Chapter 1 : Ready
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Fred kept telling himself that he should really go to bed soon. It had to be past one in the morning, and the next day would be arguably the most important one of his life. He and George were going to carry out their biggest, most elaborate plan to date, and he needed all his wits about him tomorrow. George had already gone up to the dormitory, and Fred had promised to come up right behind him.
That had been over two hours ago. And he still couldn’t bring himself to stop staring at the fireplace, or even to get up off the common room floor.
His mind was moving too fast to settle into sleep just yet, but it wasn’t going to the expected places. He should have been looking forward to tomorrow. Tomorrow he and George would wipe that sickening little smile off Umbridge’s face in the most epic way possible. They were going to start the rest of their lives tomorrow. Their real lives, outside of Hogwarts. He should have been eager for it. But there was something blocking that anticipation, something that kept him from appreciating the havoc he was about to bring down on Hogwarts castle.
He and George had decided it would be best not to tell anyone what they were planning. But they’d made an exception for their dad, and had sent him a letter the previous week bringing him into the loop. Fred had been expecting a positive reaction; he’d expected his dad to be proud of their ambition and the plans they’d made. Starting a business from the ground up was impressive stuff, after all (even with the substantial loan they’d gotten from Harry), and Fred had been so sure his dad would agree. But his answering letter had been nothing but cautions and misgivings; there had been nothing supportive about it. Did they realize all the responsibility that came with being business owners? Were they really going to jump into this without a N.E.W.T level education to fall back on? He’d asked the twins to write him back, but Fred had been so taken aback that he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
He had always prided himself on being independent. He made decisions without input from anyone (except George, on occasion), and that had always been just fine with him. He didn’t need his dad’s permission to quit school, or to start the shop. But his blessing would have been nice. Until now, Fred hadn’t realized how much weight his dad’s good opinion held. He sighed, tapping his wand absently against the stone wall beside him.
Fred didn’t really understand why it was getting to him so much. At the end of the day, it didn’t much matter what his parents thought about his choices. It didn’t matter what anyone thought. And yet there was this little part of him that wanted affirmation and praise for his efforts, especially from his father. Fred had looked up to the man his whole life; was it so wrong to want that respect to be mutual?
His normal confidence was completely shot. The thought of going through with the plan with this unfinished business seemed wrong somehow. He tapped his wand faster, frustrated. He had to be in the right mindset by the next day, but he didn’t seem to know how to make peace with it all.
Lost in his thoughts, he nearly jumped out of his skin at the deafening scraping sound that suddenly came from the wall behind him, at the exact place where his wand kept striking it. Scooting clumsily away, he watched with wide eyes as a stone extricated itself from the wall of its own accord, landing on the ground with a thud.
Fred reached into the newly opened space, and his fingers landed on a tightly rolled piece of parchment, stiff and fragile with age. He was almost hesitant to touch it; the thing felt like it was in serious danger of falling apart in his hands. But he desperately needed a distraction at the moment, and he wasn’t one to leave a mystery unsolved. So he gingerly pulled the parchment out and unrolled it, revealing a letter written in a slightly shaky hand.
Today I watched you leave Hogwarts, and our family, for the last time. I could not be more proud of the man you have become, and the journey that you will take in the coming years. In fact, I am humbled to have had a part in raising such a capable, strong, talented man. You have such promise, son, and I have no doubt that your greatness will be recognized by all who meet you.
And yet it pains me to see you go, for I know that this journey will take you far from the sheltered halls of Hogwarts castle. If I am selfish, then let it be so, for I cannot forget the feeling of loss that came upon seeing you ride past the magical barrier, and out of my sight. But it would have pained me deeper still to let you see my turmoil. I suppose this is the reason for writing this letter that you will never see. In your mind, I will always be the man you looked up to, the man who brought you through childhood with a strong guiding hand. You need never see what lies beneath that, for it shames me to feel this way, to be so weak. But I cannot deny it, my son. I would rather have you home where I can see you daily, where I can be assured always of your safety. When you mounted your horse this morning, it was all I could do not to demand that you stay.
But I know the way of things. Boys grow up to be men, and they leave their fathers to find lives of their own. This is the nature of life, and there was a sense of rightness about watching you ride away toward your destiny, so tall and proud. But it is a father’s duty to have his child’s well-being in mind always, even when he is out of sight. It is a trial, not knowing where you are, or whether you are in danger. But I know that if I truly want the fullest life for you, I must let you go. This, too, is the nature of life.
You will never see this letter. But I pray that you go your way knowing that I have always looked upon you with the utmost favor, and that I have always been proud to call you my son. You will do great things with the life ahead of you, and I only hope that the tales of your renown will reach my ears someday. Take your journey, my son, and take your family with you in spirit.
Fred blinked as he looked up from the letter; he half expected to be thrust into another time. It seemed that Hogwarts would never cease to amaze him. Just when he thought he’d found every secret there was to find about the place, a new one turned up right under his nose. And this particular secret couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Godric Gryffindor had never been real to Fred. He was simply a portrait on the wall, a distant figure to be remembered proudly. But it had never occurred to Fred that Godric may have had a life outside his role as founder of Hogwarts. In this letter, he was no legend; he was just a dad who wasn’t quite ready to see his son grow up. It was a perspective he hadn’t considered, and it gave him hope. After all, Godric clearly didn’t think less of his son for going his own way, and he wasn’t disappointed or ashamed. He just needed time to adjust to the change. That was something Fred could understand. Tomorrow would mark one of the biggest changes of his life, after all.
He was relieved to feel a rush of anticipation at the thought of it. Now that he understood his dad’s reaction a little better, he felt free to look forward to whatever the future held.
He placed the parchment back into the wall and replaced the stone. Maybe some other conflicted kid would come across it someday, and it would help them find answers. Smiling for the first time all night, he pulled out a piece of his own parchment and began to write.
I’m sorry I never answered your letter. I just didn’t get it. But I think I do now.
I just never looked at it from your point of view. And I guess it does seem crazy, quitting school to sell jokes in Hogsmeade. But you know George and I are smart. After all, where do you think we got it from?
We’ve made up our minds, Dad. But we’ll always be around, and we’ll definitely need help from time to time. And when we do, you’ll be the first person we’ll ask, guaranteed.
He would send it first thing in the morning, he decided. Before the plan went into action. Now Fred felt nothing but impatience to get out of Hogwarts once and for all. There was nothing standing in his way anymore; no uncertainty or misgivings. Making peace with his father had been the last piece of the puzzle. Now, he was ready.
With thoughts of the future still racing through his mind, Fred finally made his way to the dormitory, leaving the Gryffindor common room without once looking back.
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