Author: ThunderStar SolarEclipse PM
[Oneshot] When you're playing Death's game, you can't win . . . unless You cheat.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Drama - George W. & Fred W. - Words: 11,580 - Reviews: 31 - Favs: 48 - Follows: 3 - Published: 09-25-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3802726
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Twin Cores
Authoresses: foxfire flamequeen and phoenixfire thundertiger
Summary: When you're playing Death's game, you can never win… Unless you cheat.
Disclaimer: We wouldn't be in if we owned Harry Potter now would we?
Warning: Spoilers for 'Deathly Hallows'.
Special thanks to our dear friend for creating eleven wondrous spells (hexes, charms, curses) for us by actually going through the thesaurus, of which we were able to use only two. They all have actual meanings, by the way, not just random words thrown together and twisted to make up something that sounds like a spell.
Flames will definitely provide us with something to laugh at, but we'd really appreciate a good number of reviews for this one. We worked extra hard on it, and it's damn discouraging when people don't give us feedback. For SPMF readers, please review too, so we'd know you at least read it. This is our first Harry Potter fic, and we want to know how we did for the first try.
Without a soul
My spirit's sleeping somewhere cold
Until you find it there and lead it back home
The air around them exploded.
Fred Weasley's body crashed against the wall before his mind could catch up to what was happening. And the smile remained on his face even as he heard his death sentence be whispered in two cursed words.
The green light ripped the soul from his body with a fierceness against which none could offer resistance.
The jagged green beam flew past his head, missing him by millimeters. Had his ear been intact, it would certainly have been hit. Yet George Weasley remained motionless, no longer part of the battle raging around him.
As another wave of nausea assaulted him mercilessly, he bent double, vision blurring. He didn't even notice the hex that roared over his head, failed to hear or see the explosion beside him. The agony was unbearable.
It was as though his innards were being ripped away, his heart being torn from his body.
There were people next to him – someone flung forth a Shield Charm to protect him from flying spells, but George could barely move, and could register nothing. The Cruciatus Curse could not be more painful.
Maybe that's what it is, he was aware of himself thinking, and vaguely wondered if Fred were near, before remembering that his twin was inside the castle.
"George! What's wrong?" there was a voice at his side; someone touched his shoulder in concern. "You got hit?"
There was nothing to duck behind in the grounds; the trees didn't start until the Forbidden Forest, and that's where Voldemort was. The fighting might have stopped in the castle itself, but it continued here, where there was no one to wave the white flag. George shook his head. The voice was familiar…
A fresh surge of excruciation stabbed at him, and he couldn't even think anymore.
That someone wrapped their arms around his shoulders to help him stand, and George didn't know how he managed to stumble up amidst the torment he endured. Yet on his feet the pain dimmed as suddenly as it had come, and the Weasley twin found himself staring dully at his and Fred's best friend, Lee Jordan.
Lee didn't have time to look at him, though, throwing charms and hexes to protect them as he talked quickly.
"What happened, George? Where's Fred?"
"Dunno," George answered to both questions, pulling up the hand holding his wand. He gazed down at the wooden length silently, as though uncomprehending to its use. What he'd said sounded very wrong. Suddenly he turned and pointed his wand at a Death Eater attempting to sneak from behind them. "Stupefy!" The Death Eater fell, but George's eyes had already strayed from the Stunned woman.
He felt… lifeless. As he stared around at all of Voldemort's supporters around them, he had to force himself to just be active enough to protect himself. The pain had left him numb; he was sure he hadn't been struck by anything, yet George didn't try to think about where it came from.
There were so many. Where was Fred? He was supposed to come back quickly. Some of those combined spells they'd been working on would take out many of the enemies at once.
"You don't know?" Lee glanced at him in delayed surprise, just having had time for a spot of thought. George didn't answer, using a Shield Charm to block a hex. Oh, he knew why it sounded wrong. He and Fred were rarely apart, and they should be together now – they should be fighting together. But Fred had taken off after the Death Eater that had brought down Tonks (her last name was Lupin now, but she didn't care), who ran straight to the castle, and George had been fighting the one who'd killed her husband, so he couldn't follow. Remus' assassin's corpse was rotting somewhere among the scores of bodies littering the battlefield; George didn't know what had happened to the other one. Probably dead too, Fred wouldn't let him get away.
Choosing to defend the castle from the grounds despite it not having been assigned to them had been the best decision; at least they'd gotten revenge for the couple, and for the now-orphaned little Teddy Lupin.
Fighting alongside Lee, who shouldn't be here either, felt slightly comforting: he hated fighting alone. But he would much rather his twin were the one back-to-back with him now, warding away the attacks coming their way.
Something still seemed terribly wrong, and his not knowing where Fred was seemed a mere part of it.
It didn't quite strike him; it was a sort of knowledge that had been there all along, like one of those Muggle bulbs finally flickering into complete light.
"Lee," his tone was so calm it surprised him, such a contrast it was to the growing panic he felt within. "Turtuo!" A length of snaky material shot out of his wand and wrapped itself around a Death Eater, suffocating him."I need to find Fred."
'Need' was a simple understatement for what was fast-rising in him. It was past a desire, past a need. He had to find Fred now!
"Wha –" Lee threw a spell in response to the curse that he'd just avoided. "Ha! Take that! Fred? Oh, don't worry; I'm positive he's fine."
"I'm not," George replied even as he cursed two Death Eaters at once. "I'm going back to the castle. Can you cover for me?"
"Sure," Lee started to say, before actually getting a good look at one of his two best friends. George ducked, spun on the spot and hexed a Death Eater as easily as he flew on a broom. The redhead's tone might have been calm, and his movements calculated and deliberate, but it was a deceit – George's bright blue eyes were wild, crazed beneath the fiery bangs that fell over his forehead, a manic shine making the sapphire orbs of his eyes glint. George was panicked almost to the point of madness, and he could seriously end up hurting himself in this state. "On second thought, I'll come with you."
The grateful glance, lacking any humorous comment, was enough to convince Lee of just how worried George was.
George didn't wait, sprinting towards the castle along a path he carved out of Death Eaters, barely aware of Lee following, not at all aware of the number of attackers he'd cut down to make that long trail to Hogwarts' gates. He slowed slightly to Stun an enemy, and that was enough to stop him completely. For Voldemort's voice, a voice that, unlike Lee, no longer made him shiver, echoed along the grounds even as one of his followers fell from the strike of George's spell, over and around their heads.
Their one hour was up.
The doors to the castle were barred by witches and wizards milling out.
George fought. He cursed and hexed, disarmed and stunned. Lee's loyalty to his friend never allowed him to waver from his position next to George. Voldemort lay dead. George could see his body, just at Harry's feet. They never had time to rejoice, for the Death Eaters, now without protection from their Dark Lord, battled for escape, which was hardly being granted to them.
Rejoice? What a joke!
He'd been watching for Fred in the battlefield, though it hadn't taken him long to realize Fred wasn't there.
George made a slashing motion with his wand, "Perforiato Hemorrhaea!" Blood sprayed from the stripped skin while the dying man squirmed and screamed silently, his throat having been ripped away by George's aim. Yaxley, he believed the man's name to be. He filed it away, perhaps to repent the murder later. Hogwarts' grounds had become a slaughter-yard, where the Death Eaters had turned into the pigs. The irony of it.
Turning to face another, George was greeted by the sight of Percy Weasley attempting to bring down Rookwood. His brother was the one backing down, though. Percy could perform, but was inexperienced in fieldwork. He needed help.
And just then, for some reason, George felt a flood of appalling hatred, the likes of which he'd never known before. Whatever had happened to his twin, Rookwood was responsible.
He didn't think so, he knew so.
George lifted his wand and opened his mouth, the words forming on his tongue, but they refused to form on his lips. For all the work he and Fred had been doing for the Order, for all those they'd killed today and before, neither had ever uttered the Killing Curse. And for some reason, it felt a direct insult to Fred. Not to mention he hated attacking a person from behind.
So instead of pointing his wand, he flourished it slightly, "Oi, Rookwood!" As soon as said man's eyes flickered to him, he followed up with, "Petrificus Totalus!" A direct hit.
Percy had no such limitations. Holding his head high, with a voice as cool as a frozen lake, he stared down the now-petrified man, whose eyes rolled from sheer terror. "Avada Kedavra."
The ghostly green shine of Death looked weak, but when it faded, Rookwood lay there, eyes wide and face twisted with fear.
It took a while for George to realize they were in the center of a large circle of witches and wizards, watching apprehensively, and it took him even longer to realize Rookwood had been the last. It was over.
That rang hollow in his ears.
No, not yet.
Percy looked up to see his rescuer, and his eyes spotted one of his younger brothers, one of the twins.
He reached blindly for the tall figure, but stopped suddenly, for his eyes had spotted the gaping hole at the side of his head.
"Percy?" George asked.
Percy's knees collapsed. They just crumbled under him.
He'd thought it was Fred. He'd really believed it was Fred.
But he was staring at George.
Fred coming back would have been less wondrous than the horror he felt at seeing George. He didn't know, not yet.
"Perce?" George's tone was concerned, but Percy could only lower his eyes. He had failed his family again. Fred had died in front of him, and not only had he been unable to protect his younger brother, he hadn't even been able to bloody bring down Fred's killer without aid.
But… maybe it's better this way. At least George had been part of the revenge, even if he hadn't known.
Yes… he… needed to know. Someone had to tell George. Someone… yet Percy couldn't. He drew breath several times, but his tongue remained frozen as he watched George's eyes glass over, staring through Percy, as though hearing something no one else could. For that moment, George seemed to forget where he was. Until he regained focus and looked down at his older brother with a terrible intensity.
"George…" It was Harry. The crowd parted for him.
Voldemort was dead, but when one looked at the bodies strewn over the bloody battlefield, there could be no joy.
"Georgie!" Percy knew the teary gush came from his mother, but he couldn't rip his eyes from the ones in front, piercing through him, ones that looked so much like Fred's. The twins were the only two in the family with blue eyes, and George's azure orbs showed the exact second realization dawned on him.
"George, I'm really sorry," Harry began uncertainly, and Percy gained enough strength to whisper.
"I'm sorry too. God, George, I am so sorry. I… failed you. I failed him."
Whether or not George heard him could be questioned, as at that moment the younger redhead pivoted on his heel and started to run, gaining speed rapidly. The crowd parted for him as they had for Voldemort's killer.
"Arthur," his mother sobbed. "We have to go after him. Bill, Charlie. He needs us."
Yet none moved after the single twin, half of a whole.
It was long before a girl, who looked rather familiar, broke away from the spectators to take the path George had left behind, and even longer until Lee, Fred and George's friend, went after her. Soon two other girls were racing after Lee, all desperate to catch their friend and maybe do what his family couldn't.
The rest remained, staring after them. Molly Weasley's sobs could be heard over the silence.
She called for George, she called for her son, and once, though she didn't realize it, she called for Fred and George.
His shoes thudded against the stone floor, the cold seeming to seep through to his feet.
Fred… where was his twin?
Where was the other half of his soul?
Percy was trying to apologize… trying to tell him Fred was gone. But he didn't believe it. Fred couldn't leave him, ever. And he couldn't leave Fred. It just wasn't possible.
His long legs took him up three stairs at a time – once his foot sank through a trick step, but he wrenched it free without breaking stride.
Fred can't leave me alone!
He was barely aware of where he was going, but instinct guided him, leading him straight to where he knew Fred was supposed to be. George almost flew past portraits which called to know what was happening outside, leaping over bodies strewn across floors, past the four House ghosts and even Peeves, who had gathered together, stopping only at a gleaming suit of armor on the third floor, standing silently as always, battle-axe raised and poised as though to defend something in the space between it and the wall. Beyond it the hall was charred black, from an explosion no doubt. With a metallic rattle, the knight's armor's head turned to him, almost mournfully taking in the sight of the same whose body it had tried to protect.
George's eyes flicked around the hall. Fred had to be here. He was sure he'd be here.
This time it took him only a moment to realize he wasn't.
For a petrifying second uncertainty tagged at him. Could it be possible?
All the times before, neither had ever been killed. Their bond was forever there, true. But would it hold even at death?
Fred had promised him… he'd promised Fred… they'd both broken their vows.
By the time George heard his name being shouted, he was leaning against the wall, having checked the entire hall and past it on both sides, and now just sitting there, knees drawn up and hands fiddling restlessly with the wand on his lap, his entire body quivering from an emptiness he couldn't push away. His own wand was stowed in his pocket – this he'd found during his search. There was no mistaking it, one of the few pairs of twin wands Ollivander had made, its twin being his own wand. Bodies crafted from mangrove wood, with cores of dragonfire fiber. The same dragonfire fiber. Very expensive, but Ollivander could offer none other, for wands didn't accept people already chosen unless the first had been destroyed. There could be but one reason Fred hadn't missed his wand. George pulled out his own wand, holding them both up to eyelevel. There was absolutely no difference, they felt the same, they even touched his soul the same way.
The shouting drew nearer. He heard, but didn't answer. He just wanted to be alone for a while, and then he'd try to find Fred again.
Just a bit of rest. He felt so tired.
"He's here! I found him!" The voice was so unexpected it drew George's head up, to stare unfocusedly at the onetime Gryffindor Quidditch captain, Angelina Johnson. Instinctively he thrust Fred's wand into his pocket.
The people who ran down the hall to her were just as unexpected. There was Lee, and another girl from his year, Alicia Spinnet, and the last, a year below him, Katie Bell. All were graduates, and all had returned to fight for their school. All were his and Fred's good friends. Quidditch had brought them together in the best coordinated team Hogwarts had ever seen, even if they hadn't won the Cup in a while, with Angelina, Alicia and Katie as Chasers, him and Fred as Beaters, Oliver Wood from Percy's year as Captain and Keeper, and Harry Potter as Seeker. Lee had been the commentator for every match.
So immersed was George in his musings that he failed to hear Katie trying to talk to him. He wanted to be alone. But… these few could be made an exception for. Someone was speaking, but it took a minute for him again to comprehend that. His brain seemed to really have slowed down.
"What? Could you repeat that?"
Angelina watched warily as Katie didn't say it a second time, instead kneeling to lightly touch George's arm. To her surprise, he flinched away, eyes flashing, shivering from an unfelt cold.
Alicia stepped closer, her eyes brimmed with sorrow, "George, please, we understand."
"Understand?" George blinked up at her. The blank gaze turned shredding as his eyes narrowed. "You think you understand? Tell me, what do you understand? Or rather, what do you know?"
There was no answer. Alicia kept mercifully quiet, and after an expectant pause George's gaze softened, if not become less intense.
"Have any of you seen Fred?" he asked suddenly, hopefully. "Where's my brother?"
"We haven't seen him, George," Lee said hesitantly, face pained at his friend's obvious turmoil. George's eyes dropped to the floor, looking almost lost. That dullness had never before been seen in those identical sapphires the twins had for eyes.
He's afraid, Angelina realized. There was nothing to indicate so, yet the knowledge came with a certainty that couldn't be wrong. George is… afraid.
The thought itself frightened her. She'd never known either of the Weasley twins to be scared, even at the deepest of troubles they got themselves into. Even when the boggart in their fifth year, the one they'd had to overcome in their practical Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. had transformed to a dead and mangled George and Fred in front of Fred and George respectively, revealing their greatest fears to their friends, however much they claimed it to actually be a world full of Percy's; even then they'd laughed and waved away the illusions with a perfect 'Riddiculus' each.
They had shared a private tender look soon after, one of understanding and faith, but they'd never appeared afraid.
Angelina didn't understand what had happened back in the grounds, and she couldn't care less. George was sitting in front of her now, practically terrified, trembling so hard despite his visible efforts to hide it.
Where was Fred when George needed him this much?
Yet Angelina couldn't bring herself to ask. She feared the answer.
Katie looked as though she would like nothing better than to envelop the Weasley twin in a hug, but couldn't muster the courage. She would be deeply wounded if George pushed her away, and she knew it. Alicia and Lee exchanged uncertain looks, Alicia on the verge of tears herself.
Angelina, though, had priorities in mind, priorities and friendship. She dropped to her knees next to the redhead and pulled him to her in the closest embrace she dared.
She felt George stiffen, and try half-heartedly to pull away. The twins had excellent senses, and it was a measure of George's distress at how he was caught unaware. She held on, though, and soon he relaxed into her arms, not willingly, but as though he'd lost the strength to fight. Angelina didn't expect it, and he didn't return the hug. Before long Alicia had joined them, then Katie, and finally, though awkwardly, Lee. George sat in the center, eyes closed, accepting the offered comfort with silent gratitude, finally raising his arms to put them as much as he could around the team, completing the group hug.
No, Angelina corrected herself quickly, knowing what George would say. Not a complete group hug yet. Fred's not here.
George finally drew back, and Angelina released him. Once the others followed suit Angelina looked at the redhead, not knowing whether to be surprised or pleased to see the trademark Weasley twin smirk etching itself onto his face. Angelina returned it with a rather watery smile, happy knowing whatever it was that they'd done, it had been enough.
"First of all, Fred never hears of this," George warned as he rose to dust himself off. He no longer seemed frightened, or lost, only thoughtful. Angelina was grateful for it: a Weasley twin lost was almost as terrifyingly unnatural as one afraid.
A Weasley twin alone was even more petrifying.
Alicia grinned widely, and Angelina knew exactly what she was thinking. In fact, Katie and Lee seemed to be thinking the same thing. Of course they'd tell Fred. He'd never let his twin hear the end of it, and find a way so both of them could laugh about it later. Angelina found herself wishing she knew a way to make George laugh now.
George noticed their grins alright. Staring directly at Katie, he drew out his wand and flicked it casually. A few sparks shot out from the end. "Or would you like me to make sure half our Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes make their way to you disguised as ordinary stuff?" He paused, thinking it over, turning to Alicia. "Even better, perhaps a few which have permanent effects? Or possibly some of the test products?"
Now that was a threat if Angelina had ever heard one. Maybe it was better to reconsider.
Lee eyed the brandished wand cautiously: the twins were very good with spells too, mainly transfiguration and hexes, though they had never showed the talent in class. "What're you gonna do with that, mate?"
The smirk faded as George sighed. A long silence stretched, until Angelina began to doubt whether or not she wanted the answer. When he did speak, it was so quiet she had to lean forward to catch it.
"I'm going to find Fred."
"How do you plan on that?" Katie questioned, thoroughly mystified.
"Even if he's dead," George added softly, not having heard his former teammate at all. "I'll use my wand."
The stunned silence lasted forever.
Angelina's breathing slowed as the meaning of Percy and Harry's apologies suddenly made sense. It stopped as the last word made connection with her mind and Lee's audible and Alicia's choked gasps sounded belated.
If George hadn't shouted the words, she would not have heard them.
Harry Potter watched the Weasley family forlornly, wishing to join them in their mourning, yet common etiquette held him back. The Weasleys had never made him feel out of place among them, but this was a time when he couldn't be welcome. The gathered family almost completely hid the still body lying in the center of the circle. He could just see Arthur Weasley's form next to his wife, sitting on the cold floor of the Great Hall. Molly Weasley was huddled over her son, the rest of her children weeping quietly around them, allowing their parents to be the first to touch their brother's body.
Hermione was among them, standing next to Ron, eyes red with an overflow of tears, face scrunched in concern and grief.
Charlie Weasley suddenly turned to face Harry, startling the boy by walking to him and grabbing his arm. Harry opened his mouth as he felt the tug, but Charlie cut him off gently and naturally, as though surprised Harry wasn't already doing what he should.
"He was your brother too."
That simple statement was enough to mist his glasses again. Yes, Fred had been his brother too – when he was eleven he'd been wide-eyed with wonder at the stories of what he and George did all the time, and from then, in his eyes at least, Fred and George, the two Weasley brothers he'd known for the longest (Percy didn't count, he never liked him much), had been the older brothers he'd never had. And now he allowed himself to be led to the family, where the sight of Fred's unblinking eyes made his heart wrench as it had when he'd first seen them.
No one had closed the eyes. Knowing what had to be done, though unsure of it, Harry crouched and with a trembling hand, pulled his fingers against the cold skin, pulling the eyelids shut, and everyone watched the azure orbs close from the world with a hush as respectful as it was real. To them it was forever. Harry brought his hand to his own emerald eyes, half-surprised Fred's had closed at all – they should have been stiffened by now. The feel of the Weasley twin's skin… it was so cold, to Harry it seemed frozen… it remained on his fingers. He looked down at the figure. Now Fred could almost have been asleep, having a pleasant dream with that hint of a laugh about him still, only he was so pale, and that single thread of blood running down his lip to his chin spoke of what even the deathly pallor didn't.
As Harry made to stand up again, Arthur pulled him into a hug, managing to choke out a mangled "Thank you" before collapsing in tears. Ron sat down heavily, as though he'd just realized all over again that his brother was dead, and Percy removed his glasses, tears hindering his sight anyway. Harry could hear Ginny Weasley sob into her eldest brother's jumper as Bill stood with one arm around his wife and the other around his sister, soundless tears lining his deformed face. He'd never looked more human.
It was as Harry withdrew from the embrace that he noticed the missing person – the person who should be here even more than Fred's parents.
And no one had asked.
A sudden stillness greeted his question – he had spoken a name that was taboo.
Molly raised her head from where she was hunched over Fred's unmoving chest.
"He ran," she answered with an accusing glance at her husband and sons. "He didn't come back."
"'E does not know where we are," Fleur Weasley defended her brother-in-law, knowing in her relatively short time with the Weasleys just how much George's presence meant at Fred's side.
"He'll find his way here eventually," Percy added. "Do you expect him to sense where we are?" Percy easily made the 'we are' sound like 'Fred is'.
Harry stood and followed the elder's lead, taking off his glasses. There was little difference in sight. No, George probably couldn't do that. In that case someone should go find him. Yet none of the Weasleys moved; just as before, no one would go after George. It made Harry realize all over again what he'd already known: how little the family knew of the twins, the twins who'd always kept to themselves, letting their family see only what they wanted it to see. They knew of Fred and George as pranksters and a mischievous duo who could never get enough of fun. They knew next to nothing of anything else about them. No one did. No one could imagine how George would take it.
They were all afraid of his reaction.
Still, he should be here. Fred couldn't leave without his twin at his side.
Harry didn't see the irony in that statement, nor did he know how true it was.
The doors to the Great Hall were open, and though no one was looking that way, all turned as one to face it as a silver streak darted through, skidding to a halt just before the Weasley family and Harry. Harry recognized the animal instantly, and he knew Ron and Hermione did too.
The sinewy muscles rippled in the lean silver body of the cheetah as it watched them almost curiously with eyes of striking gold almonds, long slender tail swishing with enchanting elegance. As always, the Patronus brought with it a sense of content happiness, even in the Great Hall lined with the dead from the battle.
One of the two feline Patronus's that had emerged in the DA meetings at the twin bearers' first attempts.
It had taken time for Harry to realize that that was utterly impossible for a first try, and thus he'd figured out the Patronus's had both been produced before.
Another reason Harry identified the Patronus instantly was the silvery collar around its neck, one of the only two Patronus's he'd ever seen wearing one. An intricately braided cord extended from it as a leash, reaching out through the doors and beyond.
He found us, was all Harry had time to think before Fred's twin brother walked in through the doors, the cord from his Patronus extending straight to his wrist, where it tied off securely in a shadowy bracelet.
George walked in to face his entire family, watching him with a form of fear he wished he hadn't recognized. His Patronus – he never bothered correcting himself, what was Fred's was his, and vice versa – his Patronus sat at their feet, looking back at him with a calming silence. It suddenly sprang, running through the Hall with all the speed a cheetah was known for, the leash tying them together never straining – it kept growing the farther it went, and recoiled when it came near. There was no limit to the bond. George's eyes followed it; there was Colin Creevy, fellow Gryffindor, underage, and another Gryffindor girl, a year above him who'd once walked straight up to him and asked him out by name, making sure he understood that she knew perfectly well who she was talking to. He never even bothered finding out her name, when she knew him well enough to know who was Fred and who was George. Or it could have been a lucky guess. And a Ravenclaw girl who'd always seemed fascinated with studying him and Fred and Parvati and Padma Patil, two sets of twins. A Hufflepuff boy, Quidditch player from his year, and most surprisingly, a Slytherin girl, clearly way underage to be here. A member of the Order, one of the few whose names he hadn't known, and Professor Sinistra was there too, being mourned over by other teachers. Many whose names he didn't know, many whose names it would take forever to list. All dead. All died fighting.
Finally the cheetah bounded back to the bodies nearest to his family. Remus and Nymphadora Lupin. Both looked so serene in death, the always-present lines of worry on Remus' face smoothed out. We avenged you; me and Fred, George informed them, silent voice strong as he remembered Remus once saying, though only in passing, that he'd like to be avenged if ever killed. He had walked by Tonks' killer's body as he'd come, and his wand had sensed the work of Fred's. We'll take care of Teddy,he promised. Only don't blame us if he turns out a real troublemaker. His hair will always be his favorite color, we'll make sure of it.
He was aware of his family's eyes – and Harry and Hermione were included in that – his family's eyes flicker past him to the other four stepping in, Angelina, Alicia, Katie and Lee, who'd followed him despite his insisting he would be fine. Alicia had finally overridden him by saying, "We want to see Fred too." And Lee had quickly added, "So shut up."
And then George's eyes whipped to the human barrier formed by the Weasleys, standing shoulder to shoulder, as though to prevent what could only be thwarted, for as long as they could. He could just about see a body behind them. His eyes took them all in. Mum, Dad, Bill, Fleur, Ginny, Charlie, Percy, Hermione, Ron, and Harry.
So it had happened.
There was only one missing.
His Patronus glided to him, pawing the floor. With the beautiful cheetah as an escort, George moved forward.
"Georgie…" Bill trailed off, not knowing where to start.
"He's gone, George," Ron spoke roughly, his hoarse voice not breaking through to an entranced George as he pushed past his youngest brother.
It was his mirror image. It could have been him lying there, and he could easily have convinced the Weasleys so, had it not been for his missing ear. He'll have to do something about that, get a fake one and modify it to look like Fred's, once Fred came back of course. There was no point trying it if Fred wasn't there to tell him where and how he'd gone wrong. If George tried it himself, he'd probably blow the thing up. If Fred was there, they'd either manage to get it right together, or blow it up and set the whole place on fire. Fred was good at setting things on fire. It was George who blew stuff up. As corny and clichéd as it sounded, together they exploded. Literally and figuratively.
Oh, Fred had been laughing. There was that familiar joy around him, and by the feel of it, he'd been teasing someone. Who, though?
"Who was with him?" He was ready for the surprise and somewhat disgust his question brought. But they didn't know, so it was okay. After a few seconds, Percy answered.
"Harry, Ron and me."
Ah, so it was either Ron or Percy. And by the sound of it, it was Percy. The latter's tone still brought resentment. Did Percy really think he would be blamed?
George looked back down at his twin. Fred looked so white. And cold, lying on the stone floor. And his eyes were closed. He would have liked to see what his eyes would look like when he died. It was almost night, even if that was how it always appeared in the Great Hall. Fred had been sleeping for a very long time.
Out of the corner of his eyes he could see his friends get a glimpse of Fred's body. He had to admit, knowing it was not the same as actually seeing it. The girls burst into tears where they stood, but Lee entered the group, welcomed without words, and could only shake his head at the sight of his friend's corpse.
"No, no, no," he moaned, as though denying it would undo it. But that was not the key. The cheetah suddenly growled, a soft melody that somehow seemed deadly fierce. There really wasn't much time.
Harry saw George enter with a growing dread, merging with the rest of the Weasleys as the twin pushed past Ron. He knew what he'd expected, and he knew what everyone else had expected. Yet none of their speculations turned correct. For George didn't try to deny what was in front of his eyes, he didn't break down or go into shocked silence, nor did he pretend it wasn't real. Instead, to Harry's disgust, he asked for the person Fred had been with.
Again, George didn't meet their expectations. He didn't accuse anyone of being unable to protect his brother. He didn't blame anyone. But Harry's disgust didn't fade, it increased as even when Lee Jordan began to weep, George's eyes remained drier than any desert. There was a sort of anticipation about him, yet he didn't expect Fred to suddenly sit up. Where this was going, Harry didn't know. All he knew was that George should shed tears, and he didn't. All he knew was that the way George regarded his dead twin with that cool, calculating stare, was wrong.
Suddenly George dropped to his knees next to Fred's head, reaching out to touch his mirror image, carefully weaving his fingers through his brother's flaming hair, unhindered. At a point at the side of Fred's head, his hand stopped, and he frowned.
"How did he go?"
Disgust gave way to a form of understanding, though Harry didn't understand. Ron replied to this question, one which no one else had dared ask.
"There was an explosion. It was Rookwood. When we could look, he was… he was…" Ron's words were blocked by a fresh wave of tears. Harry picked up his sentence.
"The wall. He hit the wall."
"But you don't know that for sure?" George asked directly.
"No," Harry breathed, then glared at the living twin. "What does it matter?"
"It makes all the difference," George fired back heatedly, wounded. Harry immediately regretted his anger, but he wasn't the only one angry. Arthur scowled at his son in a manner Harry had never seen before. Molly, on the other hand, drew herself up and wrapped her arms around George, sobbing into his shoulder.
It was Fred, but it wasn't Fred.
It was George.
George only looked down at the body between him and his mother, not making a single move to encourage Mrs. Weasley. Finally Molly, realizing it futile, drew back, allowing George to speak instantly.
Time froze. In a single motion all eyes lowered to Fred's closed lids, almost expecting him to sit up at his twin's call, even though they all knew that could never happen.
George tilted his head to the side, waiting. A heartbeat later it became obvious: calling was hardly going to be enough. Part of him acknowledged the failure, to lay to his feet once it was over.
A hand reached out of its own accord, lovingly wiping the crimson liquid that had trickled from a severed lip. George paused. He knew his family was watching, the intensity of their gazes would have been felt at any other time, but not now. Now, George could only be aware of his twin, and the feel of cold blood on his fingers, blood still liquid and flowing.
Once more? He almost smiled as he bent over the still body, the same hand sliding beneath the soft fabric of Fred's shirt, to feel the unexposed skin of his twin's chest. Taking a deep breath, he quickly rubbed his hand over the skin experimentally, the way one would to warm themselves when it's cold.
Distantly George was aware of people speaking around him, maybe some were talking to him, too, but he wasn't comprehensive of any of it. The warmth flooded his very being, warmth flowing from Fred's body right into him, and the smile that curved his lips this time was for Fred and Fred alone, bearing knowledge that his twin could somehow see it through closed eyelids, both twins now utterly, blissfully unaware of the world. He saw only Fred, felt only Fred, though a miniscule part of him also knew the meaning of what he felt. Ever so gently, he made to flit his hand over Fred's heart.
His hand moved, yet failed to reach its destination, as his arm was ripped away with a painful pull that twisted it the wrong way, and the twin thrown to the floor from the force of a slap whose sting echoed throughout the Hall, causing others to turn to the sight of a barely conscious George blinking up at his father, who kneeled to pull Fred's shirt back over his bare stomach as though nothing had happened.
That was short lived, though, as he turned back to George, and the complete, undivided fury on his face drove his other children to shuffle against each other in a desperate attempt to escape his attention. Molly straightened; whatever spell George had unknowingly cast over his audience was broken, though one could feel it returning at the sight of the single twin.
"Fred is dead, George." Arthur's voice was surprisingly calm considering his face, usually mild and accepting, now fierce and murderous.
George barely heard, his vision still swirling with a welcoming darkness and dancing spots of color. He wished as he fought it that it was only darkness beckoning him and not those funny spirals as well. He would have succumbed to the dark had it been so. Now, the dark meant unconsciousness, and who knew when he would wake again? Otherwise it would have meant death, and by all gods, wouldn't he have loved to go. Fred would be waiting for him, whenever he showed, he knew so. But if he fell now, he wouldn't die anyway, and he'd lose Fred in the process. So he fought, though the darkness became more welcoming every second.
He was aware of his father talking, sure, Dad could get mad when he would, but he could only feel a touch thankful that it wasn't Mum, 'cause if it had been her he probably wouldn't even be alive right now. For the first time, he found himself considering whether or not to make her mad on that basis. His head drooped, he was losing the fight. Darkness threatened to engulf his mind, and he felt hope ebbing away.
Someone took his arm, making him hiss – it probably was twisted at some joint or another – so his eldest brother slid an arm under his knees and one under his neck, making to lift him. But he squirmed away reflexively, having perfected the art long before, when he and Fred still got caught for stealing their Mum's freshly baked muffins. After that, the muffins still disappeared, they just didn't get caught anymore.
"George… come on, bro," Bill reached out again, but George didn't notice, too busy shaking his head to clear his returning vision. He'd hit hard against the floor alright. He raised himself on one arm, rolling back again to avoid Bill, and stiffened.
He was lying against Fred.
His vision congested with Fred's white shirt – another irony, how he died wearing white, but then, it'd been George's idea to wear identical white shirts, just in case they did die, but he'd expected them to go together – and Fred's arm pressed against him. He could faintly smell death hanging about his brother, almost there, but not quite. It wasn't over.
George moved a bit, just enough to curl against his twin the way they'd both done before, head resting over the other's heart, an arm wrapped around his chest. Fred did it often, slipping into bed next to George in an attempt to escape nightmares or loneliness, or just wanting to be close to his twin. George did it just as often, and between them there was an excuse for it every night. There was something incredibly comforting about falling asleep next to each other as they had done since they were born, whoever needed it listening to the other's heart beating soundly under their ears. It let them know the other was… there. Always there.
No heartbeat now.
"That's enough!" Molly hissed. So he'd managed it after all. She was angry, but not angry like his father had been. George sensed, rather than saw, Lee and Charlie advance.
"Go away," he mumbled aloud. "Leave us be."
How many times had his 'me's been 'us'? To him, was there even a 'me'?
A growl from his forgotten Patronus was enough to assure him, this time there would be no interruption.
Patronus's were silent creatures, they barely ever made any noise, and never took sides. None but Dementors were meant to fear them. But Fred never could keep quiet, and now the silvery cheetah stepped forward, between the twins and their family, a predatory snarl forcing the latter side to edge away. There was no time.
Lee backed into the girls, looking on in rapt wonder as George nodded to his Patronus briefly before returning his attentions to his dead brother. Molly Weasley appeared ready to take on the Patronus, but settled for speaking.
"George, look at me."
There was no reaction from her son, whose brows furrowed in concentration as he lost himself in thought, one hand running through Fred's hair, the other rested beside his head. It didn't take a genius to know what George expected. He wanted to feel, to hear Fred's heart the moment it started beating again.
"George!" This time, his mother moved forward, to be blocked instantly by the cheetah, leaping in front of her, padded paws blocking any noise. This time, George's head turned, azure eyes taking in the scene.
"Don't," he warned. "It won't hesitate to hurt you."
George wouldn't hesitate to hurt her. This wasn't just a game; it was more important than anyone seemed to think.
"Just let him go!" Ginny screamed suddenly, making everyone but George jump. The latter's eyes shifted to his only sister, who wilted under the wordless stare. "He has to go, George. How can he, if you don't let him?"
"Let him go?" George repeated, sounding puzzled. "Why would I do that?"
There was no answer to it, and everyone could only watch as George produced a wand from his pocket and pointed at Fred from where the twins lay together. The soft whisper echoed soundly in their ears.
There was no way. George's Patronus was already out, the cheetah looked on eagerly, the shadowy leash tied to George's wand hand. Yet as everyone watched, a silver swirl reached out from the wand into Fred's chest, and suddenly, the same mist leaped away, landing next to the cheetah, taking form.
It was almost identical to the other Patronus. A feline, no doubt, only there was no mistaking the jaguar.
The jaguar wore an identical collar as the cheetah, and the identical misty leash extended from it to Fred's wrist, where it disappeared into a bracelet matching George's.
"Impossible." That was Harry. "The jaguar is Fred's."
"Why is it impossible?" George wanted to know. "You returned from death, didn't you? What if I tell you Fred isn't dead at all?"
"He's dead, George," Harry grimly replied, repeating again what had been said before. George ignored him completely, and for a few moments silence overtook the entire Hall, broken only by the softest purring from the two Patronus's lined beside each other, and stifled sobs from others with their own dead friends or family, oblivious to the wonders in progress in the Weasleys' gathering.
George frowned, listening intently. There was nothing. He could feel Fred stop slipping, but he wasn't returning either. "Come on, mate," he muttered fervently, reaching down to take Fred's wrist, where his fingers searched for a pulse.
His theory, their theory, couldn't be wrong. Maybe if the cheetah hadn't come out, or if he felt himself dying with Fred, but no, both Patronus's had followed his call.
Fred, please, you can't do this to me.
If Fred didn't return now, it would be worse than before. He would much rather Fred slipped than be stuck, hanging somewhere between life and death. He didn't know how ghosts were formed, but within he felt a certainty that no matter what, he didn't want himself or Fred to ever return as ghosts.
Their theory couldn't be wrong… unless it had gone wrong in the very beginning. He brandished his own wand, laying aside Fred's.
"Reverso Enchantex." The whisper was almost silent. None spoke, allowing perplexity to overcome them long enough for a voice, one George knew to be Rookwood's, to whisper.
George lowered his wand and raised himself on an arm, looking down at his mirror image. Frowns looked out of place on his face. Their faces. Nothing was wrong. Nothing had gone wrong.
Only theory didn't always work out in practice.
"What else?" he heard his voice cracking, but he didn't care. He wanted Fred to hear him, hear all the pain he felt. "What else do you need? Tell me, Fred! I can do it!"
"What are you doing?" Charlie's voice lashed out, accusing. "What have you done?! Whose wand is that? Whose Patronus is that?"
Identical sapphire orbs landed on him. Charlie's heart twisted at the pain displayed in the clear blue gems, until they went blank.
"The other wand is Fred's. I found it," George answered. "The jaguar's mine. Cheetah's Fred's."
Suddenly it made sense. Cheetah, with its sudden bursts of speed, representing Fred's nature, more open, more in-your-face sort of predator. Jaguar, less open, but sneakier still, never showing itself until the time. But it was impossible. First of all, Fred's Patronus should be unable to appear altogether, and then, how was Fred's Patronus appearing through George?
George's gaze was calmly wiped clear of all emotion even as it turned to his parents. "You led us to it."
Amid the confusion, Arthur's face contorted in remembrance, but Molly's eyes widened.
"Don't you remember, Arthur?" she asked her husband, shrill voice sounding very loud in the silence created only to listen. "Remember when we separated them?"
"When they nearly made me take that Unbreakable Vow?" Ron asked for clarification.
George absently listened to his family try to figure things out. His mind was back to trying to work out the problem. Ginny, Lee, Angelina, Alicia, Katie, Fleur, Hermione and Harry listened intently to what had been mentioned before, but never explained.
"Yes," Arthur said, nodding to himself as he recalled the entire ordeal. "An Unbreakable Vow was going too far. They went beyond a joke, and we managed to stop them just in time. We separated them, confining them to separate rooms for a month."
"It was horrible," Charlie picked it up, now telling the story to those who didn't know it. "They seemed fine for a while, they were sure we wouldn't be able to keep it up, and so Mum just extended the punishment. After about two weeks, they realized what was happening. They weren't allowed to see each other under any circumstances. Mum even made sure the doors were guarded, so they couldn't sneak out to each other even at night."
"Yeah, George stayed with Dad," Bill continued, and his voice lost strength in the next second. "And Fred was watched by Mum. After those two weeks, the effects started showing. They lost their appetites. In another week, they became so sick –"
"– They had fever," Molly cut in quickly. "Almost self-induced. Fred lost touch with reality."
"So did George," her husband said. "They looked without seeing, listened without hearing, and whenever the door opened –"
"We'd turn to see who it was," George finished habitually. As one the audience turned to find him sitting comfortably on the floor, by now Fred's head rested in his twin's lap with the Patronus's on either side. Fred could easily have been sleeping, as he'd done before, many times when he was sleepy and George was not. Guilt flashed in his parents' eyes, but George didn't notice. All his attention seemed focused on his own fingers, weaving expertly through his twin's flaming locks, locks long enough to just reach his shoulders, even placed in exactly the same way as his own. "You thought we were just sick." There was no accusation in his voice. There wasn't even nothing. "It took you a month to decide we'd had enough punishment. It took our recovery to make you realize what had happened."
"We just woke up one day," Charlie said. "And we heard them laughing. They hadn't laughed once in all that while, even when Bill picked up Ron upside-down and dropped him, just an attempt to make George crack a smile, and I nearly threw Percy out the window to try and make Fred actually realize what was happening and grin. And we all went up, and there they were, sitting together."
"They didn't look like they'd been sick at all," Bill added, his smile sad with remembrance. Fleur hugged him briefly.
"You two almost died," Percy spoke after a long time. His voice sounded congested, his throat clogged by something. "And your recovery was miraculous."
George took Fred's limp hand and lifted it, as though to emphasize what could already be seen. "We made sure it never happened again."
"You've both produced Patronus's before the DA meetings," Harry confirmed, awed and fascinated at the same time. At least he hadn't been the only underage wizard to produce full-fledged Patronus's. "And somehow they managed to –"
"What are Patronus's, Harry?" George interrupted smoothly, falling into the role both twins played often enough, advertising their products.
Harry blinked at the sudden question, struggling to find words. "They're…" he hesitated. "They're part of your soul. A Patronus is… a… a visible representation of a person's soul."
"More or less," George's sigh filled the air. His fingers were on autopilot, as Harry would have put it, playing with the red strands. "Yeah, you got it right. We did merge our souls together. My Patronus with Fred's soul, and his Patronus with my soul. The effect was that we could only produce each other's Patronus's, but we were tied together. Our souls were knotted together." There was an expectant pause, and George gave his head a little shake before carrying on. Obvious to anyone who knew them, he'd forgotten Fred couldn't finish his explanation this time. "We could never be separated. Never again."
"Is zat why you are always so in tune wiz each other?" Fleur jerked her hair back from her face unceremoniously. The usually perfect pale waterfall hanging around her was disheveled, deprived of all care.
"Of course not," George bit back scornfully. Again, the Weasley twins' voices just weren't suited to pure scorn. "It was like that even before we did this." The jaguar made its first sound, a resounding gruff that sounded very much like a dog. George reached out his free hand to pet it, and it bowed its head to be stroked. "What went wrong?" George asked it softly.
Nothing had gone wrong. A person died when their physical body was so damaged that it was unable to support the soul any longer. Fred had been killed by the Killing Curse, which didn't damage the body at all, only forced the soul out of the body. Once outside, the soul was compelled to move on, because it couldn't find a way back into the body, which theoretically should still be able to support it otherwise. In other words, if the soul could be redirected back into the body within a fixed period, before the body lost its capability of supporting the soul, or the soul moved on, the person could still live.
Fred's body had not been damaged at all, minus a bump on the head and a cut lip, not even close enough to kill.
Part of Fred's soul had been within George when he 'died', so not all of him was 'dead'. At the same time, part of George's soul had been tied to Fred's, and that part wasn't dead either, since George himself was alive, so between these there had to be enough incentive for the soul to be pulled back. George could feel it. Fred was right there, struggling to get back inside, held by George's soul, welded to it securely, and coaxed back by the part of his own soul still alive.
But Fred needed something more, and George didn't know what.
"George, get rid of the Patronus's, please," Mr. Weasley pleaded, forgetting that he was the reason they were defensive in the first place. "Fred needs to go, and you need to let him."
"But he's not going," George huffed, frustration evident in his voice. They just didn't get it! "Fred, if you can hear me, I'm a bit tired of playing hide-and-seek."
"He can't hear you, dear," Molly tried. George didn't hear her. He was done with explaining for the time being. His heart and mind were set on Fred.
If Fred could have returned, wouldn't he have done so the first time George called to him?
"You weren't supposed to leave me alone," he told the still form of his brother. "Never. You promised!" The frustration in his voice was taking form, coming out in a single dry sob with the next words. "You swore you'd always be there!" Yet there were no tears. George knew somewhere in him: tears meant acceptance. Acceptance meant letting go.
He couldn't let go.
Gently he crawled back to their previous position, once again attempting to feel Fred's heart; if it started beating, he would hear it before anything else. All he felt was coldness, coming off the body in waves.
He sat up. He didn't want to feel that cold.
"Freddie," he almost flinched at the name. He knew everyone else did. But everyone else was in the background now. "Please." It came out in a whisper that was inaudible even to him. And with the last word he gave in to the only way he knew to make absolutely certain that Fred was paying attention.
Closing his eyes, he leaned over his twin, pressing their lips together.
The light seared through his closed lids even as the cold feel of Fred's lips warmed to his, and he barely managed to draw back in time to catch sight of the two Patronus's, two silver felines, the same yet different, merge together in a blue vortex, seconds later leaving a single one to be gazed upon, the size of the jaguar and cheetah combined, the tiger's almond-shaped gold eyes staring back at the twins. In another tremendous flash it dissipated, and George felt Fred's cheetah enter him to fill the touch of emptiness in his heart, and he knew his jaguar had entered Fred's body.
And then, the gaping hole in his heart, mind and soul was complete.
He was complete.
They were complete.
The spectators all over the Great Hall gasped in unison as George leaned forward, and suddenly the light overtook everything. The pure blue of the combined winds and waters, different elements, yet forever allies, a sapphire hue azure enough to match the twins' eyes swiveled before them in a glowing whirlpool, its core invisible to the naked eye.
Someone shouted for Fred and George, but the wind swept it away, sounding and feeling what the water could not.
And it vanished.
Their eyes had only a second to adjust to the sudden change in brightness, for there were the twins, George sitting next to his brother, eyes closed, the complete serenity in his very being matching Fred's deathly one. It was Fred who drew all eyes, though.
For the dead Weasley twin's body had been thrust into the air with an unseen brutal force, and his eyes flew open, shining the blue that had been reflected by the light, his body drawing back so tight his spine could have snapped. His legs started kicking, arms flailing as the fingers wriggled. Color flooded pale cheeks so fast they almost looked red. His mouth opened, and he was screaming absolute gibberish, anything and everything, including words that would any other day have made his mother wash his mouth out with soap ten times over. His body was testing all its parts as his heart and brain restarted function.
And, just as suddenly, he was dropped back onto the floor with a dull thud, and a groan escaped parted lips.
George was hovering over him before the others even had time to assess what had happened. Fred's eyes opened, staring up into identical sapphires matching his own, only they glimmered with unspoken words, and feelings he didn't even want to try to perceive.
"Hey Forge," he greeted casually. "What's up?"
"Hey Gred," George returned, the happiness radiating from him amazing his twin. "Does it matter what's up?"
No, it didn't matter. Fred pushed himself up from the floor, and George aided him by pulling on his arms none-too-gently.
"Ow," Fred complained matter-of-factly.
"Missed you too dearest brother." George grinned the trademark Weasley twins grin, and Fred went with the program. The hug would have been brief, it was planned so, but George was the one whose resolve finally crumbled. This time his sobs were silent, yet his tears dampened Fred's shirt as the latter held his brother as tight as he could, stunned and aching with the pain he felt from George, though not speechless.
"You were always the baby, Forge." The laugh George emitted rang around the entire Hall. Laughter was one thing that could never be foreign with the Weasley twins, even when it was in the middle of tears.
"Me? Who was the one who cried because Bill called him a baby?"
"That's what he thought, because you instantly told him you were me. You know," came a random addition. "I like you much better when you're warm."
"Yeah," Fred paused, and George knew what was next. He didn't lift his head from Fred's chest, nor did he care that his voice was muffled by his brother's shirt.
"Don't." His fingers pressed against Fred's lips were insistent, his words commanding. "You're back now, and I don't care. Just… let's not try that ever again?"
"Sounds good to me," Fred's eyes prickled with a hot wetness, and he closed them, burying his face in his brother's hair as the tears freed themselves. The whispered words were meant only for his twin's ears… ear.
"I love you."
"Love you too." George drew back, and they just had time to share an identical smile, before Fred was tackled.
"Ah! Mum! Ginny! Gerrof!" Fred managed to emit somehow. "I'm not Fred!"
"Oh," Molly squeezed her son briefly before turning around. "Sorry George dear. Now, Fred… Fred?"
Red hair peeped out from between Katie and Alicia, where George had taken refuge. "I'm not Fred! Look properly, Mum, no missing ear!"
"Thanks, mate," Fred's sarcastic reply was somewhat drowned by all his brothers and father joining in the embrace, and Fred was lost in the sea of red hair and family tears.
"No prob," George was revealed as, at a call from Bill and Arthur, Lee, Alicia, Angelina, Katie, Fleur, Hermione and Harry all rushed forward, but his reply was distracted, as his eyes searched wildly among the chaotic hug. He knew Fred was there, but at least for a while now, he didn't want to lose sight of his twin.
Who knew what could happen the next time he looked away?
It seemed as though a millennium had passed before he could see his Fred again, and George breathed a stifled sigh of relief as the face identical to his own resurfaced.
No one followed when Fred stood and walked to George, and no one interrupted as they stood side by side, looking around with only one pair of eyes on one face.
"It doesn't seem right," Fred said quietly, taking in all the faces turned their way, most tearstained, some accusing, some reproachful. All stood or sat beside bodies, as still as he'd been only a while ago. "I shouldn't have come back."
George agreed without words. "We're still bound, you know."
"I'm glad," his brother replied simply. "I could still think and feel. I was so afraid of having to leave alone." He halted, "I never meant to leave you alone."
"I said don't," George said, playfully punching Fred's arm. "Never apologize to me. Besides, you didn't have to, did you? When we go, we'll go together."
People were crowding around their family now. Most wanted to know what had happened, while those who'd known Fred had died demanded to know how. Fred and George slipped by, unhindered. They stood together, each with an arm around the other, gazing at Remus and Tonks' bodies.
"Did I look anything like that?" Fred asked curiously.
"You looked just like that," George breathed. "I promised them we would look after their son."
Fred knew he would've done the same, and he also knew George knew it, but he feigned exasperation anyway. "Us? George, we can barely look after ourselves. Who's going to change the nappies?"
There was a pause. "Git," Fred countered lamely. "At least he'll live up to his father's reputation."
"As a student."
"Not as professor."
"We'll teach him everything we know," they completed together.
"You think his grandmother will let us –"
"– She will."
"I don't like having to finish all my sentences by myself."
"Who said you had to?"
"I had to when you went and got yourself killed."
"Right. About that, tell me you got Rookwood for me."
"I petrified him, Percy finished it."
"Brilliant. I think I dropped my wand."
"In my pocket."
"At least you're thorough."
"We need to do something about my ear. Fake one modified?"
"Nice, but don't you like people now being able to tell us apart?"
George didn't say anything for a long time. When he spoke, his voice was soft. "No, I don't."
"Fred, George." The twins turned at their father's call. Arthur Weasley stood alone, waiting for them while the others fended off desperate questions. "We should go. We don't belong here anymore."
Fred shook his head, glancing to Harry. The smaller boy cast an apologetic look at him, then his green eyes strayed to the bodies behind the twins.
"We'll stay for them," Harry said. "At least I will."
"So will we," Ginny informed, smiling at her brothers.
Fred felt his heart give one final painful lurch as he sensed George's pain scorch through him as the latter forgot to make a smart comment, and as everyone re-gathered in a seating, this time to mourn the two who had been forgotten in the cry of Fred's short-lived death, George leaned against him in an unspoken vow, renewing the one that had been once completed, as Fred rested his head on George's shoulder, finishing his twin's thought the way he would have his words.
It's not just that I can't live without you…
…I don't even want to try.
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