The present was dark, much darker than he had expected. Death was absolute, terrifying and immobilizing. He could never have confronted reality if he had seen the future. That unnamed space in the back of his mind was filled with darkness and some uncertain element. He just couldn't put his finger on it... insanity? Nonetheless, the voices in his head screamed at him; his eyes pounded as he often stared bleary-eyed at the chaos that was his reality.
It seemed it rained every day. No matter what time of year it was, he was cold. Cold on the inside, cold on the outside. He wanted so badly to give up this fight, just to let those bad guys win, and go home and curl up into a ball of nothingness.
It wasn't that bad, was it? Had it come to this, this unseeing, uncertain existence, in which black was white, and night was day? He knew when it started, of course. That explosion... Hogwarts... just... chaos... something happened... and something else...
George Weasley allowed his head to rest on his desk. He blinked his eyes several times, staring at his shoes, set firmly upon the floor. He surely felt lost for the first time in his life. He had no direction, he just wondered aimlessly all day, every day. With the end of the war, he continued his joke shop, moved to London central... but... everything in his life was dull. His flat was empty and humorless.
Nothing to laugh about anymore, he thought.
George inhaled a few times, then lifted his head off the desk and looked around his room. Some days he came home and expected to see Fred pop out from behind a door, laughing and yelling "Gotcha!" Instead he sat in a chair and stared at the wall. Half of him was missing, just gone, never to return. He couldn't do much of anything, really. He did go to work. He felt he owed that to Fred. The joke shop thrived, growing bigger and more popular by the day. It didn't mean anything to him anymore. He no longer attempted to create new tricks and spells. What was the point? His better half was lost, gone to the wind.
George sighed and got up. He paced the room several times, and finally stopped in front of the mantel-piece. He grabbed a bottle of fire-whiskey. He unscrewed the cap and took a swig directly from the bottle. His lips burned terribly. He took another swig, his head spinning. It was now dark outside, and dead quit.
Dead... he thought, taking another swig.
He sat on the floor, now and again taking another swig of whiskey. His eyes were fogging over. He knew if he drank enough, quickly enough, he would forget where he was and fall asleep on the floor and visit a place where nothing at all matter. That's the place he liked to visit most these days.
He couldn't have said if one minute had passed, or one hour, or even one day, but he heard a faint knock at his flat door. He sat up, head pounding.
Not good, still conscious, still able to sit up, he thought. He took another deep swig. He attempted to get up and slipped on a few drops of spilt whiskey. He groaned and picked himself up. He stumbled dangerously to the door. After another swig, he yanked open his door and stared blearily out into the darkness.
"'S'you..." George's words came more as a statement than a question. He squinted. "Why don't you apparate in like a normal person, you arse?"
"I like to think common courtesy still exists."
Percy Weasley, tall and serious stared at his brother. He looked as prim as he ever had, which enraged George for reason he couldn't explain. The distant sound of the wind whistling could be heard in the background. Percy clutched his boring black cape close to his body.
"Right," George said, hiccupping and sloshing whiskey. He stared at Percy with annoyance. "You always were an asshole like that."
"Can I come in?" Percy said loudly and firmly. His voice was resolute. George had a feeling this was not really a question at all.
"Stop shouting, you idiot," George retorted. "I'm drunk, not deaf."
Percy said nothing, but firmly pushed George aside and marched into the flat. George closed the door, and took a breath. He didn't need whatever do-gooder speech Percy came to preach. He just wanted to finish his fire-whiskey in peace.
"Have you come to recruit me to the Ministry or something?" George said, kicked an empty paper bag out of his path. Things were scattered across his flat. Only a small path was clear for walking.
Percy stared at him for a moment, and then inhaled loudly through his nose. "Come home, Mum is worried."
Anger flared in George. He kicked a wooden chair out of his path. The chair fell over with a clang. George kicked it again violently.
"Like you care what Mum feels," he said, scathingly. "I didn't notice you drop by for a spot of tea in those years you deserted us!"
Percy stepped over a bunch of garbage and righted the chair. He sat down and stared up at his younger brother.
"It isn't doing you any good to lie around here getting drunk," Percy said calmly. "I understand you are upset about Fred--"
"Upset?" George sputtered. "Upset? Is that what you think I am? Wow, thank you so much for that fucking revelation! I just lost my best friend! You have no fathom of an idea what that means!"
His angry words rang throughout the flat. Percy frowned and stood up. He took a few steps towards George. He looked like he was considering reaching out to embrace George, but thought much better of this.
"I understand how you feel--" he began.
"No, no you don't 'understand,'" George put a sarcastic emphasis on the last word. "You don't understand a God-damned thing, and you never have!"
"Look here," Percy said, his cool demeanor finally beginning to crack. "Fred was my brother as well--"
"It's grand of you to march in here after the fact, isn't it?" George let out a bitter laugh. He slammed his fire-whiskey down onto the desk. "You betrayed our family, you left us to rot, and not a word for months did we hear from you! Mum thought you were dead, maybe Voldemort got you! She cried every God-damned night! Fred and I tried our best to keep everyone laughing, and where were you?" George gasped in a deep breath.
"I made a mistake!" Percy yelled, clenching his fists. "But that doesn't mean I didn't care about our family, or that I don't care about you and Fred!"
"You have a funny way of showing affection," George said nastily. "You come back at the last minute. Wow, how grand of you... thanks for nothing, you bastard!"
"Why are you screaming at me so much?" Percy yelled. "I came here to talk; I came here to make things right--"
"Oh, is that what you're doing?" George said sarcastically. "Sorry old chap, my mistake! I thought you came here to interfere in my life!" George pounded his fist on the desk. The bottle of fire-whiskey fell onto its side. He grabbed it quickly, preventing it from spilling all its contents. He took a long swig.
"Give me that fire-whiskey at once!" Percy demanded, holding out his hand.
"Give me that fire-whiskey AT ONCE," George mimicked in a high-pitched voice. "Are you my mother? Are you anything to me?"
Before he knew what was happening, Percy marched over to George and snatched the bottle out of his hand. He hurled it violently at the wall. The bottle shattered into a million little piece. Glass shards scattered everywhere. George stared at the floor, littered with glass and fire-whiskey.
"Right, you'll buy a replacement then," George breathed.
"Hell no, I won't," Percy retorted.
It seemed that monumentous actions could happen in miniscule moments. Before he could even process what he was doing, George punched Percy in the side of the face with all his might. The older Weasley stumbled backwards in surprise. He fell over and landed with a loud thump onto the floor. George steadied himself, but stabilized himself immediately. Percy picked himself up slightly. He lifted his hands and stared at them. Dark red blood dripped slowly down his hands. Percy did not make a sound, merely shook some of the broken glasses off his palms. He remained on the floor.
"Get up, you piece of crap!" George screamed. Fury flooded him in an uncontrollable manner. He couldn't explain his anger, nor control his actions. He wanted to hurt Percy; he wanted to kick him, to cause him one fraction of the pain he himself felt. He knew somewhere in the depths of his mind that this was wrong, but white anger flooded him. Heat radiated off his skin. He was sure his face was as red as his hair.
"Kick me," Percy said calmly. "Do it, I know you want to. I hurt you, now you hurt me."
"You arse!" George yelled, stepping closer. "Get up and fight like a man! You are mental, you prick! I don't care about you!"
"I care about you," Percy said. He began to get up slowly. He whipped his hands on his cape. In a moment, he had righted himself. He wobbled towards George.
"Get away from me!"
George took another swing. He caught Percy again in the jaw. Percy stumbled but did not fall. He stood still and stared at George. Percy's calmness infuriated George. He hit Percy again. This time Percy's lip began to bleed. Percy licked away some of the blood but did not back down or lift any arm to protect himself.
"Hit me again," Percy commanded.
"You're insane!" George stared at him incredulously.
"No, I'm finally understanding," Percy replied.
George could hardly speak now. He was angry and upset. He felt sick to his stomach, and more violent than he had ever felt in his life. Here Percy stood, calm and unmoved, not trying in the slightest to protect himself.
"Get out of my flat," George growled in a voice he hardly recognized. His chest was tight and his head throbbed.
George let out an animalistic shriek as he threw himself at Percy. Both men fell heavily upon the floor. George sent lunging punches at Percy. In the chaos, Percy's glasses had fallen off. His dark blue eyes stared up at George with emotion. George stared into his brother's eyes. He saw hurt, he saw sadness, he saw... God, he didn't even know what emotion it was, but beyond anything else he saw Fred reflected in Percy's eyes.
It was as if a dam had broken inside of George. For the first time in his life, he really cried. Ever since Fred's death, he had not shed a tear; rather, he merely lived his life, going day to day, walking in a soulless body. Now, after months, the tears escaped him at last. His sobs shook his body violently. Percy reached his arms out to him, and George allowed himself to collapse onto his brother. His tears wet Percy's face, and they embraced tightly.
For many moments, they stayed like that, both crying, both embracing. They each shed tears for their lost brother, for each other, for the war, for the friends they lost, and for the future that was so uncertain to each of them.
"I'm sorry, George," Percy breathed quietly when their tears subsided. "I'm sorry."
George closed his eyes. He held his brother closer for another moment. All the anger in his heart, all the sorrow, all the loneliness... he knew it was not because of Percy. His heart had a scar which could never be healed. Yet, under the scar-tissue, he knew something still existed, something he could still give. Fred wouldn't have wanted him to be this way, he would have told his twin to go on living, go on loving. And right then and there, that's exactly what George Weasley decided to do.
George opened his eyes. "No, I'm sorry Perce," his words echoed in the silent room. He used his brother's nickname, the one he and Fred had given Percy so many years before. He took a deep breath, and sat up, pulling Percy up with him. He looked at his older brother. "Sorry about all the hitting," George said, almost smiling in midst of all the emotion. "I guess... I'm the mental one right now."
Percy did smile. It had been so long since George had seen him smile. Without his glasses, it struck George how much Percy looked like Fred. The smile was flawless, and so resembled Fred, and Ron... and himself.
"I'll survive," Percy said, his deep blue eyes penetrating into George. "And so will you."
"Reckon you're right," George said, in a somewhat slurred manner. He got up shakily, and held his hand out for Percy. Percy stood and steadied himself. They stared at each other. For the first time since his twin's death, George felt a moment of solace.
"Let's go home," Percy said.
"I think I'd like that."
There was a soft pop, and a peaceful silence filled the room.