The Sugar Quill
Author: B Bennett (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Dress Robes  Chapter: Chapter 2
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Part II

 

Thank you for the comments on the first part of this story, and please let me know your opinion of this ending section. All characters belong to J.K. Rowling. No profit was made on this story.

***

Although Harry didn't find travelling by Floo powder as stomach wrenching as he once had, it still wasn't his favorite activity. Coughing, he stumbled out of the fireplace and into the kitchen at the Burrow.

"Harry!" Mrs. Weasley was standing by the fire, wand in hand. Harry wondered how long she'd been waiting; the kitchen sparkled, as though from repeated cleanings. "Are the boys and Ginny behind you?" she asked, looking anxious.

Before Harry could answer, the fire flashed green and Ron stepped out, a heavy satchel slung across his shoulders and a smudge of soot on his nose.

"'Lo, Mum. What's for supper? I'm starved. Ginny wouldn't let us get dessert with lunch."

He nodded at Harry. "Better move, Fred and Charlie are still at it."

Harry jumped out of the way just as the fire flashed again. Fred, muttering to himself, stepped into the kitchen.

"Stubborn git, won't believe a word…Hi, Mum, what's for supper?…As if I'd make it all up."

There was a third flash. Charlie appeared.

"You're wrong," he declared, stepping over the hearth. Turning, he bent toward the fire and vigorously shook his head. A fine layer of soot drifted from his red hair.

"It can't be done. Not unless your Keeper's completely incompetent, that is." He smiled at Mrs. Weasley. "Hi, Mum. Is supper soon? I could eat a flobberworm."

"I'm telling you, it can be," Fred insisted, dropping his Diagon Alley packages onto the kitchen counter. "Get the brooms and I'll show you."

There were two more flashes. George and Ginny arrived.

Ginny shook her head. "You two aren't still arguing, are you?" She smiled at her mother. "Hello, Mum. I've got your receipts."

Mrs. Weasley smiled back. She looked relieved. "Thank you, dear. Did you get everything you needed?"

Ginny nodded. "Except for the fourth year Divination textbook." She grinned at Harry. "But Harry said I could borrow his."

Mrs. Weasley patted Harry on the shoulder. "That's sweet of you, dear, but I'm sure she can use Ron's old one."

Outside of his mother's vision, Ron shook his head vigorously at Ginny, mouthing 'No!'.

Harry grinned. By the time Ron received a textbook, it had usually been through at least two other Weasleys. As Ron wasn't particularly careful with his school things, it was a rare for a book to survive an entire year. He generally ended up sharing with Harry, not that Harry minded.

"We've got time before supper for a quick game, right?" Fred asked.

"Supper? Oh, yes, go ahead. I'll get started." Mrs. Weasley flicked her wand. A door in the corner cupboard opened and an apron shot out, flying across the room and into her hand.

"Get a broom," Fred ordered Charlie. "And I expect a full apology once I've proved you wrong."

Charlie stuck out his tongue at Fred before heading down the narrow passage that led to the staircase.

"We should get ours, too," Harry said to Ron. "This'll be worth seeing."

"Oh." Ron glanced over Harry's shoulder at his brothers. He lowered his voice. "You go on without me. I've got something I need to take care of. I'll be out in a minute."

Harry stared at Ron. "You're owling Hermione again, aren't you?"

Ron turned red. "No. Well, just a quick note. I'll be fast."

The corners of Harry's mouth twitched. "Ron, we just saw her ten minutes ago."

"I know," Ron said, sounding defensive. "I forgot to tell her something."

Harry considered asking how Ron could've forgotten to tell Hermione anything after the two had spent the entire day not more than ten inches apart, but he thought better of it. "Okay," Harry said. "I'll tell them you'll be down later."

Ron looked grateful. "Thanks, Harry." He left the kitchen.

"Ron going after the brooms?" George asked.

Harry shook his head. "Uh, no.…" He dropped his voice. "He's taking his robes upstairs so your mum won't see them."

"Oh." George glanced at Mrs. Weasley, then cleared his throat. "Well, I'll just go up and get our brooms, then."

Mrs. Weasley had put a pot to boil on the stove, and was using her wand to peel potatoes above it. "George," she called, as he headed for the staircase, "if you're going upstairs, then you can take your school things, too." She picked up one of the bags from the counter next to her and held it out toward her son. A folded piece of yellow parchment slipped out and drifted to the floor.

She set the bag back down and bent to retrieve the paper. "What's this?" she asked.

George's eyes widened, and he made a grab for the paper, hand outstretched. "Nothing, it's trash. I'll get it."

Mrs. Weasley beat him to it. "Is this one of your receipts, Ginny?" she asked, unfolding the paper.

Ginny shook her head. "Shouldn't be. I put them all in my…" Her voice trailed off at her mother's expression. "Mum? What's wrong?"

Mrs. Weasley looked at George, who had skidded to a stop in front of her. There was a splash as the potatoes dropped from the air and into the pot. "Where did this come from?" she asked.

"Where'd what come from?" Charlie asked cheerfully as he returned, broomstick in hand.

George glanced at Fred, who'd gone pale. Neither answered.

"I asked," Mrs. Weasley repeated, her voice louder, "where this came from?"

"Mum?" Charlie looked concerned. "What is it?"

Her eyes still on her twin sons, Mrs. Weasley held out the paper to Charlie. "It's a receipt for a new account, opened today in Fred and George's name."

Charlie studied the paper, letting out a low whistle. "Nearly a thousand Galleons. Wow." He looked up, curious. "What'd you two do, rob a train?"

Harry froze.

"That's not funny!" Mrs. Weasley snapped. She grabbed George by the arm. "George," she demanded, "Where'd this come from?"

Although both taller and heavier than his mother, George's expression was one of terror. He couldn't seem to speak. "Well," he finally said, his voice higher than usual, "we've been saving our allowance, and …"

"DON'T lie to me! Remember who pays your allowance!" She snatched the paper back from Charlie and waved it in George's face. "This is from those practical jokes we told you to stop making, isn't it?"

"No! Mum, really, it isn't what it seems…" George began.

Fred took a brave step closer. "Mum…we can't tell you."

"You certainly WILL tell me!" Mrs. Weasley yelled. Harry had never seen her so angry. "When your father gets home, you're going to…"

She was interrupted by a 'pop' as Mr. Weasley Apparated at the kitchen door.

"Great timing," Fred muttered, rubbing his eyes.

Mr. Weasley looked exhausted. "Hullo, everyone. Have a good day?"

"Fred and George certainly did." Mrs. Weasley thrust the receipt at her husband.

Harry watched as Mr. Weasley scanned the paper. He could tell when he got to the number part because his eyes bugged out, like the characters in the cartoons that Dudley was so fond of watching.

"Where did this come from?" he asked.

"They were just about to explain that," Mrs. Weasley said, glaring at the boys.

Fred cleared his throat. "I'm sorry," he said, straightening. "We promised we wouldn't tell. We didn't get it illegally or anything like that, if that's what you're worried about."

George nodded. "You just have to trust us that it was a gift."

Mrs. Weasley shook her head. "Surely you'd don't expect us to believe someone gave you that much money?"

"Well, it wasn't really a gift." Fred said. "It was more of an investment." He looked at George, then cleared his throat. "It's official. We're going to open a joke shop when we graduate. Weasley Wizard Wheezes."

Mrs. Weasley's laugh was heavy with disbelief. "You can't be serious! You know nothing about running your own business."

"We don't!" Fred said eagerly. "I mean, we didn't, but we've been doing research." He turned to George. "Go get the books," he urged.

George ran for the stairs.

Fred grabbed one of the bags from Diagon Alley and pulled out a book, which he thrust into his father's hands.

Mr. Weasley held the book out at arm's length, peering down through his glasses. "From A to Z - How to Get Your New Wizarding Business Off the Ground."

George pounded back down the stairs and into the kitchen with an armload of books, which he dumped on the table. "These aren't all," he panted, "we just sent a box back to school."

Mrs. Weasley picked up a paper volume. "Gringotts' Guide to Financing the Fledgling Business." She picked up another. "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Wizards' Edition."

"We've been reading all summer," Fred said quickly. "We've learned loads. Go ahead, ask us anything."

Mr. Weasley looked at both boys a moment before he put down the book. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Boys, I'm impressed you've taken the time to study up on this - really, I am. But I'm afraid you haven't thought of the implications. Owning your own business has responsibilities I don't think you've considered."

"And besides which, this isn't a career, it's a hobby," Mrs. Weasley said firmly. "You couldn't possibly make enough money to live on. If you went into the Ministry, you'd have a stable income with good benefits, and you could do this on this side for fun. But as your only means of income?"

Fred looked at his mother. "If we go into the Ministry," he said, "we might end up like Percy."

"Fred!" Mr. Weasley said sharply.

Mrs. Weasley paled. Percy had moved out at the beginning of the summer. He wasn't speaking to his father.

Her voice was hoarse when she finally spoke. "Percy will come around. He just needs time. And you can't reject a career at the Ministry, a good career, because of a misunderstanding."

George shouted. "Mum, you always talk about us like we're one person!" He grabbed Fred by the shoulder. "This is Fred. He's half and inch shorter than me. He's loads better at Arithmancy, and he sneaks Ron's Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle comics when he thinks no one's looking."

Fred looked startled.

George slapped his own chest. "I'm George. I like to write. I have a notebook of short stories, but I've never shown them to anyone. I'm going to let me hair start growing the day I graduate and not cut it until it's as long as Ginny's."

Mrs. Weasley sounded exasperated. "George, don't be melodramatic. Of course I know you're two people. One person alone couldn't possibly cause so much trouble."

"Then treat us like it!" George yelled back.

George!" Mr. Weasley snapped. "Don't speak to your mother that way!"

George held up a hand. "Sorry. I'm sorry. Look…" he ran his fingers through his hair, then shrugged. "I don't know what else I can say. I'm sorry, Mum, but like it or not, Fred and I are going into business together - not into the Ministry."

"George…" Mrs. Weasley began.

Fred's jaw was set. "We're decided, Mum. Sorry."

Mrs. Weasley looked from Fred to George, her expression unreadable.

Mr. Weasley cleared his throat. "All right, you've made yourselves clear. You're old enough to make your own decisions. We certainly can't force you to go into the Ministry, and…" he glanced at his wife. "I understand your reasons." He shook his head. "But boys, there's still the matter of the money. You've got to understand why we're concerned."

Harry saw Fred look at George. George shook his head slightly, squaring his shoulders. Neither looked his way.

"I'm sorry, Dad, but…"

"I gave it to them," Harry blurted.

Everyone stared at him.

"What?" Mr. Weasley said, looking shocked.

Harry shifted uncomfortably. "I gave it to them."

Mr. Weasley shook his head. "Harry, why?"

Harry searched for a plausible lie, but found none. "I just did."

Mrs. Weasley seemed to have found her voice again. "Harry, dear, you can't just give away that much money out of the blue! You must've had a reason."

"Not really," Harry said, finding it hard to meet Mrs. Weasley's eyes. "I just did."

"It was Harry's winnings from the Triwizard Tournament."

Harry turned. Ginny was standing by the fireplace. He'd almost forgotten she was there.

Ginny smiled. "Wasn't it?" she asked, gently.

Both of us. It's still a Hogwarts victory. We'll tie for it.

Harry looked at the floor.

Mr. Weasley laid a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry," he said quietly, "that money was hard earned."

Harry swallowed. "I want Fred and George to have it." We've helped each other out, haven't we? We both got here. Let's just take it together. Harry's heart beat faster.

"Harry," Mrs. Weasley said, "You could do a lot with that money. Have you really thought this…"

Cedric grinned. "You're on."

He pulled away from Mr. Weasley. "Look, I don't want it!" he shouted. "I tried to give it to the Diggorys, but they wouldn't take it, and I can't keep it!"

It suddenly went so quiet that Harry could hear the hum of the grandfather clock in the living room. Mrs. Weasley was staring at him, her hands over her mouth. The twins looked sympathetic; Ginny had tears in her eyes. Harry looked to the doorway. Ron was standing there. He met Harry's eyes, then turned and went back down the hallway; Harry heard his feet on the stairs.

Mr. Weasley cleared his throat. The noise triggered something; Harry realized what he had done, and his face went hot with embarrassment.

"Mr. Weasley," he stuttered, "I'm sor.."

Mr. Weasley held up a hand, silencing Harry. He looked at his wife. Harry could see tears on her cheeks. She nodded, her apron twisted in her hands.

He cleared his throat again. "Right. Boys, you may keep the money."

Fred and George both looked startled. "What?" Fred asked.

Mr. Weasley held out a hand to Harry. Stunned, Harry accepted it.

"Harry, that was very generous of you," Mr. Weasley said. "Thank you."

Harry couldn't think of a response. "Yes, sir," he said.

Mr. Weasley turned to the twins. "I've got a friend at the Ministry who's a retired lawyer. He could help you get everything set up properly once you graduate. Would you like to talk to him?"

Identical grins broke out on each boy's face.

"Yeah, we'd like to talk to him," George said. "Thanks, Dad."

Fred looked at his mother. "Mum?"

Mrs. Weasley used her apron to wipe her eyes. "Will there be a family discount?" she asked, her smile watery.

Fred threw an arm around his mother's shoulders. "Of course," he assured her. "Five percent all around."

Mr. Weasley smiled. "I'm afraid Zonko's had better watch out."

Charlie punched Harry in the arm. Although it was lightly aimed, Harry was sure he'd have a bruise by morning. "So, we'll be dining with an investor this evening," Charlie teased. "How impressive."

Harry blushed. "I'm not really. I mean…"

George shook his head. "Sorry, Harry, you're stuck. He held up his hands, making an imaginary frame in the air. "'H. Potter, Investor and Experimental Magic Test Guinea Pig' - that's how your door plaque will read one day."

Fred nodded, his expression solemn. "That's right. Stick with us and we'll make you rich. If we don't blow you up first, that is."

"Great," Harry said, after everyone had stopped laughing. "Can't wait."

Charlie looked expectantly at Mrs. Weasley. "So," he rubbed his hands together, "about dinner…"

"In a minute." She held out her arms to Harry. "Come here, dear."

Uncertainly, Harry walked closer, and Mrs. Weasley put her arms around him.

Harry didn't know what else to do but hug her back.

She released him, then pushed his hair out of his eyes to kiss his forehead.

Dinner's in twenty minutes. If you boys want to get in a game, you'd better run up and get Ron." Mrs. Weasley turned back to her kitchen to start the potato-peeling process again.

Harry sighed. The last thing he wanted to do at the moment was talk to Ron, but he knew putting it off wouldn't make things better. He trudged down the hallway and started up the stairs.

*****

Ron's door was open. Ron was sitting on his bed, staring into the open trunk. He didn't look up when Harry entered the room.

Harry cleared his throat. "Your mum said dinner's in 20 minutes."

Ron nodded, but still didn't look at Harry.

Harry leaned uncomfortably against the door jam. As the silence continued on, Harry found himself growing increasingly irritated. He had known Ron would be mad if he ever found out where the money for his new dress robes had come from, but after the scene in the kitchen, Harry was in no mood for an argument, and especially not with Ron. He would go outside, he decided, and watch Charlie and the twins play Quidditch. Ron could sit in his room and brood by himself.

Ron looked at Harry. "So," he said, gesturing to the robes, "I guess I should thank you for these."

Harry blinked, surprised. Ron's expression was neutral; Harry didn't know how to respond. "I…well, that is…it was no big deal."

Ron nodded. He picked up the brown paper-wrapped package. One corner was ripped, and he ran a finger along its edge. "Does Hermione know? I mean, that you bought them."

Harry shook his head. "No. I didn't tell her. And I didn't buy them, Fred and George did."

Ron snorted. "Yeah, but you told them to. I knew they wouldn't've thought up something like that on their own. Huge tightwads, both of them."

Harry couldn't think of a response.

Ron continued to pick at the wrappings. "You could have told me, you know."

Harry wasn't sure if Ron was talking about buying the dress robes or giving the Tournament winnings to Fred and George. He nodded.

"Kind of stupid of you, though," Ron continued.

"Why?" Harry asked cautiously.

Ron looked up and grinned. "Well, you saw how good I looked in them. With me around, no one'll give you a second glance."

Harry stared at Ron, then laughed. "I'll live, I think."

Ron tossed the package into his open trunk. "Right. Quidditch, then?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah. Sounds good."

Ron grabbed the brooms out of the corner, then paused. "Harry?"

Harry looked at him.

Ron reddened slightly. "Don't tell Hermione what I said about how I look in the robes, okay?"

Harry grinned. "Okay."

Ron grinned back and started for the door.

Harry pushed ahead of Ron. "As long as Fred gets Charlie to change his mind about that Beater play. Otherwise, I'm owling Hermione first thing after dinner."

Harry ran for the stairs. He could hear Ron's footsteps pounding behind him.

Life was good for the moment.

 

//
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