Chapter 6 : Fred
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This is a submission for BoOkWoRm24’s Original Next Gen challenge. The challenge was to write a next-generation character in opposition to a cliché usually applied to them. Here Fred is not the joker he is often as presented as; as part of a new gang of Marauders. He instead resents the pressure to be like his namesake – though I suppose that’s a cliché in my stories! The song I’ve used here is “Dead Man’s Suit” by Cherry Ghost.
This was written through immense writer’s block – reviews would be appreciated to help my future editing.
My heart ain't broken 'cause that implies
It was ever in one piece before tonight
He looked up again. She was definitely lookingover. Or again, maybe not. He wasn’t as self-absorbed as James, after all. But still, he couldn’t quite ignore the girl at the next table, her glace passing over him one time too many.
Fred shifted in his seat, keeping his hands warm around the coffee cup. He knew it looked odd, him keeping warm by the same coffee cup he had been nursing for the past half an hour. It was just that he was drawn to places like these, and wanted somewhere to sit for a while. The wand tucked inside his jumper’s sleeve went largely unnoticed by the Muggles around them, who could not heat their beverages by the same means.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t pretty, that girl; she probably would be quite pretty in another circumstance, or perhaps prettier still if you looked beneath the surface a bit. That was always the problem, though. People insisted on going beneath the surface. He wasn’t like Louis, the little brat who only thought you were as good as you looked. He just thought there should be some limit on how far you were allowed to look.
Fred always made a good impression. People liked that he was a Weasley; even if he didn’t have the red hair and freckles, he still had some Weasley features. He could laugh and joke with the best of them, and the older relatives always talked about how “good” he was to his Dad. He was making a good impression right now, if he was right about that girl. They’d probably have a lovely chat, if it came to it, but that’d be about it.
People didn’t really like Fred when they got to know him. Well, his family did, mostly. They had to. He knew by them, sometimes, that they wished he was different. His stomach clenched. He normally didn’t think like this, he didn’t let himself. It was getting near to Christmas though, and he wasn’t sure they wanted him back as much as he wanted to see them.
Dominique was allowed to be as abrasive as she wanted. Rose was allowed her catty comments. One of the others might say something out of turn, but it was fine. Deep down, everyone knew why – maybe one was having a bad day, another was defensive for a reason. Maybe Fred wasn’t as nice as everyone thought, as nice as he seemed to be at first.
It was just that he had all this anger, and didn’t really know what to do with it. It was fine most of the time, and he could cover it up. Other times though, it felt like he was going to explode if it didn’t get out. He didn’t even remember it, half the time, when he erupted at one of them, or someone else. He didn’t mean it, but still he couldn’t apologise. He just couldn’t, and he guessed this was what they couldn’t forgive.
At the end of seventh year, he just had to leave. He had to get out of the trappings of his family before he went mental. He loved his family, but he couldn’t escape the idea that he wasn’t loved the same way.
It wasn’t his fault though, he assured himself, cracking his knuckles. He couldn’t get through any family gathering without someone mentioning the other Fred, his uncle. The real Fred.
He rose and threw some change on the table. It was time to get moving again, it seemed. He got the last of his things together, all his luggage, and walked out onto the street. He closed his eyes, briefly taking in a last breath of the air in Hollyhead, where he had arrived by a Muggle ferry this morning. He pulled himself together, hurried down a side street, and signalled the Knight Bus. He mumbled an address in London, and moved towards the back of the bus.
The ice on the ground didn’t slow the bus down – it still raced along regardless. And time raced on too. It seemed he had only left home at the end of August; now he was coming home for Christmas. Soon he would be returning from is Grand Tour in the summer. Time stopped for no one.
This was the year where he was supposed to “find himself” – it was a phrase that had seeped in through Muggle media, he had heard it enough. Visiting all the Muggle sites, all the magical ones, the great wonders – they had changed nothing. None of the roads he travelled would bring him to the person he wanted to be. The further he travelled, the more he realised he couldn’t get away from the problem.
The problem was, he thought a he rattled around the back seat, that a long time ago Fred Weasley had been killed in battle. His brother, George, had by all accounts almost died with him. George tried for years to replace him; through his brothers, through his wife, and finally, through his son. Fred, Fred the second, was a ghost of the late, great Fred Weasley.
Fred cracked his knuckles. A lot of them were named after relatives, or dead people. Mainly the Potters - James Sirius, Albus Severus, Lily Luna – but he had it too. At least Lily and Molly looked up to Luna and Grandma Molly. Al had it pretty bad, and didn’t hide it – but at least Uncle Harry wasn’t trying to make him into someone he wasn’t.
Fred had to laugh all the time, had to joke and play stupid tricks. And he laughed alright, even when he didn’t think something was funny – but when people realised he was faking it it, it was like he betrayed them. Shortly before leaving, his dad had tried to give him a bundle of stuff for the shop to stir up family gathering. When Fred had refused, he knew this defiance had shocked his dad. For a moment, he had been forced to remember his partner in crime was gone.
He liked to have fun, he reasoned, but that stuff wasn’t fun for him. It was childish, working in a joke shop and living above it. But it had been his uncle’s dream, and he was only a clone after all. None of these roads he travelled were going to lead him to any sort of resolution. He was going to always be like this, this resentful little git that disappointed everyone.
Fred’s name was called as the bus screeched to a halt. He looked up in surprise. But of course, he had forgotten. In a moment of cowardice, true to his nature, he had given the address of a muggle street nearby the Leaky Cauldron.
He made his way up the bus, nodded to the driver, and dropped down to the kerb, bag in hand. There was music coming from the café a few doors down, a café Fred quite liked. It was nice and small, like a normal café, not big and impersonal like most Muggle cafes.
He thought of what was waiting for him at home, later at the Burrow, and decided another cup of coffee wouldn’t do any harm.
Pushing through the door, he felt the rush of warmth immediately. It wasn’t as cold here in London as it would have been at Hogwarts, but he was glad to be out of the cold all the same. He spied a table tucked into a corner, with a single chair, and made a bee-line for it.
He was seated in the chair, waiting for the usual waitress to come over, before he realised she was the musician playing today. Often the shop had local musicians play for their customers – quiet, muggle music, often just with a single person singing and accompanying themselves on an instrument, like a guitar, as she was today.
He ordered a coffee from the man who came to take his order. No need to bothered with food, he would be surely stuffed with it later, whether he wanted to be or not. Hopefully he could just answer a few questions and go home early, say he was tired from the journey or something.
The coffee came quickly, and struck by impulse he asked the waiter what the singers name was.
Anna. He should have remembered, though she would normally of course be wearing a name tag.
She had started working there a few summers ago, about when Fred started wandering around Muggle London. He wasn’t allowed go too far, but this café did nicely. No one knew his name there.
Well, Anna did, at once stage anyway. He had brought James there, the summer before sixth year. James had chatted Anna up, much to Fred’s disgust. James had a girlfriend, for Merlin’s sake. True, he was only talking, but it was annoying. Fred came there to escape his family, to a place where no one knew him, and there James was talking about how the two of them were so well known for causing trouble in class, and how everyone in their mysterious boarding school, “up north” thought they were hilarious.
Needless to say, Fred didn’t bring him back.
He looked up from his coffee for a moment, to properly look at her. For the first time, he wondered about her life – she was a Muggle obviously, but as far as he knew she didn’t even exist outside of this coffee shop. She looked around his age, though where she went to school, or used to go to school was a mystery to him. Did she work in the café full-time, or was it just until she found something more?
And the music – was this a new thing? Was this her first time playing to an audience, indifferent as some of the clients were? Her voice was surely too certain for a nervous beginner, her fingers moving too confidently for someone only grasping the basics.
Fred felt himself relax totally while focused on her. Whatever had been troubling him had slipped away. He didn’t know the song, and would have presumed it a Muggle hit, though that didn’t seem right. The high, husky voice, her little smile as her mouth moved, and the half lidded eyes suggested that Anna had written this herself. Sleepily, suddenly very tired, he felt he would be happy if he could just stop his travels, stop time, and just listen to this song. This song, that was somehow for him.
This song wasn’t for him, though. He closed his eyes, the playful smile and the black hair framing her face in wisps remaining behind his eyelids. He didn’t deserve to have any attachment to something so lovely. He had done nothing to deserve admiration.
Anna wasn’t like him, that much was clear. Everything about him was secretive – a boy from another world, really, disguised as a Muggle. He was seated apart from the others, a menu obscuring him from the sight of many others. She however, sharing her creations in front of all these other people, was so open, and so brave. The dress she was wearing looked far too light for such a cold day, and her hair tied in a bun, doing nothing to protect her expressive face. She looked like someone who wore their heart on their sleeve. If Fred had such a heart, meant for something other than keeping him alive, he was sure he would keep it somewhere hidden very deep inside of him, under layers of cold stares and cracking knuckles.
He opened his eyes again, realising he would look strange if someone saw him. Not that anyone was looking. Not that anyone would want to look really. That was fine, he didn’t want anyone else in his life – his family were already so big and noisy and demanding.
Someone like Anna would be different. He knew it was stupid to say it, but he felt like it was true. It may have been her job to be polite to people, but she was nice. The more he thought about her, the more he remembered the smiles she had for everyone, how kind she was to children who came in for the cakes behind the counter.
He remembered too how she listened attentively to James’ boasts, though grinned at Fred, who was clearly uncomfortable. She had remained unimpressed by these tall tales, though genuinely interested when Fred mentioned one or two things about himself.
Not that she liked him or anything, not that she even knew who he was, but it was comforting to think like someone might like to get to know him. Someone who didn’t know about Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes or Hogwarts or the Wizarding wars.
Maybe if he had someone like Anna to talk to - pretty, dreamy Anna – he wouldn’t have to keep running away all the time.
For the first time he could remember, Fred thought he might be able to let someone see through him.
He hadn’t realised he was staring until she called over to him, crouched over her guitar case. The music had stopped and everyone was clearing out.
“You’re back then?” she asked, still sounding as though she were singing.
He looked around. He was the last there, after all so she must be talking to him. “Yeah,” he said, his voice barely working. She remembered him. He cleared his throat. “Yeah. I am.”
He shook his head, embarrassed, and gathered his things so she could close up. She grinned, slipping behind the counter. “Don’t stay away that long again, alright?”
He stopped in his tracks.
He shook his head, the corners of his mouth starting to lift to mirror hers.
He wouldn’t stay away that long again. He would, in fact, come back very soon.
Fred turned and left, feeling warmer in preparation for the cold journey home.
Love is all you need.
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