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A Ron Ficathon where Everyone's a Winner!
Team Gen: The Festivities 
5th-Mar-2007 02:55 pm
triatharon
Story title: The Festivities
Author name: aberforths_rug
Team: Team Gen
Prompt: Pride
Rating: PG
Pairings/Characters: The entire Weasley clan
Warnings: Character Death
Length: 7960
Summary: Ron looked at his family — well, part of it anyway — gathered around the kitchen table at the Burrow. It was odd not to have his mum buzzing around filling their tea cups or handing out biscuits. They were there to settle on the plans for the... festivities. Ron rises to the occasion and finds his proper place at the Weasley family table.
Author notes: Many thanks are owed to my ever patient, ever brilliant beta mickawber_fics. This piece was partially inspired by time spent thinking about a dear friend in a somewhat similar situation. My wish is for some easier times ahead for him and his.



The Festivities

Pride swells in Arthur as he watches Ron walk to the front of the gathering to take his place behind the plain wooden podium.

He's all grown up now.

The war had facilitated that growth in ways that Arthur would have rather seen his youngest son escape, but the result is a young man able to rise to the occasion and represent his family here today. This is the source of Arthur's pride.

It was surprising and pleasant — in a bittersweet sort of way — to see Ron emerge as the one who would speak here today.

*****


Ron looked at his family — well, part of it anyway — gathered around the kitchen table at the Burrow. It was odd not to have his mum buzzing around filling their tea cups or handing out biscuits. They were there to settle on the plans for the... festivities.

Bill had tried to take the leadership role that tradition seemed to demand of the oldest child, but Ron could see that he was distracted by the fact that his own first child was about to enter the world. Fleur sat by his side in obvious discomfort. Ron noticed Fleur flinch in pain and asked if she was all right. He sneaked a quick peek at Ginny and Harry as Fleur answered that she was fine, but that she needed to lie down. Bill shoved his list at Ron and told them all that he would go along with whatever they decided as he escorted Fleur up to their room.

Ron looked at the list and then at the faces around the table.

He thought that Charlie looked lost, uncomfortable, isolated somehow. He was the only person at the table without an "and" attached to him. Bill and Fleur. Fred and George. Me and Hermione. Harry and Ginny. Ron caught Charlie's eye and held out Bill's list. Charlie was next in line after all and if he wanted to take the lead he should. Charlie shook his head and looked away finding a nick in the table edge to stare at and worry with his calloused thumb.

Ron realized in that moment that he really did not know Charlie at all.

The two oldest Weasley boys were out of the house before most of Ron's childhood memories were formed. He had a couple of vague mental snapshots of summer days with his big brothers home from school. Charlie holding him up so he could pick an apple from the biggest oldest tree in the orchard. Bill holding him by his arms and swinging him around in a big circle fast, so that his feet lifted off the ground. Laughter and warmth.

Ron remembers the bustle of activity involved in getting ready for those occasions when they would come home to visit. They had always been special, separate, larger than life.

Ron had known an image of his brothers; he had known them reflected in his parent's eyes or through stories of days that seemed to him as old as the days of Grindelwald. He had not known them though — not as themselves, for themselves.

He had come to know Bill over the past few years. During the war. Since the war. Five years.

When Bill and Fleur first moved into the Burrow it had been a temporary solution. Bill's health and the war had been the context. It just made sense. Mum and Fleur became fast friends and a formidable team in creating a space that could be used by the Order of the Phoenix or Dumbledore's Army as needed at a moments notice.

Bill helped Ron, Hermione and Harry with lessons in Curse Breaking. They in turn helped him pass the time through the first few full moons after his attack. There had been such relief when each moon passed with Bill experiencing nothing more than irritability and a terrible itch at the site of his wounds.

Their father occasionally joined them in these all night sessions after their mother had fallen asleep. They played cards and told stories. Bill and Arthur became the only two people alive to know the details of all the adventures Ron and his best friends had experienced over the years and Ron heard details of his family's early life that he never would have imagined. He heard stories of Molly and Arthur as unsure young parents and of Bill as the tattle-tale turning in Charlie for sneaking out in the middle of the night.

Ron had never shared those sorts of intimate moments with Charlie. Where had the young Charlie gone when he snuck out at night? What wild adventures had he gone on? What sort of secrets did he hang on to now with no Bill to tattle on him?

Of course Charlie did fight along side them during the war. One of Ron's most cherished memories from the war was of the moment when he looked to the skies in despair only to see Charlie on Norbert's back leading a group of dragons and dragon handlers into the battle. Their arrival was just the right distraction at just the right moment, allowing Harry to do what needed to be done. It was a stunning visual memory filled with emotions Ron was not even sure how to name — pride, love, awe — some one feeling that contained them all. In some ways though this event had only increased the distance between Ron's image of Charlie and whatever the reality of Charlie was.

Ron cleared his throat. Charlie looked up; the twins looked at him too. Harry and Ginny both seemed to focus their gaze at some invisible point across the room. Hermione squeezed his arm.

"So... Should I just go over this list Bill made then?"

Everyone nodded silently and waited for Ron to speak.

He knew that the most important thing was to get through this list, to get the tasks spread out among them so that each of them had something to do. Their own contribution to focus on.

He had discovered his skill at logistics during the war. Harry was the one who could clearly see what needed to be done and Hermione could always figure out the details of how to accomplish the task. Ginny was able to rally the troops, get everyone together and paying attention. The twins were, ironically, great troubleshooters. Luna could see the angles that all of them with their conventional minds missed and Neville was good at seeing how their actions would look to others, especially those in authority, thereby catching flaws that could have tripped them up. It was Ron who could pull all of these pieces together into a concrete plan of action and make the adjustments on the fly to make the plan work in the real world.

He looked over the list, and then read it aloud.

- Officiant (from ministry?)
- Rosmerta (catering)
- Percy (prat)
- Family tribute — speech. Who?
- Goblins (financial matters)
- Mum



Fred spoke up. "We really aren't any good at making speeches."

George chimed in, "But we did have an idea for our contribution."

Together they said, "A fireworks display."

"With a sort of a Muggle theme." Fred finished.

Ron smiled. "That sounds brilliant really. Maybe after the formal bit, while the refreshments are served?" Out of the corner of his eye Ron saw Hermione pull a quill and parchment kit out of her bag and start to take notes. "Good idea, thanks love."

He looked back to Fred and George. "Maybe you two could talk with Madam Rosmerta as well. Get everything coordinated for the... what do we call it... reception? Party? Whatever we call it, you know what I mean. I'd guess you would not mind seeing Rosmerta either way."

The twins blushed faint identical blushes.

There was a time when Ron would not have dreamed of telling the twins what to do and the twins would not have listened to him with any sort of respect or seriousness. The war changed that. While they could still take the Mickey out of Ron when the moment was right, they had also learned to respect him in battle and in other moments of crisis. Like when Ginny lost her baby. Like now.

Fred said "Yeah, we'll do that."

At the same time George muttered, "Well... ummm... okay"

"Remember," Ron added, "Mum's allowed to help in any way she wants to, but she needs to know that everything will be just fine if she does nothing. Rosmerta needs to know that too. I know she'll be able to handle Mum either way."

The twins nodded.

Hermione made more notes.

Charlie seemed to focus his attention on the nick in the table again.

Ron looked back at the list. "Seems natural that Bill ought to talk to the goblins. Assuming that the baby waits a few more days to arrive."

His gaze traveled down the list. Percy.

If Charlie seemed somewhat of an outsider at the table that was nothing compared with Percy. Ron stared at his brother's name on the to-do list. Prat. How do you go from someone who should be sitting at this table — maybe even the one who would most naturally lead a meeting like this — to an item on the to-do list?

While he had learned to be comfortable telling the twins what to do from time to time Ron had never really given Charlie an order, but he felt sure that Charlie was the one to deal with Percy.

He took a deep breath and cleared his throat again. All eyes came back to him. "So... Charlie... d'ya think you'd be up for talking with Percy?"

Charlie nodded and then furrowed his brow a bit. "Should we give him some task from that list? I mean... maybe if I was askin' him to do something... I don't know... it could make it easier." The furrow deepened. "Prat. He's an idiot, but I am guessing he feels pretty alone right now." Ron thought that maybe Charlie understood that feeling. Charlie continued, "Maybe... you know... if we give him something to do at least we're trying to let him know he is still part of the family."

Ron thought for a moment then snatched the quill from Hermione's hand, added an item to the list and slightly changed another. "Good idea, Charlie. Let's ask him to deal with any of the official Ministry paperwork — maybe that would give him an excuse to see Mum — y'know needing her to sign something or whatever. Let's also let him figure out who from the Ministry should speak." Now it was Ron's turn to furrow his brow as he handed Hermione back her quill. "But tell him whoever it is, they need to keep it short and sweet."

Charlie nodded.

Two birds with one stone thought Ron. Charlie had an and now... and Percy. Most likely not his and of choice... but an and nonetheless.

Ron sighed.

Ginny and Harry had been quiet so far.

Ron thought that Harry looked worse than he had in some time. He was using the cane tonight, something he only did when he was worn out. Ginny looked tired as well, drawn.

It was just over a year since they lost their baby. The healers thought that some unnoticed remnant of a curse or hex cast on her during the war had been the cause. The labor had been long and painful. The realization that the baby was stillborn had been beyond painful.

Ron sat up all night with Harry as the healers worked to make sure that Ginny survived. Ron sat up the next night with his mum as she paced around the kitchen starting random cooking and cleaning projects between bouts of uncontrolled tears. It was Hermione who finally forced him to sleep, with the aid of a potion, as she sat by his side combing her fingers through his hair.

The old Harry, the one who blamed himself for every bad thing that happened to any of them, had returned with a vengeance. Arthur finally took his son-in-law away with him on a Ministry business trip in an attempt to help him to snap out of it. Only the two of them knew exactly what Arthur had said or done to remind Harry that it was Tom Riddle and not Harry Potter who was responsible for the evil unleashed during the dark days of the war and whatever fallout they still faced from time to time. Harry returned from the trip able to look outside of himself again, the shadow of guilt was lifted and he could look people, especially Ginny, in the eye once more.

They still had hard times to get through, but it seemed that Harry and Ginny were finally gaining their footing again — and now this.

"So Gin," Ron started cautiously, "You were always good at getting up in front of the DA and telling them what was what. Do you want to speak that the... gathering?"

Ginny's eyes got big and round. She grabbed Harry's hand and squeezed. "No. No. I don't think..." Her eyes started to tear up; she took a deep breath and then spoke in a strong clear voice. "Look, this is a very different sort of thing... this is nothing like rallying the troops or whatever it was I used to do." She paused and looked at Harry. "I was thinking that it makes sense for me to stay with Mum. Phlegm" — she still used the name though the two had actually become close over the years — "and Bill can't be counted on to be able to focus on her given their situation. We were thinking we could stay out here for awhile to help both them and Mum."

Harry squeezed her hand and looked around the table. "We were thinking that we'd be best at keeping the Burrow going while all of you are busy with other things." Harry fixed his eyes, bright and green as ever, on Ron's. "And as far as making a speech... well... I think you're the one to do that, mate. You'll be able to keep it simple and from the heart. That's what you do. That seems like the sort of tribute your dad would have wanted."

Ron felt Hermione's arm come around his shoulders as she gave him a squeeze. She seemed to agree with their best friend. Ron looked at his brothers. Each of them nodded in turn.

"All right," he said, "but I hope you don't expect anything fancy."

*****


Arthur watched the plan unfold at the kitchen table that night. He saw what Ron saw and he saw a bit more.

He had not fought side-by-side with the younger set, Dumbledore's Army, during the war. He and the other members of the Order of the Phoenix had followed their own course and were largely unaware of what Harry and his colleagues were up to. He had heard the stories about his son's role, of course, but he had not seen it for himself.

He had seen Ron step up when Ginny and Harry had their tragedy — but Harry was his best friend, that was to be expected.

What Arthur saw now was something different. Ron's was a subtle form of leadership, the kind people follow willingly and without a second thought, the sort that makes a group more of a team than a regiment; the leader more of a comrade than a general. It was a leadership not unlike that Arthur himself had demonstrated from time to time. It warmed Arthur to be able to recognize this bit of himself in his youngest son.

Secure in the knowledge that his children where handling their part in this well he left the kitchen and found his spot next to the sleeping Molly. Even in her potion-induced slumber she muttered and occasionally waved her hand in air as if swatting away a fly — or a worry — or an image she could not bear.

*****


Charlie slowly, silently pushed open the door to the kitchen. He had taken off his boots in the entryway and was walking on tip-toe in his stocking feet. Once in the kitchen he noticed the soft glow of a lit wand suspended above the table. It created a circle of light in front of a man hunched over a stack of parchment.

For a moment Charlie was fifteen again, sneaking in from a late night down in the village only to find his father waiting up for him at the kitchen table.

His father had always pretended to be working on some ministry business or studying the inner workings of some Muggle object, but Charlie knew he was really waiting for his odd, sneaky, bad son to come home.

Charlie never got in any real trouble from his father on those nights. His father never raised his voice. The words Charlie always expected; "Where have you been? Do you know what time it is? Your mother has been worried sick!" where never uttered. Charlie would be invited to sit with his father at the table. His father would tell him about the project in front of him. He would ask Charlie if he had a good evening. Even then Charlie knew that this was his father's way of letting him know that he loved him, that whatever secrets he held so tightly would be safe with him, that whatever it was that Charlie was up to during his late night escapades all his father really cared about was that his son came home safely.

That young Charlie played the part of the sullen youth on those nights. He would sit at the table with his arms folded across his chest and grunt non-answers to his father's questions. He pretended not to be interested in the Muggle plugs or reports of raids on the homes of dark wizards. But he remembered every story his father had told him on those nights, he held those memories as some of his most cherished.

The moment passed and Charlie saw that it was Ron at the table.

"Hi Charlie. Join me for a cuppa?" asked Ron.

Charlie resisted the urge to kick out the chair and sit with his arms crossed like his fifteen-year-old self. The fact that he had the urge made him smile. "Sure. What'cha workin' on there?" Charlie gestured toward the stack of parchment as Ron got a cup down and poured Charlie some tea from the kettle.

"Oh, just my speech. Finishing touches. Well, to tell the truth I am pretty far from finishing touches but I guess it's coming along. You smell like a pub, Charlie. Were you visiting Rosmerta at the Broomsticks... or maybe seeing your London friends at the Leaky Cauldron?"

Charlie did not really understand why it was always his first instinct to say 'none of your business' whenever anyone asked him... well... really whenever anyone asked him anything. He looked at his brother. His little brother, wee ickle Ronnikins, the boy he had tossed in the air as a toddler, an activity that always made the younger brother squeal with laughter.

He was certainly no longer a toddler. He was a man. Charlie was not sure how to make him laugh now.

Charlie could see that Ron was not scolding him for being out late, that he was not imagining that Charlie had been off doing something shameful. Like their father, Ron was just curious, interested in what sort of adventures Charlie may have had. Maybe...

"Guess you don't get to spend too many nights in the pub anymore with Hermione and those sweet little twins waiting for you at home?"

Ron chuckled. "No. Not that I mind really. My girls are very entertaining... almost as much fun as a night out with the boys. And I do get to go out for a pint now and then, mind you. It's not like Hermione keeps me captive or anything."

It was hard for Charlie to think of marriage and children as anything but captivity, even though he saw so many happy marriages all around him. He was happy for his brothers and sister. He just knew that was not the life for him. He wondered what Ron thought he did on a night out — if Ron thought that he was out dancing and flirting with the girls like the twins were known to do when they went for a night out on the town. When he looked at Ron again though he saw a look so much like his father's open curiosity that it actually brought a lump to his throat. He felt a pang of guilt thinking of all those nights when he had only grunted at their father at this very table.

"Honestly, Ron, I didn't Apparate anywhere tonight. I just walked down to the village. I was at the village pub. Muggle pub ya' know. I was having a drink and playing a game of chess with an old... an old... a friend called Davy. I used to hang out in the village a lot — did you know that? Dad was always so interested in Muggle stuff — I guess I was always interested in the Muggles themselves."

Ron raised an eyebrow. "Is that where you were always off to when you where kids and Bill used to tattle on you?"

Charlie matched Ron's raised eyebrow with his own. "Oh, so you know about that, do you?"

"Only that you sometimes snuck out and that Bill was a tattle-tale. Nothing about where you went or what you did or what kind of trouble you got into."

Charlie could see that Ron really wanted to know all the glorious details and was showing great self-restraint in stopping himself from pushing. Smart boy -- man.

"Are you a good chess player then? How is it that we have never played? Maybe tomorrow night after everything is done we could have a match."

Charlie chuckled. "Oh I'm not that good really. Not as good as I hear you are. Do you remember that we used to play when you were very young? I taught you how the pieces moved when you were too young to really be able to play the game."

"I don't remember that. Wish I did." Ron was looking at Charlie in a curious way. His eyes seemed a bit shinny. "Does your... friend—Davy did you say? Does he know you are a wizard?"

Ron's question caught Charlie off guard but as he saw that same open Arthur-like look on Ron's face he decided to answer the question. For Dad. "Yeah."

Charlie knew that his brother had been known to have a healthy disrespect for the rules when he had been younger, but that was often lost when people grew up and had families and jobs that required nice clothes and clean hands. If Ron had a problem with Charlie letting a Muggle know about the Wizarding World then the conversation would have to stop there. He decided to wait for Ron's response before he added anything to his one word answer.

The silence hung thick with potential meaning but Charlie had no idea what his brother was thinking.

"You should invite him to the... to Dad's... to this event then. You know that your friends are welcome here. You should have your friends with you for this."

More silence settled between them. Charlie was sure Ron had more to say.

"This Davy. He's been your friend since you were kids?"

Charlie nodded. "Since we were about fourteen."

While Charlie knew that Ron was a great chess player, he could tell that he would not be as skilled at the poker table. Charlie fought the urge to flee the table as he saw the pieces of the puzzle fall into place in Ron's mind.

Ron looked down at his pile of parchment. "Mum was surprised to hear I was giving the family speech. She seemed to think it was all right I was doing it, but she was surprised. We had a nice talk after Percy left today.

"You really did a great job with him Charlie. They both had red eyes when they came out of the parlor but he gave her a big hug as he left and he looked me straight in the eye as he told me that Minister McGonagall herself would be the official speaking. First time he has looked me in the eye since I was a third year in school. He shook my hand when he left and... it was odd because... I felt different. I mean there was a time when even if he were behaving well I would have still felt anger toward him. But I didn't. When I shook his hand I just felt relief, and maybe even some warmth toward him. It was good.

"You are responsible for that, Charlie. Thanks."

That had not been what Charlie had expected Ron to say. Maybe he had read his look wrong. Always tricky really knowing what someone else is thinking. "Oh. It was nothing really. I just told him that if he didn't meet the rest of the family half way right now there would likely not be another chance — until someone else dies. Told him it was hard enough to not have made peace with Dad... but how would he feel if he never made peace with Mum."

Charlie paused. How much did he want to tell Ron?

"I also told him... I told him I sometimes felt like an outsider in the family too. But that I knew I was loved here and so was he. He seemed surprised. That's always been part of his problem you know... not really noticing what was going on around him... always had his eye on some spot above... Anyway I think that helped too."

Ron looked back at Charlie. "So Davy? He's a special friend?" It was barely a question. More of a statement really.

Charlie decided to go with the one word reply again. "Yeah."

Silence filled the space between them once more.

"I think he should come to the family breakfast tomorrow. There'll be a few other extras — Luna Lovegood will be here and Neville Longbottom — Remus and Tonks too — maybe the Minister if she can get away -- so he won't be on the spot or anything. But I'd like to meet him and I'd feel better knowing you had someone... a good friend here with you. He's your longtime friend if anyone asks and I am sure that those who guess more will just be happy to see you with someone at your side."

Charlie's jaw dropped a bit. He was not at all sure that his father's funeral was the place to introduce Davy and the Wizarding World to each other. There had been some comfort in his secretive life. But he reckoned that Ron was being the grown up here and maybe it was about time he took a step in that direction himself.

"Um. I'll ask. We'll see." Charlie felt his voice crack a bit. "I...," he really was not sure what he wanted to say. "Thanks, Ron."

Charlie found himself faced with another problem now. One that almost made him laugh out loud. "I guess I should tell you that he's not... we're not. We do have other... friends." Charlie smiled. "I really am not the marrying type, little brother."

Ron laughed. "I can see that, big brother."

Charlie joined Ron in his laughter. It was not the sort of joy that throwing him in the air as a toddler had given both of them — but they were laughing together nonetheless.

*****


Arthur knew, as he supposed only the dead could know, that Ron was acting as a surrogate for him in some ways in this conversation.

He remembered all the late nights he sat at that table waiting for Charlie to come home. He would go through such a range of emotions while he waited — worry, anger, sometimes even a bit of jealousy at his son's youth and freedom. By the time Charlie would walk in the door all that was left was relief. He could not count the number of times he had been ready to tell Charlie that his mother was worried sick about him only to have his will melted away by that scowling teenaged face.

Oh Charlie... you could have told me. Oh, come on. Arthur.... You knew...you could have told him.

He couldn't help but feel that he was playing a role in the scene unfolding as it was, but it was Ron, all on his own, who was making the space for Charlie to be Charlie, for Charlie to find a somewhat more comfortable spot at this kitchen table.

Again he felt some comfort in seeing his children deal with each other and this situation in which they had unexpectedly found themselves. He made his way once more to Molly's side. Her sleep seemed more restful tonight. There was no flailing of her arms, no tossing or turning. He did hear her mumble his name, and Percy's, and something about Ronnie working with spiders.

*****


Molly sits between Fred and George, each of them holding one of her hands. They are in the front row of chairs facing the orchard. Her eyes are fixed on the wooden podium standing next to the table upon which sits a golden urn containing Arthur's ashes.

She can hear the people arriving, filling in the chairs behind her. Some of them are brave enough or kind enough to come up to the front to talk with her. She smiles and thanks them for coming. She accepts the kisses on her cheeks and the hugs. She tells them that she is glad they have come, it would mean so much to Arthur to see them there and yes they will talk more at the reception. She is half present in this place at this moment and half in the fog that has enveloped her completely for the past few days.

She has always been one to react to crisis with activity. When Ginny's baby had been stillborn she cooked enough food to feed an army for a month. When Arthur had been attacked and later, with Bill, she had bustled around the hospital rooms doing as much as the healers would allow — bossing everyone who would listen and several who would not — fluffing pillows, mopping brows, smoothing sheets. At the most tense points of the war she had always staked out her place and her tasks — most often keeping the home fires burning but brandishing a wand at key moments as well. Molly was a woman in motion, a woman of action.

But not today. Not for several days now. This time crisis had stopped her in her tracks.

Perhaps it was because she had been the one to find him — crumpled over his work table surrounded by those ridiculous Muggle plugs. She had known the minute she walked into the old shed that had once served as garage for the ill fated Ford Anglia. Well, part of her had known anyway. Another part of her had hoped so she called out his name and stepped forward. It was when she saw his face that all of her knew, truly knew, and she heard herself gasping for breath and felt the world fall away beneath her feet.

She had allowed the fog to envelope her.

Today there is no escape from the real, solid world — but she believes that she can stay partly hidden in the fog if she keeps very still. The fog is comforting.

She watches Ron bustle around — his sweet little girls tagging behind. Wasn't it just yesterday when he was the little one tagging behind Arthur? Always with a runny nose. Always asking why and what for or crying because of something the twins had done to him.

His own twins behind him now. His and Hermione's.

Molly's fog takes the shape of her kitchen table, Ron with his head hanging low. She suspected he'd been drinking — it was Bill and Fleur's wedding day after all. He poured his troubles out to Molly as he had not done since before he went off to school.

He was angry with himself and angry with Hermione. He'd hoped that Dumbledore's death had erased all the hurtful things they had said and done to each other. But he had seen her dancing with some cousin of Fleur's and she had been smiling and laughing and he was jealous. He had not wanted to feel jealousy, but there it was. Ginny had asked him how he thought Hermione felt when he was snogging the daylights out of Lav-Lav right in front of her for all those months.

Molly thought that this was something she could have lived without knowing.

Ron told her that he knew he had no right to feel jealous and after all it was just a dance and what should she do — be rude to the boy? But still. He felt it. He felt the jealousy and he had not known what to do. So he came into the house to sulk — or think — or something.

The three of them were about to go off on their secret mission — but she had not known that then, had she? She had only known that her baby boy was becoming a man right before her eyes. "Get out there and ask her to dance Ronnie. The past is the past and she may smile and laugh with Fleur's cousin but I have seen her watching you ever since you three got here — her eyes — and her heart — are only for you my dear boy."

The fog clears and she sees Ron, all grown up, kneeling in front of her. "...then the Minister will talk, she's promised to keep it short. Then I'll say my piece. Then I'll let people know that they..." She sees that one of Ron's daughters — Gwen maybe — is trying to climb his back while the other — it must be Erin — is climbing up into her lap. Erin gives her a big hug and a kiss. She whispers in her ear, "Love you Grandma Molly." Molly kisses her and whispers that she loves her too. She looks back to Ron and nods and smiles. She knows what to say even though she has not heard most of Ron's words. "That sounds just right, Ronnie. You're doing a wonderful job. I am so proud of you."

Ron scoops up his twins and takes them to sit with their mum and Molly's twins take her hands once again.

Molly watches her granddaughters get settled in. Her gaze moves to Ginny and Harry. Yesterday morning, knowing that she could not stay in bed for the rest of her life, much as she wanted to. She shuffled into the kitchen just as the sun was coming up. She had not heard the sounds coming from the room, so she was as startled to see Harry and Ginny bustling around in a pleasantly efficient way that she and Arthur had never quite managed in the kitchen.

She looks a little further down the row and sees Charlie and his friend Davy. Charlie never knew that Davy's mother and Molly had met years ago — each looking closely at the other to see if her son's new friend was likely to be bad influence based on their family ways — both realizing that their sons might have a different sort of friendship but choosing not to talk about it. She'd have to ask Davy how his mum was... after...

She watches as Ron introduces Minerva — the Minister to be proper, but Minerva she'll always be to Molly. Little Ronnie introducing the Minister for Magic. Isn't that something? And Percy, the Minister's closest aide... Arthur would be...

The fog takes over again. This time there is no shape... no memory... only her looking for Arthur... wondering why he is not sitting by her side.

Ron's voice breaks through the fog once more.

"Thank you, Minister. I know my father always valued your friendship — as my mother still does. It means so much to us all that you took the time to be here today."

Ron's voice is keeping the fog away. It reminds her that Arthur may not sit beside her again, but her children and grandchildren will.

"When it was decided that I would be the one to speak for the family here today, I have to admit that I was not at all sure I was up to the task. I guess I am still not sure of that." He smiles that boyish smile of his. Molly feels the crowd smile back.

"As all of you know my father wasn't a man who spent his life in pursuit of impressive titles or wealth. I didn't always understand this. I guess I wasn't always smart enough to be proud of my father. There were times when I was young that I would imagine that my father was about to be named Minister for Magic or that he would come home with a big raise and pockets full of Galleons. I would imagine the joy and pride I would feel when these things happened.

"But today — as I look at my brothers and my sister — and at my own children — as I look at my mother and my wife — as I look out at all of you gathered here, I understand. I know that the titles that mattered to my father are the most important titles anyone can have... father, husband, friend, colleague. But of course it isn't that the titles that matter really — it is how a person lives them out. We have all lived through a time when even the title Minister for Magic was nothing to be proud of, the way we can be proud of the woman who now carries the title. Everyone gathered here today has seen fathers and husbands, colleagues and friends who did not live up to these titles either.

"Arthur Weasley was not a perfect man. He could be scattered sometimes. He was known to break some of the very rules that he was charged with enforcing. He often worked long hours and sometimes missed important moments with his family. But bearing those titles well is not about perfection. It is about fighting the good fight. It is about remembering what you value and living that out in each of those roles. My father did fight the good fight. He did try to live what he valued.

"I know enough now — I won't say I am smart enough — but I do know enough now to be proud of my father.

"And I know that he was proud of me — he was proud of all" — Molly sees Ron look straight at Percy — "of his children and of his wife. He loved to tell stories from the war — not of his own battles or his own accomplishments, and we all know that he had many accomplishments during the war — but always the stories of his children and children-in-law or of Mum. He had a favorite story about each of us and he told them over and over to anyone who would listen. I am sure most of you don't need me to tell you that." There was a small laugh that floated through the crowd.

"Most of you know that Dad died in his shed, surrounded by his Muggle stuff..." Molly feels the fog threaten... but she refuses to let it seep in.

She feels a tug on her robes and looks down to see Gwen looking up at her, holding out her arms to be lifted up. Molly gathers her granddaughter onto her lap and turns her attention back to Ron. "... was his passion. When I told him I was asking Hermione to marry me, one of his first questions was if I thought her parents, who are of course Muggles, would let him have some of their old appliances when they were done using them." There was laughter at this. This warmed Molly's heart. Arthur would like that — some laughter mixed in with the tears.

And there were tears. Molly felt them running down her cheeks. Not the panicked sobs of days ago... but quiet tears which were as much about the joy in thinking about her life with Arthur as they were about sorrow at losing him. Ron's voice recaptured her attention. "... and worried that he would do something embarrassing that first time Mum and he had dinner with the Grangers. Of course that first dinner went famously well. Hermione's father and mine really bonded over Dad's love for Muggle things. I relaxed and eventually was able to see that most people found Dad as charming and interesting as I had when I was a little boy. I spent more than one evening sitting on his lap in that old shed as he explained his theories about how his latest Muggle toy worked.

"The healers don't know exactly why his heart gave out. I think we can all take some comfort in knowing that he died without great or long suffering surrounded by things that brought him such great joy.

"But of course I wish he had not had to go at all. I wish he could have lived to see Bill and Fleur's baby born — which could happen today." Molly turned to look at Fleur who looked so determined to make it though this ceremony. "I wish he could have lived to see our family all gathered, as we are here today for the first time in a very long time, but gathered instead for some..." Ron's voice catches. He seemed so strong today... but he is still her baby boy. "For some happy occasion — a birthday or a wedding or a christening...

"Harry once told me that Nick, the Gryffindor house ghost, had explained to him that spirits stay around and become ghosts because they're afraid, because they can't let go and move on to what Professor Dumbledore always called the next great adventure. It is tempting to wish that Dad would find a reason to stay. That I would walk into the kitchen here at the Burrow and see a pale shadow of him at the table. I'd sit with him and talk about Muggle appliances for as long as he wanted. But of course that would be wrong... and selfish.

"Whatever that next great adventure is I am sure my dad is up for the challenge. I do hope he is around enough to know that we are sending him off on that adventure with love and good wishes." Ron pauses and looks over at the urn and then up to the apple tree filled with fruit. Molly decides that this will be the task for tomorrow. Pick some apples. Maybe make pies for the kids.

Ron is speaking again. "And speaking of a proper send-off ... this ceremony has been very nice. It is good to take a quiet moment to think about Dad and acknowledge our sadness in this way. But he'd certainly want to see us having some fun as well. I'd like to invite you all to move over to the other side of the house where Madame Rosmerta and my Mum have put together a fine assortment of food and drink." Molly blushes. She had done little more than peel a couple of potatoes when Ginny had taken her to see Rosmerta. "Around dusk you'll want to get yourself the beverage of your choice and get situated so that you have a view off toward Stoatshead Hill -- you'll be treated to a special pyrotechnic tribute to my father put together by Fred and George. After that you are welcome to stay — eat and drink and visit — share your memories as long as you'd like."

*****


Molly tells them all that she wants just a moment alone here in her chair. She looks straight ahead, but she feels his presence next to her. She hears his voice, quiet as a whisper. "He did good, didn't he?"

Molly replies out loud. "Yes dear, he did. Our baby boy is a born leader I think."

"You'll be okay now, won't you Mollywobbles?"

"I will"

"He was right, you know, I can't stay..."

"I know. Thank you for staying though this... for being sure we were all okay." She feels that he is gone, but she speaks anyway. "I love you, Arty. I'll miss you."

*****


Ron stands back from the crowd, leaning against the garden fence. He takes a deep drink from a bottle of the summer ale Rosmerta set aside especially for him. He slowly relaxes as he watches the grand finale of the fireworks display which features the shape of a Ford Anglia being chased through the sky by beautiful, brightly colored electric plugs with snake-like cords trailing behind them. Each time it seems to be over the car reforms in another part of the sky and the plugs and cords scurry off to try and catch it again. Ron wonders how long the twins will let this play out.

He feels a familiar hand hook into his elbow. His wife leans into him. "You really did a great job Ron. Not just today, but all through this."

"Are the girls asleep?" Ron asks.

"Oh no... look there under the oak tree." Ron follows his wife's pointed finger. There is Mum sitting in a comfortable garden chair. Ginny is on the ground at their mother's feet. Gwen is in Molly's lap squealing with awe every time the car reappears in the sky. Erin is in Ginny's lap bouncing at every change in the magical lights.

He hears Percy's voice near the kitchen door; he's not yet used to the return of that sound. He looks toward the sound and sees Percy gently guiding the healer toward the house. It must be Fleur's time. He'll stay out of the way for now. He decides not to say anything to Hermione just yet. He wants to relish the calm for just a moment longer.

Suddenly the magical firework plugs start to move closer and closer to the grounds of the Burrow. They slow down and their sparkling lights become smaller, somewhat less bright. After one large loop around the grounds the lights that had been fireworks settle into the trees and bushes of the Burrow as fairy lights. The ohhhhs and ahhhhs are followed by applause. The twins had been right — this was the perfect contribution for them to make to this day.

A voice at Ron's side says "It's almost like magic." It's Harry who chuckles and puts his hand on Ron's shoulder. Ron and Hermione join Harry in his chuckle.

Ron takes another drink and looks at the guests, still smiling in delight at the lights the twins created. He looks and Mum and Ginny laughing with his daughters. He sees Charlie and Davy talking with the Drs. Granger. Charlie's arm gestures reveal that he is most likely telling a story related to his dragons. He thinks he hears a baby cry, he thinks he hears Bill's voice just above the noise of the crowd saying "It's a girl, a girl!" He feels his wife's hand on his arm and his best friend's hand on his shoulder and whispers, "Yup. It's almost like magic. It is."

*****



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6th-Mar-2007 01:56 am (UTC)
*weeps openly*
6th-Mar-2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
:holds out tissue:

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