So this is it. The final chapter, I kind of an epilogue, maybe. I apologize for keeping you waiting so long, but I just wanted this last chapter to sound right, you know? I admit that after all I'm not entirely satisfied with it, but well, perhaps you think differently.

Writing this story was kind of a therapy for me, I guess, as I'm not someone who shows her feelings too often, so I've always found some way to express myself in my written works.

You'll find an author's note at the end, but I want you to read this first, okay?

7. Bittersweet: An Epilogue

He didn't know why he was running so fast, he had all the time in the world, hadn't he? And still his feet were moving as if the ground was on fire, the trees around him were but black shadows in the corner of his eyes, and he hardly heard the leaves rustling beneath his shoes. He just had to get away. Get away from the people who kept staring at him, run away from his mother's grief, from his father's pain, escape the suffocating walls of the place he used to call home.

The pictures of the dreadful hours after the funeral were stuck on his mind, melting with those of the wooden coffin sinking into the hole in the earth, a mixture of flashing images accompanied with the sad voice of the old wizard and with Percy's and Ginny's sobs. A symphony of dolour and despair, haunting him with every step he took on his way away from The Burrow.

They had been sitting together, his parents, his siblings, Harry and Hermione and Fleur, like they had used to do so often before. But this time someone had been missing, and the incompleteness had changed everything. The food they had once loved so much had gotten cold; they had avoided looks at the clock which they had stared at in delight when all hands had still been on "Home"; and when Harry had found a shiny green pastille under a cushion on the sofa, Mrs Weasley hadn't flown into a rage but burst into tears.

And every once in a while, somebody had stared at him, and it had been too much to take.

George knew that he should actually be thankful for their care, they didn't mean to hurt him or make him feel bad, but they didn't seem to undertand that no matter how much they tried, they would never be able to give him what he needed.

He remembered his mother's pale face when he had gotten up, apologizing quietly, and left the house. He had always known that his mother was suffering from the war, she had done that even when it hadn't really started, and it had become worse with every passing day since Ron had left. He had heard her crying, and he had felt weak because there was nothing to ease her pain.

But it had been nowhere near as bad as what he was feeling now.

He kept running, he could hear himself breathing loudly, but he wouldn't stop, because he still hoped that if he only ran fast enough, he would maybe be able to get rid of the haunting voice inside his head.

As he finally reached the edge of the forest, he slowed down and took deep, gasping breaths. His whole body was aching, but he barely felt the pain. He was used to that feeling now. He got aware of how sticky the air had become, in the distance he could see dark clouds approaching, but the sun was still shining, sending her light onto the field on which he was standing. The place was strangely familiar to him, he had been here before, and the memories flooded back to him, impressions of the past, two young boys strolling through the countryside, making stupid jokes and daring plans, dreaming of the days to come.

None of these dreams had been for one of them only.

"Where are you, Fred?", his words were silent screams, tumbling in the upcoming wind, getting lost in the summer air that tasted like rain.

'He is gone. He is gone. He is gone.'

The haunting voice within laughed at him, enjoying his pain, and he wanted to fight it down, oh how much he wanted to, but he couldn't find the strength anymore, he couldn't fight, what was the sense in fighting?

'But you can't give yourself up like that!', another voice, though tiny and weak, whispered to him, and he stared at the darkening sky as if there was someone talking to him in the distance, and the small voice didn't leave this time. 'You're a fighter, aren't you?'

"I can't…", his words were barely audible, his view got blurred and he clenched his fists, "I don't know how to do this on my own…"

'If you give yourself up, you give up on Fred, too… He's still a part of you – you won't lose him as long as you don't lose yourself…'

"But I need you to be here, Fred…"

Tears were rolling down his white face, and he stumbled forwards, trying in vain to hear the soothing voice again, but it was gone with the wind that kept blowing steadier.

He was alone.

He was standing on the open field, the grass beneath was moving in the wind, dark clouds were approaching from the distance, and suddenly he felt so small and the world too big for him to understand, who was he to beg for time to be turned back?

His feet kept on moving, and he stared at the distant hedgerows that were still illuminated by the remaining sunlight while the shadows of the clouds came nearer with every second. He focused on the bright place, he had to get there, and it was only when he finally reached the iron gate that he stopped running. His hands clenched the cool bars, and the old hinges creaked when he opened the gate slowly.

The gravel path was rustling underneath his feet, the last rays of light were blinding his eyes, and he didn't see where he was going to until his feet stopped moving.

He stared at the fresh mould on the ground, at the green wreaths with white flowers, at the banners and candles.

'You've only flown a bit ahead. Angelina, Alicia, Katie, Oliver.'

'The memories will remain. Your Hogwarts teachers.'

'Thank you for the times we shared. Lee Jordan.'

The colourful banners were fluttering in the wind, the golden and silver letters blurred in front of George's eyes, and he touched them slightly, carefully, as if his fingers could erase them miraculously. Would it change anything?

But as he raised his head, he realized that nothing could ever make it undone, not when there was a white stone only a few inches away from where he was standing, and he stumbled and felt the cold earth beneath his knees. His fingers reached for the black, engraved lines, he could feel them like scars on his skin, and he traced them with his fingertips, every single one leaving its marks on his heart.

Fred Weasley
April 1978 - June 1998
Beloved son, brother, friend, Gryffindor, beater, and prankster.
Gone But Not Forgotten
May you Rest in Peace

He could feel some drops of rain on his bare forearms, the wind was increasing, strands of his hair covered his eyes, and he wiped them away. He could feel the hot tears on his skin, and he had to turn his head away from the cold stone although his fingers lingered on the letters to never let go.

His eyes rested on an antique sundial that had been placed on a nearby grave, he stared at the thin shadowy line, and he couldn't tell why this object made him feel so strange inside, like he was witnessing something rather old, from former times that were beyond his imagination, like so many other things he had experienced during the last days. He watched the line wandering slowly, like it had done a million times before, following natur's course without a way to be turned back.

In that moment the dark clouds covered the last part of the setting sun, the light evaporated into nothingness, the small shadow was erased and time stood still.

Rain came down in torrents, drenching the soil, the flowers, the banners, the young man who was kneeling motionlessly on the ground. The cool liquid mingled with the tears on his face, washed them away into the ground below, and still George's fingers rested on the black letters, the white stone had changed into a darker shade, but he didn't notice.

His lips formed words that were immediately drowned out by the rain, and they echoed inside his mind, and he kept repeating them for fear he might lose them.

"I will fight for us, Fred. I promise you I will. But please don't blame me if I fail…"

The hot tears had vanished into the ground, the rain was cool on his pale face, and the shaking of his shoulders eased with every raindrop that fell onto his black robes.

"I will keep you alive in everything I do. I'll fight for us every single day, I promise you this. I won't give up. Never."

And for the first time in what seemed an eternity, he believed in what he was saying. He might not know how to do it, but he did know that there was no other way but fight to find his way back into life. That was what he owed Fred, and if he couldn't find strength for himself, he could still be strong for his twin.

"I won't disappoint you, Fred."

All my thoughts are with you forever
Till the day we'll be back together
I will be waiting for you

(Within Temptation, "Bittersweet")

A/N: I know that this is a rather open ending, but I did that for a reason: first of all because I found it hard to pretend that it is all over now, I want to stick to Rowling's idea that George will never fully get over it, and this ending leaves some room for you rown ideas. And second, it also leaves room for a sequel! ;) Yes, I've decided to write a sequel to show how George finds his way back into life. I liked Gone But Not Forgotten's proposal about showing George with his son, but there's so much more that could be shown, and I think I'll give it a try. What do you think?

Hm just one more thing: I want to dedicate this story to some people, skip this if you want to...

First of all, I dedicate it (and this chapter in particular) to Gone But Not Forgotten, for her reviews and especially for allowing me to use her idea in this story: the lines on Fred's tomb stone are hers! Thanks for that!

This is also a thank you for MBP, your reviews were so insightful, and knowing that you actually care about my reviews for your story makes me quite proud and very happy!

This is for my mother because I hardly ever show how much I care. I want you to know that you're always in my heart.

And it's for my uncle, her twin brother - because he knows what it feels like...

To all the readers: Thank you for your support. You were awesome!

Oh, and one more thing (I know I'm annoying...): I've made a tribute for those who died in the second war, nothing special, but maybe you want to have a look at it... just go to Youtube and search for LittleDarky!