If it had been Hermione who had dropped the children off at the Burrow that morning, then Molly probably wouldn't have attempted it. She would have asked her advice and probably been persuaded to do it differently, wait until she was around to help, or quite possibly not do it at all. Hermione would also have so tightly timetabled the whole day that there was no room for extra-curricular activities. However, it had been Ron who had stepped out of the fireplace, lolloped into the kitchen is if he were still resident, purloined a piece of bacon (which Molly had actually cooked for herself), given her a rough hug, ruffled the hair of his offspring (much to the consternation of Rose) and disappeared whence he came.
“Now, sugar lumps!” said Molly in a voice far cheerier than she felt, “What are you going to have for breakfast?”
“Wizzibrek!” said Hugo enthusiastically.
She mixed up some of the gloopy cereal, magicked a napkin around his neck and left him do do his worst.
“Would you like some bacon like me? Egg? Mushroom?”
“Not egg. Sausage please.”
Molly ended up cooking a much grander breakfast for all of them than she had intended. She was now sat eating it, one eye on her grand children and one on the book which she had charmed to hover at the right height to read easily. She gave it the sort of look that could quail even Fred and George at their worst, but being an inanimate object, of course it had no effect. It was one Hermione had 'recommended' and it had been nominated for some prestigious muggle prize Molly had never heard of. And it was translated from Spanish. To be fair, it was a good book and she was enjoying it when she was able to sit down and read it in a concentrated manner in the evening. It was not the book to read in snatches when trying to supervise two fractious toddlers, though.
She looked out of the window. The rain was blowing in sheets across the back garden. There would be no playing outside today. She opened the worn, beaded bag Hermione used for the children's things. Hmmm. Ron must have packed it. Hermione would have included sufficient activities for spending winter at the South Pole, but he was always somewhat minimalist, not yet having grasped that Quidditch is not a panacea, especially for two pre-schoolers in February. She sighed: time for Granny Molly to look in the loft and her bits box. Her library book stared at her provocatively at her and an idea that had been simmering in the back of her mind for months came forward onto the front plate and began to boil: the library! It was where muggle children went on wet days, sometimes with their grandparents. Molly had seen them. There was even story time and things, wasn't there?
The plan, if that wasn't too ambitious a term had been like fiendfyre, constantly changing shape. Should she simply ask Hermione for Rose and Hugo's cards, in which case Hermione might offer to lend her hers (or equally just say to wait until the weekend)? Or should she try and join in her own right? If so, where? Space and distance mean nothing to a witch – it would be quicker for Molly to apparate to Hermione's library than it would be for the muggles to walk there from the adjacent car park, but if Molly were to join there, then the library staff knew her and the children and she would still be inextricably linked with Hermione. In any case, she had not been able to ask Hermione for the cards this morning. It had better be Ottermouth,then. Molly wondered whether each library had its own cards or whether one ticket would allow her to use them all. She supposed she could get books out for the little ones on hers.
“What are we going to do today, granny?” asked Rose.
“I'm not sure, Rosie. I'm just thinking.”
Come on, Molly! You can do this!She told herself. You see lots of muggles in the library using it quite happily, many older than you. You've brought up seven children, killed the most dangerous witch of recent years (if not all time) and know many spells the muggles can't even conceive of, never mind do. You've got books out before – it can't be that hard!
“Shall we go to the library?” she suggested.
“Libee!” agreed Hugo.
They were ready to go, swathed in coats and hats, with Molly in her muggle finest (Hugo and Rose were in muggle clothes anyway).
“Right!” said Molly, brightly. “Are we ready to go? Have you apparated with mummy and daddy before?”
“What's that?” asked Rose.
“When you disappear from one place and reappear somewhere else. It's a bit uncomfy, but it's very quick.”
“Yes, I think so,” said Rose.
Hugo looked uncertain.
“Hughie, you will go on my shoulders. Rosie, hold very tight to my hand, OK? Ready?”
They nodded. Molly concentrated very hard on Ottermouth library. She had been to the town remarkably few times over the years, but remembered the library as an imposing Victorian building on Marine Square. There was an alleyway down the side that would make a good apparition point. She experienced the familiar darkness and squeezing sensation and were instantly transported to the location she'd envisioned. Rose looked very worried and still hung onto her hand tightly. Hugo was whimpering.
“You can let go now, Rosie m'dear. Come on Hughie, it's all over. Down you get.”
“Blimey! Were did you spring from?”
A workman had just turned round, having got something out of his van and was very surprised to see them standing here.
“I wouldn't bring kiddies down here, lover. It's not a very nice place.”
The Three Weasleys and the man walked round the side of the building.
“Er, we were just going to the library,” Molly, replied uncertainly.
“Library? Not been here for years. 'Ere, Gav!” he shouted to another man just coming out of the building, “Where's the library these days?”
“Down Foregate, isn't it?” suggested Gav.
“Do you know where that is, lover? Straight down here, then second right. It's in one corner of the big car park.”
“Granny, this isn't our library,” said Rosie, in a puzzled voice.
“No, I thought we'd come to granny's library for a change, only they seemed to have moved it. Come on, Hughie, back on my shoulders. Hold tight to my hand, Rosie. Off we go!”
They set off down the road. Rose pressed the button on the pedestrian crossing and they waited for the green man, as they did when they went with Hermione. Molly regretted not having asked to borrow the buggy, but she never had need for it normally. She had no idea how far it was to Fore Gate. The weather was biting. Molly grasped her wand within her hand bag and managed to cast silent warming charms on them all.
“Are we nearly there yet?” whined Rose.
“I'm sure it can't be far, sugar-lump,” said Molly, more in hope than expectation. It was quite a long way for short legs. At last, however, the car park came into sight and soon after that, they spied the library. Rose, who was flagging, sped up a little.
They walked into the library.
“It's quite small,” said Rose, critically.
“I'm sure they've got plenty of story books for you, sugar-lump. Why don't you and Hugo go and take a look. I need to go and speak to the ladies. Stay in sight, though.”
Molly took a deep breath and walked up to the desk. It was staffed by two friendly looking women about her own age.
“Can we help you?” smiled the white-haired librarian.
“Er...My grand children are members of their local library. Can they get books out here?”
“Where do they live? If you're a member of Devon Libraries, you can get books out anywhere in the county.”
“No, they're not in Devon, they're in London.”
“Ooh! Are they having a little holiday?” asked the other librarian with aggressively short grey hair. “How lovely!”
“No, I'm just looking after them while their mum's at work,” said Molly, in a puzzled tone.
“It must still seem like a holiday to them, though,” insisted Grey. “A few days with grandma at the seaside. Even if it isn't exactly seaside weather!”
Molly was about to explain they were only here for the day, but stopped herself. It suddenly struck her that Muggles probably wouldn't come from London to Devon just for the day. She had no idea how long that sort of journey would take them. She would have to find out, if they were going to do this muggle travelling.
“In that case, you could get them membership of this library, or just get stuff out on your own card for them,” explained White.
“Actually, I'm not a member. I wanted to ask how I can join.”
Grey got a leaflet from under the counter. “Just fill this in and bring it back with two forms of ID.”
“Identity – proof of address. There's a list on the back.”
She looked with dismay at the long, incomprehensible list.
“I don't have any of this with me today,” she said.
“Never mind, said White. “Take it home, fill it in and bring it back. We can issue you with a card as soon as you do.”
At this moment, Rose and Hugo appeared, both carrying armfuls of books. They were both beaming.
“Oh dear!” said Molly. “I'm sorry, sugar-lumps, but we can't get these out today.”
“Why not?” asked Rose with an expression disconcertingly like her mother's.
“The nice lady said I need to fill in this form, and bring her some other bits and pieces back first,” explained Molly.
“She's not a nice lady, she's a nasty lady!” countered Rose, giving White Hermione's mummy-is-cross look.
Hugo started to snivel. Molly suddenly remembered that she had brought some muggle money with her, not knowing if she needed to pay to join.
“I tell you what, sugar-lumps,” she said, brightly, “I'm sure we passed a bookshop on the way up. Why don't we see if there's anything in there you like.”
“Oh there's lots of nice books in there!” said Grey, who was trying not to laugh at Rose's milk-curdling expression. “I'm sure you'll find just the right book.”
“And I expect grandma will bring you back soon!” added White.
“Come on then!” said Molly brightly and led them outside. The weather was still abysmal, so under the disguise of adjusting Rose's coat, she hastily recast their warming charms.
“Up you come Hughie!” she said, lifting him back onto her shoulders.
“I want a carry!” demanded Rose.
“I'm sorry, Rosey Posey. I've only got one set of shoulders. You'll have to be a big girl and walk.”
“I'm too tired,” she retorted, flatly.
Molly looked desperately up and down the road: “Ooh! I can see a baker's over there. Let's get a treat.”
She got them each a sausage roll, which did them all a world of good, although she was itching to cast a tergeo spell over her hair so she could remove Hugo's pastry crumbs from it.
They had a happy time in the bookshop, although she had to be very firm to restrict Rose to one book and Molly was fairly sure it was one Hermione would have vetoed had she been there. Molly treated herself to a Catherine Cookson, which she was looking forward to reading. A few doors down from the bookshop was a branch of John Frenzy's, so she got Arthur the latest copy of his railway magazine. It was now only a few dozen yards back to the apparition point behind the old library. She tightened her grip on Rose, twisted on the spot and they were returned to the Burrow once more.
“Well, mi'dears,” she said. “That's been quite an adventure! I'll charm up some soup for lunch!
Hermione stepped out of the grate into the Burrow's parlour and was most surprised not to be immediately assailed by her children.
“Hello, monsters!” she said. “What have you got there?”
“New book!” said Rose, not looking up.
“So I can see,” siad Hermione, grimacing slightly at the title. “Where did that come from?”
“Granny got it for us because the nasty library lady wouldn't let us get any books out.”
“I didn't know granny was going to the library today. I don't think she had your tickets.”
“This was granny's library. The nasty lady wouldn't let her have a ticket.”
“Granny's library?” This wasn't making sense. “Is granny in the kitchen?”
Hermione walked over to the other room.
“Oh, hello mi' dear!” said Molly, looking up from the sink. “Have you had a good day?”
“Hello. It was very busy. What's all this about the library?”
“I've been hexed by the very first spell,” said Molly ruefully. “I took the children down to Ottermouth and tried to join the library, but they wouldn't let me. I need ID, whatever that is. She gave me a long list.”
“ID? Just to join a library?” exclaimed Ron, who had just stepped out of the grate and come through the door behind Hermione. “I'm not sure we even needed that when we opened a bank account, did we?”
“Librarians can be a bit protective of their books – Look at Madam Pince!” said Hermione.
“Look at this list!” exclaimed Molly, rummaging through a pile of papers on her worktop and finding the brightly coloured leaflet. “I don't know what most of these things are, never mind have them: Passport, driving licence, bank statement, utility bill.”
“What's a futility bill?” asked Ron.
“It shows how much attention you pay to the running of the house!” scolded Hermione. “Gas, electricity, phone bill. That sort of thing.”
Arthur joined them from the scullery, where he had been washing his hands. He smelt distinctly of engine oil.
“We're never going to manage this trip of we have to show ID every time we want to buy a train ticket or get on a bus!” said Molly anxiously.
Hermione laughed, gently: “You won't have to, honestly. It's just for important things.”
“Didn't you say we're going to need a phone and a computer and things?” asked Arthur. “Won't they give us these futility bills?”
“It depends a bit on what sort of phone you have – you can just have a mobile phone that you top up – you buy vouchers to pay for it – so that wouldn't give you a bill. But the computer and the phone need electricity. They have batteries that need recharging, even if you don't plug them in all the time. We're going to need to think how we do that.”
“We could always do that for them,” suggested Ron.
“No, m'dear,” said Molly, as she began to ladle dinner out onto their plates. “That is very kind of you, but we want to be independent. If we're going to have these things, we need to be able to deal with them ourselves.” She added, smiling: “We managed to survive for many years before we had our children and their spouses to help us, you know!”
“So we need to get eckletricity into the Burrow, then,” reasoned Arthur.
“Oh no, Arthur! Not in the house! It's bad enough having those bits of engine in your shed.” Molly sounded quite distressed.
“You could do what we do,” suggested Ron, “And have a small Muggle place as well as a magical one. Somewhere to present a Muggle face to the world and watch telly.”
“That sounds complicated,” said Molly.
“And expensive,” added Arthur.
“And, presumably I'd have to clean it without magic! We were only trying to have a holiday! We didn't realise it would be this difficult”
“I don't think it has to be difficult,” said Hermione, reassuringly, “And I suspect once we get one thing in place, the rest will become easier. I think I'll look into bank accounts. You'll need one of those, whatever we do and that will give you a good proof of identity. This dinner looks lovely, Molly. Shall I carry these through?”
The Otter is a real river in East Devon, an area I know reasonably well. I have used a fair bit of artistic licence over the places, but the intention is to give a real Devonian feel and I hope it will work. Location-wise, Otterton is Budleigh Salterton, but I think it's probably more Sidmouth in character. We know Ottery St Catchpole is a village, so I am going to make it an amalgam of Tipton St John and Venn Ottery, rather than Ottery St Mary, which is actually a small town.
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