The Sugar Quill
Author: James Bow (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Future Shock  Chapter: Chapter Two: Wesley Adapts at the Burrow
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Chapter Two: Wesley Adapts at the Burrow

On the Hogwarts Express, Harry shared a compartment with Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Fred and George and Wesley. They entertained themselves by playing exploding snap, but he could tell that Wesley wasn't really into the game. Most of the time, the boy sat close to the window, staring at the countryside rushing past.

During a lull, when Fred and George went to find the snack trolley, Harry sidled up to him. "Nervous?"

Wesley jerked up and shot Harry a look of surprise. "Is it that obvious?"

"Oh, yes," said Ginny.

"Absolutely," said Hermione.

"Sorry," said Wesley.

"Don't apologize," said Ron. "The first time Mum meets her grandson? I can only imagine the things that are going through your mind."

"How do you think I feel?" said Hermione. "Hello, Mrs. Weasley, I'm the girl who's destined to be your daughter-in-law in ten years time, and here's your grandson!"

"I can just see the sleeping arrangements now," said Ron. "Me in the attic, you in the basement, and Bill, Charlie and Percy on the stairs in between."

Hermione snorted. "Poor Bill, Charlie and Percy. Still, there's always the drainpipe."

Wesley sighed. "I just hope she likes me."

Harry patted his shoulder. "Come on, how could she not?"

Ron frowned. "Didn't we take you to meet Mum when you were growing up?"

"Oh, yes," said Wesley. "Every Christmas. But this is different. Well, you remember how you felt when you found out I was your son. Your mother is a far more imposing person to have alarmed at you."

Harry patted his shoulder again. "You'll be fine."

Wesley sighed. "You're right. Besides, it does me no good brooding about it. Deal me in this round."


At King's Cross, the students trooped off the train, Harry and his company looking up and down platform 9 3/4rs expectantly. Mr and Mrs. Weasley were not in sight, however. Wesley, Harry noticed, stood at the edge of the group, looking both frustrated and relieved that they weren't immediately met. Ron and Hermione shared similar expressions.

Then Ginny caught sight of someone, and lit up. "Bill!"

A red-haired young man came running and grabbed up Ginny and swung her around. "Ginny! How are you? How is everybody?"

There was a chatter of greetings and introductions. Bill explained, "Dad's back at the Burrow, helping Mum put together the Christmas feast. I get to take you back home in our new car."

Harry blinked at him. "You got a new car?"

"With our old mode of transport running free in the forbidden forest?" said Bill.

Harry flushed at this.

"Come on!" Bill waved them towards the barrier. "I'll introduce you!"

After passing through the barrier one by one, under the careful eye of the conductor, they regathered themselves and their bags and headed out of the station. They stopped short when Bill indicated the parking space.

"I don't believe it," said Ron.

"Did Dad install a space-making charm?" said Ginny. "Because, if not, we're going to have to take several trips."

Bill nodded. "We'll all fit."

Wesley stared at the white 1969 Volkswagon Beatle. "We'll look like a troop of circus clowns getting in and out of that thing!"

George stared. "Does Mum know about the spell?"

Fred shook his head. "The gall of that man! Mum's going to kill him. Well, now I know where we got our tenacity!"

"Come on," said Bill. "Just shove in your trunks when nobody's looking."

They managed to get everything and everybody inside the car without attracting any attention, and soon Bill was behind the wheel, navigating the small car through the busy streets of London, then onto the motorway, and out into the countryside. Space-making charm or no, it was close quarters in the back seat, with Hermione having to sit on Ron's lap, Ginny on Harry and, not to be outdone, Fred on George. Wesley rolled his eyes and stared out the window. Everyone chattered excitedly, but through Wesley smiled and made helpful comments occasionally, Harry noticed that he spent most of his time following the passing countryside.

Finally as the sun set, the Volkswagon Beetle pulled off the country road and up a dirt track. Passing a line of sheltering trees, the ramshackle but comforting edifice of the Burrow rose up before them, festooned for Christmas. Bill put the Beetle into the garage and everyone clambered out. Leaving their trunks in the car, the Weasleys and Hermione ran up to the front door, which was thrown open as they approached.

Harry hesitated, and wasn't surprised to see Wesley holding back. He gave the boy a smile, patted his shoulder, and gently, but firmly, led him up the front steps. When they stepped inside to a house that smelled of gravy and baking, Molly and Arthur Weasley were already in the front foyer, greeting their children.

Mrs. Weasley's voice rang out through the hall. "George! Welcome back! And Fred! And Ron. Welcome home! Hermione Granger!" Here, Harry thought he heard her falter, but she kissed the girl and hugged her so hard, Hermione grunted. "Welcome." Then she turned to Harry. "And Harry! Welcome back!"

Harry winced. Mrs. Weasley's kiss was extra sloppy.

Mrs. Weasley fussed over Ginny a moment before finally turning to Wesley.

A silence fell over the foyer. Mrs. Weasley stared at the boy in front of her. Wesley stared back and shifted on his feet. The silence lengthened uncomfortably.

"Well," said Mrs. Weasley at last. "You are a Weasley, even if you don't have the hair. You're the very image of Ron. This is almost like seeing a ghost."

"I know how you feel," Wesley muttered.

Mrs. Weasley opened her arms wide. She smiled encouragingly as Wesley hesitated. "Come on," she said. "Welcome to the family."

Wesley stepped forward. All the air left him painfully as Mrs. Weasley clamped her hug closed, but he held on tightly.

And so began the feast of Christmas Eve. All the children were drawn deeper into the house and were pressed with numerous chores. Hermione and Ginny prepared the table. Harry and Ron got plates. Fred and George set out the presents, and tried to get underfoot without incurring the wrath of their parents. Wesley was kept in the kitchen, near Mrs. Weasley, and brought the food to the table. That took several trips. However, the uncomfortable silence remained in the kitchen, even though the rest of the household was filled with laughter and chatter.

Hermione stopped at the door to the kitchen and nudged Harry, who was nearest, to a halt. She nodded inside with a look that made Harry inspect the scene. Wesley was chopping beans, while Mrs. Weasley fussed over the gravy. Grandmother and grandson cast uneasy glances across the kitchen when the other wasn't looking.

Wesley's eyes also strayed from the beans. He wasn't paying attention to them at all, though he cut them deftly with the sharp knife, stopping before the blade got dangerously close to his fingers. He glanced over each cupboard, and lingered on the breakfast table, his expression tinged with sadness.

"Hey, Wesley!" Fred came charging through the kitchen. "Come help us decorate the tree!"

Wesley glanced at his grandmother, who gave him a smile and nodded. Setting the beans aside, the boy followed Fred out of the kitchen, brushing past Hermione and Harry, his eyes moving over the familiar furniture, his smile wistful.

Harry and Hermione glanced at each other, frowning.


An hour later, dinner was ready. Mrs. Weasley called to the family, who came bounding to the table. Everyone ooo-ed and aww-ed at the spread. There was a feast to rival any at Hogwarts. Everyone took their seats, and Arthur Weasley said a brief grace. Then everyone set to work getting ready to eat.

"We've made some Christmas crackers for the occasion!" Fred brought out a box from beneath his seat.

Ginny groaned. "If you blow up our Christmas dinner, I'll never forgive you, Fred Weasley!"

"No!" said George. "We'd never do that! We'll pull our own cracker right alongside everyone, won't we, Fred?"

"Absolutely," said Fred. "And, Wesley, as you are our honoured guest at this table, you should make the first pick." He held the box out to the boy, who was sitting beside him.

Wesley peered at the box suspiciously. Then, sorting through the paper packages, he caught sight of one he liked, smiled, and pulled it out.

Fred stared at the box, and then at Wesley. "You're sure you want that one?"

"Yes," said Wesley, a smile playing across his lips.

Fred kept staring. "You're sure? That particular one?"

"The only green cracker in a box full of red ones?" said Wesley, smiling brightly. "Absolutely that's the one I want. And since you've given me the first choice of crackers, I think you and Fred should be the first to pull one apart!"

Fred's smile was now looking a little forced. "No, we wouldn't want to spoil other people's fun."

"I think that's a very good idea," said Ginny. "Now that Wesley's picked his cracker, you go first."

George rose from his seat. "Why don't I check on the Christmas pudding?"

"Oh no you don't!" said Ron, forcing his brother back into his seat. "I insist."

"So do I," said Hermione.

"We all insist," chimed in Bill, Charlie and Percy.

Fred and George swallowed hard. Then, taking one of the red crackers between them, they closed their eyes and leaned as far away as they could.

There was a loud bang, and a big puff of smoke. It made Hermione, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley shriek, but it did no damage. A stuffed toy appeared out of nowhere and fell to the floor.

Harry stared, his eyebrows raised. Then he grabbed another red cracker and pulled it apart with Ginny's help. Another loud bang that did nothing but rattle the windows, and a wooden train engine dropped to the floor.

The rest of the family snatched up the remainder of the crackers. The dining room resounded with many explosions, and shrieks of delight. Wesley stared at his green cracker, his frown deepening. Then he realized that everyone was looking at him expectantly.

He gave Fred and George, who were now grinning at him, a sidelong glare. "Would you like to pull this apart with me?" he asked.

"Oh, no," said Fred, holding up his hands. "I've already pulled apart a cracker with George."

"Harry?" Wesley turned the cracker to him.

"Get that thing away from me!"

Wesley sighed in resignation, and took both ends of the cracker. "Oh, well. Here goes nothing."

Fred and George dove for cover.

"No, wait!" Mrs. Weasley squeaked. "The Christmas dinner!"

There was a small pop, and no smoke. A stream of confetti rolled out of the cracker and caught Wesley full in the face. It continued, impossibly, for several seconds before dying down. Wesley had glittering flakes stuck to his cheeks, scattered in his hair, and sitting in a big pile on his lap. The Weasley family gasped in amazement.

"You played me," said Wesley slowly, as Fred and George regained their seats, shaking with laughter. Wesley began to chuckle. "Oh, you really played me!" His chuckles grew louder, and then he burst out laughing as the others joined in. "That was bloody brilliant!"

"You two boys are going to clean up this mess, you realize?" said Mrs. Weasley, her severe tone marred by her own chuckles.

Hermione glanced at Wesley, and then stared. The change in the boy's face was amazing. The worry lines were gone from his forehead, his mouth was open, and his eyes were wide and twinkling. She saw Ron in every shake of his shoulders. It was the first time she'd seen him so relaxed and open.


After passing out eggnog and opening their presents, a Weasley family ritual that Wesley participated in peripherally, the family broke up to the various rooms of the Burrow, to enjoy their loot, and to rest in preparation for an evening out to skate. Harry and Hermione watched as Wesley took his glass and stepped out into the garden, unnoticed by the rest.

"I'm going to talk to him," she said.

"Want me to come with you, or get Ron?"

"No, I think this is a job for just the mother," she replied. Then she winced. "I can't believe I just said that."

"Don't be too long," said Harry. "Mr. Weasley said something about heading out in half an hour." Hermione nodded and followed Wesley out of the house.

Wesley had stepped off the back porch and was standing in the grass in the middle of the garden. Snow was just starting to fall. He glanced at the flakes in wonder, and stared up at the clouds.

Hermione stepped off the back porch and cleared her throat.

Wesley turned and stared at her. "Hi."

"Hi," she replied. After a moment's hesitation, she stepped to his side and stared up at the falling snow with him. Finally, she said, "Wesley, why are you always walking on eggshells?"

Wesley didn't answer.

"I'm not just talking about here at the Burrow, with your grandparents, and all of your aunts and uncles all at once. I'm an only child, Wesley, I know how overwhelming large families can be. But it isn't just at the Burrow. Wherever you go, you're always surrounded by a cloud, even when you laugh. The only times I've seen you really laugh is tonight. Why won't you open up more?"

Wesley stared at her. Hermione stared back. "It's just not easy," he said at last.

"But Wesley, everybody knows who you are, now," she said. "You have a family ready to take you in. You have friends who really like you, and who I think you really like, when you let yourself. You don't need to be so cautious around us. Stop being like Harry!"

Wesley blinked at her. "Harry?"

"He's so unsure of himself sometimes. Between what he went through in his Muggle life, and the shock of fame in the Wizarding world, a part of him doesn't think he belongs where he is."

"But, Mum, I don't belong where I am."

Hermione didn't flinch at being called Mum. She glared at her son. "Well, just like Harry, you're here now, and you can't go back, so make the best of it!"

"I'm trying!"

"Don't try so hard, just do it!"

"Or else, what? You'll put me over your knee and give me a good spanking?"

"Don't think I won't!"

Wesley stopped and stared. His eyes narrowed suspiciously as Hermione fought to maintain her glare. She held it for a good thirty seconds before she burst out laughing. Despite himself, Wesley laughed too.

"I'm sorry, Hermione," said Wesley. "It just takes a lot of getting used to. There is a lot I have to hold back."


"I may have a place here thanks to you, Ron and everybody, but some of my knowledge doesn't. Have you any idea how difficult it is running thorough a list of spells each time I have to use one and trying to remember what was invented more than twenty-five years before my time and what wasn't? Snape sensed that I was holding back, and you saw how he reacted."

Hermione nodded. "But that isn't all that's bothering you, is it?"

"What is it about mothers and telepathy?" Wesley sighed.


Wesley shifted on his feet. The silence dragged for minutes. Finally, the boy said, "Ghosts. I'm seeing a lot of ghosts." He shivered.

Hermione turned him to her and gave him a hug. He held her tight, his breath uneven in her ear.

"It hasn't happened," she said. "It won't happen."

"I won't let it happen," he replied. "But it still happened to me."

Hermione pulled back and held him at arm's length. "Just keep telling yourself: it's a blank slate. It's all new. You can do it."

He nodded. "I will. Thanks, Mum." And he hugged her again.

"We'd better hurry up," she said. "I think the Weasleys are heading out the door for skating."

"I didn't pack any skates," said Wesley.

"They rent. You go tell them to wait up for me."

Wesley smiled and turned back to the house. At the steps to the back porch, he stopped and shivered.

There was a rush of wind. Wesley froze. Then he looked around. There was something wrong with the silence.

"Hermione?" he called.

No response.

He turned. The back garden, walled in by hedges, the Burrow, and a closed gate, was empty.

"Hermione? Mum?"

A parchment fluttered to his feet. Wesley picked it up and began to read.

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