Thank you to Imogen for letting me play with her characters, this can be considered an alternative version of this event, Windsong’s Story, “The Thorn in the Sand” also covers the shopping trip, and is well worth the read.
Many thanks to Katie and Allie for the beta work, and to Imogen for her beta, and allowing me to play in her world in the first place.
“Come on, Short Stuff!”
Holly Potter looked up from her bowl of cereal and scowled at her older sister. She aimed another scowl at Hope's boyfriend, Matthew-Sodding-Belford; he used to be all right for a bloke, but these days they were both so soppy it even made her cereal soggy
“I’m eating,” she said, and then, glancing across at her mother to make sure she was out of earshot, added, “bugger off!”
Her big sister looked as if she was about to retort, but Matthew stopped her, “No, love, that’s all right if she doesn’t want one, she doesn’t have to have one.”
“Suppose not,” mused her sister thoughtfully. “Still, I did promise.”
“I know, but you can’t make her…”
Holly’s spoon had stopped half way to her open mouth, milk and cereal dripping on to the kitchen table.
“What’s the matter, Short Stuff? Kneazle got your tongue?” asked her sister, with a horribly smug look on her face.
“Promised me what? What don’t I want? How do you know what I don’t want, if you don’t tell me?” demanded Holly.
“No, it can wait,” said her sister. “If you would prefer to eat your cereal…”
“Bugger the cereal!” demanded Holly a little too loudly.
“HOLLY POTTER! Do you enjoy my Scouring Charm that much?”
“Sorry, Mum,” she apologised quickly, before turning her attention back to her sister. Jabbing her spoon in Matthew’s direction and sending milk flying everywhere, she continued speaking in a much lower voice, “As I said, bugger the cereal, and tell me what you are on about.”
“Definitely takes after you and your mum, doesn’t she?” grinned Matthew.
“Yeah,” replied Hope proudly, “she does.”
“Will you just tell me!” implored Holly standing up and sending her chair flying.
”Holly! You can pick that chair up right now, or you won’t be going anywhere!” yelled their mother from the other room.
Holly bent down to pick up the chair as her sister explained. “Well, if you remember when… erm… well…”
“When I stayed over that time,” said Matthew.
“Well, yeah,” added Hope.
“You mean when you weren’t snogging?” grinned an impish Holly, “And when you weren’t wearing his shirt…”
Hope retorted, a deep crimson stain beginning to flush her cheeks, “I can change my mind, you know.”
“Don’t be so sure.”
“Nah, you won’t.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Who’d stop me? You, against me, a trained Auror?” laughed Hope, completely missing the glint in her sister’s eyes.
“Yes, me,” replied Holly sweetly. “Matthew, has Hope ever told you about when Robert caught her-”
“Holly Potter, you promised!” cried out Hope.
“Did I?” answered Holly, with the kind of smile that could get her out of just about anything with her father.
“You know full well you did,” squeaked her sister, quite unable to meet her boyfriend’s eyes. Holly could see Matthew was having great trouble hiding his amusement, and he gave her a surreptitious wink, Holly grinned in return. Perhaps he isn’t so bad, she thought.
“Well, perhaps if you were to tell me what you are both on about, I might remember.”
“Well, I’m not sure you deserve it now, but I suppose I did mention an owl-”
Whatever she was about to add was smothered when her sister threw herself towards her.
As soon as she released her sister, Holly also launched herself at a very surprised Matthew Belford.
“So, you’re willing to forego breakfast then, I take it,” he laughed.
“Too right! Wait right here while I get changed,” yelled a very excited bundle of pyjamas and dressing gown as it disappeared through the doorway leading to her bedroom.
It was a busy day in Diagon Alley as they entered through the back yard of The Leaky Cauldron.
Holly was champing at the bit to get shopping straight away, tugging and twisting and trying to release herself from her Matthew’s firm grip on her shoulder.
“Not so fast, Short Stuff, I need to call in at home first,” said Hope.
Holly’s eyes lit up, and if it was possible to be even more excited, she was. “Can I-”
“Yes, you can visit your uncles whilst Matthew and I nip upstairs to the flat,” said Hope, before her sister could finish her question, or notice the sly grins she and Matthew exchanged with each other.
“What are we waiting for, then? Come on, will you?”
All three automatically ducked as low as they could as they entered the shop and, as if on cue, a siren wailed and a fiery bird-like shape swooped towards them, only just missing them as it swerved through the door and swept down the alley.
In most shops – even in Diagon Alley – this would cause the patrons to turn round to see what the commotion was, but most of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes’ customers were by now used to the way the shop welcomed the family members of its owners, Fred and George.
“Must be family again, George,” came a shout from the back room, “go see to them, will you? I’m – err… a little indisposed at the moment.”
“Well, I did say it wasn’t ready for testing yet,” replied another voice, as its owner stepped though the door, deftly avoiding one of the half dozen or so assistants behind the counter.
“Short Stuff!” yelled George Weasley at the top of his voice as he approached the group.
“I. AM. NOT. SHORT,” shouted back an indignant Holly Potter.
“Ah, Holly, I wasn’t on about you, dear,” said George with a grin. “I was on about my second favourite niece here.”
Much to Holly’s delight, her sister soon found herself in a headlock, with George rubbing the top of her head with his knuckles.
“Hope, you’d think after twenty-two years and Auror training you’d be ready for this,” said George, laughing all the while. “But noooooo…”
“Who said I wasn’t ready?” came the muffled reply from Hope, as she pressed the point home sharply with the tip of her wand.
“Ah yes, well…” replied her uncle, swallowing hard before releasing her. “What – erm… brings you through the front door, then? Lost your key?”
“Not exactly, no,” replied Matthew. “You remember we were talking about an owl for Holly? Well, can you believe both I and Hope forgot our money pouches…?”
“Well… well… that is a coincidence…”
Holly was too busy with a nearby display to notice the significant looks Matthew and George were exchanging. “So, we thought we’d bring in your favourite niece for a visit while we nipped upstairs…”
“Glad to hear it,” replied George. “I’m sure Fred and I can entertain her while you go and – erm… look.” He added, before casting a sidewise look at the door from which he had come in, “Well, maybe not Fred…”
Hope raised her eyebrows questioningly.
“Don’t ask!” laughed George. “Come on, Holly,” he added. “Don’t mess with that stuff; the really interesting stuff is back here.”
“Do you think she will be all right?” asked Matthew as they walked up the back stairs to their flat.
“I damn well hope not!” laughed Hope. “I hate owing my uncles favours; they always call them in at the most embarrassing times.”
“You’re not regretting involving them, are you?”
“Not on your Nellie,” grinned Hope, “she’s going to be furious!”
“That’s okay then,” replied her boyfriend as he half-closed the door behind her and grabbed her hand, leading her over to the kitchen table. “Now, what are we going to do whilst we wait…?”
“Not a clue! Have you any ideas?” inquired Hope innocently.
“A few,” replied Matthew as he leaned in to kiss her.
“Oh, good, I like a man with ideas,” replied Hope, closing the rest of the distance between them.
Before she knew it, Matthew was sweeping their various work-related paperwork to the floor, then she felt herself being gently lowered to the table, its normally hard surface surprisingly soft. He had obviously been busy with the charms at some point.
Just at the point where she was beginning to lose herself to Matthew’s ministrations there was a loud bang, which caused them both to jump a good distance from the table as the door flew the rest of the way open before bouncing off the wall and slamming shut, although not before a small brown blur shot though the open gap and headed straight for the two lovers.
“What the…?” exclaimed Hope as she brought she hands and arms up, not so much as to defend herself as to limit the damage.
Matthew staggered back before falling into a nearby chair, and realising what was happening, he managed a few snorts of laughter before the blur started to attack him, too.
After a few minutes of alternately being attacked and rolling about laughing (which only seemed to anger their attacker even more) Hope pulled out her wand, managed to get out “Finite Incantatem” in between her suppressed giggles and a red-faced, livid Holly Potter landed in Matthew’s lap, who she immediately started to attempt to beat up.
“Buy me an owl, you said, not bloody turn me in to one! I’ll kill you both… No, I won’t. I’ll tell Mum, that’s worse… Fred and George I’ll kill. Bloody ‘Weasleys’ Own Owl Treats’ – how can I have been so stupid…?”
“Sorry… Holly… We couldn’t resist….” interrupted Matthew, as he tried to stop her clenched fists from causing too much bruising and put an end to his laughing which was antagonising her even more.
In restraining Holly he was eventually successful. Stopping laughing, however, was only partially successful as every time he caught Hope’s expression, his resolve gave out and he burst out laughing once more.
He didn’t even mind being the one to seemingly take most of the blame for this prank even though this one wasn’t even his idea…
“I said we’d talked about an owl,” grinned Hope at her little sister, “and you can’t deny for a moment you were in possession of an owl of what-can-only be described as your very own…”
“Harrumph!” replied Holly who, despite her valiant attempts at a disgruntled expression, was having trouble stopping her lips from twitching. She’d never admit it to her sister and Matthew-Sodding-Belford, but now she was back in her own body she did admit it was a great prank.
“Come on,” said Matthew as he grabbed a moneybag off the kitchen counter. “I believe we’ve got a cuddly owl to purchase!”
“You better not be pulling my leg this time,” replied Holly as she strode out of the door.
“Oh, no worries there, Squidge, I meant every word I said.”
Holly’s mistake was to accept Matthew’s words without looking round to inspect his expression.
The alley was as busy as ever as the small group left Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, the dazzling sun beating down on the cobbles and reflecting off the bright walls and colourful store displays that lined the sides of the street.
“Merlin, it’s warm,” exclaimed Matthew fiddling with his collar as they strolled away from the joke shop. “Tell you what, Holly, do you think you can wait a little longer and we’ll go to into Fortescue’s first?”
“Suppose so,” replied Holly sounding very disappointed, before adding with a twinkle in her eye, “as long as you buy me a special, that is!”
Matthew let out a fake groan before wrapping an arm around her shoulders, “Owls… Specials… Are you trying to bankrupt your sister and me?”
“Meeee? ” replied Holly innocently, while making a grab for the moneybag that hung from his belt.
“Yes, yoooou! ” replied Matthew laughing and pushing her away. “You’re as bad as your sister, you do know that, don’t you?”
“Yup!” agreed Hope and Holly at the same time, before turning to each other and grinning. This time the resigned groan from Matthew’s lips was very real.
Hope and Matthew quickly polished of their own ice creams and were chatting quietly while they waited for Holly to finish hers although, seeing as the top of the glass was level with her eyes and she was barely halfway down, she was obviously going to be some time.
“Can I trust you two not to come to blows if I just go and get something?” asked Matthew of the two ladies opposite him.
“Of course, dear,” replied Hope with a smile. “We've managed eleven years without killing each other; I think we can manage ten minutes… probably…”
Holly just grunted and continued to eat her ice cream, and so once again missed the expression on Matthew’s face.
Just as Holly was scooping the final dregs of ice cream with the long, thin, silver spoon that was only ever used on the ‘specials’, she felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning round, she found a grinning Matthew standing behind her, carrying something quite large and covered with a dark blue silk cloth.
The cloth, Holly noted, was covered in shimmering moons and twinkling stars. She started to reach out to touch it, pausing as a shooting star darted across the cloth just as Matthew raised his arm up, to bring the whole thing up to her eye level.
Her hand hovered close to the silk and as she swung her head back and forth between Matthew and her sister giving them a look that was both questioning and hopeful; something behind the cloth made a noise.
Not waiting for an answer from them, her hand darted out the rest of the way and whipped the cloth off, to reveal an ornate brass cage, in which sat an owl blinking in the sudden sunlight.
Dropping the cloth on the floor, she swung her gaze round to her sister.
“Actually it’s a painstakingly created replica owl, ideal for the young witch or wizard according to the brochure,” replied her sister.
“With,” added Matthew, ignoring Holly’s incensed stare, “real life-like eyes…”
“Charmed to sound like a real owl,” added Hope helpfully.
“I don’t care, it’s s-” The owl chose that moment to let out a small hoot, which interrupted her proposed new owner’s rant and earned the poor thing a baleful look.
“Its artificial feathers,” continued Matthew, somewhat bravely in the opinion of his girlfriend, this little prank having been his idea, “have been especially imported from the south of Spain and are so life-like they defy you or your family owl to tell the difference.”
“But. It. Is. Stuffed!” cried out a frustrated Holly Potter.
“Well, yes it is,” replied Matthew in what he hoped was a confused tone of voice, “but I thought we’d agreed on cuddly? Isn’t this cuddly enough for you?” he continued, adding what he decided was an impressive touch of disappointment at the end.
Which Holly obviously ignored. “You said you were going to get me an owl – a real owl – but first you turn me in to one, then you try and fob me off with a sodding stuffed one. What was next? Making me sit a bloody O.W.L?”
Hope and Matthew at least had the good grace to look at their feet – Matthew appeared to be trying to dig his foot in to the gaps between the cobbles – and mumble an answer Holly didn’t need to work out.
“You were, weren’t you? I don’t ruddy believe it.”
“Well, technically we weren’t,” said Hope carefully. “That one was Mum and Dad’s idea. It should be waiting on the kitchen table about now, actually,” she added, looking at the time on her watch.
“Mum and Dad know about this?”
“Damn and bloody blast!” cried Hope thumping the table hard enough for the empty ice-cream glass to jump in the air, before clattering back to the table and attempting to roll off before Hope caught it.
“What’s the matter, Short Stuff? It shouldn’t really surprise you; you know what they’re like!”
“I know that, but how can I complain to Dad about you, if he’s involved?”
“Ah, such is life,” replied Matthew, “but give it time I’m sure you’ll think of a way to get us back.”
“Too bloody right I will!”
“Come on, Holly; let’s go home, there might just be something waiting for you there.”
“Really?” replied Holly cautiously not wanting to get her hopes up.
“Yes, really.We agreed to get you out of the way so Mum and Dad could go shopping. However, I suggest you clean your mouth out on the way, before Mum makes you; you sound just like Uncle Ron.”
“Do I?” replied Holly proudly.
The small group found the Potter house empty on their arrival back home.
“Huh? Must have been delayed,” said Hope “They did say to be back for about now, didn’t they?”
Matthew just shrugged in agreement and went over to the table to put the cage down; it was beginning to get a bit heavy. As he approached he table he noticed some parchment on there.
“Holly! There’s a note for you on here.”
“I’m not doing any sodding O.W.L.s!”
“Well, it is your Dad’s handwriting, but perhaps you best read it anyway…”
Grumbling about her poor excuse for a family, Holly picked up the piece of parchment and started to read.
Firstly, I hope you had a fun day with Hope and Matthew!
“Very funny, Dad, very funny…” she muttered as she continued to read.
Secondly, now you’ve finished calling me names, tell them both I’ve decided to grab the opportunity to take your mum out for a meal and they are to stay and look after you.”
Which she duly did; ignoring her sister’s groan of complaint, she continued to read.
Thirdly, your owl – yes, I have a real one for you! – will be delivered on successful completion of the attached O.W.L. Yes, that’s right, Little One, your sister and Matthew aren’t the only ones who enjoy a good prank!
Before you decide which curse to use on your dear old Dad, though, I suggest reading the questions first; you might enjoy them more than you think. Get your sister and Matthew to help; as I said earlier, they aren’t the only two to enjoy a good prank…
See you later,
Love, Mum and Dad
Intrigued, Hope turned the page and looked at the first question, and grinned wildly. She loved her dad!