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“Harry, have you packed your speedos?” Ginny’s voice rang through the house as the indecent early morning hour found five Potters caught in a spate of last minute packing.

            Harry’s splutter answered her before he retorted:

            “I don’t wear speedos! I wear trunks!”

            It was four thirty in the morning and in two hours the Potter family would be meeting the Weasley family, and embark together on their first “family holiday”. Nobody wanted to go anywhere in England, as Ron said, “If it’s not abroad it’s not a holiday,” so they concluded the safest bet would be Ireland, but Ron said that was too wet and green, “a bit like England really,” so then they suggested Scotland, but Ron said that was on the same piece of land as England, “so it’s not technically abroad.”

            Hermione had been sitting down at the edge of her seat during this discussion with her face caught in an expression of rapture and exceptional keenness; she evidently wanted to say something, so Harry asked her what it was, to prevent the imminent danger of Hermione combusting.

            “France!” she’d beamed at the group, looking around at them all with delight, obviously expecting them to share her own enthusiasm. When nobody reacted but continued to look at Hermione as though she were mad she ploughed on.

            “I’ve been there on holiday, and it’s so lovely! Dijon is beautiful, and I know the children would love it!”

            “Yeah, but the thing is Hermione, it’s across sea. Can you imagine taking the children across sea?” Ron pointed out, as though trying to reason with someone who was particularly dim witted.

            “Ireland was across sea! Yet that suggestion was all right by the lot of you!” she said crossly, narrowing her eyes slightly.

            “Not with me! I said it was too-”

            “Yes yes we know about the green thing!”

            “England’s green! Why would you want to go on holiday to country just like England, but instead everyone just speaks like Seamus?” Ron answered.

            “Ireland is lovely Ron, and you can’t –”

            “I never said Ireland wasn’t lovely! I was just pointing out its exact… its exact likeness to England!”

            “It’s nothing like England! You’ve never been. How can you make such a judgement?”

            “I THINK FRANCE SOUNDS LOVELY!” Ginny had shouted just as Ron opened his mouth to answer back once again to Hermione.

            “France it is then.” Said Hermione shortly, “Is that all right Ronald? Or is it too foreign for you?”

            “France is fine.”


            “Glad to hear it.”




So the family of nine were all packing their suitcases for a trip to France, staying in the Brittany region, which was far away enough from home to count as a holiday but still close enough to home to ensure that no homesickness would ensue. Lily Potter was devastated at having to say goodbye to her bed.

            “I’ve just got my pillow in the perfect shape!” she complained to Harry, as he helped her fit her entire collection of summer dresses into her tiny pink suitcase, “And what if our hotel doesn’t have crinkly duvets?”

            “I’m sure you’ll manage Lily,” Harry tried to reassure her, knowing that she was nervous at going on holiday for the first time. She hadn’t really understood what a holiday was, and saw it first as an attempt for Harry and Ginny to deposit her, James and Albus somewhere safely out of the country.

            “But I won’t! None of the other duvets – even the crinkly ones – won’t be the same,” she paused, curling up in a ball on top of her own duvet patterned with daisies, and running her hands over it as though attempting to memorise its every texture and feature in the cotton, so that she could have it firmly in her mind at the moment of separation.

            “Why won’t they be the same Lily?” Harry asked, now trying to use his wand to make the suitcase cram shut over the multicoloured concoction of dresses that he had only just managed to fit in; sitting on it had not worked.

            “Because they won’t smell like… like home!”

            Harry concluded that he would have to enlarge the suitcase before he had any hope of ever shutting it. He pulled out his old holly wand and pointed it at the stubborn pink suitcase.

            “Engorgio.” The suitcase grew to a far more accommodating size and the dresses now fitted inside it comfortably.

            Harry went to sit on the bed next to Lily and she stared up at him beseechingly through big brown eyes.

            “Would you like to take it with you?” Harry asked softly, and Lily gave him a nod still not removing her eyes from his own, still not removing her beseeching expression; Harry couldn’t say no to her when she looked at him like that.

            “Would you like to take your pillow as well?”

            Lily gave him another nod, and she then crawled across the bed to sit in Harry’s lap, marking her current fondness for him, as he was allowing her to take her own little piece of home with her to a strange foreign land.

            The early hour meant that her eyelids started to droop as she rested her head against Harry’s chest. Harry put his arms around her little body so that she wouldn’t fall off and he noticed something comforting about her warm weight, and the sound of her deep slow breathing… he noticed that he too was very tired, and he felt himself slump onto the rumpled bed, his glasses pushed into a wonky angle as he gave into the temptation that was… sleepy.





            “James?” Ginny pushed open his bedroom door, “Are you still –”

            James was still fast asleep in his pyjamas, tangled in his bed sheets and splayed over the bed with his mouth wide open, snoring softly.

            “- asleep?” she added gently.

            Normally Ginny would’ve shouted to wake him, or gone over to poke him, given the need to have him awake; she highly doubted that any of his packing was done. She had also asked all her children to set their alarm clocks, which two of them had done. One obviously had not.

            She suddenly felt herself caught in a momentary lapse of maternal warmth and instead of shouting she quietly approached her sleeping son, carefully avoiding the wooden floorboard that protruded slightly out of his floor (this creaked, a tell tale sign that told Harry and Ginny whether James was out of bed at an inappropriate hour).

            Ginny sat down on the bed lightly, so that the depression she made would not wake James. All she wanted to do was watch him for a while, and relish his presence, which was so much more agreeable when he was asleep. She regarded his thin face and his jet-black messy hair, and felt a stab of realisation that her son was growing up, and slowly starting to look more and more like his father. Except his eyes, which were a combination of the late James Potter’s and her own. But his eyes were closed, so his image could easily have passed for Harry’s when he too was eleven.

            This was the last summer before James went to Hogwarts; he had already received his letter and was insanely excited about finally going; he’d heard so much about it from her and Harry. She wasn’t about to let George talk about Hogwarts to James; that was asking for infinite amount of trouble, as she was sure that George would be a veritable mine of information on how to cause as much bedlam as possible, with that added extra bonus of just managing to avoid expulsion. James caused enough trouble at home. It didn’t bear thinking about the combination of a wand and inspiration from his Uncle George added to this could cause.

             Smiling softly she extended her hand so she could stroke a lock of hair away from his face, and enjoyed that he was letting her – well not hug him exactly, but close enough. James at first stirred, and his snoring stopped but his breathing remained slow and constant, showing that he was on the brink of consciousness. Ginny knew she had precious time left to continue the stroking of his face. He was sure to realise she was there any minute… he opened a bleary hazel eye, found Ginny with it and then closed it again, a small sleepy smile curled into his face. A second later he opened it again with a jolt -


            He sprang back into his headboard pulling his duvet sharply to his chin, breathing heavily and sharply.

            “Why were you watching me?”

            “I was just watching you sleep, which you are not meant to be doing,” Ginny retorted back at him, standing up, “You’re so much more pleasant asleep than you are awake. But there’s no wearing you out…”

            “You would purposefully make me tired…” James shook his head, pretending to be disapproving of Ginny’s words.

            “Yes. Now get up!” Ginny pulled his duvet from him, ignoring his splutters and bleats of indignation, “Everyone else is up! I asked you to set your alarm!”

            “What’s the point? I knew you’d come barging in here to wake me up anyway…”

            “I didn’t come “barging in”!” Ginny said, equally as indignant as James, “I came in very quietly.”

            James muttered to himself mutinously, no doubt cursing his mother for her rude interruption into his beauty sleep and he tried to retrieve his duvet from the floor so he could resume his peaceful slumbering.

            “You are not going back to sleep! You have packing to do.” Ginny said to him firmly, folding her arms.

            “No I don’t.”

            “You don’t have packing to do?” Ginny said sceptically.


            “When did you do it?”

            “Erm- last week.”

            “Get up. If you had said “last night” I might’ve believed you,” Ginny pulled him by his arms onto the floor, so that he fell with a muffled thump onto his duvet, “But you, James Potter would never do anything a week in advance. That would be optimistic to the point of foolishness!”

            James groaned on the floor, trying to curl into his duvet so he could once again go back to sleep.

            “James…” Ginny ceased her sharp tone and developed one that was softer, yet tainted with a tantalising hint that she was about to give a threat that could not be ignored. She bent down and put her head right next to his so that her red hair brushed against his ear, his face buried within the squashy folds of duvet, “Do you want me to tickle you? Because I promise you I will if you don’t have your suitcase ready in an hour…”

            “Fine!” James sprang up nearly knocking Ginny out, “Fine I’ll do it!”

            “Good boy.”

            Ginny ruffled his hair and exited his room, with a very satisfied “my job is done” smile.




Albus Potter was the only child who was sensible enough to pursue packing on his own without the need for a parent. Both his brother and his sister had a definite streak of independence that rendered them perfectly capable of such a feat but they simply did not possess the common sense that would allow them to finish it. He knew that Lily was planning to take her entire collection of dresses with her, and although he had tried to explain to her the silliness of this choice she had remained stubborn and insisted that “it is a holiday. And on holidays people look pretty. Do you want me to look ugly Albus? Is that what you want?”

            He had then given up, and allowed her to try and fit her wardrobe into a very undersized suitcase with the assumption that she would indeed ask for help at some point.

            She had, because he had heard Harry struggling with it about ten minutes earlier. The room next door was now quiet, and Albus wondered what they could be doing. Any activity that Lily partook in generally involved a great deal of noise.

            Closing the lid on his suitcase he spotted his reflection in his wardrobe mirror and realised a terrible revelation:

            “I look like James!”

            “There’s no need to sound so sad about that Al,” came James’ voice as he entered Albus’s room, “And you don’t look like me. You have green eyes and big round glasses like Dad. I don’t have either.”

            Albus breathed out a bit then, and pushed his glasses up his thin nose, as they had started to slip down.

            “What do you want?” he addressed James.

            “I need help.”

            “Doing what?” Albus asked suspiciously, “Because I’m not going to help you make potions in the bathroom sink again… Dad spent ages trying to get those bubbles off the ceiling.”

            “Relax little brother… relax,” James made pacifying motions with his arms, “I just need some help packing.”

            “Why can’t you do it?”

            “Because I’m not as clever as you, and haven’t the foggiest idea how to do it!”

            “Yes you do,” Albus retorted, “You’re just lazy and want me to do it.”

            “Hole in one!” James threw his arms above his head in triumph and grabbed Albus by the arm and marched him into his own bedroom, which was considerably messier.

            “Your bedroom’s a tip.”

            “It’s cleaner than it was yesterday,” James began picking up random t-shirts and throwing them in a suitcase on his unmade bed.

            “What do I have to do?” Albus asked, wondering why he’d been asked to help when James looked as though he was getting through the task admirably on his own.

            “You can find some shorts.”

            “All right…” Albus moved over to James’ open wardrobe and found just a rail of empty clothes hangers.

            “Where are – ” Albus started.

            “On the floor.”

            So Albus willingly bent down and surfed through the piles of clothes trying to find a pair of forgotten shorts or jeans.

            As he lifted up a t-shirt emblazoned with the band “The Cruciatus Curse” (James never was allowed to see them live) he gave a small “Oo!” of surprise.

            “What is it?” James asked him, his bottom protruding from beneath his bed.

            “Oh nothing…” Albus said airily, waiting for effect, “its just there’s a big spider here…”

            James bumped his head as he scrabbled from under his bed hastily.

            “What? Where?” he looked round frantically, and Albus saw his toes curl under his feet, reducing the surface area of his body that was touching the floor, where the spider was sure to be.

            “Oh! Oh dear… I think it’s run away,” Albus said, pretending to be shocked and surprised, and relishing the effect he was causing on James. There had been a spider but Albus had it safely clutched in one of his hands. He and Harry were the only people in the house who could tolerate spiders, whatever James and Ginny said to the contrary, neither of them could stand the little beasts. Lily was just openly petrified of them and always left the room with a shrill scream whenever she spotted one. The same went for Ron whenever he came to visit, his scream being correspondingly deeper… (or so he liked to think). Unfortunately living in a cottage full of nooks and crannies and beams and cupboards it was a thriving breeding ground for all manners of spiders; James didn’t like this one little bit. And neither did Ginny, although she at least put on a brave face about them and had learnt to accept their presence.

            “What?! Why didn’t you catch it Al?” James leapt onto his bed, still in his pyjamas, and turned his head around looking on the floor with a pair of pants in his hands raised above his head for protection.

            “I couldn’t. They move so quickly, what with their eight scuttly legs…”

            James shuddered.

            “Find it… please. I won’t get down until you find it.”

            “Oh it’s long gone now James… it’s completely disappeared amongst all the mess on your floor,” Albus shook his head, “Tut tut, Mum told you to tidy your room. I bet you wish you had now!”

            “Shut up! Just find it!” a note of panic in his voice.

            Albus bent down obligingly, still holding the spider in his hand, which was scuttling around madly trying to escape. It tickled and Albus giggled.

            “What? What is it?” came James’s nervous voice from above him.

            “I’ve just found another one!” Albus said, having the time of his life telling all this fibs to James. There was no other spider at all.

            “Is it a big one?”

            “Yeah… it’s one of those big brown ones with all the hair…”


            James flew off his bed into the hall and thundered into their parents’ room, which was empty. Harry’s reply came from inside Lily’s room, and it sounded very groggy and tired… as though he had recently been asleep…

            “What do you want?”

            “Spider! Big! In my room!” James stormed into Lily’s room breathlessly, pointing frantically into his bedroom, showing his panic through his wide-open eyes. And just like a cartoon, his hair was also standing on end… but then it was always like that.

            Harry sighed and heaved himself off Lily’s comfy bed; Lily didn’t notice a thing, and kept on sleeping.

            But when Harry entered James’ room all he found was a grinning Albus, who showed him the spider in his outstretched hand.

            “You’re a mean brother Albus.”

            “No where near as mean as he is to me!” Albus complained, still grinning and tipping the spider out of James’ window.

            “The spider’s gone now James!” Harry called through, with a smile on his face.

            “Are you sure?” James’ head appeared around the door, though he was careful not to let his bare feet enter, as though he feared the spider suddenly aiming an attack and running over his feet in the menacing manner that only a spider can.

            “I promise,” he paused, debating with himself,  “Albus had it the whole time,” Harry couldn’t resist telling the truth, though he knew the fight that would ensue.

            He saw comprehension dawn on James’ face and it slowly turned red as it faced Albus’s, which was trying to conceal a grin.

            “I HATE YOU!”

            James leapt across the room and landed on his bed, and Albus quickly ran round the side, dodging James’s arms. Harry had to step aside as Albus sprinted into the hall, with James thundering closely at his tail.

            “Albus… James… what?” Ginny’s confusion came from the hall, and she entered James’s room carrying a pile of freshly laundered underwear.

            “Spiders again.” Harry explained.

            “Ahhh… Albus is so mean to him about them,” Ginny looked cross, though it was mingled with a trace of hilarity, as she knew how much Albus enjoyed getting one over James.

            “He is. But James deserves it. He did hang Albus on the back of the door only a week ago.” Harry recalled to Ginny, who remembered the incident with a grin.

            “Our family is insane,” she said, shaking her head, “Can’t think where those genes come from.”

            “I’d just say it’s a mixture of everyone’s,” Harry thought, “My dad’s, your older brothers… you…”

            “Me?” Ginny pointed at herself indignantly, “You think I’m insane?”

            “No… just a bit… I dunno…”

            He faltered at the look on Ginny’s face, and tried to recover himself.

            “I love you,” he hastily, “Please don’t hurt me.”

            “Have you packed yet?”

            “Nearly…” Harry answered tentatively, and made for the door as Ginny looked furious and amused at the same time.

            “Get out!” she said sharply, slapping him across the backside with one of her bras as he went.

            Harry slid round the corner and went into their bedroom, and finished his packing so that Ginny couldn’t find an excuse to hit him again.

            She reflected by herself in James’s room alone for a moment, staring down at all his mess.

            “Nutters… they’re complete nutters… the lot of them.”

            And she then bustled around James’s room, shoving t-shirts and things into his suitcase and wardrobe as she did so, muttering about “nutters” and things.

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