Two Steps Back
He didn't like seeing the joke shop like this.
He didn't like it one bit.
The sign on the front door reading Closed For The Time Being didn't belong there. Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was supposed to be that one place for everyone to just get away and have fun. That's how it had always been. That's how it should still be.
Now it was just an empty shop, whose shelves were collecting dust. The various items that should be used on naive younger siblings were sitting there, lonely. There was no life to it anymore. Just as mentioned before: when Fred died, so did the shop.
He never wanted to see it in this state. He never wanted to see his family in that state. What he would give to be alive: to see the shop opened, flooding with people who were happy or at least trying to be; people who were picking up shattered glass after the war and getting cuts on their hands from the damage done during an awful time, but still managing through the days.
It was things like this that kept him from coming to terms that he was dead and he didn't want to be dead. Could you even consider him to be truly dead? He wasn't in some strange limbo. He wasn't a ghost. He was just here; watching but not being seen.
He absent-mindedly played with the stack of Fanged Frisbees, not noticing the number of eyes on him.
"You never did explain how you were able to make all this stuff." Tooth suddenly said from the top of the staircase.
Fred blinked, taking in the situation at hand.
That's right. He never actually explained the wizarding world to them, or the exact situation that caused his death in the first place. Only Jack and North knew the basics. The other three were almost completely lost.
"You know how you are all considered myths by human standards, but you actually exist?" Fred said, continuing to play with the wands. ",Well that's how it is with wizards. Except we don't require that whole 'you need to believe' crap. We just prefer to keep hidden from muggles."
Fred took one of the Frisbees and pointed it at Bunnymund, who stood with his back towards Fred.
"Non-magic folk. Hey, Mund. Watch out!" Fred said, throwing the Frisbee at the rabbit.
As Bunnymund spun around, the Frisbee skimmed his ears. He rolled his eyes, clearly not amused by the ginger's antics.
There was a second of silence, before Jack floated to Fred's side.
"You seriously have to teach me how to make some of these things," Jack said, holding a Headless Hat in his hands.
Each Guardian was fascinated by all the products. Tooth especially couldn't keep her eyes off of the Pygmy Puffs.
Sandy floated up to the Umbridge doll, pointing at it enthusiastically with a little yellow question mark over his head.
Fred smirked. "That's Umbridge. She was a tyrant at my school during my last year. I was gone before graduation, took off on my broom with George. We made her life hell."
"What did she do that made her so bad?" Jack asked, putting on the Headless Hat.
Fred looked at the back of his left hand, grimacing. "She was condescending and abusive. She didn't even let the younger student catch a break. This scar right here"―he pointed to the engraving on his skin―"was her and her stupid quills. She was the worst. Well, there were a few others who could compete."
"And who would that be?" Jack said, putting the hat down.
"Voldemort. My Murderer. Any Deatheater in general," Fred said, shrugging.
North, who had previously been preoccupied with the love potions, turned around; his interest now peaked.
"Who eez Voldemort? I 'ave 'eard his name before."
"Voldemort," Fred said. "was a bigot, for lack of a better word. He started a war based on his own stupid beliefs. His cronies―the Deatheaters―killed me and so many other people."
Tooth flew down; her movements cautious and hesitant.
"If you don't mind me asking, how did you die?"
"An explosion," he said. "The final battle was at my old school. Naturally, I went to help the cause alongside my family. As we were fighting, there was an explosion and I died."
Just as the words escaped his lips, the front door to the shop opened up. Everyone dropped what they were holding and froze.
There standing, taking in what had become of their precious shop, was George. Behind him was the rest of the Weasley's.
"Bloody hell," Ron said, passing everyone. "I didn't realize it got this bad."
"It's been too long since we came back here," Ginny said, moving to go check on the Pygmy Puffs she loved so much. "Who's been feeding the Puffs?"
"The girl who worked here before, Verity," answered Bill.
Mrs Weasley was walking slowly through the shop. Tears slipping down her cheeks as she ran her fingers over the products.
Percy was scrutinizing everything. His face scrunched in anger.
"It doesn't feel right," he said. "It doesn't feel right without Fred."
The Weasley's were quiet and so were the guardians watching their movements.
George, who had been walking and staring at everything with a blank expression, finally spoke, "It's never going to feel right, Perce. He's gone. He's not coming back. We've gone from nine to eight; that's not how things are supposed to work. Not now."
He paused but went on. His voice was emotionless and distant and just so wrong coming out of George's mouth.
"You know the only time I saw him old and grey was when we tried to put our names in the Goblet of Fire. That was a stupid idea. The sodding idiot was supposed to get married eventually and have kids, but instead, he got himself killed."
"George," Ron said. "It's not his fault for dying."
"Oh, don't think I blame him, I don't, but if he had just stayed behind for a split second more, he would still be here, and we wouldn't be here, still mourning a year later, and I wouldn't have these stupid scars on my wrist."
The guardians looked to Fred upon hearing those words. He was unreadable.
"George," Ginny whispered. "You shouldn't undermine your pain like that."
He laughed, but his voice was cracking as he spoke, "I tried to kill myself! Twice. Because my twin―my fucking best friend died! What does that say about me? That I can't handle myself without him? I don't want to miss him, Ginny! But I can't fucking stop wanting to off myself because it would be so much better than this hell! Look at the shop! What does it fucking matter if I acknowledge I'm broken or not? It clearly shows!"
Ginny looked infuriated, but she didn't say anything in return. She bit her tongue because anything she would say now, she would regret later.
"He should be here," Percy said when the room went silent.
Something in Fred must have snapped because the unreadable expression melted away as tears pooled in his eyes.
He stood in front of Percy, smiling like a madman. "Perce, I'm right here!"
Obviously not hearing Fred, Percy turned away and exited the shop, saying something about needing air.
Fred went to George next.
"I'm right here, Georgie."
"Fred," Jack said. "It doesn't work like that."
Fred shook his head, ignoring what Jack had to say. "Georgie, I know if it's anyone, it's going to be you who hears me."
"I think it's time to go," Mr Weasley said, opening the door for his wife to pass through.
George took one last look at the shop's interior before walking right through Fred and leaving with the rest of his family.
It was about four hours later that the other guardians were able to get Fred to leave his spot. His crying though? That was a different story.
Fred hadn't spoken a word since the incident at the joke shop. His lessons were done with him doing as told, but only half-heartedly. They would ask questions, hoping to get something out of him but nothing worked.
Fred was simply this form that took up invisible space. He wasn't tangible outside the workshop. Nobody knew he existed.
Nobody that really mattered anyway.
"Just let me give this to him," Fred heard Tooth say from the other side of the door to his room.
"He'll talk to us when he's ready." That was Bunnymund.
"Well, he might be ready faster if you two would just let me pass!"
"Tooth, seriously! It might hurt more than help!" That was Jack.
There was a series of Ow's and screams and Jack repeating Tooth, what the hell? before Fred heard the two guarding the door take off.
Fred didn't move from his spot, even as the door opened and Tooth came flying in.
"Hey." she greeted, stopping right beside his bedside.
Fred didn't respond. He just stared at the ceiling.
"I have something to give you," She said, and knowing he wouldn't ask himself, she explained what it was. "I'm the Tooth Fairy. I know you said most wizarding families don't grow up on those tales, but a child is a child and I spent a while looking for this to give to you."
She dropped a cylinder container on the nightstand.
Fred glanced at it. He might have ignored it, but it was almost as if it was calling him.
"Teeth aren't just teeth," she said. "They are the symbols of childhood. They contain memories; the most important ones that are held close to the heart. I thought maybe this would help give you that inspiration you've been needing this whole time."
Tooth looked at the cylinder container for a second before leaving Fred to his own devices.
Fred sat up when the door was shut, taking the cylinder in his hands.
He inspected it, seeing a picture of himself on the flat end, but there were voices coming from inside, calling not his name but George's.
No, he thought, looking at the picture even closer. It wasn't him, it was George's face painted on.
Perhaps it was the overwhelming curiosity taking over, but with a click, the cylinder opened and it felt like Fred's life was a videotape; rewinding until he was back at the beginning.
In celebration of Fred & George's birthday yesterday!
I'm sure Freddie Fools had a field day ~