Oh well, I actually started writing this story back in December as part of the Christmas challenge at the Hogwarts Online forum. Just so that you understand why I post a Christmas story in the middle of July LOL I never finished it, though, until now. I watched the very last film last night (midnight preview, yayyyy) and on the way back home in the middle of the night I knew how I wanted it to end. So here it is. Title sucks btw but couldn't think of anything better.
The story is slightly AU because there's no way George would marry his dead brother's crush, right?
Reviews are very much appreciated! And if you like this one, you might also like my other stories that deal with George and the aftermath of the battle.
Dedicated to my mum.
To fill a Hole
When George woke up, he remembered pretty clearly what he had been dreaming about. For him, that was something very unusual. While both his wife and his children used to start breakfast conversations with "You'll never guess what I dreamed about last night!", George's nights were mostly dreamless. He was grateful for that. After all, it was much better than the nightmares he'd had for such a long time.
This night, he had dreamed about Fred.
It was going to be one of those days. And even worse, it was Christmas morning.
George sighed quietly and turned his head left. His gaze fell upon Alicia who was sleeping peacefully beside him, her curly hair spread on the pillow, her lips slightly parted. George smiled and kissed her onto her forehead – carefully, so that he wouldn't wake her up. Then he got out of the bed, and with one last glance at his wife he tiptoed out of the room.
Instinctively, he went to the kitchen. He didn't know why, but somehow that room made him feel comfortable – more comfortable than any other room in the house, even the bedroom couldn't compete with it. He thought that maybe it was the resemblance to the kitchen at The Burrow - place of laughter, crying, childhood days and adult refuge – that made this room so special to him.
With a flick of his wand he heated the kettle filled with water, and poured himself a cup of tea. The hot liquid was steaming as he moved over to the window, the porcelain cup in his right hand radiated warmth that wasn't only due to the tea. Being a birthday present from his children, it was painted brightly red with dots of all colours of the rainbow sprinkled on it. He loved that mug, and the day didn't start right if he had to use another one for drinking his first cup of tea in the morning.
George looked out of the window onto the street below. The pavement was covered with snow, the white layer was untouched but for the prints of a dog's paws. Most houses were still dark, only in one house, further down the road, the lights had been switched on.
Watching a cat playing in the snow, George wondered why all of a sudden the dream had returned. That dream.
It wasn't even a bad dream, actually. None of the ones that made him wake up with a start, searching the room frantically for someone who would never be there. Those that made Alicia lay her hand onto his shoulder, rubbing his back softly and murmuring soothing words while he would furiously try to hold back the tears.
It was just a simple dream of an ordinary day, during which two extraordinary boys became legends at a legendary school.
For a few seconds, George closed his eyes, let himself go back to this day all those years ago. He could still hear the yelling, the fireworks, he could smell the smoke and see the lights and feel his brother's presence with ever fibre of his body. And yet it was only a memory, and although George had had time to adjust to it, it was even more painful when he was reminded of that fact again. And while living with that was hard, it was even harder to make everyone believe that he had found his peace.
Of course he knew that his family was talking about him. About one year ago, he had overheard his parents during one of his visits to The Burrow. He had stopped when he'd heard his name.
"I wonder if George is over it. Sometimes I think he never will be."
"Don't worry too much, Molly, It's been 18 years. He's got Alicia and the kids, I'm sure he's alright."
"I really hope so."
A sigh, the sound of a kiss.
George knew that everyone thought he was, how they'd so nicely phrase it, "over it". He hated that expression, the impersonal word "it", a word too small to fill the huge hole that had been burnt right into his soul. George had not yet gotten over his twin's death. Sure, he had gone on with his life, he had found a way to cope, he laughed, he lived. He couldn't let go. And George wondered if he ever would, and if he even wanted to.
He sighed, his eyes finding the clock hanging on the wall. It was still early in the morning, and suddenly he wondered how he could possibly make it through the day without feeling like he was about to suffocate. He hated himself for those thoughts, because after all, he had his family and friends, those who had been with him through the years and had always managed to make it alright. His siblings, his parents, his children, and Alicia.
Wonderful, tentative, caring Alicia, whom he had needed, pushed away, needed even more and who had patiently waited for him when he hadn't yet realized that without her he would drown in a tossing sea of hurt, anger and self-pity. Sometimes he would find himself watching her, wondering how he of all people deserved someone like her. He could spend hours pondering and not finding an answer. And yet there she was.
George's eyes found a framed picture on the sideboard. He could see himself with his arm around Alicia's waist, and her holding little Roxanne in her arms while little Fred was standing in front of his parents. For a minute George simply stared at the moving figure of the small, brown-haired boy.
Fred. His son. His son who looked so tiny and fragile in this picture and who would be ten years old in two months. Not for the first time did George wonder how time could fly that fast. It seemed like only yesterday that he had held his newborn child for the first time.
He and Alicia had, of course, discussed about a name for their first child long before it was born. Roxanne for a girl, that decision had been easy, as that was the name of Alicia's grandmother. A boy's name had been much more difficult. George had always wanted to name his first son after Fred, but when the moment of truth had come, he had been reluctant all of a sudden. What if he was always going to compare his son to his brother? What if he wasn't able to look at him without getting sad? Who would want that? Alicia had been understanding as always and had left the decision up to him, telling him she'd like whatever he'd chose.
In the end, it had been easy. The second George had seen him, he'd realized he'd known the name all the time. Still, George couldn't deny that he was glad that his son didn't look like Fred at all. The other Fred. But while his son had inherited his mother's hair and eyes, he had also his father's personality. It scared George sometimes. Seeing certain situations and knowing exactly what the boy would say, anticipating his reactions in a way he was never able to do with Roxanne. George knew that a lot of parents would give anything for that sort of connection, maybe even Alicia wished she had it. For George, it was often difficult. And sometimes it was Hell.
He forced himself to look away from the photo. He had lost his sense of time and was surprised to find the tea gone cold. Just as he was about to go back to bed and try to find some sleep, he heard footsteps on the stairs. He recognized them at once.
Alicia came into the kitchen, hair tousled, one strap of her nightdress down. George thought that she'd never been more beautiful. He didn't say it out loud.
"Hey honey, what's the matter?", Alicia asked. When he looked at her, he could see that he didn't really need to tell her. So he just let her wrap her arms around him, and he held her tight for a couple of seconds.
"The dream again?"
He nodded. Alicia didn't answer, but just pulled him a bit closer. George inhaled her scent, felt her hands on his back, and laid his head onto her shoulder.
"Why can't I let go?", he whispered. "I mean, those dreams don't come as frequently as they used to, but still, I wish they would just stop for good."
"You don't mean that."
George's breath got stuck in his throat. Of course he meant that. Why shouldn't he?
"You told me once yourself, love, that it's a good dream. Not a nightmare. It's a memory you treasure. We should never want to lose the good memories."
"But it's worse than a nightmare", George replied, and realized that his voice was shaking dangerously. Don't cry. Man up. Oh damnit. "It's... I don't know. A blow in the stomach, everytime I wake up from this dream. It hurts. I wake up and remember what I dreamt about and then this other picture appears, of the Great Hall, and Fred... and Fred..."
He couldn't go on. He blinked furiously to prevent the tears. He would not cry. It was Christmas, for Godric's sake. He took a raspy breath.
"You know what scares me the most? I'm not afraid of forgetting, you know, I know I'll never forget anything about him because it's all right here", he put his hand up to where he assumed his heart was, "But knowing that Roxanne and Freddie will never know him... realizing that again every day – it's like the ground below my feet just melts away. And I try to keep my balance but I stumble and I can't do anything and I fall and fall..."
"Shhh...", Alicia murmured as George finally lost the battle. For a good five minutes they simply stood there, and George could feel his shoulders shaking against his wife's chest, and he asked himself desperately why after nineteen years it wasn't any easier.
"George... have you never thought of how much Freddie and Roxy are just like him? Like Fred? They are your children, after all. And they know the stories and they see his photos, and I think they do know him."
"Not the way I know... knew him." He clenched his fists. He hated using the past tense.
"Nobody knows him as well as you do", and George flinched as Alicia spoke as if Fred was still around. Because that was wrong, Fred was not around, and that was the big problem, wasn't it? "It's hard to know that our children will never have the chance to actually meet him, and it's not right and it hurts like hell, but it doesn't mean that they don't know him at all."
Alicia sighed, and George finally looked her in the eyes. His body was still trembling.
"I'm sorry... you're right about all of this of course. You are. I don't know why I get so messed up again and again, how can you possibly deal with that?"
"I love you, stupid."
The ghost of a smile crept upon his face as Alicia kissed him softly on the cheek.
George glanced to the right. There he was, smiling and waving, and there was George, too, an identical smile on his face. The picture was black and white, and George had lost count on how many times he'd found himself staring at it and wondering if he would ever find that smile again. He never told anyone about those thoughts.
"Merry Christmas, dear", he said instead.
"Do you want to go to the graveyard before we head to The Burrow?", Alicia asked. "I could take the kids for a walk if you need some time."
Just like she had done last year. And the year before. Always.
"Thank you", he whispered. There was no need to say more.