In George's Eyes
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
Author's Note: This is an Alternate Universe fic set during the time frame of OotP. Therefore, Deathly Hallows does not happen. :D
02/04/11 – Now this epic 90,000-some words is part of my Fanfic100, prompt 087 – Life, and has now been fully re-written and edited. Though the general plot is still the same, expect the refurbishment of a few scenes, the addition of a few more, and a couple complete re-writes of chapters simply because they annoyed me. It's a lot more awesome now, believe me. :D (If you are still looking for the old version, fear not: it's now uploaded on my livejournal, jedigoat)
20/08/11 – Many thanks to professor lazyass, who made an awesome graphic for this story! It can be found here: likeamanatee(dot)tumblr(dot)com/post/8637542191/in-georges-eyes-by-jedi-goat-he-heard-the-door.
Chapter 1 - Unwell
"I'm not crazy; I'm just a little unwell
I know that right now you can't tell
But stay awhile and maybe then you'll see
A different side of me
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little impaired
I know that right now you don't care
But soon enough you're gonna think of me
As how I used to be … me."
-Unwell, Matchbox Twenty
It was the Monday after the season's opening Hogwarts Quidditch match, and news of the game filled the castle's wintry corridors. There was all the usual banter: Gryffindors boasting their victory, Slytherins grumbling, and all students excitedly retelling the events of the match by rote between lessons.
Normally, seventh years Fred and George Weasley would be right in the thick of the celebrations. As the Gryffindor team's star Beaters, they would take both congratulations and death threats in stride, and the two would be the first to agree to a wild common room party. In the post-game fervour as well as in the day-to-day proceedings of what passed as "normal" at Hogwarts, the Weasley twins were known for being outgoing, laidback and, above all, crazy, fun-loving pranksters.
All of that was different today.
This afternoon, as seventeen-year-old George Weasley made his way to Charms class, the chatter buzzing in his mind was only a source of infuriation. He fervently wished that they would all just shut up about it and leave him alone – but they wouldn't: he felt the eyes of the other students on the back of his head as he passed, and it unnerved him beyond all else. If the other students thought it unnatural that the Weasley shouldered past them coldly, without so much as a glance of acknowledgement, well, he was beyond caring.
For the first time in his life, George found himself wishing that he wasn't a Weasley twin. Everyone at school knew Fred and George, the pranksters, identical down to the last freckle – but they weren't identical, he refuted, not any more. As a Weasley twin, he received so much attention, and that was the last thing he wanted right now. He longed to fade into the shadows and be a nobody for once; because with the spotlight on him, someone was sure to find out…
George struggled to bring himself back to the present as he wearily padded into the Charms classroom. It's going to be all right, he tried to reassure himself, shaking his head slightly to discourage the downward spiral of his current thoughts and only earning a dull pulse between his ears for the effort. Two more lessons and the day's over.
Another day of hiding would be over.
George headed over to his usual seat in the back of the class, carefully sidestepping the other desks strewn in his path. Fred, Angelina, and Alicia were already there; they paused their animate chatter as he approached.
"We wondered if you were going to show up," Angelina said, her brusque tone barely disguising the note of concern in her voice. "You weren't at breakfast or at lunch. What happened?"
"I wasn't hungry," George mumbled, not looking at her. Instead, he stooped and rummaged in his bag for his Charms homework.
"You've been in and out of lessons all day," observed Alicia hesitantly. "Are you sure you're feeling all right, George?"
"I'm fine!" He slammed his textbook down onto his desk a bit harder than he'd intended, hearing the steady thump resound throughout the milling classroom. He knew they were all worried about the injury he'd received in Saturday's match, but he fervently wished they would just leave him alone already. Their attentions only made the situation more painful, twisting a knife deeper into the wound in his heart. A wound he knew nothing in the world, least of all their well-meant words, could heal. Self-consciously, George found himself rubbing the bandages layering the base of his skull.
"Does it hurt much?" murmured Alicia sympathetically.
"Yes," he snapped, just to make them stop bothering him. It was a lie; it didn't hurt, not on the outside, in any case. George lowered his hand.
At that moment, the bell's welcome chime interrupted before they could interrogate him further. George gave a heavy sigh as Angelina and Alicia departed in a scuffle of motion to return to their seats, and in the momentary silence he put his head in his hands. Distantly he could hear Professor Flitwick squeaking out the roll call through the pounding in his head.
"That's not what's bothering you, is it?" Fred murmured out of the corner of his mouth. He had known George had lied; they knew each other too bloody well for that. The rest of the school suspected – sometimes jokingly, sometimes not so much – that the two had some sort of psychic bond to be able to finish each other's thoughts so well, but George knew that was a lie. In fact, he relished that falsehood, for he wasn't sure he could bear it if Fred perceived his current tumultuous state of mind.
George nodded without looking up at his brother. He knew Fred was only trying to help him, just like the rest of them – but he didn't understand what had really happened. He couldn't know; George balked at the very idea, as it made an unknown icy fear tighten in his chest. The feeling settled in his lungs, making it difficult to breathe. He knew what it was.
The silence shattered as Flitwick reached the end of his list, and for a welcome instant George was jolted from the horror his mind conjured. It was only for a moment, however, and unconsciously his hand drifted to the back of his neck again, his fingers irritably chafing the layer of plasters itching the back of his skull. Damn headache.
"Here," George muttered unenthusiastically.
"Today we shall practice an advanced charm, the Bubblehead Charm," Professor Flitwick announced in his cheery, high voice. "Now, the wand movement is very important ... watch me."
Silence; there was a small pop as Flitwick performed the spell, and a smattering of applause from the students. George still didn't look up, now massaging his temples, his teeth tightly clenched in a vain attempt to dispel the ire pulsing at his head, as if a hammer was steadily drumming against his skull. This bloody headache was doing nothing to improve his dismal mood...
"Now you may all try! You may work on the charm in groups!" Flitwick squeaked out. Students hurried to join their friends in a sudden bustle of clattering chairs, shouts, and tramping footsteps. George alone hadn't moved a muscle; he was abruptly feeling rather ill and, swallowing hard, reflected that maybe it hadn't been worth the effort to come to Charms class anyway.
Angelina and Alicia announced their return with a scraping of chairs. "Hey," said Angelina. Then, a moment later, "Fred, stop flourishing your wand so much! You're going to take out someone's eye!"
"Sorry," Fred said sheepishly.
"George, are you even going to try the spell?" she demanded incredulously, seeing he didn't even have his wand ready.
George shook his head wearily, wincing at the motion. "No – I don't feel so good. I've got a headache." At least that bit is true, he reflected wryly.
Angelina's tone softened slightly. "Don't let the Slytherins get you down, George. Madam Pomfrey said you'll be fully recovered in a few days." George didn't respond to that, and she addressed the group as a whole: "In any case, I want to see everyone in shape for practice Thursday."
"Come on, Angelina!" complained Fred. "Our next match is months away! Can't you give a man a break?"
"We can't let ourselves get out of shape," she declared sharply. "I've already scheduled the practices for the next month, and you'd better be there!"
All this talk of Quidditch was making George feel ill once more, so he tuned out Fred and Angelina's continued argument. He didn't want to dwell on the memory of Saturday's match. Even the bare thought of Quidditch stirred a nasty voice at the back of his mind, asking if he'd ever be able to play again...
"George." Alicia's quiet voice broke into his thoughts; George gave a start and turned to her. He could feel the others' eyes boring into him as she continued, softly and cautiously, "Why are your eyes so red? Have you been – crying?"
George jerked back. Of all things – he did not want everyone staring at his eyes.
"That's none of your business!" he snapped, the last thread of his self-control drawn to the breaking point. "Why can't you all just leave me alone? Is that really too much to ask?"
With that, he snatched up his schoolbag and stalked out of the classroom, ignorant to the wide-eyed stares left in his wake.
I'm not George Weasley anymore.
Fred stared after his twin, mouth open in wordless shock. Sure, George had seemed a bit different – moody, more aloof – ever since the match, but he would never have expected this.
At first, Fred had naturally associated George's odd mood with his response to being cooped up in the hospital wing too long; they both hated the atmosphere of hospitals, with the plain white-washed walls, a distinct smell of chemicals and cleanliness, and ever-fussy healers. He'd let it lie and assumed that after George's release from Madam Pomfrey last night, he'd perk up immediately. Heck, Fred had imagined George would even enjoy all the attention he was getting – flaunting his battle wounds seemed the next natural thing Fred would do, anyway.
However, George's demeanour hadn't improved; if anything, Fred thought, it's gotten worse. He couldn't remember George ever laughing or even cracking a joke since Saturday, never mind exerting the effort to do more than fake a smile in his twin's presence.
In fact... Now that Fred really thought about it, it seemed George had been avoiding him all day, though for the life of him he couldn't understand why. The weight of that unknown notion settled over his shoulders and he glanced around the cheery, laughing classroom, though he himself was suddenly immune to that warmth. A few seats over, Lee Jordan's face was magnified beneath the shape of an overturned fishbowl ensconcing his head, his eyes overlarge and his lips moving like those of a large fish. Patricia Stimpson shrieked with laughter, but Fred didn't have the heart to join in as a chill ran through him. No one else was even aware of their fellow classmate's turmoil.
George... Now Fred cursed himself for ignoring the warning signs: there was something wrong with his brother, something seriously wrong if George's current behaviour indicated anything. And he, like a great prat, hadn't done a thing about it. There was only one thing a Weasley twin could do in a situation like this.
"I'm going after him." Fred stood up, shouldering his bag and shovelling his Charms materials into it with one hand. The Bubblehead Charm could wait; he was more concerned about his brother at the moment. He met the stares of his friends – Angelina biting her lip, anxiety in Alicia's wide eyes.
As he made to leave, Angelina caught his wrist and squeezed it slightly. "If anyone, you can find out what's going on."
"Yeah." Fred swallowed hard, picking up the textbook that George had abandoned. "I just hope you're right."
George ... what's happened to you?
To be continued...