Summary: A Harry Potter one-shot. A young Ron's brothers trick him into making a rather stupid bet on a Quidditch game. Apparently these "Chudley Cannons" never actually win.
"Gambling?" Percy said, looking up from the twins' parchment in shock. "Does Mum know about this?"
"Of course not," said Fred.
"But who cares? Now what should we put you down for?" asked George.
"Nothing! I'm not gambling!"
"Oh, come on, Perce. Don't be such a spoilsport."
"Yeah! Think how fun the match will be if there's a chance of getting some gold out of it."
"I enjoy Quidditch for its skill and sportsmanship," Percy said pompously, drawing himself up to his full not-quite-eleven-year-old height. "I don't need to waste my money on stupid bets."
Fred frowned. "Really? Well, then I guess we should justjust"
He screwed up his face and drew back, then covered his mouth and made like he was sneezing; however, instead of an "ACHOO!" he let out a "BAWK-BAWK!"
"Gesundheit! Gee, Fred, I hope you're not coming down with someBAWK-BAWK!"
"Oh, George, you seem to have the hiccups! You should have a glass of waBAWK-BAWK!"
Percy rolled his eyes and sighed as the twins continued to mock him. "Alright!" he said finally, earning instant silence. "If it'll make you two be quiet." He looked back at the parchment, wrinkling his nose. "How about..." He tried to think of something that wouldn't be very risky. "Two Galleons that the game lasts for at least an hour?"
"Big spender, aren't you, Perce?"
Percy grimaced as he signed his name and bet on the parchment, then surveyed those listed above him. "Bill and Charlie both bet on the Wigtown Wanderers. You realize they're up against the Chudley Cannons?"
"We do," said George.
"So you're really prepared to pay out...nineteen Galleons if you lose all these bets? That's a pretty big risk."
"Ah, you're such a good big brother, Percy. Always looking out for us."
"But never you mind. We have a system in place."
Percy narrowed his eyes. "You're trying to swindle us, aren't you?"
"Us? Swindle? Perish the thought!"
Percy opened his mouth to speak, but George held up a hand. "No, really, Percy. You have nothing to worry about. We swear on a stack of joke books that we are not trying to cheat you, Bill or Charlie with this betting pool. Honest."
They were trying to cheat Ron.
"So it's like a contest?"
"Exactly!" said George. "And you could get up to thirty-two Galleons and four Sickles!"
"And all you have to do is sign this parchment," Fred added, laying it out on Ron's desk.
"Whoa." Thirty-two Galleons was more money than Ron had ever seen in his life! But then he frowned. "How do I know this isn't a trick?"
"Okay, now I'm hurt. Why does nobody seem to trust us today, George?"
"Personal experience. But you've got nothing to worry about, Ron. We signed the parchment too, see? And so did Bill, Charlie and Percy."
Fred nodded, pointing to the brothers' signatures on the paper; they looked real. Ron thought for a moment. His other brothers were usually too smart to fall for Fred and George's scams, and Ron doubted that they would help the twins pull one over on himespecially Percy. Smiling weakly, Ron took a quill from George and began to sign the parchment, his face screwed up in concentration.
The twins watched over his shoulders. "Just write normally."
"But Mum says to use joined-up writing"
"Yeah, but it doesn't really matter."
Ron finished his name in normal print and Fred immediately snatched up the parchment. Ron shifted his feet nervously.
"So how do I know if I win?"
"It's based on the Quidditch game we're going to see tomorrow," George said. "That's when we'll know who won which bets."
"'Bets?'" Ron blinked. "Wh-What do you mean, 'bets?'"
"Well, it's simple. Bill bet seven Galleons that the Wanderers will win. You're betting seven Galleons that the Cannons will win instead."
George continued as if he didn't notice the look of horror on his little brother's face. "Charlie bet ten Galleons that the Wanderers will catch the Snitch. You're betting ten Galleons that the Cannons will catch it instead."
"Percy bet two Galleons that the game will last at least an hour. You're betting two Galleons that it will be shorter than that."
"And Fred and I bet thirteen Galleons, four Sickles that the Wanderers will win by at least two hundred points. You're betting thirteen Galleons, four Sickles that the Cannons will, at the very least, lose by a more respectable margin."
"Didn't we give ourselves two-to-one odds on that one?"
"No, we decided that that would be cruel."
"We're too nice sometimes, aren't we, George?"
"ButBut" Ron looked from one grinning brother to the other, his face turning pale. "I don't have that much money!"
"Oh, that's okay. You can pay us on an installment plan."
"Yeah. Just give us your allowance until the full debt is resolved."
"With interest, obviously."
"My allowance is only ten Sickles a week! That'll take me" Ron frowned, trying to do the math in his head. "How many Sickles are in a Galleon?"
"It'll take you a couple of months, at least. Maybe a year. But don't worryyou'll pay it all back eventually."
"ButI still win all that money if the Cannons win? Right?"
Fred and George looked at each other, and then burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?!"
"Ron, do you even know which team the Cannons are?"
"...No. There are a lot of them to remember!" he said hotly.
"Well, let us put it this way: they haven't won the League Cup in almost a hundred years."
"Yeah!" snickered George. "According to the Prophet, their Keeper did so badly in their last game that one of the Cannons' own fans cursed her. She's not even going to be able to play because she's still in St. Mungo's with vines coming out of her ears!"
The twins both laughed uproariously. Ron's lip quivered, but then he set his jaw, glaring at them. "You didn't tell me I was betting my own money! I'llI'll tell Mum you tricked me, and then she'll"
"Oh, no, Ron! Don't do that!" George said, his eyes going wide.
"Yeah! This parchment is a magically-binding contract," Fred said, shaking it ominously. "Don't you know what that means?"
"Well, remember when we told you about Unbreakable Vows? And how Dad said that if you broke one, you'd die?"
"It's like that," George said, closing his eyes gravely. "And the contract says that you can't tell anybody, either, so you better keep your mouth shut. You know, for your own good."
"Anyway, a pleasure doing business with you!"
"Yeah. See you tomorrow!"
The twins left, laughing at how frightened their little brother looked. For a moment all he could do was stare after them, then groan, burying his face in his hands.
After a long moment he wandered over to his bed, dug under it for a moment and pulled out a beat-up Chocolate Cauldrons box. He poured its contentsa collection of coinsout onto his maroon bedspread and counted four Galleons, eleven Sickles and nine Knuts. He felt his shoulders slump, then stared around the room morosely.
The sight only made him more depressed.
Ron had always complained about sharing a room with Ginny, since Bill and Charlie (and soon, Percy) spent most of the year at Hogwarts anyway. The oldest brothers had finally relented and, as a combined birthday gift, offered to bunk together during holidays so that Ron could have Charlie's attic bedroom. Ron had been elated. However, months later the room still looked very barehe had let Ginny keep most of their old toys and Charlie had obvious taken his own things, leaving most of the room empty and the walls bare. His mum had suggested saving up to buy some decorations of his own.
Well, it looked like that plan was down the tubes now.
"Ah," said Mr. Weasley as the family searched for their seats in the crowded stadium. "A beautiful day for a Quidditch game, isn't it, kids?"
"I prefer it a bit stormy, myself," said Charlie with a cocky smirk. He was probably the biggest Quidditch nut in the family and played for the Gryffindor team at Hogwarts.
"Here we are, childrenfile in..."
Ron felt slightly queasy as he took his seat between George and their mother. Fred sat on George's other side, rubbing his hands together.
"This is gonna be a great match. The Wanderers are one of the best teams this season!"
"The Wasps are doing better," Charlie noted.
"The Wasps stink," Bill said, earning a playful elbow in the chest.
"Boys, stop rough-housing!" Mrs. Weasley snapped, leaning across Ron. Ginny sat on her other side, pulling on her sleeve.
"Mum? What's that team that only has girls on it? What are they called again?"
"The Holyhead Harpies, dear."
"That's my favorite team. They're the best," she said, as though daring someone to disagree.
Fred never turned down a dare. "Girls can't play Quidditch, Ginny. It's a simple fact of nature."
"Hey, Ron? Are you doing alright?"
He jumped, turning around to face Bill. "Umyeah. Fine," he said, though he actually felt a bit queasy. He wasn't sure if Bill knew about him being part of the twins' betting ring, but he obviously couldn't ask with Mum and Dad sitting right there.
Bill frowned and, just to keep the conversation going, asked "Is there any Quidditch team that you like?"
"He's supporting the Chudley Cannons today," George said, elbowing his brother in the shoulder. "Aren't you, Ron?"
"George, leave your brother alone," Mr. Weasley said automatically. Ron felt his ears burn and buried his face in his program, moving his lips slowly as he tried to sound out the players' names.
A moment passed and George had gone back to talking with Fred. Ron bit his lip and leaned toward their mother.
"Mum?" he whispered.
She leaned toward him. "Yes, dear?"
"Are the Chudley Cannons any good?"
"Oh, well, I really don't follow Quidditch scores very closely." She put a finger to her chi. "...Are they that team that hasn't won since the eighteen hundreds?"
Rond a's heart sank. He had been hoping that that was just one of Fred and George's attempts to mess with him.
Suddenly a booming voice filled the stadium. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN"
"Ooh, it's starting!" Ginny squealed.
"PLEASE PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FOR THE WIGTOWN WANDERERS!"
A flock of red-robed players flew onto the field, the announcer shouting each of the players' names over the applause; Ron buried his face in his program again and tried vainly to read along. They were followed a moment later by "THE CHUDLEY CANNONS!," dressed in bright orange. Ron looked up now and watched them anxiouslynone of them looked like terrible players, but then, he wasn't exactly sure how you could tell that on sight.
"Hey," Bill said. "Did they say 'Marcus Crenshaw' for the Cannons' Keeper?"
"Yeah!" said Charlie, who was looking at his own program now. "I know that bloke!"
"You do?" Ginny gasped in amazement.
"WellI don't know him-know him. He played for Hufflepuff last year. It says here's he's the Cannons' reserve Keeper."
"He must be filling in for their normal Keeper," Percy said sagely. "Did you hear someone put her in the hospital?"
Nobody noticed as Ron sank into his seat.
Each team did a short lap around the stadium before the referee flew onto the field and released the balls. The crowd cheered as the game beganRon clasped his hands tightly together, as if praying.
"And Wanderer Chaser Parkin has the Quaffleshe passes it to SmithSmith is nearing the Cannons' goals, he throws and"
Ron closed his eyes tightly.
"CRENSHAW BLOCKS! And now Sherwood has the Quaffle, oh, he takes a Bludger to the shoulder"
Ron blinked in surprise as Sherwood, the Cannon Chaser, lost the Quaffle to one of his Wanderer opponents, who passed it to another, who approached the Cannons' goals for another try
"and another nice save by Crenshaw!"
Ron sighed audibly. George noticed from the next seat and leaned toward him. "Keep in mind, they haven't scored either," he mumbled.
Sure enough the Wanderers were the first team to score, sending the Quaffle just past Crenshaw's fingertips, but it was a rare feat; over the next half hour the Wanderers moved in twelve times but only managed two more goals. The Cannons' Chasers were not quite as skilledthey seemed to lose the Quaffle pretty easilybut managed to score twenty points of their own. Ron couldn't help but notice that the Wanderers' Keeper was a lot less skilled than Crenshaw, whose saves usually merited applause from the crowd.
"I have to say, this Crenshaw kid is showing some real talent!" the announcer said. "I don't know why he's on the reserves, given how Keener preformed last week..."
Fred and George were starting to look sour, Bill and Charlie interested, and Ron was slowly starting to gain a modicum of hope. He found himself watching Crenshaw especially hard, though, as they were seated closer to the Wanderers' goals, he was little more than an indistinct blur. His eyes also flickered repeatedly to the teams' Seekers floating high above the arena. He crossed his fingers tightly...
"The Wanderer Chasers move to score again, andOH, Crenshaw takes a Bludger right to the stomachWanderers score! A very good shot by Beater Felix Kent, andOH!"
Ron jumped in his seat as the second Bludger hit Crenshaw right in the shoulderhis broom careened to the side for a moment just as the Wanderers got the Quaffle and were moving to score again. Ron leaned forward anxiouslyhe would later recall that he wasn't even thinking about his bet at that moment, he just really wanted the Wanderers to miss, Crenshaw had been doing so well up until now and
"AND CRENSHAW JUST MANAGES TO BLOCK!" the announcer screamed as Ron, without thinking, punched the air and cheered with several thousand Cannon fans. "I tell you, this kid is reallyWAIT A SECOND!"
Both teams' Seekers had suddenly gone into a divea collective gasp filled the stadiumRon clutched at his face as Charlie's eyes widened, spotting the Snitch, a sort of manic fear flashing across his faceFred and George both paled
"And I thinkFAY CAUGHT IT! THE CHUDLEY CANNONS WIN, 170-TO-40!"
"NO!" screamed Fred as the stadium erupted and Ron's mouth fell open in shock. Bill covered his face with his hands while Charlie groaned.
"Ha! Well, that was a good game, now, wasn't it?" said Mr. Weasley, pulling out his pocket watch. "A bit short, thoughjust under an hour, actually"
Percy pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance.
Ron was still grinning as they left the stands for the inner part of the stadium. He, Fred and George were at the back of the ground. The twins were grumbling as he approached them.
George gave a vague grunt of agreement.
"So when do I get my money?"
The twins looked at each other as if trying to silently come up with a story.
"What money?" Fred said finally.
Ron stopped walking. "The thirty-two Galleons! And four Sickles! The Cannons won, and they caught the Snitch, and"
"Yeah, well" George thought hard for a loophole. "You're too young to gamble. So the contract doesn't really count."
"What thebut you said"
"Ron, Fred, George? What's going on back there?"
Mrs. Weasley noticed that her three youngest boys had stopped walking and turned around. Ron had his hands balled into fists and was shaking with indignation. Fred and George glanced at each other nervously, trying to come up with a lie.
Ron wondered if he should mention the bet. But he would die if he did. But now Fred and George said the contract didn't work anywayunless they were lying to keep from paying him. But if it did work, wouldn't they have to pay him or else they would die? Or
Percy, who had been close enough to hear their conversation, suddenly scowled. "Did you two trick Ron into your stupid gambling scheme too?"
"Gambling?" said Mrs. Weasley, rounding on the twins. Then, to Percy, "What do you mean, 'too?'"
"Nothing, Mum," Bill said quickly. "Just a friendly little bet"
"Percy was in on it! He bet money too!"
"What?!" said Mr. Weasley, looking at his son in astonishment. "Really?"
"Just asmall wager. Two Galleons!" he said defensively, holding up his hands against his mother's shocked glare.
Ron was pretty sure the Kneazle was out of the bag now, so he pointed accusingly at the twins. "They tricked me into betting against everybody else! They got me to signed a cursed contract when I didn't even know what it was for!"
"We didn't really curse it!"
"Yeah, Mumthat was just a little gag"
Mrs. Weasley let loose a torrent of anger on her children as Mr. Weasley shrunk away, trying to ignore all the passersby who stopped to stare. To Ron's surprise she only seemed to be focusing on the older boys ("And really, Percy, I expected you to at least know better!"), so he smiled shakily, letting his eyes wander around to the crowd around him.
That was when he noticed an orange-robed figure standing a dozen feet away, surrounded by a small crowd. And straining his ears, Ron was sure that he heard someone in that crowd call "Marcus Crenshaw!"
Ron looked back at his mother, who was now red in the face as she rounded on Bill and Charlie. He decided that he probably had a few minutes before they were leaving.
He ran over to the crowd of admirers, but hung near the back, hesitant. He stood on his toes to see over an older boy's shoulders. Up close Marcus Crenshaw looked like a strange mixture of athletic adult and awkward teenager: he had broad shoulders and a barrel chest, but his arms were long and skinny, ending in hands that seemed too large by comparison. His hair was a very dark reddish-brown and he had a thin, youthful face with a splattering of acne. His smile was a bit nervous but almost manic, his blue eyes wide as if he could not quite believe the attention he was getting. He talked a mile a minute, his voice croaky but higher than one would have expected.
"Thank you! Oh, you want me to autograph your program? Wowsure! Yes, thank youoh, the shoulder's fine, no, I really couldn't have asked better for my first game. What's that? Oh, heh, thanks, butI mean, Keener really is a great Keeper, she was just having an off day, happens to the best of usand what can I do for you there?"
That last one was directed at Ron, the only one remaining after the other fans had dispersed. He hesitated for just a second, mouth hanging open, then stepped forward and practically threw his program into Marcus Crenshaw's hands. "Would-you-sign-this-please?" he blurted.
"Ha, alright." Crenshaw pulled out a wand, winking down at Ron's anxious face. "A little nervous, kiddo?"
Ron felt his ears burn. "Sorry. I've never talked to a, you knowreal Quidditch player before," he stammered.
"Well, if it makes you feel better, I've never been a real Quidditch player before today, so the two of us are in the same boat. What's your name?"
"Okay, then, Ron..."
Crenshaw flicked his wand and Ron's program hung suspended in the air, stiff enough that he could write on it without his quill tearing through. "Did you enjoy the match?" he asked as he scribbled.
"Yeah! You were really good!" And then, without thinking, "I thought you were gonna lose. My older brothers said the Cannons never win."
Marcus Crenshaw looked up, his smile suddenly gone. "Well, they don't follow Quidditch very closely, then. We win all the time!"
"Sure! Finished eighth in the League last year. It's true we haven't made the Championships in, uh...a while, but that just makes us the underdogs!"
Ron frowned. "The what?"
"Underdogs. Likeyou know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Well, I guess you're not Muggle-born, are you?" he said, noticing Ron's confusion. "Welllet's put it this way. You were cheering for us to win, right?" His brow suddenly furrowed. "Right?"
Ronagain, not being the most tactful childnodded and said, "Yes, but I really thought you were gonna lose. I only hoped you'd win because my brothers tricked me into betting thirty Galleons that you would."
Crenshaw's eyes rolled up to the ceiling. "Fair enough," he said tightly. "But that just made you really excited when we did win, right?"
"Well, it's like that! Some of the other teams are, you know, a bit luckier, but we train harder than anyone else in the League. When we lose it doesn't really matter, because when we win, it's even better because we know we deserve it more. Get what I mean?"
Ron thought for a moment. "I guess. I meanI was really scared before the game started that I was going to lose all that money, but I was really happy when you won."
"Well, glad we could help you out, then." Crenshaw winked again, then gave Ron a playful push on the shoulder. "That'll show your brothers for trying to trick you, won't it?"
Ron grinned sheepishly. Crenshaw smirked back, then turned to Ron's program, which was still floating beside him. He scribbled something else and then plucked it from the air. "Nice talking to you, Ron. Glad you enjoyed the game."
"Thanks," Ron said, taking the program. He suddenly felt nervous again. "You were a brilliant Keeper. Even the announcer said so."
It was Crenshaw's turn to look sheepish. He turned as two girls with Cannon badges came with their own requests for autographs. Ron stepped awkwardly away and scanned the crowd for his family. For a scary moment he didn't see any of them, but almost immediately he felt a hand on his shoulder and jumped, spinning around to find Bill.
"There you are! You know better than to wander off like that, Mum just about had kittens when she noticed you missing..."
"Sorry! I justMarcus Crenshaw was giving out autographs back there"
"Really?" Bill said, even as he guided his younger brother through the crowd. "That's pretty good. I mean, he's only on the reserves, but he flew so well today that he might actually be big day, if he can get on a better team..."
A moment later they came up to where Mrs. Weasley was wringing her hands beside the twins and Ginny; as soon as she saw Bill and Ron approach she gasped, grabbed her youngest son and squeezed him into a hug.
"Oh, Ron, thank goodness, I was so worriednow what's gotten into you, wandering off like that?!"
"I didn't wander off! You left without me, I was just getting Marcus Crenshaw's autograph"
His mother wasn't listening; she had just spotted Mr. Weasley and Charlie, who were also searching the crowd for Ron, and was signaling them to return. His father, too, clapped a hand on his shoulder and squeezed him into a hug when he got there.
"Ah, thought we lost you for a minute, son!"
"Yeah, that would have been a pity," Fred drawled. Ron glared as George and Ginny snickered.
"Alright, well, now that that's over, let's gostick together, everyone"
Mr. Weasley kept one hand on Ron's back as they walked down the stadium stairs. He was only half-listening to his mother's instructions as his eyes wandered to the program held tightly in his hand. He suddenly realized he had not actually looked at it since getting it back from Crenshaw. He held it up and narrowed his eyes; Crenshaw's handwriting fancy like cursive but not actually joined together.
From your friend,
One underdog to another
Beneath it was a hastily-drawn Chudley Cannon logo: two C's and a pair of flying cannonballs.
Ron was pulled out of his thoughts as they reached the ground floor of the stadium. "Ooh, Mum, Mum!" Ginny asked, pulling on her robes. "Can we go shopping?"
They had entered a pavilion teeming with vendors on both sides, calling out items and prices; the crowd thronged around them, buying shirts and hats and action figures and candy.
"Ooh," said Fred eagerly, eyeing a blood-red Wanderers shirt with a meat cleaver on the chest.
"We do have about half an hour before our Portkey leaves," Mr. Weasley noted.
"Well, alright, then."
"Excellent," said George, as he and Fred immediately made way for the nearest table. However, Mrs. Weasley's hands were immediately on each of their shoulders, pulling them back.
"Not so fast. Nobody is buying anything until you boys give Ron the money you owe him."
The twins sputtered indignantly as Ron's eyes went wide. "What?!"
"You wouldn't make him pay us if he had lost the bet," George accused.
"No, I wouldn't, but that's because Ron didn't trick you into making a deal that you didn't even understand! If you lot want to gamble so badly, you're going to have to pay the price."
"Grow up, you two," Bill grumbled as he took his change purse out of his pocket. "Seven Galleons, right, Ron?"
Charlie and Percy, both looking a bit sour, extracted handfuls of money and dropped them into their little brother's palms. Fred and George finally did the same, though only after Mrs. Weasley pointed her wand threateningly.
Ron stared in wonder at the growing pile of money, so much he couldn't even hold it all in both hands at once. Thirty-two Galleons, six Sickles. Plus the four Galleons, eleven Sickles and nine Knuts that he had brought with him from home. All together that waswell, a lot. More money than he had ever seen outside of the family Gringotts vault. He couldn't stop grinning, reminding himself of Marcus Crenshaw.
"Wow," Ginny said, with the same amazement in her eyes. Then, a bit slyly, "You know, my birthday is coming up."
Ron scowled. "Well, I can buy you something, I guess. But most of this I'm spending on myself."
"That's quite a bit of money, Ron," Mr. Weasley said, giving it a curt nod and looking a bit awed himself. "What do you intend to buy with that?"
Ron looked up, trying to ignore the twins' mutinous expressions. The closest vendor's cart was practically overflowing with Cannons merchandisefull sets of robes, T-shirts, action figures...and, to his slight surprise, a bedspread. Nearby was a wizard selling posters...Ron thought back to his maroon blanket at home, and the bare walls...
He grinned. "I think I'm going to get some decorations for my room."