Harry, his pocket now full of gold, silver and bronze, was excited to spend some money and time with his friends so he bought them each a large ice cream, strawberry and peanut butter, they ate them happily as they walked along the cobbled street. Once the ice creams were gone Ron took their hands and, just like he had back at the Burrow, laced their fingers together. Although this was a familiar gesture it was usually something they only did when they were alone or around other Gryffindors.
What's gotten in to you, Ron? Hermione thought
What do you mean? Ron replied
Hermione responded by raising the hand Ron had taken and titled her head to indicate their interlocked fingers
We usually keep this to ourselves don't we?
Ron flashed her his signature lopsided grin Yeah but I felt like holding your hands so I did. You guys don't care do you?
Not at all.. Hermione replied grinning back at him. Harry shook his head and squeezed Ron's hand.
As they continued along, looking in all the interesting shop windows Ron held them up as he stared at a set of Chudley Cannons robes at Quality Quidditch supplies. Harry made a mental note of a possible present for him in future. Hermione then dragged them off to buy ink and parchment next door. They ran into Fred, George and Lee in Gamble and Japes, the wizarding joke shop, replenishing their supply of Filibuster Fireworks. They spotted Percy in a small second had store reading a small and boring book called Prefects who Gained Power.
"A study of Hogwarts prefects and their later careers.." Ron read off the back cover of the book "That sounds simply fascinating."
"Buzz off." Percy snapped.
"He's got it all planned out of course." Ron told the other two as they left the shop "He wants to be minister of magic one day."
They happily talked and window shopped for another hour and then made their way to Flourish and Blotts they were shocked to find a large crowd in front of the bookshop all jostling to get inside
"What's going on?" Ron asked
"Dunno..." Said Harry "Wait, look at that." He pointed to a large banner between the upper windows of the shop
"Gilderoy Lockhart will be signing copies of his autobiography, Magical Me, today 12:30-4:30 pm.." Ron read
"We actually get to meet him!" Hermione squealed, bouncing up and down "I mean, he's written almost the whole book list!"
Ron rolled his eyes and Harry felt a stab of annoyance that he couldn't quite place. The crowd seemed to mostly consist of witches around Mrs. Weasley's age. A ruffled looking employee was standing outside the door and trying to control the crowd. Once they had managed to squeeze their way inside the shop they saw a long winding line leading right to the back of the shop where Gilderoy Lockhart, a handsome looking wizard with blond hair and blue eyes, was signing his books. Harry, Ron and Hermione each grabbed a copy of 'The Standard book of Spells Grade 2' and then sneaked their way up the line where they found their families waiting for them. Mr. and Mrs. Granger gave Hermione a hug and Mrs. Weasley smiled at Harry and Ron
"Well there you cubs are!" She said, sounding a little breathless. She kept patting her hair. "Good, good. We'll be able to see him in a moment."
They slowly came into veiw of the table where Gilderoy Lockhart was signing books. He was surrounded by pictures of his own face that were all winking and flashing dazzling toothy smiles at the crowd. The real Lockhart was wearing robes of blue and had a hat perched at an angle on his wavy blond hair. A short and irritable looking man was taking pictures from every angle he could with a camera that blew puffs of purple smoke over the crowd with every flash.
"Out of the way!" He snapped at Ron as he backed up to get a better shot "This is for the Daily Prophet."
"Big deal.." Ron grumbled, grimacing and rubbing his foot because the photographer had stepped on it.
Lockhart had heard he looked up and saw Ron and then he spotted Harry. He started, and then shouted "It can't be Harry Potter!" The crowed parted whispering excitedly as Lockhart made his way over to Harry. Harry felt his face burn and he tried to disappear into the rest of his family but without the signature red hair he stood out like a sore thumb. Lockhart grabbed his arm and dragged him to the front.
Lockhart shook his hand for the photographer who was clicking away madly.
"Nice big smile Harry." Lockhart said through a smile of his own "Together you and I make the front page."
When Harry's hand was finally released he could hardly feel his fingers. He tried to get back to Ron and Hermione and out of the spotlight but Lockhart threw an arm around his shoulders and clamped him tightly to his side. Harry flinched, his eyes wide, physical contact from a total stranger was making him highly uncomfortable.
T-Talk to me guys.. He thought nervously, looking at Ron and Hermione
What's wrong, Harry? Hermione asked
I don't like to be touched...you know that. Harry replied grumpily
Hopefully this prat lets you go soon. Ron snarled, glaring at Lockhart who'd started to speak
"Ladies and gentlemen." He said "What an amazing moment this is! The perfect moment to make a little announcement I've been keeping quiet. Harry here came into Flourish and Blotts this morning to purchase my autobiography which I shall now present him free of charge!" He flashed another smile and gave Harry a little shake that made his glasses fall to the end of his nose and made him stiffen up, his eyes went wide again.
No..No..No... Harry whimpered
It's okay Harry. It's alright. Ron soothed, Harry saw that his hands had curled into fists
Don't do anything dumb. He thought shakily I'm okay.
Lockhart didn't notice Harry's discontent at all as he continued his speech "He had no idea however that he and his classmates would be getting much more than my book! They will in fact be getting the real magical me! I am pleased to announce that I will be taking over the post of defense against the dark arts teacher at Hogwarts starting this September." Everyone clapped and Harry suddenly found himself being presented with the entire collection of Lockhart books and he finally made his way over to the edge of the room and out of the limelight where Ginny was standing next to her new cauldron. She grimaced at him and put a hand on his shoulder in a comforting sort of way as he tipped all the books into her cauldron
"You can have these." He whispered "I'll get my own."
As Harry straightened up Ron and Hermione came over both of them also had stacks of Lockhart books which they put into the cauldron as well so they didn't have to hold them anymore. As soon as he'd dropped his books Ron slung a protective arm around Harry's shoulders.
"You okay, Harry?" He asked
"Yeah..I'm alright..." Harry said, smiling slightly.
Then there was a voice from behind him that all three of them recognized instantly "Bet you loved that, didn't you, Potter." They spun around and saw Draco Malfoy staring at them, his usual sneer firmly in place "Famous Harry Potter, can't even go into a bookshop without making the front page."
Ron opened his mouth angrily but Ginny, who was glaring at Malfoy with great dislike blazing in her brown eyes got there first
"You leave him alone. He clearly didn't ask for all that." She snarled. Harry, Ron and Hermione smirked
"Bet you're surprised to see Harry here, eh?" Ron said, hinting that he still thought Malfoy might be behind the whole Dobby incident.
"Not as surprised as I am to see you in a shop, Weasley." Malfoy retorted "Bet your parents will go hungry for a month to pay for all those."
Ron's ears blazed red and he stalked forward toward Malfoy
DON'T Harry and Hermione thought together as the each grabbed the back of his jacket. Mr Weasley then came struggling towards them with Fred and George behind him, he ignored Malfoy and directed his attention to Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny
"C'mon, cubs, it's a mad house in here. Let's go outside, shall we?"
"Well well. Arthur Weasley." Said a cold voice. It was Mr. Malfoy, he had appeared at Draco's shoulder and was sneering in the exact same way.
"Lucius." Said Mr. Weasley, nodding jerkily
"Busy time at the Ministry lately, Arthur?" Mr. Malfoy asked "All those extra raids. I do hope they're at least paying you overtime."
He bent over Ginny's cauldron and pulled out an old and battered copy of 'Beginner's guide to Transfiguration' and examined it
"Apparently not." He sneered "Dear, dear, what's the use of disgracing the name of wizard if they don't even pay you well for it?"
Mr. Weasley went a darker shade of red than Ron
"We have a very different idea about what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy." He hissed.
"Clearly." Said Mr. Malfoy and his pale eyes strayed to the Grangers who had appeared behind Hermione and were watching apprehensively "Honestly, keeping company with muggles." he said quietly "And I thought your family could sink no lower."
With a loud thud of metal Ginny's cauldron went flying as Mr. Weasley flung himself at Mr. Malfoy knocking him back into a bookshelf. Heavy spell books cascaded down on all of them.
"Get him, dad!" Shouted Fred, George and Ron together.
"No Arthur!" Yelled Mrs. Weasley
The crowd scampered backwards away from the fight, knocking over more shelves.
The assistant yelled "Gentlement! Please!"
Then louder than all the rest of the din "Break it up, gents, break it up!" Hagrid was struggling towards them amidst the sea of books. A second later he had easily pulled Mr. Weasley and Mr. Malfoy apart. Mr. Weasley's lip was bleeding and Mr. Malfoy had been hit in the eye by a book. He was still clutching Ginny's old Transfiguration book, he thrust it back at her, his eyes shining with hate.
"Take your book girl." He sneered "It's the best your father can give you." He wrenched himself out of Hagrid's grip, beckoned to Draco and swept out of the shop
Hagrid lifted Mr. Weasley off his feet as he straightened his robes "Yeh shoulda just ignored him, Arthur." he said "Rotten to the core the whole the whole lot of them, no Malfoy's worth listening ter. Come on, let's get outta here." The assistant looked like he wanted to stop them from leaving but took a look at Hagrid and thought better of it. They exited the shop and hurried off up the street, all three of the Grangers were shaking with fright and Mrs. Weasley was beside herself with rage.
"What were you thinking!" She shouted "A fine example to set for the cubs, brawling in public! What Gilderoy Lockhart must have thought!"
"He was pleased." Fred said, shrugging "Didn't you hear him ask that bloke from the Prophet if he'd be able to work the fight into his report. Said it was all publicity."
But the group was quiet and subdued as they headed back to the Leaky Cauldron where they would be using the fire to go back to the Burrow. They all said goodbye to the Grangers. Hermione, who had decided to spend the remainder of the summer back home, gave Harry and Ron a hug.
"See you guys at school." She murmured. They all waved as the Grangers left for the muggle street on the other side of the pub.
Before Harry took his handful of Floo Powder he took his glasses off and safely stowed them in his pocket. This was definitely not his favorite way to travel.