The sky was brighter yesterday, Arthur thinks, squinting up at the liquid sun.
It’s noon and he lies in the damp grass, moisture seeping through the knit of his jumper, watching the sun watch him.
He imagines he can hear his children playing inside, buoyant in their usual playfulness; Ginny fighting George for a go on his broom, Ron stumbling after his older brothers with round eyes and red cheeks. He imagines that they all sneak cookies from the biscuit tin and their hands aren’t bloody or heavy or cold.
(One voice is achingly absent, even in his daydream.)
He curls his fingers in the dewy grass and imagines little pink fingers slotting between his.
His boy’s eyes were the same shade of blue as the weak sky, but in his clinging memory they’ve become so vivid he can’t recognise the colour.
He hasn’t looked at George. Not since. He avoids looking at the nose they shared and the identical slope of their jaw. He avoids looking at his heavy eyes and his missing ear and the jagged, hollow space beside him.
He catches Molly’s eye every time he stutters away from his son’s searching gaze, every time he ducks his head and moves away as George talks; he catches her eye and they bleed together for a second, before they carry on.
Because they have to carry on; if they don’t they would stop and break, they’d rust over and rot from the inside out.
So Molly still smiles and cooks and matches socks even though everything feels achingly small against the cold weight of her loss, even though she cries for every odd sock. Arthur still tinkers with muggle things and keeps his eyes wide and young for the children.
They carry on and pretend that she doesn’t slip into Fred’s bed when no one is around, her face pressed against his pillow, curled in his fading smell.
She used to hold him and press her nose into his soft, baby belly, used to kiss the arch of his tiny foot while he screamed laughing. She used to dress him and rub the space between his small shoulder blades. She used to breathe the smell of him from the delicate swirl of his hairline, from his ruddy, laughing cheeks. She loved him for his whole life and now all she has of him is the echo of his smell on the pillows that she can’t bring herself to wash.
They carry on and pretend Arthur doesn’t look at Molly and want to collapse into the crook of her neck.
He wants to scream against her skin and let his body wrack with sobs, he wants to crawl into her pores and rock with his grief. He is selfish in this as he is in nothing else; he wants to be held as he breaks. But the weight of the ghost between them is suffocating and he can’t get to her, so instead he watches Fred’s spoon sit cradled in her warm, mother’s hands as they struggle through their grief alone.
The sky was brighter yesterday, Arthur thinks on this glorious August day. His fingers tighten and the grass rips in his hand.
Fred was curled against his side yesterday, his smile crooked and young, and Arthur can’t remember the rain.