A/N: Once again, this is me combining several challenges.
This story was written for three of the Boot Camp Challenges:
- my own Pairing Diversity Boot Camp with the prompt 'merry-go-round'
- owluvr's Character Diversity Boot Camp with the prompt 'birthday'
- The Original Horcrux' Family Boot Camp with the Weasley family and the prompt 'wrapping'
It's also for Black Rose Blue's Ron Love Challenge and Fire the Canon's Canon Relationships Challenge.
Finally, I also entered this into TheTwoDL's Masterchef Competition, round 2 (invention test). We were given the following five prompts and had to use (at least) three of them in our story. (I managed to use all five! :-))
- "Have the courage to live. Anyone can die." - Robert Cody
- Always tell the truth. If you can't always tell the truth, don't lie.
- Love is like war… easy to start, difficult to finish, and impossible to forget.
- look /ed / s /ing
- stare / ed / s / ing
"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Hugo! Happy birthday to you!"
Hugo looked around smiling as Ron, Hermione and Rose sang for him. Ron always loved his kids' birthdays. He loved to see the look of awe on their faces when they unwrapped their presents or when they blew out the candles on the cake. Today there were nine candles, because that's the age Hugo had attained today. They would always get three presents: one from each parent and one from their sibling. But today there were only two and Hugo looked around in confusion. Ron smiled.
"My present is a special one," he confided to Hugo.
"There is a carnival in town and we will be going there today, just the two of us."
Hugo's face lightened up. "Cool!"
"I want to go to the carnival too!" Rose pouted.
"Well, perhaps we can go there later this week with the four of us, but today it's just going to be Hugo and me."
They didn't Apparate to the carnival area. Instead, Ron told Hugo they would walk, because he wanted him to take in the atmosphere of the carnival to the fullest extend.
"Listen Dad, do you hear that?" Hugo said excitedly, as snatches of music drifted up in their direction. "I think I hear drums!"
"I think you're right," Ron replied. "And I think I can hear a flute as well."
They walked on and the closer they came, the more distinct the music became. It was a strange mixture of melodies, all woven into one enticing score, beckoning the visitors to come hither. The smells of caramalised apples, popcorn, roasted chestnut and hot cocoa melted together into one seducing scent that gave the carnival the illusion of a winter's night, despite the fact that it was the middle of a bright sunny June day. For Ron, it also brought back fond memories of when he was Hugo's age. The same carnival had been in town and his parents had saved some money so they could all go together.
As Hugo dwelled around the carnival, Ron remembered how he'd taken a ride on the merry-go-round with Percy and how Charlie had taken him to see the bearded lady. How Bill had bought him and Ginny some chestnuts and how he, Fred and George had been bedazzled by the enchanted maze.
"Where do you want to go first?" he asked Hugo.
"I don't know, it all looks so incredibly awesome," Hugo replied whilst looking around. "Let's go there!" He pointed in the direction of a glass palace. 'The House of Mirrors' it read in dancing letters across the surface and directly beneath it in a smaller fond 'Always tell the truth. If you can't always tell the truth, don't lie.'
"Well, that sure sounds intriguing," Ron muttered, but Hugo already pulled him towards it. Ron bought two tickets and entered the House of Mirrors, wondering what they would find inside. It was…interesting to say the least. They got lost into a maze of mirrors, each one weirder than the one before. Hugo laughed as his face contorted and took on the weirdest shapes. Occasionally, they would come across a gilded mirror with a plaque beneath it, stating that in that particular mirror, you could see yourself in ten years (wrinkled like a house elf, no matter who looked into it) or what the love of your life looked like (a hag if the person looking was male, a hunchback if the person looking into it was female). They were all for good fun, nothing to take serious and they laughed heartily about it. In a way, they reminded Ron of the Mirror of Erised Harry had shown him in first year.
"It was weird, you know," he told Hugo. "There it was, this huge ornate mirror, right in the middle of Hogwarts. It showed me things I thought were of the utmost importance at the moment; becoming Head Boy, making it to Team Captain on the Quidditch Team, winning the House Cup…" He moved his hands to demonstrate his point. "Now I know they were just futilities compared to the things that really matter in life."
"And what are those?" Hugo asked a little confused.
"Well, nothing for you to worry about yet," Ron smiled. "You'll find out later."
"Come, let's get ourselves some cotton candy, shall we?"
Hugo was easily persuaded and they moved outside. Ron bought Hugo the biggest cotton candy he could get and watched with an amused look as Hugo tore the cotton candy apart and stuffed large pieces of it in his mouth. It didn't take long before his face was covered in a sticky sugary substance.
"You know, Dad?" Hugo said between two pieces of cotton candy.
"I like this. Just the two of us hanging out without Mum or Rose." He pulled a face at his sister's name. "It's great spending time with you."
"It is, isn't it?" Ron replied. He realised he had not spent much quality time with Hugo lately because it been hell at work the past year. "I'm sorry I haven't been around much lately," he said. "I'll make it up to you, okay?"
"That's okay," Hugo replied. "Hey, look, can I go onto the merry-go-round? It looks amazing!"
Ron followed Hugo's gaze towards an enormous carrousel where all elements were floating in the air. Life size elephants waved their trunks and horses pranced. Magnificent birds clapped their multi-coloured wings and flying carpets actually flew. Things certainly had improved over the years, Ron thought.
"That's not a merry-go-round, it's a carrousel," he corrected Hugo.
"What's the difference?" Hugo frowned.
"A carrousel is much bigger."
"Okay. So can I go on the carrousel?"
"Of course! You know what? I haven't been on one since I was a little boy. Do you mind if your old man joins you?"
"You're not old!"
"Yeah, I am," Ron laughed. "But that doesn't stop me from having fun."
Hugo got onto a miniature version of the Hogwarts Express that blew smoke in the air, while Ron took his seat on a flying carpet. The sensation was similar to flying a broom, yet at the same time it was different.
"Dad, does the Hogwarts Express really look like this?"
"No it doesn't."
"Oh." Hugo's face fell a bit.
"The actual thing is even more brilliant." Ron grinned. "Did I ever tell you that that's were I first met your Uncle Harry?"
"Only like a billion time." Hugo pulled a face. "I can't wait to go to Hogwarts. I don't think it's fair that Rose gets to go after the holidays!"
"Rose is older than you are. But your time will come. And when it does, I'm sure you'll enjoy every moment of it. It's just the bloody best place in the world. And think of it this way: Rose may start earlier, but that also means she finishes earlier. When Rose graduates Hogwarts, you still have two more years to go."
"That's true." Hugo's face cleared. "I never thought of it that way."
After the carrousel, they went into the Ghost House. It wasn't really that impressive to Ron, who had been around the Hogwarts ghosts for several years, but Hugo shivered every time one of the ghosts past through him.
"How come that they were once people like you and I?" he asked when they were back outside.
"They lived a long time ago," Ron explained. "For some reason, they decided not to leave the earth when they died. And they remained behind. Like, for example, at Hogwarts, the Gryffindor House Ghost was killed by an axe many centuries ago. His enemies tried decapitating him, but it didn't really work. So that's why we also called him Nearless Headless Nick. You know, because his head was still attached to his body, dangling by a thin piece of neck." He did an imitation of the lolling of Sir Nicolas' head and Hugo shuddered.
"He sounds scary."
"He isn't. He is actually rather kind, if he's not insulted. His gravest agitation is the Headless Huntsmen won't let him join their team. Due to the fact that he wasn't really headless, you see."
Hugo laughed at that. "Wicked."
Ron drew Hugo's attention to a stall where you could fish rubber ducklings out of the water. "I used to be very good at that when I was your age," he said. "Wanna see if you can beat me?"
"Sure. But you won't stand a changc."
It turned out Hugo was right. To his annoyance, Ron had a lot more trouble catching the ducklings than what he remembered of it in his younger days. Hugo reeled in one after the other, while he got stuck at three. "Stupid game," he muttered under his breath.
"How many did you get, Dad?"
"Three," Ron growled.
"I got six!" Hugo said proudly.
"Yeah, I let you win."
"Don't listen to your Dad, lad, he's just a bad loser," the man behind the stall winked at him. "I think you did a good job, young man. Here, this one's for you." He tossed Hugo a stuffed blue dragon, which Hugo caught effortlessly.
"Thanks," he said, his face beaming.
"Thanks," Ron repeated after him.
"Don't mention it, don't mention it. Just promise me you'll come back again, okay?"
"We will," Ron promised. "But not today," he added to Hugo as they turned their back on the stall.
They dwelled around the carnival, taking in the atmosphere and stopping every now and then to look at an act or get in or on an attraction. There even was a part of the carnival that was filled with tents that stood out due to their vibrant colours and air of mystification that hang around them. They ventured into it and immediately some charlatan clamped them on.
"Fortune tellers! Lucky charms! Get your enchantments here!"
"No thanks, we got plenty of those already," Ron lied.
They hadn't walked two meters before another one talked to them. "The great Arnoldo will tell you what your life will look like!" he spoke in a hushed tone to Hugo.
"No thanks," Ron replied instead. "Not interested."
The next one to halt them was a Chinese woman. She wore an enchanting perfume and held out a tray to them. "Fortune cookie?" she smiled.
"Ah, there's no harm in fortune cookies," Ron said and accepted two of them. He gave one to Hugo and said: "On three, right?"
Ron counted to three and then the two of them opened the wrappings of their respective fortune cookies. They broke them in half, eating one half and unrolling the tiny piece of parchment it contained.
"You first," Ron said.
Hugo stared at his piece of paper. "Mine says Have the courage to life. Anyone can die. – Robert Cody. Who was Robert Cody?"
"I have no idea," Ron admitted. "But what he says is really true."
"Now tell me what's on yours."
"Mine says: Love is like war… easy to start, difficult to finish, and impossible to forget. I'm not sure I fully agree with that though. I can't understand why anyone would even want to end or forget about love. " He shook his head. "Anyway, I think there's more interesting corners of this carnival still waiting to be explored by us, don't you think?"
"I guess so."
In fact, there was so much to see and so much to do at the carnival that they felt they would never have enough time to do it all in one day.
"I wanted to get lost in the enchanted maze and go the Muggle movie, just like you did when Uncle Charlie and Uncle Percy," Hugo said with a sad face when Ron told him it was time to go home to be back in time for dinner.
"Well, that leaves us with no choice," Ron replied quasi-dramatically.
"And that is?"
"Come back another time this week and do everything we didn't get a change to do today."
As they walked back towards their home, Hugo heaved a contented sigh. "You know Dad? This was the best birthday present ever."