Charlie held the door open for Bill and Percy to walk through before stepping inside and locking it behind him. Madam Knight was rushing down the hallway towards Percy, still clutching Ronnie in his arms as if afraid that somebody was going to jump out at them and try to take Ronnie away from him.
All that talk of 'bad Muggles' at the please station had really scared him, Bill thought.
"Oh thank goodness!" Madam Knight breathed a sigh of relief and tried to manoeuvre her arms beneath Ronnie's sleeping body to take him for healing, but Percy clung on and looked about ready to cry.
The woman pulled back and seemed to realise that he was having some older-brother anxiety issues. She smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
"That's alright, Percy, you can help me with him if you want to. Would you like that?" she asked tentatively.
Percy nodded before letting himself be led down the hallway to the kitchen where he laid Ronnie out on the dining table.
"Nobody hurt him," Percy said abruptly, "Nice people found him and they looked after him and nobody hurt him."
Madam Knight cupped Percy's cheek in her hand and looked into his blank face sadly.
"Of course nobody hurt him. Who would want to?"
Bill and Charlie shared a glance and Charlie seemed to want to know why Percy had such a thing about people hurting Ronnie when all he'd done was run away and get taken somewhere safe. He, Charlie, had apparently been seen wandering around the streets of Ottery St. Catchpole looking for Ronnie and a please car pulled up and knew immediately what he must have been doing. He had the Weasley hair, the Weasley freckles and he was covered in healing dragon pox just like the missing three year old.
The please men told him to head home and that his brothers had been reunited at the children's home. Bill found himself slapping Charlie on the back, as he felt thankful that the obstinate git had ignored the instructions and gone off on his rescue mission.
Charlie mumbled something about checking Ginny and the twins and headed upstairs where they were, or in the twins' case should have been, in bed. Madam Knight pulled the large jumper off the limp little body of his baby brother. All that adventure had really worn him out and he was too sleepy to even be scared of the 'medibitch' now.
"Oh dear me," the woman frowned, "I see some of the blisters have burst, here."
She pointed to Ronnie's chest and stomach.
"Is that really bad?" Percy asked as his whole body stiffened.
"Not at all dear," the witch smiled reassuringly, "but he will get scabs, and if he picks at those, then he'll scar," she looked down at the sleeping three-year-old, naked but for two enormous socks all the way up both legs, and stroked his hair, "and we don't want to ruin such beautiful skin with a lot of ugly scars, do we?"
"No, Madam Knight," both Bill and Percy shook their heads.
Bill tried to play that scene in his head. His mother would come home and be greeted by a beaming Bill and ravaged Ronnie. 'Hello mum, how was the function? I've scarred Ronnie for life for you. I'm off to bed now, g'night'.
"Well, it looks as if he was well looked after," the mediwitch said as she began a full examination of Ronnie.
"Yeah," Bill nodded, "they were really great with him."
Percy was still looking anxious and Madam Knight caught his eye and smiled before picking up a mortise and pestle full of glowing white gunk. She removed the pestle and handed the treatment to Percy.
"I've done this twice already," she said warmly, "would you like to apply it to your brother's blisters?"
Percy nodded eagerly and took the ointment from her. She watched him for a short while before walking around the kitchen table and towards Bill. He straightened up as he prepared for a bollocking from the responsible old witch, but she broke into a grin and guided him through to the living room.
"Let me fix those eyes of yours."
"Oh right," Bill said as he suddenly remembered his own state, "thanks."
They sat down on the sofa and the mediwitch withdrew her wand from her robes and flicked it at Bill's face twice. He felt a cool sensation before the skin around his eyes felt as if it was going to swell up and engulf his entire head and then returning to normal. Bill put his hand to his face and felt that the tenderness was gone and so was the swelling.
"No William," Madam Knight interrupted sternly, "I expect to hear from your mother in the morning, and if I do not, then I will be back here to tell her everything I saw. Do you understand what I'm saying young man?"
Bill nodded glumly. Their daring escape had been for nothing. They were going to be found out anyway. Not they, him.
"I'll tell her everything, I promise."
"You will also tell her to Floo me first thing in the morning so I can back up your testimony and reassure her that you did a fine job under very difficult circumstances."
Bill blinked and looked up at the wise old witch in shock.
"What?" he gasped.
The mediwitch's smile grew wider still now.
"Six youngsters to look after, three with dragon pox erupting while you were alone with them, a panic attack from one of the little ones that could have gone horribly wrong but you took charge and behaved admirably and dealt with Muggles without drawing any suspicion to yourself," Madam Knight took Bill's hand in hers and patted the back of it, "Molly will be incredibly proud of you, my boy."
Bill swallowed and felt like hugging the woman.
"She shouldn't be, I messed up good and proper," he muttered down into his lap.
Madam Knight gave him a slight slap on the side of the face and rose from the sofa.
"Now we'll have non of that. Let's go and see how Percy's doing with our little wanderer, shall we?"
"How could you have let this escalate and not send word to me, William Arthur Weasley?" his mother raged as soon as Bill had completed his re-telling of the night's events in full.
"Now, now, Molly," his father placed a hand on her shoulder to hold her back from either clipping Bill around the back of the head or barging past him to see what state he had got her family into while she was away, "Bill can't be held responsible for the babies and Charlie getting dragon pox, can he?"
"No but he should have told me," she snapped as she attempted to shake off her husband's hand, "You should have Flooed and got me to come home and see to them
"I didn't want to ruin your night, Mum," Bill cringed with apology.
"Ruin my night?" she repeated in a tone of outrage, "Do you really think I would care about a silly Ministry function over three of my children being sick at home with only a thirteen-year-old to care for them?"
Again, Bill's father was holding on to her and talking in his most soothing voice.
"A thirteen-year-old you left to care for them, Molly, remember that."
"And what's that supposed to mean, Arthur Weasley?" she rounded on Bill's father with a livid look in her eyes.
"It means that you trusted Bill with everybody for a reason, and you were right to do so, weren't you? He's proved that tonight."
"He...should...have...sent for me!" she said as she shook with the suppressed emotions brewing within her.
"He sent for Madam Knight," Bill's dad said firmly, gripping both her shoulders tightly. "The second he saw that his brothers and sister were sick, he sent for a mediwitch. Would you rather he wasted time sending owls and making Floo calls to the Ministry trying to find you?"
"Well no, I admit he did the right thing in getting the family healer to them right away, but then afterwards...with Ronnie," Bill felt slightly sick as he saw his mother's face crumpling and her face burying itself into her husband's robes, "My baby boy, Arthur, out there all alone without a stitch on him and ill."
"And they went out and got him right back, didn't they?" Bill's father said, casting a grateful smile Bill's way. "Bill wasted no time and went out there and went to the Muggles for help. That was a very brave and responsible thing to do, Molly."
Bill's mother sniffed and wiped her face.
"Wasn't it, Molly?" his father repeated.
"Yes, yes it was, Billy. You did the right thing and I am proud of you for keeping a cool head, but why? Why, after that, didn't you contact me?" she implored him for some explanation other then 'I didn't want to get into trouble.'
"I just...I didn't want...I th...thought-"
"You didn't think, did you?" she snapped before drawing in a breath and correcting herself, "Oh Bill, I'm sorry but, not matter how bad things are, you should always tell me when things go as wrong as they did tonight. When I think of what awful things could have happened..."
"But they didn't happen, Mum," Charlie's voice said, strongly and firmly from behind Bill, causing him to jump with fright, "and Bill wouldn't let me go searching until I was healed. What did he do wrong there? He didn't go alone; he went with Percy, who has his head screwed on right. What did he do wrong there? He didn't draw attention to himself in the Muggle streets, he did things properly and found Ronnie faster then we would have if we'd all gone running around like headless chickens looking for him. What did he do wrong then?"
"Charlie, it's very decent of you to stand up for you brother but the fact is..." their mother took a step forward and puffed out her chest in full-on mother hen mode.
"The fact is that you've got three sick kids on the mend, thanks to Bill," Charlie said, puffing out his own chest now, "You've got clean kids in their beds, which wasn't how you left them, thanks to Bill."
Their mother flushed a little at the accusatory tone in Charlie's voice, but he was already speaking once more as she opened her mouth to scold him for his cheek.
"You had a responsible adult supervising the house and the kids while Bill went with Perce for Ronnie. All your kids are in bed, sound asleep and safe and getting well, and for some reason this makes you disappointed in him?" Charlie frowned.
"No," she said as her shoulders fell and her chest deflated, and she hugged Bill to her closely, "of course I'm not disappointed that it all turned out for the best."
Charlie put his hand on Bill's shoulder and lifted his chin defiantly.
"If you're going to give Bill a bollocking and punish him, then you can do the same to me too."
Bill couldn't believe what he was hearing and gaped at his brother before noticing that his mother was doing the same. Their dad put his arm around her and gripped her tightly as he guided her out of the kitchen and towards the stairs while she was still dumfounded.
"Let's go and say goodnight to everybody and clear this up with Madam Knight in the morning."
As their parents climbed the stairs, Bill and Charlie heaved a sigh and followed them up, Bill shoving Charlie in the back gently and grinning when he turned around to frown at him.
"Git," Bill smirked.
"Shut it, pretty boy!" Charlie sniggered back.
The two of them stood on the landing as they watched their mother go into every room and plant a kiss on every one of her children's foreheads. Ginny's blisters were completely gone now and she was pouting in her sleep. The twins were sleeping like mirror images, Fred's left leg and arm hanging off the side of his bed and George's right leg and arm swinging limply off his.
As their mother pushed the door to Percy's bedroom open, Bill saw that his bed was empty and still pristinely made.
"Where's Percy?" his mother said in a panic, "did you forget to bring Percy back with you?" she turned on Bill and went a shade of red that Bill had only seen in poppies, "You lost Percy too!"
"Um," Bill frowned before looking up the second set of stairs towards Ronnie's room, "I think I might know where he is."
As the four of them crept up the creaky stairs and peered through the open door to Ronnie's bedroom they saw their missing Weasley.
Percy was sleeping in Ronnie's little bed. The scabby, blistered little body in his arms was scratching under his hair in his sleep and his blotchy face was burrowed into his older brother's shoulder. Bill could just about make out Ronnie's little fingers moving out of his hair and curling around Percy's thumb as he stopped scratching and fell back into his peaceful slumber.
"Oh Arthur," he heard his mother saying, as sounded as if she was going to cry, "look at that."
Bill closed the door as quietly as he could before clearing his throat.
"Yeah, you might find that Percy wants to take charge of looking after the babies for a while," he explained.
"Well that'll be nice for you, won't it, Molly?" his dad said as he smiled at her and guided her back down the stairs.
"Oh, and Mum," Bill called after his departing parents, "you're going to need to knit Percy a jumper with an 'S' on the front next time."
"I beg your pardon?" she frowned.
Charlie snorted and Bill shrugged and shook his head.
A/N Much love and appriciation to Sarah (PutMoneyInThyPurse) for her work on this little fic. I enjoyed making her squee!
Thanks to all who reviewed too, glad you liked my baby Weasley's I've grown very fond of writing a bit of Ickle Ronniekins in everything I write now so I thought I'd have a crack at doing a whole fic back then.
Now let's get back to writing Within These Walls and torturing the hell out of the adult version of him the way we all like it!
PS Happy Summer Solstice to you all. I did want to post this yesterday as a solstice treat but the site wouldn't let me upload the chapter (it still won't...I had to export an existing chapter, wipe it and then paste this over, what a palarva!)