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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 70: Year 7: May 2nd, 2005
Unless one counted the ceremony at Hogwarts for the fifth Anniversary—which then four-year-old Victoire had called her party—her sixth birthday celebration was about to be the biggest in her life so far. Even family-only parties were big for the Weasleys, of course, but adding friends to the invitation list had made the Burrow even more crowded than usual, and since the kitchen filled up quickly even at smaller family gatherings, it was evident magic had played some part in fitting everyone around the table.
Hagrid was there, dressed up in his polka-dot tie and woolly robes that made him look like some large, prehistoric animal. Teddy and Victoire were both on his lap, giggling loudly every time Hagrid started laughing and made them both bounce up and down so violently they had to grab big wisps of his beard to keep from falling off. Lee Jordan was sitting next to him—both he, Katie Bell and little Bryony were there, though George had taken Bryony off Katie as soon as she had arrived, claiming she needed to spend some quality time with Freddie if they were expecting them to fall in love in time before the wedding that their fathers had already planned out for them. Lee had looked a little relieved to see Katy and Bryony come alone; he had even mentioned this to Katie as he greeted her with a quick hug.
”No Geoff today, huh?” he had said, and Katie had shrugged with a smile.
”He’s with his family today,” she had said, and then Mrs Weasley had stolen her attention away by pulling her into a tight hug. ”Mrs Weasley! Thank you so much for having us!” she had managed to squeal, even when being squashed in the older witch’s tight embrace.
Lee had contemplated for a long time whether he should come or not. He saw Katie several times a week, of course, but they never spent any considerable chunks of time together anymore; they exchanged a few pleasantries as he picked Bryony up and repeated them again when he dropped her off.
Truth was, he had stopped loving Katie a while ago; it had happened gradually once the realisation had sunk in that she truly did not want him the way he he had wanted her then, and one day he had woken up and felt okay about that. Over the next couple of months, George had suggested that he ask Verity out, or that they all go to the Three Broomsticks to see how Rosmerta was doing, or that he should call that girl who left him her number when they went out in Diagon Alley one night, but Lee had turned all such proposals down. He had known then that Katie had met a bloke called Geoff and that he was invited to Bryony’s first birthday party that November. It did not matter much to Lee—the problem was, he could not even consider letting anyone else in without first thinking of that cardboard box that he had had to collect from Katie’s flat, a box in which she had packed all of the things that had no business there anymore. He thought of the pile of letters she had sent him and that he had kept in the bottom drawer of the dresser in his bedroom, and how he had had to force himself not to start reading them when he went to throw them out with old issues of the Daily Prophet that had been gathering dust at his coffee table for too long. He thought of the look on his mother’s face when he had told her; she had always adored Katie, and she had almost taken the breakup harder than him. Lee thought of the nights when he had still not been used to sleeping alone, and had grasped for someone in the darkness only to remember that she wasn’t there anymore.
In the end, Lee would have never turned down the chance to spend almost the entire Anniversary with Bryony, even if it meant being around Katie, whom he had once told everything, but whom he hardly said a word to now unless it was about their daughter. He was relieved to not have to be around Geoff too; not because of him and Katie, but because Lee hated to think about him moving in one day and being there for all the moments in Bryony’s life that Lee himself was going to miss.
As it turned out, Lee would have worried about what he would talk to Katie about for nothing—the Burrow was so crowded he barely saw her all afternoon. Teddy, Victoire and Dominique caused mayhem as always, this year with both Freddie, James and Bryony trying to keep up with them. Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbot showed up some time after lunch, as did Xenophilius Lovegood, though without Rolf and Luna who had set off for Eastern Europe a couple of weeks earlier. Angelina’s brother Jonathan was visiting from New Zealand and had been followed around all day by an unusually excited Mr Weasley, who could not get enough of hearing about the young man’s travelling back to Europe on a plane.
”Tell me,” he was just saying, “this—what is it called again? In-win?—did it make any noise at all when you were flying?”
”Uhm,” replied Jonathan with an amused smile playing on his lips. ”The engine? It was sort of roaring, kind of like a car…”
”Incredible!” said Mr Weasley, who was so beside himself that his spectacles had fogged up, almost causing him to walk straight into his wife, who was just passing him, carrying a big pile of mismatched plates that she most certainly did not want to drop and break into millions of pieces. ”Oops, sorry dear… So a Muggle engine can actually make something fly without—they do this all without magic, Jonathan, you’re absolutely sure of that?”
Jonathan grinned. ”Fairly sure, yes. You should try going on a plane yourself, Mr Weasley. Sounds like you’d enjoy it quite a bit.”
They had the cake out in the garden; it was remarkably hot for May, and the sun hovered unusually close to the treetops. From her seat at one end of the table, Mrs Weasley had a perfect overview of all of her guests, and of the large oak tree some way behind them where Fred was resting. She could not help but think that the branches of the tree seemed to be reaching towards them, as if to tell her he was doing his best to be as close to them as he ever could.
She was having trouble paying attention to Andromeda’s story about Teddy’s schooling; he was attending a Muggle school to learn to read and write and count before he started Hogwarts, just as his mother had done when she was his age. The problem was, Teddy kept forgetting he was not allowed to change his hair colour to impress the other children—”Thank Merlin they’re putting it down to their vivid imaginations!” said Andromeda. ”I just couldn’t imagine what would happen if a teacher saw.”
Mrs Weasley smiled and glanced over at Victoire, who was sitting at the opposite side of the wobbly table, wearing a plastic princess crown and shoving cake down her throat in a very un-princess-like manner. She had spent the last year begging her mother to let her go to a Muggle school just like her friend Teddy, but Fleur was insisting on home-schooling her children and sending them to Beauxbatons once they turned 12.
As soon as they had finished their dessert, the children left the table one by one, until only James, Louis, and the adults were left. James whimpered in his high chair until Mr Weasley put his teacup down and helped him down, chuckling as the boy hurried off to find his cousins and join in their game.
”So,” said Mr Weasley as he sat back down, ”how about this election in November! I haven’t spoken to Kingsley myself, but I suppose his seven years in office were quite enough for him.”
”He’s done some extraordinary things with that time, hasn’t he?” said Hermione and straightened up. ”Captured most of the known Death Eaters and sent them to Azkaban… removed the Dementors from there… He began rewriting the ancient laws…”
Ron raised an eyebrow. ”Aren’t you rewriting the laws?” he grinned, and Hermione smiled too but rolled her eyes.
”Of course not,” she said. ”I go through them and make suggestions for changes, but it’s Kingsley and the Wizengamot who have to approve them.”
Mrs Weasley smiled at the eagerness in Hermione’s voice as she spoke—it was evident how much she enjoyed what she was doing. ”So,” she said smugly, ”is anyone here going to run for Minister? Hermione? How about you, Percy?”
George slapped his forehead hard enough to leave a red mark. ”Merlin, mother!” he exclaimed. ”Please don’t give him any ideas! I mean, we put up with him because he’s family, but all of Britain? Isn’t that asking a little too much?”
”Oh, quiet, George,” replied his mother, reaching out to stroke Percy’s cheek, which had gone somewhat pink.
”Maybe I will one day,” said Percy defiantly. ”But certainly not this time around; I would need far more time to prepare!”
George pretended to shudder at the idea of his brother being Minister for Magic, and had just opened his mouth to say something else about it when a light pinch from Angelina shut him up. She grinned at him, and he shrugged while Audrey turned the attention to Hermione.
”How about you?” she said. ”I always thought you would make a great politician.”
”I’m with Percy,” Hermione said, ”just from now until November is not enough time. But it’s not a crazy idea—do you know how few of our Ministers have been Muggleborn? And there’s not been enough women either.”
They spent a little while longer discussing the main candidates that the Daily Prophet had introduced a few days earlier; Pippa O’Rorke, whom no one knew much about yet, though Bill knew her husband from Gringotts and said he was a nice bloke; Eunice Millais, a witch well into her seventies who had given a very conservative impression in her interview; and Hamish Burke, who, according to Percy, had already given three or four interviews about how he was going to do everything in his power to end pureblood supremacy and ensure equal rights for all, witches, wizards and Muggles alike.
”Does that mean he’s not related to that old man who owns Borgins & Burkes?” asked Bill. ”Because trust me, he does not care for Muggle rights. Probably not witches’ rights either. A real sweetheart, clearly.”
”They’re third cousins,” said Percy. ”Don’t really keep in touch. Hamish Burke says he strongly disagrees with any illegal trading that members of his family take part of.”
”Well, that’s good, I guess,” Harry said. ”Let’s hope it’s not all an act, eh?”
The shattering of glass from inside the house put an abrupt end to the conversation, and they rushed into the living room to find Freddie crying, Victoire and Dominique both pointing at each other, shouting, ”It was her!” and Teddy holding James and Bryony back to keep them from stepping in the hundreds shards of glass that had once been great-grandmother Weasley’s favourite vase.
Since his funeral, Fred had not had so much company at once down by his grave as he did that afternoon. Xenophilous Lovegood kissed the tombstone with teary eyes, and Katie went to place Bryony in Lee’s arms after noticing how quiet he had become since Mr Weasley had suggested they all go sit with Fred for a while. Angelina held George’s hand tightly, as she did every time they were there, and Ginny, who was standing next to Neville and Hannah, leaned her head against Neville’s shoulder and closed her eyes for a moment and placed her hands on her belly, which had grown rounder faster this time than when she had been expecting James. She opened her eyes again and smiled at the sight of her son, who was sitting on Harry’s shoulders and chuckling as he tried to steal his glasses, which Harry made difficult by turning his head from side to side to escape James’ larcenous little hands. Fred would have been such a fun uncle to him, she thought, and to her new baby once he arrived.
They had found out about three weeks earlier that they were having another boy; Ginny had already begun advocating for the name Ferris again, but Harry was still not keen on it. She was thrilled that she was going to have two boys so close in age; she could already picture them becoming best friends the same way Bill and Charlie had always been, or like her and Ron had been as children, and were becoming again now that they were older.
She and Harry put James to bed together that night—since James had learned a few new words it had become both their favourite part of the day. Ginny always thought her heart was going to burst with happiness when she kissed James’ forehead and whispered, ”Night night, James. I love you,” and he replied, ”Love you, Mama.” (Which, of course, sounded more like, ”Luff boo, Mama,” but that did not make it feel any less special.) That night, Harry added: ”And Uncle Fred loves you too, James.” James seemed to consider this for a moment before he smiled tiredly and announced, ”Luff boo, Fwed!” It was enough to make both Ginny and Harry wipe their eyes as they tip-toed out of the nursery a little while later, turning around in the doorway to glance back at him sleeping quietly in his cot.
Fleur struggled to sleep that night, as always around the Anniversary; she was still awake when Louis woke up for his first feeding session, and had picked him up from his little cradle before Bill had so much as stirred in his sleep. She was not the only one still up. Lee Jordan was still dressed and sitting at the kitchen table in his flat in Hogsmeade, looking down at the empty street below and thinking of the feeling in his stomach when he had watched Katie and Bryony step into the fireplace of the Burrow to head home and meet Geoff earlier that day. In Diagon Alley, up in George and Angelina’s spare bedroom, Jonathan was wide awake, as he had only been in England for a few days and was not quite over the jet-lag yet.
Back at the Burrow, Mrs Weasley was still up too. She had crawled out of bed once her husband had fallen asleep, and was leaning against the doorframe between the kitchen and living room downstairs, tracing her fingers on the little marks in the wood that she had carved into it as she had measured her children’s height over the years. There was the lowest one, the one when she had made Arthur hold baby Bill up as he had not even been able to stand yet, but Molly had been too eager to wait another few months. There were the two lines that had been almost exactly the same height each year, but had still always resulted in one of the twins saying, ”See? I always knew I was taller than you,” and the other replying, ”I always knew you were crooked. My line is clearly higher than yours!”
The lines had once been glowing in different colours, but that magic had faded long ago, and Molly had stopped measuring her children’s height long ago too. On the opposite side of the doorframe, the one she was leaning against, there were new lines—she had begun with Teddy, then Victoire, and all the other grandchildren. There was going to be another one soon, Molly thought with a faint smile, but it was not the new marks that would catch her eyes first as she passed through. It was always the ’F,’ the faded, blue one, that she would reach out and touch, and that would always make her heart ache, no matter how much time might pass.
Squinting in the dark, Mrs Weasley bent down to touch the first little ’R’ and remembered always having to tell Ron not to stand on his tip-toes as she measured him, but how he always tried to cheat, longing so badly to be just as tall as his brothers. He and Hermione had told her that evening that they had lost a baby a while ago; that they, just like her, would always long for a son that had been taken from them. She could feel tears well up in her eyes as she thought about her little boy feeling even a hint of the pain she had come to learn to live with.
“We have actually just started trying for a baby again,” Ron had said earlier, and now, alone in the dark, Mrs Weasley prayed with every bit of her heart that everything would go all right for them. All she had really wanted in life was to spare her children from pain, and she had had her hopes shattered over and over as she had learned it was impossible. It was evident every time she looked at George, and when she saw the scars on Bill’s face, or when Charlie explained to her the struggles he had gone through growing up before finally coming to terms with who he was. She had realised it again after hearing what Ron and Hermione had been through—and it was the clearest to her, of course, every time she went outside and her eyes were drawn to the oak tree where Fred had been buried. She had not been able to save him, and she would spend the rest of her life trying to accept it.
A/N: So it's my first week of uni and I'm posting a new chapter. Didn't think that would happen.
I know you're proably getting sick of this bit, but I'll never stop being amazed at you all reading this story and taking the time to write reviews (that have a tendency of making my day). So thank you. Thank you. (Sorry, I just can't stop.) Xx