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Free Life Posted on 8/16/2014 1:03:46 AM
Chapter 7: 4000 words and counting
Hero Posted on 3/25/2012 7:32:33 PM
Chapter 6 Chance and Choice: 3,600 words and counting
Long Lost Brother Posted on 4/21/2010 2:57:30 PM
Chapter 5: 0 words and counting.

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Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I in no way claim ownership of any rights to the Harry Potter Universe.

Author's Note:

Chapter 4: OWLs and Alley Cats
A few days later, right after his morning workout, Harry got a visit from the same owl that had borne the headmaster’s letter on his birthday. It was carrying another letter with the Hogwarts seal on it. As Harry ripped it open and dumped it out, his eyes were immediately drawn to the red and gold badge with the letter ‘C’ on it. A letter was attached.

Dear Mr. Potter,

It is with great pleasure that I am able to inform you that the ridiculous educational decrees passed by Delores Umbridge have all been repealed, including your lifelong ban on Quidditch. Katie Bell spoke with me before the year was through and expressed her wish for the captaincy to be offered to you. She felt that since she would have enough going on with her NEWTs this year that you would be able to handle the spot better than she. I have to say that I am inclined to agree that you would make a magnificent captain.

I have become accustomed to having the Quidditch and House cup in my office, and I hope to keep both there for years to come. I trust you will not let me down.

Yours Sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry


Harry picked up the next piece of parchment and momentarily froze at the words on the top of the page before continuing down.

Ordinary Wizarding Level Results


Pass Grades
Outstanding (O)
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Acceptable (A)
Fail Grades
Poor (P)
Dreadful (D)
Troll (T)

The results for Harry James Potter are as follows:


Astronomy:
Care of Magical Creatures:
Charms:
Defense Against the Dark Arts:
Divination:
Herbology:
History of Magic:
Potions:
Transfiguration:
A
E
O
O*
A
E
D
O
E


*Special distinction goes to the student for this exam for scoring over 100 percent.


Harry smiled a genuine smile after reading his results. He had actually done it. He had all the scores he needed, and he had done it all on his own. He didn’t need any favors to get into the classes he’d need to be an auror. He had received a total of 8 OWLs, three of them Outstandings. And he had scored over 100% on his Defense exam. The examiner had offered him extra points for conjuring his corporeal Patronus. Apparently that had been enough to put him over the top.

The next letter was the standard notice that the Hogwarts Express would be leaving from King’s Cross Platform 9 3/4 on the first of September. There was another sheet listing the courses he was eligible to take next term asking him to mark the ones he would be taking and to return the completed form to Professor McGonagall right away. She recommended that students not sign up for more than 7 courses without first consulting her. The last sheet of paper was the booklist.

Harry filled out the class form, marking down DADA, Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, and Care of Magical Creatures. He sat down at his desk and began writing his Head of House a note.

Dear Professor McGonagall,

I regret to inform you that I am turning down the Gryffindor Quidditch captaincy. I’m ecstatic to be back on the team, but I don’t think I am well suited to be captain despite my seniority on the team. I don’t know if you know this yet, but I will be hosting the DA again this year. I plan to invest a lot of time in my lessons with the other students, and I aim to do well in my classes as well.

Adding the captaincy onto my workload would put me in a bind. Not only that, but I don’t know that much about Quidditch. I have only ever played seeker, and I know nothing about strategy. You would be better off with someone who has followed the sport his whole life and is intimately familiar with all the positions and everything involved in the sport. My recommendation for the spot would be Ron Weasley. I’ve never met anyone who knows more about the sport.

I hope you understand my decision. I think you’ll find that Ron would make a much better captain than me anyway.

Sincerely,
Harry Potter


He stuck his letter, the captain’s badge, and the class form into an envelope and wrote Professor McGonagall on the front of the letter. He gave it to the brown owl that had waited around expecting a response, and the owl took off out his window without preamble.

Harry decided that now that he had his booklist and control of the Potter vault, it was time to make another trip to Diagon Alley. It was still early in the morning, around 9:00. He quickly got ready and was apparating out of his house 15 minutes later, a dark blonde haired, brown eyed, scarless boy. He had found a nice glamour charm used to conceal blemishes or unsightly scars which took care of his telltale lightning bolt scar. His trunk was in his pocket to hold his purchases for the day.

He strode through the sporadically populated streets purposefully toward the tall white columns of Gringotts bank. He ascended the stairs and passed the security into the main lobby. Harry approached the first available goblin teller and asked “I’d like to be taken to the Potter family vault please, by Griphook, if he’s available,” Harry added.

“May I ask why you have requested Griphook?” the teller asked curiously, seeming to forget to be discourteous.

“Griphook has taken me to my personal vault the two times I have been here before. The last time I was here, he was very helpful. Plus, he is the only goblin I know,” Harry explained.

The goblin must have been pleased enough with his response because he called “Griphook,” without further questioning. When the familiar goblin appeared, the teller continued “Please take Mr. Potter here to the Potter family vault.”

Griphook looked at the teller in shock and asked “Why…” before he was interrupted by the teller.

“Mr. Potter has specifically requested that you take him to his family vault,” the goblin said in a stern tone.

Griphook seemed startled by this proclamation but quickly recovered and turned toward Harry. “You do me great honor,” he said with a nod of his head that might be taken as a bow. “Please follow me.” He turned on his heel and stalked out of the room.

Harry followed the goblin into back into the caverns and into a cart before finally asking “What was all that about?”

Griphook answered the question with a question “What do you mean?”

“Why did you seem so surprised that they’d ask you to take me to my vault? And why did you tell me I honored you?” Harry asked, perplexed.

“Your family vault is not like your personal vault. It is one of the older vaults and is very heavily protected. It is deep within the mines underneath the bank and is normally only accessed by senior goblins. It would be another 20 years before I become eligible to be promoted to a level that I might handle such vaults. A goblin in my position being asked to take anyone to such a vault is unheard of,” Griphook explained.

“Oh,” was all Harry could think to say in reply. The ride was especially long, at least twice as long as the trip to his personal vault, Harry decided. When they finally arrived Harry realized something “Umm, Griphook?”

“Yes, Mr. Pot – I mean Harry?” the goblin replied.

“I just realized I don’t have a key for the vault,” Harry explained. He was about to say more about the circumstances when he was interrupted.

“These vaults do not require a key, Mr. Potter. Not for blood members of the family, anyway. Follow me.” Griphook exited the cart and led Harry, who had dutifully grabbed the lantern from its stand, up to a door with just a relatively small round impression in it. “Place your hand in the circle.”

Harry did as he was instructed by placing his palm within the circle. Nothing happened for a brief moment, then Harry heard a rumble and a number of clicks and the sound of stone grinding against stone. Moments later the entryway was open and he was staring into a treasure room.

There was gold everywhere. Some was contained within trunks half of which were open, but there were mountains of gold scattered around. The room was enormous. Harry noticed there was some old fashioned furniture on his left. He walked over to a shelf that was holding various objects in it, many of which were forms of jewelry or precious stones. There was a sofa nearby with a table in front of it. On top of the table an envelope caught Harry’s eye. As he walked closer, Harry realized that there was writing on the envelope, his name.

Harry snatched up the envelope and sank into the sofa behind him. He stared at his name on the envelope for what could have been an hour but was probably closer to a minute. He eventually shook himself out of his stupor and gently opened up the envelope. There were two pieces of parchment inside, different handwriting, but both beginning with the words Dear Son. Harry hungrily lifted the letter in feminine script and devoured its contents.

Dear Son,

Writing this letter to you is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. Your father and I are taking you and going into hiding tomorrow. Voldemort found out about some prophecy that might name you as his future killer, so you have become one of his prime targets. What could possess a man to attack an infant is beyond me, especially one as precious as you, but Voldemort seemingly lost his humanity long ago.

I am writing this letter because I fear for what might happen. If you are reading this, then my fears were well founded. I am sorry that I was unable to be there for you as you grew up. Since the day I learned I was pregnant, you have been the center of my life. I want you to know that I love you with all of my heart. I take comfort in the fact that I know that your father and Sirius love you as much as I do, so I know you will always be in good hands.

This past year with you has been the best year of my life in spite of the war. You are a light in my life that could guide me through the darkest of times. You are the most precious baby in the world. And I think you might be the only person that is capable of taming Sirius. The only time he shows the smallest amount of responsibility is when he’s holding you. And we know you’re going to be one powerful wizard someday because we’ve already seen you doing magic. When you see something you want, you’ll do everything in your power to get it, even if it means summoning it from across the room.

When you’re reading this I imagine you’ll be all grown up already. I want you to know that I will always watch over you through the good times and the bad. If you ever feel alone, know that I am always with you in your heart. What I hope for most is that you live a long and happy life. Always stick up for what you believe in and follow your dreams through to the end. Don’t let others dictate how to live your life. Your life is your own to live as you see fit. And if you find love, hold onto it with everything you have. Believe me when I say that it is worth it.

I love you, Harry.

Lily Potter


Tears dropped onto the parchment that he hadn’t even realized he’d been crying. His whole life Harry had wanted something from his parents, anything at all. He craved something that would tell him even a little bit about his mom and dad. At the end of his first year at Hogwarts he was given a picture album of his parents. That was the only thing he owned, besides his father’s invisibility cloak and the Marauder’s Map, that linked him to either of his parents. Now he had a letter from his mom sitting in his hands, written to him. It was quite literally a dream come true.

And it wasn’t just any old letter that she had written. It was meant for Harry, written to Harry. It said all the things that he had been longing to hear for all his life, though he had long given up hope. He reverently replaced his mom’s note in the envelope and opened up the second letter.

Dear Son,

I don’t know where to start. I am writing this letter because there is a very good possibility that I may not make it out of this war alive. Unless you are taken here beforehand, you will not receive this until you’re fifteen, practically a man. I’m sorry I was not there for you while you were growing up. I would have loved to be the one to teach you to fly. You’re going to be a great Quidditch player someday, just like your old man; I can feel it. You already love flying, but don’t tell your mother that I’ve taken you on a broom. I’d never hear the end of it.

Sirius thinks you’ll be a seeker, but I think you’ll follow in my footsteps and be the best chaser Gryffindor has seen since your old man. You’re already doing magic, which entertains us to no end. You even once levitated Padfoot into your crib to cuddle with as you went to sleep. Sirius would never say so, but I don’t think he’d ever been so happy in his life. He loves you like you were his own son, and I know he will have taken good care of you.

Now for the fatherly advise that you’ve been missing out on your whole life. I don’t imagine Sirius ever had too many words of wisdom to give you. One day you’re going to find a woman who is everything that you could ever hope for in a partner. And I’ll bet you she’s got red hair. Some call it a curse, I call it a blessing, but you’re a Potter, and Potters always end up with redheads. Though if you find yourself a winner without the hair, don’t listen to me about this stupid curse. When you find the one, never let go. Fight to the end of the Earth for her if you have to. There will never be a more important battle than the one you wage for the love of your life.

I knew your mother was the one for me right away. She was a little harder to convince, but I never gave up. She fought me good and hard for awhile, but she eventually caved in and gave me a shot, and we never turned back after that. I love your mother very much, but we both love you more than life itself. We will always be watching out for you. Any time you stumble in life or need someone to turn to, know that we will always be there in spirit. Live your life whatever way makes you happy, and know that your mother and I will always support you.

I love you, Harry.

James Potter


Tears were again streaming down Harry’s face, but he was aware enough to wipe them off before they managed to drip down onto the letter. It wasn’t so much anything specific that was said in the letters but just the overall sentiment behind them that touched Harry so. His parents loved him. To actually have tangible evidence of it was overwhelming. He had always hoped and thought that his parents loved him, but it was just blind hope. His relatives hated him and had never shown him the slightest bit of sentimentality. So he imagined what his real family was like and how great it would have been if his parents were still alive. But it was never real before now. Now he knew that he was loved like a child should be loved by a parent.

He could remember times before Hogwarts when he was locked up in the cupboard under the stairs with nothing to pass the time but his imagination. He would imagine his parents and what his life would have been like had they still been around. He had never seen pictures of them before, not even of his mum who had been his Aunt Petunia’s sister, so the figures didn’t even look exactly like his parents. But at the time it didn’t matter because he didn’t know any better. His imaginary parents had loved him very much and doted over him the way any real parent would.

The more he learned of his real parents, the more his imaginary world was destroyed. Harry didn’t mind, though, because reality was so much better than the illusion. He could only guess what his parents were like in his mind, and he always held on to his doubts. But he didn’t have to doubt this because the letters had come from his parents. There was no guessing or imagining here. His parents loved him.

He slipped his father’s letter back into the envelope with his mother’s and extracted his trunk from his pocket. He put the envelope in the trunk before shrinking it up again and placing it back in his pocket. He wasn’t going to let anything happen to those letters.

Wiping his eyes Harry resumed his tour of the vault. There were a couple bookcases filled with volumes upon volumes of old tomes. Harry glanced through the titles on the spines of the books and selected a few that caught his interest. Basic Healing Spells Every Parent Should Know, The Fidelius Charm: Guard Your Secrets Well, and Portkey Creation were among the few to be transferred into the collection in his trunk.

On a desk he found a pile of papers containing a couple deeds to properties he now owned. The only name he recognized from the pile was Godric’s Hollow, but he apparently also owned a few other houses scattered throughout Great Britain. He found a collection of portraits and paintings in a corner of the vault. He selected a couple paintings of landscapes to hang in the rooms of his trunk. The walls had come bare and could use some spicing up.

Harry wandered around the vault for a couple of hours total, looking through things at random. He hadn’t really come with a purpose. He just wanted something to link him to his family, his past. He had found it in spades in his parents’ letters. There was still plenty more to look through, but he decided that he had had enough for the day. He still had other business to attend to.

He walked back to Griphook, and the pair rode the cart back up to the surface. Harry mentioned that he would like to exchange some galleons for muggle pounds, so Griphook led Harry to the appropriate line. Harry had been in possession of wizarding money for several years, but he had never thought to change some of it into muggle money. He had never had anything in the muggle world. He still wore his cousin’s enormous cast-offs, practically swimming in them. With a bit of muggle money he could become a little more presentable. He exchanged 100 galleons for a little over 500 pounds given the exchange rate.

Harry continued on with his shopping excursion. He went to Flourish and Blott’s and purchased the text books he would need for his classes next term. He picked up a couple other books as well that had caught his fancy, a more in depth look at various wards, advanced techniques of Occlumency, and dueling were the major subjects of the extra volumes.

Harry next made his way to Madam Malkin’s robe shop. The matron was busy attending to another customer at the time, so Harry absentmindedly browsed through the racks of robes while waiting. He needed new school robes for sure, but thought he might benefit from some other robes as well. He didn’t know if and when he would ever be going to another ball, but it couldn’t hurt to have dress robes that fit him. But what about wearing robes outside of school? It might be nice to have some robes that he could wear around wizarding places such as Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade that were not his school robes.

By the time Madam Malkin walked over to Harry, he was already tallying up all that he wanted to buy. “How can I help you, young man?” the shopkeeper asked kindly.

Harry gave a little start as he had not noticed her approach. “Oh, I need some school robes for Hogwarts. And I would also like dress robes and some casual robes as well,” he replied.

Her eyes lit up, whether from the prospect of selling so much merchandise or just being given the chance to fit him in so many different robes Harry was not sure. She immediately set her measuring tape on him. It roved around his body on her command measuring everything from his inseam to the length of his left shoulder to his right knee and the length of his right index finger. He wasn’t sure why most of the measurements were made or how many actually served a purpose, but soon enough he was being ushered into a changing room with the standard black Hogwarts robes to try on.

“Try these school robes on first, dear. Did you have anything in mind for your other robes? Or would you like me to pick some things out for you to try?” she asked as she guided him to the curtained off stall.

“I’d appreciate your help picking the robes out, thank you,” he politely replied.

Harry tried on the school robes, and, as expected, they fit perfectly fine. He told Madam Malkin as much, so she set the robes aside behind the counter before bustling back to the racks of robes searching for the rest of Harry’s robes. She handed him a few dress robes to try first. One was green, similar to the robe he had worn to the Yule Ball that Mrs. Weasley had claimed would bring out his eyes. Another was black with a silver trim and a silver dragon displayed on the back. The next robe was crimson with gold etchings, ‘Gryffindor through and through,’ Harry thought as he glanced over it. A golden phoenix was embroidered on the back.

Harry tried all three on and found that he rather liked the black and the crimson robes. He realized as he was looking at himself in the mirror that he would look much different with his normal appearance while wearing the robes, which made it rather difficult to decide which he liked best. In the end, he decided in favor of the crimson robes. If nothing else, he would be showing his support of Gryffindor by wearing them.

Harry was then given a few simple robes that were similar to his Hogwarts robes only not black. There were several different colored robes: green, red, blue, yellow, gray, and silver to name a few. He chose the green, blue, and gray ones, and they were added to his increasing pile behind the counter.

The storeowner asked Harry if there was anything else he would like. Harry told her that that would be all he needed, so she proceeded to ring him out. “70 galleons, 4 sickles please,” she informed Harry.

Harry repeated the cost and pulled the exact amount out of his money bag. He threw all of his robes into his trunk and with a quick “Thank you,” he was walking out the door. Harry’s next stop was the stationery shop to stock up on ink, parchment, and quills followed by the apothecary to replenish his potions supplies. It was a quick stop, only getting precisely what was needed and not wasting any time browsing around.

He made his way to Eeylops Owl Emporium next. He was running low on owl treats and knew that Hedwig would not be happy if he had nothing left to give to her. There relationship was building now that he was able to turn into an owl and hold a conversation with her, but Hedwig was a proud owl and would expect to be rewarded properly for her service, and Harry was inclined to agree with her..

After stockpiling on owl treats, Harry wandered through the Alley until he came up a store that had dragon hide clothing prominently displayed in the window. He looked up at the sign to find the store was called Tollor’s Personal Defense. Harry shrugged his shoulders and opened the door. The shop was average sized, lined with shelves displaying various products. One section was devoted to sneakoscopes. There were several mirrors on the wall that Harry presumed were foe glasses based on the images that were appearing in the glass.

Harry came to a section full of wand holsters. There were a few different varieties. Some would attach to your wrist and with a little flick would pop out into your awaiting hand. There were some that attached to your leg. There was also a variety embedded within some dragon hide boots. There were different accessories within each kind as well. Some were just basic with no extra enchantments. Some prevented your wand from being summoned while it was in the holster. Others appeared to be invisible while attached to your arm.

He grabbed six of the wrist holsters that would prevent your wand from being summoned while housed in it and that turned invisible while attached to your arm. He figured it was the least he could do for his five friends who had followed him into the Department of Mysteries. They were all linked to him now and would most likely become targets for Death Eaters. Any small advantage that he could give them, he would.

Harry grabbed a small foe glass for himself as well. It couldn’t hurt to have it around as a precaution. He paid for the six wand holsters and mirror before exiting the shop. He then traversed the busy streets to the Leaky Cauldron to have some lunch. He entered the pub to find it slightly crowded. Harry scanned the crowd for any familiar faces but thankfully came up empty, so he made his way straight over to the bar. He asked Tom for some fish and chips, which was served to him a minute later with a bottle of butterbeer.

Harry polished off his meal quickly and thanked Tom for the meal. He paid the bartender, then exited the pub into the muggle world. As long as he was out and now had a pocketful of muggle money, he might as well do a little muggle shopping as well.

Harry entered the streets to find the sidewalks filled with pedestrians hurrying about their business. The streets were filled with cars speeding by and others stopped at the red traffic lights. Unfamiliar with the area, Harry asked a woman nearby for directions to the nearest department store. She looked to be in her 40’s and was wearing a green business suit. “Excuse me, ma’am. I don’t mean to bother you, but could you possibly tell me where the nearest department store is? I’m not from around here, and I need to pick up a few things.”

The woman gave him a warm smile and replied “Certainly dear. It’s not every day one meets a young man like you with such manners. If you just walk down this street two blocks and make a left, then there will be a store about a block down.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Harry responded politely. He was on his way in the direction he had been pointed and followed the movements of the crowd around him. He wasn’t familiar with the traffic signals and when it was proper to cross an intersection, but he knew well enough not to just walk into traffic. He just followed the lead of the crowd and picked up on the flow quickly. After two blocks he turned to his left and headed down that street. About a block down, he saw the large department store the woman had directed him to. He counted himself lucky that the store was so close and that he had met the nice woman who gave him directions. On his own he might have wandered for hours without ever finding a suitable store.

Before he went into the store, Harry ducked into an alleyway. He changed his hair back to its customary black, but left it at its shoulder length. It was, after all, how he wanted it to eventually look. He also took out his brown contacts and put in his clear ones instead. In the muggle world he had no fear of being recognized, and he wanted to have a better idea of how he looked in his clothes than he had gotten in Madam Malkin’s with his features altered.

Harry entered the store and had no idea where to go. The store was massive. He walked into the store a little and thankfully came upon a store map. He located a section titled Young Men’s and decided that was the best place to start. This required him to go to the second floor, so Harry headed to the nearest escalator. As he rode the machine up he imagined that Mr. Weasley would probably have a heart attack from his excitement riding the machine had he been there with Harry.

As Harry stepped off the escalator he glanced around for a moment before he located the sign marking the Young Men’s department. He walked over and began looking through the various clothes on display and found himself very quickly overwhelmed. There were a hundred different kinds of jeans in various sizes, and he had no idea what the difference was. There seemed to be thousand of different shirts. Some were collared, some not. Some were short sleeved, some long. Some had designs or patterns on them, others were plain, while others had words and phrases printed across them. There were dress pants in various styles and colors. Harry thought that there were at least a hundred different shades of khaki pants on display.

It must have shown on Harry’s face that he had no idea where to start because he was only looking for a couple minutes before a young woman, probably no more than a year or two older than him, approached. “Did you need any help today? You look a bit lost.”

Harry gave her a shy smile as his cheeks tinged slightly pink. The girl was attractive. She had brown hair, slightly curly, with blonde highlights streaked through it. She was a couple inches shorter than Harry with a collared shirt on with the top few buttons undone, displaying just a hint of cleavage, but not enough to be unseemly. The blouse was tucked into the skirt she was wearing which came to about mid thigh. She wasn’t extremely skinny, but she definitely wasn’t overweight. She was healthy.

“Err – “ Harry stammered. He took a second to compose himself before he tried again. “That would be great. I’ve never really gone shopping for myself before. I’ve always just been given my cousin’s hand-me-downs.” Harry pulled at the extremely loose fitting clothing adorning his body to emphasize his point. “As you can see we’re not exactly the same size. I came into some money recently and decided it was time to get some clothes of my own, but I don’t even know where to start.”

She gave Harry a warm smile. “Say no more. My name is Jessica, and by the time I’m done with you, you’ll look like a new man. I promise.”

“Thanks,” Harry replied, then added as an afterthought, “I’m Harry.”

“Don’t mention it, Harry,” she returned. “I get paid on commission.”

Harry gave a little snort before commenting, “Well then I guess this is your lucky day.”

“You might say that,” she said as she shot him a dazzling smile and gave him a wink.

Harry felt his face heat up. Was this girl flirting with him? And she wasn’t flirting with the Boy-Who-Lived like some girl in the Wizarding World might do. She had no idea who that even was. She was flirting with just plain old Harry. He found that he rather enjoyed the attention when it wasn’t directed at him because of something he didn’t even actually do.

Jessica interrupted his thoughts as she took his hand and said, “Follow me.”

She led him over to a counter and left him standing on the outside of it as she entered in a small gate that took her behind it. She ducked down for a moment before reemerging holding a tape measurer. “I’ll just have to take a couple measurements to get an idea of what size you are,” she informed him.

Harry nodded and said, “Alright.”

She came back around to the front of the counter and said, “Stand up straight, arms at your sides.” She proceeded to measure from shoulder to shoulder and the length of his arms. “Arms up,” she instructed. She wrapped the tape measure around his waist and noted that measurement as well. The inseam measurement came next, and Harry found that being measured in the muggle world was a lot more intimate than being measured in the Wizarding World. When she stood up after taking the final measurement, both teens were blushing. Harry’s cheeks resembled a tomato while Jessica’s were only pink. For once Harry was grateful that he was wearing his cousin’s enormous clothing.

“So what kind of clothes are you looking for exactly? And what’s your budget?” Jessica asked as she put the measuring tape away.

“Well, I guess I’m looking for a little bit of everything. And I’ve got a little over 500 pounds to spend.”

Jessica’s eyes bulged slightly at the amount of money mentioned, but she quickly recovered herself. “Okay, so jeans, dress pants, shirts: both casual and dressy, shorts…Do you need shoes as well?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Trainers and nicer ones?” she questioned.

“Uh huh.”

“Underwear?” she asked.

“Excuse me?” he retorted.

“Do you need to buy underwear as well?” she inquired with an apologetic smile.

“Oh, err,” Harry began to stammer again. “Yes, I suppose I do.”

“Boxers or briefs?”

Harry’s face was heating up yet again. “Umm…boxers.”

“Okay. Do you play any sports or anything?”

Not sure where she was going with this Harry just supplied “I jog and workout every morning. And I sometimes play sports when I’m away at school.”

She smirked a little at his response and continued. “Alright, so you’ll need some clothes to run and workout in as well.” She paused as if mentally tallying everything she had just mentioned. “Let’s get started then, shall we?”

Harry nodded absently and said, “Okay.”

She led him through the various shelves and racks of clothing. Occasionally she would pick something out and either add it right to the pile or hold it up to Harry to get a better idea of how it would look on him before either adding it to the pile or putting it back. Before long Harry was holding several pairs of pants, jeans and nicer ones, a few t-shirts and some collared ones as well, a couple pairs of shorts, and a few packages with boxers inside.

“I think that’s enough to get started with,” she said looking at the pile of clothes in his arms. “Why don’t you try those on, and I’ll keep looking. Tell me what you like and don’t like out of those, and I’ll try to find more that suit your tastes.”

“Alright,” he replied. “Where do I change?”

“Right this way,” she instructed and led him through a little doorway into a room with several stalls lining the wall. She opened up one of the doors and waved him into it. “You can change right in here. I’ll be in and out bringing you new clothes and taking ones you don’t like back. Just let me know which ones you do and don’t like as you try them on. If you want a second opinion just come out wearing whatever it is, and I’ll tell you what I think.”

“Thanks,” Harry replied with a grin as he stepped into the stall and dumped two armfuls of clothes onto a bench. He turned back toward the door and gave Jessica a small smile as he closed the door and set to work on trying on the dozens of articles of clothing before him.

It was a slow process, but they were making progress. Knowing absolutely nothing about fashion or what looked good, Harry more often than not found himself stepping out of the dressing room and asking for Jessica’s opinion. She gave her honest opinion on each piece, but always had some insightful comment to make. She liked one shirt because the green in it really brought out the color of his eyes. There was a pair of jeans that she said really didn’t fit his style because it was generally worn by the more rebellious type. She nixed some things claiming they were too loose. The only things she ever vetoed for being too tight were pants. There were some shirts where Harry felt a little constricted, but when he brought it up she would only smile and reassure him that he looked great in it, always with a bright smile on her face.

She was getting a fair amount of exercise going back and forth from the changing room to the racks of clothing outside, returning clothes they didn’t like and bringing back new ones for him to try. She didn’t seem to mind a bit though. She’d probably be making more on the commission of his purchase than she would normally make in a full day’s work. Not only that, but she found Harry to be kind of cute and modest and sweet.

The two kept up a fragmented conversation as Jessica came in and out of the changing room. She told him that she was going to start attending a nearby university in the fall and was working here to help pay the tuition. He told her that he went to a boarding school in Scotland that his parents had gone to. He briefly mentioned that his parents had died when he was one and that he lived with his aunt, uncle, and cousin now but that he didn’t get along well with them. Sensing that it was a sensitive subject, Jessica began talking about her own family life and didn’t ask him any probing questions about his.

Eventually Harry ended up with a few pairs of jeans, a couple casual pairs of khakis, a couple pairs of dress pants in khaki and black, a good dozen casual t-shirts, several collared shirts, a few long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts for when it got cooler, a couple pairs of casual shorts, some workout shorts and shirts, and over a dozen pairs of boxers. All they needed now was to pick out a couple pairs of shoes, and they would be done.

Jessica led him out of the Young Men’s department and across the store, down an escalator into the shoe department. They were each carrying a few bags filled with the clothes they had already picked out. When they walked into the shoe department they were immediately intercepted by a man who looked to be in his forties. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Actually I’m already being helped, thanks,” Harry replied gesturing toward Jessica.

“Ah, hello Jessica,” he greeted condescendingly. “I’m sure she was rather helpful selecting clothes, but I can assure you that there is not an employee in the store who knows this section better than I. I would be more than happy to take over from here. Jessica you can leave the bags here, and I’ll make sure the young man gets taken care of.”

Before Jessica could answer, Harry interrupted. “Actually, sir,” Harry intoned, “I’d much rather have Jessica continue to help me. She’s been extremely helpful so far, and I think she has a great idea of what I’m looking for. So if you’ll just excuse us, we’ll get on with our shopping.”

The man shot the two teens a scathing glare before stalking off to help some other customers. Jessica flashed Harry a wide smile and said, “Thanks Harry. You don’t know how many times he’s done something like that and just takes over the sale at the last second claiming all the commission for himself. He only gets away with it because he knows the owner.”

“Hey, I meant what I said,” Harry returned with a small smile. “You’ve been great. I’d still be wandering around clueless if not for you. The least I can do is make sure you get the credit for all you’ve done for me.”

“Thanks, Harry,” she said. “Now come on, we still have to find you some shoes.” She grabbed his hand and proceeded to lead him over to a shelf displaying a collection of trainers. “Now let’s see, first things first: we need to measure your feet. Take off your shoes, please.”

Harry did as he was told and soon enough she was bringing him trainers and asking what he thought of them. He liked a few of the ones she had picked out, so she brought him the right size and had him try each one on. He walked around a little bit in each to get a feel for how comfortable each one was. He eventually selected the pair he liked best, and they moved on to brown shoes. The process repeated once again, which led them to the final pair of black shoes. When they finally had all the shoes selected, they picked up all the bags again and Jessica led him to the front of the store.

She rung him up behind the counter, which took a considerably long time given how much stuff he was buying. The total came up to be about 475 pounds. He pulled out the five hundred pound notes he had been given by the goblins and gave them to Jessica. She counted out the change and went to hand it to Harry, but he just shook his head.

“Keep it,” he told her. “Consider it a thank you for all your help.”

She blushed beautifully at his gesture but persisted. “I really couldn’t do that. It’s too much. Here,” she again tried to hand the money to Harry.

“Please. Like I told you, I recently came into a lot of money that I really have no use for. And you have been a huge help to me today, and I actually had a lot of fun shopping with you,” he told her feeling his own face heat up again. “I don’t really have any other way to say thank you, so please just keep it?”

She looked as if she was about to argue more but she paused and looked deep into his eyes as if searching for something. Her resolve softened and a small smile graced her lips, creating a small dimple in her left cheek. Seeing her expression change from one of resolve to acceptance, Harry smiled widely.

Jessica pulled a small card out of her pocket and grabbed a pen off the counter and wrote something on it. After she was finished she tilted her head back up and looked him in the eye again. She bit her lip softly as she lifted the card up and held it out to him. “If you ever need a personal shopper again, just give me a call,” she explained behind a smile. “You’re a really sweet guy, Harry. Don’t be afraid to call, even if it has nothing to do with shopping.”

Harry cursed himself as he felt his face heating up for what seemed like the hundredth time since coming into the store. He knew that he was probably grinning like an idiot, but he couldn’t do anything to help it. He took the card from Jessica and gave her another one of his shy smiles. “Thanks,” he replied softly. “I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

“Be sure that you do,” she replied with a winning smile. “Do you need some help taking these things out to your car?”

“Oh…no. No, I think I can get everything out there okay,” Harry answered. “Thanks again for all your help Jessica.”

“It was my pleasure, Harry,” she responded.

Harry’s cheeks tinged with pink yet again as he collected all of his purchases together and set off for the store’s exit. He glanced back over his shoulder to find that Jessica was following his exit with her eyes, still standing at the counter. She gave a little wave goodbye to which Harry could only respond with a grin because both his hands were tied up with the bags of clothes.

As he came out of the store, Harry returned to the alleyway he had visited before entering the store to change his appearance back to normal. Here he stored his new purchases in his trunk. Once everything was safely inside and his trunk was tucked back into his pocket, Harry apparated back to Privet Drive.

Harry noticed as he appeared in his bedroom that his owl’s cage was empty. Finding that somewhat curious since she didn’t normally leave to hunt until after dark, Harry wondered where Hedwig had gone off to. Shrugging off his curiosity, he sorted through all of his new purchases and put everything away properly. He changed out of his cousin’s old clothes and put on one of his new pairs of jeans and a white t-shirt. Harry looked in the mirror and shortened his hair a bit to the last length he had it at. He was about halfway through his gradual lengthening of his hair. It was at a somewhat awkward length right now, but he knew that in a little bit of time it would be just how he liked it.

Harry read for a couple hours before his hunger got the better of him. He ate his dinner quickly, eager to get out of the Dursley’s company and back into the solitude of his bedroom. He resumed his reading when he returned to his room. He didn’t see a sign of his owl until the next afternoon when a white blur in his window drew his attention away from his books. He looked over to see Hedwig gliding towards him with a letter attached to her leg.

“So that’s where you were off to,” Harry said. “You were out fetching mail for me.” He gave her some owl treats as a thank you, then looked to the letter in his hands. He could tell it was from Ginny right away just from the way she had written his name on the outside. They were owling enough over the summer for him to become very familiar with her handwriting. He had just gotten a letter from her a few days back in reply to the thank you he’d sent for his birthday gift, but he hadn’t sent a letter back since then. He wondered why she was writing him again so soon. Harry tore the letter open to find out.

Dear Harry,

I think your owl likes me. She just showed up last night without any mail to deliver. She spent the night in my room, although I left the window open for her, so she may have been in and out during the night. After breakfast this morning I figured maybe I should write a letter for her to take back to you before you started to worry where she was.

We got our Hogwarts letters yesterday morning. I didn’t make prefect, not that I really mind all that much. I have no desire to have the extra responsibility thrust upon me, but it would have been nice to have gotten the rewards for it. I figured I might get a cat or maybe an owl. I’ve never had a pet of my own before. Oh well.

Ron got his OWL results which I gather were decent but not outstanding based on both his and Mum’s reactions, but I’ll let him tell you more about that. I didn’t actually see his scores anyway. How did you do? I’d be willing to bet you aced your Defense exam, right? That’s what I thought. How did you do on your Potions exam? That was the one you were worried about that you needed to become an auror, wasn’t it?

Ron and I have been bugging Mum to let us go to Diagon Alley with her since we got our letters. I don’t think we were having much of an effect on her, but then today at breakfast Ron got another owl from the school, this one naming him captain of the Quidditch team. Kind of odd how the notice came a day late and separate from his regular Hogwarts letter, don’t you think? I wonder why that is… But anyway, after Mum found out and Ron begged to go to Diagon Alley to go to Quality Quidditch Supplies, Mum finally caved in. I wish you could come with us, but nobody seems willing to budge in the least bit where you’re concerned. Sorry.

It will be nice to finally be able to get out of the house for a bit. Not that we have it nearly as bad as you, but I’m beginning to feel kind of caged in here, you know? I mean, we can go outside and all, but the wards around the house only extend so far, so we have to stay close to the house. That means the clearing we usually play Quidditch in is off limits. I’ve gone flying a bit around the house, but it’s not the same. We don’t have the space to really practice. Did your Quidditch ban get lifted? Or have you not heard about it yet? I can’t imagine them not lifting it, but the ministry has done a lot I’d never imagine it doing. It’ll be nice to have you back on the team.

Well, I’ve run out of things to talk about for the moment. Feel free to write me; you know you want to.

With love,
Ginny


Harry was glad to see that McGonagall had listened to his advice and named Ron the Quidditch captain. He realized that Ginny, like Hermione, could be entirely too clever for her own good. She hinted that she thought that there was more to Ron being named captain than meets the eye, and she was quite right. But Harry hoped that Ron didn’t make the same connections his sister had. Ron could be extremely jealous at the best of times. Harry didn’t want to know what his friend would do if he knew that Harry had refused the captaincy and recommended Ron. A normal person might be grateful, but he could never tell with Ron. He tended to get jealous and resentful in that type of situation.

Harry got up from his desk to fetch another treat for Hedwig before returning to his desk to write a reply.

Dear Ginny,

Hedwig always did have good taste. I got my Hogwarts owl yesterday as well, complete with OWL results. I am happy to say that I think I did quite well. So well, in fact, that I will be taking all the classes I need to become an auror, Potions included. It’s amazing how much easier the subject is when you don’t have Snape and his band of Slytherins constantly berating and taunting and sabotaging you. Who would have thought that without all that I might not be half bad with potions? It’s really not that different than cooking, and I have years of experience with that.

That’s great to hear about Ron. He deserves to be captain. I’ve never met anyone more obsessed with the sport than he is, and he knows strategy a lot better than anybody else on the team as well. It was a good choice. My official stance is that I have no idea why his letter would arrive a day late and that you’re too clever for your own and my own good. Just what I needed in my life, another woman who is going to see through everything I do. Anyway, McGonagall did say that my ban was lifted along with all the other ridiculous Educational Decrees the toad passed last year.

That’s great that you guys will get to go to Diagon Alley with your mum. Don’t feel too bad about me. This summer has been a lot better than some of the past ones. I’ve been getting out of the house regularly and keeping busy, plus I have those meetings with Remus, not to mention the additional pen pal. Barring the rocky start, I’d say it’s the best summer I’ve ever had, although I guess that doesn’t really say all that much. It has been nice having you to write to this summer. Hermione and Ron are great, don’t get me wrong, but Hermione can be too demanding and pushy and you can never trust that she won’t pull a teacher card on you, and Ron just gets jealous too easily and has problems with his temper. I’ve yet to find any such faults in you, but I’ll just have to keep my eyes open. Write again soon.

Take care,
Harry


Harry asked Hedwig if she would like to rest a bit before returning with his reply, but she stuck her leg out for the letter to be attached anyway. She nipped his finger in an affectionate way to signify that she appreciated being asked before she took off out the window and into the sky. Harry returned to his reading and spent the rest of the day either studying or practicing wandless magic.

That night, for the second time this summer, Harry was ripped from his training with Sirius and found himself in what appeared to be a cave, given the stone walls. He found himself standing before a single figure clad in black with a skull mask over its face. Harry was once again seeing things from Voldemort’s point of view. Voldemort had been reading a letter, but by the time Harry was able to orient himself, he was already folding up the letter saying, “Very good, Lucius. You have served me well. Diagon Alley will be a suitable place to strike. Take as many as you need and plan the attack yourself. I want the boy and the girl alive, everyone else is fair game. Cause as much damage as you can. As long as you’re there tomorrow, we might as well send the world a message.”

“Yes my lord,” Lucius Malfoy’s silky voice replied.

“Let the owl deliver the letter. We don’t want them to know where we got our information. And Lucius,” Voldemort paused dramatically, “do not fail me this time.”

The mask tilted forward as its occupant bowed his head slightly in acquiescence before turning abruptly and walking out of the room. Voldemort adopted a wicked grin, obviously pleased with this plan of his. After a moment he called out, “Wormtail!”

The disgusting rat of a man entered reluctantly, shuffling forward. “What do you have to say for yourself, Wormtail?”

“M-my lord,” Wormtail responded shakily, “I have tried gaining access to the Weasleys’ home and the Granger’s home, but I cannot come close. They must have put wards up to keep me out. I’m sorry, master.”

“You disappoint me, Wormtail,” Voldemort replied icily. “You are outliving your usefulness. Well almost, I still have one use for you.” Wormtail looked hopeful until he noticed the malevolent glare Voldemort was giving him, the same one he always gave before he cast “Crucio!”

Wormtail fell to the ground shrieking in agony, pain beyond pain coursing through his veins. Meanwhile across the country a boy shot awake in bed clutching his forehead and biting his lip to keep from screaming out in pain. Harry had hoped that his practice in Occlumency would rid him of these visions or at least decrease the intensity of the pain he felt as a result of them. He had no such luck.

Harry shakily crawled out of bed and over to his desk. The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon, providing him enough light to see what he was doing. He scrambled for a quill, ink bottle, and piece of parchment where he hastily scribbled a note.

Sir,

Another vision. Attack today at Diagon Alley. They captured an owl on delivery, the plan is to capture a boy and girl, they didn’t mention who, and to cause as much damage as possible. Wormtail has tried to get into the Burrow and Hermione’s house but has been kept out presumably by wards.

HP


Harry looked around for his owl, cursing when he realized she was still out on delivery from last night. He had no choice but to wait for her to come back and hope that it was soon. She could usually tell when Harry needed her, so he hoped that she would realize his need and hurry back. In the meantime Harry opened up a book and began to read, hoping the activity would take his mind off the pulsing agony in his scar. The pain gradually faded away, but this soon after a vision it was still rather intense.

Sure enough, within half an hour Hedwig was swooping through the window with a hoot to announce her arrival. “Thank Merlin you’re here, girl. I need you to take this to Professor Dumbledore right away. Take a rest when you get there, but hurry on your way back, Hedwig. The Death Eaters are capturing owls now, and the last thing I want is for them to get you.”

She was gone without delay to deliver his message. He hoped she would be safe. He didn’t want to imagine what the Death Eaters would do if they captured his owl. Needing an activity to take his mind off of his rough start to the morning, Harry put on his new workout clothes and went outside to start his jog. He was increasing his jog as the summer went along because his endurance was increasing the more he ran.

Today he ran a bit extra just for the physical release of his nerves. He spent a good deal of time working out after his jog as well, spending an inordinate amount of time at his cousin’s punching bag. It was a really good way to relieve stress. After he finished, he jumped in the shower and cleaned himself off. When he reentered his room a strange sight greeted him.

Hedwig was flying through the window with Pig clutched in one of her talons. She seemed extremely agitated and exhausted; Pig looked much worse for wear. Both owls were frantic. For Pig that was nothing out of the ordinary, but Hedwig was normally calm and collected. She was flapping her wings and screeching bloody murder.

“Death Eaters…attack…Weasleys…trouble,” snippets of speech filled his consciousness. It seemed familiar. Then it hit him.

“Hedwig?” he asked a moment before transforming into the black owl.

“Harry, Pig was attacked. I found him on my way to Hogwarts. Death Eaters attacked him and read his letter. He says the Weasleys are in trouble,” the snowy white owl exclaimed in a rush.

Harry paused for half of a second before he made the connection to his vision and was in motion. He transformed back into human form and took the parchment attached to Pig’s leg and skimmed through it not taking in anything until he got to what he was dreading.

…going to Diagon Alley first thing in the morning. I can’t wait to go to Quality Quidditch Supplies…

“Why don’t you just send them an engraved invitation, Ron?” Harry asked into the air. He quickly dressed himself and changed his hair and put in his brown contact lenses. He used the same glamour charm to hide his scar again. He turned to Hedwig. “I need you to deliver that letter to Dumbledore as soon as possible. I’m going to try to apparate you to Hogsmeade, and you can deliver it from there, okay?”

He heard her hoot and a soft, “Okay,” in his mind. He shook his head, now was not the time to be thinking about mind speaking.

Harry held out his arm for Hedwig, and she complied by alighting on his forearm. He brought his forearm close to his chest and concentrated harder than ever before. He imagined himself in Hogsmeade with Hedwig clutched to his chest and disappeared with a small pop. When he reappeared he looked at his owl who had thankfully appeared with him completely whole and intact. “Hurry to Dumbledore, and rest for a bit once you get there, wait for him to get back. Be safe on your flight back. I don’t want you getting caught too.”

She nipped his ear gently and took off. Harry didn’t hesitate a second before apparating to Diagon Alley. He found a deserted alley between buildings and changed into an owl. He rose into the sky and perched on a weather vane on top of one of the buildings to search through the streets for the familiar red hair that would mark his surrogate family. It only took him a minute to see Ron and his mother entering Quality Quidditch Supplies. A moment later he saw two other redheads down the street walking past Gringotts. He swooped towards them and found that the hair belonged to Ginny and Bill. Harry watched as they approached and went inside Magical Menagerie.

Harry took the opportunity to land in a secluded spot and revert to human form. He was just coming out of the alley as he noticed Ginny in the window of the shop, holding a tiny black kitten to her chest. The kitten looked out the window and Harry saw it had startlingly green eyes, much like his own. Bill walked over to his sister and said something, and she reluctantly put the kitten down. The two began walking out of the shop when it happened.

There was a series of pops that preceded screams of terror as the Death Eaters apparated into Diagon Alley. They appeared right in front of Gringotts and immediately noticed Bill and Ginny coming out of the shop next door. Half of them aimed their wands at the two, while the rest turned and went in the other direction. There were about ten wizards with their wands trained on the two Weasleys.

The rest of the alley was in chaos. People were running around frantically with no destination in mind screaming in terror. The entire street was pandemonium while the two Weasleys were caught like deer in headlights staring down the wands of the Death Eaters. As the black clad figures began to cast spells, Harry jumped into action. He drew his magic up inside and threw a shield towards Ginny, knowing she was one of their targets. The shield succeeded in blocking the spells directed at Ginny, who was just now pulling her wand out of her robes, but it was unable to help the debris falling from the reductor curse that was cast over their heads onto the building directly behind them.

Ginny scrambled away and dove to the ground, coming up in a bit of a roll. As she stood, she limped on her left ankle, having twisted it in her little bout of acrobatics. The Death Eaters, in the meantime, were on the move, closing in on the duo. Bill was separated from his sister by the fallen rock and was busy fighting for his own life. Harry stunned several of the Death Eaters from behind as Ginny held off two of them on her own. She did not see the Death Eaters sneaking up behind her, however.

She was quickly disarmed. The Death Eater grabbed hold of her and began dragging her off into one of the alleys. She struggled, but the Death Eater had a solid hold on her, plus he was at least twice her size. Harry acted without thinking. Before he knew it he was a panther, running full speed after her. He entered the alleyway to find the Death Eater still dragging a struggling Ginny. Further down the alley was another figure clad in black waiting for them.

Harry streaked down the alley toward Ginny and leapt up onto some boxes stacked up next to the building on his left side. With a powerful push, he leapt over the Death Eater and was human before he touched the ground. With one arm extended toward the back of the Death Eater holding Ginny and the other aimed at the one at the end of the alley, Harry cast twin stupefies, rendering both opponents unconscious before they knew what hit them.

Harry summoned their wands and snapped them, having read that the best way to permanently disable an opponent without killing was to remove their main weapon. In that moment he was glad he had taken to reading so much this summer. He finished it off with Incarcerous spells to bind the Death Eaters. Once finished he turned his attention toward Ginny who was staring at him wide eyed.

“Give me your hand, Gin. Quickly, there’s no time. I have to get you out of here and check on the others,” Harry said urgently.

Ginny only continued to stare, so Harry took the initiative. He grabbed hold of her shoulders and said, “It’s ok. You’re safe with me,” before drawing her in close to his chest and disapparating with a pop. He reappeared outside the Burrow and said, “Please, when you tell people what happened, don’t tell them about my wandless abilities. I don’t want anyone getting any more curious about me than they already will be. Now get inside. I’ll make sure the rest make it home.”

Ginny ran towards the house without delay. After a moment she turned back to thank her rescuer, but he had already vanished without making a sound. She turned back toward the house and rushed inside to wait for the rest of her family.

When Harry got back to Diagon Alley, the tide was already turning on the Death Eaters. Bill was finishing off a Death Eater who collapsed next to a couple of his brethren. Down the street Harry saw Dumbledore disarming and tying up a group of Death Eaters that had surrounded Ron and his mum. Harry sighed with relief at the scene. The battle was over, and everyone was safe.

Harry let a small smile grace his lips before he disapparated and reappeared in his room. He looked at the clock and realized he hadn’t been gone for a full ten minutes. That had to have been one of the most frantic ten minutes of his life, though.

******

While Harry was relaxing in his bed after a job well done, the people in Diagon Alley were frantic despite the elimination of the threat. Everyone was surprised when all of the captured Death Eaters suddenly disappeared from right under their noses. The silver lining on the clouds had just been ripped away, leaving nothing but the dark, foreboding gray.

Bill was beside himself. Ginny was his responsibility, and he had no idea what had happened to her. They had been separated when the building came down upon them. He was so busy dueling Death Eaters that he hadn’t even seen what had happened to her. She was gone without a trace, and it was all his fault.

Mrs. Weasley was almost hysterical when Bill told her that Ginny was missing. After a minute she managed to compose herself enough to begin thinking clearly, though tears were still flowing freely down her cheeks. The first order of business was to get Ron home. She took him by the arm and led him to the Leaky Cauldron to floo home, despite his protests that he wanted to stay and help search for his sister. She followed after him through the fireplace to make sure he didn’t try to come right back through.

As she came through the hearth, relief poured through her at the sight that met her. Ron was hugging a surprised Ginny so tight it looked like her eyes might bulge out of their sockets. He was asking a hundred questions without giving her a chance to respond. Mrs. Weasley quickly closed the distance between them and engulfed both children into one of her bone-crunching hugs exclaiming, “Thank Merlin!”

“Mum, Ron,” Ginny wheezed, “I can’t breathe.”

The two Weasleys let go, looking sheepish but unapologetic. There was only a moment of silence before Ginny spoke again, “What happened? Is everyone okay?”

“Yes, everyone’s fine, just worried half to death that you were taken captive,” Mrs. Weasley replied. “Oh, Bill!” she shrieked before turning and heading back through the fireplace in a swirl of green flames.

It was only a long minute before Mrs. Weasley returned with Bill, and Ginny found herself yet again the subject of a life threatening hug. “What is it with you people? You find me safe at home, so you try to squeeze the life out of me?” Ginny asked breathlessly.

“You scared us half to death,” Bill replied.

“Yeah, how did you make it back here?” Ron asked.

Ginny’s grin faded for a second as she thought back to how close she had come to being captured. She sat down and urged the others to do so before telling her story.

“After the building collapsed, I rolled out of the way and think I twisted my ankle. Anyway, I came up and started battling the Death Eaters in front of me. There were three of them approaching, and I managed to stun one while holding off the other two, but I got snuck up on and disarmed from behind,” Ginny explained.

“He started dragging me off into an alleyway while I was struggling to get free. I couldn’t see where we were going because I had my back to him. Anyway, as we’re going through the alley, this cat comes streaking through. And I’m not talking about a house cat, this was a jungle cat, like a panther or something. It leapt over our heads, and the next thing I know, the man holding me is slumped on the ground unconscious. I turn around, and there’s a man, couldn’t have been more than a couple years older than me, conjuring ropes that tied themselves around the one holding me and another Death Eater at the end of the alley.”

“He came up to me, told me I was safe, and grabbed hold of my shoulders and pulled me in to his chest. The next thing I know, we’re right outside the Burrow. He told me to run inside and that he’d make sure everyone else made it home okay. I turned around to say thanks, but he had already left. So I ran inside and waited in front of the fire for you guys, and here we are now,” Ginny finished her story with a sigh.

She had respected his wishes and not mentioned his wandless abilities, but she was still highly curious about it. There was something altogether familiar about him. When he was in his panther form, the eyes had really stuck out at her. They were startlingly green, just like the kitten she had been looking at…just like Harry. The man didn’t resemble anyone she knew, though. He had blondish brown hair and brown eyes. He was probably about average height, definitely not Ron’s height, but Ron was abnormally tall. And he was slightly muscular as well. When he had grabbed her and held her to him when he apparated, she could feel the muscles underneath his shirt. She had felt safe in his arms, just as he had said she would be.

“Well, whoever he was, thank Merlin he was there to help,” Mrs. Weasley spoke after a moment of silence. “Did he tell you his name?” she directed toward Ginny.

“No, he didn’t even give me a first name. But he knew my name,” she explained. She finished softly to herself, “He called me Gin, almost as if he knew me.” She didn’t tell the others that. He had seemed like he wanted his identity to remain secret, and she would respect his wishes. It was the least she could do after he had saved her life.

******

Hedwig returned later that evening with a letter addressed to Harry in long, loopy handwriting. The headmaster had written back to him.

Harry,

Much as I hate the manner in which we received the information, your vision and prompt letter to me saved the lives of your friends today. The targets for the attack were Ronald and Ginevra Weasley. It seems your friend Ron wrote you a letter late last night and sent it with his owl to let you know he and his family were going to Diagon Alley today. We were able to respond before the alarms alerted us to the attack, thanks to your letter, and we managed to stop the attack before they were able to fulfill their purpose. The Weasleys are all safe once again, and there were no known casualties during the attack.

There was some damage done at the alley but none that cannot be easily repaired. Thank you for alerting me of your vision when you did. You have saved countless lives. Nevertheless, the fact that you are still having visions worries me. I will be glad when you resume your Occlumency lessons, but might I suggest that you spend the rest of your summer trying to prepare yourself for those lessons? The more effort you put in to protecting your mind, the harder it will be for anyone to break into it. As always, I will be here if you need anything.

Sincerely,
Albus Dumbledore


Harry read through the letter and was pleased overall with its contents. No one was seriously hurt or killed in the attack. Diagon Alley would be put back to normal soon enough. The only real ramification from the attack would be the response from the public, but it could be as good as bad. Now that Voldemort had really threatened the people in general, they would not stand for the ministry’s lack of action. Now was the time to start fighting back.

Harry fed his owl some treats in gratitude for her help today. He fed Pig a treat as well. The small owl had apparently decided to rest a bit before heading back to the Burrow. Considering the fact that Death Eaters had already intercepted him once, Harry couldn’t really blame the owl.

The next day Harry returned to Diagon Alley to find ministry personnel scattered throughout the streets helping with the cleanup. He walked over the Magical Menagerie which was mostly put back together from the attack the day before. It was open at any rate, so Harry went inside. He quickly spotted what he had come for, a small black kitten with bright green eyes. Harry picked it up and scratched it behind the ears. It purred happily and rubbed its face against his hand. He walked over to the shop owner and asked what he would need to buy to care for a cat.

The man collected the magical equivalent of a litter box, where the waste vanished after it was deposited by the animal. He stacked some cat food, and Harry told him to give him enough food to last for a year. He didn’t know if there was a shop in Hogsmeade that sold pet food, so he thought it would be best to be prepared. The man had grinned at that and was only too happy to oblige. He had asked if Harry wanted any toys or catnip for the kitten to play with, so Harry selected a couple toys and picked up a bag of catnip as well.

The last thing he needed for the little critter was a carrying case. The man fetched one for Harry, and tallied up all of his purchases. Harry paid the man, retrieving the exact amount out of his money bag before depositing the kitten in the carry case and putting all the food and other accessories in his trunk. With that settled he walked out the door and disapparated with a pop, his business concluded.

Ginny’s birthday was coming up, and after seeing her with the kitten the day before, he couldn’t resist. Besides, after the scare she must have gotten the day before during the attack, she could probably use something to cheer her up. He was surprised that he remembered her birthday at all and was rather proud of the fact. The only reason he knew was because he had been there when they celebrated her birthday the summer before his second year. He hadn’t sent her anything for any of her birthdays, so he was surprised that he remembered the date four years later.

Harry decided to keep the kitten in the rooms inside his trunk so that it didn’t manage to sneak out into the rest of the house. He made sure to spend some time with it every day and showered it with attention. Harry was glad that Hedwig couldn’t see him when he was in the trunk; otherwise, she would probably be quite jealous of the attention the little kitten was getting.

He realized that he hadn’t really spent much time at all in his trunk’s rooms. He inspected the kitchen area and decided that he really should take advantage of his resources. He always hated eating with the Dursley’s and really avoided it as much as he could. He had forgotten that he had a kitchen of his own at his disposal. He still had some muggle money left over from his excursion into muggle London, not much, but he figured it would be enough to get a few groceries to stock his kitchen. So he did.

After a couple days he went back to Gringotts to get more money, then returned to the grocery store to buy even more supplies. He rather enjoyed having his own kitchen. With the kitten around, he was spending quite a bit of time in his trunk, keeping her company. So he was taking almost all his meals in there now, and he liked not having to worry about encountering his relatives. He found he didn’t really mind cooking for himself. He had hated the chore when doing it for his relatives, but that was mostly because he’d cook their food, but would hardly get any of it. They rarely ever gave him enough to eat his fill even though he was the one making the food.

Soon enough, the morning of Ginny’s birthday arrived. After his morning jog and workout, Harry packed up all of the cat’s supplies. He put the kitten, which he hadn’t yet named, leaving the honor to Ginny, into its carrier. He looked at Hedwig and realized she would have a time getting all of this to the Burrow. He quickly thought up a plan, wrote a letter to Ginny, and gathered everything together.

He told his owl his plan, and she flew onto his shoulder and nibbled gently on his ear to show that she understood and was willing to help. Harry concentrated hard on the forest surrounding the burrow and soundlessly found himself there with cat carrier and supplies in hand and his owl on his shoulder. He picked a spot that Ron had shown him several summers before that was quite a bit away from the house, figuring that if they were all stuck in the wards, no one would be anywhere nearby. Smiling to himself, Harry put all of the parcels down and turned to his owl. She grabbed hold of the cat carrier while Harry changed into a black owl and grabbed the supplies. The two slowly lifted up into the air and flew towards the Burrow.

Hedwig led the way, though Harry found that he could sense which way he needed to go to find Ginny. ‘Must be how owls always find the recipient of their post,’ he thought to himself. He resolved to ask Hedwig about it later. Ginny was in her bedroom, still in bed. Hedwig took charge, tapping at the window to get her attention. She turned groggily to the window and jumped out of bed with a start. She rushed over to the window and let the white owl in. She was surprised when a black owl followed in as well.

“What’s all this you’ve got here,” she asked Hedwig. She let out a squeak when the kitten poked its head out of the carrier. “Oh, it’s you! Come here you beautiful little thing,” she exclaimed, pulling the kitten out and hugging it to her chest. Hedwig hooted indignantly to gain her attention. “Oh, I’m sorry Hedwig, I didn’t mean to ignore you,” she placated the owl, stroking her feathers as she still held the kitten close in her other arm.

“And who is this we have here?” she asked the room generally as she looked toward Harry. She was struck silent for a moment as she came face to face with the third animal in a week that had those brilliant green eyes. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before. What’s your name?” Harry hooted in reply; Ginny grinned and returned with, “Well that won’t do. Every owl I meet tells me its name is hoot.”

Hedwig hooted again and stuck out her leg towards Ginny. She took the letter and sat on the bed, kitten still clutched to her as she tore open the letter with one hand. She began reading while absentmindedly stroking the kitty.

Dear Ginny,

Happy Birthday! The present you gave me meant so much to me that I wanted to do something special for you. You mentioned how much you wanted a pet of your own, and I remembered how much you love cats, so I managed to buy you this little kitten. She doesn’t have a name yet as I figured you might like to name her, so give her a good one.

You might be wondering about the second owl, he’s a friend that Hedwig seems to have made this summer. He comes to visit every once in awhile and is pretty friendly, so you don’t need to be afraid of him. Don’t be offended if he refuses owl treats, though. He won’t accept any from me either. I haven’t named him or anything, as he isn’t really mine, so I don’t know what to call him. I enlisted his help because I bought you all the supplies you’ll need for the kitten that I’m guessing you have sitting in your lap right now. It should be enough food to last you a year, there’s a magical litter box, some toys, and a bag of catnip. Everything you need to keep your new kitten happy.

I heard about the excitement you all had at Diagon Alley the other day. I’m sorry you were all in danger and that I’ve made you all targets. I promise to do everything I can to help prepare you and Ron this year so that you’ll be able to better protect yourselves. I don’t think I would ever be able to forgive myself if anything happened to any of you.

I wish I could be with you to celebrate your birthday, but I’m sure your family will more than make up for my absence. Forget about everything happening in the world today, and just focus on having the best birthday you can. That’s what I told myself on my birthday, and it worked out pretty well. There’s nothing you can do to help today, but you can take the day to enjoy yourself and remember all that is worth fighting for.

Keep the kitty company, she absolutely loves the attention. She was monopolizing my time for the little while that I had her. I think Hedwig was becoming jealous. She loves being scratched behind her ears and will play with you all day if you let her. I hope you like her. Have a very happy birthday, Gin.

Take care,
Harry


Ginny’s eyes were shining as she finished reading the letter. Harry really could be the sweetest guy in the world, and he probably had no idea he was even doing it. How he had managed to buy the kitten, let alone pick out the one she had absolutely fallen in love with the moment she saw it in the Magical Menagerie, was beyond her. Ginny glanced back at the letter. He had called her Gin which she couldn’t ever remember him doing before. It reminded her of the man that had saved her life, but she quickly pushed that thought out of her mind.

She stood up from her bed and looked down at the kitten in her arms. She was curled up in the crook of her arm against her chest and appeared to be sleeping. Ginny carefully made her way across the room and offered Hedwig an owl treat. With all the correspondence Ginny had been doing with Harry this summer, she kept a small stock of treats in her room now. She offered one to the mystery owl as well, but as Harry had said, the owl shook its head and turned its neck slightly away to signify that he wasn’t interested.

Ginny shrugged and gave the second treat to Hedwig as well. She looked through all the supplies that the black owl had brought. There was a ton of food, the litter box he had talked about, a bag of catnip, and a couple toys. She thanked both owls profusely and asked “Can you guys hang out for a little bit? I want to go show off this precious little kitten and then write Harry a reply, okay?”

Hedwig hooted her acquiescence right away, so Ginny turned her attention to Harry. He thought about it for a second before hooting and bobbing his head slightly. Ginny shot them both a wide smile and said, “Thanks, I’ll be back in a few.” And then she was gone.

She carefully made her way down the stairs so as not to disturb the sleeping bundle of black fur in her arms. She walked into the kitchen and was greeted by a chorus of “Happy Birthday” from all occupants of the room. The kitten’s head shot up at the unexpected noise, and she shot out of Ginny’s arms and out of the room before the red haired birthday girl could react. “Oh, you scared her away,” Ginny huffed.

“Scared what away?” someone asked, Ginny didn’t pay attention to whom the voice belonged.

“My kitten,” Ginny replied. “I haven’t named her yet. Now I’ll have to go find where she’s hiding.”

“Where did you get a kitten, dear?” her mother asked.

“Oh,” Ginny’s cheeks tinged the faintest shade of pink, a testament to how composed she had become over the years. “Harry sent her to me…for my birthday,” Ginny explained as she turned on her heel and strode out of the room in search of her kitten.

A few minutes later, Ginny coaxed the black ball of fur out from under the couch and once again let her curl up in her arms. She began thinking of names for her as she walked back into the kitchen.

“So Harry sent you that kitten, eh?” Fred asked.

“Mighty nice of him, that was,” George added.

“Indeed, he is quite thoughtful, wouldn’t say George?”

“Why, I would say so, Fred.”

“Quite the catch, that one.”

“Oh yes, he’s simply dreamy.”

“Why if we weren’t sure he didn’t swing that way –“

“—and we are sure aren’t we, Fred?”

“Pretty sure, my good twin.”

“Alas, if only things were different, we’d be vying for his attention.”

“We wouldn’t mind sharing, mind you –“

“—after all, we’re sure he’s plenty man to handle the both of us.”

“Cut it out, you two,” Mrs. Weasley admonished her sons. Ginny meanwhile had largely ignored their banter and was now trying to eat her breakfast with her one free hand. The other arm was still holding the kitten in her lap, scratching behind her ears as Harry had suggested. After scarfing down her breakfast as fast as she could handle one handedly, she scrambled away from the table and back to the stairway.

“Well I’m off to write Harry a reply. The owls are upstairs in my room waiting for me,” she explained to her family. She ascended the stairs and stopped off on the first floor, immediately heading back to her room. She laid the kitten down on her bed where she scratched it some more while thinking up a name for her. She finally decided on Emerald, Em for short.

“What do you think, Em?” she asked her kitten. “Will Emerald do for you?” The kitten purred affectionately into Ginny’s hand in reply, which Ginny took as a yes. With that settled she left Em on her bed with one of her toys and walked over to her desk. She sat down to write a reply.

After a few minutes of writing, she stopped and tapped that quill against the parchment for a minute. After rubbing her chin for a moment in thought, she crumpled up the parchment and started over. Harry would have laughed if he was capable of doing so in owl form. He was tempted to retrieve the discarded parchment from her trash bin but decided against it. He didn’t want to arouse any suspicion, and it really wouldn’t be right of him to invade her privacy like that.

Several more minutes passed before Ginny signed her name, finishing the letter. She tucked it into an envelope and wrote Harry’s name. Turning to the two owls perched on the windowsill, she asked, “So which one of you wants to take this?”

Hedwig hooted and stuck her leg out, signifying that she would be the one to take the letter. It made sense since she was Harry’s owl. Ginny thanked both of the owls and appreciatively stroked both of their feathers. Harry felt a little awkward at the attention but found that he rather enjoyed it in an odd sort of way. He hooted his thanks in reply, and the two owls took off out of the window.

Harry and Hedwig flew together the entire way back to Privet Drive. They spoke to each other throughout their flight. Harry asked her about her ability to always find the recipients of the letters he sent out, and she explained that she didn’t really know how she knew where to go, she could just tell which way to go instinctually. This just confirmed what he had thought when he was delivering the cat supplies to Ginny. As they approached his neighborhood, Harry split off from Hedwig and reverted to human form before apparating into his bedroom. He didn’t want any of the Order members who were keeping tabs on him to see the black owl entering his room. Moments later Hedwig arrived bearing the letter he had just watched Ginny write. He took the proffered letter and tore it open to read its contents.

Dear Harry,

Thank you so much. I love her. Her name is Emerald because of her beautiful green eyes. I’m calling her Em for short. Did you get her from the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley? That’s where I was when we were attacked, and I had fallen in love with this kitten with brilliant green eyes as soon as I walked in. How did you know? And for that matter, how did you manage to get her, considering you’re in lockdown with your relatives? Well regardless of how you managed it, thank you so much. She is quite possibly the best present I have ever been given.

I was advised not to write much about what happened at Diagon Alley, so you’ll have to wait until I see you for all the details. But I guarantee you that it’s quite the story. I’ll tell you all about it on the train ride. Since I’m not a prefect I’ll be able to sit with you while Ron and Hermione are off in their little meeting; that is of course assuming you’d like to sit with me on the train.

You really didn’t have to buy me all of that stuff to go along with Em, but I appreciate it. I know you have a lot of money and like to spend it on others. And I won’t let you spend all of your money on me all the time, but I might just let you get away with it every once in awhile. I know that your money has always been a sore spot between you and Ron, but I could care less either way. I know you’ve got it, and I don’t. And I know that you’re not averse to spending it on others, and I promise not to get offended by it. I know you’re not trying to buy friendships or anything silly like that. That doesn’t mean I’ll always accept it, but I won’t ever throw it back in your face.

Hedwig’s friend was quite striking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black owl before. But then again, I think Hedwig is the only white owl I’ve ever seen, so maybe they make a good match. Do you think maybe they’re a little more than friendly? Might we be finding some black and white owls flying around the Potter household soon? You never know. It’s proper to save yourself for marriage, of course, but Hedwig has always seemed a bit promiscuous if you ask me. You’ll have to watch out for her. Sure he may seem nice and honorable, but they all do at first glance. Then once they get what they want, their true colors show, and you realize that it was all just an act. Men!

Thanks again for Em, Harry. And I think I just might take your advice. Today’s a day for me to enjoy, and I might as well take advantage while I still can. I’ve got a new kitten to play with, and my family is all here to share the day with me. Today will be a good day. Write again soon.

With love,
Ginny


Harry burst out laughing while reading the letter. Just imagining what must be going through her head. Just thinking of him and Hedwig together…like that…was downright disturbing, but also absolutely hilarious. She had no idea what she was saying, of course, but that didn’t lessen the amusement Harry got from her comments.

The rest of his summer vacation was pretty normal for Harry. His scar acted up on him a couple times. It only twinged with pain and gave him some vague flashes of Voldemort’s emotions. He didn’t have another vision. He wrote to both Ron and Hermione about his OWLs and what classes he would be taking and everything. They both wrote to him about the same. Ron mentioned the attack in Diagon Alley and how stupid he felt for including when they’d be going in his letter. Harry was inclined to agree but chose not to vocalize that thought. He and Ginny also wrote back and forth to each other talking about various things.

About a week after Ginny’s birthday, Harry received a letter from Dumbledore with the Hogwarts seal emblazoned upon the envelope. He tore it open and read the contents.

Dear Harry,

I have recently met with the staff of Hogwarts and, as promised, am now informing you of our decision on your status in regards to the DA. Given the success of your club last year and the remarkable scores your students received on their exams in comparison to other students, in addition to evidence Professor McGonagall presented at the level of commitment you seem to be putting into the club, we have decided to offer you the post of Assistant Professor.

The post has several privileges and responsibilities attached. If you so desire, you would be given your own quarters and your own office. You would be welcome to continue using the Room of Requirement for your classes, or, if you would prefer, we could arrange for a classroom to be setup for you. You would have authority over your peers, including the Head Boy and Girl, but all of the staff would still have complete authority over you except during your DA meetings where you would be equals. There are other privileges included like the ability to access the Restricted Section of the library and an extended curfew as well.

As I mentioned, as an Assistant Professor you would have authority over the other students. You will be expected to treat this authority responsibly and not abuse it in any way. You will have the ability to take and award house points and give out detentions, but if it is found that you are abusing this power, it will be stripped from you. We expect you to treat all students equally regardless of any personal feuds or of which house they are from.

You also may be asked for assistance by our new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He may ask for help in some of his classes, in evaluating the students, or in offering additional tutoring to students who are struggling. He is not used to the demands of professorship and has expressed interest in having an assistant, which is a large part of the reason we are offering such a position to you. I will ensure that none of his demands conflict with your own studies, of course.

As you might have imagined, this decision was not unanimous among the staff. I will warn you, you will be watched closely, both by the staff and the students. If you reach out to people of all houses, I think it could go a long way to creating inter-house unity which the school has not enjoyed in hundreds of years. There will always be some who refuse to cooperate, but you must not let the few ruin it for the many. I will await your decision on whether or not you would like to accept the post and what accommodations we should make for you. I feel I should mention that while there have been many assistant professors in the past, only once has the position ever been held by a student. You are the second person in the history of the school to receive that honor. I trust you will not let us down.

Sincerely,
Albus Dumbledore


Harry didn’t know what he was expecting from Dumbledore, but this was definitely not it. He had briefly thought he might be made an honorary prefect or something, but he had put it out of his mind deciding that he really had no idea what the old man would come up with. Never in a million years would he have predicted this. He had no doubt who the headmaster was speaking of when he mentioned that the decision was not unanimous. Snape would have fought this to the bitter end, but to have it go through must have meant that he had the support of the rest of the staff.

He guessed that Professor McGonagall had showed them all the letter he had sent her turning down the Quidditch captaincy. He couldn’t think of anything else that she could present as evidence to the level of commitment he was putting forth. Harry hated the fact that this would further alienate him from his classmates. He wanted nothing more than to be normal, but he had realized long ago that he was anything but normal. And continuing to deny the fact would only make things harder. So he was left with only one choice really: he had to take it.

He didn’t want to be separated from his friends though, so he decided to turn down the separate quarters, but accepted the office. He told the Headmaster that he would like to continue using the Room of Requirement as it would provide him with everything he would ever need throughout the semester, making life easier for him. Harry sent a reply back informing him of his decision and thanking him for the opportunity. He told him that he was almost finished writing up the magical contract he would use for the club and that it should be ready for him to look over by the time he arrived on September the 1st.

With that out of the way, Harry turned his attention to more immediate concerns. He had been debating with himself for the past couple days over the card that Jessica had given him when he had been shopping in muggle London. She had said to call if he ever needed help shopping again but not to be afraid to call even if it wasn’t about shopping. He didn’t imagine himself to be an expert when it came to girls, but he thought for sure that this was a hint that she wanted him to call, maybe to ask her out. He wasn’t really sure.

He finally asked himself, “What would it hurt if I did call and she wasn’t interested? I’d never have to see her again. It’s not like at Hogwarts where I’d see her every day.” And so with his resolve strengthened, Harry snuck out of his room and down the stairs. He headed into the kitchen and made sure the coast was clear before he snatched the cordless phone out of its holder and retreated back to his room. He locked the door magically since all the physical locks were on the outside and put up a privacy ward to prevent anybody from eavesdropping.

He dialed her number and waited while the phone range. After a few rings someone picked up.

“Hello,” a female voice greeted him.

“Hi,” Harry replied nervously. “Is Jessica there?”

“Speaking,” she responded.

“Oh,” Harry answered as he began pacing back and forth. “Hi Jessica. I’m not sure if you remember me, but my name’s Harry, and you helped me with my shopping a week or so back and left me with your number.”

“Hi Harry,” she interrupted cheerfully. “It’s good to hear from you. I was wondering whether or not you’d call.”

“So you did want me to call then?” Harry half asked, half stated.

“Of course I did. Why else would I give you my number,” she giggled softly.

“Oh, right,” he said. “Well you had said that I could call you even if I didn’t have more shopping to do…”

“Uh huh”

“…so I thought I would take you up on your offer. I know we hardly know each other and everything, and I’m not sure if you’d like to or not, but I was wondering if maybe you’d…if you’d maybe like to…” Harry stammered.

“Are you trying to ask me out on a date Harry?” she asked helpfully.

Harry slapped himself on the forehead for being such a dork. “Err…maybe?”

“Maybe yes? Or maybe no?” she asked candidly.

“Yes. Would you like to get dinner with me sometime?” he deadpanned, forcing his nerves out of his throat.

“I’d like that,” she answered sweetly with a slight giggle.

“You would?” Harry asked dumbly. “I mean, you would. That’s great. Umm…when would you like to go out?”

“How about this Saturday?” she supplied.

“Saturday.” Harry said. “Okay, Saturday works.”

“Will you be picking me up, Harry?” she asked.

“Oh, well I don’t exactly have a car or anything,” he explained.

“That’s alright. Would you like to meet me somewhere?” she asked supportively.

“Sure,” he replied. “Where would we meet?”

“Do you know your way around London?” she asked.

“Err, not really,” he answered.

“Okay, why don’t you meet me in front of the store at say 6:00? I know of a place nearby that we could go to,” she explained. “Will that be okay with you, Harry?”

“Yes. Yes, that would be wonderful,” he responded gratefully.

“Good. I’ll look forward to seeing you at 6:00 on Saturday then,” she told him.

“I’ll look forward to seeing you too,” he responded back. Then a thought struck him. “What should I wear? I mean, what kind of attire should I wear for the restaurant?”

She giggled softly again. “A very good question, Harry. I’m proud. Most guys wouldn’t think to ask. Wear one of the nice khaki pants, a collared shirt, and your brown shoes and you’ll be just fine.”

“Thanks,” he said, constructing a mental picture of his new clothing and what he’d wear.

“You’re welcome. I’ll see on Saturday then. Bye Harry,” she said.

“Bye Jessica,” Harry answered before hanging up the phone and collapsing on his bed. That was nerve racking, it was. Girls should come with a manual or a cheat sheet, something. But it didn’t go too badly, he thought optimistically. Of course that was all thanks to Jessica. He had been a nervous wreck, but she was calm and collected and was helping him out whenever he stumbled. She seemed very cool like that. She didn’t seem to mind that he got nervous or stumbled over his words.

For the rest of the week Harry was bursting to tell everyone about his date. He wished he had people in his life that he could tell things to. But at least he had Sirius. Sirius was the one person he could tell everything, all of his secrets, to. Sure Sirius was dead and only visited in his dreams, but it was still nice to have that one person he could share himself with. He loved his friends and Remus and everyone, but there was so much he couldn’t tell any of them. He just got himself a date, but he couldn’t mention it to his friends because it would raise way too many questions. He didn’t hesitate to mention it to Sirius, though, and was teased mercilessly for it as a result.

His training went poorly for the next couple days as all his godfather had to do was bring up his date or make some suggestive comment and Harry would become distracted. After the second night of this torment, he put a lock on his emotions and no longer let himself become preoccupied with anything but dueling Sirius. And Sirius paid for his taunts. Harry won most of their duels now, with his godfather only winning an occasional one or two. They were usually all well fought, though, and were very good practice for Harry. They also spent a lot of time working on new spells, some of which were ones Harry was reading about, others were ones Sirius would teach to him. His repertoire of spells was increasing rapidly from all of the extra study and training time.

Saturday finally rolled around, and Harry was a nervous wreck for most of the day. His run was extra long as was his bout with his cousin’s punching bag, but it still didn’t settle his nerves. He had to force himself to eat lunch and only managed a small amount of food. He wondered how he was going to manage to eat later tonight when he was already having trouble with food.

The day passed by slowly, inching along as he read his books and practiced his magic. He was beginning to practice casting two spells at once. He started off practicing with the same spell, but he was starting to try casting two different spells at the same time. He was having mixed results with it but was optimistic. Today, however, he was having trouble getting it right when using the same spell.

He was ready to go at 5:00. He needed to go to Diagon Alley and into Gringotts before his date so that he’d have muggle money to pay with. He changed his hair color, put in his brown contacts and cast a cosmetic charm over his scar. He checked himself in the mirror before leaving and was satisfied with the results. Even looking up close he couldn’t tell that he had a scar. It blended in perfectly.

He apparated to Diagon Alley and walked quickly into the bank. He got in the line that Griphook had directed him to in order to exchange wizarding for muggle money the last time he was there. He stood in line for 10 minutes before he was helped by the goblin at the counter. He changed 50 galleons for about 250 pounds and bid the goblin a good day. He received little more than a grunt in reply as he turned and walked out of the bank.

He made his way through the busy crowd in the streets toward the Leaky Cauldron. He had plenty of time, so he would walk to the store. He made it to the pub without incident and was soon walking out the exit into the muggle streets. He began his trek toward the department store. He stopped off in an alley along the way and hid himself as he changed his hair color to black and replaced his brown contacts with the clear ones. His hair length on a normal day was only a touch shorter than it was now. By the time the 1st of September came around, he’d have his hair this length for good.

He continued walking towards the store, taking his time, knowing that he was still early. He took stock of his surroundings and marveled at the hustle and bustle of the world. People were going every which way, everyone in a hurry. Cars sped down the streets as people traversed the sidewalks walking at speeds more closely resembling a jog. All the while Harry took his time to enjoy his walk and settle his nerves as he prepared for his date. Before long he was coming up to the store.

He saw a clock in the window and saw that he was 25 minutes early. With nothing better to do, Harry entered the store and sat on a bench near the door. He watched the shoppers and store employees as they all set about their tasks. Some shoppers seemed to just be browsing casually while others seemed intent on finding clothing that suited them. Some of the employees were greeting customers cheerfully and offering assistance, a few greeted the shoppers with less cheer and more grumpiness, but offered help nonetheless. Still others seemed to be in charge of restocking the shelves and racks of the clothes that were disappearing of them. They seemed to be the least cheerful of all the workers, but Harry couldn’t blame them. The job did seem rather boring.

After a short while he saw her; she was leading a customer toward one of the registers. There eyes met briefly, and she gave him a small smile as he gave her a casual wave. She returned his greeting and tilted her head toward her customers and held up one finger to let him know she’d be with him in a minute after she finished helping the shoppers. She rung them out cheerfully and bid them a goodnight. They replied in kind. She then sauntered toward Harry, so he got up and met her halfway.

“Hi,” he greeted.

“Hey,” she said back. “You’re early.”

“I know,” he replied sheepishly. “I didn’t want to be late, so I gave myself plenty of time.”

“That was sweet of you,” she told him. She glanced at a watch on her wrist. “I still have ten more minutes until I can punch out. Are you alright just hanging out here ‘til then?”

“Oh,” Harry responded, “yeah, that’s fine. I’ll be right here whenever you’re ready to go. Take your time though. I’m not in a rush or anything.”

She gave him a full smile in return and said “Thanks. I’ll try not to keep you waiting too long.” And with that she turned and headed back into the store. Harry returned to his bench and continued his people watching. He also used the time he had to focus on controlling his emotions. He didn’t want to be a stammering wreck the entire night and was hoping that his Occlumency practice would help in that respect.

It was about fifteen minutes later that Jessica walked back towards him. She had changed, he noticed immediately. She had been wearing a cotton skirt before, red in color, with a white blouse. Now she was wearing a black skirt that seemed to be a more silky material. It had some white flowery designs on it. She was wearing a light blue top that came down in a V over her chest.

“Shall we?” she asked.

“You look beautiful,” he told her without registering what she had asked. She shot him a dazzling smile as a reward, and Harry’s brain took another moment to catch up with him. “Err, right, I’m ready to go.”

She giggled softly again, and Harry found he rather liked the sound. It wasn’t like when girls like Lavender or Parvati giggled while gossiping at Hogwarts. That was a louder, more intimidating laugh. Jessica’s giggle was soft and…inviting. He decided that anything he did to make her laugh like that was worth it, even if he did look stupid as a result. “Thank you, Harry. You look rather dashing yourself.”

Harry blushed brilliantly at the unexpected compliment. “Well, a woman with impeccable taste helped me pick it out,” he managed to say without stammering one bit.

She giggled again, and Harry mentally congratulated himself for accomplishing that without making an idiot of himself. He opened the door for her and waved her through it. She smiled at him as she passed and whispered, “Thanks,” as she walked out into the street. Harry followed her out the door and looked at her for direction. “Right. It’s over this way,” she explained gesturing to the right. Harry followed her lead, and they walked side by side down the street.

“So how is the job going?” Harry asked her conversationally.

“Oh, it’s going alright,” she replied. “I haven’t had many cute guys coming in spending hundreds of pounds and leaving me enormous tips lately though, so it could be better.”

Harry chuckled sheepishly at her joke, shrugging slightly. “You really did save my life that day, you know. I think I’d still be wandering around the store looking for clothes if it weren’t for your help.”

She looked over at him and met his eyes for a moment and knew that he was being honest. “It was my pleasure, really,” she told him. “As I said, it’s not every day I get a customer like you. And it’s not every day that I actually enjoy myself so much while on the job. Ah, here we are,” she said, gesturing toward the Italian restaurant in front of them. “I hope you like Italian?”

“Uh huh,” he responded.

They entered the restaurant, and she immediately led him to the host table and said “Jessica Roland, party of 2.”

The man looked through a list in front of him and responded, “Ah yes, I’ll be able to seat you in just a moment, if you’ll just wait to the side momentarily.”

She nodded to him, and the two of them stepped to the side to wait. “Thanks for setting all of this up,” he told her. “I really don’t know where anything is in this city. I had to ask someone to direct me to the nearest department store that day just to find the place.”

“It’s no problem,” she said to him. “I know what it’s like to be in a place totally unfamiliar to you. It can be overwhelming. I’m just glad that whoever you asked directed you to our store.”

“Me too,” Harry replied honestly. Just then a waiter came up to them.

“Right this way, please,” he directed them.

Harry waved for Jessica to precede him and followed behind her. He tried not to admire the view too much but couldn’t resist a couple glances. They were led to a small table set for two against the wall. It wasn’t so small as to feel cramped, but it wouldn’t have sat any more than two people. “My name is Anthony, and I’ll be your server this evening,” he told them as he handed each of them a menu. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.” He left them with their menus, and Harry glanced up at his date and smiled softly before opening up his menu and looking through it.

There were many different kinds of pastas and steaks and other such meals listed. Harry knew what some of them meant as he had been forced to cook several of these, but he was unfamiliar with a lot of them. Thankfully, each one had a short description underneath it to explain what it was. In the end he selected something simple that he knew he would enjoy. He set his menu down and saw that Jessica was still looking through her own menu.

Seeing that he had placed his menu aside she asked, “So what’s it gonna be for you?”

“Fettuccini Alfredo with Broccoli and Chicken,” he told her.

“Mmmm, that sounds good. But I think I’m going to get the lasagna,” she replied. “Did you want to get an appetizer or a salad or anything?”

“Err—I hadn’t thought about that,” he responded with a sheepish grin. He opened his menu back up and looked through the list of appetizers. Half of it seemed entirely foreign to him, and he didn’t know what to make of it. He looked over the menu to find her watching him with a small grin on her lips. “Was there something that you wanted?” he asked her.

Her smile grew wider as she answered, “I was thinking some calamari might be nice.”

Not really knowing what he was agreeing to, Harry said, “Okay, that works for me.”

The waiter returned a minute later and asked, “Are we ready? Did you want an appetizer to start off?”

Harry glanced at Jessica and saw her give him a slight nod urging him to order it. “Umm, yes, we’d like to have some calamari please,” he told the waiter.

“An excellent choice. And were you both ready to order?”

Harry nodded and looked to Jessica to let her go first. She turned to the waiter. “I’ll have the lasagna.”

The waiter jotted down the order on a pad of paper and turned to Harry. “And for you, sir?”

“I’ll have the Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken and Broccoli please,” Harry replied.

“Excellent,” the waiter said as he jotted the order down. “I’ll have your appetizer out for you shortly. Now what can I get you both to drink?”

“I’m just going to stick with water,” Jessica told the waiter.

He turned to Harry waiting for his reply. “I think I’ll just stick with water for now as well,” he told the man. The waiter nodded and wandered off, presumably back to the kitchen to place their order.

“So Harry,” Jessica broke the silence a moment later, “what have you been up to since the last time I saw you?”

“Oh, well I’ve been jogging and working out in the mornings as usual,” he told her. A small smile graced her lips as she listened. “And I’ve been doing a little studying as well, since the school year is starting up soon.”

“You said you went to a school in Scotland, right?” she asked him.

“Yes, my parents both went there when they were kids. That’s where they met,” he answered her.

“That’s sweet. So they arranged for you to go there too?”

“Yeah, apparently they had that planned right from the start since they both died shortly after my first birthday,” Harry told her only slightly lying. After all, they had planned to send him to Hogwarts. They didn’t actually actively arrange for him to go there, but that was just a technicality.

“I’m sorry,” she told him. “It must have been really hard growing up not knowing your mum and dad.”

“Yeah,” he answered. “My mum and my aunt were sisters, and I guess they didn’t get along very well. I don’t really know any details because she refuses to talk about my mum, so I can only assume they didn’t like each other. My aunt and uncle always kept me separate from their lives, doting on their own son. I’ve always kind of felt like an outsider there.” It was the truth, just a dumbed down version of it. It would have to do because he couldn’t tell her the whole truth.

“That’s terrible,” she gasped. “It must have been horrible growing up like that, feeling like you don’t really belong. You probably wondered what your life would have been like with your parents had they not died,” she said. “Oh! I can’t believe I just said that. How terribly thoughtless of me. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to bring all this up. Oh dear, I’m mucking this up royally, aren’t I?”

“It’s okay,” Harry told her with a slightly sad smile as he reached across the table and placed his hand atop hers. “You’re right. I did always imagine what life would have been like with my real parents, feeling like I really belonged in the world. But I’ve had 15 years to come to terms with all of it. Don’t feel bad about it, really. I’m okay talking about it.”

“I still feel just awful for bringing all that up,” she told him.

“Don’t. I really don’t mind talking about them. I mean, I don’t really remember them or anything, but I absolutely love hearing stories about them. And I’ve recently begun meeting with an old friend of theirs, so it’s been great to hear about their lives and what they were like.”

“That’s really nice,” she said. “I’m sure their friend is probably just as happy to share the stories with you as you are to hear them. Reliving old memories of dear friends is a great way to honor them.”

“I never really thought of it that way,” Harry said.

The waiter appeared at the table again serving the calamari. She gave his hand a quick squeeze before letting him pull away. Harry waited and let Jessica make the first move. She saw that he was waiting on her and gave him a smile for his efforts. She pushed a small pile of the squid onto her small plate and poured a bit of marinara sauce over it. He smiled at her and mimicked her actions. He skewered one of the breaded pieces and brought it into his mouth.

He chewed it curiously for a few moments before smiling and nodding to himself.

Jessica giggled softly and asked, “Is that your first time having calamari?”

“Uh huh,” he replied shyly.

“I could tell,” she told him. “Your reaction was cute.”

Harry felt his face heat up and knew that his cheeks must be stained red. He mumbled a “Thanks,” and forked another piece and put it into his mouth.

They ate their way through the calamari and waited only a moment before the waiter appeared to claim the empty dish. “Your meal will be ready shortly,” he informed them. “I’ll be back in a minute with it.”

“Thanks,” Harry told him sincerely.

He and Jessica chatted for a minute as they waited for their main dishes. Sure enough, the waiter was back carrying two plates. He placed the Lasagna before Jessica and the Fettuccini Alfredo in front of Harry. “Bon appetite,” he said to them merrily.

“Thanks,” they both replied. They grinned at each other for a moment before turning to their meals.

They talked a little as they ate, but they mostly just enjoyed their meal. Harry found that he rather enjoyed the restaurant’s take on the dish. He didn’t fancy himself to be a great chef or anything, but he thought that he made a decent meal on his own. But his dinner here was fantastic. He told Jessica as much.

“I’m glad you like it,” she told him. “I wasn’t sure what kind of food you liked, but I figured Italian was a pretty safe bet.”

“It was a good choice,” he told her earnestly.

Soon enough they were finishing up their meals. The waiter returned shortly thereafter and asked, “Any dessert for you or coffee.”

Harry looked at Jessica. She shook her head slightly to show that she didn’t want anything else, so Harry replied, “No, I think we’re both pleasantly full.”

“Very well, I will just leave this with you then,” he said as he placed the check in the middle of the table but slightly towards Harry.

“Thank you,” Harry told the man.

Harry took the check and looked at the price. 40 pounds, gratuity not included. Harry had never eaten out before, so he didn’t know how much to leave for tip. He turned to his date and asked “Umm…I feel kind of stupid, but how much should I leave for a tip?”

She smiled at him warmly and said “Don’t feel bad. 15% is about the standard.”

“Thanks,” Harry told her gratefully. He turned back to the check and did the math in his head. It took him a minute to do the work since it had been some time since he had taken a math course, but he eventually figured it out. 40 pounds for the meal and an even 6 pounds for the tip would do it. He had a 50 pound note from the goblins, so he took that out and gave it to the waiter saying, “Keep the change.”

The man grinned at Harry for a moment before saying, “Thank you, sir,” and disappearing.

Harry turned back toward his date who was grinning at him yet again, “You really are the biggest tipper I’ve ever met, you know that? If you’re not careful, you’ll end up giving all your money away.”

Harry just smiled shyly and shrugged his shoulders. “Are you ready to go?” he asked her.

“Yes, I suppose so,” she answered.

They walked through the restaurant and out onto the street again. Harry turned to Jessica unsure of what he was supposed to do now. “Err – thanks again for setting everything up. I really enjoyed the restaurant.”

“Me too,” she replied. “The company was especially nice.”

Harry’s face turned scarlet yet again as he responded, “I really enjoyed spending the evening with you too.”

She smiled back at him warmly and the two stood there silently grinning at each other for a minute. “Umm, do you have your car nearby? Would you like me to walk you to it? Or do you live nearby?”

“I live a few blocks away,” she told him with a brilliant smile. “And an escort would be lovely.”

“Great,” he replied. “Shall we?”

“Indeed,” she responded.

She gestured to the right, and they set off down the street together. After a minute of walking silently, she reached her hand and placed her palm against his. He spread his fingers and intertwined them with hers. He glanced over at her and flashed a wide grin at the gesture. She returned his smile, and they continued to walk.

“I really had a great time tonight,” he told her. “I haven’t had fun like this in a while.”

“Well you should do it more often,” she told him. “I really enjoyed being out with you as well. Thanks for the dinner.”

“Oh don’t mention it,” he replied shyly. “It was really my pleasure. It’s not every day I get to eat a nice meal with a woman as beautiful and sweet as you,” he said boldly.

She rewarded him with a slight blush and wide smile. “You’re not too bad yourself, Harry.”

They turned a corner and continued to walk and talk. “Listen, I know you’re going back to school soon, and there’s a good chance I won’t see you again, so I just want to let you know that I really have enjoyed spending time with you. You’re a really sweet guy, and any girl would be lucky to be with you.”

Harry blushed spectacularly at the praise and moved to interrupt, but she continued. “I mean it. You’re sweet and honest and cute. You’re shy, but it only makes you seem even cuter. You have my number if you ever want to give me a call. It would be hard to start a relationship or anything like that when we hardly know each other and we’d be apart, so I don’t think it would be smart to try. But I don’t want you to feel like I’m rejecting you or anything. Maybe when you’re finished with that school of yours, if you come back to London, you could look me up, and maybe we’ll pick up where we left off tonight.”

Harry smiled at her. “Thank you Jessica. I appreciate your honesty. You’re right, of course. It probably wouldn’t work between us right now. But I do like you and enjoyed spending time with you tonight. So maybe I’ll hold onto your number and give you a call the next time I’m in town. If you’re seeing someone by then, we can always just catch up as friends.”

“I’d like that Harry,” she told him somewhat shyly. “Well, this is me,” she said gesturing toward the apartment complex in front of them. “Remember what I said, any girl would be lucky to have you,” she told him as she leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She stepped up and hugged him briefly. He wrapped his arms around her to return the gesture.

“Good luck in University,” he whispered in her ear.

“Thanks,” she replied. “Good luck at your boarding school.” She released him slightly and looked into his eyes for a moment, their faces only inches apart. She parted her lips slightly in anticipation, and Harry fought to keep his nerves in check. She closed her eyes and leaned slightly forward. He tilted his head slightly and met her halfway. He closed his own eyes as their lips met. It was a brief kiss, but it was absolutely wonderful in Harry’s mind. His only other experience kissing had been with a crying Cho underneath the mistletoe after a DA meeting last year. This was nothing like that. He rather enjoyed this kiss, but it was over all too soon.

She pulled away, then hugged him once more before backing away and saying, “Goodnight Harry.”

“Goodnight Jessica,” he replied and watched as she walked up the steps to the front door. She paused as she reached the door and turned back toward Harry. She smiled sadly at him and waved goodbye. He returned the sad smile and waved his own goodbye. She turned back to the building and entered it as she exited his life. He knew going into the date that whatever happened with her wouldn’t last, but it didn’t make it any easier to watch her go. He had fun with her. She was great. He just wished that she was a witch and went to Hogwarts so that they didn’t have to part. But life is hardly ever that fair, and never so in the case of Harry’s life.

He chose to walk around the city for a bit to clear his head. He didn’t want to go back to Privet Drive just to be stuck in his bedroom for the rest of the night. He wandered the streets aimlessly for a time, not really registering his surroundings or paying any attention to where he was going. He was lost in his thoughts of Jessica and the date they’d just had. It was nice. He finally had a date that he could look back on and not find a complete disaster. After a while he finally pulled himself out of his reverie and apparated back to his bedroom at the Dursleys’ house and spent the rest of his night reading.

That night Harry told Sirius about his date and everything that was said at the end. He also embarrassedly told him about the goodnight kiss.

“That’s great, Harry,” his godfather exclaimed. “Sounds like you found yourself a winner.”

“Yeah,” Harry replied. “It just sucks that it can’t be more. I’ve got Hogwarts; she’s got her own school. It would never work, and by the time it would work, she’ll have already moved on, I’m sure.”

“Maybe,” Sirius answered back, “but then again, maybe you’ll have moved on as well.”

“Maybe…” Harry said without much conviction.

“Listen Harry,” Sirius deadpanned. “You just had a great night with a pretty girl with no strings attached. Lighten up a bit, alright? Maybe you’ll end up with this chick, maybe not, but there’s no use dwelling on it right now. There’re plenty of girls at Hogwarts. Open your eyes and look around, and you might just find someone that catches your fancy.”

“I just wish my life could be easier for once and that something would just go my way,” Harry explained.

“I know you do Harry, but life is often too complicated for us to get exactly what we want,” Sirius lectured. “You just have to take what life hands you, and make the best out of it.”

“I’ll try,” Harry sighed.

“That’s all you can do.”


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