Arthur looked at the box in his hand and grinned. It was perfect. He handed it to the clerk who set it on the wrapping counter. A jaunty red paper immediately began to busy itself with folds to enclose the package whilst a ribbon spool twisted and spun itself into an intricate bow. Coins were presented and Arthur was soon stepping out into the street with a shopping bag containing the precious parcel clutched in his hand. He whistled as he made his way down the busy street. He grinned to himself when he realised the majority of the shoppers were men. No doubt out on the same errand as he.
In the blink of an eye, he was home. He stood in the garden looking with a small bit of pride at the house he and Molly now called home. It wasn’t grand by any stretch of the imagination, but he could pride himself in the fact that he had done most of the work himself. He had found it whilst out on an investigation of an incident of rather nasty Muggle baiting. It had been a run-down stone hut on the verge of collapse, but many weekends of both manual and spell work had made it a tidy little nest. Molly had christened it ‘The Burrow’, and set about turning it into a proper home. The kitchen was her kingdom. The parlour was warm and welcoming, even if the furniture was second hand. As each child arrived, Arthur had expanded the house under the eaves. Growing children needed a growing house.
The front door burst open and two redheaded whirlwinds came flying towards him.
‘Daddy, daddy! Mummy’s barfing again! It’s gross!’ With that pronouncement each boy grabbed a thigh and stood on one of his feet as he began to take stiff-legged steps towards the house. Bill looked up at him with a grin. His two lower teeth were missing. ‘Mummy says we are demon children and she doesn’t know why she’s got herself into this again.’
‘Demonths!’ Charlie echoed with apparent relish.
‘Ah…yes. Well, why don’t you fine young demons stay out in the garden till I call you for tea and let mummy have a bit of a lie in.’
‘Mummy cook tea, but she barf!’ Charlie proclaimed.
‘Yuck!’ they both squealed with glee.
Arthur gently disengaged them from his legs and they ran off towards the rope swing that hung from the ancient hickory tree, squabbling and shoving.
Arthur let himself into the kitchen door. Seated in a big squashy chair by the fire sat Molly. Her eyes were closed and her legs were tucked up under her skirt. A shawl she had knit was thrown over her shoulders. Arthur leaned down and planted a kiss on her forehead and tucked the shawl more tightly around her. Without opening her eyes, she smiled and murmured a thank you.
‘The boys said you barfed over tea.’
‘Don’t remind me. Poor things must be starving. I’ll be up in a minute and finish it up.’
‘No, you rest. I’ll do it.’
She reached a hand out and patted his. ‘Dear man,’ she murmured with a small smile.
Arthur moved to the cooker. He prodded the flame higher under the kettle and then began assembling the chicken legs, potatoes and veggies that were all in the warming oven. As he pulled the meat from the dark compartment he heard a scuffle and turned to see Molly escaping the room at a run. He shook his head in sympathy and put the food on the table.
After laying out plates and cutlery, he went to the door.
‘Charlie, Bill, time for tea,’ he called. Soon he was busy filling plates and cups as the boys ravenously gobbled down the meal. Molly did not make an appearance. After setting the dishes to clean, he herded the boys up the stairs to the bath. Stripping them of their clothes while the tub filled with warm, scented water, the boys regaled him with stories of their day’s adventures. Apparently Charlie had spied a Nogtail on the edge of the paddock. Arthur made a note to himself to borrow his neighbour’s white dog. It wouldn’t do to allow the animal to stay.
Clean and sweet once more, Arthur tucked the boys into bed.
‘Tell us a story, Daddy!’ they begged.
‘Alright,’ Arthur agreed. ‘Once upon a time there was a family that lived on the edge of the wood. They lived in a cosy house. A mummy, a daddy and two little boys.’
‘Just like us!’ Bill crowed.
‘Just like us,’ Arthur agreed. ‘They were very happy.’ Charlie nodded happily and snuggled into Arthur’s side. ‘But one day a surprise happened. A baby fairy came to their house and told the mummy and daddy a new baby would soon be arriving.’
‘A baby fairy. What does it look like? Is it itty-bitty? Does it bite, like a doxie?’
‘No, baby fairies are very nice. They only bring good news, about new babies.’
‘Then what happened?’
‘Well nothing yet. The mummy and daddy are still waiting for the new baby.’
‘When will they get it?’
‘Oh, in about six more months. Meanwhile, sometimes the mummy feels a bit sick, because the new baby grows in her tummy and the new baby doesn’t always like the smell of food. Sometimes the mummy is very tired because growing a baby is hard work.’
‘Hang on, is that why Mummy is so sick and tired all the time? Because she is growing a new baby?’
‘Yes, exactly,’ said Arthur, pleased that Bill had worked it out so well.
‘Will it be boy baby or girl baby?’ Charlie piped up for the first time.
‘Well, we won’t know until the baby gets here. It’s a surprise.’
‘I hope it’s a girl. I already have a baby brother.’
‘I not baby!’ Charlie sputtered.
‘Well, either one will be wonderful. We love both of you so much, we wanted another baby to love, too. We will have a great big wonderful family. Now it’s time for two demon children to go to sleep. Mummy will be in in a minute to tell you good night. Remember tomorrow to let her rest and help her all you can, so she can grow a good, big baby, alright?’
‘Okay, daddy. Good night.’
Arthur kissed each of them and snugged the blankets around them. With a slight flick of his wand, the lights dimmed, illuminating softly the ginger-coloured hair peeking out from under the covers.
Arthur was putting away the last of the dishes when Molly came into the kitchen.
‘Are they asleep?’
‘Yes, sound asleep.’ She came across the kitchen and slid her hands around his aproned waist. ‘That was a sweet bedtime story you told them,’ she said, resting her head against his back.
‘Yes, well I figured it was a good time to tell them.’ He turned around, wiping his hands on the apron. Molly grabbed the tie and gave it a yank, causing the apron to fall to the floor. ‘Why Mrs Weasley, are you sure you want to disrobe me?’
‘It’s just the apron, silly.’ Molly swatted at him playfully.
‘Feeling better?’ Arthur asked, leading her to the seat by the fire.
‘Yes, thank you.’
‘Up to some broth and bread?’
‘Maybe a bit.’
‘You need to eat.’ With a wave of his wand, a mug and plate appeared on the hearthside table.
Molly wrapped her hands around the mug and sipped slowly. ‘Mmmm. This will do. Thanks.’ Arthur, propped on the arm of the chair, stroked her hair as she nibbled on the crust of brown bread, occasionally dipping it into the steaming broth.
‘Budge over,’ Arthur said, squeezing into the chair. Once they were settled, Molly snuggled against him leaning onto his chest, her legs draped across his. He rested his hand on the slight bulge of her stomach. Arthur sighed with contentment. ‘I could stay like this forever,’ he whispered into her hair. He felt Molly nod against his chest. ‘I almost forgot. I brought you something.’ She whimpered slightly as he disturbed her to stretch out his wand. ‘Accio,’ he muttered. The parcel flew into his hand. ‘I found this today and thought it was perfect.’ He offered her the box. She took it and looked at it, stroking the fluffy bow and shiny paper. Arthur laughed. ‘Open it.’
It took all of his strength not to rip the paper and ribbon for her as she carefully untied the ribbon and opened each seal. She lifted the lid of the box and gasped.
‘It’s a charmed bracelet,’ he explained. ‘There is a charm for each of the children. It will change as they grow. See, this one is for the baby,’ he said pointing out a gold charm no larger than the head of a pin. ‘As they grow, the charms will grow and change shape. By the time they are adults the charms will be about this big and will just be a silhouette of their face.’ He waited for her to say something, but she just continued to tentatively touch the charms. ‘Is it alright?’
Molly looked up at him, her face aglow. ‘It’s perfect.’ She stretched out her arm. ‘Put it on me?’
Arthur took the delicate chain and, with difficulty, opened the clasp and wrapped it around her thin wrist. His fingers felt too big and the clasp shut several times around air before he got it closed. Molly twisted her hand in the air, admiring the bracelet as the firelight glinted off it. Arthur reached out and caught a strand of her hair, winding it through his fingers.
‘I’m sorry you had a rough day.’
‘I’ve had worse. I’ll live.’
Arthur ran the back of his hand down her cheek. ‘I wish I could get you a house elf, or something, you know… to help out.’
Molly snorted. ‘That’s silly. I’m pregnant, I’m not dying.’
‘I just wish I could…’
Molly’s hand came up and covered his mouth. Arthur stilled. They both leaned back and resumed their admiration of the fire.
Arthur broke the silence. ‘Do you ever regret you said ‘yes’?’
‘Which time?’ Molly said, poking him in the ribs. It was Arthur’s turn to snort.
‘Mrs Weasley, would you do me the honour of dancing with me?’
‘Why Mr Weasley, I’d be honoured.’
Arthur stood and turned around, pulling her out of the chair. He pointed his wand at the wireless and as a soft tune began to pour from the box, he gathered her in his arms.