Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A/N: And onwards we go marching...


Chapter Two: At the Burrow

The strange occurrence with the visiting house elf and the news he brought was the sole occupation of Harry's thoughts for the better part of two weeks. He wasn't any closer to answering his remaining questions, however, and so decided to set it aside until such time as he could get some useful information. He was pretty sure Professor Snape might have more information – he'd already talked to both Sirius and Remus, and neither of them could tell him more than they weren't surprised at Hogwarts having a secret room. Remus pointed out that a building as magical as the school was bound to have several hidden rooms and secret passageways – likely even ones that the Marauders had never located. Harry also knew that they had spoken to Dumbledore about Dobby's warning, but no one was telling him anything concerning any plans they had regarding it. Harry was starting to get a little frustrated, it was like the adults didn't want him to know what was going on!

The mystery, though, was going to have to wait until he returned to school. Harry received a floo from Ron during the second week of August inviting him to stay at the Burrow until school resumed. Harry's parents gave their consent, and Harry traveled to the Weasleys' with his trunk in tow on the morning of August eighteenth.

The Burrow was as different as possible from the Brewer ranch. Aurilia liked things to be relatively predictable and quiet; the Weasleys' home seemed to thrive on the loud and unexpected. Harry got a little shock upon his arrival, when the mirror over the kitchen floo shouted, "Tuck your shirt in, scruffy!" I really hope the bathroom mirror can't see me, too, Harry thought, ignoring the mirror's advice. The ghoul in the attic – Just what is a ghoul? – howled and dropped pipes whenever he felt things were too quiet. Small explosions from Fred's and George's bedroom were a commonplace occurrence, and Harry quit startling after each one by the end of his third day. All-in-all, it lived and breathed chaos. Harry was in heaven.

The only downside – if it could even rightly be called that – was that Mr. Weasley insisted on having Harry sit next to him during meals, so that Harry could explain how muggle things like plugs, batteries, and the postal service worked. The topic of conversation the morning the Hogwarts letters arrived was how to use a telephone.

"No, really. You just dial the number that corresponds to person ya wanna talk to, an' it'll connect. Of course, this is just for home phones. Pay phones need money – usually coins, but sometimes you can use a callin' card – in order to work, and business phones usually have special dialin' instructions, like havin' to dial a '9' if you're callin' a phone not part of the business."

Arthur munched on a scone, "Fascinating, really, how many ways muggles have found of getting along without magic."

Harry smiled a little, "I know. Though, if ya really think about it, muggles have science. And when ya look really close at science, no one is a hundred percent sure why it all works, just that it does. So… In my opinion, it's all magic."

Further discussion was halted by the arrival of an owl carrying several letters – the Hogwarts letters. Harry's – and, presumably, the letters for Ginny, Ron, Percy, Fred, and George – told him to catch the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross on September first, precisely at eleven o'clock. It also had his book list for the upcoming year.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY COURSE BOOKS

All students should have a copy of each of the following:

The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 2) by Miranda Goshawk
Break with a Banshee by Gilderoy Lockhart
Gadding with Ghouls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Holidays with Hags by Gilderoy Lockhart
Travels with Trolls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Voyages with Vampires by Gilderoy Lockhart
Wanderings with Werewolves by Gilderoy Lockhart
Year with the Yeti by Gilderoy Lockhart

There was another piece of parchment included in Harry's letter. He smiled a little at Professor Snape's distinctive handwriting.

Brewer –

Should the required reading for the upcoming year become… tedious, might I recommend Not Quite Unforgivable: The Ethics of Spell-castingby Reginald Goode and Edith Mal, as well as Gray Magic by Alphonse Irkson. Lockhart is an idiot.

If you wish to add to your summer essay, add two feet on the reactions of lavender oil in memory potions. This will be worth an additional ten percent, and feel free to share this addition with any of your cohorts.

- Prof. S. Snape

George was leaning over Harry's shoulder. "Why's Snape writing to you?"

Harry snickered and tucked the note in his pocket, "For the same reason he came to my birthday party."

"Don't tell me you're friends with that bat!" Fred hissed, quietly enough that Mrs. Weasley couldn't hear him.

Harry shook his head, "No, not friends, per se… It's more like we've got a mutual understandin' and respect. I think it helps that I'm top in his class…"

Fred and George exchanged a look that had Harry slightly alarmed. "You wouldn't be…"

"…turning into Percy on us, would you?"

Harry snorted, "Not hardly. I still know how to have fun without havin' ta force myself. It ain't like I'm in the library at all hours. C'm on, guys, ya know me. Would I willingly spend a sunny day like today inside if I could help it?"

"True," Fred admitted.

"However, you are just as likely to spend the day on your broom as with a book in the sun," George shook his head at Harry.

Percy, ignoring the conversation between his brothers and Harry read through his letter. "This lot won't come cheep, Mum. We've all been told to get a set of Lockhart's books, and you know they're on the expensive side."

"Well, we'll manage," replied Mrs. Weasley, though she was a touch worried. "I expect we'll be able to get most of Ginny's things secondhand."

An idea hit Harry when he overheard the worry in Molly's voice. "Mrs. Weasley?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Can I floo my mom in the livin' room?" She nodded, and Harry hurried to the other fireplace in the house. Harry grabbed a small pinch of the international floo powder his mom had provided – via Harry – for all of his friends on the network. "Brewer Ranch!" After a few moments of disorienting spinning, Harry's head emerged in the fireplace of his living room. He knew a chime would have sounded, signaling his call. Jim wandered into the living room a couple of minutes later, still rather bleary. Harry did some quick calculating and realized that it was only two o'clock in the morning.

"Harry? What's wrong?"

"Nothin', Dad. I just needed to talk to Mom."

"Can't this wait?"

"No… Would you get her for me?"

Jim sighed and nodded, "Hang on a min. I'll go wake her up."

"Thanks," Harry smiled at Jim as he waived of the gratitude and disappeared. It took a good ten minutes for Aurilia to appear wrapped up in her fluffy purple bathrobe. She had dark circles under her eyes. "Mom?"

"Harry?"

"You don't look so hot."

She shrugged, "Livia has colic. Won't sleep for more than an hour or two at a stretch. Jim said you wanted something?"

Harry nodded, "Hope Liv starts feeling better soon. But, what I called about, and I'm sorry for wakin' ya, but I wanted to know if I could have you set up something for the Weasleys?"

"Huh? Luz, stop. Think, 'What am I going to say?' Then talk."

Harry chuckled at the somewhat familiar reprimand. "Sorry. It's just that we all received our book lists for this year, an' we're all supposed to get this really expensive set of books. Ginny, Ron's little sister – remember her from the party? – will also be starting up at Hogwarts this year, too, an', well… The Weasleys don't have all that much money…"

Aurilia's sleep-deprived brain finally connected the dots. "Ah, I see. You wanted me to set up a line of credit for them at the stores on Diagon Alley?"

Harry nodded, "Yeah. Only make sure they don't know it's comin' from us. Ron gets a little funny whenever money's mentioned. He don't seem to realize that money sittin' in a bank ain't doin' anyone any good, and hates it when I buy him somethin'."

"I understand, luz. Will you be going to Diagon today or later in the week?"

"I don't know. Want me to ask?"

Aurilia sighed and shook her head, "No… don't worry about it. As long as you're sure?"

"I am."

"All right. I'll have it done by…" she looked to the clock that used to hang above the mantle, which was now mounted above the desk across the room, "Noon, your time."

"Okay. I think I can stall them that long, if we're even goin' today."

"Love you, luz."

"I love you, too, Mom. Give Liv and Cy hugs from me, an' tell Dad I'm sorry for wakin' him up. Send Dave my hello, too."

"Will do. Have fun, honey."

"Always," Harry replied and ended the call. He stood, brushing stray flecks of ash off of his clothes.

"What was that about?" Percy asked from the doorway.

Harry spun around, "Perce! You startled me!"

Percy had a strange expression on his face, one that Harry couldn't decipher. "I apologize. But… What was all that about a line of credit?"

Harry sighed and flopped onto the sofa. He gestured to Percy to join him. "First off, this don't go any further than the two of us, right?"

Percy's eyes narrowed, "That depends. I only caught some of what you were talking about."

"Trust me, Perce. It ain't bad."

"Do I have your word on that?"

"Scout's honor," Harry saluted. "I know your family doesn't have a lot of money… I wanted to help, but I know that your folks wouldn't take anythin' I offered. It ain't charity. Remember what you learned about friends bein' the family you choose?" Percy nodded. "Family takes care of its own, and y'all are included in my family. I ain't never gonna be able to spend all the money I have, an' it ain't doin' no one any good just sittin' in Gringotts. If I can make sure that everyone has the stuff they need for school, an' Ginny won't have ta worry 'bout no teasin' 'cause of her clothes, an' your folks can still pay their bills, then it's money well-spent."

Percy nodded thoughtfully. "I think I see what you mean. How are you going to make sure that Mum and Dad don't find out, though?"

Harry shrugged, "That ain't my problem, Perce. Mom'll figure that part out. If I know her, she'll set it up like y'all won some contest or other… She did somethin' similar for A.J.'s family a couple of years ago. It had been a hard summer an' their crops suffered, so she cut them a check for… Hmm… what would it be in wizard money? Ah, ten thousand galleons and had her lawyer friend draft a phony letter of congratulations for them. It let them keep their farm, an' they didn't have ta bruise their pride none in acceptin' help from Mom. Don't you dare let on to them that you know, though. I don't wanna hurt ya none."

Percy laughed, "Don't worry, I won't. You know, I think you and your mum could give Fred and George a run for their money in the prank department, though your pranks are of a somewhat different flavor."

Harry grinned and shrugged, "I s'pose so." He stretched and stood. "I'm gonna go finish up breakfast – of course, that's if Ron's left us any."

Percy chuckled, "The bottomless pit of brothers. I was going to finish up a letter to Aurora."

It took Harry a moment to realize that Percy meant A.J. His jaw dropped in shock. "'Aurora?' She lets you call her 'Aurora?'"

Percy nodded, "That's surprising?"

"Considerin' that she said she'd kill me if I ever called her anythin' but 'A.J.,' hell yeah, it's surprisin'!" Harry was chased from the room by Percy's laughter.

He sat back at his place at the table and started in on what remained of his breakfast. Molly smiled at him, "Did your call go well?" Harry nodded around a mouthful of bacon. He had just swallowed when what appeared to be a molting, grey feather duster landed in a bowl of eggs.

"Errol!" Ron shouted, removing the bird from the dish. "Ah… He's got a letter from Hermione. Looks like there's one here from Dean, too." Ron handed Harry the one from Hermione, and when they finished, they traded.

Harry,

Your party was excellent! Really looking forward to next year's! Anyway, I've got a couple of days this month where I'm not going to be doing anything, and I talked to Seamus, and he's got the same days free. I know you're staying at Ron's, so all we need to do is get in touch with Neville, and we might be able to get together for a practice or two. Write me back when you can.

Dean

P.S. Is there something wrong with your bird? He collapsed when he arrived…I'd thought he died, but then he popped up all hooting and stuff… Startled me, it did!

19 August, 1992
Dear Ron and Harry,

Harry, your party was quite fun. I hadn't been to a water park for ages! Thanks again for inviting me.

Ron, you might want to have a veterinarian take a look at your owl, he seemed rather… tired upon his arrival.

In any case, Mum and Dad will be taking me to Diagon Alley next Wednesday to get my Hogwarts things. Hopefully, we'll be able to meet up and spend a little time together. Write back when you know if we can or not.

Love from Hermione

"Well, that fits in nicely. We can go and get all your things then, too," Mrs. Weasley said as she stood and began to clear the table. "What are your plans for today?"

Harry, Ron, Fred, and George were planning to go up the hill to a small paddock the Weasleys owned. It was surrounded by trees that blocked it from view of the village below, so they would be able to play on their brooms, provided they didn't fly too high. Ginny hurried through her chores and followed her brothers up to the makeshift quidditch pitch, where the boys were taking turns riding Harry's Nimbus. Harry was laughingly riding Ron's old Shooting Star, commenting that he'd probably go faster and higher if he harnessed a team of pigeons to it.

"Wish I knew what Percy has been up to," Fred commented, hitting a tennis ball with his beater bat back to George.

"Yeah," replied George, diving to hit the ball again. "He's not himself. His exam results came the day before you got here, Harry. He got twelve OWLs and hardly gloated at all."

"Bill got twelve, too," Ron added to the conversation. "If we're not careful, we'll have another Head Boy in the family."

The twins snickered and said, "Oh, no! The horror!"

Harry chuckled and landed to trade brooms back with Ron. "I think I know what he's up to, but I dunno if he'd be all that happy with me if I told y'all. 'Sides, it ain't none of your business, an' iffen he's busy with somethin' else, then he ain't gonna be tattlin' on y'all all the time. Right?"

Fred and George grinned, "True…"

"…We hadn't thought of that, mate."

Harry just noticed Ginny watching her brothers from the shade of an apple tree. He could tell she was a little jealous that they'd all gotten to ride the Nimbus and she hadn't. I can fix that, he thought striding over to her. "Mornin' Ginny. Did you wanna try the Nimbus, too?"

Her eyes lit up, but her expression fell when Ron snorted, "Don't let her, Harry! She's never ridden a broom before! She'll probably crash it!"

Harry felt a combination of irritation and anger coming from Ginny. Harry quirked an eyebrow at Ron, "Oh, I don't think she will." He faced Ginny again, "You won't, right?" She shook her head, causing her hair to fan out for a moment. Harry took that moment to ponder why Ginny was always so quiet around him, but shrugged it off as he handed her the broom. "If anythin' does happen to it, don't worry none. It's just a broom. Just make sure you're okay, if you crash."

Ginny reverently took the broom, looking it over with an expression similar to the longing look he'd seen on Ron's face when they looked through the catalogues of quidditch stuff before Christmas. He had a feeling that, despite her brothers' ribbing, Ginny knew perfectly well how to fly and had enough of an appreciation for quidditch to know the quality of his broom – the true quality, not just that it was the fastest broom currently on the market. Hell, it wouldn't surprise Harry any to find out that Ginny knew the newest models of racing brooms were always released the last week of August. Much to her brothers' amazement, Harry was proven right when Ginny kicked off and proceeded to fly circles around her brothers. She was playing a game of keep-away with Fred and George when Ron landed and leaned on his broom.

"Somethin' on your mind, mi amigo?" Harry asked.

Ron shrugged, "Not really. Just wonderin' why you let Ginny try your broom."

"Ev'ryone else had a go. Why not? It's just a broom."

Ron shook his head, unwilling or unable to comprehend Harry's nonchalant attitude.

Mrs. Weasley woke them all early the following Wednesday. After a quick half a dozen bacon sandwiches each, Mrs. Weasley took a flowerpot off the kitchen mantelpiece and peered inside. "We're running low, Arthur," she sighed. "We'll have to buy some more today... Ah well, guests first! After you, Harry, dear!"

Harry grabbed a pinch of the dwindling supply of floo powder. "Diagon, right?" Mrs. Weasley nodded. A moment later, Harry was engulfed in emerald green flames and spinning madly through the network. After a much shorter journey than he was used to, Harry stepped calmly out of the fireplace in the Leaky Cauldron. He didn't have long to wait before the Weasleys joined him.

"Where to first?" Ron asked. Harry had to hide a little smile when he recalled that the Weasleys had, indeed, received a 'letter of notification' claiming they'd won a random drawing of all wizarding Britain, the winnings being a ten-thousand galleon tab usable at any and all shops in either Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, and so no trip to Gringotts would be necessary. Aurilia had flooed Harry a sizeable amount of wizarding money – more than enough for his school things. When he'd asked, she said that Remus and Sirius had finally gotten around to locating the wizarding sector of Des Moines, and yes, she'd take him to visit it when he returned home for Yule.

"Hmm…" Mrs. Weasley looked over her list. "Why don't you boys go with Arthur and get your books. Ginny and I will meet you at Flourish and Blots after we get her sized for her robes." Arthur nodded and lead his sons, plus Harry, into the alley and towards the bookstore.

They bumped into Hermione and her parents among the crowd waiting to gain entry to the bookshop. A large banner stretched across the upper windows proclaiming:

Gilderoy Lockhart
will be signing copies of his autobiography
Magical Me
today from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm.

"We can actually meet him!" Harry heard Hermione squeal to her parents. "He's written practically the whole booklist for this year!"

The man who was undoubtably Hermione's father patted her shoulder, replying in a distracted voice, "Yes, yes, dear. Do settle down, though, won't you?"

"Oi! Hermione!" Ron shouted.

Hermione whirled around, "Ron, Harry! Glad you could come today! Isn't this so exciting?"

Ron and Harry exchanged a confused glance. "Um… Not really. Annoyin' is more like it. I mean, we didn't account for an extra hour or six just to get into the store…"

Hermione playfully slapped Harry's arm, "Oh, not that, you twit! I mean, we'll actually get to met a real author!"

"Shoulda known that's what you'd be so all fired-up about," Harry smiled at the witch.

A loud voice from a harassed-looking wizard at the door interrupted them, "Calmly, please, ladies," he was obviously talking to the crowd at large, most of whom looked to be witches around Mrs. Weasley's age. "Don't push, there… Mind the books, now…"

Harry, Ron, and Hermione squeezed inside. A long line wound right to the back of the shop, where Gilderoy Lockhart was signing his books. They each grabbed a copy of the Standard Book of Spells (Grade 2) while Mr. Weasley secured a place in line, Hermione's parents discussing something with him that Harry couldn't hear.

Ron was perusing the periodicals, snickering over a joke in Quidditch Monthly, and Hermione was looking through the books with a singularly hungry look in her eyes. Harry amused himself by leafing through a couple of titles that appeared interesting. He also managed to locate the two books Professor Snape had recommended, Not Quite Unforgivable: The Ethics of Spell-casting and Gray Magic. The first one looked to be a rather amusing read, the authors didn't much care for each other at all, and the entire book was written as a series of letters back and forth between them, with the odd journal or newspaper article thrown in to lend credence to one viewpoint or the other. The second appeared to be a rather straightforward text on how magic could be used for good or evil. Heh, looks like there's a theme with the professor's recommendations this year.

Before long, Harry caught sight of Ginny and Mrs. Weasley through the thick throng of people and stacks of books. They found their way to Arthur, who, surprisingly, had advanced in line quite a bit. Mrs. Weasley leaned down, no doubt to tell Ginny to go locate her books. A couple of minutes later, Harry hurried over to help her, as she had not only her first-year books to contend with, but it looked as though she and her mother had also stopped by the apothecary on the way over; she was also toting her cauldron. Harry knew from experience that those damn things weighed a lot more than they looked.

"Need some help?"

"Thanks," Ginny replied, handing Harry the stack of books.

Harry tucked them into his own stack, "No problema, mi amiga. ¿Qué más?"

Ginny blinked, "Huh?"

"¿Qué más? It means, 'What else?' or 'What more?'"

"What is that, Italian?"

Harry shook his head, "No, Spanish. Mom made me learn."

"Oh. Say something else?"

Harry shrugged, "What?"

"Anything."

"Hmm… Aprendo de memoria muchas cosas; todos los días, algo más nuevo y interesante y un misterio completo presentan. No sé qué hacer, pero aprendo, y me gusta."

"That's really pretty. What's it mean?"

Harry chuckled, "Roughly translated, it means that, basically, I like learning about the wizarding world."

"Is that all?"

Harry shrugged, "I reckon there might've been a li'l more to it, but it don't matter none. But, you never answered what I asked. What else did you need from here?"

"Just Lockhart's books."

Harry nodded and accompanied Ginny back to her parents. Ron and Hermione had already located them. "Oh, there you are, good," said Mrs. Weasley. She sounded breathless and kept patting her hair. "We'll be able to see him in a minute."

Gilderoy Lockhart came slowly into view, seated at a table surrounded by large pictures of his own face, all winking and flashing dazzlingly white teeth at the crowd. The real Lockhart was wearing robes of forget-me-not blue that exactly matched his eyes; his pointed wizard's hat was set at a jaunty angle on his wavy hair. A short, irritable-looking man was dancing around taking photographs with a large black camera that emitted puffs of purple smoke with every blinding flash. "Out of the way, there," he snarled at Ron, moving back to get a better shot. "This is for the Daily Prophet –"

"Whoop-de-do," said Ron, borrowing one of Harry's expressions and rubbing his foot where the photographer had stepped on it.

Gilderoy Lockhart heard him. He looked up. He saw Ron, then Hermione, and then he saw Harry. He stared. Then he leapt to his feet and positively shouted, "It can't be Harry Potter?"

The crowd parted, whispering excitedly; Lockhart dived forward and seized Harry's arm, and pulled him to the front. Though the crowd was bursting into applause, Harry was more than a little angry, and for two reasons. 1) This Pfauhahn obviously hadn't gotten the memo about his name change, and 2) The Pfauhahn just grabbed him without so much as a 'by your leave.' Celebrity or not, Harry wasn't about to let that slide.

He grabbed the Pfauhahn's wrist with his right hand and jerked it off of his arm. In one smooth motion, it was soon pinned behind the Pfauhahn's back, and the Pfauhahn was on his knees, his eyes watering. Harry leaned down to whisper into the man's ear. "Listen up, you damn Pfauhahn, and listen well. You ever lay a hand on me again, you Schlammer, you're gonna lose it, an' I'll make damn sure you won't never get it back. Got it?"

The Pfauhahn nodded.

"Good." Harry let go of his wrist. "And my last name's Brewer, you idiot, or can't you read? I'm sure the paper had to have said somethin' last year." Harry stepped back into the crowd, the entire exchange had taken only a matter of moments, and had been quick enough that most people didn't quite have time to process precisely what they'd seen. As he stepped past the photographer, he tapped the man on the shoulder, and motioned for him to follow Harry. As much as his assignment had been to cover the book-signing only, the photographer was intrigued enough to follow Harry to a quiet corner of the store. "I'll give you a hundred galleons for your camera, and any film you may have already shot of that little incident." Harry said without preamble.

In the background, he could hear Lockhart blathering on about something or other, but he tuned it out. He was more interested in the photographer at this precise moment in time.

"I don't know," the man replied. "This is my job, you know."

"Sure, I know that, but how about I throw in an interview at some point in the future? I really don't want my face in the papers, but I understand it can't be helped. Better if it's on my terms. Interested?"

The man looked offended for a split second before the implications of what Harry had said burst forth in his brain. The man gave a greasy little smile, "Of course, Mr. Brewer. I already have more than enough film for my assignment. I'll be in touch about that interview. Hogwarts, right?"

Harry nodded and handed the man a stack of gold coins. The photographer handed him his camera and disappeared in the crowd. Just then, Harry realized what Lockhart had been droning on about. Great, just wonderful. He's going to be the new Defense professor this year. I wonder… Can assaulting a professor outside of school be a cause for house-point loss or detention? He made a mental note to ask about it as soon as he got the chance. He hurried back over to the waiting Weasleys, but was having difficulty navigating through the packed store.

"Bet you loved that, didn't you, Potter?" a voice Harry had no difficulty recognizing cut through the chatter of the nearby witches and wizards. Harry slowly turned around and found himself face-to-face with Draco Malfoy, who was wearing his habitual sneer. "Famous Harry Potter, can't even go into a bookshop without making the front page."

"Leave him alone, he didn't want that!" Ginny replied before Harry could. She was glaring at Malfoy.

"Looks as though you've got yourself a girlfriend, Potter." Malfoy drawled.

He just doesn't know when to quit! Harry's temper, though slow to come to the surface – in most cases – was still set at a high simmer, and he wasn't in the mood to deal with Krätze. Ginny was bright red and Harry could see that Ron and Hermione, followed closely by the twins and Percy, were trying to get to them, but it was at best a futile attempt what with all the people present and the fact that they all were laden with stacks of books. Harry didn't know what had happened to his own stack of books, he'd dropped them when Lockhart grabbed him. He hoped that one of the Weasleys had picked them up.

"I see you still haven't learned when to shut that mouth of yours, Krätze. I am not in the mood to put up with your shit today, so unless you're in the mood to have that chip knocked clear off your shoulder, you'll shut the hell up."

A somewhat breathless Ron, followed shortly by Hermione, showed up. "Oh… It's you," he said, looking at Malfoy as though he were something unpleasant on the sole of his shoe. "Surprised to see Harry here, are you?"

"Not as surprised as I am to see you in a shop, Weasley," Malfoy retorted. "I suppose your parents will go hungry for a month to pay for all those."

Ron went as red as Ginny had and dropped his books into her cauldron as he started towards the irritating little bugger. He didn't get far, as Percy and the twins had arrived and the twins grabbed a hold of his jacket. Mr. Weasley wasn't far behind them, and Harry could see that he was carrying his books. "What are you doing?" he asked the group of them. "Come on, let's go outside. Molly will call for us when she needs us."

"Well, well, well. Arthur Weasley." A cold voice drawled. Harry turned back to Draco and saw a tall man, pale to the same extent as the Krätze, was speaking. Harry noticed that even their sneers were identical.

"Lucius," Mr. Weasley replied, coolly polite.

"Busy time at the Ministry, I hear," Mr. Malfoy said. "All those raids… I do hope they're paying you overtime?" He reached into Ginny's cauldron and extracted a couple of books, as shiny and new in every way as the Lockhart ones. "Apparently so," Lucius sounded disappointed. "That's all well, then. I mean, what use is being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don't pay you well for it?"

"We have a very different idea as to what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy."

"Clearly," Mr. Malfoy replied, his eyes straying to Mr. and Mrs. Granger who had gravitated closer to keep an eye on their daughter. Lucius made a tsking noise. "The company you keep, Weasley… and I though your family could sink no lower."

At that moment, several things happened simultaneously. There was a thud as the stack of Harry's books hit the floor, another thunk with a metallic undertone as Ginny's cauldron hit the floor, a 'bloody hell' from Ron, who got the cauldron on the same foot the reporter had stomped on earlier, and a low growl from Harry as he launched himself at the taller Malfoy. He even managed to land a particularly well-placed elbow in Draco's solar plexus as he sped by. To the surprise of the remaining Weasleys, Percy was close behind Harry.

Using a combination of the karate lessons he'd had for several years, the street-fighting techniques that Jim and Dave had taught him, and breaking just about every rule his dad and uncle had taught him about fighting, Harry soon had the taller, heavier, and definitely eviler man locked in a rather uncomfortable position. It helped, somewhat, that Percy was also helping keep the man in place. Amid the baffling strings of German and Spanish, the spectators – because by now, there were spectators – heard several sentences coming from the Boy-Who-Lived, "Über Krätze, as your son could prob'ly tell you, money ain't no subs'tute for brains or talent… Ya know, you're almost as much as a Pfauhahn as Lockhart… What kinda man wears a velvet bow…?" A ripping sound followed that comment, and everyone there could see Malfoy senior wince as Harry ripped the bow from his hair. Percy just had a strange, feral little grin at that point.

"Done, Harry?" Hermione quietly asked when he seemed to have run out of interesting ways to slander the Malfoys' ancestry in German, Spanish, and English.

Harry shook himself and let go of the blonde man. "Yeah, I think so." He dropped the black velvet ribbon on Lucius' lap. "Take your damn bow and go, Über Krätze. I just hope you enjoy the thought that two kids managed to best you, and that your own son did nothing to help you." He smirked at Draco, who was still trying to stand up straight and get his breath back. Though Harry was tempted to spit on Lucius – or Draco, he couldn't really tell which deserved it more – he refrained. He had damaged Malfoy's ego enough for the day… really, that applied to either, as well. Who'd've thunk it? The day's looking up again.

Lucius, for his part, merely shot threatening glares at Harry as he composed himself and gathered his son, who looked decidedly worried about the comment Harry had tossed out about him not helping his father. When Lucius and Draco were gone Percy leaned down to whisper in Harry's ear, "You saved the hairs, right?"

Harry nodded, "Of course. You thinkin' what I'm thinkin?"

"I think so, Harry. Get your folks to post you a chunk of cedar wood. It needs to be about twelve inches long and six or eight inches thick. Just the red part of the wood, none of the white. I know you've got cedar trees on your land."

Harry turned slightly to look at Percy. "Um… Huh?"

Percy smiled, "Obviously, we think on different lines. But," he glanced around and saw that his brothers were gathering the dropped books and whatnot, "not here. When we get back to the Burrow."

"Agreed. Thanks for the help. Dunno if I coulda held him down like that without your help."

"Don't worry about it. Although, what with Dad hating Malfoy, I'm surprised he didn't join in."

"Musta just been shocked ta see you did."

Percy chuckled and set to gathering his own purchases together. "You just might be right about that, Harry. Come on, I think Mum's about ready to go."

Though it was an accurate statement, it did nothing to convey the thinly bottled rage boiling just under Molly's seemingly calm demeanor. The rest of their school shopping was done quickly, in strangely subdued silence. Fred and George seemed to be looking at Percy every few minutes as though they'd never met him before, and Molly was caught several times leveling hard stares at Harry. Harry hoped that he hadn't done anything to cause her to send him home for the remainder of the summer… Though, he didn't, in truth, think on that too awfully much. The majority of his thoughts were centered on Lucius Malfoy. And Dobby thinks that idiot is planning to set loose some sort of evil at Hogwarts? Hah! I don't think he could plan his way out of the nearest bathroom. Harry smirked as he threw down a handful of floo powder in the Leaky Cauldron, calling out, "The Burrow!" At least I'll be able to get my hands on that hexed diary or whatever it is; I know I saw Über Krätze tuck something that looked a lot like a ledger into her book… I'll just help Ginny pack for the year – I know her brothers won't help her.


A/N2: Like I said before, the scene everyone seems irked that I cut will be posted to 'Bonus Features' sometime before the end of the day tomorrow.