are you right in the mind? are you not mad,
woman? the house of the king is outraged by you.
do you enjoy it?
Molly Weasley knew she killed her children.
They always visited the village at night, never when there was a moon. Once a month, Molly got a chance to stand over five rounded pieces of granite and remember what it was like to have a family. She didn't let anyone else come; her and Bill lined up, two by two, never speaking, never moving. They never stayed more than ten minutes.
Harry didn't ever know what they said to those stones in their heads; once he saw Molly's lips moving, a sliver of the waning moon visible behind a pack of thick dark clouds.
They couldn't come when anyone might be watching.
Harry kept his back turned to the gravestones at night. He and Remus, Dumbledore if he was available - it used to be Tonks - sometimes Emmaline, stood ringed around the two of them. Bill and Molly, alone in their grief. They formed a three point triangle enclosing the Weasleys in. It had happened before; someone always tried to sneak up on them. Harry didn't intend to let them.
He didn't bother to look at the grave markers, because knowing Ron was under the earth and knowing Ron was gone had nothing to do with any carved rock.
"He knew," and Molly slapped her hand on the kitchen table, tears mucking up her face, snot dripping off her chin. Her cheeks were puffy, eyes puffy, skin blotchy, all red and pale. "The stupid idiot knew."
She was talking about Bill, of course, going to pay respects to his family without someone else present. The emotional distraction of grief made you sloppy, easy prey.
"He knew," someone murmured, but Molly shook their hand off, and dropped her head to the table, covering it with her tears.
Neville brought her a cup of tea while she cried, saying, "he was a good man," while he put the teacup down. The cup splashed hot tea all over the floor that would probably end up seeping into the floorboards between the cracks. Harry had a feeling that Molly wouldn't be cleaning it up. "He was a good man," Neville repeated.
Molly's hand came crashing up in much the same way the teacup had gone crashing down; an accident, falling into the world. Her palm collided with Neville's cheek with a sharp sound, and then she fell backwards, into her chair. Neville bent down to pick up broken china. Molly mumbled, choking, "he shouldn't have been so ruddy good," and Neville got the dustpan.
Before Ron was in second year, Arthur and Molly had never even considered buying plots for their eternal rest. Money was always too tight, they never had any to spare, and death seemed like such a far-off cousin - possible, an inevitable end, but certainly not breathing down their necks. The day they thought Ginny was gone, she was twelve and they had no where to place her.
Arthur and Molly went to the little graveyard and bought two plots, just for them. They ended up borrowing the money from someone Arthur knew at work, and his paycheques - so pitiably thin already - were carved out for four months in order to pay it back.
The caretaker - Muggle father of a witch who graduated even before Harry's parents did - somehow always managed to keep the plots around theirs vacant despite the increasing demand. He knew how large Molly's family was, and though he didn't know the first thing about how to cast a killing curse, he knew exactly what it meant to be born into a Muggle family when you were a witch. His daughter had died quick. It was a small mercy.
He raked up leaves to make sure that no one else found themselves stumbling along the paths. In his mind, the very worst offence was desecrating a tombstone; they were sacred. They were a piece of inevitability, in a world that was ever-changing.
Dung crept into the kitchen, toting two sackfuls of some unimaginable stench. Snape was behind him. "Heard about Bill," Dung said. "Right shame."
Harry nodded. "They buried him last week."
"Already?" Dung pulled a handkerchief out; Snape started pulling things out of his sacks, yellow liquids, bottled potions. Harry was suspicious. "Only 'eard yesterday."
Harry shrugged; "Molly's the only one left that still goes," he said, and then, "there was no reason to wait."
" 'agrid woulda gone," Dung replied. He pulled a little vial out of Snape's hand, tucked it into his pocket. "I woulda gone."
But Hagrid was somewhere in Europe, no communication for over a month - Dumbledore feared the worst - and Dung was needed elsewhere, and they both knew it. Harry hadn't even gone. He couldn't pull himself away, and another stupid tombstone to add to his collection wouldn't tip any fucking scale. Better to just leave it.
Ginny never bothered visiting any of her brothers' graves. She said it was because she felt closer to them in death than she did to her family still living. It broke her mother's heart to see Ginny - so fragile and so young - aloft like that. There was never any doubt in Ginny's mind where she would be buried, never any doubt in Molly's mind who would be the cause of her death.
Fred came by to see his mother, to feed her and bathe her and take care of her for a day. Neville watched from a little chair in the kitchen, sitting by the wood stove. When Molly was finally asleep upstairs, Harry ventured in. "It's funny," Fred said, eyes red. "I don't really feel like a Weasley anymore."
"Maybe you're a Granger," Neville said. Harry sat down, quiet.
"No," Fred answered, curiously, "I don't feel like that, either."
Harry's hands were folded on the wooden table. "What do you feel like?"
"Nothing," Fred told him. "Nothing."
The last words Harry had spoken to Bill were, "you owe me a Galleon." Instead of going around the Welsh dragon reserve, three Death Eaters had swept right through it, releasing the boundaries that held the great beasts in place, allowing them to roam the countryside. It was one of the most effective diversions any Death Eater had concocted so far; the dragons were incredibly dangerous even if they weren't evil, more primal, animalistic. Raw. They burned three houses to the ground before what was left of the Department of Magical Creatures could round them up.
"That I do, lad," Bill had said, cheerfully, and dropped a Sickle and four Knuts in Harry's hand. "I'll have to owe you the rest." Bill had bet that even the Death Eaters wouldn't touch dragons. Harry knew better. Neither the money nor the knowledge helped Harry sleep.
"Dung owes me a Galleon," Ginny said, marching into the kitchen at Grimmauld Place.
The house was getting quieter, all the time. Harry still thought he heard Arthur, from time to time, in the walls. Voices he hadn't heard for months, years, seemed to echo all the time. "For what?" Harry asked.
"I told him it would be Bill, not me, to be next."
Harry swallowed. He'd always known it would be Bill; nearly last of the Weasley line, cut down before his time. Mowed down like a blade of grass. Chopped off like dead branches. "What if you'd lost?"
Ginny, already sweeping out again, called back, "well, I'd be dead, and he could have all my money. Wouldn't do me any good any more." She paused, turned around with a cheeky grin. "It's a win-win situation."
Harry answered her, "Dung doesn't have a Galleon to his name," and watched her red hair recede out the back door.
Fred came by weekly, after that. He made sure his mother was doing all right, he held her hand, he sat with her quietly in the kitchen. Harry didn't have the heart to tell him not to come, no matter how painful it was for everyone else to see him there; his visits seemed to help Molly.
"He's just," and Neville glanced at the kitchen door, waiting for Fred to appear. "There's nothing there anymore."
"He's gone," Harry answered, dully. Harry didn't spend any time at the house any more, not more than he could help. He slept on his broom, out in the forests, out in the world. The closer he was to danger, the less likely it was to see someone's white face coming around a corner in the Black family manor, mouth clammed up and lips thin.
"I wish there was something I could do," Neville said. His tea cup was chipped, and he was rubbing a thumb over the break, rhythmically, hypnotically, as if he could mend the china through force of will. In theory it would have been easy to fix. "She used to be, so-"
"So what?" Harry stood up, stretched. He was angry, for no reason. "Resilient? Her whole family is gone, Neville, what do you expect her to do?"
Neville wanted to tell Harry off, he wanted to deny the claim, he wanted to fix it. Harry watched his thumb, moving.
She could have maybe lost Percy without thinking it her own fault. Maybe even Charlie - his death was an accident, a terrible accident. But when Molly Weasley saw her husband stretched out in their front yard, she knew without pause or doubt that their machinations were the cause of their own demise. Had they simply been quiet, the Weasleys could have been left alone. She could trace her family tree back as far as 1218. In those days, family names meant even more; lineage would make or break a person.
When she got married, Molly counted her lineage as starting with her husband. When he died, she counted it ending there, too.