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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 20: Year 2: May 2nd, 2000
Bill Weasley rarely woke up as early as he did on the second anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. As he lifted his head from his pillow, the sun was peering at him over the horizon outside his bedroom window, only lighting up the morning just enough for him to be able to distinguish the peaceful facial features of his wife, who slept calmly next to him.
After getting up on his feet, Bill held his breath as he tiptoed out of the room, carefully so he wouldn’t wake Fleur. He continued across the hall and stopped in the doorway that led into the nursery; a thin ray of sunlight was creeping up the wall towards the cot in which his daughter was sleeping. A mobile was hanging above it – white seashells and water lilies dangled from its frame and cast a pattern of shadows across Victoire’s tiny body. Bill’s eyes filled with tears – he couldn’t believe that she was turning one already, so soon.
One year. Every parent in the history of the world had probably said it, but it wasn’t until now that Bill understood what it meant: time moved too fast. If only there had been a way to slow things down, to be able to live a little longer in each moment with his child. He couldn’t believe that an entire year had passed since the day of her birth. He could still remember all of it, so vividly that it seemed like it had just happened: Fleur, sitting on their bed, dressed in her finest gown and with her hair neatly done for the celebration at Hogwarts, breathing through a contraction before shooting him a terrified look; himself, trying to remain calm as he hastily packed their bags.
“I suppose there’s no chance you can try to hold it in until after the celebration, eh?” he had tried to joke.
Fleur, however, had not seen the humour in the situation. “I am glad you are ‘aving fun, William,” she had hissed. “Per’aps you should go to ze celebration, zen, if eet is more important zan ze birth of your child!”
Bill remembered the helplessness he had felt while pacing back and forth in Fleur’s room at St. Mungo’s maternity ward, and how not even the pain he had felt when he allowed his wife to crush every bone in his hand could keep his attention for very long. And then, after those dreadful hours of Fleur’s screaming and crying, his own sweating and nearly fainting, the healer had held up the baby, pink and smudgy and absolutely perfect, and said:
“Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Weasley. You are now parents to a little girl.”
Up until that moment, Bill had thought that he had wanted a boy. But as soon as he laid eyes on his girl, he realized how wrong he had been; he had never wanted a Mini-Bill. This was what he had wished for all along – this little girl. Victoire.
There had been nights when he wanted to cast a Muffliato Charm on the door to the nursery and just sleep; long nights when he had wondered why the human population hadn’t died out, why people still bothered to have children. But truth was that most nights, he gladly went up to check on Victoire whenever she started crying. Sometimes, Fleur protested and said that he should leave it to her – after all, it was him who would have to get up early and get to work the next morning – but he really didn’t mind. It broke his heart to hear her cry, and he didn’t want to miss out on one moment of her amazingly strong fingers closing around his thumb, her bright blue eyes looking up at him, or her lips curling into a smile, revealing her two front teeth, that had just found their way out of her gums.
One-year-old Victoire had woken up; her crying woke her father from his thoughts, he hurried over to the cot to pick her up, and then he held her to his chest as he mumbled:
“Hush, baby. Daddy is here.”
Victoire immediately fell silent. Snuggling up against his neck, she closed her eyes again, and Bill bent down his head to place a kiss on her forehead.
“Happy birthday, little angel.”
He carried her into the bedroom. Fleur had just woken up; her drowsy eyes immediately perked up at the sight of them, and she smiled widely while moving to the side to make room for them in the bed next to her.
“Who is zis big girl? Is eet really Maman’s little one-year-old?”
Many miles north of Bill and Fleur’s cottage, Harry was walking across the grounds of Hogwarts. It was still early in the morning; the first tones of birdsong arose from the Forbidden Forest, and he could picture breakfast being served at that very moment inside the castle. But despite his grumbling stomach, Harry was not heading there just yet – instead, he was walking towards Hagrid’s hut to pay his old friend a visit before participating in the celebration of the anniversary.
This year, the ceremony at Hogwarts would be of a smaller scale. All classes had been cancelled, and Harry had been invited to speak only to the students and professors. Having come to the conclusion that his only alternative had been staying at home all day, Harry had accepted the offer. The Ministry and all Wizarding business were closed, as the second of May had become a national holiday, celebrated to honour the memory of the fallen as well as to rejoice in the victory over Voldemort’s reign.
Harry hadn’t even knocked on the door when Hagrid opened it, a broad smile spreading across his bearded face. “Harry! Always good to see yeh, me friend!”
Harry smiled as he was pulled into Hagrid’s firm embrace. “You too. How’s Grawp doing?”
“Just fine,” answered Hagrid while stepping to the side to let him in. “He’s really settled into the Forbidden Forest by now. He’s bin askin’ for yeh, and Hermione, ev’ry now an’ then…” He grinned, and then he continued in a more serious manner: “But wha’ I’m really wond’rin’ is how yeh’re doin’. I’ve heard ‘bout yeh an’ Ginny, of course. I’m sorry.”
Harry lowered his eyes. “Thanks.”
“Perhaps Ron can put in a good word for yeh?” Hagrid said while putting on some tea. “Convince her to take yeh back?”
“I doubt it,” Harry said as he climbed onto one of the high chairs that stood around the table. “He hates me more than she does.”
Hagrid looked shocked. “I don’ believe that! But yeh’re such good friends, Harry, it’ll pass before yeh know it. By the way, have yeh figured out who did tha’ horrible thing to Hermione?”
“No, we’re still working on that,” Harry said. “At first, we thought it was Malfoy, but he turned out to have an alibi. And you won’t believe the irony of it all – we had him come to the Ministry for an interrogation, and when he left, he had got himself a job! I would have laughed about it if it weren’t for the fact that I still don’t trust him. Maybe it wasn’t him who planted the poison in her cup, maybe he had someone do it for him…”
A knock on the door stopped Hagrid from answering. Instead, he got up on his feet and went over to open it. “Creevey! I didn’t think it’d be long before yeh’d hear that Harry’s here.”
He stepped to the side, and Dennis Creevey, who by all appearances must have gone through a major growth spurt since Harry had last seen him, smiled as he stepped into the little hut.
“Wow, Dennis, look at you!” Harry said. “You got tall!”
Dennis nodded and grinned. “Who would’ve thought, right?”
“So how are you doing?” Harry asked. “How’s Hogwarts?”
“Well, Gryffindor has no chance of winning the Quidditch Cup this year, I can tell you that much,” Dennis said while accepting the teacup that Hagrid handed him. “Ever since Ginny graduated, we’ve… Oh, I’m sorry, Harry, I forgot-“
“Don’t worry about it,” answered Harry shortly.
Making an effort to steer the conversation away from Ginny, Dennis smiled and said: “Well, everyone is really excited to meet you. Romilda Vane has been talking about it non-stop for weeks!”
Harry tried to smile at this, but he wasn’t sure how sincere it looked. Hence, instead of practising his acting skills any further, he changed the subject again.
“I’d love to stay and chat, Dennis,” he said. “But Professor McGonnagall said something about wanting to talk to me before the ceremony, so I should probably go and find her.”
“An’ yeh should be in the Great Hall with yer schoolmates,” Hagrid told Dennis. “Oh, wait, so should I!” he remembered and hurried over to the stove to put away the teapot. “To the castle! Let’s go!”
A while later, Harry found himself standing by the teachers’ table in the Great Hall, next to Professor McGonnagall, looking out at the students of Hogwarts. His gaze lingered on the Gryffindor table – he couldn’t believe that he would never sit there and have breakfast again, or that he’d never watch the Sorting Hat split the first years between the four houses again. How many hours had he not spent at that table, impatiently tapping his fingers against its wooden surface while waiting for Ron to finish his food? How many times hadn’t he nearly spilled his drink after Hermione smashed a heavy book onto the table and almost gave him a heart attack? It was there that he and Ginny had sat, holding hands under that table in order to avoid the accusing looks that Ron would have shot at them if they had done it openly.
All of that was over. He had finished school – well, he hadn’t completely finished it, but he was done with it. If only there had been a way to go back and do it again. Compared to what his life looked like at the moment, it seemed like a fairy tale, despite Lord Voldemort, basilisks, fugitives that supposedly were set out to kill him, life-threatening tournaments and Dolores Umbridge (not that she would ever get the pleasure of torturing students again – after the war, she had been banned from working within the Ministry and any job that involved children). Harry gladly would have gone through it again, if it had meant that he’d get to have one more meal at that table next to Ron, Hermione and Ginny.
“… happy birthday to you!”
The entire group of red-haired, smiling people bawled as loudly as they could, making Victoire, who was sitting on Ginny’s lap, stare at them, her big, blue eyes widened in shock. A miniature party hat had been charmed to stay on top of her blonde curls, and she looked absolutely adorable. Ron, however, couldn’t help but laugh at the baffled expression on her face.
“I know, Vic,” he told her. “But you might as well get used to it. You’ll never get any sweet singing from this family!”
“Blow out the candle!” Mrs Weasley called from the other end of the table.
Ginny leaned herself and her niece forwards, towards the giant chocolate cake, upon which one single, pink candle was burning. “One… two… three!” Victoire – or, to be honest, Ginny – blew out the candle to the sound of applause, which made the little girl widen her eyes once again before smiling and clapping her own hands together.
“It’s just incredible that she’s a year old already, isn’t it?” Mr Weasley asked as he began cutting the cake. “Time flies.”
“It really does,” Mrs Weasley said, glancing over at Bill, who was sitting next to her. She put her arm around his shoulders and smiled. “Just wait,” she told him. “Before you know it, it will be time to bring her to Kings Cross Station and send her off to Hogwarts.”
“No, don’t say zat, Molly!” exclaimed Fleur, who looked like she was going to burst into tears. Mrs Weasley leaned forwards to place her hand over Fleur’s.
“Well, it feels like yesterday that we were celebrating Ginny’s first birthday,” she said with her eyes fixed on her daughter, who had begun the messy mission of feeding cake to the birthday girl. Somehow, Victoire already had half her face covered in chocolate, and Mrs Weasley smiled and shook her head before turning to Fleur again. “And now she’s moved out. Our baby!”
She sighed and placed a hand on her chest, making Bill grin and put his arm around her.
“We’ve got a new baby in the family now, Mum,” he told her.
George, who was sitting across from Ginny, laughed loudly and ducked when Victoire dug her hands into her cake and began splashing it in every direction. “Oh, Vicky,” he said. “Just wait until you’re old enough – then we’re going to cause trouble that will turn your parents’ hair grey, you and me.”
“Vicky?” Fleur’s eyes narrowed, and George grinned.
“You’re only making it funnier, Fleur!”
“Ginny,” Angelina said while handing her soon-to-be sister-in-law a napkin. “I had something I wanted to ask you… and I think that this is a good time to change the subject, before George and Fleur start a family feud.” She grinned at her fiancé, who rolled her eyes at her, and then she smiled at Ginny. “Would you like to be one of my bridesmaids?”
Ginny smiled back at her and nodded enthusiastically. “I would love to! Thanks, Angelina.”
“Speaking of the wedding,” Mrs Weasley said. “Have you found a dress yet, Angelina? Because if you haven’t, you should know that we’ve got one in the family…”
“… and it’s the most atrocious thing that the human eye has ever seen,” George said. “And that is including the time Ron was vomiting slugs and the boils on Marietta Edgecombe’s face after she betrayed Dumbledore’s Army. That was a fantastic spell, by the way, Hermione. In case I never told you that.”
Angelina laughed. “I’m sure he’s exaggerating, Mrs Weasley,” she said. “But I’ve actually already got a dress. My aunt is a seamstress.”
“Perhaps it’s for the best,” Mrs Weasley shrugged. “It was quite old-fashioned already back when Arthur and I got married.”
“So maybe we should agree that no one has to wear it ever again?” asked Ginny hastily.
“But Gin, you are my only daughter, after all…,” said Mrs Weasley.
“Yes, don’t be so heartless, Gin,” George agreed. “You’re her only daughter. And doesn’t that dress deserve to be worn instead of just lying up in the attic, with no one to keep it company except for the ghoul? Of course, it’s fine for now, so we don’t have to ruin my wedding with it, but when the time comes for you…” He laughed at the irritated look on his sister’s face before turning to Fleur. “Or maybe Vicky can wear it when she gets married?”
“Watch it, George,” Fleur said. “Victoire is not ze only one ‘ere who knows ‘ow to throw cake!”
The sun shone like a diamond in the top of the clear blue sky above their heads a few hours later, as the whole family formed a procession and walked through the garden, heading towards the spot under the large tree where Fred was buried. The branches stretched over the spot like strong arms, protecting the physical remains of the man whose presence in their lives had granted them so much joy, but whose absence had left holes in their hearts that would never truly heal.
Bill knelt down beside Victoire and pointed at the tombstone. “Do you know who’s lying here, Vic? Your uncle Fred. Can you say Fred?”
Victoire seemed to pay him no attention; she wasn’t even looking. Instead, she bent down to touch one of the small, yellow flowers that grew in the high grass, appearing like a hundred little suns scattered across the lawn. Bill shrugged and straightened up – she was still too young to understand any of it. But just as Mrs Weasley let out a loud sob, Victoire crawled over to her grandmother, grabbed the hem of her skirt and pulled herself up to her feet.
“Fed,” she said. “Fed.”
George burst into tears, and Mrs Weasley bent down to pick up her granddaughter. “That’s right, dear,” she said, her voice thick and shaky. “Fred.”
“Fed,” Victoire repeated, pointing at the tombstone. “Myfed.”
Hermione’s eyes filled with tears. It was so incredibly cruel, how Fred had been taken from his family. Sometimes when she looked at George, she noticed that he seemed to be staring out into nothing, as if his mind was somewhere else completely, as if he was disappearing into a memory. She couldn’t even try to imagine what it felt like for him. Squeezing Ron’s hand, Hermione turned her head to look at Ginny, who was standing on her other side. She was crying silently, and Hermione pulled Ron with her as she took a step sideways and placed an arm around her friend's shoulders.
“Perhaps we should say something?” George suggested when they had stood there in silence for a while.
“Fed!” answered Victoire, the corners of her mouth lifting into a wide smile.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” George said. “Okay, I’ll go first. Fred. Freddie. We miss you. Sometimes I forget, and make a pause in the joke I’m telling, still expecting you to fill in. I always thought our jokes were funnier when we told them together… and sometimes, when I look in the mirror… You know, it’s not because I think it makes me look manly that I didn’t shave today. It’s just that I always see you in my reflection, and it hurts too much. Oh, and by the way, in case you're not keeping up with what's going on down here on earth, I’m getting married soon! I had to pick Ron, but I think that you know he’s just my backup best man.” He winked at his younger brother and took a deep breath before continuing: “I love you. I miss you. And I hope you’ll be there for the wedding anyway. Perhaps you could give me a sign, or just whisper something, to let me know that you’re there?”
Bill took over after George fell silent. “Fred,” he said, his voice deep and steady despite the fact that his hands were trembling and his eyes were glossy. “I really wish you could have met my daughter. Ron says he’s the winner, and George claims it’s him, but I think you’re her favourite uncle. After all, yours is the only name she knows how to say already! But I really wish she could have met you. I really wish I could meet you again, at least just once, so that I’d get to talk to you, hug you or maybe just sit with you for a while. But I hope that wherever you are is nice, and that you’ll meet us there when our time has come.”
“My son,” Mr Weasley said, kneeling down in front of the tombstone and touching the soft, green grass that now covered every inch of what had been an open wound into the ground nearly two years earlier. “I’m sure we’ll meet again one day, but until then, I hope that you’re still here with us. We’re always going to miss you, in every moment of every day. We love you. Sleep tight, son.”
A/N: So, with the risk of sounding like a broken record, I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love you are giving this story, for your helpful comments and for reading the story at all. I really can't explain how much it means to me.
And yes, that was year 2. I've decided to end each year (except for year 19) with May 2nd. As for this chapter, I hope that you liked at, and any comments at all that you might have about it is both very welcome and will be very appreciated. :)
Also, I hope to be able to keep the updates quite frequent now that I'm done with school. Since you are such lovely, wonderful readers, I really want to express my appreciation somehow, and since frequent updates are something that I appreciate as a reader, I'll try to give you at least that. (I really hope I'll be able to live up to it too, haha!) Once again, thank you for stopping by, and please leave a review if you've got a minute to spare.