Ron and Hermione returned the next afternoon to find the Weasley house stuff with people gathered for an impromptu reception for them. Hermione blushed as Mrs. Weasley hugged her close and whispered, "It's so nice to have another Mrs. Weasley in the house."
Harry and Ginny had had fun shopping in the village with Charlie that morning and began piling the gifts from all the well-wishers onto a table beside the fireplace. Mrs. Weasley had made an enormous meal that was covering the table. As everyone sat down to eat, Charlie began pounding his silverware on the table and was soon joined by Fred, George, Percy, Ginny, several of the Order members and even Mr. Weasley. Mrs. Weasley tried to shush them and Ron muttered, "Oh sod off you lot."
Hermione looked confusedly at Ron, "What are they on about?"
Ron's ears turned bright red and an infamous Weasley blush was rapidly creeping up his neck, "You see, love it's tradition at a wedding reception. People bang their silverware on the table until they kiss."
Ron groaned softly and stared pointedly at Hermione but when she didn't say anything he leaned over and whispered, "Us…the newly weds."
"Oh," Hermione began to blush just as fiercely as Ron.
Ron looked pleadingly at his mum but she just shrugged her shoulders as if to say 'you know I can't do a thing with them'. Ron took a deep breath and kissed Hermione gently on the cheek.
Charlie protested loudly, "OY! That's not a proper kiss."
Ron challenged, "No one ever laid down any rules for the kiss so it will just have to do. Now leave us be and eat before mum gets mad at you."
Charlie laughed heartily, "Alright we'll let it slide this time, but next time it had better be a real kiss."
Ron just shook his head and dug into his dinner. Hermione, on the other hand, regally unfolded her napkin and made a show of placing it in her lap leaving her left hand in her lap. As she began to eat her dinner, she gently slid her hand over onto Ron's thigh. Ron choked on a bit of roast beef and Harry, sitting on his other side began to pound him on the back.
When he could breathe again, Ron looked wide-eyed at Hermione who only smiled into her supper.
Everyone was so focused on Ron and Hermione that they didn't notice Bill at the foot of the stairs watching the celebration. After a few moments Bill left through the front door so as not to alert anyone that he was leaving. His mum had taken to setting Charlie or any of the others out after him as soon as she realized he was gone. He was beginning to resent it just a bit as they often interfered with his nightly drunk.
If it was Charlie after him he would usually let Bill get drunk enough to not put up much of a fight but drag him out while he could still walk. Fred and George would just stun him and levitate him back to the house. Ron wasn't sent out after him very often because Ron realized he couldn't drag Bill anywhere and usually had to wait until Bill passed out on his own and then he would levitate Bill home afterward. Bill liked it best when Ron was sent out after him. He could forget for a longer time than when the others came after him.
After dinner was over, Ron and Hermione opened their gifts. Ginny, with Harry's help, had gathered several photographs and put them in a nice album. With out Ron and Hermione realizing it, Harry had been able to take several pictures while they were all at Hogwarts for the bonding ceremony. Ginny had left many of the pages at the end of the album blank with a note saying she was sure Hermione wouldn't have any problems filling the pages.
Harry, at Ginny's insistence, had purchased them a very nice set of sheets. They were very soft and in a pale cream color that would go with the new paint in their room. There were books on helpful household spells from Remus and Tonks and Charlie had gotten them both dragon hide boots.
Mrs. Weasley pulled them aside while everyone was looking over the gifts. She told them that she had left their gift in their room for them and she had warded the window and would ward the stairs to prevent any unwanted nighttime visitors.
When everyone sat down for cake, Charlie again began pounding his silverware on the table and was quickly joined by everyone there, including Mrs. Weasley. Hermione surprised them all by standing up and pulling Ron with her. She then proceeded to pull Ron into such a kiss that it made most of them blush as watching such an intimate act.
When they pulled apart, Hermione announced, "I think I'm done here. I'll just take some of this up and have a bath."
Ron could only stare openmouthed at his wife. His father moved to stand beside Ron, "Close your mouth son, you'll attract flies."
Everyone laughed as Ron blushed, yet again, and scrambled to gather the gifts left by Hermione and follow her.
Mrs. Weasley waited about half a minute before following Ron and warding the stairs after he had started up to the fifth floor. When she came back down she heard Fred and George scheming to irritate Ron and Hermione, "Don't bother, boys. I've fixed it so you can't get up there."
Fred and George looked disappointed before Charlie leaned over and whispered something to them then the manic gleam returned to their eyes. Mrs. Weasley saw the look and said, "I've taken care of the window as well. You lot leave them alone. You're just jealous because no girl will have any of you. To think it was my baby boy Ron to get married first and he'll probably be the first to give me a grandbaby. But do any of you think of that? No, you just go about your merry way not giving one thought to settling down and having children. Family is the most important thing and you'll do well to remember that."
Fred and George looked properly chastised, as long as their mum was looking; otherwise they began planning for the following day. "Mum won't ward their room forever you know," Fred said to George.
About an hour later the rest of the partygoers began to filter out of the Burrow. Charlie stood up saying, "I think I'll check on Bill before I go to bed." Charlie moved slowly up the stairs toward his brother's room. He couldn't even begin to imagine what Bill was going through. His mum had let Charlie know about the baby and had asked him to not share it with the rest of the family. She was hoping that Bill would open up to Charlie and didn't want Charlie to appear shocked since that might make Bill close up again.
Charlie desperately wanted to help Bill but wasn't sure how to go about doing it. He felt that dragging Bill home after a drunk wasn't enough. He wasn't sure how to get Bill to talk and it killed him to see his brother drinking him self to death. Charlie was a bit afraid that that was exactly what Bill was trying to do, kill himself.
On the way up the stairs, Charlie stopped and kicked his shoes off in his room. His eyes landed on a carved, wooden dragon that Bill had carved him when they were teenagers. Charlie had decided in his fifth year at Hogwarts that he was going to be a dragon keeper. Bill, who had been in his sixth year wasn't completely sure what he wanted to do, but had enjoyed working with wood. Charlie remembered how peaceful Bill had seemed when he was working on his carvings. He had made a whole forest of them and used them to entertain Ginny and Ron when they were young. He would make up stories about the animals and tell then to Ron and Ginny. Their mum loved these story times because it gave her several hours to get things done with out the two toddlers trailing around after her.
Charlie thought to himself that maybe he would get Bill's old woodworking tools out of their dad's shed and get Bill some wood. He could leave them on the bedside table and maybe Bill would see them and decide to make something. Maybe working with his hands would bring Bill a bit more peace.
Charlie reached Bill's door and knocked lightly. Receiving no answer, he pushed the door opened and sighed. Bill wasn't there. Charlie turned around, topped at his room again and put his shoes back on. He grabbed a jacket and made his way down stairs. Fred and George were getting ready to leave when Charlie got back into the kitchen. "Oi, you two, come give me a hand. Bill's gone again and it's likely he's had several hours head start. Send your Patronus when if you find him. Percy, will you go with me? If he really has had a good head start I might not be able to get him by myself."
Percy nodded and got his coat from the hook by the door. Mrs. Weasley sat heavily into the chair beside her husband as she watched her son's go out after their brother. "Oh Arthur, what are we going to do with him? It's been nearly two weeks and still he's drinking himself into a right state every night. I've tried everything with him. I've yelled, I've pleaded, I've ignored him, but none of it has done a bit of good."
Mr. Weasley put a comforting arm around his wife, "I know my dear. I've tried talking to him as well. I think we all have. He just has to work this out for himself."
"But what if he doesn't? What if he keeps turning to the bottle? They'll never let him return to work drunk and then what'll he do?"
Ginny stood up and moved to stand beside her parents, "It will all work out mum. Just give him time."
Mrs. Weasley nodded, "I just hope you're right Ginny. Now the two of you get up to bed. You've had a long day and you helped late into the night on Ron and Hermione's room. I'm planning a party for the two of you for later in the month."
Harry spoke up, "That's not necessary, Mrs. Weasley."
"I know it's not but you'll have your party none the less; and one for your birthday. Besides don't you think it's time you at least started to call me Molly?"
Harry blushed, "Alright Molly, but really if your insistent on a party why don't you combine the two. We can have one party for my birthday and for us."
"I'll think about it. Now up to bed, both of you." Mrs. Weasley kissed both Harry and Ginny on the head as she shepherded them toward the stairs. She turned back to the kitchen and moved toward the stove to heat a tea kettle. She was settling in for a long evening while waiting on her boys to bring the oldest back.