Feedback: Yes, thank you.
Spoilers: Through the end of the series
Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and . If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: During the Horcrux hunt, the trio passes time by having Hermione tell Muggle fairy tales. On this particular night, Ron requests "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Tenth in a series of Muggle fairy tales retold.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by J. K. Rowling, a wonderful author whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Author's note: Rather than have people searching around for updates to this series, I'm going to put all the new fairy tales together under the heading of Muggle Fairy Tales Are Mad, a title suggested by Kylani way back in Cinder(what-the-hell!)-a. The order of fics leading up to this one is (1) Cinder-What-the-Hell?-a, (2) Snow-Wh-at-Are-You-Kidding-Me?-ite, (3) Sleeping Bea-You-People-Are-Mad-ty, (4) Little Red Riding Ho-w-Is-That-Possible-od, (5) Rumple-Still-as-Crazy-as-Ever-tskin, (6) The Frog Pr-in-What-Way-Does-That-Make-Sense?-nce, (7) Rap-solutely-Mental!-unzel, (8) Jack the Giant Kill(Me-Now!)-er, and (9) Hansel and Gr(eat-Now-I'm-Hungry)-etel.
Goldilocks and the Three B(e-Serious-Now!)ears
Ron and Harry both swiveled their heads in mute disbelief to Hermione, who was sitting on the old couch and looking glumly at the floor.
"Isn't that usually my line?" Ron asked her. "Then you say, 'Oh, shut it, Ron! We're all hungry and talking about it won't help!'"
Harry privately thought that Ron's screechy impression of Hermione's voice sounded a good deal more like Aunt Petunia than its intended target, but Hermione just stared at him bleakly. From nowhere, her stomach made an absolutely appalling squelching noise that clearly proved it was completely empty.
"Blimey," Harry said, mildly impressed. "You weren't kidding."
"I'm tired of being the good little girl who puts up with everything and never complains and acts like an adult all the bloody time!" she yelled. "Let someone else do it for once!"
Ron actually looked scared.
"Hermione?" he asked tentatively. "Um… are you all right?"
"No!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. "My mum and dad don't even remember I'm alive, the Ministry of Magic would rather kill me than You-Know-Who, and I haven't had a decent meal in seven weeks! Even my socks are getting loose!"
She threw in a half-scream of total frustration, then punched one of the pillows so hard that feathers erupted all over the tent.
"Okay," Ron said, still looking slightly terrified. "Now that you've killed the evil throw pillow, do you feel any better?"
Hermione glared at him through the blizzard of down.
"A little," she admitted.
"Well, feel free to slaughter the cushions next if it'll help at all," he offered, his tone sounding rather like he was talking to someone on the Closed Ward at St. Mungo's.
Hermione sighed once, then went limp against the back of the couch.
"Sorry," she mumbled, embarrassment coloring her words. "That's been building for a bit."
"No kidding," Harry said, poorly concealing his shock.
"Food's been stretched worse than usual lately," Ron said, patting her sympathetically on the back. "It's only natural you'd snap eventually."
"I suppose," she said, her face red as a radish. "Can we just forget this happened?"
"Maybe," Ron said slyly, "but only if you tell us another one of those stupid Muggle fairy tales."
Harry noted that Ron's hand somehow hadn't quite moved from Hermione's back, not that she seemed to mind all that much. He sighed and wondered just how much longer their little dance was going to go on before one or the other turned into a hormonal time bomb.
"Oh, I suppose I can," Hermione said, grinning.
"Are there any other ones with food in them?" Ron asked. "I liked the gingerbread house one."
Quietly Harry thought food might be exactly the wrong thing to bring up, but Hermione laughed, so he assumed that things weren't going to approach critical mass again in the immediate future. He wasn't sure he'd ever understand girls.
"Actually, there is another one I can think of," Hermione said, sitting cross-legged and looking more relaxed. "It's called 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears.'"
Ron raised an eyebrow.
"Is that the girl's name? Goldilocks?" he asked.
"Well, yes," Hermione said. "I mean, I suppose it's really her nickname, but it's the name she goes by in the story at any rate."
"Yeah," Ron said. "Okay, is she blonde?"
"Of course!" Hermione said, looking at him in confusion.
"It's just that, what with the logic of these stories, it'd make perfect sense for her to be a brunette or a red-head or something," Ron said. "I suppose I can accept that."
"Actually, in some of the really old versions of the story, her name is Silverlocks, and she's an old lady with grey hair, but most of the later versions have her as a little blonde girl," Hermione said. "All right then, once upon a time…"
She paused, looking at Ron significantly, but he merely motioned her to continue. Harry thought there was a good chance he was doing his utmost not to set off Hermione again with his usual choral beginning, and he mentally applauded the effort.
"…there lived a little girl with her parents in a great big forest," Hermione continued.
"Uh-oh," Ron said. "That's not going to end well."
Well, Harry thought with a shrug, Ron had lasted all of ten seconds before interrupting. Technically, that was a personal best.
"You're quite right," Hermione said, giving him a terse nod. "As usual we have the forest standing in as a symbol of danger and isolation, complete with primeval associations with the borders of civilization and the chaos inherent in nature, which is of course outside of human control."
"Say," Ron said suddenly, "why do we keep camping in forests so often if they're so bloody dangerous? I mean, if this were a story, it would suggest something bad was going to happen to us out here!"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione all exchanged looks.
"On the other hand, the forest provides excellent cover," Hermione said, her voice straining a little as she tried to look on the bright side. "We couldn't exactly set up camp in the middle of town, could we?"
"Suppose not," Ron said. "It'd be nice if we could, though. It gets lonely out here sometimes."
"And what are we? Pickled herring?" Hermione said, gesturing to herself and Harry.
"No," Ron said quickly. "You know, it's just… we're around each other so much that it's almost like the Burrow. Even if Fred and George are running around exploding things, it's still possible to get lonely because that's just normal."
"I suppose I see your meaning," she said, giving him a smile that let Harry know there wasn't going to be another explosion of a different kind. "Anyway, one day Goldilocks decided to take a walk through the woods all on her own, even though she wasn't supposed to."
"Stupid kid should have talked to the girl with the red hat, you know, if it was one of the versions where she survived," Ron said. "Going into the woods alone is a bad, bad idea."
"I quite agree," Hermione said. "Meanwhile, in another part of the woods, three bears were just sitting down to their morning porridge."
Ron looked at Harry, who shrugged.
"Go ahead, mate," he said. "I don't get it either."
"What's the problem?" Hermione asked.
"Now, I take it this is going to be one of those stories with talking animals again, right? Like the wolf in 'Little Red Riding Hat'?" Ron asked.
"'Hood,' Ron, but yes, these are talking animals again," Hermione said. "It's just one of those things you have to get used to, kind of like Babbity-Rabbity being able to talk even though an Animagus can't."
"Yeah, fine, but at least the wolf was still acting like a wolf, you know? I mean he ate meat and ran around in the woods and bothered old ladies," Ron said, counting off on his fingers.
"Generally speaking wolves usually don't attack humans unless cornered, aside from werewolves of course," Hermione said.
"Right, but bears do not usually eat porridge," Ron said firmly. "I mean, I suppose maybe they might if they found some lying about in a ditch or something, and we should have such luck, but it doesn't seem like that's what's happening at all."
"No," Hermione said, taking a deep breath as though she were steeling herself for an unpleasant task. "You may as well know right now that the bears live in a little cottage, the mother bear cooked breakfast, they eat off china, they sleep in beds, and they have a full set of dining room furniture."
Ron wrinkled his nose skeptically, then turned to Harry.
"Why do I think Hagrid would probably love this story, but only if the bears were Manticores or something equally horrifying?" he said.
"Probably because the man once gave a dragon a teddy bear," Harry said with a grin.
"Point taken. So, go on, Hermione. What did the freakishly humanoid bears do during their breakfast of porridge?" he asked with exaggerated politeness.
"Well, Mother Bear had set out all three bowls of porridge, but they were too hot to eat. 'Come, let us take a walk through the woods until the porridge cools enough to eat,' said Father Bear, and Baby Bear squealed in delight as they left," Hermione said.
"Father Bear, Mother Bear, and Baby Bear?" Ron asked, his face screwing up as though he'd just bit into a lemon. "A bit twee, isn't that?"
"It's a children's story, Ronald," Hermione said.
"Yeah, right, a kid's story, so what happens next? The bears go for a pleasant stroll, run into Goldilocks, and eat her alive?" Ron said sarcastically, then paused. "Wait, is that really what happens?"
"No," Hermione said. "They simply went for a walk in one direction, and Goldilocks happened upon their cottage while they were out."
"I think mine might have been more interesting," Ron said, slouching against one of the surviving couch pillows. "So Blondie-Ringlets finds the adorable, pwecious wittle cottage that belongs to three slavering, rabid, talking bears with a penchant for making porridge. Then what?"
"She went into the house," Hermione said simply.
"Just like that?" Ron said, frowning.
"Yes, without so much as a knock on the front door, she just walked into someone else's house," she said. "It was terribly rude of her."
"It was bloody well breaking and entering is what it was," Ron said. "That'd be like Apparating into someone's home without an invitation or summat. What's this story trying to teaching the little tykes? How to become burglars?"
"Yeah, not sure even Dudley would have pulled that one," Harry said. "I can picture Lucius Malfoy doing it, though, seeing an 'intriguing little cottage'" he added, doing his best imitation of the overly-regal Death Eater's disdainful sniff.
"Not bad, Harry," Ron said approvingly, "but you forgot the hair flick. When he's really being a prat, Malfoy's father always swishes his hair around like the birds in the adverts for Madame Peony's Enchanting Essences shampoo."
Hermione giggled at this image, but Harry had to admit, Ron had a point there.
"Back to the story, though. If you think Goldilocks was being naughty before, you haven't heard the half of it yet," Hermione said.
"What, she makes off with their honey pot and all the dosh in the biscuit barrel?" Ron asked.
"Well, no, not exactly. The first thing she did was look at the three chairs ranged around the kitchen table. First she sat in Father Bear's chair, but she said, 'This chair is too hard,'" Hermione said, making her voice extremely squeaky.
Harry couldn't help thinking that Hermione's rendition of Goldilocks's voice made her sound rather like a cartoon Dudley used to watch that had high-pitched blue people living in the middle of a mushroom patch. Granted, he'd never gotten more than a peep of it from the next room since it was on Dudley's personal TV, and he was sure the Dursleys would have had a fit since there was a wizard on the show, but even so it had stuck with him. This had the unfortunate side effect of making his mental image of Goldilocks turn to a bright Delft blue in his mind, and suddenly he remembered that the one and only girl in that mushroom village had been a blonde. Smurfette was forever after the only thing he could picture whenever anyone mentioned Goldilocks.
"What?" Hermione said, looking at him in a way that showed his face had betrayed his odd thoughts.
"Believe me," Harry said, "it would take much too long to explain."
"Yeah, go on, Hermione," Ron urged. "The first chair was too hard on her bum. Then what?"
"Well, she moved on to the Mother Bear's chair, but this wasn't right either. 'Oh! This chair is too soft!' she cried," Hermione said, and Harry forced himself not to start humming that ridiculous theme song in reaction to her faulty falsetto.
"Too soft?" Ron asked. "How can a chair be too soft? Is the kid worried about proper back support or something?"
"I don't know, but the upshot is she didn't like it," Hermione said. "Finally, she came to Baby Bear's chair and said 'This chair is just right!' It was a rocking chair, and she rocked back and forth happily, faster and faster, but much too wildly, and she broke the chair all to pieces."
"Nice. Now she's not only breaking and entering; she's also a vandal," Ron said. "Just how hard do you have to rock a chair to make it come apart at the seams, anyway?"
"Probably shoddy craftsmanship by Father Bear," Harry said, and Ron whacked him on the back of the head.
"So, after breaking Baby Bear's chair, she noticed the three bowls of porridge on the table," Hermione said.
"Feeling peckish, is she?" Ron asked knowingly.
"Apparently, but she was still very picky," Hermione said. "First she went to Father Bear's bowl and took a bite. 'Ooo, this is too hot!' she said. Next she moved to Mother bear's bowl and tasted it. 'Oh, this is too cold!'"
"Wait, the porridge is from the same pot, yet part of it is too hot and part's too cold?" Ron asked. "That doesn't seem right."
"Actually, it's quite possible," Hermione said, squinting. "Depending upon whether the porridge was cooked over a fireplace or on a wood burning stove, there could be hot spots under the pot being used, which could create pockets of warmer or cooler temperatures due to uneven placement of the heating element. In addition, the bowls could be a mismatched set, meaning that the mother's bowl might be shallow or have a wider mouth, both of which would speed cooling, or the father's bowl might be better insulated in some way. You also can't leave out the possibility of a draught blowing from an open window on one part of the table but not on the other. And of course there's also the chance that Goldilock's tongue was burned on the first bowl or porridge, making her perceptions of warm and cool less accurate immediately afterwards."
Ron and Harry looked at one another.
"Did you just give an impromptu speech on the scientific explanation for uneven porridge temperature?" Ron asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Um, well, yes, I suppose so," Hermione said.
"We really need to get out more," Ron replied, shaking his head. "Okay, so one was too hot, which, really, why doesn't she just blow on it, and one was too cold, meaning the bears had been out on their walk too long already."
"Right. Goldilocks tried Baby Bear's porridge and said 'This is just right!' and gobbled every bite," Hermione said.
"Okay, breaking and entering, vandalism, and now theft of a baby bear's breakfast," Ron said, counting on his fingers. "Kid is piling up quite a record."
"After glutting herself on ill-gotten porridge, Goldilocks found she felt quite sleepy," Hermione said. "She decided to wander upstairs to see if there was anyplace she might take a nap."
"Wait, what?" Ron said, his face an illustration in disbelief. "She just went upstairs to sleep in some strange person's bed? Okay, now she's not just naughty, she's bonkers!"
"It really does sound awful, doesn't it?" Hermione agreed. "When you consider that in the original 'Silverlocks' rendition it was actually an old lady, it suggests that she might have some form of dementia, which really makes the story much less funny and much sadder, but for a child, she does come off as being either very young or very stupid."
"Yeah, I suppose," Ron said. "So the kid wants a nap."
"Yes. First she tried Father Bear's bed but said, 'This bed is too big!'" Hermione said. "Then she tried Mother Bear's bed and said, 'This bed is too small!'"
"Must be some trouble in the bears' marriage," Ron said, looking at Harry. "Separate beds and all."
Hermione flushed scarlet but gamely plodded on.
"Finally, Goldilocks tried Baby Bear's bed and said…," Hermione began.
"'This bed is just right!'" Ron cut in, his squeaky falsetto much worse than hers, and he added an eye roll worthy of someone who'd drunk a good deal of Ogden's.
"Correct," Hermione said, sounding annoyed, "and she fell fast asleep."
"Wait, though. How is Baby Bear's bed just right when Mother Bear's bed is too small? Just how big is Baby Bear?" Ron asked.
"I… hadn't really thought of that," Hermione said. "It's still smaller than Father Bear's bed, though."
"Mum Bear must have a girlish figure," Ron said. "Good on her, losing the weight after the apparently massive baby was born."
"Just then, who should come home but the bear family, and they knew at once something had happened. 'Someone's been sitting in my chair!' Father Bear cried. 'Someone's been sitting in my chair!" Mother Bear cried. 'Someone's been sitting in my chair!" Baby Bear said, "and they've broken it all to pieces!'"
"Okay, Baby Bear I get. His rocker is smashed into matchsticks. Really, the parents probably should have noticed that themselves first. But how on earth did Mother and Father know someone had sat in their chairs?" Ron asked.
"Maybe they were drawn away from the table?" Hermione ventured.
"Pretty lame excuse," Ron said, sniffing.
"Well, they are bears," Hermione huffed. "Maybe they could smell a human had been there."
"Or maybe the cushions were crooked," Harry suggested meekly, worried by how red her face was getting.
"Yeah, I suppose one of those could do it too," Ron acquiesced, and Harry was glad to realize that he too could scent danger. "Then what?"
"Then they went into the kitchen and noticed the porridge," Hermione said. "First, Father Bear went to his bowl and said, 'Someone's been eating my porridge!' Then Mother Bear looked at hers and said, 'Someone's been eating my porridge!'"
"Well, not much of a loss, really, what with Mother Bear's being stone cold," Ron said. "Still, how could they tell someone had eaten their porridge when only one bite was gone?"
"Dirty spoons," Hermione said through gritted teeth.
"Oh, okay then," Ron said amiably enough and smiling. "That makes good sense."
"Then Baby Bear said, 'Someone's been eating my porridge, and it's all gone!'" Hermione said, making Baby Bear's voice somehow even higher than before with a plaintive wail.
"Poor kid," Ron said, shaking his head. "Nothing will make you grumpier than some rotten little kid stealing your breakfast."
"Grumpy as a bear," Harry put in with a sly grin.
"By this time, the bears were very upset, and they ran upstairs to their bedrooms," Hermione said.
"Why didn't they just call a policebear?" Ron said.
Harry saved Hermione the trouble and thumped him with one of the remaining ungutted pillows.
"Anyway," she said, continuing, "Father Bear said, 'Someone's been sleeping in my bed!'"
"And it apparently isn't Mother Bear," Ron said, giving Harry a look.
"'Someone's been sleeping in my bed!' said Mother Bear, and so help me, Ronald, if you make another crack about that I'm going to spell your toenails to grow inwards," Hermione said in a dangerously even voice.
Ron primly sat on his hands, his mouth clamped shut.
"Finally, Baby Bear cried, 'Someone's been sleeping in my bed, and there she is!'" Hermione added with a triumphant flourish.
"Uh-oh," Harry said. "I'm guessing someone's nap is about to be interrupted."
"At once, all the bears sprang into the room, and Goldilocks woke at once to realize the horrible mistake she had made," Hermione said.
"Yeah, I'm guessing she didn't realize she was burgling a bunch of bears," Ron said, then stopped. "That doesn't sound right. A pack of bears? A pride? No, that's lions."
"Actually, it's a sloth of bears, or occasionally a sleuth," Hermione said quickly.
Ron and Harry stared at her.
"For pity's sake, girl, is there nothing you don't know?" Ron said with a whistle.
"Plenty, and don't use a double negative in your sentences or you'll reverse the meaning," Hermione said automatically. "In any case, Goldilocks woke up to three very angry bears, and that's where the story goes one of two ways."
"I'm guessing one of them involves Goldilocks being a replacement for the porridge," Ron suggested.
"Yes, in one version the bears eat Goldilocks and that's the end," Hermione said. "In another version though, they chase her down the stairs and out the door, or occasionally out a window. She runs back home and never again goes into the woods by herself."
"Probably wasn't all too fond of porridge after that either," Ron said. "It's weird, but I hope someone fixed Baby Bear's chair at some point. I feel sorry for the little, or perhaps not so little if we're going by bed size, talking-bear-freak-child."
Hermione looked at him quizzically.
"Well, if it's any help, when my parents used to tell the story to me, they had Baby Bear and Goldilocks become friends and then Father Bear fixed the rocking chair and they all had a late breakfast of porridge," she said. "That's strictly a non-traditional rendering of the text, though, and would undermine the morals of not wandering off on one's own and the importance of respecting other people's property."
"Yeah, but it's a nicer ending," Ron said with a shrug. "And it's not like you grew up to wander around on your own in the woods or break into people's houses to get food…"
The three of them looked at each other, realizing that was pretty much exactly what all of them were doing on a daily basis whenever possible.
"Oh, well, right then," Ron said. "At any rate, you don't break chairs."
"No, you just eviscerate pillows," Harry added with a laugh.
Hermione gave him a strange look, and then began making a choking sound that quickly become gales of laughter. Ron appeared to feel safe enough to join in, and it seemed things had righted themselves once more. They turned in early that night, each one silently hoping that somehow there really would be porridge for breakfast in the morning, or anything at all. Harry's greatest hope, though, was that he wouldn't have that ridiculous "la-la-lalala-la" song playing in the background of all his dreams that night.