Summary: DH spoilers. George's reaction to character death in the book.
George walked slowly through the castle, towards the marble staircase, shaking. He was pretty sure everyone would be gathering in the Great Hall. With the dead.
He was pretty sure someone he loved was going to be dead, too. His family was too big for them to all come through this alive, he'd always known it. There were too many of them...
As he walked down the stairs, he thought of how Ginny had been safe, she hadn't been fighting. And Charlie, he knew, was still on his way into the country. Maybe the absence of the two of them could save the rest of his family.
But he knew. However much he tried to convince himself otherwise, George knew that one of his family - maybe more - were gone.
He just didn't know which one.
He slowed as he neared the bottom of the staircase, a part of him screaming to just run back up the stairs, or outside to help recover the bodies, or somewhere, anywhere, away from whatever waited him in the great hall.
But he kept walking down the stairs.
He had reached the bottom of the staircase when he heard the scream. It was a sound filled with pain and anguish, the sound someone could only make when they looked over their dead.
And it was his mothers.
Maybe he should've stopped to wonder how he was so sure it was his mother's scream, maybe if he had stopped, he would have just turned and ran up the stairs, but he didn't stop, didn't think, just ran towards the great hall, his heart beating faster, faster, fear coating his insides, his mind, heart, soul.
He came to a halt at the door, looked out over the great hall. At the teachers table, he saw about half of the teachers, all with tears running down their faces, some bleeding a little, or bruised, waving their wands over piles of parchment and attaching them to owls which flew from the window. Those owls, he knew, would destroy lives in a short time; those owls, he knew, were carrying explanations of what was going on at Hogwarts, and the news that someone the reader loved was dead.
He saw the injured being treated by Madame Promfrey, saw more teachers and some of the people who had survived the battle carefully laying out the dead in a row, bring in more and more.
But he barely noticed any of it, because he was seeking out the bright red that would show him where his family were gathered...
He saw them, his mother and father were knelt on the floor, his mother sobbing so loudly he could hear her from here, his father crying silently, stroking his mum's hair and looking lost in his own grief and helplessness. He saw Bill and Fleur, both with their backs to him, their arms tight around each other, looking down on the thing his parents cried over. He saw Percy, hugging a sobbing Ginny tightly, and if he'd needed any more confirmation it would have been that hug that did it. The only way Ginny would have permitted Percy to hug her was if...
He started walking across the hall, slowly now, a roaring in his ear drowning out all sound except the now painful thump of his heart.
Ron and Fred were the only people missing from the ground. And he knew that it was either Ron or Fred who were laid on the floor.
It could be Harry or Hermione, a desperate part of him insisted. They'd cry over Harry or Hermione...
He knew, though, that it wasn't Harry or Hermione, because he was certain Percy wouldn't cry over either. And he knew that if Harry was dead, death eaters would have flooded the place.
Maybe, if he'd have been thinking straight, he have known that the absence of Harry and Hermione in the group that was his family meant that it wasn't Ron; if he'd been thinking straight he'd have known they would be gathered around Ron too, but he wasn't thinking straight, and so he didn't know who was laid on the floor until he was close enough to see them.
Because of the way his family were gathered, George had reached the circle before he saw who it was.
There was a sound, somewhere between a yell and a whimper, a pitiful noise that didn't sound human. He realised as he dropped to his knees beside his twin brother that he'd made the sound, and it was the most human noise there was.
The sound of pain.
He was dimly aware of someone - maybe Bill? - saying his name, of his mum's loud sobs, of Ginny's quieter ones, of the noises of comfort Fleur was making to Bill through her own tears, but it was as if it was all happing far away from him, it was as if the hall around him was slipping away and he didn't even try to grab hold of it.
How could Fred be dead?
His brother, his twin, the person who had always, always, been by his side, practically attached. The person whose thoughts and words were sometimes exactly the same as his own, whose hopes and dreams had mirrored his.
It can't be Fred. Can't be. The desperate part of him repeated the words over and over inside George's head, but there was no mistaking the body lain before him, now empty, the face that was his own with a ghost of a laugh haunting it that didn't reach the blank eyes.
Fred was gone. Fred was gone. Fred was gone. Gone. Gone.
He felt the tears sliding down his face, but didn't make a sound to partner them. He could feel his heart beating, his lungs inhaling and expelling air, but how could they? How could he still be living, breathing, beating, when his twin was not? Surely Fred couldn't be dead while George was alive, surely something kept them tied together so that neither could leave this world without the other, surely that after entering life together, living life together, they would leave life together?
"How?" He croaked, without being aware of opening his mouth and forcing his throat to emit the word.
"I don't know." Percy whispered, somewhere to his left. "We...we were fighting death eaters...Ron and Harry and Hermione, they came from somewhere, helped. We beat them. We thought we were safe, just for a few seconds. Then...there was a blast, part of corridor caved in, and when I looked up...he was gone."
"He died fighting." Bill said finally. "He always said, didn't he, that he didn't mind dying for the cause as long as he died fighting..."
"Yeah. Yeah." George muttered. He had said that, they both had.
But Fred wasn't supposed to die.
He was vaguely aware of Ron and Hermione arriving; he heard Hermione mumble something to Ginny as she hugged her, felt Ron kneel down next to him.
George looked up, because he couldn't look at the face he shared, at his youngest brother. Ron was staring at Fred, tears slicing through the grime on his face, and George put his arm around him.
"There was nothing we could do." Ron whispered. "Nothing."
"I know." George murmured. Comforting Ron was better than being comforted; staying strong was better than breaking...He looked up, past Fred's empty body, and saw Remus and Tonks laid next to him. His insides seemed to leave him, replaced with pain - how many more friends had he lost? How much more grief could his heart take?
They sat in silence for a few minutes, before he heard Ginny saying she couldn't stay here, that she was going to help recover the dead and the injured. He heard Bill saying something about helping with the owls, and he heard Percy say he was going to see what he could do. Neither of his parents moved.
Hermione moved next to Ron, took his hand. George saw and heard everything around him without taking any of it in.
"Where's Harry?" He said finally, as it occurred to him that he had not heard him. He now realised he'd been expecting Harry's guilty, grief-filled apology for Fred's death - not because he wanted to hear it, but because he knew that was the sort of thing that Harry did, because he knew that Harry would blame himself for Fred, for Remus, Tonks, and every other person who had died here.
"He...he was right behind us..." Ron said.
"I don't think he came into the hall." Hermione said. She exchanged a meaningful look with Ron, but George didn't know or care what it meant.
"He hasn't gone to the forest?" He asked. "He wouldn't give himself up?"
"No. He wouldn't." George heard his dad say. "Harry wouldn't do that..."
George nodded, and looked back at his twin's face.
It still mattered, it all still mattered, the war, the fight, but right at that moment it was hard to think of anything other than the feeling that he had lost his arm as well as his ear.
Because some things weren't supposed to leave you, some things were always meant to be attached to your side.
And he'd always thought that a twin was one of them.