Disclaimer: All characters portrayed in this story are the property of J.K. Rowling – not me. So please, don't sue me. I wouldn't be able to pay you anyway!
Author Notes: This story is definitely a different portrayal of the Weasley family. If scenarios involving drugs, jealousy, alcoholism, or bitterness bother you, please hit the "back" button now. If not, I hope you enjoy reading something completely different. Reviews would be greatly appreciated, but all flames will be sent back to you in a Howler. evil grin Thanks!
It's nearing midnight now. I have been in my room for most of the day, simply sitting on my shabby, creaky old bed listening to the sounds of the people on the floors below me. The moon is shining brilliantly through my half-open window, a light breeze ruffling the curtains noiselessly.
I stand up and stretch my arms up over my head, my bones cracking noisily, then pad silently across the room to my bookshelf. I let my eyes wander over the sparse collection of books piled haphazardly on the shelves, then stop on a large framed photo sitting next to a Chudley Cannons snow globe full of figures on broomsticks whizzing silently through the blowing snow. I reach out with trembling fingers and pull the photo from the shelf. It is the Weasley family portrait, taken the summer after my fifth year. The entire family had gotten together that summer – a rare occurrence indeed since Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, and George had all graduated from Hogwarts and had jobs now. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that that must have been a wonderful summer, what with the entire family being together. I laugh hollowly to myself. How wrong you are. Nobody seems to realize what my family is really like.
My gaze flickers to my father first. Arthur Joseph Weasley, the picture of wonder and excitement. If only you could see him when he comes home from work, tired, depressed, downtrodden, and guilt-ridden because he can't give us everything we want. He tries to hide this from us but I can see it. I wish he could see that it doesn't matter to me anymore, that I love him no matter what. But he can't. All he sees are his wife and children wearing second-hand clothes and owning second-rate things. He doesn't see the way we look up to him. It hurts to see a man who used to be so happy reduced to what he is now – a shell of his former self. A shell who doesn't even talk to his family anymore. No hugs, no encouraging words, and no 'I love yous.' Nothing.
I look next to my mother. Molly Weasley is what comes to mind when the word 'mother' is spoken or thought. She is a wonderful cook, always fussing over us, especially Ginny, and constantly nagging us to clean our rooms, tuck in our shirts, or fix our hair. I smile as I picture her in the kitchen cooking breakfast, a spatula in one hand, wand in the other, with her flowered blue apron tied around her waist. She hates that apron. I've seen the way she stares longingly at the catalogues that come through the owl post, dreams of brand new clothing, stacks of beautiful aprons, and the best of everything running through her mind. She loves my dad; there's no doubt about that. But sometimes, when she pulls out the hidden bottle of whiskey and a glass, I know she's dreaming of an easier life.
Bill is the next stop for my eyes. Bill with his stylish hair and adventurer lifestyle, former Head Boy and all-around good guy – the face he puts on for our parents and everyone else he comes in contact with. But I have heard him talk about who he really is, that he's lonely and tired of it all. But he can't find anyone to share his life with, so he spends his evenings in the company of women who only want to be with him because of the money he pays for them. He's sinking more every day, and soon I'm afraid he won't want or be able to pull himself out again.
I look next at Charlie. Charlie the amazing, brave dragon tamer who could do no wrong. Nobody seems to notice the bruises that run up both of his arms from the needles that he injects himself with nearly every day. He always wears long sleeves, as if this will hide what is so obvious to me. Don't they see the way his skin clings to his bones, or the dark rings under his eyes? Who would have thought that someone who could have been a star Quidditch player or nearly anything else he wanted would be reduced to heroin to escape the harsh realities of life?
I sigh deeply as I look down at Percy in his horn-rimmed glasses, glaring almost imperceptibly out at me. He virtually disappeared after graduation, diving headlong into his work at the Ministry. It was eerie sometimes to look into those eyes. They burned with the desire to prove himself and to become powerful. I wish I would have realized just how far that desire would take him. Mom and dad never noticed the way he would rub impatiently at his left forearm once a month or the late-night disappearing act he would pull on those days. He's a different person now; cold, cruel, and goes to any means to get what he wants. I fear for him every day of my life. I just want my brother back. The brother who was the second Head Boy in our family, who always did the right thing and who always cared about us. Now he is my enemy. And that hurts more than anything.
A small chuckle escapes my throat as I glance at Fred and George, their arms around each other, identical grins on their freckled faces. It was no secret in our family that Fred and George were our mother's biggest disappointment. She had such high hopes for them, but they all came crashing down whey they moved to London to open up their own joke shop. They pull through by constantly laughing and joking, but I know they worry. Money is very tight for them. They used to spend day and night in their workshop developing new ideas. Now they can be found in a dingy old pub across the street from the shop each and every night, drowning their fears of failure in large glasses of amber liquid that burns through their veins like life-giving blood.
A lump forms in my throat when I gaze down at Ginny. My baby sister, the sibling I worry about the most. She has grown into a very pretty girl of fifteen with many admirers and a large group of friends. But she's not happy. I see the way she looks longingly at a boy she can never have. The boy who has stolen the hearts of so many, but who gives it willingly to only one person. When she thinks no one is looking, Ginny looks at this person with such rage and jealousy you can feel is rippling through the air, this person who used to be her friend and who still is mine. It's painful to see the heartbreak and bitterness in her pretty brown eyes. I'm afraid that these feeling will consume her one day and she will simply break. I wonder if I will ever again get to see the laughing, smiling little sister I grew up with.
I put the picture back on the shelf and gingerly wipe away the few stray tears that had wandered down my face. The occupants of the picture frame are moving about erratically. Dad is slumped to the ground with his head in his hands. Mum is running her hands over the fabric of her dress as if she could change it into something extraordinary simply by thinking about it. Bill is helping Charlie stand upright against the edge of the frame. Fred and George appear to be having a violent argument in the background, while Ginny sits with her face in her hands, shoulders shaking with silent tears. And there, far to the back corner, stands me. I have my hands in my pockets, an unreadable expression on my face, simply looking on at the occupants of the picture frame.
I turn away and slump down on my bed, knowing that, were a stranger to come in and look at the picture right now, everyone would be smiling and happy, the images from a moment before replaced with the picture of family perfection. They would never know what the family in the picture was like below the surface.
I close my eyes and roll to my side. Tomorrow I will put my "happy family" mask back on and take the train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for my seventh and final year. I sigh deeply. Just one more year of pretending, Ron. Just one more year........