Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, etc.
This is my first fanfic (that I've actually finished). Any feedback/suggestions appreciated. Hope you enjoy!
On the Clock
Ron hopped off his broom and glanced back at the quidditch pitch warily. It had been a dirty game and both sides looked like they were about to start hexing each other. He decided to make himself scarce before they decided to lynch the referee as well.
"Hey, Weasley!" One of the supporting refs clapped him on the shoulder consolingly. "That was a bitch of a call. You did a good job."
"Cheers, Aspley," Ron smiled at his colleague. It had been the first time he had refereed a first division match and at nineteen and a half he was the youngest wizard to have ever had that honour. Although right now the last thing he felt like doing was celebrating. He just wanted to eat and sleep and hope that his next match might be a little more straightforward.
"Oh, by the way, a letter came," Aspley said grinning. "A Howler. Good luck."
Ron groaned and shut himself in the small referee's office and braced himself. The howler seemed to sense his presence and rose into the air menacingly.
"RONALD WEASLEY!" His mother's amplified voice boomed from the letter. "YOU WILL RETURN HOME THIS INSTANT. YOU HAVE SOME SERIOUS EXPLAINING TO DO. I AM NOT AMUSED."
Ron stared blankly at the ashen remains of the Howler as the fell to the desk. He wracked his brain but he could not for the life of him work out what he could have done to deserve a howler from his mum.
He figured that if he faced the music sooner rather than later he might just stand a chance at getting a takeaway and some much needed shut-eye. With a sigh he stepped into the fireplace and flooed to The Burrow.
It was nearing the end of a long day at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. The last few customers were paying for their goods and Fred and George were eagerly anticipating the moment when they could shut the doors and get ready to go out. They were planning on surprising their younger brother and celebrating his first match as a premiere league referee. They had been listening to the game on the radio and it had sounded like a slaughter but to their great surprise Ron seemed to have handled it well.
Unfortunately their plans went on hold as Erroll swooped unsteadily towards the shop and slammed right into the glass doors.
"Oh dear," said Fred. "Did I just see the distinct purple hues of a Howler?"
"I think so," George replied. "On the bright side at least we know it's not from an angry customer."
"We don't get Howlers from customers, George," said Fred reasonably.
"You're right; they're just from the people our customers use their products on."
"Looks like this one's from Mum, though."
"What could we have done this time…" George wondered over the sound of loud shrieks ordering them home.
"…I WANT YOU BACK HOME THIS MINUTE, PERCY WEASLEY AND NO EXCUSES!"
Percy wanted to shrivel up with embarrassment. Really, how could his mother embarrass him like this? She knew how important his job was to him. He had already made a fool out of himself on several occasions and this wasn't helping.
He quickly gathered up his briefcase and shuffled out of the office carefully avoiding the amused looks coming from his colleagues.
He was going straight home and he was going to have stern words with his mother.
Charlie wasn't the best when it came to keeping up correspondence. He didn't have the knack for letter writing and most of his friends and family had long ago learned that he favoured marathon catch-up sessions in person, down the pub usually. So he was pretty surprised to get back to his tent and find a weary and disgruntled looking owl waiting for him.
He took the letter and as soon as he opened it loud wails filed the campsite. Charlie listened in complete horror as his mother started on about how he had to get home right now and so help her Merlin if he didn't.
Charlie couldn't make head nor tail of what his mother was on about but she sounded really upset. All sorts of disturbing scenes played out in his mind. What if something had happened and he was stuck all the way out here?
Hastily he grabbed a change of clothes and apperated to the Romanian Ministry to floo back to The Burrow.
Ron stepped out of the fire place and yawned. Much to his relief there was no sign of his mother anywhere so he wandered over to the fridge and started to make himself a sandwich.
He had just decided on cheese and pickle when the back door flew open with a clatter. Fred and George tumbled in talking nineteen to the dozen. When they saw Ron they stopped short and grinned manically.
"Our little brother…" Fred cooed as they both bounded over to him.
Ron backed away in alarm. "What do you want?"
"Oh, that's nice!" George said pretending to be affronted.
"Can't we congratulate our little brother on being a newsworthy ref?"
"Yep, Ron. We can now finally admit to being related to you. Well done."
"Oh," said Ron a little stunned and still a little suspicious. "Thanks. So what are you two doing here?"
"Got a Howler from Mum. No idea why though."
"Me too," Ron admitted.
"What did you do?" Fred asked gleefully.
"Nothing…" Ron protested. "Well, nothing I know of."
The three brothers pondered the strangeness of the situation for a second. Then Ron gave up on thinking and went back to his food and Fred and George hunted out some dusty bottles of butterbeer from the back of a cupboard.
They were all sitting at the kitchen table, eating and drinking respectively, when and angry voice yelled, "Mother!"
"Is it me," said George. "Or did that sound like Percy?"
"It is Percy," Ron said leaning back in his chair so he could see down the hallway. "Oi, Perce!"
"Where is she?" Percy demanded, stalking into the kitchen and slamming his briefcase down on the table.
"Mum? No idea," Fred told him. "Butterbeer?"
"Fine," Percy said grumpily sitting down. He took a long swig and frowned. "I thought you three had moved out?"
"We have. Mum invited us over," George said.
"By Howler," Ron clarified somewhat unnecessarily.
"Me too," said Percy. "What was she thinking? I'm a respected member of the ministry. I can't be receiving Howlers like some errant schoolboy. It's not befitting!"
The other brothers rolled their eyes and laughed.
"She's obviously mad about something but none of us can figure out what," Ron said stifling another yawn. He pushed his empty plate away and grabbed a butterbeer.
"Well, she could have picked her timing a bit better I must say," said Percy.
"Is there ever a good time for a Howler?" George mused.
The conversation continued for a further few minutes as Percy, Fred and George speculated about the various reasons for their mother's more than averagely strange behaviour. Ron was nodding off in his chair when the fire glowed green and a huge hulking figure crashed out into the kitchen.
"I'm awake…" Ron started, almost falling out of his seat.
Fred and George leapt up to meet the person who was lying on the floor breathing heavily.
"Charlie!" they cried and helped him to his feet.
"What's happened? Is everyone alright? I got this Howler from Mum…"
"Yeah, join the club." George slapped him on the back and started laughing. "This is probably some mad family reunion. Anyone seen Ginny or Bill recently? We've almost got the full set."
"So," Charlie furrowed his brow trying to catch up, "Mum sent you all Howlers? Why?"
"Dunno," Fred said shrugging.
"But no one is dead or dying?" Charlie asked, just to make sure.
"Hadn't thought of that," Percy said. "But no, I would have heard."
Molly Weasley was livid. She hadn't been this angry since Fred and George had dropped out of school and even then she hadn't felt this betrayed. She didn't know for sure which of her sons was behind this latest scheme but she had her suspicions.
She found that she couldn't sit at home and wait for them without breaking things so she had taken a walk. She had tucked her clock into her apron pocket and when the five hands of her younger sons had turned to Home she made her way back to The Burrow.
She walked in on a scene that she had spent years praying for. Her sons were all sitting together talking in a civilised manner. Well, Charlie, Percy and the twins were. Ron was slumped in his chair snoring.
Molly's heart melted a little at the sight of her boys getting along so well and her resolve weakened just a touch. But she still wanted answers and no one was leaving that table until she had some.
"Mum!" Charlie yelled when he saw her. He rushed over and crushed her in a massive bear hug.
"Put me down Charlie," she said crossly. The last thing she needed now was to give in before she had even begun.
"So what's up, Mum?" George asked innocently.
Molly scowled and gave Ron a shove. His eyes opened and focused on his mother. He gave her a weak grin and sat up straight.
"I cannot believe you all have the gall to sit here in front of me and pretend you don't know what this is about." She crossed her arms and tapped her foot in frustration.
"But we don't…" Ron said with irritation.
"Don't act the innocent with me. One of you is in big trouble and I want to know which one decided to go behind your father and my backs in such a…" Molly paused trying to find a suitably strong word, "…Slytherin manner!"
There was a chorus of protests from the five brothers.
"Still no takers? Well, someone explain this!" Molly took out her clock and set it down on the table for them to see.
"It's the clock." Ron stated.
"Take a closer look," Molly hissed.
The boys all leaned in and examined the timepiece. Percy was the first to gasp and sit back stunned.
"Oh," said Charlie. "This is making a bit more sense now."
"What?" Ron said confused.
"Notice anything…new?" Fred said amused.
"Fred, I've just refereed a twenty hour quidditch match. My brain is mush. Be more specific."
"There's a new hand on the clock," Molly supplied.
Ron blinked and looked back at the clock. He could see the long hands of his parents, Bill and Fleur circling under them, Percy, Fred and George, Ginny and himself. And…
"Ohhhhh…" he breathed as realisation hit.
"What," Molly demanded, "Is Hermione Granger doing on the Weasley family clock?"
"So," Ron said in disbelief, "So, Hermione is on the clock. And that means… What does that mean? How did she get there? Is this a joke?" He directed that last question to the twins who were both sporting mischievous smirks.
"No joke," Fred said. "Wish we had thought of it though."
"That is not funny," Molly snapped. "Obviously Hermione is on the clock for the same reason Fleur is now on the clock. She is a Weasley." Blank stares from all. "One of you has gone and married the girl! Ron?"
"Me?" Ron laughed. "Oh, Mum that's classic. She's not married to any of us. It's probably just a glitch. I mean, she has spent as much time as any of us here over the last eight years."
"So, you're telling me you haven't eloped with Hermione?" Molly demanded.
"No! We're friends. We couldn't get married. We'd kill each other."
"You mean to tell me," Percy said with a huff, "That you embarrassed me in front of my whole department because you thought Ron might be married to Hermione Granger? I can't believe this family sometimes."
"Don't you take that tone with me," Molly warned. "I've checked with every spell I can think of. Hermione belongs on that clock and I want to know why."
"Well, if she's not with Ron. Who is it? And why am I here? I barely know her," Charlie said.
"I know she visited you in Romania last summer," said Molly.
"Yeah, with Ron and Harry." Charlie rolled his eyes. "Honestly Mum I was really worried. I thought something terrible had happened."
"Since we're on the subject, you may have forgotten, Mother, but I do actually have a girlfriend. Remember Penny?" Percy said.
"So Ron, Charlie and Percy are denying it," Molly summarised before rounding on the Twins.
"Oh, and none of them are capable of lying," George said offended.
"You two are the experts." Molly was uncompromising and fixed them with her most intimidating look.
"Look, if it's upsetting you this much, Mum, just go and ask her. After all, she's on the clock now so she shouldn't be all that hard to track down," Fred said cheekily.
"That's not a bad idea. She'd bound to be able to sort out the glitch. She's clever enough…" Ron said.
"It's not a glitch," Molly insisted.
"Where does it say she is?" George said. "We'll go and get her and bring her back here." He grabbed the clock and found Hermione's hand. It was pointing to Work, which meant that she was at Flourish and Blott's putting in overtime rounding up wayward books.
"Alright, let's hear what Hermione has to say. I'm almost more disappointed in her. I've grown to expect this sort of nonsense from my own children." Molly sighed and waved the twins away.
Hermione was in the back store room doing a stock take when she suddenly realised she wasn't alone. She drew her wand and peeked around the stacks and breathed a sigh of relief.
"I wish you wouldn't do that," she said.
"You need to relax, you know. The war's over. There won't be a Deatheater lurking around every corner just waiting you kill you."
"Not every corner no," Hermione admitted. "But, you know, old habits die hard."
"Well, it's good to see you're still on the ball because we have a problem. Seems that we hadn't thought of everything. You're on the clock and Mum's gone mental. She thought you and Ron had eloped."
"Oh God," Hermione moaned. "What did Ron say to that?"
"He thought it was hilarious. He reckons it's a glitch."
"Okay, so we go with that."
"Nope. Mum's already run tests. We have to come clean."
"Does she know about us?"
"Not yet. I thought you'd like to tell everyone together. It'll be fun."
"You are such a considerate husband," Hermione said sarcastically. "Why the hell did I marry you?"
"Beats me," the redhead laughed. "I thought you'd back out way before we got to 'I do'."
Hermione apperated to The Burrow, closely followed by Fred and George. She was very nervous. She had never meant to upset Molly and she really wished that Mrs Weasley hadn't found out like this.
"It'll be okay," Fred said, "Eventually. Just let her get her rant out and then she'll be happy to have you a daughter-in-law."
"She sent you all Howlers," Hermione pointed out. "This is more than a temper tantrum."
"Hermione, don't worry about it. She's just feels like she got cheated out of a wedding. She's got five other kids to harass about that," George said bracingly.
"Every one is in there." Hermione shuddered.
"Come on, for better or worse, that was the deal." Hermione felt a comforting hand on her back.
"Okay." She squared her shoulders and took a step forward, strangely grateful that she had a Weasley twin at each shoulder. If anyone had the bottle for this it was them. Never in a million years had she ever imagined that she would be married to one of them, even if it had been a complete accident.
She walked into the kitchen and tried to smile. Ron and Charlie seemed happy to see her but Percy was glowering almost as fiercely as his mother.
"Hello, Mrs Weasley," Hermione said with all the enthusiasm she could muster.
"Hello to you as well, Mrs Weasley," Molly returned.
That was not a good start.
"…and therefore I have to conclude that you are married to one of my sons," Molly stated. "Although, thus far no one is owning up."
"That's a brilliant clock," Hermione said, giggling a little hysterically.
"I'm sorry we didn't tell you. It just happened really quickly. It was unexpected and it still hasn't sunk in really." Hermione confessed.
"That's nice dear, but I still don't know which of my sons you are married to," Molly said coldly.
"Oh," Hermione said quickly, "George."
"George?!" There were shouts from around the table as everyone, except Fred, started with a tirade of questions. George gave a little wave.
"But you said that you weren't…" Molly stammered as everyone was stunned into silence.
Ron kept opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish, Charlie furrowed his brow and stared at Hermione as though she was some sort of alien and Percy just tutted and crossed his arms.
"This is usually where our nearest and dearest start with the congratulations," George said. More silence. "Okay, so now you all know, mystery solved why don't we all go home and let it sink in," George tried hopefully.
"You're not going anywhere. How could you lie to me?" Molly finally found her voice and it was still angry.
Hermione looked embarrassed but George shook his head. "I've never lied. We just didn't plan on telling anyone just yet. It's not my fault that bloody clock outed us!"
At that Fred laughed and muttered, "Busted!" He earned a sharp look from Molly before she returned to her other son.
"How on earth did this happen? Nobody even knew you were together."
"Nobody was supposed to," George pointed out.
"Oh God," Molly gasped as a thought hit her, "You're pregnant."
"No!" Hermione cried, "No, Mrs Weasley, nothing like that."
"Then why didn't you tell us?"
"Well," George began in a reasonable tone, "We figured that we could do with out all the fuss. You know, the big wedding, the tedious attempts on my life by Ron… that sort of thing."
"Hang on," Ron interrupted. "Don't put this on me. Who Hermione decides to go out with is her business. Although," he added, glaring at his friend, "Why George is beyond me. Does Harry know?"
"No," Hermione answered in a small voice.
"You know, as soon as I start to think I've figured you out you go and smack Malfoy or start a resistance group or marry my brother…"
"I'm sorry, Ron." Hermione sounded pained and tears started to pool in her brown eyes.
Ron looked alarmed. "Umm, it's okay. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I just wish you had said something to the people who were supposed to be your best friends."
That was obviously too much for Hermione. She burst into tears and threw her arms around Ron. He patted her awkwardly on the back trying to ignore the evil look George was giving him.
Molly watched bemused as Ron tried to reassure Hermione that he wasn't angry. She was obviously very distressed by the way he had found out and Molly was reminded of how cross her own parents had been when she and Arthur had married. They hadn't made a secret of their intentions and they had been walking out together for years but they did wed without so much as a by your leave from any one.
Hermione and George were a completely different proposition but suddenly Molly could see why they might not have wanted the attention. Hermione had always been hounded by the papers ever since the Triwizard Tournament when Rita Skeeter had painted her to be a gold digging, fame hungry tart. With shame Molly realised that she too had fallen for Rita Skeeters tabloid ravings and she could understand why Hermione might not want to invite that sort of situation again.
Besides, whatever scheme George was hell bent on Hermione was likely to be the voice of reason. She had always been the one with the plan, making sure Harry and Ron were safe. Molly knew she wouldn't do anything stupid. She must have had a very good reason for going through with a secret wedding.
The more Molly thought about it the more it made sense. Hermione's parents were gone, killed by Deatheaters a few years back and it was understandable that she wouldn't want a big ceremony with her side of the family conspicuously absent.
It was so sad really, the Weasley family was all the poor girl had and here Molly was behaving like Hermione was the worst thing ever to happen to it. She was ashamed of herself for being so harsh,
Suddenly she was in tears as well, pulling her son's new bride into a fierce hug.
George and his brothers watched in disbelief as the two Mrs Weasleys hugged, both crying and apologising, finishing with Molly admitting, "I always did want you as a daughter-in-law anyway."
Ron rolled his eyes and voiced the thought that was going through everyone else's mind. "Mental, those two." He yawned sleepily. "I still don't get it, but maybe I will tomorrow. Congratulations I suppose." He got up and stretched and then said to his mother, "Can I go now? I'm knackered and this is all George's fault."
"Yes dear, I suppose so. You do look tired." Molly kissed Ron and ushered him to the fireplace.
"Well, I'll be going too," Percy said rising to leave. "Personally I think George has behaved very irresponsibly but it would be nice not be tarred with the same brush as my delinquent brother. Next time something happens please refrain from sending a Howler to my work; a normal letter will suffice."
"Goodbye Percy," Molly said sounding chastened.
"I'm not a delinquent," George called after Percy.
"You are a bit," said Fred happily.
"And as for you, Fred Weasley. I can only suppose you were complicit in this?" Molly accused.
"Well," Fred said. "They needed someone to hold the rings."
Charlie burst out laughing. Then, at the death glare from his mother, he retreated upstairs.
"This isn't over," she said with a last ditch effort at severity. "George, Hermione, we'll talk in the morning."
"That went okay," George said.
"You are joking! That was a nightmare. I feel so guilty."
"About which part? Getting hitched in secret or…"
"George! Don't even say it. And seriously don't tell your Mother."
"I'm just saying, I still don't understand why you went through with the ceremony."
"Well, you did too."
"Yes, but it's not out of character for me."
"I don't back down," Hermione told him.
"Are you sure it was just stubbornness?"
"As oppose to what?"
"Well, it's okay if you like me, you know. I am your husband. It's not unheard of."
Hermione looked at George as though she was about to argue but she caught herself and just shook her head. "Why did you go ahead with it?"
"Oh, lots of reasons," he replied airily. "I couldn't let you win - that was the main one. I wanted to see what would happen, it seemed like a good idea at the time… Take your pick."
"We could get an annulment," George coaxed.
"You know where the Ministry is, if you want one," Hermione said tartly.
George laughed. "Come on Mrs Weasley, let's go home."
A year later, Molly Weasley looked at her clock again. There were a few more changes to be seen. Her first grandchild, Victoire, had her own little hand and Ginny, no longer a Weasley had gone. Molly had been quite upset about that and Hermione had offered to try and modify the clock to include the Potter family. Molly had considered it but in the end decided that it would be wrong to tamper with the heirloom that had served her so well over the years.
It was a bright evening and the sunlight showed up a thick layer of dust on the clock face. Molly levitated it down from the hook and carefully wiped it clean. She watched as some of the hands whirled through the different states and locations and remembered the day she first noticed Hermione's hand painting determinedly to Work and the ensuing confrontation with her bachelor sons.
Looking back it had been kind of funny. Arthur had been quite upset that she hadn't waited for him but Molly's reasoning was that he would have been all smiles and handshakes and the fact that she was trying to reprimand her sons for lying would have been completely lost.
After the initial shock Molly and Hermione had quickly got back on an even keel. As Ron had said, Hermione was already practically part of the family. George and Hermione didn't change much. The only difference from Molly's perspective seemed to be that when Hermione left The Burrow, instead of heading for Grimauld Place with Ron and Harry, she left with George, home to the little flat above the shop and then, a few months later, to a small terrace a mile or so away from Harry and Ginny.
That was where her hand was pointing to now. George was also at home. Molly smiled to herself, they might have rushed into marriage but they didn't seem any the worse for it.
Molly was about to put the clock back on the wall when something about Hermione's hand caught her eye.
Now that was interesting!
What was it about those two, Molly thought as she apperated to the street outside George and Hermione's house. They never did things the easy way.
"Hello, Molly," Hermione smiled as she opened the door. Molly kissed her daughter-in-law on the cheek and followed her to the kitchen.
"Hi Mum!" George was sat at the kitchen table with a disassembled mechanical something or the other and a large plate of pasta. "What's up?"
Molly sat down and took the mug of tea that Hermione offered her. "I though you could tell me."
George frowned and Molly wondered for a moment if he even knew. But she was too old to be poker faced by her son, one of the biggest practical jokers in the wizarding world.
"Any news…" she tried. "Anything I should hear from you rather then sending a Howler about in say… nine months time."
George's jaw dropped. "Damn that bloody clock! Can't anyone have a secret in this family!"
"Sorry Molly," Hermione laughed and laid a calming hand on her husband's shoulder. "This is my fault. It's a muggle thing not to say anything until after three months, just in case."
Molly smiled. She wasn't mad; she was actually please that she was still able to get one up on her grownup children. "Well, this is good news. We'll have to celebrate once the three months have passed."
"I can't believe he's on the clock already. He's what, the size of a pea?" George said.
"Don't worry, it's not really noticeable. I only caught it because I've had seven children under that clock. You're secrets safe for the moment."
"So no Howlers?" said George slyly.
"Not this time."
"Well, I'm glad you found out Molly," Hermione said. "I don't know anything about babies and, as George is so fond of telling me, you can't learn this stuff out of a book. I'll need your help."
"Of course," Molly beamed.
"Another grandkid to dote on – I bet you'll let slip, Mum. You'll have to tell someone," George teased.
Molly smiled at that turn of phrase – "another grandkid". She wondered whether or not to tell her son about the two budding hands hiding almost out of sight behind Hermione's.
No, she decided as she hugged the parents-to-be, she could keep a secret.