Many thanks to B for an awesome beta read. It’s very much appreciated.
Revised 08/05/2005 to be more canon-compliant.
"Would you please put your trousers back on?"
Charlie turned around in some surprise. "Eh? What do you mean, Bill?"
Bill shook his head as he opened a cupboard. "Look, it's nice that you feel home enough in my apartment that you can just walk around without them on, but black silk boxers? While I'm thinking about trying to eat--"
"Breakfast?" Charlie held out a plate of eggs. "I just finished them. Sit down."
Bill eyed them suspiciously. "You made these?"
"No, I had Mum drop them off. She says hello. Honestly, Bill, just because I didn't get 12 OWLs or 10 NEWTs or wasn't Head Boy doesn't mean I can't cook."
"No, but the fact that I've seen you burn water counts against you." Bill poked them cautiously. "You used chicken eggs?"
"Nope, figured me out again. I have a store of dragon's eggs and instead of taking them to Romania, I made breakfast with them. I can't put anything past you, can I?"
Bill ignored that and took a bite. "I've made worse," he conceded.
"Praise from on high," Charlie muttered, sitting down and starting on his own plate. "A letter came while you were in the shower," he said, handing it over.
Bill set it down. "Thanks."
"It looks official."
Bill nodded. "From Gringotts."
"I hope everything's all right."
"Aren't you going to open it?"
"While I'm eating? One thing at a time."
"What if it's really urgent?"
Bill snorted. "Oh, yes, so very urgent they need a junior curse-breaker, second-class."
"They could." Charlie grinned. "What if you're in trouble?"
Bill looked at him. "Right. For showing up every day and doing exemplary work. I'm quaking."
Charlie glowered a little.
"What? I only speak the truth."
"Yes, but you don't have to be so smug about it."
Bill shrugged. "These eggs are quite good, you know."
"How can you let that letter just sit there? It's from your job!"
"If it's urgent, it'll still be urgent five minutes from now. If it's trouble, I'll still be in trouble five minutes from now. If it's a routine form, it'll still be a routine form five--"
"Minutes from now."
"Exactly." Bill got up and poured a glass of orange juice. "You want some?"
Charlie didn't answer, still looking at the letter.
Bill sighed. "You open it, if you're so curious."
"You're not afraid of me opening your official mail?"
"Call me crazy."
"All right, you're crazy." Charlie picked it up and broke the seal. His jaw dropped.
Bill was a little alarmed at this point. "What?"
"You--you're in trouble! I mean...I was just joking, but...who’d you piss off?"
"What?" Bill grabbed the letter and went very still.
"Bill? Bill, come on, it's okay. You can come to Romania with me. I mean, I know you didn't like Care of Magical Creatures that much, but dragons aren't that bad, honestly, and you're smart, you'll do well, and maybe in a few years you can try again, and that person will be retired and--"
Bill's voice was very low. "You."
"Me?" Charlie sputtered. "Me? How could this be my fault? How can you blame me? You messed up, for once in your life, and you can't blame me!"
Bill leaped out of his chair, knocking Charlie down in the process. "You're a sick man!"
"Oh, sure, it's my fault! When I'm actually innocent this time and you know it..you always blame me!" Charlie pushed Bill off him.
Bill shoved him as he got up. "You nearly gave me a heart attack, idiot. I haven't been demoted, I've been promoted."
"How do you mean?" Charlie snatched the letter. " 'Dear Mr. Weasley...' Boring...ah, here it is. 'Due to your recent performances, you will be transferred to the Cairo branch of Gringotts Bank no later than September 1st.' That's good, how?"
"That's Egypt! Cairo!"
"Exactly. You're in France now. France is--"
"Empty. There's no treasure here. They send us here to train, to get our feet wet. Egypt, China, South America, that's where the treasure is. That's where the curses are. Only really good employees get sent to Cairo, too, because that's the main treasure find--" Bill stopped and stared as he processed exactly what Charlie had said. "You're going to Romania? You decided?"
Charlie blinked. "Uh...no. You've upset my eggs, Bill. Now what am I supposed to eat for breakfast?"
Bill ignored that. "Yes, you did! You told me to go with you with the dragons, so you're not going to play for the Magpies?"
"No, you're not playing for the Magpies."
Bill tried to think his way through that, but had to admit defeat. "What?"
"I couldn't take you to Quidditch with me! But anyone can do dragons. Now that you're not in trouble, I'll decide for me, not for you." Charlie scooped the eggs back onto his plate, considered it, and switched plates with Bill.
Bill raised an eyebrow. "Do you ever listen to yourself when you talk? I'm not thick. You have decided."
"Dragon dung," Charlie mumbled.
"When did you decide?"
"A few days ago...I was all set to sign the contract, but then those little girls down the street--those blond ones--came out and were playing with their little dragon dolls..." He shrugged. "I don't want to play Quidditch professionally. I want to go work on the dragon reserve. So...I sent in my paperwork." He took a bite of Bill's eggs.
"When do you leave?"
"I haven't got the owl back yet. I might not get in."
"You will. That's excellent news, Charlie."
"Yeah, but now I have to tell Mum that I've decided to give up a nice, safe Quidditch career to chase dragons. She doesn't like the idea of Bludgers; what's she going to say about firebreathing beasts?"
"Best of luck, mate."
Charlie grinned. "You have bad news for her, too, you know. Egypt is further away than France. I know, I'll soften the news of my dragons with your Egypt."
"Not if I soften my Egypt with your dragons first."
They eyed each other for a long moment. Bill glanced at Charlie's boxer shorts and Apparated.
Bill looked at the clock the moment he appeared in the Burrow. Charlie's hand hadn't moved--the fact that Bill was dressed while Charlie still had to pull some clothes on was working for him. But he knew he didn't have much time.
Fred and George were sitting by the fire when he popped in. They jumped up as if to hide some misdeed. "Hi, Bill," George said innocently. "We didn't realize you'd be coming by now--today."
Normally, Bill would have greatly enjoyed taking the time to make them squirm. But there was no time for such things today. He looked at the other names on the clock; Percy was the only other one at home. "Mum took Ron and Ginny to Diagon Alley?"
They nodded. "Ron needs his school supplies," Fred answered,"and Ginny wanted to go."
Charlie's hand moved to "lost." Bill grinned--he'd known the normal Apparation point out of France was closed for the day, but he'd been sure Charlie didn't. He had a few extra minutes, but he still needed to hurry. "I need you two to do me a favor."
They looked at each other. "What do you want us to do?" Fred asked.
"Charlie's coming by in a few minutes. When he comes, take whatever you're doing there and make a mess of it. Make it so he can't, in good conscience, leave without helping to straighten it up. And he'll ask where Mum is--you know he never remembers to look at the clock. Don't tell him. Will you do it?"
"Do we have to make a mess of this, specifically?" George asked.
Bill stared at them. "I really don't care how you stall Charlie as long as you stall him."
They grinned at each other. "We can do that," George assured him.
"I'll owe you--thanks." He glanced at the clock again, and disappeared.
Bill looked around. Charlie wasn't a fool--he was going to remember the clock, and with Percy at the house, whatever disaster the twins cooked up wouldn't last that long. He needed to find Mum and quickly.
He turned around. "Ron--Ginny! I am so glad to see you!"
"What're you doing here?" Ginny asked. "I didn't know you would be at Diagon Alley, too--Fred and George are going to be mad--but, ha, they said they didn't want to come. What are you buying? Can I help you pick it out?"
Bill jumped in when she stopped for a breath."I dropped by the Burrow, actually, and I saw that you three were here to get Ron's supplies. I thought I'd try to find you. Where is Mum?"
Ron pointed. "Over there, looking at pets. She's getting an owl for Percy, for making prefect."
Bill grinned a little. "Well, I can't offer you a pet, but what about sundaes? My treat?"
Ginny's eyes lit up. "Yeah! Come on, let's tell Mum." She dragged him over. "Mum, look, Bill stopped by and he offered Ron and me an ice cream. Can we?"
"What a nice surprise, Bill!" Mum checked the time and nodded. "The boys should be all right for a little while longer. Actually, why don't I start looking for your books at Flourish and Blotts, Ron, and then you can meet me there?"
"Oh, no! That is, I thought you'd join us."
"Oh, well, all right. Fortescue's first, then books."
"Thanks, Mum!" Ron and Ginny exclaimed.
When they got to the parlor, Bill picked a table as close to the center as possible. If Charlie did a cursory scan of the crowd, he might miss them.
Bill waited until everyone had their ice cream. He steeled himself and took a deep breath. "Mum?"
"I..." He decided to go with the tried and true. "I have some good news and some bad news. I could start with the bad news."
Ron and Ginny's heads shot up, and they began eating very fast, as if afraid of not being able to finish.
"All right..." Mum said slowly.
"Well, it's Charlie--" He stopped. No. There was no way Charlie was getting out of this, and if Mum heard the news from someone else...He cursed to himself, but he just couldn't do it.
Charlie was going to owe him big.
"Charlie?" she prompted.
"Is here! Look, there he is. Hey, Charlie, come join us!" Bill called.
Charlie blanched when he saw them, but squared his shoulders and walked to the table. "You win, Bill. Congratulations. Well, Mum?"
Charlie stared. "You mean, you don't care that I'm--"
"Here? Why would she care that you're here?" Bill interrupted, trying to get Charlie to look at him.
Charlie's mouth worked, but nothing came out at first. "You haven't told her yet?" he finally exclaimed.
"Told me what?" Mum demanded.
"You waited for me?"
Ron and Ginny's heads were whipping around like a pair of Sneakoscopes, following the conversation.
"What is going on?" Mum asked, but Bill didn't get a chance to reply.
"And you called me sick?" Charlie continued.
"I was trying--"
"You're the sick one, sicko!"
"Listen to me, I was just--"
"I'll just tell her myself, then, that--"
"Mum, I'm moving to Egypt!" Bill yelled.
Charlie's eyes widened. "Oh," he said quietly.
Ron and Ginny stared at him.
Mum blinked. "Egypt?" she repeated.
"Yes. I had the owl this morning. Gringotts wants to transfer me from Paris to Cairo."
"Well...I certainly hope that was the bad news."
Bill grinned at her. "It's both. Mum, this is a huge promotion for me. Junior curse-breakers don't usually get that chance. Cairo's the branch that pulls in the most treasure. We usually have to do a tour in South America or China, before we get to try Egypt."
Mum looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, I should have known, really, Head Boy, and top of your class--of course you'd be successful at this. Cairo--how exotic. This is really going to be an amazing opportunity for you. I think your father has some contacts in the Egyptian government, so we can look into that. When are you leaving?"
Bill was dazed at her businesslike demeanor. "I'm supposed to report no later than September 1st."
"Oh, we still have the whole summer yet to plan." She frowned and drummed her fingers on the table. "Although...you know Egypt has all those regulations. We should try to get you settled in as soon as possible. It will look good in your file if you get started sooner, anyway. Right. You'll staying for supper, then, to discuss this?" It wasn't really a question, though.
"We thought you'd never ask," Charlie answered.
"Good. Ron, we need to get your robes. Are you two coming with us?" she asked her older sons.
"Actually, we'll just head back to the Burrow. Fred and George--uh, they're giving Percy a bit of a time," Charlie replied.
Mum sighed. "I suppose I don't really want to know. You'll get it cleaned up and the evidence erased before I get home?"
Bill thought of the cauldron in the kitchen and nodded immediately.
Mum gave him a shrewd look. "I'll see you in a few hours, then. Thank you."
Bill wasn't sure they were even out of earshot before Charlie turned on him.
"You didn't tell?"
"Obviously." Bill began eating his ice cream.
"Are you mad?"
"Come to think of it, that didn't go so badly."
"She went into Super-Mum mode making plans. I think when it hits her that I'm actually moving to Egypt..."
"But you'll be safely out of the country when that happens."
Bill grinned. "There is that. You do realize you'll have to move back home after I leave--my apartment belongs to Gringotts."
"Yeah." Charlie sighed. "It was nice."
Charlie grinned. "Not wearing my trousers, of course."