"Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation." -- Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Molly Weasley looked up from her task of directing cutlery, dishes, and various articles of food around her kitchen to stare out the window above the sink.
She had always liked that window; it was cluttered and somehow never completely clean, but it always gave her a sense of peace to peer out into the garden. Although the reflection in the window had changed a bit over the past thirty-odd years oh, be honest, Molly, a lot the feeling never had. She felt right standing in front of the window, preparing dinner for the people she loved best.
Molly flicked her wand, and a stack of plates rushed out of the cabinet and onto the worn wooden table. She directed five loaves of bread into the cooker and set out three sticks of butter to soften.
She allowed a small smile to crease her face as she thought of the enormous volume of food she had to prepare these days, and it was becoming greater seemingly by the minute. Sixteen plates she had to put out for a normal family meal now. She remembered back when all she had to worry about was herself and her husband; and then came her first son, and then her second son, and then her third son, and on and on it went. It was such a habit, thinking about nine, that sometimes she unconsciously put out places for the sons she had lost for Percy and Charlie. It was always difficult to put those plates away.
She would never get over those she had lost, of course, but it was also foolish not to celebrate those who had joined the fold. Molly was the proud mother-in-law to three lovely witches: Fleur, Bill's wife; Angelina, Fred's wife; and Susanna, George's wife. Fleur and Bill had two young children Alais, four years old and the apple of her grandparents' eye, and Charlie, one and a half and just as precocious and daring as his namesake and another one on the way. Angelina had given birth a year ago to twin sons, Percy and Arthur (called Artie), and Susanna was pregnant with her and George's first child. Molly loved and adored her grandchildren. She knew sometimes she fussed and bothered to the point of annoyance, but she was entitled to it, wasn't she? They were her grandchildren, and each a blessing.
She began humming slightly as she thought of the occasion she was preparing for now. A Weasley family dinner to celebrate yet another entry into the family: the engagement of Ron and Hermione.
Molly was over the moon about all of her children's nuptials, of course, but this one ickle Ronniekins! was the most special to her privately. To be sure, she had thrown herself with equal gusto into her other sons' marriages, but this was the one she'd had her eye on for ten long years. Oh, yes. She had been interested in Miss Hermione Granger ever since Ron had first written home about how frightful she was back when they were eleven. She prided herself to this day as being the first to recognize Ron's attachment to Hermione.
Ron was her last unmarried son her last cub to enter the world of married adulthood. It was to be the biggest and the best wedding everyone had seen in a long time. In the back of the Burrow, of course, with lovely white tents and fairy lights and
"Mum, is dinner ready yet? I'm hallucinating I'm so hungry."
Ah, yes. Her little girl. Her precious little Ginny.
"If you ask me that one more time, Ginevra Molly Weasley, I'll see to it that you're here de-gnoming the garden for the next year!" Molly snapped, waving her wand irritably at a stack of serviettes. They began folding with a vengeance.
Ginny leaned against the doorframe, one bright red eyebrow raised in disbelief. "Mum, I'm twenty years old. You can't make me de-gnome the garden anymore."
"We'll just see about that, young lady," Molly said sharply in her best I'm-Mum-Don't-Question-Me tone.
She was secretly pleased when Ginny entered the kitchen and commenced folding the serviettes methodically. She knew her daughter was upset about something; she had been ever since Hermione and Ron had announced their engagement two weeks before. Molly felt, with her motherly intuition, that Ginny was distracted by the arrival of one Harry Potter. Molly knew better than to press, however, especially with her daughter. Best to go about these things with great delicacy.
"So how's oh, goodness is it Jonathan, dear?" she asked as casually as she could.
Ginny looked up at her with narrowed eyes. She could tell her casual tone had failed. Oh, well. "I ended it with Jon, Mum, ages ago. You know I'm with Bryan."
"Oh, yes, Bryan!" Molly said loudly with a rather forced laugh. She made no secret of disapproving of all of Ginny's boyfriends; in the last four years, she had gone through them with alarming ease and an equally disturbing lack of emotion.
"You told me I could have him to dinner," Ginny reminded her pointedly.
"Oh, yes, I did, didn't I?" Molly said, feigning unconcern. She turned to her stew, her back to Ginny, inwardly wondering when and why she had done such a thing. Perhaps she had told her she could bring her boyfriend so Harry would get jealous? Yes, that sounded like a good plan.
Harry was home for good now praise Merlin and would be back as a regular member of the family, where he belonged. He had been off chasing heaven only knew what for the past four years and had finally decided to settle down. Molly's goal of adding him officially to her list of wonderful sons was again in sight.
She glanced at Ginny as furtively as she could. She was intently focused on her task at hand folding serviettes but there was something jerky in her movements, something abrupt, something not right, that Molly knew deep within her heart had to do with Harry.
"So how're things with erm Ryan, dear?"
"Bryan, Mum, and you have to be nice to him tonight."
Molly whirled on Ginny, instantly affronted, her hands going to her ample hips. "Whatever are you talking about, Ginny? I'm always nice."
Ginny rolled her eyes skyward. "Oh, right, Mum, so calling my boyfriends by the wrong names and talking about how wonderful Harry Potter is in front of them all the time fits your description of nice?"
Molly raised her chin. She ignored the first part of Ginny's question. "Is it wrong to be proud of Harry and what he's done?"
Ginny snorted. "Listing his accomplishments in great detail in front of my boyfriends is hardly proud, Mum it's boasting."
"Well, so? He is a member of the family, dear," Molly said.
"But you don't need to remind all of my boyfriends of that, Mum," Ginny said, exasperated. "They're intimidated enough knowing about how I helped in the final battle. It's hard to get them to come back after bringing them 'round to you."
"You need someone who understands you better, Ginny," Molly said, sending a pointed look at her daughter. "Someone who has been there."
Ginny crossed her arms and glared. "No, I don't. I just need you to stop talking about Harry for five minutes."
Molly adopted a wounded air. "Fine, I will. I'll pretend we don't know him then, shall I?"
Ginny sighed. "Mum, you know that's not what I meant. I would just appreciate it if you didn't remind Bryan that we you know "
"Were quite the item?" Molly supplied.
Ginny nodded vigorously and returned to folding the serviettes with particular savagery.
Molly waited a few minutes, in which she chatted idly about Ginny's training as a reserve Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies and the fact that Ginny had the day off tomorrow, before she decided it was time for the next step. "So have you seen Harry yet, dear?"
"Mum! Will you shut it about Harry?" Ginny cried, clearly at the end of her rope.
There came a strange choking noise at the door. Molly beamed when she saw who it was. "Harry, dear! We were just talking about you. Come in, come in I'm sure Ginny would love some help folding."
Harry hovered awkwardly in the doorway, glancing apprehensively at Ginny, as though frightened she would yell again. The self-confidence that he had been projecting since he returned two days ago seemed to waver.
Ginny's face was the color of the scarlet serviettes, and her eyes were closed in mortification. "I'm nearly done, Mum," she said, her eyes snapping open when she heard her mother's suggestion. Her rigid back was to Harry.
Molly calculated quickly.
"Well then, I would love it if you two would set the table. How does that sound?"
"I can handle it myself, Mum," Ginny said through gritted teeth, glaring daggers at her mother.
Harry cleared his throat, visibly regaining his bearings. "I just wanted to see if I could help out," he said. He smiled wryly. "I felt useless sitting in my empty house."
"Oh, is it still empty, dear?" Molly said, her heart seizing. "You must stay at the Burrow until you get your furnishings. I insist."
"Oh, no, thank you Ron's asked me to stay with him for a bit, until everything's finished," Harry said. When Molly's face fell, he said hastily, "I've been looking around for more furniture. I wondered if you could recommend anything?"
Molly brightened immediately. She loved helping those she loved. "I know just the place, Harry dear. In fact," she said, glancing at Ginny, who was stacking the serviettes in a wicker basket, "I'm sure I could go along and help you pick some things out."
Harry grinned. Such a lovely smile he had. And so nice to see it he still didn't smile often, but it was certainly an improvement on before. No matter. He would soon be smiling all the time. "Thank you very much, Molly," he said, his tongue stumbling slightly on her first name. She wished, deep in her heart of hearts, that he would call her Mum but she wouldn't want to try and take the place of his real mum. Or at least, that was what Arthur had warned her about when she had expressed this secret desire to him several years ago.