Malice glittered in the multiple eyes, evil embodied in a black stare.
Apprehension layered the moment thickly until it was humid with the anxiety of confrontation. At any given second, everything could explode in a flurry of movement and panic.
Behind him, Rosie let out a whimper.
A bowl was atop her head as a protecting helmet, and she wore a pair of Ron's ancient Quidditch gloves and Keeper's goggles—far too large for her face, they kept slipping down the nose—for extra precaution. Despite her obvious dread, the grip on the large wooden spoon in her hand was firm and resolute.
For his part, Ron was mostly very bravely unprotected, with only a spare set of goggles to shield his eyes and a rolled-up Sunday edition of the Daily Prophet for armament. Though, as it was coupon-laden and thick with the week's leftover news, this was nothing to scorn.
Hugo, the bravest of them all, nonetheless wore his cereal bowl on his head. This was not actually due to any crisis, he just put it there. However, given the serious circumstances Ron and Rosie had deemed it reasonable and convenient to leave the bowl on his head, just so long as it didn't become a pattern. Hugo grinned at them from his high chair. Ron had long since siphoned off any remaining breakfast from the bowl and Hugo's hair with a quick scourgio charm.
Ron's wand was stuck in his back pocket, forgotten.
Ron flinched and Rosie jumped about a foot. Their eyes were fixed on a dark spot on the parlor table. The effect of the large goggles covering their eyes was something close to buglike; this irony was unnoticed or ignored.
"What's it want?" whispered Rosie, raising the spoon. She very carefully edged to Ron's side. The top of her head didn't hardly reach his waist. Both of them were crouched, ready for action at the slightest sign of danger.
"I dunno," Ron whispered back. "But it can't stay."
Rosie nodded in serious agreement, worry still knitting her eyebrows.
"I hate spiders."
"Me too," agreed Ron.
Crookshanks, that blasted cat, was nowhere to be found. The traitor had scurried off across the garden several minutes before to chase a wayward gnome and had abandoned them to this problem. Hugo would probably eat the spider if they let him.
Hermione was putting in a little overtime at the Ministry. Ron had been fully prepared to spend a relaxing day with his children, expecting no bigger crisis than Hugo upending his cereal bowl on his head.
Then little Rose had burst into the kitchen, breathlessly exclaiming about a spider that had taken over the parlor table. After giving her a chocolate chip cookie for courage (with the promise not to tell Mum), they'd suited up to face the house menace.
It was actually a large spider, at least an inch across, and several times magnified by intense staring. Just looking at the things still gave Ron the spooks, calling up old and very unwanted memories of spiders many inches across.
"Ahh!" Rosie jerked and pointed a finger at the spider. It had suddenly started to run, skittering across the table. Ron jumped and lunged at it, brandishing the rolled up newspaper. The Daily Prophet made a loud "THWACK!" when it hit the table, but the spider avoided the blow and whisked down a table leg.
Ron and Rosie jumped back lest the spider make for their shoes—and unprotected ankles—but it zoomed in a different direction. They could see the black spot drifting across the floor.
"Okay," said Ron, "regroup."
He re-rolled the newspaper as though to fortify it, and Rose held up the spoon determinedly in a white-knuckled grip. Ron felt quite proud. Hell, it was a spider, but still. A fear was a fear, and dealing with it required effort and not a little bravery. Rosie was definitely going to be a Gryffindor.
Giggling impishly, completely unafraid and apparently delighted in the situation, Hugo was either a Gryffindor too or Peeves's future protege.
The three of them watched, entranced, as the spider scuttled a short way across the floor and up a side table backed against the wall. This was not a good table to kill a spider on, as there were several nicely framed photographs and some fragile things that would not take any more kindly to a Daily Prophet than even the smallest arachnid. A porcelain vase that Hermione's parents had given them as a wedding present just begged to be toppled.
Evidently Rosie noticed this too. "What do we do now?" she asked uncertainly, letting the spoon drop a little. The spider made no move to leave the table.
"We get tricky," her father informed her. Ron picked up a cup that had escaped Hugo's reach and hunted around for a sheet of paper, or a piece of card. He looked at Rosie, whose attention was fixed firmly on the target. Attagirl.
"Rosie," Ron said seriously. She spared him a quick look. "I have to go into the kitchen to get a piece of card. It will only take a few seconds. I need you to watch the spider. Can you do that? I'll be right back."
At first Rosie looked like she thought it was a rather tall order, but then she shoved the goggles back up her nose and nodded. "Yeah."
Totally proud. Ron flashed a smile at her and saw a small one in return. "Okay," he said. "Starting...now."
Quickly but without any jerkiness that might startle the spider into moving, Ron glided into the kitchen and went over to a drawer near the table. A second's hunting found a sheet of index card that Hermione might use to jot down something or other. With card and cup in hand he went back into the parlor to find Rosie still as stone, fixated on the table.
"I've got it," he said. Rosie looked relieved. "You did great. Now..."
Together they inched forward. It might have been total silence had Hugo's giggles not punctuated the quiet. Ron raised the cup and lowered the card.
The spider didn't mind them at first.
In fact, it might not have moved at all if an ornery ball of ginger hair had not streaked out of nowhere and launched itself at the table. It seemed to hang in midair, frozen just long enough for awareness to sink in before they could do anything. A graceful arc, kinetic poetry.
And then: mayhem.
"CROOKSHANKS!" Ron bellowed. The cat charged down the table, spitting gleefully, claws scrabbling for a hold like Ron had just tossed it on ice. The spider fled. Ron watched helplessly as that nice vase wobbled a little, seemed to settle back down, and then just fell off the edge for the hell of it.
There was a resounding crash. Crookshanks was not done, however, and several frames clattered to the floor. He skittered around, trying to catch the spider behind this frame and that, and sent a few more things to the ground that Ron would rather not have dropped.
The urge to swear was so strong, and if two impressionable minds had not been there Ron would have let loose a blue streak of curses as astringent as alcohol. Instead he lurched forward and tried to pluck the rampaging cat off the table.
Crookshanks would have none of that and immediately became a biting, hissing, scratching, howling tangle of rage. Ron nonetheless held on firmly.
"No, Crookshanks!" Rose reprimanded sternly (reminiscent of her mother). A moment later she looked around and said worriedly, "Where's the spider?"
At this point Ron didn't care. His concern was primarily directed at keeping Hermione's blasted cat from destroying the rest of the Nice Things in its idiot frenzy. Its destructive force was now directed at his face. Ron yelped in pain as long neat scratches streaked his nose and under his eyes.
"There! It's there!" Rosie jabbed a finger at some unseen spot in the corner. Crookshanks understood this and nearly gouged a hole in Ron's face in his effort to escape. Not so fast—he resisted terrifically and the cat yowled wildly with frustration.
"Get it!" Rosie yelled, dancing on the floor trying to smoosh the spider. Had to give her credit for keeping her eye on the ball.
Between Crookshanks shredding his arms and face, Rosie stomping around and Hugo cackling, this was just too much.
"Oh, fine," he groaned, opening his arms. "Rosie, get back!"
Crookshanks shot out like a rocket and flew into the corner. Rosie jumped and Ron scooped her up before she could trip over the cat. They watched it hunt eagerly and within seconds, it was over.
"Worth it?" Ron asked Crookshanks nastily. The cat munched slowly, and in disgust Rosie buried her head in her father's shoulder.
He patted her on the back lightly and turned to face the damage. He groaned and set Rose down on the couch, then went to do what he could.
Most everything repaired fairly well. There was a small crack in the vase he couldn't get to mend, and that he swiveled to face the wall. Otherwise the parlor looked normal when, in a flash of green flame, Hermione suddenly landed in the fireplace. Ron spun guiltily from the picture frame he'd just fixed and met her with a short peck on the cheek.
"I'm sorry, I got held up by Mr. Perkins," she said, hanging her coat on a peg. "You wouldn't believe—goodness, what happened to you?" she said in alarm, seeing him fully and noticing the battle wounds.
"Er," Ron said weakly. Somehow he ddin't think that he cared to recount the episode. "Accident."
This of course did not qualify as any sort of response, but a second question was bitten off as Rose came up to hug Hermione.
"Hi Mum," she said brightly.
"Hello Rose," said Hermione with a quick kiss. "What has your father been doing?"
"We had a spider," was Rosie's response.
Hermione raised her eyebrows at Ron, who shrugged and tried to look nonchalant. "You should see the other guy."
"The spider?" she said, amused.
"Yeah. This thing was like an inch long."
Hermione opened her mouth, paused, and changed track. "What have you lot got on?" She stepped back and took in the various Quidditch gear and kitchen utensils. Ron had forgotten they were there.
"It's armor," was all.
Her smile was caught between humor and puzzlement, and she shook her head as Crookshanks rubbed affectionately against her leg. "Clever cat, you caught a spider. Did you help Rosie and Papa?"
Ron sighed. Of course the menace would get the credit. "No, he made it harder, that demon tore up the place. This is why we can't have Puffskeins."
"Everything looks all right," said Hermione, looking around and back down. Hugo waved from the high chair and she went over to kiss and pick him up.
Crookshanks preened smugly, and Ron felt a twitch in his foot.
Then Rose smiled at him, and took his hand.
Geez, finally I write an HP story eh:P