POTTER AND THE BOY IN THE FLOWERBED
Thank you to J.K. Rowling, for writing the first two sentences of this story
and for creating the world of Harry Potter, where this tale is set.
In case you’re interested in
a few of the culturally specific references:
Harrods is real. It is an enormous department store in
Knightsbridge, London. You can buy
anything there, up to and including kangaroo meat.
Ealing Broadway is real. It
is a pleasant suburb to the west of London.
The church of Christ the Saviour is real and I mean no disrespect to its
Silly Mid-off and Deep Fine
Leg are also real. These terms describe
two fielding positions used in the game of cricket. Silly Mid-off can be likened to a short stop in baseball, but
Deep Fine Leg is more of an outfield position.
“Neighbours” is, alas, also
real. It is a nightly soap opera, made
in Australia, which depicts the mundane lives of the residents of suburban
Melbourne. For reasons that defy all understanding,
the show is popular in the United Kingdom and screens there several times a
week, with reruns showing on some TV stations in the afternoons.
George Weasley isn’t real,
but I wish he were. Elanor Gamgee aka Cap’n Kathy is as real as a piratical
hobbit ought to be. I thank her for beta reading this story.]
The hottest day of the summer
so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square
houses of Privet Drive……The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was
lying flat on his back in the flowerbed outside number four. He had appeared in
the flowerbed only a few seconds beforehand. Or rather, he had appeared in mid
air three metres above the flowerbed, to the sound of a loud crack, and had
subsequently fallen out of the sky into the flowers.
The boy sat up and shook the
dahlia petals from his flaming red hair. He picked two or three battered blooms
from his clothes. Unusually for Surrey
in the summer, the boy was wearing a long, blue cloak and a brimless, cone-shaped,
felt hat. The boy then folded his arms
and grinned good-naturedly, as though he was expecting some amiable person to
The air next to the boy
emitted a soft “ppffft” noise, like the sound one would make when opening a jar
of pickled onions. While the boy uncrossed his arms and waited, a short,
red-faced, balding man with a large, bristling moustache inexplicably appeared.
Like the boy, he was wearing a cloak, however his was grey flannel with a blue
pinstripe. He carried a clipboard in
one hand and, in the other, a quill.
“So, how did I go then?” the
boy asked cheerfully.
“How did you go?” The man was
trembling with rage and a vein on his forehead throbbed unpleasantly. He took one deep breath, then another, and
then, narrowing his eyes, frowned intently at the boy. In slow and measured
speech he said, “My, my, my. Let me see.”
There was no mistaking the threat in his voice.
The man’s lips pursed as he
read the pages on his clipboard. The
first page was headed “Application for Apparating Licence”. Somebody with a blunt quill and muddled
handwriting had scribbled “George Algernon Weasley” on the section of the form
requiring the applicant’s name. The
lower half of the form was headed “Examiner’s Comments”. There followed several closely written
paragraphs, which continued onto the next page. These paragraphs featured much underlining, many exclamation
marks and the overuse of capital letters.
After a long and menacing
silence, the man began. “You failed to signal
intention to Disapparate at the Diagon Alley registry office.”
“Whoops,” said George Algernon
Weasley happily. “Still, no harm done,
“Your unorthodox departure
method caused five Galleons worth of damage to a registry office filing
cabinet,” the man fumed. As an
afterthought, he added, “And bodily harm to the office-elf trapped beneath it.”
“The licence fee covers that
sort of thing, doesn’t it?” George asked hopefully.
“Be that as it may,” the irate
examiner continued, “your first Apparating exercise was supposed to be a short
distance travail with a close confines reappearance. Do you recollect at all where you were supposed to
“Harrods!” George said
confidently. This at least was one
answer he was sure of getting correct.
“You were supposed to appear,”
the little man said very quietly, his moustache quivering with indignation, “in
the middle cubicle of the gentlemen’s lavatories on the fourth floor.”
“Oh. Yes,” said George
“So what on earth possessed you to Apparate
under the glass of the fishmonger’s counter?”
the examiner yelled. He stood for a few
moments, flexing the muscles in his right hand and wishing he could stab his
quill into George Weasley’s idiotic, jovial face.
Composing himself, the man
continued. “I am also under an obligation to advise you that theft of Muggle
property is punishable under Article 367 of the Muggle Protection Act.”
With this, he slipped his quill under the clip of his clipboard and held out
his right hand.
George Weasley put his hand
into the neck of his shirt, fumbled around for a while and then pulled out a
kipper. With a shrug of his shoulders,
he silently handed the fish to the examiner, who pocketed it.
Consulting his clipboard
again, the man continued. “Your second Apparating exercise was a medium
distance travail with a medium confines reappearance. You were expected to go from Knightsbridge to the mayor’s robing
room in Ealing Broadway town hall.” He stared at George Weasley with open
malevolence. “But that wasn’t where you went, was it?” he hissed.
“Er, no,” George admitted
quietly. He was beginning to suspect
that things weren’t going awfully well.
“No, it wasn’t, because
instead I found you, in an inverted position, in the pulpit of Christ the
Saviour’s Church, two blocks away!”
George rubbed his aching
neck. Jolly uncomfortable business,
standing on your head in a stone pulpit, he thought. He asked, “Do you think anybody noticed?”
“I should imagine so. It was during vespers,” the examiner
said though gritted teeth. “Which
brings us to the Class 6 Splinching you effected when Disapparating from the
church.” Reaching into his pocket, the
man retrieved a handful of pale, wriggling objects that a first glance looked
like oversized maggots. He handed them
to the boy.
“Oh gosh,” said George
gratefully. “Thanks. I wondered where
they went.” He put the toes in his
“Your final Apparating
exercise was a long distance travail with an open area reappearance,” the man
snarled. “Which means that we should
now be standing on the cricket oval at the village green in Little Whinging,
Surrey. For examination purposes, a
reappearance anywhere between Silly Mid-off and Deep Fine Leg would have been
“Oh,” said George.
“Are we on a cricket oval, Mr
Weasley?” the examiner enquired.
“No,” George admitted.
“Where are we, Mr Weasley?”
the examiner asked threateningly.
“Er, in a garden?” George
asked, hoping this was a good enough response.
“Where we are, Mr Weasley, is
in the front garden of a Muggle dwelling.” The man’s voice grew louder and
louder as he continued. “Where we are,
is within ten metres of an occupied Muggle dwelling during daylight hours.
Where we are, is in direct contravention of sub-clause 97(3) of the Apparating
and Disapparating Regulatory Code!”
“Is it?” George asked,
“Mr Weasley, have you ever
read the Apparating and Disapparating Regulatory Code?” the examiner
“Er, no. Might that help?” George asked in confusion.
“In your case,” the man said
with a sigh, “I would hesitate to suggest that anything would help. This is your fourth test. You don’t seem to have done any sort of
preparation, nor have you taken a single Apparating lesson from an accredited
Apparating school. How often do you
think you are going to get away with bumbling through these tests before you
“I just thought,” said George,
his voice trailing away in uncertainty, “that I’d just eventually – you know,
get the hang of things.”
“Mr Weasley, since you and
your brother began to sit for your licences three weeks ago, my office has
exhausted half of its annual Memory Charm budget. Every time either of you take a test, we have to spend the next
two days putting things right. This cannot
“S’pose not,” George admitted
“I’m making a note on this
form that you are not to be retested until you can prove that you’ve
made some attempt to learn the basic Apparating safety rules. That goes for your brother too. And I’m sending a copy of this form directly
to your father’s office. I’m sure he’ll
be very unimpressed with the distress you’ve been causing to his precious
The man took a large rubber
stamp with a brass handle from his pocket.
He stamped the form on the clipboard and then, leaning down, he stamped
George Wesley’s forehead. From his
other pocket he pulled a pink plastic lavatory brush.
“Here’s your Portkey,” the
examiner said gruffly. “It will take
you back to the registry office in two minutes. Goodbye. I hope we do not
meet again anytime soon.”
A slight “ppffft” left George
Weasley alone in the garden.
Harry Potter, looking out of a
first floor window, saw a red-headed teenager in a blue cloak and a pointed
hat. The boy was carrying a lavatory
brush and somebody had stamped the word “FAILED” in royal blue ink on the boy’s
forehead. This was just the sort of thing Harry had come to expect.
Opening the window, Harry
called out congenially, “No luck again then, George?”
“’Fraid not,” George admitted,
looking a little sheepish. “Shame really.
I thought I had it this time.”
There was a slight pause for reflection, before George added, “Well, up
until that lady curate started screaming.”
George stood up and picked a
few final stalks and leaves from his socks and robes. “Sorry about the mess. I
don’t suppose your auntie’s going to win any prizes for her dahlias this year.”
“Don’t mention it,” Harry
replied. The thought of his Aunt
Petunia being slighted in any way was quite a welcome one. “Happens all the
time. Fred smashed the birdbath when he
Splinched himself last Tuesday.”
For the first time George
noticed the square metre space on the other side of the garden path, which had
been staked out and cordoned off with orange plastic tape. Inside the space stood a shattered concrete
statue of a fish with bulging eyes and a clamshell balancing on its tail.
“Cool!” said George
admiringly. “Quite a thorough job!
Didn’t the dreaded Dursleys mind?”
“Well,” Harry explained, “they
didn’t notice when it happened. Lucky
they were all inside watching Neighbours - that’s a TV show. But Uncle Vernon called the police the next
morning. Oh, and the police took Fred’s ear as evidence.”
“Not to worry,” the older boy
reassured his friend. “They sent some folks around to the Please Man
Shop-thingy and got it back. It’s
nearly reattached now.”
Harry smiled. He was very gratified that Uncle Vernon
would not see the day when the one-eared hooligan was brought to justice.
“Anyway,” George said,
checking his watch, “I’ve got to go in a tick.
I’ll probably be back this way next week, though.”
“Tell Ron I said Hi,” Harry
said as he waved goodbye.
At that, the boy in the
flowerbed brandished a pink plastic lavatory brush over his head and vanished.