written for the tgs '12 days of christmas' and ilvermorny's 'beaded bag: alphabet soup" challenge as well as the QLFC Daily Prophet challenge

tgs prompt:

4. four calling birds: write about someone expecting an important piece of mail

school, house: hogwarts, slytherin

points: 5

word count: 1562

ilvermorny prompt:

A:

(emotion) acrimony

(phrase) auld lang syne

(character) Arthur Weasley

QLFC prompt:

write about Ron Weasley

a/n: i just kind of went crazy with the prompts and wow, everything just kind of came together

also, a huge thank-you to di for helping me with my muse — you're amazing, ily!

. . .

Ron Weasley returns home with his wife, now Hermione Granger-Weasley, after about 20 years.

His mother is about to die; a letter from his father had said so. They'd been living in Australia for Hermione's parents — getting away from the war and everything had been an added bonus — and when the owl had arrived, they'd certainly been shocked.

So Ron and Hermione nod to each other and Disapparate; Arthur must have forgotten where they lived and had had to send the owl, but they know where Molly will be and they're going to go as soon as possible.

So they find themselves in the Burrow after a little pop. Ron's dad is waiting in the drawing-room, once fiery-red hair completely grayed; once-jovial eyes dulled with sadness; once-working legs now sitting in the wheelchair.

"Dad," says Ron softly, and he thinks of that phrase Hermione'd told him once when he'd seen it in one of her books and hadn't understood it: Auld lang syne.

"Ron," Arthur replies, smile suddenly watery, and Ron rushes forward to hug him. "Oh, I missed you…it's been a long time."

"Yeah," Ron agrees. "Too long."

Hermione smiles at Arthur, perhaps a little sad herself at the loss of her own parents. "It's been quite a while, Arthur. It's good to see you."

"So, how is Mum? I was surprised to hear the news, Mum's so strong…" Ron wonders.

"She's in St. Mungo's," informs Arthur, a little bitterly. "It's unclear if she'll survive. I can't actually go, because — well. The rest of the brood is either somewhere else entirely or dead...and I'm kind of — on a wheelchair."

"Oh," says Hermione, holding a hand to her mouth, "oh, no...not Molly…"

And maybe he's imagining it but Ron thinks he can see his dad's smile grow a tiny bit tighter, a fraction more plastic.

(It's probably nothing. He's probably just worried about Ron's mum.)

There's a few minutes of silence, punctuated only by the ticking of the clocks of each Weasley family member. Ron looks over at his mother's, very much ignoring the one that belongs (it's still Fred's. It still is) to Fred. Molly Weasley's clock is currently situated at mortal peril.

Hermione's the first to break the silence. "I…I hope she recovers soon, Arthur. She won't — she can't die."

Something about that sentence seems to break Ron's dad. He just glares at her with the Weasley fire in his eyes rather than in his hair, and even though he's much older than her and much more frail than her, Hermione seems to quaver a bit. "And how — how dare you? How dare you say that she can't die!" he bursts. "You were barely here to watch her live. You just got married, and up and left somewhere else with the rest of us to rot up here!"

Hermione shrinks into herself, tears shining in her eyes. Ron stiffens, eyes flashing. "Don't talk to her like that, don't even say a word to her in that tone!"

"I'm your father, young man, and you might've been gone for so long but you are still my son, and you cannot talk to me like that! I raised you, for Merlin's sake, and this is how you repay me?" screeches Arthur. The acrimony, the anger, it's all visible in his eyes.

Ron lets a little of his acrimony go to his father, then. How would he like a taste of his own medicine?

"You raised me like I was someone's shadow," Ron screams back. "You — you fawned all over Percy, the little Ministry prefect, and oh, Charlie raising dragons is so much more amazing than poor Ron, and look at Bill, getting girls at the bank, and Fred and George, the comedians, and Ginny, your special little snowflake daughter, Daddy's girl!"

Hermione looks on in horror, as Arthur and Ron spew poison at each other, their tenuous relationship crumbling before her eyes. "Ron…"

"You found Muggles more interesting than me," he continues, ignoring Hermione. He glares at his father, walking closer. "So can you really blame me and be bitter about me wanting to leave? With people who really saw me, for the first time? When I wasn't looked over for other people you don't even know?"

Arthur blinks, a little taken aback that Ron is speaking so bitterly — with so much hate. Is this my son? Is this the same little boy I raised?

"Hey, hey," says Hermione, trying to keep the peace. "Let's not argue when we're literally waiting on St. Mungo's to send a letter about Molly! Let's not drag up petty feuds from years ago when the person who we've loved for all these years is almost dead!"

And at her words, they deflate. Why are they arguing like this when Molly is actually on her deathbed? Why are they being so bitter when the one woman they've loved for so long is about to be gone forever?

Is this the way they want her to see them if she were to die? Falling apart at the seams?

Suddenly, the two men snap out of their rage, and turn to face the apprehensive woman beside them.

"You're right, Hermione," Ron says. He eyes his father for a few moments, something like guilt filling his gaze.

But then that guilt quickly morphs into worry when he notes the flapping of wings out the window. Ron points a shaking finger at it, saying, "Is it...is it…?"

Suddenly, the uncomfortable silence becomes a deathly one.

"I — I'll see what it is," Hermione says with a heavy voice. No one bothers to respond.

Hermione dashes toward the window and lets the owl in; they're too worried about the note attached to it to even think of its well-being.

Hands trembling, she pries the note from its talons, and shakily she unfurls the parchment. Dread seems to flow into in her veins, her being, as she scans its contents.

Ron has a feeling of what's about to happen: Oh, no...no...it can't…

Flashes of his childhood flit past his eyes. Molly scolding the twins for pulling a prank on him. Cradling him, shushing him with words of comfort when he woke up from a nightmare…as a child, she had been everything to him.

"Dear Mr. Arthur Weasley," she reads aloud. "This is correspondence from St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries to inform you that your spouse, Mrs. Molly Weasley (née Prewett) has passed — passed away…" she trails off, unable to continue, and there's a sinking feeling in the room, a bubble, that no one dares to burst. Recovering, Hermione says again, "...Passed away due to — to her illness, which was a newer strain of Dragon Pox our healers are currently unable to combat. We — we offer our — sincer — sincerest con — condolences…" she breaks off again, letting a sob erupt from her throat, but she burbles on through her tears. "We offer our sincerest condolences for your loss — and — and you may — conduct a funeral service...I — I'm sorry, I can't…"

She chokes on her words and runs from the room. Tears blur her vision and trail down her cheeks, leaving a salty taste in her mouth.

Molly Weasley was like a mother to her, caring, compassionate and loving. Hermione remembers all the times Molly wiped her tears of homesickness, of heartbreak, and cheered her up with her favorite comfort food.

Hermione collapses on the lawn, not able to take the grief. Suddenly, Arthur's words echo in her mind: You were barely here to watch her live…

Guilt joins her sorrow and it's all Hermione can do to hold herself from falling apart.

Arthur picks up the letter from where it had fluttered to the floor from Hermione's hand. Oh, Molly…

Ron chokes on his sobs in a corner, but stays quiet for the most part.

A few minutes later, Hermione returns, tears streaking her face and a bitter scowl on her lips.

"She deserved more," she tells them lowly, vindicated, almost silent, but it fills the room anyway. "More than a letter."

Arthur hands the letter in question to her, saying nothing but approving with his gaze.

Ron watches in quietude as Hermione takes the parchment with resolve, and with trembling hands, rips it apart in two.

Then, it's as if the dam breaks: she sobs a little, then begins ripping it into more pieces, more and more and more, until all that's left of the news are shreds on the floor.

Arthur merely looks on in silence, until all the fight in Hermione just flows out of her; she's tired, so tired. She sinks onto a yellow armchair and then they sit there for a while — none of them know how long. They're waiting for something, they know in their hearts. For what they're waiting for, that's what they don't know — perhaps it is for the news to be revoked and that Surprise, she's alive! Or perhaps it is for something better to happen. As the saying goes, when you hit rock bottom, the only way left to go is up.

So, they're waiting and they're bitter and crying and maybe she's gone, but they're here, and maybe they wouldn't have it any other way.