Time was flowing faster, now that there wasn’t the constant presence of grief to hold it back. Arthur no longer used hours or days to mark the passage of time, depending instead on the major events of his life.
He measured months with birthdays—his children and grandchildren more than filled the twelve months—and the years by births and marriages. Percy introduced his girlfriend Audrey Clempton, a lovely girl with hair as dark as the Weasleys’ hair was red and just as serious as he was about rules, just after Bill’s second daughter—his second granddaughter—had been born. She reviewed old Wizengamot trials to see if foul play or other misconducts of law had occurred, a job she said her father had done in the muggle world. Arthur had been fascinated when he heard this—she had been the first to be appointed this position when it had been created after the fiasco that had been the discovery of Sirius Black’s non-existent trial.
Molly had scolded Percy for not introducing her earlier—twelve months was an awfully long time to date without meeting the family—but was quickly appeased when they allowed her full rein with the planning of their wedding several months later—they didn’t have the time outside of work to dedicate the time necessary to organize a wedding.
Their wedding, unlike that of Bill and Fleur’s, had taken place in the more traditional setting of a church. Seeing another one of his sons taking the next step in their life—becoming a husband, creating a life with another person—was hard when he thought about how far they had gone from the small little boys who had begged him to play with them when he had come home from work.
But at the same time it was a beautiful moment, one filled with the absolute joy only a celebration of love can create. Molly wasn’t the only one beaming with pride.
As the months and years passed his family grew even larger, with the birth of Percy’s daughter, Molly (her namesake had been honoured with the choice) and the official addition of Harry and Hermione to the family tree.
But the union Arthur had been looking forward to the most was yet to come.
The way the pounding of the music overshadowed the crooning of Celestina Warbeck was heard the moment Arthur stepped the hedges outlining his front yard. He vaguely recognized the tune and started humming along, off-tune and off-beat, as he walked up the stone path. He was in a great mood that nothing could dampen, not even Celestina’s scratchy, overly sappy hit single “You Smell like True Love”.
There was something in the way the flowers bobbed their heads in the breeze and the shadows danced along the tips of the grass that made it seem as though the entire world was celebrating along with him.
“Molly!” His voice echoed in the emptiness of the living room which housed only the rug before the fireplace and the couches that had been in his family for generations. They were practicing what Muggles called “minimalism”, a fact Arthur proudly shared at work.
Molly just said that there would be less for the children to break when they visited.
“Now that the war’s over they’re getting rid of the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects—they say that it’s no longer needed and that it’s a drain on Ministry funds.” Molly, whose corners of her eyes had crinkled when Arthur had come through the door, slowly stopped smiling and the look of a wounded bear entered her eyes. Arthur hurried to finish his announcement before Molly decided to march over to the Ministry—the ending was much better than the beginning. “This means that I’m able to go back to my old job! Isn’t that great?”
It took a moment, but slowly Molly’s expression shifted until she was smiling almost as broadly as he was.
“Yes dear,” Molly said, patting her hands dry on her apron. “Will you have the same position?”
“Yes,” Arthur said proudly, “No- wait- they’re promoting me to head of the department for my long-standing commitment to my work.”
“Oh Arthur.” Molly’s eyes were shining as they looked at each other, sharing the glory of a long overdue reward. How long had Arthur worked at that job, staying late into the night to support his children?
How many times had Arthur come home exhausted, just in time to see Molly put the last of the kids to bed?
How many times had the kids asked where their dad was, even though he made sure to take his vacation days as often as possible? Weekends couldn’t compare to the constant companionship of Molly, even though no one was comparing.
How many times had Molly packed him the same corned beef sandwich (his favourite) with a jug of pumpkin juice to wash it all down?
It was finally paying off. Their day had come.
Their joy was tinged with sadness that Fred wasn’t able to see his father’s success, their family’s success. He would have cracked jokes, teasing him of becoming a workaholic.
The tears that hovered on the brim of Molly’s eyelashes went unmentioned, a silent agreement to enjoy this moment as long as it lasted.
Slowly the silence faded, replaced by the ticks of the family clock, the clang of the dishes washing themselves and the whistle of the wind rushing by their open window. Molly broke away, hands quickly moving to put the clean dishes in the cupboards. Arthur’s hands soon joined hers, easily able to reach the high shelves she could not. Their arms brushed occasionally and he relished the warmth.
“What should we do to celebrate?” The sound of Molly’s voice slipped easily into the rhythm of the dishes being stacked neatly behind wooden doors, a routine that had been perfected long ago. There was a small smile on her face that put dimples on her cheeks and her face was flushed red from the heat of the day.
“I heard that a new restaurant opened in Diagon Alley that imitates muggle dining.” His voice was brimming with excitement and Molly smiled gently as she placed the last cup in its place.
“I’ll just have to grab my hat—it’s a good thing that everyone’s busy tonight or else we might not have been able to go. Fleur enrolled Victoire in ballet and today was her first lesson. She was so excited, Arthur, she kept twirling for me in her little skirt,” she paused, one arm on the door handle.
“Do you remember when they were that small?” There was a small tremor in her voice as she spoke, though her face didn’t betray it.
“Yes.” There were years of history behind that single word, afternoons spent teaching his children to fly or pretending to be a hippogriff as they rode on his back… It was the time of butterflies and pirates, a time that was long over.
Molly had just released the door from its frame when they heard a pop from the backyard. Faintly they could hear someone shouting their names and Arthur stepped in front of Molly.
“Oh Arthur, don’t be silly.” She playfully slapped Arthur. “We have wands, remember? It’s probably one of the children.” She looked torn, wanting to celebrate with her husband but concerned for her children. Arthur took the decision right out of her hands.
“Best see what they want.” He raised his voice so that it would reach the back hedges. It was simple, easy, after years spent calling the kids in after a day full of play. “We’re in the front!”
They could hear the couple as they grew closer, nervous chattering and high-pitched laughter.
“Mum’ll faint,” George’s voice floated over, “she’ll be so happy.”
Molly’s hand tightened on his arm in excitement.
“Mum? Dad?” George announced himself. “Angelina and I have something to tell you.”
Molly was whispering to herself, a hushed, vibrating sound that filled the hallway. “This must mean that they got engaged! Ooh, it’s about time… Ginny’s been married for a year… Ron two…”
Arthur suspected that she would stand there all day without prompting and so he took her hand carefully in his.
“Come on, let’s not have them have to search the whole house for us. It would take a while.”
“Oh right, right. Of course…”
They found the couple in the living room, leaving just as they entered. Angelina looked back, her thick black hair swishing over her shoulder, at the sound of their feet on the floor and squealed.
“There you are!”
There wasn’t much light in the room –the only window faced the sun as it was rising, not as it was setting—and Arthur flicked his wrist so that a heatless fire was roaring in the hearth. The glittering on one of Angelina’s fingers caught Molly’s eye like a magpie admires silver tinsel among brown leaves and Arthur felt her hand clench his.
“It’s true, it’s true, it’s true,” she sang under her breath, but Arthur didn’t think that George and Angelina heard. George’s smile grew as though he was about to share a great secret.
“Mum, Dad,” George nodded in turn to both of them, “I bring grave news. My era of singledom has officially come to an end,” Angelina was shaking her head, eyes twinkling, “with Angelina the leading cause.”
“We’re getting married!”
“Angelina!” George cried, “You ruined the surprise! Mum, pretend you didn’t hear that! I had this whole speech planned out…”
But Molly was already congratulating them, hands clasped together and eyes shining as she moved to hug George. Arthur was calmer in his joy, letting Molly express their happiness.
It was only a few minutes later that Molly stepped back, brushing her hair behind her ears and Arthur thought that his question would actually be heard.
“Have you told anyone else?”
Angelina shook her head, earrings jingling. “No, we wanted to tell you first.” Molly beamed as George looked sheepish.
“How did it happen? Where did it happen? Have you picked a date yet?”
“Mum, Mum, let us breath! I asked her just over an hour ago, in front of her parents’ house. It happened like all proposals happen. I asked her to marry me.” George shrugged as Molly scolded him.
“It’s okay Molly. It was really sweet,” Angelina interrupted and George sent her a grateful look. “And we were thinking of having the wedding in a few months. A February wedding, same as you.”
“Not that that’s what we were thinking when we chose the month,” George inserted, taking Angelina’s hand in his.
“It sounds lovely. We must celebrate.” Molly turned to look at Arthur and Arthur nodded.
“Of course. Of course. You only get married once after all. You can go to a restaurant any old time you want.”
“Why were you going to a restaurant?”
“I hope we didn’t interrupt anything.” Angelina said, looking between them.
“No, not at all dear,” Molly said as she grabbed some Floo powder.
Arthur stood further back from the group crowded in front of the fireplace as Molly poked her head through the fire. His knees ached as he saw her legs press into the stones that surrounded the fireplace—the rug was too thin now to protect delicate skin from the harsh stone. It was old. He was old. Almost all of his children were married, having children of their own.
He stepped closer to George, whispering his own congratulations to his son. It was only as he moved away that he realized that he was the same height as George.
His children were adults now. He was a grandpa. Molly was a grandma.
One of his children was dead.
There was no way to turn back the clock.
He turned slightly away, seeing through the glass of the window to the weedy yard outside.
The sun was setting and a red hue coloured the land, turning the green grass and brown bark and warty skin of the gnomes scarlet. Pinks, yellows and oranges were splashed across the sky as the sun disappeared below the horizon and another day ended.
It was over so fast, yet Arthur could still see the colours dancing in his eyes.
He only turned around again when he heard the sounds of the flames flickering over the logs as his family stepped out of the fire. It was a good thing that they didn’t have much in the living room, he thought as his children and grandchildren crowded into the room.
A giggling girl ran past his legs and he caught her in his arms, holding her up to his eyelevel. She was one of the only people in the room without the Weasley red hair and her golden hair shone like a beacon.
“How was dancing?” he asked and laughed as Victoire scrunched up her nose.
“Put me down! Put me down!” Her shoes clicked together behind her back.
“And why should I do that, Miss Victoire?”
“Because- because- I want you to!” she proclaimed and Arthur smiled. Bill had been just like that when he was young—self-assured and self-preoccupied.
“And what’s the special word?”
“Please!” she squealed and clacked her shoes together impatiently. Arthur could see her eyes darting past his shoulders in search of her cousins and Teddy and knew he had lost the battle to keep her attention.
As soon as she touched the floor she bounced from foot to foot and then hugged his legs.
“Thanks Grandpa!” she chirped and spun in her skirt, before giving him a charming smile and dashing off to find Teddy.
He stood there for a moment, watching the space between her aunts and uncles that she had disappeared through before it was gone, swallowed by people jostling for more room. Molly wasn’t in the room, but he knew that she would be in the kitchen, fixing snacks and drinks for everyone. She was most likely using the dishes they had just put away to serve the food on.
He smiled and made his way into the kitchen to help her.
Life was moving on, yes, but he wasn’t being left behind.