An Important Shopping Trip
“Where do we go first?” James Potter tugged at his mother’s robes as they approached the fireplace in their living room.
His mother rolled her eyes at him. “James, you’ve been to Diagon Alley a thousand times.”
“But never to shop for school supplies!” he said in an exasperated tone.
“Really? Then what do you think we do every August?” She threw a handful of Floo powder into the hearth and tugged James into the green flames with her. “Diagon Alley!”
There was a tugging, spinning feeling before James and his mother spilled out of a hearth located near the brick wall that lead to the Muggle world. James had always been fascinated by the wall, running his hands over it and putting his ear to it, as if by straining he might be able to hear a Muggle on the other side.
“It’s not like that.” His mother had told him. “You have to go through a courtyard and a wizarding establishment to get to the wall. There won’t be any strays on the other side.”
“Your robes first.” Mrs. Potter pursed her lips, breaking James’ reverie about Muggles. “You already have Higgins for a pet.”
“Then a wand?” James asked excitedly.
“Perhaps. Perhaps we’ll wait until after we eat lunch and go to the bookstore.” She looked at him out of the corner of her eye.
He groaned dramatically and she chuckled as she shuffled him into Madame Malkins Robes for All Occasions.
“Another first year!” The middle-aged woman clapped her hands together as they came in. “So good to see you, dear,” she said to Mrs. Potter.
“I’d like three sets of school robes and something that looks smart. You never know when something might come up.” Mrs. Potter nodded.
The woman nodded and brought out her measuring tape.
James was happy the whole process was quicker than he expected,soon he and his mother were once again out in the sun, a neat package wrapped in paper tucked under Mrs. Potter’s arm.
He kept pulling ahead of her as she walked, but when he heard her clear her throat he found something to look at while she caught up with him. He saw the wand store approaching and he practically danced in place as he looked pleadingly at his mother.
“Oh, fine.” She sighed as he took off like a bolt in the direction of the shop.
The little bell above the door chimed and James became aware of the silence that was the wand shop. When the door closed behind him the bustle of shoppers was muffled and he could hear a scratching noise coming from somewhere behind the counter.
Suddenly, a grey-haired man popped his head out from behind the counter. “Can I help you, young man?” He set his quill back into its inkpot and closed the book he had been writing in.
He looked behind himself, but his mother hadn’t arrived yet. He opened my mouth, but nothing came out.
“First wand?” He prompted gently. James nodded and the man bustled out from behind the counter with a tape measure in his hands. He began measuring James in all sorts of odd ways including the widths of my feet and the length of his fingers.
The man stepped back as the tape continued measuring. He murmured as he watched the tape and looked up as the bell over the door rang.
“Dorea Black!” The man grinned widely as my mother walked in. “Eight inches, yew, extra springy with a unicorn hair core!”
She smiled widely. “It’s good to see you Mr. Ollivander.”
“Is this one yours? Lot of potential in this one.” He nodded approvingly.
“That’s very good to hear. He’s been begging me to bring him in early since he got his letter.” She snorted.
“I’m surprised you didn’t give in,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “You nearly broke down the door. But, no need to worry, boy.” He snatched the tape measure from midair. “Only one match per wizard. Yours is still here.”
James let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding and Mr. Ollivander smirked at him as he went to shuffle boxes, looking for James’. He pulled out several that had disastrous results before James spotted a box on a shelf that he ‘had a good feeling about.’
“Who’s to argue?” Mr. Ollivander had shrugged as he placed the wand in James’ hand.
James had barely swished the wand before silver and gold sparks shot out of it.
“We have a winner!” Mr. Ollivander crowed as Mrs. Potter smiled down at her son.
The wand was boxed up and James was reminded that he wasn’t to use it until the start of term before they stepped back into the street, nearly being knocked over by a devilishly handsome, slight man whose coat jingled as he ran.
“Stop him!” Someone yelled out. “Look at what his lucky charms did to me!”
James craned to see the accuser and his eyes fell on a pudgy wizard with the head of a chicken. The wizard squawked violently as he began after the other man, who was long gone.
“That’s what you get, Kelly Jerrod! Buying lucky charms out of a coat in an alley from a Fletcher!” A tiny witch with steel colored hair scowled as she blocked the chicken-headed wizard. “He did say they were for entertainment purposes only and I daresay you’ve entertained us all!”
Mrs. Potter steered James in the direction of a small sandwich shop and James lost sight of the street as the door closed behind them. The owner, Mr. Mancini, was as happy to see them as ever and he beamed as Mrs. Potter handed him a list of meats to be delivered to their home later. James was given a small pastry that he was allowed to eat before his lunch and a handful of noisy kisses from Mr. Mancini’s daughters who wanted to wish him good luck before he made off for Hogwarts.
They settled into a plush booth Mr. Mancini saved for his best customers and James dipped a small brush into a cup of water before running it over the tablecloth. Colors and pictures bloomed from James’ mind onto the white fabric and his mother smiled contentedly.
“Such a creative little boy! Hogwarts will be glad to have you.”
“Can I get one of these to take with me?” James asked hopefully.
His mother sighed. “I’m afraid those cost quite a few galleons. But maybe the Happy Day fairy will think about it.”
James grinned. His mother didn’t buy him everything he wanted, contrary to popular belief. Sometimes, on an important day like the First Day of Term, the Happy Day fairy would pay him a visit and give him some sort of special present.
“Here you go, madam!” Mr. Mancini served them himself. “I also made you a plate of new samples of blended meats. The duck pork is especially mild.”
“I thought they couldn’t raise magically blended creatures in Britain anymore.” Mrs. Potter took a sample and chewed thoughtfully.
“They can’t, but I found a supplier in France and he’s willing to Floo me every morning,” he said proudly.
“It’s excellent. Add five pounds to my order. I can use it for the bridge club social on Thursday.”
“I’ll have it delivered Thursday morning.” Mr. Mancini nodded.
“Of course.” Mrs. Potter smiled. “For the freshness, naturally.”
He nodded happily and left them to eat, James tearing into his meal the second the man had left the table.
“Good heavens, James. You’d think we starved you.” Mrs. Potter shook her head at her boy.
“It’s <i>really</i> good,” James said honestly. “And breakfast was hours ago.”
“We still have your books, yet.” Mrs. Potter reminded him.
“Then can we look at racing brooms?” James asked hopefully.
“You can look at them, but Hogwarts won’t allow you to have one as a first year.” She nibbled delicately on a cucumber and watercress sandwich.
James scowled, but his mother just shrugged. “I don’t make the rules and I can hardly change them. Hogwarts is a serious institution for higher learning and I hope you keep that in mind when you’re watching the others zoom around wasting their time.”
“If I get on the team I won’t be wasting my time,” James said grumpily.
“There’s plenty of time for that later. Your first year is about settling in and learning what’s expected of you. Once you know that, they’ll let you try out for the team.” Mrs. Potter looked down at him pityingly. “Don’t you worry. Your father will hire you a trainer next summer so you’ll be ready for tryouts. It would kill him if you didn’t play.”
James brightened up at this. “Has he said anyone yet?”
“Not yet, but I think he wants to see the outcomes this season first. No sense in getting a trainer for a losing team.” She reached out her hand and patted James’. “Trust me. You’ll have plenty of things to do.”
James finished his lunch quietly, occasionally stopping to doodle on the table, which made his mother smile. The dessert was smaller than he would have liked, but the lemon tarts were delicious just the same.
As they were making their way towards the bookstore Mrs. Potter spotted a hat in a shop window and James waited for her outside. We watched people for a moment before his eye was drawn to a dark place between buildings. A place labeled ‘Nocturne Alley.’
He knew he wasn’t supposed to go anywhere near there without his father. They had gone a few times for gardening supplies and rare potions’ ingredients and James had found the shop windows fascinating. He had been strongly chided for his curiosity and his parents had argued over it later.
Surely it wouldn’t hurt to stand near the entrance. It wouldn’t be as if he were going in, just… taking a look.
He blinked hard as a scruffy-looking, brown-haired boy stepped out of the darkness and into the sun. He blinked at the brightness and didn’t see James approaching him.
“Kids aren’t supposed to go in there!” James declared.
“Who said?” The boy had a lazy voice and now that James got closer he could see a livid scar that ran down the side of his face.
“My parents,” James said matter-of-factly.
“Well, they’re not my parents, are they?” the boy answered, irritating James.
“How did you get that scar?” James asked.
“I was in an accident.” The boy shrugged.
“What kind of accident?” James asked curiously.
“Remus!” A thin, bird-like man stepped out of the alley. “Oh, there you are.”
“Hi!” James said. “I’m James Potter!”
“Oh.” The man nervously faltered for a moment, looking up to see Mrs. Potter approaching. “Well, how do you do? I’m Mr. Lupin and this is my son, Remus.”
“I’m so sorry if my son is bothering you,” Mrs. Potter apologized.
“Hey, is that a real fang?” James asked, having spotted the necklace Remus was wearing.
“It’s a good luck charm.” Remus said, smiling at James.
“Does it turn you into a chicken?” James asked.
“What?” Remus looked confused, but his father looked so nervous he was practically jittering.
“Well, it was very nice to meet you,” he said in a tone that was warm, yet full of urgency.
“Bye! See you on the train!” James called out as they shuffled away. Remus turned as if to say something, but his father had a pained look on his face as he dragged his son away.
“How do you know he was going to be on the train?” Mrs. Potter asked.
“He had a wand sticking out of his pocket.” James shrugged. “How come he gets to carry his around?”
“You’d have to ask his father, if you can catch him,” Mrs. Potter said teasingly, for the Lupins had already disappeared from their sight.
“He came out of Nocturne Alley, too,” James said as if he had uncovered a great secret.
“I gathered that from where you were standing. And why were you over there?” She arched an eyebrow at him.
“To ask him why he was there,” James lied.
“You’re not fooling anyone, mister.”
James made a sound that sounded like ‘humph.’
The bookstore was bustling with activity, but luckily James’ required books were easy to find.
“But I’m going to have something to do in my free time!” James complained. “You said there’s a curfew! What am I supposed to do after that? Just sit around with a bunch of people?”
“It’s not like prison, James.” Mrs. Potter rolled her eyes, but she agreed that James should have something to keep him out of trouble.
James knew he wanted the latest copy of Brooms of Breakneck Speed, a series of stories about broom racing, but he hadn’t the faintest idea how to find it. The familiar shelves had been rearranged to make room for all the textbooks that had been ordered for the start of term and there was a pile of potions’ books where the adventure books normally were.
He finally found a clerk, a tall blond boy with green robes who had his nose stuck into a book in the non-fiction section.
“Excuse me,” James said in a loud voice, hoping the boy would hear him over the sounds of the noisy store.
The boy closed the book quickly and shelved it. He had a handsome face and he smiled wide at James. “Oh, hello there! Always good to familiarize oneself with the merchandise! I’ve always been fascinated with different magical creatures. Got rid of the ghoul in my family’s attic when I was all of sixteen.” James furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “Anyway,” the boy went on. “What can I help you with?”
James told him what he was looking for and the boy directed him to a winding staircase that lead to a balcony with short shelves and a pair of comfortable overstuffed chairs.
James climbed his way up and found that he could see the entire bookstore from the small balcony. He waved at his mother and she rolled her eyes at him.
The selection of books was larger than he thought and he found himself wondering how many his mother would let him get away with buying. He decided to stay away from brightly covered books. If they looked traditional she’d be more likely to buy them.
He heard voices coming up from the stairs. A pair of older boys from the sound of it, and it was confirmed when two red, shaggy heads appeared from the hole in the floor with two identical faces underneath. James wished his mother would let him grow his hair that long, and he realized with some surprise, that she wouldn’t be able to get near his head with a pair of shears for the entire school year. He found himself smiling excitedly.
“What do we have here?” One of the boys peered at him, but James could see the teasing look in his face that James had seen on his own older cousins and they had never meant him any harm.
“Not even a wand,” the other commented.
“Mum won’t let me have it until I set off on the train,” James said grumpily and the other boys laughed.
“Here you go.” One of them handed him his own wand. “Try not to set anything on fire.”
James’ eyes went wide as he took the wand. He was afraid to wave it.
“Don’t know what to do with it?” the other twin asked. “Fabian, you gave your wand to a Muggle.”
“I’m not a Muggle!” James frowned. “But the others at the wand store did some crazy things.”
“They hadn’t bonded with a wizard yet.” Fabian waved his hand dismissively. “This shouldn’t be as bad.”
James poked at a bright yellow book cover and grinned deviously as the cover turned a deep brown with raised lettering on the front.
“Gideon, you’re supposed to be the smarter one. Why didn’t you think of that?” Fabian elbowed his brother.
“Do you go to Hogwarts?” James asked as he began selecting books and changing their covers.
“We’re going to be seventh years,” Gideon confirmed.
“Then we’re going to open a shop!” Fabian said excitedly. “Enchanted furniture! We just need another year of transfiguration.”
“Well, you can experiment on my bed if I don’t like it.” James nodded.
“What if we aren’t in the same House?” Gideon asked.
James thought for a moment. “I can have someone shrink it down so I can put it in my pocket. Then you can change it and shrink it back down.”
“Thinks of everything, this one.” Fabian grinned.
“Good sign for the start of the year.” Gideon agreed.
“What House are you in?” James asked.
“Gryffindor,” the twins said together.
“Where do you think you’ll go?” Gideon asked a little too casually.
“My mother thinks I’ll be in Ravenclaw, but dad says I’ll probably be a Gryffindor.” James shrugged.
“Why does he say that?” Fabian asked curiously.
“All his family are Gryffindors.” James explained.
“What family are you from?” Gideon asked. It was rather like being cross-examined.
“Potter,” James said.
“Got a first name, Potter?” Gideon asked.
“James.” James felt his cheeks turn red.
“James!” He heard his mother’s voice call out over the bustle of the store.
James and the twins looked over the balcony to see James’ mother was nearing the front of the line. The twins waved merrily and Gideon slipped the wand from James’ grasp before he waved at his mother with it.
“I’d better go,” James apologized. He picked up the serious-looking books that housed his adventure stories. “Thanks!”
The twins waved him off and James began the descent to the ground floor with its mile-long lines.
“Who was that?” Mrs. Potter asked, eyeing up the older boys on the balcony suspiciously.
“Gideon and Fabian,” James explained. “They’re seventh year Gryffindors.”
“They look like Prewitts,” Mrs. Potter remarked. “That would make you cousins if you go back far enough.”
“Aren’t all of us cousins if you go back far enough?” James asked and his mother smiled at him.
“You’re a bright boy, James.” Mrs. Potter smiled down at him. “Maybe we can look it up in the family records when we get home.”
She encouraged him to look at a table of stationary supplies so he could pick out his own quills and ink for the first time. He even picked up a roll of enchanted parchment, one that made the letters written down run about the page until a counter spell was used, but she made him put it back. “If you accidentally use it for an assignment you could end up with a detention.”
His mother didn’t even give a second glance to the books James had carried back with him. James asked the clerk if his non-school books could be wrapped up separately. “So I don’t read them and then don’t have anything to read when I get there.”
The real reason was that she couldn’t see what he’d gotten when the charms wore off. Thankfully, the receipt didn’t list the titles of the books, just the section they had come from. <i>’Balcony’</i> was written in large blue letters next to a subtotal> James felt the tension roll off his shoulders.
The worst thing that would happen was that they’d be taken away and given back to him at Christmas as gifts, but he didn’t want to wait that long to read them.
They gathered up their things and left the shop, a cool breeze refreshing them as they stepped out into the light.
“I think it’s time for an ice cream, don’t you think?” Mrs. Potter grinned at her son. James had heartily agreed and had followed his mother to Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor where they shared a small banana split.
James watched the shoppers walk by as they ate out on the small patio, and he made a game out of spotting the other first years with their new wands waving and pets being carried along with them. There were so many, James was surprised.
“How many kids are in a class?” James asked, his eyes widening. “There are so many!”
Mrs. Potter smiled down at her son. “I know. It’s going to be very exciting to be around so many other magical children. Most people say Hogwarts was the best part of their lives.”
“Really?” James asked as he poked at a cherry with his spoon.
“Well, maybe the best part of their young lives,” Mrs. Potter admitted.
James looked wistfully at an older boy waving around a broom-shaped package. “I bet it’ll be better when I can play Quidditch.”
Mrs. Potter laughed at him. “You’ll have enough to do your first year. Besides, your training won’t start until next summer.”
“Training?” James perked up.
“Your father is arranging special lessons for you. It’s matter of family pride that you get on the team.” She smiled proudly.
“Oh, I will!” James assured her. “I’ll borrow brooms when I can, to get me in shape for next summer!”
“There’s a good boy.” She put a hand on his back. She knew he was too old to be hugged in public in front of everyone. “Now, finish up your ice cream. You’ve got a big life ahead of you.”