Title: Phantom Pain

Word Count: 1200

Rating: K+

Genre: Angst / Drama

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling. I'm just exploring the aftermath. No money is being made and no copyright is intended.

Summary: George reflects and struggles with his loss post-DH . Major spoiler!


The world is empty, and within the darkness of George's mind he knows he is too. A half sob, half laugh tears out of his mouth. How can it be empty when the immense Great Hall presses in on him? The ceiling is dark and oppressing, and all over, hoards of people...and the dead.

The dead. That is the collective term for all those who didn't make it. But that isn't important. The long line of the dead is blurry, as though looking through a pane of ice, or rather a sea of red hair and watery eyes. Only one body stands out. One pale face staring unblinkingly up at him.

Fred.

Fred-and-George. The collective term for them is 'the twins'. But the collective is shattered, torn beyond repair. The side of George's head throbs. He touches the region where his ear should be gently, as though rediscovering it. He always tried to joke about it, brush it off, but the grim reality can't be ignored anymore.

The cracks had been there awhile, ever since George lost his ear and everyone knew which twin was which. No jokes about Gred and Forge anymore. The first aspect of being twins shattered. But that was okay. They survived and adapted, because they were still The Twins. Fred-and-George.

George.

Only George now. Alone. George and Fred were always together. Fred-and-George. A team. Why would they separate? George sucks at saying goodbye. How many ways are there to say goodbye anyway? He and Fred only ever knew one, the last and final one.

George can't do this alone. He is just one person being crushed by the devastation and sorrow flooding from every corner of the Great Hall. A lonely soul in a world not small enough for one, but not big enough for his other half. George never felt as hollow in his entire life. His entire family huddles around Fred. The mockery stabs George's spirit.

They don't understand. They lost a brother, a son. George lost his twin. It isn't supposed to be like this. George had nightmares and doubts and worst-possible scenarios. But he never dreaded this. It was incomprehensible. Impossible. But he and Fred always defied the impossible. And then Fred defied it one last time.

Sickly bile rises up George's throat. He swallows, but it only ensures that the taste lingers. The dense aroma of sweat and blood floods his nose and mouth. He can't breathe.

George can't stay here. He rests a hand on Fred's shoulder. It is cold. Not steel cold or Dementor cold. Emptiness cold. George's hand, hot, doesn't affect Fred. George's burning heat could not raise Fred's temperature by one single degree. Instead Fred's coldness burns him. George snatches his hand way. A thousand silent apologies dash through his mind.

The corpse doesn't react. It comes as a blow that settled heavily in George's stomach. No more furtive, meaningful glances and silent communication. Game over. The end. No redos or extra lives. Just infinitely gone. Gone where George can't follow him.

George stands in a jerky abrupt movement. It's his turn to leave Fred now. He disappears into some nameless Muggle bar. The smoky bar burns his eyes and blurs the lines on his palms. George's hands are freezing. But his fingers burn, fingerprints glowing red, highlighting the only difference between him and Fred, between the survivor and corpse.

The tequila, George has just enough sense not the order Fire Whiskey, slithers down his throat. Half a bottle vanishes mysteriously, and the only sign is the haze that clouds his eyes until he can't see the difference between his hands and Fred's. Why Fred? Why not him? The haunting question becomes vague and abstract like it doesn't seem to matter very much. And if he finishes the tequila it might not matter at all for awhile.

George doesn't usually drink. It is an eternity since Fred and he tried to score drinks in the Three Broomsticks or sneaked alcohol into the castle and wasted entire Sundays with Lee goofing off, cheerfully under the influence. They thought they were so cool and so mature. George wants to go back and warn those three innocent kids, tell them everything, because what they would figure out isn't enough. They learnt not to drink, to stay focused, and to never give up. But they never knew that they weren't invincible, that the power in numbers - the power of two - would backfire. George doesn't feel invincible now. He shouldn't drink. The Death-eaters aren't gone yet. He's a sitting duck.

George waits and he drinks. His reflexes are shot. He won't be able to grab his wand and counter an ill-thrown curse. But that never happens. Just this endless moment, stretching beyond breaking point like a bubble about to burst. George slumps onto the bar. His head is too heavy to hold upright. It pounds.

Waves of pain slam into him, and the epicentre of it all is his missing ear. He doesn't fight the tears, the tears that have been bubbling since he first lost the damn ear. Because now not only was he missing a body part, but also an intangible part of himself. He could survive without one but not the two.

This wouldn't have bothered him, not when Fred was there to help him through it and laugh and smile. But George can't hack the phantom pain. Not by himself. Don't leave me in this dark abyss...in this half existence.

He waits. But his plea is unanswered. George stares unseeingly into the tequila, as though it was a crystal ball, and wave of memories about him and Fred gazing somberly into crystal balls and making up ridiculous predictions in Trewaleny's class crash over him, and in amidst of it all is the pain. The ceaseless agony that centralied his existence. Why do they call it phantom pain? he wonders dully.

Phantom, as in not real, when it's one of the realist thing he has ever felt. A realisation freezes the pain. George is cold again. The sensation spreads from his missing ear down his arms and legs, and then it reaches his heart. Even his breath is cold. It forms a mist in front of him.

What if phantom meant phantom? George swears he can hear Fred's laugh. A curse won't do me in that easily. You know we don't give up...

And then George is laughing. He raises the bottle of tequila in a mocking salute to a fallen brother. They are connected. An innocent blood oath from childhood has a darker conclusion than George ever imagined. It was just a symbol, but they are twins, and this is magic, and he should have known better.

Fred-and-George.

A sense of relief follows through George. Fred's presence was within him. Fred is not gone. He came back, he found a way back.

He is a part of George now. A deep-bone sense of peace and acceptance settles on George, giving him the respite that the alcohol failed to provide. It's all going to be okay.

It's going to be great.

George is Forge now for real.