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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 60: Year 6: May 2nd, 2004
Spring had come over Ottery St. Catchpole in just the last couple of weeks; the hills surrounding the little village were a rich green, the gardens had splashes of bright colours here and there, where flowers finally dared perk up and stretch towards the warm May sun, and at the Burrow, the garden gnomes had started digging up Mrs Weasley’s daffodils to eat their bulbs.
On this day, Mrs Weasley was far too busy to worry about her flowers, though. She spent a good thirty minutes down at her son’s grave early in the morning before her husband woke up, knowing at once where to find her when he realised she wasn’t in bed. They sat in the grass for a while without speaking before Mrs Weasley stood up, brushing the grass off her skirt and hurrying back up to the house to start preparing the food.
A few hours later, five candles were burning on top of a large cream cake that she had just placed on the middle of her kitchen table; her eldest granddaughter perked up like those flowers in the garden at the sight of it and leaned forwards, so that her blond piggytails nearly dipped into the squiggly letters written in bright red strawberry jam: Happy Birthday Victoire!
“That’s a V, maman,” she said, pointing her finger at the first letter of her name and this time actually dipping the tip of it into the jam. “Oops,” she giggled, but she didn’t look very sorry at all as she licked it off, sighing contently.
“You know all zose letters, don’t you, Victoire?” replied her mother as she sat down next to her. “Why don’t you spell zem out, so that your nana can hear?”
It seemed that Fleur’s mood had improved significantly in the hour or so that had passed since she had arrived at the Burrow to find that Andromeda and Teddy were there. In a flaring, French rage that reminded her husband of both their mothers, she had dragged Bill outside, cussing in French before hissing at him that she did not want her children around that woman, not until they knew for sure she was innocent.
The Ministry had let Andromeda go after questioning her; Marwick blamed it on the lack of solid proof, but Ron seemed convinced that she had told them the truth. An hour earlier, Bill, pushed up against the wall to try to avoid his wife’s waving arms that were only inches from him (because she wasn’t a true Veela, Fleur didn’t produce balls of fire when she got angry, but her hands could burn quite badly, and Bill was of the opinion that he had enough scars already) had taken a deep breath and said:
His wife had stopped yelling and looked up at him.
“If Ron believes she’s innocent, then I do too. We know her. Well enough to know that as much as she may hate the Death Eaters – hell, I’ve wanted to kill them too sometimes for taking Fred from us – but as much as she’s wanted that too, she knows that she is all that Teddy has. She would never do anything that could hurt him more than he’s already been hurt in life. Just think about it. Do you really believe she would do that to him?”
And Fleur, watching her daughter smile as she leaned over the cake again now, knew that her husband was right, because he hated the Death Eaters as passionately as Andromeda would, but he wouldn’t hurt any of them, if only for the sake of their girls, because they should get to worry about learning letters and numbers and not about why Daddy got sent away to Azkaban.
“Okay,” said Victoire eagerly. “First there’s a V, Nana, and then I – C – T…”
As she practiced her spelling, her family started filling up the rest of the chairs around the long table. By the end of it, Angelina was struggling to get a rather fussy Freddy into his high chair, while Hagrid, who hadn’t been able to come when James was born because of a magical creature-related incident that he described in a worryingly vague way before changing the subject, was holding the youngest Potter in his arms and taking up most of the kitchen sofa as he sat down on it.
Teddy and Ginny, both of them a little dirty after a one-on-one Quidditch match on the ground in the orchard, were panting heavily as they stumbled into the kitchen, Teddy giggling as he stretched his arms up in a victory gesture. “I won!” he announced. “I beat Aunt Ginny, Vicky!”
“Well, she needs to practice if she wants to play with England, then,” Victoire said, “if she can’t even beat a little boy!”
Ginny chuckled and ruffled her niece’s hair, ignoring the way Fleur grimaced at the now half-ruined hairdo, and headed over to squeeze down next to Hagrid and James on the wooden sofa.
“Want me to put him in the baby basket, Hagrid?” she asked. “We wouldn’t want you to miss out on Mum and Fleur’s cake.”
“Nah, ‘s all right, Ginny,” Hagrid replied, smiling widely as he carefully moved James so that he laid in just one of his very large hands. “I’ll use this one!” he added, waving his now free hand and nearly knocking Percy, who was just taking the seat on his other side, off of his feet.
On the other side of the table, Victoire had left her seat and was trying to push Dominique off hers (“Daddy is sitting next to me, not you!”) and Fleur was balancing a tray of teacups in her arms and unable to stop it. Ginny was about to stand back up and intervene when Bill entered the kitchen, his lips pursing at the sight of his daughters in the middle of what mostly looked like a wrestling match at that point.
“Oi!” he yelled. “Victoire Weasley, you stop pulling your sister’s hair right now! Dominique, let go of her arm – I said let go...”
Somehow, only a minute or so later, everyone had found a seat, and were singing Happy Birthday to You, all in different keys, to a very content-looking five-year-old, seated in between her dad and little sister and with her eyes fixed on the giant cake, tapping her fingers against the tabletop as she waited for the moment when she would finally get to taste it.
“… dear Victoire… happy birthday to you!”
“Remember to make a wish, darling,” Mr Weasley said as Victoire leaned forwards to blow out her five candles. She nodded, letting out a giggle before she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let her exhale turn the little flames into smoke.
She opened her eyes as everyone around the table started clapping their hands, and she leaned to the side, so that her head rested against her father’s arm, and peered up at him, her big, blue eyes glittering with joy.
“I wished that the baby is a boy, Daddy.”
The applauding stopped. “What baby?” Ron blurted out, his eyes moving between Bill’s half-amused, half-concerned face, and Fleur’s, which had taken an even paler shade than usual.
Bill chuckled, shaking his head. “This is what she did when we were expecting Dominique too, isn’t it? She announced at Gin’s birthday party, remember?”
Mrs Weasley, who was sitting two seats away from Fleur still managed, somehow, to lean over and grab her hand, not minding the fact that she was practically laying across Harry and Audrey’s laps.
“Are you really pregnant again, dear?”
“I just hope it’s a boy,” said Victoire seriously, “so Daddy doesn’t have to be the only boy in our family.”
Bill chuckled again, bending his head down to kiss the top of her blond head. “That’s all right, honey,” he said. “I happen to like girls.”
They enjoyed the cream cake while listening to George speaking, in a very loud voice and with glittering eyes, about just how much his eldest brother must like girls to have his third kid on the way, to Teddy grabbing Ginny’s hand across the table and suggesting that she have another baby too, because though he already had a little brother, he wouldn’t mind a sister too, and to Mrs Weasley sobbing happily into her napkin. Hermione, though she was as excited as the others about yet another addition to the family, couldn’t help but feel a small sting of jealousy as she wondered just how long it would be before she and Ron would be the ones to make a baby announcement at a family gathering.
The day continued as it usually did; Teddy, Victoire and Dominique played with Victoire’s new presents, everyone ate until they could barely stand up straight, and then, just before Percy and Audrey would have to leave, they all walked down to Fred’s grave out in the garden.
Teddy and Andromeda left to go see Remus’ father, whom they usually met with on the second of May each year to visit the graveyard where Teddy’s parents were buried. George and Angelina wanted to put Freddie to bed before it was too late and left as well after their moment with their son’s namesake; Hermione, who was holding Ron’s hand very tightly as they walked back up to the house, couldn’t help but notice how much smaller than usual George looked as he followed Angelina, who had Freddie in her arms, across the courtyard towards the Apparation spot.
Dinner was much quieter than lunch with only half the family left at the Burrow, despite the fact that Victoire and Dominique didn’t need much help to keep the sound volume high. James remained happy in Hagrid’s arms, which Harry and Ginny took advantage of by having a well-needed nap up in Ginny’s old bedroom, before Harry hurried downstairs to help his mother-in-law with the leftovers, and Ginny headed out into the garden, where Bill, Ron, Hermione and Mr Weasley were seated in the evening sun.
“Finally awake, huh?” Ron said with a grin as his sister sank down next to him in the hammock that Hermione’s father had built for Molly and Arthur.
“Sleep is a rarity when you have a little baby,” Ginny grinned before yawning and making the others chuckle.
“I can tell,” Ron replied, raising an eyebrow.
“How’s that working now that you’re back training with the Harpies?” Bill wanted to know, scratching his beard, which were now long enough to reach his collarbones and a persistent topic of discussions with his mother.
“Not as bad as you’d think,” Ginny said.
It had been three weeks since her first proper Quidditch training after having James. She was slow, and her throwing wasn’t what it had been a year before. But there was something so wonderful about the simple fact that she was flying again, that she got up early to pull on her green Quidditch robes and have her standard portion of porridge before her mum came around to come with her and James to Holyhead.
Her teammates were already smitten by her son; Adriana Katzenberger thought he looked “just like his dad, which really is not a bad thing – not that you’re not pretty, Gin!” Gaylene Turkowski sighed over her dysfunctional love life, because it meant she was nowhere near having a baby of her own, and the new Chaser, Giovanna Birsetti, had had to be pulled away from James and Mrs Weasley for the first couple of trainings they were there.
“But he is so sweet, I just want to kiss those little cheeks…”
And he was sweet, Ginny thought as Hagrid and Harry walked out the back door, Harry carrying James now and Hagrid announcing that he had to leave, wiping tears from his bearded cheeks as he did so, because “I left yeh once when yeh were that size, Harry, an’ I didn’ see yeh again ‘til yeh were eleven!” Harry, assuring Harry that he would see James so much he would be sick of him by the time he started Hogwarts, smiled down at his son, who was awake but happy to just lie in his arms. He wondered if he would ever be able to look at him without feeling so overwhelmingly amazed – over his tiny little nose, which crinkled just like Ginny’s did when he was unhappy, or over his tiny chin or almost invisible eyelashes…
As the sun began to set, the family moved inside to escape the cold. Victoire and Dominique fell asleep in Charlie’s old bedroom and Bill and Fleur started talking about spending the night, while Ron yawned as he sank down next to Hermione on the couch.
“Maybe we should get you home,” she smiled, and he nodded while rubbing his eyes, as though he was trying to squeeze the fatigue out of them.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a long day,” he sighed.
“Why is that?” Bill asked. “Do you have a lot to do at work?”
Ron nodded, frowning. “We can’t seem to figure out who would go after the Death Eater families… People are practically storming the office, trying to get us to do something, because they are so scared they will be next. But it’s not like we’re not trying!”
“I think the problem is,” said Hermione gravely, “that there are too many people who would want to see them hurt. I mean, in the work I’m doing – just seeing the laws that the purebloods wrote hundreds of years ago – it makes you realise how horrible we have been to Muggles and Muggle-borns for centuries. Anyone who knows half of that would be angry enough to go after them. And if they’ve got a personal vendetta too…”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Ron sighed. “There are way too many people fitting into that description.”
The spring colours of the village were hidden in the dusk when Ron and Hermione left an hour or so later, and the garden gnomes were asleep in their holes under the hedge. Everything was quiet, except for the sound of their footsteps against the gravel courtyard.
Just before they turned a corner and it would disappear out of sight, Ron stopped and turned around to look at his childhood home. The lights were still on downstairs, but it was difficult to make out the unusual shape of the other stories in the dark. Ron knew them without seeing them, though; he knew how the second story was slanting, and how the fourth looked like it should fall off completely any second, but never did. Ron thought of what his parents had told them just before they took off; that his father’s colleague from the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, Perkins, was very unwell, and when he had been moved to St. Mungo’s for 24-hour care, his daughter had managed to convince his wife Mary to sell the house. As he turned away from the Burrow to hurry after Hermione, who was now several steps ahead of him, Ron imagined one of his parents being left alone, and not just having to live without the other, but having to give up the house where their whole life had taken place too.
“What are you thinking about?” said a soft voice suddenly, making Ron look up and realise that his wife had her wand out and was ready to Disapparate, while he had been too deep in his thoughts to even notice that they had walked far enough to.
“Mr Perkins,” Ron said. “And his wife.”
“Do you remember playing at their house when you were little?” Hermione asked, and Ron shook his head.
“Not really,” he said. “I was born around the same time that the twins learned to walk. Mum learned very quickly not to take them to other people’s houses after that.”
Hermione smiled and stepped closer to him, so that he could make out every little inch of her face, even in the night. “It’s just sad, you know,” he said. “That Mrs Perkins will have to clean out every little memory from there and let a couple of strangers replace hers with new ones.”
“I know what you mean,” Hermione said, sliding an arm around his waist. “Maybe we should go visit and offer to help her out? I’m sure she would rather be with her husband at St. Mungo’s than clean out their attic.”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
And with those words, Ron pulled out his wand, and they disappeared from their spot almost noiselessly and simultaneously, finding themselves next to each other again a few comfortable moments later, but this time in London, just down the street from the building they lived in. Ron instantly reached out and grabbed Hermione’s hand, and they walked the short distance home thinking about nothing but the warmth of the other’s hand and how lucky they were to have each other.
Also in London, but some miles away and with no hand to hold to make him feel particularly lucky, someone who knew exactly what witches and wizards had done and were still doing to Muggles and Muggle-borns was walking home. He hadn’t planned to hurt anyone that night; when he had gone to Three Broomsticks, it had been to seek escape from his thoughts in a thirty-Galleon glass of Dragon Barrel Brandy, and things had gone according to plan until the old, hunchbacked wizard a couple seats away at the bar raised a hand to catch the barmaid Hannah Abbott’s attention and revealed a faded, but very much visible, scar on his wrist. Even after two glasses of brandy, the younger man had seen its shape and so it had felt impossible not to follow the gaffer out in the spring night afterwards. Someone would find the body where he had left it in a quiet alleyway of Knockturn Alley the next morning, and he hoped it would not be a child – but even if it was, he thought, that child would realise one day that he had only done her a favour, because the world she would grow up in would not be quite so dark as it could have been without him.
"Maman" is french for "Mum"
A/N: So that's another year done. I can't believe I'm going to be writing "Year 7" in the chapter title the next time I add one.
I also want to tell you, if you're a member over at the forums, that I finally created a new Meet the Author page (you can find it by clicking the link at the top of my author page on here.) So feel free to stop by if there's anything you want to discuss/if you've got any questions regarding my writing.
Thank you so much for reading and reviewing. (I know this is probably getting old now, but I'm not feeling any less grateful, so you're just going to have to deal with it...) xx