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HP stories following Canon but PRE-OotP >> Ginny's Gift by Ashwinder

Simple Text - To view MORE chapters use the chapter jump box to the right.
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Ginny’s Gift Chapter 01


The house at number 4 Privet Drive looked dark and silent from the street.
This was as it should be as the hour approached midnight, and respectable people
like the elder Dursleys were in bed asleep. Two residents of the house were
still awake, however. It was the summer holiday, and so, as one would expect,
the two teenaged boys who lived there, one seventeen and the other almost that
age, had not yet retired for the night. Harry could hear Dudley moving about his
bedroom. Harry’s over-large cousin was most likely listening to music with his
headphones, but Harry was still very careful to be as quiet as possible. He was
busy packing his trunk, for the following day he would leave this house and
never return. Of course, the Dursleys knew nothing of this plan, and he intended
to keep them in the dark for as long as possible.


Harry dropped an armful of socks into his cauldron and looked over at the
luminous numbers on the clock. It was 11:55. In exactly five minutes it would be
his seventeenth birthday, and he would no longer be an underage wizard. In five
minutes he would be allowed to do magic whenever he wanted. Then he’d be able to
make short work of his packing. He sighed impatiently. Time would pass more
quickly if he did something, rather than idly sit and wait. He knelt down by his
bed and reached underneath it to pry up the loose floorboard and empty his
secret stash of food, parchment and quills. He deposited all this in his trunk
and looked at the clock again.


11:57


He began on the wardrobe, removing several pairs of oversized jeans and then
paused a moment to look into the mirror. He didn’t look tangibly different now
that he was almost seventeen. Round glasses still partly hid his strikingly
green eyes; his hair was as chronically untidy as ever; his scar was
occasionally visible under his fringe; and he was as skinny as he’d ever been.
In fact, he’d shot up quite a bit in the last year or so, which served to make
him seem even skinnier. He was taller than both his Uncle Vernon and cousin
Dudley now, which meant any hand-me-downs he got were too short and too wide.
He’d never manage to catch up to his friend Ron in height, though.


In the mirror, he could now see 12:00 reflected backwards. He grinned and
pulled out his wand. He was about to mutter an incantation which would send all
his clothes flying into the open trunk at the foot of his bed, when a tapping at
his window stopped him. His eyes flew to the window and from there to the wall
separating his room from Dudley’s. The ensuing silence told Harry that Dudley
had not heard anything out of the ordinary. Harry opened the window to admit
Hedwig, who had just returned from the Burrow, bearing an envelope so thick it
must contain more than one letter. No sooner had she entered than another owl,
one Harry did not recognise, followed swiftly on her heels. This one bore a
parcel.


Harry relieved both owls of their burdens. The strange owl flew off
immediately after drinking from the water tray in Hedwig’s cage. Harry wondered
about the parcel. He would be leaving for the Weasleys’ in the morning and had
reckoned he’d be getting his presents there. He hadn’t expected anything
tonight. However he recognised the writing as Sirius’. He tore at the wrapping
and drew out a book entitled Dr. Zog’s Practical Spells for Wizards.
Harry frowned slightly. Why would Sirius get him a spell-book? At the end of the
upcoming school year, he’d have finished his magical education. He ought to know
everything he’d need to get on in the world by then.


He set the book aside on his chest of drawers for the moment and picked up
the scrap of parchment which had fallen from the parcel. On it he read:


Dear Harry,


I’m sorry but I won’t be able to come to your birthday party tomorrow at the
Burrow. Dumbledore is sending me to the continent on a mission for the Order. I
can't say anything further. I’m sending you your present. James, Remus and I
found it very useful when we were younger. Enjoy your birthday. I know you’re in
safe hands with the Weasleys.


--Sirius


He felt a wave of disappointment at the thought of missing his godfather, but
he knew that Sirius must have important business to miss his birthday.


Harry looked dubiously at the book once more. He picked it up from the chest
of drawers, opened it and began to page randomly through it. At first glance it
looked like an ordinary spell book, but then a word caught his eye, and he felt
heat flood his face. He turned more pages, and realised a major portion of this
book was devoted to contraceptive charms. Upon closer inspection, he saw that
there was also practical advice on technique, silencing spells, spells for
escaping jealous boyfriends… There were also sections of the book devoted to
sobriety charms and hangover cures. Harry thought he might find that part
useful, at least. Perhaps he’d find a good charm to cure headaches.


Harry was extremely grateful he had not received this particular gift in
front of the Weasleys. The twins especially would never let him live it down.
Upon reflection, he was also glad Sirius had not been able to give this present
to him in person. He would have been very embarrassed to have to admit in front
of his godfather that he had no pressing need at the moment for these sorts of
spells. Ron, on the other hand… He wondered if he even dared show this to Ron.
Ron and Hermione had been a couple since last year, but Harry didn’t really like
to speculate on what his two best friends got up to when he wasn’t around.


He set the book down for the moment and turned to the letters he’d received
from Hedwig. There were three in the envelope, the topmost from Ron.


Harry. Everything is ready here. We’ll be coming to pick you up tomorrow
morning at 10 sharp. Be ready. You’ll get your present tomorrow. Happy birthday.
Ron


The next parchment was written in Hermione’s hand.


Dear Harry, Happy birthday. I arrived here a day early to help Mrs Weasley
get ready for your party. See you tomorrow. Love from, Hermione


Harry suspected that the reason Hermione had come to the Burrow a day early
had more to do with Ron than any party preparations.


He turned to the envelope once more. He thought it was oddly heavy for two
short notes. It was actually the third letter that explained the weight. There
seemed to be more than merely a third piece of parchment, but Harry disregarded
this for a moment. He was much more intrigued about the author of the third
note, for he thought he recognised Ginny’s handwriting. He’d never received a
letter from her before.


Dear Harry, I know you’ll be coming over to stay tomorrow, but I wanted to
give you your birthday present now. The reason for this is, it needs to be kept
secret for it to work properly, and I reckoned there would be fewer questions
this way. Don’t show it to anyone, and don’t wear it yet! It’s supposed to have
protective properties if everything is done right. Happy birthday, Ginny


Harry stared at the letter. He imagined the secrecy was mostly to stop her
older brothers teasing her because she’d given him a birthday present. He paused
for a moment and considered what this might mean. Ginny had never been anything
more than his best friend’s little sister in his eyes, and she’d certainly never
given him a birthday present before. He knew she’d had a crush on him in the
past, but he didn’t think she could possibly still have it. No, this must be a
gesture of friendship, and nothing more.


He put his hand into the envelope and pulled out a silver chain with a white
gem stone hanging from it. He thought it was a rather odd gift for her to give
him; it looked as if it might be a piece of her own jewellery. Was he supposed
to wear it? Not yet, at any rate, but that would hardly go over well with the
other boys in his dormitory… He put the stone in his hand and felt a strange
thrumming coming from it. Whatever else it was, it definitely had some sort of
magic in it. He looked back at Ginny’s note. Protective properties, she’d said,
but she didn’t explain how to benefit from them. Well, he mused, he’d be seeing
her tomorrow. He could ask her about it then.


An odd noise from Dudley’s room broke through his reverie. Harry shuddered.
Dudley was at it again; Seamus would say he was polishing his wand. Harry cast a
Silencing charm in the direction of Dudley’s room. He froze for a moment,
half-expecting to receive a nasty memo from the Improper Use of Magic Office,
but relaxed after a few minutes when no new owl came to his window. He was glad
he could finally shut out the noise and not have to worry about being expelled
from Hogwarts.


Harry concentrated on his packing in order to block out the nasty mental
images of what was transpiring in the next room. He looked with disgust on
Dudley’s old clothes and wondered why he was bothering with them. He took them
out of his trunk and left them in a heap on the floor. Tomorrow he was leaving,
and he saw no point in taking a reminder of this place with him. He still had
plenty of money in his Gringott’s vault. All he’d have to do was exchange some
of it into pounds and go shopping for some proper clothes.


He made short work of the rest of his packing with a wave of his wand and
crawled into bed.


*


Harry woke up the next morning later than he’d meant to, and it was already 9
o’clock by the time he went downstairs to breakfast. He’d had to resign himself
to putting on Dudley’s hand-me-downs one final time; he could always burn them
later. Dudley hadn’t yet put in an appearance. Uncle Vernon was sitting at his
place at the table, his nose buried in the morning paper. Harry had helped
himself to some toast before Uncle Vernon set his paper aside and acknowledged
his presence.


"About time you got up."


Harry didn’t bother replying. He went on eating his toast. He reached for
more, and Uncle Vernon put out a hand to stop him.


"That’s enough for you. You’ve had your share. You’d eat us out of house and
home if we let you."


Harry told himself it was best to ignore his uncle, although he dearly wanted
to point out the irony of his uncle’s statement. He’d be gone in less than an
hour.


"Your aunt has some chores for you today, boy," Uncle Vernon continued.
"You’d best get on with them."


Harry looked up at his uncle at this and fought to keep a straight face.
Perhaps he could have some fun with this after all. "I don’t think so."


"WHAT?!" Uncle Vernon’s face had turned purple in record time. "Petunia, did
you hear the tone he just took with me?"


Aunt Petunia turned from where she was frying up a pound of bacon for
Dudley’s breakfast. "He gets more ungrateful every day, he does. To think we’ve
put a roof over his head and clothed him for all these years," she said
huffily.


In the mean time Uncle Vernon’s purple face was now less than an inch from
Harry’s. "Don’t you ever dare to talk back to me that way again! Now get to
work!"


"No."


Uncle Vernon opened and closed his mouth a few times in shock. Aunt Petunia
screeched. From upstairs there came a heavy thud which shook the entire house
and caused several items from Aunt Petunia’s ceramic salt and pepper shaker
collection to shatter onto the floor; Dudley had apparently been shocked awake
by his mother’s shriek and had fallen out of his bed in surprise. Heavy
footfalls on the stairs announced his imminent arrival in the kitchen.


Uncle Vernon had grabbed Harry by the shoulder and was attempting to drag him
to his feet. Harry voluntarily stood up, so that he could look down on his
uncle. Vernon Dursley had had a bit of a shock when he’d picked Harry up at
King’s Cross at the end of last term and seen that Harry had grown taller than
he was during the previous ten months. Harry could tell the older man was rather
intimidated by Harry’s new-found height, even if his uncle still outweighed him
by a good two stone.


"You will show your gratitude for all we’ve provided for you by doing as we
tell you," Uncle Vernon was saying in a strained voice, as he tried to pull
Harry bodily from the kitchen. His way was quite thoroughly blocked by Dudley
who now stood in the kitchen door.


"What’s he done now?" Dudley asked.


"No need to worry your head, Duddikins," simpered Aunt Petunia.


"Yeah, you don’t want to strain your brain," Harry couldn’t resist adding.
Uncle Vernon gave Harry’s arm a nasty wrench, and Harry decided he’d had enough.
He drew his wand.


Vernon and Dudley both blanched and shrunk back. Aunt Petunia let out another
scream and nearly dropped the frying pan containing Dudley’s bacon onto the
floor. "You put that away, boy. I know you’re not allowed to do any of
that unnaturalness here. You’ll be expelled from that, that school of
yours." Uncle Vernon was trying to sound sure of himself, but he couldn’t quite
carry it off, shaking as he was.


Harry narrowed his eyes. "Have you forgotten what day it is?" he asked
quietly. The Durselys apparently had forgotten, for none of them supplied an
answer. "I’ll remind you then. It’s my seventeenth birthday. In my world, I’m no
longer considered underage. In other words, I can do magic whenever I like and
no one will bat an eye."


"I WILL NOT HAVE THAT IN THIS HOUSE" Uncle Vernon thundered, but he didn’t
manage to sound convincing for all his volume.


Harry merely shrugged. "You won’t have to worry about it much longer," he
informed them. "I’m leaving today. In less than an hour as a matter of
fact."


Uncle Vernon was looking at him suspiciously, but before he could say
anything, Aunt Petunia wailed, "But who’s going to weed the garden and mow the
lawn? And the windows are filthy!"


Harry cast a glance at the spotless windows and then looked pointedly at
Dudley. "You could get him to do it, you know. Or you could hire someone. I
don’t much care one way or the other. Now if you’ll excuse me…" Harry made to
leave the kitchen, which was going to be a difficult prospect as Dudley was
still blocking the way. Harry pointed his wand at his cousin. "You know," he
said, acting as if he were seriously considering the matter, "I bet a good
shrinking spell would do wonders for you. I could probably melt enough fat off
you that you’d actually find a school uniform that fit. Might even find yourself
a girlfriend." Dudley flushed bright red at this, and Harry knew his point had
been taken. "Now if I could just think of the right one to use…"


Dudley quickly moved out of his way, leaving him to face Uncle Vernon. "Wait
just one second there, you. Just how are you planning on leaving?"


Harry grinned innocently. "The Weasleys are coming to pick me up. You
remember the Weasleys, don’t you?"


The look on Uncle Vernon’s face told him that the Weasleys most certainly
were remembered and not fondly. "No. Absolutely not. I will not have that family
destroy my house again."


"Mr Weasley cleaned up the mess last time, didn’t he?"


"Well, yes, but… but that’s not the point. I won’t have… wizards—" he almost
choked on the word "—popping in and out of my fireplace and fondling my
plugs."


Harry had to fight very hard not to laugh at his uncle’s last declaration.
"If that’s the way they decide to come, I don’t see that you’ll have much choice
in the matter."


Harry pushed past his uncle then and went back upstairs, ignoring his uncle’s
bellow. In reality he had no idea how the Weasleys were planning on coming to
get him this time. He was still hungry—two slices of toast were not enough to
fill the belly of a seventeen year old boy—and he rummaged in his trunk for some
snacks, thinking happily that soon he’d be able to eat Mrs Weasley’s good home
cooking to his heart’s content.


Time began to creep by at a snail’s pace. At five minutes to ten, Harry
picked up Hedwig's cage, magicked his trunk down to the hall and sat on it to
wait. The Dursely’s stayed behind the closed kitchen door. At ten precisely, the
doorbell rang, making Harry jump. He hadn’t been expecting the Weasleys to
arrive on time nor in a way that necessitated ringing the doorbell. Yet, when he
answered the door, Ron was standing there with Ginny and Hermione. Harry grinned
at them, and they grinned back.


"Ready to go, Harry?" asked Ron.


"Yeah, let me get my trunk. Hi, Hermione, Ginny." Hermione looked tanned and
happy, Ron looked as freckled and good-natured as usual, but Ginny looked pale
and drawn, as if she’d recently been ill. They were all dressed in Muggle
clothes.


As Harry turned back for his trunk, he noticed that the kitchen door was open
a crack. "I’m off," he called down the hall, and the kitchen door snapped shut.
Harry didn’t expect any more of a response than that. He magicked his trunk out
to the front step, suppressing the urge to let out a whoop of freedom.


"You’ll have to carry it from here," noted Hermione, taking Hedwig's cage
from him. "Can’t risk the Muggles seeing you do that."


Harry took one end of his trunk and Ron the other, and they made their way,
followed by the girls, to an old-fashioned dark green Ministry car driven by a
liveried, tight-lipped chauffeur, who now got out of the car to put Harry's
trunk into the boot.


As Harry got into the car, he took one final look at the Dursleys' house in
spite of himself. He had to laugh at what he saw. His aunt, uncle and cousin had
their faces pressed to the living room window to watch him go. His aunt had her
hand over her heart, no doubt shocked to see him leaving in what must look like
a Muggle limousine. Dudley merely looked more porcine than usual with his nose
plastered to the glass. Harry waved at them, and their faces disappeared as if
by magic.


"Dad was able to call in a favour and get a Ministry car," said Ron, once
they were all crowded into the back seat and heading for the motorway. "It’s
brilliant. We made the trip out here in no time."


Sure enough they were soon speeding along, Harry, Ron and Hermione chattering
about their holiday plans as they fairly melted in and out of the traffic. Harry
found himself wishing they could slow down a bit, but at the same time hoping
they’d reach the Burrow soon. He was wedged in between Ginny and Hermione, and
he found himself glancing over at Ginny’s profile, wondering again why she
looked so tired and about the birthday present she’d sent him. He couldn’t ask
her about that, though, with Ron and Hermione there. Ginny had wanted her gift
to remain a secret. So instead he turned to her and asked, "how’ve you been,
Ginny?"


She jumped slightly, as if she hadn’t expected him to talk to her. "Oh,
fine."


"Are you sure? You look like you’ve been ill." Harry cringed as soon as the
words were out. He doubted she appreciated what he’d just said to her.


"I’ve just been having some trouble sleeping lately. It’s nothing." Her voice
carried a tone of finality. Harry took the hint and did not pursue the
matter.


He lapsed into silence for a while, but then he glanced surreptitiously at
Ron and Hermione to make sure they weren’t paying attention. "I got your owl,"
he said in an undertone. She met his gaze then, and he was surprised to note
just how richly brown her eyes were. "Thank you for thinking of me."


She looked down, and he thought she might be going red. "You’re welcome."
Silence fell between them again, but it wasn’t long before they were driving up
the lane that led to the Burrow.




A/N: I didn't put this at the beginning, but the standard disclaimer applies.
I don't own the Harry Potter characters, the spells or the settings. They belong
to J. K. Rowling and Warner Brothers. I'm not making any money off this, but I'm
having a good time anyway. Also the necklace idea is drawn from
The Lord of
the Rings. Arwen gives a white gem on a silver chain to Frodo near the end of
the story.



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