Disclaimer: I do not own the HP books or franchise… if I did, Charlie and Bill would be in the movies, you can be sure of that!

Notes on ages: If JKR can't keep it straight, how can I? I've just assumed Bill to be 24 in book 5, and Charlie's 22.

Note: Me ranting through Bill.

A Big Brother's Job

A big brother's job is to never cry. This is one of those things that no one teaches you, you just learn it. You just know this, somehow, when you're the oldest kid in a family.

I don't know when I figured it out. Probably when Ginny was born. I don't think I was old enough before then, I still had faith that my parents actually had a handle on things. But eventually I figured it out: I was the one holding my family together. And realizing this when you're ten is no easy thing.

When I left for Hogwarts, this concept was cemented in my mind. Everyone was crying that morning, everyone but me.

The night before, Percy walked into my room, looking at me intently. His eyes welled up and he just stared, his face getting wetter and wetter. What was I supposed to do? I hugged him, forcing him to look over my shoulder so he couldn't see me holding back my own tears. I was terrified of leaving, petrified of being away from home. I'd never even slept over before. I missed my parents, my brothers and Ginny already. But if I broke down, it would just make it harder for everyone else.

I couldn't look at Percy, and heat was spreading from my checks to my eyes too quickly. I let go of Percy and faked a yawn, rolling on my bed on my stomach and letting two tears fall and soak cleanly away into my sheets. Then I sat up, rubbing my eyes dry and miming that opening my mouth too widely had made them water. I sat up, ruffled Percy's hair and told him I'd write him every day. then I pushed him out of mine and Charlie's room, scolding him for missing his bedtime without meaning it. I sat on my bed, listening to Charlie toss and turn in his sleep, and bit my cheek until the urge to cry passed. By that time, the flesh of my cheek was bleeding and my lip felt bruised.

Like I said, the next morning was what convinced me that it was my responsibility to remain stoic. Mum was crying, and Charlie and Percy and the twins. Dad was sniffling suspiciously. Ginny and Ron were crying, but then again, toddlers always were. And I was petrified, like I said, of leaving and being away and being alone. What if I couldn't do the schoolwork? What if no one liked me? What if no one wanted to be my friend?

I wanted like hell to cry, to just break down and sob, but I hoisted my trunk into the back of the car and climbed in, shouting, "C'mon, now, I don't want to miss my train!" I was grinning hard enough to force back the tears; I wasn't breathing, so the sobs had no fuel. I was absolutely fine, excited, and maybe if my family saw that they'd cut out the emotions too and just be happy for me. And maybe if they did that, I could stand it.

As it was, I did write every day, for a while at least. After a few weeks, I settled nicely into Hogwarts life and letters from be became fewer and farther between. Then, in the first week of November, a letter from Charlie shattered it all.

It was splattered with tears and scrawled in messy handwriting with a nine-year-old's grasp of English grammar and spelling. But the message came across clearly enough.

Charlie wanted to tell me first before Mum and Dad worked out a more proper letter. Our Uncle Billius was dead― our funny Uncle Billius who claimed he had seen a Grim and was about to die. As it turned out, a day later his cauldron exploded― he was a potions maker― and he met his end in about the worst way possible. (Of course, that information came from Mum and Dad, Charlie didn't know his cause of death.)

We were all fairly close to our uncle, Charlie and maybe the twins most of all. And Dad, of course; he was his brother. Charlie's message was clear: I was needed at home. They needed me― eleven-year-old-barely-into-puberty-me― to come home and assume my rightful place as the third parent of the Weasley family.

I went straight to Dumbledore, only to find that he already knew and had a Portkey waiting. I ended up spending four days at home, doing chores, babysitting my younger siblings… I spent half of the Uncle Bill's funeral walking them back and forth to the loo so that my parents wouldn't have to miss any of the service. And I didn't cry, not one single tear, until I was safely back at Hogwarts in the privacy of my curtained four-post bed.

The last time I can remember that my parents actually saw me cry was more than ten years ago. I was twelve, flying around on my ancient Cleansweep the summer after first year. Damn thing probably wasn't safe to fly that high, I knew, but I managed to ignore it. As it happened, I should've paid more mind to my gut feeling. My broom gave out in the middle of a loop-de-loop, and I fell almost ten meters to the ground, breaking my leg and just generally getting bruised and battered. Now, I don't know if you've ever broken anything before, but it hurts. I cried a little… okay, I cried a good deal. The entire time I was lying on the ground waiting for the healer to show up, I was repeating to myself over and over, just don't cry, just don't look weak… it's only sweat, not really tears…. It's hard to describe just how God-awful I felt, how much of a weakling. I knew I shouldn't be embarrassed, but I hated it. Even as Mum was squeezing my hand and stroking my hair and telling me that it was okay, I felt horrible. Charlie and Percy were standing there terrified, and I tried to look brave and I couldn't. I swore I'd never let them see me cry again.

It's what you call a life lesson, I guess, but an exclusive on. Only the eldest child in a family ever gets to know it. It's the one thing I can't share with Charlie, he doesn't understand. He's always had me to look up to when everyone else fails, no matter how responsible he is for the siblings younger than he. I had Mum and Dad to look up too, sure, but there comes a time when you realize just how human your parents really are. Judging by the way the others looks at me, it takes a lot for you to see you big brother's flaws. Maybe it'll never happen; it hasn't yet.

Coincidentally, I was back at the Burrow on the night that Percy left. Charlie and I were in to speak with Dumbledore about the Order, and we stopped by for dinner, and just to make sure that things hadn't changed much in the time since we'd last been home. With the war brewing and, according to Ginny's letters, the family dividing over it, I was more than slightly worried nonetheless, I forgot all that as Mum laid out the dishes on the overtaxed table. The nine of us were all present, just like it always has been and, in my opinion, always should be.

I don't know exactly how it started. No, that's a lie, I remember every word. But I try to forget. Specifics aren't important anyway; suffice it to say that some nasty insults were hurled on both sides. Percy went on and on about Dumbeldore being an old loon (and some things a good deal worse than that) and from the look in Dad's eyes you could tell that he had come up with some damn good rebuttals and the only thing keeping him from spewing out the nastiest ones was that, git or not, Percy was still his son. At some point I realized that they were both reddening and leaping to their feet, leaning across the table as they shouted, and a few minutes later I remember seeing Percy storm out the front door. He didn't look like he planned to come back sheepishly a few minutes later.

Mum burst into tears and fled the room. Dad 'went out', which means grabbing his cloak and going out for a fly on his broomstick, only to return hours later with red, puffy eyes and adamantly deny he had ever left our backyard.

The six of us remaining kids sat there for a good five minutes, starling blankly at one another and wondering what had just transpired. Ginny was crying, and everyone else looked damn close. Eventually Ginny got herself under control and she and George went to check on Mum. Ron wandered off in an angry daze, probably to read comic books or stare at nothing, or do whatever it is that Ron does to cope. After that, Ginny and George returned. Neither of them had been able to bring themselves to face Mum in her current condition; they had spent this whole time standing silently outside her room.

The five of us sat there in silence before George also got u and left, again, glaring furiously at no one. I don't know what he was going to do― talk to Ron, maybe, or just scribble in his notebooks like he does sometimes― but I thought he could look after himself, and that he deserved to be allowed to do so, so I let him go. As soon as he left, Fred buried his head inc Charlie's shoulder.

Ginny followed suite, hiding her face in my hair as she sobbed, and Charlie and I just sat there, holding the,. For a second I felt weirdly good, like finally Charlie had stepped up to his duties too, like finally Charlie was going to tale some of the weight off my shoulders. But when I looked over at him, tears were rolling down his cheeks as well, and suddenly it hit me that I was alone. My family was looking up to me to keep everyone together, and I wasn't sure I was up to the job.

I wanted to cry― that's right, me, dragonhide-wearing, long-hair-having, climb-apyramid-and-court-a-beautiful-Egyptian-guide-at-the-same-time me. I wanted to close my eyes and rest my forehead on top of Ginny's crimson curls and just let the tears come, but I didn't. I had stopped breathing again, I realized; it seemed the only way I could keep my cool. it was the only thing I could do, to hold my breath,

And eventually they all came back, everyone but Percy― Mum and Dad and George and Ron, and they had all been crying. Everyone but me, even Percy somewhere, probably, if he still had the same heart beating in his chest that he did thirteen year sago.

And I didn't cry, not that night, not even after I left the Burrow. Because somehow someone might find out, and then what would they think of me? I had a duty, I had a responsibility to keep my family together, help them through this. I had a job to do.

I moved back to England immediately; my Egyptian boss at Gringotts is a Dumbledore supporter and told me to take all the time I needed to help the Order out. but that wasn't the main reason I came back, though. I know they needed me, now more than ever.

Like I said, I have a duty to my family. I have a job to do. Part of my job is to be there, and to put them first, and to hold everything together. another part― I learned this myself― is that I can never, ever cry.


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