It was dark when Fred opened his eyes again. He was lying on something that felt an awful lot like carpet, and as he stretched out his arms his only felt more of the same material. Slowly, the space he was in was becoming clearer as his eyes got adjusted to his new surroundings. Confusion bubbled underneath his skin when he recognised features of the Gryffindor common room. The last he remembered before apparently fainting, was a bright flash before his eyes. Was the battle over? Then where was his family? And why weren't there any other people around him? And why was the common room this quiet?
Just as he was wondering about these questions, he could hear soft sobs coming from behind him. He quickly crawled up and turned towards the sound, relieved to see Remus on the floor, holding on to Tonks, who had her arms wrapped around Remus' neck and was apparently the one crying. Fred walked closer to them, more questions running through his mind when there really wasn't another sound in the room, or outside it, for that matter. When he was standing next to the pair, Remus finally looked up, a small smile appearing on his face as he took in the figure of the young Weasley. "Fred." He said, unwrapping one of his arms from around his girlfriend to stretch it towards Fred, taking hold of his wrist and pulling him down to join in the embrace. Tonks, who had lifted her head to look up as Remus spoke, had started crying again, and wrapped one of her arms around Fred, letting out soft cries of 'not fair' and 'poor Molly and Arthur' every couple seconds. Remus tried to calm her down, giving Fred an apologetic look.
Fred however, didn't really understand what was going on, and why Tonks was crying about his parents. Did they die? Were the three of them the only survivors of the Battle? Did Voldemort win?
"No." Remus spoke, letting go of both Fred and Tonks to lean back slightly. "Voldemort didn't win. I can feel it."
Fred frowned. "Feel it?"
Remus nodded, that same small smile still playing on his lips. "Look around, Fred. Where are we?"
"Gryffindor common room." Fred said, immediately, thinking that perhaps, Remus had finally gone insane. He had it coming, after all, with everything going on in his life.
"Then where is your brother?" Remus asked, giving Fred that meaningful he always gave his students when he was still teaching Defense against the Dark Arts. "If I remember correctly, you're never anywhere without him."
"He must be.. Helping out someone." Even as he said it, Fred knew it was a weak argument, and as he looked around once more, the common room did look slightly different than he remembered. Everything was too sharp, too defined, merely an image of the warm and cosy center of the Gryffindor dorms. "This is not the common room."
"Well, it is. We're just not really there." The words weren't spoken by Remus or Tonks, and the three people turned their heads towards the side where it had come from. Fred saw another man walking towards them, his features familiar even though he was sure he hadn't ever seen him before. Remus got up from the floor and reached towards the man, pulling him in a embrace as soon as they were close enough to touch. "You stuck it out a long time, Moony."
Fred could see a grin on Remus' face as he pulled out of the embrace. "I had hoped it would be another 20 years at least before I would see you again, Prongs." To which the man snorted and slapped Remus' shoulder. "You're still as friendly as ever, my friend."
In the meantime, a woman had appeared who, if Fred had been asked to describe it, had flaming locks of auburn hair. She knelt down next to Tonks and carefully wiped the tears of her face, whispering something in Tonks' ear that made her smile a bit through her tears, before pulling her up as well and walking towards the group of people and letting her eyes fall on Fred. "You're one of Molly's." She said, smiling her bright white teeth at him. "You look so much like her."
"He does." Remus said, turning towards Fred and wrapping an arm around him. "This is Fred Weasley. Fred, these are James and Lily Potter. Harry's parents."
Fred simply stared, letting those words sink in. "So I'm dead."
The light atmosphere that had been hanging around them, disappeared again, being replaced with the heavy weight of the truth. James cleared his throat. "Well, yes. But it's not that bad, really."
"James." Lily scrunched her nose at her husband's words and took a step towards Fred. "Take all the time you need to get your head around it, sweetie. You have to accept it before we can continue." She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, and as Fred looked at her, he saw that, indeed, Harry had his mother's eyes, and he wished he could tell him. Or could tell George, so that they could confront Harry together as soon as everything had settled down. He felt like he was supposed to cry, or scream, but there was nothing but a sad emptiness in his chest where his brother had been before.
"George is still alive." James said, once again giving Fred the impression that everyone in the room could read his mind. "He's fine."
"But alone." Fred said, unable to imagine his brother without himself by his side. "I can't protect him anymore now." And that was what it came down to, for all of them, really. Not being able to protect the ones they loved and cared about. "And I promised I would always do that."
No one had a reply for that, so Fred just let his head hang for a moment, trying to get everything in order, trying to understand the situation. "So.. Dead, huh? Can I go back? Can I be a ghost and stay on earth like that?" Though the thought of being a ghost and having to see his family being alive and well, wasn't a very interesting one.
"You could." Lily said, carefully, "But that's that, then. You won't be able to move on anymore."
Fred nodded, accepting that it would be a long time before he could lay eyes on any member of his family again. "Alright. So no going back."
"Only forward." James said, a smile appearing on his face again. "But as I said, it's not that bad."
Remus let out a barking laugh at that. "And you're known for always being trust-worthy, aren't you, Prongs?"
Once again, that name rang a bell in Fred's mind, but he couldn't immediately figure out why.
"You could ask Padfoot. He's been excited since the moment he found out you were coming. Rather inappropriate, really." James said, with a soft smirk, and Lily giggled as well, still holding on to Tonks, who seemed to have finally gotten control over herself and had stopped crying.
"Time to leave the common room behind." Lily said, walking towards the door where she and James had come through. "Don't be scared, it's just a couple steps."
James nodded. "Ready when you are, Fred, Moony."
Remus snorted. "I'm always ready, Prongs."
"Wait." Fred said, when the group started moving towards the door. He stared from Remus to James, suddenly realising where he remembered the name from. "Prongs. Moony. The Marauders' Map. Did you..?"
Both James and Remus started laughing at the same time, while Lily rolled her eyes.
"So.. Prongs.. James.. And Harry.." Fred frowned and then let out an angry sigh, before he let out a loud snort. "The little shit never told me this."
The laughter still echoed through the common room when they stepped through the door, and into the light.