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SIYE Time:13:02 on 21st July 2024
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No Strings Attached
By Dianne

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Category: First Week Challenge (2008-2)
Characters:All
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Comedy, Fluff, General, Humor
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: G
Reviews: 8
Summary: Life is like a box of Chocolate Frogs, you never know what you're gonna get.
Hitcount: Story Total: 4566



Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.



Author's Notes:
Thanks to my beta, Bowtrunckle.




ChapterPrinter


Harry Potter must not return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry Potter rolled over, hearing Dobby’s warning even in his sleep. He woke in time to feel his face slam into the floor. He cracked one eye open, blinking bits of hand-knotted rug out of his eyes. After banging his head on the underside of the cot in Ron’s bedroom, he decided to lie on the floor until his wits were more awake. It was a miracle Harry had made it to The Burrow at all after Dobby the House-elf had all but gotten him suspended from school for his alleged use of Underage Magic.

Harry found himself looking over his shoulder a lot after Dobby’s visit and was glad to be going back to school for his second year today. Surely at Hogwarts, the House-elf would not be able to pester him about staying in Little Whinging.

There really should be a book about magical creatures for Muggle-borns, Harry mused. He got to his feet and looked out the window. The early morning sun revealed the gnomes he and Ron had evicted the day before struggling over the garden wall. They were almost as ugly as House-elves.

As Ron snored, Harry heard a sharp hiss. He peaked out of the door of the bedroom to see a cat dressed in a jumper swatting at a fly that hovered annoyingly out of reach of its sharp claws. The fly flew past Harry to hover just above Ron’s long nose. The cat dove onto Ron’s face.

“Geroff me!” yelled Ron, launching the cat off his face. Red, pin-size prick marks appeared among the many freckles on Ron’s face as Harry tried not to laugh.

Ron calmed down and pulled on a house robe. He looked in the mirror.

“The pox! You have Dragon Pox!” the mirror exclaimed until Ron shut it up with a flick of his wand.

“It’s not the pox!” Ron yelled at the mirror as he dabbed at the claw marks with a cloth.

“Ron, you’d better be quiet. If your mum hears anything about Dragon Pox, she’ll be up here with a thermometer,” Harry warned. “Or worse, if she sees those marks and finds out the cat went mental on your face, she’ll have you both checked for rabies.”

“No wonder the stupid cat’s mental. It’s a male and Ginny keeps dressing it up in girl clothes,” Ron complained.

Harry was about to point out that cats don’t like being dressed at all, when he spotted Ginny hidden on the other side of the landing. Harry watched silently as Ginny reeled in an invisible fishing line to which the fly was tied. Ginny’s eyes grew wide as she realized that Harry had caught her. She gave a shy smile as she backed down the stairs, bumping into the wall of the next landing before turning the corner out of sight.

Ron continued to fuss with his face. Harry said nothing about Ginny’s prank.

Breakfast was a hurried affair. Hermione was the only one who was truly awake, and she talked excitedly about the upcoming year. Harry was looking forward to playing Quidditch but he couldn’t shake Dobby’s dire warnings that terrible things would befall him if he returned to Hogwarts.

On their way to London in Mr. Weasley’s magiced car Harry continually looked around, aware of his surroundings at all times, sometimes imagining bushes and shrubs moving without any wind as he and the Weasleys arrived at King’s Cross Station.

“Harry, you’re crushing me,” Hermione complained as Harry shifted to stare out the back window as she got out of the car.

People stared in amazement as the Weasleys exited the car. Some even applauded, clearly thinking it was a rendition of a circus clown car. Fred and George took bows while Percy shook his head and made his way to the station without a backwards glance at his family. Ginny picked up her trunk and struggled to put it on the trolley. Harry intended to give it a little shove to help her out but ended up sending her reeling backward onto the pavement.

Mr. Weasley helped Ginny up before Harry could even get to the other side of the trolley to give her a hand.

“I’m sorry, Ginny,” Harry said. He was sure he’d only given the trunk a little push …

It was a short walk into the station but it was riddled with more minor mishaps for Harry than last year. Harry was certain that he’d seen Dobby shaking his wrinkled finger at him as he slipped into the station pushing his trolley. As Harry and the Weasleys stepped through the barrier between platforms nine and ten, Harry let out a little sigh of relief when he did not see the little elf follow.

“Don’t worry about that old House-elf, Harry. I’d imagine he’s just been called off his prank and sent back to whatever mansion he came from. Maybe when we get to school we can figure out if it was Malfoy who sent him,” said Ron, plopping down into a seat.

“Yeah,” said Harry, feeling slightly more at ease as he took his seat with Ron and Hermione.

Harry moved Hedwig’s cage from the seat beside him as Ginny peaked into their compartment.
“Go make friends, Ginny,” Ron said, placing Scabbers in the vacated seat.

Not about to admit she needed any charity on her first day, Ginny stuck her tongue out at Ron and walked off down the hall and into a compartment. Harry felt a bit sorry for her. He knew how lonely he would have felt on his first day if Ron hadn’t sat with him.

The train bumped along for a few hours. The sweet trolley’s wheels squeaked its arrival further down the train car and everyone shifted to reach into their pockets for coins.

“Anything from the trolleys?” A female voice called out long before the goodies arrived at their door.

Harry knew that Ginny didn’t have any coins. Mrs Weasley had packed them all lunches but he always bought treats enough for everyone.

“I’ll be right back,” Harry announced.

“But you’ll miss the trolley,” Ron said, holding up his squashed corned beef sandwiches and looking forlorn.

Harry made his way down the narrow corridor and stopped just far back enough so he could peak into the compartment Ginny was in. His eyes grew wide. There sat Ginny with a toilet seat in her hands deep in thought.

“If your brothers dared you to put it back, then you should,” came a voice Harry didn’t recognize from the other side of the compartment.

“Fred and George told me they’d send me a toilet seat from Hogwarts last year,” Ginny said. “I didn’t think they were serious. I should have known there were strings attached.”

“I don’t see any strings,” said the dreamy voice.”

“I didn’t mean literally,” Ginny said, and Harry could see her shaking her head and smiling.

“Oh,” said the voice. “Well, Dad says that toilet seats in boys’ loos at Hogwarts have strings on them so they can raise and lower the seats without touching them. Boys are messy and they can’t use their wands to raise the seats because they’re … well, busy.”

“Guess I’ll find out,” said Ginny grimly.

Harry smiled. Trust Fred and George to already have their little sister primed to get into trouble by sneaking into the boys’ loo.

The girl in the compartment with Ginny stood up. She was short and had messy blonde hair. Harry didn’t feel like explaining that yes, he was Harry Potter, and yes, he did have the scar, so he ducked into a compartment across the hall to avoid being caught lurking or having to meet a first year just now. The compartment appeared empty until…

“Ah, sir, you have chosen to board the train.” Dobby the House-elf jumped down from an overhead rack looking grim.

“Dobby, what are you doing here?”

“Dobby has tried expulsion, begging, pleading. Now Dobby has no choice but to---”

“Harry is that you?” said Ginny sliding open the compartment door and looking around. “I thought I heard you talking to someone.”

Harry spun around only to find an empty compartment.

“Er, no,” Harry told her even though he could feel the little elf’s shrewd gaze.

“Well … I’d better be going back to my compartment,” Harry told Ginny.

“Are you okay, Harry?” Ginny asked, her cheeks in full blush as she shuffled backwards toward her compartment with her back the wall, falling into the open doorway. She got to her feet and dusted herself off.

“I’m good. Are you okay?” Harry asked, forgetting all about Dobby as Ginny scooted up off the floor only to sit down on the toilet seat that was perched on the train seat. The drapes across the window closed quickly across Ginny’s mortified expression.

“Just fine,” came the reply from Ginny and Harry heard the unmistakable sound of a toilet seat closing and hitting the floor.

Harry sighed happily, knowing that Ginny had someone to talk to in her compartment and it wasn’t until he heard. “I see …” that he remembered Dobby at all.

“As Dobby said, he tried expulsion, begging, pleading, now Dobby must try matters of the heart.”

Harry was just about to grab the little elf when he vanished just like he’d done after he’d unleashed the meringue mountain on Uncle Vernon’s guests.

“Dobby no!” Harry yelled to thin air.

“If it’s not the famous Potter in a compartment alone with the female weasel,” a voice drawled. “She doesn’t look too happy with you.” Draco Malfoy’s eyes darted from the compartment Ginny had just left to the curtained one she was in now.

“Shut it, Malfoy,” was all Harry had time to say. Thankfully Crabbe and Goyle were more interested in the fast approaching trolley than in backing him up. Harry was about to shove past Malfoy when he stopped, his eyes going round. Dobby peaked out from the white linen tablecloth on the bottom shelf of the trolley.

The trolley stopped outside of Ginny’s compartment and the elderly witch knocked on the door. Ginny peaked her head out. Harry saw to his horror, that the old witch handed her a package of chocolate frogs with a ribbon tied around it and a tag.

Harry coughed loudly, causing Ginny to look up in concern. As he continued to cough, he pulled his wand from beneath his robes.

“Accio Chocolate Frogs!” he commanded in disguised cough-talk. The frogs flew into his hand, and sure enough when Harry bent low, feigning choking, he could see the label, which read:

To Ginny Weasley with my undying love.

Her eyes are like mud pies.
Sharp as needles on pine
She’s simply divine
Wish she were mine…


Harry ripped off the tags and ribbon. When he stood, he apologized and made the excuse that he must have accidentally Accioed her frogs. He handed the plainly wrapped frogs to her, muttering under his breath about killing Dobby.

“I can’t hear you, Harry,” said Ginny, patting him rather harder than was necessary to ease his cough.

“Do all first years get free Chocolate Frogs?” asked Ginny.

“Er, yes,” Harry told her, relieved at not having to come up with an excuse why the old witch had given her free frogs.

“Well, see you,” Harry said as Ginny’s new friend returned to her seat.

Harry stretched his back out as he walked back to his compartment. Ginny was stronger than she looked and he half expected he’d be bruised from her pounding on his back while he choked.

“You missed the trolley, Harry,” Ron said as Harry entered their compartment.

Harry was just about to give Ron some coins to chase down the trolley when Draco Malfoy ran past their compartment with a toilet seat over his head. Crabbe and Goyle were at Malfoy’s heels. Crabbe reached out to extricate his friend from the toilet seat but instead succeeded only in choking the blonde, causing him to sprawl headlong.

“If you’d stop for a minute, maybe we could blast it off,” yelled Goyle.

“I’m not letting you near me with your wand!” Shouted Malfoy, getting to his feet. “Just pull it off!”

By now people were staring out their compartment doors and Malfoy sprinted again.

Ron got up to follow the Slytherins and laugh at their predicament. Hermione got up too, shrugging her shoulders, saying that it would be worth a look to find out how Draco had come to have his head shoved into such a fitting frame.

Harry watched until Ron and Hermione were out of sight and made his way down the corridor to Ginny’s compartment. Ginny was sitting smugly popping her chocolate frog into her mouth with a contented sigh.

“Are you okay?” Harry asked.

“Perfectly,” Ginny replied. “Malfoy told me first years get their heads stuck in the loo during the first week of school. I told him to go first.”

“She was quite brilliant,” the girl seated opposite Ginny told Harry. “Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and ask the trolley witch why I didn’t get my complimentary Chocolate Frog like Ginny. I do hope the rest weren’t eaten by Stinkups that might have jumped off Ginny’s toilet seat necklace.”

“So how did you get the toilet seat around Malfoy’s neck?” Harry asked in awe. Ginny was much smaller than Malfoy and his cronies.

“You don’t live with Fred and George all your life and not learn how to flush someone on dry land,” Ginny said.

Harry had a feeling that Ginny had spent her whole life picking up useful skills from her brothers. If he was impressed by her clever fly prank sans-magic back at the Burrow, it was nothing compared to what she could do with a wand apparently.

Note to self. Do not cross this girl, Harry told himself.

“But I do need to get that toilet seat back,” Ginny said looking down at her hands. “I have to put it back.

Harry knew what it was like to deal with Malfoy. He was also fairly sure that if it was a one on one sort of situation, Ginny would fair well in getting the toilet seat back from Malfoy. Harry also knew that Ginny hated relying on her brothers for help. Sure, they’d help her if she asked, but Harry knew she’d never hear the end of it, might even end up doing chores for them around the castle for her entire first year in repayment.

“Come on, then … let’s go get it,” said Harry.

Ginny looked up at him, but quickly cast around for something to give him in return. She seized one of the chocolate frogs and broke it in two before it had gotten in its one good jump. The two halves of the frog sprinted into two different directions, the rear end leaping right into Harry’s mouth, its long legs dangling by his chin. Ginny caught the head and squished it tightly in her fingers until it stopped trying to jump away.

“Sorry, Harry,” Ginny said.

“S’okay. M’fine,” Harry told her, eating the chocolate.

“You have a bit of chocolate left on your chin,” Ginny said, reaching up but drawing her hand away with a shocked look on her face.

Harry wiped his mouth and reminded her that she had chocolate on her hands. He handed her a tissue.

Ginny followed him out of the compartment. Harry and Ginny ducked low to go past the compartment where Ron and Hermione were once again seated. As they passed, Hermione was bragging that she knew a spell that would get the toilet seat off Malfoy’s shoulders.

“That’s why we love ... er … that’s why we think you’re so clever, Hermione.” Ron’s voice filtered through the open door. Harry rolled his eyes.

“What are we going to do?” asked Ginny. “I can’t do that spell Hermione was just talking about.”

“Neither can I,” admitted Harry, though he felt like bragging for some reason.

Several cars ahead, Harry and Ginny found the Slytherins. “Go get that Weaslette and bring her up here. She better get this off of me!” Malfoy ordered Crabbe and Goyle who immediately started off in Harry and Ginny’s direction.

Harry grabbed Ginny’s shoulders and pulled her into the nearest compartment, which turned out to be the boys’ loo. Ginny gave a small scream and Harry instinctively reached out to put his hand on her mouth. She gave him a small bite that didn’t so much hurt but made its point.

“Sorry. But at least now you’ll have practice being in a blokes’ loo.”

Ginny peered about the tiny room with narrowed eyes, looking for the alleged string on the toilet seat. Harry smiled and followed her gaze, spotting a plunger on the floor. Ginny wrinkled her nose in disgust as Harry picked up the plunger.

“Well, you need the toilet seat back, right?” Harry asked.

Harry opened the door a crack to see Malfoy still struggling with the toilet seat in the hall. He aimed his wand at the plunger and sent it flying toward Draco.

Draco’s eyes widened in surprise and horror as Harry stepped out of the loo and shouted, “Regurgitalia!”

The plunger stuck onto Malfoy’s forehead and began to make heavy suctioning noises as it plunged up and down. With each plunge, Malfoy was shoved to his knees and yanked back up to his feet. The skin on Malfoy’s forehead grew red and stretched until … THWACK! The plunger lost its suction.The toilet seat flew off Malfoy’s head and straight for the returning Crabbe and Goyle. Having no time to duck, Goyle caught the full force of the plunger. He fell back, knocking Crabbe into a compartment of second year Hufflepuffs. Crabbe was quickly evicted with a few well-aimed curses.

Malfoy ran into the boys’ loo and could be heard moaning and trying various self-healing charms to get the massive purple bruise off his forehead.

Harry Accioed the toilet seat as Crabbe and Goyle got to their feet and he and Ginny took off down the corridor.

“Thanks, Harry,” Ginny said, once outside her compartment. Ginny stuck her hand out and Harry placed the toilet seat on her finger.

“Will you take this toilet seat and put it back as a symbol of anti-Slytherin solidarity?” Harry said formally.

“I will,” Ginny vowed, trying to sound serious.

Harry didn’t let go of the toilet seat. He was used to people staring at his scar at the very least, but even in this close proximity, Ginny did not gaze above his hairline. She stole quick glances up into his eyes, her fiery hair falling off her shoulders when she looked away. Even Ron had stared at his scar. It wasn’t that Harry minded so much, but he was filled with warmth to have someone see him first and not his scar.

“Thanks,” Harry said, wishing he could take it back.

“For what? You did me the favour,” Ginny smiled.

“Er … yeah.” Harry shuffled his feet.

“Oh! I get it! My Auntie Muriel said she was quite the looker when she was young and she often had to remind the gentlemen to er … look up so to speak … and, your scar …” Ginny clapped her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide.

“Yeah, something like that …” Harry stammered. “Well, see you, Gin … Ginny. Maybe you should lock your compartment door,” Harry suggested.

“Nonsense, I have a fair few other tricks up my sleeve if those boys come back.”

Harry didn’t doubt it for a minute. But he did wonder how Ginny could be so confident in some matters but be so clumsy and unsure whenever he was around and there were no bullies to be fought or other such distractions.

The rest of the train trip was uneventful. When they arrived in Hogsmeade, everyone jostled off the train in a flurry of excitement. Harry spent a great deal of time trying to look like he wasn’t trying to make sure Ginny got into Hagrid’s boats safely.

As Harry, Ron and Hermione’s carriage finally fell into place, it began to rain. Thunder roared and lightning flashed across the sky. Looking back through the darkness, Harry saw Malfoy slip out of his carriage and crouch next to the lake. Malfoy’s arm swung out and small bits of what looked like Pumpkin Pastilles flew from his open palm.

The dark water rippled and several excited tentacles emerged from the depths, causing a great wake in which the small boats full of first years, pitched and rocked. Voices cried out in fear.

The Pumpkin Pastilles were disappearing at an alarming rate, and the usually docile Giant Squid seemed unaware that today was the annual crossing of the lake. A tentacle brushed against the bow of one of the boats, and in the lantern’s glow and the bursts of lightning, Harry saw Ginny’s eyes widened in horror.

The giant tentacles continued to search the water for morsels, feeling around in ever greater, rougher circles.

Harry leapt from his carriage when it neared the lake and charged into the water up to his knees trying to gain the Squid’s attention.

“Harry, give ‘em this!” Ron bellowed as thunder clapped overhead. Ron directed his wand and several parcels flew to Harry’s outstretched hands. Droobles Best Blowing Gum.

“Won ‘em from the Trolley Witch. She’s rubbish at Wizard’s Chess!” Ron yelled as Hermione pulled him along to find a teacher.

Harry threw the Droobles into the lake, packages and all. Within seconds, an eruption of pink bubbles blasted into the air. The last Harry saw of Malfoy, he was caught, mime-style, trying to get out of a massive bubblegum bubble.

The squid’s attention was turned back to the boats. Harry was now quite certain that Malfoy must have put something in the Pumpkin Pastilles to make the normally docile squid so aggressive.

Harry didn’t want to hurt the Giant Squid, but there was no choice. As Harry raised his wand at the tentacle swinging toward the closest boat, a white ring attached to a string flew through the air. It caught around the tentacle, and with a yank, the squid’s appendage was pulled back into the water, barely missing the boat of frightened students.

Harry whipped around and was astounded at what he saw. There stood Ginny in the rocking boat, string attached to the toilet seat. Her face was set as she tugged on the string, trying to pull the seat from the squid’s tentacle.

“Let it go, Ginny!” Harry shouted.

“But I have to put it back!” Ginny protested as the boats continued to rock.

The Giant Squid’s head broke the surface, and Ginny was pulled into the water as he freed himself from the toilet seat. A massive wave crashed over her tiny bobbing body and she was lost to sight.

Harry dove into the water, heedless of the fact that he had never learned to swim. He paddled to where Ginny had gone under, blinking behind the drops of water on his glasses and spitting out mouthfuls of cold lake water. Something hard smacked him on the shoulder. He turned to find the toilet seat bobbing next to him.”

He grabbed the toilet seat as Ginny’s head broke the surface, and she choked and spluttered.

“Ginny, grab it!”

Ginny reached uselessly a few times before sinking under the water again.

Hagrid secured all the boats together with a rope and was now rowing toward Harry and Ginny. But before he reached them, one of the squid’s tentacles reappeared with Ginny clinging to it. The squid deposited her onto the toilet seat, which appeared very buoyant and she placed her head on the rim, choking like she’d drank too much Firewhisky.

Strong hands grabbed Ginny first, then Harry. Hagrid had them both back at the castle within minutes. Madame Pomfrey met them in the Great Hall and ushered Harry, who was being supported by a couple of small, scared first years and Hagrid who was carrying Ginny, to the Hospital Wing.
After some Pepper Up Potion, Harry was deemed fit to leave the Hospital Wing, but Ginny would have to spend the night. Ron and Hermione met Harry out in the hall, having just arrived. They were both breathless.

“By the time we found a teacher and made it back to the lake, you were gone,” panted Hermione.

“Where’s Ginny?” asked Ron, his forehead creased in worry.

“She’s fine,” Harry told Ron as Fred and George ran up the stairs two at a time.

“If we’d known how useful Hogwarts toilet seats were, we’d have nicked some for ourselves,” said George.

“Mum’s going to have kittens though when she hears about this,” said Fred.

“Ginny’s not gonna tell,” said George. “But Perc … Percy! How good to see you!”

“Stand aside, I need to speak to the Matron,” Percy said as though he were Ginny’s only brother. He reached for the doorknob and pushed his glasses up on his nose, turning to the rest and ordering them to stay put.

When Percy opened the door, Harry caught another glimpse of Ginny, so small in that bed with the impersonal white sheets. He heard Ginny tell the Matron that she didn’t want to miss the sorting.

Percy turned out to be good for something. He had sandwiches sent up for Harry and his brothers and he spoke to Professor McGonagall who had the Sorting Hat sent to the Hospital Wing after the sorting in the Great Hall.

Ginny’s face was pale under the Sorting Hat, which looked very large on her small head. Harry, Hermione and Ginny’s brothers were allowed to see her during the sorting but were warned by the Matron that she would need rest when it was done.

The hat took little time to announce that Ginny would be in Gryffindor, and Harry found himself cheering as if he’d been sitting in the Great Hall. Ron looked at him funny and he quickly folded his hands in his lap. Ginny smiled at him. The others said a quiet, but enthusiastic congratulations.

“That will be quite enough for now,” said the Matron, ushering them out. Ron, Hermione, the twins and Percy left for the Great Hall in the hopes of pudding. Harry told them he’d meet them there after he got some fresh clothing.

As Harry made his way to the Gryffindor Tower, he couldn’t help but remember how lonely he’d felt the many times he’d had to stay in the Hospital Wing. He could imagine it would be worse for Ginny on her first day.
Harry made his way to the Great Hall hoping Ron had saved him some pudding. As he was about to open the huge oak doors, a little creature scooted away from him in the direction of the Hospital Wing. Long tendrils of curled ribbon flew behind it.

“Dobby!” Harry hissed, but the little elf didn’t stop or come back. Harry took off, following the ribbons as they zig zagged around corners and up and down stairwells.

Nearly Headless Nick was making his way down to the Great Hall to meet and greet and ultimately freak out the first years.

“Nick, did you see anyone running along those corridors ahead?” Harry asked breathlessly.

“Why, yes, I believe it was a house elf, but not one I’m familiar with. Had flowers for a Miss Weasley of Gryffindor in the Hospital Wing.”

“Oh no!” shouted Harry. “Thanks, Nick,” he added, taking off to catch Dobby.

Harry sprawled headlong, tackling and taking down the spry elf. Flower petals showered the floor and a note flew into Harry’s hand.

To Ginny Weasley, my hero, from Harry Potter.

Her eyes are as brown as a freshly dug grave.
About her skin and freckles I could all day rave.
On a toilet seat she floats.
With love like ours we need no boats!


“Dobby, are you trying to ruin me?” Harry said.

“Not ruin you sir, never ruin you. Embarrass you enough to go home, yes. Drown you a little maybe, but ruin you, never. Dobby thought his extra waves would drown Harry Potter just enough to have him sent home.”

“Dobby, she could have died,” Harry told the elf, pointing to the door of the Hospital Wing.

The house elf began to cry loudly. “Dobby has never seen so much selflessness, caring for another more than himself. Dobby would not have let that girl to come to real harm at the hands of that bad boy.” At this last statement, Dobby began ramming himself into the wall.

Harry wanted to stop Dobby from hurting himself but he ripped up the love poem first.

The door to the Hospital Wing opened and Ginny peaked out. Dobby broke free and ran off, leaving Harry with the bouquet of flowers in his hand.

“Er, these are for you,” Harry said quickly, thrusting the flowers into Ginny’s hands. “Not from me! I mean, they’re from us. Gryffindors. Yeah, that’s it.”

The Matron shooed Ginny back to bed and scolded Harry for being there so late. As Harry made his way back downstairs, convinced he’d now missed pudding, Dobby streaked by him in the stairwell. Harry raced back, arriving just in time to see the Hospital Wing doors close.

Harry pressed his ear to the door and heard Dobby introducing himself to Ginny.

“Have you ever noticed that Harry Potter’s eyes are like freshly pickled toads?” the House-elf squeaked.

“He’s simply divine,” replied Ginny.

Harry suddenly didn’t feel like pudding. His stomach flipped and his cheeks felt warm. For some reason, he didn’t feel he could face Ginny’s brothers just now so he headed back to the Gryffindor Tower.

XXX

Harry was glad to see Ginny sitting at the Gryffindor table at breakfast the next day. He was also glad that she appeared to not be staring into his eyes as he’d feared. Apparently, Dobby hadn’t succeeded after all in ruining Harry with matters of the heart.

“Harry, where are you always running off to?” asked Hermione, elbowing Ron as if to make him take notice of Harry’s comings and goings.

“Ermione-eeve-im-alone, ‘es prolly gonna find Wood to find out about Quidditch,” Ron said, swallowing his food mid-sentence.

It was time for class, and Hermione, Ron and Harry began to make their way through the throngs of students leaving the Great Hall. Hermione was pointing to her timetable as Ron pretended to pay attention. Harry saw Ginny veer off from the rest of her classmates. Not wanting her to be late on her first day like he and Ron had been, he went to remind her of the ever-changing staircases.

“I’m not lost,” Ginny told him when he caught up to her.

“Then where are you doing?” Harry asked.

“Getting the toilet seat back while the Matron is making rounds,” Ginny told him. “She confiscated it, saying it was filthy.”

Harry could not believe this girl’s determination. She was Weasley through and through. Knowing that it could end badly, Harry offered to help her retrieve the toilet seat and put it back in the boy’s loo on the second floor.

As they approached the Hospital Wing door, it burst open, hitting Harry squarely in the face and knocked him to the floor. Blood blossomed from his nose. The Matron grabbed Harry and helped him to his feet and onto the cot that Ginny had just vacated.

Harry noticed with a small pang of regret that Ginny went straight to work getting the toilet seat, whispering that his plan to have himself flattened was brilliant and awe inspiring but a little over the top thanks anyway. Out of the corner of his watering eyes, Harry watched Ginny slip into the Matron’s office and shrink the toilet seat, depositing it into her book bag.

As the Matron’s wand waved back and forth over his face, making him dizzy, she grilled Harry as to why he was hovering outside the Hospital Wing.

“Er, he was dizzy, so I brought him here, Madame Pomfrey.” Ginny smiled slyly at him.

“Already dizzy before you were hit with the door,” clucked the Matron. “I knew I should have kept you here last night. I’m afraid that you’re going to ---”

“Stay here,” Harry finished through gritted teeth while glaring at Ginny.

“Sorry, Harry,” said Ginny. “You’re getting a black eye.” She looked at the floor guiltily.

Well, black goes with freshly picked toads, Harry thought ruefully. He said nothing, however. Ginny’s frown did something to his insides that had nothing to do with the pain in his head.

The Matron handed him pyjamas and seemed to forget that the sheets and pillowcases had not been changed since Ginny had lain here. He was about to complain but as he put his head down on the pillow, the scent of flowers filled his nose. He decided beginning the year with a day off might be a good thing.

Ginny stepped around the curtain just as the Matron brought some head ache potion and told Ginny to inform Professor McGonagall that Harry would miss his first day of school. As soon as Ginny was gone, Harry closed his eyes only to snap them open again when a familiar voice drifted into his throbbing ears.

“Dobby stole from his Masters to buy those swinging doors, Harry Potter.” Then Dobby began banging his head on the rails of Harry’s bed until he fell into bed beside Harry.

“You convinced the Matron that swinging doors would be good in an emergency?” Harry bellowed.

“Dobby sent a note from the Skull and Cross Bone Society stating that swinging doors save time in emergencies, Harry Potter. Dobby knows Harry Potter spends lots of time of here. Dobby called the Matron to see Master Draco who is skiving off today because of a giant forehead hickey precisely as Harry Potter approached the doors. Dobby is most glad that Miss Weasley did not approach the door first.”

Dobby got up and began to pinch his fingers in the bedside table drawers. It took all of Harry’s might to stop Dobby from hurting himself.

XXX

Harry wasn’t released the next day or the day after that. Hermione brought him loads of homework and Ron hauled his chess set to the Hospital Wing so they could play when Hermione wasn’t harping on them to study. On the third day, Harry grew bored. He slipped out of the Hospital Wing to attend the meeting for Gryiffindor’s Quidditch team trials. He didn’t care that he was in pyjamas in the middle of the day until he got to the portrait of the Fat Lady who whistled at him. Then he realized he didn’t know the password.

“Can I come in?” Harry asked hopefully. “You recognize me.”

Violet, the Fat Lady’s friend peaked out from behind a bottle of brandy. She saw Harry and began to cry.

“Oh, it’s so sad to see him wander deliriously in his pyjamas. It’s just like the little ugly House-elf said. He’s lost his mind. Don’t let him in,” she said to the Fat Lady, who shook her head grimly and agreed.

“Unstable student out of bed!” The Fat Lady yelled. The other portraits began to point and yell. Harry took off down the hallway, slipping on the polished floor in his socks. Her ran down flights of stairs, but the news travelled faster through the portraits than his feet could carry him. Ducking around a corner and crouching, he looked up to see Sir Cadogan who was about to join in the yelling.

“Sir Cadogan, those scurvy dogs have done me an injustice,” Harry said, trying to sound just the man on the horse himself. “I’m on the run from injustice. And I think they’re going to paint over your horse, so you have to become a foot soldier, too.” Then he added, “They stole my clothes.”

“You are dressed in a most unfortunate fashion,” agreed Sir Cadogan. “Come, I shall show you the hiding place of choice today. The boy’s loo on the second floor. I have just directed a young maiden there who was being chased by some unscrupulous drunkards.”

Harry smiled, knowing who the young maiden was. He followed Sir Cadogan to the second floor boys’ loo. Wanting to pay Ginny back just a little for telling Dobby he was divine, he decided to scare her a little. Harry was about to make ghostly noises as he crept into the boy’s loo, but he stopped in his tracks when he heard voices.

“Boys’ toilet seats don’t have strings on them,” said a voice as water splashed in a stall not far from where Harry stood. But Harry could only see one set of feet he recognized as Ginny’s.

“Ginny, who are you talking to?” asked Harry, forgetting his plans.

“No one!” Ginny yelled in surprise as she stepped from the stall. The toilet seemed to flush by itself. Harry looked past Ginny’s small frame to find the stall empty.

“Oh, Harry, it’s you.” Ginny pulled the toilet seat from her book bag and walked toward the toilet without a seat.

“Good thing you didn’t tell me that boys’ toilets don’t have strings on them,” Ginny told him. “I put one on after we got the seat back from Malfoy’s head, and it came in really handy with the giant squid.”

Harry untied the string and helped Ginny put the toilet seat back from where it had been taken a year before. As they put the last bolt into place, cheering erupted from the doorway.

“Well done, little sister!” said George enthusiastically as confetti rained down on them. Fred clapped Ginny on the shoulders rather hard.

“You passed the test, now you’re an official Gryffindor,” George beamed. Harry didn’t point out that there was no official test, he figured it was a family thing.

“We knew you could do it,” said George.

“It was rather difficult,” admitted Ginny. “But I’m a Gryffindor now.”

Harry started clapping again, just as he’d done when the Sorting Hat had declared Ginny a Gryffindor. He stopped suddenly, feeling very foolish when Fred and George turned to him.

“We’ll have to set you a task as well, Harry, as you’re pretty well adopted by our mum,” said Fred. It’s one thing to be a Gryffindor but another to be a Weasley Gryffindor.”

Instead of intimidating Harry, this proposal of Fred’s filled him a sense of pride. However, Fred and George were interrupted as they consulted with Ginny about what task Harry should have to perform.

“Unstable student out of bed!” Harry heard from the corridor. Fred and George merely laughed at him and declared him a Weasley Gryffindor as he was led by Professor McGonagall from the loo covered in confetti, past students who were sent to look for him. Sir Cadogan sat on his horse, saluting Harry and telling him as he rode through all the portraits on the way back to the Hospital Wing that this sort of confinement was imposed on him all the time. And he wasn’t unstable either.

No, not unstable at all, thought Harry as Sir Cadogan saluted him at the doors of the Hospital Wing and told him to be mindful of the Healers with leeches.

Harry pleaded with the Matron the let him leave the Hospital Wing, but as all the portraits and a certain House-elf named Dobby attested to the fact that he was unstable, she sentenced him to a further three days. But on the bright side, Ginny was given detention for being in the boys’ loo and sentenced to bring Harry his homework each night and then bring his completed work to his professors.

Ginny was asleep on a cot across from him waiting for his homework when Harry realized that it was two o’clock in the morning. The shadow flitting across the floors was unmistakably Dobby. Harry could have kicked himself for not noticing that the load of homework was unreasonable.

“Harry Potter should go home. He will wear his new Weezy out keeping her up so late waiting for his homework.”

Harry closed his books and nudged Ginny awake.

“Here,” he told her. “Take this. I’m done.”

Ginny yawned. She stumbled under the weight of both of their books. Harry opened the Hospital Wing doors for her, and she brushed past him. A wind came from nowhere and the books fell to the floor. The door slammed on Harry’s foot with a sickening crunch.

“Dob---” Harry shouted.

The Matron was out in the ward in a flash, shooing Ginny to bed. She went to get some bandages for Harry’s foot. Harry limped to the door to peak out in the corridor. Ginny was still on the other side of the door.

“Are you okay, Harry?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Harry as his foot swelled to twice its normal size. “You should get some sleep.”

The flowery smell made him forget his throbbing foot for just moment. Harry lingered by the door, listening to her light footsteps retreating and then he heard…”

“Did you notice that Harry Potter’s hair is as dark as a black bowl…”

“Dobby NO!” Harry yelled as the Matron, surely thinking he was very disturbed by his foot pain, led him back to bed.

“It’s true, you know,” said a portrait of a Healer holding a leech with tweezers. Your hair is very black. I could cure that for you if you want.” He held up the fat leech.

Harry hid his head under his covers. Her eyes really were as brown as a freshly dug grave and the sheets smelled like flowers.


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