"A lot of readers asked me: "Was George alright?" – Of course he wouldn't be alright, would he? That's the reality." – J K Rowling
If someone were to ask George Weasley how he was, he would answer alright and turn away. But it was when his back was turned that he let the façade fall. It was when no one could see that he was so far from fine that he truly let go. And if they were to study him closely as he assured them of just how alright he was, they would see tiny little giveaways that under the surface, George was not fine at all.
The light behind his eyes had disappeared, replaced only by a dullness, a war-torn, beaten down resignation that said that something wasn't right. The spark behind his eyes that had always made him so mischievous, so unique, was gone. When looked at closely, the happiness that was always so vibrant, radiating from him had vanished, leaving a boy with a thousand years more trouble than his age in his place. There was a way that his smile never quite reached his eyes, no matter how wide it was, that said that he was never, truly happy again. That anything, no matter how funny it was, no matter how much he laughed beforehand, never appeared quite as great as it was before. When George walked, he slumped at little. Not a round back or years of laziness, but as though years of burden were weighing him down, forcing him lower and lower. As though he was carrying not only himself, but his brother too.
Everybody had said that the Weasley twins could not survive without each other. It was as though the two of them only together made one full person; that in the simplest, most beautiful way, they completed each other. In the way they finished each other's sentences. In the way that when of them made a joke, the other would turn and face them with an air of "Hey, not bad!" In the way that when they were apart, they were never truly happy. And George couldn't fix that. No one could. With one gone, it was like George had been split at the seams, had all the metaphorical stuffing knocked out of him, and then been stitched up and sat at the side forlornly, only watching the fun that other people.
It wasn't that he didn't try, because he did. When Mr Weasley read out the cracker jokes at Christmas, he would force a laugh that sounded hollow, untrue, and would instead remember the way that when they were twelve, Fred had sat downstairs in the middle of the night and rewritten all of the jokes so that the answer was always 'dung beetles', no matter the question. When Ginny turned 17, the whole family forced a smile for a family photo that was stood just a little off centre because there wasn't someone stood next to George with a lanky arm contorting its way around his neck to make a rude gesture behind Ron's head. He just never saw the brighter side in anything.
In the hours after Fred's funeral, when the family were sat around the kitchen table, smiling fondly but their eyes full of tears, each person would take the time to remember something they'd loved about Fred. To George, it seemed pointless. He didn't want to express how much he had lost that day, how much he missed his brother like an ache that would never disappear, how every time he breathed he felt guilty because he was alive and Fred wasn't. He just wanted to be left alone. And so, when it came to his turn around the table, he stared down at the woodwork, and they all thought it was because he was too upset to talk. It wasn't. It was just because he didn't have one moment that he could pinpoint. They had seen Fred in stages, measured his life in the Christmas breaks and the summer holidays; George had seen everything. And part of him – the part that was ridiculously selfish and just a little bit defensive, he thought to himself – wanted it to stay that way. He wanted to know things about his twin that nobody would ever know, so at night, when he laid in bed thinking of him, these weren't things that somebody else had thought, weren't second hand memories. They were his. That kept Fred special in his mind. That kept him unique. That kept him Fred.
In time, George grew up, found love. Angelina was perfect, and there were some days when he thought that he might just be complete again, but then he'd catch someone grinning and giving him the thumbs up out the corner of his eye, and like an old wound, his heart was reopened and he felt a surge of despair. When his son was born and he stared, wide-eyed, down at what he thought was the most perfect creature in the world, there was only one name that possibly made sense, that could even be considered. Fred. And as Fred Jr. grew up and got cheekier, George swore that he saw his brother in the way that his son acted: the little smirk that would turn up the corners of his mouth when he knew he was about to be caught in the act of something that he wasn't supposed to be doing; the way that whenever he got embarrassed – which, like his uncle, was rarely – he would dig his hands into his ginger hair and ruffle it slightly, just enough to make it look messy without being scolded by his grandmother for looking like a scruff. And every time George saw these things, his heart would tug a little bit and a smile would threaten to cross his lips, just for a second, because he knew that while he would never be alright, properly, Fred never had to leave him.
And he never did.