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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 30: Year 3: May 2nd, 2001
“But know this; the ones that love us never really leave us.”
Quote from the film 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004) Warner Bros. Pictures
Fred’s family may not have been aware of it, but he had been with them every single moment since the one exactly three years ago, which they all thought of as his last. He had been there to hear George cry himself to sleep in Gryffindor’s common room the nights following that moment, he had seen his mother sneak away from the others when rebuilding a classroom or a staircase at Hogwarts that week to hide her grief, and after the family returned to the Burrow, Fred had been with his father out in the garage and watched as he tore down his entire collection of Muggle objects from his shelves in a fit of rage. Fred had been right next to George, watching his own body being lowered into the ground, and he had sat with his family at Ginny’s graduation from Hogwarts. He had been with them in the waiting room at St. Mungo’s the day that Victoire had been born. He had laughed at George’s jokes, suffered with them in their adversities, and felt his heart break each time they cried over him. Because truth was, that even though he was right there with them, he was also someplace else – someplace calm, and peaceful. And he was happy. Perhaps he could still watch over them, and even share their pain, but he was enclosed in tranquillity, in peace, and happiness. He was fine. The only thing that saddened him was the fact that he couldn’t tell them that.
On the morning of the second day of May 2001, Fred watched as Bill and Fleur woke their daughter with gifts and breakfast in bed. He watched as George and Angelina stayed in bed for a while after waking up, sharing memories of him and trying their best to keep their moods up. Fred’s mother cried for a moment in his father’s arms before getting up to prepare the upcoming birthday party. He stopped to ask himself if he really wanted to witness whatever Harry and Ginny might get up to in the morning, but when he finally dared peeking into their flat, they were, much to his relief, only having breakfast, clutching each other’s hands over the table – it was very innocent and exactly how Fred liked it.
Ron and Hermione were the first to arrive at the Burrow, aside from Charlie. To his mother’s delight, the second oldest Weasley brother had grown tired of her nagging and agreed to come to England; well, that was what he had said when showing up the night before, but Fred suspected that while he may never say it out loud, he also really missed his family. After Ron and Hermione, the rest of them kept popping up, increasing the sound level in the house that their conversations and laughter added to, and decreasing the amount of space left in the kitchen and the living room. Fred was astonished to see that Percy and Audrey didn’t arrive until fifteen minutes after agreed time; he was quite sure that if he had still been alive, he would have died of shock.
Naturally, it was Bill and Fleur’s arrival that gave rise to the most stir. Everyone was eager to kiss and congratulate the birthday girl; Charlie made this quite difficult, though, as he claimed to have the right to monopolize his goddaughter.
“You lot see her all the time!” he said, scooping her up in his arms. “You should let me have her today!”
Ignoring Bill’s muttering about treating Victoire like a possession, Charlie then threw her up in the air and caught her again to the sound of nervous exclamations from Fleur’s direction and frisky laughter from Victoire’s.
“Do you know what?” Charlie said, sitting down on one of the kitchen chairs and placing the little girl on his lap. “I’ve got something special for my favourite goddaughter on her birthday… a tickle attack!”
Victoire whooped and giggled, trying to escape his arms, as he began tickling her. When he finally stopped, she threw her arms around his neck.
“Chali, Chali,” she said in a tone that an old woman would use when talking to a child, which most of her relatives, Fred included, found both adorable and hilarious. “Miss you.”
“I’ve missed you too, little one,” Charlie answered. “Every day.”
“So why don’t you move back home, then?” asked Mrs Weasley quickly. “You’re almost thirty, you know. Isn’t it time you settled down with a nice girl and started your own family? Sure, this whole dragon adventure has been exciting, but don’t you feel like you’ve grown out of it yet?”
Fred knew what Charlie’s answer would be before he had said it; their mother may still have been in denial, and she may still not have understood why he had moved so far away from them, but the dragon thing was more than just a silly adventure that Charlie would grow out of one day. It was his life, and he loved it. Frankly, Fred thought, their mother should just be thankful that at least Bill had moved back to England and leave it at that.
“Nope, I’ll never give up on dragons,” Charlie said and put Victoire, who was too restless to remain still on his lap, down on the floor. “I thought you knew that, Mum.”
“Yes, but it just doesn’t go together with family life, does it?” Mrs Weasley argued. “Are you planning to push a stroller around between the dragon cages?”
Charlie shrugged. “I don’t even know if I’ll ever have kids. Oh, come on, Mum, don’t look so terrified! It’s just not for me. Besides, you have a whole bunch of children, so I’m sure you’ll get more grandchildren than you can count either way.”
Andromeda and Teddy were the last ones to join the celebrations and arrived only in time for cake and coffee. As soon as he spotted her, Teddy rushed over to Victoire, and they instantly dove into the pile of new toys that she had received from her relatives, both of them bubbling with enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, Andromeda walked over to Ginny, who had just returned from the bathroom (Fred hadn’t exactly watched over her in there, but he knew this because she had told Harry where she was going before leaving the room. Oh, if only Fred could have been there physically, too, so that he could have lectured them in the subject of ‘sharing too much with your partner!’)
“Hello, Ginny,” Andromeda said. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Ginny said. “I’m still a little bummed out over the fact that we screwed up against the Montrose Magpies last week, which means that we lost our chance of winning the league… but there’s always next year, right?”
“That’s the spirit,” Andromeda smiled.
“And how are you?” Ginny added. “Did you ever talk to your sister? Mrs Malfoy, I mean.”
“Yes, I did, actually,” Andromeda said. “I had them over last week… her and Draco, I mean. Lyall – Remus’ father – was there too, for moral support. It was… it was fine. But let’s talk about that later. I actually have something I’d like to discuss with you.”
She grabbed Ginny’s arm and pulled her into the living room, leaving behind all of the others, who had begun taking their seats at the table while Mrs Weasley and Fleur were giving the cake its final touch. As she followed Andromeda, Ginny suddenly started to feel nervous – it felt a little bit like being sent to Professor McGonnagall’s office after doing something she wasn’t allowed to, like sending the Bat-Bogey Hex at a group of Slytherins, or playing a prank on a certain Miss McLaggen. Andromeda’s facial expression looked nothing like McGonnagall’s had did those times, however, as she turned around to face her and started talking:
“I know that Harry and you aren’t married, or anything,” she said. “But I suppose you will be one day?”
Ginny furrowed her eyebrows; where was she going with this?
“Well,” she said, “I hope so. I think we both do.”
“But I still think it should be you,” Andromeda continued. “You see, Remus and Dora never chose a godmother for Teddy, and I was thinking… I may not be that old yet, but what if something does happen to me? I can’t think of anyone who would be better for the job, and I’d be able to rest in peace, knowing that the two of you would look after him. You’re so good with him, Ginny, and he really adores you.” Smiling, she added: “You should see the look on his face when I tell him he’ll get to spend the day with you. It almost offends me.”
In the next moment, Ginny had taken a leap forwards and thrown her arms around the older woman. Fred was very amused by Andromeda’s reaction – first, she looked absolutely shocked, then she softened and started stroking his sister’s back, and then she quickly pushed her away, clearing her throat while keeping her eyes fixed on the floor.
“I would love to be his godmother,” Ginny said. “I’d be honoured.”
“I think it’s what my Dora would have wanted too,” Andromeda said. “She thought of you as the little sister she never got, despite her many attempts of talking me and Ted into having another child.”
“I definitely saw her as the older sister I never had,” Ginny laughed. “I mean, I love my brothers, but sometimes I really wish one of them had been a girl!”
Andromeda laughed and was just about to respond when Mrs Weasley appeared in the doorway, her cheeks dusted with icing sugar and her arms crossed over her chest.
“What are you doing in here?” she said suspiciously. “Everyone’s at the table, waiting for you…”
“We’re coming,” said Andromeda quickly. “We were just chit-chatting… nothing important.” As soon as Mrs Weasley had left the room, she turned her head back to Ginny and winked at her. “I figured we should wait to tell everyone,” she said. “Little Vicky has enough things to share everyone’s attention with today, doesn’t she?”
Out in the kitchen, everyone seemed to let out a sigh of relief as the last two guests finally joined the others at the table. Bill had, during the last couple of minutes, struggled to keep Victoire from launching herself forward and finally reach the appetizing, very pretty cake. Teddy had begun whining, and not even sitting on his godfather’s knee seemed to help. Had Ginny and Andromeda stayed in the living room for much longer, there might have been an outright disaster, consisting of both tears, screams, and possible destruction of the cake that both Mrs Weasley and Fleur had put so much work into. Hoping to be able to avoid this, everyone quickly stood up and sang Happy Birthday To You with such speed that Fred found it impressive that no one tripped on the words or fell behind – not even his father, who had such complete lack of rhythm in his body. Shortly after the singing ended, both Teddy and Victoire had been served a slice of cake, and all was calm in the Weasley home again.
Hermione and Ron were sitting on the kitchen bench, squeezed closely together; it was probably made for three of four people, but it was currently holding six, all of which had trouble moving both their arms and legs. In fact, it was quite miraculous that they could all breathe. Of course, if Fred knew his brother right, he was most content with the seating arrangement, as it meant that he got to sit that close to Hermione without earning himself awkward throat-clearing from his father, mocking words from his sister or amused glances from his best mate.
“I’ve got a suggestion,” said Angelina suddenly. “Why don’t we all share a happy memory we have with Fred?” She exchanged a look with Ron, who started coughing loudly before agreeing:
“That’s a good idea, Angelina. I think we should do that more often… focusing on the positive.”
Ha! Fred thought. Perhaps they’d call that discretion, and perhaps it didn’t sound rehearsed to the rest of the family. But to him, who had been in the shop with them and listened to their worries about George a couple of weeks earlier, it was obvious what they were trying to do.
Let it work, Fred thought.
Please, let this help him.
George nodded. “I can start,” he said. “There was this one day, during the war, and Fred and I were the only ones in Diagon Alley who hadn’t abandoned our shop yet. Not that we ever had any customers those weeks… but this one day, a woman came in with her three children – one boy and two girls. She walked up to us and asked if there was anything in the shop that the kids could play with without buying it first. She said they just needed to be distracted for a couple of hours. Turned out her husband, a Muggle-born, had been the sole provider for the family, but that he had gone missing a couple of months earlier. So she hadn’t been able to buy her children any birthday gifts… Anyway, Fred took them to the back of the shop and showed them a few of our newest samples… ‘But under no circumstances are you allowed to break them, do you hear me?’ he told them. ‘You have to promise that you’ll be really careful!’ Then he walked back into the shop and practically cleared the shelves of products, which he smuggled into the woman’s purse. He had to ask for my help with the Undetectable Extension Charm, of course. But then again, I’ve always been the more talented twin.” George met Angelina’s eyes and smiled before continuing: “I remember being impressed with the fact that he did it secretly. He didn’t even want any recognition for it; he said it would be even better if it just came as a surprise when they got home. On the other hand, as he pointed out to me after they left, maybe she’d think that the children had stolen all those things, and she’d end up scolding them instead. But if that was the case, she wasn’t a very honest person, because she never came back to try to return any of it…”
He laughed along with the rest of the family, but Fred saw the tears gleaming in the corners of his eyes. It was still such an unusual thing, to hear George tell such a long story without Fred interrupting, filling in, or completing the sentences. It was an ability that they had spent years developing, and not only had it impressed people that they could read each other so easily, it had also saved them a lot of oxygen.
To Fred’s surprise, Fleur was the next one to speak. She had prepared for it during George’s speech; she had straightened her back, brushed a stray of silvery blond hair from her flawless face, and put her spoon down next to her plate, and when George stopped talking, she quickly took over.
“One of my favourite memories of ‘im,” she said, “is from a few days before we got married. Fred was preparing a prank in time for Charlie’s arrival, and I caught 'im. I wanted ‘im to accept me, so I asked if I could ‘elp. ‘E showed me ‘ow to do it and… I’m sorry, Charlie, but I zink eet was my fault zat your suitcase grew legs and ran away zat night… It was supposed to just ‘ide, but Fred said I did eet wrong. Either way, I remember ‘im admitting that ‘e ‘ad ‘ad ‘is doubts about me when Bill first brought me ‘ome to meet ze family, but zat I ‘ad now proved to be worthy of ze name ‘Weasley,’ even without ze red ‘air.”
“Once,” Hermione said, “I was sitting in one of the chairs in the Gryffindor tower, moping around because of Ron…” She blushed and lowered her eyes before continuing: “Fred found me hiding behind a book, crying… and somehow he got me to tell him what was wrong. Instead of comforting me or encouraging me, he just laughed at me. Later that night, I walked up to him and asked him why he had found it so funny… and he told me that it was hilarious that I was known to be clever, but that I was too stupid to realise that Ron was deeply in love with me, and that we’d probably get married and grow old together.” Again, she blushed, and refusing to look to her side, where Ron was sitting, she cleared her throat. “I found it quite hard to believe,” she said, “because wherever I looked, he was there sno–“ She interrupted herself and smiled at Mrs Weasley. “–I mean, holding hands, with Lavender Brown. But Fred told me not to care about that. ‘He’s too much of a dimwit to realise it yet,’ he said. ‘Just wait… give him time to grow up a little more.’”
“I’ll bet you all the gold I have that he’s gloating about that now,” George said. “I mean, now that it turns out he was right.”
Oh brother, dear, Fred thought. You know me so well.
“I remember when I was… I think I was five,” Ginny said with a smile on her face. “I was worried that I might be a squib, so Fred told me that there was this deadly sure way of finding out. All I had to do was steal Mum, Dad, Bill or Charlie’s wand and wave it. If something happened, I was a witch. We decided that Dad’s wand would be the easier target, and Fred distracted him out in the garage while I snitched it from his workbench. Then we went out to the backyard. In about twenty seconds, I managed to blow up the rain barrel, turn two birds into coffee cups, and send Fred flying a good thirty feet up into the air. Then Charlie found us. Luckily, he’s got a sense of humour and promised not to tell. But there you have it, Mum… the true story of how Fred broke his collarbone.”
After all the favourite memories had been shared and all stomachs had been filled to breaking point with cake, everyone moved outside to enjoy the warm afternoon sun. Harry, however, had offered to stay and help Mr Weasley clear the table, and urged Hermione, Ron and Mrs Weasley to go join the others. Ever since, he had been shaking and trembling, and Fred found it rather miraculous that he didn’t drop one single glass with those unsteady hands of his. He was curious to find out what was bothering Harry, though, which was why he lingered in the kitchen; for someone who had both fought and defeated the darkest wizard of all times, he sure seemed to find simple housework unusually nerve wracking.
“Mr Weasley,” said Harry suddenly.
“Yes?” Fred’s father turned around, his lips stretched into a distracted smile as he folded the dishcloth and put it away.
“Do you have a moment?” Harry asked. “There is… er… there’s something I’d like to ask you.”
Mr Weasley flinched, and he must have been thinking what was Fred was thinking, because he looked a little nervous when he walked over to one of the kitchen chairs, sat down and nodded. Really? Already?
Harry sat down next to him. “I think you know that I love Ginny very much,” he said, “and that I’ll do anything to make her happy. You might think it’s too soon, or that we’re too young… but I know. I think part of me has always known it, but I didn’t realise until sixth year that it’s her, and that it always will be her.”
“She feels the same way,” Mr Weasley said. “Did I ever tell you about her last year at home before she went to Hogwarts? You must have really charmed her that day on Kings’ Cross Station when she and Molly dropped the boys off, because she talked about you all year. Ron writing home to tell us you were his best friend didn’t exactly make things better! And then, after you saved her from the Chamber of Secrets… she would ask me, over and over, if I thought that you had done it as a favour to Ron, or if you really hadn’t wanted her to die. In a way, I think you could say that she’s been in love with you since she was ten.”
Harry smiled with an amazed look on his face. Fred was pretty sure that he knew about the crush Ginny had always had on him, but he probably hadn’t known to what extent. Fred could still remember that summer before her first year at Hogwarts, when she had stolen Percy’s old glasses and forced the neighbour boy to wear them. Then, she had painted a scar on his forehead and pretended to marry him, with Ron as the wedding official, and Fred and George as guests, prepared to throw rice at the newlyweds as soon as Ron had declared them husband and wife. Of course, Mrs Weasley had been furious and forced the five of them to pick up every little grain from the floor by hand. (“Throwing food on the floor!” she had yelled. “That’s a luxury we can’t afford.”)
“What I was hoping for,” Harry continued, “was your blessing… to ask her to marry me.”
“Harry, my boy,” Mr Weasley said, leaning forwards to be able to pat the young man’s shoulder. “Molly and I couldn’t ask for anyone better for our girl. You know that you’ve been part of this family since the day you and Ron sat down in the same compartment at the Hogwarts Express, but I’d be both happy and proud to be able to call you my son for real. So yes, of course you have my blessing.”
Harry looked relieved. “Thank you, Mr Weasley,” he said. They both stood up, and Harry quickly added: “Would you mind not telling Mrs Weasley? I haven’t decided when or how to propose, but I really want it to be a surprise…”
“Of course,” Mr Weasley said and winked. “We best not tell Molly, then.”
Fred watched as they joined the rest of the family, who had started to shiver as the sun began to set, but still refused to go inside. They remained out there for another couple of hours, watching Teddy and Victoire chase each other around the lawn – until a garden gnome bit Teddy, that was, and he crawled up onto Harry’s lap and refused to leave it. Then, as Victoire fell asleep in his father’s arms, and Andromeda brought Teddy home, they all just sat together and talked. At one point, Harry and Mr Weasley exchanged a confidential look, after which Harry reached out and grabbed Ginny’s hand. Fleur leaned her head against Bill’s shoulder while stroking the birthday girl’s hair, and George and Angelina, who were sitting in the hammock, had their arms wrapped around each other. Percy and Audrey were beaming at each other, and next to them, Ron and Hermione were bickering, as always, but both of them struggled not to smile or burst into laughter. None of them knew it, but Fred had been with them all day. In fact, he had never left, and while he knew somewhere deep inside that he was still too strongly bound to earth, to them, he was fine. Someday, he would find enough peace to be able to let them go, and move on, but until then, he would watch over them. They may not have been aware of it, but he was there, and he was happy.
A/N: I know I'm just repeating myself, but I feel like I can't say this enough: thank you so much for reading this story. If you can spare a minute, thank you so much for leaving a review and letting me know what you think of it. I welcome and appreciate any thoughts, opinons or advice you may have, so I can promise you that you're not wasting your time.
Year 4, here we go! I can't believe we've come this far already. I have so much to share with you, that I just can't wait! :) I hope you're excited too!