The Sugar Quill
Author: Magnolia Mama  Story: Fatherly Advice  Chapter: Default
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Fatherly Advice
by Magnolia Mama

I am a son, a brother, a nephew, an uncle, and a husband. I am also an employee of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts division for the Ministry of Magic, a devoted collector of Muggle artifacts, and a recent recruit into the Order of the Phoenix. Most importantly, however, I am a father of six boys and one girl and a father-by-proxy to another boy and girl, school friends of my youngest son and between them among the most extraordinary wizard and witch our world has ever known. No matter how much I love my wife, no matter how well I perform my duties, no matter how bravely I fight against You-Know-Who and his followers, it is my children--and my children-by-proxy--who matter most to me. I am their guide, and they are my legacy.

One day last summer, not long after Ron's friends arrived for a spot of holiday before the school term began, I had snuck out after breakfast to spend some time alone in my workshop. A rather intriguing Muggle artifact had come into my possession recently and I was keen to examine it more closely and determine how it operated. I could tell at first glance that it wasn't one of the myriad of Muggle devices that required eckeltricity--I had long since learned how to spot the signs indicative of such devices--but a cursory examination revealed no clues as to its mechanism or purpose. In short, it was a puzzle that could keep me happily occupied for hours. And since my darling wife had hinted (rather overtly) the previous evening about the neighbor's cows crossing the wards around our farm and setting off alarms at inconvenient times, I was not keen to be found sitting idly about the house that morning.

I don't know how long I had been in my workshop when I heard the back door slam and angry footsteps stomp down the steps, but my abrupt return to reality forced me to acknowledge that it had been several hours since I last ate and I was feeling rather peckish. Molly would no doubt scold me for my lengthy absence and put me to work on the wards after a meager lunch--evidence of her displeasure with me--should I dare enter the house. Yet I could no longer ignore the grumblings of my empty stomach. I could attempt to Summon a sandwich, I supposed, but Molly was far too sharp to be fooled by such a ploy. I would have no choice but to enlist the assistance of whomever had stormed so noisily out of the house and now stood not far beyond the door to my workshop, muttering some rather witty invectives against an unknown target. Curious--and increasingly hungry--I poked my head around the doorway.

It was Hermione.

I've always liked her. She's cleverer than any witch most of us have ever known and knows it, but at the same time she's more unsure of herself, an unfortunate consequence of her Muggle heritage, than she deserves to be. My son Ron admires her greatly. I suspect, with the intuition one acquires only by watching one's children fall in and out of love, that his feelings for her may go even farther than mere admiration.

Muggles and Muggle-borns fascinate me, as any of my children will tell you with a roll of their eyes. They have ever since I was a lad; they're such clever and resourceful people, the way they've managed to fashion a form of mechanized magic to operate their countless labor-saving devices. At the same time, though, I pity them and their ignorance. Though European Muggles are not as suspicious of magic as their American brethren, the sad reality is that our worlds do not blend well anywhere. When a witch or wizard falls in love with a Muggle, rarely do they elect to introduce their companion to our world. Yet when a magical child is born to a mixed union--as so often happens--the Muggle parent must bear a heavy burden.

Even more so is the burden shouldered by Muggle parents faced with the rare occurrence of a magical child. Those parents--and their children--are most deserving of my sympathy. For some the shock is too much to bear. The child is inevitably the one to suffer most, belonging to both worlds and yet to neither. I have great admiration and respect for the Grangers, for their courage and determination to support Hermione even as her abilities force her to gravitate closer to our world. Not all parents are as understanding. Yet I see how much it saddens them.

It saddens me, too, to think how the circumstances of Hermione's birth place her and her parents in such grave danger now that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned and is even as I speak rebuilding his army of Death Eaters in preparation for a confrontation that will likely leave both the magical and Muggle worlds deeply scarred for years to come. Hermione is aware of this, as are her parents, and they are also aware that they are prime targets. It is to their great credit that none of them have shied away, that none of them have forsaken our world. I cannot imagine how much it would devastate Ron if Hermione were to renounce her nature and her extraordinary abilities in favor of a "normal" Muggle life. I know I would miss her bright, inquisitive nature--and her knowledge of Muggle devices--terribly.

For the moment, though, I was more concerned about the gnawing abyss in my stomach and how best to put a stop to it. I resolved to enlist Hermione in my quest for food without my wife's discovery. "Psst!"

"Oh!" She whirled to face me, her palm pressed against her chest, her cheeks flaming red. "Mr. Weasley, you gave me such a fright!"

"I'm terribly sorry my dear, I had no intention of startling you." I glanced surreptitiously toward the house, to make sure no one was watching us through the kitchen window, then beckoned Hermione closer. "I was wondering if we might have a word?"

She glanced over her shoulder as though she also hoped to avoid detection. "Of course, Mr. Weasley. Is something the matter?"

"Not at all, not at all. It's just that...I'm terribly peckish and I don't want Mrs. Weasley to find out I've been in here all morning. She's been on the warpath about my fixing the wards ever since last night and if she discovers I've been shirking my duties--" I gave Hermione a weak grin. "Well, I think I'd rather be attacked by a dirty great serpent again, if you catch my meaning."

Judging from the horrified look on Hermione's face, that had been the wrong thing to say. I tend to forget she is still just a child, not much older than my own precious daughter, because she always carries herself about as though she were an adult. She recovered quickly, however, a feat I doubt even a proper adult could accomplish with such rapidity. "You needn't worry about the wards," she said. "Bill attended to them this morning. But you're right about Mrs. Weasley."

"Right. I was afraid that might be the case." I tried wringing my hands to see if that would make me look appropriately pathetic. "D'you think you could help out an old chap and bring him a sandwich before he drops dead of hunger?"

The instant she put her hands on her hips I knew I was in trouble; she might as well have been Molly--or Ginny, for that matter. "If it weren't for the fact that I know Harry's just as bad, if not worse, I'd swear this was a Weasley defect," she declared.

That was unexpected. "Sorry?"

"What is it with boys?" she cried. "Are you all mad?"

With a sinking feeling I realized I wouldn't be getting a sandwich anytime soon. Taking her elbow, I ushered Hermione into my workshop where we could discuss whatever was bothering her in peace and privacy. I led her to a reasonably uncluttered spot in the corner where she could talk whilst I worked on my new artifact and listened to what she had to say.

"So, Hermione," I said gently, "what has my son done or said, or not done or not said, this time?" I was being presumptive, but I had a strong suspicion Ron was the source--and target--of her frustration.

She folded her arms over her chest and stared at me. "What makes you think this has anything to do with Ron?"

"Oh, I don't know." I knew better than to tell her that, despite her cleverness, she lacked all talent for guile and artifice. She was as easy to read as an open book. "Just a guess, I suppose."

She harrumphed at that. "Your son," she fumed, "all your sons--all boys--are just the most impossible creatures ever! And you're just as bad!"

"Me? What did I do?"

"Why you...you.... Oh!" She seemed to be at a loss for words, a state that no doubt irked her even more than my sons did.

"My dear, I'd be happy to help, but you'll have to be a bit more specific about the matter."

"What is it about boys that makes you all such horrid beasts?"

"Beasts?" I tried my best not to smile. "What makes you think that way?" I studied the pieces of metal and...blaspic?...that lay scattered on the workbench before me. "What have we done to deserve such censure?"

Her hands were once again at her hips. "Why are you so determined to avoid Mrs. Weasley when you know she needs your help maintaining the wards? In case you've forgot, they were put in place to protect Harry--and your family, whilst he is here."

Merlin's beard, she had me. "We're not in any significant danger."

She stamped her foot. "That's just what I'm on about!"

"Sorry?"

"You make up these horrible excuses.... Do you realize how much homework our professors set for us this summer?"

"Er...."

"Do you know what your son's excuse was for not doing it?" I shook my head. "He's been writing letters to Dean Thomas, threatening him with bodily harm if he doesn't do right by Ginny."

Apart from my amusement at the zeal with which Ron played the part of protective older brother, I had not heard of any connection between Ginny and this Thomas boy. "How does Ginny feel about this?" I asked.

Hermione snorted. "She's not amused."

"I can't imagine why not."

"You're missing the point, Mr. Weasley. He's meddling in Ginny's affairs when he should have been writing his essays!"

"Affairs?" My Ginny has affairs? Does her mother know about this?

I hadn't realized I'd spoken out loud until I saw Hermione give me a startled look. "Don't change the subject."

Eureka! Progress. "Does it disturb you that Ron is so concerned with his sister's...affairs, and not at all with your own?"

"I don't have any affairs," she said, jamming her hands into her pockets.

"I find that hard to believe, coming from a pretty and clever girl such as yourself."

Her cheeks blossomed with color. "I'm not pretty." She scuffed her toe on the floor.

Now we were really getting somewhere. "Humbug! Is that what this is really about? Did Ron or Harry say something to make you think this way?"

Her gaze remained focused on her shoe as she shook her head. "No, Mr. Weasley, they haven't said anything of the sort."

"Ah. I see."

She looked up at me. "Do you?"

I reached up to scratch the back of my head, a lifelong habit that always surfaces whenever I'm uncomfortable. "Let me guess: you overheard Harry and Ron swapping notes on girls at Hogwarts, am I right?" She lowered her head again and nodded. "But they didn't know you were listening." Another nod, slower this time. "And neither of them mentioned your name."

She turned away from me this time and wrapped her arms around herself, squeezing until her fingers turned white. Her voice trembled as it whispered, "Am I really so awful?"

The father in me wanted to reach out to her and assure her she wasn't the slightest bit awful; after all, it hadn't been that long since I'd needed to do much the same for my own daughter. What Hermione couldn't possibly know was that only last night I'd overheard Ron confess his admiration for her to Harry, and his accompanying fear that she'd never welcome his attention. And if Ron only knew the girl he fancied was here in my workshop trying her best not to cry over him.... A sigh escaped before I could help myself. Sometimes it's a miracle that our species manages to perpetuate itself at all, no thanks to this ridiculous dance teenagers put themselves through. It's one of the few things Muggles and magical folk have in common.

"Miss Granger, you surprise me," I said. I was determined to put things right between her and Ron. That is my responsibility as a father, after all.

She peered over her shoulder at me with reddened eyes and a blotchy face. "Sorry?"

"I thought you were above all that rubbish. You're far too intelligent to let a couple of randy lads upset you."

She turned back to me and surreptitiously wiped at her eyes. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, they're just being boys. And as you informed me not ten minutes ago, boys are horrid beasts with no sense of responsibility or common sense." I gave her a wink.

She smiled bashfully. "Well, maybe not all boys."

"Just the ones who don't seem to fancy you?" Her smile widened a fraction. I beckoned her closer and whispered, "I'll let you in on a little secret: they're the most horrid of the lot."

A tiny laugh escaped through her nose. "I reckon they must be."

"Exactly!" I grinned. "Who else but an exceptionally horrid beast would be blind to your obvious superiority to every girl who ever set foot in Hogwarts? Except Molly Prewett, naturally."

"Or Ginny."

"Or Ginny."

"Why do boys have to make things so difficult, Mr. Weasley?"

"My dear, we lads ask ourselves the same thing about your lot."

She bristled at that. "I do not make things difficult!"

"I suspect Ron might disagree with you there." A harrumph was the only answer she'd give me. "Look, instead of fretting over this, why not take charge?"

"Take charge?"

"Hermione, you are the last girl I'd ever reckon would sit by and just wait for things to happen to her. Where's the girl who persuaded Harry and Ron to take Polyjuice Potion and sneak into the Slytherin dungeons? Where's the girl who traveled back in time to save a wrongly-convicted murderer and hippogriff? Where's the girl who led a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to a herd of angry centaurs?"

Her mouth hung agape. "Mr. Weasley, are you...condoning my actions?"

I backpedaled a bit. "Not as such, no. But you showed genuine initiative on each of those occasions. Why shouldn't you now?" I felt comfortable enough to reach over and squeeze her shoulder. "You're as clever--and as pretty--as they come. Use your assets to your advantage. Don't wait to be noticed: make him notice you." I was very careful not to name the "him" in question, though I'll wager by then we both knew who he was, and knew the other knew as well.

I could almost hear the wheels start to turn in her head as a big smile lit up her face. She'd never acknowledge it, but she has much in common with Fred and George when it comes to scheming. I think that's one of the things I like so much about her.

"Thanks," she said. "I reckon I'll do just that." She headed for the door.

"That's my girl," I said, acknowledging her resolve with a nod. "Oh, by the way?"

She turned. "Yes?"

I held up the largest remnant of the Muggle artifact I'd been methodically dissecting as we talked. "D'you have any idea what this might have been?"

Her head tilted to one side as she studied it and the numerous smaller fragments scattered across my workbench. "I'm not positive, but I believe it used to be a telephone."

Astonished, I examined the pieces anew. I'd seen fellytones before, but none so compact as this. "Are you sure? I thought these things required wires and eckeltricity and whatnot."

"Most do. But that's a mobile phone if I'm not mistaken, and they operate on batteries."

"Batteries? By Merlin, that's amazing!" Eager to see if any of my collection of batteries would fit, I began rummaging through an assortment of boxes I kept stashed under the workbench.

Hermione laughed. "Take care, Mr. Weasley. I'll see you at supper."

I smiled to myself as I watched her go, her restored confidence in herself evident in the way she strode purposefully across the garden. Such a remarkable girl, yet so encumbered by self-doubt. Our world could do well with more witches and wizards like her. As for Ron...I don't think he could've picked a more lovely girl if I'd picked her for him myself. Now if only I could ease his insecurities as readily as I'd eased Hermione's, I might actually have a peaceful summer without the two of them at it like rats and half-Kneazles.

I sighed as my long-neglected stomach gave a pitiful grumble. I'd failed to achieve my earlier objective, and now my intended accomplice had escaped. Well, best return to my work before my wife--

"Arthur Weasley!"

Damn.

Many thanks to Lady Narcissa for her patience and fortitude in dealing with this occasionally hypersensitive and argumentative writer.

//
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