It was early morning as Luna apparated onto Diagon Alley. Everything was still quiet, as she liked to arrive a little earlier than most to get in some studies before the day started. After her incarceration with Mr. Ollivander, where he kept up their spirits with talks of wand making, Luna found herself growing more and more interested in the craft. So, while in her seventh year at Hogwarts, she concentrated on her studies that would help her in learning the skills she would need to become a wand maker. Starting in the summer before her seventh year, Luna started apprenticing with Mr. Ollivander, continuing her studies every break from school. Once she had graduated from Hogwarts, Mr. Ollivander took her on full-time at his Diagon Alley location.
While Mr. Ollivander, and most of the shop keepers in Diagon Alley chose to live in the apartments that resided above their stores, Luna still lived at home with her dad. Even after two years, he still woke up in the middle of the night fearful that she had been snatched by Death Eaters. Luna was happy to give him some peace having her under his roof at night.
We were all still dealing with the demons that haunted us from those last years and days of Voldemort. As Luna looked down the alley where the sun was just peaking over Gringotts Wizarding Bank , and caught sight of the peeling paint and rusted head that sat upon Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, she couldn't help but realize that it haunted some of us more than others.
Sliding her key into the old lock of Ollivander's Wand Shop always brought a smile to Luna's face. The irony that the wandmaker had a lock that couldn't be opened by wand was not lost on her. Luna's first year working for Mr. Ollivander was a mixture of education and housekeeping. Mr. Ollivander was getting up there in years, and the shop, though functional, was frightfully dusty. Who knew what creatures were lurking amongst the dust mites. She was not taking any chances. These days, the boxes of wands were wiped clean regularly, and the shelves and counter gleamed with wood polish. Despite his initial protests, Luna could see the prideful gleam in Mr. Ollivander's eyes seeing his family's legacy sparkle and shine.
Luna walked to the back of the shop to the small sitting room, shedding her coat, and hanging it from the small entry table. After making herself a cup of tea, Luna wandered back out to the two red wingback chairs that now flanked a small table by the front window. She suggested this to Mr. Ollivander this past fall when it seemed as if a wand was never going to speak to the small boy, and his mother look weary of standing. She used one of them as her favorite place to curl up with Mr. Ollivander's family book on wand making.
The mixture of artistry and technicality fascinated her. Wand making would eventually allow her to get her hands dirty carving the wood, but also use the specific magic needed to create the magical objects. This morning, Luna was continuing her studies on Ash and it's strong, yet elastic nature. Just as she was refreshing herself on the varying densities between the various varieties, Luna heard the creak of the stairs that lead down from Mr. Ollivander's apartments.
Voldemort's torture wore heavy on the wand maker. He moved slower than he used to, and much of the light was lost in his eyes. Yet, he always had a smile for Luna. He called her his angel, because he claimed there is no way he would have survived without her in the dungeon at Malfoy Manor.
"Good morning, Mr. Ollivander."
"Good morning, Luna, dear."
"I have the tea on. Would you like some?"
"That would be lovely. I think there is time for a cup before we open."
It was always the same conversation to start each morning. They both found some peace in the routine. After you have lived never knowing what was going to happen from one moment to the next, it is nice to find predictability and pattern in your life once again. And so they settled into their tea and discussed the latest in the morning's Daily Prophet, while Luna regaled Mr. Ollivander with what her dad was currently researching for The Quibbler.
After tidying up, Mr. Ollivander took his post behind the front desk, while Luna went to unlock the door for the day's first customers. Hogwart's letters had just gone out the day before, and the first year students and their parents were starting to file into the store at a regular pace.
"I'm just going to water the flowers, Mr. Ollivander, before we get too busy," Luna called out.
She had convinced him to brighten up the store front. Diagon Alley had become so bleak after the terror of Voldemort scared off half the tenants and the Death Eaters blew apart the rest. Luna thought a little color would be welcome as the community of shop keepers returned and started to breathe new life into their little street of commerce.
As she watered the red begonias she had in the window boxes and urns that now flanked the front door, she smiled and greeted the people that passed her on the street. No longer was she the target of jokes and mockery. She now received respect as the chosen apprentice to Mr. Ollivander. She still wore her radish earrings, but her colorful jumpers were now replaced with equally colorful suits and robes. After waving to a little boy she had helped last week replace his broken wand, her smile faltered as her gaze landed on the decrepit store front of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. The rest of the shops were coming to life at this hour, and aglow with business. There looming over them all was the dark, sad animatronic. Shaking her head, Luna cleared herself of the sad condition of the shop and it's now sole keeper, and put on a smile and held the door for a wizard and his little girl as they entered the shop.
Luna remained busy for the rest of the day, as families came in buying the first wand for their children that were headed off to Hogwarts in a few weeks. All the kids were a mixture of fear and excitement, and she loved witnessing that moment when their wand claimed them. The joy on those faces fed her weary heart and lead her just a step closer to recovering what was lost in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor and the weeks following that lead up to the Battle at Hogwarts.
Soon the day was at it's end and Luna was stepping out the door once again to head home. Before she did so, she wanted to stop by the Apothecary. There were a few things she was needing at home. Some herbs for teas that help her father have more restful dreams. After purchasing what she needed, Luna stepped out to apparate home, but the sight two doors down froze her in the doorway.
Luna ducked behind the bookshop and watched as Mr. Weasley emerged from the darkened Weasley joke shop. Mrs. Weasley stood on the sidewalk watching her sullen husband move towards her. She gave him a pleading look. One looking for hope in what her husband might tell her, but he just looked up sadly and shook his head before pulling his wife into his arms. Luna could hear her sobs from where she was hiding, and her body led her from her hiding place and towards the sad couple.
Mr. Weasley quickly wiped his eyes and tried to plaster on a smile.
"Hello, Luna. What has you out and about today?"
"Is he in there?" She asked, rhetorically, because she knew he was in there.
"He won't come out," Mr. Weasley said pulling his wife close and looking back at the entrance he recently came out of. "No matter what we say, he just won't come out."
"May.." Luna swallowed the words she choked on, "May I try?"
"I don't know if that is a good idea," Mr. Weasley said with a frown.
"Let her try," Mrs. Weasley whispered. "The worse that will happen is nothing."
Mrs. Weasley reached out and took Luna's hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. Taking a steeling breath, Luna turned and slowly walked towards the store.
The door quietly creaked open. It was dark, and the air felt still like the shop was in as much mourning as it's sole occupant. Luna squinted through the darkness. The only light being the rays that dare sneak past the edges of the shades drawn on every window. From somewhere in the back, Luna heard the sound of a bottle rolling across the floor. She followed the sounds until she found what, or whom, she was looking for.
There sprawled across an old wooden desk was George. His rusty colored head lay on his arm, the other sprawled across his desk barely holding onto the mostly empty bottle in his hand. Around him were dozens of empty bottles. He didn't seem to be married to any particular liquor other than drunk. The air back here was tinged with the smell of the alcohol coming out of the pores of the drunken man in front of her.
He still wore the suit she saw him in at the funeral. His jacket was tossed across the room on a worn couch that sat there. His tie near her foot on the floor.
"I said I wasn't coming home!" George slurred.
"I don't remember inviting you," Luna said tentatively.
He started a bit, but still didn't raise his head. His shoulders relaxed and he let out a slow exhale.
"What do you want, Luna? Did they send you?"
"No. I passed your parents on the street. Your dad let me in."
"I'm in no mood for a friendly chat."
"I didn't come here for that."
"What did you come here for then?" He snapped raising his blood shot eyes to meet mine.
"I thought...I just...I didn't come here to chat. I'm not here to save you or mother you. You have one of those crying out on that street corner. I just needed to be around someone who felt as awful as I did. Who would understand how it still hurts so damn much. You are not the only one who lost him."
Luna let the tears roll freely down her face and wrapped her arms around herself, closing her eyes.
She startled at the sudden sound of skidding bottles across the floor and the scuffing of feet getting closer to her. The pungent odor of alcohol was soon followed by heavy arms being wrapped around her, and his sobs echoing her own.
"What am I going to do without him?" George asked. "He was my brother. My twin. My other half. I don't know life without him in it."
Luna raised her arms, and began stroking his back slowly. George tried to shift his weight, and they both stumbled sideways with his compromised balance.
"Let's sit down before we fall down," Luna suggested leading them both to the couch.
Luna sat on one end of the couch before George flopped down next to her and fell over, his head in her lap.
"The couch is spinning," he mumbled into her stomach.
"No, that is just you."
She began to softly stroke his hair and hum a song, she was not even sure what song it was. Just soothing tones that were floating through her mind. She continued her soft brushes of his hair long past the sound of the first snore from the broken man in her lap.
** LL **
On her way in the next morning, Luna made a stop before going to Ollivander's. Once again, she found herself going through the squeaky door of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. In hand was a thermos of tea that she read was good for hangovers, and a covered plate of the eggs and bacon she had made for her own breakfast. Luna found George still passed out on the sofa where she had left him last night. She quietly set the thermos and plate on the table in front of him. Luna started to quietly slip away when a gravelly voice stopped her in her tracks.
"Why are you doing this, Luna? I thought you weren't going to mother me."
"I'm not doing it for you."
"Then who in the ever loving fuck are you doing it for? I'm the only one here."
"I'm doing it for Fred. This is not what he would have wanted, and you know it. It is disrespectful to the man he was. A man who loved joy above all."
Luna picked up a picture that sat on the desk. It was of Fred and George outside of the store on opening day four years ago. The brothers beamed at the camera and then at each other, their arms draped over each other's shoulders.
"I was thinking that if today might be the day that you realized that, you might want to have a bit to eat first."
With that, Luna walked out. Before she made it out the front door, Luna heard the sound of a plate shattering against a wall, and with that her desire of returning to this empty place. Luna never overstayed my welcome.
** LL **
Later that night as the shop was getting ready to close up, Luna heard the chime over the door. She was momentarily shocked when she saw a head of red hair outlined by the lamps on the street. As the person stepped in, and their face was no longer in shadow, Luna was a mix of relieved and disappointed. Bill Weasley stepped up to the desk followed by Fluer who was carrying a small bundle of pink. Luna's emotions quickly shifted to joy as she came around the counter to meet her friends.
"You can see the happiness radiating around her," Luna noted as she walked up to Fluer and kissed her on her cheeks, before Luna turned her attention to the baby in Fleur's arms, picking up a small hand and kissing it. Bill wrapped Luna up in a hug after she greeted his girls.
"I believe this is yours," he said as he reached into his satchel and pulled out Luna's thermos, "as is this." He pulled out her plate, fully reformed.
"Thank-you," Luna said softly setting them down on the counter behind her. "He told you, then."
"Yes. He said things about butting in and forcing things before he was ready, but Luna, this was the first time I have walked in there to not find him completely drunk. He was angry. I will take angry over the cloud of indifference he has been living under this last year."
"I can't go back there, Bill. I have my own demons. I don't know if I am strong enough to chase his as well."
** LL **
George had sat there staring at the shards of plate and the eggs running down the wall for over an hour after Luna had left. What business did she have in coming in here and telling him about HIS brother. What gave her the right to tell him how to mourn his best friend, his other half. How does one get back to life when half of them has been amputated.
George never realized how much Fred was a part of him until he was gone. When there was no one finishing his thoughts, and when George said something there was just the hollow resonance of his own voice. Its harmony blaringly absent. Every time an idea sprang to mind, George would turn to begin to talk it out only to find emptiness as his sounding board. Now, he sat alone in their shop, their dream. An empty joke store with a laughless shell as its only inhabitant.
Luna is not the first person to have tried to pull him from his almost constant drunken isolation in the past year. After they buried Fred, George rarely left their apartment above the store except to buy more fire whiskey. Occasionally, George would eat what mom would send him, but it only meant that he could drink less, so eating was a rarety. His entire family checks in on him on rotation. Yesterday was mom and dad. Today was Bill. Fluer didn't come up with him, but George could hear the baby's cry from downstairs. They had tried to get him to see her. But George wanted nothing to do with life. He just gave a strangled congratulations to his brother.
Bill did ask about the plate and the thermos. George had been so mad at Luna for trying to interfere, that he had spent the morning seething. He even took a drink of the tea hoping it was something more than just tea. When Bill arrived, George ranted about everybody leaving him alone. That he wasn't a charity case, and how they should have just buried him with Fred. Bill just listened to George rave and watched him wave and pace. When George had finally collapsed onto the couch that Luna had comforted him on last night, his head fell into his hands. Bill quietly gathered the thermos and mended the plate, and took his leave.
That evening, instead of a bottle in George's hand, he held a letter. A letter that Fred had drafted when everything started going to hell and before they had left for Hogwarts castle that night. No one knew of this letter except the officer from Gringot's. Fred had left it with them to deliver it to George upon his death along with the contents of his vault at Gringot's. When George first opened the scroll, all that was written on the page was a joke. It was the first joke they had ever learned. It simultaneously made George laugh and break down. His family held him close and quietly laughed at Fred's final words.
What they didn't know, but George suspected was that it wasn't all that was there. Like most of Fred and George's private thoughts and conversations, Fred wanted it to remain between the two of them. So, later in his room, George revealed the hidden message on the parchment. The joke faded, and a letter appeared in his brother's hand. It spoke of promises to keep the store going, to find joy, to not disconnect from the family, and to live life like he was still there.
How could he ask this of George? How could he do any of that? There was no joy without Fred. Being with the family just reminded George that Fred was not there. What life is there without his twin? It's a half-life.