A/N: I find writing a way of relieving my anxiety. And at the moment, I have a lot of exams, which has led to a lot of anxiety, which has led to…. this. My first Fred and George fic. And of course, because I'm so original, I had to do one where Fred didn't die in that explosion. Bet you've never thought of that, eh? Haha anyway, I'd really appreciate reviews and feedback, because it's really nerve racking when you start writing about new characters, and any feedback is helpful. Plus, I'm a review addict. Give me reviews and I blossom. Deprive me of them and I go crawl into a hole and sob. No, really. Oh right, and just a quick note: I realise that Charlie wasn't present at the time of Fred's death in the book, but hey, this is already AU so I changed that too. Enjoy!
The Hardest Battle
Chapter 1: Need
George felt it. He didn't even know what it was, but he felt it. This feeling, this pressure against his chest which made him gasp out loud, his wand hand dropping to his side as he stumbled backwards into a wall. He barely noticed as Charlie blocked a spell from hitting him, barely noticed their father running to his side. All he could feel, all he knew, was that something had happened. Something was wrong.
"George, what is it? Were you hit?" Charlie asked urgently, gripping George's arm tightly as George collapsed against the wall, barely aware of the stone against his back. George blinked dazedly before shaking his head, trying to clear his mind over the sound of yelling and explosions in the distance.
"No, not me," he croaked out, his left hand clutching his chest in a vain attempt to relieve the pressure, as if it were tangible, as if he was the one who had been hurt.
But he already knew.
"What is it?" Arthur asked before sending a spell towards a nearby Death Eater, who was thrown back from the force. "What's wrong George?"
"I- I need to find Fred." George looked at his older brother and father with wide eyes, almost begging them to understand. "Something's- I need him."
Charlie and Arthur exchanged glances, a worried expression mirrored on their faces. The expression on George's face reminded them both of when George was six and the twins had been separated for the first time as punishment. The same desperation, the same need for his brother lingered in George's eyes, unchanged even after fourteen years. After a pause, Arthur nodded at Charlie.
"You take him, I'll stay here and defend the passageway," he told Charlie. Charlie nodded and hauled George away from the wall.
"Stay safe Dad," Charlie called out as he and George headed in the opposite direction. Charlie followed George, who seemed to instinctually know where to go.
"George, did you sense something?" Charlie asked as they hurried down a corridor, passing the portraits who cheered them on. George nodded silently, taking a sharp right, his left hand still clamped over his chest. The pressure was leaving but he could still feel its lingering presence pressing against him. No, not him.
"Is it Fred?" Charlie pressed.
"Something's happened. I don't know what, but something's wrong," George said quietly, for once in his life sounding entirely serious. Charlie swallowed and the two broke into a run. They continued down several corridors, turning corners every now and then. From what George remembered, Fred had been stationed with Percy on the opposite side of the Castle, which was where he was heading now. More than once they stopped to hex a Death Eater or help a student, but George would immediately resume his path, Charlie at his heels. It was ten minutes later when they were walking cautiously down what used to be a corridor, now left in ruins, that George let out a strangled moan and ran forward.
"Fred!" He cried out, and the pain in his voice was so concrete, so strong that Charlie instantly knew what he would find. From behind George, Charlie could see flaming red hair, barely visible from its position in a hidden niche. He swallowed and followed George, stopping a few feet away. He gazed down at the still, broken body of his younger brother. "Fred," Charlie whispered, tears forming in his eyes.
George was beside Fred in mere seconds, hovering over his brother, hands gripping the front of his jacket with white knuckles.
"Fred" he whispered, his gaze sweeping over the gash at Fred's hairline, the smile still lingering on his lips. "Fred, wake up." He felt rather than saw someone move to kneel at his side.
"George, he's gone," he heard Charlie whisper. George shook his head, furious at his brother's suggestion.
"No he's not. He just needs to wake up- Fred, wake up you git!" George's voice was growing louder, more insistent as he stared at Fred's unmoving form in frustration. He shook Fred roughly. "Wake up!"
"George, leave him be." Charlie's voice was choked with tears as he tried to pry George's hands from Fred's jacket, but to no avail. George's hand remained firmly attached as he bowed his head, refusing or perhaps unable to come to terms with the fact that Fred was lying before him, dead.
"Fred, stop playing around and get up!" George's voice was shaking now as he tried to force the tears down, but Fred didn't move, didn't open his eyes. George could feel a sob rising in his throat and he gathered Fred's body into his arms, pressing his forehead against his twin's, watching as his own tears fell on Fred's face, trailing down his cheeks. He felt Charlie's hand on his shoulder, but couldn't bring himself to look away from Fred's face, couldn't bring himself to do anything other than stare at the body of his twin.
"George, he's gone," Charlie repeated, and George felt a fury rise in his chest.
"He's not gone!" George shouted angrily. "He's still alive."
"Can't you feel it? Can't you feel him? He's still here, he's not gone," George was pleading now, choking back the sobs threatening to overcome him. He couldn't understand why Charlie was shaking his head sadly, why Charlie couldn't see that Fred wasn't dead. That Fred couldn't be dead.
He could feel a sharp pain in his chest as he struggled to breathe through his tears, and he was only vaguely aware of Voldemort's voice echoing through the halls of Hogwarts. Instead, his attention was focused on Fred, wiping away the blood from the side of his face, pressing a hand to his cheek gently in an attempt to keep his face warm, nestling one hand in Fred's hair, wishing his brother would wake up, needing him to wake up. Because he couldn't even begin to comprehend the alternative.
It was someone calling his name loudly that brought George back to reality. He looked up to see his father, his expression filled with sorrow, Charlie hovering at his shoulder.
"Son, we need to get him to the Great Hall. That's where they're moving all the…. bodies." Arthur's voice faltered on the last word, but nevertheless he bent down stiffly to remove Fred's body from George's grasp. But George refused to let go.
"No dad." George couldn't bear to see them take him, leaving George alone with his pain and the knowledge that Fred wouldn't be there to take it away. It didn't matter if Fred was alive or dead, George just needed him there.
"No, he's fine. Just leave him-"
"George, stop making this hard for everyone," Arthur pleaded, but George refused to let go.
"He's not dead dad, he's not dead!" George protested, his hand resting on Fred's chest. He found a slight comfort as he felt Fred's heart beating under his palm, barely noticeable but still there. Hold on, Fred's heartbeat?
"Dad!" George cried out but it was too late, Arthur heaved Fred's body out of George's grip and stood up, cradled Fred in his arms. George scrambled to his feet, but was stopped as Charlie grabbed his arm.
"George, let dad take him," Charlie told him firmly, grief still visible on his face. George struggled against the tight grip.
"No, Charlie let me go! Dad, he's alive! Fred's still alive, stop!" He yelled. Arthur started walking, trying to block out the fact that his son was lying dead in his arms.
"George, stop struggling," Charlie grunted as he struggled to hold George in his arms.
"Dad, he's not dead!" George shouted, but his father was still walking, taking Fred away from him. Fred who was alive, Fred who was fighting to stay with him.
"You're making this harder than it already is George!"
"His heart's still beating!" George bellowed, straining against Charlie's grip, which slackened at his words. George sprinted forward towards Arthur, who had stopped in his tracks.
"What?" Arthur asked as George caught up to him. Arthur quickly knelt down and laid Fred's body on the floor, George instantly cradling his head. He pressed a hand to Fred's chest, and waited.
"George there's nothi- Oh!"Arthur's eyes widened as he felt the extremely faint heartbeat against his hand.
"Dad?" Charlie asked hesitantly. Arthur gazed up at him.
"He's still alive," Arthur whispered, and Charlie immediately dropped to his knees, hand reaching out to feel Fred's chest. A minute later a grin spread across his face.
"He's alive. Fred's still alive!" Charlie said in wonderment before grabbing George in his arms and giving him a bone breaking hug. "He's alive!"
"His heartbeat is weak though. Why won't he wake up?" Arthur asked, brow forming a frown. Charlie released George, and the two looked back at Fred, George's hand resting in his hair.
"Maybe it was the spell that hit him. Who was with him?" Charlie asked.
"Percy," George said quietly. Arthur was quiet for a few seconds before he reached down to pick up Fred's body again.
"No dad, what are you- I thought we established Fred was alive!" George said in confusion as he rose to his feet, trying to tug Fred out of his father's hold.
"I know he is George, but we still need to get him to the Great Hall. That's where they're taking all the injured people as well, and we need to know what's wrong with Fred. Plus Percy will be there, maybe he knows," Arthur explained as they began walking towards the Great Hall. Charlie wrapped a reassuring hand around George's shoulder.
"If you hadn't noticed-" Charlie began, but George shook his head.
"Don't even go there. We were so close to losing him. We still could."
"He'll be alright George," Charlie said, but his tone was uncertain. "Fred's a fighter. He's hung on for this long already."
George swallowed, glancing briefly at Fred's face, noticing for the first time that the smile had left his lips.
"Yeah," he said unconvincingly, the dread growing in his stomach.