Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals 16

Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Three.
Or, "Aspie Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

Note: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made.

Note 2: There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though.

Chapter 1: Escape

At Number 4, Privet Drive, in Surrey, a nice young black man named Harry Potter, less than a month from being a teenager, was packing the few of his belongings he'd not already unpacked after a mere fortnight at home with his aunt, uncle, and cousin. He was glad for it, too; even with the spells in place to protect him from them, even with Netty around to make sure he was being fed enough, the Dursleys were always unpleasant, and had been even more so this time around, due to a phone call he'd received from his friend Ron Weasley his first week back.

Ron, being a wizard, didn't know how to use a phone, and had shouted into the mouthpiece so loudly Harry could hear it from the dining room. Naturally, his uncle had bellowed back. It was only the enchantments in place and Netty's presence that forced the beefy man's anger to be replaced by fear and remembering when he'd rounded on his nephew and come face to face with a house elf instead. His expression had frozen into a mix of the two emotions, then he'd stormed off without saying a word. Harry had been tolerating similar looks from all the Dursleys for the past week since then, so he was especially glad to be leaving.

As if that wasn't enough, he'd overheard the Dursleys discussing inviting Aunt Marge over for an extended stay. He was very glad that they were both agreed it was impossible until Harry was out of the house, and found himself very relieved to have Netty and Dumbledore's magic to protect him while he was here. Aunt Marge – who was Uncle Vernon's sister and so not a blood relative, thankfully – hated Harry worse than his aunt and uncle did, and never missed an opportunity to express this hatred. Harry had enough bad memories from her visits to last three lifetimes, so he was quite glad to be leaving long before she would be arriving. Not even a brief thought of revenge was enough to make him even consider staying behind a moment longer than he needed to. If that meant Aunt Marge would be convinced he had been sent back early to St. Brutus's School for Incurably Criminal Boys – the school the Dursleys told everyone he went to – for bad behavior, then so be it.

Hedwig – his owl – squawked in her cage, not liking to be cooped up.

“Sorry girl,” he said sympathetically, “but Dumbledore will be here soon to pick us up. Once we're at Ron's place, I'll let you fly free, okay?”

She blinked with annoyed acceptance of this, and settled down.

There was a ring of the doorbell. Harry went downstairs and heard arguments; his relatives didn't want to answer the door, knowing who it would be. So Netty finally shouted back at them in her high-pitched little voice.

“FINE! I IS GETTING THE DOOR THEN FOR THE DURSLEY FAMILY, THEN IS I?”

Before the Dursleys could protest, Harry heard the door open.

“Professor Dumbledore, sir. Welcome back. Come in, come in please, sir.”

“Thank you very much, Netty. You are most kind.”

Having confirmation that it was Dumbledore, Harry went back to his room to grab his trunk.

“Locomotor trunk,” he said, pointing his wand at his trunk, forgetting he wasn't technically allowed to do magic, and forgetting that there had been an exception put on this house for Netty and the protective spells. It was only when the Dursleys shrieked at his blatant display of magic, and he spotted Dumbledore again, that he remembered.

“Er... oops.”

“'Oops' what, Harry?” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling. “I saw nothing unusual.”

Harry canceled the spell anyway, and let Netty grab the trunk and disapparate with it in tow, the loud CRACK! making the Dursleys jump in fright. Dudley took off running for his room.

“So, Harry, that was everything of yours in there?”

“Yes, sir. I've been ready to go since yesterday.”

“Good. Then take my hand, Harry, and we will leave your relatives alone.”

He did, and they twirled on the spot, disapparating with a soft pop. And Harry once more felt the sensation of being squeezed through a very tight tube before appearing in the grass outside the Burrow. Having purposefully foregone his most recent meal, his retching didn't bring much up.

Hedwig screeched at him the moment he stood up. He paused to wipe his mouth.

“Yes, girl, I'm coming. Hold your hippogriffs.”

When he opened her cage, she immediately flew out, looking very happy to be free, and went off hunting.

“Feeling better, Harry?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good,” Dumbledore said. “Let us go find Molly now.”

Mrs. Weasley, and the other Weasleys, were all at the dinner table. Harry had arrived just as she was pouring stew into everyone's bowls. He was pleased to notice they'd set a place for him.

“Hello, Harry my dear!” Mrs. Weasley said cheerfully. “Go wash up and then you can sit down, you're just in time for dinner.”

Harry smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Weasley,” he said, then went off to the loo to wash up.

When he came back and sat down, the pot of stew magically tipped some stew into his bowl. It smelled delicious, and tasted even better than it smelled; Mrs. Weasley was an excellent cook. He wondered if she'd done well in Potions in school, since Potions is a lot like cooking.

As he ate, he was oblivious to the fact that Ginny was pointedly looking anywhere but at him. He was enjoying his meal far too much. But once he got enough food in his stomach, he started looking up, and noticed he was sitting right next to Percy. He began to talk with Percy. He liked talking with Percy; he had some suspicions about Percy having Asperger's as well, since the older boy liked to talk all about the things he'd achieved or was interested in to anyone who would hold still long enough, and didn't mind when Harry did the same thing back at him. But then, that was only one potential Asperger's trait, a trait that Asperger's shared with quite a few other conditions. And even neurotypical people could have that character trait, too.

Percy was currently talking all about his upcoming N.E.W.T.'s, the tests seventh years had to take to get good careers. Percy was taking a lot of subjects, and had a particular affinity for arithmancy, something that interested Harry as well, as he was going to take it this year. Harry always appreciated any chance to learn from older students, but a lot of what Percy was talking about was years ahead of him and made no sense to him as a result.

“Oh for goodness sake, Perce, shut up already,” one of the twins said, exasperated.

“Excuse you, but Percy was talking and I was listening.”

“You could stand to listen to that prattle?”

“It was a lot more interesting than a lot of what you go on about,” Harry snapped back.

“Oooh, Harry's defending Perce. Does Harry lurrrve Percy?”

Harry looked at him, confused. “What are you on about?”

“Yeah, Fred, that was lame. Everyone knows Harry and Luna are an item,” said George.

“Doesn't mean Harry can't be involved in a torrid love square.”

“Love square?” asked George.

“Yeah, a love square. Because if Harry fancies Luna and Percy, and Ginny fancies Harry, that's four people, so not a love triangle, but a love square.”

“'Love quadrangle' would fit the spirit of the term better, and would be more accurate,” Harry said. “But I'm not in love with anyone. Luna's a friend, and so is Percy. He listens to my prattle, so I listen to his. It's as simple as that.”

“And I am grateful, Harry,” said Percy pompously, “that there's someone in my life who gets as excited about things as I do, someone who listens to me.”

“What's a quadrangle?” asked Ron.

“Fancy-pants way of saying a square, Ronniekins,” said George.

“Yeah, triangle has three angles. Quadrangle has four.”

“Not all quadrangles are squares,” Harry said. “There's rectangles, for one. And diamonds, among others.”

“There we go, then; 'love rectangle.'” Fred said.

“Love diamond,” countered George.

“Oh for heaven's sake, would you lot just eat and stop arguing with each other?” Mrs. Weasley asked, exasperated.

With a few grumbles, they went back to eating. A few minutes passed before Harry and Percy went back to their discussion. Percy was talking with him now about entry-level arithmancy stuff, which Harry was having more luck with, as it was basically just primary-school level maths.

That night, in Ron's room, he got out his two-way mirror and used it to talk with Luna, as he'd done every day of the holidays. The two of them talked about many things, including about Harry visiting Luna at her house. He hadn't yet had a chance to meet her father or see her house.

And so the next morning, he ate quickly and then asked Mrs. Weasley about it.

“Mrs. Weasley? May I go visit Luna at her house?”

“Oh, I don't know, dear,” she said, thinking.

“You let me go to the village library last time I was here,” he pointed out. “She lives in the village.”

“Hmm... well, go ask Percy if he'll go with you again. If he will, then you can. If not, then no. Unless you can find someone else responsible like Percy.”

“Okay, Mrs. Weasley,” he said.

He went upstairs and knocked gently on Percy's door. The door opened sharply and an irate Percy looked out, but softened when he saw Harry.

“Oh, hello there, Harry. I thought you were Fred or George bothering me again.”

“Hi. I wanted to visit Luna at her house today, and your mum said I could only do it if I could get you or someone equally responsible to come with me.”

Percy opened his mouth to speak, but paused, thinking.

“Well, I was going to write another letter to Penny, but I daresay she's busy with things at the moment. I guess I can do it later.”

“Letters? You mean you and Penelope don't have a two-way mirror to talk with each other through?”

Percy turned red. “Yes, well, that would be nice, but you know, the expense of it. So we use letters.”

“Oh, okay. So, um... are you coming with me?”

“What? Oh, yes Harry. Yes I am. I'm interested to see Xeno's house, too.”

He and Percy went downstairs, where they met Ron and the twins. Percy scowled at the twins.

“You two going to the village, we hear? George and I might as well go with you, we want to stop at the library.”

Percy relaxed a little. “I suppose that's okay. And you, Ron? Are you coming, too?”

“Yeah,” said Ron. “I'm curious about Luna's house and her dad, too. Unless you and Luna want to be alone together?”

Harry's dark face went momentarily darker in embarrassment, “No, that's fine. Ron, you can come with Percy and me.”

And so a few minutes later, the five boys were headed off to Luna's house, Harry using the two-way mirror to get directions to it from Luna. Despite a few wrong turns, they found it. The twins, having decided they wanted to see the place before going to the library, were there.

“It looks like a giant chess rook,” Ron said.

The twins chuckled. “Oh yeah, this is the Lovegood house alright,” George said. “From what I've heard of the Lovegoods, this is exactly their style.”

There was a bush on the property as well, with floating fruits. A sign next to it indicated they were 'dirigible plums.' One other sign nearby identified Xenophilius Lovegood as the editor of a magazine called The Quibbler (which Harry remembered was an... interesting read), and another said 'Pick your own mistletoe.'

“Well, we've seen the place now, so Fred and I are heading off to the library,” George said. They waved the twins goodbye, and proceeded to the gate and opened it.

The path from the gate to the door was overgrown with a variety of plants, some of them possibly dangerous. They were all glad to see the door at last, which was thick, black, studded with iron nails, and had an eagle-head door knocker. Harry reached out and knocked three times with the knocker.

Harry had hardly let go of the knocker when the door opened, and Luna stood there in baby-blue robes, smiling at Harry.

“Harry, how nice to see you,” Luna said as though his appearance was a pleasant surprise. “Harry, Percy, Ron, please come in.”

The three boys entered the house, looking around curiously. They were standing in the most peculiar kitchen Harry had ever seen. The room was perfectly circular, so that it felt like being inside a giant pepper pot. Everything was curved to fit the walls — the stove, the sink, and the cupboards — and all of it had been painted with flowers, insects, and birds in bright primary colors. Harry thought he recognized Luna’s style: The effect, in such an enclosed space, was slightly overwhelming.

In the middle of the floor, a wrought-iron spiral staircase led to the upper levels. There was a great deal of clattering and banging coming from overhead. Harry wondered if Luna's father were making that noise, and what it was he was doing if so. But then a man in neon green robes walked in, and he was unmistakably Luna's father. His hair was long and white and looked like candyfloss, and one eye was pointed at his own nose, apparently stuck in that position. He beamed at Harry when he entered.

“This must be Harry Potter,” Xenophilius Lovegood said with excitement, shaking Harry's hand with great fervor. “My Luna has told me all about you, Mr. Potter. It's a pleasure to meet you at last.”

“Likewise, sir,” Harry said politely.

“And who are these other two strapping lads? Hmm... red hair and freckles, are you Weasleys?”

Ron and Percy nodded. Percy held his hand out pompously for Mr. Lovegood to shake.

“Hello, Mr. Lovegood. Percy Weasley, seventh-year Griffindor Prefect. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“A pleasure to meet you, too, young Mr. Weasley. I've met your father, of course. Charming man, a connoisseur of everything Muggle.”

“Yes, that is our father indeed,” Percy answered.

“And you are... no, let me guess. You look to be Harry's age, so you must be Ronald Weasley. Correct?”

“Yes. Everyone calls me Ron, though.”

“Of course, Ron, of course. Anyway, pleasant as it is to meet you, I must go upstairs and stop the printing press before it goes overboard again. I daresay you'll want to spend time in a quiet house, as opposed to one with all this racket. Excuse me.”

Mr. Lovegood went up the spiral staircase and disappeared upstairs. A few seconds later, the clattering noise stopped, and the room was blessedly silent.

“Printing press?” Harry asked.

“Oh yes. My daddy is editor of The Quibbler. He prints it himself.”

“Ah yes, The Quibbler. How much for the new issue?”

“For you, Harry, you can have one free,” she said, pulling one off of a pile on a chair and handing it to him. “Just make sure to be seen reading it once we get to school. Harry Potter liking our magazine is good for sales.”

“Will do. I'll save reading it for later, then, so I don't have to pretend to be reading it.” He rolled it up and put it in his robe pockets.

She beamed at him. “Excellent. Now, I know it's nowhere near tea-time yet, but would anyone care for some tea?”

The three boys all agreed, and so she tapped a tea kettle with her wand, making it boil at once. Soon, they were all sitting down at the kitchen table and drinking tea. Harry was seated right next to Luna, and Ron giggled every once in a while as he caught the two of them holding hands.

“Luna my love,” her father said, carrying several large boxes in his hands, “could you get the door? I need to get these to the owl-post office.”

“Yes, Daddy,” she said, getting up at once and holding the door for him. Then she got the gate for him, leaving the front door open. Harry and the others watched as he turned on the spot and disapparated.

When she came back in, closing the door, and sat down again, she spoke.

“Daddy has been selling more copies lately. Not much more, but more. I think having seen you reading them has helped sales.”

“Speaking of which, I need to get a subscription. And I insist on paying for it.”

“Well, if you insist,” she said, and told him the price. He handed over the money.

“Daddy will be pleased,” she said, pulling a list out of a drawer and adding Harry's name to it.

As the rest of the afternoon unfolded, Ron and Percy were largely fifth wheels, since Harry and Luna were so engrossed in their own discussion. Though Percy did get to speak once in a while, as some of the things they talked about overlapped his own interests. But Ron was quickly very bored, and got up to look around the house, admiring Luna's art.

“Oh,” Luna said, spotting Ron examining her paintings. “That reminds me, Harry, I want to show you my bedroom.”

There was an awkward silence as Ron and Percy both looked at Luna. Percy was disapproving, but Ron was stifling giggles.

Perhaps picking up on their thoughts, Luna said, “You two can come as well. I have more art in there.”

Mollified, Percy stood up and smiled. Ron was still trying not to giggle, but it looked easier now.

“Lead the way, Luna,” Harry said.

She led them up the spiral staircase into a room much like a cross between a living room and a workspace. There were loads of piles of papers everywhere, as well as the wooden printing press that had been clattering earlier, and many models of strange creatures. But this wasn't her room. They continued up the stairs to the next level.

Luna had decorated her bedroom ceiling with three beautifully painted faces: Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They were not moving as the portraits at Hogwarts moved, but there was a certain magic about them all the same: Harry thought they breathed. They weren't alone, either; four more portraits were in varying states of completion. Of the four, only one was recognizable as anyone yet, and just barely looked like Ginny. Another was barely begun, and the other two were just empty rectangles. If he'd had to hazard a guess, the others would be Antigone, Angela, and Danzia. But that was just a guess.

What appeared to be fine golden chains wove around the pictures, linking them together, but after examining them for a minute or so, Harry realized that the chains were actually one word, repeated a thousand times in golden ink: friends … friends … friends …

Harry felt a great rush of affection for Luna. He looked around the room. There was a large photograph beside the bed, of a young Luna and a woman who looked very like her. They were hugging. Luna looked rather better-groomed in this picture than Harry had ever seen her in life.

“My mother,” Luna explained. “She died when an experiment of hers backfired.”

Harry felt sad for Luna, and set the picture back down, hugging her fiercely.

Luna could have cried then, but she didn't. She just hugged Harry back, stroking his hair as though she were comforting him, not the other way around.

When they pulled apart at last, Luna spoke.

“Of course, this doesn't look the same as it did before Christmas. Harry's and Ron's portraits I did after meeting you before your first year in Hogwarts. I started Hermione's and Ginny's during the Christmas holidays, but only finished Hermione's a couple nights ago. Ginny's was barely recognizable at the time.”

“Who's gonna be in the others?” Harry asked.

“Angela, Antigone, and Danzia, of course,” she replied.

“Of course.”

“Shall we go back to get more tea?”

“Sure, I could have some more.”

“Luna,” Ron said, “these are amazing!” He indicated the paintings.

“Thank you, Ron.”

~

Harry wanted to visit Luna everyday, but between Percy having homework over break and Harry's own homework, he and Luna only saw one another once every two or three days. Sometimes she'd come over to the Burrow, other times he'd visit her at her house. The latter was made easier when Mr. Lovegood started coming over to fetch Harry, and then escorting him back after.

The whole summer looked to be going that way, until one day Mr. Weasley came back with the news that his family had won a ton of galleons from some Daily Prophet giveaway, and that they were going to go on a trip to Egypt. Harry was very excited for them, but at the same time, he was concerned. He didn't know if he would be allowed to go or not, and he didn't want to go back to the Dursley's any time soon.

He was worrying about this at dinnertime when Percy paused his babble and looked in concern at Harry.

“Harry? You haven't been listening, which is unusual for you. Are you alright?”

“What? Oh... yeah, I've been thinking.”

“About what?”

Harry paused. The words were right there in his brain, aching to get out. He need only say them. But he suddenly found speaking to be impossible. At first he was panicky; what was this? Had the pathway from his brain to his mouth collapsed? But then he remembered something he'd read once about Asperger's and realized that he was simply having a non-verbal incident. Some people with Asperger's or other conditions could find themselves unable to speak when under stress. Knowing this, and knowing that it would pass, he felt better. But he still couldn't speak.

Unable to speak, he scraped his fork back and forth across his plate. It made a noise that made everyone else grit their teeth, but something about the sound comforted him, relaxed him. And before Mrs. Weasley could tell him to stop it, he stopped it on his own and found his voice.

“I'm just wondering where I'm going to go while you're all in Egypt.”

“Oh Harry, sweetie,” Mrs. Weasley said comfortingly, “you're coming with us, of course.”

Harry perked up. “I am?”

“Well yes. We already talked with Dumbledore about it. He didn't see any reason not to. Death Eaters wouldn't think to look for you there, and even if you got lost, you could just call for Netty and she could help you.”

“You can call house elves from that far away?”

“According to Dumbledore, yes. He would know better than we would.”

“Wow! Thanks, Mrs. Weasley!”

“You're welcome, dear.”

~

For the next few days, while they got ready to go, Harry could speak of nothing else. When he wasn't packing, he was either reading about Egypt from Muggle library books or talking people's ears off about what he'd read. This exasperated most of them, even Ron, but Percy would just smile and listen, or add what he knew about wizarding Egypt to the conversation.

On the day they were to leave, all packed and dressed for Egypt, they walked into the International Wizarding Travel Agency office. Before they could get their portkey out, though, a man from the Daily Prophet insisted on taking a photo of them in front of a very large wizarding photo of Egypt, for the paper. Harry had to take some potions and do some meditating while standing before he was ready to be in the photo, but he managed to do it without being sick. Though now he was in a state to be paying attention, he noticed that the purple smoke the camera made when it went off smelled bad; very bad. Like rotten eggs mixed with week-old dirty diapers.

When that was done, they all went to a large room full of people leaving and returning by magic. They would be given all sorts of strange rubbish before leaving, and would leave behind weird rubbish upon their return.

“Portkeys,” Mr. Weasley said, spotting Harry's confused look. “They have to look like rubbish so Muggles won't go picking them up.”

“Oh,” Harry said. Then, after thinking about it for a moment, said, “Just one flaw in that plan; some Muggles pick up rubbish to make places look nicer, and because some kinds of rubbish are dangerous to animals.”

“Yes, well, it's not foolproof. Occasionally Muggles like that do have to have their memories modified. But most Muggles ignore rubbish, so it's the best option.”

Harry nodded.

When it was their turn to go, a bored man in a purple robe handed Mr. Weasley an old, beat-up, and bent golf club. The Weasleys all took hold of part of it; catching on quickly, so did Harry. He looked up at the man, who noticed his scar with the usual shock of recognition. But before the man could say anything, there was a jerk behind Harry's navel, and the world was swirling around him; he was being jostled against the bodies of the other Weasleys, too.

Then, as suddenly as it had started, they landed, falling down, and Harry hastily turned himself over so he could vomit without drowning himself.

Another equally bored-looking woman, a witch wearing a hijab, lazily cleaned up the sick with her wand, and took the golf club and tossed it into a box.

“Welcome to Egypt,” the woman said in what Harry guessed was an Egyptian accent. “Please enjoy your stay in our lovely country. In the next room, you will find the information kiosk and help desk. Have a lovely time.”

“That we shall, thank you.”

The next room was more than a kiosk, though; it was a large room filled with all sorts of brochures, maps, postcards, and souvenirs. Harry had never been in a gift shop before, but from what he'd seen on the telly, it was obvious that this was one.

Having already gotten money from Gringott's before leaving, they shopped around. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley already had maps and brochures from previous trips, so they didn't need to buy any maps, but they looked around anyway.

There were books, too, he soon found; books about wizarding Egypt. He didn't even hesitate before buying one. Along with text, it had loads of wizarding photos of things like the pyramids, tombs from the Valley of the Kings, and reproductions of ancient wizarding Egyptian art, stuff the Muggles had never seen before. There was even a section in the book about how the “explorers” from Europe – Muggle and magical alike – had damaged or destroyed a lot of things back in the day, including everything from blasting the noses off statues to hide the fact that the ancient Egyptians were “negroid,” to how people used to ingest ground-up mummies for various odd reasons. It was all so fascinating that he decided he was going to add some of this information to his History of Magic essay.

“Hey Ron,” Harry said excitedly. “The ancient Egyptians were black, like me! Oldest human civilization on Earth that we know stuff about, and they were black!”

“Cool,” Ron said, lost in his own thoughts about what to buy.

Harry found another book, about modern-day Egypt and its people; the wizarding kind, anyway. Harry bought it, too, and made a mental note to himself to look into buying similar books from Muggle shops.

When they had bought everything they were going to in the gift shop, the Weasleys and Harry went on to a nearby wizarding inn. Its sign was in Arabic, but Harry had bought a pair of Translator Glasses in the gift shop; it looked like a set of opera glasses, but the eyepieces were much bigger. He held it up by the thicker stick it needed because of the extra weight, and looked at the sign through it.

'Pharaoh's Bones Inn' came the translation. Harry moved his eyes away from the Translator Glasses and noticed an image carved in stone over the name, of what looked like a pirate's skull and crossbones, but was wearing one of those colorful Pharaoh hats instead, and a Pharaoh beard. Also, the crossbones were the ancient Egyptian hook and flail that their kings always held in their art, and the skull's eye sockets had glittering stones in them that looked like the shiny, multi-colored surface you see on scarab beetles.

Harry could see the sign so well because it was up in the sunlight, whereas they were down in the shade. Harry was thankful for this, as the air was already hot enough that he was starting to wonder if brains could melt.

They went into the inn, which was much brighter and nicer looking than the Leaky Cauldron. It was also a lot larger on the inside than it had seemed to be on the outside. So much so that he was momentarily shocked, before he remembered that magic could do all sorts of cool things.

There were cooling charms on the inside of the building, of course, which meant Harry's thoughts were no longer slowed down by the sluggish feeling of one's brain melting in the heat. The inn also supplied them with magical white robes to wear outdoors, since these robes had built-in cooling charms. Apparently these robes were part of the travel package, as the Weasleys seemed to not recognize them.

After packing everything away, they had dinner, which was a buffet of familiar and foreign foods. Harry, thinking back to the Dursleys and how they refused to eat anything foreign, decided to take a mix of things both foreign and familiar so he could try some things and still have something to eat if he didn't like the things he tried. But he found that most of the things he tried were good; there were only a few things he tried that he didn't like.

After dinner, Harry and Ron talked for a while. Then Ron went to bed. Harry sat up reading for an hour before going to bed himself.

“This summer is going to be awesome,” he said to himself as he began to drift off.

~

The summer was indeed awesome for Harry. He still had issues being around crowds of people, still had headaches, and still carried helpful potions around on his person everywhere he went, but aside from that, he was having a blast. There were pyramids and ancient wizarding tombs full of mutant skeletons from the curses the wizards had left behind for unsuspecting tomb robbers. Fred and George tried locking Percy in a tomb, but Mrs. Weasley caught them, and Harry agreed that it was a horrible thing to do to someone, even a brother.

There were also other things to see; the Egyptian version of Diagon Alley; its name, translated into English, meant 'Wizarding Way.' ('Way' in the sense of a road.) There were all sorts of shops, more even than Diagon Alley, that sold a plethora of unfamiliar objects. The books came in different languages, and Harry had some fun reading the foreign-language books with the Translator Glasses. This set appeared to be best suited for Arabic-to-English translation; translating any other language than Arabic would usually end in hilarity as the words would be either complete or partial nonsense. Harry could've sworn he even saw, in one of the books, a phrase that got garble-translated into the words 'my hovercraft is full of eels.'

On July 31st, Harry awoke to the sound of owls. He hastily opened his window and let them in, and they carried in a large package. Neither of them seemed happy about the sand in their feathers, so he gave them some owl treats. One was a school owl, and the other was Hedwig. He took the Hogwarts letter from the school owl, and, fed and watered, it flew back out into the hot Egyptian morning.

The big package was a birthday present, the first he'd gotten on time since Netty had needed to steal his post back from Dobby the year before. There was also a birthday card. The gift and card were from Hermione. There was also a letter from her in there, too.

Dear Harry,

Happy 13th birthday! You're officially a teenager now!

I’m on holiday in France at the moment and I didn’t know how I was going to send this to you — what if they’d opened it at customs? — but then Hedwig turned up! I think she wanted to make sure you got something for your birthday for a change. I bought your present by owl-order; there was an advertisement in the Daily Prophet (I’ve been getting it delivered; it’s so good to keep up with what’s going on in the wizarding world).

I'm so excited for you and Ron, going to Egypt. I bet you're learning loads. I’m really jealous — the ancient Egyptian wizards were fascinating.

There’s some interesting local history of witchcraft here, too. I’ve rewritten my whole History of Magic essay to include some of the things I’ve found out. I hope it’s not too long — it’s two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns asked for.

Ron says you two will be in London in the last week of the holidays. Is that right? I hope it is. Either way, I'll see you on the Hogwarts Express on September the 1st.

Love from

Hermione

PS. Ron says Percy’s Head Boy. I’ll bet Percy’s really pleased. Ron doesn’t seem too happy about it.

Harry wondered what was in the package. Knowing Hermione, it was probably a book. He opened it up carefully and looked inside. It was not a book at all, but was in fact a Muggle chemistry set. The set came with a book, though. Harry smiled; it was a bit like getting Potions stuff for his birthday, but different enough that he was fascinated. (Though his life experiences needing potions for things meant he wasn't shabby at Potions.) He'd heard all about chemistry sets before, of course, but there was no way Dudley would ever get one; it was too brainy for him, and even if he'd had an interest in it, Harry didn't like the thought of Dudley getting access to potentially dangerous chemicals.

“Thanks, Hermione,” he said aloud.

There was another parcel that had been left, which he'd only just now noticed. He recognized Hagrid's untidy scrawl. He tore off the top layer of paper and glimpsed something green and leathery, but before he could unwrap it properly, the parcel gave a strange quiver, and whatever was inside it snapped loudly — as though it had jaws.

“Shit,” he said, leaping back. He knew Hagrid would never send him anything dangerous on purpose, but the large man didn't have a normal idea of what constituted 'dangerous.'
Hagrid had been known to befriend giant spiders, buy vicious, three-headed dogs from men in pubs, and sneak illegal dragon eggs into his cabin.

Harry poked the parcel nervously. It snapped loudly again. Harry reached for the lamp on his bedside table, gripped it firmly in one hand, and raised it over his head, ready to strike. Then he seized the rest of the wrapping paper in his other hand and pulled.

And out fell — a book. Harry just had time to register its handsome green cover, emblazoned with the golden title The Monster Book of Monsters, before it flipped onto its edge and scuttled sideways along the bed like some weird crab.

“Shit,” Harry said again.

Knowing he couldn't use his wand, in case whatever magic kept track of underage magic could work in Egypt, he snuck around behind it as it scuttled about, trying to catch it. He finally managed to coax it out into the open, where he jumped atop it, flattening it. As Hedwig watched with interest, he wrestled one of his spare belts around it. The monster book shuddered angrily, but could no longer snap, so Harry threw it down on the bed and reached for Hagrid’s card.
 

Dear Harry,

Happy birthday!

Think you might find this useful for next  year.
Won’t say no more here. Tell you when I see you.

How's Egypt? Seen any interesting creatures there yet?

All the best,

Hagrid

 
Harry snorted with a mix of amusement and sarcasm. He very much hoped he wouldn't see any 'interesting creatures' as Hagrid called them, or 'monsters' as other people called them, on this trip. But Hagrid's question conjured up images of giant sandworms out in the desert swallowing unwary tourists whole, or some kind of man-eating crocodile/hippopotamus hybrid in the Nile's waters, or maybe some kind of magical beetle that lived in great big hives and swarmed over people, gnawing the meat off their bones while they screamed. Those were the sorts of things Hagrid thought were cute and cuddly and misunderstood.

He put Hagrid's card next to Hermione's, and moved on to the Hogwart's letter. Noticing that it was rather thicker than usual, Harry slit open the envelope, pulled out the first page of parchment within, and read:
 

Dear Mr. Potter,

Please note that the new school year will begin on September the first. The Hogwarts Express will leave from King’s Cross station, platform nine and three-quarters, at eleven o’clock.

Third years are permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade on certain weekends. Please give the enclosed permission form to your parent or guardian to sign.

A list of books for next year is enclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Professor M. McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

 
Harry pulled out the Hogsmeade permission form and looked at it, no longer grinning. It would be wonderful to visit Hogsmeade on weekends; he knew it was an entirely wizarding village, and he had never set foot there. But how on earth was he going to persuade Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia to sign the form? Especially since he was staying with the Weasleys for the rest of the summer? He didn't want to go back, even to ask them to sign something, and he doubted they'd want to sign it anyway, unless he told them it would be dangerous, which would be a lie, as far as he knew.

He considered asking the Weasley twins to forge Uncle Vernon's signature, or do it himself since he didn't think anyone at Hogwart's had ever seen the man's signature, but then how would he explain how he got the signature when he hadn't had a chance to get the real thing?

His thoughts were interrupted when Ron came in.

“Oh good, you're up. Happy birthday!” Ron said, handing him a gift and a birthday card.

The card just said 'Happy birthday, Harry' and Ron's signature. So he set it next to the others and opened the small gift. Out popped what looked like a top, a top that was always magically balanced on its point.

“It's a pocket sneakoscope,” Ron explained. “It's supposed to light up and spin and make noise when anyone untrustworthy is around. Though I don't know how good it is, it kept making noise the night I bought it, at dinner.”

“So that's what that sound was. Also explains why you ran off and came back a bit later.”

“Yeah. I reckon it was going off because of the twins. They were putting beetles in Percy's soup.”

Harry frowned at this. “That's not very nice.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“So is it true that Percy is Head Boy?”

“Oh yeah, he got his letter ahead of the rest of us for some reason; his came in yesterday. Gave me time to mention it to Hermione. She responded already?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. That's pretty fast for Errol. All the way from Egypt to Britain in less than a day?”

“Hermione isn't in Britain. She's on holiday in the south of France.”

“Oh. Well that explains it, then. He just had to fly over the Mediterranean, then over to France. I wonder when he'll be back.”

“I'd be more inclined to wonder if he'll come back. He can barely manage flights within Britain, but international flights? I hope he hasn't fallen into the sea.”

“Oh. Yeah, hadn't thought of that.”

A couple more owls arrived, then. He didn't recognize these, but when he took their loads from them, he recognized Danzia's handwriting, and Antigone's as well. He read the letters first, before opening the gifts.

“Danzia and her family are on holiday in the states. Oregon, to be specific. They have relatives there, apparently.”

“Oregon? Where's that?”

“West coast, between California and Washington state.”

“Oh. That doesn't really help me, but whatever. What does Antigone say?”

“She and her folks are in Rome.”

“Cool. Well, you gonna open your gifts?”

Harry nodded, and picked up Danzia's gift first, opening it. It was a slice of petrified wood about the size of his fist, and came with a booklet about the magical properties of petrified wood.

“Cool!”

He handed it to Ron so his friend could examine it, too, and moved on to Antigone's present. It was in a large, very fancy green box with silver ribbons. When he opened it, he found another box. Only, this was a silver lock-box encrusted with what looked like emeralds, and had very lifelike emerald serpents on it, with rubies for eyes.

“Bloody Hell! That must cost a fortune!” Ron exclaimed.

“Wow, Antigone...”

“She must fancy you, Harry.”

“Oh don't be silly, Ron; she's dating Angela. Hey, there's a note taped to the bottom.”

Harry,

This is something my father's family bought a century or two ago, as a curiosity. It's said to have belonged to Slytherin, but we both doubt it; it looks like his style but doesn't have his crest or markings anywhere on it. Also, the gems are all fake, and the silver is low quality. Probably a replica. Though whoever used to own it was likely a Parselmouth like Slytherin, as nobody's ever been able to open it, and there's no keyhole. When I told my dad I was trying to find a gift for you, well... given that I accidentally let slip about your gift once to him, and he remembered that fact, daddy suggested this. I thought it was too much, even if it is mostly fake, and maybe it is too much, but he insisted. Though he told me if there's anything inside when you open it, he wants the contents back so he can examine them. He's a historian, you see.

Anyway, happy birthday!

Your friend,

Antigone Dreyfuss

“Wow,” Harry repeated. Then, wanting to know if anything was in it, he switched to Parseltongue. 'Open,' he commanded.

There was a click, and the box opened up. Sadly, though, there didn't appear to be anything in it.

“Drat. I was hoping something cool would be in it. Oh well.”

“Check it for secret compartments.”

“A secret compartment in a box only a Parselmouth can open?”

Ron shrugged. “You never know.”

Harry felt around inside the box, and felt only the green felt it was lined with.

“If there's a secret compartment, it's well hidden. I'll keep trying, later.”

“Mr. Dreyfuss is going to be disappointed.”

“He's not the only one.”

Harry closed the box and put it in his trunk, along with Danzia's gift.

Yet another owl swooped through the window then. He took its burden from it, and saw it was from Luna. It had a great long letter from her, even though they'd been using the two-way mirror, as well as a card. He added the three new cards to his collection, and looked at the gift. It was smallish. He wondered what it could be.

“Well, open it.”

Before he could open it, two other owls flew in.

“A parliament of owls,” Harry said as he set Luna's gift aside to check these owls.

He was shocked to recognize one of them; it was Draco's eagle owl. There was no gift, just a letter and a card.

“You got something from Malfoy?” Ron said in bewilderment.

“Looks like it.”

“Careful, Harry!”

“Oh come now. He may not be a friend exactly, but he hangs out with us at MAC meetings, so he's not an enemy either.”

Contrary to Ron's fears, neither the card nor the letter were booby trapped. The card had a design of serpents on it, naturally. The inside of the card said simply, “Happy Birthday, Harry Potter, from your friend Draco Malfoy.”

He looked at the letter, and read it.

Dear Harry Potter,

Happy birthday to you, Mr. Potter. I apologize for the formal style of this letter and the card, but as I'm still unclear about the precise nature of our relationship, I decided that this level of formality was called for. I also apologize for not getting you a gift, but again, with the complicated nature of our relationship, I wasn't sure if I should. Nor would I know what to get you if I could. But I wanted to send you my regards on your birthday anyway, that much seemed only polite. Especially since you have opened my eyes and made me question the hatred my parents have for a people they don't even understand, the hatred I shared with them until you opened my eyes.

It has not been an easy thing, having my eyes opened. Many of my friends are not speaking to me anymore, and my parents do not understand. Father gets angry, but thankfully he restrains himself to yelling, being unable or unwilling to harm his only child and heir. But as much as I love my parents, it will be something of a relief to return to Hogwarts. At least I have been becoming friends with a few new people in Slytherin. You know them, of course: Antigone Dreyfuss, Angela Whitechapel, and Danzia McCullough.

But I did not write you to burden you with my problems. I wrote you to express my thanks for opening my eyes, for taking a chance on me, and also to wish you well on your birthday. Which I have now done. I hope the rest of your summer is fun and amazing.

Best wishes,

Draco Malfoy

PS = I have instructed my owl to wait for your reply, if you wish to reply, but if you would prefer not to, you may send him away instead. I will not be offended.

Harry handed Ron the letter to read himself, and went on to the last owl. It was another with a card, a gift, and a letter, this time from Angela. He set her card and Draco's with the others, and opened the gift. It turned out to be a candy sampler from Honeyduke's. There were ice mice, sugar quills, fizzing whizbees, and several varieties of chocolates. It reminded him of Ron's usual gifts of chocolates or other candy. He guessed candy was generally a good thing to send when you didn't know what to get the other person, or didn't have much money to spend. Unless it was fancy chocolates, for some reason.

Suddenly, he remembered Luna's gift, and picked it up from its spot on the bed. He opened it, and there was a small box in there, like a jewelry box. Ron watched him as he opened the box and took out some sort of weird-looking amulet on a chain. He grabbed Luna's letter and read it for clues.

Dear Harry,

Best wishes on your birthday, Harry!

Since you're probably wondering about the gift, I'll tell you. Unless you're reading this letter first, in which case you should open the gift before reading further. I'll wait for you.

Ready now? Good. So the amulet makes different sounds when you press the different jewels. When you press the green gem, it makes a musical tone that's supposed to chase away Scrabjabbles, which are creatures that hide out of sight and give people headaches. Play that tone and they will go away.

The blue gem, when you press it, emits a tone that humans can't hear. Animals can hear it, and it drives them wild, but humans, not even Animagi, can hear it. I don't know why they included that feature in the amulet, but maybe you'll find a use for it.

The purple gem emits a harsh, low tone like gravel being crushed sideways. I was told it is the mating call of the Lesser Bagrack; bagracks look like stones, and only move at night, so slowly you almost can't see it. If you can capture one, they will tell you three prophecies about your life in exchange for their freedom. If you don't let them go after they've given the prophecies, though, then when you die your soul will remain earthbound, which is worse even than leaving a ghost behind, so be careful. Because it's a Lesser Bagrack, they will range in size from pebbles to no larger than fist-sized.

As to the red gem, that one will scream very loudly if you press it. But don't worry about accidentally pressing it, because you have to press it very hard to get it to do it. I tried pressing it for hours, and only managed it once.

Well, I'll leave the rest for our talk later. Hope you enjoy your gift. :-)

Love from

Luna

Harry smiled. He put the weird amulet around his neck, and tried out the green gem. Sure enough, it played airy, tinkling music that did indeed sound very soothing. How it would sound when he had a headache, though, he didn't know.

He tried the blue gem. Immediately, all the owls went nuts, flapping and shrieking, so he stopped, and they began to calm down, giving him angry glares.

The purple gem did indeed sound like a bunch of gravel being crushed sideways by a larger piece of stone. It was soothing, in a way, relaxing, like the sound of silverware on plates was for him. He played it a few more times before Ron's glares made him decide to stop.

He decided to take Luna's word for what the red stone did. He slipped the amulet under his shirt, put his gifts and cards away, and decided to go to breakfast. He would write his friends thank you letters later.

Halfway through breakfast, Harry got out the amulet and tried the blue gem again. The shrieking of the owls in his room immediately carried all the way down to the table, though, so he stopped at once. Shaken, he reached over a sleeping Scabbers for some more eggs.

Later on, when they were going out again and he was thus far away from any animals, at least as far as he could tell, he played with the blue gem some more. No animals were around to react to it. But he noticed something else; it hadn't been noticeable before, due to the owls shrieking, but Harry could hear the sound. It was faint, but he could hear it. And it was mildly annoying to him, the sound.

“Can you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Ron asked.

“This,” Harry said, pressing the button.

“No. Should I?”

“Humans aren't supposed to be able to hear it, Luna said. So why can I hear it? Granted, it's quiet to me, and only mildly annoying, but I can hear it.”

“No idea. Could it be cuz you've got Assburger's?”

“Asperger's,” Harry automatically corrected. “Maybe. Yeah, that must be it. We can have enhanced senses, sometimes more than one.”

~

On the 22nd of August, Harry surprised Percy by giving the older boy a birthday present.

“Harry, this is... you didn't need to get me anything.”

“I know I didn't need to. I wanted to. The way your siblings act around you, I thought you could use a gift.”

Percy stared at the unopened present.

“Are you going to open it?”

“Oh, yes.”

Percy opened the gift with a care that suggested he wasn't used to getting gifts, and pulled it out of the wrapping. His face scrunched up in confusion for a moment before he turned to Harry for an explanation.

“It's a set of two-way mirrors. Send one to Penelope, and you'll be able to talk face-to-face with her from great distances.”

“Wow. Harry... this is the most thoughtful gift I've ever gotten.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. My parents usually get us jumpers and food for gifts. On the rare occasion I get something better, like Hermes, it's things I picked out. And my siblings just get me chocolates or candy. This is amazing. I'll send one to Penelope straight away, thank you!”

Percy shook Harry's hand with his free hand, smiling the whole time, then ran off to send his girlfriend her half of the set. Harry grinned at the boy's back, happy for him.

~

Harry was exhausted in a happy way when they returned on August 25th. This happiness was shared by all the Weasleys, but it didn't last long in the adults, for something was making them nervous and scared. Harry had no idea what was making them feel that way, though, and they wouldn't answer when he asked about it.

This frustrated him. But he paid attention, and noticed that their feelings seemed to be centered around newspapers, so he tried to get a hold of the Daily Prophet, but the adults always beat him to it. After a couple days, he got frustrated enough to send Hedwig off to the Daily Prophet to buy a subscription for himself.

The next morning, he got his first paper, and he saw what had them worried. A prisoner had escaped from some place called Azkaban, the wizarding prison that Hagrid had been sent to in the year previous, before being cleared and returned. A prisoner, moreover, who had been a prisoner for 12 years, who had apparently killed 13 people with a single curse.

But something bothered him about the man's face, there was something familiar in it. He couldn't figure out why, though.

For the next few days, he pondered on the problem every chance he got, talking to the other Weasley children – including Percy – when he could, even asking Luna about the man. But nobody knew anything.

It was after dinner that he got the idea. They were, after all, very good at doing things, and people tended to not take notice of them...

“Netty!”

With a small CRACK, Netty the house elf appeared before him.

“Harry Potter is calling Netty for something? What is it Netty can be getting for Harry Potter?”

“Hello, Netty. Thanks for coming. I was wondering if you could please find me information about this man, Sirius Black?”

Netty shuddered.

“You know something?”

“Well, yes, Harry Potter. Netty is hearing things, of course. Sirius Black is a bad man, they says. He is killing--”

“--thirteen people with a single curse, yes I know about that. I want to know about what he was doing before that. I want to know, if you can find out, why he killed all those people, as well. There's something familiar about the man, and I can't figure out why. I want to know why, so any information you can find about him would help me.”

“Netty can ask around among the other house elves, sir. They sometimes hears things that isn't secrets. We keeps our masters secrets and our silence, but some things we is able to speak about because they isn't secrets. I is seeing what I can find out for you, sir,” she said, bowing.

“Thank you, Netty.”

The disapparated with a CRACK, and Harry went back to thinking on the problem.

There was, of course, more to it than the familiarity of the man's face. There was also the fact that the adults seemed very worried for Harry in particular, and also unwilling to say anything about it. And given Harry's track record in the wizarding world so far, he suspected the man was after him in particular for some reason. Maybe he was in league with Voldemort during the last war? Harry didn't know why he would escape after 12 years, but then, maybe it took that long to work out how to do it. So the man might be wanting to help his old master? Or, if he thought his old master dead, maybe he wanted revenge on Harry? No matter what the reasons, though, he needed to know all he could, in case the man was a threat.

Since he was getting nowhere without more information, he decided to write thank-you letters to his friends. Deciding that gave him the idea, then, to ask them about Sirius Black. And, what they heck, why not ask Draco as well? Ron had said Mr. Malfoy had been a Death Eater, and his involvement with Tom Riddle's diary seemed to confirm that, so maybe he'd told Draco something about Sirius Black at some point.

Between asking about Black and telling about his time in Egypt, it took him all night to write his letters to his friends. In the end, there were so many of them that he ended up borrowing Errol and Hermes as well as using Hedwig, and even then it took a couple days to get all the letters sent off. He sent Hedwig to deliver his letter to Draco. That letter he'd written informally, to indicate that he was willing to count Draco as a budding friend. His hand was very cramped after he was done with the letters, so much so that he began thinking about buying a dictation quill. He wouldn't be able to use it for homework, of course, but it would be great for letters. He put one on his list for Diagon Alley before going to bed.

~

The day before their trip to Diagon Alley, Harry got back letters from his friends. Most of them didn't know anything more about Sirius Black than he did. But his idea to write Draco had paid off.

Dear Harry,

Thank you for your letter. It was a relief, to be honest. I've been avoiding my parents lately, except at meals, to avoid fights. So being able to have someone to communicate with, even by letter, is a pleasant relief.

Your trip to Egypt sounds amazing! I've been abroad myself, of course, but I don't think father has ever taken me to Egypt before. If he did, I don't remember it. We've been to France, Belgium, Italy, and even Greece, though.

As to Sirius Black, yes, I have heard something. Father made some snide remarks about the man when he read the news. I asked him about it, and despite our fights this summer, we had a remarkably civil conversation about Black. I think he was glad to have something to talk with me about that wouldn't end in shouting.

I don't even know if I should tell you this, because it might upset you, but you asked, and you should know. It shouldn't be kept from you. According to father, Sirius Black was your dad's best friend in school and later. He was even your father's best man at the wedding. The Ministry thinks the man was secretly a Death Eater and betrayed your parents to Voldemort. He says it's possible, but he doubts it; father was pretty high up the chain of command, and if Black was a Death Eater, the Dark Lord never told father about it, which would be odd because father was one of the Dark Lord's three most trusted lieutenants.

Anyway, apparently your parents were made aware of the Dark Lord's plans to kill them and you, so they went into hiding using something called the Fidelius Charm. This involves the hiding of a secret in a single human soul. Sirius Black was said to have been the Secret Keeper, i.e. the one in whose soul the secret was kept, and the only one who could tell anyone the secret. Since the Dark Lord was able to get in to kill your parents, it must be true that Black betrayed them. Father says he doesn't think there's any other way it could have happened.

As to the event he was imprisoned for, a man named Peter Pettigrew apparently went to confront Black about the betrayal, and Black blew the man to smithereens, which blew up the street and killed 12 Muggles as well. The biggest bit of Pettigrew the Ministry found was a single finger. With so many witnesses, they didn't even give the man a trial. Which father sneered about, since all the witnesses were Muggles, and therefore not reliable in his opinion. But with their memories modified, they can't be questioned again, so I see his point there.

Father also says that Minister Fudge and the rest of the Ministry thinks Black escaped to kill you and rejoin the Dark Lord. But... well, Black came from a family that was pretty vehement about blood purity, but he frequently and loudly rejected all that tosh, and got disowned as a result. I suppose it's possible he went back on his beliefs to rejoin the family, but he doesn't seem the type.

Well, that's all of what father told me. I hope you aren't too upset at me for telling me this.

Sincerely,
Draco Malfoy

Harry set the letter down and sighed. Then he clenched his fists and pressed them against his eyes, silently crying. He'd been their friend? A friend of theirs had betrayed them? He tried to imagine Hermione or Ron betraying him like that, and couldn't. Had it been the same for his parents?

Standing up suddenly, Harry got out the photo album Hagrid had given him at the end of his first year, and looked. After flipping through a dozen pages, he found it, the photos of the wedding. He presumed the laughing, handsome man with long black hair was Black, but that was a guess; the man in the photo looked nothing like the newspaper's photo, aside from the color of the hair and something about the face.

But there was doubt about his guilt. Mr. Malfoy sounded like he was pretty sure he'd know if Black had been a Death Eater, and there was all that stuff about being disowned by his pureblood-obsessed family. As upset as he was, he didn't know enough about this Fidelius Charm to know how it worked. Though Dumbledore was on the wizengamot... surely he'd have fought for a trial? The fact they didn't have a trial didn't mean he didn't fight for one. Dumbledore was a powerful man, but the Ministry had ignored his advice before. But it was still fishy.

Harry was just about to write another letter to Draco, to ask if he knew if there was any way to know for sure if someone was a Death Eater or not, but then he realized that tomorrow was the last day of August, and then the day after that was the Hogwart's train ride. He could ask Draco on the train. So instead, he just lay in bed, thinking about things until he finally stumbled into the arms of sleep.

~

Because they were going to stay at the Leaky Cauldron that night, they all had to make sure they brought their trunks and anything they wanted to take to Hogwart's with them. So it felt a lot like going to the train, just more sedate.

When they got everything packed into the car, they all got in and drove to London, parking in a special hidden car park for wizards so they could get their ridiculous amount of things out of the magically-expanded boot of the car without being spotted by Muggles. When all their stuff was settled into their rooms for the night, everyone went out the back into Diagon Alley to go to Gringott's, then do their shopping.

Harry had a hard time getting away from Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and only managed it by agreeing to let Percy accompany them. But Percy was itching to leave and find Penelope, so he convinced the older boy to leave him be. Percy only agreed, though, when Ron and Hermione showed up.

With his two friends in tow, they went all over Diagon Alley. Harry spent a lot of time in the bookstores, looking for information that might help him with his questions about Black, among other subjects. He also went to Ollivander's to buy a spare wand to hide from view, surprise people trying to hurt him. Ron got a new wand as well, since his had exploded in the Chamber of Secrets the year before, and had been dying for a long time anyway.

Ron's rat Scabbers was also not doing well, he'd been getting thinner ever since they got back from Egypt, and for a rat that did nothing but eat and sleep all day, that was worrying. So they went to the Magical Menagerie as well, to get him some rat tonic.

While they were there, Harry looking at the many magical creatures in fascination, an ugly, flat-faced, bandy-legged cat named Crookshanks attacked Scabbers, driving Ron out of the shop. Harry went with his friend, but Hermione stayed behind. This was both good and bad; good because Hermione brought back the rat tonic Ron had forgotten, and bad because she bought Crookshanks instead of getting an owl as planned, which Ron was not happy about.

Dinner at the Leaky Cauldron was great that night. The Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione sat at three tables and ate a five course meal. It wasn't as good as Mrs. Weasley's cooking, but it was close.

After dinner, they were packing so they'd be ready to go in the morning. The Weasleys were hoping that being in London would mean they could avoid the usual rush of almost being late for the train every time. In the midst of this, Percy had mislaid his Head Boy badge, but thought Ron had taken it, so he was making Ron help look for it. But since Ron had left his pet's rat tonic downstairs, and now couldn't go after it, Harry volunteered to fetch it for him.

On his way, he caught the two adult Weasleys talking about him from the parlor. Talking about how Black was after Harry, wanted to kill him. Even though he knew this already, he stayed, because this was verifying Draco's letter.

“But no one’s really sure that Black’s after Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said at one point.

There was a thud on wood, and Harry was sure Mr. Weasley had banged his fist on the table.

“Molly, how many times do I have to tell you? They didn’t report it in the press because Fudge wanted it kept quiet, but Fudge went out to Azkaban the night Black escaped. The guards told Fudge that Black’s been talking in his sleep for a while now. Always the same words: ‘He’s at Hogwarts … he’s at Hogwarts.’ Black is deranged, Molly, and he wants Harry dead. If you ask me, he thinks murdering Harry will bring You-Know-Who back to power. Black lost everything the night Harry stopped You-Know-Who, and he’s had twelve years alone in Azkaban to brood on that.”

He continued to listen, and found that Dumbledore didn't like the Azkaban guards at all. But soon after, the conversation ended, so Harry went back to fetching Ron's rat tonic.

The bottle of rat tonic was lying under the table they had sat at earlier. Harry waited until he heard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s bedroom door close, then headed back upstairs with the bottle.

Fred and George were crouching in the shadows on the landing, heaving with laughter as they listened to Percy dismantling his and Ron’s room in search of his badge.

“We’ve got it,” Fred whispered to Harry. “We’ve been improving it.”

The badge now read Bighead Boy.

“That's not funny. He's very proud of his accomplishment, as well he should be. I don't know if you're jealous or what, but you're being bullies to him, and I should know, I was raised by a bunch of bullies.”

“You're comparing us to the Dursleys?”

“Yes. Bullying comes in all kinds. I even saw kids at school who were bullying victims become bullies themselves. Remove the enchantments from the badge and give it to me.”

The twins looked at one another, then at Harry, looking a little abashed. One of them – George, he thought – removed the enchantment from the badge, and handed it over.

“Thank you,” Harry said, going back upstairs.

“Percy,” he said when he got inside the room, “I rescued your badge from the twins.”

“You did? Oh thank you, Harry!”

“AHEM,” Ron said angrily. “I think somebody owes somebody else an apology.”

“I'm sorry I thought it was you, Ron. I should've known it was the twins. They didn't do anything to it, did they, Harry?”

“Yes, but I made them undo it. And they did, I saw it.”

“Thank you again,” Percy said, taking it back and pinning it to his robes.

Harry gave Ron back the rat tonic.

That night in bed, while listening to muffled shouts from the other room, Harry thought about Black, worrying on the problem like a dog with a bone. He was thinking, especially, about why the confirmation of Black being after him didn't scare him. But he'd faced down Voldemort himself, how much worse could one of his Death Eaters be?

Then, too, there was the question of Black's betrayal. It confused him. He tried imagining one of his friends betraying him, and couldn't manage it. Was his father just really bad at judging character? Or had Voldemort scared Black into betraying Harry's family?

But what was worse than that for Harry, just then, was that even if he could somehow have gotten the Dursleys to sign the Hogsmeade permission slip, the teachers would no doubt find some excuse to prevent him from going. If the Azkaban guards were going to be at the school, he doubted he'd ever be allowed to go. Not until Black was apprehended again.

He sighed, and rolled over to concentrate on getting to sleep.

~FAYANORA~

Note: Sorry this took so long. I got stuck trying to figure out if Harry should go with the Weasleys to Egypt or not. If this were my only fic, there'd have been no hesitation in letting him go with them, but he goes with them to Egypt in my other fic, “The Many Faces of Harry Potter,” so I didn't know what to do. But then I realized this Harry's experience of Egypt would be very different from the other's.

Also, I blame the summer heat. It turns me into a flobberworm.

Note two: Ah, so I don't know if you noticed or not, but shortly after introducing the concept of stress-induced non-verbal episodes, I introduced you to the concept of a stim. I don't recall if I've done this yet before or not, but here we are. Like myself, Harry has auditory stims. A stim is a sensory input that someone finds comforting. This makes sense, since many sensory inputs can irritate and frustrate myself and other aspies, so of course the opposite exists. A fork scraping on a plate is not one of my own stims, but it's one that makes sense, since there are sounds I and others find comforting that drive others crazy. I even heard, once, about an aspie whose stim (one of them) was styrofoam squeaking against styrofoam, which is a sound that I can't personally tolerate.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
64 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 12081 words long.