Disclaimer: The Harry Potter characters belong to J. K. Rowling. This story was not written for financial recompense.

"Mister Weasley …"

Chapter Four: Ron Does Some Thinking

Ron stumbled as he stepped from the Floo into his flat, landing flat of his belly. Shite, he thought as he lay there, Harry doesn't even fall on his face any more. He rose wearily from the floor and headed toward the kitchen.

Ron quickly fried some bacon and scrambled a half-dozen eggs, then sat at his kitchen table, eating without paying any attention to the food. Christ, what do I do now? He looked at the now empty plate. Hell, I can't even cook, really. He went to the sink, added water to the kettle and set it to boil.

Hermione was right, he thought. Tea does taste better if the water is boiled. He laughed to himself. Hermione is generally right. You're an idiot, Weasley. Ron started to clean the dirty dishes and pans magically, then stopped, filled the sink from the tap and began to wash them by hand. I'll have to get one of those dish-thingies. Christ, I can't even do that, I'd have to ask Hermione where to buy one. He put a couple of towels on the kitchen table and laid the wet dishes on them, drying them by hand when he finished.

Ron sat at the table, sipping his tea. Well, there's at least one thing I can take care of. He went to his desk, took out a sheet of parchment and stared at it. After a few minutes, he began to write.

Miss Hermione J. Granger

Weybridge, Sussex, UK

Ma'am:

I offer my apology for my conduct toward you in the past.

It won't occur again.

R.B. Weasley

Ron folded the letter, sealed it and sighed. That's done. I'll take it to that Algernon guy and ask him to give it to Mr. … Major Granger. Shite. I don't even know who he really is. I doubt I could get through his door. If I could find it. Shite. I'll see Dad in the morning and ask him to deliver it, if I went to George or Fred … Ron's mind shied away from the thought of what the twins would do to him.

He sighed again, then went to his kitchen. He set the kettle to boil again, rummaged in the pantry, found a box and began gathering bottles of butterbeer, placing them in the box. He carried the box into the dining room and went to the sideboard, removing several bottles of firewhisky. Those, too were placed carefully in the box.

Ron went to his desk and took out another piece of parchment.

Fred, George –

I've got a box of butterbeer and booze for you. I can drop it off at WWW or you can pick it up at my flat. Send a note back with Pig as to which you prefer.

Ron

"Here, Pig," he told his hyperactive owl. "Take this to Fred or George and wait for a reply." Pig hooted, then flew out the window. At least Pig's not brassed with me. Probably says something about how bright he is. The whistling of the kettle penetrated Ron's consciousness. Oh, yeah. Tea.

Ron took down his teapot and made a pot of tea. I guess I'd better figure out what else to drink besides tea and water. Sipping at his second cup, he realized that he didn't care for the taste that much. I'll have to ask the grocer about decent tea. This really is loathsome. He added some sugar and milk. That's a bit better. Still. If I'm not drinking any more I can afford some of the good stuff.

Ron took his cup into the living room and settled himself in his chair, picked up a copy of Which Broom and began to read. When Ron was halfway through the second article, Pig returned. Fred had scrawled a reply on the bottom of his note. Bring it by tomorrow – F & G.

Bugger. Tomorrow's Saturday, Ron thought suddenly. I don't know if Dad will be in his office. He went to get Pig a treat, then sat at his desk. I'd best send him a note asking.

MW – MW – MW

Arthur's eyebrows rose in surprise when he detached the note from Pigwigeon's leg. "Molly," he said, "find Pig a treat, please."

"What is it, Arthur?"

"Half a mo, Molly, I'll show you." Arthur found a piece of parchment, wrote briefly, then folded it and tied it to Pig. "Take this to Ron, Pig. Thank you."

Silently, he handed Molly Ron's note. It was addressed formally: Arthur, Lord Weasley, Deputy Minister for Magic, UK in unusually clear penmanship. The note on the other side was brief and uninformative: Sir, I need to discuss something with you in your office. Will you be available tomorrow? If not, please let me know when you can see me. RBW.

"Arthur?"

"Let's go upstairs, Molly."

God, Molly thought, whatever is happening, it's not good. She led Arthur up to their bedroom and watched him shutter and seal the windows and door. Christ, he hasn't done that since …her mind shied away from that thought.

"Muffliato," Arthur said quietly.

"Arthur. You're frightening me."

Arthur sighed, collecting his thoughts. "Ron's done it this time, Molly," he said softly. "Dan Granger came home early Wednesday. He found Hermione in her room, crying. I don't know what Ron said or did, but it was the final straw for him.

"I have extended House Weasley's apology to House Granger for Ron, with the assurance that it won't happen again."

Molly went pale. "What happened, Arthur? How could a muggle dentist …" she paused. "Did Hermione do that to Ron?"

"No. I doubt she's aware of it."

"Then how…"

Arthur sighed. This is where it gets tricky. And ugly. "I can't tell you all of it, Molly. But it's … it goes back to … it's tied in with what I used to do. Before Charlie was born." He paused. "Molly, you can't tell anyone, anyone at all."

Molly nodded. She'd recovered some of her colour. "Dan's not just a dentist, then?" She held up her hand. "No. I know you can't answer that. I shouldn't have asked." She paused again. "What will happen with Ron?"

"I don't know, Molly. But Ma …Dan told me what he'd told Ron. If Ron upsets Hermione like that again, he'll probably kill Ron. God knows I'd do the same if it were Ginny.

"Don't ask Ron about it, Molly. He had to sign the Official Secrets Act over this. He'll tell you what he can. If he decides to; I don't know if he will. I did … I ordered him to apologise to you. When he figures out how to, he will.

"Keep the rest of the children off Ron's back, as much as you can." Arthur paused. "I don't think you'll have to worry about the twins. They said their piece in my office, after you left." Arthur snickered. "Ginny will probably hex him. I don't know about the other three."

"He'll have to deal with them, Arthur. And anyone else, because God knows they'll be asking him." She paused for a moment, collecting her thoughts. "Should I go see Hermione?"

"Why don't you two meet for tea next week? That'll give it some time to blow over." Arthur sighed again. "I don't know if she'll even want to see a Weasley again."

Molly nodded. "Possibly not, although she and Ginny are pretty tight. Put your robes back on, Arthur. You're taking me out to supper."

"After today, dear?" Arthur asked.

"Particularly after today, Arthur. Think about it. We'll be expected to hole up. Well, they can take that and shove it. I'll be damned if I'm going to be driven out by Ronald's problems."

Arthur seldom saw Molly in this sort of mood. I guess I'll sit back and watch the blood drip onto the floor, he thought. Someone, tonight, may discover what happens when one crosses wands with a Prewitt. He shaved quickly then changed into fresh clothing and just because he could, put on a Gryffindor tie, snugging it up to his collar with a neatly tied Windsor knot. Just to brass off a few people, he thought. Why not?

MW – MW – MW

The owner of Ristorante Salerno greeted Molly and Arthur when they entered. "Mrs. Weasley. So good to see you and the Minister again."

"Arthur's tired of my cooking, Vincenzo. So I told him he could take me out to eat." Molly smiled. "So here we are, and we're famished."

Vincenzo Zabini was no fool. The few times a year the Weasleys came to his restaurant they were usually dressed fairly simply. Tonight, they were one step short of formal dress. He'd heard about the debacle in front of Gringotts and realized a statement was being made, albeit very quietly. He nodded. Molly had declared war, he decided. He leaned a bit toward Molly and said very quietly "I think, tonight, not your usual table, signora."

Vincenzo seated the Weasleys at a table just off the centre of the dining room. "I will bring an aperitivo," he said. Arthur nodded. "Thank you, Vincenzo."

Zabini stepped behind the bar and began to mix two cocktails. Minutes later, he took them to the table. Molly quirked an eyebrow at Vincenzo. "Your especial cocktail, signora," Zabini said in a voice just loud enough to be overheard two tables away.

Molly took a sip and smiled. "Wonderful, just as always, Vincenzo."

"Thank you, signora." Zabini winked at Molly.

Arthur sipped his own cocktail. "Thank you, Vincenzo. It's just what I needed."

Zabini nodded. "Minister."

Arthur relaxed a bit in his chair. He wasn't quite certain of what was going on, but two things were sure, knives were being slid into backs tonight and Vincenzo Zabini was on his side. That surprised him, he'd expected Molly to be the one doing the stabbing. He raised his glass in a silent salute to Molly. She smiled at him.

Just as they were finishing their cocktails, the antipasti arrived, served by Zabini. Arthur raised an eyebrow. Zabini's eyelid dropped briefly as he smiled. Vincenzo is driving home his point with a mallet, Arthur thought. Their main course was served by the chef. A huge mallet, Arthur revised his previous thought. Vincenzo's chef never leaves his kitchen.

As the waiter was clearing away their dessert dishes, Zabini and his chef arrived at the table with a bottle of Italian brandy and four snifters. By now, Arthur wasn't surprised by anything. He thanked them, pitching his voice just loud enough to be heard by other tables. "Vincenzo, chef, thank you for the most wonderful meal we've ever had."

Vincenzo smiled and nodded. Then the chef spoke up. "Minister, it is a honour to cook for you and your lovely wife. Her reputation in the kitchen is well-known."

"Chef, believe me, the pleasure was all ours," Molly murmured. "I can't match your tiramisu, Vincenzo, but if you'd allow me, I'll send you a couple of cakes for your staff to share in appreciation of this lovely meal."

We'd be honoured, signora," Zabini replied. His chef nodded in agreement. "If I may, would you make us your chocolate cake?"

Molly nodded. "Certainly, if that's what you wish."

Zabini leaned forward and said quietly "On a less palatable note, Minister, signora. My maître d'hôtel has informed me that he has stopped the press from invading us."

Arthur's face clouded with anger.

"If I may, a photograph of us, then a few words in the foyer may suffice, Minister. I can have them thrown out, but I can't make them go away."

"Arthur. It's a good idea," Molly said quietly.

Arthur nodded. "I'd the insane hope of a quiet evening with my wife. You're correct, Vincenzo. Let's get it over with." He paused. "Vincenzo, thank you. I don't like being ambushed, particularly by The Prophet."

When they reached the foyer, Arthur raised his hand peremptorily. "Let's keep this fairly quiet, you've no reason to disturb Mr. Zabini's other patrons." He looked at Rita Skeeter. "Put that damned QuikQuotes quill away, Ms. Skeeter. You'll quote me properly and accurately or not at all. Without your usual embellishments."

Skeeter grumbled, but took out a DictaQuill. "Okay," she said. "This afternoon your son Ronald appeared naked, chained to a chair, in front of Gringotts. Comment?"

"I've been made aware of the incident. I wasn't amongst those present at Gringotts. You'll have to ask my son about the reasons behind it, it's his story, not mine. Next question."

"Will he be arrested, Minister?"

"Ask Director Shacklebolt. He was present shortly after my son's appearance."

"And the actions of your other sons?"

"As far as I'm aware, neither Frederick nor George violated the law. If you want their comments, ask them. Any more questions?"

"Your sons left a sign in their shop window stating they'd been called to the Ministry for consultation. Are they regular Ministry consultants?"

"My sons have developed several products used by the Auror force. You'll have to ask them or Director Shacklebolt how frequently they're consulted by his office. And for the record, DMLE was using their products prior to the change in administration. They weren't brought in as consultants at my behest, I believe Minister Bones did that when she was director of DMLE."

"Why did you decide to eat here tonight?"

Molly nudged Arthur aside gently. "Ristorante Salerno is our favourite restaurant, Ms. Skeeter. We've been eating here since my daughter recommended it to us. My husband brought me here for supper, which, I add, was excellent. Mr. Zabini and Chef Augusto run the finest Italian restaurant in Britain, in my opinion.

"Now, if you've no more questions for my husband, we're going home."

To be continued — LWJ2