The Warmest Hug
"Dad had to go out to Azkaban one time, remember Fred, and he said it was the worst place he'd ever been. He came back all weak and shaking. They suck the happiness out of a place, Dementors." – George Weasley, Prisoner of Azkaban
Arthur let Molly drape the thick tartan blanket around his shoulders and rush off to making him a steaming hot mug of tea. The boys had wanted to be told all about the prison but Molly had shooed them away. Poor little Ginny had started crying because Daddy was sad and she didn't like her Daddy being sad.
Arthur shivered again and gripped the blanket tight.
None of his children had seen him like that before. The twins had gone quiet and that spoke volumes for the nervous wreck he must have looked. Bill and Charlie occupied them and Percy had taken Ginny up to her room and offered to read her a story. Young Ron still wasn't back from nursery yet. He wasn't reading and writing as quickly as Percy had done but he was picking things up faster than the twins did. One unique little gift Ronnie had developed was a gift for problem solving.
The witch in charge of Ronnie's nursery had raved to Molly about how he had been playing with some kind of coloured cube in the corner for an hour and made all the sides match. They had given him trickier puzzles and he had set about all of them and worked them out all by himself. It wasn't all good however; the little tyke had not only escaped from the nursery and its safety gates a record seven times (two more than Fred and George) but had become a little champion of toy liberation.
When a child misbehaved at the nursery they were taken into the 'calm room' and when a toy was being fought over it was confiscated and put in the 'calm cupboard', only when a child was calm could they come back out of the calm room and only when the children played nicely together was the toy to be let out of the calm cupboard.
Children didn't exactly react to plan sometimes though and tantrums were a regular thing. Ronnie hated to see people getting upset and he was often discovered using ingenious methods to liberate the confiscated toys to give them back to the child who was crying for them.
The fireplace blazed green and Ronnie tripped and fell over onto the hearth rug in front of Arthur. Ronnie really hadn't got the hang of flooing just yet but he was still very pleased with himself that he was allowed to do it on his own.
"Up you get son." Arthur smiled weakly, his voice shaking and body still racked with icy judders.
"Dad!" Ronnie's face lit up and he rushed over to him waving a piece of sooty paper, "I drawed a painting with my hands today and I drawed you at work with the Minister and the Goblin king and Gareth Sidebottom!"
"Who's Gareth Sidebottom?" Arthur frowned.
"This man here," Ronnie pointed at a shapeless mass with a paint stained finger, "he's the Muggle man you tell to do things."
Arthur had no idea what Ronnie was on about but nodded and smiled all the same. His boy shivered involuntarily and Ronnie's face crumpled as he noticed that his father was out of sorts.
"Dad, are you not well?"
"No son, I'm fine, why don't you go and put your picture up on your bedroom wall?" Arthur forced a smiled onto his pale face.
Ronnie was still considering his father with concern. His arm dropped to his side and the painting hung in the loose grip of his little fingers.
"What's the matter dad?"
"Nothing's the matter Ronnie, I was visiting a very cold place and I'm just warming up again, that's all."
Ronnie set his painting down behind him and climbed up onto Arthur's lap. He wrapped his arms around his father's neck and gave him a tight hug.
"Cuddles keep you warm daddy."
Arthur let go of the blanket and curled his arms around the tiny little body, holding his youngest son tightly to him and feeling as if a bucket of hot water had just been poured over his head.
"Your cuddles could thaw the Artic Ronnie," Arthur sighed, closing his eyes.
Ronnie giggled and pulled back a little to look into his father's face as colour came back into the pale hollow cheeks.
"All better?" he asked, hopefully.
"Much," Arthur said with a nod.
He held the chubby little face in his hand and kissed Ronnie's round cheek, humming a loud 'Mwah' sound against his skin as he did.
"Blegh!" Ronnie said, wiping his face and scrunching up his nose.
His little pink tongue was sticking out and Arthur's nimble fingers tickled his boy between the ribs. Ronnie squealed and fell onto Arthur's lap cackling wildly. The laughter warmed Arthur's insides and soon he had thrown the blanket off his shoulders and was tickling the squirming boy even more enthusiastically.
"Ronnie, you're home from nursery already?" Molly said as she came back with Arthur's tea and set it down to smile at her much happier-looking husband.
"Mum, stop him, he's tigglin'!" Ronnie chortled.
"So I see," Molly beamed before looking at her husband with happiness and relief that he was back to his old self once again, "would you like a hand with that Arthur dear?"
For Mrs Quizzical, Fated Darkness and Lillymw's birthdays.