George found himself once again in the Forbidden Forest clearing, bent over the Pensieve, smile and tears still in tact.
Fabian's words to Gideon still rang in his head.
It really could have been 'To George, From Fred', he knew for certain, now.
He could just picture Fred up in Heaven, or wherever he was, saying, "Took you long enough! I can be Saint-like, too, see?" Or something like that. Probably something funnier, just because Fred always had a knack of topping George's jokes.
He had been lead to Fabian's parting wishes to Gideon. Lead by mysterious dreams that George now realized had not been planted by tormenting demons, but rather one restless spirit…
He had been lead by the promise of having Fred return. He had been told by Fabian's memory-self that it wasn't possible to bring the dead back. But… just like Fabian said, George still had his memories. The good and the bad and the in-between... They would remain forever.
It was nothing like bringing Fred back for real. It didn't even closely compare. But… it was enough to assure George that Fred was looking out for him. It was enough to bring the sense back to his mind.
For the past weeks George had found himself hearing the same thing from a multitude of people.
Verity: "I'm worried, George… We all miss him, George, but it's like- it's like you're acting as though you're the one dead, not him… We miss him, but we can't bring him back!"
Lee, too: "I don't think anybody expects you to ever fully get over it, you know? It's something monumental for you… You've just got to give it time, mate, and I know it's going to be tough, but you'll get used to it, you know? …You've got to get used to the fact that he's not here anymore, and you have to keep your old memories of him alive."
He had thought then that they simply didn't understand, but he knew now that they had understood even more than he had.
He had been so consumed in grief, and later so consumed in a crazy idea, to hear them.
It had taken Fabian's words to his own twin to finally get that they were right- that they, like Fred, were with him, and that he never really had been all alone at all.
It had taken all this, George thought of the dreams and the Stone and the Pensieve, to get him to understand.
George's heart still ached. He still felt empty without Fred beside him, in the physical realm. It would take some time to get used to it. George doubted that he ever would completely, but he would try.
He would take Verity's advice, Lee's advice, Fabian's advice, Fred's advice, to heart. He would try his hardest to live for the both of them. It would never be the same, but… at least he had his own memories.
"I promise I'll try…" He whispered out loud, as he placed the Pensieve back into the stump. The bark soon reappeared, without words. All evidence of the Pensieve's hiding place was erased from all existence but memory.
Maybe he was going crazy, thinking that Fred was behind all this, but it didn't matter.
What mattered now was how on earth he was going to fix this warped life of his…
Almost answering his prayer, a light, familiar voice called out through the trees, startling him. "George! George, is that you?!"
George looked up. Through the brush appeared a huge, bulky shape. It was Hagrid, and racing ahead of him was the sprightly figure of Verity. He was tempted to applaud Fred and whoever else may be watching. But before he could do anything, Verity had reached him, surprising him with a tight hug.
"It's not quite twelve, yet, George." Hagrid grumbled, averting his eyes. "But yer friend Verity here appeared at the gate and demanded I take her to yeh. Yeh weren't too hard to track…"
"You looked deranged when I saw you earlier! I was so afraid that you were about to do something completely, well… rash." Verity spoke. She looked quite flustered.
George got her meaning, but he found himself tempted to laugh.
Why did everyone think I was going to off myself?
"I finished my interview as soon as I could!" She exclaimed. "Oh, George! I'm so sorry I've been so tough on you, lately! It's just… I thought you liked me, you know, as more than a friend. And then you were off obsessing over Fred, and shirking your duties off to me, and I was past hurt and way past annoyed. But… I would have never forgiven myself if the last time I saw you it was under the most awful of pretenses…"
George was astounded. He felt quite guilty. "Verity, you should not be apologizing. It's me who's been the complete git, lately! You were completely, one-hundred-percent-ly right. I... I see now that I was wrong, and I hope you will forgive me for being so awful..."
Verity merely hugged him again. "I know this is a tough time for you, George. But… I'm here for you. You need to open up, and I promise I'll do everything I can to help you through this."
"Well…" George smiled. He felt some of that old Fred-and-George slyness shifting back into him. "There is one thing you can do."
Verity pulled back, her eyes filled with concern. "Yes?"
"Can you please not leave the shop? Because I don't think I could handle it without you."
Verity laughed. "I don't think I ever could have left, George. Besides, I just about bombed this latest interview. I think I came off as some preoccupied freak."
"Well, lucky for you, we at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes happen to love preoccupied freaks, me being the prime example of one." George felt like his old self around her, once more. "But there is one more matter of concern. This whole… 'employee dating the employer' thing…"
Verity froze, her face flushing with red. She looked greatly disappointed at his insinuated meaning."Oh! Well…"
"What are you worried for? We did hire you for your brains and looks, after all. You're like the perfect package…" George grinned. He took her face in his hands and did what he should have done Christmas Eve. He kissed her. In her embrace things started to feel almost right again...
When they pulled apart, Hagrid was looking mortified.
"Not that this isn't a wonderful little party yer having, but perhaps we should get yeh outta the Forbidden Forest?" Hagrid suggested. George and Verity laughed. He even felt brave enough to wrap his arm around her shoulder as they followeed Hagrid out of the woods.
So… things weren't completely back to normal, just yet. He'd have to work out his problems with his family and friends. Fred might have been a lovely puppet master from up in Heaven, but George wasn't expecting any more miracles to come so easily. He'd have to come up with a few ideas for the shop, as well. Maybe he'd get Ron to help out-get another Weasley in the business, as his Mum had suggested…
His heart still ached, and he still wasn't feeling perfectly chipper about the world. George knew that he had a long way to go… but he was going to try. After all, this was just the beginning of his life without his twin. He had a long while to go, but he promised, silently, that he would try his best to fully live his life...
For the both of them…
Ah… the end. I'm very, very, very sad to be done with this fic so soon! But it was a nice little dip back into the realm of fanfiction. I just wanted to thank you, my readers and reviewers, for sticking through this one with me! You have made it the best of all my stories, here! I hope the ending wasn't too, too cheesy. I just couldn't bring myself to leave George too unsettled, you know? Anyways, I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you for making this a wonderful experience. A special thanks to those reviewers who managed to comment on nearly every chapter- you know who you are! I don't know what I would have done without you guys!
Oh- and I may just start a new story sooner or later that involves Fred's part in this (thanks for the inspiration, tanpopo no hana), but we'll just have to see. Keep your eyes open! So… this is it, I guess. Once again, hope this story satisfied a bit of your fanfiction hunger. The best of luck to all you other writers out there! You are all amazing beyond words! –Kelsey))