Chapter 3 : Legacy
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It's during times like this that you wish you knew Legilimency. Sitting in front of you, Roxanne's eyes are blank; she doesn't seem to be aware of the world around her. You can't tell if you should be worried about her mental state, or if shutting down is her way of grieving.
"Everyone deals with death differently, Hugo," your mother said when you first raised your concerns.
In a way, you can't blame Roxanne for reacting in this manner. You can't even imagine how you'd feel if it was your father who had died. Nevertheless, it's been two weeks and the funeral is today. You'd hoped that perhaps she could say a few words, but she's clearly in no state to do that.
"Hugo," your father calls from the other room. "Can you help with this bloody tie?"
You aren't surprised to hear your mother screech his name in exasperation -- she's never liked his use of "inappropriate language" -- and as you walk into the dining room to help your father with his tie, you wonder how he ever managed during his schooldays. When you return to the lounge, you're surprised to see that Roxanne's standing at the fireplace, looking at the family photographs on the mantelpiece. Quietly, you approach her and realise that one of the pictures shows your Uncle George and Aunt Angelina holding baby Roxanne, who's less than three months old -- you can tell because Freddie, Uncle Bill, Aunt Fleur and Victoire are in the picture too, and Aunt Fleur's heavily pregnant with Dominique.
"Dad," she says, gulping and wiping a tear that's rolling down her cheek before starting again. "When I was born, Dad was disappointed that I missed the New Year fireworks, so he set a bunch off inside St Mungo's. Mum remembers that one of the types was Catherine wheels, but she can't remember the other type of firework. I always meant to ask Dad, but I never got around to it... and now I never can."
You answer, although hesitantly. "Roman candles."
Roxanne's curiosity is clearly piqued as she turns to face you, her expression one of surprise.
"How did you know that?" she asks.
"Dad thought it was a great idea," you explain. "He was going to do he same thing when Rose and I were born, but Mum threatened to divorce him if he tried that. I'm sure she wouldn't, of course, but --"
You stop talking abruptly, suddenly realising the insensitivity of your words. Roxanne's parents are divorced; perhaps mentioning the subject will renew potentially unhappy memories of her parents' divorce.
"Please, Hugo," she sighs. "Don't tiptoe around me; I'd expect that from the others, but not my favourite."
You give her a small smile. "Sorry."
"What did I tell you about sorry?"
And with those words you glimpse, just for a moment, the Roxanne you love. The girl who lives by the mantra of never say you're sorry; it's a sign of weakness, who looked out for you at Hogwarts when you were a naïve first-year and she was a seventh-year with better things to do than babysitting. There's one particular memory that stands out for you: August 2018.
Roxanne was sixteen, you were ten and she was still recovering from a freak accident where faulty Muggle fireworks had backfired on her, leaving her legs permanently scarred. Despite the incident occurring less than a month prior, when your Muggle grandfather was diagnosed with dementia and you needed a friend, she was there for you without needing to be asked. Instinctively, she'd known that your mother would be upset herself while comforting your grandmother and making arrangements for your grandfather to get the support he needed and that your father and Rose are unhelpful in emotional situations.
She'd been there for you when you'd needed her the most, despite her own problems. You wish you could reciprocate now; find a way to help her feel better, but you have no idea what to do. You're just seventeen -- the nearest you've gotten to death is when Crookshanks died and you hated him anyway because he always found a way to tell your mother when you did something wrong, so it doesn't really compare.
Roxanne is first to break the silence.
"What am I supposed to say at the funeral? Everyone's expecting me to, I don't know, say poetic things and talk about what an amazing dad he was. But it feels wrong to say all that. I mean, he was the best dad ever, you know, but it doesn't feel right saying all that. Like it's not enough. Like he deserves better."
These words sound familiar, although it takes you several moments to realise where you've heard them before.
"Grandpa told me that when Uncle Fred died, Uncle George thought a sombre funeral wouldn't be right for him. So, instead of doing what everyone expected, he set off hundreds of fireworks -- the Muggles in the village had to have their memories altered the next day, it was that spectacular. Maybe you could do the same for him?"
At first, she muses silently over the idea before suddenly, she gives you a small smile. It's the first one you've seen since Uncle George's death, so you don't ask questions of protest when she drags you through the fireplace to the Diagon Alley shop. However, when Roxanne starts putting fireworks into your arms, you're confused.
"I thought Uncle George stopped selling fireworks after your accident?" you ask.
"That's right," she confirms. "But he still makes them once in a while for family events -- these are all spell-activated, by the way; they're more expensive to make but he refuses to make bonfire fireworks again."
Abruptly, she stops, poised to lift another box but not moving towards it.
"Refused," she corrects with a whisper.
"At least the spell-activation will help with the surprise element," you say, trying to sound as positive as possible despite the circumstances. You've found that when you're upset, it helps to distract yourself from the situation; you hope it'll do the same for Roxanne.
"Yeah," she nods.
This is the first funeral you've ever been to, and judging from your family's morose expressions and the depressing atmosphere, you don't want a funeral when you die. Never mind goodbyes; this is clearly emotional torture and you don't want anyone going through that on your behalf.
Sitting at the front pew, Roxanne watches you carefully. You sit down in the pew behind hers, taking several deep breaths. The fireworks that you both took from the shop are carefully positioned, and it is your responsibility to set them off. You don't want to make a mistake -- this is too important.
They bring in Uncle George's coffin and hymns are sung before Roxanne is first to the podium. Her hair is wild and untamed while her eyes are still red from weeks of weeping, but she doesn't seem to care.
"I'm sure you all know that Dad died doing what he loved," she begins. "And I think we should all do the same. Not die, of course -- but do what we love."
She looks directly at you and nods. Immediately, you discreetly point your wand at the fireworks' hidden location and whisper the incantation. Within moments, the church is awash with colourful sparks, Roman candles and Catherine wheels.
"Dad loved fireworks. He was the one who really developed them -- Uncle Fred helped, of course, but the fireworks were Dad's baby while other products like the Puking Pastilles and Nosebleed Nougats were Uncle Fred's. And, well, if any of you love miserable funerals, I'm going to start questioning your sanity. Dad was my best friend. He used to work on fireworks at least once a week; every day during the autumn. He gave that up for me. I owe it to him to make this a funeral he'd be proud of."
The mourners are staring at Roxanne, slack-jawed, while your mother has noticed your spell and is quietly hissing scoldings into your ear.
"I want you to remember the happy times. Talk, laugh, share stories. But before you do that, I want to tell you about my little cousin Hugo."
You can almost feel the colour draining from your face as everyone in the church turns to look at you.
"It was Hugo who showed me that the world can still be a happy place even when one of the most important people in my life isn't around any more. He made me realise I can still be happy without feeling guilty because Dad can't physically share in that happiness. And you know something, Hugh? Dad will always be my best friend; that'll never change. But damn, you're one hell of a second-best."
You can't stop tears rolling down your cheeks as you stare with overwhelming pride at Roxanne.
She, the firework-maker's daughter, will ensure that the legacy of the infamous George Weasley is never forgotten.
And you'll be there for her, every step of the way.
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