A/N: Last chapter, but don't worry- like every good ending, there's closure here. It was a long time coming, but our boys deserve it. They'll get their happy ending some other day- but not yet, things are just beginning again. ;)
When he picked up his wand again, for the first time in almost year, it sang to him.
He curled his fingers around it in wonder and it warmed, and kept singing- very softly, a hum that he could feel more than he could hear. But it was slow and nostalgic, and he could only stand there until it stopped.
And when it did, the wand kept warm.
This is real.
It never sang again, but that one time was enough.
Real, natural, effortless. Everything he needed, everything he was. A whim on his fingertips, the way it should be- the way it was, when he was whole.
It wasn't fair of the magic to forget that. A lot of things weren't fair.
But a lot of things are.
And there was purpose again, and color. And with purpose and color, the pain didn't cut as deep anymore.
How could it? There was a world outside- he had isolated himself from it, but it was still there. Life had gone on when Fred had died, even if George's hadn't.
And it was time for him to face that. It was stupid to let the hurt have so much power. He loved his brother a lot more than he missed him.
Take that, he told the darkness, and choke on it.
A whole world, full of people laughing, living, suffering just like him- a world without the things he was capable of bringing to it.
That wouldn't do. It would be so terrible if all of his dreams died with his brother. Fred would be heartbroken, so George would be too, and he was so sick of broken hearts. Magic could fix it, because the right kind of magic could fix anything, and he had just the right kind.
He wrote this on paper, and Lee responded to his owl the day he sent it, agreeing whole-heartedly in letters that shook as though he'd scribbled them in a hurry. He could imagine Lee hunched over his desk, telling the owl not to leave he'd have a reply in just a second-
He could imagine.
Changes had to be small, or they wouldn't take. And Fred would be there in every stroke of a spell, every breath, every step. And knowing that made any hesitation pointless.
Forward, Georgie, because-
-it's the only direction worth going. I know.
His family would come around. Harry would help him.
The day after the letters, Lee burst into George's flat like it hadn't been a miserable year broken and apart, and hugged him the way he always had, like he could trust George not to break from the force of it. When he stepped back, he searched George's face and George felt a pang because he knew exactly what Lee was doing.
Lee had always been the best at telling them apart. And now he was grinning, and told George that without a doubt, Fred was still here. George blinked at him in some surprise, and it wasn't hard to speak in front of him the way it was in front of his family. Lee planted his hands on his hips.
"You have some of his eyes in yours now, you know?"
Lee had loved Fred too. George stared at him for a long moment and Lee stared back, and maybe they both remembered the time Fred declared to all of Gryffindor Tower that Lee was a Seer because he always got their names right, while George laughed and Lee took a bow and was their best friend from then on-
Because a moment later they were laughing, like they'd never known hurt. It didn't last long and bitter memories replaced the sweet ones quickly, but it happened. George wouldn't forget it happened, when the bad days came knocking.
Maybe soon the sign downstairs would read "Open" again, and the instruments that were his and his brothers' invention would whir to life once more, flooding the building with light and color and sound and laughter.
If not soon, someday- George was ready to give the world a few good laughs.
When Harry came over George's little brother was with him, because they'd just gotten off work; Harry looked flushed and pleased, while his brother ruffled Harry's hair and kissed him on the side of the head fiercely, not casting a single shadowed look in George's direction or treating him like a diseased stranger. In fact, he glanced at George and grinned.
"Head Auror," he announced with such pride that George felt the beginnings of a smile on his face, while Harry just looked embarrassed. "My best mate got promoted to Head Auror today!"
And he was happy and that was real and it was happiness for Harry's sake, Harry, who deserved it-
George chuckled. "Hullo to you too, Ron."
The name slipped out almost of its own accord, causing George to blink in some surprise.
But no, that was his name. Ron- little Ron, whose blue eyes were so big all those years ago when he asked if he could ride on their broomsticks with them, so hurt when Fred said no so fast, and so full of hope when George flew down to land beside him. He remembered Fred calling out that mum said no, and remembered ignoring him because no way Fred cared what mum said, it was just an excuse to leave Ron on the ground. George landed next to Ron and patted the handle of his broom, and little Ronnie hesitated even as he took a step forward because mummy did say it was dangerous-
"It's dangerous by yourself," he remembered saying that day, big and strong in front of his six year old brother who had the whole world in his eyes, "but not with me. I'd never let you get hurt."
He remembered, and wondered how he could have forgotten.
For an instant Ron's eyes looked just like they did back then- and then he was across the room so quickly he might've Apparated, his head buried in the front of George's robes and his arms around George's waist, and it didn't take George any thought at all to wrap him in an embrace as tight as he could make it, reeling with the thought of almost having thrown him away.
"You remembered," he whispered, so quietly George almost didn't catch it. "You remembered me."
I did, George thought, and held him, while his dreams of the future grew richer and expanded to include Ron, because he deserved to always have a place there. George glanced up and Harry, who stood discreetly by the door, gave him a quick smile and a nod, slipping outside to give them time alone.
Which was stupid, because by now he was as close as family anyway. George wished he understood that.
But George let him leave, and his heart didn't lurch when the door shut behind him because he trusted Harry to come back. They had to celebrate after all, and then they had to talk.
I hope he doesn't think he's allowed to disappear now. We have a lot of work to do.
He stroked a hand through Ron's hair, and thought of things that were real- timeless meadows, friends worth having, green eyes and singing wands.
It was time to live again.