Summary: Post-DH. She never knew someone could drown on land. George keeps floundering. Luna tries to teach him how to tread water. Oneshot.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
A/N: I was stuck on this for a long time, and then, oddly enough, a short conversation with Hider managed to get the rest of the story onto the page. It's amazing how inspiring she can be with her demands that I finish fics on the spot for her own personal enjoyment. (Rolls eyes) This is my second attempt at George/Luna, but my first attempt at angst for the pairing. Reviews would really be appreciated.
Luna didn't see why it was so wonderful to be part of a package deal. In the back of her mind, she thought that might be because she had no siblings, no best friend, no boyfriend to attach herself to the hip of, but the idea of being constantly associated with another person seemed almost offensive to her.
She thrived on her individuality, even if she was ostracized for being weird.
George Weasley was the polar opposite of Luna Lovegood. And it was becoming painfully apparent the longer she sat behind him at his twin brother's funeral, a dull ache clawing at her stomach, begging to be identified.
All she could see was the back of his head, and he was sitting completely still. But occasionally, he would reach up to wipe his face and every single time he did, she had the sinking realization that he was crying.
Everything about the scene was so contradictory of George's personality that the unidentifiable thing living in her intestines grew even more frantic as it tried to escape the confines of her body. Luna suddenly felt as though she was intruding, stomping all over a private moment of mourning.
When the service was over, and the guests dispersed to return to the interior of the Burrow for the wake, he didn't move a muscle. To a degree, she was surprised, but after what felt like hours feeling his despair pouring off of him in waves, she really couldn't see him joining the masses to reminisce over the good times.
That would be something he did privately, when no one was watching.
And she was certain that a bottle of Ogden's finest would be firmly in hand when he did.
"I don't suppose it's really fair, is it?"
He furrowed his brow at the sound of her voice, staring at the bottle in his hand. George didn't know that anyone other than him and…
He inhaled sharply. This place was supposed to be a secret.
"No," he agreed. "Though you getting kidnapped for your father's opinions wasn't, either."
Luna made a humming sound that he thought might be one of agreement. With a sigh, he turned to face her and leaned his head back against the rough bark of the tree behind him. She didn't meet his eyes, though she looked thoroughly flummoxed about something.
"Why aren't you off with Ginny somewhere?"
"Oh," she murmured. "I thought I might be of more use somewhere else."
Her toes didn't even brush the line of grass that separated the clearing from the rest of the grove behind the lake. George stared at her feet, contemplating her statement.
"You used to come here when you were younger," she said suddenly. He jerked his eyes up her body, barely even noticing the color of her robes, until his gaze landed on her face. This time, she calmly met his eyes with an oddly unnerving expression. "Ginny and I would see you sneaking off when your mother wasn't looking."
Clearing his throat, he patted the spot next to him in the grass. Luna remained where she was. The corner of his mouth tugged up in an involuntary smile. "Well, this place never was any good without company."
The freckles on the back of his hand stood out sharply when he gripped the neck of the bottle. She stared, transfixed, as the skin surrounding them grew paler and paler with each passing second. Eventually, a cracking sound breeched the oddly comfortable silence that permeated the clearing, and Luna gently rested her hand on top of his.
Instantly, his grip loosened. She left her hand where it was.
"Opening the shop without finishing school was his idea, you know," George muttered. "Mum was so furious I thought we would have to turn her into a teapot just to release the steam without casualties."
"Your exit was brilliant," she told him. He smirked.
"The brooms were my idea," he replied. "Fred wanted to apparate outside the grounds."
"That would have been more sensible."
"But a hell of a lot less fun."
"I suppose so," Luna agreed. After a moment, she removed her hand from his and rested it in her lap. "Though I must admit I don't much like flying."
"Scared of heights, then?" George asked. She raised her head and met his eyes for the second time, swallowing thickly.
"No." She shook her head. "I'm scared of falling."
With a sigh, he tossed the empty bottle across the clearing and winced when it shattered against the base of an old tree. Luna didn't even jump at the sound, and he noticed that she was staring serenely up at the sky, seemingly ignoring him. George stared at her seriously.
His twin brother was six feet in the ground less then one hundred feet from this very spot, and there was a wake in his honor going on in their childhood home, and yet this fantastically bizarre girl was sitting next to him in the dirt, cloud-gazing.
"Ginny says you have nightmares about Malfoy Manner," he said quietly. Her entire body tightened in response to his comment, and if it weren't for the alcohol that was still making him pleasantly warm long after he had stopped drinking, he knew he wouldn't have said anything at all.
"Ronald says you haven't slept since the final battle," she responded, after a considerable silence.
George looked at the ground between his feet. "Could you?"
"I don't know," she answered. He felt her eyes burning into his skin, but he kept his own locked firmly on the bare patches of dirt in front of him. "I've never been part of a team before."
"No. Even my closest friends keep their distance from me."
"That's too bad," he offered, uncomfortable with the resigned tone of her voice. Luna reached for his hand and he let her take it without comment.
"Is it?" she wondered.
Despite how convinced he was that he couldn't possibly cry anymore, the tears still blurred his vision in an instant.
She didn't comment on the tear tracks that were being etched into his cheeks as they sat there, holding hands in the clearing he used to have mud fights with his brother in, but she could feel the air pressing in on her lungs as though she were suffocating.
Luna knew that was nothing compared to how George must have felt.
"There are ways to make him proud, you know."
His laugh was strangled, choked-sounding, like his lungs were filled with the same salt water that his tears were made of. She squeezed his hand gently and played with his index finger.
"I already failed," he protested.
"You were needed elsewhere," she argued softly. "If you had been there, you might both be gone."
George abruptly pulled his hand out of hers, standing in one fluid motion. Luna gazed up at him, remaining where she was. She couldn't reach him where he had gone this time.
One week later, Molly had stopped crying at the mention of her dead son's name. The atmosphere at the Burrow somehow seemed lighter with the progression of her grief, though Luna still felt as though the air was sitting stagnant.
George had taken to staying as far away from the clearing and the tombstone by the woods as he possibly could. She wasn't surprised by his seemingly unconscious decision to remain on the other side of the yard, even when his siblings tried to get him to go for a swim in the lake. Somehow, his denial was worse than his blame.
Luna never knew someone could drown on land.
Yet again, George Weasley was proving all of her assumptions of the world to be completely wrong.
"I don't want to go for a bloody swim, Ginny!"
He threw open the door, fully expecting to find his baby sister standing in front of him with her hands on her hips, a stance she had perfected in the past week. George had all but locked himself in his old bedroom, resolutely ignoring the empty bed opposite his and refusing his siblings' attempts to get him to have some fun.
Ginny wasn't standing in front of him, though.
Instead, he found a blonde Ravenclaw girl with a serene expression that didn't hold any of the same contempt as his sister's. He froze and then ran a hand through his hair, idly playing with the doorknob with his other.
"Did you need something?"
"You haven't left your room for two days," she said simply.
His immediate response was to mock her for stating the obvious, but something in her tone told him that making fun of her statement wasn't the best course of action. Unsure of what to say, he shrugged awkwardly and avoided her eyes.
"Is it helping?"
"Pretending that he's going to apparate into the room at any moment," she said. He swallowed and shifted awkwardly. Luna had an uncanny ability to state the most painful truths in the most candid tone of voice he had ever heard.
When he didn't say anything in response, she stepped closer to him and lowered her voice. "I did the same thing when my mother died."
"Did it help?" he asked.
"For a while."
Burn marks decorated the walls and the bedposts, as well as the dresser and the wardrobe. Luna looked around curiously, intrigued by how oddly clean the room was despite the obvious evidence of experiments gone awry.
The reminder of her mother was sharp, quick, and painful. The unidentified thing in her stomach tried to re-surface and she buried it beneath her intestines quickly, turning to face George when she heard the door close behind her.
He leaned back against the wall and she clasped her hands behind her back, sighing softly.
"Percy says Fred died laughing," she told him.
George clenched his jaw and stared at a spot just beyond her shoulder. This was the first time that his brother's name had passed between them, and she didn't expect him to respond. Predictably, he didn't. But he didn't cry, either.
Slowly, she approached his brother's abandoned bed and sat down gently on the edge, folding her hands in her lap.
After a while, he sank down to the floor and glanced in her direction. His eyes held some semblance of… something. Relief, maybe. His old liveliness. Luna wasn't sure how to categorize the small light there.
He still didn't speak, and she didn't push him to.
Instead, she waited.