A/N: I'm going for weekly updates on this one as usual. This story isn't my main priority at the moment but I'm still hoping to keep to my schedule. As soon as I'm done with The Longest Start, I'll probably update quicker.
For those wondering why I've labelled this Ron and Hermione - Even though they don't appear in this chapter, they are the two characters who will show up the most in this fic.
Anyway, basic concept. Battle of Hogwarts +19 from the POV of several main characters. Hope you enjoy!
The Ones Left Behind
George and Ginny
It struck George as strange that the famous Weasley clock ticked despite having no second hand to make it do so. The clock had been on that wall since long before he was born but this was the first time he had noticed that it made a noise at all.
Maybe it was because he had never known The Burrow to be as quiet as it was now. Maybe it was because he had never been sat in the kitchen, alone at dawn, before today.
Today. 21st of May. 1998.
After nearly two years of keeping the clock in the same room with her at all times, his mother had finally placed the clock back on the wall. Naïve people might think this was because the second war was finally over. No longer were there nine hands pointing skywards to Mortal Peril but to the much nicer six o'clock position of Home or, in Bill's case, Abroad. George knew better though. He knew she was avoiding looking at the almost unnoticeable imperfection on the clock, the one he was staring at now.
While seven of the hands were the same tarnished bronze colour as each other, the eighth hand was slightly darker. People who didn't know better would think that maybe that hand was added later or was broken and had to be replaced. That's why it looked a little different. George knew it was because this hand, the one that bore his name, very rarely saw sunlight so it hadn't become faded like the others. For the past twenty years another hand had nearly always been on top of his, because the person the other hand represented had nearly always been with him.
Now, however, the hand stood alone, as did George.
"Stop staring at it," came a stern voice from the doorway that led to the stairs.
George didn't look away from the clock when he spoke. "Go back to bed, Ginny."
As usual Ginny ignored the order and made her way into the room and sat down in the chair opposite her brother, who looked over her head to continue watching the immobile timepiece. While she was dressed in the thin, cotton pyjamas she had gone to bed in, George was still wearing the clothes he had been in the night before. That, mixed with the dark circles that were underneath his eyes, told her he had, once again, not slept. The empty bottle and stale whiskey smell he emitted told her what he had been doing instead.
"You know there isn't a shortage of Ogden's finest," said Ginny acidly.
"Really?" George replied sarcastically.
"There will be if you-"
"Just leave it."
Silence once again fell over the kitchen, except for the ticking clock that George couldn't tear his blurry eyes away from. Every morning since they had returned to The Burrow, Ginny had come down to interrupt his musings. Sometimes she would empty what was left in his glass. Sometimes she would try and talk him into going to bed. Sometimes she threatened and shouted at him. George could never muster the energy to care or protest.
This morning was different. Instead of her usual angry or worried expression, Ginny stared at him with calm look on her face, not saying a word. Her change of tactics didn't put George off though; he didn't even look at her.
"You haven't cried since."
George didn't need to ask her what she meant by since. It was true, since he had first broken down upon seeing who it was that his father and Percy were carrying into the Great Hall on that dark day, he hadn't shed another tear, not even at the funeral.
Ginny's tone was almost wondering. Against his will, George looked at her face for the first time since she entered the kitchen. She didn't appear angry or worried, like everyone else who tried to get him to open up, in fact she spoke as if merely stating the sky was blue or that today was Thursday.
"Neither have you," he shot back.
"I don't cry."
The two of them looked at each other for a long time. When they were children Ginny had always claimed that she never cried whenever she hurt herself or got into a fight with one of her brothers. Hearing her say the same words over one of their deaths instead of petty fallings out, with twice as much conviction, scared George a little. She wasn't the little girl who wasn't allowed to play Quidditch with them. She was a strong teenager, who was trying to drag herself, as well as him, through this mess with more effort than he could muster.
Ginny's eyes bore into her brothers, trying to make him react in any way. Not since the day after the battle had she seen George display any emotion other than mild irritation towards her. Other family members got nothing but she knew more about the situation than they did and it was for this reason that Ginny knew she was to be the one to get through to George.
"I was thinking," George said after a lengthy pause in conversation, "of moving back into the flat today."
Ginny simply raised her eyebrows at him.
"What?" questioned George, attempting a smile that came off more like a jeer. "Percy's going back to his place today. I think it's time-"
"Fine," cut in Ginny, "if I move in with you."
George glared at her but Ginny held her ground. She had never been intimidated by her older brothers. Even as George sat up straighter and curled his lip, Ginny met his eyes with a harsh look.
"Keeping an eye on me?" he asked in a low voice.
"You need it," she answered darkly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" George spat. He rose from the table to loom over Ginny but she wasn't fazed and continued to look up at him disdainfully.
"We both know what I mean," Ginny replied in a calm voice. "Last time you were allowed to wander off by yourself I found you walking into the lake."
Ginny saw George bristle and swallow hard. The morning after the battle she had looked out of the window of Luna's dormitory in Ravenclaw Tower, where she had slept, to see George sat by the lake, staring out to the other side. By the time she had quickly got dressed and reached him, George was treading water a good fifty feet from the shore.
"I've told you before," George said quietly, unable to meet her eyes, "I fancied a quick swim."
"Fully clothed? Leaving only your wand and a scrap of parchment behind?" laughed Ginny humourlessly. "I'm not fucking stupid, George."
On the rare occasions he had heard Ginny swear, George had made some comment about it but this time he couldn't. He could only think of the memory of his little sister hitting him with some hex that forced him to be suspended by the ankles, just above the surface of the lake he had been magically dragged out of, and levitated back to dry land. Before he could speak she had dropped him to the floor, slapped him hard around the face before picking up the folded piece of parchment he had left by his wand and igniting it with her own. Without another word, she had marched back inside the castle.
"I still haven't told anyone else, y'know."
George shrugged. "Tell 'em. I don't care." He looked down at the table as he spoke, secretly grateful no one else knew about that morning. It still annoyed him that Ginny was pushing him though. He didn't need babysitting. It wasn't like he would suddenly pitch himself off the roof if he was left on his own for more than five minutes.
"How about we go outside for a bit?" Ginny suggested gingerly. George snorted so she added "It'd probably sober you up a bit before Mum comes down."
Without another word Ginny got up from the table, headed for the back door and held it open, waiting for him to follow. George hesitated then walked slowly out of the door. So far he had kept his drinking away from his mum. It hadn't exactly been hard. She barely noticed anything that went on around her. She spent most of her time in bed or silently knitting in the living room while his dad looked after her. Charlie had taken over cooking for everyone while the other household chores were competed by Fleur and Hermione, until they had gone back to their respective homes. Percy and Ginny had been doing them since.
Without really thinking about a destination George headed for the pond and sat down. Just over the tops of the tall trees that lined the orchard he could make out the fiery glow of the sun as it crept up the horizon. Silently, Ginny sat next to him and they watched the sun rise together.
Ginny had never really seen the fascination of sun rises. They happened every day and hurt your eyes if you stared at them too long. For the past nineteen days however she had been awake for every single one and had started to watch them religiously. They brought her the reminder of a wand arching high across The Great Hall and of the fact that she was still here to witness the beginning of a new day.
After twenty minutes or so, the sun was no longer huge and orange but had become the smaller, white-yellow orb they saw most of the day and Ginny started pulling up the grass that was in the long shadow their bodies cast along the ground.
"I'd help you move back in if you wanted," she said, looking up at George's blank face. "You're right; you can't exactly stay here forever but you're mad if you think I'm not going to visit every day."
George continued looking towards the sun, almost wishing it would sting his eyes more because the pain was the perfect distraction. "No, I'm fine. I can move in another day. You find yourself a different friend to play with."
"It's either that or go to Muriel's with Mum later," Ginny pushed, ignoring George's dismissive tone.
"Fat chance," barked George. "There isn't a hope in hell of me going to see that old bat."
He laughed as best he could but it didn't sound right. It was more of a grating taunt that stank of bitterness than an expression of genuine mirth.
"I'm sure we can think of something better to do," Ginny said lightly.
"We?" questioned George.
"Yes," Ginny insisted. "We."
Suddenly George span around and glared at her. "Leave me ALONE!"
Ginny stared back, with a bored look playing on her features. "No."
"I'm sick of you following me around! Haven't you got a boyfriend to tail instead?" he shouted and Ginny flinched. He had hit a nerve.
The evening that followed the battle, when Ginny had finally managed to find Harry on his own, she had been less than forgiving of him leaving her and not backing her up in the Room of Requirement. While she didn't regret what she had done (Harry had deserved more than what she had given him anyway), it had meant that Harry had disappeared off into Harry Potter's Wonderful Guilt Trip Land and things between them were fractured at best.
Apart from the comforting hugs and one chaste kiss goodnight, Harry and kept things completely platonic between the two of them. Ginny had questioned him about this but Harry had just said there were other things to do, more important things to concentrate on. He wanted to give her his full undivided attention and didn't feel he could do that with all of the funerals, meetings with the ministry and avoiding the press that he had to do. Once again, Ginny was waiting for Harry to stop being Harry Potter and just be Harry.
"Oh, of course," George continued with a smirk. "Harry has other fan girls now so he doesn't need you."
"That's right, George," Ginny yelled at him, her fist clenched, "deal with this like a mature adult!"
"The underage were never this cheeky in my day," George replied coldly as turning away from his irate sister to look at the murky depths of the pond.
Fuming, Ginny scrambled up to her feet and shot George a look of disgust that she was sure he could feel, even if he couldn't see it.
"He may have died, George," spat Ginny, her teeth clenched together, "but we didn't."
George didn't turn around to watch her storm back into the house. As he heard the back door slam, George examined his reflection and hardly recognised the face looking back at him. He turned his head to the left slightly so he couldn't see the gaping hole in the side of his head. If he pretended hard enough, he could imagine the face grinned up at him.
"I swear we underestimated her big time, Freddie," he murmured to the water.
Thanks for reading :)