It was a rare occurrence that Harry Potter was allowed to casually walk through Diagon Alley without a gaggle of admirers all vying for his attention. It was so rare, in fact, that he could never actually recall a time when it had ever occurred. That was his life though, he was the shining star in the solar system that everyone seemed to revolve around. He had grudgingly learned to deal with the attention, throwing out as many genuine smiles and handshakes as was physically possible for a single human. Of course there were times when he felt like brandishing his wand and banishing the crowds, but those times were few and far between.
He had to admit to himself that while a lot of the attention was not of his own making, some of it was his own fault. Never had he asked for his parents to be cut down while he was still a baby, or to be the one forced to rid the world of the walking evil that was Tom Riddle. But following his Hogwarts graduation, instead of going and hiding away from the hustle and bustle of society, Harry had decided to invite even more into his already crazy existence. Yes, the famous Harry Potter had thrown away every single piece of transfiguration and every defense maneuver he had learned at Hogwarts and signed a generous offer to join a professional quidditch club.
Harry placed his hands in the front pockets of his green Kenmare Kestrels sweatshirt and continued his path down the deserted street. Of all the teams that people had speculated he would play for, Kenmare had certainly never been at the top of the list. The minute it had become known that he had signed the contract, Oliver Wood had shown up at his door, completely dumbfounded as to why he had turned down the lucrative offer from Puddlemere. Harry couldn't really provide a solid answer, but part of him thought it was because they were an unknown entity. There were no preconceived notions about their style of play and no outrageous characters that made the team unattractive. They weren't a powerhouse by any means, but a solid option in Harry's opinion. Even with Oliver's consternation his friends had been extremely supportive.
He had signed his contract four years ago, and had just completed his final year. The experience had been pretty much everything he had expected in being a professional athlete. There were ups and downs during the seasons, raucous parties with overly flirtatious women, and injuries that made a person question their sanity the morning after a match. Harry had enjoyed most of the aspects. He had two player of the year awards to his name, but sadly no league championships. The latest season for the Kestrels had ended a week ago with a tough loss to the Wimbourne Wasps in the playoffs. Two quick injuries to their starting beaters had forced Harry to dodge the bludgers most of the game, and he was delayed in catching the snitch until the Wasps had taken a sizable lead behind their talented chasers. The disappointment of the loss had not worn off, but Harry took the loss in stride just as everything else in his life.
As much as he loved quidditch, Harry wasn't sure what the upcoming year would bring for him. At only twenty-two and with his contract up, teams would surely be in a bidding war for his services, but he didn't know if that was the direction he wanted to continue in. He was young and there were so many options out in the world for him to consider. Harry's agent had been expressly instructed not to even talk to him about the future for another month or so. In the meantime, Harry would enjoy the beginning of the offseason and the beginning of the Christmas holiday.
Harry had risen at the crack of dawn that morning in order to make it to Diagon Alley just when the shops were opening to the public. He had been so busy with the quidditch season, that with only a week until Christmas he had not managed to get any shopping done. Walking swiftly, he finally reached his first destination, Flourish and Blotts. Pulling open the door, he shuffled in and was immediately hit with a blast of warmth that so contrasted with the weather outside. The somewhat comforting smell of bound parchment filled his nostrils and he moved around the vast shelves searching for potential gifts. The person at the checkout counter obviously recognized him, but the scraggly young man did his best to keep his glances subtle, which Harry appreciated.
A half hour of browsing and Harry had managed to get two people out of the way, Hermione and his godson Teddy. Hermione was currently apprenticing with a judge for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, so Harry had bought her the newest set of quality magical legal texts. For Teddy, he found an array of different children books that were appropriate for his age level, some on magical creatures that magically popped out of the pages, and some other fantastical fiction. After paying for his purchases, as well a signing an autography for the appreciative employee, Harry set off for his next stop, Quality Quidditch Supplies.
In his time in the bookstore, more holiday shoppers had begun to emerge in the alley. Wanting to try and limit the stares, Harry pulled the hood of his sweater over his head, hiding his noticeable dark hair from view. He managed to stealthily navigate his way to the quidditch supply store, where he decided to remove his hood. Instantly, a little girl with short blonde hair tugged at her father's robes and pointed in Harry's direction. Smiling and giving slight wave, Harry began perusing the racks of broomsticks, quaffles and the like. He had not been to the store for a while as most of his things were provided by his team, but he was impressed with the quality of items and the selection. Harry couldn't fail but notice a poster on the wall featuring him and few seekers from other professional teams.
Searching for several minutes, he couldn't really come to decision on what exactly he was looking for. His main goal had been to find something for the Weasley's, everyone, but Arthur and Molly. Putting some thought into the decision, he remembered that the last time he had been at the Burrow one of the brooms they used for quidditch games had finally puttered out. Harry decided then that instead of getting individual gifts for each Weasley, he would get them a joint gift, that being a whole new set of brooms, pad, and balls for the shed. He knew it would be expensive, but he figured that it would be a good investment for all of the grandchildren that would surely be roaming the Burrow at some point in the future. Settling on his plan of attack, Harry went towards the front of the store to put in his substantial order. However, before Harry could take more than a step, a voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Well, well, well. It isn't everyday that we get a star quidditch player to grace us with their presence."
Harry quickly turned around, vaguely recognizing the person's voice. He was greeted by the smiling face of his former Hogwarts house member and former quidditch teammate, Katie Bell. Her medium length brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she had a pair of glasses, that he had not known her to ever wear, sitting on the top of her head. She was wearing a rather form fitting pair of jeans and her arms were crossed over her chest, seeming to cover the Quality Quidditch Supplies logo on her shirt. Using his excellent detective skills, Harry deduced that it was very likely that she worked in the store. Noticing that she had a wide smile on her face and she was only teasing in her tone, Harry decided to have a little fun with his former teammate.
"Excuse me, do I know you miss?" Harry inquired with an obvious grin. "You certainly look familiar. but I just can't seem to place your face. Did we used to date? You know us quidditch stars, we go through girls like their water." A little shocked at his teasing, Katie tried look scandalized before she started to laugh.
"Ha, ha, very funny Harry," she responded. Quickly stepping forward, she uncrossed her arms, extended them out and enveloped him in a hug which Harry was startled by but quickly returned. Still smiling, she said, "It's been awhile hasn't it? I don't think I've seen you since someone's birthday party a few years ago."
Harry rubbed the back of his neck thinking about it. "That sounds about right, it was at the Three Broomsticks I think." Harry chuckled to himself just remembering something. "I seem to recall someone getting pissed and trying to climb the wall to get into Hogwarts. That and the Headmistress ranting and throwing stinging hexes at them until they stopped screwing with the wards on the castle."
They both looked at each other for a second before they both said the same thing, "Seamus," and chuckled together at the ridiculous memory.
"So what brings you into this fine establishment so early on a Monday morning? I'll take a guess and say someone has been procrastinating in their Christmas shopping?" Katie inquired.
Harry again shoved his hand into his pockets, a slight look of guilt on his face. "It seems you've caught me. Although, in my defense, practice and road matches have sort of monopolized most of my free time."
"Sorry about that last game, Harry," Katie consoled. "Losing a first string beater five minutes into the game is tough enough, but losing both in less than ten is unheard of. I managed to catch most of it on the wireless while I was working the other day. The announcers were very complimentary of your effort though."
Harry merely shrugged at the praise. "Don't take this the wrong way, but people are so blinded by my fame most of the time, especially the announcers, that if I were to literally leave for tea in the middle of a match, they would somehow pass it off as some sort of genius strategy on my part. Take what you hear with a grain of salt."
"I'm sure that works both ways though," Katie noted. "You're so modest that chances are you'll downplay how good you play as well." Katie looked like she suddenly realized they were still in the middle of the store and that she was working. "So, seeing as I work here, do you need any help with anything in particular. Not that I really need to explain what something in here does to you."
Harry moved over to a rack of brooms, pulling off a slightly improved model of the Firebolt that Sirius had purchase for him in third year. "I hope you don't mind me taking up too much of your time, but I need to place a rather large order. I need seven of this model of broom, seven sets of the quality pads, and one set of the professional standard quidditch balls."
Katie pulled out a small pad of paper from her back pocket and a quill that had been sitting on a shelf. "So that's seven brooms, seven sets of pads, and professional quidditch set. Did you need all of that today, want it delivered, or some other arrangement?"
Harry thought about it for several seconds before deciding a surprise would be his best option. "All of the Weasley's don't usually get together until Christmas afternoon, so if there is a way they could be delivered then that would work if it's possible. I'll happily pay extra for the delivery as well."
Katie made a note of it on her pad, and pulled the single sheet with his order off. "Christmas delivery won't be a problem. The owners have several house elves that work for them that do deliveries. Most people request deliveries in the morning so the afternoon schedule should be pretty clear. Come on up front and we'll get you checked out."
The price for the gifts turned out to be substantial, but Harry didn't blink an eyes as he signed for the proper amount for withdraw from his bank account. The amount for the quidditch supplies barely made a dent into one of the bonuses that he had earned that season for Kenmare, holding the league lead for fastest snitch caught during the regular season. Still, he wouldn't be sharing the actual price with the Weasley family even if they were better off than they had once been. Katie handed him a copy of his receipt as well a reminder about the delivery date.
"Thanks for the purchases Harry, I think the store will definitely be pulling in a profit today thanks to you," Katie assured.
Harry shook his head at her antics, "I like to think I'm helping out by stimulating the economy." Just as he was about to make his goodbyes he noticed a flyer sitting out on top of the counter. Apparently the store was sponsoring an auction to benefit the Children's Ward at St. Mungo's. There was a list of various items that would be up for bidding donated by several players around the professional league. Harry could swear he remembered one of his teammates from the Kestrels mentioning it to him. "Say, Katie, I have a bunch of stuff lying around that I'd be willing to donate for the auction if it's not too late to do so."
Katie beamed at him. "Oh, Harry, that would really be appreciated," she exclaimed. "We're throwing a big New Year's Eve party where we'll have the auction as well, so there's still plenty of time to donate whatever you're willing. I'm actually the one in charge of organizing the items so if you want to schedule some time to get them to me that would be great." Katie quickly and excitedly pulled out another piece of paper and scribbled something down before handing it to Harry. "That's my street address and floo address. I wasn't sure what your preferred means of travel was so I put down both. Just send me an owl and we can figure out a time that works."
Harry took a quick look at the paper before he folded and placed it in his pocket. "I'll send you an owl later and let you know. It was great seeing you Katie, we shouldn't wait another three years before it happens again. Now that I know you're working here I'll have to find a reason to buy more quidditch supplies."
Katie raised an eyebrow at him, "Or you could just stop in and say hi."
"That would work too," Harry nodded. "See you later. I'll find those things for the auction after I finish my Christmas shopping today." Waving as he made his way out of the store and into the mob that was now Diagon Alley, Harry could only shake his head when he noticed another sale clerk in the store seeming to be interrogating Katie over the fact she was just talking to the famous Harry Potter. For a second he felt bad for her and the unwanted attention. However, his sympathy quickly evaporated as a group of adolescent girls screamed hysterically at the sight of him. That triggered a chain reaction in which the majority of the Alley's occupants turned their attention to him. At that point Harry came to the inevitable conclusion that being famous bloody sucked