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Friendly Twin Advice
A Christmas Interlude
To Molly, On Charlie’s Birthday
Love, like light, should beam forth on every side.
– Martin Luther
Not for the first time, Molly Weasley was found in the attic of the Burrow, digging through boxes and piles of unimportant-yet-indispensable … rubbish, that’s what she would call it … for camp beds and Christmas stockings. It was going to be a full house for Christmas: Fred and George, Bill and Fleur, Ron and Ginny, Harry, and Remus were all coming to stay.
She didn’t expect Percy to come at all.
But the children were due home from Hogwarts in a few days, and there was much to do.
She wanted everything to be perfect, as it was before there was a need for one-off Floo connections and extra security charms around the Burrow grounds and Ministry pamphlets describing in the most useless manner the ways to ineffectively combat Dementors.
She huffed at the thought, irritating as it was, and decided to sort through old Weasley memorabilia instead. The camp beds and stockings could wait a moment or five.
She carefully lifted a dusty box full of Ron’s old Martin Miggs comics that she herself had put there a few months ago before Harry came to stay for the summer holidays. Beneath it was an unfamiliar box that she wanted a proper look at.
The lid of the box was neatly inscribed with childish letters: CHARLIE.
Her heart raced. She had been longing for Charlie since receiving his letter in the morning post.
The box didn’t look so unfamiliar anymore – she had just completely forgotten about it until that moment. She gently lifted the lid and choked back a happy cry. Inside was Charlie’s animal collection: on top she found brittle, yellowed crayon drawings modelled from pictures in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Underneath the pictures were lifeless Muggle figurines with chewed up horns and feet, and tatty Wizarding toys whose heads tried to turn away from the sudden light but didn’t succeed, because the charms on them had nearly all worn off.
And a small pair of slippers shaped like elephant feet.
Arthur had found them at a discount Muggle shop near the Ministry and couldn’t resist buying them for his animal-loving son for Christmas. And, oh! how Charlie had loved them.
That was the year Charlie had turned four years old. Bill had been going through an insatiable question-asking stage and Percy had been a very fussy baby. Sometimes Charlie would slip away and, after frantic searching, would be found under the kitchen table quietly petting Errol or a slug he had found in the garden. So when he had disappeared that Christmas, and couldn’t be found underneath the table, Molly had started to panic.
But Bill, being tenacious in his questioning, had asked, ‘Why is the door open?’ before Molly and Arthur were hysterical. Molly had bolted outside to find little Charlie in his Golden Snitch-patterned pyjamas and no cloak, crouching behind a bench.
‘Charlie Weasley!’ she had cried. ‘Are you out here in the snow in your bare feet?’
He had stood up. ‘No, Mummy,’ he had said as he had lifted up each little foot for her to see. ‘These are my elephant feet.’
‘These are my elephant feet,’ Molly whispered as she lovingly brushed the worn soles with her fingertips. There were a couple of gaping holes, and she wondered if she could mend them. She started to raise the slippers for a better look, but hesitated before her hands had got very high. She distinctly felt a presence and knew it wasn’t the old family ghoul.
‘Hullo, Mum,’ George said, when he saw that she had frozen tensely.
She turned around. ‘George! You know better than to sneak up on someone like that!’ she said harshly as what she was afraid was a tear rolled down her cheek.
‘Mum! Why are you crying?’ Fred asked as he joined them in the attic.
She hastily wiped the tear away and set down the slippers. ‘It’s nothing – I just found a box of Charlie’s old thing and I got a bit sentimental.’
‘Because he can’t come home for Christmas?’
‘We saw his letter on the kitchen table.’
‘Well, I’m glad I taught you to respect the privacy of others,’ she said huffily.
Fred longed to tell his mother that there were no secrets among the Weasley family, but he knew that she wasn’t as gullible as Ron and Ginny were when they were younger. And he knew that it wasn’t true. So he kept his mouth closed and let George attempt to smooth it over.
‘Dad stopped by the shop and told us about it, Mum. So we came to cheer you up a bit.’
She looked him in the eye to see if he was lying. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘Let’s have it, then.’
‘Here? In the attic?’ George asked, mostly because he was surprised that he had passed the inspection.
‘There’s not much room to manoeuvre …’ Fred pointed out as he looked doubtfully at the stack of boxes surrounding him
‘And there’s no tea up here,’ said George, looking at his watch.
‘Well, come downstairs. I made a plum pudding this morning for your father …’
Fred and George followed their mother downstairs, sharing worried glances. Arthur hadn’t told them about Charlie’s letter; they had found it open on the kitchen table and had read the news before they realised what it was. And – more importantly to their sense of pride – they didn’t have any plans for cheering up Molly, other than a Cheering Charm, but they doubted she would allow them to cast it on her.
They sat down at the kitchen table as the clock chimed, ‘It’s time for tea!’
Fred and George silently drank their tea and ate their plum pudding. Molly, on the other hand, merely pushed her pudding around on the plate with a fork while trying not to look at the open letter that still lay on the table. She finally folded up the parchment and stuck it in the inside pocket of her robes.
‘You know, Mum, it’s not healthy to dwell on things you can’t change,’ George finally said, more to break up the silence than to offer comfort.
‘George is right, Mum. We all want Charlie to come to visit –’
‘– but he can’t,’ Molly interrupted with a sigh. ‘And I understand that. I just wish that we all could be together one more time.’
‘But we will, Mum.’
‘Yeah, for the wedding next summer,’ George pointed out.
‘Oh, that!’ she exclaimed.
‘And that’s something to look forward to, that is.’
‘Well …’ she said on the verge of conceding.
‘And you’ll have all the rest of us to watch over –’
‘– look out for –’
‘– feed and water –’
‘– hug and hover over –’
‘And have you seen how long Bill’s hair’s getting lately?’
‘He’ll need some nagging.’
Molly looked at Fred sternly.
‘Or, it could be called mothering.’
‘Didn’t you used to say that the grand essentials to happiness were something to do, something to love, and something to hope for?’
‘Yes, I did, and I do,’ she said quietly. ‘I just wish that I didn’t need to hope, but could simply have what I hope for.’
Fred and George exchanged worried glances. They were not the ones who were expert at this kind of display. That was their father’s department, or Ginny’s, or even Lupin’s or Tonks’ department.
Noticing their discomfort, she gave them a watery smile. ‘Don’t worry, boys, you don’t have to comfort me. Sometimes it’s best to relieve your feelings; then you can get on with your life.’ She stood up and started to gather the teacups and plates.
There had been many times when George and Fred had felt very awkward indeed. They would rather not have admitted it, but they had their fair share self-conscious moments. And from those times, they had learnt that the best way to combat awkwardness (because awkwardness is the kind of thing that must be tackled) was complete and utter distraction.
And what better distraction was there than Fred and George?
‘Now, Mum, we said we would cheer you up, and we intend to.’
‘So what will you have?’ Fred asked.
‘I think I have a Puking Pastille in one of my pockets,’ George offered as he started looking through his pockets.
‘Or a Daydream Charm?’
‘We can charm one of the garden gnomes to sing Celestina Warbeck songs.’
‘A song?’ Molly asked slowly.
‘Or, Fred has a lovely singing voice; he could give you a song,’ George offered generously.
‘But George’s singing voice is much more resonant …’ Fred’s counteroffer died on his lips when he saw the enraptured expression on his mother’s face. He shrugged helplessly at George, who sighed in defeat and lined up next to Fred to face the humiliation together.
‘Three, two, one,’ said George quietly.
They began to bounce in place at opposite beats as they sang, off-key to regain a bit of their pride.
‘We wish you a Merry Christmas,
we wish you a Merry Christmas,
we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.’
It was an old routine, one they had devised when they were very young and Molly had been busy giving lessons to Percy and Charlie while Bill had watched over Ron and little Ginny. Somehow, this private performance for their mother was shameful, although they wouldn’t have minded terribly if their audience had been larger.
But the expression of delight on Molly’s face was encouraging, and they continued to the next verse with more gusto: deeper knee bends, synchronised head turns, louder voices, and arm movements.
‘We all want some figgy pudding,
we all want some figgy pudding,
we all want some figgy pudding, and a cup of good cheer!’
By that time, Molly was crying in mirth, clinging to the sink with one hand, and they felt justified in stopping there. That had been the point at which Charlie always started laughing uncontrollably when they had first started singing the song some fourteen years before. He used to taunt them by stomping around in those elephant slippers even though they were too small for him. But no matter what the twins did to make him laugh, he still would not let Fred and George play in them.
The revered elephant slippers were one of the few things that Charlie would not share with his younger brothers, however longingly and pittifully Fred and George pleaded. And Arthur and Molly never intervened on the twins’ behalf when it came to the elephant slippers.
Therefore, while they felt justified in stopping after demanding figgy pudding, they also felt justified in being just a little wicked.
‘Look, George,’ Fred began as he picked up the elephant slippers sitting on the counter in exaggerated awe, ‘it’s Charlie’s slippers.’
George regarded them in amazement. ‘Can I touch them?’
‘Now, Fred – George,’ Molly admonished.
Fred held the slippers up out of George’s reach. ‘Better not, George. You wouldn’t want to get into a jam with an elephant.’
‘Because it might make you into jam.’
‘That would be a predicament,’ George said thoughtfully.
‘A predicament with a pachyderm.’
‘A sticky situation, indeed.’
‘Don’t you lot need to be getting along?’ Molly suggested hopefully, foreseeing no end to the puns.
‘Mum! I have cause to believe that you’re only saying that to get rid of us.’
‘Now, really, George –’
‘That’s okay, Mum,’ interrupted Fred. ‘We’ll pretend that we have something to do at the shop to make this less awkward.’
She rolled her eyes as they feigned clumsiness kissing her good-bye.
When they had left, she sighed in exasperation and looked around at the once-again empty room, gearing up for a tear or two. Instead, she found herself staring at the elephant feet sitting on the counter.
Something Fred had said niggled at the back of her mind. Something to do. Molly picked up Charlie’s worn slippers and walked into the living room. She carefully set the elephant feet on the highest shelf in the bookcase that she could reach as she whispered, ‘Something to love.’
She stepped back to admire the grey elephantine feet, which now gave the room a more completed feeling. Her eyes were immediately drawn to them as eyes were drawn to a newly lit lamp or a beam of sunlight filtering through an open window.
She smiled. ‘Something to hope for.’
“The grand essentials” quote is by Joseph Addison.
The “these are my elephant feet” story was related to me by my friend Sleaze.
Many, many thanks go to my beta reader, Chary, who has an uncanny ability to make sense out of my nonsense, and to ivy, redlightspecial, and magicaljules for their pre-beta comments.
This is for Juli: kindred, friend, and Cheering Charm, and a December baby just like Charlie to boot. Happy Birthday!