This really is the end. However, I am tentatively planning an "Afermath II" dealing with events after the funeral. (At the moment I have no plans to write the funeral itself. I have read so many Fred's funeral stories - some I loved, some I hated, some were okay but not how I imagined it - that I really don't feel able to write it myself at the moment.)
However, that might be a few weeks in coming. As several of you have reminded me, both "Birthdays" and "Weasley Weddings" are overdue for an update, and I have to try to overcome my writers block for both of them. I also have at least three challenges to do...
This chapter is for Someday England with thanks for her encouragement, kind words and her own fabulous twin fics.
Please read and review.
Aftermath – Before the Funeral
"Are we ready?"
Even as he hears himself say it, he winces and realises it is a stupid thing to say. How can anyone be ready for the funeral of their son, their brother, their twin? None of them can ever be ready for this. But it is time to go.
He looks round at them all.
Bill is standing with Fleur, holding her hand so tightly that he must be hurting her. His eyes are bleak and exhausted, but tearless. His face is set. He will not cry in front of his family if he can help it. Arthur hopes that he will give way when he is alone with Fleur. He needs to.
Fleur herself is white-faced and somehow looks even more beautiful than ever. Her eyes are bright with unshed tears. She is leaning closely into Bill, as if she knows that her presence is the only thing keeping him going.
Charlie and Percy are standing together. That in itself is a small mercy. Two days ago, Arthur wondered if they might never talk to each other again. Charlie was so angry, and a lot of his anger was directed at Percy, who was already coping with more guilt than anyone should ever have to bear. Now Charlie seems to have let go of a lot of his anger and to realise how bad Percy is feeling. His face is set, like Bill's, but there are tears in his eyes that have not spilled over yet, although they probably will soon. He has his arm around Percy's shoulders, which are shaking with sobs. Percy's face is contorted with grief, and tears are running unchecked down his face. Charlie's arm around him is the only thing keeping him on his feet.
Ron and Hermione, Harry and Ginny are standing together, Ron's hand in Hermione's, Harry's arm around Ginny's shoulders. Hermione is crying quietly, but the others are dry-eyed, although Ron looks shocked, Harry is so pale he looks as though he might faint, and Ginny is biting her lip hard and blinking rapidly. All of them look so young.
George. George is on his own. That in itself is wrong. That in itself is the reason they are here, so quiet, so tense, waiting to go. George will always be on his own now. He was half of a whole, and now he does not know who he is. He was never meant to be on his own. He is paler even than Harry, his freckles standing out in stark contrast to his white face, his brown eyes startlingly bright, his hair almost too vivid to bear. His lips are fixed in a hard line, and there are tears on his cheeks, although he is making no sound. His hands are balled into hard fists at his sides.
He should not be on his own.
Even as Arthur thinks this, it becomes obvious that someone else is thinking the same thing. Ginny whispers something to Harry, and frees herself from his encircling arm. Harry takes Hermione's free hand, and moves closer to her and Ron, so that the three of them stand together, as they have so often in the past. Ginny goes to George, and takes one of his hands. George does not look at her, but Arthur sees something in his face relax slightly, and he moves nearer to his sister's side. She is the only person he would let close to him right now.
Arthur has not looked at Molly, and he does not want to. He is frightened that if he sees the depth of pain in her eyes, pain that mirrors and echoes his own, he will not be able to do this. But he knows he cannot avoid looking at her. He moves to stand beside her and takes her hand in his. It is surprisingly warm. Somehow he finds the courage to look at her, and he sees that somehow there is hope, and love and courage in her eyes together with the grief and loss. She even manages to smile at him sadly, and to squeeze his hand. They will do this together.
Arthur hears his own voice, and wonders at how firm it sounds.
"It's time to go."