Disclaimer: The Weasley clan is JKR's. I just like to spend extra time with them.
A/N: Thank you, Jo Wickaninnish and Julu for the beta-reads. This story is for everyone over at the Anthology: Darwin's Apprentice, Morcherry, Gufa, Cherzy and Nic83.
The right head is the critic and will evaluate the efforts of the left and middle heads with continual irritable hissing--
"--I have a letter for you," interrupted Lee Jordan.
Ron looked up from his reading and pushed away Newt Scamander's drawing of the three-headed Runespoor. He couldn't imagine who was writing to him.
"I think it's from Fred and George. It was stuck inside the box of biscuits Mum sent me. I reckon that's how it got past Umbridge's inspectors."
"Thanks," he said turning to open his letter, the first he had ever received from the twins.
Lee didn't move away.
"Nothing." Lee shrugged and then blurted out, "Will you let me know how they're doing?"
"Sure, "he said with dawning understanding, "I miss them too."
"If I didn't have to sit NEWTs I would have grabbed my broom and followed them," Lee declared. "Oh, well it's not long now." He clapped Ron on the shoulder. "Last match to announce tomorrow. Hope it's a good one. Good luck."
"Thanks," Ron said gloomily; he had been trying to block the match out of his mind all evening. He tore open the letter, noticing the alternating comments: first Fred and then George.
Wish we could be there to see the cup match against Ravenclaw. We are sending our best wishes (and no cash) to our favorite little brother. (Actually, you are our only little brother) But if you really want to know, you are every Weasley's favorite brother. (Is he?)
Charlie likes him because he's the only other person on the planet who loves the Chuddley Cannons as much as he does. (True-what about Percy?)
He's the only one who ever listened to him. (Right, with us he had to pay for damages)
Look, we don't have time to go through the entire family. (We do have an unnaturally large family don't we?)
Speaking of unnatural, your unnaturally long arms give you an advantage as Keeper. (Will you ever stop growing?) You do seem to have a sense of what will happen next. (How many times did you save us from Mum?) That should help when deciding which ring to guard. (Or not.)
Little bro- you can't get any worse. (So what do you really have to lose tomorrow?)
Must go. (We're working on the ultimate hangover cure.) If successful, we will be the richest wizards in the world! (Off to do more market research at The Leaky Cauldron.)
Fred (and George)
Ron read through the letter a second time, not quite knowing what to make of it. It sounded like Fred and George's usual left-handed compliments, but it was so--nice. He abruptly stood up; he needed a walk. One good thing about being a prefect was that he could move about the castle without drawing too much attention. Curfew wasn't for another hour. He had some thinking to do.
Thinking. Sometimes it hurt more than it helped. He sighed as he dawdled along the corridor-he couldn't seem to get out of his own head these days, and he was tired of it. There were two voices there: the Ron voice, and the increasingly vocal Bilius voice which had dogged him the entire Quidditch season. At least it isn't three voices like the Runespoor, he thought.
He passed the ropes blocking the corridor Fred and George had flooded before their spectacular getaway. How he wished he had one tenth of their confidence. I wonder what they would say if they could see me now?
Hang on--he knew what they would say--because they had already said it--in that letter. They had said "you are our favorite brother . . . "
Ron walked faster as he considered their words.
They weren't teasing, he thought.
"How can you tell?" sneered the Bilius voice.
Because they have never written me a letter-until now. Because they went to a lot of trouble to get it to me. Because they searched to find things my siblings do like about me.
It was all true. Charlie does like my enthusiasm for the Cannons. Percy was relieved that I didn't give him a hard time.
"But none of these things matter-none of these things will help you tomorrow on the pitch," countered the Bilius voice.
I do have long arms, he said feebly.
"And a long nose."
Argh! Ron wanted to bang his head against the wall, except it was lined with glass cases. Somehow his blind wandering had brought him to the trophy room. He hadn't been in here since his second year when he threw up slugs all over Tom Riddle's Special Services to the School Award.
"One of your finest hours, Weasley."
Ron found the Head Boy register first. There was Bill and there was Percy. Funny how two different personalities could achieve the same honor. Ron wondered how Bill had reacted when Percy became Head Boy. Was he happy for him or was he worried that it took away from his achievement?
Think about it, how could Percy's success diminish Bill's? How could Bill's success take away what Percy did? Ron had never considered that angle.
Ron found the Quidditch Cup Gryffindor won when Charlie was Seeker. Then he spotted the Cup when Harry was Seeker. Two trophies. Two victories. One victory wasn't better than the other. Just like one brother wasn't better than the other . . .
He stopped short. Why have I been competing with my brothers? They haven't been competing with me.
His world tipped on its axis. Always he had thought of himself as the last of the Weasley brothers, like he was in a long line where he could never be at the front. Now he saw that his family wasn't a line at all--but a point--where all of their lives intersected. Fred and George's letter reminded him of his starting point. He squared his shoulders. Now it was up to him to decide where he was going.
Ron stared at the cases, thinking about his family, letting himself feel what he hadn't felt for a long time: warmth and affection. Favorite brother? Maybe not-but every single one of them wished him well.
Heartened, Ron was about to turn away, when he spied another trophy with 'Weasley' on it. He thought he knew every trophy his family had earned. Maybe it was a cousin? He moved closer to inspect it. It was a Special Services to the School Award--and the name on it was Ronald Bilius Weasley.
He stared at incomprehensively. His Uncle Bilius's first name was Ronald?
"No you prat! Look at the date!"
Nineteen Ninety-three. This was his Special Service to the School Award!
How could he have forgotten? The trip to Egypt, and his worry about Scabbers and Sirius Black in the following year pushed it right out of his mind.
Bilius, I'm never listening to you again. How could you let me forget that?
"Oh, really Ron, you'd be quite full of yourself if it weren't for me."
Why shouldn't I be proud of a real achievement?
"Umbridge is coming, you moron!" Bilius hissed.
Ron ducked into the shadows. A minute later, he heard distinct huffing and puffing. It was Umbridge all right, and it appeared she was doing some inspecting, judging by her clipboard and the white gloves she was wearing.
"Look at the tarnish!" He heard her mutter. "Best give a few Gryffindors detention to have this cleaned."
Old hag! Ron and Bilius said together.
At least we agree on something, Ron said.
"Aren't you glad you listened to me now?"
Ok, I'll listen to the parts where you warn me. Fred and George are right; I do know when things are going to happen. But tomorrow, not a word out of you, unless you know where those Chasers are going.
"Well, it's official-you are schizophrenic"
I don't care, Ron said grimly, find me one more of you and I'll have all the rings covered during the match.
He began his journey back to Gryffindor Tower. No wonder Fred and George are so confident, their voices support each other, he thought. Which was quite unlike the three-headed Runespoor he had been reading about earlier-that snake didn't live very long because its heads kept fighting each other.
I have to stop fighting myself. While he didn't like the Bilius part of his mind, he did serve a purpose, Ron realized. Maybe I have finally found a way to reconcile the voices in my mind.
The portrait hole was in sight when he remembered the Quidditch match. Now, instead of a sick feeling in his stomach, he felt . . . resolute. Fred and George are right. What do I have to lose tomorrow?
"Yeah," said Bilius, "after you sort out this Quidditch problem, maybe we can finally get around to your nonexistent love life."
You are not going near my love life, Ron said firmly.
"If you had just listened to me about the perfume."