-Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling
George Weasley looked around him at the happy faces of his family. Christmas had come to the Burrow once again and as usual, Ginny had over done it with the decorations, this time though she had dragged Harry, Ron and Hermione in on it so it was even grander than usual. Holly and evergreen graced every surface, red and silver bows hung from every lamp and the tree, he could have sworn, was at least twice as big as usual.
Not that he could blame her for going overboard, it seemed they were all trying harder this year, doing all they could to make it bigger and better in a useless attempt to make up for what...or rather who...was missing.
This would be their first Christmas without Fred, and as hard as they all tried, it was all too obvious that they were all feeling his absence profoundly. George had heard Ginny, crying in Harry's arms as they decorated the tree two nights before. He had caught his father, looking at the plaster of paris imprint of Fred's tiny three year old hand and wiping his eyes furiously. And just an hour before, he had heard his mother, sobbing in her room while she dressed for dinner.
Fred was gone, but he was everywhere at the same time.
But no where was his absence felt more profoundly than in the heart of his twin brother.
It had been six months since Fred's death and for the entire time George had felt empty. Fred was something like the phantom itches he felt in his missing ear, just as he reached up to scratch that which was no longer there, he would think of something then turn to say it to a person who was no longer there to hear.
And as much as he loved his family, they only made it worse. He had caught them, far too many times during that day, watching him. Watching for signs that he was about to break down again...like he had just after Fred died. Afraid that he would once again revert to his room to go back into hiding like he had for most of the summer.
George wasn't going to do that. Yes, he had done it before, but his pain had been fresh then. He'd walked like a zombie in those early days, barely able to comprehend what he was feeling much less worry about what the others might be. But as time wore on the edge on his pain began to fade and he realized the thing that changed everything.
Fred wouldn't want George to stop living, just because he had. He would have wanted him to go on, to enjoy life, to laugh and cheer and live loud...just the way Fred would have had it been George who had died. George knew this for a fact, because he had come close to death...the night he had lost his ear...and he and Fred had talked it all out. He remembered as if it had been just moments before...
Fred and Bill had carried him from the sofa up the stairs and lay him in his bed. Bill left and Fred closed the door behind him, refusing to turn around...
"Hey..." George said with a grin. "You think I'll get one of those priest hats now that I'm holey?"
Fred didn't answer. He just stood there, staring at the door.
Fred took a deep breath and turned around...George was horrified to see that his face was tear streaked.
Fred sniffed loudly and sat on the side of his bed. "I know."
"So what's with the drama?"
"When I first saw you, your head and face all bloody on the sofa..." He took another deep shaky breath "You weren't moving. I..I thought you were dead."
George didn't know what to say. He had never seen Fred like this, so shaken and vulnerable.
"Never felt anything so horrible before in my life." Fred wiped his face with his sleeve. "Thinking you were dead."
"I'm not dead though." George tried to grin but it froze. "I'm fine, a little worse for wear maybe..."
"Holey."Fred laughed a little "My brother Saint George."
"Kinda got a snappy ring to it eh?" Now George did smirk.
"Don't go getting big headed." Fred grinned back "bad enough your lopsided now."
"Least people will be able to tell us apart."
"Nah." Fred stood and sat down on the end of Georges bed "We'll always be Gred and Forge."
"It's got me thinking though, you know?" Fred looked over George's head out the window. "This thing's only getting started. One of us could..."
"Shit Fred..." George looked at his brother, horrified. "Don't talk that rubbish."
"Not rubbish Bro, it's reality." Fred looked down at George again. "Any day now Harry, Ron and Hermione are going to take off to do whatever it is Ron and Hermione have been talking about behind Mum's back. We lost Mad Eye tonight and you know were going to lose more. It could be any of us, were all in the Order. Mum, dad, Bill, Charlie, Fluer."
"Percy and Ginny are safe."
"Percy..." Fred shook his head. "Percy is probably imperiused...at least...I hope that's the reason he's stuck around since Fudge...I mean..."
"I know what you mean." George sighed "Better he be under a spell than that he is truly screwing us for his career."
"How safe is Ginny going to be at Hogwarts without Dumbledore there?"
George looked up in horror. "Don't say that!"
"It's true and you know it, who's there to protect her? Ron's gone, Harry's gone...Hermione..."
"There's other's left, other's from the DA."
"And where was the DA last spring? Only Neville and Luna showed up when Ron sent out that alert. Most of us...the hardcore members have left school."
George looked away, the truth of his brothers words hitting him hard. "No place is safe anymore, is it?"
"Tonight's just made me realize George." Fred waited until he had George's full attention. "It could be any of us. It could be me or you."
George was quiet, he too had come to realize in the past hours how fragile it all was.
"Tonight, when I thought you were dead. It was like someone shut the lights off. I wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there." Fred looked near tears. "You're my best friend George, and it would kill me to lose you. And that makes me realize something else too. I know that you would feel the same if it was me."
George could only nod. He hated to imagine a time where he would have to live without his brother...but after tonight, he couldn't deny it was a possibility.
"I don't want you mourning." Fred said "If it's me. I want you to keep on like we always have."
George felt his eyes begin to water as he pictured a Fred who was mourning his death. A Fred who never laughed again, who never cracked a joke or even smiled.
The sight was unbearable.
"I'll promise if you will." George blinked hard, his eyes stinging.
"Promise." Fred grinned and then went to crawl into his own bed. "And we'll see what we can do about getting you one of those priest hat's your holiness."
"I'd appreciate it." George grinned. "You may kiss my ring."
Fred laughed loudly "You may kiss my ass."
George had forced himself out of his room after that, forced his life back into some semblance of normalcy. But now, even after all these months, it still felt empty and Christmas was only making things worse.
He looked around himself once again. Harry and Ginny sat cuddled up in a corner while Ginny mooned over her new engagement ring. A little ways away Ron and Hermione sat holding hands, quietly laughing over some joke Ron had just made. Fleur and Bill stood in the kitchen talking with his parents, they had announced over dinner that Fleur was going to have a baby. Charlie and Percy sat on either side of him, talking about Percy's new job in the Family Liaison office. With his history, Percy had learned a few things about family healing.
George stood and walked to the window. Earlier in the day he had visited Fred's grave with the others and they had placed a wreath of Christmas roses at the headstone. As they had turned to return home, snow had begun to fall and now it had piled up quite nicely.
Now, as he looked out he remembered snowball fights, afternoons spent tobogganing, and skating on the pond out back...and Fred was a part of every memory. He turned away from the window and went into the kitchen , pulled his cloak from the hook and headed for the door.
"George?" Molly called out. "Where are you going?"
"Just need some air." He stopped and kissed her cheek "I'll be back."
"All right then." She smiled and patted his cheek. "Don't be gone too long."
He pulled the door open and stepped out into the crisp December air. Earlier that day the yard had been a dead, ugly place. The grass brown and trampled, trees bare and the bushes sparse. But now it had all been transformed into something quite like a winter wonderland. The moon occasionally broke through the clouds, casting it's silvery blue light and making the snow sparkle as if were filled with diamonds. It was breathtaking and even George, lost in his sadness as he was, couldn't help but feel the magic of the Christmas snow.
Fat snowflakes hit his face as he stepped out from under the overhang of the roof and he lifted his face towards the sky. He smiled, remembering how he and Fred used to love to fly on their brooms in weather like this and how they pretended that the snow was stars and they were flying in outer space.
George put his arms out and turned slowly, hoping to recreate a bit of that feeling, but it didn't come. He sighed sadly as he lowered his arms...his childhood was gone, he realized, he could no more go back than he could bring Fred back from the grave.
The realization hit him so hard it nearly knocked him to his knees. The ache inside of him threated to explode...he had to get out of there. He could take no more, any of it. The family trying to pretend that nothing was different, their smiles and laughter, not even the falling snow that had been so magical only a moment before.
He had to get away or else...or else the pain might devour him and this time...this time he might not find his way back.
He would go to the Leaky Cauldron...Tom usually kept it open on Christmas. His own son and he had been estranged for many years and he always had one or two people who didn't have families who stayed there for the company.
"I'm sorry mum." He whispered as he took a final glance at the house and pulled out his wand. Then he turned on the spot and was gone.
- - -
George landed perfectly on target in the alley behind the leaky cauldron. However instead of the bright lights he had expected the building was darker than midnight at new moon. He walked to the door and there was a note posted.
"Sorry Folks, were closed.
Spending the holidays with my son....
George sighed and turned away. So Tom and his son had reconciled. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised, a lot of reconciliations had taken place since the war...look at Percy and his family.
Deciding he would return to his own flat above the shop he turned and began down the sidewalk. He looked up and saw a lone figure under a street light a couple blocks down. It was a woman, her long blonde hair blowing behind her as she walked. she wore white boots, A white fur muffler, mittens and a long white wool cloak that was trimmed in fur that brushed the top of her boots as she walked.
Perhaps it was the way the light hit her...or perhaps the snow reflecting as it collected on her clothes and hair...but there was something about her, something that was...angelic.
Without realizing what he was doing, George began to follow the woman. He kept his distance, keeping two blocks between them. She had a brisk hurried step, as if she was on her way somewhere, yet she seemed to be going nowhere. Where could she possibly be going in Diagon Alley after all? It was all businesses, and she passed the small playpark and the tiny settlement where the shopkeepers lived.
She turned back toward the Leaky Cauldron, walking on the opposite side of the street as before and still George followed, keeping his two block distance. Something about this woman intrigued him, though he couldn't put his finger on it, deep in his heart he had begun to wonder if she perhaps was an angel...sent from above to ease his pain.
But that was silly. He didn't believe in angels...or at the very least, he didn't believe in angels that walked in circles about Diagon Alley. As they made the second turn that led back towards the park he began to wonder about his doubt. Hadn't his mother always told them that Christmas was a time of miracles? If God could send a savior to earth to save his people...couldn't God send an angel to earth to save George from his pain?
George began to close the distance between himself and the woman in white. He had crossed a line between curiosity and need. Somehow, in his heart, meeting her and going on had become synonymous.
"Hey..." he called out when he reached the same block as she. "Wait."
The woman stopped but didn't turn. They had stopped in front of the small playpark and now stood in semi darkness.
"Why are you following me?" The woman said softly, her voice afraid. "Do you plan to hurt me?"
George was brought up short. Surely an angel wouldn't ask such things, and her voice was somehow familiar. He knew this woman.
"No." He said as he reached her at last. He felt ashamed of himself. He had been following her, like some sort of stalker...of course she was afraid of him. "I'm sorry...I didn't mean to scare you... I only thought..."
But he couldn't go on, no way could he tell her what he had thought. She would think him mad.
"I don't know what I thought." He said as he began to turn away from her. "I'm sorry."
"No, wait." He felt a fluffy mitten on his arm and he turned back to her slowly. "I...I didn't realize who you were. Of course you wouldn't hurt me."
George turned around again and his mouth opened slightly with his surprise as he looked down to see Luna Lovegood. Yet it was a Luna Lovegood he had never seen before. She had changed in the three years since he had seen her. Her eyes were still far too big, her skin still pale, but she had grown up. Grown into someone quite beautiful. Snowflakes sparkled in her hair and eyelashes, in the fur hood that surrounded her face, and in the white poinsettia pin she wore, making her look even more angelic than she had as he had followed her.
She was stunning...breathtaking...lovely...
"Luna..." He smiled a little. "It's nice to see you again. It's been a long time."
"It has." she smiled and nodded a little. "So, tell me. Why is George Weasley following me about Diagon Alley on Christmas Eve instead of being cozy and warm at the Burrow with his family?"
"Oh...well..." He looked away from her, it was too hard, looking into her warm, caring eyes.
"It's hard for you, isn't it?" She said, putting her hand on his arm in a comforting sort of way. "Christmas without your brother."
George looked up at her again and nodded.
"I understand." she let her hand drop off his arm and George was strangely sorry to see it go. "This is my first Christmas without my father too."
George felt a twinge of sadness for Luna. Nothing had been seen or heard of Xenophilius Lovegood since his arrest that spring.
"You've had news then?"
"No." she shook her head. "But, I know. He's gone on to be with my mum."
"But it's possible he could just be missing. People who were imperiused are still turning up..."
"No." She said again with a small shake of her head. "It's nice of you to say that. But, I know he's gone. Dad and I were very connected you know. I felt it, when our connection was broken, the night Harry destroyed you-know-who. And I've had a dream too..."
Luna nodded "Yes, he came to me the night after the battle, to say goodbye."
George didn't know what to think about her dream, but he knew about the connection thing. He too had felt it, when the connection between him and Fred had been severed...even though he was three floors below him. He had felt it when Fred died, and it was the most horrible feeling in the world.
"I'm sorry." George said, now putting his hand on her arm. "That you lost your father."
"It is very sad." Luna nodded. "It's been horrible, getting used to it. I'm all alone now, Dad was all I had. But, I get by."
George felt choked, not just for Luna's pain, but for his own and he realized...at last, perhaps, he had found someone who could understand. "How." He said, his voice strangled. "How do you get by? This pain...I feel...sometimes I feel like it is going to smother me. I can't breathe, I can't move...I can't even think. I miss him so damned much!"
A single tear trickled down his cheek and Luna reached up and wiped it away.
"I know." She sniffed as her own tears came. "But, we have to remember that we will see them again...in heaven. Knowing that, it helps some. And sometimes, I think..."
She broke off, wiped her face and smiled, laughing a little.
"You think what?" George smiled too.
"It's so silly." She shook her head. "You'll laugh."
"Tell me."George reached out and brushed a piece of hair from her face. "I won't laugh."
Luna took a deep breath and let it out on a shuddering sigh.
"Sometimes, I think maybe he is an angel sent to watch over me."
George grinned, and then, he started to laugh.
"I knew you'd laugh." Luna grinned sheepishly. "People are always thinking I'm mad, it's okay if you do too."
"No, no." George shook his head. "It's not that. It's just that..." He blushed a little and then smiled. "When I saw you tonight, all white and sparkling in the snow...I thought for a minute that God had sent an angel to me."
"You thought I was an angel?" Luna smiled up at him, snowflakes glittering like gems on her face and in her hair.
"Yeah." George's cheeks were bright red, and not from the cold. "Silly right?"
"No." Luna shook her head, then, she stepped up on her tip toes and kissed his cheek. "Thats the sweetest thing I've ever heard."
George smiled back, his face tingling madly in the spot that Luna had kissed. "So, what were you doing, out here walking circles in the snow?"
"Oh...well..." Luna stammered and looked away. "I didn't have anything else to do."
It hit George like a load of bricks. Her father was gone, she had no other family...Luna was all alone at Christmas. He realized then...he might not be able to give her a family...but there was something he could do...he could share his.
"I need to get back." He said "My family is waiting at the Burrow." He looked at her, his eyes filled with so much warmth and caring that it made Luna want to weep.
"Come with me." He said softly.
"Oh...no." She shook her head. "I couldn't intrude."
"Now you are being silly." He rolled his eyes. "You've been through so much with Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny...and I know my parent's would love to see you. They've always thought very highly of you."
"I'm not sure they still do."
He knew what she was thinking about...that her father had turned Harry, Ron and Hermione over to Voldemort.
"That was the past." He said earnestly "And I think...I think it's time we let go of the past, and move on to the future." He reached out and held his hand out to her, his eyes begging her to accept it. Not just for her, but for him too.
"All of us."
Luna took a deep breath and George wondered for a moment if she might yet refuse. Then she raised her arm, pulled off her mitten, and put her hand in his.
"All of us."
"You know." George said with a smile as they turned back toward Diagon Alley "Maybe there is something to what you said, about your father being an angel and watching over you. I mean, maybe Fred's watching over me too."
'Maybe he led me to you.'
"Do you believe in angels?" Luna asked. George smiled, he was fairly sure that he had met one tonight, even if she had turned out to be a human one.
"Yeah, I think...maybe."
"Only Maybe?" Luna asked "Angel's exist...I'll prove it to you." Luna smiled and let go of his hand, then, she fell backwards in the snow, moving her arms and legs up and down, forming a perfect snow angel. George smiled as he watched her, then unable to resist the urge, he flopped down next to her, making his own.
When they finished, he pulled her too her feet and she smiled up at him. "It's my dad, and Fred."
She reached down and unpinned the poinsettia pin from her cloak, she pulled the two flowers apart and smiled at George, offering him one. He smiled and accepted the flower, then Luna bent down and laid hers in the middle of her snow angel.
"Merry Christmas Daddy." She whispered, then she kissed her fingers and lay her hand on the face of the snow angel.
George bent down, then he too lay his flower in the middle of his angel. "Merry Christmas Fred."
Luna sniffled next to him and he turned to her, reached over and wiped a tear from her cheek, then he took her hand in his again.
"Come on." He smiled and held tight to her hand, then turned back towards Diagon Alley. "Let's go."
"By the way..." Luna smiled and gave his hand a squeeze. "Merry Christmas George."
"Merry Christmas Luna." George turned to her, kissed her cheek and smiled.
Perhaps, this might just be a merry Christmas after all.