He was used to coming home to a mad house but there was an unexpected tinge of fear to the cacophony of sound which greeted him when he walked through the back door. Normally, on returning home after the night shift, he'd be greeted with many happy faces around the breakfast table and a warm kiss from his wife. Today however his wife was a blur of sound and noise as she brandished a wooden spoon at the huge, battered teddy bear, which was stomping around the kitchen.
"Arthur." a relieved sigh accompanied the word as Molly spied the re-enforcements heading her way. "I'm just going to see to Fred and George," she declared confirming Arthur's suspicions about the origin of the toy, which was attempting to frighten Molly with a low growl. She gave him his answer with a sharp rap on the button nose with the wooden spoon and they watched as it marched out the door with its furry head down. There was no doubt as to the winner of this round.
Now, round two.
Arthur could hear the scurrying of small feet upstairs and shared a rueful smile with his wife as she headed towards the door.
"'Luv', do you want me to…."
His offer to help with the terrible twosome was interrupted with a gentle hand on his arm and a loving kiss upon his lips.
"Don't you worry Arthur, I'll take care of them." Molly said before her voice dropped down to a whisper and she nodded towards the kitchen table. "But, could you maybe check that a certain someone is alright?"
He spied the faded red blanket peeking out from under the kitchen table. His knees were already protesting but he instantly moved towards the table, which bore the evidence of a breakfast gone awry.
Molly, seeing that everything was under control, set off in search of her wayward twins. Arthur removed his cloak and threw it towards the nearest chair before he got down on his hands and knees and crawled under the table, following the red blanket to its owner.
His heart nearly broke at the familiar sight before him. Huddled around a sturdy table leg was his youngest son, his eyes red and a corner of the blanket held tightly to his face. Crawling slowly he made his way towards the upset three year old and eventually sat in front of Ron tucking his long legs under him.
A soulful look and a long sigh was all the response he got, but it was what he had expected.
"Everything got a bit noisy this morning, did it?"
A shrug was given and received with a little smile.
"It's so much nicer under here isn't it?" Arthur said as he edged towards the upset little boy. "It really is alright if you want to come here sometimes."
Arthur smiled as he saw the blanket fall a little bit and the pair sat in comfortable silence for a while simply listening to the muffled sounds of life in the Burrow beyond the solid wooden table.
He watched as Ron mumbled into his blanket and only caught the last word of what he said.
He got a little nod in response.
"Yes, I think Fred and George are in a fair bit of trouble son."
Ron began to shuffle his way over towards his father, his loyal blanket making the journey with him as it was dragged across the floor.
"Did they scare you?"
A defiant shake of the head had Arthur chuckling to himself. Having five older brothers had already taught Ron not to admit to being scared by things but he took things to heart like no-one else did. Often, when things got out of hand, or when things changed in his life, little Ron would retreat under the table for solitude and calm. It had all started when Bill had left for Hogwarts and, one way of the other, either Arthur or Molly would often find themselves keeping Ron company while he came to terms with things. He just needed a bit of time to figure things out and simply breathe before he re-emerged. Arthur, himself a worrier, would often find his thoughts preoccupied with the worried little frown he often saw on his son's face. When Bill had gone off to school. Ron had trouble realising that his big brother wasn't being sent away forever. In those first few months his parents had often had to stop him giving his toast to the owl at breakfast and telling it to deliver it to Bill.
Arthur's hand snaked up onto the kitchen table and he fumbled about for a bit before he found what he was looking for. Two slices of toast liberally coated with sweet strawberry jam. Something sweet and some company would always cheer his little boy up.
Ron moved even closer at the sight of the food and Arthur smiled as he handed over a slice of toast. The two ate their improvised breakfast listening to the reassuring tick-tock of the clock in the kitchen outside their small cocoon. Arthur knew it wouldn't take long and he wasn't disappointed. He soon found himself holding a sticky three year old and enjoying the hug he was being given and the bit of peace they shared.
It didn't last long.
Ron jumped to his feet, narrowly missing banging his head on the table only by the quick placement of Arthur's hand between head and wood, he grabbed his father's hand and started pulling him out from under the table and out into the kitchen.
"C'mon Dad." Ron said as he flashed a toothy grin at his father, "Wanna hear them shouted at!"
It wasn't the sight he was expecting to see but Ron had to grin at the vision of his wife hunched down at the edge of the kitchen table with her bum in the air.
She spun around, pushed a strand of bushy air out of her face, and looked every bit as frazzled.
"I…I don't…" She was unable to complete a sentence, her attention kept going from her husband to the table and back again.
"What's wrong 'luv?" Ron said as he removed his cloak, threw it in the general direction of a chair and immediately got down to his knees beside his stressed wife. He took her hand in his,
"It was the cat."
"Well, Rosie really…" Hermione said as her gaze went around the kitchen. Ron caught sight of a few overturned bowls and substantial evidence of little feet and paw prints through what looked like flour on the floor.
Hermione took a deep breath, blew a flour covered strand of hair out of her face, and turned her gaze back on her husband.
"Rosie was taunting the cat and wouldn't leave him alone. She then stood on his tail and he went berserk, Hugo got scared and now he won't come out."
Ron nodded his head, gently pushed a strand of hair from Hermione's face, and asked.
"Where is Hugo now?"
A sigh and a worried glance back at the kitchen table confirmed his suspicions.
"Why don't you put the kettle on 'luv?" he kissed her gently and gave her a smile. "We'll be out in a minute."
Ron got down on his hands and knees, lifted up the edge of the table cloth and disappeared underneath.
There was a little trail of floury footprints leading him directly to his son as he sat with his back against the wall, his legs pulled up in front of him. His red hair had been covered in a dusting of flour and gave him the air of a rather sad old man. Ron crawled his way over to his son and sat beside him, stretching his long legs out in front of him. Unfortunately, straightening his back against the wall led to an inevitable encounter between his head and the underside of the table. The momentary pain was worth it though as he heard a little giggle escape from the three year old beside him.
"Oh you think that's funny do you?" Ron said as he snaked a hand out towards his giggling son and began to tickle him.
"You're laughing at your old dad, are you now?"
The giggling was contagious and eventually both Weasleys were howling with laughter from underneath the table. Eventually, calmness returned with Hugo perched securely and happily on his father's knee.
"I'm starving son, what about you?"
"Yep!" came the confident reply from the little boy whose little flour covered head was resting against Ron's chest.
"Well, we'll just have to see what we can do about that then, won't we?"
Ron retrieved his wand and leaned around to watch his son's captivated face as the biscuit tin was summoned from its perch on the top of the cupboard. He watched as the little boy leaned forwards and grinned at the look of glee on his face when the biscuit tin settled in front of the delighted boy.
"Just don't tell your mummy, okay son?" Ron said as he tried to ignore the stifled laughter he could hear from beyond the table and retrieved a chocolate digestive for himself and his son.