The Sugar Quill
Author: P.J. Babington (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: When Everything Starts Again  Chapter: Default
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A missing scene from GoF.  Molly, Bill and Charlie talk.

Molly looked round the kitchen in despair.  The detritus was scattered everywhere; some was Arthur’s, some was unrecognisable, but that tidy patch at the corner of the table must, surely, be Percy’s.  The red and white gingham curtains fluttered brightly over the chaotic sink.  She had never got used to the devastation although it had been going on for years.  She supposed it would be over at some point and life would return to normal, if she could remember what normal was.

Bill came down the stairs and put his arms round her, resting his chin on the top of her head.  ‘What happened, Mum?’

She sighed.  ‘Just breakfast.’

He raised his eyebrows.  ‘Breakfast never used to look like this.’

‘Breakfast always used to look like this.  It was no different when you lived here; you’ve just forgotten what teenagers are like.  Besides, Fred and George had a hand in this.  I’m sure they’ll find a place of their own when they leave school so I’m teaching them to cook.  They seem to be getting the hang of it so I won’t need to worry about that.’

‘I’m certain they won’t starve,’ he said.  ‘If they can create Ton-Tongue Toffees they can manage a fry-up.  Can I suggest you teach them to clean next?’

She rolled her eyes.  ‘I’ve been trying for years.  It’s easier said than done.’

‘Come and sit down.  I’ll clear this up in a little while.’  He pointed his wand at the kettle.  ‘Tea or coffee?’

She sat down gratefully and cleared a space on the table.  ‘Tea please, dear.  Is Charlie awake?’

‘Just gone vertical.  He’ll be down in a minute.’

‘Make Percy a cup while you’re at it and I’ll take it up to him.  He’s trying to finish that report before you go.’

Bill frowned.  ‘Can’t he think about anything else?’

‘Percy is working very hard,’ said Molly reprovingly.  ‘He and Mr Crouch have put a lot of effort into the World Cup and the Tournament and he’s trying to clear the backlog of routine work as quickly as possible.’

‘I realise that, Mum,’ he said patiently, as he put her cup on the table, ‘but he doesn’t talk about anything else.  He never reads a book; he never goes out; he doesn’t seem to have any friends.  I know he’s been busy, but he hasn’t said anything about looking for a flat when he has time.  He doesn’t even talk about his girlfriend.  He’s only eighteen; it’s all wrong.’

Molly had been worrying about it too.  Percy was always alone as a child but she had hoped he would grow out of it.  He was the oldest child at home for years and had all the responsibility with none of the compensating status.  The twins had never played with him much, unless you counted playing tricks on him as play.  When Bill and Charlie came home they were full of their lives at Hogwarts and not very interested in their little brother.  Of course they were kind to him, Charlie had taught him how to ride a broom and Bill had shown him a few easy charms, but most of the time they were off together talking about people he didn’t know and making jokes he couldn’t share.  It was hard to remember occasions when he wasn’t by himself with a book, the outsider looking in.  Bill was the last person to understand what that felt like.

She looked at him lounging in his chair.  He had always expected the world to love him and he had usually been right.  He had dominated his siblings at home and his classmates at school.  He had grown up good-looking, charming, witty, popular and arrogant and, while not selfish, certainly fond of his own way.  It was so unfair that Percy tried so hard but had none of the attributes that would make success easy, while Bill, who never worked, had everything he wanted dropped in his lap.  One day he would fail at something; she hoped it wouldn’t hit him too hard.

‘He’ll calm down soon,’ she said, with a confidence she didn’t feel.  ‘He’ll relax once he feels established and knows what the form is.  Penny’s a nice girl but she knows what she wants and she’ll sort him out when she’s ready.’

Bill made a face.  ‘She’s another one.  I know she’s a Ravenclaw, but who needs research into the origin of variations of the level of magic across the universe?  I mean, it’s there; we use it; some places are more magical than others; who cares why?  I can see them in five years, eating scrambled eggs every night and talking about committee meetings and whether the magical hyperspace is curved or flat.’

‘When you get married,’ said Molly firmly, ‘it had better be to someone you’re happy to eat scrambled eggs with every night because you’ll be doing an awful lot of that when you have children.’

She had obviously made a mistake.  ‘Oh, Mum, that’s a long way away and it’s all different now.  You can take children out in the evening in a way you and Dad couldn’t.  I’m not going to let children change the way I live my life and I’m certain my wife won’t either.’

Molly sipped her tea.  She doubted babies had changed that much in the last twenty years but knew better than to say so.  He’d find out when the time came and the last thing she wanted to do was put him off the whole idea.

‘Did I hear right, Bill?’ said Charlie, as he walked in yawning.  ‘Are you thinking of hanging up your dancing shoes and producing children?’

‘You shouldn’t listen to Fwoopers, little brother.  All I said was that when I get married, if I get married, it won’t be to a walking research library like Penny.  Give me a bouncy, cuddly little armful any day.  Get me another cup of coffee while you’re there, will you?’

Molly reviewed Arthur’s family.  No Weasley in history had married a cuddly little armful: it simply wasn’t in their genes.  ‘But you do want to get married some day, don’t you, dear?’

‘Oh, Mum.  Yes, of course, some day but not now.  I’ve got too much to do and I’m having too much fun.  The last thing I want is to get tied down.  There’s lots of time before I need to think about that.’

Molly began to clear away the breakfast.  The porridge seemed welded to the saucepan and none of the usual charms worked.  Was that why George had asked if oatmeal contained iron?  She left it soaking on the draining board and dealt with the plates and bowls instead. 

‘I don’t mean to nag, dear, but I do worry.  I’d feel so much happier if you had a nice girl to look after you.’  She went to the hall and turned out the cupboard, trying to find another bottle of Mrs. Skower’s All-Purpose Magical Mess-Remover.  

‘You’ll have to meet a nice girl first,’ said Charlie sotto voce.

‘Bog off, Charlie.  I know lots of nice girls,’ muttered Bill.

‘Not under the meaning of the Act.’

‘Rubbish.  They’re good-looking.’

‘Granted.’

‘Sophisticated.’

‘Excessively fashionable.’

‘Sociable.’

‘Snobbish.’

‘Fun.’

‘Fun-loving, vacuous and never stop talking.’  Charlie tipped his chair back.  ‘It’s no skin off my nose if you want to run around with upmarket blondes who only think about clothes and social success, but don’t pretend you’ve ever thought about bringing one of them home for inspection.’

‘I work damn hard.  Why shouldn’t I spend my free time with undemanding, pretty girls who enjoy parties?’

‘No reason at all, as long as you don’t inflict them on the rest of us.’

‘Well at least I know some presentable girls,’ snapped Bill.

Charlie looked at his hands.  ‘You have a point there.’

Molly stuck her head round the door.  She had never enquired too closely into Bill’s social life, although it seemed her suspicions were correct, but she hadn’t realized Charlie was lonely.

‘But Charlie, there are girls who work on the reservation.  I’m sure we met some when we were there.’

Bill snorted.  ‘Not the dragon-ladies, Mum, they’ve got fiery breath, scaly legs and muscles like pythons.  Charlie can do better than that.’

Molly glared at her son.  ‘You set too much store by appearances, Bill.  I’m sure they’re very nice girls.  Now, please take this cup of tea up to Percy.  Remind him you have to leave soon.’  He disappeared up the stairs and she sat in her rocking chair and considered Charlie.  ‘I don’t want to pry, dear, but is something wrong?’

‘There’s nothing to say really, Mum.’  He was drawing patterns in the spilt tea and wouldn’t meet her eyes.  ‘I love what I do and I don’t want to stop, but sometimes I wonder if I’ll meet a girl who’ll be happy to give up whatever she’s doing and come and live in a hut in Romania and be a housewife.  There’s nothing on the reservation except dragons and dragon-keepers, you know.’

‘Of course you will, darling,’ she said confidently.  ‘One day you’ll find someone who’ll be happy to live in a hut or anywhere else.’

He clearly wasn’t convinced.  ‘That’s what you’d have done, Mum, what you did, but that was a long time ago.  Things are different now, and most girls expect to work even after they have children, or at least to have the choice.’

‘Things aren’t that different, Charlie,’ she said gently.

‘Oh come on, Mum, you gave up work almost as soon as you were married.  You wouldn’t have done that unless you wanted to, would you?’  He looked up and his gaze sharpened.  ‘Would you?’

She was taken aback but, as she hesitated, Bill bounced back into the kitchen.  ‘Why the serious faces?  Cheer up, Charlie.  There’s a girl out there somewhere who is longing to know all about dragons and Quidditch.’

‘Mum was just explaining why she gave up work after she got married,’ said Charlie evenly.

‘That’s obvious, it was to look after us.’

‘Yes, you idiot, but why?’

She could see they had never questioned it before – it was just one of the things mothers did, like nagging and worrying too much.  She shrugged.  ‘It’s very simple.  We couldn’t afford it.’

Now she had really confused them.  She grinned at their astonished faces.  ‘I designed broomsticks, remember?  It’s not something you can do part-time and it’s interesting but not very lucrative.  Childcare’s not tax-deductible and I didn’t earn enough to pay someone to look after you.’

‘But there’s no reason you couldn’t have worked here some of the time,’ said Charlie quickly, then looked offended when she laughed.

‘You wouldn’t say that if you’d ever looked after small children.  I should have made you babysit Ron and Ginny more often.  My only quiet time was during your nap and I needed a break myself by then.   You know I helped out Mr Nollekens in term-time when you went to school, then Percy came along and put a stop to that.  Of course I gave the idea up completely during the War.’

‘I don’t see why,’ said Bill.

Molly sighed.  ‘You were too young to notice what was going on; nearly every mother gave up working by the end.  I couldn’t have left you with a childminder all day.  I used to wake up and imagine coming home to find the Dark Mark over the house and all of you dead or gone.  I sometimes worried about leaving you here while I went shopping.  I’d never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t been here when they came.’

She rocked the chair more quickly, feeling the familiar cold prickles running over her skin.  ‘It was so awful.  Your father was away more often than not and I never knew where he was or if he’d be coming back.  And I was trying to be brave and not let you know how worried I was and all the time people were dying and no one knew who was going to be next.  And it was people I knew, people I’d seen the day before, people I loved, like Aunt Bertha and her baby, and there was no rhyme or reason to it, except maybe to frighten people, and no one knew how to stop it.’

The grandfather clock was pointing to ‘home’ or ‘travelling’, as it should have been.  It had never struck but, if she looked away, the hands could go spinning round to ‘mortal peril’, and she would hear the bell toll.

Bill put his hand on her arm and stopped the chair.  ‘Mum, it was over a long time ago.  He’s gone and the Deatheaters are lying low.  We’re all OK and there’s nothing for you to worry about.’

Molly concentrated on him, so beautiful and assured, as the world came back into focus.  ‘Of course you’re right, dear, but it’s hard to forget.  We were so afraid for so long and that’s a terrible thing to grow up with.  We’ve never dismantled the wards round the house, you know, just in case.’

‘We should go,’ said Percy, rushing in.  ‘Bagman’s bound to have made a mess of something and I promised Mr Crouch I would be there to remedy any slip-ups.’

Bill supported her as she levered herself up.  ‘Are you sure you’re OK, Mum?  I don’t have to go quite yet.’

‘No, no, I’ll be fine.  Have you all got your bags?  Off you go then, dears.  Have fun but, remember, I’m counting on you to make sure the twins stay sober and behave themselves.’

He picked up his rucksack and swung it over his shoulder.  ‘Bye, Mum.  We’ll do our best but we can’t promise miracles.’

‘But we’ll post ourselves inside the beer tent and guard the butterbeer with our lives,’ said Charlie, kissing her.

‘Don’t worry, Mother, you can rely on me.  I’ll remind them they mustn’t embarrass us in front of the Ministry.’

‘Well, choose your words with care, dear,’ said Molly cautiously.

Bill chuckled.  ‘Percy always chooses his words with care.’

 ‘Some people say I’m pompous,’ said Percy solemnly, ‘but I think I’m preternaturally prolix.’

‘That was a joke, right, Perce?’

‘Don’t be silly, Charlie.  You know I don’t have a sense of humour.’

They Disapparated, laughing together, and Molly was alone.  She drifted around the kitchen, tidying things away. 

Charlie would be all right.  He didn’t have Bill’s charisma but he was calm and kind and funny and would make a good husband.  He was just like Arthur, she reflected; he’d be content as long as he had a job that let him indulge his obsession.  They would all be OK.  They’d made it this far, of course they would all be all right in the end.  She must forget the bad times and start thinking about what to do with the future.  Why shouldn’t she go back to work?  She could tune a broomstick better than any of her sons and it was certainly something she could do from here.  It would take time to persuade Arthur to clear some of his Muggle toys out of the shed but there was no rush to get going.  She wouldn’t make much money but she’d be able to keep it all.  This was something she knew she could do; this was going to be fun.

//
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