Charlie hung upside down from the bed in the small room that he usually shared with his older brother Bill, studying the floral-patterned wallpaper and trying to see if it looked any more interesting from this perspective. A stifling heat crept through the open window next to him, and there was no breeze to stir the limp curtains and provide respite - although it was early September, summer still seemed to be hanging on doggedly. It was only late morning, and already Charlie was sweating.
What was more, he was bored out of his mind.
Ever since Bill had gone away to Hogwarts last year, Charlie had been counting down the days until he himself would climb aboard the scarlet train with his brother and begin his education in magic. He only had a year to go, but Bill was gone for his second year now, and the wait just seemed more torturous than ever.
He thumped his shoes experimentally on the window ledge, squinting his eyes and tilting his head slightly to the right, concentrating on a particularly garish pink rose. It was in this position that his mother, on the pretense of depositing a basket of laundry in the wardrobe, found her son. A look of perplexed amusement appeared at once on her face.
"Charlie, dear, what are you doing?" Molly Weasley asked, setting the wicker basket of clothes down and sitting next to Charlie on the bed. He sat up quickly, his face red and splotchy from where the blood had rushed to it, and tried to look as though surveying wallpaper upside down was a perfectly normal pastime for a boy who was ten-and-three-quarters.
“Nothing,” he said quickly, flopping back on the bed with a small sigh that didn’t escape his mother’s notice. She reached down and began tying the laces on one of Charlie’s trainers, which had inexplicably become untied. Molly was used to this – in a house of six boys, shoelaces were always coming undone with no reason.
“Why don’t you help me out around the house?” she asked finally. “You could watch Ron for me while I finish up the laundry.” Charlie turned a withering stare on his mother, strains of adolescent emotions already making an appearance, and she held up her hands in mock surrender.
“All right, all right. Why don’t you go and feed the chickens, then? Your father would really appreciate it, he wouldn’t have to do it after he came home from work,” Molly said encouragingly, patting Charlie’s leg in a bracing sort of way. She suppressed a smile when her second-oldest son heaved another great sigh, as though she was taking him away from some vitally important task. Nevertheless, Charlie was nothing if not willing to help, and slowly climbed off his bed and shuffled through the door to his room. His mother shook her head in wonderment, rising from the bed and crossing again to the basket of laundry atop the dresser.
Although it was a chore, and thereby disliked by definition, Charlie didn’t mind feeding the chickens nearly as much as he made out. He liked animals, after all, and aside from some of the nastier chickens who enjoyed pecking the Weasley family, they were rather fun to chase. He jumped the last set of stairs into the living room, enjoying the loud bang that the old floorboards provided, and nearly skidded right into his youngest brother. Ron was sitting by the staircase, babbling away as he made his rather ragged and filthy teddy bear, Mr. Stuffing, waddle across the floor. When Charlie landed near him, he looked up, smiling toothily.
“What you doing?” Ron asked, using the stair railings to bring himself to his feet, and promptly sticking a thumb in his mouth. Charlie ruffled his brother’s hair affectionately - the age difference between the two didn't ever matter to Charlie, who liked having someone to sort of look out for, although he never would have admitted it out loud.
“Mum asked me to go and feed the chickens. Want to help?” he asked. Charlie and Ron had formed a sort of special bond since the latter had been born. Now Ron nodded happily and followed Charlie out the front door onto the Burrow’s porch, dragging Mr. Stuffing behind him.
Percy was curled up in the corner on his favorite blanket, reading through a dog-eared copy of More Tales of Beedle the Bard. He looked up as his brothers exited the house, frowning slightly into the sun behind them, before burying his nose once more in the little book.
The large bin that contained the seed that the Weasley family used to feed the chickens was flush with the side of the porch, a metal bucket sitting next to it. Trying to keep an eye on his little brother, Charlie lifted the lid with a satisfyingly loud bang, causing Percy to glare disapprovingly at them once more. He filled the bucket high with the grainy, slightly slick feed and turned to Ron, who was watching with interest, still with thumb in mouth.
“Ready to go?” Charlie asked, and Ron nodded, crinkling up his nose in a happy smile. The chicken coop sat in the garden, near the gnome bushes, and Charlie led the way around the crooked little house, staggering only slightly under the weight of the feed. Ron tottered along behind, dragging his teddy bear through the dirt – Mrs. Weasley never could keep up with washing the bear, for his face was always being dragged through one puddle or another.
The chickens were pecking idly at the hard dirt around their slightly rundown coop, all the grass long since removed by their strutting feet and sharp little beaks. As far as chickens went, they were rather arrogant, and so all but ignored the two red-haired boys who approached them from the far side of the garden. All except one, that is – a mean-eyed rooster for some reason named Budgy, who raised his bald head at the sound of coming footsteps and stared challengingly at Charlie. Budgy had been a fixture at the Burrow for as long as Charlie had, and for some reason each had taken an intense disliking to the other.
Charlie stared back evenly now, Ron oblivious to the confrontation as he halfway hummed a tune Mrs. Weasley used to put her sons to bed when they were little. Budgy opened his beak slightly and then turned and strutted around to the back of the coop. Charlie would have sworn his tiny head was held high in a gesture of arrogance. But by now, the rest of the flock had been alerted to the shiny metal bucket in Charlie’s hands, and he was soon swarmed by ruffling brown and white feathers.
“Come here, Ronnie,” Charlie called, and his little brother tottered over, making a path through the chickens surrounding the older boy. Charlie dug a hand in the feed and sifted it through his fingers a bit, and with a quick movement flung the seed from him. It hung briefly in the air before falling back onto the packed dirt, catching a few of the hens squarely on their heads. Indignant squawking and scrabbling for food followed; Ron giggled, watching as though it were a rather entertaining show.
“I can try?” he asked, pointing at the bucket in Charlie’s hand. The latter grinned and knelt by Ron, holding out the feed. Ron dropped Mr. Stuffing to the ground and reached his small, pudgy hands into the container. He grasped a few kernels and threw them at the chickens; one gave a loud cackle as a piece hit it in the eye.
“Careful!” Charlie said, laughing as the chicken beat a hasty retreat, flapping its wings pointlessly. But his younger brother was having too much fun, obviously not fully grasping the concept of feeding versus throwing, and he simply flung more kernels at the slightly-panicky birds.
It was at this moment, however, when both Weasley boys were sufficiently distracted, that Budgy made his move.
In looking back on it, it was a rather brilliant maneuver, all things considered. The proud old rooster, having made a rather dramatic exit not two minutes earlier, had snuck back around the clapboard sides of the coop, making his way stealthily over to the brothers while they had their backs turned. Just as Charlie had turned to scoop up more feed, his eyes fell upon Budgy just in time to see him snatch Mr. Stuffing by a tattered ear and take off at full speed toward the safety of the hutch. Unfortunately, it was at this point that Ron turned around, too.
For a brief moment, there was only silence broken by small noises from the other chickens. Charlie and Ron could only stare at the spot where Budgy had vanished, quite unable to comprehend exactly what had happened. And then Ron opened his mouth and let out a wail of despair that was so pitiful Charlie had to clap his hands over his ears.
“Ron, shh – look, I’ll get – Ron – Ron!” Charlie finally screamed, clamping a hand over his brother’s mouth. Ron stopped crying from the shock of being screamed at, and looked up at Charlie with puffy red eyes, making a little whimpering sound. All the chickens seemed to be watching the events unfold, and Charlie found himself absently wishing they would just eat the darn food and leave him to figuring out how he was going to get Ron’s bear back – running and asking his mother for help inexplicably didn’t occur to him.
His eyes lighted on a rather large stick a few yards away, lying beneath a wizened and twisted old willow tree near where their garden met open and untamed field. A plan began to form slowly in the ten-year-old boy’s mind, although it wasn’t very innovative. Sometimes the simplest plans turned out to be the most effective.
Eyes trained on the coop where Budgy was concealed – he wasn’t about to take his eyes off that rooster again – Charlie sidestepped over to the stick and picked it up gingerly. It was rather long, and therefore rather heavy for a boy as skinny as he was, but he hefted it as though it was a sword and crossed back to Ron. The latter was watching curiously, thoughts of crying for his lost bear having fled his mind for the time being.
Budgy poked his head around the little door cut into the front of the hutch, and opened his beak again – Charlie was sure he was laughing in triumph. Stupid git of a rooster. Arms held aloft, he crept toward the coop, and as he did so Budgy closed his beak quickly, a steely glint forming in one of his gold eyes. He raised a bony leg and stepped out of the coop to defend his territory, descending the small ramp that connected the ground and the door to the inside. Charlie saw his opportunity and struck: Yelling like a madman and swinging the stick as much as he could, he charged at the rooster. Budgy gave a terrified squawk and flapped away toward the hens, who were still watching as though the whole thing was a performance.
With a leap, Charlie flung the stick aside and dove headfirst into the coop. Right away, he knew that was a mistake – it smelled awful in there, and his eyes watered with the stench. He scanned around for any sign of Mr. Stuffing, and saw him perched haphazardly in a corner on his head, looking rather forlorn indeed. He made a wild grasp and, amazingly enough, his fingers collided with sticky fur. Charlie wrapped his fingers around the bloody toy’s neck and scrambled backward on his hands and knees just as fast as he could.
Budgy had had time to regain some semblance of his dignity, and was now stalking slowly back toward Charlie, beak extended, eyes narrowed in a menacing stare. Ron was watching from across the yard, his mouth slightly open, soggy thumb forgotten at his side. Charlie made a tentative step to the left, wincing as his trainer cracked over a twig. He stepped again, then again.
On the fourth step, Budgy charged.
Hand still clenched tightly around the neck of Ron’s bear, Charlie leaped in his younger brother’s direction and yanked the small boy by the upper arm, heading back in the direction of the safety of the Burrow. His legs pounded the dirt, a mixture of terror and adrenaline coursing through his veins, praying that his legs reached the porch before Budgy’s beak reached his legs, or Ron’s. He half-dragged his little brother behind him until, finally, he scrambled onto the porch, where Percy was still sitting, engrossed in his book of fairy tales. He looked up with an expression of slight annoyance.
Ron grabbed Mr. Stuffing from Charlie’s hands then and hugged him tightly, apparently uncaring about the smell of chicken that was strong on the bear’s fur. His thumb popped back into his mouth, and he regarded Charlie silently.
“For the love of Merlin, Ron,” Charlie panted, bent double, hands on his knees, “do not throw food at the chickens again.” Ron merely flashed his older brother a toothy smile and tottered into the house, searching for his mother and a biscuit.
“I’m trying to read, you know,” said Percy with as much scorn and pomp as he could muster into his seven-year-old voice. Charlie rolled his eyes, still trying to catch his breath from running from Budgy’s wild rampage. Standing up and taking a few experimental deep breaths, he ascertained that he would live another day, and followed his brother into the house.
Of two things Charlie Weasley was absolutely certain. One was that he and Budgy would never, under any circumstances, coexist peacefully at the Burrow. The second was that, whatever else he was, he definitely was not bored any longer.
A/N: Charlie has, for some reason, always been one of my favorite Weasleys - I think this is because we know so little about him in comparison to the rest of the family, and this provides for more creative allowance. In planning future snippets of Weasley life, this was one of the first ideas that popped in my head, drawing partly from Charlie's obvious love for animals. One thing I'm really enjoying is that this collection is just so fun - Mr. Stuffing, little Ron, and now Budgy. I hope you all are enjoying so far - please don't forget to leave a review!
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