A/N: Hey everyone! How odd it is that there is always a huge gap between my fanfics…I guess it just takes a while for a good idea to grip me! This one hit me a long time ago, actually, but only recently took control of my life as the last movie came out and I couldn't help but think about the family's reactions to Fred's death, especially George and Percy.
Just one more thing before getting to the story: I am not British, though I try to be with the dialogue, at least. My awesome-tastic beta, iheartmwpp, is helping me with that, as well as correcting all kinds of silly mistakes that I make, both grammar-wise and canon-wise, as she is a complete Harry Potter fanatic to the extent that it somewhat frightens me… Luckily, with her help and the wonderful guidance of the Harry Potter Wiki, I think this story is believably canon.
George stared numbly at the empty bed across the room.
The reminder was cruel, even though Fred hadn't been gone more than a week.
George could almost convince himself that his brother was just visiting a friend, and would soon barge into the room and dive under the messy covers like he had done a thousand times before.
But the deep ache in his chest spoke the truth, no matter how many times he tried to deny it.
Fred was dead.
George had been repeating these words to himself, but never aloud. The ache wouldn't allow him. It had lodged itself into a small, tight space, and had clung there to feast. With every breath, he could feel its poison oozing through his veins, sapping his strength and corroding his energy. It got to the point where George even had to stop thinking, for every memory was tainted with emotion, and the ache festered in his emotions. It thrived in them.
George wished he could just rip the thing right out of his chest. He knew it was killing him, but in a way, he wanted it to. He didn't see the point of living with it, of letting it possess him. His family would understand that. It would, after all, be his decision in the end to free his body from its control.
They had taken his wand though. And removed the sharp edges of the various objects he had flung from the shelves in a rage that very first day back home. They had nearly taken the sheets as well, but figured he still needed them to sleep. Which was ridiculous, of course. The ache wouldn't let him sleep. It had already infected his mind; he couldn't escape it. It was pointless to think he could.
When it came down to it, amongst the scarcities that they had left behind, George wished they had taken the bed with them. The bloody thing was built for people – no, just one person – and it was offensive to let it sit there, empty, night after night. The poor bed probably didn't even realize what had happened. Now what was it supposed to do? Collect dust?
Of course, they had already abandoned these very beds once after moving into the apartment above the store, but it hadn't meant to be permanent. They visited home occasionally, and always took comfort in knowing that their beds were waiting for them.
Now it was sad, so very, very sad, that the bed was all alone. It purpose was gone. It was useless.
There came a soft knock on the door. George vaguely thought about who it could be, and narrowed it down to one of his brothers. He had a lot of brothers.
It was Charlie, looking terribly grim. George wondered what was wrong, and was abruptly grateful that it wasn't his mother. She was nagging quite a bit lately, and always blowing her nose. The ache had taken his voice, so how was he supposed to explain to her that he wasn't hungry, or that he preferred not to move from his curled position on the bed? He was comfortable this way. He just wished that everyone would stop bothering him.
They always burst into his room with such depressing faces, most still tinged with that laughably hysterical edge of hopefulness. If only he could talk to them about the ache in his chest, slowly devouring him, then they wouldn't look so pleading and desperate.
But since he couldn't, he endured their speeches. They said the same things in the same ways. He never could quite remember exactly what they said. He had just amused himself by watching them try to side-step the issue, or insert happier news to temper the reality of the situation. It was like they didn't know how to talk to him anymore. He couldn't help but think that if they removed the bed, things might be easier, as their gazes were always drawn to it.
Oh, Charlie was still there. His voice was low, gravelly, as if he had barely slept. He was also a bit unshaven too, and his hair and clothing were unkempt. George hoped that he would fix that, especially since the whole family was going out that day. He wasn't stupid. He knew what day it was. Too bad he couldn't say that out loud. Instead, he had to keep hearing the same words ad nauseam – 'denial,' 'out of the house,' 'pay our respects,' 'fresh air,' etc. It was quite silly, really, their thinking that he would leave. He was sure the ache had settled in his muscles, as he felt nothing but heavy and lethargic.
But this was different now... How interesting. Charlie was starting to get mad. All of a sudden, he felt himself choked as Charlie bodily lifted him out of bed by his collar and slammed him against the far wall. The pain in his head felt dull compared to the ache, but he found himself wanting to obey Charlie's words, even though he barely registered them.
Mechanically, he began to dress himself in the formal dress robes that Charlie held out to him with his back turned. When it was done, Charlie patted him on the shoulders and apologized for the rough treatment. The ache was shocked, but not too much to allow George to acknowledge his elder brother's remorse, so he just paced forward dimly, his brother trailing him wordlessly with no doubt a devastated expression.
George's body felt like lead. He swore that each step thumped loudly and hollowly in the house, because he feel its reverberations in his ears, and it made his head pound. It was amazing that his body even still worked. He felt as if he had to tell his knees to bend, his eyes to see, his ear – the one left – to hear. But even then the floor felt shaky, the colors appeared dull, and all sounds seemed muted.
When he got to the bottom level, his family, including Harry and Hermione, were all gathered there, apparently waiting for him. They stared and George stared back before breaking eye contact and whispering quietly to one another. Eyeing them, he was amused by their similar outfits. How nice they would all appear together, he thought idly. If only their faces looked less puffy and red, then it would be perfect.
They hesitated for a few moments as Charlie pounded back upstairs to get into his outfit. George spent the meantime observing his family, noting the many different clenched hands clasped together – most noticeably the newest, Harry's and Ginny's, and Ron's and Hermione's. The family was just getting bigger by the second!
Add two, subtract one!
Sometime later, they were all trudging up the hill outside toward a portkey, and after the familiar sensation, they landed outside of Hogwarts. Almost instantly, they were swarmed by people. Clusters of families and friends huddled together, crying, sharing stories, consoling those doubled-over in grief. There was a large memorial stone erected in the center that towered above them all, bearing the names of the victims of the battle that had taken place there, and many were weeping openly at the sight of it.
The day was otherwise warm and sunny, and the grounds of Hogwarts were clean and beautiful. George marveled at how the place looked, considering that the attack had nearly decimated Hogwarts, and yet, not a piece of rubble could be seen. Instead, the stones that had been blasted from the very walls of the castle had been transfigured into something else – tombstones.
Facing the sparkling lake and Dumbledore's tomb was an expansive cemetery thronged with people. Each grave was identified and individually marked based on the occupants' interests in life. As the Weasley clan slogged through the crowd, George saw smiling, waving pictures, exotic flowers, toys, enchanted teddy bears, wands and even a camera, tenderly placed by young Denis Creevey on his brother's grave.
But the one he was not prepared to see came upon him too suddenly. It was if a powerful wave radiated from it, forcing his mother's knees to cave the instant they reached it, while the rest of the family to wept or assumed solemn expressions. The couples embraced one another, and George suddenly felt alone and abandoned like that empty bed back home. He had been paired with someone his entire life, and now he was just supposed to go on like it hadn't happened?
It didn't help that Fred was smirking at him. Some bodies had yet to be buried, and Fred's was one of them, as some families including theirs had wanted to pay their last respects by holding their loved ones' hands, or kissing their foreheads goodbye.
For George, seeing his brother lying there so cold and still made the ache flair so intensely that he felt like his chest were on fire. He clawed at it, not realizing he had dropped to his knees, as his eyes drank in every detail of Fred's immobile face. Some part of his mind asked why his brother was just lying there so stiffly, and why he wasn't breathing. Another part demanded why Fred was alone on the slab of stone. Yet another part raged while another cursed in agony and absorbed the inferno engulfing him. The feelings strangled him, and he felt a scream rip from his throat.
He couldn't take this. The ache was too much. Why couldn't they just put him out of his misery? This wasn't how things were supposed to go. This was impossible. This shouldn't have happened.
George felt hands on his shoulders and slapped them away, willing them to fight back. He would do anything to get rid of these emotions, anything, to make them go away! Why had he allowed Charlie to drag him out here like this? Why was he here? He should've insisted on staying home and letting the ache consume him. It was easier that way, quieter. He could already feel other peoples' disapproving stares on his back, and when he turned to confront them, met only the sobbing visages of some of his friends – Oliver, Lee, Angelina, Katie, Alicia. They pressed toward him, trying to embrace him, but by now he was shaking so fiercely that he barely sensed their kind touches. All he felt was a terrible sinking feeling, and knew the ache had finally moved lower to his stomach, where it could rankle more comfortably. Already in its new place, it began to seep into his thoughts and embolden him, at last releasing his voice.
"Why? His bed's all alone, it shouldn't be alone! IT SHOULDN'T BE ALONE!"
Suddenly he was on his feet and people were pushing at him, yelling at him, blaming him for not dying with Fred. Even Fred agreed that it was wrong - George saw him nod. His throat constricted and the fire in his chest threatened to burn its way out of his mouth, sucking out his air. He stumbled, gasping for breath, but the hands were relentless, and the faces swarmed around him, grotesque in their accusations.
He needed to get away, far away. These people wanted him dead! But didn't the ache want him dead too? He didn't know anymore.
Struggling, he surged through the mass of people and rushed to an open spot where he prayed he could just escape. His thoughts cleared long enough for a solution to come to mind, and with a desperate lurch, he Apparated with a sharp crack.
A/N: Honestly, writing emotional fics like this is my equivalent of taking crack…I love analyzing people's psychology and thinking about how they would act as a result. Toying with characters' emotions amuses me greatly, and I've gotten so wrapped up in them lately that I can't stop writing!
Unfortunately I cannot say when I will update next, though I would love to hear your thoughts! Please review!