Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any other character, location, or whatever mentioned in the works of J.K. Rowling. The beginning of this chapter is a quote from Goblet of Fire. There are also two lines from the last chapter later. They are marked with * as well.
Chapter 1 - Arrival at King's Cross
Saturday, July 1, 1995
* The usual confusion and noise filled the corridors as the students began to disembark. Ron and Hermione struggled out past Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, carrying their trunks. Harry, however, stayed put. "Fred – George – wait a moment." The twins turned. Harry pulled open his trunk and drew out his Triwizard winnings. "Take it," he said, and thrust the sack into George's hands. "What?" said Fred, looking flabbergasted. "Take it," Harry repeated firmly. "I don't want it." "You're mental," said George, trying to push it back at Harry. "No I'm not," said Harry. "You take it, and get inventing. It's for the joke shop." "He is mental," Fred said in an almost awed voice. "Listen," said Harry firmly, "if you don't take it I'm throwing it down the drain. I don't want it, and I don't need it. But I could do with a few laughs. I've got a feeling we're going to need them more than usual before long." "Harry," George said weakly, weighing the money bag in his hands, "there's got to be a thousand galleons in here." "Yeah," said Harry, grinning, "think how many Canary Creams that is." The twins stared at him. "Just don't tell your mum where you got it...although she might not be so keen for you to join the Ministry anymore, come to think of it..." "Harry," Fred began, but Harry pulled out his wand. "Look," he said flatly, "take it, or I'll hex you. I know some good ones now. Just do me one favor, okay? Buy Ron some different dress robes and say they're from you." He left the compartment before they could say another word, stepping over Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle who were still laying in the floor covered in curse marks. * Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
* The usual confusion and noise filled the corridors as the students began to disembark. Ron and Hermione struggled out past Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, carrying their trunks. Harry, however, stayed put.
"Fred – George – wait a moment."
The twins turned. Harry pulled open his trunk and drew out his Triwizard winnings. "Take it," he said, and thrust the sack into George's hands.
"What?" said Fred, looking flabbergasted.
"Take it," Harry repeated firmly. "I don't want it."
"You're mental," said George, trying to push it back at Harry.
"No I'm not," said Harry. "You take it, and get inventing. It's for the joke shop."
"He is mental," Fred said in an almost awed voice.
"Listen," said Harry firmly, "if you don't take it I'm throwing it down the drain. I don't want it, and I don't need it. But I could do with a few laughs. I've got a feeling we're going to need them more than usual before long."
"Harry," George said weakly, weighing the money bag in his hands, "there's got to be a thousand galleons in here."
"Yeah," said Harry, grinning, "think how many Canary Creams that is." The twins stared at him. "Just don't tell your mum where you got it...although she might not be so keen for you to join the Ministry anymore, come to think of it..."
"Harry," Fred began, but Harry pulled out his wand. "Look," he said flatly, "take it, or I'll hex you. I know some good ones now. Just do me one favor, okay? Buy Ron some different dress robes and say they're from you." He left the compartment before they could say another word, stepping over Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle who were still laying in the floor covered in curse marks.
* Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
Mrs. Weasley was waiting beyond the barrier with Hermione's mother, Dr. Granger. She hugged Harry very tightly when she saw him, and whispered in his ear, "I think Dumbledore will let you come to us later in the summer."
Harry nodded and murmured, "Thanks Mrs. Weasley." She released him after a moment, and moved to greet her other children.
Harry sighed a little wistfully as he watched the Weasleys and the Grangers. For about the millionth time, he wondered what his life would be like if his parents had survived. Would he be an only child like Hermione? Would he have a flock of siblings like Ron? He smiled softly as he took in the sight of Mrs. Weasley surrounded by her chattering brood, and Dr. Granger giving Hermione a warm hug. Speculation was much more pleasant than the last few days had been, so Harry allowed his mind to wander. What would it feel like to look forward to the summer holidays? Would both his parents meet the Hogwarts Express? What would they do together?
After a few minutes, Molly Weasley came back over, pulling him out of the Land of What-Might-Have-Been with a bump. "Wherever is your family, Harry dear?" she asked, putting a protective hand on his shoulder.
Harry blinked, and gave himself a mental slap. Embarrassed at having been caught daydreaming, he glanced around the immediate vicinity, then shrugged helplessly. Hogwarts students and their families mixed with Muggle commuters and travelers. The area around the barrier leading to Platform 9 ¾ had become quite crowded while he'd been woolgathering. "Erm, they don't seem to be here yet Mrs. Weasley," Harry admitted, studying the crowd. "I'm sure they're just running a bit behind," he tacked on hastily when the witch's expression darkened and she gripped his shoulder a little tighter.
"Is everything okay, Harry?" Hermione asked, walking up with her mother.
"I think so," Harry replied in a distracted sort of way. "I just haven't been able to spot the Dursleys.."
"Well I can't say I'm surprised," Hermione remarked matter-of-factly. She indicated the crowd. "It'd be a bit of a trick to spot anyone in this."
"Ah, but Harry isn't just anyone," George said moving to stand on Harry's other side.
"That's right," Fred joined in dramatically, as he and Ron moved to stand beside George. "He's..."
"The Youngest Seeker in a Century!" the three Weasley brothers chorused surrounding Harry and jostling him good naturedly.
Harry smiled, knowing they were doing their best to distract him from the unhappy events of a week ago. Harry and another Hogwarts student, Cedric Diggory, had been participants in the TriWizard Tournament. Voldemort, the dark wizard who had murdered Harry's parents had used the tournament to trap him. Harry, had then been forced to participate in a ceremony that had returned Voldemort to his body. Harry had barely escaped with his life. Cedric hadn't been so lucky. His team-mate had been of no use to Voldemort, and had been killed without a second thought.
Molly chuckled fondly. "All right you lot," she said, addressing the boys. "You two," she told Fred and George, "make yourselves useful and fetch some trolleys. And you two," she addressed Harry and Ron, "push the trunks over to the wall. There's no sense standing here in the way."
Ron exchanged an amused glance with Harry as all four boys hurried to obey. Molly Weasley was a pleasant, kind-hearted woman, but sane people did not risk being on the receiving end of her temper. Hermione and Ginny helped as well, and between the four of them they quickly and easily shoved the trunks over to the wall.
"There's loads of people here today," George complained a few minutes later when he and Fred returned with four trolleys. "We couldn't find enough for everyone, but I think we can manage with these."
Nodding his thanks, Harry gazed at the trolleys a little longingly and said, "I wish I could take one back to Surrey with me." When he saw his companions' questioning glances, he shrugged a little and elaborated, "It's nothing, really...I'm just a bit sore. Can't say I'm looking forward to hauling my trunk upstairs."
Molly was bursting to say that the trunk was almost as big as Harry was, and he had no business trying to haul it around alone, and furthermore those horrible muggles he lived with should be helping him, but she managed to hold her tongue. Instead, she focused on something she could do to make Harry's life a little easier. Giving the raven-haired boy a reassuring smile, she said, "Well, that's easily fixed dear. Everyone gather around Harry's trunk," she instructed, as she surreptitiously took her wand out of her pocket.
When she was essentially hidden from view, she tapped Harry's trunk with her wand and whispered a lightening charm. As an afterthought, she tapped Hedwig's cage while she was at it, then put her wand away. "There you are, dear," she told Harry pleasantly. "You should be able to manage your trunk without any trouble, and Hedwig's cage will fold flat for easy storage if you want to let her fly ahead. I'll remove the charms for you when I see you later in the summer."
Experimentally hefting the trunk, Harry set it on the trolley, along with Hedwig and her cage. "Wow! Thanks Mrs. Weasley," Harry said gratefully. The trunk wasn't completely feather-light, but it was much easier to lift and carry. He grinned at the red-haired witch. "You have no idea how much simpler this will make things."
"It's nothing, dear."
Little by little, the crowd thinned. The station was still bustling, but the Hogwarts people had largely dispersed. Mrs. Weasley and Dr. Granger chatted companionably, while Hermione and the Weasley siblings clustered around Harry and talked about various light subjects, including visits and trips to Diagon Alley.
Harry nodded and smiled, and tried to contribute to the conversation while watching for the Dursleys. He couldn't imagine why they still hadn't arrived, and he was starting to feel vaguely uneasy as well as stiff and tired. There was also an annoying soft edge to his vision. Impatiently, Harry removed his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. They felt fatigued, like he'd pulled an all-nighter studying.
His companions traded concerned looks. Madam Pomphrey, the Hogwarts mediwitch had healed all of the injuries Harry had sustained during the Third Task, but he wasn't quite himself yet. He was thinner and quieter than normal, and still looked a bit peaked.
"All right there, Harry?" Ron asked as he watched his friend polish his glasses on his shirt tail.
"Yeah. Just tired," Harry said, replacing his specs and giving Ron a small smile. The rubbing and cleaning seemed to have helped somewhat, he noted with relief. Harry glanced around for his family again, then realized the others had stopped talking. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed the other teens staring at him. "What?"
"Oh, nothing Harry," Hermione said quickly, knowing Harry hated it when they fussed. "Its just that you...uh...you just look different without your glasses." The others quickly nodded in agreement. It was a true statement, after all, and kinder than Well, Harry, you look a little weak and sick and we were just wondering if you were going to keel over on us... They were about to resume their light chatter when Dr. Granger came over to them.
"Hermione, I hate to do this love, but we have to go. We're supposed to meet some family in town to celebrate your return, and I have to pick up Dad at the office. I'm afraid if we don't leave now we'll be late."
"Mum-!" Hermione started to object, but Harry nodded and said, "I appreciate you staying Dr. Granger."
"It's possible they got caught in traffic," Dr. Granger offered. "It was absolutely dreadful when I came earlier." She eyed the boy speculatively for a moment, considered her none-too-pleased daughter, then took a business card out of her purse. Scribbling on the back of it, she addressed Harry. "These are our home, business, and cell numbers. Molly says she'll look after you, but it just doesn't feel right leaving you here like this. Ring us if you need anything," she instructed, handing Harry the card. "We can come back and get you if need be, or you could take a cab out to our place."
"Thank you ma'am," Harry said with a grateful smile. He tucked the card into his shirt pocket then turned to his friend. "Bye Hermione. Hope you have fun tonight."
* "Bye, Harry," said Hermione, and she did something she had never done before, and kissed him on the cheek.
Harry and the Weasleys waved as the Grangers walked away, then Molly Weasley turned her attention back to Harry. "We need to leave too, Harry dear," she said, then seemed to come to a decision. "I guess you'll just have to come with us."
Harry felt his heart sink as she began speaking, although he had expected as much. The Weasleys surely had better things to do than stand around Kings Cross Station with him. They and the Grangers had stayed more than an hour, after all. He had just started to thank her for staying, when his brain processed the last part of her statement.
A huge wave of relief and joy washed over him, for he desperately didn't want to return to his uncle's house. Although he was loathe to admit it, Harry had been badly shaken by the events of the Third Task. He had relied heavily on Ron and Hermione's patient, undemanding company since his release from the hospital wing five days before, and was not looking forward to going somewhere he was so obviously unwanted. Vernon and Petunia Dursley, and their son Dudley hated Harry simply because he was a wizard, and "abnormal" in their opinion.
Molly watched fondly as Harry's green eyes began to sparkle, then frowned as a shadow crossed his face. He looked up at her uncertainly. "Professor Dumbledore said I could put you all in danger," he said softly, his disappointment and concern showing clearly. "I can't–" he began but she was having none of that.
"Don't be daft child!" she cried, her brown eyes snapping furiously. "Have you lost all sense? We can't leave you here alone! It wouldn't be safe–even if You-Know-Who wasn't lurking about!" she continued, shaking a scolding finger. "What are you thinking? There's no telling what could happen! You could be snatched out from under our very noses–subjected to who knows what!" Molly paused a moment, and leveled a glare on Harry that was usually reserved for the twins. "And just in case you've forgotten, it's the adults' job to protect the children, not the other way around! Where do you get such ideas?" she demanded flinging her arms wide in exasperation.
Harry for his part, found himself unable to do anything but stare dumbly at Mrs. Weasley as the fiery redhead expressed her displeasure with him. He wasn't enjoying getting lectured, especially in front of Ron and the others, but this was different from Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia's scoldings. The Dursleys constantly ranted about how they'd been saddled with him, and told him regularly how worthless he was. Mrs. Weasley's tirade, though not exactly pleasant, was infinitely easier to take. Even as he winced at her scathing tone, Harry marveled at the warmth he felt, just because she cared.
"Well, I guess that makes it official," George announced before his mother could continue. When the rest of the group looked questioningly at him, he grinned wickedly and said, "Just what this family needs...ANOTHER ickle brother!" The rest of the Weasleys stared at him in surprise for a few seconds before dissolving into giggles.
Harry grinned at George, honestly impressed. From what he could see, stopping Mrs. Weasley when she was on a roll was like trying to hold back an avalanche with your bare hands. Obviously George was well practiced in this art.
"Looks like you've lost your guest status, mate," Ron hooted thumping Harry on the back. "Now she'll be giving you chores, and nagging you about your marks!"
Harry blushed a little, and smiled shyly, as Ron and the twins began to speculate wildly on what would be expected of him as an "official" family member. Ginny even made a few suggestions, much to Harry's surprise, and hers were the most creative of all.
Molly finally cut in when the expectations crossed beyond ridiculous. "That's enough, now," she said crisply, after Fred told Harry he would be locked in the attic with the ghoul if he dared put one toe out of line. "We need to finish loading the trolleys and go. Arthur will be worried."
Harry watched the Weasleys pile their belongings on the remaining two trolleys feeling torn and indecisive. Normally he would jump at any excuse to spend time with his favorite wizarding family, but with Voldemort back...
As much as he wanted to go, Harry was terrified of putting his friends at risk. He could deal with his own life being in danger, but not theirs. Never theirs. Additionally, Harry had promised Albus Dumbledore, that he would wait until 'preparations could be made' before visiting his friends. What these preparations consisted of Harry wasn't sure, but there was no doubt in his mind that the canny old wizard would know if he disobeyed. The boy cringed at the thought of disappointing his headmaster. He had done so only once before, at the beginning of second year. Professor Dumbledore's grave expression and quiet 'Please explain why you did this' was somehow worse than the loudest yelling.
On the other hand, Harry wasn't sure he could convince Ron's mother to leave him behind–promise to Professor Dumbledore or no. In all honesty, he wouldn't put it past Molly Weasley to simply Stupefy him, and drape his unconscious body over one of the laden trolleys if he tried to argue. She had a valid point, after all. It probably wasn't very safe for him to be on his own just now, but still...
Harry raked a hand through his unruly black hair in frustration. Of all days for Uncle Vernon to be late!
"All right dears, let's go then," Mrs. Weasley said, herding the five teenagers toward the exit.
Harry nodded absently and grasped the trolley handle. He took one last look around the platform before starting after Ron...and spotted a familiar figure walking toward the spot where he usually met the Dursleys. Apparently Uncle Vernon had made it after all. Harry grinned in relief, then stopped short and snorted at the absurdity of the situation. Nothing like a little moral dilemma to take some of the sting out of returning to Privet Drive. He was actually happy to see his uncle for perhaps the first time in his life. An historic occasion.
"Harry? Are you with us dear?" Molly called, noticing he had fallen behind.
Oh. Oops. Harry trotted over to the plump witch. "My uncle just arrived, Mrs. Weasley," he said, his conflicting emotions showing clearly. "Thank you for everything. It was really good of you to stay..." Harry trailed off and looked down.
Molly's heart went out to the boy. She bit back a sigh, and forced herself to smile cheerily. "Well, he must have been held up by traffic after all."
Harry gave her a lopsided smile. "I suppose," he agreed without much enthusiasm.
Mrs. Weasley put her hand on Harry's shoulder again. "Would you like us to walk over with you?" she offered gently.
Harry quickly shook his head. "No, thanks all the same," he politely refused. "Uncle Vernon will likely be angr–uh, in a hurry to leave." Harry didn't want to subject them to the man's foul temper. Besides, Ron and the others had already witnessed him getting one public scolding. Harry wasn't eager for them to see another. Even if Vernon didn't chastise Harry, he would almost certainly be rude to Mrs. Weasley and her family because they were "wizarding freaks."
Molly's eyes flashed dangerously. She looked like she was about to say something, then changed her mind. "Well, we'll see you very soon, then Harry dear," she said hugging him again. Tomorrow if I have anything to say about it. "Keep in touch, and let us know if you need anything."
"Bye Harry," Ginny said, turning back to her trolley. "See you later, mate," Ron gave Harry a little cuff on the shoulder before following his sister. * Fred and George stepped closer. "Bye, Harry, and thanks!" George said while Fred nodded enthusiastically. Harry winked at them and waved as the Weasleys continued on their way. He watched until they rounded a corner, then squared his shoulders and walked over to where his uncle was waiting.
The first thing Harry noticed as he approached, was Vernon Dursley was remarkably composed. This struck the boy as very odd. Vernon hated delays in general, and reacted explosively if there was the smallest wait. Since he was already running well over an hour behind, Vernon should have been tense and impatient, and not in the best of moods. Harry had actually expected him to come storming over while he said goodbye to the Weasleys. Whatever Vernon's reasons, Harry was glad that hadn't happened. Mrs. Weasley vs Uncle Vernon wasn't a spectacle he cared to witness.
Stopping a respectful distance from the man, Harry waited for Vernon to acknowledge him. Vernon, however, took a newspaper out from under his arm, and flipped it open to read, oblivious to the dark-haired boy.
This didn't tally with Harry's experience with his uncle. At best the man should be glaring hatefully at Harry for inconveniencing him in the first place. At worst he should be hissing threats and insults from between clenched teeth. The yelling would come later, after they were safely in the car or at home. Can't cause a scene in public, after all. In any case the two of them should be rushing toward the exit, not standing around like this. Harry raised an eyebrow in confusion, and ventured a little nearer.
Vernon glanced up from his paper when Harry sidled up to him. He gave the boy a polite nod before returning to his reading. Harry, meanwhile, was almost beside himself with shock. The man was Vernon's approximate size and coloring, but he definitely wasn't Vernon. Now that he was closer, it was obvious, but from a distance he'd missed the details.
How in the world could... My glasses! My prescription must have changed! Harry thought hard. When was the last time my eyes were checked? The last screening I had in muggle school? How old was I, anyway? Eight? Ten? Feeling Harry's eyes on him, the man peered over the top of his newspaper. "Are you lost lad?" he asked kindly.
"What? Oh. N-no sir," Harry stammered, shaking himself out of his daze. "My uncle is supposed to be picking me up. You favor him at a distance," he tried to explain before he finished lamely, "Sorry to trouble you, sir." He swung the trolley around, and beat a hasty retreat.
"No harm done," the man called after him, before returning to his reading. Furious at himself for making such a stupid mistake, Harry wandered back to Platform 9¾. He thought briefly of trying to catch the Weasleys, but they were probably long gone. I hope Uncle Vernon gets here soon, Harry thought tiredly as he settled in to wait.