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Chapter 1 : Attempts One, Two and Three
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When Muriel Prewett reached one hundred years of age, Molly Weasley decided that it was high time she was removed from her magpie’s nest of a cave, and sent to a retirement home for elderly witches and wizards.
She really should have known then that it was never going to be that easy.
“She’s spent a full century on this earth, Arthur,” Molly told him, vigourously whisking her pancake batter, “and that poor house-elf of hers has had to put up with doing everything since the dawn of time too!”
“Well dear, if you think it best…” he told her warily, bringing the Prophet up to shield his face before he said the next sentence. “Although… don’t you think your aunt should have some say in the matter?”
“She can’t disagree with rationality,” Molly said firmly. And that was the end of that.
However, despite the fact that Molly’s reasoning was perfectly sound, Muriel would not go. Approached nervously by her niece who had baked biscuits for her (“too buttery and doughy”), tidied the room up for her (“you’ve put it all out of order now!”) and then attempted a nice, loving conversation with her (“get on with it”), she was not perturbed by the fact that her niece no longer considered her fit to sustain herself.
“Molly dear, I’ve been on this earth for a century. I’ve lived through three wars, five children, fifteen Ministers and two marriages. Don’t tell me I need some teenager trying to get me to open my mouth for the broom to fly in!” She jabbed her wand towards Molly on the sofa and scowled deeply. “I have always said it was a shame you had a girl, you know. Ginevra has done nothing for your waistline. You should have stopped after William, you know, he actually improved your figure!”
It wasn’t long before Molly ejected herself from The Nest – or, as her sons preferred to call it, The Vulture’s Nest – and attempted to persuade Arthur to forcefully remove her aunt from her home himself.
“Molly dear, the woman’s obviously still very mindful,” Arthur told her, “and we can’t pull her from her own house for at least a year!”
“In that case…”
And so Arthur Weasley found himself marching up the path to the Vulture’s Nest in February 1990, a year after his wife had last visited.
“Muriel, we just think that you’d be happier with some more frequent company,” her nephew-in-law began, “since you rarely get out any more.”
“Nonsense, Bitsy here helps me out to Ottery or Godric’s Hollow every morning, don’t you, Bitsy?” The poor elf could do nothing but nod, her leathery tent-like ears flapping wildly. “But dear me, Arthur, you need to stay in more! Those children of yours are balding you!”
“That would be age, Muriel, it’s come to you too.”
She appeared not to have heard him, but waved a claw-like hand in his direction. “Give my regards to Molly for her concern in sending you,” she crowed by way of dismissal.
It was a dismal Shrove Tuesday in the Burrow that evening. Having dropped straight into his favourite leather armchair, Arthur was immediately assaulted by a frying-pan-wielding Molly with demands of news.
“Did you manage to persuade the old bag that she’s really too old to be living by herself?” The twins and Ginny ran past her with ear-splitting screeches, and she slammed a hand down onto the pancake still ensconced in the pan she held.
“No, dear. Her excuse is that she’s still got that poor house-elf slaving away for her, so she doesn’t need anyone else doing it.”
Molly frowned, but was interrupted by Bill as he entered before she could get any words out. “Wait, who’re you trying to bump off?”
“Your Auntie Muriel,” Arthur admitted at the same time that Molly snapped,
“Nobody you need to worry about.” She glared at her husband for giving the game away, as Bill laughed heartily.
“What, old Great-Aunt Muriel? Surely she’ll cut off your inheritance if she catches you doing that?”
“We are not bumping her off,” Molly informed him, “but attempting to get her into a care home, as is proper for a witch of her age. Although don’t tell the others.”
Bill had a good old laugh as Ron popped his head round the corner and inquired as to what he shouldn’t be told. He was duly ignored by his family, and instead watched in amusement as Molly rounded on her eldest son with narrowed eyes.
“Oh, you think this is so funny, do you? Maybe you should try getting the old bat out of her cave!”
There was a very pregnant pause as Bill froze and tried to decide how to react to his mother’s demand, and which Arthur decided to break. “I think that’s a brilliant plan, Molly. Your Aunt does love Bill.”
“Wait – please – ”
“Lovely!” Molly cut off Bill’s horrified protests. “This time next year, you can go tell your Great-Aunt to move to a care home.”
Bill could do nothing but nod mutely, and cling to the silent hope that his mother would forget this time next year what was promised to him.
That hope, unfortunately, proved vain. February 1991 rolled around and Bill announced his plans to stay in Egypt for his curse-breaking, but before he could explain to his father exactly how he was to be employed, Molly rounded on him with narrowed eyes.
"You will visit your Great-Aunt before you leave, though, won't you?"
The tight grip on his arm was a clear enough message for Scabbers, let alone the trained eldest child of Molly Weasley. Bill swallowed and painted a cheery smile on his face instead. "Of course I'd not forget Muriel, Mum. She does stick in the mind."
"Good boy," she told him approvingly, and sent him off with a sinking heart to attempt to persuade her right there then, “before you get any funny ideas about letting your brothers do it!”
To Bill’s further dismay, his great-aunt was uncharacteristically cheerful to find her favourite great-nephew visiting her with no required effort on her part. In fact, the moment he stepped through the dingy doorway to the trinket-stuffed, velvet-covered hallway, a piercing shriek of delight could be heard issuing from the nearest cavern. He barely had time to cover his ears before the poor slave-driven Bitsy tugged him sharply into the next room and slammed the door shut, leaving him to pull at his collar and remember the mission plan whilst his Great-Aunt crowed unintelligible comments about him, herself, and life.
“Oh, William, you are looking handsome as ever, although I really do think that long hair is far too feminine – back in my day, no self-respecting man would ever let his hair grow that long. Or perhaps it’s a fashion statement?” She sniffed, flapping her hands but not budging from an ancient, faded leather armchair that looked vaguely as though it was red once.
“Fashions come and go, but style is forever,” Bill told her, “and it’s… lovely to see you, Auntie.”
“Indeed. You simply must visit more often, William, you can’t leave an old lady on her own!”
Bill was struck by a great idea of which route to steer the conversation down. “No, I’m sorry to leave you all alone up here. It’s difficult, being in Egypt and all, though – maybe you should get out more, although I suppose you’re already a social butterfly.”
“Quite. Back in my day, there were balls every evening, and I attended them all. Although having seen so many famous people pass on by and go to their graves, I live a quiet life now by comparison. After all, I have lived through three wars, five children, fifteen Ministers and two marriages; it does take it out of you.”
“Do you miss the company, Auntie?” Bill tried to sound off-hand, but she immediately bristled.
“Well, I do get out whenever I feel the need to. It doesn’t strike very often, as I have been on this earth for over a century, William!”
“I – of course. But there are so many young people around today.”
Muriel shot forward into a deep lean suddenly, startling Bill into knocking over a particularly ugly banshee-head bust that was unfortunately situated too closely to his right elbow, whilst being treated to a grand view of the whites of his great-aunt’s eyes. “Are you suggesting, dear William, that I should be shut in one of your mother’s dreadful homes for the infirm?”
He flinched away, trying – and failing – to look anywhere but at her piercing eyes boring into him. “Um – ”
“No, I don’t think I am starving, immobile or blind yet. So please tell Molly to stop sending her family to hound me!” As though Bill was about to protest, she waved a hand imperiously at him. “No, I should have known that showing some respect towards your elders and betters was beyond the youth of this generation. Back in my day…”
It was at that point that Bill realised he was wasting his time, and the old bag he’d been forced to visit was just not going to listen to reason. He picked himself up and off the slippery sofa, saluted his great-aunt, and traipsed out with trepidatious thoughts of what his mother would say. At least he’d be gone before she could impose too many jobs on him.
The first member of the Weasleys to find out about Bill's failed endeavour was Arthur. He met his eldest child in the yard quite by accident, looking rather beat-up -- quite the achievement for anyone, let alone a 102-year-old vulture of a woman. He took one look at Bill and knew exactly what was in store for him. "Go easy on your mother," was all he said by way of greeting, patting Bill's arm and pretending he hadn't heard Bill's moan.
The second Weasley to know was Ginny, who jumped on her brother's back from the banisters and demanded where he had been and why he now looked as though someone had thrown his owl, Llewellyn, into a brick wall.
"I was supposed to get Auntie Muriel into a care home, but... it didn't quite work out as we'd hoped," he muttered. Ginny snorted, rubbing her nose over Bill's mane of carroty hair that was so similar to her own.
"You're lucky to have escaped the Vulture's Nest alive."
"My sentiments exactly."
"When're you telling Mum?"
"Now, probably. You'd probably better scarper unless you want to lose your ear when she starts to channel her feelings into her knitting."
Ginny shuddered, unlocking her hands to slide off his back and drop to the floor before darting up the stairs and into her room. Bill heard the door slam a moment later.
Surprisingly, Molly was only upset for a few moments. She asked him to recite why he had failed in his ‘quest’ for Muriel’s locking away, but instead of chastising him in the way that no 21-year-old should have to be chastised, a steely look came into her eyes. “Bill dear, sorry to make you repeat this, but what exactly were her parting words to you?”
“Er – back in her day – ”
“No, no, before that.”
“I need to learn to treat my betters and elders better?”
“Stop sending all your family after her.”
Molly narrowed her eyes at the vegetables that were chopping themselves by the sink. Somehow, Bill didn’t think that she had a problem with the carrots. “Alright, thank you for trying, dear. Have you found those water-repellent socks for me to wash yet?”
For a long time, no fourth Weasley heard how Bill had been so successfully chased away from the Vulture’s Nest. In fact, it wasn’t even until over a year later, in the summer of 1992, when Bill saw any of his family again.
After seventeen months of letters between most of his family, it was a joy to see everyone; how they’d grown, Ron recounting properly how he and his best friends had now saved the world (twice), what was happening elsewhere. Even Charlie made it over to Egypt after a few days’ delay at the international Floo station in Romania.
Molly timed her attack well. She waited until the last evening, where they were all sat down together in an Egyptian restaurant somewhere – or at least, what passed for a restaurant in Egypt – and feeling reminiscent. “You know, Bill, Muriel’s not been out to see us half so much since you visited her last February,” she called loudly down the table, towards where Bill was sitting at the opposite end and wrestling a hip-flask of suspicious liquid off Charlie.
Eight pairs of eyes swivelled towards Bill, and he let Charlie out of the headlock after knuckling the top of his head. “Er… really?”
“Yes, I wasn’t under the impression you’d scared her away from us, seeing as you didn’t manage to scare her into the Home.”
There was a very pregnant pause, during which Bill’s eyes swivelled across all his siblings, before Molly’s words were an open sesame to the questions from her six other children.
"What do you mean, Bill failed?"
"You must be joking me."
"You must be kidding me."
"You couldn't get Great-Aunt Muriel into a care home?"
"I get the feeling that there's a story behind this, you know, but what is it?"
"What, you couldn't even get rid of Muriel?"
"I wasn't trying to bump her off!" Bill exclaimed, "Mum just thought it would be better if she went into an old people's home, since she's pretty ancient and cuckoo now."
"Not cuckoo enough to go with you, apparently," Charlie snorted.
Molly, having waited all holiday for this display, took that as her cue and leapt in with her attack immediately. "Well, why don't you try when you come home, Charlie? Muriel would love to see you anyway!"
Before Charlie could think of an appropriate response which would get him out of that, the twins jumped in with matching wicked grins. "Oh yeah, she'd love to see you."
"Probably as much as she loves seeing Bill."
"But seeing as you haven't visited her recently..."
"You wouldn't want to be outshone by Bill, would you?"
"Since she's probably preparing all your inheritance to go to Bill now."
"Even after he tried to talk to her about what'd be best."
"Alright, thanks boys!" Molly exclaimed hastily. "It's very good of Charlie to agree to this, so don't put him off."
Poor Charlie was left staring as his mother changed the topic, unsure of exactly when he had agreed to this, but punching Bill on the arm when his brother wouldn't stop smirking at him. Visit the Vulture? How was he supposed to get her into a care home with her consent when Bill and his parents had already failed so soundly?
He had few attributes going for him that the others didn't, but being a dragon-tamer really accustomed one to roughness and blunt speaking. Perhaps he could use these to his advantage.
In fact, he could definitely use these to his advantage. Grinning, Charlie nodded to his Mum in agreement, before the conversation moved swiftly on.
Oh yes, he would be the one to get Muriel into that Home – whether she hexed him into next week or not.
A/N: Happy birthday ‘Quoth the Raven’! This is a gift for Lily – Aiedail – who has contributed so much to this wonderful newsletter. Thank you for everything :) And y'all should also go read and review all of Lily’s stories too. Like, right now. If you want to see more Muriel in action, or in fact any brilliant plotting or writing (which she is truly master of), she has plenty :’)
Any accidental use of “back in MY day” is due to the fabulous acting skillzzz of nikkinike on the Ravenclaw House Cup Podcast, which – not to plug or anything – is brilliant and highly amusing and you should all listen to it immediately.
Oh, and this actually started out as a one-shot, but when I hit the 6,000 mark I realised I should probably split the chapters; this short story is aiming for three! Updates will probably be immediately entered post-validation, so don’t go anywhere ;)
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