A/N: For the curious, the title is from Isaiah 37:17. Also, the mysterious bird that mimics Arthur's whistling is, in fact, a mockingbird. Though they are not native to Britain they have found their way there accidentally; mockingbirds have been spotted in southern and eastern England on several occasions since the early 1980s. Yes, I looked it up. I also realize having Arthur spot one in the summer of 1972 is anachronistic, but surely you wouldn't flame me for one small cheat? ;-) Thanks and snugglebunnies, as ever, to my dear friend and beta Jenadamson.
"Bilius Arthur Weasley!" Molly slammed down the fork she'd been using to spear bangers from the hot frying pan and spun around, her wand pointed menacingly at her young son, who was peering over the side of his high chair at the bowl of porridge he'd upended on the kitchen floor for the third time that morning. "What did I just tell you about throwing your food on the floor?"
At the sound of his mother's voice Bill looked up. "Uh," he said, holding his arms up to her and kicking his legs. "Uh, uh."
"No sir," she said sternly, her lips pursed. "I will not let you out until you've eaten every bite."
"C'mon, Mol, go easy on the lad," Arthur said as he folded that day's issue of the Daily Prophet and laid it down on the table beside his plate. "He's obviously not hungry."
"That's beside the point. He needs to learn that he can't always have things go his way."
"What's to learn? He's just a baby."
"Just a baby, my foot. Your son is a devious little schemer, Arthur. You don't spend all day with him as I do. Trust me, I know how determined he is to have things his way."
"Molly, you're obviously tired and letting yourself get worked up," Arthur said, getting up from the table. "Why don't you go lie down for a while. I'll take care of the washing up and entertain Bill. What d'you say?" he added, making a face at Bill. The little boy grinned and wriggled in excitement.
Her shoulders drooped a little. "You're right; I am tired." She rubbed her stomach. "This child of yours kept me up half the night with terrible heartburn. Are you sure you don't mind taking Bill off my hands for a while?"
"Of course not." He stooped down to give her a kiss. "It's Father's Day, after all. What better way to spend it than with the very person who makes me a father?" He made another face at Bill, who giggled and covered his face with his hands.
"Just think," Molly said with a smile, "this time next year, you'll have two reasons to celebrate." She handed Arthur the damp rag she'd been using to wipe up grease spatters with. "You don't want to let that porridge sit too long, otherwise you'll have to scrape it off with a chisel."
"Yes, dear." Arthur watched Molly go. When he heard the door to their bedroom click shut, he heaved a sigh of relief and turned to his son. "What d'you say we go outside for a spell?" Bill clapped his hands. "I think so, too. First, though, I have to take care of this mess you made." He pretended to glare sternly at the boy, who frowned back at him.
Arthur laughed, then pulled out his wand and Scourgified the lumpen gray mass of porridge on the floor. Three more waves of his wand filled the sink with hot, soapy water and sent the breakfast dishes flying into it. "Ta DA!" he cried when he was done. Bill squealed and clapped.
Arthur bowed deeply. "Thank you, kind sir. Now let's get you out of this horrid contraption and go enjoy this splendid summer day."
He bent to lift Bill out of the high chair, an endeavor that required some clever manipulation in order to free Bill's wildly kicking legs from beneath the tray. Once he was free he wriggled and fussed until Arthur set him down on the floor.
Bill immediately toddled off towards the back door. When he saw the door was shut he stretched his arms as high as he could -- not quite high enough to reach the knob -- and grunted, "Uh, uh."
"I'm coming," Arthur said as the boy's whining grew more high-pitched, a warning sign of an incipient tantrum. He turned the knob and, with Bill's help, opened the door.
A symphony of birdsong greeted them as they stepped out on the porch. "My!" Arthur said, stretching his arms above his head. "Just listen to all that twittering!" Bill looked up at him, a puzzled expression on his face.
"D'you hear that one?" He pushed his tongue behind his teeth and attempted to imitate the sharp, high-pitched chirping coming from the wisteria. "That's a blue tit."
"Boo-wit," Bill said.
Arthur smiled down at his son. "Very good!" He then whistled a slurred, circular tune that was echoed from a nearby tree. There was a whisper of wings and Arthur caught a glimpse of olive-brown as the tiny warbler flew past them. "That's a chiffchaff."
"That's right. What d'you say we see if our friend the bullfrog will speak to us today. Would you like that?" He bent his knees slightly and held out his hand. Bill gently laid his chubby, sticky hand over Arthur's palm. Arthur closed his hand over Bill's and guided him down the steps, taking care to pause to give Bill's short legs time to negotiate each one. He'd only just learned to descend stairs while facing forward, so Arthur was anxious to prevent any mishaps lest the boy fall and hurt himself, and consequently return to old habits for security.
Once Bill had jumped off the bottom step, Arthur released his hand and watched him toddle off across the garden in the direction of the pond. Occasionally a hillock of grass or a gnome-hole would trip him up and he'd land on his bum with a growled "Oh!" but he'd easily pick himself up and sally forth as fast as his little legs would go.
With a smile Arthur let him lead the way, knowing he knew it by heart. He never let Bill get too far ahead, however; the path to the pond led downhill, and if Bill got going too quickly he might not be able to stop in time before landing face-first in the algae-topped muck. Arthur lengthened his stride just enough so he could rescue Bill if necessary.
As they walked, Arthur kept his ear trained for other sounds he could point out. He was particularly keen to hear anything related to Muggle machinery -- a car, a passing train, perhaps the neighbor's tractor, or, even better, an airplane. Arthur loved the sounds Muggle engines made. He'd once come upon a construction zone while out investigating reports of flatulent gas cookers, and had been so taken in by the powerful rumble the equipment made as it dug a hole in the earth, his companion had found it necessary to Stun him and Apparate them both away.
So far, though, all he could hear this morning were the typical sounds of a warm Sunday in June: a breeze rustling through leaves, songbirds chirping and twittering back and forth, the crunch of fallen leaves and sticks beneath his feet, the clanking of cowbells from a nearby farm. As they progressed further into the woods he soon began to hear the burbling and splashing of the brook that fed their pond. Arthur paused and called out to his son. "Bill, wait."
The little boy turned to look up at his father and, in so doing, managed to get his legs tangled up in each other, and fell. Rather than pick himself up, though, he extended his arms. "Da," he said, his pitch raised in request rather than complaint.
"Had enough?" Arthur asked.
"Right you go, then." He lifted Bill high in the air and settled the boy on his shoulders, his legs draped along either side of his neck. "Don't pull on my hair too hard. I'm already starting to thin out back there."
Arthur exaggerated his normal loping stride, taking an extra bounce with each step to give Bill the sensation of riding a horse. Or, more likely, a camel. Bill's giggles echoed through the forest, resounding off the trees and bouncing back to them. Soon Arthur's deep laugh joined in, causing a squirrel to scold them from a nearby tree before scampering off.
Up ahead the trees thinned to make room for the pond. This wasn't a naturally-occurring pond, as Arthur well knew; he and his brothers had dammed the brook many years ago to give them a place to swim on hot summer days. What they hadn't anticipated, however, was that doing so made conditions ideal for the growth of algae and other vegetation. By the end of that first summer, the pond was really only good for fishing, or getting away from one's brothers, or, as Arthur later learned, for a place to bring girls one fancied. He'd proposed to Molly here, five years ago, as she perched on that fallen oak on the opposite bank and he'd ruined his good trousers by kneeling on the soft, damp earth. He'd shared that story with Bill several times before, though he doubted Bill remembered any of it. Bill was much more interested in flushing out the bullfrog that lurked in the reeds along the bank.
Arthur gently removed Bill from his shoulders and set him down, then took a seat on a nearby rock so he could better reach down to remove his son's shoes and socks. "Go on now, lad," he said. "Let's see where our old friend has hidden himself today."
"Fog?" Bill asked.
Arthur nodded. "That's right. Where's the frog?"
Bill clapped. "Fog!" he cried as he toddled off. "Whe' fog?"
While Bill happily splashed through the muck around the edges of the pond -- Molly would have kittens if she knew -- Arthur whistled a tune he'd overheard on the wireless that morning. The announcer had said it was the first song by a new band called the Weird Sisters, and while Arthur generally didn't go in for modern music, the melody was rather catchy. As he tried to recreate the bagpipe thread, he heard a similar tune whistled back at him.
Curious, Arthur repeated the refrain, and was astonished to hear it mimicked perfectly. He knew it couldn't be an echo, and whenever Bill tried to whistle he only succeeded in blowing raspberries, so it must have been a bird of some sort. He craned his neck around to try to identify the bird, and was rewarded with the sight of a gray figure with prominent white stripes on its wings swooping past.
Arthur was about to call Bill's attention to it when he heard a loud croak and a splash followed by an even larger splash and a wail from Bill. "Oh, dear," Arthur murmured. He hurried over to where the noise came from and found Bill flat on his stomach, covered head to foot in green slime, and crying. "Oh, dear. Mummy's not going to be happy with me, is she?" He picked Bill up, stood him on his feet, and attempted to Scourgify the worst of it.
"Fog s'pash," Bill managed to hiccough in between sobs.
"Did the frog splash you?"
Arthur tried to hide him smile. "What a naughty frog," he said, tsk-ing in the direction of the two large amber eyes staring at him from just above the green film covering the pond's surface. "Shame on you, for splashing a little boy."
"Yes," Arthur said, valiantly sweeping his wand over Bill's body one more time. "Very bad frog. If he continues to misbehave, I shall have Mummy put him in a stew!" He tweaked Bill's nose and grinned.
A faint but steady droning in the distance caught Arthur's attention. He straightened and instinctively looked up. As the sound drew close enough for him to positively identify the source, Arthur looked down at his son. "D'you hear that, Bill? That's an airplane!"
"Yes!" He lifted Bill into his arms and pointed skyward at the silver object that could now be seen moving across the sky. "Look, there," he said. "See that thing that looks like a bird? That's a machine that Muggles use to travel long distances, like we do by Apparating." He tilted his head. "That sound you hear is made by an engine."
Arthur smiled warmly. "Engine, that's right, that's very good. Muggles use them in many of their artifacts. I don't know how they work, but I'm determined to find out." He looked back up at the sky, but the plane had moved out of sight now. He sighed. "More than anything else, I want to know how Muggles get those airplanes to stay up."
"Uh!" Bill exclaimed, patting the top of Arthur's head.
"You want to go up?"
"Okay, then, up you go." He swung Bill behind his head and settled him over his shoulders. "It's time we returned home, anyway. Mummy will be most upset with me if I let you go all morning without taking a nap. Giddyap!"
"Gee-u'!" Bill cried, and once again his giggles rang through the forest as Arthur bounced him all the way back home.