Summary: When taking cover during a rain shower, Mrs. Alison Walters of Great Hangleton runs into an old student of hers. ONESHOT
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, yada yada yada… You get the idea. It ain't mine.
Oats, check. Minced meat, check. Apple juice, check. Eggs and sugar, check. Now…Carrots or potatoes?
Mrs. Alison Walters looked up from her grocery list to examine the produce on the display in front of her. The carrots were cheaper, but with good reason. They looked rather old and dried up. It seemed like the supermarket just wasn't paying as much attention to quality as they used to. Shame.
Potatoes it was then.
Mrs. Walters chose a bag of healthy looking potatoes and lifted it into her trolley. Moving past a pyramid of melons she selected a bunch of bananas and made her way up to the checkout. She hadn't intended to go shopping today, but when she checked the pantry that morning she had realized that she certainly didn't have enough food to feed everyone. Stephanie was playing in a piano recital tonight and the whole family was coming over to Grandma's house for dinner before the concert. Mrs. Walters shook her head. How she had managed to become the Grandmother of a precocious twelve-year-old, she didn't know. It seemed like it was only yesterday that she had married Daniel. God rest his soul.
After placing her purchases onto the conveyer belt, she glanced at the newspapers on display and sighed. There had been another attack, this time at King's Cross. The police had yet to catch the perpetrators who had been attacking all over England over the past year. So many people dead…and her Daniel…
"Having company again tonight, Mrs. Walters?" the checkout clerk asked, interrupting her musings.
"Oh, yes," Mrs. Walters replied. "Stephanie's playing and everyone's coming over. I'm making Banana Mincemeat Pie. Her favorite."
"Are you walking home?" the clerk asked, as she scanned the bag of potatoes. Emily, Mrs. Walters recalled. Her name was Emily.
"It's only a few blocks," Mrs. Walters excused. Really, it was good for her to get out every now and then.
"You may have to wait a while. Another one of those thunderstorms just blew up and this one looks like it's going to last. You could probably take refuge in the tea house next door until it's over."
"Thank you, Emily."
Pressing enter on the register, Emily took a quick glance at the computer screen. "Your total comes to 12.75 pounds."
Mrs. Walters paid and collected her groceries. Leaving the trolley at the door of the store she went outside. It certainly is wet out! she thought as she walked over to the tea house adjacent to the supermarket. Fortunately, she reached the shop dryly and safely underneath the connecting canopy.
As she entered the shop, a bell chimed her arrival. The shop was mostly empty; only a few stray patrons were seated at the tables. Mrs. Walters took a seat at one of the tables by the front window and a waitress brought a menu over. Looking over the menu she ordered an earl gray tea (one cream, no sugar), and a chocolate biscuit, then settled down to wait out the storm.
It wasn't long before the bell on the door chimed again to indicate that someone else had entered the shop. Mrs. Walters looked up from the sudoku that she had been working on to see a teenage girl and two boys standing there, looking cold and drenched. The girl approached the waitress.
"Excuse me," she said, drawing the waitress's attention from the table she was clearing. The girl pulled back her frizzy brown hair with a hair slide as she continued speaking. "Is there a toilet where we could get cleaned up? I'm afraid we were caught in the rain."
"Down the hall and to the left," the waitress replied gruffly, indicating toward the back of the shop with the dirty rag she had been using to wipe down the table.
"Thank you." The girl turned back to the two boys. "You two go first. I'll order us something warm to drink."
The tall, red headed, boy looked up hopefully, "Butterbeer?" he asked.
The girl rolled her eyes. "Very funny, Ron. You know that's a…Hogsmeade specialty. You're not going to get it here."
"It can't hurt to ask," Ron replied with a grin.
"Yes it can," the girl snapped. "Now go get dried off. The longer you take, the longer I'm soaked."
Ron just laughed, but he did start toward the back of the shop. The other boy followed, carrying a small duffel bag with him. The girl waited until the two boys were gone before taking a seat at a small table next to Mrs. Walters. Giving only a cursory glance to the menu, she quickly gave the waitress her order before pulling a large map out of her satchel and opening it.
Mrs. Walters did her best to turn her attention back to the sudoku puzzle in front of her.
…9…6…7…4 or 5…3…
No, she couldn't do it.
The boys had returned, looking as dry as a bone and the girl left for the toilet. That had been quick. Goodness knows it took her far more time to clean herself up. But, they were boys; probably didn't care how they looked as long as they were dry. Mrs. Walters chuckled to herself. You ought to be minding your own business, the little voice inside her head commented. True, but really, people-watching was far more interesting.
A few minutes later the girl returned. She was followed shortly by the waitress who brought over the trio's tea and a very large plate of sandwiches. The shorter, black haired boy grabbed a sandwich and grinned. "Five down, two to go," he declared to his friends, lifting his sandwich into the air as though he were giving a toast. "Although, it's not like those last two aren't anything to sneeze at. But still…" He shrugged and bit into his sandwich.
"Frankly, I'm surprised that we've gotten as far as we have," the red head…Ron said.
"Thanks, for that overwhelming vote of confidence, mate," the other boy replied dryly.
"No! I just meant that I'm surprised we ever got out of the house. I was expecting Mum to lock all three of us down in the dungeon."
"You don't have a dungeon," the girl pointed out.
"Mum would have one built if she had to."
Mrs. Walters smiled in amusement at the playful banter between the three friends. It sounded as though they were involved in some sort of treasure hunt. She had heard about this sort of thing. Several teams were given specific things to find or do and the first one to complete it won. Some of those programs on the tele even had treasure hunts that took the contestants around the world! Perhaps it was a post-graduation challenge. The teens looked the right age to be just about finished with school.
Just then, the second boy looked up to check the weather outside and Mrs. Walters got a good look at his face for the first time. His emerald green eyes shone out from under a mess of familiar black hair. She eyed him critically. It couldn't be…
"Harry Potter, is that you?" Mrs. Walters asked abruptly. The boy jumped, but before he could say or do anything, Mrs. Walters continued, "I haven't seen you since you were ten years old! Look at how you've grown!"
"I'm sorry," asked the boy in confusion, "do I know you?"
"It's Mrs. Walters, dear. Little Winging Primary? Second Year? Remember?"
It took the boy a minute, but then realisation spread across his face and he smiled. "Right! Oh, wow! I just…of course…well, it's great to see you! What are you doing in Great Hangleton?"
"I live here now," Mrs. Walters explained. "I moved out here nearly a year ago to be closer to my grandchildren. What are you doing here?"
"Just passing through," Harry replied.
"I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but it sounded like you had some sort of treasure hunt going on. Is that right? It sounds like fun."
Harry winced. "Well, I suppose fun is one way to put it. It's a…bit of a secret though. I can't really go into any details."
"I won't tell a soul." Mrs. Walters promised with a smile. Honestly, kids these days, with their secret clubs! "Now, are you going to introduce your companions to me?"
"Oh I'm sorry, Mrs. Walters, these are my friends, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. Mrs. Walters was my second-year primary school teacher."
"Pleasure to meet you," said Hermione, extending her hand for Mrs. Walters to shake. Ron nodded and did the same.
"Well, I don't want to interrupt your tea," Mrs. Walters continued. "I was just about to head home when this storm started and I had to take cover."
"We had the same problem," Ron said. He glanced out the window at the torrential downpour. "At this rate there's not going to much road left. We'll have to fly home," he joked.
Mrs. Walters laughed cordially.
"You have to tell us some stories about Harry while we wait," Hermione implored, "What was he like when he was a kid? Before we met him?"
Harry made a face. "Ugh, you don't want to hear about that," he said, but Ron's face lit up at the prospect.
"Are you kidding?" he laughed, "of course we do! Mrs. Walters, how much trouble was Harry when he was in your class?"
"Well, he certainly wasn't a troublemaker, but somehow he still managed to get himself into a number of scrapes."
"Blimey Harry, you haven't changed a bit!"
Mrs. Walters realised that her confusion over Ron's exclamation must have shown on her face because Hermione elaborated: "We've had a number of our professors at school say the same about Harry."
"What can I say?" Harry shrugged. "I'm a magnet for crazy people."
"Now you mentioned school…" Mrs. Walters said. "What school do you attend? I'm assuming you all go to the same school?"
Harry nodded. "It's a private school, up in Scotland. I'm sure you haven't heard of it. We tend to keep a low profile."
"Are you a good student?" Mrs. Walters asked critically. Years as a primary school teacher had led her to believe that the answer to this question was almost as important as a student's actual grades. If the student didn't think they could do something then, no matter how hard the teacher tried to help them, the student wouldn't be able to succeed.
"Er…I'm not bad. Not nearly as good as Hermione, though."
"Ah," Mrs. Walters said to Hermione. "You're the studious one of this group?" Hermione nodded. "Like my husband, Mr. Walters. He could never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. He could start a conversation with a stranger on the underground, and by the time he reached his stop he knew their entire life story!" Mrs. Walters smiled at the memory. "You know, he used to teach music lessons at Little Winging Primary. Harry was one of his students as well. You had such a lovely voice, dear. Mr. Walters often mentioned you."
Mrs. Walters smiled as Harry blushed and ducked his head in embarrassment. She could never understand why children, particularly boys, got so embarrassed when you complimented them on their talents in music. Personally she thought it rather silly, but there you were.
"How is Mr. Walters?" Harry inquired politely.
Mrs. Walters sighed heavily before replying, "I'm afraid he passed away a little over a year ago." It was still hard to believe that her Daniel was gone. They had been married for nearly forty-five years and she still thought of him everyday.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the boy offered his condolences. "Was he ill?"
"Oh, no." Mrs. Walter shook her head. "No, it was one of those terrorist attacks. He was visiting some of our friends in Little Hangleton for the evening and…well, I'm sure you've read about it in the papers."
Indeed, the attack had been one of the first in a long series of violent attacks that had plagued England over the past year. Reports of people dressed in black robes and white masks, massacring communities by nightfall, had leaked to the newspapers despite the government's attempts to keep the details classified. Each article seemed more horrifying than the last, with stories of torture and murder for entertainment filling everyone with fear.
The strangest thing was, the majority of the people who had been murdered didn't have a listed cause of death. The most the coroners could determine was that the people appeared to have been scared to death. Her Daniel had been the same way when they had returned his body to her. There had been no signs of injury or illness; he simply had no life left in him. She supposed she was lucky; some families never even had a body returned. Their loved ones simply vanished, never to be seen again.
Pulling herself back into the present, she looked up. Harry and his friends were looking surprisingly grave.
"I'm sorry," Harry repeated quietly, after a moment. But he wasn't simply offering condolences anymore. It sounded as though he was actually apologising, although Mrs. Walters couldn't imagine why. It wasn't as though he had anything to do with the attack.
Outside the rain pounded down from a dark sky. A flash of lightning illuminated the sky for a moment, followed a few seconds later by a roll of thunder in the distance.
"Well, it's certainly not your fault," said Mrs. Walters, waving away the apology, "but thank you for your concern."
Ron put a hand on Harry's shoulder so that Harry turned to look at him. "Harry, it's okay."
Mrs. Walters wondered what that was about, but before she could speculate further Hermione asked: "So, what other stories do you remember from teaching Harry?"
"My goodness, let me think for a moment," Mrs. Walters said, allowing herself to be pulled away from the depressing topic of her husband's death. She searched her mind for a suitable anecdote. "Oh, I remember one! Harry, do you remember Patrick?" Mrs. Walter's laughed as Harry's jaw dropped and he turned beet red.
"I'd forgotten about that," Harry muttered, one hand covering his face.
"Who was Patrick?" Ron asked eagerly. "Anything that makes Harry this embarrassed has got to be good!"
"Patrick was…a friend of mine," Harry replied evasively. He winced and bashfully bit his lip. Mrs Walters couldn't help but smile. He was just too cute for words.
"An imaginary friend of yours," Mrs. Walters added, eyes twinkling. "You two were quite the pair."
Harry groaned, but his redheaded friend's eyes lit up. "Blimey! That's hilarious! Just wait until I tell Ginny and the twins, they'll love it."
Mrs. Walters knew she was embarrassing Harry, but she couldn't resist telling his friends just a little bit more. It was one of her favorite stories from her teaching career.
"You used to make up stories about Patrick and yourself. Often I would see you talking to Patrick as we walked through the halls in the queue, or playing with Patrick on the playground. I had many pictures hanging in my room that you said 'Patrick' had colored, with pictures of dragons, people flying on brooms, and other imaginary things. You had a very vivid imagination. I remember once, when you wrote a story about how you would go on adventures. You said that the two of you would fly around on a motorcycle; protecting people and animals from being hurt."
"I'm not surprised," said Hermione, "Harry's always been very caring."
Ron grinned at Harry. "Flying motorcycle, hmm? Who's ever heard of a flying motorcycle? You must have been adorable when you were a kid."
"Oh he was," Mrs. Walters smiled. "Your aunt thought it was the most darling thing when I mentioned it to her. She hadn't noticed that you had an imaginary friend, although I don't know how she didn't notice; you talked about Patrick almost constantly. Thinking back…it was a good thing I said something when I did, or she would have missed that phase of your life. You stopped talking about Patrick shortly after that." Mrs. Walters shook her head ruefully. "I was quite disappointed."
Harry only shrugged.
"By the way, how are your aunt and uncle, and Dudley?"
Harry snorted. "Oh, I'm sure they're fine."
" 'You're sure they're fine?' " Mrs. Walters repeated, confused. That seemed like an odd way of putting it.
"I don't live there anymore. We had a…bit of an argument. I left."
"Well, that's a shame."
"It was a long time coming, really. We never got on very well."
"It's so sad when families are at odds like that," said Mrs. Walters. "It reminds me how lucky I am that all of my family is so close. Tell me dear, how are you doing? Are you managing well enough on your own?"
Harry nodded. "I've been at school most of the time for the past several years so I haven't had to see much of the Dursleys. I don't want to either. Ron and Hermione are both really good friends and we take care of each other. Also, Ron's family is really good to me."
"Harry, if it weren't for the black hair, green eyes, and the fact that you're in love with my sister, you'd be a Weasley." Harry balked at Ron's words. "Yes I know, you broke up with her, but I know these things."
Hermione gave a muffled cough.
"Well…at least Hermione knows these things and she explained it to me." Mrs. Walters's couldn't help but laugh slightly at what was clearly a running joke among this trio of friends. "Besides, you're already an honorary Weasley. You know Mum's practically adopted you."
"And force fed me enough food to feed all of London for a week."
"Mrs. Weasley insists that Harry is too thin," Hermione interjected. "Actually, she insists that everyone is too thin. For that matter, she would probably insist that our teacher Hagrid is too thin and he's practically a giant! You really can't hold it against her, mothering people is how she shows she cares."
"You don't have to tell me that," said Mrs. Walters, "I'm a mother myself, and a grandmother as well. I know all about mothering."
Outside the rain was letting up and rays of sun started to peak through the clouds.
"Well, I would love to stay and chat. Unfortunately I need to go and mother my own crew. My family is coming over tonight after my granddaughter's piano recital, and I promised to feed them afterwards. It was wonderful to see you again, Harry." She stood to collect her grocery bags and Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood as well. "I can see that you've grown into a strong, caring young man and I'm proud to have been your teacher."
"Thank you," said Harry, "It was great to see you again too."
Mrs. Walters turned to Harry's friends, "Very nice to meet you both. Do your best to keep Harry out of trouble, will you?"
"Not a chance," Ron replied.
"Well…we'll do our best," Hermione grinned.
"Good luck with your treasure hunt," said Mrs. Walters. She turned and left the tea house.
The bell on the door chimed behind her.
Well that's all she wrote.
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