Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
A/N: Random, pointless Weasley family fluff, anyone? Seriously, I don't even know. It was meant to be angsty and then there was fluff. That sounds like a parody title... And Then There Was Fluff. Sorry, rambling. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this!
The Book Thief Challenge: "If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter."
Delirium Competition: "Love: It will kill you and save you, both."
The Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition round two: write about Molly Weasley cooking, using the prompts "friction", "burying" and "quicksand".
The Wand Wood Competition, Apple: Write about a close family.
Word count: 1634
Of Cakes and Conversations
Molly knew she should be happy.
The danger had passed. Harry was safe. Her children were home, and her heart could stop feeling pulled in seven different directions for once. When she ran through them one by one in her head, she felt much calmer than she had for all the long, long months of waiting.
Bill – in bed at the moment, or else sneaking out to moonlight with Fleur. Charlie – Romania, but he'll be arriving soon for the wedding. He's all right. No new scratches last time I Flooed. Percy – skip Percy for now. Fred – hopefully he's stopped worrying for a bit and is catching some sleep. George – skip George for now, too. Ron – probably plotting away with Harry and Hermione. Ginny – fast asleep, thank goodness.
But Bill's face was scarred beyond healing, and Percy wasn't there and he wasn't there and he wasn't there, and if Remus hadn't brought George home in time he would be dead.
The thought was chilling, and so Molly turned all her attention to the cake she was mixing and tried her best to push it out of her mind. If Remus had been just a little slower or if he'd cared just a little less about her son, George would be dead right now, curled up in a harder, colder bed. Dead. And Fred would be nearly so, because you couldn't have one without the other. The idea was inconceivable.
Fred had taken his twin's injury badly, refusing to let George out of his sight for so much as a second and becoming much jumpier than normal. Fear shadowed his eyes and his shoulders were stiff with tension. If George had died… Molly shivered. Fred was not strong enough to take George's death; that much was clear. George was his stabiliser, his comforter, and without him Fred would lose all control.
Soft footsteps sounded on the stairs, and the next moment Fred himself poked his head around the kitchen door. Perhaps it was just the light, but his brown eyes seemed wider and more vulnerable than she had ever seen them before. "Mum?" he said, brow furrowed. "What are you doing up?"
"I should be asking you the same," Molly mock-scolded – but only mock-scolded, because her son was pale and shaky on his feet, and his eyes bore the mark of a nightmare that had not yet faded.
He grinned, though, and moved forward to see what she was doing. When he caught sight of the cake mixture, he stuck his finger into the bowl, licked it, and looked immensely pleased with himself.
Molly sighed and said, almost to herself, "That was for Charlie."
"Charlie isn't going to be here for another two days," Fred said, looking impishly unrepentant. "Besides, it's not like I ate the whole thing."
"You might as well," Molly said, pushing the bowl towards him. "I didn't add enough flour for it to rise, anyway."
Fred's eyes lit up. "Really? You're the best, Mum." Seemingly acting on an impulse, he threw his arms around her and kissed her cheek. Then he picked up a spoon from the work surface and began to scoop up the cake mixture as if it were ice cream.
"Is George asleep?" Molly asked after a while spent watching him.
Fred stiffened and looked up. "Yes," he said softly. "He was really tired today." His voice was much younger, now, and his mood appeared to have swung drastically.
Molly sighed and moved over to kiss his forehead; she had to stand on her toes and stretch her neck to reach. "Stop worrying so much, sweetheart. He's fine."
"But what if it happens again?" Fred asked wretchedly. "What if he's not as lucky then? I c-can't – I'm so scared, Mum, all the time, and – and –"
Molly ran a hand through his tousled hair. "And?" she prompted gently.
"And I can't take it!" Fred burst out. "I would die if anything happened to him, Mum, and I'm not exaggerating – I'm not strong enough, I need him!"
The thing about loving, Molly knew, was that it was a double-edged sword: because although it could bring you out of your darkest days, it could also send you plunging into the depths of misery and fear. All love came with a price.
But it was not her place to tell Fred this – she was the mother and her job was to comfort. So she guided him to a chair, carefully prised the bowl of cake mixture out of his hands and set it on the table. "Do you think George would want you to worry like this?" she asked, making sure she was making direct eye contact.
Fred shook his head and then muttered mutinously, "George isn't always right."
"He is when it comes to you," Molly said. "You know that. And I don't think you're doing him many favours by fretting like this, either; he wants you to be happy."
"It's like quicksand," Fred murmured, wrapping his arms around himself. "You think it's solid, and that you can trust it, and then you're falling in and you can't get out." His eyes were unfocused and he was very pale.
"Fred," Molly said, beginning to become frightened. "Stop talking like this, please."
"I want George to be safe," Fred whispered, looking up at her with those unnaturally bright eyes. Four of Molly's children had inherited her brown eyes: Charlie, the twins and Ginny. Of those four, Fred's eyes were the eyes that sparkled and shone and gave away every emotion he had. Fred's eyes were one of the easiest ways to tell him apart from his twin.
But now, Fred's eyes were glittering with terror, the kind of terror that haunted its victim night and day and never stopped whispering. Molly knew. Fear was an old friend of hers.
So she squeezed her baby's shoulder and said what she hoped with all her heart to be true: "He will be."
Fred exhaled softly, as if her words had taken the weight of the world off his back. Then he pasted on a smile and looked up at her. It struck her how much of a façade his laughter was sometimes.
But she was his mother and it was not her place to tell him that. "Eat up," she said instead, nodding towards the bowl. "Unless you want Ron to come and get it?"
Fred smirked. "Never." He picked up his spoon again and finished off the cake mixture, licking his lips once he was done.
Molly gave him a quick hug. "Go to bed, dear. It's late."
Fred nodded, unusually obedient, and stood up. "Good night, Mum."
After he'd left the kitchen, Molly wasted time for a while – washing up by hand, attempting to mix another cake and tidying up the already immaculate cutlery drawer. Once she realised that there was absolutely no way to prolong sleep any longer, she copied her son and climbed the stairs to bed.
Fred wasn't the only one who had nightmares, and recently Molly had become afraid of sleeping.
She paused by the twins' bedroom. The house was dark now, and in all probability Fred was already asleep. But still, she had to check. She cracked open the door and peeked inside. Fred's bed, the one furthest from the window, was empty – in the dim light she could just see that there were two heads on George's pillow. Allowing herself a smile, she stepped into the room, and then stopped dead when she noticed the glint of a pair of brown eyes watching her silently.
As her own vision adjusted, she noticed that Fred had seemingly attempted to make himself as small as possible, burying himself under the covers. George had an arm thrown protectively over him, and Fred's head was nestled into his twin's shoulder. It was George who was awake.
"You should be asleep, dear," Molly said gently, bending to check on the bandages wrapped around his head.
"Fred woke me up," he answered, lifting his head so that she could better examine the hole where his ear should have been.
Molly glanced down at Fred, whose arms were wrapped tightly around his brother even in sleep. He looked so young.
"I worry about him sometimes," George said, following her gaze. "He's so scared. For me." He paused, bit his lip. "He shouldn't be; I'm careful. But he won't listen when I tell him to calm down. It's dangerous, Mum. What if we're in a battle and he's too distracted by me to pay attention?"
Another thing Molly knew: the people you loved could be liabilities.
"Fred's not stupid," she assured George. "He knows not to lose his focus when he's fighting. But I do wish he'd stop worrying so much."
George gave her a dry, sardonic smile. "I wish that all the time. Good night, Mum."
"Good night, dear."
As she closed the bedroom door again, Molly reflected that the twins, sometimes, were vastly different from each other. She contrasted Fred's passionate outpouring of fears to George's quiet, rational conversation, and could hardly believe that they got along so well. But there was hardly any friction between them; she had never once seen them argue. It was nothing short of remarkable.
As she climbed the stairs of the house, Molly ran through her list once again in her mind. Bill – fast asleep. Charlie – coming, soon. Percy – still alive. Still safe. Fred – sleeping. George – nearly asleep. Ron – there's no noise coming from the attic, so he'll be asleep. Ginny – dead to the world.
The house was quiet now, calm. As she entered Molly felt more peaceful than she had since Dumbledore's death, and when she slid between the sheets of her own bed and squeezed Arthur's fingers, she felt ready to sleep at last.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed that! Reviews are always appreciated :)