Swirling mists of white flour floated in shafts of sunlight, a large copper pot bubbled on the hob, and a long, battered oak table groaned under mountains of peeled potatoes, onions and shelled peas. In the centre of it all, a plump woman moved quickly from stove to table to mixing bowl, all the while humming somewhat tunelessly to herself. Her sleeves were rolled up to her elbows and her freckled nose bore a smudge of what looked like cake icing.
She whisked eggs, chopped carrots, plucked chickens, and every now and then glanced over at the hob, muttering under her breath. In response, the flames would leap up and the pot would bubble more vigorously, or a wooden spoon would leap into the air and throw itself into the mixture, stirring enthusiastically.
If an outsider had peered in through the mullioned windows of the kitchen that morning, they would have been forgiven for thinking that they beheld a certain amount of chaos; in fact, Molly Weasley was in full control of the mess and mayhem she was conjuring up in the kitchen of The Burrow.
She had propped the door to the garden open with an old cast-iron shoe scraper and as she worked, Molly could hear her three year old granddaughter- a snub-nosed sprite named after her grandmother but affectionately known as Mop- hollering and giggling as she chased butterflies.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack! and Molly glanced absent-mindedly out of the window. A tall, thin man with neat red hair and glasses had appeared in the garden, dressed in a grey pinstriped suit and cloak. He smiled broadly as, before he could even put down his briefcase, a little voice squealed excitedly.
‘Hello there Mop! Come here, little one,’ laughed the man, and he swung his daughter into the air. She whooped with joy as she wrapped her pudgy pink arms around her father’s neck, and started chattering excitedly about a thrilling run-in she’d had with a garden gnome. Molly smiled contentedly as she was once again reminded of how much marriage and fatherhood had softened her irascible, obstinate middle child; growing up, Percy had felt the strain of bridging the gap between the successful older brothers he so admired, and his naughty, spirited younger siblings.
It seemed, Molly thought as she retrieved a large cake tin from the larder, that Percy had decided not to fall in with either group but instead retreated into things he felt that he understood; books, and rules. Percy had spent his adolescence being viewed by his siblings as haughty, pompous and a complete spoilsport. When his interests became political, he seemed in danger for some time of becoming irreversibly estranged from his father, who was hurt by Percy’s rejection of his own upbringing. Molly sighed as she remembered the shouting and the slamming of doors that accompanied that period of time. However, in the wake of a great tragedy, Percy was welcomed back into the fold with open arms.
Then, five years ago, Percy had met his future wife and for the first time in his life, he felt comfortable and happy. Molly, looking through a mother’s eyes, could see that the encouragement and admiration Audrey showed to Percy allowed him to relax and enjoy life, perhaps for the first time ever. His brains and determination had seen him promoted repeatedly at work, but with Audrey’s quiet help, Percy had become a popular candidate for becoming the youngest Minister for Magic in history, as Shacklebolt had recently announced his retirement after seven successful years in office. When little Molly had been born three years ago, it seemed that the old, officious Percy had disappeared almost entirely; except for giving the odd sermon on ‘employing efficient sleeping and feeding patterns in the infant, in order to produce optimal childhood behaviour’. This had produced raucous laughter from his parents, who had already raised seven children; two of whom were Fred and George.
Mop was leading her father around the garden now, her small sticky hand in his as she babbled away. Molly placed the tin on the table, and prised off the lid. Inside lay an enormous cake, covered in sea-blue icing and decorated with tiny white flowers. Lifting it out and laying it on a large silver tray, she continued to hum to herself happily. This was the fifth such cake that Molly had made in as many years, each in a different colour; the previous cake, for her grandson James, had been emerald green, and the one before that, for Mop, had been baby-pink and covered in little silver hearts. Molly put on a pair of purple-framed spectacles, which had been hanging from a chain around her neck, picked up her wand and pointed it carefully at the cake.
‘Saccharo!’ she murmured, and a small line of white icing squeezed slowly out of the wand and onto the blue cake. Slowly she traced her wand across the cake, her brow wrinkled with concentration. Thin, intricate letters appeared on the blue surface, and gradually spelled out a name. Eventually, Molly put down her wand and stepped back to admire her handiwork. She smiled for a moment, and then froze. The pain came like a blow to the stomach. A blue cake, emblazoned with the name ‘FRED’. Her eyes filled with tears for a moment, but she quickly blinked them back. Lifting her wand, she carefully scraped the name away and whispered the icing charm once again. This time, she piped the letters quickly, smoothly. She looked at her work again; this time the white letters spelt out ‘FREDDIE’.
‘I wish I’d known him,’ said a voice from behind her. Molly jumped.
‘Oh! Oh Audrey, you frightened me’.
‘Sorry’ smiled the tall, brown-haired witch standing in the kitchen doorway. She stepped into the room, her slim hands resting on a very pregnant tummy. She pointed at the cake. ‘I saw you. I said, I wish I’d known Fred.’
Molly smiled sadly. ‘You know, if he were here, he’d probably laugh at George and Angelina for being so soppy. But really, he’d be honoured that they’ve named their baby after him.’ She pulled a lace hanky from the pocket of her apron, and dabbed her eyes with it. ‘Well,’ she sniffed, ‘that’s that. Come and sit down, dear.’
‘Percy’s just arrived, Mop’s taking him on a tour of the garden.’ said Audrey, lowering herself gratefully onto a chair at the kitchen table. Molly bustled over to the larder again and brought out a large jug of pumpkin juice. She poured a glass and gave it to Audrey who drank it quickly. ‘Thank you,’ she said, ‘Chasing after Mop all day is tiring at the best of times, but in this weather, and with this bump!’
‘Has the little one been kicking a lot today?’ asked Molly as she poured Audrey another glass.
‘Incessantly’ said Audrey, rubbing her tummy ruefully, ‘Sometimes it’s as if she’s not a baby, but a Bludger.’
‘Fred and George were like that, even when they were running out of space to kick me, they were wriggling and wrestling almost constantly’ Molly laughed, and flicked her wand at the cake, which floated through the air and into the larder, ‘I suppose Arthur and I should have taken it as a warning that those two would be trouble!’
‘And yet you still went on to have two more children after the twins. You’re a braver woman than I am, Molly’ smiled Audrey, ‘Percy and I are going to have our hands full with Mop and Lucy alone!’
‘Oh, you’re calling her Lucy?’
‘Hadn’t I told you? Sorry, Percy has been so busy with work, and Mop’s demanding a lot of attention now that she’s aware there’s a baby sister on the way; I’m exhausted’, Audrey sighed, rubbing a hand over her eyes. ‘Well, we decided on Lucy Irene. Lucy for my mother, and we just thought Irene was a nice name.’
‘It’s lovely, congratulations’ said Molly.
‘I’m sorry I’m complaining about being tired; I know you’ve been working so hard to prepare for Freddie’s Naming Ceremony tomorrow. I suppose it just seems silly to you that I find it so hard looking after just one toddler, when you’ve raised seven!’ said Audrey, tracing circles into the sheen of flour that lay across the table.
‘Nonsense’, Molly chided, wiping her hands on her apron and sitting down next to Audrey, ‘I don’t think that at all. Mop is a force to be reckoned with, and you must remember that Arthur, for all his hard work, was never in the running to become Minister. And I’m sure you and Percy have found parenthood to be just as exhilarating as it is exhausting,' Audrey nodded, smiling at her mother-in-law’s kindness,
‘Now imagine that, seven times over,' Molly continued, 'The boys and Ginny may have given me a hundred sleepless nights, a bad back, and more than one grey hair, but they’ve also given me so much laughter, so much love, and so much to be proud of. And now, we have five grandchildren, and another on the way,’ She placed her hand on Audrey’s tummy, and laughed as she felt a hard kick, ‘And the best thing is, that I can give them back to their parents at the end of the day!’.