A/N: I'm back! Haha, yeah, I didn't last long. I just can't stop writing about these two! Right so, to get down to business. Without trying to give the plot away, if you look at the two characters this is about and combine that with the summary, I'm sure you can figure out what this is about. Figured it out yet? I just… I had to write it. Oh just to note, this is not meant to be a sequel to 'Look Beyond What You See'. Having said that however, it definitely could relate, except for the whole nothing-is-wrong-with-George's-ear thing. But yes, if you want to read it as a continuation, feel free to. If you have no idea what I'm talking about… never mind. Apologies for any mistakes; I tried to fix them all, but I know some got away.
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me. Which, considering my writing skill, is probably a good thing!
And The Pain Stops
It was three days after the Battle of Hogwarts. Or at least that's what everyone said. For George, it was eighty five hours, thirty three minutes and seventeen seconds since he had lost his twin.
Eight five hours, thirty three minutes and eighteen seconds now.
Downstairs, he could hear the distinct tones of his father and Bill. Their voices were sombre; no-one in the family had so much as cracked a smile since they had won the war. Getting a full night's sleep had become impossible, because inevitably someone would wake up screaming, waking up the entire household in the process. George was always awake by that time though, unable to get more than a few hours sleep before the dreams started. Or perhaps nightmares were a better way to describe them.
George's ear pricked as he heard footsteps coming up the staircase, towards the room he was in. It was Bill and Charlie's old room. He hadn't been able to enter his and Fred's room. Not yet. Perhaps not ever. George frowned as the footsteps reached the door. Barely anyone disturbed him anymore. Not only because they respected his privacy, but because they found it painful to look at him. George couldn't blame them; he himself flinched whenever he walked past a mirror.
The door creaked open, and Ron peered in at him.
"George, uh… Dad and Bill want us all downstairs. They got a letter and err… I think it's important." He finished awkwardly, shuffling his feet and looking down. George didn't reply, instead rising slowly to his feet, ignoring the crack his knees made. Ron flinched at the sound, shooting his brother a sad look before heading downstairs. George followed slowly behind him.
Downstairs, a family meeting of sorts appeared to be in progress. Harry and Hermione were also there, and even Percy was back with them. The only person missing was Fleur, who had gone to visit her parents. Everyone was seated on various couches and chairs, and as George entered the room all eyes flickered up before quickly looking away. Only Hermione held his gaze for a second before she too looked down, eyes already beginning to tear up.
"Oh good, everyone's here," Arthur noted. "I received a letter from Professor McGonagall this morning. She asked that I bring the whole family back to Hogwarts."
"Why?" Ginny asked immediately from her seat beside Harry.
"All she said is that it's extremely urgent." Arthur replied.
"And she said the whole family?" Charlie asked, sounding surprised. "Why would she want all of us there?"
"I don't know, but now is as good a time as any, right?" Arthur asked, trying to sound encouraging. There was a murmur of assent as everyone rose to their feet except Molly.
"Mum?" Bill asked worriedly. Molly's head shot up, looking startled.
"What? Oh sorry, are we going?" She too rose to her feet, missing the worried glances everyone exchanged.
"Umm, Hermione and I will just…" Harry shuffled backwards, trying to get out of the way, but Arthur shook his head.
"Nonsense. You're both part of this family." Both Harry and Hermione blushed at this, and George couldn't help but imagine that if Fred were still alive, they would have come up with a suggestive quip involving Ron and Ginny, and received a reprimand from Molly for their efforts. But Fred was dead, Molly looked heartbroken and it was all so wrong.
"How are we getting there?" Ron asked, gripping Hermione's hand.
"Floo," Bill replied as he moved to the fireplace. One by one, each member of the household stepped into the emerald flames and shouted "Hogwarts", until finally only George and Molly remained. Molly stared at George, her eyes bloodshot, face grief stricken, and for the first time George realised that his mother was suffering from the loss of her son almost as much as he was. Before he could say anything, she stepped into the fireplace and hoarsely shouted "Hogwarts", disappearing instantly, leaving George completely alone.
George paused at the fireplace, staring at the flames. He had no wish to return to Hogwarts. Not when Fred had- no. George turned away, trying to convince himself that when McGonagall said 'whole family' she was just trying to be polite. But there was a small part of him that strongly disagreed, urging him to return to Hogwarts. It was a voice almost like Fred's.
You want to know what's so important. Go on, do it, the voice whispered, and he had no sooner blinked when he found himself standing in the fireplace, warm emerald flames licking at his legs.
"Hogwarts!" George said, and his stomach lurched as he was sent careening through the circuits of the Floo channel. He eventually stumbled out of a fireplace, coughing, to find his family before him, each member brushing soot off themself. Hearing someone clear their throat, George looked up to see Professor McGonagall standing before them, looking rather flustered.
"You're all finally here. This way please," she directed, urging them to follow her out of the office.
"Minerva, what's going on?" Arthur asked, panting, as they nearly ran down what was left of a corridor. Despite the gargantuan efforts of the staff at Hogwarts, there was still a great deal of Hogwarts left to repair. Walls were missing, windows were shattered, and had it not been for a few well placed spells supporting the structure, there was no question that several sections of the Castle would not be standing.
"I can't explain Arthur; it's something you have to see with your own eyes." McGonagall replied apologetically, continuing her brisk pace up one the remaining staircases. Arthur frowned but didn't argue. They followed McGonagall up several flights of stairs, everyone flinching as they recalled bits and pieces of the Battle, the horrors they had experienced.
They finally reached the door to the Hospital Wing, panting slightly. Everyone was exchanging confused glances, unsure what to expect. McGonagall pushed open the door and strode inside, leading the way. Everyone followed, glancing around curiously. The Hospital Wing had sustained some damage, nearly all of the Castle had, but it still looked normal. Most of the beds were empty save one, which had a curtain drawn around it, blocking the occupant from view. Madam Pompfrey emerged from her office, looking as flustered as McGonagall had.
"You're here!" She exclaimed.
"Poppy, what's going on?" Arthur asked, glancing around the Hospital Wing before fixing his gaze on McGonagall. "What was so important?"
Madam Pompfrey shot a look at McGonagall before turning back to the family.
"This will come as a shock. But just… give it a moment," she said cryptically, before walking over to the occupied bed. No-one was breathing by this point, all eyes fixed on the bed, having no clue what to expect. Madam Pompfrey paused before drawing back the curtains and everyone's heart stopped for a moment because it was Fred behind the curtain. Fred, who was sitting up and breathing. Fred, who offered them a weak smile as he stood up to face his shocked family.
"Hello," he said, waving his hand. His greeting was met by complete silence.
"Poppy what… what is this?" Molly asked, voice trembling, her gaze never leaving her son. "What- who…"
"It's… well, Fred," Madam Pompfrey stated gently, shooting a nervous glance at McGonagall.
"But Fred's…" Molly couldn't bring herself to say it. No-one could. George could barely think straight, his eyes fixated on the doppelganger standing across the room. How could it be-?
"I thought so too. I was checking on the bodies you see, when I noticed something strange about Fred's. Everyone else had gone rigid-" here everyone winced- "but Fred's body was still quite limp. So I performed a few more tests, and as you can see-"
"I'm as good as new." Fred finished. His voice was still slightly hoarse from lack of use, and his skin was pale, but apart from that he looked relatively normal. He looked… alive.
"But- but how?" Bill demanded. His gaze was constantly flickering back to Fred in shock. "How is this possible?"
"I believe- I'm not sure about this- but I believe that in the instant the wall exploded, Fred impulsively performed a spell that rendered him unconscious. From what I can gather, he somehow managed to shut his body down before it was injured, and in doing so he protected himself from the worst of the injuries.
Everyone was quiet for a moment.
"But… but we saw him in the Great Hall. He was… his body was…" Ginny shook her head, too overcome with the memory to continue.
"Yes. In shutting itself down, his body stopped functioning for the most part. There was no physical indication that he was alive."
"There was no heart beat," Charlie broke in. "We checked. We all checked." There was a murmur of assent following this.
"It was there. But it was so faint you wouldn't have been able to feel it." Madam Pompfrey explained.
"But that's impossible," Hermione interjected. "If it was that faint, it would have failed."
"But you're forgetting it was assisted by magic," Madam Pompfrey reminded her.
"How- how is this possible?" Arthur breathed, echoing Bill's earlier words.
"I know it seems almost incomprehensible right now, but let me assure you, it is Fred before you and he is very much alive."
All eyes swung back to Fred, who was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet slightly, unable to look his family in the eye after hearing the grief in their voices.
"How long have you known?" Percy asked faintly, looking between Madam Pompfrey and McGonagall. "How long has he…?"
"I only discovered it this morning. I had Minerva owl you as soon as I realised there was a chance he would wake up."
There was utter silence in the room. Both Ginny and Ron made a move to step forward, but they were held back by Charlie, whose eyes were fixed on George. George, who had yet to say anything, who was staring at Fred with an unreadable expression. Ron and Ginny followed Charlie's gaze, and watched with a baited breath as George took a slow step forward, away from the rest of the family, towards Fred. Hermione's hands moved to cover her mouth, her cheeks already wet with tears, Harry's eyes were unblinking, and the entire Weasley family simultaneously held their breath, unsure what would happen.
George was aware of the silence around him, conscious that the only noise in the hospital wing was the sound of his footsteps. He was aware that every eye in the room was on him, he was aware that his heart was pounding in his chest, but more than anything, he was aware that Fred, his twin, his dead twin, was somehow standing a few metres from him. And it didn't make any sense to George, but it didn't seem to matter because it was like there was a magnet drawing him forward towards Fred, and before long he had reached his brother.
George stopped right in front of Fred, his eyes searching Fred's face for some kind of give away, some tiny flaw that would prove this was a dream, because it had to be a dream, this couldn't be happening. But there was nothing, and Fred was looking at him with a look George knew so well, a look he would recognise with his eyes closed, and how could it not be Fred? George swallowed several times before opening his mouth, speaking to a person for the first time since the end of the Battle.
"Fred." He managed to get out, his voice hoarse.
Fred swallowed too, noticing how fragile and broken George looked. When he spoke, he kept his voice low, not wanting to startle his twin.
"Yeah, it's me."
"But now you-"
George let out a shaky breath. There was only one person on the planet who knew him well enough to answer his questions before he finished them.
"You're… you're not-"
"I'm not. I promise."
Their family watched on, utterly confused, not following the conversation at all. George was still unsure, afraid to believe it could be real, afraid that if he touched Fred he would wake up at the Burrow. Afraid that he would lose his twin again. Fred didn't push him, instead staying where he was, waiting for George to make the first move. And George knew what that move would be, because there was only one way he could be one hundred percent positive that he wasn't dreaming, one way he could be sure it really was Fred standing in front of him.
George took one step forward. Slowly, he raised his hands until they were hovering on either side of Fred's head. George swallowed before closing his eyes because he knew firsthand how deceiving his eyesight could be. Spending hours in front of a mirror over the past few days had taught him that. His hands trembled slightly as he paused, unsure whether to proceed because this would be the moment of truth, and he didn't know if he could handle failure.
"Do it George," Fred said softly, and George took a deep breath before letting his hands rest on either side of Fred's head, over his ears.
His ears. Both ears. Ears, plural. And George knew it had to be real, because the Fred he dreamed about was always missing an ear, because he was never Fred, he was George. A mirror reflection, a doppelganger, identical in every way, except that he wasn't Fred.
George's eyes snapped open again to find Fred- his Fred- wearing a faint smile.
"Fred," he breathed, feeling the tears start to well up in his eyes.
"'lo Georgie," Fred replied, grinning lopsidedly, and George let out a shuddered breath before flinging his arms around Fred's neck, pulling him into a crushing hold. Fred responded immediately, wrapping his own arms around George's trembling body, rubbing his back comfortingly.
"It's okay George," he whispered. He could already feel hot tears running down his neck as George let out a muffled sob, and Fred winced, knowing he had caused his twin so much pain.
"You're here… you're really here," George sobbed, and Fred tightened his grip.
"Yeah, I'm here. It's me."
"Please don't- don't ever-"
"I won't. I won't George," Fred repeated firmly, and he wasn't sure if George believed him or not, but it didn't seem to matter at the moment because the sound of Fred's voice was enough to reassure George. Fred found himself murmuring nonsensical phrases into George's ear in an attempt to calm him down, his hand gently rubbing George's back as George sobbed into his neck. Several moments later, Fred glanced up to the rest of his family, who all wore expressions of wonderment, of joy, of utter happiness.
"If you guys want a hug, I think now is as good a time as any. I don't think George plans on letting go anytime soon," he finished with a wink, and George let out a muffled laugh into his shirt, tightening his grip in confirmation.
There was a pause, and then Fred found himself surrounded by bodies, arms reaching out to touch him, to confirm that he was really alive. He could feel people shuffling around, allowing everyone a turn. There was his dad, his hugs still as comforting as they were when Fred was four. Bill, who made Fred's hair damp with all his tears. Between Charlie's strong arms and George's tight grip, Fred wasn't sure he would remain breathing for much longer, but then Charlie was gone and Ron was hugging him almost as ferociously, making Fred swear he would never scare then like that again. And then came Ginny, her arms squeezing around his middle, tears soaking the front of his shirt, crying more when Fred told her a joke to try and stop her tears. Harry eventually pulled her off Fred before hugging him himself, almost losing his glasses in the process, and then there was Hermione, her bushy hair tickling Fred's nose as she too further soaked his shirt.
Eventually they all released their grip on him, and it was only George left clinging to Fred, still refusing to let go, although his grip had loosened, and his cheek was now resting on Fred's shoulder. Fred looked to the only two members of his family who had yet to come forward; his mother, and Percy. Both were still standing by the doorway, and there was a hesitancy in both of them Fred had never seen before, and Fred realised it was up to him.
"Percy," he said softly, and Percy's head shot up, his eyes met Fred's, and a moment later he was running towards Fred, tears streaming down his face. He wrapped his arms around both Fred and George and sobbed unabashedly into Fred's shoulder, losing all sense of propriety and anything else Percy-ish.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he wept.
"It's not your fault."
"It is though, it is. Fred, I'm so sorry, I never meant-"
"Perce, it's okay. It's fine. Percy!" Fred half shouted, interrupting Percy's constant tirade of apologies. Fred lowered his voice. "You have nothing to be sorry for."
Percy pulled away from Fred, lowering his eyes to the floor. "I was there. I distracted you. I- I should have protected you, I should have-"
"Percy, we were in the middle of a Battle."
"No! I'm your older brother. I should have saved you," Percy replied furiously, looking extremely guilty. "I'll never forgive myself. Never."
"Perce, I'm alive. I'm fine. Everyone's fine."
"Percy, if I had died at that moment, then I would have died laughing. I can't think of a better way to go. You did that. You made me laugh. So stop apologising. And stop blaming yourself, or else I will prank you so hard you won't know what hit you." Fred threatened, and Percy couldn't stop the smile spreading across his face. Sniffing, he gave Fred one last hug before stepping back to join the rest of their family, looking happier than he had in days. But there was still one more person remaining.
Molly was still standing by the door, her bottom lip trembling as she gazed at her son. Fred looked at her for a moment.
"Mum?" He finally said softly, and Molly let out a small wail before rushing to his side, engulfing him in her arms, and held between the two people who were most affected by his death, Fred found himself struggling not to cry. He managed it by burying his face into George's shoulder and tightening his grasp on his mother, refusing to let the tears escape, determined to stay strong for his family.
"Fred," Molly sobbed into his chest, and by now Fred had given up on ever having a dry shirt. "Fred, we thought you were d-"
"I know mum, I know," Fred soothed gently, aware that George had stiffened as soon as Molly began uttering the word 'dead'. "But I'm here mum, I'm fine. Finding it a bit difficult to breathe, but you know, nothing too dreadful to complain about…"
Molly chuckled weakly, pulling away to wipe her eyes and gaze adoringly at her son.
"I can't believe it… I can't believe you're alive!" And the tears started again.
It took some time, but Molly eventually managed to get in control of her emotions, although she broke down once more when thanking McGonagall and Madam Pompfrey.
"… brought my son back… can't thank you enough…"
Fred found it rather amusing to see the startled look on McGonagall's face as she attempted to calm down Molly. Arthur came to the rescue, leading Molly out of the Hospital Wing gently. Glancing at the twins, the rest of the family followed, as did Professor McGonagall. Madam Pompfrey retreated to her office, leaving Fred and George alone in the room.
"George, are you planning on letting go anytime soon? Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, but I'm slightly concerned about walking down staircases like this," Fred stated, raising an eyebrow at his brother, who was still clinging onto Fred with one arm.
"No. Consider this punishment for leaving me alone for three days," George replied rather gruffly, and Fred felt the guilt rise in his stomach as he noted George's puffy red eyes, his pale skin. But there was a fire in George's eyes that hadn't been there before, and Fred felt a swell of hope that perhaps George would be alright.
"Well, there are definitely worse punishments out there," he commented as he turned and directed them towards the door.
"Oh I know," George replied, and from the grin aimed in his direction, Fred could tell he was in for some serious pranking.
"I suppose I deserve what's coming, huh," he sighed.
"Oh yes." George replied seriously. Fred grinned, before gently shoving George's head with his hand. George let out a loud squawk in protest, adjusting his arm so he had Fred in a headlock.
"Geoooooorge," Fred whined, pouting at the wall. "Let me go."
"No. First you have to-"
"I'm not saying you're the better looking twin. Not again."
"Tempting, but no. I want you to swear you won't leave me again."
And Fred could tell from George's tone that this was no longer just a game, that George honestly wanted- needed- to hear those words coming out of Fred's mouth. He tilted his head so he could look into George's eyes.
"I swear," he said solemnly. George stared back for a moment before nodding, apparently satisfied that Fred was telling the truth.
"Good," he replied, releasing Fred's head from his hold. Fred smoothed his now untidy hair, and was in the process of making a comment about the injustice of being held in a headlock when he had just come back from the dead, when he found himself with an armful of George once more.
"I missed you," George whispered, and Fred sighed sadly, knowing that however much they joked around, it was going to take George a while to adjust.
"I know," he murmured back, wrapping his arms around George. "I'm sorry."
"Stop apologising," George mumbled crossly into his shoulder.
"What do you want me to do then?" Fred asked quietly after a pause.
"Nothing. Just… just stay with me." George mumbled, looking embarrassed, but Fred nodded.
"I will. I promise."
Thanks for reading, and please review! :)