"Diag - ackough - nilly!
" Harry choked as he stepped into the floo.
As Harry vanished in a swirl of green fire, Ginny resisted the urge to facepalm. Oh. Right. I forgot about this.
"What did he - " her dad started to ask.
Ginny cut him off by leaping into the green flame and mimicking Harry's coughed mispronunciation. "Diagackounilly!
The whirling tunnel of fire spun Ginny about as she flashed passed gaps of light that represented other fireplaces. Ginny figured she was probably going to get yelled at for this, but it was her own fault for not remembering that no one had ever warned Harry about the dos-and-don'ts of using the floo. Then again, her mum and dad really should have given Harry better instructions.
Ginny spun out of the floo, and promptly tripped over Harry's sprawled form. She caught a glimpse of a large, cheerfully-lit space before she went crashing to the hard white marble floor. That stung.
"Forgot to tell you," Ginny groaned. "Take a deep breath before you step into the fire."
Harry made an embarrassed noise. "Er, where are we, Ginny? This doesn't look like the Leaky Cauldron."
Ginny sat up and looked around. They were in a brightly-lit hall of white stone about a quarter of the size of the Hogwarts entrance hall. Dark red carpeting covered the floor, except in front of the large, ornate fireplace, and tapestries hung from the gold-decorated walls. The tapestries each showed off a title and a scene of combat or comedy. The hall itself was empty, but she could hear faint sounds through one of the two sets of heavy wooden double doors at opposite ends of the hall. It definitely wasn't Knockturn Alley either.
Ginny helped Harry to his feet, and pointed around. "Look, its a playhouse
. This isn't Diagon Alley - come on, let's see what's outside."
The two of them crossed the hall to the big frosted-glass front doors, and emerged onto a moderately busy magical street. Magical lights illuminated a wide alley, with buildings that towered above them in bright and colorful variety and abstract shapes that were even more obviously held up by magic than the shops in Diagon Alley, but in this case the odd angles were clearly more intentional and artistic.
Ginny gasped, spinning around to take it all in. "Harry! This is Whimsic Alley!"
"Whimsic Alley?" Harry repeated.
"It's magical London's entertainment district, like Diagon Alley is our shopping district," Ginny explained. "I never got to come here before. We never had enough money to bother."
Harry looked up and down the alley, gawking openly. "Er, Ginny? Can we get back to Diagon Alley from here?"
Ginny thought back. "I think so. If I remember right, there should be a passage at one end of Whimsic that comes out between Flourish 'n Blott's and Quality Quidditch Supplies. I've never seen it, but Bill told me about it once. He said it works the same as the passage between Diagon and the Leaky Cauldron."
"Alright, which way then?" Harry asked.
Ginny shrugged, but took Harry's hand anyway and led him in the direction that looked busier. The occasional witch or wizard in fine robes gave them a scowl, but they made it to the end of Whimsic Alley with little trouble.
Luck was on Ginny's side for once. There was an archway outlining a section of blank wall. Ginny had her redwood wand with her, but she didn't want to draw it in public unless there was an emergency, so Harry tapped the bricks and opened the way. The bricks rearranged themselves, revealing a wide arched brick tunnel, lit by bluebell flame lanterns.
"I can't see the end," Harry said. "How far is Whimsic Alley from Diagon?"
"No clue," Ginny said cheerfully.
Harry and Ginny hurried along, hand in hand. They only passed one well-dressed witch heading the opposite way, before they came to another arch that opened onto a familiar scene. Next to her, Harry made a relieved noise.
Ginny peered into Flourish and Blott's with a frown. No Lockhart. On the one hand, she was very glad she'd decided to go after the diary when she had, but on the other hand Ginny's head was hurting trying to figure out how Lockhart's publicity stunt got called off.
"Oi Mum! Over here!" someone shouted.
Ginny shook herself out of her thoughts and spotted Ron pointing to them. Molly and Ron can rushing over. Ginny waved cheekily.
"No worries, Mum!" Ginny said brightly. "I found him."
"Ginny!" Molly nearly screeched. "What were you thinking
? You could have ended up anywhere!"
"I was thinking Harry could have ended up anywhere," Ginny said, unruffled.
Molly eventually gave in and hugged them both, just glad they were okay. They soon found Arthur and the twins, and got on with the shopping.
Raven hovered twenty miles above the California coastline, staring down at a forested mountain range where Jump City ought to be. It was true, she wasn't in her world anymore. The cold wind bit at her as she hung in the air.
She still hadn't figured out what was wrong with her memories, either. It didn't feel like she was missing memories, but the last thing she actually remembered before facing off against those wizards was hanging around a crowded Titan's Tower.
Raven did know one thing. Her only leads, such as they were, were back in England. With a last parting glance, Raven vanished into a vortex of darkness.
The Weasleys plus Harry arrived at Platform Nine-And-Three-Quarters without incident. Ginny smiled inwardly at having at least solved that problem. She felt kind of bad that Dobby was still stuck with the Malfoys, but she didn't know what she could do about that besides keep her eyes open for opportunities.
On the train, Ron half-heartedly tried to get rid of her. "Don't you want to go find some first years to sit with?"
"Nope," Ginny said, breezing passed him and into the compartment where she'd spotted Hermione. "Hello Hermione."
Hermione looked up from her book. "Oh, hello Ginny."
Ginny nodded and Hermione jumped up to exchange greetings with Harry and Ron. Ginny grunted as she slung her trunk up onto the luggage rack. She got it up there, but she nearly brained Ron with the thing and her arms felt like they'd nearly been pulled out of their sockets. Harry had his hands up like he was ready to catch her trunk if it fell, and Ginny sheepishly made a mental note to let him offer to help next time.
"Harry?" Ginny asked. "Save my seat, will you? I wanna go see to something."
Harry gave her a curious look, but just nodded. "Sure. Okay."
Ginny hugged him and bounced out of the compartment. She set off down the train, looking for a certain former-and-future friend that she wanted to save from spending her school years being bullied in Ravenclaw, if she could.
Ginny finally found her, sitting alone in the last traincar. Ginny slid the door open and just stared at her friend for a long moment. She was used to Harry and her brothers now, but this was the first time she'd seen Luna since she came back in time, and she looked so young.
"Hi, Luna," Ginny said. "I was hoping I'd find you."
Luna stared at Ginny with unnerving intensity. And stared. And stared. After almost a full minute, Ginny was growing rather uncomfortable under Luna's studious gaze. "Oh, hello Ginny Weasley. I almost didn't recognize you. I'm sorry about your birthdays."
Ginny blinked is surprise at the random comment. "It's not my - er, what?"
"Yes, you seem to have misplaced several of them," Luna said curiously. "I do wonder how five of your birthdays have gone missing. Perhaps the Celebi have been playing with time again. Curious. The other you doesn't seem to be missing any."
A sinking feeling of realization came over Ginny. "Other me?"
Luna nodded airily. "Yes. She is too busy writing in her new diary right now to talk to me, but the company is still nice."
Ginny's jaw dropped. It sounded like Luna was living both timelines simultaneously. Ginny couldn't find words strong enough to express her bafflement, but really, she should have expected something
. It was Luna, after all. Ginny shoved all that aside for later, and forced herself back on track.
"Well, anyway, I came by to invite you to come sit with me and my other friends," Ginny said. "Want to?"
Luna stared at her for a long moment, and finally smiled. "That would be lovely, Ginny. Would you care to help me with my trunk?"
"Sure!" Ginny looked around to make sure no one was watching, and pulled out her wand to do a silent Featherweight Charm.
Luna peered at Ginny's hand. "That isn't the wand the other you showed me. Are you perhaps an impostor " Luna didn't sound troubled by the idea, but she shook her head after a moment. "No, you are Ginny Weasley. Curious. Oh I do so love a mystery."
Ginny led Luna back to the others, stepping into the compartment with Luna on her heels.
"Hey everyone," Ginny said. "This is Luna Lovegood. She lives over the hills from the Burrow and we used to play together when we were little. She's going to be in my year."
Ginny plopped down next to Harry while Hermione stood up and offered her hand.
"Pleased to meet you. I'm Hermione Granger. Would you like to sit down?"
It wasn't the most solid of plans, but Ginny hoped this would make enough of a difference for Luna that she would be sorted into Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw. She had
to have gotten the option last time around, and if she really was seeing the old timeline concurrently with the new one, hopefully the contrast would also help her make that choice.
Now if only Ginny could keep her brains from dribbling out her ears from trying to figure out how that was happening to Luna in the first place.
Several odd looks were suddenly drawn to the back of the line, where Ginny was shamelessly doing a victory dance.
"Weasley, Ginev - "
Ginny stopped, her fingertips barely brushing the Sorting Hat. Ginny looked up at Professor McGonagall, who looked down at her and the hat, perplexed. Ginny gave the Professor a cheerful shrug and strolled over to sit with Harry.
That had been weird, but she supposed it could have been worse, like if the hat had refused to sort her twice or something ridiculous like that.
The prefect - Riley thought her name was Luthiel something, but he hadn't been paying attention when she'd introduced herself - led the hufflepuff first-years into a dead-end corridor a level below the entrance hall. Luthiel stopped before a pile of large barrels stacked in the shadowy stone recess.
"Alright everyone," Luthiel said. "Please pay close attention, unless you want to be dunked in vinegar."
Several boys and girls grinned an giggled.
Luthiel smirked gently. "I wasn't joking." She pointed at the barrel that was two from the bottom and in the middle of the second row. "To enter our common room, you must tap this barrel twice, and then again three times, like so."
A series of taps on the barrel followed, and it opened, revealing a wide circular passage into a warmly-colored and welcoming room. Riley followed Luthiel inside with the others and looked around.
The hufflepuff common room had a sunny feeling to it. Light brown stone walls encompassed the room in a large circle, with a low ceiling of sturdy-looking sand-colored wood. Greenery hung from planters on the walls, and large round windows showed off fields of dandelions and rippling grass. Burnished copper touchings with plush, cozy yellow and black patterned sofas and chairs were scattered about. To one side were seven large circular doors of darker wood, each numbered one-through-seven, although, oddly, the leftmost door started at six, and the door marked one was third in the row.
The barrel passage swung shut as the last of the first-years gathered. Luthiel spread her hands with a smile, gesturing around the room.
"Welcome to Hufflepuff," she said. "You are here because the Sorting Hat saw within you the diligence and loyalty our house exemplifies. This is the common room. Feel free to spend time here as you wish - it is our sanctuary. The dormitories are off to your right, clearly marked with your year. The numbers change, so you will always be using the same door."
Luthiel paused. "Now, before you get settled in, there are a few rules and traditions of our house that you should be aware of, and standards of behavior that you will be expected to uphold. The first and most important thing, is that as hufflepuffs, you will all do your very best to be worthy of your housemates' trust. Each and every one of you will be expected to strive for this, to maintain the harmony of our house."
"It is also important for you to know," Luthiel continued, "that non-hufflepuffs are not allowed into our common room. The barrel will not open if it detects students from another house attempting to enter." She smiled mysteriously. "As such, it is a hufflepuff tradition that what happens in hufflepuff, stays in hufflepuff. And we'll come back to that in your third year..."
Riley exchanged confused looks with a few of the other kids.
"Right then," Luthiel said as she walked over to the big round door with a one on it. "This will be your dormitory while you're at Hogwarts. You pull here, and the door rolls open like so."
The door rolled into a slot in the stone, revealing a long rectangular room with an arched ceiling lined on either side by a series of four-poster beds, writing desks, wardrobes with cheerful privacy screens. Riley and the others followed Luthiel inside.
"In hufflepuff," Luthiel said, "we do not hold to any sort of imposed, artificial divisiveness and as such, our dormitories are co-ed. Your bathroom is at the far end. Please choose any bed you like, by placing your hand on the adjacent wardrobe and stating your full name. Your trunks and other things will appear once you do so. Class schedules will be distributed tomorrow at breakfast. Have a good night, everyone!"
There was a bit of discussion over the merits of being closer to the bathroom or closer to the door. Riley ended up selecting a bed on the left side towards the middle of the room, and sure enough, all his stuff appeared as soon as he stated his name.
Luna Current said her goodnights to Ginny and wiggled down into her sheets, idly puzzling over the events that led to her being in gryffindor while Luna Prime went to ravenclaw. Her two lives had been more or less the same up until her first ride on the Hogwarts Express.
She was a little sad for Luna Prime, though. Luna Prime didn't know any of her roommates, and none of those girls seemed particularly friendly. Luna Current only had Ginny and one other girl, but Ginny was being nice to her, and Mallory Norden just seemed to find her amusing.
Luna had been looking forward to seeing Ginny again, when she got to Hogwarts. She was very fond of the times they had played together when they were younger. Luna's favorite game had been when Luna dressed up like Harry Potter, and Ginny pretended to marry her. Ginny's affection and declarations of epic undying love had been most pleasant, and sometimes very funny.
Though it turned out that Luna didn't really look much like the real Harry Potter, Luna mused idly, as she drifted off.