A/N: I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! :)
The battle for Hogwarts had ended two weeks ago. The series of funerals, two days. The sitting around the kitchen table brooding over the loss of a family member, two hours. The fence gate on the edge of the property for the Burrow opening, two seconds. But, the mourning silently and alone on the back porch step had only just begun.
Darkness was descending around George, literally, with the departure of the sun, as it had done, metaphorically, two weeks, three hours, twenty seven minutes and nineteen seconds ago with the dead body of his brother. Nothing in the world could replace the despair and emptiness within his very soul. Instead of being whole, he was now half, and it had nothing to do with his missing ear.
The girl in the kitchen had seen better days. She was among acquaintances, not friends, and her comfort level reflected that. She was pretty, and had caught the eye of Ron in his fourth year. But, being a year younger (and in Slytherin of all houses) he'd let the fancy pass.
Pure-blooded Trissie had surprised them all two years later when she accepted an invitation to Hogsmeade from none other than the very un-pure-blooded Gryffindor of the same year: Collin Creevey. All doubts about where her allegiances lie were shattered with her decision to stay and defend Hogwarts against Lord Voldemort.
Ginny greeted the girl warmly. After a quick hug, she stepped back and beamed. "What brings you here?"
The other girl lifted her head, revealing the ugly red scar that snaked its way down the side of her face; it slithered away beneath her chin and disappeared into her shirt like a great, angry serpent. Along the way, it reduced her eye to an empty socket and pulled down the corner of her mouth into a permanent half grimace. The entire room winced at the horrible sight; for betraying her house, she'd paid dearly.
"I came to offer my condolences. I didn't know him super well, but I always thought his jokes were funny. I brought this for George." She held out her hands to reveal a small tin canister wrapped in a blanket. "It's blasting fudge. I learned the recipe from my mother. I thought that he would appreciate it."
Ginny took the tin from the girl, who smiled and took a seat when offered.
"George, come inside. Tris is here for a surprise visit," Ginny Weasley told her brother from the window. George didn't move. "You're being very rude, you know." With a humph, the younger girl turned on her heel and returned to the house.
The warm light of the kitchen filtered out, and voices spilled from the once somber kitchen. Twice more people tried to coax George back into the light, but the atmosphere was wrong to him. Someone inside told a joke and everyone laughed, but that, too, was wrong. Without Fred, how could anything possibly be funny or cause laughter? Fred had practically inventedjokes, and so they should die along with their creator. It wasn't right to enjoy himself when Fred no longer could.
"So, how are you doing, Tris?" Hermione asked as the jokes died away.
Tris shrugged. "I'm alive. I suppose that's what matters most."
The rest of the kitchen nodded, and a crippling silence filled the room. The memories of the dead, both good and bad, filled the room and choked its occupants as they all shifted uncomfortably in their chairs.
"We dishonor their memories with this silence," Tris finally squeaked. "I came to remember the people I knew in life. And to remember that I was honored to have known them, no matter for how long."
"Very wise words," somebody murmured.
Tris did her best to smile despite her disfigured mouth. "Ginny, do you remember Collin's obsession with that damn camera?"
Ginny nodded and grinned at Harry, who sat next to her.
"It drove me bloody crazy," the older boy said, squeezing Ginny's hand.
Tris laughed, a tentative little thing that died quickly when nobody joined her.
No amount of time would be enough to stew over the loss of a twin. When the back door opened, he ignored it completely. When the warm body sat down next to him, he looked the other direction, set on making his intentions known. When she scooted closer and took his hand, he pulled away.
"I'm sorry, George."
He'd seen more than enough of this girl in school, starting his fourth year. No matter where he and his brother were, she wasn't far off. Very quiet, always trying to hide behind a group of passing Slytherins, or pretending to ignore them, but it seemed like she was always there.
"I don't want your pity," he grumbled, continuing to ignore her.
The first time they'd spoken, she'd said the same thing. Bullied by older kids in her own house, she'd been left outside without a coat or her robe. Taking pity on the poor first year had been Fred's idea, surprisingly. Pranks were one thing, he'd said, being mean was quite another. Even if she was in Slytherin.
They'd snuck out and draped a quilted blanket their mother had made over her shoulders. She'd stood quickly, pulled the blanket close around her shoulders, and glared at them. "I don't want the pity of two Gryffindor fourth years!" She had kept the blanket, though.
"I'm not asking you to take my pity," she replied, fiddling with something in her lap.
"You're not the only person who lost someone that day, George Weasley."
George couldn't bring himself to care; Fred had been the only person important who died that day. Aside from Voldemort. And only one of those men's deaths made the world a better place; the other darkened it.
"You keep asking yourself, 'Why wasn't it me?' don't you?" Trissie asked, her voice quavering. "You want to take back the whole battle and hope you can protect him. Keep him from leaving you."
George's ear perked up. She was speaking some of his recurring thoughts aloud.
"I... I feel the same way, George. About Collin. About Fred. About every single person that died in that damn castle." She lapsed into silent sobs. "But, there isn't much we can do about it now, is there?" Tris asked finally, wiping her eyes. "I'm not saying forget Fred. I'm not saying don't mourn him. But you have to get on with your life." She took his hand again with both of hers.
George looked over at the girl; she was no longer the innocent little Slytherin he'd given the blanket to. The scar that marred her face made him wince, and he had to look away. The pretty face of a sheltered sixth year school girl was gone; the tortured face of a woman who'd lived through hell had replaced it.
"Look at me, George."
George refused to look. He had to deny that there were people worse off than him. Nobody could truly be worse off than him; he was only half a person. Nothing could be worse than half a person.
"It'll get better, George, you'll see."
"I doubt that," George shot back bitterly, turning to look at the girl again.
Tris dropped his hand and stood up. "Fine. Be the pessimist. But let me tell you just how great a life you have. My family disowned me for standing against the Dark Lord. My boyfriend, who was coincidentally my only friend in school, is dead. I'm not old enough to do magic for another month, and I'm homeless. I have no money to buy my school supplies for next year or any way to get a job!"
Tris stood there, fire in her eyes as she refused to cry in front of this older man. The man who had been her idol in school. "I used to look up to you, George. You didn't let anything get you down. Not even Umbridge. But right now, you're being pathetic." She threw the bundle that she'd been fiddling with at George before storming back into the house.
He just sat there staring at it, even after Ginny came out and chewed his remaining ear off. "I mean, really, George? Tris was only trying to make you feel better. You didn't have to be a prick about it!"
Ginny eventually went away. George was still staring at the bundle. It was the blanket he and Fred had given Trissie so many years ago. It wasn't the first time they'd passed it back and forth.
At the end of his fourth year (her first), she'd found the pair stewing over Ginny's disappearance in a corner of the Great Hall. In silent understanding and apology, Tris had draped the blanket over their shoulders and left before any Slytherins would notice her.
They passed it back to her when they found her crying in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom the next year. And she'd given it back after she heard that Professor McGonagall had managed to confiscate all of their dung bombs. That had been a dark day during their fifth year, but the blanket that mysteriously appeared on the one-eyed witch statue had given them a reason to grin.
During the TriWizard tournament, she had been exceedingly terrified of dragons and run out of the stadium during the first event. The twins wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't run right by them, tears streaming down her face. George went to get the blanket with a silent nod to his brother. Fred met him just outside of her hiding place. They dropped the blanket on her head with a grin and went back to watch the event.
George got it back when he asked her to be his date to the Yule Ball. It was a desperate attempt he knew would go south. She had to turn him down on the simple principal that he was a Gryffindor (of course, never having held an entire conversation didn't help much, either). That was the night that he had learned her name. She handed him the blanket with a sad smile. "If I only had a dress."
The last exchange had been right before the twins stuck it to Umbridge. It seemed only right to play the game one last time. George dropped it on her head as the twins flew by on their broomsticks.
Shaking his head at the different memories, a small smile graced George's face for the first time since the death of his twin. He stood up and went inside.
Trissie sat in Ginny's room looking uncomfortable. Molly had overheard Trissie yelling at George, taken pity on the girl, and said she could stay. Well... ordered her to stay.
It was tight with the whole family plus two present, but Molly found a bed. Ginny and Hermione were sound asleep, and it was well past midnight, but Tris just couldn't get comfortable. Seeing George so broken made her feel horrid. She had loved Collin, yes, but Fred and George had been her first loves. To see one of them dead was horrible, but to see the other so depressed was even worse.
Finally, unable to mope any longer, Tris got up and snuck from the room. She had to move, had to think about something else, occupy her mind with a task.
When she ended up in the kitchen sipping on tea, there was nobody stirring anywhere. Tris paced the spot in front of the sink, unsure whether she should slip out or accept the Weasley's hospitality.
"Tris? What're you doing here?" She turned to see George standing in the doorway wrapped up in the old blanket.
"Your mother won't let me leave," she whispered, turning away.
"She's pushy like that."
Tris nodded and set her teacup in the sink.
"I want to thank you, Tris."
"For what?" She turned to look at the older man, who had taken a couple steps closer to her.
"For reminding me of the good times I almost forgot."
Tris smiled up at him. "I figured it was time to pass the blanket back. You need it more than me."
George gave a small nod, and watched her, waiting for something. The Syltherin stepped forward timidly, pink dusting her cheeks. The Gryffindor opened his arms to accept her, and she closed the gap with one last, quick step. Wrapped in the blanket together, the two shared the fabric for the first time. They both knew the blanket and cherished the memories that came with it, but until that moment, neither had realized that the only missing memory was of them together.
Trissie rested her head of George's chest, listening to his heart beat steadily. It was the sound of life; of a future. She could feel a tear forming in the corner of her eye out of pure joy. George rested his chin on her head and held her. She was a living, breathing person who knew his pain, and was as damaged and scarred as he was. But in that moment, the past no longer mattered. And George knew he could live on.
But alas, George's stomach growled, ruining the moment, and bringing both back to their shattered realities.
"Er... right…" he began, embarrassed.
Trissie merely laughed. The side of her face untouched by the scar lit up beautifully, and George laughed, too, after a moment. It felt good to laugh again; he'd forgotten what it felt like.