Arthur was very busy for the next week. As soon as they got back from the Sunday walk, he went up to the paddock, using the last vestiges of daylight to look at its contours and corners in a completely new way. Then he cast a muggle-repelling charm at either end and conjured a ghostly box shape which he rotated, stretched and moved around the field. After dinner, he lit as many lamps and candles as he could, took over the kitchen table, and covered it in parchment, sketching and scribbling outlines. Even when Molly made cocoa and he went to sit with her in the parlour, he was still working. He didn't dare ask her outright what she wanted from the new building because he knew she would simply issue a tirade of what she didn't want. Instead, by gently probing her about their afternoon walk, he began to form an idea of what she'd liked about the buildings they'd seen. It was perhaps slightly surprising what they both liked. Above all, they wanted heat and light. They also wanted somewhere that was stylish and orderly. The Burrow's idiosyncrasies were its very charm. It was quite literally built on love; each generation of Weasleys having added layers of spells to create somewhere comfortable for their family. The new building would present a respectable front to the world, somewhere they could even invite Philip and Barbara without feeling uncomfortable.
On Monday, Arthur sent Dean an owl, politely asking whether it would be convenient for him to visit them the following evening. Arthur didn't deem it necessary to inform his children of the meeting.
“You're going to have to stop feeding me up like this, Mrs Weasley,” said Dean through a mouthful of cake, “Or Luna is going to ban me from coming!”
“Nonsense!” beamed Molly. “You've been hard at work all day.”
“Well, it does seem a long time since lunch,” he replied, taking another mouthful. “Anyway, 'ow can I 'elp ya? 'Ave you chosen a shed yet?”
“Yes and no,” replied Arthur, nervously eyeing the plate of cake and wondering what Molly would say if he were to take a piece. “We've got an idea of what we want, but we've a couple of questions first.”
“Do we have to choose a building from one of your catalogues, or can we find our own?” asked Arthur. “Someone has recommended a local firm to us.”
“Phil the Nimby?” asked Dean. “Get it from wherever you like, guv. Probably best if you tell me what you want and let me order it for you, though. I'll probably be able to get a trade discount, see.”
“It was sort of Philip,” replied Arthur. “He told us that one of his friends had been pleased with his shed and then we went to look at it. We don't have a brochure yet.”
“Sounds like you're well in there! Next thing you know, Phil will think this whole project was his own idea in the first place. You can't beat keeping the neighbours on side.”
“What information will they need? You took measurements and things, didn't you?”
“'Alf a mo.”
Dean got a piece of graph paper out of his briefcase and then geminied it.
“All the measurements you need are on 'ere, guv. It's all in metric cos that's what they use nowadays, but would you prefer imperial?”
“Er...I don't tend to use either, to be honest. I just do it by eye and use my wand to alter it.”
“Don't we all! Unfortunately, if we're doing muggle work, we need to measure it proper. You can use conversio to swap between the two measurements.”
“This paper is impressive, Dean,” said Arthur, admiringly.
“It's just bog standard graph paper. You'll get it in any stationer's. Each square on the paper represents a bigger square on the ground – so two centimetres equate to one metre on this one.”
“How much is this all going to cost, Dean?” asked Molly.
He shrugged: “How long is a piece of Spellotape? Obviously the building itself is the biggest part. Give me yer paper, guv.”
He wrote a few figures on the back of Arthur's gemini.
“That's the building regs fee,” he explained. “It's in Sterling, so divide by five to get a rough guess in Galleons. What sort of building are you going for, guv? Just a basic box?”
“Accio parchment!” said Arthur, pointing his wand at the sideboard. “Three rooms, something like that.” He passed the sheet to Dean.
Dean let out a low whistle and wrote another figure on the paper: “Nice! Off the top of my head, around this much for me. I dunno about Dennis. You'll need to discuss what electrics you want with him. Once you've spoken to the building people, I'll give Harry a hoot with my quote.”
“Harry?” asked Molly, incredulously.
“Yeah. He told me to send it to him. Come to think of it, you don't need to worry too much about the cost, do ya? I thought your children were paying for it?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, sternly. “It's our shed!”
He held his hands up in surrender: “Woah! Hold your hippogriffs! Don't hex the owl! I'm only going on what I was told. Call me old-fashioned, but I've made it my policy never to argue with an auror. And Hermione and Ginny are just as scary.”
“She gets it from her mother!” she hissed, menacingly.
“Don't worry Dean,” said Arthur, smiling reassuringly. “I think there's just been a bit of a misunderstanding. Send your quote to Harry as planned and we'll speak to him. Now, we mustn't keep you. I'm sure Luna's got your tea on the table.”
Dean laughed: “Yeah, and she's scarier than Ginny when she gets going. Laters!”
With that, he stepped into the fireplace.
“Arthur...” began, but he rested his hand gently on her arm.
“It can all be sorted, Molly. Why don't we go to this place on Saturday and see what they've got to say. If we offer to pay them direct, I can't see them objecting.”
“But Dean said he could probably get us a discount.”
Arthur waved his hand dismissively: “Pah! I know this sort of place. It'll be like negotiating with Mundungus Fletcher. They probably offer everyone a discount and it ends up with you paying more than it started off as! Anyway, as long as we can afford it, does it matter if Dean could have saved us a couple of Galleons?”
“What?” he asked.
“You've just reminded me where George gets it from!”
She kissed him tenderly: “ I love you, Arthur Weasley.
“I love you, too,” he replied.
He leant in to give her another kiss, but his stomach gurgled.
She laughed: “Alright. I get the message! Love can wait – it's time for dinner!”
On Wednesday, Arthur was late home again. He went to Gringotts and spoke to a wizened old goblin on the muggle exchange counter. On the way, he went into John Frenzy's. This time, he didn't buy any magazines. Instead, he purchased graph paper, pens, pencils and rulers, not to mention a head-torch like Philip's that caught his eye.
That evening, by the light of the torch, he painstakingly drew out his plans for the building, occasionally using his wand to conjure shadowy shapes to represent what he was drawing.
Molly came in to make the cocoa. Suddenly, she was transported back to the Gryffindor common room of their youth, when she would watch her boyfriend utterly engrossed in his Muggle Studies NEWT homework. He and Charity Burbage had been the only class members ; indeed they were the first NEWT level students for years. They had only been allowed to do it on the understanding that they would be largely self-taught. He still came out with an O. There was something incredibly sexy about his utter concentration. Back in the 21st century, she leant over his shoulder to see what he was doing, put her arms round his neck and kissed his cheek.
She was watching him with a smile all the time they were drinking.
He drained his cup: “Bedtime, I think.”
“How tired are you?” she asked with a glint in her eye.
“Not that tired!” he replied with a grin.
“Come on then!”
Hand in hand, they went up to bed, rejoicing that the days of worrying about either muffliato or contraception had long gone.
On Saturday morning, they donned their muggle best and apparated to the car park of Otterly Outbuildings. Since they didn't know the layout of the place, they disillusioned themselves first. As they rematerialised, Arthur planted a kiss on Molly's lips.
“Oi! What are you playing at?” she whispered.
“Just checking you're still there,” he replied.
“That's your excuse!”
He held her hand and led them round to a secluded corner by the bins where they could re-illusion themselves. They then walked back to the main entrance and strolled among the mind-boggling array of buildings. There were play houses like Swiss cottages and even a tree-house, which Arthur looked at longingly.
“You're not getting me up there, Arthur Weasley,” Molly chided sternly.
“I was wondering about the grandchildren.”
“James and Freddy get up to enough mischief on the ground without encouraging them skywards! Anyway, this is meant to be for us.”
They wandered on. Arthur was rather taken by the plastic sheds, but Molly wasn't.
“Oh no, Arthur! I wouldn't know what to do with it. And I don't think they look very smart.”
“Come to think of it, we didn't see many in the village. Maybe you're right.”
I don't think Philip would approve!”
There were big buildings and small ones, simple ones and ornate ones. Arthur walked round with a look of upmost concentration on his face, taking in all the details. Molly looked too, but her eyes and mind were elsewhere as well, taking in their fellow browsers.
“I feel very conspicuous, Arthur,” she whispered. “I'm sure everyone will know what we are.”
“How can they, luv? We're dressed as muggles.”
“We're not dressed like Hermione and Harry, are we?”
“Neither are these people! Anyway, they've come to look at the sheds, not us.”
“The men, maybe, but women are capable of multi-tasking.”
“Look – I walk down the Charing Cross Road all the time and no-one notices me.”
“But this isn't the Charing Cross Road! At Christmas, Harry and Fleur were saying how much easier it is to go unnoticed in London than a small village like Tinmouth.”
“But this isn't Tinmouth, either. People have driven here from all over. They're not interested in us, honestly.”
“If you say so,” she replied, doubtfully.
They had lunch in the café, talking over what they had seen. Molly was becoming more forthcoming. Arthur put his graph paper on the table, looked round nervously and aimed his wand at it from under the table to erase some of the lines. He redrew them, the wand on his knee allowing him to do just as neat a job freehand as if he had had all his equipment with him.
He showed his finished work to Molly.
“I can't make handle or twig of it,” she said. “Will it have big windows like that summer house we saw.”
“Yes. In the central room. Then there's a workshop for me - “
She raised an amused eyebrow at him.
“- and a room for you.”
“What's that for?”
“Whatever you like. I'm going to ask Dean about putting pumbling in.”
“I said I don't want a washing machine or anything, Arthur.”
“I know you did, luv, but it would be easier to put the pipes in from the start than add them afterwards. Anyway, I thought we could have a toilet down there, too.”
She looked at it a bit more, then pushed it back to Arthur.
“Are you happy with it then?” he asked.
“If you say it's what we want, I'll take your word for it.”
“Shall we go and speak to someone, then?”
“I suppose so.”
They entered the main building and approached the desk of a man, which bore a plaque stating Mike Musgrave – Design Consultant. If Mike was at all surprised by the Weasley's attire, he was too much of a professional to show it.
“Good morning sir, madam. How can I help you?”
Arthur produced his graph paper.
“This is very impressive, Mr?”
“Weasley. Arthur Weasley.”
And this is your good lady?”
“Molly,” she said.
“Yes, this is very impressive, Arthur. I wish all our customers were as thorough. So you want picture windows in the centre and a door at the side? Toilet in the rear left corner? Yes, this all looks straightforward. Have you looked around our show buildings here? What style you would like?”
Arthur looked at Molly.
“We quite like the Balmoral,” she said.
“Yes, I think that would complement this design very well. Now we can offer a full package of design, although you've basically done that already, manufacture and erection.”
“Actually we have a builder we were hoping to use,” said Arthur. “Is that a problem?”
“Not at all! Not at all! If you could just give me their details, we'll liaise with them. “
“Here's his card” said Arthur, hoping that the Floo Address was only visible to wizards.
“Thanks. I should have your quote done in a couple of days. What's the best way to contact you – email?”
“Erm, I don't have email at the moment,” stuttered Arthur.
“Not a problem! Not everyone does. Just give me your postal address and I'll also give you a ring with the basic cost.”
Molly gave Arthur a panicked look.
“It's probably best if I give you my work details,” replied Arthur. “We're a bit all over the place at the moment.”
PO Box 101
“Great! And the phone?”
“020 5500 1011”
“You work in London, then? But the building is going somewhere local, I take it?”
“Yes. It's on Long Lane in Ottery St Catchpole.”
“I'm afraid I don't know. It's just a field at the moment, you see.”
“No problem. Our guys should be able to find it easily enough. How far up Long Lane is it?”
“The first gate on the left as you come out of the village.”
“Great. Well I'll be in touch then, Mr Weasley.” He shook their hands firmly.
“I hadn't thought about addresses” worrited Molly, as they walked out. “Will it be alright giving your work one?”
“I'd have thought so. It's a good job I work in the Muggle Liaison Office. There's an awful lot in the Ministry who don't have a phone. I'm sure there's some who don't even know where the post room is.”
They walked round the side of the building to bin alcove in order to apparate home.
“And keep your hands to yourself this time, Arthur Weasley!” she chided, with a grin.
“You're no fun!”
Sorry for the delay in posting. It's been a combination of real life getting in the way (how dare it!), hitting a bit of a block on this chapter and my muse heading off in various other directions. Unfortunately, my head makes up stories far faster than my fingers can type them. Hopefully, the next chapter will follow a bit more speedily.
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