A/N: This chapter would not have been possible without Biffy Clyro and the masterpiece that is Puzzle, and in particular, Machines. I have paraphrased a lyric for the last line of this and I hope they don't mind.
Quick question - does a remembrall appear in the PoA film? Because the label next to it at Studio Tour seems to think it did and I cannot for the life of me recall seeing it there.
Disclaimer: J.K Rowling created Harry Potter and I thank her for giving me home that will always welcome me.
It wasn't until she had to clean up after them that Molly realised how big her family was. She could still remember the days when there were just the four of them – her and her little alphabet family, she used to think of them.
Arthur, Bill and Charlie.
It had always been a running joke with the Prewetts that if Molly was ever going to get the daughter she wanted, the fabled Ginevra, then she would have to have six boys first if she carried on going down the alphabet. She ignored them though. Her daughter would come eventually, even if she had to birth a Xander, a Yardley and a Zak first.
Pregnancy number three was either going to be Ginevra or Donald, but, when Arthur's great uncle Percival passed away that spring, there was only one name they could possibly choose. The same went for the twins after Fabian and Gideon had been killed. It seemed so silly now that she had spent months referring to them as Donnie and Ernie.
When she had fallen pregnant again, Arthur had asked whether she wanted to call the baby Ernest, Donald or another name beginning with the letter 'H'. The argument had lasted until the first of March, when their son was born. Molly had taken one look at the strangely quiet baby, who had been smaller than the others, and immediately decided on Ronald, for reasons that were obvious to her and, to this day, beyond Arthur.
And so, just like her family had joked, she had ended up with six boys, a Ginevra and very complicated story about where all of their names had come from.
For some reason, she had always lamented that she had never managed to get a 'H' baby.
Molly spun around to see Harry standing behind her. It was only then that she noticed that she had been staring out of the window, her chores forgotten.
"I was just wondering if you needed a hand with the washing up?" he asked with a shrug.
She smiled kindly at him. "I'm nearly finished now, but thank you."
He gave her an awkward nod and made his way back into the living room with the others and Molly reflected that maybe she did get her eighth child after all.
With a slight chuckle, she waved her wand to the plates on the draining board and stacked them up one by one on top of each other before sending them all to the cupboard. She picked up the tea towel from the side to dry her hands and looked around the kitchen to check that she had finished her night's work. With the washing up done, there was nothing left but a glance at the clock that told her that there was enough time for a quick load of washing before bed. By the time the washing charm would have finished, she could have it hung up to dry before going to bed.
Of course, her plan would be scuppered if any of her family hadn't been using their laundry hampers and she had to go hunting for their dirty clothes. With Hermione back at her parents', Ginny would probably have let the state of her room slide, Ron and Harry were a lost cause as far as cleanliness was concerned and as for the twins-
Her breath caught and Molly shut her eyes as her hand tightened on the chair in front of her. This kept happening. She would fall into her old routine of looking after everyone, trying to make everything feel like it did before, and she would forget that things were never going to be the same again.
There was a noise behind her and Molly turned to see her tired husband enter through the back door.
He smiled apologetically at her, thinking that she was probably angry because he had missed dinner, and Molly glared at him. She wasn't annoyed. She knew that the ministry was a mess and that Arthur was one of the few people who Kingsley trusted enough to help him put everything right again, but he had given her a shock. Arthur opened his mouth to come up with an excuse for his tardiness, but Molly didn't want to hear it and raised her eyebrows, effectively stopping him.
They continued their silent argument until Arthur looked down sheepishly and mumbled, "I'm sorry."
Before he got the wrong idea about him being in the proverbial dog house, Molly crossed the kitchen and pulled him into a gentle hug that he immediately reciprocated.
"How are you?" he asked, resting his head atop of hers and she felt his glasses get caught in her hair. After all these years, he still hadn't learnt. She thought about his question and how she could possibly begin to answer it. In the end, she just gave the same reply that she had given him every night this week.
"Better," he said as he pulled away, removed his cloak and slung it over the bag of a chair. "Everyone else?"
Molly, as she had done every day for the past three decades, picked the cloak up and took it to the hooks by the seldom-used front door.
"Well," she started as she made her way back down the hall to the kitchen, "you've not long missed Hermione. She was all right," Molly added when Arthur went to ask the question. "Harry has really perked up after seeing Teddy today and Charlie says he's okay, but that boy's definition of 'okay' is warped to say the least." She flicked her wand with more venom than she meant to at the kettle and it boiled over so quickly that it shook. "I honestly think he considers being on fire to be no big deal-"
Arthur took a mug from the cupboard and casually tossed a tea bag into it. "Well, it looks like the Romanian ministry finally believes that Britain isn't under V-Voldemort's control anymore," he said, pouring the still-bubbling water into the mug, both of them suppressing the shudder they knew they should have worked out of their systems long ago. "They should be allowing international Portkeys there in the next couple of days. He'll go back to chasing dragons instead of terrorising the gnomes soon."
Molly turned her back on Arthur's warm smile and went to fetch the milk, hoping he didn't spot the hitch in her voice, but of course he did. The man could spot a shift in her mood from two miles away and yet still couldn't buy her the right size clothes to save his life. It baffled her.
"He'll be fine," he reassured her, but it didn't help.
Molly didn't want Charlie or any of her children out of the country. Ron and Hermione going to Australia had been hard enough and she would never have been able to cope without them sending a patronus to her twice a day. She wanted them here where she could see them and where they would be safe. Letting them go off on their own left them open, where she couldn't protect them. The thought made her feel cold.
Taking her time to compose herself before she passed Arthur the milk, Molly sighed heavily. George was different to the others. Everyone else had been making the effort to move forward the best they could, but George…
He thought she didn't know about the drinking, but of course she did, she wasn't stupid. She heard him sneaking down the stairs in the early hours as she lay awake. As much as it pained her to not follow him, pour that stuff down the sink and scream at him until he saw sense, Molly knew that it would do no good. He had to pull himself out of this one. She was only there to watch over him and offer any help or advice that he wanted.
"I've barely seen him today," she fretted, watching Arthur finish off his tea. "Both him and Ginny had gone out before I went to Muriel's-"
"Can't see why…"
"-and they only just made it back for dinner." Arthur took a sip of his tea and waited. He knew that, even if she had hardly seen him, she would've still observed him like a hawk to make sure he wasn't falling to pieces. "He seems better."
Arthur, who had been halfway through another sip of his drink, paused his actions and looked at her with raised eyebrows. "Really?"
"I'm not sure," she replied, sinking into the nearest chair. Arthur sat beside her and covered her hand with one of his. She looked down at them, surprised by how warm holding his mug had made his hand. "He's… different."
He looked at her sadly and she knew that he was thinking the same thing, the thing they had both been too scared to voice aloud since they had both watched their son fall apart at the sight of his dead twin – would George ever be George again?
"Well," said Arthur bracingly, "at least Bill and Fleur will be back tomorrow."
Snapping back into Mother Mode, Molly jumped up and started checking the cupboards to make sure she had remembered the extra food. They had told her that they would be going back to their own house, but she had insisted they stay a few nights here. She wouldn't hear of them being back from visiting the Delacours and not coming to the Burrow.
"That reminds me," she blustered as she finished in the cupboard and turned back to Arthur, "I have to give his old room a tidy."
Arthur stood up slowly, his knees cracking as they always did now, and put his hands on her shoulders.
"I'll do it," he whispered, kissing her forehead. "Don't worry."
Molly snorted. "I've seen your idea of tidy, Arthur. I'll do it."
A smile crept onto his face, crinkling the corners of his eyes as Arthur pulled her into a hug and Molly felt all the worry fade from her body as he kept her anchored and sane in a world that constantly threatened to upset both of these necessities.
The man couldn't cook or clean to save his life, was unhealthily attached to that lawn mower he had in the shed and was a hopeless liar, but she wouldn't trade him for the world. A life without Arthur would be like a life without the colour blue. It was there all the time, in every part of life and you could take it for granted, but she never did.
Molly sank further into him and took a deep breath of the curious scent that always reminded her of home. Here, she was safe. Here, she could let go and let the brave face she had been trying to show the rest of the world fade away into nothing.
"It's been nearly three weeks," she whispered.
All day she had stayed strong. Through all of Muriel's insensitive comments, through all of the constant reminders… she had kept it together. Two seconds in Arthur's arms and she felt the lump in her throat growing at an alarming rate.
"I miss him so much."
"We all do."
"When does it start getting easier?"
Arthur sighed and he pressed a kiss into her hair before answering in a voice, no louder than the wind outside. "I don't know."
"With Fabes and Gid it was… "
Just the memory of her brothers was enough to tip the scales and the familiar tears came in waves. The thin arms around her tightened and she could feel them shaking. Through all of this, Arthur had been trying to remain strong in front of her, like she wouldn't know that he had been going out into his shed when it all became too much.
For some reason, lots of them had felt the need to cry outside, as though they didn't want the Burrow tainted with their misery. She'd caught Ginny throwing a miniature Quaffle at the side of the house with tears pouring down her cheeks last week. The day after they had arrived home, Molly had found Fleur over by the few chickens that remained, crying silently because she "didn't want to intrude on the family's grief." It had taken Molly ten minutes to convince her that she was family and that they didn't give the name Weasley to just anybody. She had even seen Hermione and Harry had out by the pond together, clearly both crying.
When the misery had passed, however temporarily, Molly pulled herself together and hoped that tomorrow would be the first day that she didn't cry. She knew Fred would want that. If there was one thing he had always wanted for everyone, it was happiness. She just didn't know how to give it to him right now.
Molly pulled away to find Arthur smiling at her sadly. She pulled herself up using his shoulders to kiss him and tried to give him the apology for not being strong enough that she knew he wouldn't accept had she tried to give it to him verbally.
"There's my beautiful wife," he whispered, wiping the remains of her tears away with his thumbs.
"Oh, stop it," she admonished as she swatted him on the arm.
Another peck on the lips and a chuckle later, Arthur slowly made his way into the living room and Molly followed him.
As soon as they entered the room, three of the boys (well, men, Molly corrected herself) turned around and greeted Arthur with a smile.
"How's the ministry, Dad?" Ron asked, a frown forming on his face. Molly once again found herself wondering how many years he had aged in the months he had been gone.
"We're making progress," he sighed, dropping into his armchair without spilling a drop of tea – something that had taken years of practise. "Most of Europe seems to want to co-operate with starting up trade and transport links again, we have a basic Law Enforcement Squad in place, as well as a half-decent guard set up at Azkaban. The goblins are being as difficult as ever, but that was to be expected given the, um, circumstances."
"Er – sorry about that," Harry said, shifting awkwardly in his seat.
Charlie roared with laughter. "I keep forgetting about that!"
"Charlie!" Molly admonished, nudging him off the arm of the sofa and onto his own chair. "It isn't a laughing matter!"
"Ron hijacking an Opaleye?" he continued, still chortling. "That is pretty hilarious, Mum."
Molly flashed her Be Quiet Now glare and Charlie complied with a slight gulp. He may be unafraid to mess around with fire-breathing killing machines, but nobody was able to survive her wrath.
With talk of the ministry and Ron's bank robbing shenanigans behind them, the group fell back into their previous conversations. It appeared that Harry had been discussing how Teddy had waved at him – actually waved at him – and how much he had grown in the couple of days since he had last seen him. The conversation passed over her and she started to wonder where George and Ginny were, when she noticed the older of the two, sat on his own in the corner, staring out of the window and into the ever darkening sky.
"-then Andromeda gave him his bottle and his hair turned blue again-"
"You've told us this, mate."
"Ronnie's right. Either that or all of these stories are blurring into one."
"Hey! That's my Godson you're talking about!"
"You're the one talking about him. I'm talking about how uninteresting it is."
It was unnatural to see George so still, so quiet. Molly wanted more than ever to hold him and tell him that everything would be all right, even though she knew that the chances were that she could be lying. She would give anything to know what he was thinking, but it was impossible with his face so blank.
"What? I'm just saying that, when they're that young, babies shit, piss and cry and I have no interest in any of the above."
"You'll change your tune soon enough, son."
"Nah, you wait. One day, he'll meet the dragon of his dreams and-"
"Constantly eye-fuck each other -"
"-for seven years before actually making a move, like you and Hermi-"
"Harry, can I have a word?"
Molly looked away from George to see her daughter stood in the doorway, her jaw set in an aggressive pose, completely ruining the casual look she was clearly trying to pull off. Everyone in the room looked between her and Harry as the later stared up at her, his mouth hanging open in shock.
"Outside?" she added, quirking her eyebrows, clearly amused by Harry's stunned expression.
"Erm," Harry croaked, before getting up from the sofa, "yeah. Sure."
He gave her a nervous smile and went to follow her back into the kitchen, everyone else's eyes still locked on the pair of them.
"Has somebody told Ginny about his new obsession with kids or is the marriage proposal she's about to receive going to come as a great surprise?"
And like that, time stopped.
His voice was croaky, his timing off, but it was George and it was a joke and that was all that registered in everyone's minds.
For a moment, the rest of the Weasley's and Harry stared at George as he looked back at them bemused, as though he hadn't been a walking shell of himself the past few weeks and it was them that was acting out of character.
"What?" he chuckled, looking directly at Ginny. "Just because Fred died, doesn't mean we all did."
The sound of Fred's name on his lips sounded so foreign and yet so normal that Molly was too stunned to react. In fact, so was everybody else. Everyone but Ginny that was, who crossed the room in five of her tiny strides and wrapped him in a hug that he instantly returned with interest.
Out of the corner of her eye, Molly saw Charlie mouth "What the fuck was that?" to Ron, who shrugged in response, but she was paying too much attention to the two by the window to chastise her son for his appalling language. Eventually, Ginny kissed her brother on the cheek and left the room without as much as a backwards glance at anyone.
After a couple of uncertain seconds, Harry followed her.
Eventually, Arthur, Charlie and Ron started up a conversation, being very careful not to touch on anything that had just transpired.
Molly, however, only had eyes for George, who in return was doing his best to avoid looking at her.
Even though he was smiling, she could still the pain, clear as day, making a poor attempt of hiding in his eyes. Finally, he met her gaze for the first time since the battle and gave her the forced innocence of his smile that Fred could never quite pull off. She knew that he thought that the sight of him was too much of a reminder of his twin, but Molly had never seen it that way. While they joked and tried to trick her, she always knew the difference because they were two different people. She just hoped that one day George would realise too.
Although Fred was gone, he was still there. He was there when Ginny lied about cleaning her room, using the excuses that Fred had taught her. He was there when Ron jumped at the sight of a spider in memory of that monster she had had to banish over a decade ago. He was there when Arthur instinctively checked the wardrobe for booby-traps after the incident where Fred and George had snuck into their bedroom.
He was that dent in the wall at the bottom of the stairs from where he had fallen down as a child.
He was there in the drawing of a dragon that she still had on her chest of drawers that he had made when Charlie had first became obsessed with the creatures.
He was the fifth plate and the seat opposite the sink, facing the window. The cutlery with the vertical stripes, not the patterns. The one with no cauliflower, but extra sprouts.
He was her son and she loved him – she still did now – but life had to go on. Tomorrow would come and she would face it. Fred may have left them, left her, but he would always be with them in the little pieces that made up their lives. All she had to do now, was build the pieces skywards.
A/N 2: It's time for the spot your name game!
The biggest thank you that you can imagine to InkTeardrops, AlwaysKatie7, mkoala, wazlib88, Cliodhna, theendofthefairytale, ozzel1, wanderinon, mkoala, fanohermione, thesecondshelf, Joanne Black rh, asyuraniel, LilAl260, NinjaNovelist, tashrusms, AlwaysLily, Fred, Cliodhna, Jobo78, redheaded-raindop, ColorOfLove, Zalini, The Brewer of Polyjuice, Andi (Thank you for the lovely review and yes, I am female :)), various guest reviewers, Infammous, j12345, JessicaLaurenWeasley, Lottieluu92, nalanin1987, RainySun, Sebas of the Ocean Waves, sheridan19, sonni2, Urnaturalsavior, weasleyking93, XxyellowmellowxX, Zibb, abithriel, caitiejane26, DawnJinx, DCoD, girlunderground, jadesfire1, Legolas Greenstar, Miss Lyra, Mylifeisbooks, neuroticmess, ranDeeemachelle, redandgoldlions, smilelino, Soxylady, Stromsten, Summers Rage, susieQ41, The-blacks, TisforTatty, , tripmom and tscheby for reviewing, favouriting and having this story on alert. Also, I'd like to thank the invisible readers who have got to this point but didn't review, alert or favourite because you still make my day by reading this.
I mean it – thank you. I have only been doing this for 3 and a half months now and it has been a lot of fun and that is because of you guys reviewing, PMing and generally being nice and supportive. Thanks to you lot I have almost won meaningless internet awards that meant the world, ship Argma and Cow/Sheep/Grint-aholic, have dreams of opening a Vampire Ice Cream Parlour, laugh myself stupid when I'm told not to 'hang pictures' in my room, have a new appreciation for the word 'fuck', learnt a bit of Spanish, want to get drunk in a zoo and now consider being compared to half a sheep as a compliment.
You have made me laugh. You have made me do little dances and make a spectacle of myself in public… multiple times. You have made me think that I might actually be all right at this writing thing.
I say 'thank you' at the beginning of every chapter and in every review response and somehow the phrase doesn't cover all of the above well enough so imagine you're reading all of this the next time I say it.
Fucking hell, that was almost profound. Childish humour will resume shortly.