AN: The beginning of this is designed to be read really, really fast. In case you were wondering.
For the Diversity Competition. Prompt: You have to write a story focused on a magical animal/magical object.
Also for Ralinde's Pairing Diversity Boot Camp, because it's inspired by prompt 14, "love hurts," despite the fact that those words never appear in so many words.
He's stumbling, he knows, and he's not sure where he's going. He's not even sure where he's been anymore. All he knows is that his cheeks are damp – soaked, actually – and his legs don't want to support him anymore and his arms are wrapped tightly around himself because otherwise he'll end up falling apart.
Then he stops breathing. His throat is closed and he can't, he just can't. He must've turned somewhere, gone through a door – he can't remember, but it doesn't matter, because-
"Freddie." The word is an agonized whisper.
And he's there, he's alive, and George wants to take the time to examine his surroundings, find out how this is possible, but he cannot tear his eyes away from his brother's face – whole.
Without any conscious thought, his hand reaches out and so does Fred's, but where they should meet George feels only cool glass.
A muffled sob escapes and his legs collapse out from under him. He sits with a thump, fingers still touching the glass. He can't swallow past the lump in his throat.
On the other side of the glass, Fred kneels, his fingers exactly meeting where George's are. He's smiling sadly.
"Freddie," George cannot help but whisper again. His twin seems unable to answer.
George cannot move; he cannot breathe. He can't move his gaze from the face he knows better than his own.
It could be minutes, hours, days later when he finally moves again, and even then it's only because of the sound of footsteps behind him. Percy stands there, looking somewhat sheepish and holding up the Marauder's Map.
"Harry loaned it to me when I started asking about you. You'd been gone a bit. Explains a lot, doesn't it?"
Normally Percy would be reveling in a discovery like this, George thinks. But then, this isn't exactly 'normally.'
Without a word, George turns back to the image of his brother. The logical part of him knows it isn't real; this isn't Fred. That logical part of him is being squashed by the rest of him that doesn't care.
He hears Percy take a few steps forward until he enters George's peripheral vision. He reaches a hand up, inspecting the top of the glass.
"The Mirror of Erised," he whispers, his tone almost one of awe – beneath the pain they all carry right now. "This has been missing for ages."
He finds himself completely unsurprised that his brother recognizes whatever odd magic artifact George has accidentally discovered. He also finds that he completely doesn't care.
"So what do you-" Percy interrupts his own question. "It's him, isn't it?"
George only nods vaguely.
Suddenly Percy is sitting beside him on the floor – close, but not touching. He wraps his hands around his knees. "George, you know it isn't real, don't you? This mirror… It shows you the thing you want more than anything else, but it can't bring him back."
"I know that." His tone is dead.
After a long moment of silence, Percy speaks again. "I'm sorry." The words are an anguished whisper.
George can feel his eyebrows furrow, and he wants to turn and give his brother a confused look, but he doesn't want to move his gaze from Fred's face in the mirror, either. Percy sees his eyebrows furrow in the reflection, though, so that solves it.
George doesn't even have to ask the question.
Normally eloquent Percy struggles to find the words. "I'm… It… If I hadn't… I distracted him. It was my fault." George can see the sudden wetness in Percy's eyes. The look of anguish on his face nearly matches the one on George's own.
The problem is, George isn't really capable of comfort at the moment. Instead, he simply shifts over, away from Percy. Percy understands silently, following until both of them are centered in front of the mirror. George can still see Percy in the reflection, so he notices the eyes widen as Percy sees what the mirror shows.
Because Percy sees Fred in the mirror, too. Alive. And Fred is sitting there, across from him, and mouthing, It wasn't your fault.
Percy sobs – just once.
For a very long time, neither of them moves.