"Come on, Richard!" Hyacinth called impatiently from the crop of rock looking over a beautiful green valley.
Richard gritted his teeth as he huffed and puffed, trying to keep up.
"I'm coming," Richard gasped out, holding his side. He wondered if the pain was an oncoming heart attack or merely a result of years of lack of exercise. Hyacinth had discovered a fetish for exercising recently and it was killing him. He was retired, damn it! He shouldn't be exercising. He should be pottering around the garden watching the plants grow.
Sweat dripped down his face as he laboured up the hill. He had no idea why Hyacinth had decided to take a hiking vacation in Scotland. If she had wanted to go for a walk, they could have gone on a meandering walk along their local streets. They didn't need to come all the way to bloody Scotland to walk up hills.
With effort, Richard made his legs take the last steps. He collapsed onto the soft grass next to where Hyacinth was standing and stretched out his legs. He winced as he looked down at the hiking outfit Hyacinth had made him wear.
"Don't just sit there!" Hyacinth told him, frowning.
Richard could hear his bones creak as he forced himself to stand up. He reached over and held onto a tree for fear of toppling over. He didn't think he had ever been this tired.
"Look!" Hyacinth exclaimed, pointing off into the distance. "It's an old castle."
Richard squinted, holding his hand up to ward off the glare. "Aren't those danger signs?"
"Nonsense," Hyacinth said dismissively. "I can see children near that forest."
"I don't," Richard said as he looked again but Hyacinth was already traipsing enthusiastically down the hill.
"Come along, Richard!" she called over her shoulder. "You mustn't dilly-dally!"
"Why can't I?" Richard muttered. "It's not as though we have anywhere to go."
"Don't mutter," Hyacinth told him loudly. "It's impolite."
Richard deliberately slowed down his footsteps and watched as Hyacinth made her way down the grassy hill towards the dilapidated old ruin. He had no idea why she wanted to go there. "I still don't see children," he said, but softly enough so that Hyacinth couldn't hear.
As they neared the castle, Richard felt a distinct urge to leave. He began to wonder whether he had left their car door unlocked or whether they might have accidentally left the stove on at home. "Hyacinth, dear," he said. "I think we should go."
"This looks like a wonderful place for a picnic," Hyacinth announced, ignoring him.
Richard took a step backwards. The ruins were creepy. Surely the signs all over the place saying danger meant something. Plus, he really needed to go and buy some new fishing gear and the tackle shop was all the way back in London. In fact, Richard felt the urge to buy the fishing gear right now. "Hyacinth," he began again.
"Look," Hyacinth said, interrupting him. "There are children over there. How irresponsible. I would have never let Sheridan out at that age, especially not at a place like this. Sheridan was such a dear. He let his Mummy walk him to the milk bar even when he was sixteen."
Richard still couldn't see any children. "Where are they?" he asked.
Hyacinth pointed towards the direction of the forest. "Two boys and a girl. They're wearing the most unusual clothing," she said with a sniff. "Most inappropriate."
With trepidation, Richard felt his forehead. It didn't feel hot. It didn't feel like he had heat stroke. Walking over to Hyacinth, he put his hand on her forehead, which didn't feel hot either.
Hyacinth stared at him in surprise. "Whatever are you doing?"
"Seeing if you're feverish," Richard mumbled. "There are no children there."
Hyacinth gave him a flabbergasted look. Then, to his surprise, she began walking in the direction she had pointed in before. "Excuse me! Excuse me!" she said loudly. If it was anybody else, Richard would have thought that they were yelling but Hyacinth had spent over half an hour telling him last year that she most definitely never yelled.
Richard blinked. He blinked again and rubbed his eyes. It seemed like three children appeared out of nowhere. He hurried over to where Hyacinth was standing next to them.
The three children exchanged nervous glances.
"What are you doing here?" the girl asked, frowning. She pushed back her curly hair and tucked loose strands behind her ears.
Hyacinth had her best Talking-To-Children expression on. "Hello children," she said with a kindly expression on her face. "Where are your parents? Are they at that hotel over there?"
The girl stared. "No," she said slowly. "Who are you? Are you from the Ministry?"
It was Richard's turn to look confused.
"My name," Hyacinth said cheerfully, "is Hyacinth Bouquet. I'm very well known for my candlelight suppers."
Richard resisted the urge to bang his head on the ground. "I'm her husband, Richard."
The red-haired boy looked at both of them, his eyes widening. "Don't tell me that you're Muggles?" he spluttered.
The girl elbowed him in the ribs. "Shut up, Ron," she snapped.
"I'm right, aren't I?" Ron asked, looking at them. "You're Muggles, aren't you? And you're here at Hogwarts!"
"If they're Muggles," the girl told him in a long-suffering tone, "then they wouldn't be able to answer that, would they?"
Ron looked confused.
The girl sighed and turned back to them. "I'm Hermione and that idiot's Ron. That's Harry." She hesitated as her gaze lingered over Richard's hiking shorts and then on Hyacinth's flowery dress. Richard felt like sinking down into the earth. "You are Mug..." She stopped.
"What's a Muggle," Richard asked.
"Richard!" Hyacinth exclaimed. She turned to the children. "Of course, we know what Muggles are," she told them.
Hermione gave them dubious looks. "What are you doing here?"
"Hiking," Richard told her, with a sigh. He eyed the soft grass longingly.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. She turned to the two boys and Richard could hear her whisper something about "charms" and "shouldn't be here."
Hyacinth looked around. "I presume your parents are staying over at that castle," she said with a sniff. "Richard and I would have booked a room, except there were none free."
Richard could have sworn the eyes of the three children bugged out of their heads. "Booked a room at the castle?" Hermione repeated.
"Why yes," Hyacinth said, giving her a superior look. To Richard's shock, she began to march towards the ruins marked with the danger sign.
He could see the children looking scared too. "Hyacinth!" he called. "That's dangerous!" But she ignored him as usual.
Richard turned to the children and was bewildered to see Ron drawing out a stick of knobbly wood from beneath his strange clothing. "Stupefy!" he shouted.
There was a toppling sound and when Richard turned back to look at Hyacinth, she was collapsed on the ground. "What did you do?" he asked as he hurried over to her. Kneeling down, wincing as his old bones creaked, Richard felt her pulse. It seemed normal.
"I couldn't just let her walk into Hogwarts," Ron muttered to his two friends. "This way, Dumbledore can deal with her."
Hermione shot him a glare. "She'll be fine," she said to Richard.
Dubiously, Richard looked down. Whatever these children were, they certainly weren't normal. And Hyacinth definitely wasn't going to be happy when she woke up. Richard was not looking forward to that. Although, he had to admit, her pulse did seem normal. And she was still breathing. Perhaps there wasn't any lasting damage. Least now, she was quiet.
"In fact," Hermione told him earnestly, "when she wakes up, she won't even remember any of this happened."
Almost immediately, Richard felt better. As he followed the children towards the ruins, he rubbed his eyes and wondered if he was in a dream. The ruins were looking less and less ruin-like by the second and more and more like a castle.
Perhaps this was all a dream. Richard looked over at Hyacinth's body floating beside him and pinched himself.