Pairings/Characters: Ron, his family and a few dozen furry creatures.
Summary: Where Fred and George have a brilliant plan, Ginny is annoying, and Ron quietly has a nervous breakdown. Just a typical summer in the Weasley household.
Author notes: Thank you, luci0logy, for the speedy beta! The behavior and mating habits of Nifflers have been thoroughly embellished and just plain made up. No animals were harmed in the production of this fic. All rights reserved.
Like all their best laid plans, it had started with Fred and George. Ron went along with it because that's what Ron did. Besides, at the age of nine he had already figured that if he had any ideas of his own it was probably best not to share them unless he wanted to be ridiculed or even worse, ignored.
"Nifflers?" Ron frowned. "What are Nifflers?"
"I'm glad you asked that, Ron," replied George, smiling knowingly at his twin. "Nifflers are the key to great wealth."
"Our great wealth," added Fred.
"Why is that?" said Ginny, always asking the tough questions.
"Easy," said George. "We pool our money and buy a pair. They breed just like rabbits. Once they get started bam, we'll have all the riches we need."
Ginny still looked confused. Of course, she was only eight and really wasn't supposed be included, but she had threatened to tell Mum that Ron was being mean to her, and Ron really didn't want to spend another afternoon cleaning out the attic. After all, spiders were very fond of attics.
Ginny scrunched up her face. "What do Nifflers have to do with being rich?"
"Nifflers love shiny things, like gold and diamonds. They live for the stuff. Just send the little buggers off and they'll go hunting for it, bringing us back piles and piles of gold," said George. This was his idea, and he was quite proud of it.
"The more Nifflers we have, the more gold they'll find," Fred added, grinning.
"And we'll get all the booty."
"No more second hand robes."
"No more second hand anything."
"We're going to be rich," said Ron, not caring about the details. Too busy envisioning giant piles of chocolate frogs, just his for the taking.
"Indeed we are," said George. "And you," he told Ron, "are going to have the most important job."
"Really?" Ron grinned, puffing out his chest as he looked over at Ginny.
She gave Ron a sour look.
"Something wrong, Ginerva?" asked George.
Ginny wrinkled her freckled nose. "Well, who's going to watch after them? All the Nifflers, I mean." She, of course, knew all about this having cared for a litter of puppies Charlie found last summer.
Fred and George both turned to Ron. They both grinned. "That's where you come in," George said.
"Me? Why me?" cried Ron, his heart sinking. Aside from Scabbers, he was rubbish around animals. One of Ginny's puppies even bit him on the thigh. Besides, Scabbers was different, He seemed more interested in watching what was going on around him than actually behaving animal-like.
"You'll be brilliant. A natural. Look how well you take care of Scabbers," said George.
"And we've got our studies to do," added Fred. "You know how Mum is. Always cracking the whip."
"But you're not starting Hogwarts for another four months," complained Ron.
"Details," the twins replied.
Ron scowled, glaring at Ginny just because, but then he thought, maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. George was right, Scabbers was much happier now that he was taking care of him rather than dull old Percy. "What if it's a lot of work?" he said. It was almost summer, and Ron had already made elaborate plans to do absolutely nothing at all.
"It won't be," said Fred. 'Trust me."
"Piece of cake," added George.
Ginny just rolled her eyes.
Ron looked at his two brothers. He really didn't want to let them down, and then he thought of what Bill and Charlie would say when they found out that Ron had finally brought their family great fortune. "Okay," he said with a tentative smile.
"Attaboy!" said George.
"And whatever you do," said Fred, "don't tell Mum."
At first everything went exactly as planned. Well, they weren't rich yet, but the two Nifflers christened Timmy and Tabitha, were gentle, affectionate creatures, and Ron became so taken with them that he soon forgot all about Scabbers, his mangy, old rat. (Poor Scabbers was reduced to slinking around unwanted, glaring balefully in Ron's direction with his watery yellow eyes). Ron built a nest for the two of them in the shed outside, and he even let Ginny follow him as he climbed out of his bedroom window on the night Tabitha had her first litter. Timmy even brought back a few Knuts clutched in his little jaws, which he dropped at his offspring's feet like a proud father.
June had arrived and Molly had plenty of reasons not to complain about Ron or Ginny being out of her hair, especially with her older boys returning from Hogwarts in a few weeks, and Fred and George getting on her very last nerve.
It was during that time that Ron found Ginny sitting cross-legged on the shed's floor, one of the baby Nifflers burrowed under her arm.
"She's so pretty," Ginny said longingly.
Ron made a face. "I suppose so, if you like that sort of thing," he said, sweeping Niffler droppings out of the shed and changing their water. He still didn't understand why this had to be his job when all Fred and George did was play outside. He could hear them right now chasing around the garden, trying to fly Charlie's old broom.
"I'm going to keep her," Ginny announced, picking up the wee creature and kissing her on snout.
"You are not."
Ginny flipped her hair indignantly. "Why not? She likes me. I'm going to call her Violet," she said, her eyes lighting up. "Miss Betsy is going to love you," she cooed, stroking the Nifflers whiskers.
Ron scrunched up his face more. Miss Betsy was the name Ginny gave to her ratty doll that lived in a tiny cradle at the foot of her bed. "You can't have Nifflers in the house. Fred and George said."
"Mum will let me."
"She's not supposed to know. We'll get in trouble."
With that Ginny tucked Violet under her arm and marched into the house. Ginny was right. Mum thought Violet was the sweetest thing she'd ever seen, even cooing when the Niffler scampered into her dresser drawer and unearthed a long lost pin she had been awarded for being Most Helpful Gryffindor, third year. Ron watched in the corner, sulking.
Then the most wonderful, horrible thing happened. The Nifflers grew. One of the Nifflers even brought Ron a shiny copper coin, the words one penny written on one side. Ron placed it in a jar under his bed, perhaps in the mistaken hope that coins too would multiply and grow. Then the Nifflers paired off and more Nifflers were born. It seemed that George was wrong. They weren't like rabbits at all. They were worse.
Soon the Burrow grounds were overrun with the tiny beasts. Summer was in full swing and the boys were home from school. Bill, being the oldest, felt it his duty to avail Ron of everything he had ever learned in his Care of Magical Creatures class, while Dad just shook his head and told Mum not to worry. What harm could a few Nifflers do?
Ron, however, was worrying. The Nifflers, greedy for shiny trinkets, kept getting into the house, heading straight for the kitchen and dragging cutlery and spoons from their drawers. They also liked vegetable tins, pushing them off their shelves with their little snouts and rolling them across the floor. (Apparently tins and butter knives were what passed for riches in the Weasley household. Even the Nifflers had downgraded). Ron, with some help from Ginny, had managed to keep most of the damage to a minimum, replacing the missing items the moment Mum turned her head, but he was beginning to realize he was just holding on by the barest of threads. The twins, having grown bored with their get rich quick scheme, hardly noticed what great lengths Ron was taking to keep them all out of trouble. The total of the Nifflers' so-called booty: eight Sickles, a broken wristwatch, a few screws and Percy's eyeglasses.
Then on a Sunday afternoon disaster struck. The family had traveled overnight to celebrate the wedding of one of Arthur's distant cousins. Tired, ill tempered and hungover, Mum and Dad followed by their brood of children, tumbled out of their floo to find their home utterly in ruins.
"Bloody Hell," Ron gasped. It was an epic understatement.
At first one might have thought they'd been robbed. Not a drawer, cupboard or cabinet was left unopened, their contents empty. Milk and pumpkin juice dripped to the floor, the larder door hanging from one hinge and chickens wandered throughout the house, here and there pecking at the spilled food. Even the giant cauldron that hung above the hearth had been up ended.
But the thieves had left a calling card, or several of them as it were. On top the kitchen table sat an enormous pile of bright and shiny objects: buttons, butter beer caps, sewing needles, mixing bowls, even the little spoons from Ginny's tea set. Riches, indeed, and at the top sat Timmy, waiting proudly for his master, Ron to come home and congratulate him on a job well done.
"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY," cried a voice of barely contained horror.
"What? I didn't do it."
It was obviously not the answer Mum had been hoping for.
The following morning the last of the Nifflers were pushed into a cage Charlie hastily constructed. Even Ginny, tears rolling down her cheeks, had to hand over her beloved Violet, after she and Miss Betsy had shared one last cup of tea with their furry friend. Ron was secretly relieved. Sure, he's miss the cute buggers, especially the way they wrinkled their snouts when the whiff of a shiny object wetted the air, but he really wanted his summer back.
"That should do it," said Mum, "I don't want to see another furry creature anywhere near this house. Is that clear?" She paused to give Fred and George a lingering glare.
"What about Scabbers?" asked Ron, as Scabbers took this opportunity to reacquaint himself with Ron by scurrying onto his shoulder to blink beseechingly in Molly's direction.
"Oh, all right," Mum conceded. "Scabbers never caused us any harm."
"What's going to happen to them?" asked Ginny, still sniffling.
"I think we should try and sell them," said Charlie. "The Magical Menagerie might buy them."
"Those awful things?" Mum eyed Charlie skeptically. For Mum the kitchen was hallowed ground, its desecration at the hands of several creatures however cute and furry would not easily be forgiven.
"I think it might be worth a try, Molly," said Dad. "You never know. Even if we just get a few Sickles."
"Heaven knows, we could use the money with Fred and George starting Hogwarts this year," said Mum, obviously warming to the idea. "All right. Come on, then. If we're going to get to Diagon Alley before it gets crowded, we'd better leave now. Ginny, do stop crying. Mummy will buy you an ice lolly."
Ron scowled at her. Why did she get an ice lolly? He was quite certain that if he started blubbering he'd expect nothing more than a "Grow up, Ron" for his troubles.
"Ron, are you coming?" Mum stood in the hearth, impatiently extending her hand. Everyone else had already flooed ahead.
"Yes, mother," he replied, scuffing his shoes against the floor.
"Twenty-five Galleons," said Charlie, smiling as he handed Mum a heavy white sack. They were standing in front the Magical Menagerie, purveyors of fine and exotic pets. "Looks like I can get a new pair of Quidditch gloves after all," he added.
"Don't forget I need new glasses, Mother," said Percy. "You promised."
Mum gasped. "Twenty-five Galleons? Are you sure?" She took the sack and stared inside. "My word."
"The shop owner even praised how well taken care of the Nifflers were," said Bill, winking at Ron.
George threw a playful slug at Fred. "All the riches we need," he said, grinning.
"Can I least hold the bag, Mum?" asked Fred. "I want to see what twenty-five Galleons feels like."
"To think you two weren't so far off, after all," Molly told Fred and George grudgingly. "But don't think that you're going to be pocketing a single Galleon of that money. Not with the state my kitchen's in."
"But Mum, it was our idea," cried Fred.
"My idea," corrected George.
"Please," they wheedled.
Ron quietly fumed, as he watched Fred and George try to steal his thunder, but then nobody but Bill seemed to notice that he had spent his whole summer living and breathing Nifflers. In fact no one ever seemed to notice him at all.
"Ron, what's wrong?" Mum suddenly asked.
Ron looked up, startled. "Er, nothing. Nothing's wrong."
Mum crossed her arms and leveled her gaze down at Ron. "You have that look."
"What look? Nothing's wrong," he insisted.
"You have that look you get when you think no one loves you."
Ron gaped at her.
"Mummy, can I have my ice lolly now?" Ginny interrupted. "Please."
Mum patted her head. "Of course, dear." Mum counted out five bronze Knuts from the bag and handed them to Ron. "Go buy your sister an ice lolly."
Typical Ron glared at his sister. "Oh, Mum, do I have to?" he complained as Ginny made a face at him.
"Yes, you have to, but I'm not finished," said Mum. A secretive smile curled across her face. "This is for you." She dropped a Galleon into Ron's hand.
Ron stared at the gold coin lying in his palm. "For me?"
"To spend anyway you like," Dad piped in.
Ron couldn't believe his ears. "Why?"
"Don't think we didn't notice how hard you worked this summer," said Mum. "You're a good boy, Ronald."
Ron rolled his eyes, suddenly embarrassed, but that didn't stop him from stuffing the Galleon into his pocket. His eyes suddenly lit up. "Think of all Chocolate Frog cards I can buy," he cried, his brain exploding.
Mum frowned. "I had hoped you'd want something more practical like books or a new chess set."
Ron thought sweets were practical. They were food after all.
"Just don't spoil your dinner, all right?" said Dad, giving Ron's head a tussle.
"Hey Mum, that's not fair," said Fred. "I want a Galleon."
"Me too," said George.
"I'm still getting new glasses, aren't I?" piped in Percy.
Meanwhile Ginny had resumed her crying, whimpering about her lost Niffler.
Mum ignored them all and bent down. "Can I have a hug?" she asked, her arms wide.
Ron nodded, hugging her tight.
Mum squeezed back, hard enough to collapse Ron's lungs. "I love you," she said, kissing his hair. When she let go her eyes were wet. "Run along now."
"Don't forget your sister," Mum called after him.
According to the lexicon, twenty-five Galleons convert to around 250 US$, A tidy sum, I should think.
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