10: A Reasonably Happy Birthday
A bit delayed, I know, but you know - holidays and all that rot.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Harry and the Mysterious Curse of the Girl-Who-Lived
Some say the beta is an invisible entity, correcting typos from the hidden plane of darkness. I know better - he's just really short.
CHAPTER TEN: A REASONABLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Harry was suddenly very worried. "Where would they go? Are they in trouble?"
"Oh, I don't know," Mrs. Weasley worried, wringing her hands in the air. "Maybe I should check the clock again." She turned and hurried into the kitchen, Harry trailing behind her, to look at a very odd clock with several hands, one for each Weasley family member. There were also several locations marked on the clock, such as Home, School, Work, Travelling, Lost, Hospital, Prison, Quidditch, and Mortal Peril. The hands belonging to Ron and the twins were currently pointing to Travelling.
"That's an interesting clock," Harry said. "Is it accurate?"
"Oh, yes, dear, quite accurate," Mrs. Weasley said distractedly. "But I don't know where they could be... Travelling could mean anything."
"Well, it's not Mortal Peril, so they're probably okay, right?" Harry pointed out, although this seemed more a guess than anything else. He found himself coveting a clock for himself and his friends as well - it seemed quite a handy thing.
Mrs. Weasley nodded and smiled slightly. "That's a good point, Harriet. But goodness, it's awfully late for you - let me go get Percy."
She walked up a crooked but somehow pleasant set of staircases. Harry found himself getting amused by all the oddities he was not used to in a Muggle house, with things moving you didn't expect to move, and colors that Harry wasn't sure actually existed.
A bleary-eyed Percy Weasley trudged down the stairs, but he paused and gave a very polite bow.
"Miss Potter, very good to see you. Are you well?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'd take my stuff up myself, but you know... can't use magic and all that."
Percy nodded. "Quite right, excellent attitude. If only Ron had the same reasonable perspective - he's been constantly complaining about it all summer. In any event, are you familiar with the Featherweight Charm?"
"I've read about it," answered Harry. "But we never got it in class."
"Well, pay attention, then. Obviously you won't be able to reproduce this until start of term, but it is a relatively simple incantation. You swish your wand in a curved upward motion like this," Percy demonstrated the wand wave. "And then you say the following: Pluma Levior. Now the trunk would be easy for even a small child to carry. Go ahead, see for yourself."
Harry tried to pick up his trunk, and sure enough, it was as light as a piece of paper.
"Nice work, Percy," he said with a grin. "I can bring it up then."
"Oh no," Percy shook his head. "My mother wouldn't be happy about that. I can handle it." He waved his wand and all of Harry's things floated into the air.
Harry heard a shuffling sound, and turned to see Mrs. Weasley walked down the stairs with an annoyed expression on her face.
"Harriet, I'm sorry, but it appears that Ginny has been waiting up until you arrived, contrary to what I told her." This last part was directed a bit louder up the stairs. "If you feel up to it, I'm sure she'd like to talk for a bit, but don't feel obligated to stay up - and for that matter, she should be asleep already in any case."
"Well," Harry said, suddenly yawning. "I guess I'm bit knackered. But I don't want to fall asleep with Ron and the twins still out there."
"Don't be silly," Mrs. Weasley scolded. "It's not like there's anything you can do about it, in any event. Just get some rest, and let the adults take care of things."
Harry frowned. "Well, all right."
Harry turned towards the stairs to see a short, red-haired girl grinning widely at him.
"Hi, I'm Ginny!" The girl almost shrieked, but although Harry was a bit used to the high pitched squeals of his roommates, he couldn't help but wince.
"Yes, hello," Harry answered. "I'm Harry Potter."
Ginny laughed. "Yes, a bit obvious, isn't it?"
"Ginny!" Mrs. Weasley said harshly. "Watch yourself, young lady! And remember what I said: none of those stories, are we understood?"
"Yes," Ginny drawled, rolling her eyes.
"I don't mind," Harry put in. "What kind of stories?"
"Oh, don't worry about it, Harriet dear," Mrs. Weasley soothed. "Nothing you'd be interested in. Now both of you, off to bed! We'll have a nice breakfast tomorrow morning, and I'm sure the boys will turn up by then." Mrs. Weasley said this last part with a warm smile, although her eyes seemed a bit worried.
"Come on, Harriet!" Ginny grabbed Harry's hand. "Let me show you my room! Girls only, right?"
"Um, yeah." He let the young girl drag him up the winding stairs to her small room.
It was a pleasant, friendly sort of room, with bright, cheery colors, and all matter of personal affects littering the room. Typical sort of thing, with a few ragged dolls, well-read books, and a Quidditch poster or two. There was a sleeping mat as well, clearly intended for Harry, and Percy had left Harry's trunk there as well.
Ginny looked at Harry a bit nervously.
"You have a very nice room," Harry told Ginny, thinking that perhaps that was what she was worried about. "I particularly like the Quidditch stuff. You a big fan?"
"Oh, yes!" Ginny nodded with an enormous grin. "I quite like the Harpies, they have all women, of course. And I love to fly."
"You fly?" Harry blinked in surprise. "But you haven't started at Hogwarts yet."
"Well, I sneak out at night to practice," Ginny confided. "And I'm pretty good. Although probably not as good as you - I've heard quite a few tales." She grinned again. "Actually you're pretty popular around the house."
"I am pretty good friends with Ron," Harry pointed out. "He's a decent bloke."
Ginny giggled. "I don't think I'd ever have put it like that, but I suppose. But yes, obviously Ron loves you to pieces!"
Harry wasn't sure he liked the sound of that.
"Oh, um, nothing like that!" Ginny quickly said, clearly having caught the look on Harry's face. "He just talks a lot about you and your adventures. And the Twins are fans, obviously, since you helped the team win so much. And Percy has house pride, so that affects him, and he says that in general you have a 'decent attitude', whatever that means."
Harry shrugged. "Couldn't say."
Ginny clapped her hands together. "Oh, but it's so marvelous to finally meet you. I mean, you hear all sorts of things about what you did as a kid, but it seems that the real stories are even better!"
"Wait a moment," Harry frowned. "What did you hear about me as a kid?"
"Oh, nothing important," Ginny said, suddenly looked a bit chagrined. "There are just some silly stories people tell about you. They even published some fiction books about you, but then someone stopped the publishers, so they're hard to find these days. You know, like Harriet Potter and the Mysterious Tunnel or Harriet Potter's Wonderful Day at Sea? I know it's not really you, but you get to fight pirates and hunt dragons and ride your faithful unicorn steed Persephone to battle."
Harry snorted. "That sounds pretty silly. My life was pretty boring until I got to Hogwarts. Then, I must admit, we did have our share of excitement."
"I've heard," Ginny winked. "Fighting a troll, my parents weren't happy about that one. And then you actually faced off against You-Know-Who again - is that really true?"
"Yes, it's true," answered Harry. "I don't know how much Ron said or exaggerated, but yeah, we were trying to stop someone from stealing the Philosopher's Stone - you know what that is?"
Ginny nodded. "Ron explained it. Mum didn't think he was telling the truth about it. He also said he had to defeat a giant, evil chess set that was trying to kill you." She laughed. "Nobody believed that one."
Harry smirked. "Actually it's quite true. He even sacrificed himself to win the game, got hit on the head quite hard. Although that's hardly the worst place to hit him, naturally. Imagine if his stomach was damaged? He'd be heartbroken."
Ginny giggled, then looked a bit thoughtful. "Wow, I didn't realize. I guess Ron deserves a bit more respect than I was giving him."
"Ron does manage to sneak in a bit of respectability every so often," Harry said with a wink, then suddenly yawned. "Ginny, sorry, it's nice chatting, but I'm really quite tired."
"Oh, I am so sorry," Ginny worried. "I'll get the light. We'll have plenty of time to talk later, after all. Good night then."
Harry slipped off his shoes and climbed into bed, clothes and all, too tired to care.
Harry awoke to the sound of some commotion. It was still fairly early out, with the last glimpses of dawn still tentatively grasping the sky. Ginny was still fast asleep, so Harry slipped out of his bed to see what was going on.
He heard voices coming from outside, and as the front door was ajar, Harry sneaked a bit closer to find out what was going on.
"YOU COULD DO WITH TAKING A LEAF OUT OF PERCY'S BOOK!" yelled Mrs. Weasley, prodding a finger into a very nervous Fred's chest.
And there were George and Ron, seemingly safe and sound. Well, that was good news at the least. Mrs. Weasley continued yelling quite impressively, until she finally got rather hoarse and took a break.
Harry took this opportunity to open the door and step outside. "Hello, what's all this then?" he asked with a wide grin.
"Harriet!" Ron exclaimed. "So you are here then, after all."
Mrs. Weasley frowned. "Didn't you listen to a word I just said, Ronald Weasley?"
"Yeah, I'm here," Harry interjected. "Dumbledore brought me here last night."
The Weasley boys were all quite taken aback at that.
"Dumbledore did?" Ron asked uneasily. "But I thought..." He trailed off in confusion.
Fred shook his head. "Ronnie here gave us the impression that you needed to be rescued from your relatives. But then we head over there, and you weren't around at all."
"Wait!" Harry felt a bit light-headed. "You were at the Dursleys? They can't have liked that." And here he had been hoping some sort of progress had made. All of the magical interruptions couldn't be good for that.
"Well, no," Fred sighed. "Took a while to explain who we were, and why we were there."
"We didn't believe them, at first," George piped up. "Nasty folk. Um, no offense."
"None taken," Harry grumbled. "They aren't the nicest bunch, but we had gotten to a somewhat civil point. Now I don't think they'd even let me back in the house, not that I'd really want to go back in any event."
Ron pulled out a piece of paper. "But your note said that you needed to leave the Dursleys and come here midnight on your birthday."
"True," Harry agreed. "But I thought I said that Dumbledore would be taking me here. Didn't I?"
"Um," Ron scanned the paper. "Oh, it appears that you did. I didn't read the whole thing... it was all the way at the end! Bugger."
"Language!" Mrs. Weasley snapped.
Then Fred smacked Ron on the back of the head. "Couldn't bother reading an entire note, could you?"
"Harriet, dear, it's quite early," Mrs. Weasley said kindly. "Now that the boys are back safely after their foolish nonsense, perhaps you should be getting back to sleep?"
"I'm not sure I could even fall asleep now," Harry replied. "A bit too much excitement, I guess."
"Well, I hadn't planned breakfast for at least an hour or so," Mrs. Weasley said thoughtfully. "Perhaps I could get started a tad early."
"I could go for some breakfast," Ron put in eagerly.
Mrs. Weasley glared at her wayward sons. "You three gave us quite a fright last night. I hardly think you should be rewarded for your misbehavior. After a quick breakfast, I think you lot should do a bit of de-gnoming."
George groaned. "Mum, that's a bit much. We were on a rescue mission, weren't we?"
"That's the only reason it's not something harsher!" She turned to Harry and smiled. "Breakfast won't be a moment. Why don't you see if Ginny is awake?"
Harry nodded. "Sure."
"Met her already, have you?" Ron asked, looking anxiously towards the kitchen. "She can be a bit of a brat, but she's all right."
Harry laughed. "She said something similar about you."
"Lucky it's just the two brats in the family," Fred chuckled, tousling Ron's hair.
"And just one prat!" George chimed in.
"And where is Precious Percy?" Fred asked in fake wonder. "Sleeping off a hard night's sleep?"
"I'd wager he read quite hard yesterday," George nodded. "Growing boy needs a bit of rest after all that."
"Too true," Fred replied sagely.
Harry grinned and walked back up to Ginny's room.
As Harry walked into the room, Ginny sat up and yawned mightily.
"Oh, mornin', Harriet. Is it time for breakfast yet?"
"Just about," replied Harry. "And your brothers are here too."
"That's good," Ginny said a bit sleepily. "Where were they?"
"Apparently they thought I needed to be rescued, so they went off to my relatives after I had already gone."
Ginny snorted. "Idiots. Let me wash up and meet you down there. I assume Mum's already given them grief over it. Do you think they might stand a bit more from me?"
Harry laughed. "I don't see why not."
He made his way back downstairs and almost instantly was overwhelmed with the magnificent smells of a hearty breakfast. Now that was more like it.
Harry hurried into the kitchen, where Ron and the twins were already seated, chomping away at their various foodstuffs.
"Wow, that smells amazing, Mrs. Weasley."
"Oh, please, it's nothing," Mrs. Weasley beamed. "Have a seat, have a seat. Is Ginny awake?"
"Yeah," Harry sat down and helped himself to some already-buttered toast. Ingenious, magic was sometimes. "She'll be down in a bit."
"Ah, lovely little Gin-Gin," Fred mused. "Figures you two would get along."
"A scarlet duo," George opined.
Fred shook his head. "Awful."
"So," Ron said through a mouthful of food. "How muz your fummer?"
Harry was quite used to interpreting this Ron-speech, and understood perfectly.
"Decent enough, mostly boring, except for the house-elf bit, of course. You?"
"Ih muh good," Ron answered somewhat incoherently.
"Swallow your food first!" Mrs. Weasley scolded.
Ron scowled and swallowed. "Yeah, it was fine. Boring over here too. Everybody from school was out of town it seemed."
"Hold on a tic," Fred interjected. "What's this about a house-elf?"
"It was in the letter," Ron said blithely, pouring syrup on his eggs. "Apparently some crazy house-elf was stopping the mail because it didn't want her to go back to Hogwarts."
"What?" George exclaimed. "Was it barmy?"
"Not a bad name for a house-elf," Fred nodded.
"Well, perhaps a bit," Harry allowed. "Oh, and that reminds me. Have any of you lot heard of 38 The Dormers, Highworth, Wiltshire?"
"Some treasure seeking, Harriet?" Fred inquired with a wink. "I hear you. Don't forget, we two are quite capable at finding hidden treasures. Well, I am, at least."
"Why, I am offended," George gasped dramatically. "And who found you-know-what you-know-where last year?"
Fred's narrowed. "Well played, sir. You're just lucky you're so bloody handsome, I can't stay mad."
"Fred! Watch your mouth!" Mrs. Weasley then frowned. "You know, Harriet, that address does sound a tad familiar. I'll ask Mr. Weasley when he comes home, should be any minute now."
"Good morning!" Ginny bounded into the kitchen happily and snagged a seat at the table. "Where's Percy?"
Fred's jaw dropped. "Dear Merlin.. where is Percy?"
"Secret Prefect Breakfast Meeting," George replied.
"Ah," Fred nodded. "Well spotted."
"So, I hear you had some adventure last night, eh?" Ginny asked.
"Yeah," replied Ron. "We actually took the flying car."
"No!" Ginny gasped. "It actually flew! I'm surprised Mum hasn't already killed you all."
"I'm still considered it," Mrs. Weasley muttered.
"I'm very disappointed in you," Ginny said teasingly, shaking her head dramatically. "Fred, aren't you the oldest? Not very responsible."
"Once upon a time," Fred intoned, looking at the ceiling. "A young, ebullient Ginevra Weasley was off to perform..." He then ducked as Ginny threw a roll at him.
Mrs. Weasley tossed a few sparks in the air with her wand. "Enough, you two! Ginny, don't waste food. And, Fred, you know better than to bring up that nonsense."
"What nonsense?" Harry asked.
"Oh, don't worry about it," Mrs. Weasley said reassuringly. "You know how the twins are, after all."
Harry wasn't sure he quite understood, but as he was still hungry and there was still food left, he had slightly more pressing matters to attend.
"So, what is de-gnoming, anyway?" Harry asked, as they cleaned up from breakfast.
"It's not pleasant work," Mrs. Weasley said. "And you don't need to bother worrying about it, you didn't do anything wrong."
Ron sniffed loudly.
Mrs. Weasley looked back. "What was that?"
"Nothing," Ron grumbled.
"Oh, I know!" Ginny said excitedly. "Can we go visit the Lovegoods? You know, we need to leave some time, right?"
"Ah, good point dear," her mother nodded. "Is that all right with you, Harriet?"
"Um, sure," Harry said slowly. "Who are the Lovegoods?"
Ginny grinned. "Well, actually, it's just Luna," she clarified. "A young girl my age. You'd like her. C'mon, it'll be fun!"
"Well, why not?" Harry shrugged. "You don't mind, do you Ron?"
"Nah," Ron said dismissively. "You have fun with the girls. And if you like, I'll leave a gnome for you when you get back."
Harry laughed. "I'm not sure what that means, but okay then."
He walked with Ginny for a short while, until a black, cylindrical house came into view.
"Here we are," Ginny chirped. "Watch for the dirigibles up the path."
"The what?" Harry asked.
Ginny laughed. "I rather think you'll figure it out."
Sure enough, Harry had to duck around several floating fruits as they wove through a crooked and zigzagged path. Seeing the orange fruit dart about, Harry wondered briefly if they were even edible. Maybe if you ate one, you floated?
"If her father opens the door, don't mind him," Ginny advised. "He's a tad odd." She then knocked on the door using a knocker in the shape of an eagle.
Almost instantly, a blond-haired man with a bit of a cross-eyed expression whipped open the door.
"Visitors, is it?" He asked, looking very suspicious.
"Hello, Mr. Lovegood," Ginny said in a polite tone. "We're here to see Luna, is she in?"
A short, light-haired girl peeked her head out of the door. "Oh, hello Ginny. Are you here to visit?" Harry couldn't help but notice she had slightly protuberant eyes, although it seemed to fit her in an odd sort of way.
"That's right!" Ginny beamed. "We can hang out outside if you'd prefer."
Luna turned to her father. "I'll be back later!" She then hopped outside the door and slammed it in her father's face. "Hello there!"
Harry blinked, slightly taken aback. "Hello, I'm Harry Potter."
Luna tilted her head and looked confused. "I'm sorry?"
"Luna, stop that," Ginny said, looking between them with a bit of worry. "It's Harriet Potter, you knew she might be coming by."
"Oh, that makes more sense," Luna replied with a nod and then smiled at Harry. "I thought you introduced yourself with a different name. I couldn't quite hear it correctly, though."
Something about this response piqued Harry's curiosity.
"Actually, I don't suppose..." Harry trailed off, not sure he really wanted to keep going. Well, it was worth a shot, wasn't it? "May I call you Luna?"
Luna nodded with a dreamy smile.
"Luna, I don't suppose I look like a boy, to you?"
"Harriet, what is that supposed to mean?" Ginny asked in bewilderment.
Luna stepped very close to Harry and peered at him very intently. She frowned. "No, you look like a girl to me. Ginny, does she look like a girl to you?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Obviously. Harriet, if this is some odd joke, I don't care for it."
"Here's the thing," Harry barreled on, not willing to let Ginny interrupt a potential breakthrough. "I'm really a boy. I don't suppose either of you understood what I just said?"
"Huh?" Ginny did not seem to grasp the words.
"Can you repeat that?" Luna asked Harry slowly.
"I'm really a boy named Harry Potter," Harry said in a clear and distinct manner. "The Headmaster believes I'm under some sort of spell that make me appear like a girl to everyone else." He held his breath, afraid to even hope too much.
"What are you talking about?" Ginny asked, scratching her head in puzzlement. "Those words don't even make sense."
Luna frowned. "You think you're a boy? And Albus Dumbledore believes you?"
"Yes!" Harry almost shouted in glee. "Most people don't even seem to hear me when I say that. But you heard me, right? What about 'Harry' - nobody can say that name either - can you say it?"
Ginny held her head and looked pained. "I can't follow anything you two are saying."
"Ha..." Luna squinted and frowned. "Rr..." She then clutched her head. "Ah!"
Harry leaped forward. "Luna, are you all right?"
"No, I can do this." Luna then tightened her face and breathed in and out deeply. "Your name is..." Her face then began to turn red.
"I don't want you to hurt yourself over this," Harry pointed out, slightly concerned.
"I am completely lost," Ginny put in. "What in the world are you two babbling about?"
Luna looked up at Ginny and then smiled. "Ginevra, don't you have that situation a bit later today?"
"Well, of course," Ginny looked back and forth between her and Harry. "But don't, you know... say anything about it."
"I won't," Luna assured her friend. "But I think your mother might need some help, and then Harr... Harr..." She stopped and shook her head. "This person and I can talk for a bit before coming by."
Ginny frowned. "You don't mind? Harriet, is that okay with you?"
"Yes, completely," Harry grinned. The idea of someone who might be able to understand that he wasn't a girl somewhat overshadowed everything else at the moment. "Do we need to be back at some point?"
"Luna knows," Ginny answered. "Right, Luna?"
"Yes, I do," replied Luna. "Right around lunchtime, correct?"
Ginny nodded. "Exactly. Okay, well, don't spoil it, and I'll see you soon! Don't be too weird, Harriet!" She winked. "See ya!" Ginny waved and ran off back towards her house.
"What were you two talking about anyway?" asked Harry.
Luna smiled mysteriously. "Oh, I don't want to spoil the surprise; you'll find out at lunchtime, won't you?"
"Hmm," Harry mused. "Does this have anything to do with those stories everyone keeps mentioning? I still have no idea what that's about."
Luna suddenly began laughing hysterically. "That is very funny! The stories! Ginevra didn't tell you anything about them! She didn't say anything at all!"
Harry frowned. "No, obviously not. I assume you know all about it, then?."
"Oh, I think I do, Hrrprr," Luna said, mangling the last few syllables. "Ginny and I wrote some stories about you and us when we were children. We even got them published!"
Harry's jaw dropped. "Are you serious?"
Luna nodded. "Oh yes, published in The Quibbler, my father's newspaper. There was quite a bit of fuss about it. My father was worried he might get fined. And then Ginevra's parents banned her from ever writing those stories again! They were furious! It was hilarious!"
"Um, if you say so," mumbled Harry, thinking that perhaps their definitions of "hilarious" differed slightly.
"Why, I don't know what to call you then," Luna said, suddenly frowning. "I can't say your proper non-girl name."
Harry shrugged. "Dumbledore calls me Not-Harriet."
Luna giggled. "I quite like that. Not-Harriet it is, then!"
"Here's what I don't understand," Harry said worriedly. "Why is it that you can understand that I'm not a girl, even if you can't physically see it, but nobody else can? Well, except for Dumbledore."
Luna scratched her head in thought. "I'm not sure. I am certain I don't have anything close to the sorts of abilities the Headmaster has, but perhaps there is one reason."
"Go on," Harry encouraged.
"I find it quite easy to believe in things others don't," Luna explained with a wide smile. "I suppose it's just my nature. And I will figure out how to say your name someday, I promise."
Harry couldn't help but smile back at Luna's infectious enthusiasm. "If only you could teach others the same perspective."
"But then I wouldn't be as interesting, would I?" Luna teased, wagging her finger in front of Harry's face.
Harry laughed. "Oh, I don't know about that."
Luna checked her watch. "We should probably head back to the Weasleys soon. Then all of your questions will be answered."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Quite a promise. Sure you can hold to it?'
"Of course," Luna replied airily. "Have I ever disappointed you?"
"Well, we're still fairly young," Harry teased back. "There's still plenty of time."
Luna merely smiled at this.
"I think this is all just so fascinating," Luna enthused as they walked up to the Weasley's home. "Trying to determine what other people actually hear when you say certain things related to your curse. Ginevra seemed quite out of sorts."
Harry nodded. "Not that unusual, unfortunately. I'm a bit used to it by now."
"But wait a moment!" Luna gasped. "If everyone sees you as a girl, just as I do, weren't you staying in the girls' dorm at Hogwarts?"
"Yes," Harry grimaced. "And mind you, that wasn't exactly the most comfortable experience at first. But like everything else, I've slowly grown more used to the various minor annoyances associated with everyone seeing me as a girl. Like pretending they all say 'Harry', instead of 'Harriet'."
"Ah, of course," Luna smiled. "Personally, I can't wait for Hogwarts. I've got my letter already, and we're going to pick up my wand this week. It'll be the greatest time, don't you think?"
Harry chuckled. "Well, I certainly like it. I'm sure you will too. Any idea of which house you'll be in?"
"Hmm, a very good question," Luna replied thoughtfully. "I'd imagine Ginevra would be in Gryffindor, naturally, but I'm not sure that's the ideal place for me. Perhaps Ravenclaw? I do enjoy riddles and puzzles."
"I'm sure you'd do well wherever you end up," Harry assured her. "You seem pretty darn smart to me."
Luna beamed at him. "Thank you, Not-Harriet. I wonder if you'd be so nice if you were really a girl."
Harry laughed. "I have no idea on that one."
Harry glanced up to see Ron waving at him from the Weasley's front lawn.
"Harriet, over here!" Ron grinned and nodded to Luna. "Hi, you're Ginny's friend, right?"
"Yes, I am Luna Lovegood," Luna replied happily. "And you must be Ronald Weasley."
"Um, yes, good guess," Ron chuckled in a slightly nervous manner, scratching the back of his head. "Harriet, check out this little blighter over here. It's a gnome!"
Harry peered down to see a small, potato-shaped creature with stubby arms and legs. It grumbled audibly and kicked at the ground.
Luna jumped up and down and clapped her hands. "Ooh, it's a blessing to have gnomes in your garden! My father always says so."
"Uh, yeah, sure," Ron replied. "My mum doesn't care for 'em though, so we gotta de-gnome the yard every so often. Although it's funny, my dad kinda likes them too."
"How do you get rid of them?" Harry asked.
"The best way is to grab them, spin 'em around until they get dizzy, then throw it out of the yard. It'll be too dizzy to find its way back."
Harry frowned. "Doesn't that hurt them?"
Ron laughed. "Nah, it's real hard to hurt gnomes. It doesn't kill them, just makes it harder for them to come back. Although they always do, unless you use a Jarvey or something - but nobody does that anymore."
Luna bent down and waved at the gnome. "Hello, blessed nuisance!"
"You want a go, Harriet?" Ron asked. "I saved this one for you."
"Um, well, all right." Harry couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for the gnomes, and decided just to drop it over the hedge. But the gnome, sensing weakness, sank its razor-sharp teeth into Harry's finger.
Harry spun around, trying to get it off, when finally he managed to fling it away.
"Goodbye!" Luna waved.
Ron whistled. "Wow, Harriet — that must've been fifty feet…" He turned to Harry and grinned. "All that exercise make you feel up for a spot of lunch?"
Harry laughed. "For once I'm glad you're thinking with your stomach."
"Oi!" Ron yelped, looking offended. "I can't help I'm a growing boy."
"I dunno," Harry mused. "Aren't you tall enough already?"
"A good point, Not-Harriet," Luna chimed in. "Any taller, and he might attract Wrackspurts."
"There you go," Harry nodded with a grin. "So stop growing this instant."
Ron shook his head and held open the door for Harry, who quickly walked inside.
Harry stopped short in shock. All of the Weasleys he had already met were there, as well as an older red-haired man that must have been Mr. Weasley. And some of his Hogwarts friends were there like Neville Longbottom and the Patil twins.
Instantly, Parvati rushed over and hugged Harry tightly.
"Happy Birthday, Harriet! Oh, it is so good to see you again!" Parvati gushed. "It has been the most boring summer imaginable. "
"Birthday?" Harry repeated. "Oh, is that what all this nonsense is about?"
"Obviously," Ron chuckled. "Like we'd forget about your birthday. Or like you could stop my mum from throwing a party for you once she had the chance."
"Well, I didn't expect anything like this," Harry mumbled, a bit embarrassed at the attention. "I never really had anything like this before."
"Your relatives never had a party for you?" Parvati asked in a scandalized tone.
Harry shook his head. "I doubt they even remembered most years."
"Bloody muggles," Ron muttered angrily.
The older red-haired man had walked over with a wide smile and held out his hand. "Hello, Miss Potter. Arthur Weasley, honored to have you in our home." He had a very warm, friendly manner about him that Harry instantly found very pleasant.
Harry accepted the handshake with a smile of his own. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir. Your family has all been great, and you have a fantastic house."
Mr. Weasley looked quite pleased at the comments. "Oh, think nothing of it, my dear. You are welcome here any time. Now, please, enjoy yourself! And don't forget to have a big slice of cake - Molly made it, and although it's always amazing, she's worried you won't like it."
Harry laughed. "Well, I'll be sure to mention that it's the very best cake I've ever had. And it'll probably be true, too."
Mr. Weasley grinned and nodded. "Good girl."
"Hello, Harriet," Neville said a bit softly, holding out a hand.
"How are you doing, Neville?" Harry replied boisterously, shaking Neville's hand in a brisk manner. "Good summer, have you?"
Neville shrugged. "I guess. Bit boring, I suppose."
Parvati giggled. "It figures that only Harriet would have the crazy adventures with letters and house elves."
"Ah, so you got my note explaining it?" Harry asked.
Parvati nodded. "Yes, quite a bizarre tale. We don't have any house elves at home, but I've never heard of one acting that way."
"We have one," Neville said shyly. "But I'm not supposed to ask him for anything."
"That's not fair!" Ron sputtered. "If I had a house elf, I'd ask for things all the time!"
"Like Mum would let you!" Ginny said, walking over to them. "Sorry for leaving you, Harriet, but I hope you liked the surprise."
"I did," Harry grinned. "And Luna and I had a nice walk back."
Luna nodded. "It was a marvelous waste of time!"
"Oh, that nearly reminds me," said Parvati. "You missed the big argument about house elves."
"What's to argue about?" Harry asked. "Unless... uh oh. What did you tell Hermione?"
Parvati sighed. "Well, I'm not exactly an expert on it. You know, Neville," she glared at the suddenly nervous boy. "I didn't know you had a house elf! You could have helped out when Hermione was yelling at us!"
"I didn't know what to say," Neville answered with a cringe. "Hermione kinda scares me like that."
Ron laughed. "I can't blame you for that one, mate."
Suddenly, the sound of a throat clearing caused most of the group to jump back.
"Potter, have you spoken with Granger this summer?" Padma asked Harry.
"Um, no," Harry replied, still a bit taken aback. "Except in letters, of course."
"Well," Ron started to say, then looked as if he immediately regretted speaking. He sighed and shook his head. "Hermione said that she'd owl us when she was planning to be in Diagon Alley. We can probably meet up then."
Parvati nodded. "Yeah, I got that note too. Lavender said something similar, as well." She beamed. "It'll be nice to have the whole Trapdoor gang together again."
"The 'Trapdoor gang'?" Harry repeated with a laugh, helping himself to a generous piece of birthday cake. "Oh, is that what we're calling ourselves, now?"
"Ah, I forgot," said Ron. "We started using that just after you left. Has a nice ring to it, don't it?"
"What's this about a gang?" Ginny asked curiously. "Does this have something to do with your mad adventures last year?"
"You could say that," Harry replied mysteriously. "Perhaps you'll find out more when you come to Hogwarts."
Ginny pouted. "That's mean, Harriet."
Luna laughed suddenly. "Yes, and very amusing too!"
Parvati blinked in surprise. "Oh, I don't believe we've met," she said. "I'm Parvati Patil, and this my sister, Padma."
"Hello," Luna smiled at them. "I'm Luna Lovegood. I live down the road."
"Ah, neighbors!" Parvati smiled. "Lovegood, did you say? Are you related to that bloke who does The Quibbler?"
"That's my father!" Luna answered. "And sometimes he lets me write articles for the paper!"
"Isn't that paper mostly about unsubstantiated rumors and hearsay?" Padma asked.
"No," Luna retorted. "It doesn't sound like you've even read it."
"I have not," Padma agreed. "Is it a worthwhile endeavor?"
"Oh, certainly," replied Luna. "We are strong proponents of the investigative method of journalism."
Padma blinked. "I see. And how does that differ from other methods of journalism?"
Luna grinned. "Why, that's an excellent question!"
Ron whispered to the others. "Why do I suddenly have a terrible feeling about this?"
Parvati groaned. "Like we needed another one."
Harry continued to enjoy himself at his very first own birthday party, including being quite surprised by several gifts. Although perhaps he should have expected it by that point.
But the good times finally came to an end, and it was time for Harry to leave.
An older man, with dark features and a serious expression had appeared as the sun began to set.
"Oh, it's Father!" Parvati pulled slightly at Harry's arm. "I must introduce you. I'm thrilled you're staying with us, of course, but Father can be a bit intimidating at times. Don't let it worry you."
Harry nodded and walked with Parvati over to her father.
"Good evening, Father," said Parvati. "May I introduce you to Miss Harriet Potter?"
Mr. Patil nodded his head slightly. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Harriet Potter. We are honored that you will stay at our home for the remainder of the summer. Has Parvati reviewed the house rules with you?"
"Um, not yet, Father," Parvati interjected. "I will go over them now before we leave."
Mr. Patil nodded again. "Very good. I will be waiting by the Floo once I have collected your sister. She hasn't been a nuisance, has she?"
Parvati shook her head. "No, there was no problem at all."
With yet another nod, Mr. Patil walked off in search of Padma.
"Okay," Harry managed to say. "You were right. He is just a bit intimidating."
Parvati giggled. "Don't worry about it. You'll be a guest, after all. But I suppose I should quickly review the house rules so you don't make a mistake. They won't yell at you or anything, but I'll certainly hear about it if I forget something."
Harry blanched. "Well, I don't want that. I'll be on my best behavior, I promise."
"I'm not worried, Harriet," Parvati assured him. "You're hardly a troublemaker. Here's what you need to know. Call my parents Mr. Patil and Mrs. Patil, never anything else. Not even sir or ma'am, that would be considered too formal. Try to avoid using your left hand for anything important, and be sure to remove your shoes when you enter the house. When we get home, I'll show you the rooms we're permitted to enter, and the permissible hours for everything."
"I think I get it," Harry frowned. "Mr. or Mrs. only, avoid left hand stuff, take off shoes, stay out of rooms unless I know, and the rest you'll let me know."
Parvati nodded with a smile. "You've got it!"
Mr. Patil walked over with Padma and looked at the two of them. "It is time to depart. Your mother has the evening meal waiting for us."
"May we say goodbye to our friends?" Parvati asked.
"You may," responded Mr. Patil.
Harry quickly walked with Parvati over to the others.
"Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, it has been a pleasure," Harry told them with a grin. "And all the food was fantastic, I must add. Will you be coming to Diagon Alley when we all meet up there later?"
"I believe so," Mr. Weasley replied. "Molly and I usually take the whole family to Diagon Alley for school supplies once each summer, so we shall see you there!"
"Great!" Harry smiled. "Ron, Neville, nice seeing you guys. Don't forget to write!"
"I won't," Neville assured him with a small smile. "It's been good seeing everyone again."
"I hope you had a good time," Ron said. "I know Mum and Dad were happy to meet you."
Harry nodded. "It was great. Oh, where are Ginny and Luna?"
"Over here!" Ginny called out, then ran over and gave Harry a hug. "It was brilliant meeting you. I guess I'll see you at Hogwarts?"
"Actually, we'll all be meeting up in Diagon Alley later," Harry explained. "I'll see you then, I'm sure."
Ginny grinned. "That sounds great!"
"I hope you enjoy yourself," Luna then said a bit solemnly.
"As you too, Luna," Harry returned in an equally solemn tone, although he couldn't stop his mouth from quirking up a bit. "See you later, everyone."
As they walked away, Harry realized he wasn't precisely sure how he was going to get to the Patil home.
"Um, Parvati," he whispered. "How exactly are we getting to your family's house?"
"The Floo, of course," she replied.
"Of course," Harry repeated. "Um, what is the Floo again?"
Parvati laughed and shook her head. "Oh, I always forget you grew up with Muggles. The Floo is what we use to travel between places. It's simple to use, just toss some Floo powder into a registered hearth, then clearly say where you want to go and step through. Easy."
"If you say so," Harry mumbled nervously. Stepping through fire didn't sound altogether that simple.
Although sure enough, Mr. Patil had thrown something in the Weasley's fireplace, which had turned a bright green color.
Padma stepped up to the fire and called out "679 Canton". Without another word, she stepped into the fire, causing Harry to flinch instinctively. But Padma vanished without a trace.
"See, Harriet," Parvati prodded him. "Nothing to it. You can go next, just say the same address."
"Right," Harry nodded nervously and stepped up to the fire. Suddenly he recalled something he had nearly forgotten. "Oh, before I go, can you ask Mr. Weasley about 38 The Dormers?" Suddenly Harry breathed in some smoke from the hearth and coughed so hard, he tripped into the fire.
He held up his hands to protect his face, but instead of the scalding he expected, Harry found himself tumbling through what felt like a giant spinning drain, with bright green flames bursting all around him.
And then he tumbled out of a fireplace into a room with a stone floor and walls. Harry looked around, feeling quite foolish. The fire continued to burn behind him, although it didn't seem quite as green as it had a moment earlier.
"Hmm, I need some sort of powder, don't I?"
"What is Harriet Potter doing in the holding room?"
The shrill voice caused a chill to go down Harry's back. He turned to face an old friend.
"Oh, hello, Dobby," Harry said to the surprised house elf. "Um, I think I came here by accident."
"Harriet Potter should not be here," Dobby informed him. "This is a dangerous place, this is the room for holding gifts."
Harry winced. "Ah, well I didn't intend to come here." He looked around the room and frowned. "Hey, there's no door here."
Dobby shook his head. "No, the room is only for special business. Harriet must leave immediately."
"Well, I'd love to, Dobby," Harry shrugged with a nervous grin. "But I think I need some Floo powder."
"Dobby will get it," the house elf replied with a frown. "Harriet Potter should know better! Dobby will be right back."
After the house elf had vanished with a pop, Harry leaned against the stone wall and sighed.
"Harry Potter should definitely have known better."
Next time, Harry gets a bit more than he bargained for.
"Wondrous to meet you, my dear," the irritating ponce said. "I'm Gilderoy Lockhart."
"I know," Harry replied acidly. "Your face is everywhere I look."