All George could see was his mother's face. Her soft brown eyes raging the battle between disappointment and pity.
And I don't need either, thank you very much.
George knew he was being ridiculous. This wasn't a solution, it wasn't a step forward, or a step up. This wasn't the closure everyone kept talking about. He stumbled slightly, carrying his lanky form down the empty halls of Hogwarts.
But that's what they'll never understand, isn't it? That's exactly it…
George wasn't ready to move on in life. He tripped over his feet and veered dangerously around a corner.
"Bloody rug." He slurred, steadying himself before continuing.
He gripped the jug in his hand tightly. Nobody understood. Most of them didn't even have the right to try.
All those faces.
George shuddered. All those simpering faces, standing over the grave, offering handshakes, offering hugs. And worst, offering up sick little platitudes, like messages from above.
"Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. And there's nothing we can do." Delivered with a weak pat on the arm, and a look of understanding.
"Your brother was a wonderful young man - we'll cherish his memory." George had never seen the old bat in his life, and he was sure she had no such memories.
And then crux of it all. Sitting on the top step of the Burrow stairs, watching black robed figures drifting pleasantly below him, chatting up the fall of the Dark Lord, the sordid details of the battle at Hogwarts, and gossip about the Weasleys and their absent twin. George had gazed down to his sister, sitting silently on the settee, staring at some fascinating pattern in the carpet. A tear slid slowly down her cheek. Was this part of the healing process? Watching his family endure company when they just wanted to be alone? Watching his mother hover trays of refreshments from the kitchen, greeting the 'mourners' with a pained smile, thanking these people for their 'comforting words'? He didn't understand it. Fred was dead. What more was there to say? A rough old hand dropped from behind, landing on his thin shoulder with a slap.
"There you are young man. Not given to playing host, are we?"
The stately witch had pointed down the steps with her polished cane, dropping it past his missing ear to land oppressively on his other shoulder. George turned to his Great Aunt Muriel with a blank stare.
It was all he could muster.
"Then you're more selfish than most."
He remembered her shrill voice. "It's the other one what's dead, not yourself. You think he'd want to see you this way? Moping about, good for nothing to anyone. At least consider your poor mother."
Something had snapped in that instant. George jumped to his feet, towering over the startled old woman.
"How dare you."
His whisper rose quickly in volume. "How dare you speak of consideration towards my mother!"
Unpleasant silence had dropped like a curtain over the house. George spun from his Aunt's surprise to face the people below.
"All of you! You think this helps? Do you honestly believe you're making this easier? Or that any of this is about HIM? It isn't even about the family, this is about you!" He was yelling, gripping the stair rail with both hands. "You don't even know Fr… you didn't.…" He could feel his rage give way to panic. "You didn't know Fre…" He swallowed hard.
He still couldn't say it. It sounded pathetic to his own ears, stuttering over his brother's name. And he had wanted nothing more than to grab out his wand and blast them all to Hades as their faces turned from shock to sympathy. He had to get out.
Thinking back now, as he traveled unsteadily through the halls of his old school, George remembered taking the stairs two at a time, striding past a staring Ron, avoiding his mother's outstretched arms to grab his broom from the entry and literally fly out the door. He wasn't sure where the fire whiskey had come into play, but he knew, as the floor rose violently to meet him a second time, that he was well on his way to being sloshed.
No, George was not ready to move on in life. So he had come back to Hogwarts. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Bloody playground, it was.
He could feel the tears start to surface as he passed well known tapestries and hallways, ignored the stares and comments from familiar portraits. He and Fred had come to this school almost a decade ago, full of trouble making ideas; had spent a glorious seven years cornering the market on mischief before leaving, two years ago, as heroes. But now the school was empty. All students returned to their parents as wizarding Britain mourned and celebrated after the battle. George had never seen it so quiet.
He paused in the middle of a long corridor and stared at the wall before him. The repairs were perfect. The stones appeared aged and worn, with a few cracks and missing chinks to blend the restored masonry with the rest of the ancient castle. To the uninformed, this wall seemed the same as any other. But to George, it was still a pile of rubble, crushing the life from his twin.
The tall redhead took a long, burning pull of whiskey, tilting his head and swallowing convulsively through his tears. He gasped and splayed his free hand across his chest, fighting the suffocating pain in his lungs, before lifting the jug again and finishing it off.
Head swimming, George turned his back on the wall and slid to the floor. Not for the first time this week, he closed his eyes and wondered about the afterlife.
"What would he say to this?" George pictured himself as if from above, slouching red faced and dizzy on the floor, leaning against the wall that had killed his brother.
"Oh Merlin…" He moaned, rubbing a shaky hand across his face.
Of all people, how could it have been Fred?
He opened his tired eyes, only to snap them shut again in horror.
What the bloody hell was that?
Slowly opening his eyes again, George watched a tall, grey figure glide silently toward him. A figure in familiar robes, with all too familiar hair, and a face that George had seen beside himself and in the mirror for the past twenty years.
George lurched to his feet, and gazed at the wavering form of his dead twin.
What's the point of getting sozzled if your past still comes to haunt you? He pondered, swaying on his feet. He slowly dropped his gaze to the abandoned bottle of fire whiskey lying accusingly on the stones.
Good stuff, that.
George had spent hours imagining this moment. His brother, his twin brother, his other half come back to make him whole again. He still had dreams that it had been a mistake. A temporary, horrible mistake. They had missed the smallest of heart beats. The tiniest breath. It wasn't Fred in first place; it was a doppelganger, someone with polyjuice. It was all a very badly humored joke. But awake or sleeping, he had never considered this; the grey apparition that he had just seen floating silently, twenty feet away.
I've gone completely off edge.
The loneliest Weasley lifted his gaze slowly, as if afraid of what he would find. Still there…
"Fred?" He breathed.
The ghost smiled.
Dumdeedumdumdum! I just couldn't stand it any more! We all need Fred back, one way or another. I was surprised that there aren't more 'Fred as a ghost' stories out there! Everyone seems content to just mourn him or kill George. Any who, like it or love it - you know what to do! Click that little power button. :o)