A/N: Still part of the ongoing prompt challenge I'm having with my two lovelies, Bruhaeven and Le Requiem. They are both supermegafoxyawesome hot writers, whose work you should definitely check out :)
On to story notes: There isn't too much explaining to do, it takes place after the Battle of Hogwarts, but long before the Epilogue.
WARNING: May induce tears.
Prompt: Wishful Thinking
"I'm finally starting to realize you're gone, I think. It's weird, and I don't really like it, and if you were still alive, I think I would probably beat your freckled arse for forcing me to mope and moan about like the rest of our lot.
God – I wish these stupid tears would let up, for once!
You're probably laughing at me right now. You know, what with the waterworks, and that runny nose bit, too. Either that or rolling over in your grave, heaving at the sight of your own brother getting all choked up and mushy.
It's pretty pathetic, isn't it?
I'm trying not to let you down; I tried my best to keep our reputation intact. The dynamic duo, the twisted tricksters, the wittiest fools the wizarding world has ever seen… It's just not the same without you. Now I just feel like a fool. How can you make people laugh when they're all busy feeling sorry for you?
At least I can still make 'em smile with all our gags at the shop. We're doing pretty well. Ronnie's been coming in to help out. He means well, but he's a total wanker. Of course, you already knew that, didn't you?
Our sales are up now that the war's over. I even got these fancy shoes – one-hundred percent dragon hide. I thought you probably would have liked them. I bought them the day of your funeral. Call me a ninny or a sis, but I find it's wonderfully distracting – meandering through Hogsmeade, or down Diagon Alley, buying things we never could have afforded before Wheezes.
I don't have to think about everything that's happened…
It's worse around the fam. Well, worse, and better, I suppose. Of course I love them, every stupid one, but the way they look at me – I can't put up any fronts around them that they don't just see right through. I guess that's what family's for, but damn, can it be annoying sometimes.
Mum and Dad are good. They worry about me a lot, and they miss you always – but we're scraping by. We're Weasleys, isn't that what we do?
Bill and Charlie are back to their everyday lives – whatever that means. Honestly, with them it's all dragons, werewolves, and wives, oh my! I can hardly keep up with their wackiness, these days.
And the kiddies - Ronnie, Hermione, Ginny and Harry – they're all good too. Better than good. Closer than ever, in fact. It's like they had all this sexual frustration pent up during the war and now it's just exploded everywhere into this giant shag-fest. I swear to God, they're all going to get married someday.
Oh, speaking of the young'ns and their wild whore-mones, did you see my latest attempt to thwart their sexcapades? Pretty slick, if I say so myself. Ordered some lice via Muggle post… spread 'em all over the kids' preferred shagging sites. God, it was priceless – watching them squirm about in their seats at dinner. Beautiful. I have to say, it was one of my finer moments since the war, but still, it lacked our old touch of finesse.
Nothing like the good old days, eh?
Well, that's everyone except for…
He's… well, he's Percy. He went back to work at the Ministry, except now he works with Dad. He's changed, you know. Of course, he still acts like he's got a gremlin stuck up his rear, but he's not quite the twat he was before.
I catch him sometimes. He'll rush up to his room, claiming he's got Ministry work to do, or something, except then I hear him crying. That's our pansy older brother, though, right? I think he's sorry – that he was the one there, I mean. It should have been me with you when – when you…
'Says he never really got the chance to make right with you either. I tried telling him it didn't matter, since we never really cared for him in the first place, but that didn't really help. In fact, I instantly regretted that particular jibe, because his eyes got all teary and the moping just got worse.
Really, the puffy eyes and the swollen cheeks and the crying into pillows? It's just plain unattractive.
'Course, I don't really have any right to talk about unattractive, do I? We already knew you were the better-looking twin, but these days I've got a gaping hole on the side of my head that proves it. But hey – at least no one teases me for being an 'ear-ful' anymore, eh?
Yeah, I know. Not one of my best, but can you blame a man for trying?
I wish you were here to make distasteful jokes about it, or call me a paraplegic. No one left has the guts, or the heart.
I wish you were still here.
It's not really the actual not-having-an-ear bit that bothers me, though – it's the fact that every time anyone looks at me, they're reminded of everything that happened. And then comes the pity fest.
Can't have that, right?
So I've taken to wearing hats. I haven't found one that's quite right for everyday wear, though the spinning top hats and flashing fedoras are always a hit with the customers. They give me that eccentric, mad-hatter vibe that's all too appropriate for a joke-shop owner.
At home, I used to just let it go all naked – air it out, you know? But I stopped that a while ago. I'd always catch Mum staring at it, giving me a look like she was worried I was about to go off myself, or something. That and that Loony Lovegood. When she was over for the funeral, she told me I should cover it up because there were some hinkypunks or nargles or some other nonsense trying to make a nest out of my brains.
She's an odd one. Sweet, though. She even made me this band to cover it – see? Sure, it's a bit poncy with all the pink radishes stitched on, but I kind of like it.
She's going with some magical creatures bloke these days. Scholar type, you know? I always figured she and Longbottom were doing the nasty in secret, but apparently not…"
George was silent for a while. His eyes were sad, but drying, and there was a trace of a smile on his face.
He cleared his throat.
"…Anyways. Speaking of the nasty, I hear our prick of a brother Percy peeps in on little girls these days. Not surprising if you ask me – only surprising that he never tried anything pervy with the first-years while he was at… Oi! Don't leave. I was just trying to see how long you were planning on standing there eavesdropping…"
Percy turned back around to face George, standing about ten feet away. His hands were in the pockets of his tan corduroys, and there were pale, salty streaks on his freckled face.
He tentatively stepped forward towards his brother who stood just inches from the headstone with (though for the life of him, Percy couldn't figure out why) a small Beater's bat in his hands. George saw Percy's gaze drift down to the bat, and gave a small chuckle.
"Oh, don't worry Perce. This isn't for you… Not today, anyways."
Percy brought his eyes to meet his brother's. There was curiosity and a hint of mischief in his look, like he was daring George to go on.
George turned back to face the grave and, turning the bat over, shoved it roughly into the small vessel at the stone's base. It stuck up awkwardly, its wide head not quite able to reach the bottom of the vase. Clearly it was meant to hold flowers, but somehow the quirkiness of the upside-down bat was fitting.
George's eyes never left the stone.
"You know, in case he ever decides to rise, or anything like that. You really believe I'd leave my own brother defenseless against all the would-be zombie-hunters and vampire-slayers that might try to rip out his undead heart? Oh no, my dear Percy – think again…"
Percy gave a rueful smile. It was good to hear George joking again, even if his heart wasn't quite in it. Things would never be the same with their brother in the ground, but it was nice to pretend that maybe they could be.
As George continued to stare at the grave, Percy closed the gap between them, moving to stand next to his younger brother. Together they read the headstone in the waning light.
Brother, son, friend.
He was the strongest, the bravest,
the best-looking of us all.
Despite the tears that had formed in his eyes, Percy couldn't help but smile at the words. George had chosen them well; Fred would have liked it.
The two brothers let out identical sighs, and the silence that followed was charged with unspoken emotion: sadness, nostalgia, hope and despair.
They stood there, remembering. The good, the bad, the ugly, the funny.
George heard Percy inhale sharply, breaking the silence, the spell, and he turned to look at his face. It was stained with fresh tears that ran down his cheeks, and soon his body began to shake and shudder as he gasped between sobs.
Percy collapsed onto the ground, taking one good look at the name carved into the stone before him before his head fell into his hands.
"I'm sorry. George… I'm so sorry…"
George slowly bent down, and sat next to his brother. He sighed heavily, and placed a hand on his back, patting him hesitantly. Percy recoiled slightly beneath his touch, like it stung, and he looked up for a split second with eyes that were heavy with guilt. Dropping his head back to his hands, he spoke, a gasping, choked whisper.
"George, I was there – I saw it I… It should have been me."
George's hand froze on Percy's back, and tears welled up in his eyes, getting ready to spill over his eyelids and down his freckled cheeks. He closed them, and with a stony expression, and a colossal display of inner strength, he silently willed them away. The sadness was replaced with a fire behind his eyes. It had a harshness, but it wasn't quite anger.
The sobbing beside him grew louder, and George placed a hand on each of Percy's shoulders, shaking him roughly until he lifted his disheveled face.
"Listen here, Percy – There's nothing you could have done, and there's nothing you can do now. It hurts, I know - but this moping isn't helping anyone. Sure, I wish it had been you instead of him – I wish it had been me instead of him. Hell, I would rather it've been Mum, or Dad, or Ron, or anybody instead of Fred. But that's not how it happened."
The tears he had tried so valiantly to chase away now flowed freely down his face. His cheeks were colored with that famous Weasley flush, but behind his eyes, the fire was being consumed by an aching. His voice cracked slightly around the lump that had formed in his throat and suddenly, when he spoke, he was no longer talking to Percy.
"You're stuck with us, and we're stuck with you – that's just the way it is. There's nothing left to do, except quit bitching and moaning and find a way to move on! He's never coming back! Fred is never coming –"
George caught himself, but too late. He tried to reel the sobs back in, but it didn't matter anymore. The façade had fallen. His carefully contained anguish was now on full display in front of the one person in his family he truly despised.
He had every reason to hate Percy. He was a prick who'd abandoned his family, at the worst of times. He didn't speak to them for years, and when he finally decided to make nice and play the prodigal son, it was only save his own piss poor soul when he'd discovered he was on the losing team.
Even more than that, he hated Percy for being there when he wasn't. He hated that Percy was the last person Fred ever spoke to. That Percy was the last person he ever saw. That Percy was there to hear his final words. That Percy was the last person to ever see him laugh.
So like Fred, to go out on a laugh.
Yes, George had every reason to hate Percy.
He realized his hands were still shaking his sobbing brother. Slowly, he let them fall away and he let out a heavy sigh.
If only it were really that simple. Rationally, he could justify hating Percy. Maybe he would even be right to hate him, but somehow, he still couldn't bring himself to. When he looked into Percy's brown eyes, so like his own, George saw their pain - a pain that mirrored his own. It wasn't the same – no one could ever hurt as much as he did – but it was close enough.
He sighed again, his hands running backwards over his skull before finally resting at the base of his neck. All his frustration, it rushed out in that one breath. The fight, the anger, it had drained from George's face, and now he just looked weary. He shook his head, and gave a sorrowful smile.
"Percy, I'm sorry… I didn't mean to get all–"
His brother's head rose from his hands, and he cut him off, not needing to hear the rest.
"It's okay, George – me, too. Me, too…"
They sat there for a minute longer, watching as the sun finally disappeared, leaving just the red traces of its light in the already darkening night sky.
Finally, Percy dropped a hand firmly on George's shoulder. He gave it a squeeze before standing up.
He coughed, clearing his throat of its lump before brushing the grasses off of his pants and smoothing the soft wrinkles out of his linen vest. Back to old Percy, again.
Except when he spoke, it was gentle. There was an understanding in it that George thought he recognized. It was sympathetic. It was loyal, but self-assured.
It was brotherly.
"I'll see you inside, yeah?"
George nodded, never taking his eyes off the grave.
He sat there, still, while he listened to Percy's footsteps echo and rustle through the grass as he made his way back to the Burrow.
Staring at his brother's name, he smiled. He guessed there was some kind of poetic irony to it; that the day he'd lost one brother, he'd reclaimed another. It wasn't the same, it never would be – and perhaps there'd always be a part of him that wished it had been Percy who'd been killed that day. But maybe he could find a way to move on, as well. He had to.
He reached forward, running his fingers through ruts and turns of the engraved letters at the bottom of the headstone: Mischief Managed.
He smiled, snippets of their wild escapades flashing through his mind like a movie. Messing with Peeves and Filch, their hours spent brewing up new gags and tricks, their Mum's furious face when…
The images stopped abruptly, and when his fingers dropped from the letters, he was left staring at a cold, lifeless stone. His voice was quiet as he mused.
Taking a deep breath, he stood up, reaching his arms back and stretching towards the starry night sky.
He turned towards the house, but gave one glance back to the stone. Squinting at the words etched into the bottom, he smiled.
"Well, maybe for you, Fred."
His gaze shifted back to the Burrow, it's windows lit up from within. Raising his arm in a backwards goodbye, he slowly began trudging back towards the house where he could hear the sounds of dinner being prepared.
A/N part two: I loved writing this piece, so I'd love to know what you all thought - so leave a review! ... please?
Also, I disclaim everything. I still don't own Harry Potter.