Harry was, once again, being fed a paralyzing line of questions by Arthur Weasley, the muggle-obsessed father of the family, during a visit to the Weasleys’ home with Ginny and their children, James, Albus Severus, and Lily. And while he was, in fact, after some consideration, able to explain rubber ducks to Mr. Weasley, this new topic was more unsettlingly random than any other topic Hany had encountered before. This was, in fact, his second greatest challenge since the Dark Lord himself. Mr. Weasley simply had to know:
“Harry, what are these electrical cooperatives?” He asked, hopefully. His childlike enthusiasm was never more prominent than in his inquiries into the nature of muggle technologies. He continued, saying, “I read about them once, in a muggle pamphlet I collected on a trip to America.”
Arthur was always collecting as much muggle information as possible, And Harry, having just finished explaining the general concept of electricity to Mr. Weasley, was exhausted by the prospect of having to find out what electric cooperatives were. But Harry could hardly refuse him, so he told Arthur he would “Look into it for you,” and left for the day. He could hardly wait to get out of Mr. Weasley’s sight for the night.
The next morning, before anyone could wake up to discover him, Harry slipped out of bed, taking care to avoid waking Ginny, and reluctantly took to the internet, remembering as much of his Muggle Studies lesson on the World Wide Web, as they called it, as he could to search for “Electric Cooperatives’’. The result he chose took him to a website full of information about Tennessee cooperatives. Good enough, right? Tennessee is a state in America, so this has to be what he wants to know, he thought. He began reading.
Harry was surprised at how intrigued he was. Muggle technologies hardly interested Harry, but he found himself reading page after page of this information that was completely useless to him. Behind a veil of curious excitement and nervous shame, he looked through as much information as he could. Harry learned more that day about muggles than he had any day since the Dursleys had left. He knew, for instance, that cooperatives, or “Co-ops” for short, power over 1.1 million places in Tennessee. They were responsible for the power in 1 in 3 Tennessee homes, giving power to 2.5 million Tennessee muggles 99.96 percent of the time. He kept reading and found out that they were not-for-profit, a muggle way of saying that they weren’t greedy, and that they were owned and regulated by their members. Their members, of course, were their customers and the people that owned the cooperatives themselves. Harry knew that to Arthur this would all be very confusing. He braced himself for the hours he knew were ahead of him and kept reading.
Harry thought that these electric cooperatives would be something Hermione would like, recalling her role in S.P.E.W and her obsession with house elves during their fourth year at Hogwarts. This was because the businesses gave 2,600 people jobs in rural areas, gave to philanthropic causes, and paid 63 million dollars, American muggle money, in taxes that went towards roads, schools, and parks. Cooperatives also saved Tennesseans millions of dollars on prescriptions and medical bills with what was called the Co-op Connections Card. Harry had thought he would be explaining something simple to Arthur, but now Harry could see his future conversation with Mr. Weasley growing longer and more complex by the minute. Nevertheless, Harry forged ahead and kept reading.
Electric cooperatives are full of some really big numbers. Harry thought as he discovered that, in addition to all of the other gigantic numbers he had to remember to tell Mr. Weasley about, 83,000 miles of power lines, the “wires in the air” that he had explained to Arthur yesterday, were maintained by the co-ops. These and the other equipment used by the co-ops cost in total 2.8 billion American dollars, which was about 2 billion pounds. Harry hoped the conversion would help Arthur understand; muggle money was also beloved to Arthur, and Harry knew he understood it at least marginally. Harry remembered the other money-related facts he learned and made a mental note to tell Arthur all of the dollar amounts, such as the $94 million in wages and benefits earned by co-op employees and the $4 million in economic development loans co-ops had secured in 2013, in pounds.
Satisfied with everything he had learned, Harry Potter closed the webpage he had opened and prepared himself for the conversation with Arthur Weasley that was imminently looming over him. Armed with a few notes and the knowledge he had gathered, Harry stepped into the living room of the Weasleys’ home to find Arthur awake, reading The Daily Prophet. Harry looked at him as he put the paper down and cracked a smile Harry knew all too well. It was the smile of Arthur’s muggle curiosity, and for once, Harry was happy to oblige.