As Ron Weasley rumbled at a steady clip through the streets of Ottery St. Catchpole, he decided life was good. Better than it had been, anyway. It had been a bit of a depressing school year, and at first he was worried about being bored out of his mind, but then his father had given him the news about the quidditch world cup. The once-every-four-years game deciding who would take home the cup, the glory, and bragging rights. To say that he was excited was an understatement. Add in the fact that his two best friends would be staying at the Burrow for a bit and joining him to watch the match, and he was grinning from ear to ear.
This "rumbling through the streets" thing was new as well. He was driving his father's Ford Anglia – the car that had served as the vehicle for Harry's escape from the Dursleys and their subsequent attempt to reach Hogwarts in second year. The journey was pretty epic, despite the decidedly crashy ending. Even after the howler and the detention, if you asked Ron if it was worth it, he'd say yes. No question. It was pretty convenient that they crashed the car into the Whomping Willow, considering that it later saved them from a bloody huge mob of spiders. Even if it resented him somehow for the crashing bit, he and that car had a mutual respect for one another. He was glad it had stuck around at the edge of the forest after the spider fiasco, dutifully waiting for Arthur to take it back to the Burrow where it had sat in the shed for another year.
Then, the twins had started toying with it. Arthur knew they'd developed an interest in it, and despite the fact that the twins tended to make things explode, he just couldn't bring himself to quash their creative instincts. Besides, he had a feeling they'd get it working well again. And who knows when you might need a muggle car? He considered the car the crowning achievement of muggle science, and having one made him feel warm and fuzzy inside, regardless of whether or not the thing actually worked. So the twins had tinkered for a few weeks, and the results ended up exceeding everyone's expectations – by quite a bit, actually. The car was nearly unrecognizable.
It was still roughly the same shade of turquoise, but now... it glistened. The paint was no longer chipping and falling away; it adhered quite nicely and looked brand new. For reasons not immediately apparent to Ron, the car also sat lower to the ground. The windscreen had the same water-repelling properties with which Hermione had imbued Harry's glasses. The windscreen wipers had therefore been torn off, "to save weight," as Fred had explained. Ron had snorted at this. What were featherweight charms for? The twins had waved him off, insisting that featherweight charms were temporary and not an "elegant" solution. Ron didn't know if the subtraction of two windscreen wipers really made a difference in the overall performance of the car, but he wasn't going to argue with the result.
The engine had been mostly replaced with spells. The initial idea had been to make the engine run on firewhiskey (just because the concept seemed wicked cool), but that turned out to be impractical for a couple of reasons. For one thing, they tried pouring some into the tank (Ron knew better than to ask where they had gotten it) and found that the car would spit flames, then sputter and die. The second issue was that they didn't feel it was worth the risk to obtain enough firewhiskey to continue their prototyping.
So instead of being propelled by little explosions as it was before, it was now run by a high-powered cranking spell which Fred and George had adapted from some kind of household charm their mum sometimes used. The cranking spell was controlled by the gas pedal. After they had rigged that up, they took apart most of the gearbox and removed all but one forward gear, magically strengthening it so that it could cope with extra stress. The exhaust system was taken care of with a quick severing charm. It laid bent and forgotten by the shed. The twins said it wasn't necessary anymore. Just dead weight.
The wheels had been lightened with featherweight charms – bloody hypocrites – and the tires had been strengthened to withstand sustained periods of peeling out without going to pieces. It had taken them days and several trips to a junkyard for more tires to strike the proper balance between tires of stone and tires of rubbery fluff that disintegrated if you looked at them funny, but they had finally done it. Other than being lower and shinier, the car appeared unmodified on the outside. The twins said they wanted it to be a "sleeper," which Ron initially assumed would be boring. Ron was very wrong.
The first time the family saw the car run, George had gotten into the driver's seat with a smug grin, mirroring a smugly grinning Fred in the passenger seat. George had pointed his wand at the hood, then at the gas pedal and murmured the incantation, and the engine roared to life. Molly, Arthur, Ginny and Ron stood behind a hastily conjured waist-high brick wall and watched with apprehension as the twins prepared for their maiden voyage. To Ron, "maiden voyage" evokes the image of a grand ship pulling gently away from a dock somewhere.
The "Angria," as they had dubbed it, did not gently pull away. George stomped on the gas pedal and the car's rear wheels kicked up a great cloud of dirt, and then the car was off like a firework. "Cor..." Ron murmured, awed by the metal beast tearing trenches in the lawn. He could just barely hear the twins whooping joyously over the sound of the engine. He looked to his parents, expecting panic and indignation. Their father had inspected the twins' work before he'd let them drive it, declaring it theoretically safe, but Molly had still insisted on applying cushioning charms to every part of the interior she could reach. Molly bit her lip, eyebrows furrowed with concern, but Arthur just wore a satisfied smile. He was proud.
Ron had begged them to let him drive it. The bargaining had been difficult, and ultimately he ended up agreeing to be a test dummy for any pranks the twins invented from then until Christmas. In return, the twins agreed to teach him to pilot the mighty Angria.
Fred and George convinced their mum to let them drive her into town for her shopping, and pick her up when she was done, promising not to draw attention to themselves or break the statute of secrecy. They dropped her off at the local grocery, turned a corner, and performed something the twins called a Chinese fire drill. Ron didn't think any of those words seemed to fit the act they supposedly described – they just got out of the car and ran around so that Ron was in the driver's seat. Odd name for switching drivers.
Before leaving the Burrow, the twins had started the car at half the normal power so that it would stop peeling out at the slightest touch of gas. They really didn't need to attract the muggle police. Pranksters though they may have been, the twins did not think obliviating the authorities was a good idea. Ron settled himself into the driver's seat and put his hands on the wheel.
"Right, Ronniekins. That'll be the gas pedal there on the right, brake is the left. Don't mash the brake unless things are going very wrong, and don't mash the gas until you've got a feel for what it can do. Just start by pushing down on the gas a bit, and don't forget to steer." George said from the back seat.
"Try to avoid solid objects." Fred chipped in with a cheeky grin.
"Yeah, we can't exactly mend this with spellotape if you wreck it, so do be careful, eh?" George added.
"Gas on the right, brake on the left, steer away from solid stuff. Reckon I can manage that." Ron said with a roll of his eyes. Looking both ways to make sure no one was coming, he eased the car onto the streets of the village, concentrating quite hard on keeping the car within the lines while trying to project an air of practiced ease.
Soon, he was moving with more confidence, and really enjoying himself. He cranked his window open and let the breeze in, ruffling his hair and further inflating the grin that had appeared the first time he made a turn without hitting a curb. Fred turned on the radio and let muggle pop music fill the car. They had to switch drivers and pick up their mum soon, and they were determined to enjoy their remaining moments without supervision. Ron pulled up to a stoplight – one of the few in the tiny village – and sat, waiting for it to turn green. As he waited, a young man in a new-looking ute pulled up. For some reason, he gave Ron a dirty look and revved his engine.
Fred let out a low whistle. "Want to have a bit of fun with boy racer there, Ron?"
"How?" Ron asked, confused as to what exactly was happening.
George spoke up quickly from the back. "You know how we said don't mash it? When the light goes green, mash it and try not to crash."
"Wait, what, why?" Ron asked, suddenly panicked.
The light turned green. "GO!" the twins shouted in unison.
And for lack of a better plan, Ron obliged them. A split second after the ute had let loose a great roar, Ron buried his foot and they lurched away in a great cloud of tire smoke.
"You've got him Ron, just keep your foot down, there's a good lad." George said, looking out his window to see the ute falling behind.
Ron, for his part, was simply focused on following the slight curves of the road and not crashing.
"Ready..." Fred said, looking over his shoulder at the rapidly shrinking ute.
"Ready for what?" Ron demanded.
"Victory!" The twins said in unison as Fred jammed a button on the dash. Ron would have shut his eyes to steel himself if he hadn't been driving triple the speed limit, but instead he held them wide open and waited for the world to explode.
But nothing happened. At least nothing obvious. Fred laughed and told him to pull onto the shoulder and slow down. As the Angria came to a halt, the ute roared past, suddenly braking and slithering about, eventually coming to a stop in the middle of the road. The ute sat until a car came in the opposite direction, honking at the obstruction. Fred and George were in hysterics.
"What just happened?" Ron said weakly, waiting for his heart to stop racing.
"No- noti- notice-me-not," Fred choked out between peals of laughter.
"He probably thinks we're already out of the village!" George exclaimed with delight.
"So we just kicked his arse and disappeared in a cloud of smoke?" Ron asked incredulously.
"As far as he knows-" George began.
"Yes!" Fred finished, and continued guffawing.
Ron joined in the laughter and looked at his watch. "Bloody hell, we've got to pick up mum." He said, and initiated a Chinese fire drill.
Both his brothers high-fived him as they ran around the bonnet. Life was good.