The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
Disclaimer: As much as I want to, I do not own the Weasley family or anything in the Potter-verse.
Thanks to Chary, my wonderful official!beta; and to ivy, for the encouragement and my "first" review; Honeybee, who wanted to see more Weasleys (I hope you’ve posted bail); and Gufa, who told me it was all right to use italics.
Owls in the Night
The young Weasley boys were having the time of their lives, jumping on their parents’ bed and swinging at each other with pillows. Even almost-four year old Percy had snatched up a pillow and joined in the fracas, although he was careful not to hit any of his brothers very hard. Percy tended to over swing and, more often than not, ended up the worse for the effort.
But pillow fights on the bed were expressly forbidden. The last time they had stolen into their parents’ bedroom to have a pillow fight, Fred had received an off-balance blow at the hand of Charlie and ended up with a large bump on his crown. Fred cried loudly and Charlie tried to hush the situation up unsuccessfully.
“WHAT did you do to him? Charles Weasley, you come in here RIGHT NOW!” Charlie received a walloping from Mrs. Weasley and a severe talking to from Mr. Weasley.
Needless to say, the boys were not anxious to get caught again.
But the boys were in no danger of being caught today, as both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were not home. Their father was still at work and Mrs. Weasley had flooed over to their Aunt Aline’s house with baby Ronnie.
Aunt Aline, in a very agitated state, had called her sister-in-law over the Floo Network to come and help her a bit. Aunt Aline had been feeling very low since Uncle Fabian died. (How exactly, the little Weasley boys didn’t know; their parents would not tell them.) The young Weasleys did know that Aunt Aline was extremely adverse to noise now, when she wasn’t crying, and they made a lot of noise. Mrs. Weasley often said that her boys were like an army treading loudly through the battlegrounds, trumpeting and thundering and announcing their arrival, and that Mr. Weasley was the worst of all.
“Bill, Charlie.” Molly beckoned to her eldest sons, who came into the kitchen from the back garden and sat down at the kitchen table where the young boys were gathered. “Your Aunt Aline’s just flooed. She wants me to stay the night with her and I’m going to floo over right now. I want all of you sit here quietly—quietly, George, Fred—until your father comes home.”
The twins were sniggering as they poked each other, but stopped as Molly arched an eyebrow at them.
“When’s Dad coming home, Mum?” Bill asked.
“When’s Dad coming home, Mum?” Percy asked. Percy idolized Bill, and wanted to do exactly as Bill did. It was becoming tiresome to everyone.
“When Dad come home!” Fred and George shrieked, and then laughed heartily.
“Your father will be home soon, any minute. You sit here, Bill, with the little ones and you all can have some pasties—”
“Hurrah!” the five boys cried.
“Some pasties, I said. You sit here, quietly, until your father comes home. I’ve taking little Ronnie with me. He always seems to cheer up Aline, and goodness knows she needs some cheering up. Bill is in charge, boys. Listen to him, all right?”
“Yes, Mum,” Charlie and Percy chorused. Fred and George were too busy poking one another (again) to answer.
Molly scooped up her five month old son and tossed a bit of floo powder in the fire. “Good night, my wee ones. I’ll be back in the morning!”
“Good night, Mum!” rang five little voices.
After a moment, Bill stood up. “Come on, Weasleys.” He started to walk out of the kitchen.
“Where’re we going, Bill?” Percy asked tentatively. As much as he wanted to do as Bill did, he was never one to disobey an order from his mum.
“I’m going to Mum and Dad’s room, and you have to come with me.”
“No!” said Fred and George, laughing. They enjoyed being contrary.
“Yes, you do! Come on, wee ones.” Bill led the thundering army upstairs.
Bill’s first order of business for the few minutes before his father came home was for all to jump on the bed and have a pillow fight. So jump and swing pillows at one another atop the patchwork quilt the little Weasley boys did, until the large grey owl arrived.
Figuring that Mrs. Weasley somehow knew what they were up to and had written a note to reprimand them, Charlie swatted down the younger boys while Bill untied the scroll from the owl’s leg. It immediately swooped out the bedroom window.
“What does is say, Bill?” Charlie asked. “Does Mum say we’re in trouble?”
Bill didn’t hear a word Charlie said, but stood still on the disheveled bed and continued to stare at the yellow parchment.
“Come on now, Bill, tell us what it says!” Charlie tried to snatch the parchment from Bill’s hand, but Bill held it high above his head. Charlie then ran headlong into Bill, pulling him down. The twins, seizing the opportunity, picked up the dropped pillows and started swinging at their eldest brothers.
Bill pushed Charlie’s face away from him. “Nothing, it’s not for us. It came by mistake.” And to prove it, he crumpled up the parchment and tossed it aside.
“All right, then,” said Charlie, not fooled by the worried look on Bill’s face, but too young to understand the meaning and too distracted by the twins’ pummeling. He got up, brushed himself off, grabbed his discarded pillow and swung it at Percy’s face.
“Hey! Be careful! My glasses!” Percy shrieked. Fred and George laughed in high amusement at Percy’s distress.
However, Bill was in even more distress.
“Let’s go down stairs and see if Mum left any pasties for us, then,” Bill said. He was eager to get them to quiet down. At the word ‘pasties’, Fred and George jumped off the bed and ran down the stairs, with Charlie at their heels. Bill helped Percy off the bed and followed the others to the kitchen.
The younger boys sat down at the table as Bill and Charlie bustled around the kitchen getting plates and looking for the platter of pasties that Molly has hidden. Not two minutes had passed when another large grey owl swooped in through the kitchen window. Bill snatched the letter from its beak and read it. But before he could crumple it up and toss it in the fire, Charlie filched the parchment from his hand and read the two-word, red-lettered note.
“What?” cried Percy. “Ronnie’s dead?”
Fred and George started to cry.
“Charlie!” said Bill, exasperated. “You’re making the twins cry!”
“Is this what that last letter said?” Charlie demanded.
Bill didn’t want to answer the question but felt he must. “Er, yeah,” Bill finally confessed, looking at the kitchen floor.
Percy started to cry. Bill and Charlie looked at each other.
“Should we call Dad?” Charlie asked.
Bill looked at the fireplace mantle. The flower pot that held the floo powder was empty. “I think Mum took the last of it to go to Aunt Aline’s.” He looked very worried now.
Charlie started to fret. Bill wanted something to do, so he picked up George who was howling loudly and patted his head.
“It’s okay, George. Dad will be back soon.”
“But Ronnie’s dead!”
“No, no he’s not! You’ll see! We got those two owls by—”
Bill didn’t finish his sentence. Another owl, this one smaller than the other two and tawny, swooped in the open window, another note clamped in his beak.
Charlie took the letter and tore at the seal as the owl swooped out the window. Being the first of August, it was still very light outside and Bill was able to watch the owl fly through the golden sky over the nearby wood.
Charlie swallowed hard. “It says the same thing.” He handed the letter to Bill and started to cry.
Bill was not only worried but, suddenly, very anxious to see his father.
“Well, Weasleys, your mother called me from Aline’s to let me know that I had to come home straight away, but she also said that we’re out of floo powder, so I stopped in at Diagon Alley to pick up some more…”
Arthur had expected to find his five sons at the kitchen table eating the pasties that Molly had made earlier in the day. “Go home straight away, and make sure those boys don’t eat the whole lot of them, Arthur, they’ll get sick,” she had warned during the floo call. Where could those boys be?
Arthur found five pairs of very dull eyes looking up at him from under his and Molly’s very untidy bed. “Come now, why are you hiding down there?”
The only reply he received was several sniffles.
“Bill, come out now. What’s going on?”
“Dad,” Bill started timidly, as he pulled himself out from under the bed, “Ronnie’s dead.”
“What!” Arthur was taken aback. It was the last thing he expected to hear.
Bill gave a great sniffle. “It’s true, Dad. We got three owls saying so.” Bill handed over the crumpled pieces of parchment.
Arthur quickly looked them over. He glanced up at Bill, then read the letters again. He searched for something comforting to say. “Bill, I spoke with your mother not twenty minutes ago, and I assure you that little Ronnie was in very good health. And to prove that to you, we are all going to Floo her at Aline's right now.”
He pulled Fred and George out and onto their feet, while Charlie pulled himself up and Bill helped Percy. Arthur marched his little army downstairs (it must be said that the army trod quite softly), grabbed a handful of the new floo powder, and called upon Mrs. Aline Prewett, who was able to give a glowing account of her nephew Ronald’s health and well-being. And after consulting privately with Molly—he sent the boys into the next room—Arthur charmed the windows and doors locked and set up camp beds in his bedroom so all the boys could sleep with him that night.
At the breakfast table two days later, Arthur opened up the Daily Prophet. There had been an unaccounted-for lull, albeit very brief, in this wizarding war. But it had started up again with fierce intensity and dominated the front page. Arthur read it thoroughly, trying to find an answer to the question that had been haunting him and Molly for the last few days. He found it on the second page.
The story gave an account of the murder of Mrs. Ronaldinette Fawcett, known as Ronnie for obvious reasons, who lived in a neighboring town of Ottery St. Catchpole the night before. A photo showed the dark mark glittering high above her house as the sun rose behind it. Arthur shuddered, but waited until the children had gone to bed that night before he approached Molly with the article.
“Oh, dear!” Molly gasped. “So those letters…”
“…must have come to the Burrow by accident.”
“But I don’t understand, Arthur. How did they know that woman, Ronnie Fawcett, would die? Why would anyone kill her? From what I understand, she never talks to anyone.”
“Molly, I’m more worried about who knew that Ronnie Fawcett would die.”
A/N II: Answers abound! See the companion pieces, The Specimen and Witnessings and Warnings for the whole story. Please review!