Chapter 1 : Spectacular Now
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There’s a line, and I think I’ve leaped over that line and set a world record for long-jump, between “going to bed” and “taking a nap”.
I’m not even sure what it’s like to lay in bed and go to sleep and wake up six hours later feeling refreshed. Four months ago, I thought I knew what exhaustion was. We were sleeping in two hour intervals, sometimes less. Since I’ve had to go back to work, though, the true meaning of the word has set in.
When I have any spare brainpower, I find myself wondering how my Mum did it. I think about our big family, and I think about how each of us kids never got any less attention with each additional baby.
She’s a bloody miracle worker, that woman. And Dad, too. Whenever I see Angelina looking like she’s about to collapse, I remember all the Sunday mornings that Dad would let my Mum have a lie-in (or, what I now understand to be a parent’s version of a lie-in) and get all us kids breakfast.
One baby cries. The other baby cries, too. I glance over at Angelina, who is laying next to me, her mouth wide open and drool flows delicately down her cheek like a creek going through the forest that is my sleep deprived imagination.
She opens her eyes and says with a groan, “Oh god, that smells awful.”
As she says it, the smell starts to waft over to me. I cringe - it’s worse than usual. Significantly worse. Much worse. What the hell did they do?
Angelina wordlessly gets up and lifts Freddie out of his crib. She cradles him for a moment before going back to the bed with him and opening her robe. She let her breasts fall out, not giving a thought to modesty, and pulls her son close to her so that he can nurse.
I take another step towards Roxie’s crib and cringe again as the smell hits me, stronger than before. I lift her up and change her nappy as fast as humanly possible (faster than Bill can change a nappy! We timed it, and I won by four-point-twelve seconds.). I make a bottle and lay back down next to Angelina on the bed.
She’s beautiful. She’s sweaty and has bags under her eyes. Her hair is a mess and there’s more than one mystery stains on her robe. She certainly doesn’t look pretty, but I can’t help but appreciate how beautiful she is.
When we told her parents that she was pregnant, her Mother pulled me aside and said gently, “George… you’re a very handsome man, and I don’t want you to be disappointed when your kids don’t look much like you.”
I look down at Roxanne and chuckle at the memory. She was right, of course, but I didn’t mind. Both Freddie and Roxie had their mother’s dark coarse hair and her deep brown eyes and her rich cocoa skin.
I still see myself in them, of course. It’s just more subtle. Roxie has my cheekbones and, other than the color, she has my eyes (Angelina is already jealous of her long eyelashes). Freddie’s jawline curves precisely the same as mine, and when he laughs it's like I’m hearing my brother again.
“I like when we’re all together like this,” I hear Angelina say. I look over and see her smiling softly, Freddie dozing peacefully in her arms.
“How do I always end up with the poopy one?” I ask with a hint of satirical resentfulness.
She chuckles and shakes her head. “I can smell the difference.”
“You can smell the difference?” I ask, amazed.
She nods and I let my head fall back into the pillow while Roxie finishes her bottle. I glance at the clock; it’s nearly time to leave.
“We have to get ready,” I say. “There are houses to be seen.”
“George,” she says with a groan. “Are you sure you want to look at houses? I love the flat so much.”
I take a deep breath and try to stop myself from rolling my eyes. “Angie,” I say, “this flat is too small. The fact that I can reach the fridge from the changing table is not okay.”
“That’s true,” she concedes. “But the fact that it’s two feet to the sink is a blessing.”
“Once these two are walking, this place will burst at the seams,” I insist.
She sighs and looks around the room. “It won’t even take that long,” she says. “Once they start crawling we’ll be doomed.”
“Vigorous rolling, even,” I say, coaxing a chuckle out. I put Roxanne in one arm and get off the bed, walking the four feet to the sink to put on a pot of tea. I lay Roxie on the changing table and open the drawer to dress her when Angelina sighs from the bed.
“George, put her in one of the ones your Mum got us,” Angelina says.
“Which ones are those?” I ask. How am I supposed to remember where the onesies come from?
“With the puppies and the snitches,” she answers automatically.
I look down in the drawer. “Uh, babe, there are a lot of puppies and snitches in here….”
She sighs and get out of bed, laying a slumbering Freddie on the bed and setting a pillow on either side of him. She steps up behind me and takes one quick look in the drawer before pulling out a green outfit with golden snitches and… Yep. I look closer, to see that there are puppies on the snitches.
She wraps her arms around me while I dress our daughter. “I’m going to miss this place,” she muses.
“It’ll still be ours,” I answer, trying to not think about the memories tied to the flat from before our relationship. “We have to be honest about it, though. This isn’t a flat, it’s a glorified office.”
She steps on her tip-toes to kiss my cheek. “I know.”
After a hour of changing into clothes, then into clean ones after the babies’ breakfasts made a reappearance, and making sure we had the list of houses they were seeing, we Floo to the Burrow, where we are greeted by an empty house.
“Mum?” I call out. “Dad?”
After no response, Angelina turns to me. “You did tell them we needed them to watch the babies, didn’t you?”
I think for a moment. “Yes,” I say. Did I? I did. Right? Yes. “Yes,” I repeat.
I look out the window to see the light on in the shed. “They’re outside,” I report, gesturing to the small building.
We go out the door and start to approach, but I stop suddenly when I see my Mother through the small window.
“What’s wrong?” Angelina asks.
“Look,” I mutter. She takes a closer look and sees what I saw: my Mum standing by the window, tears running down her face while my Dad holds her hands and talks to her.
“Oh…,” Angelina says, trailing off. “Let’s take a walk.”
She hands me Freddie, who was still in her arms, and lifts the diaper bag that Hermione gave her at the shower from her shoulder and pulls out the double stroller that we’d received from Charlie.
I push the stroller down a dirt path, and Angelina puts her arm in mine. “We’re missing the first appointment,” she says.
“That’s okay,” I say. “I didn’t like that house, anyway.”
She nods in agreement and we continue to aimlessly walk, enjoying each other’s company in silence. Neither of the babies cry, giving us a break from noise that we’re both appreciative of.
After about fifteen minutes walking at the leisurely pace, Angelina stops me. “George,” she says.
“Yeah?” I respond. Wordlessly, she gestures to a break in the trees that surround the path. Immediately, I know where we are. There’s a small clearing, where the grass is always a little bit softer and the sun is always a little bit warmer. It’s where they’re buried.
Knowing that she would agree with my actions, I start to head into the clearing. The memorial comes into view: a fountain with a statue of a phoenix at the center, water of gold pouring out of it’s wings. I circle around to where I’ve spent a large amount of my time over the past five years. My chest tightens familiarly as I approach the marble stones.
Angelina pushes the stroller right up to the graves and crouches down in front of the stroller, leaving one hand on the handle to stabilize it. “Roxie, Freddie, this is your Auntie Roxanne and your Uncle Fred.”
I put my hand over her’s and squeeze it and she continues, “They died fighting to create a world for you to live in, and if they were here they would love you very much.”
She stands up and I wrap my arm around her shoulder, giving her a supportive hug. In the year after I lost my brother and she lost her sister, our mutual need to recovery brought us close together. She had a quidditch accident and couldn’t fly anymore, so I hired her. She made me feel whole again, and I expect I did the same for her.
“I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to bring the kids here,” she says, turning to face me.
I wipe a tear from her eye and look up. Someone is standing there underneath the willow tree, standing as still as a statue. I raise my hand to wave but at the exact moment that I blink, the person disappears, leaving no evidence that they were once standing there.
I recognize them. It was Fred.
I am furious with George.
It took him four long months to bring his kids to meet me? Is he bloody kidding?
I knew Angelina was pregnant. The Burrow is right on the edge of my radius, so I’m able to get close to it but I can’t go inside. That was usually enough, but he was so overprotective of those babies! Just let them go outside so I can meet them!
When I heard Ginny mention that he’d named his boy after me, I couldn’t have been happier. Fred is a good name. The kid would do well with it.
And… if you were to really pressure me, I might admit that it gave me some warm and fuzzy feelings.
Weeks passed, and everyday I waited for George and Angie to bring the kids to me. Every day, I got more and more irritated with them.
Today, finally, they showed up and brought the kids. Roxanne started crying the minute she caught sight of them, but I managed to hold my composure through Angelina’s speech.
There was a moment, just for a moment, that I wanted so intensely and desperately to reach out and hug my brother, and hug my sister-in-law, and hold those babies in my arms, that I think I might’ve appeared.
I think that if I wanted to be ghost like at Hogwarts, that family would be reason enough for me to stay.
I don’t know if I want that, though. I think I want to leave open the option to move on, whatever that means.
I thought that when I died, I’d know what was on. It’s still just as confusing as when I was alive. Possibly more, because there’s no end in sight.
Maybe the rest of my eternity will be spent wondering when I’ll find out.
Maybe I should just try to become a ghost, so at least I can talk to people.
Seeing the babies gives me these feelings of insecurity; they’re part of the circle of life, but it seems less like a circle and more like an endless line.
But damn, those babies are cute. I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone so much.
After ten minutes or so, they start to make their way back down the path towards the Burrow. I listen in on the conversation, and am surprised when they mention their confusion about my Mother’s tears. It’s obvious to me. But perhaps they don’t know.
When they approach the house and I start to except that I won’t be hearing the conversation, the front door flies open.
“Oh, George, I’m so sorry, I forgot!” she says, rushing out of the house.
“It’s okay, Mum,” he says. “Are you okay?”
“I-” her voice falters, and she looks back at Dad, who is coming out of the house. “George, I think we need to tell you something, but I’m not sure how to say it.”
He puts a hand on her shoulder, and worry cuts through his voice. “Mum, are you okay? Are you ill?”
“Yes, yes, I’m okay, it’s just that...,” I mouth the words along with her, knowing exactly what she’s going to say, “we’re selling the house.”
Neither George nor Angelina say anything, so she continues, “It’s just too big for us to manage now, with all the empty rooms, and the huge garden….”
“We’ll buy it,” Angelina chirps automatically.
“What?” Mum says, surprise ringing clearly in her voice.
“Yeah,” Angelina continues. “We’re already planning on moving from the flat, and I can’t imagine a more perfect place to raise our children.”
Both women bring the focus of their attention to George. He looks up at the house, which looks like it might fall over if you breathe too hard in it.
“Yeah. Of course. This is our home.”
They would live there. George and his family would be living there right in my radius. I’ll be able to look through the window and listen to the bedtime stories. I’ll be able to see the first times the kids play outside in the garden. When they get their first brooms, I’ll be right there to watch them fall off and get back on. I’ll be able to watch George be irresponsible and watch Angelina yell at him.
Maybe Roxie and Freddie will find the tree that’s great for climbing. Maybe one of them will fall off and break their arm, just like I did.
Maybe they’ll become Quidditch players and I’ll be able to watch them train.
Maybe they’ll keep on with the cliche and get married right there in the garden. Maybe I’ll be able to see Roxie walk down the aisle. I’ve spent so much time worrying about my future in limbo, but it’s becoming clear that I’ll have an eternity of spectacular now.
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