Disclaimer: As always I own nothing but the original characters and the situations all characters get in.
Note: Al refers to Albus Potter in this fanfic, Albus refers to a reincarnation of Albus Dumbledore.
Gellert was not a happy camper. No matter what his parents said he was way smarter than the average five year old and he KNEW picnics were stupid. Who wanted to eat on the ground, seriously? And they were refusing to listen to him point out the likelihood that insects of some sort would at some point either get into their food or as the very least come into contact with it. Eating outdoors was a bad idea! Why was that so hard for them to comprehend? They weren't nearly as ignorant as most of the adults in his life were. Or at least they weren't normally.
Not to mention the worst part of this plan which was the fact that his mother had had to slather lotion onto his exposed skin to keep him from being burned by the bright sun glaring down at them from overhead. Ugh.
So in conclusion this was not one of his mum's best ideas, Gellert silently grumbled to himself. He couldn't say it out loud anymore because his father was bribing him to play along and he did need those potion ingredients unfortunately.
Because it was part of the deal Gellert faked some enthusiasm. "Yes, Mother?"
"Look over there."
Humoring her Gellert obeyed, looking in the direction she was pointing. Milliseconds later a real smile curved his lips, his brown eyes lighting up with happiness as he stared at the boy who was in the process of helping his parents spread a blanket out over the grass. "Albus."
Running over to the redhead he'd been missing like crazy since kindergarten had ended Gellert couldn't have been more pleased to see that Albus was obviously just as happy to see him, the other boy running to meet him halfway.
"You're finally here. Did you guys find us okay?"
Realizing that this wasn't a chance meeting Gellert looked over his shoulder to give his parents a grateful look before turning all his attention to his closest friend, assuring him that they'd had no problem getting there.
Catching up with their happy son Gellert's parents went over to greet Albus's and set up their own blanket and food, leaving the two boys to sit on the grass and talk excitedly about the books they'd read, the experiments they'd performed, and all the other interesting things that had happened to them since last they'd spoke.
It took effort on their parents' part but food was pushed on both of them soon, both having to be told countless times that they actually had to eat. This was nothing new of course, nor was their bemused pride as they absorbed the sophistication of the boys' language and interests. At least their child had a best friend who was their equal and would go through school with him. That was some relief.
When all the food was consumed Gellert's mother revealed that she'd put together a scavenger hunt list for the boys, complete with prizes if they found everything. She'd deliberately made the list hard since her son tended to get offended if he wasn't treated like he was at least twice his current age. "And if there's a word you don't understand you can come ask one of us."
Both boys looking over the list Albus smiled politely and nodded, Gellert rolling his eyes at the thought.
"We're supposed to find a leaf from an oak tree. I believe I saw a quercus robur in that direction as we were coming here."
Albus's father waited until the two boys had headed off in the direction Gellert had pointed before turning to look at Gellert's mother questioningly. "I take it quercus robur is the latin word for oak tree?"
"I'm guessing, yes. Botany was never my strong suit."
"Yeah…they won't be needing our help."
Both sets of parents nodded in tandem, well used to moments like this. It went with the territory.
Tommy watched the two children from a safe distance, amused that they were staying within view of the other. It sort of defeated the purpose of them competing, but it was pretty damn cute. He was still smiling when he picked up on the fact that there was another of his kind nearby. Hmm, interesting. And definitely worth checking out, the elf decided as he followed his senses, eyes widening minutes later when he found the object of his search. The female was sitting on the ground with her back against a large, old tree. She wore multiple earrings in her ears, a black bandana, and a T-shirt that proclaimed 'I Don't Need Your Attitude, I Have One Already'.
Tough words that didn't really go with the barely held in tears swimming in her eyes.
"You all right, Doll?"
The elf's thin shoulders hunched defensively. "I'm fine. Go away."
Normally he wasn't the type to deny a lady, but he also wasn't the kind who'd leave a lady in distress either. So he pulled his handkerchief from the pocket of his pinstriped suit and crouching down offered it to her. "Here, Doll, dry your eyes with this then tell me what's wrong. Maybe I can help. You lost?" That wasn't likely, elves could innately lock onto the location of their masters, but maybe this one didn't have an owner? A free house elf was rare, most worked for someone, but it was possible.
Taking the handkerchief the house elf dabbed at her eyes and then gave it back, her bottom lip quivering until she bit down on it to hide the fact.
"Come on now, can't be as bad as all that. You need a place to stay? You could come home with me if you like."
She gave him a confused look. "Wouldn't your masters be upset?"
Tommy was shaking her head before she'd finished asking her question. "Naw, I don't got no master yet. Well, I sorta do, but he's only five right now so mostly I just make sure he doesn't blow himself up with his experimenting and such. And he probably wouldn't mind you around if you cleaned up after him. I won't do that, so his mum finds out what he's been up to more than he likes."
"Sassy...Sassy's master is only seven. He…Master found Sassy after Sassy's old family threw Sassy away. His parents said he could keep Sassy and Sassy helps out around the house though Master's mum says Sassy doesn't have to do more than she wants to."
"So your name is Sassy, nice ta meetcha. I'm Tommy."
"You talk weird."
"Yeah, cause talking in the third person is so normal. Now how come you're upset, huh?"
New tears started to well in the house elf's eyes. "Master said…Master said we were playing a game and that Sassy was supposed to hide. But that was a long time ago and Master hasn't coming looking for Sassy. Sassy…Sassy thinks perhaps there is no game and Master just wanted to get rid of Sassy."
"I'm sure he didn't ditch ya, and if he did you can always go back to his house. Obviously his parents don't mind having you-."
"Sassy senses him. Master is coming!"
And jumping to her feet the house elf raced around the tree, Tommy following her to see her run towards a redheaded boy, throwing her arms around his waist to hug him tightly.
"Sassy! What's wrong?" The boy hugged her back, eyes narrowing as they met Tommy's. "What did you do to her?"
"Sassy thought Master would never come! Tommy said Master would."
Obviously getting the fact that the other elf hadn't done anything to his elf the boy gave Tommy an apologetic look as he patted Sassy on the back. "Silly girl, of course I came to find you, that's the whole point of hide and seek! Not to mention finding you wouldn't have been at all hard seeing as you were just hiding behind that tree. I'm gonna have to teach you about good hiding places."
Between sniffles Sassy apologized for not hiding right.
"Naw, it's okay, no big. I still have to find Lily, she's really good at hiding. You can help me look, kay? Unless you want to stay and talk to your friend, you know where everyone is, right?"
"Sassy wants to stay with Master."
"You can just call me James you know." But giving a sigh that indicated they had this argument plenty the boy, whose name was James, smiled and took her hand in his. "But okay then, let's go find Lil. You want to come with us? Your name is Tommy, right?"
"It is, but you and the doll go ahead. I gotta keep an eye on two kids of my own."
Accepting the explanation James bid the strangely dressed elf good bye, Sassy doing the same. And then hand in hand the two headed off in the direction the boy had come, obviously searching for the last person to be found.
Bored in her hiding place Lily was proud that her brother was having such a hard time finding her, but it wasn't fun waiting either. Being still and quiet was against her nature, and she was tempted to just go looking for her brother instead. Maybe she could even sneak up on him and scare him. That would be fun. But she wanted to win the game too. Wouldn't it be so funny if James had to ask Daddy to find her because he couldn't? James would be so mad and embarrassed if that happened.
Liking that idea she grinned, poking her head out as she looked cautiously over the rim of the hollowed out stump she was currently residing in. There was no sight of James anywhere, just the family of four near her stump who were at the park to picnic too.
Ohhhhh….they had watermelon.
She loved watermelon. She loved it even more than making her brothers look like idiots.
Forgetting all about the fact that her stump was the bestest hiding place ever Lily got to her feet and carefully climbed out of it, looking all around one last time before making a run for it.
The group didn't see her coming until she all but dived behind the father of the group, the sound of her brother calling her name making her hide instinctively.
Eyes wide the four year old boy stared at the redheaded girl who'd appeared from nowhere and was currently hiding behind his dad's back. "Whatcha ya doing?"
"Hush. Don't talk to me." Bracing her hands against the unknown man's back Lily covertly looked around again and then skirted around so that she was looking at the mother of the group, who by virtue of that was the one in charge of the food. "Can I have some wader-melon too, peas?"
"You're Potter's youngest, aren't you?" The father growled at her before his wife could answer.
"Uh huh. Now shush."
Fighting back a grin at the look on her husband's face the woman grabbed a slice of watermelon from the container and held it out, smiling when the redheaded little girl climbed up onto the picnic bench and accepted the treat with a polite thank you.
"You know we're Slytherins, Little Girl."
Lily looked up at the man with as thoughtful an expression as a three and a half year old could manage. "I bite."
Watching the girl smile widely to show off her teeth the little boy was very thankful that he and his mother were on the other side of the table, his little brother on the other side of his father and therefore safe too. She definitely looked like a biter to him. But he was no pushover either. "You bite my father and I'll bite you back."
"Young man, you will not bite her! She's just a little girl."
"She started it."
Meeting the boy's gaze Lily wanted to stick her tongue out at him but his mum had given her some watermelon and so she figured she better behave and just let the boy get in trouble.
Not at all happy that she'd gotten him in trouble the boy fumed, crossing his arms in front of him as he glared at her. And then he heard the voices from earlier calling for someone named Lily, and remembering her earlier reaction the boy looked in the direction the voices were coming from and seeing a family with two redheads immediately got up on his seat, cupped his hands, and yelled that she was over here.
Lily stuck her tongue out at the boy and then turned and got off the bench, knowing better than to try to run. Instead she thanked the mum of the group for the watermelon again and then took off towards her family with her slice, her father scooping her up and into his arms as soon as she was within reach.
"Sorry about that, Flint." Harry Potter ruefully called over to the former Quidditch captain.
"You deserve her, Potter." Was the man's nasty reply.
Trusting that his daughter had annoyed the Slytherin quite a bit for however long she'd been hanging out with the Flint family Harry just shook his head, fighting back a grin as he headed off to put some space between their families.
They'd packed up all their stuff and were ready to go when James belatedly realized that he was no longer wearing his cap. His mum making him remember where he'd seen it last the redhead assured them he knew where it was and told them to wait while he went to get it. Running over to where he thought he'd left it James didn't have to walk along the nearby pond long before he thankfully spotted the bright blue cap. Picking it up and shoving it into his back pocket since he didn't want to wear it, James made sure it was going to stay there and then started walking back the way he'd come, his eyes happening to land on a group of nearby lily pads. Resting there among the pads was a water lily, fully open and beautiful. He bet his mum would sure like it.
Tilting his head thoughtfully James came to a decision quick, slipping out of his sandals and leaving them on the bank walked over to step carefully into the pond, making a face as his feet squished into the mud. But it wasn't too deep and the water was only slightly past his knees when he got to the lily pads and carefully removed the flower from its resting place, getting as much of the stem as possible.
Cradling it carefully between his hands James made it back up to the bank without trouble, rubbing his feet against the grass to scrape off some of the mud.
And it was when he looked down to see how much mud he'd gotten on him that he saw the strange black blobs clinging to his legs. There were five of them…what were they?
Tucking the lily behind his ear so that his hands were free, James reached down and tried to brush them off without luck, making him frown. Grasping one between his fingers he pulled, whatever it was coming off this time. Bringing it up to study, it slowly dawned on the boy what it was.
Dropping it to the ground with a yelp James started to dance around, too freaked to process the fact that he should be trying to get them off.
"What's wrong with you?"
"Stand still NOW."
Freezing in reaction to the authoritative voice James looked down as he watched the man who'd spoken get down on one knee in front of him, silently marveling at how big the stranger was. His hair was really long and white too, though he wasn't that old. His hair smelled good.
Somehow calmed by that James tried unsuccessfully to see what the man was doing to remove the leeches, feeling the scrape of nails against his skin. It didn't hurt, and as long as he couldn't see the things it wasn't so bad, he decided. "You're getting them off, right?"
"That would be the point, yes."
When the man got back to his feet James studied the blood streaks on his legs, blinking in surprise when water seemed to come out of nowhere to hose them down. Following the line of the spray James studied the man's wand for a second and then craned his neck back to meet his rescuer's gaze. "Thanks. I'm James. Who are you?"
"Wren." Was the man's short reply, his face expressionless. And then bandages magically appeared from the man's wand to wrap around James's legs, covering the small wounds. "When you get home have your mum wash the area with soap and water, just to be on the safe side. That last one had you good."
"Okay." And totally calm now James finally noticed the large black dog sitting patiently nearby, watching them. "Is that your dog? What's his name?"
James gaped at the man. "You can't call a dog 'Dog'! That's stupid. You should call him Sirius after the Dog Star. Or Padfoot. He looks like a Padfoot."
For a moment Wren's lips twitched as though he were fighting a smile. "You expect me to change the name of MY pet because some random little boy with a flower in his hair told me to?"
Blinking in surprise it took James a moment to remember that he had stuck the water lily behind his ear earlier so as not to lose it. He must look so girlie, the horrified boy realized, hastily pulling it out as his cheeks went as red as his hair.
"JAMES! MUM SAYS TO QUIT DAWDLING OR ELSE!"
Turning his head at the sound of his brother's voice James sighed and then turned back to the man who was definitely smirking at him now.
Potter/Weasley pride smarting James moved in close and grabbed the surprised man's hand, setting the water lily there. "This is thanks for helping me. It goes with your hair."
And on that note James grabbed his sandals and then took off towards his waiting family, grinning all the way since he was sure he'd gotten the better of Wren Whatever-his-last-name-was.