It was Saturday morning. Hermione and Audrey were sat in the snug at the Leaky Cauldron, drinking coffees.
“This feels very naughty!” said Audrey, taking a sip of hers
“Percy doesn't mind you coming, surely? I mean: it's his parents we're doing this for.”
“No! Not at all! Actually, he and the girls are at Music Centre this morning – instrument lessons, ensembles, that sort of thing. Percy even sings in the choir – he's a very fine tenor, you know. It's just, whenever I'm out without the girls and it's not for work, I feel a bit like I'm bunking off!”
Hermione laughed: “I know exactly what you mean. Social life – what's that? It doesn't help,” she continued more seriously, “That the Ministry still has such an old-fashioned approach to family life. An employer that size ought to provide childcare.”
“Yes – we still have a lot to learn from the mainstream world, don't we? I don't know what Percy and I would do without the wrap-around care at the girls' primary school.”
“And as a family, how would we all cope without Molly?”
“Quite. Talking of whom: how are you getting on? Are these bank accounts?” She asked, pointing to some pamphlets Hermione had put on the table.
Hermione winced: “I seem to hit a brick wall at every turn. Do you know the song: I've a Hole in my Bucket?”
“It's like that: round and round in circles. Everyone wants ID, but to get each piece of ID, you need to have ID to start with. I tried to open them a bank account, but they all need two proofs of identity.”
Audrey picked up one of the leaflets: “What – even the Griffin? We're with them and I'm sure we didn't need all that.”
“So are we and I don't think we did, either. There's been new laws since then – it's called the Money Laundering Regulations. Ron thought I was talking about when I put his wallet through the wash.”
“Percy knows that if he leaves his wallet in his trousers, I pocket the contents. And he often does the washing anyway. I hope you don't mind me saying, Hermione, but sometimes Ron can be remarkably, unaware.”
Hermione laughed too: “Do you mean about muggle life or housekeeping?”
“I'm doing my best to train him, but it's an uphill struggle! Anyway, our first problem was the library. Opening a bank account was supposed to be part of the solution.”
“Yes, Molly wanted to join. I'm not sure why. I told her she could get stuff out on my card.”
“It must be a bit embarrassing having to use her daughter in law's card. She might want to borrow something you wouldn't approve of!”
“Molly?” Hermione looked scandalised. “What like?”
“I don't know, but you wouldn't want to have to get approval for all your book borrowings, would you? I remember the sense of freedom when I could finally go to the library on my own and borrow Enid Blyton.”
“Enid Blyton?!” Hermione's tone could not have been more shocked if Audrey had said that her nine year old self had borrowed the Joy of Sex.
“Yes. Mum insisted I borrowed wholesome stuff like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Arthur Ransome.”
“I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder!”
“They were OK, but you have to have a bit of crap too, don't you? Like buying a bag of penny sweets.”
“My parents are dentists. I've never ever had a penny sweet.”
Now it was Audrey's turn to be shocked: “What?! Didn't your grandparents ever buy you a sneaky bag?”
“No! I wouldn't have let them!”
Audrey laughed: “I thought my childhood was strict! Anyway...back to this library card.”
“Yes. She tried to join and they needed two proofs of address. They gave her a long list, but of course she had none of it.”
“That's why my mum has always insisted that dad's name is on one utility bill.”
“That's a good idea. Perhaps I ought to get Ron to do that...or maybe not! Anyway, the library wasn't all bad news. Molly coped really well. Perhaps too well!”
“Whatever do you mean?” asked Audrey, intrigued.
“The children were quite upset that they couldn't get any books out. She said – how did she put it? - Rose pulled a face that looked so like me that she got her out of there before she could tell the librarian off. I'm not quite sure what she meant!”
Audrey laughed: “Your daughter can be very authoritative can't she?”
“That's one way of putting it! Anyway, Molly had spotted a bookshop, so she took them there and let them choose a book.”
“You say that like it's a bad thing!”
“A book is a good thing, but Rose chose an Amble and Emily book!”
“Your face! I bet that's what Rose looked like!”
“You're teasing me!”
“Only a little. What's wrong with Amble and Emily?”
“They're hardly AA Milne, are they? I never let her have them out of the library. And I'm sure Molly knew that.”
“She was trying to stave off a major meltdown. I expect she thought it was one battle she didn't want to fight. Anyway, it's part of a grandparent's job to buy treats you wouldn't. Like me and the Enid Blyton. You could always suggest she keeps it at the Burrow!”
Hermione smiled: “Now that's a good idea! She got them a sausage roll each, too. I didn't think she even knew what they were!”
“See! I told you they would surprise us! It's a bit of a pain about the library, though. Molly and Arthur need a mainstream identity.”
Hermione looked at he sister in law: “You never say muggle.”
“No. I find it derogatory. And they're the majority, not us.”
“You're right, of course, it just seems another battle to fight. We've only just got everyone to stop saying mudblood!”
“Everyone except you!”
“I'm allowed to say it – I am one! “Anyway, I'm proud of my heritage – aren't you?”
“Of course I am!”
“I suggested that they got a mug- I mean mainstream flat, but they don't seem keen. They think it's too much work and expense. It all seems to be getting too complicated and difficult. Perhaps we need to give up.”
“Don't say that! Percy's done all his research!”
“What's he researched?”
“Everything! He's got computer spreadsheets and an enchanted map of the whole country with a little Molly and Arthur walking all over it. There are computer scans of parchment and geminis of timetable leaflets. He's found out about every one-day transport ticket and discount entrance card between Lands End and John O'Groats. He's even watched a documentary about trains on BBC4 and he never watches telly!”
“Goodness! That must have kept him busy!”
Audrey winked at Hermione: “A busy Percy is a happy Percy. Perhaps we just need to keep it simple – give them cash and print them out a schedule.”
“I thought we want to give them independence. And at the very least they ought to take a mobile phone with them, which means they need somewhere to charge it.”
Hannah Longbottom, née Abbot, the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron came over.
“Are these dead?” she asked, picking up their empty cups. “You two look glum.”
“Puzzled, rather than glum,” said Hermione. “We're trying to work out how to give Ron's parents access to the ...muggle world.” She blushed slightly as she said the word, but thought Hannah wouldn't understand Mainstream.
“Have you spoken to Dean?” asked Hannah.
“Yeah. He's a builder and specialises in crossover stuff. If he can't help you, he'll know a man who can.”
“Thanks. I'll send him an owl.” She turned to Audrey: “ He was a Gryffindor in my year and had...Non-magical heritage. I've a feeling his stepdad was a builder.”
“Do you want another coffee, or do you need to get back?” asked Audrey.
“Why not? Ron's taken the children over to Harry's. We often meet up at the weekend if Ginny's working – it helps to dilute the affects of James.”
“I'll bring them over to you,” said Hannah, going back to the bar.
“Ron's - what did you call it – unawareness – is probably my fault,” Hermione continued.
“No it isn't!” said Audrey sternly. “Why do we witches always blame ourselves for wizards' failings? It's up to Ron to learn, just as Percy has!”
“Harry had such an awful upbringing with his relatives that he was desperate to escape it. He spent every holiday he could in the magic world – at school initially, then increasingly with the Weasleys. I came too for friendship's sake. And the magical world was all so new to me. It fascinated me, especially staying at the Burrow with a real magical family. Ron had no desire to experience the mainstream world – to him it was just a weird obsession of his dad. I was happy to go along with that – the magical world was where I increasingly felt at home. Then of course we all became caught up in the War. Afterwards, my parents stayed in Australia. They didn't quite disown me, but they were very hurt by what I'd done to them. My home was here – in England and in the magical world. Molly and Arthur offered both Harry and me a home. We became honorary Weasleys long before we married into the family. I lost most of my links to the mainstream world. And life has been – and still is – so full-on that, given Ron's reluctance, it is usually easier and quicker to do things myself. You seem to have done better with Percy, though.”
“I suppose my situation is the opposite of yours. My father's family was a very Old one. They were horrified at his marrying out. They drove him away – mum and dad decided to live within the mainstream world. He just wanted a quiet life with the woman he loved He was an accomplished potioneer, so he got his registration and set himself up as an apothecary, where he could keep his head down and choose his clientele. He even did some work as a non-magical herbalist, using his magical knowledge with non magical plants.
When I came along, they carried on as they always had. Dad did hidden magic. He had a wand pocket inside his trouser legs. I just accepted that he could do things I couldn't - I mean, all dads have special powers, don't they?”
“Yes,” said Hermione, smiling. “Everyone thinks their dads are a bit magical when they're small.”
“I didn't give any thought to the fact that we always seemed to be able to jump to the front of the queue or that our takeaway never went cold. I wasn't specifically told about magic until about the age of 7. That was when my own magic started to appear, when I became aware of dad's magic and when I was capable of understanding the Statute of Secrecy. My dad taught me ways to let out my magic that wouldn't arouse suspicion. I grew up seeing magic as a tool – a special skill that I had – but not as a separate world. There was mainstream stuff that was just as fascinating!
“When I reached 11, it was clear that I needed to go to magical school in order to learn to control and harness my powers, but dad didn't want to send me to Hogwarts. He wanted to keep me clear of what he called the Pure Blood nonsense and he thought that Dumbledore was dangerous – that he was stirring up trouble. I got sent to a nice small witches' school. After NEWTs, I went into the Ministry. Dad wasn't keen, but I got top grades in arithmancy, so Magical Revenue was the best place. It was probably the safest place to be – even Voldemort needed taxes!
“I first met Percy after the war. It was at Muggle Awareness Training organised by Shacklebolt.”
“Muggle?” teased Hermione.
“That's what it was called. It was the Minister's word not mine. Percy was struggling to come to terms with how to operate in the new reality. He could see that there needed to be better relations with the wider world, but was uncomfortable with his father's amused bemusement. It fascinated him that I lived in both worlds. I took him home to meet my parents – before we were actually going out together! - and my dad showed him how he integrated magical and mainstream. Percy was blown away! Then dad got broadband and Percy realised that this was a power far greater than anything in the magical world. I mean, when we were on dial-up, we'd often get owl post quicker than emails – Percy used to jokingly call owls O-mail. But with an always-on connection, they became near instant. Percy could see that it was no longer about understanding, it was about survival. We used to use secrecy to protect us; now we needed knowledge.”
She looked at her watch: “Goodness! Is that the time? I said I'd pick up something nice for lunch. The girls will be starving – Percy's really strict about biscuits!”
“Harry is doing mine, so it's bound to be nice!” boasted Hermione, “But if I'm late he's worse than Molly!”
“I can imagine!” laughed Audrey.
“I've really enjoyed this morning. Thanks.”
“So have I. You must all come over to us one Saturday. I know we're not as exciting as the Potters...”
“Sometimes the Potters can be too exciting! Rose loves playing with Albus, but James can be a bit much sometimes. The two young ones still play alongside each other rather than with, if you know what I mean. It will do Rose good to spend some time with Molly and Lucy – she could do with a good female role model.”
“Percy worries that our two don't have one. I mean we go over to Bill and Fleur's sometimes, but Victoire is growing up so fast, isn't she? Apparently, half her class have boyfriends!”
“But she's only nine!”
“Precisely. And Percy thinks she'll end up talking Cornish!”
The two witches walked over to the bar and settled their bill, then went out into the yard to apparate.
“I'll send you an owl with dates when we're free!” said Hermione, just before she disappeared.
“Lovely!” came the reply.
A few nights later, Harry was sat with Hermione and Ron in their magical house's drawing room, when the fire glowed emerald green and Dean Thomas stepped out of the flames.
“A'right? Don' mind if I bring someone along, only he's got expertise we might need?”
“Of course not,” replied Hermione.
Dean stuck his head back in the green flames: “Den? It's OK. They said you can come.”
Dean removed his head and a few seconds later, Dennis Creavey stepped out onto the hearth.
“You remember Dennis, dontcha? He's a sparky – an electrician,” he added, seeing Ron's blank look.
“Hi Dennis,” they all chorused.
“So,” said Dean, “Hermione's owl said you're trying to mugglify Ron's parents a bit. The easiest way is to get them a muggle pied a terre. It doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to be posh, as long as it has a letter box, a fuse box and the internet.”
“That's what the rest of us have done,” said Hermione, “But Molly and Arthur don't seem keen. How difficult would it be to introduce a muggle element to their existing property?”
Both tradeswizards sucked air in through their teeth.
“You know what muggles are like, Hermione,” said Dennis. “They love their rules, they love their forms and they love their taxes.”
“The first thing you know, we'll have a whacking great council tax bill and we'll be trying to get Building Regulations approval for somewhere that's held up by spellwork,” added Dean.
Hermione sighed: “I knew it! Everywhere we turn we hit barriers! This is looking impossible!”
“Hey!” said Dennis, gently. “This doesn't sound like the Hermione Granger I knew at school.”
“Nothing's impossible,” said Dean, “It just needs a bit of thought. Where do they live, anyway?”
“Ottery St Catchpole, Devon,” said Ron.
“Course they do!” replied Dean. “Not far from Luna's old man. So we're talking what: socking great manor house with a garden by Wandability Brown and hot and cold running house elves?”
“We're not the Malfoys!” snapped Ron.
“Never said you were, mate,” countered Dean, gently.
“But they must have a bit of land,” interjected Dennis. “I've never met an Old Family which didn't.”
“Not really,” insisted Ron.
“A paddock, an orchard and a bit of a smallholding,” said Harry.
Dennis and Dean looked at each other: “Smallholding!” they chorused.
“Harry, my mate, you've just said the magic word which makes most of your muggle problems disappear!” beamed Dean. “Above a certain acreage – and Ron's parents' place sounds plenty big enough – and it counts as agricultural. They won't be liable for property taxes and they won't need planning permission. We'll just have to get it past Building Regs.”
“But the Burrow won't manage that! You've never seen anywhere more dependent on spellwork!” exclaimed Hermione.
“That's the beauty of this scheme,” continued Dean, “We won't have to. Just put a muggle-friendly building – let's call it a workshop – on one out-of-the-way corner of their land. Somewhere to put a letter box and for Den to get his wires into without having a hissy fit. They can have their telephone line and internet and whatever they want their leccy for – telly, power tools, a washing machine or whatever.”
“Of course, if Mrs Weasley wants to watch TV in bed, it's more complicated,” said Dennis, “Not least because magical buildings have a habit of changing shape regularly – it plays havoc with the wiring. And we can do things to counter magical interference, but it's all at a price.”
“Den – they'll just to what the rest of us do and hang a wifi router and an extension lead out the window!” said Dean, winking.
“I'll pretend I didn't hear that!”
“There's all sorts of modular buildings available now,” said Dean.
“Sheds to you and me!” said Dennis, winking.
"Philistine! They'll be able to have whatever Muggle accessories they like for a fairly modest cost.”
“How much?” asked Harry.
Dennis and Dean shared a look.
“We'll do our bit for mates' rates,” said Dean. “Least we can do. That leaves the Building Regs and the cost of the building itself.”
“Couldn't we just magic something?” asked Ron.
“It would cause more problems than it would solve,” relied Dennis. “The whole point is to have a muggle building to enable them to access the muggle world. It only needs to be very basic.”
“The cost of that bit depends on what they have,” added Dean. “The problem is, most people start off with the idea for a simple shed, then they see the brochures and want Buckingham Palace made out of lapboard. Then they wonder why the price has tripled!”
“Please send any bills directly to me,” said Harry. “Arthur chooses what he wants, but we're covering the cost.”
“Fine. I think we probably need to give this Burrow the once over. When would be a good time?”
“At least one of us needs to be there,” said Hermione, “Otherwise Arthur will want Hogwarts made out of lapboard, complete with all the secret passages! We're going to be there this Saturday, if that's any good?”
“Fancy a trip down to Devon on Saturday, Den?” asked Dean.
“What about the match?”
“I've a radio in the van, ain' I?”
“What match?” asked Ron.
“Football. His team against my team – the Baggies versus the Hammers at home.”
“West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United,” explained Dennis.
“We wouldn't want you to miss it!” said Hermione.
“Nah! It's no prob. I'll probably get to hear more of it if we're here than if I'm at home – Luna's bound to have a job lined up for me!”
“We'll see you Saturday, then!” said Ron.
The Joy of Sex is by Dr Alex Comfort.
Enid Blyton was a prolific children's author who wrote over 700 books, including the Noddy and Famous Five series.
Arthur Ransome wrote the Swallows and Amazons series of books of the adventures of a group of children who go sailing, mainly in the English Lake District. They are, in my opinion, the best children's stories of all time (yes – even better than Harry Potter!)
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House on the Prairie series, based on her own childhood.
Amble and Emily are entirely fictitious
We're not fictitious. We're two soft toy monkeys who live in Pendle Wizard's wardrobe with our son, Nicholas.
Signed Amble and Emily
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