The Sugar Quill
Author: whizbee  Story: Ron's Preparations  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.

Frustrated, Ron threw down his quill, which knocked his ink bottle over onto his incomplete letter

A/N:  HelenH = awesomeness.  End of story.  Also, JKR has the dibs on this one. 



Ron’s Preparations


Ron sighed with a contentedness that could only be the result of a full stomach.  The twins had finally come round The Burrow for dinner so the food had been especially good; now the whole family was gathering in the sitting room.  He stretched himself out on the sofa, the perk of being the first one to reach the sitting room. He felt a nudge to his leg.


“Come on, Ron, budge up.  You’re taking up the whole sofa.”  Ron opened his eyes to see Ginny standing over him with her arms crossed. 


“So?” he asked as he resettled himself.  “You’re small enough, you’ll fit.” 


If Ron had not closed his eyes again, he would have noted the dangerous glint in Ginny’s eyes.  As a result, when he felt a vice-like grip on his ankles throw him unceremoniously to the floor, it was something of a surprise.


“ARGH!  Ginny!  What the hell d’you – !”


“Ronald Weasley!  Language, please!”  exclaimed his mother, Fred, and George as they entered, though the twins snickered when they said it. 


“Mum!” he said angrily as he got to his feet.  “She just knocked me to the floor!”


“That’s no excuse to use foul language,” his mother replied primly as she settled herself in her rocking chair.


Fuming, Ron opened his mouth to retort.  Perhaps sensing an impending argument, Bill dragged him over by the fire where he was setting up a chess game.  Fleur was reclining by Bill’s seat, rolling her eyes at Ron and Ginny’s turf war.  Ron glared back at Ginny, who was playing with her puffskein contentedly.  She poked her tongue out at him when he scowled at her.   


Bill half-pushed Ron into a chair.  “Come on, Ron, I haven’t played you at chess since last Christmas.  Let’s see if you’ve lost your touch.” 


Ron snorted contemptuously but Bill gave as good as he got.  Ron was so involved in the game that he did not hear a word of the question his mother addressed to him.




“I asked if you had noticed that your school trunk has a rather large dent in its side.  Now that you’re of age, you can fix that yourself, you know.” 


This roused Ron sufficiently enough to roll his eyes.  “Mum, it’s a bit early to worry about my trunk; we’ve only been home for two weeks!  Not that I’ll be needing it this year.”  He had, of course, mumbled this last part to himself but having seven children had done nothing if not sharpen Molly Weasley’s hearing.


“Excuse me?”


Ron had never backpedaled so quickly in his life. 


“N-nothing.  I just meant that it’s – it’s my last year so…”  Ron’s voice trailed off as he looked at his mother.  She looked like she was well on her way to furious, which was manageable if a little uncomfortable, but Ron thought he saw a glimmer of fear in her eyes as well.  And he realized that if his mum deserved anything, it was at least a little bit of honesty.  Even if he could not tell her the whole truth.  Even if the bit he did tell her would probably give her a heart attack.  He cleared his throat.


“Actually…Mum, Dad, try not to freak out too much but I…I won’t be going back to Hogwarts –”   


Fred and George immediately raised their hands in a gesture that plainly said “We had nothing to do with it.”


“And what, precisely, do you imagine you’ll be doing that is more important than completing your education?”  His mother’s voice was dangerously quiet but it quivered.  Conversely, at Ron’s announcement, his father bent his head so that Ron could not see his face.


“Me and Hermione are going to help Harry with something that Dumbledore left for him to do.”


There was complete silence.


“And what exactly would that be?”  His father was gripping the arms of his chair with unnecessary force. He still hadn’t looked up.


“I’m not allowed to tell.  Dumbledore told Harry that he could tell me and Hermione but no one el–”


“This is ridiculous!”  His mother had jumped up so quickly that her rocking chair fell over backwards.  She was as white as a sheet.  “Dumbledore couldn’t possibly have meant – just children, all of you – absolutely not!”


“I’m so sorry, Mum, but I’ve got to.  Harry needs –”


“I will not allow it!” she shrieked.  “You are all too young!”


“No, Mum, I’m not.  I’m seventeen.”  Ron steeled himself.  “I’m going to do this; I’m going to help Harry.  I – I’m sorry, Mum.”


“Arthur!”  His mum whirled on her husband, whose head was still bent.  “Say something to him, for heaven’s sake!”


His father hadn’t spoken immediately.  He clenched and unclenched his hands several times.  When he lifted his head, Ron was shocked to see that his father’s eyes were wet.  “Are you – ” His dad’s voice sounded hoarse and he swallowed before starting again.  “Are you three sure about this?”




Ron felt the tension seep from his body: his dad was on his side.  It would be alright.  “Yeah, we’re sure.” 


His father simply nodded.  He had gone very still and his jaw was clenched so tight the muscles were visible.  Guilt gnawed at Ron’s heart.  Abruptly, his father stood up and walked out of the room.  His mother – crying – ran after him.  Ron heard the back door slam.  He collapsed in his chair with his head in his hands.  He sat there for quite a while.  When he finally raised his head, he was startled to see Bill, Fleur, the twins and Ginny staring at him.  He had forgotten that everyone was still there.    


“Yeah?” he asked resignedly.


“Ron,” Bill had adopted the soothing, big-brother voice he used to use when they were little, but now it just sounded patronizing and it got Ron’s ire up.  “Are you…sure you know what you’re getting yourself into?  Have you really thought this through?”


Something inside Ron snapped.  “Thought this through?  Don’t you get it?” he cried.  “Harry’s got to do this and me and Hermione have always stuck by him, we sure as hell won’t stop now!  What did you think, that the three of us thought we’d just go off on a lark or something?”  With that, Ron jumped up and pounded up the steps to his room.  As he left, he heard Ginny say, “Leave it, Bill.  There’s no point.”


Ron stayed in his room all night, expecting someone to come up and interrogate him.  He must have fallen asleep, though, because the next thing he knew, sunlight was peeking through his window.  Ron sat up and rubbed his face, disoriented.  He dressed, gave Pig his owl treats, and cleaned his cage.  For the first time he could remember, he made his bed without being told to do so.  He was on the point of clearing the old clothes and miscellaneous junk off his floor when he finally admitted to himself that the shooting pains in his stomach were hunger pangs and moreover, he was avoiding his family.  But he would be damned if he saw his mother’s tears and his father’s crumpled face before he had to. 


He flung himself down on his newly-made bed, covering his eyes with an arm.  He was surprised.  He had expected maybe the twins to Apparate directly into his room, or Ginny to barge in, demanding a full explanation –


“Morning, Ron.”  Well, there she was.


“Hey, Ginny.”  He couldn’t help but say it warily.


“You can’t hide up here all day, you know.  Come down and eat, alright?”


“Yeah, I’ll be down in a minute.  I just wanted to…er…tidy up,” he finished lamely.


Ginny glanced around the room and gave him an appraising look but didn’t contest him.  Instead, she walked over and gave him a hug, whispering, “I get it, you know.  I might hate it, but I get it.”  Producing a bacon sandwich, she put it in his hand and walked out of the room. 


Left alone again, Ron found that he was no longer hungry as his gut was now filled with a surge of affection for his sister.  But the half-smile on his face quickly turned into a frown.  There was no question about his going with Harry and Hermione but he refused to allow his family to suffer because of it.  If the Death Eaters – and the Ministry, if it was ever taken over, as his dad and Bill believed it would be – ever found out that Arthur and Molly Weasley’s youngest son was helping Harry Potter overthrow Voldemort, that’s exactly what would happen.  He needed to fix this. 




Three days later, Ron entered the kitchen, red-faced and sweating from garden.  He’d been de-gnoming the garden and one of the nasty little blighters had scratched his arm and escaped.  He went to the sink to run his arm under the tap.  He was on the point of calling his mum to fix it up for him when he stopped.  He could imagine her reaction perfectly:  “Heal a cut?  Of course, dear, although you realize that you will likely have more to contend with than cuts and bruises if you, Harry, and Hermione decide to go off on this – what is it again?  You never said exactly…”  Ha.  He’d figure it out himself, thanks.  Strangely enough, though, his mum had not made one single mention of his news since he had announced it.  Rather, she’d pretended that everything was perfectly normal.  Which could only mean she was up to something.    


Ron grabbed The Healer’s Helpmate from the kitchen cabinet and flipped to “Bruises, Cuts, and Abrasions.”  He was running down the list when he heard his mother enter the kitchen. 


“Ron, you can’t have finished de-gnoming the garden already?  You’ve only been outside for half an – oh!”  Mrs. Weasley rushed forward.  “I suppose one of them got you, hmm?  Here, sit down, sit down.”  She bustled Ron over to the kitchen table and Accio’d some Essence of Dittany.  She poured a drop on his cut, which steamed and hissed, but healed instantly. 


“Thanks, Mum.”


“Not a problem, dear.”  His mum smiled at him for a moment and then said briskly.  “Well.  I can see the gnomes have tired you out already.  Why don’t we take a break?  I’ve just made some biscuits.” 


Ron looked at his mum suspiciously.  They were eating lunch in an hour; his mum hated when they ate right before meals.  As the biscuits and pumpkin juice floated over to the table, Ron wondered whether Veritaserum still worked if it was baked into food. 


“So you, Harry, and Hermione will not be returning to school in September.”  Ron groaned inside.  It had been too good to last.  “Have you at least made any preparations?  Where will you live?  Will you be in contact with anyone in case of an emergency?  These are important considerations, Ron, which I would hope you have been thinking seriously about.”


His mother said this all very briskly as she made a business of folding napkins for lunch. 


“Er, well, I – I guess I’ve thought about it a bit…we were going to talk about it more when Hermione and Harry get here.  We can’t do anything until we’ve talked.”  His mum raised her eyebrows ever so slightly and Ron abruptly closed his mouth.  If he said anything more, he risked giving something away, and no one was better at weeding out information than his mum. 


“Yes, yes of course,” she mused.  “You would need to be together, wouldn’t you?”  His mum got up and went to the counter to set a knife to cut up a loaf of bread.  With her back turned to Ron, she asked nonchalantly, “But where did you say the three of you will be going, exactly?”


Ron eyed the knife apprehensively.  “Mum, I can’t tell you that.  I told you, it’s supposed to be kept – ”


Secret, yes, I know,” she snapped.  The knife missed the loaf of bread entirely and stabbed the counter where it quivered ominously.  His mother pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers.  “If Albus were alive, I’d have words with him,” she muttered.  Ron snorted and bit into a biscuit quickly to cover the sound.  His mother was the only person he knew who would talk about giving Dumbledore a telling-off.  She returned to the kitchen table with the bread slices and a stack of plates. 


“This is Essence of Dittany, you know that, right?”  She asked unexpectedly, nodding at the dark bottle.  His mouth full of biscuit, Ron simply nodded.  She continued.  “You only need one drop for small cuts.  It works on burns too.  And you remember when Fred fell off his broom and broke his arm a few summers ago?  Do you remember what charm I used then?  It was Episkey.  That’s good for broken bones.  If you know those two things, you’ll know how to – to heal most injuries.”  Mrs. Weasley’s fingers shook slightly as she set a plate down in front of Ron.  He nodded again. 


“Okay, Mum,” he said slowly. Why was his mum telling him this? 


Mrs. Weasley must have misinterpreted the confused look on his face because she said somewhat irritably,


“Oh, for heaven’s sake! Take the book and read through it, or keep it for Hermione until she gets here.  Go on.  And call your sister, we’ll be eating soon.”  Something clicked in Ron’s brain.  Oh, he thought.  Standing up, Ron bent down and kissed his mum on the cheek. 


“Thanks, Mum” 


She waved him off.  “We aren’t finished yet, young man,” she called after him as he exited the kitchen.




Ron bounced his beat-up miniature quaffle against the slanted wall of his bedroom and let out a frustrated breath.  It was a habit of his; whenever he was thinking about something, he always had to have something in his hands, a quill, a loose button.  Normally, it kept him from becoming too restless when doing his homework.  However, the problem he was currently having was proving to be much more difficult than one of Snape’s essays.  The subject of his family’s protection had consumed Ron’s thoughts since he broke the news to his family.  The major issue was that his family was rather high profile so nothing could happen that would draw attention or suspicion.  Bill, his dad, and the twins all had jobs so they could not leave the country.  They were acting as the headquarters of the Order so they needed to be reachable, meaning they could not use a Fidelius. 


Ron groaned in frustration and threw himself on his bed, covering his head with a pillow.  His groan was echoed by one above him – he must have bothered the ghoul with the toy quaffle.  He had yet to come up with one feasible way to keep his family safe.  What kind of good would he be searching for Horcruxes if he could not even do this?  Ron allowed himself to wallow in self pity for a moment.  No one would miss me


His head pressed between his bed and his pillow, Ron’s breath caught in his throat and he went perfectly still.  No one would miss me.  Suddenly, although he did not yet have the answer, Ron understood precisely how to find it.  Instead of trying to hide or draw attention away from his family, he needed to draw attention away from himself.  That was the only way to curb suspicion.  Ron scrambled off his bed to reach for The Healer’s Helpmate.  He flipped to the section entitled “Mild to Lethal Infectious Diseases: Symptoms and (If You’re Lucky) Cures.”  He flipped through the chapter, which was organized by severity of illness, skipping the common cold, influenza, Redcap rash until a familiar word caught his eye:




A highly infectious disease noted for the unsightly blemishes upon the visage of the afflicted individual, its symptoms include large, painful boils that cover the whole of the patient’s body, as well as swelling of the uvula, which, depending on the severity of the swelling, limits or prevents entirely the ability to speak.  A further inconvenience is the offensive odor that develops after contraction of said illness.  Unfortunately, no certain cures to spattergroit exist; rather, folkloric methods espoused by…


Ron stared at the passage for a moment, and then reread it several times to be sure before he shouted in triumph.  Grinning, he snapped the book shut and decided it was time to treat himself for his brilliance with a snack.  As he took the stairs, however, he could not help but reflect on the unfortunate irony of the illness he was faking. 




Upon returning, Ron stuffed an entire biscuit in his mouth and resumed pacing around his room.  A double, maybe, who would pretend to be him with spattergroit?  That was the only way it would work but who would he get to do it, and how would they manage to act the role convincingly enough to halt suspicion?  Ron was so lost in thought that he didn’t hear the two Pops! behind him.  So out of nowhere, he heard:


“So you’re really serious about this?”


Ron yelped – choking on his biscuit – and whirled around.  Fred and George stood by his bed.


“Nice of you to drop in,” he coughed.  


“I would presume that is a yes,” Fred said as sat on Ron’s bed.  “In which case, there is something rather important we should discuss now, as opposed to later.”  The pipes clanked again.  “Bit restive today, isn’t he?”  Fred observed.


“Indeed, dear brother,” George continued.  “The impending adventure that you will be taking with Harry and Hermione indicates that you will be rather more distracted and rather less accessible this year than in years past.”


“And so a bit of help in a certain area might not go amiss.  We would have presented this to you later if you continued to be so woefully bereft of the natural wit and charm that comes to Weasley men but given that we may not be able to get in touch, we’ll do it now.”


Now slightly nervous, Ron looked from one twin to the other.  “What the hell are you talking about?”


George produced a thin black and gold book from his pocket with the title Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches on its cover.  Ears flaming, Ron backed away from the book as if it were sprouting venomous tentacles. 


“What makes you think – I don’t need – ”  he spluttered.


“Ah, but you do need it,” said George.  “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have made such a mess with Lavender last year.”


“Understand, Ron.”  Fred placed one hand on Ron’s shoulder.  “We were rooting for you all the way – Lavender is, of course, quite attractive – but at the time, we were unaware of the full circumstances.  But Ginny enlightened us post facto and, well,” Fred paused as if searching for the most delicate way to put it.  “You really mucked it up,” he and George finished together.


“Now then,” George stuck the book in Ron’s hands.  “Be a good little boy and do your reading.  Anyway, this stuff’s way more practical than anything you’ll learn at Hogwarts.”


“Convenient, then, since you’re not going back,” Fred grinned.


“Erm, yeah…”  Ron decided to take advantage of the segue that Fred had unwittingly provided to exit the highly embarrassing situation he was in.  “The thing is…I don’t know how to disappear without it looking suspicious.  If the Death Eaters find out, they’ll come after the family, no question…” 


The twins’ grins faded in favor of identically grim expressions. 


“Don’t worry about that,” assured George.


“We’ll handle them if we’ve got to,” said Fred.


“But you shouldn’t have to,” Ron insisted.  “Look, I’ve thought about it.”  Ron explained his idea quickly.  Fred and George were silent for a moment before Ron saw comprehension dawn on their faces.  When they stared at Ron, they both looked mildly impressed.


“D’you know, George, I believe that young Ronald has inherited some of our genius.”


“Indeed,” George agreed.  “Though it is manifesting itself a bit late.  You’re right, though, Ron.  There is that one little problem.”  They all fell silent for a moment.


Just then, the pipes clanked and rattled once more as a moan emitted from the floor above.  At that noise, they all arrived at the same answer.


“The ghoul,” they said simultaneously.


“Excellent!” said Fred, clapping his hands.  “We’ll need to talk to him about it – best to get Dad involved, the ghoul likes him.  We’ll pop over tonight for dinner and perhaps we can do it after?” 


The twins stood up to leave, with an air of business completed.


“But – but wait!”  Ron found it hard to believe that the twins had only stopped by to give him a book on romancing girls.  “Aren’t you – I dunno – mad or – or upset or something?  That I’m going off on this thing?” 


The twins did not answer immediately.  Fred ran a hand through his hair and George shoved his hands in his pockets. 


“Nah, we understand,” said George seriously.  “We’d be surprised if you didn’t, to be honest.”


“Anyway,” Fred said with a small smile.  “I don’t think me and George could be any prouder that this is the reason you’re skipping school.  Cheers, Ron.”  And with that, they Disapparated.


“Cheers,” Ron murmured to an empty room.   




Ron stood nervously outside the shed, listening to his father tinkering with some gadgets inside.  He had half-convinced himself to leave his dad to it when he heard a minor explosion followed by a frustrated “Damn!”  Ron hurried inside to see his father fanning away billowing smoke from some sort of…well, he actually had no idea.


“Dad!  Are you alright?”


“What?” he coughed.  “Yes, yes, I’m fine.  Apparently circly breakers can’t be fixed with a Reparo.  Ah well.”  His father took off his glasses and wiped the smudge off them with a handkerchief.  He sighed slightly and glanced at his son. 


“Well, Ron?” he asked as he perched his glasses on his nose.  “I don’t suppose you’re mother sent you out on an errand?”


“No, I – I came to ask you something.”  Ron cleared his throat.  “So I’m – er – going off on this – this thing – and I want to make sure that no one gives the family any trouble about it.  Me and the twins reckoned we could get the ghoul to pretend to be me while I’m gone.”


If the situation wasn’t so serious, the expression on his father’s face would have been quite funny.


“But son, I think someone would, ah, notice.”


Ron could have smacked himself.  How could he forget the main point of the plan?  “Yeah, but we’re going to make it so the ghoul looks like he has spattergroit! All the symptoms will cover him up and no one’ll want to get near him anyway.  But we’ll need to convince him to do it and he likes you best.”  The Burrow was his father’s childhood home; the ghoul had known him longest and so was more likely to cooperate if he was involved.  But his father did not answer directly.  Rather, he started replacing the tools he had lying about on his workspace in the toolbox.  When he finally did turn to speak to Ron, there was a faraway look in his eyes.


“You know, when Bill told us that he was going to Egypt to work as a curse breaker, your mother cried.  She was losing her eldest son, after all.  I had to remind her that he was a grown man now, and we couldn’t hold him back.  Secretly, though, I wanted to take your mother’s suggestion that we forge a letter from his department head saying his presence in Egypt was no longer required.”  Ron’s dad smiled slightly at the memory as he bent down to stow the toolbox on the shelf below the workbench.  Straightening, he said,


“With Charlie, it was much the same, although now your mother bemoaned the fact that none of her children seemed to want to go into safe professions.”  Ron snorted; he couldn’t help it.  “I told her that Charlie was excellent with animals so she needn’t worry but really, having a curse breaker and a dragon trainer out in the world hardly made it easier to sleep at night.” 


“You can imagine Percy’s decision to join the Ministry came as a huge relief to us.  Although, given the way things have turned out…” His voice trailed off.  Ron shifted in his seat, uncomfortable.  His father never mentioned Percy and he was therefore unsurprised when his father said nothing more about him.


“Anyway, then the twins dropped out of school and well, you remember how your mother took that.  I tried to tell her that Fred and George were bright and creative, and certainly mischievous enough to run a joke shop.  I only said that last part once though, as it seemed to make her more upset.”  Ron shuddered as he recalled the occasion with vivid clarity.  “But I admit I was worried; shops often fail and they didn’t even have a completed education to fall back on.”  His father’s eyes refocused on Ron although he did not quite seem to be seeing him.  “But this time, I don’t know what to say to your mother,” he said softly. 


Arthur reached over and gripped Ron’s shoulders with both hands.  “Ron – this is not what I wanted for you,” he said tightly.  “I couldn’t be prouder of you than I am right now but I would much rather you became a curse breaker or a dragon trainer, or never even spoke to the family again if it meant you were safe!  I wanted you to have a childhood free from the fear and danger your mother and I knew but somehow, you’ve been tangled up in it since you were eleven.  Eleven!  And now you’re a grown man and – well.”


His dad’s eyes glimmered with tears and Ron found he himself had to duck his head and swallow several times before speaking.  “But Dad, I…haven’t been forced.”


His father dropped his arms from Ron’s shoulders and scrubbed his face with his hands.  For a moment, his father seemed impossibly weary to Ron.


“I know, son.  That’s partly what makes it so hard.”  Ron’s dad tried to smile then, but it was the saddest smile Ron had ever seen.  His father seemed to rouse himself.  “Alright, then.  Let’s go find the ghoul.”


They were almost outside the garage when his father asked, “Er…just so we’re clear.  You’re mother doesn’t know about this quite yet, does she?”  Ron smiled weakly at his father.  “Ah.  We’ll be quiet, then.” 




Ron yawned as he entered the kitchen, where his whole family plus Fleur was bustling about.  He ducked under Bill and grabbed some toast.  His mother, looking harassed, glanced around.


“Is that it?  We’re all here?  Good, good.  Alright, then.  Bill, you take Ron.  I’ll take Ginny, let’s go.”


“I can Apparate, you know, I didn’t pass on a technicality,” Ron grumbled as Bill took him by the arm.  Bill only rolled his eyes. 


In a moment’s notice, the Weasleys were standing in front of a quaint cottage that had a backdrop of a breathtaking sunrise overlooking an ocean.


“It’s called Shell Cottage,” said Bill happily as he took Fleur by the hand.


“Oh Bill, it’s lovely,” said his mother tearfully.   


Ron had to admit it was.  Bill and Fleur had managed to find the cottage pretty cheap – the place was definitely a fixer-upper.  They were all there to help Bill and Fleur with renovations before wedding plans took up all of Mum’s time.  The two of them were not even supposed to be involved with the repairs but Fleur had been adamantly opposed to letting everyone else do the work.  After a quick tour of the house, Ron found himself in what would be Bill and Fleur’s garden, magically driving fence stakes into the ground.


“Need a hand?”


Ron turned to see Bill approaching him.  Bill did not wait for a reply; taking his place next to Ron, he began levitating stakes too.  Bill did not say anything and Ron, sensing that his brother had come out here for some other reason than to help him build a fence, kept silent.  Eventually, Bill spoke.


“I heard what you did with Dad and the twins last night,” Bill said lightly.


Ron glanced at him.  “Yeah, sorry I never got a chance to tell you.  Mum, you know.  I think she could tell we were up to something.  Wouldn’t let me out of her sight all day.”


“Unsurprising, given what you’re planning to do.”  Bill glanced at Ron’s face, where he saw a budding scowl.  “Not a judgment, Ron.  Just an observation.”


Ron relaxed.  He should have known better than to become defensive so quickly; after all, his family was taking the situation rather well, except for maybe his mum.   


“You know, this house isn’t registered at the Ministry.” 


Ron looked at Bill, interested.  “Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t, it being Muggle house and all.  That might be a good thing, the way things are going.”  The two shared a look of mutual understanding.  After a moment, Bill spoke again. 


“I suppose you noticed the extra bedrooms when we gave the tour,” he continued, “They’re bare now but they’ll be furnished pretty soon, definitely before the wedding.”


“Er, alright.” 


“I’m telling you all this for a reason, Ron.  Death Eaters may have their eyes on The Burrow.  Just remember that if you ever need help, you know where Shell Cottage is.”


Ron opened his mouth to say something only to realize he could not really find words big enough to express how he felt. 


Beel!”  Ron turned to see Fleur leaning out the back door, her long hair in a messy bun.  “Can you come inside, please?  I want your opinion on ze curtains for ze dining room.”


“Fleur, you know full well I don’t know a thing about curtains,” Bill called back.  “You’ll just disagree with whatever I say.”


“I know,” she grinned.  “Zat is why I needed to check wiz you.”  And with that, Fleur disappeared back inside.  Ron snorted. 


“Better hurry, Bill,” Ron said in mock seriousness.  “Fleur’s waiting.”


Bill batted Ron lightly across the back of the head and headed for the door.  He’d almost reached it when Ron called out,


“Bill! – thanks for, you know…I’ll keep what you said in mind.” 


Bill nodded briefly and disappeared back inside.  Ron resumed his task, working steadily for almost an hour before Ginny called him in for tea.  He entered the kitchen, where he found his family clustered around conjured mismatched tables and chairs.  Bill was eating scones from a plate balanced on his knees with an arm around Fleur, who was sipping daintily from a cup of tea.  The twins had set the forks and knives to begin fencing in the air above their heads.  Ginny and Dad were struggling to keep straight faces as his Mum stopped the battle midair and began yelling furiously about how they could have taken someone’s eye out.


Some impulse caused Ron to stop.  He stood in the doorway and observed his family.


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