Oh my Gosh... it's done, finally it's done. It took me much longer than I had expected to finish this, but here it is, the final chapter. I hope there are still some people reading this, I'd appreciate this. It was so much fun writing this story and reading all your awesome reviews.
The quote at the end is quite fitting I think, I like it a lot. I hope you like it as well.
Thank you so much for everything!
He still hated the road. He hadn't got used to hearing the gravel rustling beneath his feet, and he knew he would never be able to walk this path without hurting beyond every physical pain he'd ever felt.
He let his eyes wander from the green bushes on the left to the hedge on the right, soaking in the scent of flowers and the sound of a bird in the distance. The grass was green, sunlight was covering the ground under a golden layer, and he shivered. He wasn't sure if he was ready for this. Actually he didn't think he would ever be.
Someone took his hand, and George managed to avert his eyes from the seemingly endless lines of flowers ahead.
"Will you be okay?", Alicia asked gently, and her brown eyes reflected both sorrow and affection.
George choked hard as he nodded. He had to be, he knew it.
"I'll be waiting for you at the gate, okay?", Alicia added. "After visiting Gran…"
Again, all George could do was move his head automatically. He was aware of her holding his hand, noticed her squeezing it, but he didn't respond in any way. He just couldn't.
She raised her head, and he felt her lips meet his as she kissed him tenderly.
"Take your time. I'll be there."
"Thanks." His words were a mere whisper, croaking and almost inaudible. He didn't know what else to say. There were so many things he should have told her, but he couldn't.
But telling by the look on her beautiful face, he guessed that it wasn't necessary.
Alicia turned left, making her way over to one of the graves further away. He watched her walking away, and a part of him wanted to call her, begging her not to leave. It was only when she turned her head one last time and smiled at him encouragingly that he remembered that she would come back. That she wouldn't leave him alone.
He inhaled deeply, and the warm summer air filled his lungs and made his heart beat faster. Or was it only an illusion? For even as he thought about it, he felt as if his heart had stopped beating completely.
Almost cautiously he made his steps on the narrow path. The sunlight was blinding his eyes, and he blinked a couple of times. The nearer he got to his destination, the slower his pace became.
And finally, he stopped. His feet didn't move anymore, he was standing still but for the movement of his chest as he took another deep breath.
His voice was hoarse and he tried to clear his throat. He didn't want to sound like that. He shouldn't sound like that. It was riddiculous.
A distant echo of laughter faded away in his head.
"Don't you laugh at me, Fred. Please."
His gaze fell upon the flowers on the grave. Someone had already been there, and George wondered who it could have been. His parents, maybe? But they would have told him, wouldn't they? Then again, would he have told them? Maybe they needed to keep things to themselves as well. How was he to know?
What did he know at all?
"Mom and Dad are doing fine, Fred. At least they try to. I don't visit them as often as I should, I guess." He choked. "It's hard, you know? It still is. For everyone. But believe me, we do our best."
He closed his eyes for a couple of seconds, and the last months passed in front of his inner eye like an old movie, a bit blurred, with some glitches, but the pictures were still the same.
"Fleur's pregnancy's really visible now. Not that we'd ever tell her, you know how women hate it when you make remarks about their bellies", he chuckled quietly, "Ron did, of course, and he regretted it the very same moment. Anyway, Bill's so excited, and whenever he talks about his little girl there's a smile on his face that I haven't seen for ages. It's the best thing that could have happened to him. It just took him a while to realize that."
Two birds were flying off from a bush nearby, and he watched them as they soared and became smaller in the distance.
"Charlie's back to work in Romania, but the last time he owled he said that he might move to Sweden soon, there's a study on Swedish Shortsnouts in which he was offered a job. Might be fun." He shrugged. "Mum wasn't so fond of that idea, though. She was hoping he might come home, to some place in England at least, but she should have known. Charlie isn't made for that kind of life. I don't think he'll settle down before he's, like, at least 50. Always adventurous, isn't he?"
For the blink of an eye a memory flickered through his mind, and he pressed his lips together tightly.
"I missed like the most important years of my family, and I didn't even see it. And now it's too late. Forever."
"I just hope he'll find some rest once in a while."
He sighed quietly. Again, a good advice, so easy to say. And yet so hard to take.
"Maybe Ginny has already told you, but however… when she's finished at Hogwarts she'll start to play for the Harpies, isn't that great? Ron's still a bit sulky about the fact that she's such an awesome player, but I think it's just right. After all, she wouldn't have made it that far if she hadn't had to practise so much on her own, would she? And that's just because of us."
George grinned. It was a half-hearted grin, though, as he remembered the look on Ginny's face as she had told him the news.
"She'll be alright. She's strong, she's always been. Tougher than the rest of us. If she doesn't make it, I don't know how I…"
He stopped when he noticed the tone of his voice. Again, he cleared his throat and let his gaze wander across the wide green with the regular rectangular shapes. There they were, side by side, so different and yet united here on this field of beloved souls. He didn't know anyone of them. Whose lives had been laid to rest here? Who had stood here before him, mourning and still trying to be strong? How many had tried the same, asked the same questions, felt the same pain?
"Do you see them, Fred?", he asked quietly as he looked down at the grave at his feet again. "How are you doing over where you are? Are you alright?"
He had never known those questions existed. He had locked them away, somewhere in the dark, dusty corners of his mind, hoping that they would never make it out into the light. But appearently, he had been wrong. The tiny questions lingering in the shadows of his soul were always there, would always be, and all he could do was try to deal with them.
"I hope you are, I really do. And then again I find myself wondering if you can at all. Because if I am not alright – and believe me, I ain't – then how can I assume that you are?"
He clenched his fists as the words left his mouth, and he stared at the blue sky for a second. The sunlight blinded his eyes, and he shielded them with his hand. But there was nothing to see. Nothing but the endless open above.
For a moment there was silence surrounding him, even the soft wind had stopped rustling the branches of the nearby tree, no bird was singing, all he could hear was his own shallow breathing.
His words were merely above a whisper when he spoke again.
"The world's indeed a safer place now. More peaceful definitely. But is it better? I don't know. Was it worth it in the end? We always said we'd give everything, that we'd fight on the good side no matter what. And we did. But the price was so much more than I can take, Fred. So much more. And there are so many more who had to pay it as well. Remus, Tonks… their child will grow up and never know his parents. He won't have a mum to freak because of bad marks at school. No dad to show him how to make the shelves repair themselves. And Colin… Samantha… Steven… No parents should have to bury their child. No one should have to bury a brother or sister. But we had to. And it hurts so much."
He bit his lips as he stared down at the engraved black lines on the stone, like he had done so many times before. Each line a scar on his soul, never fading away.
But almost unnoticed by himself, the burning had eased.
"Sometimes I wonder if I have ever told you just how much I need you. I guess I haven't, and it scares me. Because now all I can do is hope that you knew it after all. That you know it now. And then again, how am I to even dare think that you don't? You always do."
George knelt down next to the stone, and for a short moment he touched the name on it with his fingertips. He could feel the warmth of the sun on the black lines, yet he shivered slightly as the words burned his eyes.
"I wish I could have protected you. I wish I could turn back time and make it all undone. But I know it's useless. We wouldn't do it any other way. You wouldn't want us to. We'd do it all over again, because… just cause."
His voice ebbed away, and somewhere in the distance he could hear the bird again. He knew it was there, although he couldn't see it.
"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. I won't disappoint you, Fred."
"I made a promise a long time ago, do you remember? I will keep it. I am keeping it. It's not easy, but I've got help. A lot of help. But of course, you know that, like you always do. You will always know me best."
A smile appeared on his face while he could feel a single tear running down his cheek. Somewhere behind, he could hear footsteps coming nearer. He didn't need to turn around to find out whom they belonged to. For one last time, he traced the black lines on the stone with his finger.
April 1978 - June 1998
"Happy Birthday, bro."
And with these words he got up again, turned round, feeling the warm sun on his face. He walked towards the young woman waiting for him at the end of the gravel road, he could hear the tiny stones rustling beneath his feet, and in a strange, mysterious way, the hatred inside had eased just like the burning of the invisible scars on his soul.
He would be alright. It was a matter of time, and of learning, and above all of family and friends, but he would be okay. Not perfect, most probably, but okay. And for now, that had to be enough.
I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.