The Sugar Quill
Author: Fortuitous Intervention (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Love is the Child of an Endless War  Chapter: Theft and the Dye-Job Chapter 1
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Dyeing his hair is what saved his life

Love is the Child of an Endless War

 

My thanks to J.K. Rowling for letting me have the Weasleys to play with, although not to keep.  This story is dedicated to the fans at alt.fan.harrypotter  for inspiring me with their creative thoughts and questions, especially to Lauren and Donna (Grand Poobah) who love the Weasleys as much as I do.  And of course, to Troels, who loves them too, even if he won’t admit it. ;)

 

Dyeing his hair is what saved his life.  To be sure it was a heinous undertaking done without the aide of magic.  He’d been without his wand for so long it was entirely possible he couldn’t have managed to do it with magic, anyway.  Impossible to fathom, though, that Muggle women did this to themselves intentionally, and without benefit of pain medication.

 

The hair color had been a definite obstacle barring his path to the free world. His shade of red shouted a beacon.  Now it was a soft-ashy brown.  The color women tried to disguise the most often.  He’d thought about blonde, even a nice saturnine brunette, but those were tough colors to pull off with skin the same shade as the belly of a trout and a flock of freckles across the nose.  His skin coloring was unfortunate, really, because in this Slavic nation swarthy skin and coarse dark hair would have been the ideal camouflage.

 

He’d pilfered a few boxes of tan in a bottle from the razed hotel pharmacy.  The pharmacy had already been looted by the time he’d arrived the day after the bombs went off. However, since instant tan wasn’t edible, didn’t make anyone high, and couldn’t be sold on the black market, it was one of the few salvageable items available.  But the first application turned his incredibly fair skin a bizarre shade of ocher that doesn’t occur naturally anywhere in the human gene pool. And he didn’t have the pointed ears to pass himself off as a Nordic warrior elf.  The bizarre looking shade needed to be scrubbed off in painfully freezing water.  Hot water had been an unheard of luxury for so long he dealt handily without it.  It probably said somewhere in the instructions on the package that results varied. Too bad they were written in Romanian, or Czech, or Russian.  His brother Charlie would know. Charlie was fluent in all three languages, but he hadn’t seen Charlie in eight years.  He hadn’t seen any of them in eight years.

 

Pacing fretfully for a few minutes, considering his options, he stopped momentarily to view his transformation in what was left of the recently bombed embassy’s bathroom mirror. The new hair color let him slip by the blockade, but it wouldn’t get him past the border, or the wanted posters all around it.  Trying to engineer an escape from a war torn, third world country run by terrorists disguising themselves as legitimate leaders had some benefits. A government that was too corrupt to spend money on updated computers and quality Internet access was a government that risked losing a prisoner of war at the border.  Thank Merlin for fuzzy photocopies.  Now if the green contact lenses he’d taken out of the eyeballs of that dead American in the blown-apart embassy worked out right, he might not only be out of prison, he might be out of this magic forsaken country and headed back home.

 

*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *

 

Meanwhile, somewhere on the British Isles, two miscreants, one reformed, and one in full-blown havoc-wreaking mode, faced each other down in the Headmaster’s office at Hogwarts.

 

“Hand it over, Jasper.”  Jasper Weasley’s bony knees knocked together despite his defiance. It was quite rare for his Uncle George to be so angry. His jaw clenched so tightly that Jasper could see the pulse pounding there and the skin on the back of his neck was nearly smoking with rage. The last time he’d been this peeved things had turned out very poorly for Jasper’s backside.

 

Gulping, and swallowing, Jasper feverishly tried to think his way out of this tight spot.  Uncle George knew that he had it, but knowing a thing and proving that same thing were entirely different issues.  George didn’t have facts, just reasonable suspicion. “Un--Uncle George, I say I don’t have it.  How m—m--any times must I tell you?”  Jasper stuttered out feeling a bit faint. 

 

George Weasley, frowning into his nephew’s narrow, freckled countenance, was thinking that Jasper’s blue eyes, the very mirror of his darling mother’s, were ridden with guilt and fear. No boy of eleven looked that fearful without a good reason.  “And I ought to know,” George reminisced to himself.  He’d earned this punishment, this constant torment, for all his years spent wreaking havoc in these hallowed halls, terrifying teachers, pestering prefects, worrying his poor mother to distraction with his outrageous conduct.  Jasper was a visitation on his soul.

 

Fred had earned torment, too. But was Fred here at Hogwarts, summoned to deal with troublesome young Jasper Weasley?  No, Fred was at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, overseeing the stocking of Sugar Mice, bellowing at the Invisible Head Hat supplier, tallying the till, probably shagging his new assistant on the new dragon hide chaise he’d ordered for his office. In short, having much more fun than George was at the moment.

 

Today’s owl had arrived just after they’d opened up shop.  The Hogwarts seal gave George a stomachache every time he saw it now.  Ever since Jasper had started attending the greatest school of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the world, owls carrying letters bearing that seal arrived regularly at George’s places of business. They never brought him good news.  Fred didn’t have to deal with it.  Fred was still single, and mercifully childless.  George had married the love of his life six years ago.  She also happened to be his brother’s widow, and came complete with two children. 

 

It was Percy’s final revenge.  He’d gone off on a reconnaissance mission one bright autumn day eight years ago and never came back.  It was supposed to have been a relatively standard assignment; recovery of a soldier captured or killed during the Wizard’s war.  Percy had the authority, he had the credentials, his paperwork had all been in order, but what was ever standard about trying to recover prisoners of war?  George had taken on a few of those missions himself.  He bore a ten-inch wound on his left thigh from the blade of a Scimitar wielded by an escaped Muggle prisoner who had been tortured into insanity and then incarcerated because there was no more room in the mental hospitals.  On the same mission a Ministry of Magic military trained guard dragon had taken a hunk out of his left forearm. Nice daily reminders of how simple reconnaissance could be.  

 

George counted his wounds nominal compared to his brother Charlie’s.  Vampires kidnapped him while he was searching for Percy.  They’d held Charlie hostage in the remote Carpathian Mountains for nearly a year pending the fulfillment of their ‘Peaceable Cohabitation Agreement’ with the Ministry of Magic. Charlie had been used for food, hung upside down and almost drained to death.  Interesting pattern of fang marks they’d left on him. Charlie looked like a survivor of partial decapitation. Mum always knitted him turtlenecks for Christmas now. But Percy, poor Percy, he’d gotten the worst of it.  They sent his wand back home to his agonized wife in splinters. Claiming the prison barracks had been bombed by a militant anti-Wizard action group and that there were no recognizable survivors.  Percy a very young man of 25, died. Leaving behind his beloved wife Penelope, who was unknowingly almost two months pregnant with their second child, and four year-old Jasper, his son. 

 

George had never had much in common with Percy. They’d never gotten on well. Never had very much to say to one another, at least nothing very nice.  The only thing they’d ever really agreed upon was Penny.  Percy had her. George wanted her.   George had fully resigned himself to the fact that his life would remain Penny-less.  He could buy whatever he wanted, but not his heart’s desire.  Percy found her first, Percy loved her first, and Penny was hopelessly enamored of the miserable, arrogant, git.  They had perfected the revolting, heavy lidded with passion, across a crowded room, longing look.  George kept his heart’s council out of general human decency, loyalty to his brother, and the fact that Penny would have thought him beneath scum if he had ever tried anything. Only Fred knew his true feelings for sure, but Percy certainly suspected.  Probably every Weasley but Penny suspected that George was in love with his brother’s wife. 

 

It was a ruthless trick of fate that brought George to his heart’s desire.   His brother’s death was the cost and George wouldn’t have willingly paid that price for anything, but when Percy was gone, George won Penny over.  He loved her too much to let her go to any another man and Jasper came as part of the package deal.  George couldn’t help thinking that somewhere in the great beyond Percy was absolutely laughing his ass off right now watching him face down Jasper, a born and bred trouble maker of the worst sort, in Draco Malfoy’s office.  Malfoy, who had by some twisted finagling of contacts and means had himself appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts; there really wasn’t any justice in the world. Except for the justice that George meant to mete out to Jasper’s hind end if he didn’t hand over that damned Marauder’s Map. 

 

“Second year students don’t just ‘appear’ inside of the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade, Jasper,” George bellowed, frustrated beyond belief.  “I know this sodding castle like the back of my hand, there are no magic portals into the village, no time warp on the staircase.  You’ve found a secret passageway, I know you have, and there’s only one way you could have found it.  You’ve stolen your Uncle Harry’s map!  After I forbade you to touch it!  I forbade you to even think about it!  Hand it over to me now, or this is going to be the sorriest day of your wretched young life!”

 

Jasper knew that he was a genius, a verifiable, legitimate genius.  No school could keep him occupied enough, so he’d been primarily educated at home.  His maternal grandmother, Sophicleseus Gump, was an American born Muggle woman, a genius in her own right.  She’d arranged for his I.Q. to be tested at Harvard University in the States. Jasper was now an official Muggle member of MENSA, the society of Muggle high intellect.  His maternal grandfather, Richard Clearwater, was one of the most gifted and acclaimed Wizard historians alive.  Jasper’s parents had both graduated from Hogwarts at the tops of their class. He came from a fine pedigree of bright, intellectual minds, yet he could not think of a single, believable lie that would fool his Uncle George.  Silence was golden.  Folding his arms, Jasper willed them to stop their trembling. Lifting his chin in silent defiance, he refused to acknowledge his uncle’s accusations.

 

George was no dimwit.  He and Fred had made the cover of Young Wizards Weekly before the age of twenty-one.  They’d reached the million-galleon mark before age twenty-five and were featured on the cover of Wizard Entrepenaurs as up and coming Wizards to watch.  Now, at the age of thirty, George was one of the wealthiest Wizards in Great Britain.  He and Fred had more money than the handsome young British Muggle King.  Goblins at Gringotts had named a whole cavern after them: The Fred and George Weasley Cavern for the Ruthlessly Wealthy. 

 

Fred was invariably listed, every single year, as one of Great Britain’s most sought after bachelors. He and the handsome young Muggle King played unicorn polo together, and argued good-naturedly over who was the better catch.  The Weasley twins had more power at the tips of their fingers than was decent to discuss, and had made a few dangerous enemies to go with it.  George wasn’t who he was, and where he was, because he couldn’t handle a crisis. Still, this stubborn child would defy him, infuriate him, drive him insane, and he loved the little git to distraction.  It was enough to make a grown man cry. 

 

George started to pace.  Malfoy had given him ten minutes to make Jasper see reason.  Ten minutes.  George paced, to and fro, in front of Malfoy’s fireplace.  Then he caught himself.  George Weasley did not pace!  Molly Weasley paced!  Percy Weasley used to wear out entire carpets with his pacing!  George was fun, cheerful, easy-going, relaxed, when he wasn’t just about to murder his wife’s son.  “Your headmaster wants to thrash you!”  George announced whirling on Jasper, ears flaming, hazel eyes glinting.  “A Malfoy thrashing a Weasley, I never thought I’d live to see the day!  Jasper, you’re a disgrace!  If you insist on misbehaving, insist on defying your mother and me, at least have the good sense not to get caught!”

 

Jasper shifted uneasily, glancing between George’s furious face and the face of the clock on the headmaster’s wall.  It was the bleakest, most despotic clock he’d ever seen.  The hands were shaped like cat’s-o-nine-tails, in place of the numbers were various brutal punishments, flogging, cleaning the owlery, scrubbing the tiles in the Great Hall with a toothbrush, picking the lint out of Professor Snape’s socks, it was so horrible.  Jasper shuddered, much of his bravado lost. 

 

“You won’t let him thrash me, will you?” he asked George his voice hoarse with incipient terror.

 

Since the days of old Dumbledore’s reign a few things had changed at Hogwarts.  Dumbledore hadn’t favored physical punishment. The current governor’s board thought it likely that if Dumbledore had done more thrashing, particularly of a certain male student who went by the name of Tom Riddle sixty-five years ago, and died just ten years ago under the title of Lord Thingy, the Wizarding world would have many fewer problems than it did just now.  Therefore, thrashing at Hogwarts had been reinstated, but only for incorrigible students and only with their parent’s permission.  However, George, and his twin brother Fred, had narrowly escaped being flogged once back in their own wayward school days.  He wasn’t about to let Malfoy get his hands on Jasper.

 

“No,” George answered him shortly.  “But I have to do something, Jasper.  This is the third time this term that I’ve had to come to school because you’re in trouble.  Do you want me to bring you home?  Is that it?”

 

Shuffling his feet, staring down at the floor, Jasper sullenly responded, “No.”

 

“Excuse me?”  George barked, feeling Percy’s shadow flickering in his soul.

 

“No, sir.”  Jasper adjusted his attitude mildly, but kept the typical saturnine frown.

 

George growled at him.  He had three minutes left, and hadn’t made much progress.  If Malfoy walked in now, it might very well mean suspension for Jasper.  George would have to cough up big galleons to buy him off this time. Penny would be beside herself with worry that he’d been in trouble again.  There was only one course of non-violent action open to him, and if it didn’t work, well…“You’re confined to the Gryffindor common room for a week, except for lessons and meals.  You’ll write two hundred lines, ‘There are no portal passageways into Hogsmeade.’  And you’ll clean up the Great Hall every night after dinner for a week.” 

 

“But…but”, Jasper spluttered. “That means I’ll miss Quidditch practice, Uncle George!  They’ll throw me off the team, and our first match is coming up next month!  I can’t miss practice!”  Jasper truly felt panicked. Quidditch was the only reason he wanted to stay.  He was the youngest Keeper on the Gryffindor team in a century.  He ran his slender long fingers through the raven black curls on his head and gave them a tight twist. 

 

Merlin’s balls,” George thought observing his nephew’s response to stress. “What a Percyish thing to do.”  Aside from his hair, and his eyes, Jasper was Percy all over again.  Tall for his age, too slender, too smart for his own good, stubborn as a rock, and arrogant to boot, oh, and he had inherited an unfortunate tendency towards mischief from his father’s younger twin brothers.  George hated to do it.  He loved Quidditch every bit as much as Jasper did, he’d almost cried with joy when he found out Jasper made the team.  But this nonsense had to stop. 

 

“That’s the deal, Jasper.  You offer it to Malfoy yourself, and hope to heaven he takes it.  You’d best try to convince your teammates that they won’t find a better Keeper in the next week while you’re missing practice.”

 

Now it was Jasper’s turn to pace, and it suited him.  He prowled the room like a restless panther, exactly the way Percy used to.  Chewing his lip, twining his fingers through his black curls, and swinging his slender head from side to side while he debated his options.  Finally he stopped and turned to George with an acquiescent nod.  George heaved a sigh of relief, and added sternly, “And, Jasper, that map better find its way back into Harry and Ginny’s house, or I will spank you myself.”

 

*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *

 

“You’ll get it back, Harry.”  George promised his brother-in-law that evening in the Hogshead Tavern, after visiting Harry’s house and confirming beyond any doubt that Harry’s map was missing.  He signaled the tavern maid to bring him another beer and a shot of Fire Whiskey.  Only Jasper ever inspired him to imbibe this much.

 

Harry chuckled; he wasn’t overly concerned about his missing map, perhaps even foolishly unconcerned. “I can’t figure out how he got it out of the safe.  Ginny put a powerful Blistered Fingers charm on that lock.  That spell was some of her finest charms work. The new Ministry paid her a bundle for the rights to it. Even I couldn’t open the damned thing up.”

 

“What can’t he figure out? He is a genius.” George explained to Harry who already knew it too well. “The child is an evil genius. I just want to know what he’s been doing with it! He’s got the most amazing criminal mind, he’s like…like…”

 

Harry took his ale from the tavern maid and gave her a charming grin.  His first ale was always on the house, and she was the loveliest maid in the pub.  Now that Aberforth was gone, Madame Rosmerta had taken over running the Hogshead as well as continuing to operate the Three Broomsticks.  She’d cleaned the place up. Called in an exterminator, and an exorcist. Making the Hogshead a virtually respectable drinking establishment. Having two of the wealthiest, and most famous, Wizards in the world as regular customers didn’t hurt her trade any, either.

 

Turning his attention away from the voluptuous serving girl who’d brought him free ale back to George, Harry said surely, “He’s exactly like Penny, and Percy, and you, George. Don’t kid yourself that Jasper is anymore criminally minded than you and Fred used to be.  Anyway, the map rightfully belongs to him.  Didn’t we agree to give it to the oldest male Weasley who attended Hogwarts?” 

 

“Jasper doesn’t deserve having the map, Harry.”  George protested vehemently, swigging his beer.  “He’s lied to me. He stole from you. Now he’s been caught sneaking out of school.  I should spank him for this, that’s what he deserves. Harry, he gets caught!  What sort of Weasley is that, I ask you?  It’s worse than if we’d given the map to Ron.”

 

Harry sipped his tankard of ale slowly, thoughtfully musing.  He wasn’t too worried about his map. It wasn’t as if he really needed it anymore, but it would be the coldest day in hell before he ever let it go to someone outside of the family. It was part of their history together, his and the Weasley’s.  When the timing was right it would have been willingly passed on to the next generation. Jasper was the oldest Weasley grandchild. By mutual accord the rightful heir to the map. Still Jasper was very young yet, and too clever by half.  Harry was concerned for Jasper’s safety, and for George’s mental health because he was being completely driven to distraction by the little beast. 

 

At the moment Harry and Ginny had no children of their own, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying.    Ginny had already been pregnant twice and lost them both. She was finally pregnant again, but she was confined to complete bed rest and cross as crabs about it.  Harry had given up his Auror’s job, and its attendant expectation of endless travel as a result. Accepting the temporary post of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts instead.  A baby was finally on the way, and some day, in the not so distant future, he might be in George’s shoes, wailing into his ale over his offspring’s impending prison-filled future.

 

Having to hire Harry had tweaked Malfoy’s ill temper to no end. He made things miserable for him to make up for it, and Harry returned the favor as often as possible.  Jasper had been a boon. He was instinctively inclined to rebel against Malfoy’s prejudiced jurisdiction at Hogwarts, and the way he still relied on old Wizarding money ties to accomplish his ends. Harry’s recent conversations with Hogwart’s young headmaster went typically something like this:

”What’s the problem now, Draco?  No, no, I can’t say I do know who was responsible for storing the flesh-eating slugs in the kitchen’s meat locker. Although I did rather wonder why they’d become so restive lately. I guess we’ll all survive on vegetables, and bread for awhile, aye?”   Jasper was a vegetarian; he refused to eat anything that had ever had a face. He was making an anonymous political statement with regard to the school’s nutrition policy.  It was a brilliant tactic, really, and so very bad.  He stood up to the conventions of the world with his mother’s liberal backbone, his father’s bossy arrogance, and the sheer damned perversity of his uncles. 

 

“You don’t say, Draco?  Every pair of your boxer shorts was filled with Blast Ended Skrewts? I am absolutely certain I locked those up securely in my office before I went home last evening.  Oh, yes, I agree it’s bad damage they do, lots of holes and scorch marks to be sure.  I understand Madame Pomfrey has an ointment for just that sort of wound. Right, right, sounds like a terribly uncomfortable location.” 

 

Jasper’s work again, the little fiend. Harry had seen him lurking maliciously in the corridor outside of his office on his way home that night.  He’d even stopped to chat, “Hello, Jasper.  Were you waiting to speak to me?”

 

“Oh, no, Uncle Harry,” Jasper had refuted innocently, his dark curls glowing around his head like a cherubic halo.  “I’m just waiting for my roommate, Stubby Wood, to come up from the dungeons.  Off to do a bit of Quiddtich practice, you know?  Would you like to come and watch us play tonight?”  Stubby Wood, Harry’s old Quidditch team captain Oliver Wood’s son, popped out so confidently to confirm Jasper’s story that Harry knew in a flash they were up to no good.  How many times had he and Ron run that same sort of gimmick?

 

Stubby’s given name was Aurelius, but Stubby was the nickname he’d earned when he finished a Quidditch tournament with a Beater that had been snapped in half by a rouge Bludger.  He whacked hell out of that Bludger every time it came within a foot of his teammates using that little stub of wood and Gryffindor won the match by fifty points. He was Oliver Wood’s son to be sure, Harry had thought while watching that game. And he was Jasper’s best friend.

 

 “I’m sorry I can’t stay tonight, Jasper, but I’ll try to make a practice next week.  Will that do?”  Harry offered kindly. He was truly very fond of his demonic nephew by marriage.  Jasper grinned good-naturedly, he had the exact sweet-faced smile his mother had, and Harry had gone home to Ginny that night to tell her that Jasper was plotting something big.

 

George didn’t know the half of what Jasper had been up to lately; Harry ruminated. His constant immersion in trouble stacked the deck against him.  He was fated to be caught occasionally.  Harry wondered now if his desire to watch Malfoy squirm under any circumstances had caused him to remain unwisely silent when it came to Jasper’s actions.  Then he remembered telling Ginny about the Blast-Ended Skrewts in Malfoy’s shorts and the way she’d laughed until she cried about it.  Grinning into his ale Harry decided he wasn’t in the business of ratting out his students, even if they happened to be his nephew.

 

“Well, George, I think you’re maybe being a bit harsh on Jasper. He hasn’t gotten up to much trouble that we didn’t used to.  Besides, isn’t he getting to be too big to spank?”  Harry offered up his two sickles’ worth.

 

Glowering into the bubbling amber brew, George quaffed his Fire Whiskey, and signaled for another.  “For as tall as Jasper’s grown, he’s still only eleven. I don’t like to do it, but I will spank him if I think he needs it. Sure as hell I’ll never give a sadist like Malfoy any reason to get his hands on him in my stead, and I’d like to prevent Jasper from becoming so incorrigible he’s only deterred by the threat of a flogging.”

 

“Hmmm. Like you and Fred used to be?” Harry interspersed.

 

“Exactly like me and Fred,” George admitted. “My mother whacked us regularly with her wand, or the wooden cooking spoon, whichever she had to hand at the time.  Fear of her wrath if she caught on to us, or fear of Percy catching us and telling her what we were up to is probably the only reason Fred and I never went to prison.”

 

Undoubtedly the twins had deserved it, Harry reflected silently, Jasper probably did too.  Still, having grown up in a household where he was abused and beaten regularly, Harry felt compelled to say, “Ginny’s been making me read all of these books about babies, and child care. It’s all wretchedly dull, really, but the experts seem to think that beating children has gone quite out of fashion.  They’re all recommending time-outs, revoking privileges, you know that sort of thing.” 

 

With the very bitterest of sarcastic eye-rolls, so expertly executed it was worthy of Percy, George derided Harry’s stupid opinion.  “Heaven save me from the experts and the childless, Harry.  Do you think I should take away his video game player?  He’ll just go and build himself another. Maybe you think I should confiscate his wand? You don’t know what it’s like raising Jasper.  Sure, it’s out of fashion to beat children when they’re precious and helpless little things, why then it’s positively wrong.  But one day you turn around and they’re much bigger than they used to be, plus they’re stealing your wand because you’ve already confiscated theirs and they’re using it to curse their mother’s brand new Jaguar convertible.  The one you ordered six months in advance from the car dealer to be sure she had it in time for her birthday.”

 

George gulped his second Fire Whiskey, but he didn’t slur any of his words. Like Charlie, Fred and George were built to hold their liquor.  He swigged the Fire Whiskey around his mouth until the steam rolled out of his ears, before letting it torch back over his throat, fueling the furnace in his gut.

 

“Yes, then they’re cursing their mother’s cherished new sports car to ride rampantly over the Muggle neighbor’s brand-new, one hundred thousand pound electric fencing system.  Why?  Because it’s cruel to the animals, that’s why.  It gives wandering cattle a poke, and it’s unkind.  The fencing system was destroyed beyond repair, the runaway Jag’s tires melted just in time to prevent it from crushing Jasper to death, Penny’s in-dash stereo exploded, and it took animal control authorities three days to round up all of the cows.  You, Harry, you might have taken away his video game player. I spanked him with my belt.  He did stop speaking to me, and he hardly said a word to anyone else for two weeks, but he didn’t get into any more trouble for those two weeks either. And let me tell you, it was the most peaceful two weeks of our entire married life.”

 

Harry winced.  He knew the basics of this story already. Ginny had related it to him over dinner one night the previous summer and they’d both been torn between shrieks of horrified laughter, and genuine heartfelt horror. It was the stuff of Weasley family legend.  Every time he heard the hundred thousand pound figure, and pictured the oozing, burning rubber seeping from beneath Penny’s new Jag he still suffered a frisson of horror crinkling his scalp. 

 

There was more to the story, and Harry knew most of the rest of it as well, because it included a rift, related to Jasper naturally, between Fred and George, who never argued about anything, and Ginny, who’d taken George’s side of the argument, but not without sympathy to Fred’s point of view. Harry couldn’t help being sickeningly fascinated every time he heard the details. It was rather like watching the Muggle news on his new television, when they replayed the video recordings of a horrible tragedy over and over again, and no matter how much he wanted to, he just couldn’t look away.

 

George suddenly looked far more haggard than a young man should. He tipped up his beer, drained it to the dregs, focused on Harry, now slurring slightly, and continued, “It was too quiet, Harry, and I should have guessed the little demon was plotting his revenge.  He perfected the hex for turning lemon drops into sherbet acid balls and cursed every lemon drop in the shop.  One elderly woman lost her tongue.  It was pandemonium.  Fred and I had lawsuits coming out of our ears.  Tongue replacement is no simple matter.  I was going to spank Jasper again, just to prove a point.  But Fred, Mr. I-have-no-children-I’m-free-as-a-bird, Weasley, talked me out of it.  He said Jasper should pay restitution instead. As if you’re going to get enough work out of an eleven year-old child to pay off a quarter million pound liability settlement. Although, I’ll admit Jasper works hard. Of course, I had threatened to spank him anyway if he didn’t do everything Fred told him to.  Fred was very smug about it all, until he caught Jasper taking a percentage of every Skiving Snackbox he sold out of the till to send to the child laborers in whatever third world country it is that our supplier works out of.”  George smirked at his twin’s foolishness.

 

It really wasn’t funny, Harry reflected.  Fred had tossed Jasper out of the store onto his rear, and said some rather unkind things related to devil’s spawn, and Jasper’s unnatural sire, before he stopped speaking to him altogether.  Jasper was devastated. George became defensive and angry on his behalf. Fred was too stubborn about it all. And Ginny kept her twin brothers away from each other’s throats by sheer dint of will. Family gatherings became rather dismal, tension filled occasions for a while.  It wasn’t until Jasper had earned enough money to repay Fred and begged his forgiveness that he was reinstated into his uncle’s good graces. Allowing Fred and George to mend their own quarrel. That painful experience hadn’t taught him to behave any better than George’s spanking had, Harry determined uneasily.  It hadn’t stopped Jasper from stealing that map right out from beneath his nose.

 

Jasper did have powerfully redeeming qualities, however.  Qualities that gave Harry a good deal of hope for his future.  He had a good conscience for one thing. He was willing to admit when he was wrong. He’d apologized to the neighbors over the cattle incident, and rounded up not a few of the cows on his own. And he loved Penny and George. Disappointing them always upset him. His mother’s Jaguar had been a disaster. He’d cried bitterly to Ginny about how angry Penny was with him. He was heartbroken after George spanked him. Jasper had reduced himself to a mere shadow of his former evil; sulking quietly alone in his room, or sitting sullenly in the corner at family gatherings for weeks after those late summer incidents.

 

Harry didn’t believe for a minute that Jasper had actually intended the lemon drop folly to be revenge against George; he didn’t think George believed it, either.  George knew better than anyone that Jasper wasn’t truly mean spirited. He just didn’t have the experience, or the wisdom he needed to go along with his brains.  Jasper had a problem foreseeing all the consequences of his actions.  In that respect, he reminded Harry very much of some boys he knew well once, not so long ago. But for all that, George was right, he didn’t know what it was like to raise Jasper, and he was so incredibly grateful for it.

 

George, bewailing his fate, dropped his head onto his arms and moaned. “It’s Percy cursing me from beyond the grave, Harry.  I’ve taken care of his family, given them the best of everything. Penny and the children want for nothing.  But I’m having sex with his wife, and we both like it a lot. We’re getting better all of the time and Percy’s spirit won’t rest.”

 

“She’s your wife now, George.”  Harry replied reasonably.  “I think it’s quite all right if you have sex with her, better if you enjoy it even.  I’ll say Percy would be hard pressed to argue that at this point.”

 

“That’s because you’re not Percy.”  George mumbled, glancing up from his folded arm table cushion for a moment.  “Percy was never hard pressed to argue anything.  It was his favorite occupation.  He’s probably torn in two in the afterlife.  Two spirit Percys, one is laughing hysterically at me trying to control Jasper, who is every bit as bad as Fred and I ever were at the same age, and the other half is cursing me for doing it with his wife.”  

 

“You’ve had too much to drink.”  Harry said clapping his old friend on the shoulder.  “Go home to your beautiful wife, and sleep it off.  Everything will look better in the morning.”

 

“I don’t think so, Harry.”  George mumbled into the table.  “When she was his wife he kept making her pregnant on accident.  I can’t make her pregnant if my life depended on it.  Tell me, that’s not a curse?”

 

 

 

//
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