|SIYE Time:13:59 on 18th January 2019|
A Marvelous ...Valentine's Day Gift?
By Spenser Hemmingway
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Category: Alternate Universe, Holidays, Muggle Technology Challenge (2014-1)
Story is Complete
Summary: *** Winner of Serious/Silliness in the Muggle Technology Challenge ***
Harry and Ginny don't know what to make of George and Fred's latest invention. It's Muggle technology, but the couple...no one in fact...knows what it is, how it works, or what it's supposed to do. It's Valentine's Day though, and Ginny deserves a marvelous gift.
Hitcount: Story Total: 4707
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
I highly recommend a quick trip to YouTube to first enjoy the song The Marvelous Toy by Peter, Paul, and Mary.
A Marvelous…Valentine’s Day Gift?
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."–Arthur C. Clarke
“Spenser, what are you… James! Your face! What has happened?! Spenser, this is your fault!”
“You know Ginny, that’s exactly what Hermione said…yet again…not half an hour ago.”
“Mum, it’s not as bad as it looks.”
“Have you been near a mirror lately young man? Tell me what happened.”
“Nothing Mum. It’s just that…well, today is Valentine’s Day and everything. Well…I gave the new girl in class a card I made and a gift.”
“Is that all James? Really?” Ginny is speaking to him, but staring at me.
“Australian girl…Rebecca Irwin…flaming red hair, brown eyes, and almost as many freckles as you have. What else would attract a Potter boy?”
“Albus and your daughter Spenser? I seem to recall she is blond and blue eyed just like Luna.” As upset as she is, Ginny can’t help but smile about our six-year-olds’ romance. “What gift did you give her James?”
“A Muggle competition, butterfly, professional-grade yoyo Mum.”
“A yoyo? You’re serious?”
“Yeah Mum. That’s exactly what she said.”
“So she hit you?” Ginny’s expression has changed to simple puzzlement.
“There’s a bit more to it than that,” I start to explain. “When he saw how she reacted to the Muggle yoyo, James decided to retell my story about the time Harry gave you that…whatever it was for Valentine’s Day. When he was done, Rebecca called it a load of…malarkey, and shoved James. He shoved back. She started pounding him then, and James wouldn’t hit his new girlfriend back.”
“She’s not my girlfriend Uncle Spenser!”
“Yet. Anyway, I was at Hermione’s school dropping off the class notes Luna forgot. Hermione enlisted me to Apparate James home and to explain what happened with my story and the fight. Kiddo, you’re lucky that your aunt and uncle run that grade school. I remember a friend getting kicked out of class for a week when I was your age, and for a lot less.”
“And the girl?” Ginny asks then.
“James wouldn’t identify her, and he made me promise not to either.
“Please Mum! Don’t do anything! You’ll embarrass me! It wasn’t her fault! It was the story…it was Uncle Spenser’s fault.”
“Hey! Okay, maybe it was my fault…sort of…kind of…”
Ginny takes James hand and leads him over to the icebox. She grabs a thin towel as she passes the kitchen counter. She fills it with ice. After another quick examination of his face, Ginny applies it to the bruised eye and swollen cheek. James goes to sit at the table, Ginny returns to her baking, and I just stand there wondering what to say next. Ginny beats me to it.
“I suppose I can refrain from contacting her parents…this time. You’re old enough to deal with such things yourself. Please remember that you start at Hogwarts next year, and Professor McGonagall will not be as patient, nor will your Uncle Neville if you are sorted to Gryffindor.”
“James, I want you to tell me the story again, exactly as you did for this Rebecca girl. Spenser, please sit down. I’ll need you to fill in any of the details he might get wrong.”
“How long on the pies Ginny?” Harry asks as he comes through the back door. It’s raining outside, and it takes him a few seconds to dry his speckled glasses. “James! What happened to your face?”
“Have a seat Harry. I’ll fill you in later. Right now we need to hear what can drive a young redhead to violence. What’s so funny Harry?”
“I learned the answer to that years ago Ginny.”
Twelve years earlier
“You wanted to see me Kingsley?”
The young intern standing to one side winces at what she thinks is Arthur Weasley’s overly familiar tone and attitude toward the new Minister of Magic. The girl knows better than to make a comment or to even express any displeasure on her face. The last intern had been reassigned for a passing remark about Mr. Shacklebolt’s friends.
“Yes, yes I did Arthur. Good morning. How is everything down in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office?”
“Chaotic, to be honest. As much as I appreciate the promotion to our Home Office, I am feeling a bit guilty about leaving the department in the hands of my replacement. I’ve been training Smithers for weeks now, and he just doesn’t seem to understand what he needs to do.”
“He is a bit of a bootlicker. I’ll talk to Falstaff in Personnel. I suspect that fat old fool is taking money under the table for prime assignment postings. Maybe I should threaten to banish him again. For now though, I need your artifact expertise there. We have a potential crisis at hand.”
“What is it…exactly?” Arthur tried to read the Minister’s face, and he saw concern and maybe a bit of embarrassment.
“It seems…” Kingsley slowly began, “that we may have another outbreak of Wizard-generated artifacts ending up in Muggle hands.”
“No! Magical artifacts?”
“Magically created, but perhaps not magical. They’re being quietly examined now. Even if they’re mundane, that still might not lessen the problem. Arthur, we’ve been good friends for decades now. Is something wrong Miss Portnoy? Your face is twitching.”
“Uhm…no sir. It’s just a bit of indigestion. I shouldn’t have tried the calamari tacos at Chin Lee’s Bistro. I was told it was the best Mexican food in Diagon Alley.”
“Nice save,” Arthur whispers under his breath. He knows the overprotective aide isn’t fond of most of Kingsley’s old friends.
“I see. Perhaps you should stick with roast beast sandwiches for a while. Where was I Arthur? Oh yes. You, as well as anyone, knows what happens when non-Magics get ahold of our technology. It’s seldom as harmless as when they were given say…Velcro, pogo sticks, and Spam.”
“Well do I remember. One of my first assignments was when our office unsuccessfully tried to stifle Disco music when that Travolta fellow slipped it to the Muggles. It took us years to suppress the polyester leisure suits and Bee Gee cults.”
“That is exactly right. Miss Portnoy, will you please fetch me the intelligence file.”
“Yes Minister.” Turning about, the intern gives Mr. Weasley an ugly look as she passes him.
“At least she’s an excellent typist,” Kingsley says after she’s left, and he’s smiling as he sees Arthur rolling his eyes. “Seriously…this could be the worst debacle since the Tickle Me Elmo outbreak a few years back.”
“What exactly are we looking at this time?”
“I’ll let you read the file for yourself Arthur. It seems to be a cross between a doohickey and a thingamajig. So far only poorly made prototypes have been appearing at Muggle secondhand stores and yard sales.”
“Are we sure that magic is involved?”
“What’s been seized has been at sites within a mile outside of the Alley. Coincidence?” Kingsley’s sharp stare tells his friend that the answer is obvious.
“Rule Thirty-nine: ‘There is no such thing as a coincidence.’ Who else knows about this?”
“Miss Portnoy, one laboratory technician, and the few Aurors who discovered and retrieved the items know some of the details. The whole story? Only you and I do. Rule Four.”
“Ah yes. ‘The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person–if you must. There is no third best.’ That’s wise for now. It’s just… If magic is involved, what Witch or Wizard in their right mind would possibly try something like this?”
“Fred, George…what exactly is that thing?” I ask the two.
“It looks like a poorly made gizmo or maybe a rebuilt whatchamacallit. No, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Harry slowly admits. Talk about an understatement.
“This, Mr. Potter…Mr. Hemmingway, is our new key to fame and ridiculously enormous fortune,” George tells us.
“Fame for you dear brother. Thanks to our dear brother-in-law’s lovely Muggle biographer, everyone is going to think I was killed,” Fred accurately points out. “I am satisfied with the insane wealth part though.”
“I’ve already apologized to you for the dying thing…and to Remus, Tonks, Colin…”
“Dobby. Don’t forget Dobby,” I remind Harry.
“How could I? He starts crying every time someone mentions what she plans to include in one of the last books. The first volume was just published. I forget the title. Maybe it’ll flop and none of you will have to worry about what she makes up for the Muggles.” Harry picks up the twins’ invention and begins to examine it more closely. “What are these two big buttons on the bottom? They look like two big green eyes.”
“In honor of you Harry,” Fred and George say together.
“No Harry! Don’t push either of them yet!” Fred yells, and apparently louder than he had intended.
“We don’t exactly know what will happen,” George adds. “Best to try it the first time from a distance. Use your wand Harry.”
“What? You don’t know…what? Uhm, I left my wand out in the workshop.”
“Oooh Harry! Rule Nine-A: ‘Never go anywhere without a wand.’ Tsk, tsk,” The twins again recited together.
“Huh? I was working on a new broom out there for… Rule what?”
“From some American Muggle Harry,” Ron explains as he steps into the kitchen to join us. “The guy has a bunch of them. Dad learned them all, so that meant that we had to. Is there any of Ginny’s roast turkey left?”
“Good morning to you too Ron. Try the top left shelf in the icebox. It should be the only thing in there yet,” Harry tells him, but his attention is still on the contraption. “Spenser, you have your wand could you activate this…whatever it is?”
“Or you can wait until you give it to Ginny for a nice Valentine’s Day gift,” Fred suggests.
“Crikey! What is that thing, it looks like a…”
“We haven’t quite figured out what it is Ron,” I explain, “apart from fame and fortune for your brothers.”
“And for our Harry here as well after he invests a small sum in our enterprise,” George tells him. He and his twin are both smiling like used car salesmen.
“I’m already rich, and I’m not at all happy about being as famous as I am now–thank you very much. Give it to Ginny? Valentine’s Day? I have flowers, candy, and reservations at Chin Lee’s Bistro for Ginny and me. They have the best Mexican food in Diagon Alley.”
“It’s the only Mexican food there,” Ron accurately points out. “Don’t try the calamari tacos though. They’re killers.”
“Boring!” the twins again say in tandem.
“All of you, it’s your first Valentine’s since you got married last year,” Fred tells the three of us. “Ron here got Hermione a…gasp…toaster oven.”
“It’s a darn nice toaster oven!”
“Hmm, maybe I should reconsider the cupid shaped salt and pepper shakers I got for Loony,” I tell no one in particular.
“She really lets you call her that Spense?” George asks. He trying too hard to suppress a giggle.
“Only I get to. Ask those Slytherins whose pants I filled with hasty pudding last year. You don’t care about a gift for Ginny. You just want her to try out this gizmo, have fun with it, and convince her honey bunch here to invest in it.”
“Please don’t ever refer to me as honey bunch again Spenser.” Harry picks the what’s-it-who’s-it up and studies it yet again for a full two minutes. “I suppose that this does beat the chocolate-covered cumquats I bought at Honeyduke’s.”
“Trust us Harry,” Fred tells him.
“She’ll love it,” George quickly adds.
“I love it Harry! What is it?”
“I…we’re not at all sure,” Harry has to admit. “George and Fred recommended that we…”
“Fred and George? Oh no! This is their work? Do you remember the miniature snowman they loaned us at Christmas two years ago? It ate the tree!”
“How could we forget? It tried to take a bite out of Neville’s leg then. It was a good thing it swallowed Seamus’ homemade nutcracker. The explosion was a bit of a mess though.”
“It took all of us two days to scrape the snowman guts off the walls and ceiling. Harry, how do we know this bundle-of-bolts isn’t just as dangerous? There have been times when I wondered if those two were working for the Death Eaters.”
“Ginny, this…thing is Muggle technology.”
“So are aortic bombs.”
“Atomic bombs, but point taken. Gin, they want to sell these whatever-they-are. They want us to invest in the project.”
“They want you to what? Harry, I love you, but if I see you going near anyone trying to sell you Tower Bridge, they’ll be bats flying out of your nose.”
“I love you too Ginny,” he tells her before leaning across their sofa to deliver a nice kiss. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day.” She’s laughing now. “Well, we can try it I suppose. Sigh. Nicholas and the elves just finished rebuilding this house for us. We don’t even really move in until I graduate this June. I’d hate to see it destroyed by whatever this is.”
“Another good point. We’ll follow their advice and activate it from a distance.”
They both pull out their wands. Harry places the gift in the middle of their parlor, while Ginny magically pushes back their new sofa, end tables, and overstuffed chairs. The gadget is turned on its side exposing the green buttons.
“Here goes nothing,” Harry says.
“We can only hope so.” Ginny flicks her wand, depressing first one and then the other buttons. “Okay now…nothing. Let’s try twisting its lid.”
Ginny gives the top a turn, sets it down again, and then steps back to watch with Harry. For several seconds nothing still happens. Just as she is about to try the buttons again, the thingamajig comes to life. Across the room it darts. It goes zip when it moves, and bop when it stops, and whirrr when it stands still. The two are speechless as they watch.
All at once it pauses in place. It sits inert for perhaps a count of ten before taking off again. It first marches left, and then marches right, and then marches under a chair. When they look where it had gone, they see it isn’t there.
“Harry, are you sure this is Muggle technology?”
“Fred and George told me it was. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says yet again.
“Who has? Wait, there it is chugging up from behind you.”
“Where Gin? Ouch! Muggle technology my foot!”
“The sore one it just ran over? I’m sorry Harry. I shouldn’t laugh.”
Zip! Bop! Whirrr…whirrr…whirrr!
Around and around the room it goes. Harry and Ginny finally decide that the thing is most likely some sort of toy. Despite his sore foot, Harry finally admits that the gizmo is harmless enough. No damage is being done…at least until the Potter’s golden Labrador wanders into the room to investigate all the hullaballoo. Then the doohickey decides to investigate the dog.
“Banjo no!” Ginny calls to him. Any other time the happy canine would have instantly obeyed.
The dog and toy leap at each other, meeting in midair. All that is to be seen then is a confused mass of fur, teeth, wires, and plastic. It is an unqualified miracle that, except for an overturned floor lamp, nothing in the room is destroyed. Harry and Ginny continue to shout at Banjo, but both are smart enough not to try to grab at the buzzsaw battle. Almost a minute passes before Harry thinks to pull out his wand.
“Wingardium Leviosa!” he screams.
The confused dog floats across the parlor to Ginny who has retrieved and then attaches Banjo’s leash. As he touches down, the now subdued Labrador crawls under an end table, only poking his nose out to try to sniff out what had happened to him. The couple suspect that it will be bedtime before the dog will finally venture out from his relative protection.
“He hates it when we do that Ginny.”
“I can’t imagine why. Well, this thing is history. I wonder what it was really constructed to do…I mean besides trying to kill family pets.” Ginny picks up one of the larger remaining pieces, and she notes that there are at least a dozen others almost as large and torn apart. “I think that Banjo just saved us a few Galleons. We are not investing in these things.”
“Gin…I was really sure that the gadget was harmless.”
“Rule Fifty-one Harry: ‘Sometimes you’re wrong.’ That’s an important one.”
“I really need to meet that American someday.”
“Oy Dad! Will you please stop slapping us up the back of our heads?!”
“George, you’ll be lucky if that’s all you and Fred get to suffer!” Arthur Weasley shouts at the two. The twins were usually on the receiving end of such outbursts from their mother, not him.
“Dad, it was only a…well, it was harmless whatever it was,” Fred tries to explain. It's then his turn to receive a head smack. “Ouch! Dad!”
“Do you two have any idea how many laws you’ve broken over the last week?”
“Bent,” the twins counter.
“You sold Wizarding technology to Muggles!” Arthur lowers his voice. He knows that downstairs Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes is packed with customers who don’t need to learn what is being discussed in the twins’ flat.
“No Dad. It was all Muggle technology,” Fred tells the man.
“It was just built by a couple Wizards,” George adds. “We only sold the inoperative rejects…the gizmos that didn’t work. All of it was harmless.”
“I wouldn’t say harmless.” Arthur, George, and Fred turn to see Harry and Ginny at the now open door. “You owe us a lamp, a double dose of tranquilizers and a T-bone for Banjo, and the price of this cane I’m going to need for a week or two. Oh, and here’s what’s left of your toy.”
Ginny walks over to a table crowded with all manner of sketches and blueprints. No doubt the brothers are planning something else just as outlandish to spring on the world. The world was not ready, Ginny decides.
“Please tell me that the two of you weren’t involved in this Harry.” The blood is gone from the man’s face, and Ginny is suddenly scared for her father.
“What’s happening?” she asks after a moment.
“I’ll tell you what is happening young lady! Your brothers have violated the Ministry edict against revealing magic technology to Muggles!”
“Muggle technology Dad!” Fred almost shouts. “Broken Muggle technology!”
“Speaking of broken,” Georges says as he moves to inspect the box of junk his sister and brother-in-law have brought back.
“Mr. Weasley sir…”
“For the thousandth time Harry, it’s Arthur now. You married my daughter, remember?”
Harry smiles at that, and sees that Ginny is as well. He steps over to the table then and overturns the box, scattering the parts across its surface.
“Uhm…Arthur, you can see yourself that all of this really is Muggle. There are just wires, a dry cell battery, small motors, so on and so on. None of it is magic. I have no idea where they plugged in a soldering iron. Fred and George may have used spellcraft to construct it, but the thing has no more real magic in it than does a Penn and Teller performance.”
“Uhm Harry… Uhm…” Arthur avoids Harry’s eyes.
“No? Penn and Teller are Wizards? Seriously? I’m almost disappointed,” Harry quietly admits. “Seriously though Arthur; look at this. It is Muggle. No laws were broken. Okay maybe Rule…what was it Ginny…Forty-eight?”
“No Harry,” she says. “The forties are just for emergencies. He means Rule Eight: ‘Never take anything for granted.’ I’ll work with him Dad.”
“Do that,” he says laughing. “Fred, George, you will still need to come with me to the Ministry to explain all this. There was enough magic of some sort in the junk you sold to have attracted Auror attention. Throw that…whatever it was back in the box and bring it along. Harry and Ginny, I seem to remember Molly mentioning how you have Valentine’s Day dinner plans. Stay away from the calamari tacos. I understand that they’re lethal.”
“We’ll remember Dad.” Ginny swats Harry who’s about to start laughing again, but then gives him a quick peck on the cheek. “Hmm…I wonder how their huevos rancheros are. Am I pronouncing that correctly?”
“Perfectly.” It’s Harry’s turn to quickly kiss her. “What’s this George?” he asks as the twin places a medium-size box into his hands.
“Just a little something for Ginny,” he whispers in Harry’s ear. “It’s to make up for the whatchamacallit gift breaking down. Sorry about that.”
“Thanks George, but what is it?” Harry quietly asks him back. He sees that Ginny is pretending not to hear any of their conversation.
“It’s another one of our inventions. It’s absolutely Muggle, and it’s going to be an enormous hit–surefire fame and fortune. We call it an eight-track player.”
“So that’s exactly what I told her. Mum, is Uncle Spenser’s story true?”
“Aren’t all of them James?” she says without thinking. It’s too late. “Harry! My good tablecloth! You can clean that up!”
“I’ll get it Ginny,” I tell her. “You really shouldn’t be complimenting my work that way if you don’t want your dear, sweet husband to spit out good coffee all over the place. ‘Never mess with a Marine’s coffee.’ Rule Eight, remember?”
“I’m not a Marine Spenser. No, I’ve got this. Scourgify. There…good as new Gin. James, it’s the spirit of the story that matters. A little embellishment just adds to the experience. Do you understand?”
“I think so Dad. It’s like it’s okay to lie sometimes if it’s for a good cause.”
“James Sirius Potter!” Ginny almost drops the moonberry pie she’s taking out of her oven. “That is not…”
“The thing is Mum...what was the gift Dad gave you for Valentine’s Day that year? What was it really?”
Ginny takes a deep, calming breath. She’ll have a talk with her son a bit later about the need for honesty in all things. I haven’t a doubt that she’ll use me and my writing as the bad example. At least she’s smiling now.
“Well, it’s been a number of years, and I’ve asked your uncles that very question…I don’t know how many times. They just laugh at me. To be perfectly honest, and it is important to be perfectly honest…” Ginny’s eyes are throwing daggers my way. “I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will.”
A/N: Tip of the hat to Peter, Paul, and Mary and their song The Marvelous Toy, written by Tom Paxton, 1969 (listen at YouTube). Apologies and thanks to Leroy Jethro Gibbs (portrayed by Mark Harmon) for the loan of some of his rules. We are also saddened to hear of the passing of the character’s father, Jackson Gibbs (portrayed by the late Ralph Waite).
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