My children adore Harry Potter. It’s not the most age-appropriate films to watch with pre-school children, but it keeps them quiet while I’m looking for the gin*. Viewings are interspersed with fierce outbreaks of role-play; Josh (the oldest) bags the part of Harry, Evie takes on Hermione (she has the hair) and poor Georgie is left to be Ron Weasley. And so the trio play happily, casting spells and issuing whomping willow warnings whenever we leave the house.
On our way to school we fall into line with the dozens of children walking to class. Little ones clasping their parents’ hands, older ones shrugging enormous bags on their shoulders, cool ones – coatless despite the weather – chatting to friends about their weekend. One morning we walked behind a young lad scuffing reluctant soles towards the secondary school, bright ginger hair saluting the sky.
“Ron Weasley!” cried three-year-old Georgie, her voice clear as a bell in the cold air.
The boy – no more than thirteen or fourteen – whipped round with a grimace to find the culprit, not giving a second glance to the mother and children behind him. He glared at a gaggle of school girls on the opposite side of the road before continuing on his way, resentment seeping from every thread of his blazer.
When sufficient distance had passed between us, I held a whispered yet furious conversation with Georgie about the perils of making personal remarks. “It simply isn’t polite,” I told her.
“But he looked just like Ron Weasley!” she insisted. And to be fair, he did.
That afternoon, as we made our way through town, I spotted the unfortunate boy standing at the pedestrian crossing. The children and I joined the throng of people waiting to cross, and I squeezed Georgie’s hand in warning.
“Ron Weasley!” she hissed, in a strident whisper.
From the reddening of his ears it was obvious he had heard, and he stalked away, his neck tense and his fists clenched. What was I to do? Should I run after him? Introduce the children and apologise for their rudeness? I baulked at the thought, instead issuing a second lecture on manners and skulking home.
In the last fortnight we have bumped into Ron Weasley five times. On each occasion, despite rigorous attempts at censorship, Georgie has given into her Pavlovian Potter response, shouting out his moniker for all to hear. It might be my imagination, but Ron seems a little more dejected each time we see him. As if having red hair wasn’t bad enough – now he’s being bullied by a three-year-old.
*this is obviously not true. I never have to look for it – it’s always right there on the draining board.