The Sugar Quill
Author: St. Margarets (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Worth A Thousand Words  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N "Oh dear, maths." For the purposes of this story I took JKR at her word in the March chat concering the Weasley brothers ages. I also wrote this before we knew Ginny's birthday. Thanks to Faelaern and Jo Wickaninnish for the beta read and Nic83 for the Brit picking.

This story was written for Phoenix Song's Summer Lovin' Teenage Angst Challenge. It's not angsty and it's not about teen love. No wonder I didn't win anything! Still, I enjoyed getting all the Weasleys together and I hope you will enjoy it too.

Challenge lines:

"We've got two days, twelve hours and twenty-seven minutes to come up with SOMETHING!"

"Ah relief from the heat."

"How do you take your pumpkin juice?" "Sweetened, not stirred."

"___, does this make my bottom look big?"

"It's so hot you could cook a ___."

Worth A Thousand Words

"We've got two days, twelve hours and twenty-seven minutes to come up with SOMETHING!" Ginny exclaimed, sweeping into the Weasley living room with a calendar in one hand and a dish cloth in the other.

"What are you going on about?" asked Ron lazily from the floor where he and Harry were playing wizard chess.

"And why do you sound like Great-Aunt Martha's anxiety clock?" Fred asked from the settee.

"Yeah it's always two minutes from Armageddon over there," George added from the depths of the armchair.

The twins were home from work and were uncharacteristically listless. The week-long heat wave was sapping even their boundless energy.

"August fifteenth is Mum and Dad's twenty fifth wedding anniversary. Remember we were going to do something special for them?"

"Blimey! We forgot." Ron sat bolt upright. "What should we do?"

No one answered because at that moment Bill Apparated into the middle of the room.

"Ah, relief from the heat!" he sighed, flopping on the other armchair and chucking off his boots. "It's so much cooler here than London."

"Bill," Ginny said severely, "you can't leave your boots in the middle of the floor. Honestly, I don't see how Mum puts up with you lot. No wonder she was happy to work full time for the Order instead of taking care of this house."

Bill looked genuinely surprised at Ginny's tone. "Ginny, you need to relax - maybe something cold to drink. How do you take your pumpkin juice?"

"Sweetened, not stirred, angel," George piped up.

"But with ice this time, darling," Fred cooed.

While Bill was busy conjuring ice and hurling it at the twins, Harry took the chance to study the large picture, which held pride of place over the mantel. It was one of the many things he loved about the Weasley house. Ron told him it had been taken on his parent's tenth anniversary.

It was a picture of all the Weasley children grouped together in the garden. Ginny was an infant, a bundle of white in five-year-old Percy's arms. Only her red hair and one tiny hand showed. Percy was sitting on a bench, his curly head bent solemnly over his baby sister. Ron, a wide-eyed toddler, clutching a teddy bear, had his free hand on Percy's knee and was also looking at the baby.

The reason why Percy was holding Ginny was evident in the death grips Bill and Charlie had on the three-year-old twins.

It must have been a hot day, because they were barefooted and in shorts. Like all wizard photographs this one moved. Harry's favorite part was when they all looked up - even Ron who was still really a baby - and said something to the camera. It looked as if they were trying to say 'happy anniversary.' Fred and George had identical looks of concentration as they tried to say the unfamiliar words. Charlie's smile revealed a missing tooth. Ron's little mouth was in an O shape. It was such a wonderful moment, and Harry never tired of looking at it.

Bill's ice had cooled Ginny's temper. She was laughing at the twins and looked happy for once.

Harry frowned. He realized he hadn't heard her laugh very much this summer.

"So what should we do?" Ron asked when it was a little quieter.

Harry surprised himself and all the Weasleys by speaking up, "I think you should have a new photograph made."

They stared at him.

"For over the mantel," Harry said doggedly. For some reason he really wanted a new Weasley picture. "Ginny was barely in that one."

"Yeah," George said, "and she's the best looking of all of us."

"Don't you think so?" Fred asked slyly.

Harry looked at Fred with confusion. "Of course she's the best looking one." He looked around at the knowing smiles. "What?"

"I think it's a brilliant idea," Ginny cut in, looking warningly at the twins.

"Yeah, it is a good idea except we don't have Charlie," Ron pointed out.

"Or Percy," Fred said with a set face.

"Charlie is in London," Bill said. "Didn't you know? Arrived last night. Remember he booked his holiday for this week because of the anniversary?"

"Where's he staying?"

"With Percy."

"Percy!" George was red in the face. "Why's he even speaking to that git?"

Bill stared at him for a minute, as if trying to gather his thoughts. "Because," he said slowly, "Percy wrote and asked him to stay."

"Oh good reason!"

"Well, it is - really. When someone asks for forgiveness, it's a great thing to give it."

George sat up straight. "I don't think that's fair - for Percy to act like an idiot all year, and then get to waltz back into the family like nothing happened."

"I don't think that it will be like nothing has happened," Bill said. "Look, Percy's my younger brother. I've seen him do a lot of stupid things over the years. Just like you two." He looked pointedly from one twin to the other. "This isn't about us anyway. It's for Mum and Dad."

Fred was sitting up now too, with his elbows on his knees. "It's up to Harry." He turned and looked him in the eye. "Next to Mum and Dad, Percy hurt you the most - didn't stick up for you when he should have. If you can stand to be in the same room with him, than I reckon I can too."

Harry didn't know what to do. He had no anger or emotion left for Percy.

He looked at Ron who gave him a shrug and a half smile, which could have meant anything. He remembered how angry Ron was when Percy wrote that letter. Yet it seemed Ron was willing to move on. Then he caught Ginny's eye. She was looking at him anxiously, as if he had the power to hurt her . . .

"Of course Percy should come and be in the picture." He wasn't looking at Fred when he answered. " It wouldn't be the right photograph without him."

Ginny's expression cleared as he talked. She didn't smile, but her long look of gratitude was reward enough.

*

The morning of the fourteenth dawned hot and clear. Bill, Charlie, Percy and the photographer were due home at ten o'clock. Ginny was running around trying to find the replica of the bench that was in the original photo. "Ron, Harry, can't you get rid of the garden gnomes?" she asked at breakfast. "We don't want them in the picture."

"I thought a gnome honor guard would be a nice touch," Ron said, "with little hats and swords."

Harry smiled until he saw Ginny's flushed and serious face. "Sure, Ginny we'll do it."

Once the garden gnomes were dispersed, Ginny started fussing about their clothes. "Ron do you have to wear that ratty Chudley Cannons t-shirt?"

"Ginny, does this make my bottom look big?" George asked, doing an ungainly turn.

"No," Fred answered, "but this does." He took out his wand and did an Engorgement Charm. George guffawed and tried to sit on Fred with his huge bottom.

At that moment Bill, Charlie, Percy, and the photographer Apparated in. What could have been a tense homecoming had a very different tone. At first, all was quiet as Percy looked nervously around. Then his eyes rested on George with the bulbous backside trying to crush Fred. He stared for a moment at the brothers he hadn't seen in a year . . . and laughed.

It was the perfect thing to do, Harry thought, since the twins lived to make people laugh. And for them to make Percy laugh was something they had strived for their whole lives.

*

The photographer looked at the original portrait and grouped them accordingly. This time Ginny sat next to Percy on the bench, with Ron seated on the ground. Charlie and Bill held on loosely to the twins, still trying to keep them in order.

Harry was amused at how quickly all the Weasley males ran out of patience with posing. The photographer was quite fussy and kept moving Bill and Charlie about. Yet when the man turned his attention to Ginny and kept rearranging her hair over her shoulder, Harry became annoyed. He didn't know why; he just didn't like strangers touching Ginny.

As the man snapped away, Harry took in the scene, wanting to remember this moment. The morning light, diffused through the green leaves, wrapped them in a golden glow. They were children of summer with their vivid hair, the strong lines of their healthy limbs, the smiles on their faces.

With all his heart he wished they could stay that way always: young and beautiful and full of high spirits. Somehow they all had to survive this war.

Another anniversary came to mind, that of his parents. He had no idea when it was or how long ago they married. They were just as happy in that picture, his mum and dad and Sirius - why did it all have to end so quickly?

*

The next day Ginny kept Harry and Ron busy cleaning the house and preparing the anniversary dinner while the others were at work.

"What is her problem?" Ron complained to Harry after Ginny finished telling him off for squashing one end of the cake.

"She just wants it to be right," Harry said. He was used to such displays of nerves when Aunt Petunia had to host dinner parties.

"She'd better calm down before she gets sick in this heat. It's so hot you could cook a Kelpie out there. Why don't you talk to her?"

"Me!" Harry said, alarmed. "I don't think she'll listen to me!"

He found her out in the garden picking flowers for the table. The good smell of cut grass and wild roses was all around them. He crouched down to talk to her. "Everything all right, then?"

She peeped at him over the bunch of daisies in her hand. "Yeah," she said a little sheepishly. "Did Ron send you?"

"Yes." He laughed. "Wanted to make sure you weren't going to hurt his ickle feelings again."

She blushed. "I just want everything to be perfect."

"Ginny, your parents are going to love this - all their children together for the first time since the World Cup. You can't go wrong."

"I know," she sighed. "It's just . . . I feel like if I can make it all perfect for them this evening - then - well then it's something they will always have." She looked up at him and laughed a little self-consciously. "I mean time goes by no matter what - and it seems like you lose those moments, but really, once you have those memories, no one can ever take them away."

"I suppose that's true." He had never thought about it that way before. "But you know, things don't have to be perfect to be worth remembering or worth having."

"You don't think so?" she asked, brushing a lock of unkempt hair out of her hot face.

"No." He stood up. "Come on. You need to get cleaned up before the party."

Ginny looked down at her grubby t-shirt and dirty nails. "I suppose I fall under the 'not perfect' category."

He smiled at her and gave her a hand up. "You also fall under 'worth remembering.'"

Her eyes grew wide.

"For all of us to remember," he hastened to add. That had sounded so personal, he thought. He didn't want to give her the creeps. But if he was honest with himself, he knew that Ginny kneeling among the flowers was something worth remembering.

*

"Arthur, what on earth is going on? The house is all dark."

How eight people managed to find hiding places in the Weasley's living room, Harry didn't know. He, Ron, and Ginny were sitting on the settee under his invisibility cloak. They couldn't quite manage to cover Ron's giant feet, but they only had to stay hidden for a few seconds.

"Molly - look," Mr. Weasley said with a catch in his voice.

"Oh!" She went to closer to the new photograph of all her children and put her hand out in a gentle caress. "It's so beautiful," she whispered. "And they're - " She gasped as she noticed Percy in the picture. "They're all here." She whirled around.

"Surprise!"

The room was filled with laughter and exclamations and tears. Mrs. Weasley cried and hugged and cried some more. Mr. Weasley cleared his throat a lot, and said things like 'well then.' They opened champagne and ate slices of the lopsided anniversary cake.

"Where's your wedding picture?" Harry wondered aloud. They were all seated around the table, finishing off the last bottles of champagne.

"We never had one taken," Mr. Weasley answered. "We were married at the Registrar's office at the Ministry. It was a Wednesday, I believe."

"Tuesday," she corrected him. "We were just out of Hogwarts and we didn't have enough money for a wedding."

"Right," he continued. "We were supposed to wait a year so we could earn enough money for a proper wedding and the deposit on a house, but . . . well . . ."

"We were miserable apart," she said, her eyes glowing in reminiscence. "Arthur turned up at my house with a special license in the middle of the night on Monday. It took us the rest of the night to get to London on that slow broom of his. As soon as the Registrar's office opened, we were married." She looked around the table, smiling. "Then your father went to work, and I went looking for a flat."

"You went to work? Real romantic, Dad," Bill said.

"Love and duty," Mrs. Weasley murmured, looking at her husband with fond eyes.

"And - " She gave a saucy wink. "He came home every night."

"Too much information!" Fred and George dropped on the floor and rolled in mock agony. "We're scarred for life."

Ron stood up and peered over the table at them. "That explains it."

"Well, honestly!" Mrs. Weasley said, blushing rosy red. "How do you think you lot got here?"

"The stork," Charlie replied. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

"I thought it was cabbage leaves," Ron said.

"You were born in March - where would they get a cabbage to find you under?" Charlie pointed out.

"I don't know if I want to hear about the birds and bees next," Ginny said getting up from the table. "I'll start washing up."

"I'll help," Harry said. He was feeling the effects of the champagne; maybe moving around would clear his head a little.

"Leave the glasses," Bill said, pouring out more champagne. No one else made a move to leave the table.

It was very pleasant in the kitchen. The dishes washed themselves, Harry muzzily dried them, and Ginny bustled about putting them away. They could hear the conversation from the dining room growing progressively louder. They were on to Quidditch now. All the glasses and bottles were arranged in a pattern as Charlie did a play by play of a recent match.

"Harry, you already dried that plate."

"I did?" He looked blearily down at the shiny white plate in his hands. "Am I tipsy or are you?"

"You are, since I didn't have anything to drink. I can't drink that stuff. More than a thimbleful and I am out of it."

"Oh." His thought processes were moving slowly tonight. "It's kind of a nice feeling."

"I'm sure it is. It's the headache tomorrow that won't be so nice."

"Why is it always that way?" he heard himself asking. "Why is today so nice, when tomorrow looks so bleak?"

"It isn't always bleak."

"My mum and dad - they looked happy in their wedding picture. But they didn't get very many tomorrows."

"I know," she said softly. She took the plate out of his hands. Then he felt her hand on his back. "Let's sit outside."

It was a warm, starry night. They sat on the bench from the photograph.

"I want to thank you," Ginny began.

"I don't mind helping with the dishes."

"No, not for that. For thinking of the picture and for forgiving Percy. You helped bring the family back together."

"I didn't do anything. It was Fred and George who did the forgiving. Besides, I wanted a picture with you in it." Harry wondered who just said that.

"You are tipsy."

"I reckon so."

"Harry, you are your parent's tomorrows," Ginny said this in a very firm, very sure voice.

He tried to wrap his foggy mind around that statement. "What does that mean?"

"It means you have an obligation to them to live the best life you can and to be happy. You are their future. And someday, you'll have your own children - and they will be your tomorrows."

Harry had never thought about having children of his own, a family of his own. He had always thought that a family was what was in his past, not in his future. "You know, I'm tipsy enough for that to make sense."

She patted his arm. "Someday you'll have your own picture over the mantel."

Harry couldn't imagine his own children, but for some reason he had the vague longing that they would all have red hair.

*

He quickly fell asleep that night even though the settee was too short for him. Since Charlie and Percy decided to stay over, he had to give up his bed in Ron's room.

The sound of whispered voices woke him up at dawn. It was Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, in their night things, looking at the photograph.

"You know, when I came for you that night, I never dreamed the next twenty-five years would go so quickly."

"Or turn out like they did."

He had his arms across Mrs. Weasley's shoulders. "You think you know what love is when you're a newlywed . . ." He kissed the top of her head. "You even try to describe it. But then you realize you can't."

"No," she said, "but that picture does."

"Worth a thousand words."

"Or more."

//
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