Disclaimer: "Harry Potter" is the property of JK Rowling. Title from "The Part Where You Let Go" by Hem. Which is perhaps better known to some people as the song in the Liberty Mutual ads.
The Part Where You Let Go
The bright June sunlight beamed a bit too harshly through the blinds for George's taste. This was the hard part -- not that every day wasn't a long series of hard parts -- when he often forgot that he was alone in his flat, that the reason the blinds were still open was because he had left them that way, and he couldn't shout at Fred to shut them. Well, he could, but that only made it more painful when it hit him anew, a fraction of -- or sometimes a whole -- second later, that Fred definitely wasn't in any condition to be leaving blinds open, as he had been buried in the little graveyard in Ottery - St - Catchpole for just over a year, now.
George didn't bother to open his eyes for a minute or so. There was a sandpapery feeling in his mouth and a pulsing in his temples that was threatening to turn into a full-blown headache. His belt buckle was digging into his side, though (from which he deduced that he'd not felt it necessary to undress after coming back from the pub the previous night), which was uncomfortable enough to make him consider stumbling out of bed.
A sudden series of explosions made him snap his eyes open, and he sighed when the front door slammed shut. He supposed he should probably get up and see who'd just broken into thei-- his flat. It would be good to hex someone silly.
Listening to a loud clattering in the kitchen for a moment or two, he rolled out of bed and poked his head out of the room cautiously.
The shock of long, red hair that was briefly visible in the kitchen assured him that he didn't have anything to worry about (or hex, which was a bit disappointing), and he called, "Ginny?"
She peered out at him. "Hullo, George."
"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in school?"
"Term ended yesterday," she said, her tone sounding falsely bright. "Thought I'd come see you. Do you really need so much security for this place, by the way?"
"S'pose not," he replied, stretching and ambling across the room. "Though judging by the ease with which you got through, maybe the opposite is true?"
"That's just because I know how the two of you think." Ginny set her jaw and gave him a blazing look, as if she thought he might correct her. Bloody unlikely. Did she think he relished being referred to in the singular?
Then, for the first time, he noticed what she was doing, and with a yelp, he grabbed at the bottle she was holding, upended, above the sink. An amber coloured liquid was gurgling out and down the drain at an alarmingly fast rate.
"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, after he'd failed to grab the bottle from her.
"I'm pouring every ounce of liquor in your flat down the drain," she said in a hard, matter-of-fact tone.
"Because somebody has to," she shot back.
"Ginny--" he began angrily.
"It's not helping you, George!" she interrupted. "Unless you want to depend on this," she brandished the bottle at him, "for the rest of your life?"
"I'm not depending on anything," he retorted.
"Oh? That's certainly not how it's seemed to me!" She shifted her grip on the neck of the bottle. "It's not bringing Fred back, you know, no matter how pissed you get; even if you managed to hallucinate him, he's never coming back."
Something flared in him. This was how it was, now, he was flat and empty or he was angry, and even when all his emotions seemed cold and dead, his anger could rise to the surface instantaneously, like a snake striking, like an explosion, and he didn't even know where he found the reserve of feeling, because God knew he couldn't summon it up at any other time.
"And you don't know what it's like here, so don't you dare show up and tell me what I should be doing!" he shouted. "You've been at Hogwarts, you've had classes and Quidditch and your friends--"
There was a sound like an explosion as Ginny slammed the bottle down on the counter so hard that it shattered, spewing shards of glass everywhere. "You're not the only one in pain, George!" The anguish in her voice startled him into taking a proper look at her. His sister was distraught, that much was now clear, and he felt a flash of guilt. It wasn't enough to overpower his bubbling anger, though, and he would have yelled something back at her, but she cut through the beginning of his response.
"But oh, yes, you're right, George, it was easy walking down the corridor where Fred died. And it wasn't difficult at all being in the Great Hall, eating there every day and not being able to see anything but Fred's body laid out on a table!"
As if he needed reminding. As if he didn't think about it all the time. Wasn't that the problem? He couldn't stop remembering, he couldn't stand being alone all the time, when he had never been alone in his life.
Ginny was still glaring at him. "He was my brother too; do you think I didn't love him?"
There were tears glinting in her eyes and George's anger abruptly died. "Ginny--"
Her voice hitched. "You and Fred were my heroes, you know that? Always. I looked up to you...you were..." She trailed off and shook her head, letting a curtain of hair fall over her face. From behind it, he heard, "I can't bear losing you too, George, and I'm afraid that's exactly what's going to happen."
She hugged her arms against herself tightly, looking at the floor, her anger apparently spent. George put a hand to his forehead and rubbed his temples, suddenly exhausted. This moment had been a year in the making, and it didn't surprise him that it was Ginny who'd confronted him.
"Sometimes, Gin," he said haltingly, "everything feels impossible. D'you know what that's like?"
She shook her head but looked up at him, her brow furrowed. "I know losing him was the most horrible thing you could've imagined. But this is...I mean, how do you think the rest of us would feel if..."
"I'm not going to die," he supplied, knowing, instinctively, what she was picking her way towards. "I just..." He snorted, mostly in disgust with himself. "Drink too much. And feel miserable."
"And you hurt people without realising it."
This last bit was added very softly, and George had to make an effort not to start. He did realise it, actually. That was part of the trouble.
"So," he finally said, making an attempt at a weak smile, "you've come to knock some sense into me?"
"I don't think sense can be knocked into you," his sister replied with her own faint smile.
George tried to give her a bigger smile; ended up grimacing instead. With a glance at the floor, glittering with glass, he said, "I'd better clean this up."
"How kind of you."
"I'm cleaning up my own mess," she returned pointedly, and he truly did grimace this time. It had been difficult not to make a mess of his life. Maybe he could have tried harder.
The two of them worked in silence for several minutes until the last of the glass was cleared away and in the bin, and George wordlessly offered Ginny a carton of orange juice from the refrigerator. She declined it with a shake of her head, so he shrugged and took a gulp. Eventually, he asked, "So what do you want me to do, Gin?" He made an effort to keep the dark edge out of his voice.
Ginny met his eyes. "I want you to let go."
If he'd been drinking the orange juice, he'd have choked. As it was, he felt slightly strangled. Was she insane?
She seemed to know exactly what he was thinking. "Just enough to move on, George. Just enough to...to not drink so much. And feel so miserable."
He crossed his arms over his chest and watched her, brow crinkled. Her gaze didn't waver. He supposed she was right. And he had to give her credit for saying it.
"You know," he began, "it's never going to be alright."
"I know." She paused and bit her lip. "But you're still alive, so you might as well get on with your life."
"When did you get so sodding insensitive?"
Ginny pressed a hand to her forehead and laughed, though George didn't miss the watery quality of her voice. "I figured that's what it would take."
"Well." He knew -- probably Ginny did, too -- that he'd hold onto the memory of his twin forever. But there was merit in her suggestion. Living, eh? Think of that. "Can I tell you I'll try?"
"Only if you'll let me tell you I'll help. The corner of her mouth crooked upwards slightly. "We all will."
He put down the carton and crossed the kitchen to Ginny, picking her up in a hug. She returned it fiercely. There was a choice here, he supposed, but faced with his sister, and by extension, his family, there was really only one thing he could do. Fred would want him to, anyway. "Then it's a bargain."
No, things were no different than they had been when he'd woken up. Not really. But something had changed within him, and he found, for the first time in just over a year, that he could vaguely imagine the rest of his life without a shadow hanging constantly over him, darkening every single one of his choices and actions. It would take a long time to get there, no doubt. But that was what hope was for.