Chapter 8 : To Market, To Market, and Home Again
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I ran into Ron in the hallway shortly after I awoke. We danced back and forth, each trying to get out of the other's way, neither making eye contact. Finally, we simply turned around and went in opposite directions, him down and me up. This was not a good start to the day. Harry's Birthday.
At breakfast, while playing with his eggs. Harry paused to say, "I had the weirdest dream last night..."
Heart racing, I chanced a look at Ron. He did not meet my gaze, but his fork had stilled and his ears were red. There was no way Harry had seen anything, right?
"Some man brought my father and his friends from the past in a blue box. Dad could barely say my name and he and Sirius kept trying to sleep with everyone..." He shook his head as we now all cast wide-eyed glances at him. "And then my kids from the future showed up- it was strange."
I laughed more out of relief than for the dream. "Don't read The Quibbler before you go to bed," I teased. "Mr. Lovegood just did an article on blue boxes last issue." He frowned at me and I grinned back, giving his foot a shove under the table with mine. "Happy birthday, Harry."
It was not as joyful as we had hoped it to be. Mrs. Weasley enlisted Hermione, Ginny, and myself to help make a cake and a nice meal of his favorites. The entire effect was sullied by Remus Lupin, our old teacher. It wasn't so much him- we were all delighted to see him- but rather his news. It was a not-so pleasant distraction from my internal turmoil.
In addition to the flood of deaths and disappearances we had been hearing about from Mr. Weasley, Bill, and The Daily Prophet, Remus brought news of two new dementor attacks and the death of Igor Karkaroff.
"I was surprised that he lasted as long as he did," he admitted. "As I recall, Regulus, Sirius' brother, only lasted a few days when he deserted the Death Eaters."
The old professor's gaze caught mine staring. I felt put on the spot somehow even though he was addressing the room as a whole. He took a bite of cake and the conversation turned to other disappearances; Florean Fortescue and Ollivander. I shuddered to think what had become of Diagon Alley these days.
"So, Miss Stone," Remus said to me in a lull of conversation, "what ever happened to your bright blue hair?" He smiled but it didn't seem to hold any real amusement. His generously grey streaked hair, scars, and ragged clothes were doing much to take away from the usual light-heartedness he tried to keep up when he had taught at Hogwarts.
"Oh, well, you'll have to speak to my hair dresser about that," I told him, giving Ginny a nudge next to me. At school, the blue he spoke of was my preferred choice.
"But the blond goes so much better with the black!" she said. "It gives you a nice classic look like you walked out of Muggle London in the fifties! Or at least that's what Hermione says." Ginny then shoved Hermione next to her.
"I just gave an opinion, I didn't say I was a fashion consultant!" she snapped. The bruise from Fred and George's mysterious punching product was still as dark and big as ever on her face and after three weeks, she was starting to get agitated.
It was an amusing segue that helped try to brighten Harry's day, which we tried to continue. We managed to squeeze in a quick match after cake with the whole house of spectators coming to watch. Ginny conned Bill into playing so that we had an even three-on-three game, boys against girls. The boys won, and to be honest, we sort of let them. It was Harry's birthday, after all.
Later in the evening we handed over hand made gifts. Nothing too fancy since no one had money to order anything, but nice all the same. We fell into our normal ritual of talking late into the night and it was not lost on Ginny at all that Ron was making a point to not start a conversation with me or I with him. When I happened to be brought into one of his conversations, such as for an opinion, he would merely nod or grunt his response. He also went to bed first, which was a phenomenon that had previously never occurred. Ginny looked at me with raised eyebrows and all I could do was shrug. I couldn't bring my self to discuss what had happened and was just as willing to avoid the subject as Ron was.
There was the blessed disctraction of school letters coming in during breakfast the next morning and there were two heavy THUNKS! as the envelopes landed on the table. A mess of hands grabbed for the ones with their names scrawled across them. I was not pleased to discover that mine had been one of the thunks. The other had been Harry's, who had been made Gryffindor Quidditch Captain. As I was sure that my thunk was not a Captain's badge, I opened to discover my Prefect's badge instead.
I groaned. "I guess I shouldn't have been such a model student. I knew I should have hung around Fred and George more! Is it too late to learn their ways of mischief?"
"Now, dear," Mrs. Weasley began, casting an adoring look at the badge in my hand, "being selected as a Prefect is a very exciting thing and a great privilidge! And it speaks volumes about what your head of house and headmaster think of you. You should be proud!"
I had to study for O.W.L.s this year on top of Quidditch and as a Ravenclaw, studying took up a very large chunk of my time. Having to take time to patrol the hallways for rule breakers was not what I wanted to be proud of.
I sighed and let my shoulders drop as I dug out my school list for this year. I found another piece of parchment that was rather out of place. It was sealed all on it's own and when I opened it, the ink inside was black, not emerald.
I trust your stay with the Weasley's has not been too arduous for you. After keeping a watchful eye, I feel that you are free to go home for the rest of the summer. I've already owled your parents the news via your sister's school letter and made the necessary arrangements for you to meet with them in Diagon Alley this weekend if that is acceptable to Molly.
Please have her send word back as soon as possible.
P.S. Congratulations on your Prefect Badge.
I was not pulled from my staring at a letter I hadn't thought would come until Mrs. Weasley's voice rose dangerously high and I realized she was yelling at Ron about something. He grumbled about not being able to make jokes under his breath. I chose not to ask and merely showed the letter to Mrs. Weasley who scanned it quickly.
"Well then, it's decided. I'll tell Arthur we just have to go on Saturday." She didn't say another word, but ran off to fetch a quill and send her reply back with one of the more reliable Hogwarts owls.
Over the next few days, I felt like I should have been packing up my belongings and saying goodbyes, but that was silly. For one, I had no belongings here. For two, we were all going back to school in a few weeks. We'd see each other on the train. It's not like we wouldn't still be friends. I was being ridiculous. The thing was, for as much as I had kept hoping to go home, now I didn't want to leave.
"Guess you'll be able to go see Terry, then," Ron had said when I told the lot of them about the letter.
I offered no reply and Ginny pinned me with yet another questioning look. I didn't reply to that, either. Gin was nice, but I didn't think I should be pouring my heart out to her- not with her being Ron's little sister. Maybe I'd write when I got back- when we weren't all in such close quarters. Still, it didn't sit well with me that he had gotten to take such a shot. Well, maybe we wouldn't still be friends at school.
When Saturday finally arrived, I had somehow gotten myself worked up over other things. I didn't know if I wanted to go home or stay more. Staying meant dealing with Ron and the ever growing tension- it meant avoiding conversation and close contact. Going home meant -and I don't know why I didn't think about this before- dealing with my family and the secrets they had apparently been keeping about their pasts. Actually confronting my parents. I know in the end I didn't have a choice in the matter, but the idea that I did was comforting.
I was so distracted that I completely missed the joke at breakfast that made Harry choke on his cereal. The last joke to be in on in the Weasley house and I missed it.
It was cold and murky today and I was given an old cloak that barely fell to my knees, but at least it was something. Sadly, I was wearing my clothes from the day I had left and they were more suited to warmer weather. Outside waiting for them stood an old-fashioned looking car. The color was green and it matched the velvet suit of the driver. I couldn't help but wrinkle my nose at it. Us five teenagers lumbered into the backseat and I was surprised at how roomy it was. I was also confused as to how I managed to get stuck in the middle, flanked by both Weasleys. I hated the middle.
Ron seemed to either be egging me or ignoring me as he stretched out his long legs to make himself more comfortable. Even with my own legs pressed firmly together, making myself as small as possible, his thigh was still pressed up to mine. I pursed my lips and looked forward. I tried to scoot closer to Ginny, but Ron only seemed to widen himself more.
There was some exchange between him and his parents -they were in the front seat with the driver- but I didn't catch any of it as all I could concentrate on was his leg and all I could do was fill my thoughts with Terry. It was almost out of spite.
As we drove, his leg seemed to press more and more tightly against mine, or maybe the car was getting smaller, or maybe- I don't know, but it was down right irritating! Just as I had finally turned to tell him off, the car had come to a stop in front of the familiar pub that acted as a front to the magical alley behind it. Ron turned to look back at me, arching an eyebrow.
"Will you move already?!" Hermione said hotly from two spaces back. She, more than anyone, had been looking forward to coming to Diagon Alley for almost a month.
Ron cast an annoyed glare toward her before looking back at me. I merely smirked and raised my eyebrows, mouthing the word. 'Move.'
By the time we were all out of the car, Harry was rubbing his probably bruised ribs and talking to Hagrid, the Care of Magical Creatures teacher. I was actually in that class. It was as terrifying as it was fascinating and at least one person left class everyday with some sort of wound. I couldn't wait for the N.E.W.T. level.
The half giant began to usher us all into the Leaky Cauldron which was... Absolutely empty. I couldn't stop my jaw from falling open as the normally bustling pub had only the owner standing behind the counter. His face lifted with hope that was immediately dashed when Hagrid told him we were only passing through and we moved on to the small courtyard. The whole while, I kept Ginny between me and her brother whether she realized that's what I was doing or not.
Hagrid opened the way to Diagon and as we stepped through, it was impossible to ignore what the consequences of war had done to the busy street of shops. Half the street was boarded up, unfamiliar stalls with wild claims about their wares were set up in front of most stores, and everything was covered in Ministry signs and Wanted posters. What was once an other-worldly place now looked no different from any muggle alley in London, save the moving pictures.
One of the amulet vendors tried to sell the Weasley's one for Ginny and we hurried on by, Mrs. Weasley far more distracted by her shopping list than her husband's desire to arrest the man. It was quickly decided that we should split up- I went with Ginny and her parents to buy books while Hagrid took the other three to Madam Malkin's. I must have been a little too relieved to be out of Ron's presence, because the moment he was out of earshot, Ginny pounced.
"What's going on there, then?" she demanded. She cast a frown over her shoulder at her brother's retreating figure and then put it upon me.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I said firmly. We entered the book shop on the heels of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and the purple propoganda had flooded inside as well. I made a face, but went with Ginny and our list to find the books we needed this year.
"You and Ron have barely even looked at each other in a week!" she hissed as we scanned the shelves. "It's like you've just gotten here all over again. What's happened? I thought you two were progressing quite nicely..."
"Progressing toward what, exactly?" I knew what Ginny thought and she was far too near the head of the nail for comfort.
"Stop beating around the bush!" She looked around to make sure her parents -or any other shoppers- weren't around. "You both obviously like each other! I don't understand why this is going backwards all of a sudden. It's been such a good summer, breeding dementors and family secrets aside."
I turned toward her, pushing a finger in her face. She looked like she might bite it off, so I pulled back slightly. "Ginny, I have told you and told you. I. Am. With. Terry. I like Terry. That's why he is my boyfriend. We've had a good summer and I don't want to end it like this, alright?" The firm line of my mouth wavered. "I don't want to have a fight with my new best friend in a purple covered book shop."
Ginny pouted silently for a moment. "I'm your best friend?" she asked finally.
Rolling my eyes at her, I drew her into a hug. "How could you not be? We've suffered through each other for three weeks under the same roof."
Her slender arms wrapped around me. "I've never had a best friend before."
"How is that possible?" I asked.
"Well... I dunno. I'm always around all the boys and the girls at school don't really like me. Except Luna, but it's not like we hang out a lot..." She shrugged, making her shoulder jolt into my chin. I held back a cry of pain as I bit my tongue. I pulled back, making a face. The hug had been long enough.
"Well, we ca' hang ou' a' schoo'," I promised her. I saw her wince as she realized my calamity. I shrugged it off. "An' Loona an' I are aw'ways togever- bugger, it hurts! Gin, you are one of my best friends now- get used to it! Ow..."
She laughed which made me laugh and we hurried to collect our new books, making it to the register in time before Mrs. Weasley sent out a search party. As I had no money on me and according to Bill, the wait at Gringott's was hours long, Harry was covering my books under the agreement that my parents would reimburse him when we met up (though he had insisted against it. Rich people. Honestly.)
As we headed back out and toward Madam Malkin's, the timing seemed to be perfect as we could see Harry, Ron, and Hermione just exiting the shop, bags in hand. We stopped at the Apothecary where I insisted that Harry should buy potion ingredients anyway. This insistence was for Ron, too, of course. Just indirectly.
"If you're right, I'll use what's in the school cupboards and send out an order. Otherwise, I don't see the point or why Dumbledore would have replaced Snape anyway," he said after my last insistence.
"Could have been sacked!" Ginny put in from the other side of a shelf.
There was one last stop to the Owl Emporium and I declined Harry's offer to buy food for the owl I didn't even have with me. We kept loads of feed at home anyway.
The next stop was Fred and George's shop and I could hardly wait. It was also the expected meeting place of my family and I was a little apprehensive. This is the definition of conflicted. As Mrs. Weasley counted shop numbers, the rest of us were already in awe of the spectacle at the end of the street, as were many of the shoppers passing by who stopped to stare. Ron very well summed it up in one whispered word- "Whoa."
One window had a huge sign, purple as if to mock the Ministry posters all around it. The other had all sorts of things flashing and popping and running amuck. The door was adorned with what looked like a toilet seat. It was engraved with a Hogwarts H and two W's. Ginny giggled.
"That's my toilet seat," she said proudly.
I cast her a sidelong glance. "Are you sure you want to claim it?"
"'Course I do! Ron's first year of school, they promised they'd get me a Hogwarts toilet seat." She grinned. We were all laughing- well, except for Mr. And Mrs. Weasley. Molly in particular looked very much at a loss for a reaction.
Harry and Ron began to lead the way in when a voice called out, "Piper!"
We stopped and turned and I spied my tall, dark and handsome boyfriend standing over with my family (sans Jake). Despite my apprehension over dealing with my new found knowledge, I sagged with relief at the sight of them. I ran over and I did not squeal (but I may have squealed) as I jumped into Terry Boot's waiting arms. I couldn't see if Ginny and Ron were watching, but supposing that they were, to put all doubt to rest, I pressed my lips firmly to Terry's as his arms pulled be closer. It wasn't awkward. It also wasn't fireworks.
I pulled back, grinning. "I missed you so-"
"-ove you," he was saying.
I half frowned, confused. "I missed you," I said again and again, he spoke at the same time. Did he say I love you? We stared curiously at one another for a moment as if we were speaking different languages. That was when I noticed the face hover closely over Terry's shoulder. It was my own face, but that didn't make it any less startling. I jumped a bit and hissed my displeasure. "Momo!"
"What?" she pouted. "I missed you, too!" Awkwardly, she put her arms around both Terry and myself. I let it go on for a moment before I wiggled free of the both of them.
"We can hug more later." I glanced over at my parents.
Mum was smiling and dad looked tense. He glanced over at the Weasley's and Harry and then called out, "Arthur!" before striding toward the Weasley Patriarch.
What? I looked back at my mother, but she remained impassive. On impulse, I put my arms around Terry's neck again and pulled myself to his ear. "I live at Number 3 Privet Drive and you are not staying in a hotel tonight," I whispered.
Morgan's face appeared next to mine again, wide eyed as she hissed, "What are you doing?"
I ignored her and kissed Terry's cheek. "We were just about to check out Fred and George's shop! Come in!"
We turned about and Terry slung an arm over my shoulder as he walked me back to my original group, Morgan and Mum in tow. Mr. Weasley stood with my father off to the side, speaking in low tones I couldn't begin to try to overhear. Ron was glowering at me. Harry was glowering at Terry. Ginny looked like she was enjoying the show. Mrs. Weasley couldn't stop staring at the 'U-No-Poo' sign.
"Potter!" Terry said as we stopped. "I might have known it was you. Would you mind going at least one year without getting my girlfriend wrapped up in your adventures?"
Harry's eyebrows shot up and he frowned. "You've only just started dating her this year," he replied. "I didn't know there were rules. Send me a memo next time. Besides, I expect she was just bored of the summer she was already having."
Ginny snickered and I flushed, trying to think of how to put this fire out now. "I thought there were Death Eaters- I ran to Harry's house. If there were Death Eaters, they would have been after him anyway- I had to warn him."
"What if they had been after you?" he crooned, nuzzling my hair. I wanted to retort that they had no reason to be after me, but I eyed my father finishing his mysterious conversation with Mr. Weasley and I couldn't bring myself to lie. What if they had been after me?
"Well, it wasn't Death Eaters. I got myself into a jam. It wasn't Harry's fault. Besides, I have a new best friend." I grinned at Ginny. "Slytherin sister, Gryffindor best friend- I'm one step closer to house unity! I think the sorting hat would be proud." I looked up at Terry with a smile. He grinned and kissed my head. I thought I heard a gagging noise, but I ignored that as well.
"Are you more Weasleys?" asked a decidedly Scottish voice. We turned to see a smiling young woman sticking her head out of the shop door, hair as red as any Weasley, dressed in magenta robes. "Come in! They're waiting for you! I promise, it's not a toilet shop!" Giggling, she opened the door wide to let the eleven of us in. Hagrid wisely stayed outside to stand guard.
It wasn't easy. The place was packed! Terry had to remove his arm from my shoulder just to get in. I couldn't get near any of the displays, but they looked wonderful. Someone grabbed my arm and hoisted it into the air. "Oi, Fred! How much can we get for selling a Metamorphmagus? That's a pretty good magic trick!"
I wrenched my arm from George's grasp and smacked him. "That's not very nice! What am I, a piece of meat?"
"No, but I bet you'd bring in a ton of gold. Do you want a job?" he asked, grinning.
"I'm still in school," I replied. "And I plan on finishing, so no trying to convince me to drop out." I used to run into Fred and George all the time in the beginning. Being beater's themselves, they had taken a bit of an interest in me and my condition as both a twin and a Metamorphmagus. They had also always been trying to get me to try their latest inventions. I did not like being a guinea pig. "Besides, it doesn't look like you need help bringing in gold."
People of all ages had crammed in here and there seemed to be something for everyone- there was even an entirely pink section for girls. Toward the back, the red haired girl who ushered us in was near a muggle magic-trick novelty rack looking every bit a magician as she performed the tricks for onlookers. Mr. Weasley was entranced.
"Is that Emily, then?" I asked, nodding to the girl. Ginny had read me a letter from George that he had sent much earlier in the summer, talking about the shop and their first employee, Emily.
"Yeah... That's Emily," George replied. I watched as Fred stopped to kiss her on the cheek as he was leading various members of our party about the store.
"And she doesn't know that you...?" I turned to give him an apologetic smile. "Ginny and I got pretty close the last few weeks."
He smiled back and shook his head. "I'll get over it. I always do." He glanced about. "You'll have to excuse me. Fred's about to show Harry the back and I want to see the look on his face."
"Go on, then," I said. I was going to miss those two this year. Actually, no. I wouldn't. Quidditch would be easier without them.
Morgan appeared and dragged me to one end of the shop. Moments later, Terry grabbed me to take me to the other end. Ginny then arrived to take me upstairs. I ended up with half a dozen things in my arms and I wasn't sure what they all were, but I knew I needed them. I was off with Morgan again when I heard a clatter- I turned to see Ron making a rude gesture at his brother, boxes at his feet and his mum scolding him. Ginny turned around to say something and then spotted me, waving my sister and I over.
It was hard getting through, but we made it and bent over the cage of little puff balls with her and Mrs. Weasley.
"They're so cute," Morgan purred. "Do they come in green?"
"I'm sure you could use a color changing enchantment," Ginny replied. "Mum, can I please have one?"
Mrs. Weasley sighed heavily. "Ginny, I-"
"We'll take three," I said suddenly. I glanced over at Ginny. "I need to get you a birthday present anyway." I grinned.
We managed to get one of the twins' attention to get us three Pygmi Puffs with cages and food. I went to my mother for the money, not knowing where my father was and not wanting to talk to him yet anyway. I know they were both equally guilty of lying, but in my head, Mum was less guilty. After we had our bags, I told her that Harry had bought my books and she gave me the money to replace what he spent.
But I couldn't find him. Or Ron or Hermione, for that matter. I asked Ginny and she shrugged. "Maybe they're in the back with one of the twins," she suggested.
I entrusted her with the money and said my goodbyes to the members I could find as Mum ushered us out the door. Hagrid bellowed a goodbye. Terry came to my side, taking all my bags in one hand with his own and taking my hand with his free one. I rolled my eyes, but we went on our way all the same. I kept my new pet in my other hand, trying to decide on a name and hoping that Otus didn't eat it.
One other strange thing happened as we were leaving- a woman, tall and slender with blonde hair, stopped to ask if we had seen her son. She was about to give us his name and what he looked like, but then she took one look at my father. He stiffened, she went stone faced. Without another word, she walked past, continuing her search.
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