The Sugar Quill
Author: Winky and Dobby (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: As Strong As We Are United  Chapter: Chapter 2: Back to the Burrow
Next Chapter
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

CHAPTER TWO: BACK TO THE BURROW

The next three weeks seemed to drag endlessly, and Harry was very grateful for his new books to help pass the time. He also managed to memorize the entire book of Defense Against the Dark Arts fourth-level spells and couldn't resist writing rather smugly about it to Hermione. She, on the contrary, had not been successful in finding out anything more about the mysterious Arabella Figg, and wrote Harry that they would have to wait until she had access to her precious Hogwarts library again. Harry had briefly considered asking Sirius, but his godfather was obviously very busy and he didn't want to bother him with silly questions. Harry hadn't heard from Sirius since his birthday, when he had received some assorted treats from Honeydukes and a bag of tricks from Zonkos.

By the time the Sunday before term finally arrived, Harry was positively beside himself with impatience. He had packed everything into his trunk the night before and was planning on hiding in his room until Ron arrived, in case Aunt Petunia got the idea of putting him to work around the house.

Harry was so anxious to be back among friends that he could hardly sit still at breakfast. He wolfed down his toast with record speed, stood up from the table, and cleared his throat.

Uncle Vernon lowered the paper and glared at him over the top of it. Aunt Petunia stopped chewing and looked up. Dudley, however, continued shoveling huge forkfuls of eggs into his fleshy face.

"I'm leaving today," Harry announced, "and I don't know if I'm ever coming back. I just thought you should know."

Dudley dropped his fork. His great fat head swiveled slowly around, giving Harry a revolting view of the contents of his open mouth. Uncle Vernon's eyes flicked across the table to meet Aunt Petunia's gaze, then snapped back to rest beadily on Harry.

"My friend Ron is coming to pick me up at noon. He won't be using the fireplace this time," Harry added quickly as Uncle Vernon glanced apprehensively towards the living room. "He's coming by Portkey." Clearly none of the Dursleys had the faintest idea what a "Portkey" was, although the frightened looks on their faces told Harry they suspected it was something extremely dangerous to their personal welfare. He sighed. "You won't even have to see it," Harry reassured them. "Ron's porting directly to my room and we're leaving from there."

The Dursleys all continued to stare at Harry without saying anything, although Uncle Vernon's face was gradually turning an interesting shade of puce and Aunt Petunia's eyes had acquired a sort of manic gleam. Apparently the concept of people entering and leaving the house by some mysterious, not to mention highly abnormal, means of transportation was too much to process on top of the prospect of being permanently rid of their freakish nephew.

"Well, then," said Harry, "see you." And he went upstairs and shut the door without another word. He imagined that the Dursleys were probably doing a celebratory dance around the kitchen table, but Harry didn't care. He wouldn't have to see any of them again for another whole year, if at all.

That blissful thought was enough to make Harry do a little dance of his own, and he spent the rest of the morning daydreaming about living with Sirius instead.

At twelve o'clock Harry stood ready in the middle of the room, Hedwig and his trunk at his side. He didn't have to wait long. The clock had just chimed the last stroke of noon when there was a loud whooshing noise and a tall, redheaded boy appeared suddenly next to Harry.

"Ron!" Harry grinned, clapping his friend on the back.

"Hi, Harry," Ron grinned back. "How was your last day as a Muggle?"

"Long," said Harry. "Let's get out of here."

"What?" Ron feigned disbelief. "No emotional farewells for your excellent cousin? Right cold of you, that is, Harry."

Harry snorted. "Too bad Fred and George aren't here to take care of that for me. They'd give him a farewell all right."

"Well," said Ron slowly, "the twins were rather crushed Dad wouldn't let them come." His mouth stretched into a devious smile and he winked conspiratorially at Harry. "'Course, they'd feel a lot better knowing I accidentally dropped this in your room."

Harry leaned over to inspect the colorfully-wrapped piece of candy in Ron's palm. "Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, eh?" he grinned. "What's it do?"

"Dunno," Ron shrugged. "Fred promised it wouldn't hurt poor Duddikins, though." He smirked and lobbed the shiny morsel towards the door, where snooping eyes were sure to spot it. "George said he'd tell us when we get home."

"Let's go, then," said Harry, grabbing hold of his trunk in one hand and putting Hedwig's cage under his arm. "I'm past ready."

"Right," Ron nodded and took the other trunk handle, stretching out his hand so Harry could reach the old plug it contained. Harry had a final glimpse of his empty room before he felt the familiar tug behind his navel, and then he was pitching face-forward towards the floor of the Weasleys' living room.

"All right there, Harry?" Fred grinned from his left, pulling him up by the shoulders.

"Thanks," Harry smiled back. It looked like Fred was about to ask about the candy, but just then Mrs. Weasley's head poked out of the kitchen.

"Is that Harry?"

"We'll take your stuff up to Ron's room," George offered quickly as his mother hurried over. With a wink over his shoulder at Harry he disappeared upstairs with Fred.

"Hi, Mrs. Weasley," Harry smiled fondly at the plump woman who came to hug him. "Thank you for inviting me again."

Mrs. Weasley's eyes looked suspiciously moist as she patted his shoulder kindly. "It's our pleasure, dear. I only wish you could have come sooner."

She sighed and peered closely at Harry. "Did those awful Dursleys treat you decently this time?" she demanded, her tone implying that she thought them rather incapable of doing so.

Harry shrugged. "They were all right," he answered, exchanging a quick smile with Ron. "But I'm glad Dumbledore let me come."

Mrs. Weasley's eyes were misty again. "So are we. Well," she clapped her hands together briskly and looked at Ron, "why don't you take Harry to get settled while I finish making lunch?" She turned and headed back to the kitchen. "Hermione should be here any minute, too."

"Oh, is she coming by Portkey?" Harry asked Ron.

Ron shook his head. "Floo powder. She says her parents think it's interesting how she disappears into the fireplace." He pulled a face at Harry. "Weird."

Harry laughed. That did sound like something Hermione would say. "What time's she coming?"

"Oh, she should be here in a couple of minutes," Ron answered vaguely, but Harry noticed that he kept looking at his watch. "We better wait and see if she needs help getting her trunk upstairs. You know she probably brought heaps of books," Ron said, rolling his eyes.

Harry hid a smile. He knew full well that wasn't why Ron wanted to stay downstairs. He thought it best not to say so, though, and decided to ask Ron about Quidditch instead. They were planning a practice game for the afternoon when Harry heard someone coming down the stairs and looked round to see who it was.

"Hello, Harry," said Ginny from the doorway, smiling shyly.

"Hi, Ginny," Harry smiled back, and for once she didn't flush beneath his gaze. She looked different than he remembered, though he couldn't put his finger on the change. "Did you get my note about the frame?" he asked.

Ginny nodded. "I'm glad you liked it." She glanced over at her brother, who was fidgeting with a vase on the mantel, and shrugged. "Ron wasn't sure you would."

"No, I did like it-a lot," said Harry fervently. "Thank you."

A wide smile brightened Ginny's face. "You're welcome." She left the doorway and flopped into a chair by the fireplace. "Did you have a nice birthday, then?"

"Mostly," said Harry. "The Dursleys aren't the greatest company ("Ha!" snorted Ron), but I got some really nice presents. Hagrid sent me a French pastry-an icklear, or something like that. Have you ever had one of those?"

Ginny started to shake her head, but whatever she was about to say was drowned out by a loud pop. An instant later Hermione came tumbling out of the fireplace and into Ron, who was standing directly in front of it.

"Oof!" said Ron, staggering backwards as Crookshanks and Hermione's trunk pelted into him as well.

"Oh, sorry!" cried Hermione, trying to disentangle herself from Ron. "I forgot how hard it is to stop at the right fireplace." She straightened and pulled her clothes back into place with an apologetic smile.

Ron was rubbing his stomach where the trunk had knocked into him. "Geez, Hermione," he grumbled irritably, "what do you have in that thing?" He looked away from the trunk to glare at Hermione, and Harry saw a flicker of surprise cross his face.

Hermione had grown a little over the summer, though she was still shorter than Ron by at least a head, and she was very tan. Her hair, which was normally rather bushy, had been pulled away from her face in some kind of odd ponytail. Harry thought she looked older, especially when she turned to say airily to Ron, "Nothing, Ron. Just my clothes and a few books."

"I knew it!" cried Ron triumphantly, pointing at Harry. "Didn't I?" He appeared to have gotten over the shock of Hermione's appearance.

"Hi, Harry." Hermione rolled her eyes, ignoring Ron, and came over to give Harry a hug. "I'm glad you could come."

"Me, too," Harry smiled back as she moved to hug Ginny as well.Harry and Ron politely volunteered to carry Hermione's trunk and followed the girls upstairs to Ginny's room. Harry could hear Ron muttering various comments about Hermione's obsession for books as they plodded up the rickety staircase, but luckily she was talking to Ginny and didn't hear them.

"I like your hair that way," Ginny was telling Hermione. "How'd you do it?"

"Oh, well--it's really easy," Hermione answered. "It's called a French braid, and I learned it from a Muggle book my mum gave me. I can teach you if you want."

Ginny's eyes lit up. "Thanks, Hermione. I'd like that." They had reached her room at the top of the stairs and Ginny pushed open the door to lead them inside. "You can put Hermione's trunk over there by the window," she pointed. "Sorry it's kind of crowded."

Harry had only glimpsed the inside of Ginny's room once, when he had caught her peeking out at him on his first visit to the Burrow. It was small, like Ron's, with most of the space taken up by a plain wooden bed and an old cot.

Unlike Ron's room, though, the walls and ceiling were not plastered with shocking orange posters of the Chudley Cannons. Instead they had been painted or charmed-Harry wasn't sure which-to look like a sunny forest glade complete with unicorns, centaurs, and other magical creatures. Harry peered more closely at the wall beside the window as he and Ron lowered the trunk, and a rather roguish-looking imp winked at him.

"Ginny," smiled Hermione in delight as she spun slowly round in the middle of the room, "this turned out great!"

"Thanks." Ginny's freckles disappeared momentarily against the flush rising in her cheeks. Harry stared at her in surprise.

"You did all this yourself, then?" he asked.

"Tuh," said Hermione indignantly. "Of course she did! Ginny's very good at charms."

Ginny was blushing again. "Oh, but I couldn't have done it without your help, Hermione," she insisted. "Really, your advice about doing the constellations for the ceiling was spot-on."

"I didn't know there were charms for stuff like this," Harry interrupted curiously.

Hermione raised her eyebrow. "That's because you and Ron never pay attention in Professor Flitwick's class," she said loftily. "How many times have I said you were missing out and you never believed me? Well, now you see that-"

"Oh, boy," mumbled Ron, "here we go. Hermione, can't the lecture wait till later? Harry and I need to talk to the twins." He grabbed Harry's arm and headed for the door.

"Hmph," said Hermione as they escaped to the hall, her annoyed voice drifting after them. "Honestly, Ginny, I don't know how you turned out so well with that as a role model."

Ginny's muffled laugh cut off abruptly as Ron closed the door of his room behind them, and Harry turned to see Fred and George waiting for them, both in full mischief mode.

"Did you drop it?" asked Fred excitedly, balancing on the balls of his feet.

"Yeah," said Harry distractedly, "but why are there four beds in here?"

There was hardly room for him to walk as he moved to the one beside Ron's. "Bill and Charlie are here for a few days," answered George with a dismissive wave. "But do you know if he ate it?" There was a frantic gleam in his eyes that Harry might have found a trifle unnerving if he weren't already accustomed to the twins' distinctive brand of humour.

"We didn't see him eat it," Harry shrugged, and the twins' faces fell.

"But, as it is Dudley, you can bet he'll sniff it out soon enough," he added with a smirk. "What's it do, anyway?"

Fred and George cracked identical evil grins. "Nothing dangerous," said Fred. "It'll just give him a slight case of unstoppable burping for oh, maybe a day or two."

Harry's eyes widened as Ron started to laugh. "A burping candy?" he echoed.

"That's brilliant!"

"We thought so," George nodded. "We call 'em Belch Bombs. Classy, eh?"

Harry laughed. "You two'll make galleons with those at school. As long as your mum doesn't find out, that is."

Ron shook his head. "Don't worry-if anyone can keep a secret from Mum it's these two clowns," he grinned, giving the nearest twin an affectionate punch in the shoulder. "Now, how about a quick lunch so we can hit the broomsticks?"

The four of them collected Hermione and Ginny and tromped down to the kitchen to munch on cold sandwiches and lemonade while they planned the week's activities. Mrs. Weasley offered to take them shopping for their school things at Diagon Alley the next day ("Perfect!" said Hermione. "That gives us a full week to do our reading!") and then shooed them all outside to enjoy the nice weather.

Ron led the way to a secluded dale a few minutes away from the house, where they could fly reasonably high without being seen by any passing Muggles.

The twins had brought the practice balls they had enchanted to act as Bludgers and Quaffles and agreed to be Beaters on opposing teams. In the absence of the Snitch Harry took the position of Chaser on George's team, with Ron as Keeper. Hermione was not a particularly adept flier, though she felt considerably more comfortable on her broomstick than she had on Buckbeak, and would have preferred to watch, but Harry eventually convinced her to play Chaser on the other team ("Come on, Hermione, it's easy. All you have to do is chuck balls at Ron."). Ginny, on the other hand, seemed to have inherited the Weasley talent for flying and needed no persuasion to play Keeper on Fred's side.

Harry hadn't known just how much he missed Quidditch until he mounted his trusty Firebolt and kicked off. High up in the air, with the wind whipping past his ears, he felt happier than he had in months. Besides which, it was impossible for him to think about Cedric or Voldemort while trying to dodge Bludgers and score goals with the Quaffle. Harry had to concentrate even harder on his flying after the first game, when he switched teams with Hermione to test Ron's Keeper potential a bit more rigorously.

Harry would have been content to keep playing all night, but towards the end of the fifth game Hermione pointed to the sinking sun and reminded the boys that Mrs. Weasley wanted them home before dark. With a sigh Harry made one last loop on his Firebolt and landed next to Ron, who was trying not to appear overly anxious.

"Well?" he said. "Do I have a shot at making the team?"

Harry shook his head slowly, and Ron's shoulders slumped. "You don't just have a shot," Harry told him with a grin, "you are the next Wood."

Ron looked up in surprise as he continued. "If Professor McGonagall doesn't make you Keeper after the first five minutes of your try-out, I'll eat a skrewt."

Ron's eyes widened. "Really?"

"Well of course not really, Ronniekins," smirked Fred.

"Yeah," George nodded gravely. "That would be disgusting."

Harry laughed as Ron glared at the twins. "Seriously, I think you're good enough to make it," he said. "Besides, we need someone who can plan our strategies, too, and McGonagall knows how well you play chess."

"What do you mean?" Ron's forehead crinkled in confusion.

Harry started packing the Quaffles away in their box again. "All I'm saying is, you better not make us practice before dawn in the freezing rain like Wood when you're Captain." He peeked sideways at his friend's face, which began to split into a silly grin as Ron finally cottoned on.

"Oi, go on!" said Ron, shoving Harry's shoulder while the tips of his ears turned redder than the Quaffle he was holding. Harry grinned back, and the two of them helped Fred and George wrestle the mock Bludgers into their case before retrieving their broomsticks from Ginny and Hermione.

"You made some good saves up there," Harry told Ginny as they started back toward the Burrow. "Have you ever wanted to join the Gryffindor team?"

Ginny blushed. "Thanks. I like Quidditch, and I've been playing with my brothers ever since Charlie was Seeker, but I think it's so much more exciting to watch." She grinned sideways at him and added, "Especially when Gryffindor is stomping Slytherin. I'll never forget the match when their Chaser grabbed Katie's head and tried to say he thought it was a Quaffle. I don't think I've ever seen such blatant cheating before or since."

Harry snorted, remembering how Malfoy had seized the end of his broom to stop him from getting the Snitch. "That was the dirtiest game I've ever played in," he agreed. "Too bad cheating didn't help the Slytherins win."

Ginny laughed. "I bet you're looking forward to your next match with them, huh?" Harry nodded enthusiastically, but Ginny's tone grew serious. "I think that's one reason Ron wants to make the team so badly," she remarked quietly. "You know how much he hates Malfoy-he thinks it's the perfect chance for vengeance." She stopped walking and lowered her voice so her brothers and Hermione wouldn't overhear. "I hope Ron becomes Keeper," she assured him, "I really do, but-" Ginny hesitated and looked up at Harry, chewing her lip. "If he does, will you watch out for him? You know, make sure he doesn't lose his temper and get himself expelled?"

Harry didn't think he was in any position to prevent anyone else from losing their temper at Malfoy, since the last time they had met he had hexed the boy, but he couldn't very well say so to Ginny. Instead he smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring way and promised to keep an eye on Ron, feeling somewhat guilty when he saw how relieved Ginny seemed as they resumed walking.

"Oi, Gin, Harry!" Fred waved at them to hurry. "What are you two doing back there? We're going to be late!" Harry and Ginny ran to catch up with him, and the six of them sprinted into the Weasley kitchen just in time to avoid a lecture. Mrs. Weasley had concocted yet another delicious meal, which Harry appreciated all the more after an entire summer of Aunt Petunia's less than imaginative cooking, and for dessert she had even baked a chocolate cake ("I know it's a bit late, Harry, but happy birthday, dear."). She also refused to let them help with the dishes, instead ushering them into the living room with the suggestion that they play a few games of Exploding Snap.

"You know this is the real reason I invited you two, right?" Ron grinned at Harry and Hermione as they sat down with a pack of cards. "The only time Mum lets us get out of our chores is when we have guests she really likes."

"Hey, what are friends for?" Harry joked. "Here, George, it's your deal."

He was soon caught up in the game-or rather in keeping a straight face while the twins tried to singe Ron's eyebrows with the flaming cards-and didn't realize how much time had passed until Ginny jumped up in excitement.

"Dad's coming home!" She pointed to the magical clock in the corner, where the hands labeled Arthur, Bill, Charlie, and Percy hovered over "Traveling."

A moment later they snapped to "Home," and the four oldest Weasleys appeared with a pop. All of them looked very tired, but greeted Harry and Hermione with warm handshakes and smiles as Mrs. Weasley emerged from the kitchen.

"Hello, Arthur, boys," she smiled, giving her husband a quick kiss. "How was your day?"

"Long," answered Bill. "Any chance you saved us some dinner, or did this sorry lot finish it off?" he teased, pointing at Harry and the others.Mrs. Weasley gave Bill's ponytail an affectionate tug. "Nonsense, dear. Now into the kitchen with all of you. You can chat after you've eaten."

She led the way out of the living room, and Harry, Hermione, and the younger Weasleys returned to their game.

Once the adults were safely out of earshot Hermione motioned to the others to huddle over the table. "Do you think they'll tell us anything more about what's happening?" she asked in a whisper.

Ron shook his head, looking glum. "Not likely," he answered."We haven't been able to get them to talk about work at all," Ginny agreed.

"Not even Percy," added Fred grimly. "That's how we know it's serious."

George sighed. "We've tried sneaking up on them while they're eating, but so far we haven't been able to overhear anything."

"What about you, Harry?" asked Ron. "Have you heard anything from Hagrid or-" he stopped, his eyes flickering to Ginny and the twins, and amended hastily, "anyone else?"

Harry frowned and shook his head. "No. Not a thing." Ginny was looking at him with a slightly perplexed expression, and once again he wished that he didn't have to keep his godfather's identity a secret.

Hermione looked disappointed. "Well," she sighed, "I guess if no one is going to tell us anything there isn't much we can do about it. Maybe we'll be able to find out more at Hogwarts."

"I hope so," said Harry. "I hate not knowing what we're up against."

The others nodded silently, lost in their own thoughts until Fred tried to lighten the mood by passing out the cards again. Harry's mind wasn't really on the game, though, and he narrowly avoided torching his own eyebrows a few times. It was true that he hated the uncertainty of their current situation, but in fact he knew best out of everyone in the wizarding world what-or rather who-they were fighting. Harry could only imagine what it must be like for his friends to wonder what he had faced the night of the Third Task.

The somber mood that had descended over the living room lifted a little when Mr. Weasley, Bill, Charlie, and Percy finished eating and joined the rest of the family. Ron and George challenged Percy and Fred to a game of team chess while Mr. Weasley cornered Hermione with a question about "capacitators." Mrs. Weasley, it appeared, had not given up on the idea of trimming Bill's hair, and Ginny was trying to reason with her in his defense. Charlie came over to ask Harry what he thought of Ron's abilities as a Keeper, and the conversation turned to Seeker strategies.

"The book Ron gave you for your birthday used to be one of my favourites," Charlie informed him with a grin. "There are some absolutely bully moves in there."

"Do you miss playing for Gryffindor?" asked Harry.

Charlie shrugged good-naturedly. "Sometimes. But I still get to fly a lot when I'm working." He nudged Harry's arm. "You never know when a Wronski Feint might come in handy against a dragon, eh?" Harry blushed at the reference to his celebrated defeat of the Hungarian Horntail during the Triwizard Tournament, and Charlie seemed to remember something. "That reminds me," he said, fishing around in the inner pocket of his robes. "Here." He handed Harry a framed picture of a large, fire-blowing dragon that looked oddly familiar. "That's Norbert. I thought Hagrid might like to know how well he grew up."

"Whoa," breathed Harry. "Good thing we convinced Hagrid to let you take him. Something tells me the other students would have noticed this."

Charlie laughed. "Yeah, the scorch marks are a dead give away."

The rest of the evening passed quite pleasantly, Harry thought, and he was glad the older Weasleys had a chance to relax for a while. He had retrieved his Seeker book from upstairs and curled up on the couch, but his gaze kept straying from the pictures to the other occupants of the room. Mr. Weasley sat in one corner with Percy, waving his arms in an animated description of the Muggle artifact Hermione had just explained to him. Mrs. Weasley and Hermione had their heads together in the opposite corner, behaving rather girlishly in Harry's opinion by speaking in hushed tones and giggling occasionally. Ron and George, victorious in their first game, had decided to go for another win against Fred and Charlie, and Harry could hear the reckless cries of Ron's notorious bishops from all the way across the room.

Ginny sat by the fireplace with a stack of schoolbooks, obviously engrossed in the arduous task of completing one of Snape's hated summer essays. Beside her, Bill lay sprawled on the rug with a book about mummies.

Apparently it wasn't very interesting, however, since he kept trying to distract Ginny by stealing her quill when she wasn't looking.

That night while Harry lay awake listening to Ron and the twins' snores he wondered once again what it would have been like if his parents had lived. Would they have had more children after him? Would he have had younger brothers who looked up to him the way Ron looked up to Bill, or perhaps a little sister with red hair like his mother's that he could pull to make her laugh? Harry knew that Ron sometimes envied him his fame and fortune, but as he drifted off to sleep he wished he could trade it all to become part of a family like the Weasleys instead.

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --