Chocolate Marshmallow Swirl
“For heaven’s sake, watch where you’re going!” said Aunt Petunia in a shrill voice.
“Sorry,” said Harry, pushing his too-big glasses up onto his nose. They had slipped when he’d bumped into his aunt, who was walking ahead of him with her son, Dudley. He shifted the packages in his arms and gasped as one wobbled precariously. Aunt Petunia would have his head if he dropped one, even if it wasn’t fragile.
Harry wasn’t carrying as many boxes as his aunt because he was only seven years old, but he still had a bit of a load in his skinny arms. The only reason he’d been brought on the London shopping trip at all was to be a packhorse. Everything they had bought that day was for Dudley: an electric train, new clothes, a football, a sports radio…. Harry was losing track of how many shops they had visited. His feet hurt and he badly wanted to sit down, but he wasn’t about to say so. Complaining would only bring a sharp rebuke from his aunt and more time on his feet than he would have gotten if he’d kept his mouth shut.
“Oooh, can we go in there, Mummy? Can we?” Dudley waddled down the sidewalk and pressed his nose up against the display window of a store. It was a sweet shop, and the window was bursting with color. Soft yellow lemon drops, rich brown chocolates, flaming red sour balls, and rainbow-striped pinwheel lollipops filled the casement. Harry quickly looked away. He always tried not to look too long at the shops Dudley wanted to go into because he knew that he wouldn’t be getting anything from them. Sometimes it was better not to know what you were missing.
“Duddydums, we’ve been shopping all day and Mummy’s tired,” said Aunt Petunia, shifting the boxes in her arms.
Hope blossomed in Harry’s heart. If Aunt Petunia was tired, then maybe they would be going soon.
“But I want some sweets!” cried Dudley.
Harry cringed inwardly. Dudley’s voice was taking on a dangerous edge. Aunt Petunia’s eyes widened; she knew that tone all too well. “You have sweets at home,” she said. “Remember those nice candy bars Mummy bought? Yorkies and Aeros and Toffee Crisps, your favorite! You can have one of them after dinner tonight.”
“I don’t want a candy bar!” said Dudley, his voice rising like a little girl’s. “I want those sweets!”
“Dudley, I said no.”
Dudley’s face turned bright red. He screwed his eyes shut and opened his mouth –
Aunt Petunia was glancing up and down the street with a look of acute embarrassment on her face. She hunched over and stretched out one hand to placate her son. Harry knew what she was about to do. Any second now, and she was going to say it…
“Dudley, precious, don’t cry! Shhh! Please don’t cry! Mummy will make everything all better!”
Harry stared at the ground while his aunt cooed and fussed over Dudley. Dudley always got his way. Now he was going to have to wait outside while they went into the sweet shop. Harry never got to go inside sweet shops or toy stores anymore. For some reason the shopkeepers always seemed to feel sorry for him and tried to give him a trinket or a treat, and that made Aunt Petunia angry.
Dudley’s bawls ceased when his mother promised to take him inside. “H-h-hokay,” he said, still shaking a bit with exaggerated sobs.
“Yes, that’s better, isn’t it?” said Aunt Petunia, sounding relieved. Passers-by were staring at them. “We’ll get you some nice, new sweets.” She turned to Harry, and her soft tone became razor sharp. “You sit on the sidewalk until we come back,” she snapped. “And watch my packages! All these people walking about – someone’s liable to try and steal them, I’m sure.” She glanced around suspiciously and ducked into the shop with Dudley, not noticing when her son stuck his tongue out at Harry.
Harry wearily sat down on the curb. His aunt and cousin were likely to be inside for some time. Dudley would be hard to satisfy, especially now that he had had to resort to a temper tantrum to get his way. Harry stared at the street ahead, trying not to listen to the people going in and out of the shop, exclaiming over the treats they had bought.
“Daddy, can I have one now? Can I?” A little boy’s voice piped eagerly from the sidewalk behind Harry.
“All right. Just one, though,” a man replied. “What kind do you want?”
“Butterscotch! Butterscotch!” the little boy exclaimed.
The man chuckled. “All right. Butterscotch.”
Harry wrapped his arms around his legs and pulled them to his chest. He rested his chin on his knees as he listened to the boy and his father walk away. Harry didn’t know what butterscotch tasted like, but he didn’t think he wanted to know. Uncle Vernon drank scotch, and it made him get all red in the face. Dudley bragged that he’d tasted it once, but he had admitted that it was awful stuff.
Even though Harry wasn’t interested in butterscotch, he couldn’t help thinking of the other sweets in the storefront window. On a few rare occasions in his life he’d had sweets to eat. He remembered the first time he’d had chocolate; Dudley had given him a piece of a Cadbury bar. It was the best thing Harry had ever tasted, and when Dudley had refused to let him have any more, Harry had cried while Dudley had laughed. He’d had chocolate a few times since then, but it was never all his. Usually it was just a little piece of one of Dudley’s birthday cakes or something like that. He had learned long ago never to ask for sweets, because if he did he was guaranteed not to get any for a long, long time.
No one paid Harry any mind. People passed on the street in front and on the sidewalk behind him, not even giving him a second glance. Harry was used to being ignored. He was small and skinny for his age and he was forever being forced to wear Dudley’s old clothes. Dudley was several sizes bigger than Harry and was on his way to becoming quite rotund, so Harry always felt like he was swimming in his shirts and trousers. He supposed that when people looked at him, they thought he was just a pile of old, stretched-out clothing sitting on the curb.
Harry was watching the feet of people passing by when a pair of them suddenly stopped. Harry stared at the feet. Just above them hung the strangest fabric he had ever seen – purple velvet with little gold stars sprinkled all over. Harry looked up and saw that the feet belonged to a very peculiar man. He was wearing what appeared to be a long, shapeless dress of some sort, but it was all made of the magnificent purple cloth. He had gray hair and mutton-chop sideburns. Perched atop his head was an oddly-shaped cap that matched the rest of his clothing.
The man stared at Harry curiously as if wondering what a seven-year-old boy was doing sitting alone on the curb in front of a sweet shop. Then he looked right above Harry’s eyes and jumped, sending his hat tumbling off his head and into his hands. Harry blinked; he knew that the man had to be staring at the scar on his forehead, but most people didn’t react quite this way to it. Harry didn't mind the scar much himself. His hair covered it most of the time, and he thought it looked a bit like a lightning bolt.
The man gaped for a moment, and then his face broke into a gentle smile. “What are you doing here all by yourself?” he said, walking up to Harry.
Harry hesitated. He knew better than to talk to strangers, but this man didn’t seem like a stranger. He didn’t understand why, but Harry felt like he knew him. “Aunt Petunia and Dudley are inside,” he heard himself saying.
“In the sweet shop?” said the man. “Why aren’t you with them? All boys like sweets.”
“I’m not allowed,” Harry said simply.
“Not allowed?” The man seemed to be having a hard time comprehending the situation.
“Aunt Petunia only buys sweets for Dudley.”
“Well now,” said the man, sounding put out. “That doesn’t sound like the way Harry Potter should be treated!”
Harry stared wide-eyed at the man. He knew his name!
The man winked. “Yes, I’ve heard all about you, Harry. But if I know your name, you should know mine. Florean Fortescue.” He stuck out his hand.
Harry put his much smaller hand in the older man’s grip. “That’s a funny name,” he said, and instantly bit his lip. Aunt Petunia said that it was rude to say such a thing to a grownup.
But the man didn’t seem offended. He laughed and his eyes twinkled. “I know a lot of people with funny names,” he said.
“Do they wear funny clothes, too?” said Harry, feeling a little bolder.
“Yes,” the man chuckled. “I suppose they are very funny clothes to you.”
Harry was about to reply, but the sight of a girl and her mother leaving the sweet shop distracted him. The girl was licking a tall ice cream cone. It was a rather hot day, and Harry couldn’t help but stare wistfully after them.
The man watched the retreating figures for a moment and then turned back to Harry. “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?” he asked.
“I had vanilla once,” said Harry. “But Dudley eats lots of chocolate ice cream.”
“You’ve had vanilla? Once?” The man sounded absolutely scandalized.
“Is that bad?” Harry said fearfully.
The man laughed again. “No, not at all. Vanilla is a fine flavor, but I think you might enjoy something more adventurous. What would you say to that?”
Harry frowned. He didn’t really see what the man was getting at.
“Don’t go anywhere,” said the man. “I’ll be right back.” He walked a few feet down the sidewalk to a dark, run-down building with a faded sign hanging in front that Harry hadn’t noticed before. As he ducked inside Harry squinted at the sign. The Leaky Cauldron. It didn’t sound like the name of an ice cream shop at all.
A few minutes passed while Harry watched the entrance to the old shop. No one else came or went from it, but Harry thought that it might be because the building was so shabby. Then the man came through the door again, and he was holding a huge ice cream cone in each hand. He walked back up to Harry and sat down next to him on the curb.
“Which would you like?” he said. “Chocolate marshmallow swirl or five berry chip?”
Harry stared at the two ice cream cones. One was a violent shade of fuchsia with bits of chocolate sprinkled throughout, and the other was dark brown with splashes of white. He couldn’t really believe that the man was just going to give him one.
“Pick one,” the man said with a smile.
“Um… chocolate, please,” said Harry. The man handed him the cone. For a moment all Harry could do was stare at the treat closed in his fist. Chocolate ice cream… all for him?
“Go ahead,” the man urged. “Try it!”
Harry took a bite. It was cold, rich, and sweet. It was wonderful.
“Mmm hmm!” Harry said enthusiastically around a mouthful of ice cream.
They didn’t say much after that. They simply sat on the curb and ate their cones while the people all around them passed by unheeded. Harry would have preferred to make his cone last – the ice cream didn’t seem to melt, even though it was hot – but he knew that if Aunt Petunia saw it, she’d take it away.
Harry finished the last delightful bite and licked his fingers. He suddenly realized that he hadn’t thanked the man. Aunt Petunia always made sure that Harry said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ even though Dudley never had to do it.
“Thank you,” said Harry.
“You’re quite welcome,” said the man. “Someday you’ll have to visit my shop – Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour.”
“Where is it?” Harry asked eagerly.
The man leaned closer. “Someplace very secret,” he whispered. “Someplace very special. And do you know what? Your aunt and cousin won’t be able to get to it. Only you could ever see it.”
“Only me?” Harry whispered, his eyes wide.
“Only you,” the man repeated, “because you, Harry Potter, are very, very special. Don’t you forget that.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. Special? Him? That’s not what Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon thought. They thought Dudley was special.
His new friend twisted to look back at the candy shop. “I think it is time for me to go,” he said. “It was nice meeting you, Harry.”
Harry turned to look at whatever the man was looking at. Aunt Petunia and Dudley were coming out of the shop, laden with a new stack of boxes. Dudley was licking a pinwheel lollipop.
“Well, get up!” Aunt Petunia said sharply. “We haven’t got all day!”
Harry looked back to his right and blinked in surprise. The man had gone, but Harry hadn’t heard him leave. Feeling a bit sad that he hadn’t gotten to say goodbye, Harry began handing Aunt Petunia her share of the packages from the curb.
When they had collected all the bags and boxes, they set off down the street again. “Do try to keep up,” said Aunt Petunia over her shoulder. “And watch where you’re going this time!”
Dudley snickered and waved his lollipop in front of Harry's nose. “Bet you wish you had a sweet, don’t you, cousin?” he teased. Harry ignored him, and Dudley went back to walking alongside his mother.
Harry wasn’t sure what it was, but something made him turn and look back the way they had come. The man in purple was standing in the doorway of the shabby shop, smiling broadly and waving farewell. Harry’s face lit up in a smile and he waved back, almost dropping his stack of boxes in the process. This earned him a sharp rebuke from his aunt, but for once Harry didn’t care. He had the taste of chocolate and marshmallow on his tongue, and no amount of spitefulness could take that away.
A/N: I am aware that words can have enormous power, and that there are many pre-teens that visit this site, so I felt I should say a few words. Children should never talk to strangers or accept anything from them. I am certainly not trying to suggest that they should; this is simply a whimsical story that I put together. It is meant to be quite harmless, but one should not follow Harry’s example in the real world.