Many, many thanks to B Bennett, whose kind suggestions and constructive criticisms made this story so much better than it was when I originally wrote it.
"Hinc illae lacrimae" means "Hence these tears" in Latin.
Angelina sat alone in the Gryffindor common room, staring at the fire. A cloud had settled over Hogwarts and even the fire couldn't seem to fight off the gloom. She wasn't sure how much time had passed since McGonagall had told the school about Ginny Weasley, but she knew it was very late.
It was all too much to even try and understand. The Chamber of Secrets? Opened? Little Ginny--taken? And Hogwarts closed? Would they all be going to Beauxbatons? Angelina spoke horrible French.
But her thoughts kept jumping back to the Weasleys. Who could care about French when Ginny was—
It hurt too much to think that. Angelina simply couldn't twist her mind around it. That message on the wall … Eut eleven-year-old girls aren't supposed to be skeletons in the Chamber of Secrets. They're supposed to--to come back next year.
A creaking on the stairs startled her. She jumped a little and squinted at the tall figure. "Oh. Fred. I--" She broke off there, unsure of what to say next.
He looked at her. "Sorry. I didn't think anyone else would be awake." He turned to go back up to the dormitory.
He sounded so miserable. Miserable wasn't even the right word. Anguished, maybe? She doubted there was a word that could aptly portray the depth of his despair. Of all their despair. Percy, George, Fred, and Ron had all been equally effected. But none of the Weasleys had spoken until just now.
"I'm--I'm so sorry, Fred," she said. Lame!
But to her surprise, he turned around and came fully into the room. He sat next to her and stared at the fire with hollow eyes. Finally it all seemed to come out in a rush of words. "Why Ginny?" he asked. "She's just a first year! A little girl. And--and we go as far back as--as the Malfoys do."
Angelina bit her lip hard. She would not burst out in tears. That would help nothing. "I don't know," she said, feeling very inadequate. "I wish I could make this make sense."
There were a few minutes of silence during which Angelina had to bite her tongue to keep from breaking. But she sensed that he needed to work through his thoughts without interference.
"George and I--we didn't want her, you know," Fred said finally. "When we found out she was a girl. It was like--a girl? In our family? Not for us, thank you very much."
Angelina nodded and touched his arm encouragingly.
"The thing was, though, she was this little baby, but it was like she could feel our hostility and set out to make us accept her. We were the only holdouts, after all. Bill and Charlie and Percy took to her right off. Ron was just a baby himself. But George and I, we were wise old men of three, and we didn't want any girls around."
Angelina waited patiently.
"But ... I don't know. She fit. She was a girl, but she was a Weasley, first and foremost. D'you understand?"
"Yeah, I think I do." She hesitated, then decided to say it. "Tell me about Ginny," she asked. "I didn't get to know her very well this year--she's so quiet."
Fred stared at her. "Quiet? Ginny? You're joking."
Angelina blinked. "Not at all."
He frowned a little, then nodded. "Oh," he said. "You never saw her when Harry wasn't around."
The corners of his mouth turned up. It wasn't a genuine smile, by any means, but it was something. "Completely smitten by him. Couldn't get out two words when he was around. Badgered Ron all summer for stories about him."
"Ron got fed up eventually. 'Do you ever just shut up? Ask Harry yourself!' I remember she glared daggers at him. But then he did come to visit, and she did shut up. The silence was eerie," he added.
Angelina rolled her eyes a little, but decided Fred didn't want anyone laughing at his jokes at the moment. "Oh, come off it. She can't be that bad."
"She is," he protested. "I suppose she'd have to be twice as loud as normal just to get herself heard, but--"
"Six times as loud," Angelina corrected.
"Six times," he agreed. "But Ginny's a chatterbox." He was quiet for moment. "Clever, though. Reads a lot, but she'll recite what she's just read to anyone who can't run away fast enough. Always writing in her diary, too."
"She sounds like a sweet little girl."
"She is--she's very sweet." He almost-smiled again. "Once, Bill was tending us while Mum went shopping and George and I were climbing a tree we weren't supposed to. I fell out and Ginny was the first there. Bill carried me to the couch and Ginny hovered over me, trying to make sure I was comfortable until Mum got home. She has a way about her--makes us all feel like we're her favorite brother. Ron is because he's her pal, George and I are because we make her laugh, Percy is because he takes care of her, Charlie is because he teaches her about dragons and Quidditch, and Bill is--well, Bill's Bill." He looked back at the fire. "We let her down this year, Angelina. She needed us and we didn't care."
"That's not true," Angelina protested immediately.
"Yes, it is. Something was troubling her, and we didn't bother--"
"That's not true." Angelina forced him to look at her. "I don't know Ginny, Fred, don't know what was worrying her, but that's not what how it was. There was always a place for her to sit with you and George. You always made room for her. She was never left out unless she left herself out and there's no way she didn't know that." Angelina suddenly realized that she was holding his face between her hands and felt herself flush slightly.
"D'you really think so?" Fred asked. He seemed almost desperate to believe it.
Angelina concentrated on casually moving her hands. She folded them in her lap, but kept eye contact. "Without a doubt."
He studied her for a moment. "You're easy to talk to," he said. "I don't have to find the perfect words; you know what I'm trying to say."
Angelina smiled a little at that. "Thank you."
Suddenly, he turned away. "Angelina, she can't be--we need our sister. We--" A choked sort of sob cut him off and ran a hand through his hair.
Angelina swallowed hard. What could she say? How could she say it? She hated that she was close enough to Fred that he felt comfortable talking to her about his sister, but that they weren't close enough for her to know how to really talk to him.
In that same choked voice, he said, "She just can't--how can she be dead?"
"I wish I knew. I wish I could do something for you." I wish I knew how to comfort you better than I have been.
He met her eyes again. "Yeah?"
"Then ... would you promise not to tell?"
"Tell?" she repeated, then saw the actual tears glittering in his eyes. That did not help her keep back her own. "Of course."
He swallowed. "Thanks," he said hoarsely, wiping at his eyes.
Angelina blinked back tears. "Oh, Fred," she whispered.
He suddenly grabbed her and buried his face in her neck, crying softly. She stiffened a little in surprise, but as she felt him start to pull away, she put her arms around him and stroked his neck. The sobs wracking his body shook her a little as he clutched at her and she could feel his tears wet on her skin. She didn't bother to try and hold back her own tears anymore.
"Mister Fred, sir," a voice squeaked.
Fred and Angelina turned at the same moment to find a house-elf in front of them, poking Fred with a bony finger.
"Mister Fred, sir," it repeated.
Fred stared at it. "Binky?" he asked blankly.
"Sir, sir, we is being told to make a feast," Binky said excitedly.
Both Fred and Angelina gaped at him. "I'm sorry?" Fred finally asked.
"Mister Fred's sister is back! Harry Potter and Mister's brother saved her! We is being told to make celebration!"
Fred's grip on Angelina's hand was tight to the point of pain, but she didn't dream of pulling away. "Ginny's--okay?" he gasped.
Binky beamed at him. "Yes sir, yes sir!"
"Binky ... I ..."
Binky didn't seem to be offended by Fred's silence. "Yes, sir. Binky must be returning to the kitchen. You will tell other sir?"
"Yeah ... yeah ... thanks."
"You and other sir will come visit again? Bring the little miss, or your miss," Binky added, nodding at Angelina.
"Yeah, we'll come down soon," Fred agreed.
Binky nodded vigorously. "Little miss is in the infirmary," he added just before he disappeared.
Fred and Angelina sat, stunned, for a brief moment. Then Fred seemed to realize what exactly had happened. He dropped Angelina's hand and ran for the stairs. "George! George! Wake up! She's okay! Perce! Get down here!" he yelled, stomping up the stairs.
A few minutes later he, George, and Percy came flying back down the stairs and out the door.
None of them glanced at Angelina as they ran out of the tower, but she couldn't mind. Ginny was alive.
Angelina didn't have another chance to speak with Fred again that term. He was intensely preoccupied during classes, never let his sister out of his sight during free time, and always seemed to be leaving a room whenever she entered it.
So she was surprised when heard him call, "Oy! Angelina!" as she collected her things from the Hogwarts Express.
She was attempting to lift her trunk when he reached her. "Hi--Fred." She was a little out of breath as she faced him--from trying to get her trunk on the trolley, of course. She glared at it as it sat on the ground.
Fred pulled out a wand.
"Fred, we're not allowed to do magic!"
"We're not in the Muggle world yet, are we?" He grinned. "Besides, it's Percy's wand."
She choked back a laugh. "You're terrible."
"Thank you." He directed her trunk to the cart and set it down. "There you go."
They stood there. "Uh ... was there something else?" she asked just before the silence got too long.
"Just ..." He stopped. "I wanted to tell you, but ..." He stopped again.
Angelina was more than a little bewildered. "I'm sorry?"
He bent down and kissed her cheek.
Angelina stared. "What--what was that about?" She realized she was touching her cheek and forced her hand back to her side.
He half-grinned, but his ears were bright red. "You let me cry. And you cried, too. Thanks."
"Oh." Angelina bit her lip. "I just--it was--it was real," she finally blurted out. She couldn't stand the idea of him thinking it hadn't been. Never mind that Ginny was all right now--Angelina had meant it when she cried with him. And he knew that, right?
"I know that," he said. "That's why--"
"Oy! Fred! You coming?" George yelled.
"Just a minute!" Fred called back. He turned back to Angelina. "Anyway. See you in September?"
Still a little dazed, she nodded. "Yeah. See you in September."
He nodded, ears still red, and left.
Angelina couldn't help but smile a
little as she joined her parents on the other side of the station.
I could make up some pretend real explanation for why the house-elf and Lavender's rabbit have the same name, but the truth is, I forgot about Lavender when I wrote this. So there is no good reason. My apologies.