Hello! So I'm back. And it hasn't even been a year yet! Thank you so much to all of you who reviewed and stuck by this story! I really wasn't even expecting people to read this since I've left it abandoned for so long. Really, guys, thank you so so so much! You have no idea how inspired you guys made me with your reviews. I read them all and smile like an idiot at how nice you're all being! Anyway, as one reviewer (Lust of Alucard) requested, this chapter's going to mostly focus on George and how he's dealing with Fred's loss. Happy reading!
Chapter 7: The Saddest, Angriest, Guiltiest of them All
As the sun began to rise and engulf Ron's bedroom, Harry cursed under his breath. He had barely gotten some sleep when his eyes were assaulted by the blinding sunshine. Soon, the sound of Mrs. Weasley shuffling down to the kitchen caught his ears. The young war hero sat up and looked out the now bright window with extremely tired eyes.
It has only been an hour since he got back into his bed, having returned from Hermione's bedroom. After their very brief conversation, Harry and Hermione spent a fair hour just sitting on his bed quietly. After a while, Harry had noticed that she had fallen asleep and, after debating with himself to simply sleep somewhere else or to bring her back to where she usually slept, Harry decided to carry her back into Ginny's bedroom. He decided that he didn't want to have to explain to anyone why Hermione had woken up on his bed, while he slept in the living room.
So here he was, desperately clinging onto the troubling conversation he had with Hermione last night. Harry truly didn't know what was going on with his head ... or particularly, his feelings. Ever since the war had ended, things started changing in him. For the first time in his life, Harry felt like he could breathe. Like he had all the time in the world to decide where his life was going to go. And even more, he actually could decide what he was going to do for the rest of his life. He didn't have to be seeking out the darkest wizard of all time anymore. He didn't have to worry about whether he was going to live through the day or not. There was no pressure on him about what he was going to do next. And yet, he never felt this kind of worry. He had battled and survived, but he couldn't even sort out his feelings.
Eventually, Harry decided that attempting to sleep at this hour with the endless thoughts in his head would be moot. Sighing, he made his way down to the kitchen to assist Mrs. Weasley in any way that he can. During his slow trek down the staircase, he heard Ron and George come in and greet their mother in a hushed, but slightly excited voice.
"Morning Mum!" Harry heard the two greet.
"What on Earth are you two doing out?"
"George had an idea and - "
"We were working on it at the joke shop and -"
"Did you stay up ALL NIGHT?"
"Well yeah, but Mum-"
"Oh for goodness sake -"
Harry descended the final steps, knowing that his presence would at the very least stop Mrs. Weasley from yelling. It worked.
"Harry dear!" Mrs. Weasley beamed, "You're up early. Are you hungry? I'm afraid I haven't got much done yet, but I could -"
"No, Mrs. Weasley, please," Harry brushed off with a smile, "I actually just wanted to see if I could help at all."
"Oh, nonsense," she waved as she continued her bustle around the kitchen, "I'm almost done. You should just sit tight, and breakfast should be ready soon."
The brothers smiled at Harry gratefully as George quietly went up to his room, not bothering to say anything to further anger his mother. Ron followed suit and beckoned Harry to go with him. Since Mrs. Weasley was clearly not going to accept his help, Harry went back upstairs with his best friend.
"Oh I've missed you," Ron groaned as he stretched himself out on the bed, giving it a hug as if it were his long lost love, "I love you, bed."
"Shall I give you a moment?" Harry smirked sarcastically.
Ron grunted, "Shut up, Harry. I'm exhausted. Why are you awake so early anyway?"
"Dunno," Harry shrugged, not wanting to tell Ron the truth but not wanting to lie either, "So how was the joke shop? George seemed really excited about the idea before you two left."
"Oh he was alright," Ron sat up on his bed with a worried look on his face. He quickly whipped out his wand and pointed towards his closed door, "Muffliato."
Harry looked at him questioningly, genuinely curious as to why he was being so secretive, "What?"
Ron crossed the room and sighed. In a hushed tone, he said, "I'm worried about George."
"His idea for a new product, Harry," Ron began, "He called it The Resurrection Sweet."
Harry's brows arched, "What? Is it a sweet that looks like the Stone?"
"I wish," Ron shook his head, "Anything would be better than what it actually is."
Harry just looked at him and urged him to continue. With a sigh, Ron quickly said, "It's a sweet that will make you seem dead and then bring you back to life."
Harry's eyes almost bulged out of their sockets, "WHAT?!"
"Shh!" Ron hushed, "George doesn't want me to tell anyone."
"That's, er, well, that's not good."
"It's bloody disturbing!" Ron yelped in a hushed tone, "But what can I do? He's grieving. I mean, the whole family's still mourning Fred, but George is a whole different story."
Harry nodded as he looked at Ron sympathetically, who looked utterly defeated about this information. He couldn't blame George, however, despite the morbidity of his thoughts. He had lost his twin. And while Harry didn't even know what it was like to have a sibling, he still felt a pang of unwavering pain whenever he thought of happy-go-lucky pranskter Fred. Asides from George, the whole family were all still deeply affected by his death, especially Mrs. Weasley. Harry had seen her crying by herself in the kitchen once as she prepared lunch, and it was unlike any other time she had ever cried. Normally, Mrs. Weasley sobbed, but when he saw her that day carelessly moving her wand to slice up vegetables while she stared at a smiling portrait of the twins, she simply wept. Mr. Weasley simply kept quiet whenever Fred was brought up, while the rest of the siblings tried their best to distract from the subject of their loss by trying to bring up fun and happy memories of him instead. They knew that Fred would want to be remembered and celebrated for his life, not his death.
"You should tell your parents."
Ron immediately shook his head, "Oh no. No, that's the last thing I want to do."
"No, Harry," he interrupted, "George is at a terrible enough state as it is. I don't want to make it worse. We all may have lost a brother, but George? He lost his twin. That's like losing half of him."
"Exactly. And how would telling your parents all this make it worse?" Harry asked, "I mean, I can't tell you it would make it better exactly, but it can't hurt. They lost their son, Ron. They don't want to lose George too."
Ron sighed and scratched his head. He mumbled, indicating that he agreed with Harry, though he obviously didn't like it. Even after all their history, Harry still knew how profoundly loyal Ron is. He felt like he would be betraying George by going to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, but they both knew deep down that it was the right thing to do.
Although immensely tired, Harry stayed alert the whole day. After his conversation with Ron, they both agreed to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley about George's situation together. Ron couldn't face them on their own knowing that he would be - in some form or another - betraying his brother's trust. Though Harry disagreed with Ron's thoughts, he promised anyway. Because of this, Ron was distracted all throughout the day, something that Harry was both grateful for and envious of.
When Hermione woke up around noon, everyone could tell that she had red eyes. She reasoned that it was because she didn't get a good night's rest, but Harry obviously knew better. Hermione had spent the better part of the night crying in his arms. And although it meant nothing, Harry didn't mention this to anyone. He had tried his best to ignore her glances at him throughout the day, however difficult. Harry knew that it wasn't fair to lie to Hermione for his own self-preservation, but he truly wanted her and Ron to be happy together despite his unexplained discomfort towards the subject. So, he tried his best to focus on George. They had to help George.
After the family had finished having dinner and everyone went off on their own, Ron sat his parents down. Harry merely stayed and let Ron do all the talking, offering his presence as moral support for his best friend. When Ron finished, Mrs. Weasley was predictably shocked.
"Arthur, dear," she said with a tremor, "We can't let him do this. We have to put a stop to -"
"Molly," her husband interrupted calmly, "I know, but we're not going to 'put a stop' to anything. George is a grown man, and we can't tell him what to do."
"I know his behaviour isn't exactly healthy, dear. But you know George! He won't listen to us and if we tried to make him, it'll only drive him away. He's grieving right now and his parents nagging him won't help. He has to come to this realization on his own. He has to learn how to deal with his loss."
"How?!" Mrs. Weasley exploded. Tears were evident in her eyes and for what seemed like the millionth time, Harry saw the raw grief in her eyes, "How is he supposed to do that? George has never lost anyone so close to him before! And then just like that, he's lost Fred!"
She cried and trembled as Mr. Wesley sighed and embraced her. Ron looked down at his feet, feeling uncomfortable at the sight of his parents looking so defeated. He looked at Harry sadly and mouthed, "We should go."
Harry nodded as he and Ron started heading up the stairs to his room.
"I don't want to lose him too, Arthur."
Harry stopped dead in his tracks. Ron looked at him questioningly as he marched back down the stairs and into the kitchen.
"I can talk to George," Harry said as he looked at the parents, "If you want me to, I can try to."
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley only looked at Harry.
"I, er, I can't promise that it will help any," he continued, "But I can try. I mean, I know loss. I've experienced loss my whole life. So maybe, hopefully, he'll at least talk to me."
After his speech, Mrs. Weasley simply walked towards Harry, hugged him tightly and kissed his forehead. Mr. Wesley just smiled and nodded, "Thank you, Harry."
And as he smiled back, Harry swore he saw Ron quickly wiping his eyes as he turned away.
... ... ...
The red-headed twin turned around and smiled as he threw a stone in the distance, "Oh, hey mate. What brings your green eyes out here so late?"
"Can we talk?"
"We already are, aren't we?"
Harry quietly stood next to him as he basked in the clear night sky.
"From that depressing look on your face, I take it Ron told you about the new product I'm working on for the joke shop," George smirked.
"Er, yeah," he replied lamely, not expecting George to know, "I know he promised to keep it to himself, George, but - "
"Alright don't get your wand in a knot, Harry," he replied, throwing another stone further into the distance, "I don't hold it against my dear baby brother. I could tell Ronnykins didn't like the idea from the moment I mentioned it and frankly, I didn't expect him to keep it a secret either."
George sighed as he sat down on the grass. Harry never really spent too much time with George alone since the war ended. And now, looking at him closely, Harry noticed how thin he's gotten. He joined him and sat down on the damp grass as he worriedly observed him. His face was hollow and his eyes lost the cheerful spark they used to always possess.
After a few minutes of silence, George spoke.
"Before we went to Hogwarts, Fred and I would sneak out for an hour or two in the middle of the night and throw stones out here," he said, holding out a small stone to Harry.
Harry smiled, happy that George was at least opening up, "That seems pretty mundane for a two-hour adventure."
"Well, we were nine," he laughed, "What'd you expect?"
He threw another stone in the distance as his laughter died down. Harry suddenly noticed the serious look on his face, "You alright?"
George shrugged, "When we were nine, we obviously didn't have our wands yet. Now, Bill and Charlie and Percy were always showing off in their letters and taking the mickey out of us younger ones. They kept making us jealous, see. Ginny was too young to care, and Ron sort of just pouted about."
Harry smiled at this, imagining his best friend as a pouty seven-year-old, "I can see that."
"Yeah, but Fred and I were coming to that point of having more and more uncontrollable magic," George continued, "And one of the perks of having a twin is having a brother who's your best friend. We were equals in our abilities, with magic and all that."
"So we helped each other try to control our magic, in terms of our emotions."
Confused, Harry asked, "Wait, you lost me."
"Before you found out you're a wizard, you had incidents right? Like when you're angry or -"
"Yeah, I know," Harry nodded, "Accidental magic. But I didn't know you could control it. I thought that once you could, you'd need a wand to do any sort of spell."
"Who says we did spells?" George smirked, "Fred and I just sort of, assigned specific accidental magic to specific emotions. Like, say, if you were angry at your pig of an uncle, you'd control your magic to 'accidentally' break a vase. And if you were happy, you'd grow a flower or something."
Harry rolled his eyes at the last comment, but was intrigued, "You and Fred did that kind of stuff when you were nine?"
"It wasn't a perfect system, we really only managed to control one thing and one emotion," George smiled and picked up another one of the stones, "When I said we 'threw stones', I didn't really mean physically throwing them."
"You see, whenever we came out here at night while Mum and Dad slept clueless, we felt giddy as can be for being little rebels. So with all our excitement and our concentration, we managed to make these stones fly off into the distance," he raised one and threw it into the night, "And sometimes, when we're happy enough, they came back."
With this, Harry felt a connection with George. A connection that he didn't even have with Ron or Hermione or anyone else. George's loss was equivalent to all the losses Harry had suffered in his life. While he was robbed of his chance on getting to know his parents and his premature separation from Sirius and Dumbledore, George had spent his whole life sharing his hopes and dreams with Fred. Fred, whom he'd never even imagined losing. Fred and George were a part of each other. To either one of them, losing the other would be worse than losing a limb - it'd be like losing a heart.
"Since he died, I haven't been able to get them to fly off, much less have them come back." George spat as he threw another stone into the distance, "No matter how hard I try, I just can't."
"Sometimes, I just wonder why it had to be him. I mean, I'd rather it was me, Harry."
"I know that feeling," Harry replied, "Guilt. Grief. I know it. But it's done. And if it had been you, then Fred would be saying the same thing right now. He'd be hurting as much as you are right now. So you can't think like that, George. As hard as it is, you have to try to think that Fred's at peace."
"I've been trying really hard not to think like this. I know he wouldn't want me to. When I feel myself welling up into a blubbering mess, I just shut it down. I think of anything else but him. I don't want to be weak, I- I need to be strong."
"The sweet," he said quietly, "The product that I'm making, it's-it's not because I'm going mental over losing Fred, Harry. It's just me trying to be okay with it." When Harry said nothing, George continued, "I'm not hoping that he'll come back one day. I know that's not possible. And even if it is, I know he wouldn't have wanted that. I'm just ... I guess I'm just trying to find a way to be able to survive. And if I joke about death, then it won't be so bad, will it? Fred and I always did that. When the war was just starting, we made jokes about it and it helped. I'm just trying to be happy ... or at least pretend to be. Because if I pretend to be happy enough, I might actually be happy again one day."
"I don't know how you do it, Harry!" he yelled, "I mean, really! You've lost your parents. Sirius. Remus. You grew up in a terrible home! You watched Cedric die, you watched Dumbledore die! How the bloody hell are you okay with it all?"
"I only really lost one person, and yet here I am ... making joke sweets out of death. I just don't understand how you're okay."
George gave another sigh, and as Harry sadly looked at him, he could tell that the grief-stricken twin were holding back tears. Harry briefly put his hand on the older boy's shoulder, "I'm not. And you don't have to be okay either. You can grieve, George. And it's alright to let it out."
He shook his head as he struggled to fight his tears. His next words were quiet, "If I do, I don't know if I can ever stop."
"Eventually you can," Harry said, "It'll never stop hurting. And you'll never stop missing him, but, eventually, it'll hurt less. Eventually, you'll know how to go on without him. I can't tell you how or when, because I haven't even figured that out for myself yet. What I do know though, is that if you don't let people - your family help you, then it'll be that much harder for you. And for them too."
Quietly, Harry held on to his wand as he looked into the distance and concentrated on a nonverbal spell. Accio stone.
The small whoosh was barely audible as the stone zoomed past the tall grass fields and landed onto Harry's palm. George looked at the stone, his face white as a sheet, "You summoned it."
"Yeah," Harry nodded, "But one day, you'll come back here, and you'll think of Fred. And you wouldn't even have to summon it. All those stones you threw ... they'll all just be right back here, in your backyard where they came from."
Harry handed him the stone. And as he shakily held on to the tiny piece of gravel, George Weasley cried. And being the concerned family that they were, the rest of the Weasleys immediately rushed out of the Burrow as they all engulfed George in an embrace. Harry stepped back from the sea of red hair and smiled at the sight.
He caught Ginny's eyes as she looked up at him and nodded in gratitude.
He turned to his right, not noticing that Hermione had come out too. Harry smiled at her before returning his gaze at the Weasleys, "It's a beautiful night."
"Yeah," he heard her agree, "They're family ... it's just so amazing. And so are you."
Harry's heart skipped a beat as he turned to look at her. She was giving him a sad smile again, undoubtedly still thinking of their conversation the previous night. "I didn't do much. I just talked to him. Really, all I did was be the boy who lost my family - who lost everyone."
"Not everyone," she whispered, "And they're your family too."
"And what about yours?"
"Yeah, they're family to me too."
"I meant your parents."
"Oh," Hermione sighed, "Well. They're still out there. And as soon as I can, I'll go to them. I miss them terribly, but at least I know they're safe in Australia. For now, that's enough."
Harry suddenly felt the urge to comfort her. While it's true that the Weasleys accepted them - both of them - he and Hermione were still the outsiders. They were the two who didn't share the magnitude of the grief felt by the Weasleys when they lost Fred. Before he lost his courage, Harry raised his arm and wrapped it around Hermione's shoulders.
"You're my family too, Hermione. No matter what."
Hermione smiled genuinely at his gesture, a smile that Harry hadn't seen on her face in a long time. He memorized that smile that night, and he promised himself never to forget it.
Thank you for reading! So the first half of the chapter (the whole thing with the Resurrection Sweet) was written before Lust of Alucard requested that I delve more into the Fred story. I actually initially just wanted Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to talk to George kind of off-screen(or page ...?) and have his cathartic moment that way because I didn't want to focus too much on Fred's death for this story. I wanted to give a sense of moving on from everybody as they all try to get past the war. However, I always take readers' suggestions seriously and in this case, I thought it really made sense to devote a chapter to George because it is true that he lost a twin brother and six weeks is not nearly long enough for him to even start moving on. As I played around with how to shift George's cathartic moment, I realized that Harry was actually the best person to help him because of how much he's been through. I don't want to sound like a show-off, but I'm really happy with the conversation between Harry and George. So, thank you Lust of Alucard for being such an awesome reader and reviewer!
Oh and one last thing, I have started writing the big Harry/Hermione moment of the story where feelings are finally revealed out in the open. It's still a few chapters away, but I'm just wondering, how many of you guys would want like a little excerpt from that chapter? I'm about 85% done with it! Let me know if you guys would like that so that I can put it in the AN for the next chapter (: Thanks again for reading!