The Sugar Quill
Author: Arnel  Story: Family Crisis  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.

Family Crisis

Family Crisis

 

 

 

A/N:  The excerpt, “Half our family does seem to owe you their lives, now I stop and think about it,” [Arthur] said in a constricted voice.  “Well, all I can say is that it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry,” inspired this story and comes directly from pages 403 and 404 of the American edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

 

A special thank you goes out to my friend and fellow author KEDme for helping me with this story.  I’ve enjoyed our nightly IMs talking about characterization and better ways to express various ideas as well as the antics of our preschool age children.

 

Finally, many thanks to Lady Narcissa for the superb beta on this story.  Lady Narcissa helped to make sure this story was definitely in British English style.  I am indebted to her.

 

-- -- -- -- --

 

The post owl arrived just after dinner, about twenty past six.  It swooped across the soggy garden toward the Burrow and landed on the kitchen window sill.  Arthur Weasley thought nothing of it as he traversed the last few meters to the door of his shed; he knew his wife, Molly, who usually handled the post no matter what time it arrived, would take care of whatever news this particular owl bore.  He sighed, wondering absently whether his youngest son, Ron, had liked the gold watch they had sent him for his seventeenth birthday, then stepped into his own private domain. 

 

The door closed behind him with a soft thud and he was alone with his Muggle treasures, the newest of which occupied a considerable amount of space on his workbench.  The machine had once belonged to a Muggle who had given it to a magical relative who had eventually given it to Arthur out of exasperation because he couldn’t make it work.  That wasn’t surprising, Arthur reflected as his eyes adjusted to the dim light coming through the small window to his left.  Most Muggle artefacts requiring eckeltricity didn’t work where there was an abundance of magic.  But this machine, this machine made eckeltricity using petrol. 

 

Arthur approached the bench and studied the shiny red and black rectangle of tubular metal framing which held the petrol tank above a small engine.  The fact that the two tyres holding the assembly off the bench were flat didn’t bother him at all.  He reached under the workbench and pulled out what he hoped was a hand-held pump and set about inflating the tyres.  That done, he stepped back, marvelling at all the buttons and dials and perforated plastic rectangles that adorned the main panel.  “Honda Electric Generator” was painted across the top of the panel along with a set of numbers.  Just below this was a gauge reading “Petrol Level” and another beside this read “Oil Pressure.”  There was a switch that read “240 volts” at the top and “120 volts” at the bottom, a second read “Off.”  The last section of the panel was devoted to four rectangular ports that Arthur assumed were there to receive plugs.

 

Now how does one get this to turn on?  he mused vaguely.

 

There was no ignition switch on the main panel, so, with an effort, he managed to turn the heavy machine so he could see the engine better.  Ah-HA!  Right in front of him was something he recognized; a piece of plastic attached to a thick string was labelled “Start.”

 

Out of curiosity, Arthur reached up and pulled hard on the string.  The machine sputtered, but didn’t start. Arthur grinned madly.  This thing starts like a Muggle lawn mover! he thought and pulled harder and faster on the starter.  The generator suddenly coughed a great cloud of smoke which forced him to cast an air cleaning spell before his next attempt.  Four pulls and an aching arm later, the generator roared to life.  Arthur was so surprised that the generator actually worked that he jumped backwards, hitting his head on a shelf and squashing several of his other artefacts before his head cleared enough for him to see again.  The generator continued to roar.

 

Arthur sat down on a stool and looked around for something to plug into one of the outlets.  He spied what he thought was an eckeltric tea pot and decided he would make himself some tea.  He opened the pot, turned it upside down and shook it; several spiders dropped out and scampered away.  Chuckling and thinking of Ron, Arthur cast a cleaning charm on the interior of the pot and magically filled it with water from his wand.  He crossed his toes as he matched the tines on the plug to the holes on one of the rectangular outlets in the main panel of the generator.  Several minutes later, the teapot began to steam and with a satisfied smile, he conjured a tea cup and a tin of tea bags.  This was beginning to look like a very pleasant evening.

 

The door to the shed suddenly burst open letting in a blast of cold, damp air; Arthur drew his wand in alarm.

 

“ARTHUR!” Molly screamed over the noise of the generator.  “SHUT THAT THING OFF!”

 

Arthur didn’t hesitate.  He had seen this fearful expression and heard this particular tone of terror in his wife’s voice only once before; four years ago when his daughter had been dragged into the Chamber of Secrets by the monster that had arisen from a diary.

 

“Molly, what is it?”  Fear gripped him as he crossed the shed and gathered his wife in his arms.

 

Shaking, Molly held out a letter.  “It’s from Hogwarts.  Ron’s been poisoned!

 

-- -- -- -- --

 

An unfamiliar post owl landed on the kitchen sill at about twenty past six and began pecking at the glass.  Molly looked up from supervising dinner cleanup and the week’s ironing and sighed, grateful for the interruption in Fleur’s endless recitation of this week’s version of the Wedding Plans.

 

“Fleur, dear,” Molly interrupted, “would you see to the owl, please?  I’m a bit busy at the moment.”

 

“Of course, Mrs Weasley,” Fleur said.  She rose gracefully from her chair where she was folding towels and fairly floated to the window, making Molly wonder if the girl was already practicing for her walk down the aisle.

 

The window creaked open and Fleur let out a surprised, “Oh!” as the owl cuffed her with its wing in its eagerness to get to Molly.  It landed on the family clock which, as usual, sat atop a stack of Arthur’s freshly-pressed robes and held out its leg.  Molly untied the scroll of parchment and stepped back hurriedly as the bird took wing again.

 

“Oo eez ze letter for?” Fleur enquired as she shut the window against the cold drizzle outside.

 

Molly glanced at the address.  “Mr and Mrs Arthur Weasley,” she read aloud.  “It looks like something from Hogwarts.  I recognize the handwriting.”

 

“I ‘ope eet eez not bad news,” Fleur observed, going back to her towel folding.  “My muzzer never liked to get mail from Madam Max—”

 

“Most likely it isn’t,” Molly interrupted swiftly heading off another endless story about the way things had been done at Beauxbatons.  “It’s probably Professor McGonagall telling me about Ron’s newest adventure with Harry or that Ginny needs yet another expensive book for one of her courses,” Molly said shaking her head and setting the scroll on the table.  “Life with children is never dull and this latest school report can wait a few more minutes to be read.”  With that, she set off up the stairs with Arthur’s robes.

 

Ten minutes later, Molly rejoined Fleur at the kitchen table.  The younger witch had made tea while she was gone and Molly took a few relaxing (and fortifying) sips before addressing herself to the letter.

 

It was indeed from Minerva McGonagall, but the contents were anything but ordinary.  In fact, Molly knew something was horribly wrong the moment she opened the letter; the professor’s normally tidy writing was almost a hasty scrawl:

 

Dear Mr and Mrs Weasley,

 

The Headmaster and I are sorry to inform you that your son, Ronald, has been taken to the hospital wing due to an incidence of poisoning.  He is gravely ill and we request that you come to the school as soon as possible.

 

Please Floo-call me at my office to tell me when you will be arriving as someone must meet you at the school’s gates. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Head Mistress and Head of Gryffindor House

 

Molly read the letter a second time hardly believing what she was seeing.  “No, no, not my Ronnie,” she wailed, letting her teacup crash to the table. 

 

Fleur looked up in alarm as the hot liquid splashed on the piles of folded laundry. “Mrs Weasley, what eez wrong?  What does zee letter say?”

 

“Not now, Fleur!” Molly cried frantically.  “I must find Arthur!”

 

Fleur tried to take the letter, but Molly clutched it firmly to her ample bosom and rose from the table, looking anxiously about the room for her husband.  Then she remembered that he was going out to putter in his shed for a while.

 

“ARTHUR!” she screamed hastening out the door into the twilight.

 

The only response to her cry was a dull roar from something in Arthur’s shed.  Molly closed the distance between the house and the shed in record time and flung open the door.  Arthur whirled about, drawing his wand.

 

“ARTHUR!” she screamed over the noise of the machine occupying the workbench.  “SHUT THAT THING OFF!”

 

Her husband pressed a button which threw the little building into complete silence.  He lowered his wand. “Molly, what is it?” 

 

Her own emotions must have been evident, for a look of fear crossed Arthur’s features as he flung himself across the shed and gathered her into his arms.

 

Shaking, Molly held out the letter.  “It’s from Hogwarts.  Ron’s been poisoned!”

 

-- -- -- -- -- 

 

“Poisoned?  How?” Arthur asked in disbelief, grabbing the letter and scanning Professor McGonagall’s hastily written words.

 

“We must go to him,” Molly whispered.  “The clock didn’t change!  His hand has been on ‘Mortal Peril’ since last June just like the rest of the family’s.  Oh, Arthur, I don’t want to lose my baby boy without at least saying good-bye.”

 

Arthur barely controlled his own panic as he held her gently, “Now, Molly, don’t think such thoughts.”  He rubbed her back soothingly as he continued. “Albus Dumbledore would have contacted us by now if Poppy wasn’t able to help Ron.  Go get your cloak.  We’ll Apparate to Hogsmeade and be at the school in less than an hour.”

 

Molly nodded and left the shed, silent tears coursing down her pale cheeks.  Arthur unplugged the teapot, then followed her, pausing only to secure the shed door.

 

-- -- -- -- --

 

The walk to the school seemed to take hours.  The wind and rain bit through their heavy cloaks and chilled them to the bone.  However, Arthur didn’t feel it as his thoughts were on his youngest son; his stomach turned to an icy lump that threatened to leap out of his throat.  They reached the gates and Molly sent her Patronus across the magical barriers toward the castle where they knew Minerva McGonagall was waiting for them.

 

“Arthur, Molly, thank goodness you’re here!” their friend and fellow Order member exclaimed as she reached the gates.  She let them in, then magically set the locks again.

 

“What happened?” Arthur demanded as they hurried to the stone steps of the castle.

 

“I’m not exactly sure,” she replied.  “You’ll have to talk to the Headmaster.  He knows the complete story; I know only what Mr. Potter related to me.”

 

They reached the corridor that led to the hospital wing and Molly breathed, “Oh dear!” at the sight of three frightened-looking teenagers standing outside its doors.

 

Ginny was the first to reach them.  “Mum, Dad!  You came!” she cried, flinging herself into Molly’s arms.  As Molly comforted her, Arthur approached Harry and Hermione, who were now glancing everywhere but the doors to the hospital.

 

“Any news?” Arthur asked extending his hand first to Harry, then Hermione.

 

“No, nothing, Mr Weasley,” Harry said tightly, his voice sounding quite pained and somewhat guilty.  “Madam Pomfrey won’t let us in.”

 

From the look on Harry’s face Arthur instantly deduced that Ron’s poisoning might have something to do with the stoic young wizard standing in front of him.  The keen sense of hearing he had cultivated since Bill was born caught Harry’s mumbled, “It was my box of Chocolate Cauldrons that started this whole mess,” as the young man studied his shoes.

 

“If that’s true, Harry, I don’t blame you,” Arthur said gently meeting the young wizard’s startled gaze.  “I blame whoever was callous enough to blithely put poison where someone was sure to ingest it.”

 

He glanced at Hermione who had yet to say a thing; her tense expression reminded him of how Molly had looked a year ago at St. Mungo’s after the snake attack.  It didn’t take a very sharp eye to discern that Hermione might fancy Ron.  Even if she did fancy his son, Arthur could tell that she was deeply troubled; there was something going on that he just couldn’t put a finger on...

 

Molly disentangled herself from their daughter’s embrace as Professor McGonagall held the door to the infirmary open and gestured for them to go in.  Arthur smiled bracingly at Harry and Hermione, then followed his wife inside.

 

Ron was the only patient in the infirmary.  Madam Pomfrey stood beside his bed, carefully dribbling potion into Ron’s mouth with a teaspoon.  Her expression was guarded but serene, which eased Arthur’s state of mind immensely as he gazed at the pale face of his youngest son.

 

“Will he be all right?”  Molly asked tremulously.

 

Madam Pomfrey nodded.  “Yes, Molly, Ron will pull through.  I was doubtful for a while that he would survive until we knew exactly which poison he had ingested, but thanks to Harry Potter’s quick thinking and the fact that Horace Slughorn corked the bottle immediately to preserve its contents, Ron will be up and about in a week or so.”

 

“Thank goodness,” Molly breathed and reached for one of Ron’s hands. 

 

Arthur put his arm around his wife and drew her close as he caressed the top of Ron’s head.  This simple gesture was somehow comforting; he hadn’t been allowed to touch his son like this since well before Ron had left for Hogwarts five and a half years ago; Arthur revelled in the softness of the fiery stands slipping through his fingers.   A lump rose in Arthur’s throat. He remembered the loving trust in Ron’s eyes as he had looked at his father back then; it was the look of an innocent child that said everything was all right with the world as long as Daddy was nearby.  The lump grew as Arthur realized that, once again —due to distance and circumstances—he had failed as a father to be available when Ron needed him.  Yet a small voice inside his head told him that no matter how far the distance between them, his son would always come to him for assurance or advice.

 

Arthur sighed heavily, fighting to control his thoughts.  Why my son? Why Ron? He hasn’t done anything to deserve this!  I should have been there for him more often! I’m the one hunting Dark wizards by night!

 

Molly leaned her head back to look into his face.  Arthur shrugged; he knew they must be thinking along the same lines at the moment.

 

It had been a long time since he and Ron had spent any real time together alone as father and son.  The memory of the pleasant hours they had spent over the chess board when Ron was younger edged forward now.  Both of them remembered fondly the night when eight-year-old Ron had first captured his father’s king and held it aloft as he raced around the house telling everyone who would listen that he was the winner of the game.  Then there was the incident with Fred, George and the acid pop.  While Molly had disciplined the twins, Ron had crawled up into Arthur’s lap and wound his little arms around his father’s neck.  The two had talked a long time about forgiveness and hurt feelings.  It had been a difficult lesson for both because of Ron’s stubbornness, but what they had shared that night had strengthened their relationship.

 

There was so much Arthur wanted to share with Ron now:  sage words about life, advice about enjoying his youth before stepping into the complicated world of the adult wizard, guidance about preserving friendships and cultivating romance with a special witch even in these difficult times.  If Ron were to die tonight—even with the assurances from Madam Pomfrey that Ron would pull through—they would never get to spend the time Arthur wanted to have with him, the last of his sons.  The last of my sons…

 

Arthur swallowed hard against the lump in his throat in an effort to remain calm before the unflappable Poppy Pomfrey.

 

“Arthur, Molly.  We need to go upstairs,” Minerva said quietly from behind them.

 

Reluctantly, Arthur guided Molly back into the corridor where they were accosted by the three teenagers waiting for news of their brother and friend.

 

Molly smiled at them as she said, “Ron’s going to be fine.  Madam Pomfrey is seeing to that.  We’re going up to talk with Professor Dumbledore now.  We’ll be back as soon as we can.”

 

“May we go in?” Ginny asked anxiously as the group walked toward the marble staircase in the Entrance Hall.

 

“No, dear.  Madam Pomfrey isn’t done with Ron yet.  She’ll let you in when he’s ready for visitors.”

 

Arthur watched his daughter’s shoulders sag.  He distinctly heard her grumble, “All we’ve done all day is wait,” as she and Harry and Hermione turned back toward the hospital.  Her words caused the corners of Arthur’s mouth to twitch upward and he would have smiled fully if the situation hadn’t been so grave.

 

The gargoyle guarding the entrance to Albus Dumbledore’s office sprang aside at their approach, allowing Arthur and Molly to follow Professor McGonagall quickly up the revolving stairs.  The door to the office was open, so the three walked in without knocking.

 

“Good evening, Molly, Arthur,” Professor Dumbledore greeted them.  “I wish these were happier circumstances, but I hear from Poppy that young Ron will make a complete recovery.”  He gestured toward three chairs before his desk.

 

“What exactly happened, Headmaster?” Arthur asked, taking a seat.

 

Over the next twenty minutes Professor Dumbledore related the series of events which had led Harry and Ron to Professor Slughorn’s office and the ill-fated birthday celebration.

 

“By all rights, Ron should be dead,” concluded Professor Dumbledore.  “But thanks to Harry remembering the bezoar, your son was protected from the poison in the mead long enough for additional help to arrive.”

 

Molly, who had been clutching Arthur’s hand, gave a little whimper and covered her face with her free hand.

 

“Do you know who gave the mead to Professor Slughorn, sir?” Arthur asked, his voice taking on the authoritative tone he sometimes needed to use with unscrupulous trinket vendors.

 

Dumbledore shook his head.  “I’m afraid not, Arthur.  I don’t even have a suspicion.”

 

“Then you have no idea who the poison was really meant for, do you?” Molly demanded.  “It could have been any of the students or teachers!”

 

“Professor Slughorn mentioned a possibility which I am not at liberty to discuss at this time.  Suffice it to say that someone gave the mead to my Potions Master to give to someone else and Horace Slughorn never delivered it.  The fact that Ron was poisoned in Professor Slughorn’s office shows just how unscrupulously cold-hearted the poisoner was, because he seems not to care about how many people he kills in the process of delivery.”

 

“That still doesn’t explain why Professor Slughorn chose that particular bottle to toast Ron’s birthday,” Molly grumbled, staring fixedly at the Headmaster.

 

Dumbledore didn’t answer right away.  “The only thing Horace said about it was that he knew the taste was somewhat similar to Butterbeer, which the boys were familiar with and liked.  He also knew the alcohol content of that particular beverage was lower than that of firewhiskey,” he added with a slight smile.  “It wouldn’t have looked very good for Ron and Harry to show up for their Apparition lesson intoxicated, now would it?”

 

Molly sat up straight.  “I should think not!” she said indignantly.  “What put the idea to toasting Ron’s birthday with alcohol in the first place?”

 

“I assume that Ron was feeling rather embarrassed by what happened with the box of Chocolate Cauldrons,” Albus said by way of explanation.  “Professor McGonagall told me that Harry stumbled all over his words when he related that part of the story to her, especially since the chocolates in question had been in his trunk in the first place.  It seems to me that Professor Slughorn was only trying to lighten the aftermath of the love potion.”

 

“Besides, this is Ron’s seventeenth birthday,” Arthur reminded her with a little exasperation edging his voice.  “He’s of age now. He can legally consume adult beverages, Molly.”

 

“I don’t care, Arthur, whether Ron is seventeen or seventy!  The fact remains that our son was poisoned—”

 

“Molly! Arthur!” Professor Dumbledore interjected, “what is important right now is not who intended to poison whom, but what was done to save your son!  If Harry hadn’t known to use a bezoar as an antidote, Ron would be dead now and I would be considering whether or not to close the school!”

 

Arthur backed down immediately.  “I apologize, sir,” he said contritely.  “Do you know what the poison was?” Molly continued to glare at Dumbledore.

 

“We do.  Professor Slughorn gave the bottle to Madam Pomfrey, who used a measure of the contents to prepare a more effective antidote.  I think you might have seen her administering it as you arrived.  She has been sending me hourly reports on Ron’s condition since he was taken to the hospital wing before breakfast this morning.”

 

Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, suddenly left his perch in a flash of red and gold.  As Dumbledore smiled, “Ah, here comes one now,” the bird reappeared and dropped a small piece of parchment onto the desk before settling down in his place again.

 

Professor Dumbledore opened the note and smiled at Arthur and Molly.  “Good news.  All of Madam Pomfrey’s readings of Ron’s vital signs show them to be greatly improved.  She’s going to let Harry, Ginny and Hermione sit with him beginning at eight o’clock.  Now back to business.

 

“Before you arrived I asked Nymphadora Tonks and the other Aurors stationed in Hogsmeade to make a thorough investigation of this matter.  They agreed and I requested that they use whatever Ministry resources they had available to get me some answers to the questions I have.  The bottle of mead is in their custody for analysis and will be used as part of the evidence should the perpetrator be apprehended and bound over for trial.  Hopefully, Tonks and her colleagues will be able to report back within a week with something solid that can be acted upon.”

 

“We appreciate your efforts, Albus,” Molly said looking between her husband and the Headmaster.

 

A thought suddenly occurred to Arthur.  “Professor,” he began hesitantly, “does Ron…do I…does Ginny…do, do we... owe Harry life debts now?”

 

Beside him, Molly breathed, “Oh, my!”

 

Professor Dumbledore nodded gravely.  “Yes, Arthur.  I’m certain that you do,” he said quietly.

 

Arthur closed his eyes.  He wasn’t ready to face the fact that he and his family were indebted to Harry Potter.  No, that wasn’t right.  He would willingly help Harry if it meant that the Wizarding world would be free from Voldemort.  He just wasn’t prepared at the moment to die doing so.

 

“Arthur,” the Headmaster said, breaking into Arthur’s thoughts, “That doesn’t mean you or your family has to die.  It just means that you must be ready to protect Harry with everything you have, including your life if necessary.”  He paused.  Finally, he said, “Harry didn’t physically put himself in harm’s way for you, Arthur.  Nor did he suffer any from saving Ronald tonight.  He did with Ginny in the Chamber, however, and I think she realizes just how lucky she was to have Harry fight for her life there.  I also think that, having talked with her on several occasions, she knows the seriousness of what Harry did for her and that she plans to be with Harry wherever and whenever he must face Voldemort.”

 

Somewhat relieved, Arthur could only nod as a huge lump formed in his throat.  He glanced at Molly who took his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze.

 

“You know, Arthur, to me, Harry is our seventh son,” she said gazing into his eyes.  “I also know that if any of our six natural sons were in trouble, as their parents we would fight to the death to keep them alive: Lily Potter did that already for Harry... and so should we.”  She sighed.  “I now have one more son to protect,” she murmured, and Arthur knew she was thinking of the Boggart she had seen over a year ago at Grimmauld Place.

 

Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat.  “I know this is a serious subject and that you need time to adjust to it.  However, please know that what you are already doing for Harry is just as important as having someone defend him.  Please continue to open your home to him because yours is the only positive example of family life he knows,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.  “Harry benefits from your generosity every time you welcome him to The Burrow.”

 

Molly smiled at the Headmaster.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.

 

-- -- -- -- --

 

The six visitors gathered around Ron’s bed looked up as Arthur and Molly entered the hospital ward.  As Molly seized Harry in a bone-cracking hug it occurred to Arthur the others were looking especially grave; he wondered what they had been talking about.  He thought he had heard Hermione say something about a ‘victim’ and speculated that his children and Hagrid had been discussing nearly the same subject as he and his wife had just done in the Headmaster’s office.

 

“Dumbledore’s told us how you saved him with the bezoar,” Molly sobbed, bringing Arthur out of his ruminations.  “Oh, Harry, what can I say?  You’ve saved Ginny... you saved Arthur... now you’ve saved Ron...”

 

“Don’t be... I didn’t...” muttered Harry awkwardly.

 

“Half our family does seem to owe you their lives, now I stop and think about it,” Arthur said in a constricted voice.  “Well, all I can say is that it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry.”

 

Harry looked distinctly embarrassed and at a loss for word as Madam Pomfrey approached.  “Please, everyone, the rule in this hospital is six visitors only per patient.  If I do the addition correctly there are at least two people too many at Mr. Weasley’s bedside and I’d appreciate it if the situation was remedied at once,” she commanded as if the presence of three adults, two of whom were the patient’s parents, wasn’t nearly the right amount of supervision for six of Ron’s friends and siblings.

 

Hermione glanced at Harry who was trying desperately to stifle a yawn.  “We’d better be getting back to Gryffindor Tower,” she said glancing at her watch.  “It’s after curfew and we’ll be lucky to reach the portrait hole without running into Mr. Filch or Mrs. Norris.”

 

Hagrid stepped away from Ron’s bed.  “I’ll take you up, Hermione.  I’m a teacher for goodness’ sakes, you’ll be safe with me,” he said, extending his hand to Arthur.

 

“Thanks for coming, Hagrid,” Arthur said with a sincere smile.

 

Molly gave Hermione and Harry a quick hug each and the three bid the others a good-night as George whispered something to Harry that made him smile slightly.   

 

Arthur and Molly turned to face Ron’s bed again, but continued to watch over their shoulders as Harry, Hermione and Hagrid left the hospital.

 

“He’s such a lonely boy,” Molly murmured to Arthur wistfully her gaze lingering on Harry.  “We owe him so much.”

 

Arthur nodded, his gaze following Hermione.  “Something’s happened to her this year.  She looked more upset than the rest of us combined.  I wonder…”

 

“It may take a while longer for our son to know the truth, you know,” Molly smiled and patted his arm.  They turned their attention back to the young people gathered by Ron’s bed and Arthur put his arm around Molly’s shoulders. 

 

His gaze landed on Ginny, sitting with her chin propped in her hand.  She, like Hermione, looked a bit peaky and rather tired as she spoke quietly with Fred and George.  All through their brief time together tonight, Arthur had noticed, Ginny’s eyes had kept straying to where Harry stood near Hermione.  She’s fancied him for so long, he thought.  He felt another lump rising in his throat as he remembered how young and vulnerable his daughter had looked that miraculous night at the end of her first year; she had been so small and distraught and brave Harry not much bigger as he and Ron had triumphantly led her and Professor Lockhart into Minerva’s office.  Ginny was older now, but at times like this she still looked as if she needed someone to protect her, to hold her close and comfort her; he wondered whether there would ever be someone special for his daughter, someone who understood her, someone as gentle and noble as Harry...  She’s growing up so fast.  Maybe some day Harry will choose Ginny as I’ve hoped all along... just as I hope Ron will choose Hermione... 

 

He sighed tiredly, looking back at Ron’s pale face.  “He’s going to be all right, you know that.” He said it as much for Molly’s benefit as for his own. 

 

Molly only nodded and leaned against him, stifling a yawn.  It had been such a long day.

 

“Mum, have a seat,” Ginny offered, getting up.  “I’m going to ask Madam Pomfrey for some water.  Does anyone else want some?”

 

Molly took the proffered chair gratefully.  “You’re a dear, Ginny.  Thank you.”

 

As Ginny left, Arthur glanced around at his assembled family thinking, I hope we don’t have to get used to scenes like this.  We’ve been lucky so far; no funerals… yet.

 

-- -- -- -- --

 

Later, after putting Ginny to bed in the bed next to Ron’s, Molly ushered the twins out the door making them promise to go directly to Hogsmeade and Apparate to The Burrow instead of their flat.  Arthur then sat down in one of the chairs next to Ron’s bed.  He and Molly would stay until Ron regained consciousness, keeping watch, just as good parents should.

 

 

 

 

 

//
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