We walked silently down the aisle, aside from the odd sniffles and hacking coughs. I looked down; I didn’t want to see the black box being carried by my male cousins. I didn’t want to see everyone’s sympathetic looks.
I wanted my brother back.
“Oi, Rox,” Fred said, poking me.
“Ow,” I whined, “what was that for? MUM, FRED POKED ME!”
I stuck my tongue out as Mum shouted, “FRED DON’T POKE YOUR SISTER!”
“That didn’t hurt, get over yourself.” He rolled his eyes and then grinned. “Mum and Dad are going on their date night tonight.”
Instantly, I brightened. “Have we got a babysitter?” Fred nodded and I beamed at him. “Come on then, we have to plan!”
Together, we rushed to Dad’s study and pulled out a few products. We nicked some of the sweets and ran to Fred’s room, preparing a course of action. We were only six and nine but dammit we could plan a prank.
My cousins set the coffin, sniffling and wiping their eyes with the sleeve of their tuxes. It wasn’t pretty, not at all.
Nana was wailing, Mum was sobbing and Dad had a few silent tears running down his face.
I wasn’t crying; I was still in shock.
“OH MY GOD!” Mum shrieked when she and Dad got home. Fred and I looked around, proud of the mess we had made.
There was food everywhere, feathers on the floor, paint on the roof and on the walls, in thick black paint: YOUR SKELETON WILL LIE IN THE CHAMBER FOREVER BETHANY.
Bethany being our babysitter, who – once seeing the lovely message – ran out the house screaming, “I’M NEVER BABYSITTING YOU WEIRDOS AGAIN!”
Mum and Dad lectured us for three hours and then made us clean-up. It was a bad idea, because in the end we made even more mess with the soap.
It was then Mum and Dad decided that we were old enough to look after ourselves and we didn’t need a babysitter anymore.
(Mostly because we had gone through forty or so).
The minister started off with a prayer. I wasn’t listening. I was holding my arms around me, hoping I wouldn’t break any time soon.
The minister was full of crap, I decided. We were never particularly religious and listening to him made me want to slap him. He didn’t know anything about my brother. And we weren’t ‘giving God another angel’. We were giving him my brother.
And if God was so ‘good’, why did he take my brother away from us, especially one with such great ‘prospect’ and all that other crap the minister was spouting. It wasn’t fair.
Fred would have listened to it though, pretending to be interested so the minister didn’t feel stupid.
“Oi, Rox,” Fred grunted, looking in the pantry, “what do you want to eat?”
I thought about it. Mum and Dad had gone on their date night, like every other Thursday and this was the first time Fred and I were alone – no babysitter, no relatives, nothing. It was quite nice actually, we could do what we wanted and we didn’t have to listen to anyone.
That is, until the issue of dinner presented itself.
I shrugged and looked in the pantry myself. I scanned each shelf until I finally found something I liked. “Mac and cheese!” I said triumphantly.
Fred pulled out the box and stared at the back of it. “Seems easy enough,” he said after his eyes quickly scanned the instructions.
After a grand five minutes of waiting, we were ready to eat our healthy, nutritious meals. We sat down by the couch because we could and flicked on the telly.
Our favourite childhood cartoon was playing and instead of changing it, we just shrugged and watched it as we ate our mac and cheese.
After the minister had finally stopped talking about prayers and how Fred would be in a ‘better place now’, he called on the relatives to deliver a eulogy.
It had been decided that all the cousins would say one, so it would take a while but we didn’t mind. We all wanted to say something.
Victoire walked towards the front of the church, her eyes red and puffy. She wiped her nose and pulled out the little sheet. With a deep breath, she started to talk about her memories with Fred and how he could always cheer her up.
That was a recurring sentence in everyone’s eulogies. That he could cheer everyone up. Fred was this perpetually happy person, and if you were ever down, you’d go straight to him. Nothing fazed him.
Then James got up, who was sobbing. James, the guy who didn’t even cry when two bludgers hit his left side; James, who had his favourite Quidditch star call him a ‘stupid little kid’ when he had travelled the country to talk to him and didn’t cry; James, the cousin who we had never ever seen cry in his entire life. We made him watch movies, read books but still – he never cried.
And here he was, standing at the little podium sobbing and struggling to talk about his best mate’s death.
“Fred was my cousin,” he began, wiping his eyes beneath his glasses, “but he was so much more than that. He was my best mate, a brother. We were always running around and being a terror, from the day we could both walk. My earliest memories are of him, and it breaks my heart that my last memories won’t be. Fred was always this crazy guy and if you were ever feeling poor, you’d go up to him and in three seconds, he’d have you laughing until your sides hurt, the previous issues forgotten.
“We always told each other we were best friends, but I knew better. Fred’s real best friend was his sister, Roxy. She could coax him out of a bad mood, make him eat spinach –” There was a round of weak laughter in the church; we all knew Fred hated spinach. James smiled, seeming to become stronger with every word. “– and that showed what type of person Fred was. Because no matter what, in his eyes, family came first. He sacrificed so much for his family, just to make sure they were happy.” I still wasn’t crying, but I had a lump in my throat and my bottom lip was trembling. Mum wrapped an arm around me and I leant into her, sniffling.
“He could have been doing anything, but if he heard a whisper that one of his family members was in trouble, he’d be out there in a flash, protecting them.
“And although he’s gone, I know he’ll still be out there, protecting us.” James finished and then made his way back to his seat.
I started crying when I heard Hugo talk. And after that, I couldn’t stop crying. I was sobbing, hunched over trying to stop the pain in my heart. It felt like someone had thrust their hand in my chest, seized my heart and twisted it. I shuddered, gasping for breath and then Mum turned to me.
“Rox,” she choked out, “it’s your turn.”
I was looking for Fred, and I heard a voice saying, “Come over this Thursday.”
The voice sighed. “Can’t. I’m busy. Why do you even do that thing with your sister, you don’t even like mac and cheese!”
I recoiled. Fred didn’t like mac and cheese? The tradition we had been doing for twelve years, and Fred never mentioned that he didn’t like mac and cheese.
I felt like a lousy sister. I should know that he didn’t like mac and cheese.
“Well, I don’t. But she’s my sister. The catch-up makes her happy. And it’s only a bowl, it isn’t that bad.”
I wanted to run up and hug him; he was too kind for his own good.
“Alright then, I’ll see you around?” I didn’t hear the rest because I had ran away before they could find me.
That night I offered to make something else, something I knew he liked. Fred refused and in the end, we sat down on the couch, ate mac and cheese and watched the ducky cartoon.
“Hey, Roxy?” Fred asked, turning to me. I merely looked at him, licking the remains of the cheesy sauce in the bowl.
“See how those ducks walk on a purple ribbon?” He pointed to the cartoon we were watching. I nodded, still licking the bowl. “That’s what I want on a tie, as my 21st birthday present.”
I finally stopped licking the bowl and wiped my mouth. “I’m not getting you a ducky tie for your 21st,” I said dryly.
“Come on,” he whined, “I’ll get you a purple French beret with duckies for your 21st.”
I paused. “Now you’re talking. Okay, but that’s it. No other gifts, only the ducky tie and beret.” He nodded and returned his attention to the cartoon.
I stood up shakily, and Mum asked, “Do you want me to go with you?” I shook my head and made my way to the podium.
I looked out and saw the church was filled with people. People were cramped in the back, all over the sides, the pews over packed with people who were uncomfortably touching one another.
I nearly broke down again, seeing how many people loved Fred. My voice was shaky as I started talking.
“Fred was my brother. My big brother. And he was my best friend, like James said. He was –” I choked and paused to wipe my eyes. “He was my protector,” I finally said.
We were walking down Diagon Alley together, Mum and Dad trusted us, we had practically grown up in that alley. Then I dropped my new quaffle so I ran after it, not looking where I was going.
I finally got my hands on it and when I looked up, I was somewhere I had never been before. I shrunk to the corner and tried to navigate my way around, to get back to the shop, to Fred.
A hag hobbled over to me and said in her croaky voice, “Do you need a hand, dear?”
I didn’t say anything but I nodded my head imperceptibly. She grinned, showing her only two, yellowed teeth. “Well then, give me your hand.” I tightened it around my quaffle and she growled, “Give. Me. Your. Hand!” I went to turn away but she reached forwards and dug her claw-like nails in my skin, dragging me.
I screamed, “FRED! FRED!” I twisted and turned but the hag had a good grip on me. I tried kicking her but she didn’t notice. “FRED!” I shrieked.
She slapped my hand and I stopped screaming for my brother. I was crying, and she was cackling, dragging me along the narrow path, knocking everyone out of the way.
“ROXY!” I heard Fred’s voice and turned to where it was coming from. I screamed again and saw a figure running towards me, pushing people to the sides and ignoring their hisses and screeches.
He finally reached me and with a blast of his wand, the hag went flying backwards. He wrapped me in a hug and took me back to Diagon Alley. He was only fifteen, and he nearly got expelled, but he did it to protect me.
I took a deep breath and continued the eulogy for my brother. “Now, I’m not saying Fred was flawless. Because he wasn’t. He wasn’t the brightest kid out there and he had no idea with money.”
I heard Mum and Dad choke out laughter. Fred was constantly asking to borrow money and although they yelled at him for it multiple times, they always still gave him money.
“He was also horrendous if you woke him up before noon.” Another watery chuckle. “But despite all the faults he had, he was incredibly sweet. Fred and I we had this tradition. When we moved out of home, we used it as our catch-up. It was to eat mac and cheese on a Thursday night while watching our ducky cartoon.”
I swallowed and blinked a few times, to try and get rid of the tears that were falling down thick and fast on my page.
“And – and, this one time, we made a deal to get a ducky tie and ducky beret. It was pointless and completely stupid, but we thought why not?”
I started to tremble and looked at all the curious, sympathetic eyes staring back at me.
“HAPPY 21ST BRTHDAY, ROX!” Fred shouted into the phone, he had never gotten the hang of using them.
I laughed and thanked him. “When are you coming to Mum and Dad’s?” I asked.
“8. Isn’t that when you said everyone was coming?” he asked curiously.
I laughed. “Yes, but you’re either always ridiculously early or ridiculously late. That’s why I asked.”
I heard him huff in indignation. “Just this once, I’ll be perfectly on time. Just for you, aren’t I a wonderful brother?”
“The best,” I said, grinning.
I could hear his smile. “You know it,” he said before he clicked off. I laughed and hung up the phone, getting ready for tonight.
I knocked on the door, waiting for Mum and Dad to answer it. I decided to have a small 21st, just family – which honestly wasn’t that small but I didn’t want to have a party. I just wanted to have a small get together with my cousins at my parents’ place like we used to when I was young.
They answered it and hugged me, peppering my face with kisses. Everyone slowly came and gave me presents, hugs and when I checked the time, it was 7:57. I thought of Fred’s promise and hoped he was really going to keep it.
I waited anxiously and as soon as the little clock flipped over to 8:00, a knock on the door sounded. I got up and ran to the door, expecting Fred’s wide smile but instead got two solemn Muggle police officers.
We were in a Muggle hospital, frantically running to the doors that had Fred behind them. The rest of our family were behind us, shaking. Nana was already crying but I refused to believe it.
The police officer’s words rang in my ears as I shoved my way through the doors. “Your son has been in a car accident.”
Mum nearly fainted and she whimpered, “I-Is he okay?”
The officers stared at her sympathetically. “We’re very sorry, mam, but he was killed instantly.”
I shook my head, because Fred couldn’t be dead. No way. Fred just couldn’t be gone.
The doors swung open and on the bed Fred was lying there with his eyes closed. This time Mum and Dad both screamed but I still didn’t say anything. I rushed to him and saw the dried blood running down the side of his face and crusted into his hair. I gently touched his face and found the usually warm skin ice cold.
I still wasn’t crying, but I tugged the sheet down a bit and he had his formal shirt on with a tie. But not any tie – it was the ducky tie I’d given him.
It was then I started crying.
“So,” I started, my voice coming out as a squeak, “for his birthday, which was only a few weeks after we made the deal, I got him a ducky tie. He wore it to every formal occasion and even to his job interviews. Then he wondered why he could hardly ever get a job.” More laughter. I quickly wiped my eyes and read on, “So I still had three years for my 21st but every year he promised me that I’d be getting that ducky beret.”
I took another deep breath and swallowed the large lump in my throat. “And he did, he kept his promise,” I said in a tiny voice.
“We found this on him, mam,” the officer said, showing us a parcel and his phone.
Mum took the parcel blankly and when she looked at the name on the card, she gave it to me and whispered, “It’s for you, Rox.” Dad had his head in his hands and was sobbing. He looked at me and motioned for me to take it. His eyes were watery and puffy with his nose red. Once, I would have joked about that, now I felt like I could never joke again.
I shook my head and wailed but James came to my side and murmured, “Roxy, open it. Open it. Fred said you had to open it straight away. He told me his plan – just he was –” He broke off, breathing heavily.
“Just he was meant to be there when I opened it,” I said dully. James nodded, his eyes glassy. He wrapped an arm around me when I took the card off the box with shaky hands.
“I can’t,” I stuttered. “I can’t do it, James. This is the only thing I’ll have left of him.” The tears were dripping in my lap, with the card hanging loosely in my hand. Mum hugged me and I cried into her shoulder like a child, and she rocked me, crying into my hair.
“I know I probably look ridiculous with this ducky beret on my head. But this is my tribute to Fred,” I said, gesturing to the beret on my head.
I looked up and Granddad was beaming at me with pride. He was crying, but he loved the little notion. It had been his idea for me to wear it, and in turn Fred wore his.
The only time we’d wear our ducky accessories together.
When we returned home, everything was teasingly the same way. The presents were in a corner and in danger of falling. There were seats scattered all over the living room, the cake sitting on the table innocently.
Everyone decided to come with us, to keep us company and we were silent for a long time before Lily said gently, “Roxy, I know the worst thing has just happened. But Fred would have still wanted you to celebrate your birthday. Let’s have some cake and you can open some presents.”
I noticed how she said some presents and not all the presents, she knew I wanted to open Fred’s alone. “We’ll get through this, Rox,” Dad said, his voice wavering, “let’s just stick together.” I nodded, feeling numb and he wrapped his arm around my shoulder, steering me to the couch. He sat right next to me and patted my knee, comforting me.
Dominique quietly passed me a present and I opened it without much enthusiasm. Slowly, a smile made its way onto all our faces and soon we were laughing again, granted it was weak laughter and we were all still crying, but it was something.
Slowly, everyone started to leave and it was just Mum, Dad and me.
And it would always be that way, now.
I decided to stay with them; I didn’t want to be completely alone. I found comfort knowing they were only two walls away from me.
We said goodnight, with another round of crying and hugs, and I retreated to my childhood room and pulled out Fred’s gift.
I took a deep breath and read the card:
‘ROXY! HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY YOU OLD LADY. NEXT YEAR I’M GOING TO GET YOU A WALKING STICK, JUST YOU WATCH!’
I started crying again, knowing that there would never be a next year. This was the last gift I would ever receive from my brother. I blew my noise nosily and kept reading, blinking to get rid of the tears.
‘YOU BETTER APPRECIATE MY GIFT, BECAUSE I ACTUALLY WENT TO PARIS TO GET THIS. I PROMISED A FRENCH BERET AND DAMMIT YOU WERE GOING TO GET A FRENCH BERET.
ANYWAY, ROXY, LET’S HOPE THIS BIRTHDAY IS MEMORABLE. YOU’RE NOW AN ADULT ALL OVER THE WORLD!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LOVE THE BEST BROTHER AND FRIEND YOU COULD EVER WISH FOR,
I brushed away my tears. Damn right the birthday would be memorable. But not in a good way like he hoped.
I opened the box and delicately moved the paper tissue. There was a purple, velvet beret decorated with duckies sitting in it, not aware of the heartbreak it was causing me. There was another piece of paper lying next to it and in Fred’s messy scrawl, it read: ‘NOW WE CAN MATCH!’
Holding the beret tightly to my chest, I fell back on the bed, bawling.
“So, Fred,” I stopped talking to the people in the room and instead talked to the coffin that contained my best friend. “We finally match; I just wish you were here to see it.
“I love you, Fred,” I finished. Mum was smiling at me through her tears and I quickly walked towards the coffin, to say one last goodbye.
“Bye, Fred,” I whispered so no one else could hear me, “people say that you’re in a better place now but that’s ridiculous. You were in the best place down here, with all your family, with me. I know you had no choice in leaving me, but I can’t help wanting to scream at you for leaving. But I know that you wouldn’t ever leave me on purpose. Everyone’s said that. And this isn’t eloquent, not at all. But I don’t care. Because we weren’t ever eloquent. I never got to say this to you, Fred, but thanks for the beret.” I hung my head and let my tears flow. “I love you, big brother, and I’ll never forget you, thanks for all the memories.”
I kissed the top of his head and straightened his ducky tie before wiping my eyes and walking back down to sit next to Mum and Dad.
I actually cried while writing this because I couldn't bear to even think about losing my brother, even though I complain about him a little bit too much. :p
Okay, and the musings with Roxanne about God: it may or may not be my beliefs on God or any religion. This is not meant to be slandering anyone's belief but dealing with death myself, people often question their own beliefs and religions. I'm not expressing my own opinion, I just want to say that this is completely fictional and I am not trying to offend anyone.
Thanks for reading, hope you all enjoyed! :D Please leave your thoughts in a review! :)