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“Yesterday was really fun!” Lily said chirpily, throwing her breakfast spoon into the air, where it then landed with a clatter on the floor, spraying flecks of milk all over Ron’s new slippers; he had bought them at the market yesterday.

         “It sure was,” Hugo agreed, grinning in an idiotic way as attempted a little “triumphant punch” gesture that sent his bowl of cereal to the floor with a crash. The cornflakes inside it all slopped out in a horrible sludge mixture (Hugo didn’t like them, so hadn’t been eating them so the cornflakes/ cereal combo had made a nasty sort of yellow gloop in his bowl.) The gloop stole across the floor until it reached the porous surface of Ron’s new slippers. Ron was standing next to the sink, drinking tea and was blissfully unaware of all the breakfast food ruining his slippers.

         “I want to do something equally as fun today!” James cried, leaping up from the table and throwing down his spoon in triumph. The spoon hit Ron’s toe, and it was only then that he looked down and realised all the milk and cornflakes that were making a puddle around his new slippers.

         “Argh! Oh look – oh that’s disgusting!” Ron stared down at his feet in horror, lifting his feet in and out of the milky puddle. Albus noticed that people always did this when they stepped in unpleasant things; they stepped in and out of it on the spot, making “Urgh! How gross! My shoes are ruined!” sort of noises, when they would minimise the damage so much by just leaping out the puddle straight away.

         Albus had finished his cereal and was already putting his bowl in the sink, where a scrubbing brush immediately attacked it, and was now making for the kitchen door, hoping to find Harry and maybe tip him off about the “fun day” that James wanted. It only sounded like trouble.

         “Albus! Where are you going?” James demanded, striding over to his little brother and putting his arm around Albus’s neck, “You have to help us decide what to do today! You’re the clever one!”

         “Actually,” Rose piped up, having sat quite quietly at the table during all the milk throwing ruckus, “I’m the clever one.”

         “Oh yeah…” James realised, releasing Albus and walking around to the back of Rose’s chair, “So Rose, what will we do today?”

         “Why do I have to come up with suggestions?” Rose asked indignantly, even though she had really bought this upon herself.

         “Because,” James sighed wearily, “You’re the clever one!” He imitated Rose’s voice by making it high pitched and squeaky. Rose didn’t think much of this and shoved her chair back from the table so that it went onto James’s foot.

         “OUCH!” James yelled, leaping around on one leg rubbing his foot. Rose glared at him and flounced over to the sink where she put her bowl. Albus and Rose were always so tidy.

         “We have to go shopping today,” Ron suddenly said, having restored his slippers to their former glory; they were blue and fluffy again.

         All the children groaned; they hated shopping. They hated it. It was an awful thing, food shopping. Terrible. Almost as bad as shopping for clothes. It was nasty, it was exhausting, and they could never reach the things on the top shelves… which surely implied that that’s where the interesting things were.  Maybe that’s why adults enjoy food shopping and children don’t; adults can reach the “interesting” things that get put on the top shelves, and children can’t.

         “WE ARE NOT GOING SHOPPING!” Lily yelled in horror, backing away from the breakfast table, from everyone, from Ron… “NO! No! Not!”

         “You will go shopping!” Ron said, advancing on her with a malicious glint in his eye.

         “NOOOOO! ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!”

         Lily ran out the room, with her arms in the air, and they heard her thunder upstairs, along the landing and then slam a door. James followed the sounds with his head, looking faintly amused.

         “Does she know nothing?” James asked the room at large, “When running away from people you never, ever go upstairs. There’s nowhere to go! She’d have been better off running outside…”

         “You sound far too experienced, Harry Junior,” Ron said seriously.

         “Harry Junior!” James repeated, evidently disgusted, “What the hell is that?”

         “I’m tired, Harry Junior,” Ron stretched his arms above his head, “I can’t remember your name; I just know you look like Harry.”

         “Not as much as Albus!” James said, pointing a finger heavily at Albus, who was just standing innocently by the door, “Call him your stupid name!”

         “Nah,” said Ron, “He’s James Junior.”

         “But that – that proves that you do remember my name!” James cried, outraged, “You’re just winding me up!”

         Ron nodded wearily.

         “Well done Harry Junior,” Ron said sarcastically, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and get dressed.”

         James scowled as he left the room.

         “I hate Mum’s brothers,” James said to Albus sullenly, “All they do is tease people.”

         “Uncle Percy doesn’t,” Albus said reasonably, “Or Uncle Bill or Charlie…”

         “Oh shut up,” James said, annoyed, “For just once, could you not be so reasonable!”

         “One of us has to be,” Albus said.

         “Shut up.”

         “You shut up.”

         This argument continued in some vein, until Hermione came in and put a stop to it, and then sent Ron out by himself to do the food shopping after she had heard the story from Lily (an exaggerate one) about how he had teased her about having to go shopping.

         Ron wasn’t impressed. And it was with ill grace that he stumped off into town by himself.

        

***

 

After striding through a busy high street, that was lined with very commercial Muggle shops, Ron realised that he was out of his depth; all these shops were Muggle ones, and he had no idea how to behave in these… or how they worked. They also had great big “SOLDES” signs outside, which surely meant that all their stock was sold… how would he buy anything if it was all sold already?

         He felt exceedingly out of place… and he cursed their choice of holiday destination. Why was this area so busy, when their house was so secluded? It made no sense… and he felt very uneasy. He was an English man stuck in France, with only one sentence of French that earned him very violent responses when he said it… and he was a wizard in a very Muggle district. It all spelled (no pun intended) for trouble… nothing good could come out of this…

 

***

 

Harry and Hermione were playing catch in the back garden, with an old ball that they had found lodged behind a bush. It was a bit old and flat, but they were bored, and it provided entertainment. And also a chance to “catch up” with each other. Of course, they saw each other nearly everyday, but it had been a long time when they could just talk together, and they both welcomed the opportunity. After all, they were best friends, and the closest things to siblings they both had, as they were both only children.

         “I’m so happy that we could all get together like this…” Hermione mused, throwing the ball to Harry, “It’ll be a while before we can do it again… what with James going to Hogwarts next year.”

         “Yeah,” said Harry, not throwing the ball back, but turning it between his index fingers and staring at it.

         “I guess it’ll be … um … quieter around the house, with him gone,” Hermione asked, trying to phrase “I guess they’ll be a lot less trouble around here with James out the way,” in a somewhat nicer way.

         “Yeah,” Harry said again, with a laugh, “A lot quieter. Lily’ll have her work cut out trying to fill the gap.”

         Hermione smiled.

         “It’s weird,” Harry mused, “I never really thought about how parents miss their kids when they went to Hogwarts… because no one ever missed me…”

         Hermione’s eyebrows contracted with sympathy, even though she knew that wasn’t the effect that Harry had wanted.

         “My parents missed me… but we never really,” Hermione seemed to struggle, searching for words, “I mean I loved them, and they loved me, but I always felt like they were … bemused and maybe intimidated by me.”

         She sounded a bit forlorn at this, and Harry found himself looking up from his ball to give Hermione a look of sympathy of his own.

         “You must’ve been a scary child,” Harry said, trying to keep his sympathetic face, but he couldn’t help a grin ruining it. Hermione glared at him.

         “I was not a scary child,” she retorted, “I was a lot like Rose actually…”

         “Yeah… a scary child,” Harry said, but in an undertone. Unfortunately, Hermione had infallible hearing, especially when it came to things murmured in “undertones.”

         She strode forward before Harry had a chance to back away, and she grabbed the ball from him. With a sudden movement she threw the ball into Harry’s head, so that it bounced off into her own hands again.

         “That’s a fine way to talk about your niece!” she scolded him.

         “I’m sorry,” Harry laughed, rubbing his head, “You’ve probably given me another scar you know…”

         “It’d serve you right!” Hermione tried to be stern, but couldn’t help giggling, “Oh dear… I think I have! I’ve made a bruise!”

         “What?” Harry yelped, prodding his forehead for signs of pain or bruising.

         “The Boy Who Was Bruised,” Hermione giggled, “Now there’s a good name.”

         “The Chosen Bruise,” Harry joined in, also laughing.

         “We should sell these ideas to the Prophet!” said Hermione eagerly, “Make our fortune!”

         “You’d make money out of my pain?” Harry shook his head in disappointment, “What sort of friend are you?”

         “Oh shut up…” Hermione backed away again, holding the ball so that she commence their game of catch once more.

         They threw it to each other for a while, wondering when they’d ever get bored. They didn’t feel the need to speak to each other all the time, such was the strength of their friendship. Throwing this ball to and fro was quite enough to keep them amused and bonded…

         Such was their enjoyment, that they didn’t even notice that Ron had been gone an hour. He should’ve been back by now… and he was not.

 

***

 

“Bloody hell…” muttered Ron as he walked through the aisles of the supermarket that he’d finally managed to find, by using a combination of guesswork, chance, and a rather good sense of smell.

         Everything was in French… which was no problem when it came to locating things like bread, eggs and milk, but with things that can in tubs or boxes and cannot be identified so easily… it caused real problems.

          “This is ridiculous… why couldn’t Hermione do this?” Ron muttered, causing people nearby to stare at him, “At least she can speak this stupid language… stupid.”

         He prowled around, trying to make himself look aggressive so people around him didn’t think he was lost and therefore stupid… for who gets lost in supermarkets? But Ron had never been in a supermarket before… and he again started thinking about how foolish it was for Hermione to send him on this shopping excursion.

 

***

 

“Harry…” Ginny strolled out into the garden, looking slightly concerned, “Have you seen Ron?”

         “Nope,” said Harry, not looking at her, for he had just had to dive for a very violent throw from Hermione; they had been playing catch for about two hours now, and had progressed to some pretty impressive throws and catches. Mainly on Harry’s part… Hermione’s had mainly been “drops.”

         “He should’ve been back ages ago,” Ginny said, frowning, “We only sent him out for a few things.”

         “He’s probably lost,” Hermione said, trying to put “spin” on a throw, but failing miserably. Ginny was disturbed by how unconcerned Hermione sounded.      

         “Shouldn’t we go look for him?” she asked pointedly, putting her hands on her hips. Finally Harry and Hermione looked at her, then at each other, and nodded.

         “Yes, me and Hermione will look for him,” Harry nodded fervently, striding over to Ginny and placing a kiss on her angry lips, “We’ll be back soon.”

         Hermione also walked towards Ginny, but instead of kissing her she shoved the ball into Ginny’s hands with a grin. Well this wasn’t unexpected; Hermione wasn’t about to go around kissing her best friend’s wife, and besides, she wasn’t that way inclined anyway.

         It was only after a few seconds that Ginny suddenly realised something terrible –

         “You’re leaving me with the children on my own!”

         Harry gave her a grin, and started to disappear beyond the gate so that she couldn’t chase him.

         “NO! Don’t!” Ginny threw the ball down and chased after Hermione, who was halfway across the garden.

         “Run Hermione!” Harry yelled, watching his angry wife run after Hermione, waving her hands in the air, her red hair flailing wildly.

         Hermione ran, and only made it because Harry grabbed her hand and pulled her across to the other side of the gate. Admittedly, it was a very small garden gate, that barely came up to Harry’s waist, but it seemed to symbolise an unspoken boundary that Ginny could not cross…

         Harry and Hermione started to run, in case Ginny chased them. But she did not. Instead she stopped at the gate and yelled: “I HAVE NO HUSBAND!”

         “I LOVE YOU TOO! HAVE FUN!” Harry yelled back, waving over his shoulder.

         Harry and Hermione were in a very good mood. You could almost call it a mischievous mood…

         And with this, they strode off into town to start “Ron Hunting.”

 

***

 

“I haven’t been to a Muggle town for ages!” Hermione said with glee, clutching Harry’s arm and staring around at the shops around her with a look of excitement.

         “Are you feeling all right?” Harry asked her, starting to feel worried about her somewhat exuberant mood.

         “Yes! Yes I am!” Hermione nodded at him, her eyes very big, “Now… what shall we do first?”

         “We’re meant to be looking for Ron?” Harry reminded her.

         “Oh he’s a big boy… he can take care of himself,” Hermione waved aside the issue of her lost husband with her hand, “Let’s go into…”

         She looked around, staring at gadget shops, music shops, clothes shops and then spotted a grotty looking shop at the end of the façade where a group of young teenagers were lurking outside, hiding in giant black hoodies. They reminded Harry of Death Eaters.

         “Let’s go in there!” she said, pulling Harry along through the crowds of shoppers. Harry tried to stop her, but it was impossible.

         Harry almost coughed as an extreme herby smell scratched his nostrils. The shop was very small and cramped, with posters of tortured looking Gothic singing souls on the walls. Small sculptures of skulls, spiders, demons and Muggle fairies sat on glass shelves. Heavy looking notebooks with iron locks also seemed to feature heavily. The girl behind the tiny counter in the corner had bright pink hair, and Harry had a momentary urge to ask her is she was a Metamorphagus, but then remembered that she was a Muggle.

         “Wow…” Hermione stared around, “It’s like a non-magical version of Borgin and Burkes!”

         “Yeah…” Harry said, frowning as he saw the similarities, “It is as well…”

         There was also a messy clothes rail that stood in the middle of the floor, which hosted an array of shiny black, lace and leather clothing, interspersed with metal spikes and purple velvet. Curious by an article that seemed to be covered in string, Harry pulled it out.

         He had no idea what it was, but it looked very sinister. It looked very tight and was covered in laces that reminded Harry of ones you’d find on a shoe…

         “Harry!” hissed Hermione, returning to her normal state once more, instead of the manic form she’d been previously, “Put that down! It’s a corset! Not for men.”

         “I know it’s not for men,” Harry hissed back, shoving it back on the rail blushing furiously, “I was only curious! And what’s a corset?”

         Hermione shook her head, and told him to ask Ginny (providing she was still talking to him.)

         Harry kept right behind Hermione as she moved her way around the shop, taking small replica cauldrons and spell books from the shelves and laughing at them lightly.

         “As if you’d be able to make anything in this…” she scoffed at a tiny cauldron that Harry could barely fit his hand in.

         The pink-haired girl was watching them avidly, obviously having detected that there was something different about these two people. They looked very ordinary, but they had an air about them that suggested they were something different… and they seemed to paying a disproportionate amount of interest in all her witchcraft items…  and she had believed that she was the only witch around here!

         “Do you speak English?” she asked them suddenly, causing Hermione to yelp in shock; the shop had been very quiet, and the girl’s voice had made her jump.

         “Yes,” Hermione said, “We’re English.”

         “I moved here a few years ago,” said the girl, “England did nothing for me. I didn’t feel the vibe of magic around there.”

         Harry and Hermione were struck dumb. Their faces amused the girl.

         “Don’t worry,” she laughed, “I’m just like you.”

         “What?” Harry asked hastily.

         “I’m a witch,” she said in a hushed voice, “Like you.”

         “You are?” Harry said, raising his eyebrows in shock.

         “Yes, I’ve practised it for a year now,” the girl said, “Like chanting, and rituals.”

         Harry’s confusion must’ve shown on his face, because they girl smiled at him sympathetically.

         “You don’t have to be scared of me…”

         Harry wasn’t scared; he was curious. She was evidently speaking of a whole new type of witchcraft that was completely new to him… and it didn’t sound right. It sounded Dark. His nature as an Auror was tingling, and as he noticed a white face on a poster to his left he jerked his head to stare at it and saw a picture of –

         “Voldemort,” Harry breathed.

         “Oh Harry, don’t be silly,” Hermione scolded him, “It’s Marilyn Manson! It says so underneath.”

         “What? Oh…” he said feeling foolish. Trying to cover up his mistake he said: “She looks like a man though…”

         “That’s because it is a man Harry!” Hermione said, her face turning red. She was obviously regretting going into this shop. It had been a whim, and she didn’t often get whims, so when she did she liked to act on them. Now she realised, it had been a mistake.

         “But he’s wearing make-up!”

         Now Harry was very confused, and thought it best that he and Hermione left the shop immediately, and went looking for Ron, which was of course, what they were meant to be doing.

          

 

***

 

“MERLIN’S TROUSERS!”

         “MERLIN’S TROUSERS!”

Ginny had all five children running around in circles, playing a game they’d devised themselves and had dubbed “Merlin’s Trousers.” It involved running around with your eyes closed and shouting the phrase out, trying to catch a person that was decided at the beginning. It was a stupid, pointless, confusing game that resulted in a lot of bashing in to things (and people) so Ginny had shooed them all out into the garden, where it wouldn’t matter if they bashed into things.

She was trying to supervise, but she just couldn’t understand the game and thought it might be best if she left them to it. It was pointless trying to control them, and the more she tried, the more naughty they became. So she was trying a different tactic: ignore them, and they won’t be naughty. It seemed to be working. She couldn’t help but smile at her victory.

“MERLIN’S TROUSERS.”

 

***

 

“Right,” thought Ron, “This is stupid now. I have bread, eggs and milk. That’ll be enough to feed us. I am not walking around this stupid shop for a minute longer. I’ll pay, and then I’ll leave.”

         So Ron did just that. He paid. But – but he could not leave. A manic looking lady had just grabbed his arm, and pulled him aside, bombarding him with French questions and holding a clipboard. She was part of a group of similar looking people, and Ron realised with horror that they were doing a… survey.

         He hated English surveys, and ones that were conducted in languages that he couldn’t even understand would surely be worse.

         Luckily, he was rescued, by the timely arrival of Harry and Hermione.

 

***

 

“That was the most ridiculous and pointless day,” Ron stormed, throwing his single bag of shopping on the kitchen table, “Don’t ever make me do it again!”

         “You – you only have one bag Ron,” Hermione said blankly, “Did you buy everything?”

         “NO I DIDN’T BLOODY BUY EVERYTHING!” Ron suddenly yelled, turning a prestigious shade of maroon, “I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT ANYTHING WAS IN THAT STUPID SHOP BECAUSE I – DON’T – SPEAK – FRENCH!”

         “Calm down, mate,” Harry said, “We’re sorry. We didn’t know it’d be so traumatic for you…”

         “Oh ha ha…” scowled Ron, sensing Harry’s sarcasm.

         “And we still have no food…” Hermione said.

         “That’s not true,” Ron shot at her, stuffing his fist into his single bag of food that he’d thought would feed all nine of them, “We have milk!”

         He took a bottle out and shook it in their faces.

         “Milk?” Harry asked.

         “Yes, milk,” Ron said firmly, “And I spent ages getting milk out my slippers this morning so you should feel very grateful.”

         “How did you get milk in your slippers?” Hermione asked through narrowed eyes.

         “Ron has slippers?” Harry asked, equally curious.

         “Yes I have slippers!” Ron defended.

         Harry stared at him for a moment and then started sifting through the bag, pulling out bread and eggs. There was only one conclusion that could come of this: they’d have to eat out tonight, and go shopping again tomorrow.

         “Oh,” Ginny’s voice entered the kitchen, “You’re back.”

         She didn’t sound pleased. Harry marched over to her and pulled her into a hug.

         “What are you doing?” she demanded.

         “Ginny, this day has been ridiculous,” Harry explained, “I need to feel something sane.”

         “MERLIN’S TROUSERS!” Ginny suddenly yelled in Harry’s ear, destroying all of Harry’s hopes that Ginny was sane.

         It was true. They were a nutty family. And they were having a great holiday.

         “Just think,” Hermione suddenly sounded blissfully happy, “We have a whole lifetime of holidays to France to look forward to!”

         “A lifetime of – “” Ron comprehended, “What? NO! No, not a lifetime… no.”

         And so the day came to an end, the most random and strange day that they had all encountered for quite a while. It had been fun, but nobody ever wanted to do it again. And that was probably the first thing they had ever all agreed on.

 

~*~*~*~

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