Disclaimer: The plot's mine. The characters and part of the setting are not.

Prologue

Ginny liked to imagine he was just sleeping in after a long day laboring at the joke shop. He and Fred never did have much sense of their own limitations, and she had seen them countless times at the end of the workday tired to the bone. "The public has its demands, little sis," Fred had told her quite seriously once, as he rubbed his eyes. "As soon as we come up with something new they're just grabbing it off the shelves."

"It's exhausting being successful," George said, buffing his nails on the front of his robes.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "What would we do without Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes?" she said sarcastically.

The twins exchanged a look. "I think you're on to something there, Gin," George said, grinning. "That might be a good slogan."

That was all he was doing now, looking to catch a bit of kip before returning to his store. And for a moment she was able to forget that their joke shop was gone now, and had been gone for three years. She could forget that, the last she had heard, it had been converted into a Death Eater recruitment center. The brightly colored signs advertising The constipation sensation that's sweeping the nation! were papered over with Purity of blood! It's worth fighting for!, and their little flat was now a holding cell for the poor, captured Muggles who were used in initiations.

But she wouldn't think of that right now. No, she would think about George, and what he would be like when he woke from his enchanted slumber. He'd probably ask for Fred straight off, knowing him. Ask for something to eat, since his stomach was as bottomless as Ron's. She'd get to see him smile again, and tell awful jokes and tease her. She could hardly wait.

The Healer attending him approached the bed, and Ginny gave her a weak smile. They were on a first-name basis now, since Ginny had visited so many times. "All right?" she said gently.

"As well as I can be, Cassie," Ginny replied. "How's he been?"

"Stable. Always stable. I had someone come in and shave him and cut his hair, though I think he left it a bit long," Cassie said, frowning at George's nearly shoulder-length tresses.

"No," Ginny said quickly, "he liked it long." She reached up and fingered a lock of it, marveling at its brilliant color. Hers was a darker, subdued copper color, and she had always envied Fred and George's much brighter, redder shade.

Cassie waved her wand and conjured up another chair to sit beside her. "I think one of my trainees has gotten a bit of a crush on your brother here," she said with a smile, arranging her lime green robes about her knees. "Roberta's always asking if we should check on him, fluff his pillow, do another wand scan."

Ginny chuckled, or tried to. It had been so long since she had laughed last. "I'm sure he'd love the idea of some witch trying to fluff his pillow while he was asleep."

Cassie pretended to look aghast, but ruined it by smiling. "I'd be sacked for allowing such activity!" she joked.

"When George wakes up I'll tell him, and you'll see how he reacts." Ginny grinned up at his calm, pale face, and missed the pitying expression on Cassie's.

"Ginny --" When she had the younger witch's attention, she reached out and took both of Ginny's hands in her own. "I know you believe he'll wake up --"

"He will," Ginny said firmly. "If I know George --"

"But the truth is he may never wake," Cassie said, squeezing her hands a little. "I've told you this before, and I'll say it again: we don't know what he was hit with. Some kind of Sleeping Charm the likes of which we've never seen before, or a Dark curse."

"It's a Dark curse," Ginny said, nodding. "Bill rescued him from a group of Death Eaters."

Cassie sighed. "We've been looking through all kinds of ancient texts, and experimenting with different potions and spells, but the fact is, Ginny, your brother is asleep and has been for almost four years. Muggle Healers call this state a coma, if I'm remembering correctly, and even they haven't found any way of reviving patients. The body is alive and unharmed, but the mind is dormant. We can't do anything but wait."

"But you have to keep looking," Ginny said hoarsely. No matter how many times she heard them, Cassie's words still hit her like a Stunning spell each time. "There's got to be something in one of those books, there must be..."

"We are," Cassie said. "We're still looking. Merlin, we've even got a former Spellweaver trying to come up with a brand new spell to counteract this one." She bit her lower lip before continuing. "What I'm trying to say is --"

"I should stop coming to visit," Ginny said. Cassie blinked, startled. "I should say goodbye to him. I should accept that he isn't going to wake up."

Ginny wasn't stupid. She knew she was clinging to false hopes, and that it was unhealthy to do so. George's state had been exactly the same ever since he had fallen before that Death Eater's wand; he had never shown any signs of improving or declining. Always just more of the same. Bloody George. He'd probably think this was some great lark.

A pause, and then -- "Yes, Ginny. As much as I hate saying it, it would be for the best. You know we'll continue watching over him and looking for a cure, but there's little you can do except prepare yourself for the worst."

Ginny chuckled again, but this one was devoid of any kind of mirth. "Maybe we all should have done that. Maybe then there wouldn't be so many dead."

Cassie winced and squeezed her hands once more before letting go. "I'll leave you with him, then, to say goodbye," she said, standing. "I'll be on my rounds if you need me." After hesitating a moment, she pulled Ginny into her arms for a bone-crushing hug that the redhead barely felt, and then she was gone.

Ginny turned back to George and reached for his hand. "Well," she said. It was a start, for she wasn't exactly sure how to go about giving him all the horrible news. "George, I think you can hear me no matter what they say. I know you're in there somewhere, and you can understand me. So I'm just going to say everything now, though I know we should have told you sooner.

"Voldemort won the final battle, George," she said, and tears welled in her eyes. There were some things that time could not dull. "I saw it. He sent the Killing Curse at Harry and Harry was too tired to deflect it. And he died, George. He died and Voldemort laughed. The Death Eaters all cheered.

"But we didn't surrender. We fought back, we cursed and hexed them left and right and we got a lot of them, but it wasn't enough and we had to run away. Dad grabbed me and we ran from the battlefield and Apparated to Grimmauld Place. We've been living there ever since, getting our groceries delivered through a neat little system the Resistance has set up. We can't even go outside, George. I haven't been outside in three years." Ginny paused to wipe her nose on the sleeve of her robes.

"So many are dead," she went on, her voice soft. "Nearly everyone at the Ministry was killed, and only the purebloods were spared. Only purebloods, and there's so few of them, George! They're killing so many for just a few people? It doesn't make any sense at all, but I guess it doesn't change the way things are either.

"Mum's dead. MacNair got her at the final battle, at Godric's Hollow. Dad wouldn't talk to me for a whole week afterwards, and I had to make him eat or else he wouldn't." She paused. "I'm glad you can't see him now, George. He looks awful. All his hair's gone, and he's so thin. We hardly speak to each other at all.

"And we're the only ones left. Percy...oh, but you were already asleep when he made his amends with Mum and Dad! Yeah, he joined the Order and everything, and he was killed at the Ministry of Magic Massacre. Scrimgeour gave Mum and Dad the Order of Merlin, Third Class, for him. Mum cried.

"Then Bill next. Fenrir and his lot cornered him and Fenrir decided to finish the job he started, and they -- they tore him apart, George." She bit back a sob. "They couldn't find his body. We looked but they just...just ripped him to shreds.

"After him was Charlie. He was with his dragons, and a Death Eater cursed them or something because they went crazy and broke free of their cages. Charlie and all his crew were burnt alive.

"Then Ron. Ron and Hermione died in each other's arms seconds after Harry died. I'm sure you would probably think up some way to tease him for dying with the woman he loved, George, but I can't think of anything.

"And finally Fred. He came here almost every day after you were hit with this Sleeping Curse, you know, and he'd sit and talk to you for hours and hours until Mum or Dad came to drag him home. He missed you so much. He was never the same after you fell asleep. And -- yeah, Mulciber got him. At the final battle. It was..." Ginny shuddered as she remembered tripping over Fred's body during the battle.

"So it's just me and Dad left, at Sirius's old house. Most of the Order are dead now too, though we can't be sure. We haven't heard from Lupin in a long time, so I suppose he might still be alive somewhere. Same for Slughorn and Hestia Jones, and a few others. But everyone else...yeah. Not the news you wanted to hear, is it?

"They make everyone not pureblooded wear these bands around their arms. The Muggles have red bands, and the Muggle-born wizards and halfbloods wear blue ones. Dad and I don't have any, since we've been in hiding. I've heard that they can be attacked in broad daylight by bands of Death Eaters, beaten and tortured and raped and murdered in the street and no one will raise a hand to stop them. No one, George. And the Quibbler (remember that mad old magazine? It's now the news magazine of the Resistance, since the Daily Prophet is under 'new management') the Quibbler says that they're spreading onto the Continent too. Death Eater camps are popping up in Northern France and Spain. He plans to take over the world, I think. And no one raises a hand to stop him."

Ginny had to pause there and gather herself again. She had never spilled everything out like this before, though it was constantly simmering under the surface of her calm demeanor. She tried to think if she had forgotten to mention anything, and decided not.

"I wonder sometimes how Dad and I managed to escape with our lives when so many others didn't. I'm not particularly powerful, neither is Dad. I sometimes feel like they're only allowing us to live, George. I hate being at their mercy. I want to fight back and destroy Voldemort myself, but there just aren't enough resisters out there. We have nothing. No one to turn to.

"So maybe I should stop wishing you'd wake up, George. Because there's only darkness and doom and death here with the living. Stay where you are, wherever it might be, and maybe you at least can avoid existing in this hell and be safe."

George's chest heaved suddenly in a deep sigh. Before, years ago, she would have jumped up and declared it a sign that he was waking up, just watch, in another minute he'll open his eyes -- but now she knew it was just some kind of knee-jerk reaction to something. It happened all the time, and it didn't mean a thing.

"I love you, George," she whispered, and she kissed the hand she held. "Dad does too. We miss you and hope that you're okay. And happy birthday," she added, almost forgetting. "Your birthday's tomorrow. You're going to be twenty-three. I brought you something, from me and Dad." She reached into a pocket in her robes and pulled out a small music box.

Ginny set it on the table beside his bed and frowned at it. "I know it's not much," she admitted, "but it's all right. I know how you like the Weird Sisters, so I charmed it to play one of their songs. I found it at Grimmauld Place, but it's not cursed or anything, I promise. Enjoy, George.

"We love you...goodbye."

She pulled herself to her feet as though she had aged fifty years in the hour she had been by his side, and bent to kiss his forehead. His skin was cool and dry like parchment under her lips, and when she let go of his hand it fell lifelessly back to his side.

Numb, tired, and hungry, Ginny found Cassie and told her she was leaving.

"We'll take good care of him here," Cassie promised, and she hugged Ginny tightly again. "If he had to be somewhere it's best he's here. St. Mungo's is the safest place in all Britain right now."

"I know. We trust you, me and Dad," Ginny said. "Play the music box for him sometimes, will you?" Cassie nodded solemnly, and, with one last farewell, Ginny went down to the lobby and took one of the specially-warded fireplaces home via the Floo network.