Thanks again to NightZephyr and my Tri-D for sorting out the confusing bits.
I also need to acknowledge that any anachronisms are all my fault. My mother does, quite vividly, 'remember
the sixties.' But she can only answer questions I think to ask her.
Getting to Know You
Having survived his first day of Muggle school, Arthur felt brave enough to set
a loftier goal for his second. He would actually begin to gather
information. He would learn about the Muggles: who they were, how they worked, and
what they knew.
He began to whistle his favorite tune by Hate Charm when he
drove by the school that morning and didn't find the cluster of students scrutinizing him from
across the fence that he had the day before. He almost hadn't looked, but he was glad he did.
It gave him the confidence he needed to accomplish his new goal. So Arthur whistled.
The girl named Margaret, however, wasn't whistling. She was
darting around the field, trying to collect her classmates to find out if they
would be free the next day after school. She had C.C. waiting patiently on the
school steps, but Benjamin was back in his habit of being late, Timothy was
being chased around the shade tree by his small brother waving an enormous worm,
and Ezra refused to come within ten feet of Julia because the rest of the school
was playing Tag and the girls were 'It.'
Margaret was nearly in tears by the time the Head Teacher
signaled the beginning of the school day. She glumly anticipated everyone
scattering at lunch as they had the day before, and then again at dismissal.
She would never get to show them what she'd seen, they would never believe her,
and she would never figure it out and be famous on the six o'clock news.
In desperation, as her teacher began to take attendance, Margaret
quietly took out a piece of loose-leaf paper and wrote across the top: Can
you come tomorow? Anser please! She
passed it to C.C. first because C.C. generally did whatever Margaret wanted and
she was afraid that if she started with Julia or Ezra the whole thing would go
straight into the bin.
Predictably, when the note did eventually reach Julia, she
leaned over to point out Margaret's spelling errors instead of answering it.
Margaret had to try very hard not to repeat any of the impolite phrases she'd
heard from her brothers when all Julia had to talk about was silent w's.
Just as Margaret thought of something relatively civil to say to Julia, she was interrupted.
The interruption came from Arthur, who had reached Benjamin's name on the register. When he didn't hear the boy call,
"Present," as he was supposed to, he looked up to scan
the room and cringed, momentarily forgetting the roll to worry instead about the girls commiserating in the front row. It was very difficult not to take
students passing notes and whispering on the second day of
school as a sign that they could tell how clueless he was. Arthur decided it
was time to pretend to be Stern Schoolmaster again, as it had seemed to save
him from the sellotape incident the day before.
It was harder, though, planning it out like this instead of
acting on impulse. He tried to make his voice deep, but that made him feel like
he was asking a witch to Hogsmeade. That somewhat ruined the effect of,
"Margaret, Julia," a hopefully significant silence, and then, "if whatever you're discussing wasn't
important enough to talk about before school began, then it's not something important
enough to interrupt our class."
"Sorry, sir," Julia said quickly nonetheless. "It was
But Margaret squeaked with indignation. "Nothing?"
Julia glared at her and explained dismissively, "Margaret
thinks she's seen something spooky off the top of the hill on Queen Mary Road."
demeanor changed entirely. "Where, exactly, was this?" he asked carefully. The
Burrow was hidden beyond that hill, as were a few other wizarding households. "And
what was spooky? And who else knows?" Then he stopped questioning because he
was afraid he might seem too eager. But Margaret, who was itching to talk about
her discovery even more than he was itching to hear it, didn't notice and the
others were too incredulous at the lack of scolding to wonder.
Margaret straightened herself in her seat before beginning her
story with barely contained excitement. "Well, you know how Queen Mary Road
twists up that hill north of the village? And how there's that big rock at the
very top of it? Well, if you climb it, you can see for ages, even over the
trees a bit, and it's not just woods that go on and on, the way it looks from
That wasn't a surprise to Arthur, who knew the wizard family
that had lived in the presumed privacy of those woods for generations. The
surprise was that anybody could see their land, even from that hilltop.
"-and you can see part of it from the rock. It's just bit. And it looks like a field like the rest of them around here at first except - here's
the weird part - there are patterns in the
grasses. Circles over circles. One a bit like a flower. And I think there were
maybe tufts in the middle of some of them, but it was really hard to see."
Here Arthur had to hold his breath so as not to emit an
audible sigh of relief that the Muggles hadn't seen any real magic, just the
trampled grass from some dancing mooncalves. He was actually slightly excited now. Mooncalf activity was simple to
explain away with Quamble's rule. The patterns were made by aliens, of course --
from Outer Space, landing in their Space Ships. The locals had heard it so many
times they actually believed it, Quamble said. "Just like when you were at
Hogwarts and could blame anything on the poltergeist, except for the part where
there really was a poltergeist." Arthur replayed the conversation in his head
and tentatively considered the possibility of actually being a success at
this new job.
But while Arthur was trying not to jump with undignified
boyish glee, Julia interrupted Margaret.
"Hard to see because there's nothing there," she sneered. "My
mother says all this hullabaloo about aliens in wheat fields is rubbish."
"I saw it," Margaret began hotly, "and so did my brothers.
We were out picnicking and I saw it and they came up on the rock too and they
said I have eyes like a hawk."
"And a mouth like a chipmunk!" Julia shot back, at which
Ezra, who had been snickering somewhat subtly, laughed aloud, bright red
rash-like splotches spreading across his cheeks.
The girls bickered on, Julia found an excuse to insult Timothy,
as well, and Arthur wondered wildly if surreptitiously turning one of the desks
into a hawk or a chipmunk might be sufficient distraction to make them all be quiet.
He wasn't even listening to what the two girls (who had written in their essays
that they were best friends) were calling each other any more. He considered
turning one of them into an animal.
That, he decided, was surely illegal. But he didn't know a legal way to stop
the laughing and name-calling ruckus that was growing before him.
Finally, the last boy entered the noisy room. "Hi, Mr.
Weasley," he said brightly. "Sorry I'm late. Are you done with the roll or
would you like help again?"
Ezra fell off his chair, but Benjamin kept smiling
"Is there a reason you're late?" Arthur asked, trying to
remember the school's tardiness policy.
"He's always late," Timothy offered.
"Not always," Julia corrected, promptly forgetting her
dispute with Margaret. "He was here on time yesterday. But he isn't usually."
"All students are supposed to be in their classrooms by nine
o'clock," Arthur recited from memory. "If this becomes a pattern, I'll have to
send a note home."
"That's what our other teachers did," said Julia knowingly,
then shrugged. "His father still forgets to wake him up."
"Then why doesn't his mother wake him?" Arthur asked,
feeling that that was the obvious solution and that Muggles could really be
A short silence followed that question before Julia piped up
again, "He hasn't got one."
"You can't be born without a mother!" Arthur spluttered,
although he wondered if maybe things were different for Muggles.
"Oh, there was a lady that gave birth to me," Benjamin said
lightly from where he had stopped in the doorway, "and told my dad she loved
him, and married him, and all that. But then two months after I was born she
scarpered and left me with him and him with a broken heart and so I haven't got
a mother. Who'd want someone who'd do that to stick around anyway?"
Arthur, stunned slightly stupid, asked, "What about an alarm
clock?" as though being motherless had no effect on a person outside of their
Luckily, the boy didn't seem to be offended. "I wanted one for
Christmas, but all I got was this watch, and it doesn't make noise," he sighed,
holding up his wrist to show a pale watch face. "I'm putting it on my list
again this year, with a picture to show what I mean this time." Arthur got the
feeling that the boy was being overly optimistic.
There were no House points to be taken here, but he had to
do something about the rule violation, so he tried to think of a very mild
version of a Hogwarts detention. "Well, you're ten minutes late, so you can
stay an extra ten minutes after school to help me tidy the room. Agreed?"
"Agreed," grinned Benjamin, and Arthur felt satisfied that
things were back on track and he could get down to business. Of course, he was
"You'd better be on time tomorrow," Margaret was telling
Benjamin warningly, "so we can all go down to Queen Mary Road right after
school." And C.C. was responding that she couldn't make it because she had an
orthodontist appointment to decide if she would need a brace for her front teeth.
Then Arthur was distracted for a bit while he tried to remember what braces did to
"Well, Thursday, then?"
"Timothy's chore day," reminded Julia.
"Friday?" asked Margaret desperately.
"We're leaving for my Grandma's birthday in Surrey," said
"You'll all be staying after until next Monday if we don't
get down to work!" Arthur finally cut in. He decided to table the essay reading
for another day, as it would no doubt inspire more conversations, and asked
them to take out their readers. He hadn't really planned a lesson, but he had
discovered that a few wizard writers were quite popular among Muggles as well,
and thought he could wing a discussion of a little familiar poetry that his
mother had read him as a child. Arthur particularly enjoyed Muggle-born William Wordsworth's veiled reflections on his discovery of the magical world.
However, Margaret wasn't so easily discouraged, and Arthur
eventually had to relieve her of a sheet of paper being entitled: O.K. so
when CAN we meet? When he took it, he
noticed that she had been writing on it with a most remarkable instrument,
remarkable because it did not seem to have a tip of any sort that could mark a
page. No ink, no lead, just a little hole. He asked if he could see it.
"Are you confiscating my pen, too?" Margaret whispered. Her
Year Three teacher had enjoyed "confiscating" things.
"Yes! That's a great idea! That's just what I'll do," Arthur
murmured, and wandered back to his desk, poking, prodding, and jumping when,
for no apparent reason, the writing tip popped out at him with a click. Margaret gaped for a minute and then returned to reading
I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud. Arthur silently finished taking roll.
Arthur maintained as much normalcy as he could for the rest
of the day and felt rewarded for his hard work when he found Molly Prewett's
owl flying around the kitchen upon his arrival home. He had, of course, written
effusively to thank her for the previous days' care package. "I think this
might even make up for that Pringle incident," he had said, and meant it, even
though thinking of said fiasco did still cause him to twinge in a few spots. He
had oddly fond feelings about that night, when both of them had been so busy
with study groups for exams that they'd been forced to schedule their Memory
Charms session in the wee hours and Molly had mysteriously suggested the
Astronomy Tower as a meeting place.
Arthur had blushed a bit about her choice of location, but
it had been lovely up there, and conversation had strayed from magical theory
to pleasant contemplation of the stars, and he had felt utterly happy and
relaxed for the first time in weeks. That is, until the castle caretaker showed
up. Arthur had panicked, tried a Memory Charm on him, and all heck had generally
broken loose, earning the painful detention for which Arthur still held Molly
But the food she had packed-and the cover she had magically
knitted for the steering wheel of his car so that it wouldn't burn his hands
from sitting in the sun like it had the first afternoon-and the lovely,
encouraging letter she'd written-all made him feel blissfully cheerful and
Her latest letter was also valuable. Molly had detected his
uneasiness at trying to rein in the children when they went on tangents, as with
the "cal-Q-laters." He could tell that something was wrong when that happened,
but he didn't know what to do. Afraid they won't listen? Molly
asked perceptively. Well, then keep a window open and it can
conveniently bang shut whenever you feel things get out of hand. If you have it
happen a few times when all is well as well, they'll never suspect that you're
behind it at all, let alone using magic. An old trick of mine... Molly Prewett was brilliant.
He wrote right back telling her so. He also told her about
Margaret and her interest in the evidence of the mooncalves' dance. What
should I do? She's a bit of a dramatic girl, and none of her friends even
believe her. She's said her brothers have seen it as well, but if they shared
her interest in investigation, she wouldn't be pestering her classmates... I'm
writing a report to the Ministry of course, but I'm wondering if I should talk
to the old man. Let him know Muggles have spotted something suspicious on his
property, even if he's got no more control over mooncalves than he would over
Then he read as much as he could about Muggle windows, and
how exactly one did and didn't open or close them. He cleaned his Muggle
clothes, shined his shoes, and finally made himself dinner since his parents
were getting home later and later these days.
The next two days went well. Arthur didn't even have to use
the window trick, although he tried it out for fun once when Ezra had one of
his laughing fits. Some of them are so strange, he wrote to Molly. I can't tell if it's because they're
children or because they're Muggles. Ezra doesn't just laugh a bit. He snickers
at everything, tries to stifle it, and ends up falling out of his chair at
least once a day. Timothy knows less about the Muggle world than I do
sometimes. The other day he thought his clicky-pen was broken because he had
forgotten to click it. Have I told you yet about clicky pens? I'm trying to
find the proper name for them. The two girls who are always at each other's
throats are apparently not only best friend, but cousins. And then there's the
girl who lets the others call her C.C. That is the most ridiculous name I have
ever heard and the very last thing I would ever call a child of mine. The boy
who stays after school every day, Benjamin-I tried to call him Ben, but he says
it's his father's name with this odd sort of finality, not like him, he's
usually one of those eager-puppy sorts. Anyway, he really is pleasant to talk
to, and very helpful, and I'm beginning to enjoy the time with him, even though
he cleans far more slowly than I could do with magic and I'm in horrible danger
of blowing my cover. But he's far too cheerful about not having a mother
around. They're all just so odd.
Molly had written back saying that it was neither because
they were children nor because they were Muggles, but because they were human
that Arthur's students were odd, and that she could think of a few names more
hideous than C.C. to call a child. And did the phrase "the very last thing I
would ever call a child of mine" mean he was finally considering the
possibility of himself one day having children? He wrote back a very short
On Thursday afternoon Arthur visited the Ministry to borrow
a camera to document the mooncalf patterns off Queen Mary Road.
"Doing a bang-up job already, Weasley!" Quamble beamed at
him. "You're really digging. No one in your post has ever made so much progress
so fast! You'll be first in line for a promotion to regular field work!"
beamed back and thanked his lucky stars for mooncalves.
On Friday morning he decided to venture having the children
read their essays so he could finally ask about the "strange" details he'd had
Julia volunteered to go first. She read:
summer holiday I mostly stayed here in Ottery St. Catchpole. I helped my father
at the Post Office. He has a very important job. Our Post Office serves six
villages. Sometimes strange things happen there. Like the time we got a letter
addressed to someone in Argentina. We don't know how it came to us. And
sometimes we get letters or packages for people we've never heard of, with
nonsense things about rabbit holes and such written instead of the street
number or postcode. Also one time someone sent a blue box. I didn't know there
were such things as blue boxes.
else I did on my summer holiday was I played at my best friend Margaret's
house. One day her brother Edward wore a suit and that was strange but then it
turned out he had a date. That is also strange. Edward smells funny and no one
would want to kiss him.
we spent a week on the beach with Margaret and her family because we're
cousins. Edward had two dates there. Except for strange things like that, I had
a delightfully superb and lovely summer.
The first thing Arthur
did when Julia was done was commend her pointedly on her perfect spelling. Some
of the others were giving him headaches with their creativity in that area. He
tried to say a few knowledgeable-sounding things about her vocabulary and
organization before nonchalantly wondering about the strangely addressed
packages her father received at the Post Office. He'd have to write up a
short report on wizards trying to use Muggle post.
Margaret tapped her
essay against her desktop importantly and cleared her throat before begging to read
in a very serious voice.
My Summer Holiday
By Margaret Anne
I had the best
holiday ever because my frend Julia got permishin (finaly!) to ride her bike to
our farm by herself now that she's eight so she came and played about a milyin
times and we had the most fun ever.
I had the
strangest holiday ever, too, becuz of what I saw on queen Mary road last week
with my brothers. It was the strangest and spookyest thing ever. I think it was
alens. So do they. But I want to find out more. I want to find the alens. My
brothers don't. They said they used to look for alins all the time but they
never found anything except a mean old lady whatever that means. But I'm going
to find out about the alens and be famous and then I'll get on the six o'clock
news and everyone will remember me and then when I grow up I can get a job
there too. I want to be an anchorlady on the six o'clock news. When I grow up I
am going to be an anchor lady on the six o'clock news.
Arthur wanted to tell
her gently that it was lovely that she wanted to be an "anchorlady" on the six
o'clock news, but that that wasn't really the point of the essay. However, as
he wasn't entirely sure what either of those things were, he could have been
wrong about that. It sounded like she wanted to write articles about boats, but
he was not confident enough to act on that assumption. So instead he told her
that that job sounded fascinating and asked her to tell him more about it. He
felt very proud of himself when it seemed that he had worded the question
neutrally enough not to betray his ignorance.
But then he asked if
she could bring a television in to school for him to see, and Ezra broke out
snickering and Margaret stammered and said that it would be a bit too heavy for
her to bring on her bicycle.
His fingers clenched
around his wand as Arthur realized he had made his third real blunder of the
week, but he forced himself to laugh heartily instead of deleting all their
memories of the gaffe. Timothy offered kindly that sometimes he forgot how
heavy televisions were as well and Arthur got Ezra to be quiet by telling him
it was his turn to share, which he did in one enormous breath.
holiday by Ezra
I went fishing.
I went swiming. I cott a real big fish. It was real long. One time I cot the
same fish twise. I knew it was the same fish because it had a spot on it.
Ottery St. Catchpole is boring. Nothing else strange happens here. Nothing at
all happens here. Except when C.C. moved here last year. That was something.
But she's not strange. Now we have a new teacher. That's something. But it's
not strange. Except he's a man and not a lady.
Arthur said he'd like
to hear more about Ezra's big fish and that the ending of the essay was a
little weak. When Molly Prewett had begun proofing his essays, she'd always
made him write a good ending. He asked Benjamin to read next because his essay
had the best ending of the three that remained and he had always appreciated it
when Molly had given him examples of what to strive for.
My Summer Holiday
My summer holiday was pretty
good this year. It didn't get too hot and it didn't rain too much. I helped my
dad at the Shelly Shop like always and my friends visited sometimes. One week
we built a fort out back out of empty boxes and I stayed there one night. It's
quiet around here at night. It's strange how quiet, and a little scary. All you
can hear is hooting owls and the okashunal toad. That's the only strange thing
I can think of. Sometimes I wish something strange would happen here. Margaret
thinks she's seen something out off Queen Mary Road, but my Aunt Jean says
people have seen things like that around here before and that nothing ever
comes of it. She says nothing ever comes of anything in Ottery St. Catchpole,
not even my dad. He was supposed to be the smartest kid ever to go through The
Muggle School. They let him go off to grammar school a year early and he
studied engineering at University. But things happened like they always do in
this village. But that's okay because I like it here even if nothing much
happens over summer holidays. I get to play with my friends over summer
holidays and I wouldn't trade them for an exciting holiday on a tropical island
or anywhere on earth because they're the best.
When Benjamin read the
last part, he was smiling warmly and all the other students were smiling, too,
so that Arthur didn't have the heart to bring up dividing things into
paragraphs like he'd intended. He just smiled as well and called Timothy up to
read because he'd be easy to comment on.
My summer holiday
My summer holiday
was nice. My little brother went to my grandparents for a whole week and left
me alone. I went fishing with my best friend. His name is Ezra. He cot a big
fish. It was bigger then my face. I tried to eat it. But we hadn't cooked it
yet. So it tasted strange. And then I got sick.
Since Arthur had
already discovered it was nearly impossible to embarrass Timothy, he was able
to talk freely about what he knew about essay writing after that. He made it a
class project to turn Timothy's dozen sentences into a somewhat organized
answer to the question and felt very cheerful when he motioned for C.C. to read
the final essay before lunch.
My Summer Holiday
By Catherine Davies
I had a nice summer. I
went swimming with my friends. I visited my grandma and grandpa Owen for my
birthday. They got me a chemistry set. I loved it. My mum and dad and my
Grandma Davies got me a Polaroid camera. It is very nice and very complicated.
I'm not very good at it. It must be like art.
happened. Someone rang our doorbell and ran away. But that was just Ezra. He
As C.C. sat down,
Arthur glanced at his wrist, but there was nothing there because earlier in the
week he had discovered that, although Muggles did have alarms clocks "to remind
them when it's time to get up," these reminders didn't come from wristwatches
and were generally non-verbal. He'd made quite a fool of himself when his
timepiece had exclaimed, "It's 12:05! You're late for lunch!" The children had
looked very startled, with Ezra demanding, "Who said that?" and Arthur had absentmindedly answered that it was his watch.
It had taken a while
for him to realize he was in trouble, but when Timothy sheepishly declared that
he had forgotten that watches could talk, Julia had reminded him sharply that
that was because, in fact, they couldn't. Then he'd had to pretend that he'd
said it himself, and that he'd had a frog in his throat, too, making him sound
like an irate female, and it had been rather embarrassing all around.
So now he sighed and
consulted the school clock on the wall, which was silent apart from its
ticking. He had about two minutes to fill before he could reasonably release
"Well," he said gamely,
"That was interesting. I'm curious about one part, though. When you said, 'It
must be like art,' what does art have to do with anything?"
"Oh, sorry." The girl
blushed slightly. "I'd forgotten you didn't know. I'm awful at art. All of it.
Drawing, painting, sculpting- I've tried everything, since my father and
grandmother are artists. I'm awful at all of it."
asked, genuinely interested. "What do they do?" He didn't know much about
"My dad makes pottery
and my grandma paints it and then they sell it," she said proudly.
"Oh! Is that why you
moved here?" Arthur exclaimed. His mother was always disguising herself as a
Muggle and running off to look for Devon pottery, so he felt somewhat
The girls' smile
flickered. "Well. We've been here a whole year now," she said quickly, "so it's
a little hard to remember-"
She looked distinctly
uncomfortable and Arthur instantly regretted bringing up her uprooting. If
Ezra's essay was any indication, there weren't many new people in this village,
making C.C. something of a novelty. Even after a whole year, which, he
remembered, felt like a lifetime when you were a child, she was still called
The New Girl, practically--Cath from Cardiff, not from Ottery St.
Catchpole--one of them, but not quite.
That made her like
Arthur himself, in a way. He'd grown up just outside the village, his house actually
a bit closer to the school than Timothy's, and his family had lived there
forever. But to these children he was an outsider and he always would be.
The girl bit her lip
and exhaled before she continued wearily. "Partly. My grandma was ill and
Cardiff is lovely when the sun shines, really. But the problem is the sun doesn't
shine so much there and half of the time when it does it's still a bit cold or
windy or damp-"
Ezra snorted here, but
"-and it wasn't good
for her health. And she really wanted to go back to country life, too. My dad
used to come out here a lot. He'd buy pieces to sell in our shop or trade them
for some of his to sell here. So he knew it was a good area for the business,
and the weather was a little milder than in Cardiff-"
"Oh, go on," put in
Ezra, "Tell him why you really ended up here instead of, say, some place sunny that
anyone had ever actually heard of."
"Oh, all right," C.C.
said, with a bit of spark finally. "Yes, we could have built just about
anywhere, but my mother fell in love with this village because--well--it's
silly, but otters are her favorite animal and she saw the name on a sign once
when they were driving through. And there wasn't already a pottery shop, so
here we are."
"Yes," said Margaret
happily, "and we're ever so glad because you're just the nicest new girl
"She is," Timothy told
Arthur, nodding earnestly. "C.C.'s the nicest ever. She helps me remember my
jacket and she's not a Welshman with a chip or anything."
"And not just because
she's a girl, not a man," Julia added significantly.
The girl herself was
looking uncomfortable and seemed to be biting her tongue when a strangled voice
called from the back of the class, "It's 12:05! You're late for lunch!"
Mr. Weasley looked down
at his wrist in surprise, but the rest of the class turned around and laughed
at Ezra, whose cheeks were so blotchy with mirth that he looked ill, and they
jumped up to leave.
Arthur only thought it
fair to give the children an extra five minutes to chat after they came
straggling back into the room an hour later, as he had caused class to run five
minutes into their lunch. Another motivation was that he had discovered that their
conversations were often either very funny or very informative.
This Friday he had the
specific goal of finding out if any of them were venturing out to Queen Mary
Road after school, because that was when he planned to take his photographs and
it was going to be tricky enough without six children crawling all over the
place. He couldn't very well just Apparate to the middle of the roadside, and
he didn't want to be spied driving by and stopping right there. He hadn't figured
out exactly how it would work just yet, but at least the children all seemed to
have other plans.
At 1:05, he cleared his
throat, which he knew would have no effect, and then at 1:06 he whispered a
quiet Wingardium Leviosa,
lifting the blinds on one of the windows and letting them drop back just loudly
enough to startle six chattering mouths into silence.
He kept them on task
well enough for an hour of math and thirty minutes of ancient history, which he
always found fascinating from the Muggle point of view. The boys seemed to
share his enthusiasm for such clever inventions as catapults and burning oil.
Arthur often ended up drawing diagrams, as best he could remember from his Muggle
Studies texts, of how things worked, making miniature ones out of things
around the classroom, and having a grand time in general.
He was considering
letting the class have guesses at how things worked before he drew them.
Benjamin, in particular, seemed very quick on the uptake in these experiments.
He could always find just the right substitute materials. Best of all, when
discussing ancient history, Arthur didn't need to worry so much about slipping
up and marveling at the ingenuity of it all and "how they got by without so
many everyday things" because the children felt the same way, too.
These lessons were
rapidly becoming his favorite part of the day. (He had temporarily abandoned the
study of Herbology because Margaret and Timothy were too much in 'harvest' frames
of mind to think about planting.) Even so, his apprehension and excitement
about the task awaiting him after school matched the Friday afternoon jitters of the
students, and the last half hour of class degenerated into a discussion of
It may have begun with
Timothy revealing that he detested every single one of the sheep on his farm,
favoring frogs instead. Then they all wanted to know how Mr. Weasley felt about
weasels, and he said he liked them fine because otherwise he was sure to be
asked what he liked better, and neither 'crup' nor 'phoenix' seemed like a very
good answer. Ezra admired lions and snakes, Julia eagles. Benjamin shrugged and
said he supposed dogs were nice, which Arthur thought seemed fitting for a boy
so reminiscent of a spotted puppy.
Arthur by declaring that she absolutely adored unicorns.
"You know unicorns
don't count, Margaret," Julia sighed at her. "They're not real."
"People used to think
they're real. They might be. Just because we don't see them anymore-"
"Means they've either
turned invisible or they're just not there. People used to think there were
dragons and mermaids and monsters in the sea, too. Unicorns are lovely but they're make-believe and they don't
count as favorite animals," Julia said with finality, and the others seemed to
Then Margaret looked at
Arthur so pleadingly with her wide eyes and curly golden halo that he knew he
couldn't lie to her when she asked, "What do you say, sir? Do unicorns count?"
It wasn't even hard to
say something truthful, yet not revealing. "If you want them to," he told her.
"Just because we don't see them every day doesn't mean they're not beautiful
things to wonder about."
"They are very
beautiful," Margaret agreed and Arthur wished he could share pictures with her.
He decided then that he should end the conversation before he could make a
ridiculous offer like that and directed his attention to C.C. in the back, the
only student who hadn't shared.
"What's your favorite
animal?" he inquired.
"She plays unicorns
with me!" Margaret said.
"And eagles with me. We
"She does a great
Arthur was a bit confused
by the bombardment of conflicting answers and must have looked it because C.C.
giggled quietly before explaining, "I just like them all."
"Isn't it otters like
your mum?" asked Timothy.
"What animals did you
play before you knew us?" wondered Margaret.
"Oh, gosh, I don't
know," C.C. said, with what seemed intended to be a careless wave of her hand. "I
was just a little kid then! I mostly remember playing with Julia and you."
Arthur felt her
exasperation and regretted having brought her into conversation for the second
time that day. He'd be quiet, too, if every time he opened his mouth someone
reminded him he was different from all his friends
So he exclaimed, "Okay!
Let's play a game!" as his mother had done with him and his brothers when they
got impatient at family gatherings. "I'm thinking of a creature--animal-whose
name starts with A. Who can
Benjamin got it-alligator, and kept the
rest of the class going until 3:00 with "barnacle." By then, Arthur was so
ready to embark on his photography mission that he nearly shooed his five
punctual students through the classroom door. He had been looking forward to
continuing a discussion of aqueducts with Benjamin while they cleaned, but he
just couldn't keep his mind on anything other than his upcoming investigation,
so he dismissed the boy five minutes early and made a bee-line for the Ministry
car. He whistled in its privacy all the way to the Diggory carport.