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Act I - The Trials of Summer


Chapter 31 - The Birthday Party Part 2


Harry's euphoria at getting the Thunderbolt V quickly died down as his godfather ran him down with the list of things he had to keep in mind for the day. The party was going to officially start at noon, and per the invitation, the attire was 'semi-formal'. Knowing wizards, that could mean anything, given how insulated they were from muggle fashion. Harry had directly gone to bed after getting home from his most exhausting trial, so he hadn't been there to help Sirius and Andi who had worked late into the night, with Kreacher responsible for sending out invitations to the Black manor, with their Floo address and password specified in those letters, active only for the day. He had thought that Sirius was going to invite a couple of people, like Andi's family, Fleur, maybe the Weasleys and Hermione, and the Greengrassses, given the occasion. So colour him surprised when Sirius had handed him a list to view for his own confirmation.

Miss Fleur Delacour.

Miss Hermione Granger.

Mr. Arthur Weasley and his entire family.

Madam Amelia Bones and her ward, Susan Bones.

Mr. Joshua Greengrass and family.

Miss Penelope Clearwater.

Mr. Albus Dumbledore.

Madam Minerva McGonagall.

Mr. Rubeus Hagrid.

Miss Angelina Johnson.

Miss Katie Bell.

Miss Alicia Spinett.

Mister Oliver Wood.

Miss Emmeline Vance.

Mrs. Narcissa Malfoy nee Black and her son Draco Malfoy.

Mrs. Andromeda Tonks nee Black and family.

Madam Augusta Longbottom and her grandson, Neville Longbottom.

Lord Burke and family.

Madam Griselda Marchbanks.

Mr. Kingsley Shacklebolt.

Mr. Rufus Scrimgeour.

Mr. Dirk Cresswell.

Mr. Barnabas Cuffe.

Mr. Xenophilius Lovegood.

Mr. Cornelius Fudge.

…

It was a good thing that Joshua and Sirius had already guided him in the absurdly complicated ways of addressing witches and wizards in high society as part of his preparation for the trial. Turned out, this was his first hobnobbing as Lord Potter, not to mention his association with House Black, House Greengrass and his recent elevation to nobility. Several of the guests on the list had spoken in his favour during the trial and it wouldn't make them feel left out. And no social event was complete without a member of the Daily Prophet. Harry had tried to shrug it all off as unimportant, but Sirius had been firm about it. In his words, Harry had already set a strong opening statement with the Wizengamot, and this party was going to seal the deal. The day's party would end up with a variety of people belonging to various strata of the Wizarding society getting to know him on a personal level, and they would further discuss it with their associates. Part of 'getting it' was that these society parties mattered, and that these impressions would last longer in people's minds than Harry had any ideas. Whatever alliances and acquaintances he would forge tonight, they would strengthen him for the future.

Still… Fudge?

And then it was time for the madness to unfold.

The first guest to arrive was Neville and his deeply intimidating grandmother Augusta Longbottom, still wearing her stuffed vulture hat. The normally shy Gryffindor had grown by at least two inches, and Harry noted his normally round face had slimmed a bit. He gave him a smile, which Harry returned with a pleased wave. He exchanged pleasantries with both of them and bowed down and kissed the woman's knuckles in the traditional manner. She registered her approval and eyed him in appraisal.

"Lord Harry Potter," she began imperiously. "I must admit, you differ from what I heard of you."

Harry swallowed deeply. "In a good way, I hope."

"I must confess, Mister Potter, that I do not particularly approve of Albus Dumbledore. It rather surprised me to see you in coalition with the Greengrass family during the trial. Between your godfather being Lord Black, and now your status as a vessel for Peverell, I wonder if you'll be like your father, James, or your grandfather Fleamont."

Harry gave her a small smile. "If you'll forgive my impertinence, ma'am, I didn't get to know either of them. So, I'll try to be my own person."

The old crone fixed him with a speculative stare before jerking her head in acknowledgement. "My grandson tells me you play Seeker in your House Quidditch team. And that you are remarkably good at it."

"The Youngest seeker in a century." Neville piped in.

Harry grinned at him and then looked back at Augusta. "If I get the opportunity, I'll try my luck at going professional."

"Huh? Really?" Neville blurted, but one look from her and he was silent.

Augusta Longbottom narrowed her eyes and regarded Harry. "Your father was friends with my son, Frank. He was a Keeper, while your father, a Chaser. Could have gone international if not for..." she trailed off. "Either way, it's good to see you following in your father's footsteps." Her lips twisted into a frown. "Unlike some."

Neville looked down and clenched his fists. Harry wondered what that was about.

"Neville!" the woman barked, "the present?"

"Oh, uh β€” Happy Birthday, Harry!" Neville squeaked, and took out what looked like a large glass jar from his extensible pouch. He pressed against a particular section of the jar, and the glass instantly turned transparent, revealing a tiny, three-headed snake, with red scales and a green underbelly, hissing furiously and looking all around.

Harry blinked.

"That's a runespoor, Harry," Neville explained. "Gran took me to Burkina Faso for the summer. We found several runespoor eggs and brought them with us to our ophidiarium. When Gran told me you invited us, I suggested we give one hatchling to you because you're a β€” aβ€”"

"Parselmouth?"

Neville swallowed and nodded.

"I'll be candid, Mr. Potter," said Augusta Longbottom imperiously. "Regardless of its effects, Parselmouths have been dark wizards. So giving a snake as a birthday gift was not my desire. However, Neville is your roommate so I reckon, knows you better than I do."

Harry gave her an uneasy smile. "It's an unconventional gift. But I'm glad he did. I'm interested to see how a magical snake reacts to Parseltongue."

"Think they'll allow you to take it to Hogwarts?"

"I bloody well hope not!" Augusta fumed.

Harry chuckled. "I'll ask Professor Dumbledore when he arrives. Speaking of…" He glanced at the other guests who had come in. "If you'll excuse me?"

Harry redid the touching thing that Neville had showed earlier, and placed the jar in one corner with the other parcels, and met Amelia Bones, who had just walked in through the Floo with her niece Susan Bones, and was conversing with Sirius. The girl had red hair, just like her aunt, and looked around before she met his eyes and blushed. Harry inwardly hoped he wasn't dealing with another Ginny Weasley and strode ahead to welcome them.

"Ah, Harry, there you are," Sirius exclaimed, as Harry joined the group. Susan blushed heavily as she greeted him and handed him what was a very expensive wizard chess set.

"My niece says that she's often seen you playing chess at Hogwarts," said Amelia. "she all but forced me to get you this one. I really hope this is to your liking, Mr. Potter."

Harry gave them a lopsided grin. Susan hadn't been wrong, but it was Ron that was chess-crazy, not him. Still, this signified that Susan had at least noticed him enough, which was more than what he could say about himself.

"Thank you, and please, call me Harry." He said, thanking her with his practised smile, making Susan squeak again and mumble something under her breath.

"Harry," the normally stern woman gave him a soft smile. "Susan tells me you rarely ever spread out from your friend-circle. She's put a lot of thought into this gift, hoping this year will be different. Honestly Sirius, prepare yourself. After yesterday's trial, I'd expect all kinds of betrothal offers coming for Harry from other families."

Harry went pink.

"Why Amelia," Sirius asked, "Are you offering Susan as a potential bride?"

Susan lit up like a tomato.

"I would offer her…" Amelia began.

"AUNTIE!" Susan shrieked.

Both adults laughed.

"Sorry, Sirius," Amelia cajoled, "You know how kids are these days! They'd rather choose whom to marry themselves, uncaring of us poor adults."

Sirius grinned and ruffled Harry's hair, a habit the man had developed over the summer. "Same here. But James did a good job with Lily, and Harry is the best of both. I'm afraid my godson might have already had his sights on a special someone…"

Sirius waggled his brows.

Harry rolled his eyes, but noted the way Susan's face fell at the revelation, only for a sudden resolve to rise back. Harry wondered what that was, and if Sirius did that on purpose to prevent her from having any false hopes.

"Speaking of," said the woman, "I have a special guest on my side who wished to attend today's party. I hope that won't be a slight?"

"Nonsense," waved Sirius. "Your guest is my guest. Speaking of…"

Harry saw that as his cue, and with a small smile at Susan, he excused him and made the rounds of guests, some of whom he knew well but most of whom he did not know at all. He was pleased to note that almost everyone on the list had shown up, even though some of his 'known' guests were giving some others the stink eye. He noticed Draco, who kept shooting him dirty looks while standing next to his mother Narcissa, an extremely gorgeous woman, whose looks were being marred by the half-sneer on her face, as she conversed with Andi.

Speaking of Andi, he had met and chatted with her daughter Nymphadora 'Call-me-Tonks' Tonks, who Harry learnt was a junior Auror. She had brought with herself a sneakoscope as a gift. Harry had gotten a pocket sneakoscope from Bill last year, but this was Auror-grade, with several handy-dandy features. Andi had been really vocal about how she wanted to give him a fully stocked healer's pouch, but knowing his luck with healing potions, she had dropped that idea. Harry had then made advances to introducing himself to Rufus Scrimgeour, Head Auror, who was talking to Kingsley Shacklebolt and Barnabas Cuffe, Editor of the Prophet, who wanted an off-the-record opinion on the deaths at the cemetery. Both Aurors had glowing praises for Sirius when he used to be a Hit-Wizard Captain, and were rather interested in Harry's ability to produce a corporeal patronus, as well as the fact that he had produced one at thirteen. Scrimgeour seemed rather taken with him, and asked him to come and see him after he had taken his OWLs, promising to put him through an Auror Internship during the summer, if it interested him. Harry shook his hand and moved on to the other guests.

About half an hour later, Sirius led him to Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall. Sirius kept butting into her reminiscences about James and Lily, ostensibly correcting her, but with a wink and smile that told Harry he was joking and teasing. McGonagall took it all in good humour, and Harry was liking the stern older witch more and more as the discussion went on. Despite being his Head of House, he had only had a scant number of conversations with the woman, but things had taken a good turn ever since the Third Task. Harry had made it a point to introduce Andi's husband Ted, who was a merchant on the continent, with Augusta Longbottom, to discuss a potions deal for the future. He caught faint hints that Tonks had tried to engage Draco in a conversation about Quidditch, while Dumbledore was busy talking to Sirius about the trial and Harry's display of the Peverell Family Magic. He had even seen Narcissa Malfoy make small talk with Amelia Bones at one time. They all looked uncomfortable with each other to varying degrees, but thank Merlin, there was a protocol they were all following while slighting no one.

And then Joshua Greengrass entered through the floo, followed by Daphne and her younger sister Astoria. This was the first time he was seeing both sisters together since Astoria was spending her summer holidays with her friends Henrietta Fawley and Adrastia Rosier, both Ravenclaws, while Astoria herself was a Slytherin.

"Joshua! Daphne! Welcome to Grimmauld Place," he greeted, exchanging a brief hug with Daphne, while Joshua just smiled. "I'm glad all of you came."

"Wouldn't have missed," said Joshua. "We only got late because Daphne wasn't sure what to wear in a party hosted by Gryffindors."

"Father!" Daphne lightly admonished, effortlessly shifting from the casual 'Papa' she used in private conversation. "I did not!"

"Yes you did," Joshua teased, and turned to Harry. "Many, many congratulations and best birthday wishes, Harry. And despite how my daughter is right now, trust me she was getting wet feet about attending today's event."

Harry arched an eyebrow. "That bad?"

"Oh stop it!" Daphne blushed slightly. "You realise this may be the first time a Slytherin is attending a birthday party hosted by a Gryffindor? And not just any Gryffindor?"

"Really?" Harry drawled. "Well, you're a little late if you want to be the first to break tradition. Draco arrived earlier than you." he pointed at the Malfoy duo in the corner, hobnobbing with one guest he hadn't been introduced to yet.

"So many girls around and you're still talking about Draco?" Daphne teased. "Maybe I was right about the forbidden romance!"

"Cease your shameless flirting, sister," came the slightly annoyed voice of Astoria Greengrass who had been talking to Susan all this time. Unlike Daphne, Astoria had jet black hair, but had gotten her father's blue eyes. She walked up to Harry and looked at him with a small pout. Then, surprising everyone, she raised her hand and offered it to him.

Harry took it and kissed her knuckles, following tradition. He heard a few catcalls from behind and wondered if one of them was Sirius. "Miss Astoria Greengrass, welcome to Grimmauld Place."

"Hmm!" she scoffed, looking at him confidently, though there was a spark of something in her eyes. "So you are the one that thinks he's good enough for Daphne."

Harry exchanged a glance with an amused Joshua and Daphne, wondering what brought this on. Deciding to treat this as yet another social test, he gave Astoria his fullest attention. "Isn't that the thing a girl's dad normally asks, not her little sister?"

"Usually, but Father already vouches for you, and someone had to do the asking," she answered, her efforts to hold back her smile now faltering. Harry glanced at Daphne who was seconds away from snorting.

"Honestly," Harry said, deciding to humour her, "your father put me in the position. I just went with the flow."

Astoria frowned. "That does not satisfy me enough to give you my approval."

"Astoriaβ€”!" Daphne sighed.

"Hush! Sister!" Astoria went on, keeping her stern facade intact. "You're lucky Father is vouching for you. I'd give you the 'hurt-her-and-die' speech but you're Harry freakin' Potter so I'll just go ahead with the 'Hurt-her-and-I'll-be-a-huge-pain-in-your-arse' speech."

"Fair enough!" Harry said, doing his best to keep himself from chuckling. "Here's a head-start for you then. I'll be making your sister's life hell on the Quidditch pitch."

Daphne arched her brows.

Harry grinned from ear to ear. "Sirius gifted me a Thunderbolt V."

"What happened to your Firebolt?" Daphne asked.

"It's fine," Harry waved off. "It's my birthday gift."

Daphne blinked, repeatedly opening and closing her mouth. Then in a perfect imitation of a certain snotty pureblood, she lifted her nose slightly up, and gave him a most condescending sneer. "Good for you, Potter. You'll need it. Slytherin will send your chasers packing this year."

Harry snorted. "You wish."

"Laugh all you want, Potter. You should be thankful that I got you this instead."

She handed him a small vial. Inside it was a bright blue liquid.

"Err.. thanks," he accepted her gift. "But what's this?"

"Your birthday present. What else?"

"And what is this?"

Daphne's eyes sparkled. "A memory. Puddlemere versus Kenmare Kestrels. Quarterfinals of '79."

Harry's eyes widened as he realised what she was talking about.

"James Potter's performance in a professional league match. I got it from Geofrey McCoy. He used to be the Puddlemere Coach then."

Harry's jaw fell open, staring at the vial in his hands. This β€” a memory of his father as a professional Quidditch player? He had often visited the trophy room and spent hours looking at James Potter's trophy. He had been chosen as Seeker before he had even known what Quidditch even was and had found himself remarkably good at it. But to be like his father, to follow in the man's footsteps… It was a goal Harry had only fully articulated this year. That Daphne Greengrass had seen through it…

For the second time since the start of the day, Harry Potter did not know what to say.

"He's looking at you like you've just discovered fire, sister," Astoria quipped.

"Iβ€”" Harry tried, but words failed him. Nothing he could say could really express the intense emotion burning through him.

Then it happened.

"GREENGRASS?" yelled a very familiar voice from behind him. "What the bloody hell are you doing here? Harry, who invited these Slytherins?"

He spun around, and stared at an irate Ron Weasley, who was glaring daggers at Daphne and her family. Behind him, Hermione was giving him an unimpressed look, while the rest of the family was giving him varying looks of appraisal.

Harry cursed his luck. And things were going so well, too.


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