Written for the Reviews Lounge Birthday Challenge. I hope, by the end, there won't be any doubt as to who this is, but should I be wrong, and you end up really confused, just let me know and I'll tell you. :)
DISCLAIMER: I am not JK Rowling, nor have I ever, at any point in the past, been JK Rowling. Whether or not I will be her at some time in the future, I cannot honestly say, but I find the idea quite improbable.
The Way It's Supposed to Be
The first birthday she can remember, she's turning three and Uncle George is leaving. She can't understand why because Maman only just went to get the cake and they haven't opened presents yet or played hardly any games, but he's leaving all the same and he looks really upset and just keeps saying he can't, but he won't say what he can't do. Then her uncle Charlie is running after him and suddenly there are two less people at her party.
Uncle George doesn't come for her birthday again.
The next birthday, she's four and Maman and Daddy are telling her it's going to be a special day with just the three of them and a big party with the family later, and even though there's still cake and presents, she knows that it's not the way it's supposed to be.
Then she's five and six and seven and Uncle George is never there and Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron and Aunt Ginny and Aunt Hermione always have to come late or leave early, and somehow, she gets the feeling that's not the way it's supposed to be, either.
It's the year she turns eight that she really starts to figure out that there's something different about her birthday. Because she has a sister now. And cousins. And she goes to all their birthdays and no one comes late or leaves early and Uncle George is there and everyone's happy, smiling and laughing, and that's the way it's supposed to be, but it's never like that for her. That's the year she starts to hate her birthday.
Then she's turning nine and comparing her party to her sister's two months ago and her cousin James's the month before that, and she knows it's not the same. Because even though everyone's smiling and laughing, she can tell it's just in the way that sad people do when they're trying to pretend to be happy.
And when they play Pin the Hippogriff and Hunt the Thimble and Blind Wizards' Run, she watches the grown-ups whisper to each other, frowning, when they think no one is looking. And when Maman brings out the birthday crown, woven of daisies and forget-me-nots and ivy and shining with fairy dust, she watches uncles check pocket watches and look restless when they think no one can see. And when everyone's singing and Grandma's bringing out the cake, she watches Uncle Harry pull her daddy aside and whisper to him, and she watches her daddy sigh and nod and she watches her uncle leave. But worst of all, she watches her daddy not sing the birthday song and not even notice that she's watching him.
Everything she sees just makes her angrier and angrier, and when Grandma puts the cake in front of her, all white and pink and spun-sugar roses, she's hot and shaking and sure she's about to explode with it all, and no one even notices.
The anger's like a living, actual something that she can feel pooling up inside her fists and gathering right behind her eyes, all hot and itchy until she can't see anything but it and the cake.
And then she can't take it anymore, and with a scream that is half a sob, she cuts off the end of the song and just lets everything fly out of her, exploding around her.
She stands there, breathing hard, tears on her cheeks and her face red, and when she can see again, she sees that there is no more cake, just a place where it might have been and a whole lot of pink and white and once-spun-sugar roses everywhere else.
And she knows she did that, and she's glad, fiercely glad. She's ruined the party for everyone else just like they've ruined it for her, every year, and it serves them right.
When she looks up from where the cake had been, angry tears still in her eyes because the itchiness still isn't gone, it's her daddy she sees first, just staring at her. She glares right back at him because this is his fault, all his.
And then everything hits her, and she turns on her heel and runs, sobbing, away from them all and her horrible birthday.
It's her daddy who finds her later, sitting with her knees drawn up to her chest on a rock by the water. She looks away when she sees him coming, and she ignores him even when he sits beside her on the rock, his long legs dangling over the side.
She wants him to know how angry she is, and she wants to hurt him as much as she's been hurt today, but she also wants answers, and she just wants everyone to stop pretending, and in the end, it's that that wins out.
"Why does everyone hate my birthday?" she finally demands of him. He tries to tell her that they don't, but she's tired of being lied to. "Yes, they do!" she yells over him, not caring that she's not supposed to talk back. "Everybody's just pretending to be happy and Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron and Aunt Ginny and Aunt Hermione never stay the whole time, and Uncle George never comes at all, and that's not the way it's supposed to be! It's not like that on anyone else's birthday, so just tell me why!"
Her daddy doesn't say anything for a long time, but when he finally does, he begins to tell her of a bad man who lived before she was born. He tells her how the bad man hurt and killed a lot of people, and how he wanted to take control of the whole world, and all the horrible things he was willing to do to get that control.
He tells her about her Uncle Harry and how many times he fought the bad man. He tells her how Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione disappeared for a year on a secret mission to weaken the bad man, and how they came back to fight him one last time. He tells her about the big battle that happened when they came back, how a lot of people were hurt trying to stop the bad man and how Uncle Harry finally made him go away forever.
"So every year, they have a big ceremony, to celebrate what Uncle Harry did, and to remember all the people who fought and didn't make it. And that day is today because you were born one year after that big fight."
"But that doesn't tell me why everyone's always so sad!" she insists. Her daddy sighs before he answers.
"It isn't because of you or your birthday, sweetheart," he tells her. "It's because one of the people who didn't make it was Uncle George's twin. His name was Fred. He was my brother and Grandma's son and everyone's friend, and we lost him that day."
"The bad man killed him?" she asks, and he nods.
"He died in the big fight, yes."
She considers all this carefully for a moment or two. When her daddy speaks again, it's very softly, to tell her that, if she wants, she doesn't have to have her birthday on this day. "We can celebrate it on another day, a day that might be easier. A day that won't be hard for Uncle George or Grandma or you or anyone else. But before you chose, I think you should know how you got your name."
He tells her that her name means victory, that he and Maman chose her name to focus not on what had happened a year before her birth, but to focus on the future and what could happen now. "Maman and I never wanted your birthday to be a sad day," he tells her. "It was always supposed to be more than that."
She is quiet for a long time, looking out at the water. Then, without looking at him, in a voice so soft it almost blends in to the wind over the waves, she says, "Can we go?"
She turns her head and looks up at him then, her blue eyes dark and serious. "To the ceremony."
If he is surprised by her request, he doesn't show it. He simply takes her by the hand and walks her back up to the house to tell Maman where they're going, and then they go. She clings tightly around his middle while he Apparates them there, to a big golden hall full of more people than she ever knew existed.
And the ceremony has already almost started, so they slip in and sit in the very back row, and while they sit there, waiting, her daddy whispers to her about all the people there and about the long, long wall that's at one end of the hall. He tells her that everyone who died in the fights with the bad man has their name up there, somewhere, so that no one will forget them.
And then people begin to talk, and she sits as tall as she can and folds her hands in her lap and listens hard. She listens to the Minister talk about the bad times and the big fight and the ten years and everything that has happened since. She listens while other people she doesn't know talk about how much that day meant. She listens as more people talk about the names on the wall.
And when her Uncle Harry stands up in front of everyone and the whole hall gets the quietest it's been, she listens hardest of all. Her Uncle Harry talks about sacrifice and celebration, about forgiving and remembering and moving on. And then he tells everyone about his niece whose birthday is today. He tells them that the big fight was for her, so that her birthday and the birthdays of all the other kids in the world didn't have to be sad and dark. He talks about the future and the way the world should be now.
And as she sits and listens to him as he stands there and talks about her in front of everyone, she starts feeling really full inside and her daddy squeezes her hand tight, and she wonders if anyone knows that she's the girl Uncle Harry was talking about.
And then Uncle Harry's done talking and people are walking forward and leaving flowers against the wall. She looks up at her daddy, and she doesn't even need to ask. He nods and she slips her hand from his and slides out of her chair and begins to walk.
Walking to the wall seems to take forever, and all she can hear is the click of her fancy shoes on the hard, shiny floor, even though the hall is full of people talking quietly. The closer she gets to the wall, the bigger it seems to get, until she is standing right in front of it and it seems to go on forever.
And suddenly, she's the only one in that hall, alone with the wall and all those names. She looks up at it and she can see her face reflected back at her, broken apart by the letters and words carved into the stone. She feels smaller in that moment then she can ever remember feeling.
With a deep breath, she forces herself to turn to the right and walk along the length of the wall, searching for the name she wants. She moves slowly, eyes never leaving the wall, until she reaches the part of the wall that bears a name like hers.
His name is right at her eyes, and as she reads it, she lets out the smallest of sighs. Almost without knowing it, she reaches up with her hand and brushes her fingertips over the letters even as she reads the words to herself, her lips moving silently along.
Frederick Gideon Weasley
April 1, 1978 - May 2, 1998
A Loving Son, A Loyal Friend, A Better Half
Without taking her eyes from his name, she slowly reaches up and removes the birthday crown she is still wearing. Then she kneels and places it against the base of the wall, and when she straightens, the fairy dust outlining the leaves of ivy shines up at her. She leans close to the wall then, to her uncle's name on the stone, and whispers, "I want to share my birthday with you."
The next year, she's turning ten. What she remembers about her tenth birthday is that Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron and Aunt Ginny and Aunt Hermione come early to help set up the party. She remembers that no one leaves early and the only people who show up late are Uncle George and his son, Fred, smelling like smoke because four-year-old Fred somehow exploded all the fireworks in the back of the shop. She remembers that when Grandma brings out the cake, all pink and white and spun-sugar roses, everyone sings the birthday song. She remembers that everyone is smiling and laughing and really, really happy. But what she remembers most is that when the party is over, they all go to the golden hall and walk up to the wall and, with her Uncle George's hand on her shoulder, she leaves her birthday crown again at its base.
The day that she turns ten, she goes to sleep knowing that finally, for the first time, her birthday is what it is supposed to be.