this is all
i can't do anything except be in love with you
and all i do is miss you and the way we used to be- Romeo and Juliet, The Killers
He finds her on the deserted, frozen shore, the baby in her arms crying its eyes out; and he thinks that this really couldn't have gone worse if it had tried.
"I'm sorry," he says eventually, breaking the silence, and she turns slowly – probably knew he was there all along. He's always said she has eyes in the back of her head.
"What in particular are you sorry for, Fred?" she inquires shortly, only there's too much vulnerability in her voice for her to sound cross. "Out of all the long list of things you've done wrong – which one are you sorry for?"
His gazes dives downwards, to the bright-eyed child in her arms, with almost-dark skin and too-fair curls, and he sighs and his hands throw themselves upwards in a gesture of despair.
"For everything. I'm sorry for everything."
"You're always sorry," she replies, and then she turns away and starts walking back along the snowy beach, her head bent protectively over the child she's carrying as the wind whips her long curls backwards.
"No, Katherine, wait," Fred calls, and now he's jogging behind her, catching up to her and putting his hand on her arm, trying to halt her. "Please, Katie, please wait. Please."
"For what?" she inquires, and he's horrified – although not entirely surprised – to see that she's crying. "Wait for you to grow up and get your act together? You're twenty-four, Fred, you should be an adult already."
"I am an adult!" he cries, and now he's shouting and he doesn't entirely know why. "I am an adult, and you know I am!"
"Then start acting like one," she hisses, and he takes a step back, truly amazed by the venom in her voice.
"I thought Hufflepuffs were supposed to be forgiving," he calls after her, and she turns around and gathers the child more tightly to her breast.
"Hufflepuffs are loyal," she informs him tightly, and her scowl could darken the stars. "And I've just focused all my loyalty onto the one person who matters most."
"She's my daughter too, you know," Fred says sadly, one last-ditch attempt to save this, to salvage his relationship.
"Then you let me know when you're ready for the responsibility of being her father," Katherine replies in a low voice, and this time when she walks away Fred doesn't stop her.
He stays in his apartment for weeks, not answering the door or the telephone, just turning the engagement ring over and over in his fingers with crap Muggle television on in the background and a picture of his daughter on his dresser.
"Fred!" a voice yells from outside his front door one morning (or afternoon or evening – time has really stopped meaning very much these days), accompanied by loud banging. "Frederick George Weasley, you open up this door right now or we'll –"
He doesn't wait to find out what they're planning, just hastens to the door and yanks it open to discover himself faced with three of the people who strike the most fear into his heart out of everybody he knows.
"What's crackalackin', cuz?" Dominique inquires cheerily, brushing past him and making a face as she encounters the piles of mess in his hallway. "Jeez, they need Grimebusters in here."
"For Salazar's sake, Fred," Lily adds, her nose wrinkled in disgust as she follows her cousin, moving gingerly past a heap of unwashed laundry. "I think there's fungi growing on the fungi in here."
Roxanne makes no comment, just steps forward with her eyes full of concern and suddenly Fred's face is full of his twin's dark curls and he doesn't argue, just wraps his arms around her in return and breathes in the scent that has always been able to calm him.
"How you been, Freddie?" she asks gently, breaking apart from him and taking hold of his chin to turn his head from side to side and examine the bags under his eyes.
"Oh, you know, fine," he replies lightly, trying for nonchalance.
"Try that again, but with feeling this time," Lily says from where she's suddenly appeared in the kitchen doorway, and then shrieks loudly as sunlight floods the dark apartment.
"Jesus Christ, Dominique!" Roxanne yells, covering her eyes as they are all temporarily blinded. "Couldn't you be a little more gentle?"
"Good to see you remember those Muggle curses I taught you," Dominique replies brightly, appearing in the sitting room doorway, looking very pleased with herself. "I'm glad it wasn't a total waste of time teaching those to you."
"I still don't get why you taught them to us," Lily comments as the pair of them disappear into the kitchen, leaving Fred and Roxanne alone in the hallway.
"What happened?" Roxanne asks, looking around at the general squalor. "With Katherine, I mean. None of us have heard from her."
"She left," Fred says, and he thinks that the biggest achievement of his week is that his voice doesn't crack in those two words. "Took Rebecca and left."
"Oh, no," Roxanne breathes, and then Dominique and Lily are back in the hallway, ever the double-act, dragging the twins into the brightly-lit kitchen.
"We made coffee," Lily announces, pushing Fred down into a chair as Dominique thrusts a mug into his hands. "Now we need you to tell us what on Earth could be the reason for you becoming a nocturnal hermit for a month and a half."
"We would have come sooner," Dominique hastens to add, "but we got distracted because Vic is pregnant again."
"Again?" Fred asks incredulously, and suddenly he's distracted for the first time in a while. "Merlin, is she trying to have an entire Quidditch team or something?"
"Something like that," Roxanne replies wryly, taking a mug of her own and then glancing up at Lily and Dominique. "Katie left, guys," she informs them in an undertone, but she knows that Fred hears because his face falls and all his features just seem to close up again.
"Oh, Godric," Dominique exhales, sinking slowly into a chair. "Did she take Becca?"
Roxanne nods an affirmative, and then Lily is suddenly wrapping her arms around Fred's neck and pulling him close, patting his back tenderly. Roxanne moves to pry her away – Lily has always been a little in-your-face for Fred's liking – but to her surprise Fred's shoulders are suddenly shaking and he's crying into Lily's slim, pale shoulder, his arms going around her as he sobs.
"Oh, Freddie," she whispers, and then Dominique and Roxanne move over and join in the hug, patting any part of him they can reach and attempting to soothe him – because these four have stuck together through everything and even though they argue and bicker worse than even Lucy and Molly, when one of them hurts they all hurt.
"We're going to fix this," Dominique promises, and when Roxanne glances up both Dom and Lily are wearing that fiercely determined look that always results in something big happening. "Roxy will stay here with you, Fred, and me and Lily will go fix this."
"How?" Fred asks, and when he raises his face his eyes are red and blotchy and he looks dreadful but none of them even have the heart to tease him, he looks so distraught.
Lily and Dominique and Roxanne exchange a look, and then turn back to him with big grins.
Lily barrels up the stairs to her best friend and sister-in-law's house, not even bothering to knock before bursting through into the hallway.
"Christ, Al!" she shrieks, covering her eyes as she discovers her brother half-naked on his way downstairs.
"Lily, what the fuck?" Al howls in reply, and Dominique calmly shoulders past Lily with her hands over her ears.
"I'd always forgotten how much you Potters enjoy breaking the sound barrier," she comments wearily, heading into the kitchen.
"What are you doing here?" Al demands, continuing down the stairs until he's standing right in front of his sister. "Did you even bother to knock?"
"I wanted to check if I was still as good at Alohomora as I used to be," Lily explains airily, tossing a jumper off the nearby radiator at him. "I am."
"You can't just barge in here," Al informs her angrily, pulling on the jumper as he follows her into the kitchen. "Not even in emergencies."
"Not even if one of our darling cousins has had his heart not only broken, but ripped apart and trampled on?" Lily inquires with a slight grin, accepting the mug of coffee that Chloe offers and collapsing into a chair.
Al looks briefly torn, and then sighs and goes over to help Chloe with the coffee, dropping a kiss onto her cheek and reaching up to get down the mugs that she can't quite reach.
"Ahh, domestic bliss," Dominique says with a hint of laughter in her voice from where she's sitting opposite Lily, watching the couple with her grey eyes dancing.
"Oh, because you'd know so much about that, right?" Chloe shoots back, grinning, reaching around Al to add milk to her coffee and then crossing the room to sit next to Dominique. "Right, what can I do for you ladies?"
"How do you know they're not here to see me?" Al asks, frowning falsely, moving to sit next to Lily.
"Oh, Al, you're so funny," Lily says, deadpan, shuffling her chair further away from him.
"I already told her we needed her help," Dominique explains, sticking her tongue out at Al. "So nyeh."
"Good to see you ladies are finally growing up," Al comments, feeling decidedly outnumbered as Chloe laughs, and goes to rise before Lily grabs him by the forearm, not afraid to dig her nails in. "Ouch! Godric, Lily, are you growing talons or something?"
"Katherine left Fred," Dominique says bluntly, distracting the siblings, and both Al and Chloe gasp in synch.
"Did she –" Chloe asks in a hushed tone, hand at her mouth.
"Take Becca? Yes she did," Lily interrupts, taking a big swallow of her coffee. "So we need you to get your feelers out, Chlo, see if you can track her down. You know more gossip than anyone we know, we figured you'd be our best bet."
"I'll get right on it," Chloe promises, rising from her chair and crossing over to her Muggle telephone, her long legs bare under the shirt that she's wearing.
"Oh, Merlin, is that Al's shirt?" Lily inquires in horror, shielding her eyes as she recognises the particularly violent zigzag pattern. "I would have thought more of you, Nott."
"It's Potter now," Chloe shoots back, grinning and giving her sister-in-law the finger. "You were my Maid of Honour, you should know this."
"I still stand by the fact that that's a dreadful cliché," Dominique announces as Chloe hastily taps in the first number on her list. "Slytherin and Gryffindor – I mean, please. Could you be more Romeo-and-Juliet?"
"Hello, Scorpius and Rose," Lily butts in, turning to Al for back-up. "I still think they're the biggest cliché."
"Yeah, but at least they were both Gryffindor," Dominique points out, almost spilling her coffee as she gesticulates angrily. "So they don't have the whole fire-and-ice thing going on."
"Yeah, they do!" Lily retorts passionately, and if she was standing she'd definitely be stamping her foot by now. As it is, she contents herself with tossing her hair and slamming her fist down on the table.
"Really? How?" Dominique demands, folding her arms and leaning back in her chair as though nothing Lily says could change her mind.
"Because Scorpius is all cool-and-collected and Rose is all wild and – Al, you're best friends with them, you tell her!"
"Oh no, I'm not getting involved," Al protests, holding up his hands.
"Albus," Lily hisses, brows nearly meeting over her ferocious green eyes. "Tell Dominique that Scorpius and Rose are like Romeo and Juliet."
"I'm not –"
"All of you, out!" Chloe suddenly exclaims, the phone against her shoulder as she glares at them. "How do you expect me to find anything out with you three squabbling like grannies?"
"Hardly like grannies," Lily protests as the three of them rise, wiser than to toy with Chloe's temper. The argument continues as they wait in the sitting room, only diminishing when Chloe appears with a piece of paper covered in scribbles and an excited expression on her face.
"I know where she is."
The five of them stare at the green front door, unable to believe that something so plain and wooden could possibly be so scary.
"Man up, Fred," Lily says eventually, although she's shifting on the spot and her knuckles are white where she's clutching onto Chloe's sleeve, so he doesn't really see how she can say that without realising how hypocritical she's being.
"Ring the damn doorbell, Fred," Dominique complains, biting her nails and shivering as the cold Irish wind whips her red hair upwards. "I don't fancy turning into a human icicle."
"But what if she won't speak to me?" Fred asks plaintively, and Chloe sighs and steps forward, thumping her fist down onto the doorbell.
"There," she announces in exasperation. "It's done. Can we get back to my husband now, please? He's probably set fire to the kitchen or something."
Lily and Dominique shrug, whisper good lucks to Fred, and then the three of them disapparate. Roxanne stays for long enough to squeeze Fred's hand and wish him luck, and then she too disapparates.
Fred gulps as the door swings open, and as Katherine swings into view with Rebecca on her hip, he remembers what Dominique had instructed him to do and gets down on one knee, ignoring the damp cold that spreads through him as his jeans come into contact with the snow.
"I'm so sorry, Katie," he says, reaching up to take her free hand. "I've been an idiot and a child and I'm sorry. I don't know what else to do to tell you that."
She stares down at him, her hand still in his, and there is something warring in her green eyes as she considers him, Becca burbling chirpily in her arms.
"How did you find me?" she asks eventually, and he shifts against the cold ground and shrugs.
"My family know everything between them."
She stands there a little while longer, frowning slightly, and then Becca seems to clock the identity of the man on his knees in front of her door and stretches out her arms to him, shrieking happily.
"Baby," Fred breathes, standing up and reaching towards her. Katherine relinquishes her reluctantly, letting him dandle her in his arms and hold her tightly, inhaling her sweet scent and examining how much she's grown and kissing her curls.
"I'm sorry," he repeats to Katherine, shifting Rebecca into one arm to glide his fingers against Katherine's cheek. "I love you so much. I never want to be parted from you again."
"You, Fred Weasley, are an idiot," she says thickly, sounding like she's swallowing back tears, and then suddenly she's throwing herself at him and wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him harder than a ten-tonne truck crashes into a rock.
"Never leave me again," he murmurs against her mouth, and when she draws back her green eyes are dancing and her sandy curls are streaming over all three of them and she's biting her bottom lip in that way he loves so.
"Okay," she whispers, and then she's dragging him back inside, Rebecca giggling with delight at having her parents back together again, Fred feeling like he's going to burst with the relief of it all.
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