The Sugar Quill
Author: Night Zephyr (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Endangered Species  Chapter: Chapter Three: Sorting It Out
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.


A/N : Fighting their way through holidays and term papers, out-of-state vacations and blockbuster movie grand openings--my wonderful betas never let me down! Many, many thanks again to
Christina Teresa, Seakays, and sunshyndaisies,
who are all quite simply The Best!

~ Chapter 3 ~
Sorting It Out

Ginny stopped talking for a few minutes, but she hadn’t stopped pacing. As she approached Ron’s bedside table, she picked up the tall glass of pumpkin juice, noting that the thick liquid was nearly half gone. She lifted the glass to her lips and took a long draught anyway, sighing as she set the glass back down.

The night was still warm, though the breeze helped. Still without a word, Ginny crossed to Ron’s wide-open window and stood in front of it, absorbing the luscious feeling of the cool breeze caressing her body anywhere that wasn’t covered by her camisole top and her summer skirt. The curtains fluttered around her and the wind blew through her hair, giving the appearance that she was flying.

Ron had flopped onto his back on the bed, his sunburned body sprawled in listless acceptance that the sun had won. He stared at the ceiling and appeared to be giving rapt attention to the Cannons players soaring above his head, but Ginny knew that her brother’s mind was working feverishly, trying to process all that she’d already told him about their rescue mission at the Department of Mysteries. She was also aware that he was trying to avoid staring at her and rushing her into telling more than she wanted to before she was ready to tell it.

Soon his concern for her would push him to ask--she just knew it. “You all right, Gin?”

Swinging around quickly, she responded, “Yeah, I’m okay. Just needed to take a break.”

“We can finish some other time, if you want,” he said, though his voice held a tone that told her he really didn’t want to wait.

“No, we’ll finish. I said I’d tell you, and that’s what I’m going to do,” she said determinedly, plopping back into the squashy chair again. “But there’s not much more I can tell you first-hand--they’re going to take me out of the picture in a minute. Then all I’ve got is what the others told me.”

“So the others were already there in the room with all the doors...” Ron prompted. “What did they say when we ‘dropped in’ on them?”

“They were surprised, obviously,” Ginny said. “Harry came running over first.” She noticed this made Ron smile a bit. “He started to ask if we were okay, but then you kind of fell forward and hung on him, telling him he looked all messed up. But he knew right away that something was very, very wrong with you. You were talking so madly...Harry told me afterwards there was blood running from the corner of your mouth--that it would make these little bubbles...”

“Ergh,” Ron said, his skin a bit green-tinged under the freckles. “Okay, I think I get the picture.” He was quiet for a moment before speaking very tentatively. “What did Hermione say when she saw me?”


Ron sighed in relief, apparently hoping Hermione hadn’t been revolted. “At least that’s good.”

Ginny shook her head. “No, it wasn’t. Hermione had already been hit by Dolohov’s curse by then. She was beyond talking.”

He looked concerned, even though Ginny knew he had been aware of Hermione’s injuries during the time they’d spent together in the hospital wing. Perhaps he just hadn’t envisioned her being that injured until now. “She’d passed out or something? They were trying to help her walk?”

“She was unconscious. Neville was carrying her over his shoulder.”

“Neville?” Ron acted as if he couldn’t believe his ears.

“Yes, Neville,” Ginny said pointedly. “Even after his wand and his nose were broken--he was still trying to carry her out. Harry told me later that at first they thought Hermione was dead because she was so still after the spell hit her.”

Ron got very quiet then. He seemed to be having trouble making all of Ginny’s information fit with the everyday personalities of the people he knew at Hogwarts. On the other hand, he could have been thinking about Hermione lying so still that she seemed dead.

“Then Harry asked what happened to you and me, but my ankle gave way when I tried to stand on it just then, and I couldn’t answer him,” Ginny said. “So Luna told him that she thought my ankle was broken, but that she didn’t know what they hit you with--just that you went all ‘funny’.”

“Funny?” Ron asked. “But all I did was talk to Harry a bit. What was so funny about that?”

“Well you did bring up the stupid Uranus thing again,” she said, sounding a bit disgusted. “And you kept talking about how you’d seen Uranus up close and you thought it was so funny and you were--” Ginny stopped, realizing she’d almost gone too far. “You were--” she knew Ron would notice if she didn’t think of something fast, “saying Harry looked all messed up--again.” She blurted out the last few words very quickly.

Ron narrowed his eyes at her. “You were going to say something else.”

“No, I wasn’t,” she lied.

“Yes, you were,” Ron said knowingly. “You’ve gone this far, Gin. Don’t start lying to me now or leaving parts out. I was--what?”

Ginny took a deep breath and sighed. She knew what his response was going to be. “You kept--giggling.” Wincing, she waited for the explosion.

“GIGGLING?” Ron roared, sitting up straight and throwing his feet to the floor. “I was giggling? At what, for Merlin’s sake?” He stood rigidly and began walking about, apparently trying to make sense of it. “Forgive me if I’m wrong, but there was nothing funny about any of that. Why the bloody hell was I giggling?” Now Ron was the one pacing like a caged tiger.

Ginny knew that would happen. She looked in exasperation at her hands in her lap. “I don’t know, Ron. We’ll probably never know. You were sick--you had a skull fracture--we don’t know what else by this time. You were pale as Sir Nicholas--there was blood coming from your mouth--you couldn’t stand or walk alone, for Merlin’s sake. Who knows why you were giggling? Anyway--”

“So that’s why Neville and Luna look at me so oddly sometimes,” Ron said. “And Hermione... She wasn’t awake then, but I’m sure she’s been told.” He shook his head. “That’s just great, you know?”

“Ron, you’re being paranoid,” Ginny assured. “They know how badly hurt you were. It wasn’t like you were doing it on purpose or because you really thought it was funny. They’re your friends, Ron--they know.”

“So Neville’s playing the hero alongside Harry and I’m--” Ron closed his eyes against the thought. He stood that way for a moment, then opened his eyes, blinking several times before sitting down somberly on the edge of the bed once more.

“Might I remind you that you threw yourself in front of me, Mr. Hero--or don’t I count?” Ginny asked.

Ron pressed his lips together and looked at her. “Of course you count.” Then he looked quietly into his lap a minute before throwing himself onto his back on the bed.

“Can I go on now?” Ginny asked. “Or do you want to finish another time?”

“No,” Ron mused. “Might as well give me all of it and get it over with. So everyone left in one piece had to help poor Ron...”

“Oh, stop it,” Ginny scolded. “Neville was already carrying Hermione, Harry asked Luna to help me--I wanted to walk myself, but I couldn’t--and Harry helped you. But we didn’t have much time to think about it anyway, because a door flew open and three Death Eaters came at us in the hallway. Harry didn’t know which door to try so he just went to the nearest one when they started firing Stunning Spells and threw you in, then he turned around to help get the rest of us in. He slammed the door against the Death Eaters, but we looked around and we were in the Brain Room again--with doors all around. So Luna and Neville tried to help Harry seal them all with “Colloportus!”, but the Death Eaters got through on one of Luna’s doors and knocked her out, too.”

“So now it was only you, Harry and Neville in your right minds against all of those Death Eaters?” Ron asked in disbelief.

“I’m afraid so. But that didn’t last long either,” Ginny said. “Although what happened next was very, very strange--and it was all your doing.”

“Oh, here comes the brain--” Ron said in apparent disgust with himself.

“That Bellatrix woman and four other Death Eaters had just come running into the room; we were sure they were going to start firing Stunning Spells. I had my wand ready, even though I was sitting on the floor because of my ankle, but I wasn’t about to let them do whatever they wanted to us. Harry and Neville were ready as well, and Harry was still holding the prophecy in front of him, hoping that they’d just go after him instead of all of us. Then you stood up and started talking about how weird the brains were.”

Ron slapped a hand over his eyes in frustration. “So who had to save me this time?”

“No one,” Ginny replied. “It was so strange. You staggered over to the brain tank and--I don’t even know how you did it--I mean, the Summoning Charm is a very difficult spell to perform. You didn’t know where you were or that you were in danger, you could barely walk, you were bleeding and pale and talking nonsense--and you walked right over to the Brain Tank and cast Accio Brain! perfectly--perfectly! None of us could believe that you could do magic so well when you were so--hurt.”

Ron was a little happier at that. “Wish I could have been there to see it.”

“Very funny. But then everything seemed to stop. Even the Death Eaters stopped to see what would happen--they didn’t even fire on us. Everyone awake in that room was watching that brain fly up from the tank and start to unwind these long sort of ribbons from underneath it. Harry yelled at you not to touch it, but you walked right up to it and it started wrapping those ribbons around you.”

“The slashes--that’s where the slashes came from,” Ron said.

“Exactly. First they covered your arms, then your chest. Harry was doing spells, trying to cut through the ribbons, but it didn’t work. The last thing I remember is yelling at Harry to save you because the brain was going to suffocate you.”

Ron looked up and into her eyes for a moment. “That’s when they hit you with the Stunner?”

“Yeah--I don’t remember it being too painful,” Ginny admitted. “Actually I don’t remember feeling anything at all until I woke up in the hospital wing. But when they hit me it left only Harry and Neville to fight five Death Eaters in that room and however many more elsewhere. Neville told me that Harry decided to run for it with the prophecy, hoping that if he took it with him, the Death Eaters would follow and leave us alone. And from what Neville said, they did follow him into the Death Room. Neville saw that you were managing to fight your own way out of the brain ‘tentacles’, enough that he thought you’d be all right, and since the Death Eaters were gone from the rest of us, he decided Harry needed his help worse than we did. So he followed Harry into the room, too.”

“That must be where the Order found them--because as good as Harry is at dueling, I still don’t see how he and Neville could have fought off nine or ten Death Eaters alone,” Ron said, shaking his head a little.

“Yeah, that was when the Order members came, but not before Bellatrix cast the Cruciatus on Neville for a bit.” Ginny noticed that Ron flinched at that. “Harry said Neville yelled to him not to let them have the prophecy no matter what. Then in the midst of the spells flying all over and ducking and moving, the Death Eaters cast the Tarantallegra Charm on Neville. Harry had a terrible time trying to get Neville out and in the middle of it all, Harry’s prophecy was smashed.”

Ron looked as if he remembered something. “Neville told us once that Harry’s prophecy was destroyed in the battle, but just then Madam Pomfrey came in and scolded him for not letting us rest. She was chasing him away because of me, even though she didn’t say so--and that was the only thing he’d told us.” Ron was quiet for a moment. “Harry never did tell me if he knew what the prophecy said, though.”

“It’s too hard for him, Ron--because it was right after that that Dumbledore came and took everything into his own hands, but not before--” Ginny looked down into her lap sadly.

“Sirius.” Ron sighed, looking away from his sister to give her emotional space, blinking especially quickly himself. “Did they tell you how it happened?”

Ginny nodded slowly and began to speak in a flat voice. “There was a stone archway with a black veil in the Death Room. You were walking around it once the first time we were in there. Neville said Sirius and Bellatrix Lestrange were dueling--they didn’t stop, even when Dumbledore came. Sirius was even laughing--taunting her--and then she hit him in the chest with a spell...It struck him so hard that he only just realized before he fell through the archway that she’d won. Then-- he was simply--gone.”

“Poor Harry,” Ron muttered.

“Apparently Harry tried to get his revenge on her for taking Sirius,” Ginny said. “Neville said Harry was screaming at her and he ran into the Atrium to find her. That’s where Voldemort appeared and the big duel between he and Dumbledore took place.”

Ginny felt absolutely worn out. The actual telling of the tale was nothing compared to carrying the emotional weight of almost living through the whole ordeal again. It was only a little less harrowing than going through it the first time, except that she didn’t have to be concerned about the physical danger--and this time, she could be comforted by the fact that she knew all but one of them had made it out alive.

She had watched Ron with concern most of the time she was recounting the events of that night. A bit fearful that he might have some reaction after his run-in with the brain, she was also worried that his thought patterns would suddenly do something strange. Though she realized she might end up in trouble for telling him, she felt better now that he knew. She could also tell he was far from satisfied with what his role in the whole rescue mission had been--but then, she thought, we don’t always get to choose what part we’ll play.

The two siblings sat in silence for some time, feeling the new freshness of the late-evening breeze whooshing through the windows as it ruffled their hair and cooled their skin.

“Poor Harry,” Ron finally repeated quietly. “He went through all of that --now he’s stuck with the stupid Muggles again for the summer. I need to let him know I know.”

“Hmm, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” Ginny said. “I mean, I’m sure he wants to hear from you--but regular stuff. Remember how Madam Pomfrey said it would take a long time for thoughts to heal? Think how long it takes for feelings to heal--especially feelings that run that deep. I know he wasn’t talking much at the end of the year, but that was his choice and everyone respected it. He probably needs to leave it alone right now--the Dursleys don’t know a thing about what happened in the DoM and he’ll have time to get better. But when he finally does start talking, you know you’ll be the first one he goes to.”

Ron sat silent for a minute. “Yeah. Hope so. I mean, I feel like I wasn’t there for him...”

“He knows why, Ron--and he doesn’t want you hurt more.”

“Yeah, but knowing the reason you can’t talk to someone is different than feeling you can tell someone if you need to,” Ron said sadly.

It was silent in the room for several minutes.

“I’ll owl him tomorrow,” Ron said quietly. He reached over to the bedside table and picked up the nearly-empty pumpkin juice glass. Ginny could tell he was making an effort to lighten the mood--that was Ron for you. “You drank it all, Gin! It’s a long walk down to the kitchen, you know. Surely you’re going down to get me more.”

“In your dreams, brother dear,” Ginny said, standing. “Because that’s where I’m going--to my dreams.” She threw him the almost-empty bag of Bertie Botts. “And here--I’ve left you all the dreadful ones.”

“Yum, the best part,” Ron said, trying to force a small grin. She could feel his eyes on her back as she walked to the door to go.

“Ginny?” he said softly.

She stopped at the threshold and turned sleepily his way. “Hmmm?”

“Thank you--” he said sincerely, “--for telling me. I owe you one--a big one.”

She gave him a weak, tired little smile. “No, you don’t. That’s just-- the way we are.” Ginny turned to leave again, then swung back around on him. “But if your brain explodes in the night or something, I know nothing.”

Ron scrunched his face at the thought, then shook his head, smiling. He waved her out of the door and she was more than grateful.

Her feet feeling like lead, Ginny was afraid she might not make it down the stairs and to her bed before she fell fast asleep on them. But she did-- only just.


“Cleaning the closet today, Gin?” Ron asked as he dried and shoved the last of the breakfast dishes into the cupboard. He picked up the wet dishtowel and whirled it by its corner, helicopter-fashion, over his head. As he let go, the dishtowel flew across the room, hit the drying rack without hooking on, and promptly fell into the dustbin below--along with his mother’s apron and most of the clean pot holders that had been stored on the rack as well.

Ron’s eyes went wide. “Damn! It worked yesterday.” He rushed to the dustbin to rescue everything before his mother wandered in.

Ginny laughed uproariously from where she stood poised to head into the living room. “Well done!” she said between peals of laughter. “But look, you left one pot holder up there!”

“Shut up, Gin!” Ron hissed, trying to shake off bits of egg and bacon from the apron before clumsily hanging it back on the rack next to the salvaged towel. Trying to grab all of the pot holders in the wastebin all at once, he muttered “ergh” before peeling one of them from his now jam-covered hand. “At least I’m going to get out of working on the garden fence. Just you wait.”

“I’m sure you are,” Ginny said sarcastically. “What flimsy excuse are you using today? And...” she tilted her head, “...listen.”

Perking his ears just in case, Ron heard the creaking of the wooden stairs--and he knew just who it would be coming down. Muttering expletives under his breath, Ron rushed to the laundry bin to quickly toss in the one sticky pot holder, thought better of it, retrieved and tossed them all in, then hurried to the sink to wash off his hand. “You’ll see.”

Ginny studied the rather empty drying rack by her side, then smiled at her brother. “You’d better hope she doesn’t.”

Ron wiped his wet hand on his shirt, walked to Ginny and turned her around by the shoulders, then pushed her into the living room to meet their mum before she made it to the kitchen.

“All right,” Molly Weasley started, walking up to her two youngest children and setting down a few empty boxes on the floor. “Done with breakfast and ready for a good day’s work, right?”

Both of them nodded without much enthusiasm.

“Ginny, these boxes are for you,” Mrs. Weasley explained. “I’m quite sure you may find one or two things in the closet that belong elsewhere in the house. Pack them in here and distribute them where they belong once you’re done rearranging everything in the closet.”

“Better hope you don’t run across a dead puffskein or two,” Ron whispered to Ginny. “Fred and George never did find that last one of mine--poor thing.”

She wrinkled her nose and fired an evil look at him.

“--And Ron--you’re nailing the garden fence today, right?” Mrs. Weasley asked as she turned toward the kitchen, though Ron thought it was kind of silly to ask when she only expected to hear one certain answer.

But this time she wasn’t going to get it. “Erm, no.”

Ginny turned to look at him in shock, just before it registered with Molly what Ron had said.

Be ready for the look, Weasley, be ready. Don’t let her get to you--you have a good reason--you do. Bloody hell, here it comes!

Mrs. Weasley whipped her head around, hands on her hips, and fixed a stare on Ron that would have frightened an angry Hippogriff. “What?” she snapped.

Ron winced, but kept his eyes leveled on hers. “Erm, no?” Hold your voice steady, you prat. He noticed that Ginny was watching this event with amused interest.

“And why, may I ask, not?” Molly questioned.

“Look, Mum, yesterday I was out in the sun almost all day de-gnoming the garden,” Ron explained. “I tried a Non-Solarburn Charm, but you know they never work on me--well, on any of us really. If I’m out in the sun again all day today...and the scars...”

“Let’s have a look at you, then.” Molly took a deep breath and sauntered up to Ron, inspecting any exposed skin from head to toe beyond his shorts, trainers, and undershirt. Waggling her finger in circles in the air to indicate he should turn, he obliged to show that he was quite pink and toasty on all sides. Mrs. Weasley grabbed one of Ron’s wrists and held his arm up to the light to check the thought scars. She was much too quiet for Ron’s taste for several minutes, then she tapped her forefinger on her chin. “Well, Poppy did say it takes a while for those to heal. Perhaps too much sun wouldn’t be good for them.”

Ron and Ginny both waited with bated breath for the decision: Ginny because she apparently couldn’t believe that Ron might actually get away with this, and Ron, because he had other things planned if he didn’t have to work today.

“All right, then,” Mrs. Weasley said slowly, causing Ginny’s lip to curl in anger as she turned toward Ron, and Ron to grin like a man reprieved.

“All right, then,” Ron repeated, sighing in relief. “Thank you, Mum.” He stepped off, heading toward the stairs and his room.

“Ron,” Mrs. Weasley said, “where do you think you’re going?”

Ron stopped and turned in confusion. “Well, you just said--”

“I just said--” Molly interrupted, “that you don’t have to work in the sun today. But we’ve got plenty of work in the shade as well.” She seemed to consider something before making the last statement. “You can clean out your father’s shed.”

He almost laughed--almost. “That tiny--I mean-- erm, okay.” Yes!! I’ll be done in two hours, tops! He was trying not to let his exuberance show through to his mum, but when she turned to walk away from him, he made a victorious “told you so” face at his sister.

“Come along, Ron,” his mother urged.

Ginny sneered at him and picked up one of the empty boxes, then headed irritably for the closet.

“Oh, yes, and you’ll need your wand. Quickly, please,” Mrs. Weasley added.

Although that was an unexpected request from his mum and he momentarily wondered why he would need it, Ron turned to take the stairs two at a time and climb to his room. He grabbed his wand from the bedside table. Get this over with, get out of the heat, and get back to doing something I want to do--yes!

Ron followed his mother outside to the rickety little shed the Weasley children had always suspected was once an extra chicken coop. In order to appease her husband and his voracious appetite for collecting anything Muggle, Molly had assured him that she would allow him to keep anything and everything he could fit in that shed. As long as they kept their arms down, two people could stand next to one another inside when the shed was empty, but that was about all. Even if the thing was filled to the top, Ron thought, how long could it take to organize it all? Ha--I’ll be writing to Harry by lunchtime! If only I could owl Hermione in Bermuda...But then there’s that new broom catalog we got in Diagon Alley...and the Quidditch team draft on the wireless...

“I hadn’t planned on having either one of you start on this until we saw how much time we had left before going to Headquarters,” Molly said. “But once we start, we may as well have you work on it until it’s done. Your father’s been meaning to start on it for some time, but what with his double shifts between the Ministry and the Order... Well, at least the sun won’t get to you.”

Ron was having trouble trying not to snigger. What the hell was the woman talking about? Even his tiny little closet in his room was bigger than this.

As Mrs. Weasley uttered Alohomora! Ron wondered why his mum had even insisted on bringing him out here herself. The latch lifted, the lock flipped open, and both narrow little doors swung wide, empty shed.

Ron stared at the bare floorboards and couldn’t help but let a large grin escape. “Ha!--I mean, he must have cleaned it out himself.”

Molly Weasley gazed at her son with something bordering on sympathy. “No, dear. No, he hasn’t. Come along.” She stepped inside the shed and gestured for him to move into the spot at her side.

Ron furrowed his brow in confusion, but ducked under the doorway and squeezed his tall frame into the space next to his mother, managing to take up nearly all of the room that was left.

Once the doors were closed, Mrs. Weasley wriggled around to face the back of the shed. “Look this way, Ron.”

Having to tilt his wide shoulders at a number of different angles to get them turned one hundred and eighty degrees, Ron was finally able to watch what his mother was doing.

“It’s the third knothole down, second board from the right-- just above your knee, I’ll wager.” Molly squirmed until she could get her arm into position, then cast the spell.
“Alohamora Volumino!”

Ron felt the back shed wall in front of him tremble and quake, presently falling to the ground to become a floor, but as it hit, walls sprang up on both sides, with a ceiling overhead.

Ron let out a low hiss. “Wizard space,” he said dejectedly. But he still didn’t see anything to organize.

“Drat this thing!” his mother complained, preoccupied with something at her side. “It’s forever getting stuck!”

Molly Weasley wriggled and pulled, acting as if she was prying something open on the side wall corner of the shed. She uttered another spell under her breath and yanked her wand up suddenly. “There!”

Ron looked straight ahead, and stood dumbfounded, his jaw slack. The back wall of the shed had picked itself up and was flipping itself over and over, five, ten, fifteen times, creating another room of wizard space each time it flipped. By the time it stopped there was an enormous hallway some thirty meters long and as wide as the shed, filled to the brim with a number of electrical appliances and miscellaneous objects.

“Mum...Mum...” Ron mouthed the word, but he couldn’t get anything else to come out.

Molly looked at her son, actually appearing a bit worried at his response. “Are you all right, dear? Just hold tight--lean on me if you feel light-headed.”

“” Ron murmured. Just then, the side walls of the shed started to tremble and shake as well. They fell to the ground and tumbled over and over on both sides away from Molly and Ron, expanding the width of the entire hallway to thirty meters as well. There were tables and shelves everywhere, filled with one of anything and everything electrical or motorized that was ever created.

Ron thought he was going to be sick. His head was spinning; he slumped back against the now-closed doors behind him; he placed a hand on his mum’s shoulder to steady himself, grabbing at his middle and leaning over. If only he was asleep and this was a nightmare from something he ate--perhaps he could retch to get rid of it and the whole thing would disappear. But he looked around himself again--yep, he was awake--and the retching would only serve to lose him his breakfast.

“How?...” he croaked out.

“It all started when Ginny left for Hogwarts,” his mother began. “Your father--well, both your father and I were rather at odds with ourselves for a while. You see, you come to get used to things in life, and we had both been so very, very used to all of you being here. Of course, it first began when Bill left for Hogwarts and later for Egypt. We were proud of him, but we had the rest of you to deal with when he was gone--and though we missed Bill desperately, we simply kept busy and went on. Then came Charlie, and we had to adapt all over again, then the others followed. Eventually, you were old enough to go to Hogwarts and Ginny spent a very, very lonely year, the poor dear. But the day we waved goodbye to Ginny on the Hogwarts Express, our lives were changed forever. Of course, we were very, very proud and happy for all of you, but the Burrow--home-- was deathly quiet and so empty. I would find myself working outside in the garden day after day because I could hear sounds all around me there and could almost convince myself that all of you were inside the house. But once I went inside, I had to face the quiet again; it was very difficult for a while.”

Molly shifted to look back and make sure the door behind them was still locked. “And your father... I would find him mooning around the house, staring at the pictures of all of you on the walls, waving a bit when he thought I wasn’t looking. He refused to turn the wireless off, even at night--he needed some noise in the background. One day he brought home a Muggle--erm, radio, is it?-- from work and took it apart. Of course, he had no clue how to put it back together, but it didn’t matter--it was a night he didn’t have to think about how much he missed all of you. The next night he brought home a toaster, and he fiddled with that until bedtime. It wasn’t his family, but it was something he enjoyed doing and kept him occupied, and I would sit and knit and we’d chat--and we’d make it through the long and silent nights that way. He kept bringing home more and more--and I didn’t have the heart to tell him not to.

“So that was when I gave him the shed,” Molly continued. “The house was already cluttered with all of his Muggle toys and you were all coming home for Christmas, so I told him he could keep whatever he could fit in the shed. I figured ‘how bad could that be?’ But leave it to your father to find the loophole. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how he was getting rid of as many things as he was bringing in, when I never saw them go. The night after Percy left, the two of us needed some privacy to talk, so he brought me here with chairs and we talked right here where you and I are standing now. Then afterwards, he broke down and showed me all of the wizard space he’d made and how much he’d collected. He didn’t realize it had gotten so out of hand. I felt kind of sick, actually, probably a lot like you do right now--until I realized...”

“Realized what, Mum?” Ron had managed to bring himself around a bit while he listened.

“Look around at how many things are in here.”

He scanned the enormity of the space with his eyes, a virtual field of appliances and knickknacks and motors and plugs, piled from floor to ceiling at some points with so many things he knew he wasn’t even seeing them all.

“This is what he used to fill in for the love of all of you until he could have you home with him again, whenever that might be. He knows it’s not the same, but it passes the time until you’re back--it helps fill up the silence. He wants so badly to let you all move on to live your own lives, but he doesn’t know how to end his pain,” she said, tears filling her eyes. “All of this to fill the emptiness--the hole in his heart when you’re all gone --and still it wasn’t enough one day. The night Percy left he realized that: there would never be enough things in the world to keep him busy enough to hold off feeling the loss of even one of you. He knows that now--and believe me when I tell you how strongly he respects that love.”

Ron blinked several times before saying anything. He hadn’t been expecting anything like this. First, the enormity of the place overwhelmed him, then the enormity of the job. But after his mum’s explanation, the enormity of the emotions overwhelmed him, too. He’d never thought of his father doing that--he’d actually thought it might be kind of relaxing for his parents once he and Ginny were gone. Little did he know there was the torture of emptiness and silence involved--but now he did.

“And you want me to...” Ron gulped and looked at his mum.

“Oh, would you, Ron?” Molly pleaded. “Your father knows he can’t keep all of this. But he’s so very attached to some of it that I can’t ask him to get rid of it all. Like he remembers learning to repair some certain wall socket the night you owled to say you’d made the Gryffindor Quidditch team. It’s here somewhere. There’s some other preposterous lighting thing that reminds him of the day Ginny was sorted into Gryffindor. He remembers pieces of his life this way. If only you could sort it out--then he can find those few things he truly wants to keep...”

“Sort it out?” Ron asked tentatively, visually scanning the room around him.

“But it’s not all that bad, dear--it’s not,” Molly assured. “The space is magically insulated from the Ministry--at least he claims it is, and I suppose they would have been here long before this if it wasn’t. I know you’re not supposed to do serious underage magic outside of Hogwarts-- and ordinarily I wouldn’t approve of you doing anything of the sort--yet there’s no one else to do this for him--for us. He will get caught if he tries to keep all of this--and I don’t want him to have to lose it all and perhaps lose his job besides--”

“I can use magic?” Ron asked. He could hardly believe he was listening to his own mum saying these things.

“I don’t honestly see how anyone could do it without,” Molly said.

Ron felt her eyes on him. He looked at the massive room and took a deep breath. He counted eleven of what his dad had told him were machines to make toast in a five meter radius alone. Then he looked back down into his mother’s face.

“I’ll try, Mum,” he said quietly.

Mrs. Weasley threw her arms completely around her son’s middle, clinging to him for a moment while he patted at her forearm, since that was the farthest he could reach out from under her grip. “Thank you, Ron,” she said sincerely.

“But I don’t know if I can get it all done,” Ron said. “I mean...” He gestured helplessly toward the expanse of room. “And what about when Hermione comes?”

“Oh, she’d be welcome to use magic and help out as well. I don’t think she’d mind,” Molly said. “Besides, from what you and Harry tell me, I’m sure she’d be happy to get in the extra practice.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “I’m sure she would, although trust me, she doesn’t need it. But Mum, I didn’t plan on working the entire time she was here.”

“Well, she won’t be coming for several weeks anyway. Think how much you can get done by then.” Mrs. Weasley patted his arm and moved toward the front of the shed, setting off to leave and let herself out.

Raising his eyebrows, Ron looked around him and sighed, wondering how in the world to start the impossible. Then he groaned aloud to no one.

Ginny was going to think this was hilarious.

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