There's a lot more of this to come. Not all of it will be from George's point of view either. Comments welcome!
14th July 1998 Oliver Wood is 22
Dear George, A bunch of us are getting together for my birthday on the 14th. 8pm for drinks at The Leaky Cauldron and then on to Merlyn's to dance the night away. I guess we'll pick up some food at some point to soak up a little of the booze! If you can't face it, everyone will understand, but it would be great to see you. Oliver.
Dear Oliver, Can I say "Expect me if you see me"? Some days are better than others as I expect you can appreciate. If I do make it, please make sure no one treats me like an invalid or avoids all mention of Fred's name. G.
"So, are you coming or not?" Lee asked George in a quiet period in the shop that afternoon. "At some point in the next four hours or so you'll have to make a decision."
"Don't hassle me, Lee!" George snapped. "Decision making isn't my strong point at the moment, as you may have noticed." Lee had. He and Ron were making a lot of the decisions about the business that should have been George's. He understood why of course, but it couldn't go on much longer.
"Fred wouldn't want…" he began tentatively, but at that, George's anger – always near the surface since Fred's death – bubbled over.
"How the hell do you know what Fred would or wouldn't want?" he shouted. "God, Lee, I don't even know, so why the fuck should you? I'm going to do those orders. You mind the shop."
By closing time, George's anger had abated somewhat, and he managed a mumbled: "Sorry" to Lee as they shut up shop.
"Look, mate," said Lee. "I'll hammer on your door on my way past at about eightish. If you want to come, fine. If not, just ignore me, okay?"
"Okay," sighed George. "Thanks Lee. See you…"
George lay on Fred's bed looking at the ceiling. People were always telling him these days what Fred would or wouldn't want. He was damned if he understood why they thought they knew. He had never imagined he would die and leave Fred alone, and he was as certain as he could be that Fred had never envisaged dying without his twin either. Though they'd never really talked about it, George was pretty sure that both he and Fred had felt the same way about the war against Voldemort. Either they'd both come out of it pretty much unscathed – give or take an ear here or there – or they'd both die. One of them dying and leaving the other on his own hadn't been an option they'd considered. But then the unthinkable had happened, and that bastard Fred had gone and died and left George alone in a world where everyone except him seemed to think that they knew what Fred would have wanted.
He heard Lee banging on the shop door below, and yelling: "George! Are you coming?" but he ignored him. How could he go to a birthday party when Fred had died just a few short weeks ago?
An hour later, however, he rolled off the bed and pulled open the wardrobe door looking for something suitable to wear. The silence in the flat was just too much for him. Even Ron wasn't there at the moment, having gone off somewhere with Hermione for a week. George had to admit that they'd probably earned a holiday, but he missed Ron's untidy presence in the flat more than he'd care to let on. Admittedly, he and Ron were a bit wary of each other these days, both nervous of saying or doing something that would make the other's grief harder to bear, but at least Ron had been there. George was not good at being on his own.
George pulled on a sweater – it was Fred's, but what did that matter? – and dragged a comb through his hair. He knew he probably looked a mess, but he was avoiding mirrors if he possibly could, so he didn't check. On the way out, he raided the till, putting an IOU in the cash drawer (Fred had done that all the time, and it had driven him mad), then made his way slowly along Diagon Alley and in through the back door of The Leaky Cauldron.
Oliver's party were easy enough to spot. A lot of the older wizards and witches in the bar were looking with considerable irritation at the riotous group of young people in the corner. For a moment, George hesitated in the doorway, wondering what the hell he was doing there, and whether it was too late to escape. It was. Alicia Spinnett spotted him, and with a delighted cry of: "George!" hurried across and hugged him.
"Good to see you George!" said Oliver. "You obviously heard me say it was time for another drink. You'd better drink fast, mate, you're two rounds behind the rest of us." Almost against his will, George found himself absorbed into the noisy group of his former classmates and team mates. And, thank God, they all seemed quite happy to let him sit there with his drink and not be the life and soul of the party as he and Fred would have been in earlier days.
After a while, it became obvious that they had more than outstayed their welcome in The Leaky Cauldron, so they decamped to Merlyn's Nightclub at the far end of Diagon Alley. The loud music and flashing lights must have some sort of therapeutic effect, George decided. At any rate, he began to feel that he was almost enjoying himself, and had to rapidly suppress a twinge of guilt about it. Fred wouldn't want him to be miserable all the time, after all. (Dammit! Now he was doing it too!)
At 2am, a Chinese takeaway in hand, they all weavingly made their way to the flat Oliver shared with a fellow Puddlemere United player. As this sort of party often does, they began drinking toasts, which became increasingly ridiculous as the sky lightened and dawn approached. Everyone had just finished laughing at the toast to: "George's left ear!" when Angelina Johnson stood up, swaying slightly, but looking unexpectedly serious.
"Fred Weasley!" she shouted, lifting her glass high. There was silence in the room, and George felt every eye on him. Swallowing hard, he raised his own glass: "Fred Weasley!" he said; and then the others were joining in and yelling Fred's name to the rafters. And George discovered that it didn't matter that tears were running unchecked down his face, because everyone else there had loved Fred too, and a lot of them were crying as well.
He was going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning.