The Other Side of Goodbye
A sudden, dizzying sensation that reminded him of Apparition or travel by Floo Powder came over Fred, and he found himself standing amidst what looked like clouds. White curls of mist rose to just above his knees, swirling in a breeze he could not feel. When the initial after-effects of whatever type of travel he had just endured wore off, he gave his head one quick shake to steady himself.
He cast his eyes from side to side, seized by fear. The last thing he knew, he had been joking with Percy in between dueling with a Death Eater in Hogwarts.
This certainly wasn't Hogwarts.
For starters, where were Percy, Harry, and Ron?
Suspecting some sort of disillusionment charm was at work, he hastily crouched down in the mist. The Death Eater he was fighting had clearly cast this to throw off Fred, and he would not allow the bastard to watch him like a goldfish. He peered through the haze, waiting for some indication as to where his attacker, or his friends, might be.
"You have no reason to hide," said a voice somewhere in the distance. "It is over now."
Fred crouched lower and considered lying flat on the ground, but thought better of it in case of an attack. He would have a hard time casting spells lying down.
And now that he was thinking about it, there was no ground. Whatever it was that his fingers came in contact with was neither solid or mist. He dismissed the temporary confusion from his mind and swallowed as he looked up.
A man emerged from the mist, looking very wise and solemn. He was adorned in bright white clothing and seemed to be illuminated from within. His glow was soft and pure, unlike any light Fred had ever seen. Something about this man both frightened and comforted him.
"Please rise, Frederick," the man said, making a motion to do just that with his hand. "The journey will be much harder if you choose to go crouching."
Fred knit his brows. This was some sort of trick.
"I'm not going anywhere with you," he shot back, instantly on his feet. "Expelliarmus!"
Gazing down at his hand, Fred found that his wand was no longer wrapped in his fingers. He did not see it anywhere near his feet, and his stomach tightened sickeningly. He looked back at the man in white and attempted to back away. He would not run unless he had to—but he refused to die being cornered like this.
"Your wand is not here," the man said, taking several steps closer.
"Right, well, I sort of figured that one out," Fred retorted. "What did you do with it? Break it?"
"I haven't touched it. It is with your body."
Fred knew that his wand was not in his pants pocket, and that was the best he could figure from the strange reply he had received. "I'm not up for riddles right now. If you don't give it back, I'll just have to pummel you with my fists until you do."
The man raised a hand as if to tell Fred to stop for a second. His brows shifted into a look of one trying to understand something. "You do not know."
Fred was not sure how to reply. Was that a question or a statement? Didn't know what? What the hell was going on? Where was everybody? Who was this guy? Where was his wand?
"You are dead, Frederick Weasley."
Every thought rushing through Fred's mind came to a screeching halt. Dead? He stared at the man. "Beg your pardon?"
"You are de—"
"Dead? No, not seeing as I'm standing right here!" Fred could not help it, the words were tumbling out without connecting to his brain first. Hearing the note of hysteria in his voice, he took a moment to calm himself. "This is a spell. You're a Death Eater trying to kill me, and I'm not going to fall for this whole 'angel' bit. Give me my wand back before I beat you to a pulp and take it back!"
The words seemed to sting the man a bit and he recoiled. He shook his head and cast his eyes upward. "Why do they always make this so hard?"
Fred glanced upward as he slowly moved backward. He came in contact with something that felt just like the ground—or whatever it was— and looked to see what it was. There was nothing there. An invisible wall? What sort of spell was this? He looked back at the man, trying to keep his fears submerged.
"Talking to yourself is never good," he said.
The solemnity in the man's voice hit Fred like a fist. "We have something of great importance to discuss, Frederick."
"My name is Fred—only mum calls me 'Frederick' when I've done something to her garden," he said defensively. "And I'm not discussing anything with you. Take down this wall!"
"I cannot, Frederick."
Fred allowed his Weasley Temper to flare up, reddening his face and ears as he bellowed, "MY NAME IS FRED!"
The man made a calming motion with his hands and came toward Fred. Fred, having nowhere to go, resigned himself to a standoff. If this man was going to kill him, he would not go without a fight. The man stopped just short of Fred's reach, and Fred noticed his eyes were filled with sorrow. He did his best not to lower his guard, but something in the man's expression was temporarily taking the fight out of Fred.
"I am sorry, Frederick, but I am only permitted to use your whole first name. It cuts back on the confusion once you—well, I suppose I have some explaining to do before I get to that part." He made to put his hand on Fred's shoulder, but Fred hit his hand away.
"What the hell is going on?" Fred demanded, back on the offensive. He raised his fists again, ready to defend himself in whatever way he had to. "I'm sick of this little game—"
"It is no game, Frederick. I was under the impression that you had already been informed of your death. I cannot solve this puzzle for you if you do not let me put my hand on your shoulder."
"So you can kill me? I don't think so!"
Fred swung out with his right fist. He had fought with his older brothers several times before, and he had been taught well. He should have made contact square with his opponent's nose, successfully breaking it, but instead he made none. The momentum of his punch not connecting threw him forward slightly, and he was shocked to find that not only had his arm passed through the man, but so had part of his torso.
He instantly retracted, eyes wide with fear and confusion. Fear constricted his chest further when he realized that despite his best intentions, he was not breathing.
The man bowed his head and reached forward, grabbing hold of Fred's shoulder. A strange calm washed over Fred, and the same strange sensation that had brought him to this place filled him.
The Great Hall is filled with people. Most are celebrating, but others are walking down the long line of bodies. It is staggering to see how many there are and who is among them. Colin Creevey, so innocent… Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks lie side-by-side, looking as though they are merely sleeping. George lies there, surrounded by their family, their mother sobbing into his chest.
Fred instinctively moves to run to his twin, to push his mother aside and see for himself what has happened to his other half. He finds that his hand passes through his mum and that nobody moves to get out of his way.
"Fred," a voice whispers, deadly solemn and racked with fear.
Ron and Percy are instantly out of the way, and there is Fred. No, wait, it's George—his ear is missing. He says nothing more and advances toward the body. He falls to his knees, eyes wide and watery. He reaches out timidly and his fingers brush against Fred's hairline.
Fred staggers backward and tries to catch breath he no longer has. He can feel George's fingers for the briefest of moments and thinks he's going to be sick.
George pulls away, and Fred knows it is because the chill of death is setting into his body. Again Fred moves forward, this time to look down at his own face. His father has closed his eyes for him, because he could not bear Fred's joyless gaze. A small smirk is upon Fred's lips and he remembers now.
Percy… he had been joking with Percy…
Fred looks at his older brother, who is beside himself with grief. He thinks it is his fault, and Fred wants to tell him otherwise. He goes to put his hand on Percy's shoulder, to let him know he is not gone, but his hand falls through him. He brings his hand back, and lifts it up to look at it.
He cannot remember a single time in his life, not even when he and George had concocted various potions with equally various resulting disasters, when he was translucent.
"You cannot make physical contact. It is a burden of angels," the angel's voice tells him from inside his head.
Fred shakes his head, banishing the voice. His mother's sobs are too much to take. He kneels beside her and tries to make himself heard.
"Mum, no, I'm still here… Don't cry…" Fred reaches for her, but she cannot feel his touch either. He wants so badly to cry, but he can't. "Mum… mum… please don't cry…"
"Angels cannot cry," the man says beside him, appearing from nowhere. "It is another burden of the heavenly. You are among us now."
"I don't want to be an angel," Fred says, barely above a whisper as he tries desperately to touch his mother's face and wipe away her tears. "Mum, please, no…"
"I am sorry, Frederick. It was your time."
Molly continues to sob and Arthur strokes her soothingly as he silently cries for his lost son. Percy is not sobbing; he is absolutely still and silent, staring at Fred with water dripping from his eyes. Ron and Ginny are clinging to each other for dear life, both crying uncontrollably. George is kneeling by Fred, staring down into the face of his dead twin and showing so much emotion that he almost appears to be showing none at all.
The angel moves to stand beside Fred. "Please understand that it was your time, Frederick."
Fred stands up, Weasley Fury boiling within him, and looks the angel square in the face.
"NO IT BLOODY WELL WASN'T!!" His voice does not echo off the walls of the Great Hall and his death takes a whole new meaning.
George looks up suddenly, as if he has heard something.
Fred hurries over to his twin, passing right through Ron and Ginny. "George! George, you can hear me, can't you??"
George is looking right through him, searching for the source of some sound. He lets out a shuddering breath and turns his eyes back toward Fred's body.
"He cannot hear you," the angel says.
"Yes he can!!" He argues forcefully. Fred feels like his eyes are filling with tears, but his vision is perfectly clear. "He always hears me," he whispers, voice cracked and reedy. "Before I even say anything… He always… he always knows where I am… he always hears…"
The angel has put his hand on Fred's shoulder again, and this time Fred is not filled with the near-calm of the touch that brought him to the Great Hall. "Get away from me!!" He whirls on the angel and shoves him whole-heartedly. This time Fred makes contact, sending the angel toppling to the cold stone floor.
"Your pain was once my own," he says, not bothering to stop Fred's rage or to get up.
"What, did you have to watch this, too?? Your parents, your siblings… your TWIN crying over your body?" He waits for no reply and turns back to George. "PLEASE, George, you have to hear me!!"
George does not look up. His tears are sliding silently down his cheeks, raining down onto Fred's face. Even though Fred is smirking, it looks as though he is crying too. George reaches down and wipes away the tears as his own come stronger.
"No," he whispers shakily, "You can't cry too."
Fred wants so badly to sob, to cry, to find some way to let this sadness out of himself. He reaches out for George and places his hand on his shoulder. He tries so hard not let it pass through, and it doesn't. He squeezes, and George looks up again.
His voice is full of hope this time, and confusion. His gaze moves rapidly, his eyes narrow, searching for something beyond his vision.
Fred reaches out again, but this time the angel stops him. "You must let him go, Frederick—"
"BUT HE FELT ME! George! GEORGE! I'm here! I'm right here!" He pushes the angel aside and tries to grasp his twin by the elbows. His fingers pass through George, and he tries desperately to make himself solid enough to take hold.
He is fading, despite an urge so strong he can barely contain it, and he throws his arms around George. "NO! NO, DON'T TAKE HIM AWAY FROM ME! NO!"
Fred collapsed to his knees and searched around him for George. Nothing but curls of white mist surrounded him now, and the angel stood a few feet away, looking down at him solemnly.
"You!" Fred was on his feet in an instant and grabbed the front of the angel's robes. "TAKE ME BACK!"
"I cannot. You have had your moment of farewell," the angel replied gently. "George knows you were there."
"It wasn't my time," he said, beating his fists into the angel's chest as he tried to pull Fred into a comforting hug. "It wasn't my time!"
"But it was, Frederick. You died a noble death, trying to save the innocent. You succeeded, Frederick, and have earned your wings many times over."
Fred pushed out of the angel's grasp and fixed him with the most hateful gaze he had ever given. "I. DON'T. WANT. WINGS. I WANT MY FAMILY! I WANT GEORGE!"
"Those are two things I cannot give you."
"Why not?? If you're so mighty, so heavenly, why can't you just… just…" His fury ebbed and the full weight of his grief crushed the embers of his anger. "Put me back in my body," he finished quietly.
"I am not powerful enough for such things. Only one is, and it was She who saw fit to take you—"
"But…" Fred interrupted weakly, "I wasn't even twenty years old yet. I… I didn't get married, or have kids, or… or build a house next door to George. I… I won't be able to go to Ron's bachelor party, or Ginny's graduation… I didn't get to make a toast at mum and dad's fiftieth anniversary—"
"I understand your sorrow," the angel replied softly.
Fred let out a hollow, mirthless laugh. "Do you?"
"I had to die to get these wings. I also did not take my own death is stride. I left behind a wife and three children." A smile came to his face. "But they are with me now."
Fred looked up, shaking his head. "But my family is not with me. They're down there," he said, gazing down at the clouds around his feet, "crying over me. Because I was so stupid… Now they're all so… so sad… and I can't make them happy anymore. I can't help them forget their pain. I can't make them laugh."
"That is why George was left behind, Frederick. It will take him time, but he will learn to laugh again. When he does, it will bring your family and friends great joy."
"Why do they have to feel any sorrow at all? Couldn't you have just left me there, too?" He was pleading now. "Can't you just… find some way to put me back? Then they wouldn't have to wait for happiness. I've got some firework tabs in my pocket. I'm sure that'd liven up the celebration, and, and make everybody happy again." His eyes were wide as he looked at the angel. His next word was so carefully chosen, said in such a tone that he had never used before, that it felt as though Fred expelled part of his being when he said it. "Please?"
The angel shook his head. "I am sorry, Frederick."
If Fred had felt like crying before, he felt like dying now. But then, he thought, his death had not hurt. He had died laughing, just as he always told George he hoped he would. He felt like dying a painful, slow death, like that of a person who dies of heartbreak.
He chuckled a little.
"I expected angels couldn't feel pain."
The angel sighed and nodded slightly. "It is the last of your earthly discomforts to go. Sadly, it is the things we desire to do most that are taken immediately. That is why you could not touch or comfort your mother."
Fred sat down on the cloud and tried to peer through it. He could barely make out Hogwarts. "Then how come I could shove you? How come I could touch George? How come he could hear me?"
"It is best explained as thus," the angel said, standing beside him. "If you feel an emotion strongly enough, you can manifest into just enough of a solid object to be felt. Your voice can be heard for the briefest of moments. Being able to touch me is no great feat, Frederick. In the short timespan you have been among the heavenly, you have gained strength. When you first tried to hit me, you were still recovering from being parted with your body. Touching George, however… Your grief, your sorrow… your desire to touch your twin was strong enough that you were able."
"But… I wanted to touch mum, and Percy—"
"Not as badly as you wanted to make contact with George," the angel intercepted. "It is rare for any of us to be able to make contact with more than one person. Usually we can only touch those we miss the most."
"There is another part to this explanation—something far more important." The angel sat beside him and waved his hand over the cloud. If shifted slightly and a vision of Fred and George as young children came into view. "You and George shared a bond that few can understand. To have an identical twin is one thing, but to be connected as you two were is only conceivable by those who were as you."
Fred, lost in the image before him, raised a brow. "That was very confusing."
"What I mean to say is that you were both wizards. Muggle identical twins do share a close bond, but those who are wizards are literally bonded. Your mother and father share a love that is true, and the magic between them is strong. But even their bond is not as strong as the one you still have with George. You see, because of all the magic that surrounded your mother and father, which flowed through their veins, a strange thing happened when you were conceived. Assuming you know about the birds and the bees, you will know that you and George were once literally a single entity." He paused here as the vision of Fred and George changed to just before they went to Hogwarts for the first time. Fred was still watching it. "When your physical bodies became two, your single soul also split. Your jokes that you shared a soul were actually very true."
"Indeed. That is why you felt each other's happiness and pain so well. It is why you could share each other's thoughts, how you could finish each other's sentences. You were of one soul, and one mind. When your soul divided, it took certain traits into each of you, some split down the middle while others were singular. You were identical freckle for freckle, which is something no other twins in the world can currently claim. There is usually at least one physical difference between them, such as a birthmark."
"George lost an ear," Fred remarked off-handedly. "Saint-like," he said, a corner of his mouth turning up, "Ironic, as I'm the one up here."
"It is because you two share a soul that George could hear and feel you; it was much more than mere emotions you felt. It was your splintered soul making contact with its other half. It was fleeting, yes, as now your soul resides in two different worlds and cannot enable the type of communication you are used to. George will be able to communicate with you from time to time, I suppose, but it is nothing to cling to."
"Right. I can't cling to anything now, even if I want to."
The angel nodded. "The pain will subside quickly, Frederick, once you enter the Gates. I promise you that."
Fred tore his eyes away from the image of he and George wiping soot off their faces from an explosion in their room long enough to scoff. "I don't think this will ever go away, and I'm not going to Heaven."
The angel raised a brow as Fred looked back at the image. "You are not?"
"No… I have to wait for George. He'll come. Soon. He said he'd always follow me no matter where I went." He let out a single laugh. "Said that after I tried to explain the rules of Hide and Seek to him. Had to find his own hiding place. Know what he said?"
"But I'm following you wherever you go Fred! I don't feel right when we're apart," George said from the whisp of cloud that looked like him at seven years old.
Fred wanted to cry again, but he could not force tears to his eyes. "He was right, you know. I can only think of a handful of times we were ever apart. Sucked majorly, I can say. I couldn't go to the common room without him, let alone Heaven."
The angel placed his hand on Fred's shoulder again. "He will join you someday."
The angel did not say when George would come, but he did say, "There is somebody else I think you should speak with. Come, follow me."
Fred looked him straight in the eyes. "I'm not going anywhere without George."
"Then your conversation must take place here. I will go now, and he shall come in my stead. He will explain… much better than I."