Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling
-)0(-Just a little thing that started knocking around my head at three am. And this BTW...is story number 60 for me...so, this means this story must get 60 reviews or I will Crucio the lot of you! :P Okay not really...but you know...a few would be nice! You know me...I'm a review whore!
George Weasley looked around him at the joyful chaos that had taken over the great hall. It was hard to believe that it had only been hours since this had been the scene of the greatest duel of the century. In the hours since it had all taken on a hazy quality, as if he was watching it all through a periscope from long distance away, miles under the ocean.
He wasn't of course; he had been in the thick of it…fighting right along side the rest even though he felt as if his heart had died. Thing was, he couldn't give up, couldn't curl up into the little ball of grief that he had wanted to. Their numbers were severely dwindled and he had been needed.
He smiled a little, thinking of how proud Fred would have been to know that he had fought on through his pain. It wasn't like he'd had a choice…it was what they had promised each other they would do should one of them fall. George Weasley had never broken a promise in his life…he sure as hell wasn't going to start now.
Which left him with another promise to fulfill…the promise to go on as they always had. Fred and George had sworn to one another the night George lost his ear… if something should happen to one of them, the other would go on. They knew that it would be hard on their parents and sister, and so they promised to be strong…to not allow the sadness to swallow them. As much as it seemed an impossible task… that was exactly what George was going to do.
He was going to keep his promise.
"George." Ginny brushed a hand over his cheek. "Are you okay?"
He shook his head weakly, took her hand in his and gave it a tight squeeze before pulling her into a hug. "Not quite, but I will be."
"I know you will." Ginny hugged him back with a sniffle, desperately trying to hold back the tears.
"Don't hold them back Ginny." He whispered, his own eyes spilling over. "You … we both …need to get them out."
Ginny nodded and tightened her arms around him, her tears wetting his shoulder. They stayed like that for what felt like forever, both softly weeping…until Hermione and Ron stood over them, Ron tapping Ginny on the shoulder.
"Sorry to interrupt." Hermione said softly, her hand on George's shoulder, her eyes on Ginny. "Harry's wants to talk to you."
"He does?" Happy tears joined the sad now in Ginny Weasley's eyes. "Really?"
"Of course he does." Ron smiled with encouragement. "He's wanted to for ages."
"He's waiting on the grounds..." Hermione nodded towards the doors "…hiding under his invisibility cloak. We'll take you."
Ginny smiled and started to rise, and then she looked at George.
"Go on." He squeezed her hand. "You've been waiting for this for seven years haven't you? Stop wasting time."
Ginny bent and kissed his cheek, then followed Ron and Hermione out of the great hall. George looked around the room again. His mother and father had wandered over to talk to the Malfoys; leave it to them to be the emissaries of peace. Percy and Bill had joined with a group of men who were patrolling the grounds for stray death eaters and Fleur had gone to hospital wing to help Madam Pomfrey nurse the wounded. Now with Ginny gone, George found himself alone for the first time since walking into the great hall hours before…the first time since…
"What's going on?" George grinned as he looked at his family grouped together in the great hall "Why so tense?"
Then he saw them…the heels of Fred's boots lying limply on the floor, just visible on the other side of Percy's legs. A horrible wail reached his ears.
"No…no…my poor boy!" The voice achingly familiar "My poor Fred!"
George shook the memory from his mind and rose from the table. The pain was like knives, cutting, tearing, ripping…yet he didn't force it away. George knew the only way to get past it…was to go through it. He would need to experience every last bit of it if he had any chance of keeping his promise to Fred…but that didn't mean he had to do it in front of half the wizarding world. He turned and began to make his way between the tables to the heavy wooden doors.
"George?" His mother looked up as he passed, her eyes red and swollen. She hadn't stopped crying for a moment and he was surprised when he looked down to see her hand linked with Narcissa Malfoy's.
"Just need air mum, I won't go far."
He didn't wait for an answer, likely she would protest his being out on the grounds when the Ministry hadn't completely secured Hogwarts. It hadn't occurred to him before, but his mother wasn't likely to be pleased that Ginny had gone out to meet Harry, nor that Ron and Hermione were with them. Never mind the fact that they were with the wizard who had just destroyed Voldemort…nor that they had fought in the battle themselves.
George stopped abruptly in front of a door just off the great hall. This, he knew, was the room where they had lain the bodies of the fallen…Fred was in here. His hand went for the knob and then stopped halfway. He couldn't…not now. Soon he would…but not now. He turned away from the door and headed for the stairs, following the path that led to the hospital wing…from the hospital wing to the clock…from the clock to the stone circle.
The grounds were shockingly quiet, parts of the castle still smoked here and there and great portions lie in ruins. George was thankful that the destroyed wall on the seventh floor wasn't visible from where he walked…if it had been, seeing it would have been enough to knock him to his knees.
It seemed a bit unfair; why should such a beautiful day be marred by such horror? But then, for some the day wasn't marred at all. In fact, for many it was the happiest day in three years. Voldemort was dead and it was reason to celebrate. Not everyone had lost someone, not everyone had come away from it damaged with their hearts barely intact. Yet he knew it wasn't only him that felt this way…there were other too, others who had lost people they loved.
Harry Potter had lost people and he had come back from it time and time again. George felt a tiny bit of hope in this…if Harry could come back from the pain…then so could he. A sick feeling came to George as he realized where his thoughts had gone…how horrible it was to find hope in someone else's pain.
The sun was blotted out as he came to the old wooden bridge. It held so many wonderful memories, trips to Hogsmeade, going to the Owlery to secret in things for their Skiving Snackboxes, all those times sneaking into the forbidden forest only to have Hagrid chase them out again. George found himself with a small smile on his face when he came to the other end …then he looked up and saw that he wasn't alone.
Sitting high up on a boulder was a tiny girl, her waist length dirty blonde ponytail blowing around her in the midday sunshine. She sat quietly, knees up under her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs as she watched the path that led down into the village. George began to turn, she looked like she wanted to be alone, but her voice stopped him.
"How…" George's voice froze in his throat; he had been about to ask her how she knew it was him and not Fred …his heart crashed around his feet…he would never need to ask that question again. He took a deep breath and quickly covered. "How did you know I was here?"
"I have very good hearing, I heard footsteps on the bridge before." She turned and smiled at him. "When I looked back to see who it was, you were looking at the Owlery."
George moved closer to the boulder. "I didn't see you out here."
"I'm not surprised. People usually don't see me, unless it's to make fun of me."
George didn't know what to say, he only had a few memories of Luna Lovegood and those few were of her bluntness and honestly…he should have remembered.
"How did you get up there?" He stood now by the side of the boulder, she was up quite high.
"Levitate charm…it's a specialty of mine. " She lay on her elbow and looked down at him. "Would you care to join me? I could lift you up. The view is quite lovely up here."
"Erm…sure." Luna made to wave her wand but George stopped her. "I can get myself up."
George waved his wand over the ground, transfiguring a pair of rocks into a set of stairs, then climbed them to sit next to her on the boulder. She had changed out of her battle worn and bloody robes. Her hair was pulled back at the neck with an orange scarf, she wore matching bright orange capri's, a white sleeveless blouse and neon pink high top trainers…an odd combination to be sure…yet somehow, it worked on her. The only signs of the battle were a slightly bruised and puffy eye and a few scratches along her bare arms.
"You're very creative." Luna smiled at him appreciatively. "I'm not too good at that spell, but then, I did miss half of the year in transfiguration."
George fidgeted, wondering how she could so glibly toss off the fact that she had been missed school because she had been held captive half the year. It had to have been scary as hell, Voldemort only a breath away, hearing all that she had likely heard, seeing all that she had likely seen. Thinking of that brought something else to mind.
"Erm…Luna…why are you out here?"
"Professor McGonagall said she heard some of the people who were released from Azkaban might be reaching the castle by midday…I was hoping my father might be among them."
But that wasn't what he had meant. He was remembering the warning that there might still be death eaters in the area, and as someone who had escaped them, Luna was sure to be a target. Not to mention, she would make a nice hostage if someone wanted a ticket off the grounds.
"No, I meant what are you doing out here all alone, I don't think the ministry has finished searching the grounds…there could still be death eaters in the area."
"Oh." Luna giggled "I'm not afraid of death eaters."
"You're not?" George looked at her incredulously "You should be."
"Why?" She shook her head, still giggling, her eyes dancing madly. "I fought in the battle, and I helped fight Bellatrix LeStrange, surely I can handle a death eater."
George rolled his eyes, amazed that she could be so blasé about the whole thing. She may have fought with Bellatrix LeStrange, but she hadn't done it alone.
"You had help with Bellatrix LeStrange, my sister and Hermione were fighting with you."
"Yes." Luna nodded "And you-know-who used to tell his death eaters that Bellatrix had the balls of ten death eaters, I heard him, so I figure I am up by seven." George looked at her blankly for a moment. "You know…it took three of us to fight her, so if we each counted as three…"
"I got you." George couldn't resist a small grin, Lunalogic was a little hard to argue with …no wonder Hermione hadn't been able to convince her none of the creatures she believed in were fake. Besides, as long as he was here, Luna wouldn't be fighting alone and he wasn't about to leave her here by herself now.
Luna looked at him somberly for a moment, then she looked away and began to play with the laces on her trainers. "I don't suppose I need to ask why you're out here."
"No." George felt his heart sink. From the moment he had spotted Luna on the rock, he had known the conversation would eventually come around to this. All of his conversations over the next few days would come around to this eventually…it was unavoidable. "I don't suppose you do."
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want, I won't make you or try to trick you." She gave him a sympathetic look. "You can if you want, but I reckon plenty of people will be trying to make you talk soon, so you don't have to talk to me."
"I don't mind talking about him." George shrugged. "He's my brother. Why shouldn't I want to talk about him?"
"It's nice that you didn't say he was your brother." Luna shifted so they were sitting face to face rather than side by side. "People always seem to think that death changes that, like they think someone should stop being your brother just because he died."
"Fred will always be my brother." George looked at her, his eyes liquid. "Nothing is ever going to change that."
"Most people don't think when they use words. Was means that something is over, like it's finished and can't be anymore." Luna smiled and took his hand in hers "So it's good that you think that, because then you can keep him closer. A part of him will always be alive inside your heart that way."
"You know all about this don't you?" George shifted his hand, twining their fingers together. "I remember…a little."
"Yes, it seems so long ago now and I was so little when my mum died...my memories are a bit fuzzy. But I have my dad, he helps me remember. You're lucky you're older, you'll be able to remember much more than I can."
Luna's gaze had drifted up and away and George wondered if she had become lost in her memories. If she had, he wouldn't have blamed her a bit. He closed his eyes for a moment, remembering hours before … one of Fred's last smiles…his joy over Percy's return to the family.
It was something he wanted to remember forever. Family had meant so much to Fred…to both of them. It was family that was going to get him through this.
Luna's hand tightened on his, almost painfully, and she gasped. George opened his eyes to find she was staring over his shoulder. He shifted slightly to follow her gaze… off in the distance, a tall, slight man was climbing the path leading from Hogsmeade…his longish white hair blowing in the breeze.
"Daddy." Luna whispered, the pool in her large silver eyes broke free and poured down her cheeks. "George…It's my dad."
"Why are you wasting time with me then?" George smiled and reached out a hand to wipe the tears from her cheeks. "Get out of here."
Luna looked at him and laughed, then she rolled onto her knees and kissed his cheek. She scooped her wand up off the boulder and then began to climb down George's stairs. A moment later, her head popped back up and she smiled again.
"I could come see you some time…if you like." She looked at him hopefully. "You don't have to …but…"
"I'd like that." George nodded and smiled in return, he meant it…he really did want to see her again. "I'll be staying at the Burrow for the rest of the summer."
"Alright then." She sighed, the sad look returned to her eyes for just a moment. "He loved you too you know…that didn't go away either."
George nodded, unable to answer. He did know…he knew it very well. It was why Fred had made him promise that if anything happened to him that George would go on…that he would be happy…that he would live a full life.
"Go." George whispered "Don't waste time Luna…it's too precious."
"I know." She answered softly, glancing back at her father again. She took a step back onto the boulder, kissed George on the lips, then hastened down the stairs. George felt shocked for a moment…she had just kissed him…on the lips.
And he had liked it.
"I'll be at he Burrow." He called out when he saw her come out of the shade at the bottom of the boulder a moment later. "All summer."
"I know!" Luna called out without looking back. "I'll see you Saturday!"
George watched Luna run down the path that lead to Hogsmeade. He smiled a little when she slammed into her father… nearly knocking him off his feet, their arms wrapped tight around one another as they hugged in the bight June sunshine. The echo of happy laughter reached him, carried on the breeze to the boulder in the stone circle…the place where he had crossed paths with Luna Lovegood.
It felt a bit voyeuristic, yet George couldn't look away. Luna and Xenophilius Lovegood were surrounded by so much peace, so much love…so much joy. It would be a long time before George would be able to feel that sort of thing first hand…he didn't think Luna would mind his borrowing a little of theirs.
Saturday…she had said she would come on Saturday. That was only four days away. Between now and then he would have to bury his brother, he would have to say a goodbye of sorts. In his heart he knew…it wasn't goodbye forever.
It was only goodbye for now.
George shifted onto his knees then backed down the stairs. He stopped at the bottom and prepared to wave his wand to transfigure them back into rocks…he stopped when he saw a flash of bright pink. He bent over and picked it up…a handkerchief tied closed with a bit of shoelace. He untied the knot, then let it fall open.
Inside was a heart-shaped stone. The writing was messy, a hastily done job to be sure…but it was beautiful just the same. She had written a single name…
George smiled and tucked the stone into his pocket, unable to resist he stepped around the boulder for a final glance. Luna and her father were walking slowly, arm in arm towards the castle, their hair mingling in the breeze.
George couldn't have imagined anything more beautiful.
He turned back, vanishing the stairs with a wave of his wand, then headed back towards the school.
Coming towards him on the old wooden bridge was his own brother and sister, and he knew…Ron and Ginny had come for him. He hastened forward and they wrapped their arms around him, cushioning him in a warm and loving cocoon. It was a warm and safe place…a place he could call home…his own reunion.
It wasn't the reunion he would have liked…
But it was precious just the same.