Ron looked at Harry as if showing up in his room in the dead of night was quite ordinary. If Harry had thought about it, he would have realized it was, as he shared a dorm with Ron ten months out of the year, but there was absolutely no connection in Harry's mind between this room and that.
"What are you doing here? How did you get in? Did your dad blow up the living room again?" Harry was unable to hide his excitement. He'd had rather low expectations for the day, knowing any party the new neighbors dragged him to would likely be little more than a bunch of strangers staring at him. "Who else is here? Is Hermione? Are your parents? Is..."
"Shut it, would you?" Ron said, chuckling. "Bloody hell, you'd think I'd told Hermione about a surprise exam! And yes, she's at that batty Figg lady's house, with...um, well, pretty much everybody you know. Mum wanted it to be a surprise party, so when you go downstairs, just act like its normal for us to kidnap you to visit ex-babysitters in the dead of night."
Harry, grinning like a fool, was so excited he didn't even say thank you or register the absurdity of Ron's last statement, but tried to go right out the door. Ron bodily stopped him, looking at him like he was an idiot.
"Well, you can't go over there looking- er, and smelling- like you just stepped off the pitch," he said, surveying Harry suspiciously. "What have you been doing? You look...bigger."
"My cousin got some weights as a present, and I've been using them," Harry said. The look on Ron's face confirmed his earlier decision not to try to explain Muggle workout equipment over the telephone. "Machines for exercising?" Ron still looked baffled. "Go look in the room by the stairs. On the left."
Ron disappeared for a moment and Harry searched for a shirt that didn't make him look like an orphan wearing his fat cousin's clothes. He decided it was cool enough out to put on the jumper Mrs. Weasley had given him last Christmas. He took his shirt off just as Ron came back into the room, his eyes bulging.
"Those things look like torture devices!" he said, awed. "Muggles use them on purpose?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "They use them to build muscle."
Ron looked at him even more suspiciously than before. "Well, it seems to have worked. You look...weird."
"Thanks, mate," Harry answered sarcastically. He didn't own a pair of pants that really fit, so he just grabbed something clean. After washing up, he and Ron headed downstairs, only to find Fred and George on the bottom landing, preparing to creep up to do Merlin knew what to the Dursley's bedrooms. Though Harry asked, the twins insisted that plausible deniability would be to his advantage next summer and disappeared upstairs, having revealed nothing about their plot other than the maniacal "Bwahahahaha!" it inspired.
Harry didn't even try to suppress his own laughter when he and Ron entered the parlor. The first person he saw was Mrs. Weasley, who seemed very upset about something. The second person he saw was also Mrs. Weasley, except with green hair and a serene smile on her face. Ginny was there as well, and though her face was the picture of innocence Harry could tell she was in on whatever the twins were up to. She giggled at him and nodded towards the Dursleys, who were huddled together in their night things, backed against the entirely undamaged fireplace.
"All right, Tonks?" Harry said to the green haired Mrs. Weasley. She looked only slightly disappointed that he had figured her out so quickly.
"Wotcher, Harry!" she said, bowing deeply, and when she came back up it was with the face and body of a woman in her early twenties, though the green hair remained.
Harry heard his uncle and cousin gasp. Aunt Petunia saw nothing, as her head was buried in her husband's back, looking rather like an ostrich up to its neck in pudding. Dudley was shaking, his left hand on his backside and his tongue moving rapidly in his mouth, as if he didn't particularly trust his teeth.
"Really, you're upsetting the Muggles!" Mrs. Weasley said to Tonks, in a tone that told Harry they'd been going back and forth for a while. "Harry dear, how are you?"
She enveloped him in a hug, then pushed him out at arms length to inspect him. She seemed quite taken aback by his altered appearance.
"Well," she said, turning to the Dursleys. "It seems you've managed to feed him properly this year."
The look on Uncle Vernon's face was indignant, as if he had been accused of a horrific crime, but he wisely bit back his desire to refute the compliment.
"We had better get along, Harry. Don't want to keep everyone, er, I mean- Mrs. Figg. Yes, Mrs. Figg waiting," Mrs. Weasley said, nodding to herself the whole time. Tonks rolled her eyes, and he could almost hear Ron do likewise. "We'll be back for your things after the, the visit, dear, and you'll be coming to stay with us for the rest of the summer."
Harry let out a small 'whoop,' and was about to greet Ginny when he was rather loudly interrupted.
"You most certainly will not be coming back here tonight!" Uncle Vernon said, outraged. "Our door will be locked to you, you and all the cretins walking the streets at such an hour!"
"I greatly doubt that!" Mrs. Weasley bellowed, completely overpowering Tonks comment about locks not being an issue. "After all, you will be coming along as well!"
Aunt Petunia's body seemed to wither, but her head failed to reappear, while Uncle Vernon shook his head violently while mouthed 'No!', though he failed to emit any articulate sound.
"Now then," Mrs. Weasley said menacingly, as if lecturing to an unruly child she was struggling not to spank. "I expect you will be getting dressed and come over to Mrs. Figg's house. Don't dawdle, or we'll have to send someone back here to fetch you."
Her smile as she spoke changed into something almost sinister as it reached her eyes, and Harry saw all protest deflate out of Uncle Vernon. He may have put on a brave face when confronted with Mr. Weasley, Moody and even Hagrid, but an angry Molly Weasley was something else altogether.
They filed out just in time to see the grand finale of the fireworks, a flock of blinding white owls and brilliant red phoenixes engaged in a nearly hypnotic dance. Fred and George apparated onto the lawn and gave Ron and Ginny the thumbs up, which resulted in a series of exceedingly enthusiastic and violent high-fives. He took this as an omen to hurry his pace away from a surely doomed number four Privet Drive.
The others quickly caught up to Harry, though, as he slowed to study the cracked sidewalks he'd had little occasion to walk this summer, lit by the lingering ash of the fireworks. Quite a difference good publicity could make, he thought wryly, while trying to ignore a neighboring parent pointing him out to his children, like he was just an encore to the fireworks.
As they crossed towards Mrs. Figg's side of Wisteria Walk, Harry, looking to finally say hello to Ginny, noticed she had stopped right in the middle of the road with a curious expression on her face. Harry stopped too, as did Ron and Tonks.
"All right, Ginny?" Tonks asked, following her eyes to a purple Volkswagen beetle parked along the street.
"I want that car!" she said, pointing at the Volkswagen. "This one's purple, Ron! It's perfect!"
Ron groaned a long-suffering groan.
"Every time she sees one of those Vault-Wagon things, she goes on like this," he explained to Harry and Tonks.
Ginny looked highly affronted, though in a playful way. "I can't help that they put my initials on the cutest little car in the world," she said.
This pronouncement seemed very odd to Harry. Ginny's initials were G.W., not V.W. He said as much, and was surprised when she looked rather hurt, then angry.
"Ginny's a nickname," she said, walking again. "Doesn't take much to work it out, if you bother."
For a moment Harry felt extremely stupid, especially when he turned to Ron for support and received a rather Hermione-esque "you-really-should-have-known-better" look. That feeling largely evaporated, though, in the face of nervousness as they approached Mrs. Figg's side fence and his first ever birthday party. The twins and Mrs. Weasley had hurried ahead of them, presumably to prepare everyone for Harry's arrival. Suddenly, a deranged voice filled the air.
"ARTHUR WEASLEY, GET OUT OF THAT HOUSE THIS INSTANT!"
The others groaned, and though they didn't explain, Harry understood perfectly. They reached the gate of Mrs. Figg's yard to find Mrs. Weasley waving a finger dangerously close to her husband's face, peppering him with comments about "why we never go into the village" and "the kind of person who just starts taking apart someone else's property, cannot believe...."
Scattered shouts of "Surprise!" came as people noticed Harry's arrival, and Mr. Weasley got another earful for "ruining everything!" Harry wasn't paying attention, as he had been engulfed by a flying brown bush.
"Harry! Happy Birthday!"
Hermione hugged him tightly, though she quickly backed off, looking at him with surprise.
"Goodness, Harry. You said you were working out every day, I never imagined..." Harry heard Tonks chuckle behind him, and noticed Ron had suddenly taken a very impatient expression.
Behind Hermione, about forty people filled the modest yard, mostly members of the Order milling about in conversation.
A large tent, which Harry noted only had poles holding up three of the four corners and none at the high point in the middle, covered most of the area. Massive torches in the corners of the yard provided the bulk of the light, though dozens of tiny blue-bell candles floated near the roof of the tent, giving it an eerie glow. There were picnic benches spread along the edges of the yard, as well as a large table which held an alarming number of presents. Not far from it stood a table with a spread of food, and Harry felt his empty stomach attempt to take over his feet.
"We have all night to feast, Harry. First, there are a few people who wish a word with you."