Chapter 4 : The Greater Weasley Family
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Truth be told, I was actually looking forward to Gran’s birthday bash. How could I not, when James, Albus, Hugo, Louis, and I had come up with the best birthday present in the entire history of magic?
It was a shiny new tea kettle that, when the water reached the exact right temperature, emitted the sound of the five of us singing an a cappella rendition of Celestina Warbeck’s greatest hits. Of course, we all sang like rubbish…with the exception of Hugo, who, according to a very inebriated James, sounded like a cross between a unicorn and a mermaid angel (whatever the hell that meant).
Anyway, the point is that Hugo got way too many girls with his angelic unicorn voice, and Gran was going to love her birthday gift. Grandmothers always love things like that.
I had been entrusted with taking the gift to the Burrow, which was fine with me, since the only other person I would have trusted with such an important parcel was Albus, and he was stuck working like crazy at St. Mungo’s due to all of the Snapper victims.
I did a horrible last-minute wrapping job, realizing too late that I should have asked Roxanne to do it for me, and stepped into the fireplace with the gift tucked securely under my arm.
The first people I saw, as I stepped out of the Burrow’s fireplace, were Uncle Ron and Uncle Harry huddled over a chessboard in the corner of the sitting room. Both of them looked quite frustrated, although, I imagined, for different reasons.
Uncle Ron’s face lit up as soon as he saw me. “Hey, Fred! Fancy a game of chess?”
“Oh, please, Fred, fancy a game of chess,” moaned Uncle Harry, who looked like he was about to tear out what was left of his hair.
I was right about the frustration; Uncle Harry was frustrated because he was getting his arse kicked magnificently, and Uncle Ron was frustrated because he needed a better challenge. And the only person in the family who was better at chess than I was (with the obvious exception of Uncle Ron), was Ted Lupin. The two of us were better than either of Uncle Ron’s kids, and while this used to irk him terribly, he eventually got over it and resorted to cornering us at family parties. I think he went mad without a proper chess partner around. Everyone knew Aunt Hermione refused to play against him.
“Maybe later,” I said. “I’m going to go make the rounds and say hello.”
“They’re all outside,” said Uncle Ron as his bishop gave Uncle Harry’s knight a thorough beating. I heard Uncle Harry release a string of profanities as I headed through to the kitchen.
There I found Aunt Hermione, Uncle Percy, and Aunt Audrey, who was putting the finishing touches on a glorious cake that was large enough to feed every player in the British and Irish League.
I said hello and bent down to receive warm hugs from Aunt Hermione and Aunt Audrey. Uncle Percy gave me a tight smile and an awkward greeting. We didn’t dislike each other – we just didn’t see eye-to-eye, since he was a high-ranking Ministry official and I spent most of my time on the air verbally thrashing the Ministry.
I got on well with Aunt Audrey, though; she was a nice lady. Nobody really knew why she’d gone and married Uncle Percy, seeing as she was a perfectly normal woman and he was a total square. My great-grandchildren will still be baffled by this, the most elusive of all Weasley family mysteries: How in Crup’s sake did Great-Great-Great-Uncle Percy manage to do it?
Uncle Ron and my dad liked to joke that Uncle Percy wasn’t actually married to an Aunt Audrey, and that he’d probably just hired a friend to drink Polyjuice Potion and show up at family events so it would look like he had a love life. That begged the question where my cousins Molly and Lucy had come from, but who knows – maybe they were a figment of our imaginations as well. Of course, Molly was a hell of a Chaser, and I’ve never known a figment of the imagination to kick anyone’s ass at Quidditch. And so the mystery of Uncle Percy’s insanely normal family persists.
It wasn’t until half an hour later that I actually made my way to Gran to wish her a happy birthday: on the way from the kitchen to where she was sitting in the backyard, I was intercepted by Uncle Bill, Louis, Grandad, Hugo, Lily, Aunt Ginny, and my mum. You couldn’t move a wand’s length in any direction without bumping into a Weasley relative. We’d take over the world someday, I was sure of it.
“There’s the birthday girl,” I said, hugging Gran and handing her the poorly wrapped gift.
“Fred, you shouldn’t have!”
“Well, I did, and so did your other grandsons, so it’s not all my fault.”
She beamed up at me and changed tactics. “Look at how thin you’ve grown! Haven’t you been eating?”
Nobody besides my gran could accuse me of being too thin. In the battle between my dad’s short and broad Prewett-Weasley genes and my mum’s tall and thin Johnson genes, my mum’s height had won out, but so had my dad’s breadth.
I talked to Gran for awhile, assuring her that I was getting plenty of sleep (I lied), that I wasn’t living on cold sandwiches alone (I lied), and that I was keeping my flat clean and fit for human habitation (oh, sweet Circe, did I lie).
Eventually, I made my way to where all the food was, and found my dad hovering over a plate of pasties while my mum stood chatting with Aunt Ginny on the other side of the table.
“Fred,” my dad sighed, putting an arm around my shoulders as best he could considering our difference in height. “Fred, my favorite son.”
I rolled my eyes. “Your only son.”
“My beloved only son.”
“I’ve heard this before,” I joked, scooping some potatoes onto a plate.
“My son, my boy, my heir…who won’t even give his poor, miserable dad an advertisement slot on his wireless show…”
I distinctly heard my mum mutter, “Oh, lord, here we go again…”
“Dad, let me ask you something: Exactly how many people in the wizarding world do you think are unaware of Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes? I really would like to know, because they’ve got to be the stupidest people in the universe, and I’d like a chance to make fun of them in public.” I picked up a large pasty and bit off a corner before placing it on my plate.
He ignored me and ploughed on. “Fred, what are you going to do when I’m dead and buried and you haven’t got a dear old dad anymore?”
I chewed thoughtfully for a moment. “Roll around in the piles of Galleons you’ve got stashed away in Gringotts?” I offered.
Mum snorted and went back to talking Quidditch with Aunt Ginny.
“Actually,” I continued, “I may be in need of some triple-W merchandise to give away as a prize for a charity fundraiser on the show. What better publicity could you ask for?”
Exactly what my dad thought of my proposal, I didn’t find out right away, because at that moment Uncle Ron came shuffling along the length of the table, piling food so high on his plate that it almost towered over him. He was followed closely by Aunt Hermione, and they were engaged in their argument du jour.
“Ron, I don’t understand why you won’t wear your glasses.”
“Because they make me look like Percy, that’s why!”
“If you don’t wear these now, you’ll only end up needing thicker ones in a year’s time…”
“I won’t wear those, either.”
“You will, if I have to attach them to your face using a Permanent Sticking Charm!”
I suppressed my laughter until they were out of earshot once again. My mum often had similar arguments with my dad about wearing his glasses, although my dad only needed to wear his while reading and writing. Poor Uncle Ron was supposed to wear his every waking moment.
Dad had been drawn into some conversation with Uncle Bill and Uncle Harry, and I realized I hadn’t yet found James or Ted. Even with their penchant for making fools out of themselves, it was easy to get lost in the Weasley crowd. As I scanned the cluster of people, I heard a familiar voice behind me.
“Fweddie!” squealed the voice.
I whipped around to find Ted and Victoire’s curly-haired daughter, little three year-old Olivia, bouncing up and down in excitement. I scooped her up, tossed her in the air, and caught her.
“Livvy, my love! My light! My lovely Livvy Lupin!” I tossed her up in the air again as she giggled madly. Unlike Muggle kids, who come straight down, magical kids tend to hover for a bit, making this game slightly more unpredictable and a lot more fun.
“Oh, Fred, for heaven’s sake, be careful with her!” Victoire had appeared out of nowhere and was hovering approximately two centimeters behind me, staring at me in disapproval. Did all mothers take mandatory anxiety classes?
“Of course I’m careful! We’re having fun, aren’t we, Olivia?”
“Yes!” She laughed again. “Fweddie, guess what?”
“Look at Daddy’s hair!”
When I caught sight of Ted approaching, I was surprised I’d missed him before; he was currently sporting curly hair in a dashing shade of pink. Victoire snatched Olivia away as I doubled over with laughter.
“Ted, that’s a good look for you!”
“Shut up. Olivia likes it.”
“I’d give you a hug, but I don’t think I can hug a man with pink hair.” I laughed some more and finally calmed down enough to ask him how work was going. Ted worked for the Department of Magical Games and Sports, which was the only Ministry Department that seemed like you could work there without wanting to feed yourself to a Chimaera.
“Hey,” I asked a short time later, “how is it that Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron get time off to go to parties when the Aurors are working on the biggest case of the decade?”
“Harry’s Head Auror…who’s going to make him stay at work?”
“I dunno…Minister of Magic?”
“You’d think.” Olivia had toddled back over to us, and Ted hoisted her into his arms and continued talking as she played with his hair. “Anyway, Dom’s working on the Snapper case today, even if Harry and Ron aren’t.”
I raised my eyebrows. “But she’s preggers! Why’s she at work?”
“Well, you know Dom – bleeding workaholic, isn’t she? When they stopped letting her go out to do field work, she started spending hours at her desk double- and triple-checking all the field reports, cross-referencing sources and God knows what else. Crazy thing is, if anyone breaks this case, it’ll be her. And her baby will probably be the first to be born in the Ministry, because nobody’s going to be able to tear her away from the office.”
“She lucked out with Lawrence, didn’t she? I don’t know of any other bloke who could handle her.” Dom’s husband Lawrence was also an Auror, and the only person I knew who worked as much as Dom did.
“ ‘Ame! ‘Ame!” Olivia wriggled in Ted’s arms and pointed over my shoulder ecstatically. Sure enough, there was James, ambling towards us with his hands in his pockets.
“Where’ve you been hiding?” I asked.
He grinned. “Been questioning Molly’s boyfriend about his intentions.”
“I’ll bet Molly loved that.”
“I’m only joking. I did have to save him from Grandad, though. Poor guy had been answering questions for half an hour about how vacuum cleaners work.” He paused and looked around at the crowd assembled in the backyard; everyone was milling about, not doing anything in particular. “Fancy playing some Quidditch?”
Ted and I nodded enthusiastically. The great thing about having such a huge family was that we had enough cousins for two full teams. A party wasn’t a party in our family without an impromptu Quidditch match. Our grandparents kept several brooms handy for such occasions, and while most of the brooms were a bit crappy, so were many of us.
“Who are we missing?” asked Ted, placing Olivia on the ground.
“Just Albus, Rose, and Dom, I think. But we’ve also got Elsa here.” Elsa was Hugo’s girlfriend. Current girlfriend, anyway.
“Hey, Harry!” Ted called. “Why don’t you come play Quidditch with us?”
Uncle Harry looked up from a conversation he was having with my dad and laughed. “At my age? No, thank you.”
“Aw, come on. You can play opposite Olivia, then it’ll be a fair match-up.” Ted ducked as Uncle Harry pelted him with a piece of fruit. He then set to work determining how the teams would be formed.
“Fred, you’ll announce the score, right?” he asked me.
“I always announce the bloody score! I’m going to play this time – you can announce the bloody score.”
Where did everyone get off assuming that, just because I announced Quidditch matches at Hogwarts and I now work in radio, it’s my aspiration in life to keep score for them? I suppose when I die, they’ll carve a headstone for me that says, Here lies Fred Weasley. He was brilliant at adding ten plus ten, but that’s about the only thing this wanker was good for.
“Fine,” said Ted. “You can be Keeper for my team. You know you play like shit.”
“Language around Olivia, Teddy!” snapped Victoire, again appearing out of nowhere and placing her hands over Olivia’s ears. Ted waited until Victoire and Olivia had marched off, before crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue at her. But he didn’t stop there – he also had to go and sprout Medusa snakes from his head for added effect. He was a charismatic bloke, Ted was. It was one of those moments when I understood why his only serious relationship had been with Victoire – there were probably no other women who would have this idiot. (But, as far as idiots went, he was a good guy, and I know Victoire realized this as well as I did.)
And Ted always complained about Victoire’s nagging, but I knew him better than that. He was as soft and fluffy as a pygmy puff when it came to Victoire and tried to make up for it by acting like a tough guy in public.
Ted made a face as James went to round up the rest of our cousins. “Wish the Scamander twins were here,” he sighed. Lorcan and Lysander Lovegood-Scamander were brilliant Quidditch players – which more than made up for the fact that they had the wonkiest hyphenated surname in the world. Lorcan had even gone pro after finishing at Hogwarts recently.
Dividing ourselves into teams was always a huge production that took as long as the match itself. There were people missing, people who didn’t want to play, and people who were no good anyway – myself included.
On top of that, Weasley cousin Quidditch always forced us to confront an unsettling fact of life: with the exception of James, all of the Quidditch talent in this generation had gone to the girls. Specifically Roxy, Lily, Molly, and Dom.
Victoire and Lucy, while not quite the Quidditch prodigies that their sisters were, finally agreed to play after much begging and pleading by Ted and Molly. Hugo didn’t have any such luck getting Elsa to play, though I suspected he didn’t care because he had a more important kind of luck with her.
Finally, it was all sorted, and we decided to play this match without Seekers. On one team there were Teddy, Lily, and Victoire as Chasers; James as Beater; and myself as Keeper. On the other there were Roxy, Molly, and Lucy as Chasers; Louis as Beater; and Hugo as Keeper. Aunt Ginny was supposedly refereeing from the ground, because we liked to delude ourselves into thinking we played a fair game.
For the most part, we were evenly matched, so the score was close for awhile. Victoire wasn’t very useful, as she ducked every time Ted tossed the Quaffle her way, but then again, so did Lucy. The difference was that Ted thought Victoire was cute, whereas Molly became increasingly irate with her sister. And when Molly was pissed off, she was a force to be reckoned with.
As Ted had so eloquently pointed out earlier, I played like dung. So while Ted spent half the match consoling and flirting with Victoire, I was having my rear end handed to me by little Molly.
Our team was down fifty points. Ted and Victoire were off in their own little world (I was never letting Ted organize the teams again). James was circling Lily trying to defend her from the Bludger. Which meant that I was wide open for Roxy and Molly to take turns assaulting my masculinity.
As Roxy sped towards me with the Quaffle, looking like the devil herself, it occurred to me that I should have been nicer to my sister when we were growing up.
There was only one way I could prevent her from scoring now. I knew what I had to do.
“I told Dad you’re living with your boyfriend!” I shouted.
In shock, she threw the Quaffle wide of the goal and screamed, “WHAT?!”
At the same time, Dad yelled, “WHAT?!”
I hadn’t actually told Dad. I guess he knew now, though.
Roxy’s wand was out, and so was mine as I sped down the pitch trying to evade her.
“I think this match is over!” I shouted as I zipped by the others.
“Hey!” scolded Aunt Ginny from below. “No hexing while flying!”
I glanced at my parents as I raced up the pitch again.
“Did you know about this?” Dad asked Mum. She ignored him with a smile on her face, which meant yes. Dad made an incoherent sound, and I guessed that he was muttering to himself about how my twenty-three year-old sister was too young to be looking at boys.
In the end, my ears were enlarged to five times their normal size and stayed that way for the next twelve hours. I considered it a lenient punishment coming from Roxy…until I realized that it also made my hearing a lot more sensitive. James and Louis figured that out, too, and kept sneaking up behind me shouting obscene things into my gargantuan ears. Before long, I had a splitting headache.
I felt loads better after having some cake, though, and I was still looking forward to the opening of Gran’s presents. We all gathered around Gran, who was smiling and blushing furiously at all the attention.
I noticed that Uncle Ron had finally given in to wearing his glasses – that, or Aunt Hermione had made good on her threat and used a Permanent Sticking Charm. The funny part was that he really did look like Uncle Percy. The ironic part was that he wouldn’t have looked so much like Uncle Percy if he hadn’t been wearing such an irritable expression.
After many “Oohs” and “Aahs” and “You shouldn’t haves,” Gran came to our gift. Everyone looked puzzled as she unwrapped the tea kettle, until Hugo explained that you had to heat the water in order to find out what was so special about it. Gran obliged and continued opening her other presents until the ghastly sound of my cousins and my singing wafted out of the kitchen.
James laughed. “This is the one where Louis fancied himself a soprano!”
“And you tried singing bass,” I added.
It was an awful thing to listen to, with Louis and James singing completely off-key, and Albus and me laughing more than singing. Most of the song was carried by Hugo, sounding like Celestina Warbeck’s long-lost grandson.
Gran was beside herself with joy. Grandad, on the other hand, looked torn between amusement and depression. We all knew, however, that Gran could use that stupid kettle five times a day and Grandad would never complain. You could say what you wanted about my grandfather, but that man loved his wife.
People got it all wrong about us Weasley men. We weren’t bullied by the women in our lives. We were good blokes who actually enjoyed making them happy – girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters, and grandmothers alike. And even sisters on occasion.
As soon as this sentiment entered my mind, I reached over and punched James in the arm as hard as I could.
“Arrgh! What the hell was that for?”
“To remind myself of my manliness.”
He stared at me for a moment, and then punched me back. “You need all the reminding you can get,” he explained.
Louis snuck up on me and shouted something unintelligible into my humongous ear. My headache returned.
It wasn’t a proper Weasley party if you didn’t leave with a migraine.
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