The Sugar Quill
Author: Catherine Cook (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Too Long at the Fair: A Weasley Romance  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

"Now, everybody remember to meet here at the Horticulture Building at twelve o'clock sharp. Understood?"

"Yes, mother," said a ragged chorus of voices, all but one of them male.

"Right," said Molly Weasley, who was already starting to look slightly frazzled, even though it was only seven o'clock in the morning; they’d been in the United States nearly a week, but her internal clock had yet to fully adjust. Even without the time lag, trying to ride herd on both a gadget-happy husband and a passel of rambunctious children is never an easy task, and when one is visiting a very large Muggle fair, the task becomes nearly impossible.

Arthur’s gadget mania was why they were here in the first place. His Ministry post had required him to attend several similar, though much smaller, Muggle fairs in England and Scotland, and he’d heard about this American fair, the largest of them all, whilst attending one of them

"Now, Ron, you stay with me and your father and we'll try to keep him from falling into one of those contraptions on Machinery Hill. Fred and George," and here Molly turned towards the twins, "you are to take Ginny to the Heritage Square exhibits and stay with her."

"Yes, Mum," said the twins, though they didn't look too happy about it. For her part, Ginny blushed sullenly, turning nearly as red as the famous Weasley hair that graced her dainty head.

"Very well," smiled Molly, a touch tightly. "Back here at twelve o'clock sharp, on the dot. And do remember to have fun." Then she grasped Arthur's arm in one hand, Ron's in the other, and set off north on Underwood Street, towards the large shiny Muggle tractors and such that drew her husband to this spot in the American Middle West like a moth to a flame.

I hate being treated like a child, Ginny thought darkly, turning to follow Fred and George south down Underwood Street, wending their way through a morning crowd that already numbered in the thousands.

But after all, this was the Minnesota State Fair, the largest Muggle Fair in America. Of course it would be packed with people. Even so, Ginny had never seen so many people in one place, and it frightened her more than a little.

It didn’t help matters that Fred and George, who had been entrusted with a copy of the map of the fairgrounds, couldn’t be bothered to actually study it. Instead, they gave it to Ginny, then commenced to gaping openly at the young Muggle girls all around them. Most of them had on outfits that concealed far less than what most young witches wore for nightgowns.

"Look at the one in the purple drawstring top," George whispered to his twin. "That top wouldn't cover a Quaffle!"

"Don't look too hard," mumbled Fred. "Her boyfriend looks like he could be a Beater for England."

Ginny, who was forced by her mother to wear a horribly out-of-fashion fluffy white pinafore with matching stockings and shoes, could only glower in silence as she watched the Muggle girls prance by in their attention-getting garments.

"Why are we walking this way?" she said as they kept walking south on Underwood. "Heritage Square's to the north and west." Seeing their suddenly blushing faces, she realized what they were up to:

"Oh, I see -- you want to go to the Midway, because that's where all of the Muggle girls are headed."

"Erm," Fred said, with a slightly uneasy grin.

"Well, since I wouldn't dream of inconveniencing my disgusting brothers, why don't I just go find Heritage Square myself?" said Ginny, stalking off in a huff.

Ginny had stomped nearly half a block before she realized that she was going in the wrong direction to reach Heritage Square, and yet another half a block before she realized that she didn't care.

I hate being made to wear silly foo-foo clothes when everyone else is wearing cool stuff, she thought, the soles of her white patent-leather shoes clicking against the concrete of the sidewalk, and I hate being treated like a child, and I hate being treated like a damper on everyone's fun, and I just hate this.

She was so busy nursing her anger that she almost didn't see the large cage of angora rabbits.

"Oh, pardon me," she said, swerving just in time to avoid bumping into the holder of the cage, a boy about her age. She was more than a little embarrassed: Mum and Dad had specifically told her to watch out for this sort of thing, as Muggles couldn’t Levitate things to get them out of harm’s way. "Here -- let me help you with that."

The boy looked at her with astonishment written on his lightly freckled features. "Are you sure you want to do that? I mean, with your really nice dress on?" he said, his brown eyes meeting her blue ones.

Ginny looked at him -- so sweet, so kind he seemed, and with such adorable bunnies in his care! -- and replied, "Don't worry, I've got loads of dresses like this at home."

"You do?” said the Muggle boy, his tousled brown hair falling into his eyes.

"Well, not really," said Ginny, blushing and looking away for a moment. "But I don't mind, not at all," she finished, with an air of determination.

Willfully disregarding everything her mother had said earlier about not getting her dress dirty, Ginny lifted up one end of the cage and looked adoringly at its two occupants, a beautifully matched pair of grey Angora rabbits. "Ready?" she said.

"Ready," said the Muggle boy. Together they walked, slowly and carefully, into the building and placed the cage in its designated spot.

"Thanks," said the Muggle boy, once the cage was in its proper place. "The 4-H judges will be along any minute now, so I’ve gotta get these guys squared away.”

“4-H-?” said Ginny.

“It’s a youth group. It stands for ‘Head, Heart, Hands and Health’.” It’s pretty big in rural areas.”

“You live on a farm?”

“Yeah.” The boy stroked one of the rabbits with a finger he poked between the thin metal bars of the cage. “By the way: My name's Charlie -- Charlie Brown," he said, with a slight grimace.

"Why do you frown like that?" said Ginny. "What's wrong with your name?"

Charlie Brown looked at her, unbelieving, for a moment. Then the light dawned on him. "Oh, you're from England, right? Your accent and all.”

“Erm, yes.”

“Then you probably must not have 'Peanuts' in England."

"Peanuts? Of course we have peanuts in England -- we don't grow them there, but we certainly know what they are --" Ginny stopped, because she realized that Charlie was laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"I just realized -- if you're from England, you probably wouldn't know -- 'Peanuts' is also the name of an American comic strip. You know, like what you see in the newspapers?"

Ginny nodded; she had seen some British Muggle newspapers, and now even some American ones, as a result of her father's job with the Ministry of Magic.

"Well, the star of the strips is a kid called 'Charlie Brown'."

Ginny started to giggle, but then smothered it. "Oh, I see. Do you get teased over it?"

Charlie smiled a sweet, self-depreciating grin. "Yeah, but it's not that bad. I'm used to it."

"I would never tease you about it," said Ginny, with perfect gravity.


"My name's Ginny, Ginny Weasley."

"Nice to meet you, Ginny."

And then there was a pause, a long pause, while the two of them gazed at each other from across the rabbit cage, wondering who would dare to break the shimmering silence.

She's so beautiful, Charlie thought, looking at her porcelain skin, her red hair framing her doll-like face. Like an angel...

He's so handsome, Ginny thought, looking at his untidy brown hair, his warm, kind brown eyes.

Without willing it, their hands stole around the cage and met, shocking them both out of their shared reverie.

"Charlie?" called a female voice. "How are we coming with the rabbits?"

"Over here, Mom," sang out Charlie, looking over past Ginny's shoulder from his vantage point on the other side of the cage. Ginny turned around to see a Muggle lady of about her own mother's age coming towards them. Her brown eyes crinkled in surprise at the sight of Ginny.

"Mom, this is Ginny Weasley from England," Charlie said. "She helped me move the cage. Ginny, this is my mother, Janelle Brown."

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Brown," said Ginny, shaking Charlie's mother's hand.

"Likewise, I'm sure, Ginny," said Mrs. Brown. "Where did you get that darling dress?"

"My mum made it for me."

"Oh, it's beautiful! But you shouldn't be hauling rabbit cages around while wearing it -- what would your mother say?" Mrs. Brown started rummaging around in her purse. "You've already got a spot on it, but I think I can get it off -- hold on while I check my purse --"

Ginny looked beseechingly towards Charlie, who rolled his eyes skyward. "Oh, Moooooom!” he cried, but it was too late: his mother had found her packet of wet towellettes and was already dabbing at the offending spot.

Charlie looked as if he wanted to sink through the concrete floor of the 4-H building.

Fred and George were having the time of their lives walking the Midway, hardly hearing the carnival barkers on all sides clamoring for them to try their hands at ring tossing or duck shooting, as they tried not to gape too openly at the barely-dressed Muggle girls all around them.

"Mum would have a heart attack if she saw what some of these girls are wearing," whispered Fred.

"Or not wearing," George whispered back. "And what they are wearing looks as if it was painted onto their bodies."

"I wish I'd brought my camera," said Fred fervently.

Just then, a particularly attractive Muggle girl, whose lacy top wouldn't have properly covered a Snitch and whose jeans were so tight she was having trouble walking, came into view. She caught sight of the twins and flashed them a brilliant smile, which they returned somewhat weakly.

"We've GOT to get Dad to bring us back here next year," whispered George.

"Amazing!” said Arthur Weasley, staring happily at the small red-painted tractor on which his son Ron was sitting. "And you say that this is an older model?"

"Yup-per," said the old man next to it, his hand resting on it in an attitude of fond ownership. "This Farmall Cub was built in 1952, and that's when I bought it."

"The design looks so beautifully clean and modern," said Arthur, as Ron felt the heft of the steering wheel and gear shifter. "Do you still use it, Mr. Malloy?"

The man's leathery weather-beaten face split with a wide grin. "Every single day, Mr. Weasley, every single day. During the spring I use it to plow the fields, during the fall I attach a picker unit to harvest the corn, during the winter I put a snowplow blade in the front and use it to clear out my driveway, and most other times I have a belly mower mounted on it to cut the grass."

"Really?" said Ron, feeling a fondness already for the little Cub, as mowing the grass at The Burrow was usually his job. "I'll bet this would make short work of any lawn."

"It sure does," agreed Mr. Malloy, his blue eyes glinting.

"How much does one of these tractors cost nowadays?" asked Arthur, much to Molly Weasley's horror.

"Oh, about a thousand to thirty-five hundred dollars, depending on the shape it's in and whether or not it comes with any attachments -- though compared to a brand new tractor of the same horsepower, it's a bargain no matter what. New ones like this start at around ten thousand dollars."

"Hmmmm." Arthur was furiously calculating how many Galleons made up a thousand dollars. Molly Weasley saw the longing look in her husband's eye, and tightened her already-rigid grip on his arm. "I wonder if any collectors might trade for a British tractor?"

"Oh, they might, but shipping is so expensive. It'd have to be a very good deal."

"Shipping won't be a problem," smiled Arthur Weasley as Molly's heel dug into his foot. "I can deliver and pick up the tractors at little or no cost."

Mr. Malloy's eyes grew wide for a moment, then his smile got even wider. "Well, in that case," he said, "if you can find me a Nuffield U.4. with the Perkins engine, I'll trade you another Cub I have, the same as this little feller here, straight up, no cash needed, and I'll throw in all the attachments."

"You will? Oh, I say, that's splendid!" Arthur put out his hand. "Let's shake on it," he said, as his wife gritted her teeth.

Ginny was sitting on a metal folding chair next to the rabbit cage, holding one of the rabbits in her lap and offering it a small carrot. "So this one is Mopsa and the boy one is Fleance?"

"Uh-huh," nodded Charlie, who was standing by the open cage door, stroking Fleance's fur. "Except that my bratty sister likes to call them 'Mopsa Flopsa' and 'Fleecy Fleance'. Mopsa’s name comes from A Winter’s Tale and Fleance’s name comes from Macbeth."

"You read Shakespeare?" Ginny asked, pulling some fleece from Mopsa's back, to Mopsa's evident tranced-out pleasure.

"My mom does. She read all the plays to us when we were little."

"Wow," said Ginny. "Have you been to the theater to see them performed?"

"A couple of times. The Guthrie in Minneapolis does lots of Shakespeare, though they like to do it in modern settings -- people wearing Twentieth Century street clothes and stuff like that."

Ginny giggled as Mopsa lightly nibbled at her fingers. "Sounds like it's loads of fun."

Charlie grinned. "It is.”

The 4-H building was starting to fill with people. "Well, it's showtime, guys," said Charlie, putting Fleance back into the cage, where he was soon joined by Mopsa. Charlie locked the cage and gave each of the rabbits one last rub through the wire.

Charlie turned to Ginny. "Have you seen the rest of the Fair yet?"

A guilty look stole over Ginny's face. "Not really -- I'm supposed to be at Heritage Square with my brothers, but they decided to go to the Midway instead."

Charlie snorted. "I'll bet I know why. Tell you what -- how about we go to Heritage Square right now? That way you'll be telling the truth when you tell your mom you were there. It's actually pretty cool."

"But what about Mopsa and Fleance?"

"Oh, they'll be fine in their cage and they've got food and water and fresh bedding. We'll just be in the way here. Just let me tell Mom first." He turned his head towards where his mother was standing and talking with another 4-H mother. "Mom?"

Mrs. Brown looked over towards her son. "Yes?"

"I'm going to take Ginny over to Heritage Square, OK?"

"Did you clean out the cage and put in fresh food and water?"


"All right, but make sure you're back here by noon so we can all go to the beer garden for lunch. Ginny, would you like to have lunch with us?"

Ginny blushed slightly. "I'll ask my mother and father."

"You do that. In fact, tell them you're all welcome to sit with us."

"I will."

"See you later, Mom," said Charlie. Then he and Ginny set off for Heritage Square.

Heritage Square really did turn out to be pretty cool. There were lots of handicraft booths, places selling handmade soaps and perfumes and the like. The merchants were all wearing what Ginny knew from her Muggle Studies class to be Nineteenth Century American Muggle clothing, and they all oohed and ahhed over her pinafore, which suddenly became a good deal less odious to Ginny.

"You should have your boyfriend get you this crystal pendant," said a comfortably plump
lady at one booth, where Ginny had been looking longingly at the wares. "It goes so well with your dress."

"He's not my boyfriend!" Ginny spluttered, while Charlie turned beet-red. "I mean, not yet -- I mean -- we just met today!"

The lady smiled tolerantly. "That's all right, dear," she said, draping the pendant over Ginny's neck. "You should still have him get it for you."

"But this is too expensive --"

"She's right, Ginny," said Charlie, fishing out his wallet and counting out dollar bills. "It does look good on you. And it's not really that expensive -- honest."

"Mum will have a fit when she sees this, Charlie!" cried Ginny, taking off the pendant.

"Yeah, you're right," said Charlie, who reluctantly put away his wallet. "If she's anything like my mom, she'd think I was trying to -- well --"

They both turned red.

Having cast a black look at her troublesome twin sons, Molly Weasley nervously checked her watch. It was lacking but a few minutes of twelve, but everyone was safely back at the Horticulture Building. Everyone, that is, but Ginny.

Molly rounded on a red-faced Fred and George. "I'm telling you two right now, if anything has happened to her because of you --"

"Mum! Over here!"

"Ginny!" Molly turned towards the voice of her youngest child, ready to lecture her -- but the lecture died on her lips when she realized that Ginny wasn't alone.

"Hello, Mrs. Weasley," said a tall, smiling Muggle woman at Ginny's left. "I'm Janelle Brown, and this --" here she indicated with nod a thin, brown-haired man, standing next to a lad who was obviously their son "-- is my husband Daniel and our son, Charlie."

"Pleasure to meet you," said Molly and Arthur simultaneously, both somewhat dazed.

"Charlie raises rabbits for his youth club," said a smiling Ginny, who was holding one of those very rabbits in her arms.

"We were getting ready to have some lunch," said Mrs. Brown, not letting Molly have a chance to object. "You all are welcome to sit with us, if you like."

For once in her life, Molly Weasley was totally speechless -- and for once in his life, Arthur Weasley was able to get a word in edgewise. "That would be wonderful, Mrs. Brown," Arthur beamed, grasping his wife gently by the arm. "Can you make any recommendations as to where to eat?"

"There's lots of good restaurants over in the beer garden," said Mr. Brown, who greatly resembled his cheerfully attractive son. "And plenty of places to sit -- which is good, because Janelle's brought her Simplicity dress-pattern books."

Molly's eyes suddenly became a good deal less guarded. "You like to sew, Mrs. Brown?"

"Call me Janelle -- and yes, I love to sew." She patted the satchel at her side, which Molly's approving eye noted was the work of a talented amateur like herself. "I was oohing and aahing over Ginny's dress -- you never see pinafores that lovely anymore -- and I knew it had to be handmade."

"Well, let's all go to the beer garden, then," said Molly, grandly taking her husband's outstretched hand. "Lead the way, Janelle!"

The two families walked together towards the beer garden, with Arthur limping a bit because of his wife’s heel’s actions over by Mr. Malloy’s Farmall booth. The two husbands shared a conspiratorial smile as the two wives immediately became immersed in discussions of fabrics and styles -- "Oh, the awful things young kids wear today!" -- to the point where they might as well have been by themselves.

The mothers were so absorbed in their conversation, in fact, that they never noticed that Charlie and Ginny, bringing up the rear of the party, were walking hand in hand.

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