A/N - Written for the 'Tears Pour Down My Cheeks' challenge by Heart of Spellz. I honestly had no idea where this came from and I hope you enjoy it :) And a HUGE thanks to absurdlittlebird for helping me with her quick beta work.
Disclaimer : Only the plot was mine. JKR helped set it up though.
When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on – Franklin Roosevelt
There's something to be said when your own mother can't even look at you.
He noticed it first at Fred's funeral. The casket was left open and the robes his brother wore were immaculately pressed. And to think, there had been an argument between his mother and sister on what Fred should wear just over a day ago.
His mother wanted something dark and grey, something that fit the stormy mood she knew they were all working their way through; but Ginny felt the blue robes that clashed horribly with his hair would fit his personality so much more. His sister wanted Fred to wear the whimsical colour that he had purchased after they received their first month's profits from the shop; the identical robes they both had bought just for a laugh and to watch their poor dear ol' Mum throw a hissy fit. She had refused to serve them dinner that night until they had stopped the charm that made their robes glitter. It took them close to half an hour and a half-hearted stern glare from their father before they stopped the charm, only to resume it once dessert was served.
It was finally George who intervened when he couldn't take the arguing anymore. While the two women of his family yelled their reasons, he made sure that Fred got to wear a set of robes that he had been excited to wear only a few months ago. A hideous dull orange that they had both bought to wear together on the day they were to celebrate when You-Know-Who was finally defeated. Out of all their family, they were the optimists who had planned to don the comical robes and make a spectacular entrance with their new line of 'The Dark Lord is dead' toys and candy.
And that was what he and his brother were wearing on this important occasion. Fred, in his casket, looking to the entire world like he was having a pleasant dream, while George stayed close by, hating the difference that had finally claimed them in the form of a lost ear. He had never been the type to think about death; the thought always seemed out of reach and too much of an effort to focus on. But if he did, he probably imagined that they would go together, just as they had come into this world. Maybe minutes apart, but looking as identical in death as they did in birth.
George felt his fingers itch for his wand, the balmy thought of cursing his brother's ear off so they looked identical swirling in his mind. That same thought was almost instantly drowned by the need to see Fred untainted and perfect. His brother had always been perfect in his eyes.
He received a lot of sad looks that day. The gazes of those who attended the service always started where Fred was lying only to end where he was seated. George could imagine what they all thought when they looked at him: one without the other, the loss of a perfect duo. Very few people saw them for the individuals that they were, most classifying them as a set never to be parted. And they didn't dispute that either. They did everything together, had the same thoughts running through their minds and even had the same clothes. They never knew when imitating each other might come in handy.
George watched the service with a blank expression, determined not to let himself feel the loss of his brother; not yet. Instead he found his attention drawn to his family in a way that seemed detached, even to him. He had received so many embraces, their grips tightening in comfort, usually with a kiss on the cheek to show him that they cared. But he felt the loss of one embrace he still hadn't received.
His mother still cried on his father's shoulder, although she was never far from any of his siblings. She had hugged them all, save for him, and he couldn't have helped but notice at that moment that ever since she had found out about Fred she had never really looked at him. Was that all she could see when her eyes fell on him? The loss of a son who was taken from her so young? The thought clenched his gut painfully even if it didn't stop him from watching his mother hopefully, which only made him feel the loss of his twin even more. Fred knew when he was hurting, just as George knew when his brother was hurting. They could always look at each other and know what the other was thinking. Comfort came easy to them. And it was ironic that at the time he needed his brother the most, he was the loss he had to endure.
The only thing he remembered of the service that day, besides the moment when the casket was closed, was the thought that the service was too long. Just too bloody long.
After the funeral all George wanted to do was collapse. He felt a thumping headache start from the back of his head, his knees felt weak and his eyes prickled with the need to rest. He expected to go back to his bed and finally get a good night's sleep; one that he had been avoiding for the past few days. But what he didn't expect was for his brother's bedroom door to be opened.
For one, insane, nutter of a minute, George expected Fred to walk out of his room. The noise he heard following the moment his shallow breathing finally calmed down to deep breaths didn't help matters either. With cautious steps, he made his way to the door, only to feel his heart sink at the sight of his mother.
"Mum," he said in confusion. His mother had her back turned towards him as she stared unseeingly at Fred's open wardrobe.
"Your brother had the most hideous choice in clothing," she whispered, her tone almost in awe. The truth was that he and Fred had identical copies of nearly every robe they owned. He didn't correct his mother by stating that fact.
"What are you doing here?"
Molly Weasley stayed silent for a moment, a feat that George never thought he's ever see, before she spoke. "Your father mentioned about packing your brother's things."
Her words chilled him. He couldn't quite imagine looking over into this room and seeing it empty. The past few days haven't been as bad when all he had to do was pretend that his brother just stepped out for a bit. But to have everything that he owned taken away...That would make the reality of what had happened harder to live with. "Not yet, Mum."
She looked over to him for the first time in what felt a very long time. But George could sense that she wasn't really seeing him.
"We will have to move on at some point, dear," she said gently.
He refused to believe it. No one could move on from Fred. Especially not him. That was an impossible thought. But he knew better than to argue with her. Instead, he turned on his heel and prepared to leave.
He stiffened. It had always been a good laugh to be mistaken for his brother, but not now. His gaze reluctantly fell on his mother.
Molly Weasley's tear-filled eyes had widened considerably, both her hands placed shakily over her mouth as if she had said the most unforgivable curse in the world. She shook her head, almost in a way to deny what he had known ever since the Final Battle: even his own mother didn't really see him, just the brother he lost. That realization stung.
Her hands fell down limply by her side as her eyes begged him to forgive her. "I'm so sorry, George." She made her way towards him slowly. "I didn't mean it, dear." When she embraced him, he flinched; a reaction he wasn't really proud of. She cried brazenly into his chest and his arms automatically rose to circle her shaking shoulders. She pulled back quickly, her hands reaching up to touch his face lovingly. "I know it's you," she whispered, a small smile gracing her lips as the tears fell freely down her cheeks. "I've always known you from him."
He nodded, feeling his own eyes stinging with tears which he forcefully blinked away. He hadn't cried when Fred had died, and he hadn't cried when Fred was buried. He wasn't the type of sap to cry when his mother was looking at him either. Even if she was finally really looking at him. He wasn't sure if that was at all the truth, but he didn't want to see her upset anymore. "I know, Mum."
Her smile was honest then, before she dropped her arms from around him to wipe at her wet cheeks. "We'll go through his things tomorrow. We'll do it together. All of us. Fred would have wanted that."
Numbly he nodded as he let his mother pull him down to leave a chaste kiss on his forehead.
"Are you sure you want to stay here? I could change a few things at the Burrow-"
"I'm good, Mum," he interrupted her swiftly.
His mother nodded sadly as she glanced at Fred's bedroom one last time before leaving, George following close by to walk her out.
It was later, when everything was quiet and the moonlight seemed ominously bright, did he venture into his brother's bedroom. He sat cautiously on the foot of Fred's bed, his fingers playing deftly with the newest invention they hadn't had time to perfect yet. When his eyes fell on the familiar moving picture of the two of them, twelve years old and grinning widely as they swung dangerously from a tree branch, he felt the familiar burning within his throat and the sting behind his eyes. He had fought it for so long, the impulse that was sure to break him. But he didn't have the strength in him to fight it anymore. It had been a raging battle, one where he felt his defences crumble with every passing minute. He was so close to collapsing within himself; so close. And just when he thought he could defeat it, he had seen his best friend for the last time as they buried him.
With a strangled sob, George cried for the first time since he saw his brother's pale, expressionless face lying motionless on the floor, the tears streaming down his cheeks burning him through to his very soul. He was convinced that for the rest of his life he would want only one thing.
He just wanted his brother back.