Dean rushed straight past Harry and ran as fast as he could. No sooner than Harry could glance back at the door, a tall black boy with dreadlocks whooshed straight past Harry and Ron, his right hand holding (caressing more like) a card which apparently looked like it was on fire, but with a closer look Harry caught a glimpse of the head of a dragon protruding from the flat, shiny and colorful surface, furiously huffing small but dangerous-looking orange flames, his other hand clutching a bag of Honeydukes sweets.
‘Come back here, Dean!’ Lee shouted. ‘I was only kidding! I promise I’ll tell it to stop! Oh man – GET BACK HERE!’
Ron and Harry looked at each other and grinned simultaneously. Lee, aside Fred and George of course, is one of the best – or shall we say worse – troublemakers in school. With a bow, the marble wizard opened the door and Ron and Harry stepped inside.
The shop looked similar to Honeydukes – warm and crowded with students, only huger. It was roughly twice the size of the Dursleys’ home, according to Harry’s observations. The floor, ceiling, wall, and every single piece of furniture were made of beautifully-carved mahogany, and hundreds of little candles with even tinier orange flames suspended mid-air near the ceiling, lighting up the whole shop with a magical glow.
All around were dozens of towering shelves stacked with rows and rows of countless wizard trading-cards, and the check-out desk was piled with baskets of sweets of all colors, shapes, sizes and flavors.
Behind the desk, which had a little sign that said ‘Hello, my name is Zulu Zap’ stood a tall, pretty and friendly-looking witch wearing star-shaped spectacles and whose short spiky orange hair matched her glittering orange robes inked with yellow lightning bolts just like the statue of the wizard outside.
She looked up from her book at the sound of the doorbell ringing as the two entered, smiled at Harry and Ron, who stepped on Harry’s foot, who yelped.
‘S-sorry, Harry,’ Ron apologized with a face as red as the setting sun. ‘Er – you go have a look around, I’ll be right with you in a moment.’ With that he patted Harry on the back and headed straight for a crowd of Hogwarts boys surrounding a single shelf, murmuring excitedly and pointing at a row of tiny cards that made squeaky noises and shot out purple sparks every few seconds.
Harry looked to the left, next to Zulu Zap’s desk was a small corner furnished with circular tables rounded with three-legged stools, occupied by numerous Hogwarts boys dueling cards on the tables. He walked towards them, interested.
A blonde fourth year was sitting opposite a red-headed third year, and they were taking turns dealing cards face-up onto the table. The blonde one slammed a card face-down onto the table, then retreated to his deck, seemingly searching for another one. The redhead glanced down at his own deck in his hands, grinned evilly and slammed a card down face-up.
Harry jumped back as a silver-backed gorilla the size of a basketball jumped out of the card and ripped the other card to shreds.
Beating its chest triumphantly, it hopped back to its card and disappeared. The blonde flushed, upset and flabbergasted. ‘Dude, where’d you get that monster?’
‘From a branch of Zap’s in Ethiopia.’ said the redhead, smirking. ‘Went there on holiday during the summer. It’s the one with the best destruction ability yet. You saw it ripping that card to bits even though you put it face-down, didn’t you? It’s defense power is even higher than the latest version of Monstro Pack’s thick-hoofed unicorn.’
Harry suddenly heard two loud gasps coming from somewhere to his left, and turning his head so quickly that he cricked his neck, he caught a glimpse of the back of two red heads. But then –
They were gone. Rubbing his neck, Harry could have sworn that they were Fred and George, but before he had time to think about it, Ron almost knocked the wind out of him colliding straight into his back.
‘Oh gee, s-sorry again, Harry,’ Ron ranted feverishly. ‘Man, am I clumsy today.’
‘It’s quite all right, Ron,’ Harry groaned, rubbing his back and chest. ‘What’s your hurry to get to me?’
With this Ron scratched his head awkwardly and stared at the floor for a few seconds. Harry could feel the words practically banging themselves against Ron’s mouth trying to get out.
‘Come on, mate, say it and get it over with,’ Harry said kindly.
‘Um – okay,’ Ron stuttered. ‘Y-you know Harry about me telling you and – ’ he paused, his expression transforming to a scowl for a millisecond and went right back to the awkward grin. ‘ – you and Hermione that my mum gave me seven sickles for helping her clean out the garage. Well, that much money’s still not enough for me to get that, um – Galaxy Stardom card. And I was hoping that you could – er, if you don’t want to then I won’t nag of course – but, er – ’
Harry looked at Ron concernedly, then realized it. ‘No problem, Ron. I got two spare Galleons! I could lend them to you, is that what you’re on?’
Ron’s face brightened up so much it was practically glowing. ‘Really? You’d – you’d let me lend two galleons? Oh thank you so much, Harry! But please don’t say a word about this to mum, she’d go berserk. I promise I’ll pay you back sometime before new year.’
Harry dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out two shiny golden galleons, and handed them to Ron.
Ron skipped away to the shelf, fought through the crowd of kids and reached for a bright indigo card dotted with glittering galaxies on the second-tallest shelf. A few kids glared at Ron hungrily as he walked towards the desk. The witch smiled and took the card out of his hand, and again Harry saw Ron blush.
With a tap of her wand the card was carefully wrapped in purple paper, and a small slip of parchment which unmistakably was the check popped out of nowhere into her hand.
She handed the wrapped card and the parchment to Ron. Words started to smoothly roll out her mouth like pebbles.
‘That would be two galleons five sickles, here is your bonus Chocolate Frog and a free sample of our newest concoction of peanut butter-and-chocolate fudge. Thank you for purchasing at Zap’s Trading Cards Bungalow, have a nice day and come again.’ She winked and her spiky orange hair turned violet. Ron blushed again, more furiously this time, grabbing his stuff and mumbled ‘thank you’.
He turned, took one step towards Harry and tripped over an upturned floorboard. The witch chuckled and went back to her book.
But now Harry wasn’t noticing any of this. His sixth sense was tingling. He reconsidered for a few milliseconds and grabbed Ron from behind, who turned from his stride to the doorway and stared at Harry in mild surprise.
‘What’s the matter, Harry?’ asked Ron. ‘You want to buy a wizard card yourself?’
‘No,’ said Harry. ‘Ron – this might sound pointless but something in this room is causing my curiosity level to overflow. Follow me.’
Ron, though looking as blank as ever, followed swift as Harry walked rather blindly around the room, hoping to catch a glimpse of the two red-headed figures he saw earlier.
Could they be who he thought they might be? Harry pondered. No, didn’t they already tell him two minutes ago that they were planning to meet in the Hog’s Head?
‘Harry, can you tell me exactly what is going on?’ Ron said quietly as they lurked between the jostles of kids and approached a small corner in the shop where the crowds were significantly rare.
‘I d-don’t know…’ Harry said unsteadily, his legs carrying him onward like they had puppet strings attached to them. ‘But I sense something unusual here, Ron. Just follow…hang on, what’s this?’
They had just walked right in front of a satin-curtained window. A couple of Hufflepuff boys were huddled in the corner whispering to each other beside the curtains, and walked away as they saw Harry and Ron stride to their direction.
Something about these curtains jabbed a needle into Harry’s stomach, and he immediately wished he hadn’t recall that depressing memory of the death of the infamous Marauder. He waved that thought away, and focused on what he’s looking at right now.
Ron walked up beside him and whispered. ‘Harry, McGonagall’s reassembling all Hogwarts students in fifteen minutes, we better get going!’
Harry ignored him. He reached out his hand and pulled one of the beautiful rose-red satin curtains aside, revealing – a door.
Ron’s eyes were as round as marbles. ‘Merlin’s beard, what’s all this?
Harry, don’t – ’
But Harry had already clasped his hand around the oval-shaped, bronze doorknob, and with a closer look, a tiny but visible cat was carved on the side. He turned the doorknob and surprisingly the door easily clicked open.
The two were standing in a dimly-lit circular room, with no furniture in sight at all except for a small stool four meters directly in front of them.
There was an object sitting on the stool, glinting slightly in the glow from the feeble torches surrounding the columns and the light from outside the room. Harry made a move towards it right away, and surprisingly Ron followed without question.
It was – a Muggle portable CD Player. Ron’s look was no doubt one of impress and wonder, Harry’s was no different except for that annoying little voice in his head asking him how on earth could a Muggle device be doing here in Zap’s Wizard Trading Cards Bungalow, in this tiny room which possibly only Harry, Ron and of course the people who brought it here, knew about?
‘My dad’s eyes are so going to pop out of his head if he so much as glimpses this thing,’ Ron said, a little breathless. He reached out his lanky arm, smoothing the shiny surface of the electronic device with his bony fingers.
‘These Muggles can come up with such brilliant gizmos, man! But what’s with all these holes and protruding bumps?’
Harry knew what Ron meant the speakers and the buttons.
‘Wonder if Zap herself knows about this thing,’ said Harry. ‘Isn’t it kinda weird, though? I mean, why would she want to keep something like that in her shop which over crowds twenty-four hours a day? And with that unlocked door, I’m not surprised if we’re the eleventh visitors to this place.’
Ron didn’t say anything, just moved his fingers from the top of the object to one of the ‘protruding bumps’.
‘Ron, no! We shouldn’t touch – ’ warned Harry, then choked himself mid-sentence.
For two seconds he could feel himself being sucked violently into…nothingness. It sounds simple enough, but nothing could be harder to describe. There was nothing at all whatsoever – the room around him and Ron had disappeared by then and now they’re swirling uncontrollably somewhere towards the left, in a vast void of blankness – there was no color surrounding them, yet things weren’t exactly invisible.
Harry could still see the outline of Ron beside him, with an arm stiffly stretched out touching the now slightly glowing CD Player. Harry tried to yell to Ron, but his muscles couldn’t work.
But things were going very fast. Harry could feel time and space rush past him, or away from him, or swirling and circling this empty world.
This all lasted for five seconds, and Harry’s lungs started to gulp in air again as he miraculously reappeared to the rest of the world. His hand was gripping Ron’s, whose other hand was clutching that CD Player, which was balanced at an odd angle on his hand.
‘Ron, wha – ’ Harry began. Then for an absolute millisecond his brain jolted back to its senses as his eyes gave a swift hundred-and-eighty degree dart around his surroundings.
Things didn’t make sense yet – directly above him, he saw a white, cracked surface. Then to the right was part of what appeared to be a wooden many-armed stick figure holding numerous balls, and to the left was – blinding sunlight.
‘OW!’ Harry and Ron shrieked.
They had landed on their head and back onto fortunately at the time, carpeted floor. As Harry panted, he opened an eye and looked directly above – the stick figure with balls turned out to be an old-fashioned chandelier. Ron was white-faced and his left hand was grabbing thin air. And as Harry moved his eyes quickly towards Ron’s left, he found out what had caused the crash accompanying their fall.
The CD Player was smashed to smithereens – the speakers were sprawled across the floor and little metal bits were scattered all over the spot where it had landed from the top of the ceiling.
Ron gave a soft whimper and sat up. Harry did the same, and gasped.
They were definitely not in Zap’s anymore.
The room was, if possibly descriptive at the time, miniscule. Two bookshelves were standing, sides touching, in the corner. A tiny closet was positioned to the left of the bookshelves. A bed was standing somewhat lop-sided and absolutely unmade behind Harry, and a purple sleeping bag covered from head to foot in moth holes lie at an angle beside the bed and behind Ron.
The boys had landed on what appeared to be not only carpet but a bunch of paper and garbage which provided quite a soft surface to land on. Harry gulped at the thought of what might have happened to them if the floor was a simple matter of wooden floorboards – they’ll probably be either bones or internal organs broken, for though the room was so small, the ceiling was at least four meters from the floor.
‘Ron, you okay?’ asked Harry shakily, rubbing his back and the back of his head.
‘Yeah, I guess,’ said Ron. ‘Where are we, Harry?’
‘You tell me!’ Harry snapped. ‘You shouldn’t have touched anything on that CD Player! That was a portkey. Now how are we supposed to get back to the wizarding world with that CD Player reduced to a mini-mountain of metal chunks beside you there?’
Ron ignored Harry’s hotness. Harry seemed to realize he was being a bit mean, so stopped right there and the two was silent for a while observing the location.
Besides being tiny, the room was a disaster. The mess was worth the comparison with a pigsty. Scrunches of paper was scattered all around the room, a bag with a broken zipper lay across the bed, folders, files and pens spilling out onto the sheets. A small writing desk was placed between the window out-looking the blinding-bright streets outside was stacked with piles of textbooks and dictionaries. On the wall above the desk were two small photo frames. One was off a kind-looking lady who had red curls and wore red lipstick. The one beside it was of a good-looking teenage blonde boy with what looked like red lipstick smeared on the frame in the shape of a heart around his handsome face.
Oviously there’s a girl living in this place.
As if fate has decided, for the first time ever Harry noticed the door - because as it burst open, he and Ron gasped as two anxious-looking girls stepped inside.
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