There are those that ignore their families. Forget to write, block calls, disregard birthdays and anniversaries.
There are those that mock their families. Talk behind backs, cruelly imitate, laugh in their faces.
There are those that dislike their families. Disappointed by them, desire a different, better one, embarrassed and ashamed.
There are those that donít know their families. Wish for a motherís hug, hope for a brotherís teasing, yearn for a history.
And then there are those who love their families, adore them. Make note of every celebration, search endlessly for the perfect gift that will make them smile, talk daily.
There are never ending variations of people that belong to families, just as there are thousands of combinations of families in the world.
Each and every one of them is compared with the dream version of the loving, close, comforting idealistic family. Each and every one of them does not make the grade.
Because that grade is false. A lie. Unattainable.
A perfect family is not one without arguments, or temper tantrums, or jealousy. Noóone has to experience the depth of the sadness to fully appreciate the highs of the joy. The perfect family is the one that no matter how strong, how fast the words fly, they always come back to each other in the end.
The Weasleys might be considered a perfect family.
But then again even the strongest of bonds can fall apart.
Arthur didnít see his son die that day. He didnít hear Percyís cry of rage or feel the involuntary shock of watching a loved one die.
He wasnít able to experience it.
He wasnít sure he would have wanted to. What father wants to see their son die?
He heard about it instead from Percy, still weary and bloodied from battle. He saw it on the face of his wife when he looked for her during the brief break Voldemort granted them to gather their dead. To hand Harry over.
Itís hard to see through tears.
Why did Fred die? His Fred. His son. Why was it his time? It wasnít his time. It couldnít have been his time. His life had just been beginningÖ
Was it wrong for him to wish this on another family? No, he didnít wish it on anyone. He had seen it happen before, during the First World War and again during this one. The haunted, glassy eyes, the hopeful glances at shadows and stray footsteps, the half-gulp that sounded as though they were trying to swallow their heartÖ They were broken and the cracks would never quite line up.
That would be his family now. That would be him. He had failed in his duty as a father.
He had ignored the frowns from the stout caned men who lined the walls of the Ministry; blood traitors could still be proud of their heritage. He had ignored the whispers that his family was poorer than newborn dragons because it allowed Molly and him to raise the children to fully appreciate the value of money. He had raised his family with love, with ideals and morals. But a dead body couldnít love anyone, couldnít go hold its head high when times got tough.
Fred was already gone from this world because he had failed to protect him.
The guilt settled deep in his stomach and worried its way through the all the bones in his body. He had to sit, collapse, on the floor but he refused. He could not break apart, he would not break apart when his family was there. They needed to see him strong.
He couldnít stop his knees from shaking or his wand from falling from his fingers. The clatter as it collided with the cold stones echoed in the high ceilinged Great Hall, in his ears. The sound hurt his ears. A wand hadnít done Fred any good. A wand hadnít stopped Fred from lying cold and dead on the floor. A wand hadnít let Fred finish his last laugh.
Most importantly, a wand wouldnít let him see Fred warm and alive now.
Mollyís body was warm, alive, breathing as he hugged her. She was still alive. He relished the way her nails dug into his back, the way her red hair filled his sight, the way their bodies fit together. They were both parents, mourning the loss of their son.
And as he made contact with each of his living children, squeezing hands and rubbing backs, he was a father reassuring himself that they were still a family.
The days after the war were filled with bright streamers, colourful sparks sprouting from wand tips, hoots of owls travelling day and night to spread the news and people parading in the streets with broad grins on their faces, smacking each otherís backs and giving hearty handshakes. It seemed as though the sun would never set.
But slowly, gently, the shadows crept back, filling in the voids the war had left and leaving them gapingly apparent. Rubble still filled the cracked streets where Death Eaters had made their marks and in the nighttime it was a brave person who travelled. Most were safely behind locked doors and shuttered windows, haunted by memories of the war.
Percy thrashed around like a wounded bull for a long time after Voldemort died. He switched departments in the Ministry, stating to whoever would listen that heíd make sure that all the deplorable Death Eaters got what they deserved and that he would weed out the corrupt Ministry workers while he did it.
Arthur patted him on the back and gravely followed him to work each morning, travelling up the cramped lifts to separate floors, where they broke apart until the next grey morning.
Arthur always made it home before Percy.
And each night Molly waited for him by the door, scanning the yard until he appeared with a crack. She would give him a reassuring smile before she hurried inside to prepare dinner for ten, for his children were once again residing within the worn, overstretched walls of the Burrow. Perhaps they were trying to capture the fleeting moments of their childhood left to them before they were gone, fully immersed in the adult world with all its worries and stresses and cares.
Perhaps they were trying to escape the lingering effects of the war, though it was impossible. Screams still ripped through the night, disturbing even Ronís sleep. Tea cups still clattered on plates, held with shaky hands and unsteady arms. Some fell deeply into the comfort of the daily routine, ignoring their haggard appearance in the mirror each morning. Others wobbled between long, drawn-out silences and periods of incessant chatter. Molly cooked and cleaned and cooked and cleaned. She worried. Fretted. Cried. Arthur could feel her shuddering in her sleep sometimes and wished he could hug her tighter, pull her closer. But she would already be pressed flat against his body as he tried to shelter her from the starkness of the night.