For Sarah, without whom this story collection would not have even existed.
Three-year-old Ron Weasley opened his eyes very suddenly, blinking about him in confusion and wondering what might have possibly awoken him. As far as he knew, he had been sleeping soundly up until that moment, and no loud noises indicated what had jolted him out of that slumber. He sat up in his little bed, rubbing his eyes with his balled-up fists, his teddy bear clutched in the crook of his arm. As he looked around, his sights lighted upon the tiny window of his attic bedroom, through which he could see new snow falling. And suddenly, he remembered - today was Christmas!
Ron fairly leapt out of bed and pattered over to his door, delirious with excitement. Of all the holidays that his family celebrated - and, having eight separate birthdays under their roof alone, they celebrated quite a few - he always had loved Christmas best. His mum would bake sticky buns for them all, and his dad would always lead them in a lot of carols, which Fred and George had a rather funny habit of screaming in Percy's ears. They liked annoying Percy, because he was always quick to anger, and he always gave them the funniest reactions.
Still clutching his teddy bear - a ratty old thing he'd had since he was born, and had christened Mr. Stuffing - tightly to him, Ron opened the door of his room quietly, poking his little head past the frame. All seemed sleepy and still beyond the landing, and for a moment he wondered if he had mistaken the date. Usually Bill or Charlie would have roused them all by now, thundering up and down the steps until each member of the Weasley family was awake. Ron tiptoed hesitantly outside and shut the door noiselessly behind him, poking a thumb in his mouth unconsciously while he pondered whether or not to go downstairs and see if his mum was awake.
Ears perked, he suddenly managed to catch the slight creak of steps below, and hurried down to see who was there. The further he descended, the stronger a smell of cinnamon tickled his nose, and he wrinkled it happily - perhaps someone had already baked him a sticky bun?
He rounded the last corner, and a rather peculiar sight met his eyes. His five brothers were all crowded close to the stair rail, arranged in a line from oldest to youngest; Bill was nearly in the living room, while George was only a few steps away from Ron himself. As they heard him, all five heads swiveled in his direction, and Charlie placed a solemn finger to his lips. Being careful not to trip over his trailing pajama bottoms (they had once been Percy's), Ron carefully set Mr. Stuffing on the step behind George and crouched down next to his brother.
"What's going on?" he asked in a whisper that was rather louder than intended; Percy shushed him bossily, and Ron scowled.
"Mum doesn't know we're awake yet," Fred hissed up the stairs, turning back to the railings and peeking out at the living room below him with a hungry expression. Ron's section of the railing only looked to the stairwell wall, however, and he couldn't see whatever it was that was so fascinating to his brothers. He tried squeezing next to George for a peek.
"Get - off - me-" George grunted, shoving Ron away. He fell with a thump right on his bottom, nearly squishing Mr. Stuffing in the process. Before he could cry as he wanted to do, however, Charlie had tiptoed up to him, hands raised as though in preparation for the tears. He picked up his brother rather awkwardly and sort of shuffled down the stairs with him, plunking him on the stair between Bill and Percy.
Ron's eyes widened slightly as he surveyed the scene that met his eyes. He had only seen a handful of Christmases before, and was still young enough to be awed by the tree and the rather brightly wrapped presents beneath it. His rather plump little hands clenched the railing as he leaned forward, watching the candles glint off the gold baubles and shiny red bows. The smell of cinnamon seemed even stronger just then, and his stomach growled as, once again, his mind turned to sticky buns.
Just then, a rather deep voice behind them cleared its throat, and all six boys jumped, as though they were one. They turned guiltily to look up the stairs as Arthur Weasley, clutching a rather sleepy-looking two-year-old Ginny, surveyed the sight before him with poorly concealed amusement; he rather thought his sons looked like little ducks in a row.
"I thought your mum told you to stay in bed until she called you this morning," he said with mock severity, hitching Ginny up a little higher on his hip. One by one, the Weasley boys turned to look at Bill and Charlie, the masterminds behind this particular operation, and the two eldest boys flushed pink. Mr. Weasley shook his head and said, "Well, the damage has been done, I suppose. Run on down, now."
Ron leaped up and followed Bill to the bottom, but suddenly remembered Mr. Stuffing, still sitting on the stair where he had left him. He pushed back through his brothers and bent down to scoop up his bear. He frowned as he did so - the right side of the bear's face looked oddly squashed. His father must have trodden on him. Cuddling Mr. Stuffing as though to comfort him after this traumatic incident, Ron followed his family into the kitchen.
Mrs. Weasley was listening to her husband as she stood next to the oven, a pan of hot rolls, covered rather stickily in some caramel-like sauce, steaming pleasantly on the range. Ron licked his lips, but knew that he would have to wait for his coveted bun; breakfast always came after the presents, for otherwise Fred and George would get into them and unwrap everyone else's before they had a chance to.
"All right, you lot, into the parlour, then," Mrs. Weasley called, and the boys didn't need to be told twice. Ron tried to keep up, but as always, the good chairs were taken before he arrived there. Feeling a little grumpy already, but determined not to ruin Christmas for himself, he plunked down on the hearth and crossed his little legs under him. Besides, here he could set Mr. Stuffing up next to him rather nicely. He leaned him up against the fireplace tools, patted the bear's head, and then turned his attention to the Christmas presents. There were two packages for each Weasley - one always held a hand-knitted jumper, but the other package varied from year to year, although Percy usually seemed to recieve a book of some kind.
Nothing rather momentous happened, however, until it was time for Fred and George to receive their presents. Ron didn't much care about Bill's new robes, or Percy's new biography on Bertie Bott, and so was rather excited to see what was in the long thin boxes, for Fred and George always got the most fun presents. He sat up on his little knees, leaning forward, and watched as Fred reached the parcel first and lifted the lid.
It was magnificent - a tiny, working toy broom, an exact replica of the bigger ones Ron had seen in the pictures in Charlie's book on Quidditch. (He didn't yet know how to read the words next to the pictures, but that was all right - the moving Quidditch players were exciting enough.) George had an identical broom in his package, and the twins held them up, grinning wildly from ear to ear. Ron felt a small stab of jealousy shoot through him as, glancing over beneath the tree, he saw his own package was not long and thin. He wanted a toy broom, too.
"Ron, dear, you're next," said Mrs. Weasley, leaning around Percy to hand her youngest son the little square box wrapped in maroon paper. Ron lifted the lid, wrinkling his nose slightly at the color, but wondering if maybe his own broom might be in there, and was just smaller than his brothers'. But no - instead he withdrew a small maroon jumper, hand-knitted by his mother. He looked up in puzzlement, wondering if she had possibly been mistaken. Had he opened the wrong present? He surveyed the jumper again; even if this was meant for him, it would be much too small.
"For Mr. Stuffing!" explained Mrs. Weasley happily as Ron looked at her and his dad once more. "I thought you two could match this year." He muttered a little thank you, and so as not to appear ungrateful, jammed the wooly thing over his bear's head, all the while thinking bitterly that Mr. Stuffing was already quite warm enough in his fur without an extra layer. But he had to admit, it was a rather nice fit. His mum certainly did know how to knit, he'd give her that.
After Ginny opened her present (a new picture book), Mrs. Weasley announced that it was finally time for sticky buns, and Ron leaped to his feet. At last! Although he hadn't recieved a toy broom, a bun was almost as good - wasn't it? And they certainly tasted better than a broom. Yes, a bun would do him just fine.
But something stopped him from following behind as the rest of his family traipsed happily back into the kitchen, Percy now engrossed in the rather boring-looking book. He half-glanced back beneath the tree, where the broom parcels were still lying open. Maybe, if he could just touch one...
Glancing into the kitchen and making sure Fred and George were too wrapped up in their sticky buns to notice him, he crept silently back across the room and knelt by one of the packages. To Fred, with love from Mummy and Daddy. Fred surely wouldn't notice if Ron just held the broom, just for a little bit.
And oh, how wonderful it felt in his small hands! Light but firm, perhaps a bit too big for someone as small as he was. But that was all right - he'd just hop on and hop right back off. It couldn't be too hard, for Charlie and Bill flew on old brooms in the orchard all the time. They made it look easy. Ron was sure he could do it - if only he could remember the proper way to mount a broom.
Cradling Mr. Stuffing gently under the crook of his right elbow, he tentatively placed his left foot on the broom handle. Was this the way it worked? He gripped the end of the broom in both hands and held it at an angle to the floor. Any time now, it should fly... He could already picture the jealous looks on everyone's faces as he zoomed about, a true natural on a broomstick. And then his parents would let him have the broom... Fred could have the old maroon sweater...
"Where's Ron?" came a sudden voice from the kitchen - his mother! Panicking, Ron put his full weight on the broom without thinking. The resulting snap was unmistakable in the sudden silence. There was a pause, and then a great scraping of chairs as everyone leapt up from the table and rushed to the living room. And there stood Ron, an expression of utter shock on his face, Fred's new toy broom now in two neat pieces in the little boy's hands.
For the briefest of moments, no one spoke. And then Fred, whose face had gone rather scarlet, fairly exploded. "My broom!" he roared, running forward and pushing Ron roughly in the shoulders, knocking him to the ground. Angry tears were now streaming down his cheeks as he turned to his father pathetically, holding out the pieces to him. "Fix it!" he said, giving the pieces a little shake.
His father gulped and knelt down so he was on Fred's eye level. "Son, I... I don't think I can. The magic that makes these brooms fly... Well, it's too difficult to repair." He looked weary, and ran a hand through his thin hair, giving a tremendous sigh.
Ron felt tears in his own eyes as he watched this exchange, holding Mr. Stuffing to him and feeling rather sick. Fred whirled back around, his entire head now looking as though it was on fire. "I hate you, Ron!" he screamed, going completely mad with his rage. "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!"
And then it happened.
No one afterward was ever quite sure how Fred had done it, but one moment Ron was clutching Mr. Stuffing to him like a life preserver - and the next moment, the bear had been replaced with a very large, very real spider, waving its eight hairy legs about feebly. Ron looked at it for a moment before giving a scream of pure terror and flinging it away from him. The spider hit the wall opposite with a dull thud, but he didn't look to see what happened next; he had already bolted for the steps and was flying up the stairs. He didn't stop running until he reached his attic bedroom, and he dove under the covers, still screaming.
Angry voices could be heard from the floors below, although Ron couldn't make out what they were saying through his tears. Eventually, he heard footsteps pounding upward before they stopped outside his room. The door creaked open, but Ron didn't want to see who it was. He felt the weight of someone sitting down on the end of his bed.
"Ron?" his father asked gently, placing a large hand on the boy's small head. "Ron, look at me." Sniffling, his nose running something awful, Ron peeked an eye out from beneath his covers. His father was smiling kindly down at him, holding a plate in one hand with a sticky bun sitting on it. Ron poked his hand shyly out and grabbed the bun, then retreated back under the covers.
"Ron, we all know you didn't mean to break Fred's broom," Mr. Weasley said comfortingly. "Just as Fred didn't mean to turn - ah, Mr. Stuffing, is it? Well, yes, he didn't mean to turn your bear into a spider." At the mention of the spider, however, Ron gave a great shudder and a very loud hiccup.
"I've fixed him up for you," said Mr. Weasley now, and Ron poked another curious eye out. His father was clutching Mr. Stuffing now, but for the moment all the little boy could see was the great hairy spider he had been only a few moments ago.
"No! Get him out! Out!" Ron screamed, bursting into fresh tears and diving back beneath the covers of his bed. He continued to sob until he heard his father sigh, and felt his weight lift from the foot of the bed, and then he left the room. The door clicked shut behind him, and Ron heard his footsteps retreating down the stairs.
He sniffled, sucking a bit of the caramel from the sticky bun off his thumb. He was sorry he had gone poking into Fred's parcel, of course, but Fred hadn't any right to turn Mr. Stuffing into a spider - even if it was an accident. Ron burrowed down further in his covers, shutting his eyes tightly against the image of clicking pincers and hairy legs.
He would never, ever look at a spider the same way again.
A/N: I do believe that this is the first one-shot I've ever written that wasn't for a challenge! Well, second - but the other was a Cedric/Cho, and that is never seeing the light of day. I actually wrote this for my sister, because she loves Ron and wanted a story about him as her welcome-home present. And now it's sparked what's going to eventually be just a collection of one-shots about the Weasley children as... well, children. Hope you'll keep on reading about them!
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