This is written in memory of my best friend, Brittnay Leigh Tidwell, who was killed in a car accident on November 7th. May she live on in the memory of all who knew her.
And to any who read this: If you would like to see this oneshot turned into a full story, review and say as much! I'm toying with the idea and have gotten both a 'yes' and a 'no' answer, so I can't decide. Help would be appreciated!
Disclaimer: I do not own anything but the characters you do not recognize and the new situations I put them in. Unfortunately, I'm no JKR.
It was a cold December morning in the sleepy little town of Ottery St. Catchpole. Many of the residents, muggle and magical alike, would soon be rising to begin their day of preparing for the upcoming holidays. Most of the school-age inhabitants had been on vacation for a few days now, and the Hogwarts students would be arriving home to their families within the next few days.
The snowfall from the night before was largely undisturbed, casting a picturesque image upon the village. Most people would stop and stare at the sight, as it was something one would expect to see on a holiday-themed greeting card, but the beauty of the morning was lost upon the only soul who dared brave the early hour.
The red-haired man trudged determinedly through the thick snow, leaving a very noticeable trail in his wake, yet he found himself unable to care. Shuffling blindly through the town, he followed a path that he was all too familiar with. The cold marble stones glinted in the early morning light, and the snow that capped them made the scene one of morbid serenity.
"Death masquerading behind beauty," he quipped with a bitter laugh, his voice raw from lack of use. "How fitting."
He continued on his way until he reached his destination. Heedless of the cold snow that covered the ground, he sank to his knees, eyes closed in a silent prayer.
"Hey, Freddie," he whispered after several minutes. "Happy Christmas."
He sighed, brushing his shaggy hair out of his face, and with a simple flick of his wrist, a wreath of white roses materialized in front of the cold stone.
"It's hard to believe nearly three years have passed," he continued, his gaze vacant and unseeing as he was lost in his thoughts. "It seems like it was just yesterday that you were here, causing mayhem with me… Ginny plays Quidditch now. Holyhead Harpies. Looks like we taught her well…" He trailed off with a sigh.
"It's… hard," he rasped, fighting back tears that he had first shed long ago. "I can't look in the mirror without seeing your face in my own. It just isn't the same anymore. You were always there, always ready to get into mischief with me… Now that you aren't, part of me is missing. I can't… I can't do it alone. We were always Gred and Forge… I don't know how to be 'just George'…"
Grief overwhelmed him as his memories began playing like a film without sound. The twenty years they'd spent side-by-side seemed short in comparison to the thirty one months they had been apart. It was like a nightmare that he just couldn't seem to wake up from. Every night he went to sleep praying to whoever – or whatever – would listen that when morning came, he would wake up and his brother would be sprawled out in his bed and snoring up a storm, just as he had when they were younger.
He was drawn out of his torturous reverie by a song drifting on the wind. He hadn't realized that he wasn't alone in the cemetery, but he couldn't bring himself to begrudge the other person. After all, if someone else had arrived, it was likely for the same purpose as him.
"There's no use looking back or wondering how it could be now or might've been. Oh, this I know, but still I can't find ways to let you go…"
The singer was far from perfect, but the sincerity and pure grief he heard in her voice made up for it. He continued listening to the unfamiliar tune, and even though he could tell that the song had been intended for a different situation, it fit in an almost eerie way. The lyrics brought tears to his eyes, and by the sound of it, he wasn't the only one. The singer's voice halted and warbled in a way that told him that she too was on the verge of tears if she was not already crying. If he hadn't known better, he would have sworn the song was a spell in disguise, what with the way it demanded his attention.
The final notes hung in the air before fading out, the air now feeling empty in comparison. Standing on shaky, numb legs, George stumbled through the snow in search of this voice. He did not know what drove him forward, as all he really wanted was to be alone, but the pain in her voice… He heard that same pain in his own every day. He was suddenly hit with the need to know that he wasn't alone in his misery; that he wasn't the only one grieving for a loved one when everyone else seemed so happy; that his world hadn't been the only one that seemed to stop moving in recent months.
He finally came to a halt in an unfamiliar portion of the graveyard, entirely unaware of just how he had gotten there. In front of a modestly small tombstone sat a woman not far from his own age, her dark hair cascading down her back in an unruly mane of curls. He couldn't see her face, but her shoulders were shaking in that familiar way that he knew too well. He didn't want to disturb her mourning and made to leave, but before his foot had even left the ground she had turned to face him. Tears streamed freely down her face and her eyes were red-rimmed and swollen, but the watery green color of them could not be obscured.
"I-I'm sorry," she said shakily, hastily wiping her face with her gloved hand. "I didn't think anyone would be out here this early."
"Me either," he answered wryly, slowly coming closer to her. He looked down at the grave she knelt before and couldn't help but cringe internally. The person buried here had only been nineteen years old…
"Who are you here for?" she asked softly before shaking her head. "I'm sorry. It's none of my business. Forget I said anything."
"My brother," George answered after a short silence. "It'll be three years this coming May."
"I'm sorry," the strange girl told him, and for once, he felt that she meant it. "I can't imagine what that was like."
She looked to the gravestone again, wiping the snow from the grooves that formed the name with a gentle touch.
"She was my best friend, practically a sister to me…"
"I'm sorry to hear that," he answered sincerely, glancing once more at the stone. His eyes slid closed as a silent sigh escaped him when he realized that the person buried in this plot had died only two months prior.
"I had just seen her the day before the accident…" the girl trailed off, paying him no mind. "I thought it was someone's sick joke or a nightmare. I keep wanting to wake up, for someone to say that it isn't true…"
George nodded as he leaned against a tree only a few steps away.
"The nightmare doesn't end," he told her, his voice hollow. "It's been nearly three years, and the pain is still there. Part of me died with him, and I keep seeing his face. Waking or sleeping, I see him. The nightmares of that day still come, even now; I can't seem to shake them."
She sniffled and turned towards him again.
"Were you two close?" she asked curiously, and George smiled bitterly as his gaze drifted to the grey sky.
"We were twins," he revealed, and he heard her choke back a sob.
"Oh god…" she cried. "I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how painful it must be to lose a twin… It's hard enough to lose a best friend, but someone who actually shared your blood that closely?"
Tears were rolling down her face anew, much to George's curiosity and bewilderment.
"Why are you crying?" he questioned, wondering why she seemed so upset by this news.
"I can't…" She took a deep breath to calm herself a bit before continuing. "I can't even begin to know what you and your family went through. My pain is strong enough… But yours… Your family's… I know that it must be ten times stronger. I don't think I could handle what you must have gone through…"
He was touched by this blatant display of genuine empathy. Most people who hadn't known Fred very well had simply offered the usual 'I'm sorry for your loss' and gone on with their lives, even if they knew that Fred had given his life for their freedom while fighting against the epitome of all that was evil and wrong in this world. This girl… She didn't know any of that. It was likely that she wasn't even aware of the wizarding world… But she still cared. Why?
"George," he said by way of introduction, catching her off-guard and offering her his hand. "George Weasley."
She sniffed and took his hand, shaking it firmly before he pulled her to her feet.
"I'm Anneliese Williams, but everyone calls me Annie," she told him softly, her cheeks and nose a bright shade of pink as a result of the cold and crying.
"Annie…" he muttered, testing the name on his tongue. "Would… Would you like to go for some tea? It is terribly cold out here, and I'm sure both of us could use something warm."
She considered his request silently before a smile spread across her face, lighting up her eyes.
"I'd like that," she answered kindly, and he found her smile to be contagious. He offered his arm to her in a display of his younger, goofier self, and with a watery laugh, she accepted it, tucking her own in his.
As they were leaving, a wreath of white roses, identical to the one George had conjured at his brother's graveside, appeared before the tombstone of her friend. The wind kicked up slightly and rushed past the two of them, carrying with it the sounds of laughter. Annie and George both turned back in surprise, looking but not seeing any possible culprit. They each recognized the voices though, and the thought that their loved ones were at peace caused their hearts to lighten, if only by a small bit. With a shared smile, they continued on their way, unable to see the red-haired male and brunette girl sharing a high five before fading into nothing but a beam of sunlight upon the snow, let loose from a break in the clouds above.