three Gryffindor Chasers probably would have still been at Hogwarts this year, but for the sake of the story, they're not.  ;o)

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