Disclaimer: "Harry Potter" is the property of JK Rowling. Title from "Hear You Me" by Jimmy Eat World.
On Sleepless Roads the Sleepless Go
George usually knew when his twin woke up in the middle of the night. When they were younger, this was generally because Fred would chuck something at him to rouse him as well (he repaid the favour in kind many times over). Later, it was something else, like maybe a change in the rhythm of Fred's breathing, or a sudden stillness on the other side of the room from someone trying too hard to be quiet.
If that were the case -- if it was something he was hearing -- then he was impressed with himself tonight, considering the gauze covering the left side of his head, where up till four hours ago he'd had an ear, was rather muffling his hearing. Fred's breathing was shallow, though, and much too rapid for him to be sleeping.
"You awake?" George asked as a formality.
"Well, how do I know you're not talking in your sleep?"
George heard Fred shift and opened his eyes. His twin had turned towards him and was staring at him from across the room. He looked thoughtful, and a little troubled, in a way that he rarely would when they weren't alone. Away from the eyes of other people, they were free to be solemn. "Something bothering you?" George asked, raising his eyebrows.
Fred exhaled loudly. "You could've died tonight," he said flatly.
"Yeah, but I didn't." George's tone held more than a note of bravado. It was not so much his own brush with death that was niggling at him, but more the realisation that anything really could happen. To either one of them. Maybe to both of them -- but maybe not.
"I know you didn't." Fred did not sound amused, and George knew that his brother wasn't going to be dissuaded from this conversation. Which was a pity, because George didn't want to have it. Talking about it made it more real, and he didn't need it to be more real. It was...well, sobering. Frightening.
"The point," Fred insisted, "is that you could have." When George didn't say anything, Fred sat up in bed and propped his pillows up against the headboard to lean against them. "How are you feeling, anyway?"
George didn't really feel like sitting up, as every time his head changed elevation it pulsed painfully. "Like my ear got sliced off." It stung -- throbbed, really -- the more he thought about it. And though the two of them had joked about it earlier, and would no doubt joke about it in the safety of daylight, there was something about the darkness, the still and quiet, that made it seem quite unamusing.
"Do you want...I don't know, a glass of water or something?"
George rolled his eyes. "If I did, I could get it myself."
"You know, it was pretty bloody terrifying to come in and see you unconscious and bleeding everywhere." Fred did not even make an attempt to keep his tone light, and his face was pale.
Truthfully, that very thought had occurred to George. He'd been glad, once he'd realised what was happening, that it had been him that was hurt. In a kinder tone, he said, "I'm perfectly fine, though -- well, minus the missing ear -- so what's the problem?"
Fred shrugged. "It just made me think. I dunno. You looked...dead, George. And all I could think about was that I'd barely said a word to you before we left Harry's aunt and uncle's."
"You said you were better looking," George pointed out.
"I know, and I'm sure you were touched--"
"Who wouldn't be?"
"--but if that were the last thing I'd ever said to you..." Fred trailed off.
"What else should you have said to me?"
"Well, something...brotherly, I suppose."
"That would be the general idea, though you don't seem to agree."
"No, it's not that."
Fred quirked an eyebrow. "Then what is it?"
George looked up at the ceiling, letting his eyes trace the familiar patterns in the wood while he considered an answer. "I just don't think you should always be concerning yourself with coming up with the perfect parting words in case you never see someone again. You can't always say good-bye, you know? And it's not as though I was lying there bleeding to death, cursing you for maligning my good looks. Though," he added, with a hint of a smile, "I was very hurt."
"The truth hurts, George," Fred replied seriously. Then, he grinned back at his brother. "Nice job, being wise."
"Yeah, well, I am seven minutes older than you, so you know I'm right."
"I wouldn't go that far." Fred laid back down with a rustle of the sheets. "I'll work out something to say to you every time we go our separate ways, I think."
"Okay," George replied with a snort of laughter. "Let me know when you've come up with it so I can judge if it's suitably melodramatic."
The brothers fell silent for several minutes, and George allowed his eyelids to droop. Just as he felt himself dropping off into sleep, he was yanked back into consciousness by Fred saying, "Hey, George?"
George forced his eyes open and turned to look at Fred. "Yeah?"
It wasn't often that Fred looked uncomfortable, so the fact that he did now almost made George burst out laughing. "I have to say something."
For a second, he waited for his brother to speak, but when he just sat there, George prompted, "Yeah? What?"
Fred glanced up at the ceiling awkwardly, then back at George. "I figure I should tell you I love you."
Momentarily, George found himself unable to speak. Then, he replied, "You don't have to say it. I know."
"I had to," Fred insisted, still looking immensely awkward.
It was one of those things that they didn't say to each other. One of those things that just went unspoken between twins. Still, George knew what Fred meant about needing to say it as he replied, "I love you too, bro."