Hi! Welcome to my first Harry Potter fic! Hopefully, it's not too terribly bad, as I'm not a stranger to the fanfiction world. If I've got some information wrong, however, please let me know so that future fics will not be contaminated! Thanks!

Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with the Harry Potter series. It all belongs to the wonderful J. K. Rowling.

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I'm Here

By Ponytail Goddess

Despite the fact that it was nine in the morning on a sunny spring day, the room where George Weasley slept fitfully was still pitch black, with the exception of a few thin lines of crisp light that had snuck through the closed blinds and were slowly making their way up the mess of sheets where that contained their owner's sullen figure.

George groaned and scowled deeply as consciousness loomed towards him, quickly burying his head deeply into the extra pillow he had hijacked from Fred's bed with the hopes of going back to sleep. "…not now…not now…" He thought, mentally whining to himself as he clenched the pillow closer to himself…but it was too late. Already, he was awake and his parched throat was screaming for some sustenance.

Not bothering to look up from the pillow, George's hand ungracefully flopped up onto his nightstand and searched over the mess of papers and pills for glass of water that he had charmed to fill itself back up over and over again. He seemed to be reaching further and further over, but was having no luck finding the cup.

Frustrated, George looked up only to find that the cup was indeed not on the nightstand. Giving the room a once over while squinting, George discovered that he had left the cup in the bathroom that was adjacent to he and Fred's bedroom.

Grimacing at this new discovery, George began to feel around the nightstand again for something else. "Where's my bloody wand…" He muttered, looking around him and on the floor beside his bed. However, the wand was nowhere to be found.

Cursing in a low voice because he could not magically call his glass of water to him without his wand, George slowly sat up. His muscles seemed to be groaning in agony as he did this, since he only gotten up out of his bed to use the bathroom for the past two weeks. Stumbling from his bed, somehow George managed to make it to the bathroom and ungracefully leaned against the sink, using his free hand to grab the cup of water. Quickly, he chugged down glass after glass until his growling, empty stomach was finally filled.

Gasping for air, George chanced a glance at the mirror, but he could only see a shadowy outline of himself. Sighing, he rubbed a hand over his face only to find that it was disgustingly greasy and that he was apparently sporting quite a bit of stubble, perhaps enough to count as the beginnings of a beard. However, rather than properly cleaning himself, he simply splashed some water from his refilling cup into his face and rubbed it a bit, not bothering to even towel it off before he left the bathroom.

Despite the fact that it was going to be quite warm that day, George had found that he was cold most of the time and thus stopped to pick up a red Gryffindor sweatshirt off of the slightly-cluttered floor. As he was struggling into it, he suddenly stopped midway and listened.

Had he just heard a crash? Was someone downstairs?

This piqued George's curiosity as he knew who it couldn't be. No Weasley's could enter or apparate into the shop, as George had cast several spells around the shop so his family would stop smothering him with pity. After the funeral, he simply could not take anymore of that-

The funeral…George grimaced as this very unwelcome thought entered into his mind. The thoughts and memories it had evoked in him were terribly painful and George nearly found himself heading back to his bed where he could merely ignore his grief by succumbing to the black emptiness of his dreamless sleep. If Fred was in George's dreams, he sure didn't remember. Sleep had become his one solace…his escape from a reality that was too bitter to think about.

However, another crash sounded from down below and he found that he could no longer put off the investigation. Silently, George opened the door to his room for the first time in two weeks and gasped as the morning light blinded him. Immediately, he shielded his eyes, cursing under his breath at his discomfort. He stood frozen in his doorway for a few minutes while his eyes slowly adjusted to the light. Finally, he took his first few wobbly steps out the door, his legs a bit uncertain of themselves after having gone without use for so very long.

As he neared the stairway that led down to the shop, George became intrigued at the plethora of smells that were wafting into his nose. Quickly, George came to a few conclusions about the scents of his building: there was dung…stale smoke…as well as a few other things that together were quite powerful.

"What is going on?" He thought to himself as he rounded the corner and stared down the staircase. Suddenly, he remembered…

He had hoped that had been a dream.

Staring down at the destruction that was below, however, he knew that it was not. Shocked, George found that he could only stare for a while. "Bloody hell…" George finally choked out, never taking his eyes off of the terrible mess downstairs.

The mess that he had created. After the funeral, George had finally been pushed beyond his limit and one small matter had led to the total destruction of his shop…

George's mind was blank as his shaking hands somehow managed to extract his keys from his pants pocket. To say that he was upset would be a terrible understatement…George was livid. Until today, he had thought it was all fake and that Fred would somehow wake up…however, any chance of that had been squandered this afternoon when the body of his brother had been lowered into a deep hole in the ground. At this point, it had finally dawned on George that Fred was not coming back and for the first time since the tragedy had occurred, George had cried.

Of course, his whole family had been there to catch him when he broke down and he knew he should be appreciative, but he wasn't. He hated the deep-seated pity that his father had for him and how his mother teared-up every time that she looked at him. He hated Charlie's hugs and reassurances and Percy's babbling guilt-trip. He hated the meaningful look he had gotten from Ron and the hug he received from Ginny. Above all else, he found that he hated Fred for just lying there unresponsive…leaving him all by himself.

Growling, George fumbled for the next key on the ring, as the first one had not successfully opened the store. He was alone…bloody alone and it was all Fred's fault! "Damn it!" He said as he jerked the second key down and grabbed the third and final key on the ring, his hands shaking vigorously. He tried to jam it into the door several times, but kept missing because of his emotional state.

Luckily, George was the only wizard out on the street at that time of night because what he did next would have probably landed him a permanent placement in St. Mungos. With one last shaky stab at the doorknob, George immediately drew his arm up and threw his keys on the ground with as much force as he could. An immeasurable anger filled him and with one brutal blow, George kicked the door open with such force that the doorknob slammed into the glass window on the other side and it shattered quite loudly.

Forcefully picking up his discarded keys, George stormed into the moonlit shop and threw his keys onto the counter by the cash register, knocking a glass bowl full of Canary Cremes off the counter. The candies scattered everywhere and the bowl smashed when it hit the floor, but George paid it no heed. His brother had left him alone! ALONE!!!

"Fred is dead!!!" He shouted, looking up as if he could stare at the heavens from inside the building. Angrily, he stamped his foot several times and waved his fists around psychotically. "DAMN IT, WHY IS FRED DEAD?!?"

He couldn't stand the shop anymore…it was a crude reminder of his dead twin and he was out of control. The closest thing to him was the shelf that contained love potions and without a second thought, George quickly slid his arm across the shelf and sent all of the delicate glass bottles flying to the ground. "Bloody hell!" He yelled and made quick work of the next few shelves above the original, making a grand mess of chemicals on the floor that sizzled and smoked upon mixing… However, George ignored this because he no longer gave a damn about anything. He was drunk with fury and nothing was going to stand in the way of him tearing up the bloody shop! Nothing!

Skiving snack-boxes flew every which way, as well as headless hats and fake wands, which turned into random objects as they scattered. George's violent fit seemed to culminate when he slammed himself into a large, multi-shelved display in the middle of the shop. Upon landing on the ground, the contents of the shelf started a long series of explosions. Dung flew everywhere ands fireworks exploded as George ducked away from the blasts. As he blindly tripped into a different corner of the shop, he became tangled in several sets of extendible ears and knocked even more goods off the shelves. A few boomerangs chased him around, viciously hitting him over and over again as he tried to swat them away.

"DAMN IT!!! My brother is dead!!!" He cried out as he ripped the extendible ears apart to free himself. Taking a hard landing on the floor, George grunted and them quickly got up when he saw he was close to some ripped packets of bulbadox powder and some sharp-looking answer quills. Starting to break down, George had slowly crawled the other way, sending yo-yos rolling away from him, screaming. He tried to avoid the glass on the floor, but ended up cutting his hands anyway as he crawled into the swamp that had now taken over half of the shop.

Hot tears rolled down George's face now as he slowed down, though his heart was still thundering in his chest with great emotion. "No…NO!!! WHY DID HE HAVE TO DIE?!?" He cried out to the chaos that surrounded him, then whispered hoarsely as he sobbed, "Why did he have to die?"

Ignoring things that were still going off around him, George somehow wove his way through the mess and made it up the stairs and into his bedroom. After tossing the dress-robes he had worn to the funeral on the floor, he quickly put on some pajamas and dove into his bed, facing the wall for the first time ever, rather than his brother's bed.

Suddenly snapping back to reality, George came to the sad conclusion that it had not been a dream, but had indeed happened as every step he took down the stairs seemed to show him even more of the mess of destruction that was covering the floor below. He could see shards of glass everywhere, mixed with everything he and his brother had worked so hard to create…

Fred would have bloody killed him if he saw this.

George finally arrived at the bottom of the stairs and stared at the damage before him. Shelves were overturned, glass broken, candies melted in odd places, items scattered this way and that…it was a bloody mess. It would take weeks to clean up the destruction he had created in mere minutes…and what about the swamp?!? How does one go about clearing up a swamp that's indoors?

Suddenly, George gasped when he heard a groan and saw a small, platinum blonde figure gripping the counter of the cash register, obviously struggling to pull herself up. After another second of watching her legs flounder around under her, he watched her slip and fall back down with a small crash.

"Verity?" He asked, a wave of guilt quickly filling him to the brim as he quickly approached her, "Are you okay?"

However, George hadn't been thinking when he approached her and promptly slipped and fell on the same marbles as Verity had, only George managed to bang his head on the counter on his way down. Immediately, George tried to get up, but felt two gentle hands push him back down to the floor. "George! Are you okay?" He heard her panicked voice ask, which made him cringe as his head was throbbing quite heartily and hearing her speak so loudly only made it worse.

"Oh bugger…it feels like someone took a sledgehammer to my head…" He moaned, grasping the place on his head that had made contact with the counter firmly to try and dull the pain.

"Here, let me take a look…" She said softly as he felt her warm fingers pushing his hand out of the way. As he felt her fingers working through his hair to find his injury, George couldn't help but feel a bit ashamed that she was seeing him like this—she was touching his hair, for pity's sake, and he hadn't washed it in nearly two weeks!

"You're bleeding," She announced. He watched through his pain-filled eyes as she whipped off her apron, balled it up, and then felt it against his head as Verity applied pressure to the wound. He winced at this, but chose not to complain about the pain when he saw how worried she looked over the whole incident.

"Are you okay? You do remember where we are, right?" She asked with obvious worry in her voice.

"We're at the shop…Weasley's Wizard Wheezes…" He said slowly, making an effort to open his eyes all the way so she would calm down a bit.

"And how many fingers am I holding up?" She asked, holding up four.

"Four…" He replied.

"Oh good…I thought you might have had a concussion or something. You took the nastiest fall I think I've ever seen." She said as he felt the pressure removed from his head. "Those Magically Miraculous Marbles are pretty dangerous…"

Ah, so that's what he had tripped on. They were one of he and Fred's last creations before that fateful battle a few weeks back…marbles that were attracted to people and rolled after people, tripping them several times in the process.

Fred… Now George was feeling really foul. His brother had died, he had destroyed his shop, his coworker and friend could have been hurt from being in the destroyed shop, he had gotten himself hurt in his shop, and he was dirty…so dirty… "I'm a bloody fool…" He whispered as he looked at the damage around him, not really intending for anyone to hear him.

Upon feeling a small touch on his cheek, George turned his head and looked up at Verity again. She was smiling, even though her crystal-blue eyes looked sad. "You're bloody alright, George, but you aren't a fool…get it, bloody?"

Bloody. He got it, alright. However, hearing a tacky joke like that coming from his assistant, rather than his twin, undid him. Before he could stop himself, he felt a couple of tears make their way down his face.

"Oh George, I'm sorry…" Verity muttered, looking as though she was thinking about the same thing.

"No, don't be." He whispered, brushing his tears away. "It's not your fault."

The two both fell silent, George still lying on the floor with Verity sitting down beside him. George put a hand over his eyes, both trying to cover a few new tears and make his head stop throbbing.

Finally, Verity interrupted the silence. "When did you get back here George?" She asked softly, now leaning against the cash register counter.

The question was innocent enough, but George found himself in a conundrum. Verity was a good worker and friend, perhaps even one of his closer friends, but George wasn't sure that he could disclose that information to her. He had reached a depth of suffering that was embarrassing and he wasn't sure if she'd ever take him seriously if he told her something so personal.

"Your parents have been worried about you, George." He heard her say softly, "Not knowing where you are and all. They keep asking me if I've seen you around the shop and I've been telling them you weren't here…"

George gulped and lifted his hand from his eyes to look at Verity. She looked close to tears. "…but you have been here, haven't you? You've been here the whole time."

George didn't answer her; really, there was no need to if it was that obvious. Luckily, he didn't have to say anything, as Verity continued, "That also means that you haven't come down here to get any food, George—and don't try to deny it, I'm not a fool. I've been coming in and working all week and the refrigerator has looked the same inside all week. I cleaned it out today because stuff was looking moldy…"

Now tears were rolling down her pale cheeks and George felt a different sensation in his heart. His emotions up until this point had consisted of grief and depression, but this—this was something new and he was shocked by it.

Verity was crying for him.

Everyone he had talked to so far was crying over the loss of Fred and hadn't seemed to acknowledge what he had lost. Verity, however, was currently viewing the product of Fred's death, the zombie he had become and felt for him.

Verity cared.

He hadn't called her back to the shop yet, but she had apparently been working here all week long, trying to clean up mess that he had made in a fit of stupidity. It was a dangerous mess too…for pity's sake, she had even cleaned out his refrigerator. Now she was crying over him and it was all because she cared.

Feeling guilty about what she had done for him, George ignored his pounding head and slowly sat up as best he could. Carefully, he scooted over beside her, also leaning against the cash register counter and hesitantly took her hand in his and gave it a little, reassuring squeeze. This seemed to do some good, as her sobbing ceased after a few minutes.

Wiping her tears away, she whispered, "I'm sorry for being so upset George. You just…you don't look well…"

George looked away, unable to look into her sincere eyes any longer. Though he had denied himself for two weeks, he did know that he needed to talk to someone about all of this…someone other than a member of his family, as they seemed to only make him feel worse about the whole thing. Verity's sudden silence broke his resolve and he found himself trying to find the easiest way to say what he wished to say.

"…I'm not well…" He finally said, staring at the floor intently as he listened to her uneven breathing, "Not when he's not here."

The silence between them was now deafening. Obviously, Verity had picked up on who 'he' was, as she was now cradling his hand between both of hers. One of her thumbs was absently stroking the side of his hand and though George found this somewhat comforting, he felt himself starting to shake as he admitted his most painful secret to her.

"I'm all alone…" He whispered in a voice that was higher-pitched than normal and ripe with emotion. He started to drown in the pain that he had avoided and ignored for so long, but was brought back to the surface by a squeeze from her hand that was tight enough to cause him pain.

"You're not alone George…" Verity said to him softly, rubbing his hand again in a soothing manner. "You have a huge family that cares about you and wants to be with you…I know they do. Your mum's been trying to find you and keeps asking about you when I see her on the street, which is almost every over day…"

"I can't," He murmured, upset that she did not understand the quirks of his family. "Things aren't what they used to be without Fred. They all do odd things when they see me because I remind them all of Fred and I can't take it! My family means well, but I can't face them…not yet. I am alone…" He said, trailing off as dark thoughts overthrew his mind.

"No you aren't George." Verity said a bit sternly, making him look up at her. "What about your friends? They will welcome you back with open arms…you do not have to be alone George."

"They would only be disappointed…" George replied, his spirits falling. "I can't think of any jokes without Fred here. We used to be the ones that made everyone laugh, but I can't do it by myself. I'm only half a person without him Verity... He left me all alone."

His heart fell. Verity was trying to be helpful, but it wasn't helping. He was indeed alone and he felt so cold and emotionless inside…so unreal. It was terrible. He didn't know if he would ever be anywhere close to normal ever again.

"George," She said once more, calling his attention back to her, even though she was not looking at him. "You're not alone. I'm here."

Silently, George contemplated this for a second then, much to both his and Verity's surprise, he let out a small chuckle. Immediately, her eyes were gazing into his, shocked that he was actually smiling a bit, though a great sadness still lingered in his eyes. "I can't argue that point…you are most definitely present." He said in a bit of a lighter tone.

"I'll help you get everything straightened out George…" She said simply, releasing one of her grips on his hand to pat his far shoulder.

George suddenly wondered if she was implying more than just the shop. He found himself temporarily baffled, but quickly recovered and stared down at her. Despite the slight awkwardness of everything, George found himself reassured by her words and offer. After all, he had not wanted to turn to his family or his closer friends, but here was someone who seemed trustworthy and willing to help without being too terribly invasive.

He could get used to her being around.

"You…you would do that for me?" He questioned, wanting to make sure that he understood what she was offering.

"Yes, whatever you need George. I'll do whatever I can to help you fix things up." She said with a gentle smile.

George cocked his eyebrow a bit at this. "Even lie to my mum about seeing me here?" Verity, on the other hand, frowned at this and for a few seconds, silence ensued.

Sighing, Verity finally said, "Yes, I will if I have to…but only for a little while George. They need to see you when you're ready…the sooner the better, really. I think your mum is worried you're going to…well, you know…"

Ah, yes, he did know. He wouldn't do thatThat would only make things even worse.

"I wouldn't do that." He said softly, looking her in the eye as he said so.

"Good," She said with a smile, "I'd miss you if you were gone."

Finally, he smiled…a real smile. Though it was short, it was clearly the reassurance that she needed and she smiled back at him. Things were not perfect and the sickening pain was still there, but there was something else too…something new and good.

Hope.

Maybe…just maybe...he could get through this thing after all.

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Well, there it is, my first Harry Potter fic! I hope you enjoyed it. Have a good one!

-P.G.