Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me.
"George?" George heard the door open, but he didn't look up to see who it was. He stared blankly at the blue jumper in his hands, running his fingers briefly over the golden F sewn into the center. "George…" the voice registered as one of his brothers, but it didn't matter which one. The only one he wanted to hear was gone.
"Go away." George felt his voice crack and swallowed hard. His grip tightened around Fred's jumper. There was suddenly a hand in his hair, petting comfortingly at his scalp. Percy. It was bitterly touching that out of all the people in his family, the one that had come to comfort him was the one that had nearly disowned them.
"George, what do you think about coming downstairs for a while? You haven't left this room in days." George didn't answer. He didn't even seem to hear him. "George?"
His language took Percy by surprise. It wasn't as if he hadn't heard such words from George's mouth before, but never with such conviction. There was an anger in George's voice that had never been there before. "George, don't be like this. He wouldn't–"
"–Wouldn't want you to be acting this way. Yeah, yeah. I didn't want him to leave me, but he didn't do what I wanted, either, so fuck him, too."
There was silence for a moment and then George tightened his grip on Fred's sweater. "I didn't mean that." He whispered, tears straining in his voice. Percy was unsure of who he was apologizing to, so he said nothing. "I didn't. He…" his voice trailed off, and Percy didn't push him to finish. It was quiet for a moment, and then George started again, "For as many friends as we had at Hogwarts, I feel like I'm all alone, now. I feel like I can't talk to them. Fred—" saying his name seemed to send George into immediate shock. He stopped speaking abruptly, and everything in him seemed to go positively rigid.
The bed drooped as Percy sat at the edge, near George's feet. George didn't even seem to take notice of him. "George?" He didn't answer, and Percy felt an irrational stab of panic as he grabbed George's shoulders. "George! C'mon, George, don't be like this!" George blinked and his chest heaved, but he still didn't seem capable of speaking.
He looked as if he were a frightened child, at the same time sagging in Percy's grip like an old, decrepit man. For the first time since entering his brother's room, Percy got a good look at George's face; at the lifeless, empty look in his eyes that sent a frigid chill down Percy's spine.
George still seemed eerily oblivious to everything around him, staring past Percy as if he could see right through him. He opened his mouth, but all that came out was an odd gulping noise as he swallowed the lump in his throat. Feeling radically uncomfortable, Percy let go of his brother's shoulders and looked away. He couldn't stomach the look on George's face.
"I need him." George's voice was an almost absent whisper, and was so unlike the George Percy was used to. "I don't know how to…he's—was…" George didn't seem to be able to handle using the past tense, and fell mute again. The bed started to shake. Percy didn't look up. He couldn't even process the idea that George could be crying. It was quiet for a long time, and Percy was beginning to feel awkward.
"It's awfully dark in here, George..." he mumbled pointedly.
"Leave it." George's response was curt and harsh, and Percy cringed.
He was still avoiding George's eyes. Silence settled over them again. It seemed to increase in uneasiness each time. Percy felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. In an effort to look anywhere but at his brother, he realized exactly where they were sitting. "Have you been sleeping in his bed?" he asked absentmindedly, regretting the critical tone to the question even as the words left his mouth.
"It still smells like him." George explained flatly, his tone unnaturally soft.
His voice sounded so different now. Older. Monotone, almost. He just wasn't the same man without his brother. The realization made Percy nauseous. George wasn't the same man without his brother. He had never had to do anything entirely on his own. Fred had always been there to help him, to lead the way. Even when they were children, it was obvious that George had given Fred the reigns of both of their lives. With Fred gone, George was forced to take control, something he had never done once before in the past twenty years. How could anyone handle that?
"George?" he asked cautiously, "Are you going to be all right?" The hesitation was so deathly silent, it was deafening. It lasted so long that Percy finally gave up and looked his brother in the eyes. His heart wrenched when he saw both of George's hands clapped over his mouth, tears streaming over his pale fingers.
It came out muffled and barely audible through his trembling hands. Unable to think of anything else to do, Percy pulled him into his lap. Taller than his brother by at least two inches, George reflexively hunched into a fetal position against his brother's chest. His hands slid up to grip tightly at his own hair, as if he were trying to block out voices Percy couldn't hear. For a moment, there was pure stillness. Neither boy even seemed to breathe. And then something inside George snapped, and the tears came so hard that he was screaming—a loud, inhuman shriek that made Percy's eardrums vibrate in his ears. Afraid to react in any way, Percy kept his arms around him, rocking unconsciously back and forth as George let go completely. Percy briefly wondered what would happen if someone overheard before remembering the silencing charm thier mother finally put over their door in their sixth year, tired of being woken at all hours of the night by their experimental explosions.
Tears began to splatter against Percy's glasses until he could no longer see anything but blurred, milky shapes when he opened his eyes. He made no move to take them off and they slid down the wet bridge of his nose, tickling with an irritation that Percy hardly noticed.
The scream filled the room until it became a hoarse choking sound from the rawness of George's throat. At that point his whole body was shaking, tears falling steadily onto the bundle of blue and gold that was Fred's old sweater clenched between his chest and his knees. By the time George finally fell silent, his scream had developed into little more than an agonized cough. Percy wanted to say something, because he knew George wouldn't want to, and after such constant noise, the quiet seemed to ring especially awkwardly against the walls.
However, nothing came to mind, and the hush dragged on. It was getting unbearable. Minutes passed without the slightest sound from either of them. Everything seemed to be anticipating something unknown. Percy felt his blood run tight in his veins.
"I never said goodbye." For a moment, Percy didn't know who spoke. The voice was so raspy and quiet, it sounded almost as if it didn't exist. "I pur–purposefully…" A tremor ran though George's body, and he seemed to go into shock again. He turned to stone in Percy's arms. It didn't even feel as if he were breathing.
Percy was about to check him when he finally took a deep breath and repeated, "I–I didn't tell him goodbye." He clenched Percy's sweater sleeve in his hand. "I'm so fucking stupid. I thought that if I said anything—anything like that, that he would—he would laugh at me."
"Jesus Christ." Percy hadn't meant to say it aloud, and was glad when he realized George hadn't heard him. "George…" Percy tried to sound brotherly and reassuring, but strangled tears were evident in his voice. "George, I know it's—"
"DON'T!" George suddenly screamed, his hands clenching tightly in his hair again, "Don't give me all that bullshit! You have no idea what this feels like, and you know it." Percy nodded. He felt guilty for even trying.
There was a long silence, and then George whispered, almost musingly, "He would've been okay." Percy was about to ask what he meant by that when he felt ice suddenly coat the inside of his stomach. George continued as if he had forgotten Percy was even there, "if it had been me, he'd have been okay."
Percy was caught off guard again. The new rage George was harboring looked misplaced and strange on his face. Before Percy could say anything, George grumbled, "Like you would've even known a difference. What if it had been me instead of him? Would it be any different? To any of you? God, even mum! You couldn't even tell as apart half the time, for God's sake!" Even as George said it, his grimace seemed to soften with realization.
Percy never confused them. Not once.
"That's not true." Percy murmured, though he could tell by the look on George's face that he didn't need to. George gaped at him for a moment, tears still streaming down his face. "That's not true, George. It would've been different."
"How?" George asked dubiously, already knowing how, himself, but needing to hear his brother say it.
"Well, for one, Fred would never have let me in here."
"I told you to leave me alone."
Percy smiled sadly. "Fred would've meant it." George didn't say anything. Percy went on, "You two are very different, George." George shifted uneasily, and Percy was unable to tell if he appreciated or resented his use of the present tense. He could tell George wanted to hear examples. Things that he and his brother had always known. He needed to know that someone else had noticed them, too. "I mean, Fred had a stronger independence, in a way. Well, not counting his dependency on you." George scoffed, pushing out of his brother's lap and sitting beside him.
"He never needed me as much as I…" he hesitated, "…as much as I need him." Percy shook his head, trying to ignore the stab of sympathy in his chest.
"Mum told me what happened the night you lost your ear. He was scared out his mind." George didn't respond to that, and Percy guessed he was remembering back to that moment, when they both assumed that they'd faced the worst by no longer being identical.
"I want him back, Perce. I'd give anything…I'm just not me anymore without him."
"Stop it, George. You are—were—are two different people."
Before Percy could even finish his thought, George was shaking his head. "No." his voice came out gentle, almost condescending, "No, you don't get it." Percy wanted to argue, but the look on his brother's face struck him dumb. "I mean, we were, but..." George paused, his brow furrowing as he tried to think of a way to put it into layman's terms.
"He—he was me. It was like we…we were shared down the middle. He had half of me, and I had half of him. But now that he's—" George's voice broke, but he forced himself to keep talking, trying to make Percy understand how it felt. "Now that he's gone—I feel like I've lost…lost two pieces at once. The part that he had of me, and the part that I had of him. I don't even…feel human, anymore."
"What happens when I turn forty?"
Percy blinked. That was a much unexpected question. "Wh-what?" Percy noticed that George was becoming frustrated with having to clarify everything, because his tone was growing livid through his tears. He'd never had to explain anything to Fred. Fred always knew exactly what he meant. "When I'm forty, Percy. He—he…" George still seemed uncomfortable with tenses, so he moved past them, "May, twenty years from now." Percy made a face. This was only getting more confusing, but he was afraid to say anything.
George seemed to realize, regardless. The bitterness in his voice was becoming more prominent. "I mean, let's just forget every—every birthday from now on and focus on May twenty years from now." He looked at Percy, but then quickly looked away, "By then I'll have lived longer with—without him than…" the tears were coming back in waves, and George's voice was getting high pitched and tense through his poorly-bottled grief, "…than with him, and I won't be able to take that, Percy."
It was hard to think of anything past a day or two in the future lately. Percy couldn't even force himself to imagine life twenty years from now. He couldn't see how George was doing it. And then a thought struck him like a brick in the face. He wasn't.
"George…George, no, don't be—George please don't tell me…" He grabbed George's shoulders, his fingers tightening in his shirt. "Please, George, don't think like that." George's sobs were shaking him again, his hair sticking to his face with tears as he shook his head, wishing he didn't have to explain anymore. Percy's mouth was too dry to swallow, and his glasses slipped again. "Please don't think like that, George…you can't think like that…he would never forgive himself if you—"
"SHUT UP!" George suddenly shoved out of Percy's grip, getting to his feet and glaring over him. "Shut up, shut up! I shouldn't have to live for him if he didn't even bother trying to live for me! I DON'T DESERVE THIS!"
George's unbridled anger flashed suddenly through Percy, raising his voice and sharpening his tone.
"AND WE DO?" He jumped up and grabbed his little brother's shoulders, shaking him almost violently. "GODDAMNIT, GEORGE! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THIS FAMILY IF YOU OFFED YOURSELF? YOU CAN'T DO THAT TO US!" George did not shy at his older brother's words. Instead, they seemed to send a new flare of rage through him. He rammed Percy hard, causing him to fall back onto the bed.
"US? US? FUCK YOU, PERCY! FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS, THERE WERE ONLY SIX OF US THAT CONSIDERED OURSELVES A PART OF THIS FUCKING FAMILY!"
Percy looked as if he'd been stabbed. Even in the Room of Requirement, he'd never felt this much guilt for what he must have put his family through. He opened his mouth, but he had nothing to say. No excuses. No denials. He couldn't even muster up an apology.
"Why should I make any difference, Percy?" His voice sounded distant, as if he were already a ghost of his former self, "For the past three years, it's been like you went and offed yourself. Now that they have you back, it'll be easier to go through a second time." Percy shook his head, trying to say it wasn't true, it wasn't the same, but George cut him off before he could even speak.
"Three years of mum forcing her way through Christmases and blubbering through every August 22nd." George said bitingly, noticing with sordid pleasure how much his words affected him. "And the sweaters…Percy…you sent them back." Percy dropped his eyes to the floor.
His voice was quiet, timid. He was on the verge of tears, but George didn't stop. It felt like the only way Percy could ever feel anything close to the way he felt right now. "It's your fault," George's voice caught slightly in his throat as a fresh wave of tears spilled from his eyes. Deep down, he didn't want to do this. He didn't want to hurt Percy this way. It went against everything he and Fred had been. But he needed someone to blame. Someone physical and real to hate with all the passion he hated death with. "You're the older brother, how could you let him die like that?"
Percy brought his hands to his face. "I know." His voice was teary and whispered, "I know." George said nothing. A snake of regret curled around his stomach. He was disgusting himself. "I know, George, and I know nothing I say or do can ever…" He let out a shuddering gasp and then whispered, "I don't want you to forgive me. Not for anything. Not for the way I was growing up, not for leaving this family, not for—for killing Fred…"
George felt a prickle on the back of his neck. Killing Fred. The words were too harsh, and made the concept seem grossly unreal. He shook his head. "Goddamnit, Percy." Percy looked up at the sound of his name, and George felt his stomach constrict. He looked so haggard. There dark circles under his eyes and trails of tears staining his blotchy, sallow cheeks. Automatically, George reached up and touched his face. The compassion startled Percy. He stared unblinkingly at George, whose face was serenely entranced as he watched his older brother's tears roll over his fingers.
Percy felt his stomach lurch. He didn't deserve to be comforted. He was the older brother. He was the one who still felt whole. He was the murderer. "George—" he suddenly choked, pulling on his wrist, causing him to fall gracelessly into his lap before throwing his arms around him. "George, my God, I'm so sorry—please, please—don't do this to yourself. I didn't mean to leave you all alone and I'll never, ever forgive myself, but please, George, don't do this. This family needs you to try, George. Try and be the way you used to be."
Percy felt George's breathing catch in his throat, and guilt crushed relentlessly at his heart as he tried to recall what he might have said to hurt him. George's head turned up to look Percy in the eye, and then, to Percy's sheer amazement, he smiled. "Did Fred tell you to say that?" Percy almost didn't catch the hint of laughter behind the raw tears in his voice, but it was there, and the grip on Percy's heart lightened marginally.
He let out a deep sigh of relief. "Most likely, considering I have no idea where it came from." Percy tried to joke. He was worse at it than George, but they both laughed, the short-lived, hopeful laughter of those who were in the midst of tears.
Silence settled again, and though this time it wasn't quite as painful to experience, Percy felt words leave his mouth in order to break it. "You two were always my heroes, you know." There was a moment before George showed any response at all, and then he scoffed. "I'm serious." Percy insisted almost harshly, "I know it sounds ridiculous for me to envy my younger brothers…what with their average grades and less-than-perfect record, but it's true. All through school I wished I could just stop being such a tight-assed git and be more like you and Fred were."
"Now I know Fred's possessed you." George mumbled almost playfully, "Did you just call yourself a git?" Percy smiled. Perhaps there was hope for them after all.
Percy suddenly caught sight of the clock and blinked. 1:00am. How long had they been in here? Percy sighed and made a move to get to his feet, but George gasped audibly and gripped tightly onto his sweater. "Please stay." He whispered, "I'm sc—I can't sleep alone." Percy swallowed thickly before the lump in his throat could start to form again. He should've known George wouldn't want to be left alone. He never had been in his life.
He nodded, and a tiny, quickly fleeting smile twitched at the corner of George's lips as he kicked off his shoes. Percy felt a twinge in his stomach as George absently pulled Fred's sweater over his clothes before crawling into bed. Percy climbed the ladder to what had been George's bunk and threw his own shoes over the side before stuffing himself under the blankets.
In an effort to get comfortable in the ill-fitting bed, Percy dangled his arm over the open side of his bunk, and tears stung at his eyes when he felt George's hand reach up to clasp around his own.
A/N: OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, I FINISHED IT. I have had this story in my head since July 7th (the day I learned that Fred died) I started writing it since before I even got to chapter 31 (ironically, actually, when I started writing this story, I had just finished chapter 30 and was afraid to go on, but I had no idea of when he died.) I am so proud of myself because usually its the kinda lengthy, long-term-project stories that NEVER GET FINISHED. I think I may have finished ONE OTHER ONE in my ENTIRE LIFE. (and that one sucked and was in an entirely different fandom, so, whatev.) I AM SO PROUD. So I know it's not that great, and its so emo your wrists cut themselves, but humor me here. XD;