His wand was still in my back pocket.
I couldn't let it go. It was all of him that I had left.
It felt sort of like I'd been splinched. My whole body ached and moaned. This agony. This terrible agony. It ripped me apart like nothing ever had. I was scared, so scared, helpless, alone; I couldn't breathe, I couldn't feel, I couldn't see. My limbs were numb, my lips cold and chapped from lack of use, my cheeks raw and red from grief. My chest and eyes stung from the throbbing sobs forcing themselves out of my body. I could do nothing as I sat in the cramped, two-bed room filled with old boxes. Boxes of our creations, our laughs, our happiness, our joy; now all boarded up and boxed away, kept hidden where no one could see… like I was.
Downstairs the funeral was going to begin. I could hear the guests arriving (guests, I remember thinking, what an ironic word; a word much better used for an occasion when people actually want to be present). I could hear mumbled, tight voices; "Where's his brother? Where's George?"
But I wouldn't go. I couldn't go.
I didn't want anyone to see me hurting this bad.
I wondered, for ages it seemed, what I would do when people asked me about my family in the future. People I met, forms I had to fill out. Future girlfriends. Grandchildren. Anything and everything. The thought weighed on me so hard and so heavy that I could feel myself being pushed, shoved, buried into the ground underneath it.
I couldn't just forget him. I couldn't just leave him out.
"How many sisters and brothers do you have?"
"One sister. And…"
Here I imagined myself pausing and gulping, almost gasping for breath as I tried to retain my composure.
And then I would swallow the pain. It would travel white-hot and sinister, like poison, down my throat. I'd want to throw up. To splutter out the truth instead. But I wouldn't.
I reached up with one shaky, icy hand to feel the side of my head. The gaping hole that was once my ear met my touch, and I withdrew my fingers almost immediately. Even if I looked in the mirror now, I still wouldn't be able to see Fred. I would only see George, with one ear and a G on his sweater. I'd only see me. Fred was gone, spent, finished, deceased, and there was not even me to bring a little bit of him back to life.
I was just George. I couldn't even compare.
I never went downstairs or into the kitchen anymore, except in the dead of night when there was no one there, and only to take food. Whenever I set foot into a room that was more than empty, all eyes automatically turned to me. I could feel them, sticky and warm, on my back, my face, or my hands (which were always shaking).
They were watching. Waiting. Begging me to deny it. Pleading with me to reach beyond his cold corpse with some otherworldly telekinesis power that we always seemed to share. They beseeched me to declare his every-common trickery. They did this all without speaking, expecting me to be the one that spoke instead:
Fred isn't gone. Oh no, everyone, don't be worried. He's just pretending, I promise. He'll be up any minute now, walking and talking…
If only I could say that. I wanted to say that. I wanted to stop my family's suffering. But how could I ease their pain when I couldn't even cope with my own? This overwhelming desolation that had seized hold of me… would it ever set me free?
So I rarely left my room. I rarely went out. I barely saw the sun, except for through the tiny window. It was better this way: Just me and my despair. It was better than making everyone else see the wretched mess I had become.
My face was buried in my palms. I might have been like that for several days and nights. Ginny's voice was the first that I'd heard in a long time.
I still refused to look up.
"Come downstairs. We miss you, George."
Her voice cracked and broke on my name. She wept silently in the doorway to my room. The air, stale and untouched, moved uncomfortably at her emotion. Ginny wasn't one to cry much; she was tough, having grown up with five of us to rough her around.
Yet here she was; her nose as red as her hair and her eyes leaking cold tears that fell like ice to the woody floorboards. She pressed her hands to her cheeks, wiping away the evidence hurriedly, as though very embarrassed. I watched this all through my fingers.
"George. Don't hide. Mum's scared, George. We need you. George, please."
She couldn't stop saying my name. It was as though she hadn't said it for ages. A fresh wave of tears soaked her all the way down to her shirt.
I heard more footsteps thump behind her in the hall. Ron entered the room next.
"George," he muttered weakly. Ron was not crying, but instead there was such anguish twisted in his eyes that I could not bear to look at them. "George."
That was all he said, and then he took Ginny's hand and left.
The door stood open, waiting for me to jump up and follow them. But I didn't. Gravity, among other things, held me to this spot. My legs felt like led, sinking me farther into a pit I couldn't just climb out of.
With shaky fingers, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the long, thin strip of wood that was once my brother's.
I pointed Fred's want right between my eyes. It stared me in the face. Daring me.
They say when you're about to die that your life flashes before your eyes. I didn't see my life. I saw one image. I saw Fred. His broken, misshapen corpse—eyes lodged open and limbs spread-eagled, lying dead where we found him on the floor of Hogwarts.
My vision blurred with wintery tears. I could barely see the wand now, but I trusted that it was there.
There was a flash of green light. And nothing more.