Chapter 1 : I See Him Too
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A warm summer breeze brushes across my skin, tender and welcoming, carrying with it the smell of warmth and grass, of the flowers that grow along the water’s edge. Sunlight plays across the rippling water and the songs of birds float past. Out several meters a fish jumps, the only disturbance all around. Above the trees I see a thestral, soaring high before dipping back into the forest and disappearing from sight. A sigh escapes me.
Such a simple place, this rock here by the lake, worn by years of students using it as a bench, yet here I am, trying to collect torrential emotions and sort through racing thoughts. So many memories. It was here, upon this very stone, that Arthur first held my hand and where, some months later, we shared our first kiss. I felt so smug then, the object of his affection, that good looking, if a bit muggle mad, Weasley boy. Now our children have their own memories here. Bill’s favorite story to tell is from his second year, when he fell into the water. He maintains that the giant squid tried to eat him, no matter how much his brother protests he was only half wet from the shallows. That brother, Charlie, relates nights spent flying on his broomstick, gazing at the moon reflected below him. Often times with a girl behind him. Percy had his first kiss here, a story that I heard not from him but a giggling Ginny. Ginny who still moons about hours spent with Harry, her toes wiggling in the water, his arm about her. Ron, who told Hermione that he would marry her standing just a little way from where I now sit.
Then there are my twins: Fred and George. Each by himself having dozens of stories I am sure. Harassing the squid, pushing one unsuspecting person or another in, charming girls or planning their many pranks and jokes. No doubt it was by this water they created some of their now famous products. I’m sure that most of their stories they never planned on telling me, knowing exactly what my reaction would be. Right now, though, I would give anything to have them sitting by me, one on each side, telling me their stories. I would laugh and never say a word about the trouble they caused. Right now I would give anything to just have them with me. But I know that I cannot.
My Fred, sweet, funny Fred is gone. He died smiling, laughing, exactly as he’d lived. One of my babies I cannot ever hold again. Along with him I was afraid I would lose George, his twin and best friend. His eyes, were hollow, empty, cold and lost. Such pain and grief lay there. Grief that not even I, his mother, could understand. For though my grief is no less, it is different.
A mother’s pain is greatest when her children are in pain, for having children is to have your heart outside yourself. It is a cruel and dangerous trick to take a child. I have seven children, seven red-headed hearts whose every pain and sorrow is like a stab directed toward me. They have the power to wound me as no other can. Percy’s rejection cut me to the quick, then it festered and bled, never healing until I could hold him in my arms once more. Seeing Bill lying on that hospital bed, cut, tattered and torn by Greyback stopped my heart altogether. When George was carried into the Burrow, bleeding and unconscious, I thought I would lose consciousness. I ached with Ginny as I saw Hagrid carry Harry into the Great Hall during the Battle for Hogwarts, supposedly dead. I cried as my children grew and left. But my heart, or at least a part of it, died alongside Fred.
That night, every part of me trembled and cried. For so long I was afraid my tears would never end, that they would flow until I was drowned by my own grief. I can still feel every thrust of pain, every pang of guilt, and every stricken sob. The end of Voldemort was not the end of pain.
Today the sun is shining brightly above me. The sky is cloudless and the deep blue of summer. A pleasant, soft, cool breeze drifts across my face. It is a lovely day, perfect for this time of year: the end of June and graduation. I am here to see two graduates today, two of my grandbabies nearly grown up. Ginny’s son James, and George’s son Fred. Next year Rose and Albus will graduate. Victoire and Teddy are here with their little one, two month old Remus. I can barely believe I am old enough to have a great-grandbaby. But here I am, at another graduation, watching as the next generation grows and flourishes, their memories forgetting things I still see so clearly.
This is only the fourth time I have returned here since the War. I came only for one day, a graduation such as this, then fled once more. Today is the first time I have ventured to this spot in twenty-five years. My pain has not faded as time passes. Time does not heal, it only teaches you to cope. To hide everything. Arthur knows, he has known for all these years. But he says nothing, simply holding me when the nightmares come and I can do nothing against them but cry. I love him for that. He simply holds me, letting me know he is there, letting me know that he, too, remembers.
It is almost time for me to go. To leave this rock, and these memories. I look over my shoulder and see a red head coming toward me. My eyes are not what they once were but, ah, it is Ron.
“Mum?” My baby boy, now forty-three, his eldest graduating next year. It doesn’t seem quite possible, that he has grown so fast and so far. I still remember his sobbing screams in the middle of the night when he was a small boy, plagued by nightmares of his teddy turned to a spider. Now he is a respected member of the wizarding community, a partner with his brother George in the joke shop. I’m so proud of him, he’s done so well in life.
“Yes, Mum.” He helps me up from my seat. “You alright? No one knew where you were, Dad said to look down here by the lake.”
“I’m fine dear, just fine. Thinking is all.”
He is giving me a skeptical look. When did this happen? When did he begin protecting me, instead of the other way around? “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Come on, let’s not be late, we don’t want to miss this.” I put my arm through his and let him lead me across the expansive lawn toward the Great Hall. This lawn, so green and alive, everything just seems so wrong. I can still see the blood and the bodies that stained this earth so many years ago. My eyes are drawn to one spot in particular as we pass by. A medium sized stone, next to a dip in the ground. There, that is where Remus fell and Dora beside him.
“Mum?” I didn’t realize I’d stopped as his voice broke through the memory, bringing me back to the sunshine.
“Yes, sorry, just needed to catch my breath.” For a moment, I think I really did stop breathing. All of these reminders still catch me off guard.
We enter the Entrance Hall and I see my family standing before me. Four red heads in differing stages of grey turn toward me. Four pairs of sparkling blue eyes, and I can feel a fifth, Ron, looking down at me also. For a moment, I look for a sixth. But no, they are not there. The pang in my chest, this missing heart, reminds me too acutely of the absence.
“Are you ready, my dear?” Arthur puts his arm around my shoulders. His hair is white now, and one large tuft stands straight atop his head. His eyes, however, are the same, the sparkling blue inherited by all of our sons. Only Ginny got my brown eyes, though they are much lovelier on her. He gazes at me through his square spectacles.
“I am.” Not. How can I be? How can I ever be ready? This occasion forces me to walk the halls stained with the memory of Fred. With his blood. No mother should have to bury her child, then be forced to re-visit the place where he fell.
There, over there in that corner. That is where they laid him. I knelt on these hard, cold stones with his head cradled in my lap as battle raged around me. Only the peril of my baby girl spurred me to rise once more. I tell no one of my thoughts as they come, no one should have to carry this burden as well. It is mine to bear: to remember. Walking down the hall, I come to the Place. The wall stands erect now, but in my mind’s eye, I see the rubble strewn about.
Over there, that’s where I was standing. Percy came to me, tears running down his bruised and dirty cheeks, Charlie with him, cradling their brother between them. My sons are strong men, but they openly sobbed to see their brother fallen. I remember Ginny’s screams. I remember George’s hollow eyes. I lost all feeling for a moment, and then it all came rushing back, multiplied time and time again. Heartbreak, searing, blinding pain as part of me died too.
As we walk past, I see Percy reach out unobtrusively to touch the mended wall, pausing only a moment. I am not the only who remembers then, and hurts. Someone, long ago, probably Ron or Ginny, had carved ‘FRED WE LOVE YOU’ into the stone. A silent sob catches in my throat and I hang back from the others, stopping completely as they all pass by. Arthur does not see, stopping to talk to the Minister for Magic, and dear friend, Kingsley Shacklebolt.
There is a tremble in my fingers as I reach out to the stone. It was here, twenty-five years ago. Part of me died, gone forever and never coming back. A mother’s love transcends that of anyone else, carrying onward even as others begin to forget and the pain fades from their minds. But I, I never will forget, never heal. I carried him for nine months, he drank the milk of my breast, I raised him. When he fell I picked him up, when he cried I soothed him, when he went away to school I cried. I loved him, I love him still. How can he be gone? I loved him damn it! I would do anything, give whatever, to hold him close one last time. To tell him I love him. To see him.
Someone touches my shoulder and I turn to them. “Mum?” It is my twenty year old son, Fred. He and his twin are identical, stocky, well muscled, and handsome. I love them both so much, no matter the mischief they cause. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost them.
He gives me the strangest look, hurt and bewildered. “It’s me, Mum. George.”
“Oh, George, I’m sorry. Of course you are dear. After all these years, you’d think I’d be able to tell you apart.” He just gives me a sad look and stares over my shoulder.
Looking back, I see what he does. ‘FRED WE LOVE YOU’. And beneath that, ‘1978-1998’.
He’s gone, really gone.
I look at the person standing just behind me. It’s George, my forty-five year old son. He had a twin brother, they were identical. Both stocky, well muscled and handsome. I still don’t know what I’ll do now that I’ve lost one.
“Oh, George.” My voice is broken now. “I’m so sorry dear.” He reaches over my shoulder to touch the stone, his blue eyes shining with tears.
“It’s okay Mum. I still see him too.”
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