They tell you that life moves on after a death. It’s hard to believe that in the immediate aftermath.
As time passed the cracks Fred’s death had left in their life did not miraculously heal, shrink and become smooth. No, they breathed, becoming so much a part of their life that Arthur struggled to remember how it felt when his family was alive and whole. Sometimes he dreamed that he could hear Fred’s voice echoing from his old room, the faint sounds of abandoned experiments exploding within wooden walls. It was after those moments, when he surfaced from make-believe, that he lost his breath and had to sit. It was then that it hurt to breath.
It was then that he was at his lowest, blinking back tears and making raspy sounds that scratched his throat.
But slowly, softly, the pain eased and the nights became easier, the memories that surrounded him less haunting. Cobwebs gathered in the highest, tiniest, most difficult to reach places as Molly stopped needing to clean everything she saw and gnomes populated the garden with a carefree abandon (even Molly didn’t like that chore).
Their family moved on, sluggish with pain and regret, as Ginny signed on with Holyhead Harpies, Ron and Harry became full-fledged Aurors and Charlie returned to Romania to care for his dragons—Molly was disappointed but accepted it with better grace than she had the first time, perhaps because this time she knew what to expect.
George’s healing, though, moved so slow that at times it seemed as though he was progressing backwards. Arthur knew that he was trying—the increasing black marks on the ceiling of the shop were proof if nothing else was—but each attempt failed.
George viewed each family dinner he was invited to as a reminder of what he had lost – seeing the people he had grown up with without the one he was closest too was hard—but Molly persisted. She didn’t know what else to do. She visited the shop, bringing baskets of freshly baked foods, and so George never came close to starving, and helped George to clean the shop as much as she could but she couldn’t break his funk.
Old school friends stopped by, bringing joy and laughter and fresh memories of Fred, and George always seemed brighter afterwards. The days following those visits were the days when he was the most productive and several new joke products were created during those times, but each time his brightness faded. His friends couldn’t visit too often; they had their own lives to live, their own jobs to complete.
Lee Jordan was the one who visited the most often, helping George to tinker with his new ideas until they became a marketable product. But Arthur saw George leaning too much on Lee, using him as a replacement for Fred, and so cautioned Lee not to involve himself too deeply in the areas that had once before been purely Fred’s.
It was not healing if the cracks were jammed together like pieces from different puzzles. It was a mask, a way of showing the world that you are better even though you are far from it. Arthur didn’t want that for his son and so he watched from the sidelines, ready to step in if George needed him.
In this way he helped himself to heal, for he carried out his role as father in a tangible way and he felt useful.
But he felt awkward instead of useful when Angelina approached him one day in his tiny Head office that was crammed in an out-of-way corner of the Ministry. Without the constant danger of the war there was less need for workers dedicated to detecting and protecting the population against fake defensive objects. There was less need for his department and so they were slowly taking away his funding and workers, allocating to other more necessary tasks.
Angelina, tall and hair as wild as ever, knocked confidently on his door, waiting only for his answer before striding into the room. Her eyes were wide, edges crinkling as she smiled.
“Mr. Weasley! How are you? I hope that you don’t mind my barging into your office?”
“No, not at all.” A quick wave of his wand and there was a seat for Angelina to sit in, but Angelina continued to stand.
“I won’t be here long. I just wanted to ask you a question, one that no one else seems to want to answer. They enjoy gossip but they won’t repeat it to someone who actually cares about the subject of the rumours.” She rolled her eyes and Arthur hoped that she wasn’t going to ask him to gossip, because he didn’t like refusing people.
“I want to know about George.” Arthur opened his mouth, but no answer came out. What was he supposed to say? That his son was still deep in mourning? That he was struggling, trying to climb out the well of grief he found himself in? Angelina’s eyes searched his face, taking in the indecision in his eyes and the downward curve of his mouth.
“I was George’s friend at Hogwarts—not his closest, but I was there in his circle. I played quidditch with him. I fought next to him in the battle. I know how close he was to Fred. But I couldn’t face him after the war, when the Ministry was getting on its feet again. I couldn’t because I needed to leave this place and go somewhere where there hadn’t been any destruction, where people I knew hadn’t just died.”
Arthur nodded; he understood her position. Many other people had done the same, fleeing to other places where ugly, frightening memories didn’t lurk in innocent streets.
“But I think I’m ready to face this world again, I think I want to face Britain and all the horrors I lived through here. First, though, I want to help George get to this stage. I’ve heard that he isn’t doing so well.” Her voice dropped off and her eyes pleaded with Arthur.
“I don’t know how much you need to know but yes, George does need help. He still suffers through nightmares and unbearable loneliness and I don’t know how to help him. No one does.” Arthur wanted to see George happy, healthy, living his life. He didn’t need to be fully healed, or forget about Fred—Arthur just wanted him to function. The rest could come later.
Angelina eyed him and said, her voice firm and filled with confidence, “I will help your son.”
And Arthur believed her.
The sun was shining brightly and the cool wind whistled thought the streets, blowing the hat off the head of a person shopping for Christmas gifts.
It was almost two and a half years after Fred died; two and a half years after Voldemort was killed; two and a half years since his family’s life had been changed permanently.
There was no going back from death.
Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes would have been bustling, filled with large crowds of parents buying tricks for mischievous little boys and friends stocking up for the New Year at Hogwarts or for some good-hearted fun at work.
It had been two years ago.
However two and a half years ago Fred had been alive, eyeing Alicia Spinnet as a potential girlfriend (she now worked in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures) and playing practical jokes on unsuspecting witches and wizards.
Without him George didn’t feel like getting up in the morning. He didn’t feel like attending the weekly dinners at the Burrow, but Molly forced him too. He didn’t even feel up to the daily visits from Arthur the majority of the time, but Arthur persisted. He couldn’t leave his son to suffer alone.
George most certainly didn’t feel like running a store and so the once vibrant and eye-catching store had odd hours and stock was frequently low, causing potential customers to pass by without so much as a glance at its windows.
Arthur knew that everyone healed at their own pace—that it couldn’t be rushed or forced—but he was worried. He didn’t want to harass or push or offend his son, but he did want him to live again.
This day was a particularly bad day, perhaps caused by the splashes of a greenish-purple potion Arthur could see decorating the walls and floor. George hadn’t bothered to clean up after his last failure.
The silence during his visit was unusually oppressive. Arthur hardly dared to break it with the ruffling of his robes or the squeak of his shoes on the floor. He felt like a stranger in his son’s home. George avoided his eyes, staring stubbornly at the ceiling. Arthur didn’t know what was so fascinating about it—it was just polished wood covered with paint. It hadn’t even been done by hand like it would have been with muggles.
The silence was broken by a large bang from downstairs and Arthur stiffened as the clomp of solid footsteps on the stairs grew louder. He reached for his wand, though he didn’t know anyone who would break into the store. It was a joke shop for Merlin’s sake!
George didn’t react. His eyes didn’t flicker from the boring hardwood ceiling nor did his body tense.
The door opened with a bang and Arthur shot a spell at the dark figure in the doorway.
Shoot first or die.
The instincts of a war never leave you. Not completely.
The stupefy missed, hitting the wall behind the figure’s right shoulder.
“Hey—hey! It’s just me.”
Angelina stood in the doorway. With the set of her eyebrows, the strength of her hands on her hips and her powerful bearing, she looked like a warrior setting out for battle. Her gaze was set stubbornly on George, who refused to meet her eyes.
Arthur was surprised to see her—it had been almost a week and a half since she had walked into his office and he hadn’t seen hide nor hair (a delightful muggle expression!) of her during that time. When he had asked George—though he had tried to do so subtly—George had shrugged and murmured something that Arthur hadn’t been able to catch.
“George, what are you planning on doing with your life? Sitting in here wasting your life? Each day I walk past this store and each time it’s dark and closed. I know you’ve been suffering, but so has everyone else. We need a little more joy in our lives. The war’s been won but the real battle has just begun. We need you George.”
George was looking at her now, face puzzled. “How did you get in here? The door is locked.”
“I used Alohomora. It wasn’t very difficult—a child could come in here anytime they want.”
And then Arthur saw the ghost of a smile on George’s face.
Maybe it was because Angelina was the first one to tell George to suck it up. Maybe George needed someone to directly challenge his funk. Or perhaps it was because George had been growing tired of living like he was still in hiding, still a hunted man. Maybe it was because he knew Fred would have wanted him to prank the new Minister. Or maybe it was because Angelina had known Fred as a friend and not as family and but yet was separate enough from Fred in his memories.
Arthur wasn’t a muggle sychlogist, but he liked what he saw.
And whatever it was that caused George to finally be able to pull himself out of the past and begin to truly live again, Arthur was grateful.
Angelina grasped George’s hand and pulled, forcing him off the bed.
“Hey—hey! What do you think you’re doing? I can kick you out right now, you know.” His tone was playful and his eyes were beginning to glint in a way that had Arthur worried for the Burrow’s stability.
“Sure you can.” The tip of her tongue appeared between her lips and a smile played on her face. “Now come on!”
And they were gone, out the door and back into the wide, open world.
George wasn’t perfect after that, though none of them were . Though he had Angelina there to support him now, to encourage him in ways his blood family could not, he still had days where he couldn’t get out of bed or had to force himself to do anything useful.
But that was okay. Because now he was truly making the effort, now he had something to strive for.
And almost a year after he first walked out of his apartment after Angelina walked in, he asked her out on a date.
Molly was ecstatic.
When the sky was turning purple with darkness and the stars were just beginning to twinkle, Arthur was interrupted in his shed by Molly’s excited shrill.
“Arthur!” He heard the sounds of quickly moving slippered feet crossing the distance between the house and his shed and scrambled to replace the screws in the muggle alarm clock he was tinkering with.
He hadn’t succeeded by the time Molly opened the door and sunlight glinted off the metal screws and springs.
“Arthur!” This time her voice was exasperated, though it was softened by the numerous times she had caught him “meddling with the muggles’ things”, as she put it. “What are you doing? Where did you get that?”
“Oh, this? Nothing, my dear, nothing. What was it that you wanted to talk to me about?”
Molly huffed and put her hands on her hips. “Arthur, you shouldn’t be meddling with these muggle things. You don’t know what you’re doing—you could hurt yourself.”
“But Molly this is so fascinating! Look at how this wheel here, shaped like a sunflower, interacts with this one over here to hit this rod here to-“
“Arthur.” Molly had crossed her arms and Arthur quickly straightened, stepping in front of the clock and blocking Molly’s view of it. Maybe if she didn’t see it she wouldn’t complain about it. It was worth a try, at least.
“Ginny just fire-called me to tell me that she saw George out eating with Angelina! He’s finally asked her out!”Her eyes were already twinkling with plans for a wedding but Arthur had other questions.
“Are you sure they didn’t just go out as friends? They have done that before—remember that time we were called to the Leaky Cauldron to take him home after he’d gotten drunk?”
“Don’t be silly—Ginny said that the restaurant had candles floating around the tables and ever-blooming roses as centerpieces. You don’t take your friends to restaurants like those.”
“But how did Ginny even see them?”
“She and Harry had gone out for dinner in the same restaurant. What a lucky coincidence!”
“I’m sure George thinks so too.”
“This is big, Arthur—he’s growing up! Next thing we’ll know he’ll be married and having kids and I’ll be a grandmother again!”
And Arthur had been her husband long enough to know he shouldn’t say that it was just their first date. She could have her fantasies—there was no harm in it, far less than in dreams of ridding the world of its muggle population or turning children into werewolves.
Hopefully George would agree when Molly came knocking on his door within the next hour.
It wasn’t too long after the start of George’s date with Angelina that the Burrow saw Bill holding a wriggling Victoire in his lap while Molly iced her birthday cake. Delicate shades of pink and purple icing covered the dark chocolate cake underneath and red roses lined the sides.
“Bill dear, you should put her down. She’s not having fun sitting on your lap, are you honey?” Victoire squealed and reached for her grandma. “Why ever did you come over so early anyways? The party won’t start for another few hours.”
“Victoire was very excited this morning. She kept running around the house and asking all sorts of questions—never let it be said that boys are more trouble than girls. I decided to give Fleur a few hours to herself, or as alone as you can be while having a baby growing inside you.”
Molly smiled as she rinsed her hands in the sink. Victoire clapped at the sound of the water and Molly flicked some at her. “Your father did the same for me many times. As much as I enjoyed having you lot around the house, you were a handful. I’m sure Fleur appreciates it.”
Bill nodded. “And we both appreciate you and Dad agreeing to have the party here. Fleur’s just so tired these days and I don’t exactly have any party-throwing skills.”
“No, you just went to them. Don’t think I didn’t know William.” Bill smiled ruefully just as Victoire tugged on his earring.
“Ow Victoire!” He placed her on the ground and she tottered off towards the living room where Arthur was arranging streamers on the ceiling. “That wasn’t nice. What do we say to Daddy now?”
A faint cry of ‘Sewry’ was heard and Bill seemed satisfied. Molly just watched with amusement. Through the doorframe Molly could see Victoire’s chubby hands tug on Arthur’s robes, little pale splashes on the dark maroon cloth. A rosy streamer ripped down the middle as Arthur turned to look at his granddaughter, mind abandoning hands as a smile bloomed on his face. Torn streamers forgotten he swooped down to pick Victoire up, the twinkling giggle of Victoire and deep, quiet laughter of Arthur combining in the still hallway.
“Mum?” Bill’s hesitant voice brought Molly’s attention back into the kitchen and she half-turned in his direction. The sharp red scars on his face seemed harsher in the afternoon heat, twisting in his anxiety. His eyes flickered between her eyes and the wall behind her, though Molly didn’t know what had captured his attention with the party so soon.
“When did Fred’s hand disappear? Did you remove it?”
The room seemed cooler in that moment as Molly rushed to look at the family clock. It was the same as it had been all those years ago when Harry first walked into the Burrow, though it had been moved from the living room to the kitchen during the war so that it was easier for Molly to keep watch on her family. She had stopped looking at it shortly after the war, when her children had begun to move into their own houses and onto their own lives and the places on the clock were no longer the same as they had been for years. Arthur’s return from work was no longer awaited with such anxiety as it had during the days when being late could mean he was dead or captured. Letters and floo calls had taken its place in Molly’s life and so aside from quick glances out of habit over the years, it had largely been ignored.
That day was the first time she counted the hands on the clock, black blurring into black as her eyes swept around the hour. The majority of the hands crowded on “elsewhere” in the spot where the eleven would have stood on a regular clock, though the arrows of Molly, Arthur and Bill hung over “home”. She counted once, twice, then a third.
“Arthur, Fred’s not here! He’s gone!” There was a small thud as Victoire was placed on the ground, then the sound of slippered feet hurrying along wooden floor. Arthur’s face entered the kitchen before the rest of his body did, eyebrows creased in worry.
“Molly, dear, Fred has been gone for several years. He died at Hogwarts.” His voice was gentle, as though he was afraid she might shatter if he spoke too loud.
“No, Arthur, his hand is gone.”
It had taken them almost four years to notice it, but at some point Fred’s hand had disappeared, the name fading from the arrow before it faded entirely from the clock. Perhaps they hadn’t wanted to notice, hadn’t wanted another reminder that their son was gone. Perhaps the clock had faded so much into the tapestry of their life that the change was easy to ignore. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
It was just clear that Fred was now one step farther from their daily lives.
“We can’t put it back, can we?” Molly asked sadly, looking wistfully at the eight other hands.
Arthur hugged her close, listening as Victoire hummed to herself in the other room. “I don’t think we can.”
It was a good thing that preparations for the party were almost complete for they just stood there for the next hour, staring at the clock, wishing, wanting, despairing. A floating French love song sung by a young child filtered in from the other room.
A/N: Please tell me what you think! Only two more chapters to go.