Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me.
A/N 1: One of my best friends was reading my story Heartbeat while she was on the phone with me, and then she asked, "Hey, I wonder what it'd be like if the roles were reversed!" And it gave me this plot bunny. Just explaining that now, so that you're not like, "Hey, this is just like Heartbeat, only not really!" XD
The night George lost his ear was the first time Fred had cried in seventeen years.
He hadn't even realized he was doing it at first. He sat awake in bed, staring blankly ahead at the outline of George's bunk perched above him. His mind wandered aimlessly to mere hours earlier, when George was lying lifelessly on the couch, surrounded by friends and family, and Fred felt as if he couldn't breathe until he heard his twin speak. Saint-like. Fred sighed. That was a little too close to being 'saint-like' for his tastes, thank you very much.
The next thing Fred knew, his hair was getting wet, and he couldn't understand why until he moved to brush it out of his face. They were tears. He was crying. It was bizarre, because he couldn't remember the last time he'd cried. He didn't even cry when Percy left, or when their father was attacked by Voldemort. However, strange as it was, it didn't shock him. He'd never before even briefly entertained the idea of life without George. They were born together, so obviously they were going to die together, weren't they? He'd never really put much thought into such morbid things, but he'd assumed a similar outcome all his life without ever looking too far into it.
What had happened earlier seemed to send the reality of this war crashing down on Fred at full force. There were going to be those he loved that he would lose. He'd always known this, but he'd never truly realized it, and suddenly it seemed like too much for a nineteen-year-old boy to take. What if George wasn't so lucky next time he crossed paths with a Death Eater? Fred felt his heart stop cold beneath his ribs at the mere thought. He couldn't be alone. He'd never been alone. An image flashed suddenly in Fred's mind, standing grimly in a suit beside a coffin, no one beside him where his twin should be.
The tears were coming faster and Fred sat up, his hand clapped over his mouth to muffle anything in case he was to make a noise. This wasn't a game. This was real. People were going to die. Good people. People who didn't deserve to. Fred clenched his eyes shut as several random faces suddenly flew in and out of his mind. Lee Jordan. Neville Longbottom. Alicia Spinnet. His mother. Hermione Granger. Professor McGonagall. "George."
Fred's voice came out a barely audible rasp in his throat, not expecting to be used until it was at least a few hours past sunrise. "George—" he tried again, already swinging his feet over the bed and climbing the ladder to his brother's bunk. "George, wake up." George stirred, blinked blearily for a moment before noticing the look on Fred's face through the shadows.
"Jesus!" He exclaimed, sitting up with a start as all lethargy was forgotten. "What's wrong? Are you alright?" Fred didn't try to speak again, but instead threw his arms around his brother's neck. George blinked once, and then—as it always was with them—there was an instant understanding. He helped Fred over the ladder and pulled him into a tight hug, trying not to tense at the feeling of tears against his neck. "It's alright, Freddie. I'll be more careful next time, I promise." Fred nodded, listening and accepting his word earnestly. George patted softly at his brother's back for a moment, waiting for Fred to talk. He always did, eventually.
"I'm scared." Fred murmured almost on cue, and George realized he was shaking. A thought passed through George's mind that he had always assumed that when this scene would finally play, the roles would be reversed, but then he felt foolish for thinking so. Fred couldn't be any less scared than he was. "People are going to die, Georgie. You might die. I might die. We might—we might lose."
George tried to scoff, but it came out sounding more like a cough in cold weather. "We won't lose, Fred." He tried to assure him, but Fred shook his head.
"You don't know that. You don't. Something could go wrong, George—Harry could die." The idea was disturbingly unreal, and George felt a chill down his spine. "And if Harry dies, it's all over. We'll all die." George tried to scoff again, this time it came out sounding a little closer to such.
"Charming thought, Freddie." He said teasingly, having already had enough of Fred crying to last him a lifetime. "Try not to be too optimistic. Is a war, you know." Fred laughed once, a little unsurely, but he still didn't let go of his brother. George sighed. "You're right. I don't know." He said solemnly. "Harry could die. I could. You—" George suddenly shuddered and pulled Fred tighter to him, wishing they could change the subject. He hated being serious.
"Nobody knows what's going to happen, Fred. That's how it's always been. I can't promise everything will be okay when the dust clears, but thinking about all the things that can go wrong will only make things worse. We're alive now, right? Make the most of it." Fred briefly tightened his grip around George's neck and said nothing. "Pessimism is not a good look for you, Freddie." It was Fred's turn to scoff.
"George…" Fred suddenly sounded firm, "Just in case…er—in case something happens…" George felt another chill roll down his spine, and he refrained from automatically shaking his head. Fred pulled away to look him in the eye. "Don't do anything I would do." He smirked. There was an awkward silence for a moment and then George nodded reluctantly.
He wanted to argue against him, tell him it wasn't fair to say something like that and worry him when that 'something' that could happen could be George dying just as likely as it could be Fred, but he stopped himself. It would be stupid to keep on the subject now, when Fred had just stopped crying.
With a heavy sigh, George fell back against his pillow, and Fred yelped in surprise as he followed, still attached to his neck. "Not going to your own bed, then?" George asked softly, petting his brother's hair. Fred shook his head, curling silently into George.
"Not tonight, no."
George couldn't remember a time when it had be he to comfort Fred, rather than vise versa. They rarely needed comforting in the first place, but Fred always seemed to need it even less. George for a split second, foolishly, wondered if he'd done a good enough job if Fred was still afraid to let go of him. "I'm sorry." He whispered, not even realizing he'd said it aloud until he felt a hand ruffle his hair.
"Just be more careful next time." Fred grumbled, misinterpreting his apology.
"No, not—are you still…er—are you still crying?"
Saying it out loud made it even more awkward. He felt Fred shake his head. "No." The fact that Fred acknowledged unabashedly that he had cried only seemed to increase how weird it felt. The few other times Fred had been upset, he usually slammed a fist into anyone who suggested at silly, frivolous things like tears. "Thanks."
Dazedly, George placed a hand in Fred's hair and patted him softly, at a loss of what else to do. "I'm not fragile or anything, Georgie." Fred snapped sarcastically from somewhere in George's neck. George smirked.
"Yeah? Then go sleep in your own bed, you prat. You kick like a mule."
Fred shook his head and nuzzled further into his brother. His voice had a completely different tone to it as he added, "I'm not invincible, either."
This statement seemed to hit George more than anything else that had been said or done in the past hour. "Fred…" He felt the need to say something, but nothing really seemed to do Fred's confession justice in reciprocity. Instead, George opted to kiss the crown of his brother's head and tell him soberly, "I love you." It seemed so lame in comparison to what Fred had just muttered vaguely against his skin, but he couldn't think of anything else.
It was hard to tell from the noise at the back of Fred's throat if he appreciated the gesture or thought it to be too sensitive, but he didn't move away from him, so George decided it to be the former. A long moment passed, and George assumed Fred had fallen asleep until he heard the sleepy whisper, "I love you, too, George."
A/N: I wanted to go further with it, really. When I first started it I had this plan about going into 'what Fred would do' and George's angst about promising he wouldn't do anything and blahblah, but I decided to end it there instead, because I'm sick of being depressed, and it's already sad enough in retrospect anyway. :/ (I love how I write instead of sleep these days. XD Happy six am!)