Chapter 1 : The things we lose
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if not always in the way we expect.
- Quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Warner Bros. Pictures.
Sunday morning, July, 2042
The sun rose early over the houses in Ottery St. Catchpole, the yellow fields that could easily be mistaken for golden in the morning light, and across the hills that separated the village from the large house hidden beneath them – the Burrow. It became quite clear to anyone who saw the house – although those were few, as it had been placed out of sight for anyone who might have decided to go out for an early morning stroll – that it had never been meant to be big, though. When Molly and Arthur Weasley had purchased the property shortly after getting married, it had been significantly smaller, but it had grown along with their family, and the crooked stories that the couple had added as they had welcomed their children into the world remained held up and intact, despite the many years that had passed since their youngest had moved out.
The morning sun shone through the kitchen windows and lit up the large table and the mismatched chairs, all of which were threadbare after years and years of serving as seats for Molly, Arthur, and their ever-expanding family. The rays of light bounced off the countertop and the stove, where countless of dinners had been cooked and prepared. But the years had gone by swiftly, and a long time had passed since Molly Weasley had stood bent over it, the sleeves of her robes rolled up as she stirred the contents of her many pots and pans, usually accompanied by the sound of sizzling butter, boiling water and loud voices. It was hard to say how much time had passed since both her nose and the countertop had been covered in a thin layer of flour as bred dough fermented under a towel, waiting to be shoved into the oven and served to the hungry children playing out on the courtyard. Truth was that Molly found it too hard nowadays; old age had not gone easy on her body, and any cooking at all strained her already aching back and feeble knees. And so it was that she, who had often felt as though she had been born to nurture and look out for others, had been sentenced to a seated position, forced to let others take care of her.
Molly had at least one moment each day when she stopped to think, with a twinge in her heart, of how quickly the years had gone. It wasn’t just the smell of food from her kitchen and her own mobility and alertness that had faded with time – the Burrow, once the liveliest and most animate of places, had become so quiet. Walls and floors that had seen the first steps of each one of Molly’s children, loud sibling quarrels and explosions (especially the walls of the twins’ old bedroom) rarely saw any life at all anymore, other than Mrs Weasley’s slowly moving around the large house, clinging onto the ghosts of the happy moments that had once taken place there.
Over the last year or so, Molly’s children had taken it upon them to try to get her to sell the house. She knew that her staying there was a burden to them, because it meant that someone had to check in on her every day and help her with things that parents should do for their children, and not the other way around, but she just couldn’t leave the Burrow. She refused to spend the last years of her life in some home; it was bad enough that Arthur hadn’t been home from St. Mungo’s in months, and that she woke to an empty bed every morning. At least this way, by staying here, she was still close to him and the life she had built with him here.
On this particular day, Molly was up already before sunrise. It always took her a while to get out of bed, and then, she always let her gaze sweep over her bedroom and linger for a moment on Arthur’s side of the bed, where the sheets were untouched, but the sunken mattress still bore witness of the many nights he had slept right there next to her. Then, Molly proceeded to make it down the stairs and into the kitchen. She sank into one of the chairs, short of breath after this endeavour that she had once pulled off with light feet and a baby or two on her arm. Once seated, she waited. This was the procedure, the routine that she went through every morning, which filled up this life that had become much too still for her liking.
The knock on the front door woke Molly from her thoughts, and after a glance on the clock she knew instantly that it wasn’t James or Lucy’s day – there were quite a few of Molly’s children and grandchildren who weren’t great at keeping time, but those two were the worst. Sure enough, shortly after the knock, a tall, red-haired figure stepped into the kitchen.
“Nana!” he said. “I hope you haven’t been waiting for too long.”
“Nana? Oh, Hugo – for a minute there I thought you were your dad!”
Hugo raised an eyebrow as he walked over to give her a hug. “You really should get your eyes checked,” he told her. “Isn’t Mum always telling you that you need glasses?”
“As hard as it may be to believe, your mother doesn’t know everything,” answered Molly firmly. “Now, are you coming with me to visit Grandpa today?”
Hugo walked over to the fridge to prepare her breakfast, and answered over his shoulder as he flicked his wand, making a knife soar out of its stand and start slicing some bread.
“Sorry, but I can’t today,” he said. “The kids spent the night at Rose’s, and I promised Scorp I would pick them up early. You know, with Rose working and everyone being home from Hogwarts over the summer, he’s got his hands full.”
“Of course,” Molly said, trying hard not to lose the cheerful tone in her voice. “That’s alright – you can always come some day next week. I’m sure he’d love to see you…”
Hugo, choosing not to acknowledge her last comment, nodded while placing a tray in front of her, fully loaded with two sandwiches, porridge, tea and juice.
“Of course,” he said. “We might go with you tomorrow, if we can make it, or later in the week. Definitely before next weekend, I promise! It’s just that life gets so busy… but Mum and Dad will go with you today – they said they’d meet us in the entrance and take you up to see Granddad.”
“That’s fine,” said Molly while picking up one of the sandwiches. “You know I won’t eat all of this, dear – why don’t you have some? Are you sure you’re finding enough time to eat properly? You are looking a bit scrawny.”
“Don’t you worry about me, Nana,” Hugo said. “Beth is keeping me well-fed, I promise. And you know that I always have breakfast before coming here.”
A while later, after having finished at least half of the huge portion her grandson had made her, Molly got up on her feet. Meanwhile, Hugo made the dishes disappear with a flick of his wand, and then, he grabbed her by the arm and led her outside.
It was a lovely midsummer’s day, although a bit too early for the sun to have reached the peak of its climb across the sky, and the winds sweeping in from the golden fields were warm against Molly’s wrinkled skin. Drawing the fresh air into her lungs, she closed her eyes for a second and enjoyed it, before the struggle of getting into Hugo’s small car began.
“How is Beth?” she asked once they had both made it inside, and the sound of the engine, barely audible to her ears, stirred the quiet morning. “Is she awfully tired? I remember when I expected your aunt Ginny, in the middle of the summer – I was always so hot, and I could barely move one feet without getting completely exhausted.”
“I think she’s fed up with being pregnant,” Hugo said, steering the car high up into the sky. “She definitely enjoyed getting a break from the kids last night, but it won’t get easier when the baby comes, will it?”
Molly smiled faintly while looking out the window, at the houses on the ground below them that didn’t seem much bigger than toys. What she would have given to go back, for at least one day, to that point in life where Hugo was right now! She wouldn’t mind the lack of sleep, the constant noise that seemed to come in the bargain with having children around, or even the pain of being heavily pregnant whilst keeping track of a few mischievous toddlers in the July heat. In retrospective, it was easy to see that she had been too busy to fully appreciate it – just like Hugo was now. Molly didn’t point it out to him, though, because she knew that her words would go in one of his ears and out the other. Besides, she was sure that there would come a day when he would realize it himself, just like she had.
Hugo walked with his grandmother into St. Mungo’s, kissed her cheek and scurried off to his sister’s house, where he’d free his brother-in-law from at least some of the children who would, most likely, have kept him up until much too late and woken him up at an ungodly hour. Meanwhile, Molly sat down in one of the couches in the waiting room, where she remained until Hugo’s parents walked into the door around fifteen minutes later.
Molly’s youngest son had always had a tall and lanky build, not unlike Hugo’s, but the years had changed him as well – his love for food had finally started to show and was bulging over the waist of his trousers, his skin had begun to crease around his eyes and mouth, and not a single hair on his head was fiery red anymore, but as grey as Molly’s own. Perhaps Ron’s standing next to his wife made this even more prominent, as Hermione had aged so well – while he could be mistaken for a few years older than he really was, no one would have guessed that Hermione Granger-Weasley was in fact well into her sixties. While it may have been streaked with grey, her hair was mostly brown still, her skin was exceptionally smooth, and while her husband’s slim body was but a memory, her briskness and long morning walks had kept hers intact.
“Mrs Weasley!” said Hermione as soon as she spotted her mother-in-law. “When did you get here? Hugo didn’t drive over the speed limit, did he?”
“No, I felt very safe, riding with him,” Molly assured her. “I just got here. Now, tell me how you’re both doing! I haven’t seen you in almost two weeks.”
“I know, and we’re so sorry,” Hermione said, her brown eyes exposing the wave of guilt washing over her. “We’ve had so much going on, you see, with helping Hugo and Beth out, and planning Freddie’s birthday party…”
“Don’t worry about it,” interrupted Molly. “I understand. Now, aren’t we here to see Arthur?”
Hermione smiled and nodded, and Ron took a step forward to help his mother to her feet. Then they started walking, Molly in the middle with her hands on their arms, to the room that she had visited every single day since her husband’s hospitalization in the beginning of the year.
Back when Arthur had first been taken there, and Molly had walked these now so familiar steps through a long corridor, the snow outside had not yet melted, and in some of the rooms that she had peeked into on her way, strands of Christmas lights had still hung over the windows, twinkling faintly in different colours. Now, it was the middle of summer, the very warmest month of the year, and nothing had changed; Arthur was still in that same bed, in that same room, and Molly was still coming to visit. Time and again, she had thought to herself that it might never change. Perhaps he wouldn’t come home this time.
Ron and Hermione had learned Molly’s procedure when visiting Arthur, and they stopped with her just outside the door, allowing her to take a few deep breaths and brace herself for what was going to meet her inside, and then Ron stepped forwards and pushed the door open.
A Healer was sitting next to Arthur’s bed, her eyebrows furrowed as she listened to the old man’s mumbling. A quill and a parchment soared in the air next to her, and the quill appeared to be taking notes by itself. The Healer was a pretty woman,and fairly young - most likely quite new to the job. Now, she brushed a few blonde curls from her face and looked up, smiling at the three people who had just entered the room.
“Well, hello there!” she said happily. “Arthur, look who’s here to see you…”
Arthur’s eyes, reduced in size by the thick glass in his spectacles, moved slowly from the Healer’s face to his visitors. They swept past Molly’s face, then Ron’s, before stopping on Hermione's.
“I’ll give you a little privacy,” said the Healer and stood up. As she hurried past Molly, Ron and Hermione, she stopped for a moment. “He’s not having a very good day,” she warned them. “Don’t… don’t expect too much, okay?”
And then she was out the door. Arthur’s gaze had proceeded to wonder around the room, and was now examining the ceiling above his bed with eager interest. Molly’s eyes filled with tears at the sight of him, his hands clasped together atop his chest, and his shoulders so emaciated that they no longer filled up the striped pyjama shirt that she had brought from home several months previously.
“Hello, Mr Weasley,” said Hermione nervously, taking a step towards the bed. “It’s Hermione, and Ron and Molly are here too.”
Arthur continued to inspect the ceiling for a few more seconds, after which he turned to his daughter-in-law with a smile on his face. “It’s nice here, don’t you think?”
Hermione hesitated for a moment before sitting down on the chair that the Healer had just left. “Yes,” she said, “very nice.”
“Just take a look at this room!” said Arthur in a louder voice. “I wonder how much it costs to rent this, per night… Yes, I’d really like to know that…”
“Dad,” said Ron, who was still standing over by the door, his hands stuck into the pockets of his trousers. “You are in the hospital. In St. Mungo’s, remember?”
Arthur met his gaze and nodded slowly. Then he turned his head towards Hermione again. “I bet it’s really expensive,” he told her. “I doubt I can afford it.”
“Dad,” tried Ron again. “You can’t rent this room – we’re in St. Mungo’s, because you haven’t been well lately. Do you remember that?”
Molly took a step back and placed a hand on her son’s arm. “She said he was having a bad day,” she told him. “There’s no point in trying to argue with him… he just… he doesn’t remember.”
On most days, she would walk over to her husband and sit by his bed, just like Hermione, but today, something was holding her back. She didn’t want to try and reach for his hand and watch him pull it away, or meet his eyes and see nothing but vacuity where she had once seen her entire life. Most of all, she didn’t want to be reminded of what time and age had really taken from her, because it wasn’t the cooking she missed the most. She understood that her children and grandchildren were busy, and that they couldn’t hang around the Burrow all the time. She could put up with her aching body and wobbly knees, but what she couldn’t accept was that time had also taken something else, something so precious that she could almost feel herself die a little bit more for each day that she lived in its absence. It had taken the Arthur she knew, his mind and his memories, and left her with this man who had his face and his looks, but who greeted his own son and wife as strangers, because he no longer knew who they were.
A/N: The idea of this short story has been growing in my mind ever since this summer, when me and my grandparents sat in their backyard and they talked about old memories and their own parents, who unfortunately passed away when I was very little. Arthur in this is directly based off what I learned that day about my great-grandparents.
If you've got a moment to spare, please let me know what you thought of this. Thank you so much for reading!
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