A/N – I haven't been sleeping well, hence fanfiction. Thank you to my wonderful proofreader nevthebunny for sorting out my atrocious middle-of-the-night writing.
"Hey, I'm back," Ron's voice carried into the bedroom of the small flat, where George was sitting silently on a twin bed.
He didn't look up as he heard the sounds of Ron removing his jacket and hanging it up on the hook in the hallway. Then, he heard the muffled thump of Ron falling as he tried to remove his shoes standing on one leg, and the muffled swearing that followed.
"Work was fine, thanks for asking," Ron called, sarcasm lacing in his words. Then, after a small pause, there came a gruff, "Sorry."
George still didn't rise from the bed, or even acknowledge that he had heard his brother. His eyes remained fixed on the patch of wall he had been staring at all day. The cracks were the same as they had been the day before. And the day before that. And yet still he just stared.
"Do you want tea?" Ron yelled from the small kitchen. George again remained silent. He could hear Ron's loud sigh, yet he didn't make a sound. He just continued staring.
A few minutes later, Ron poked his head round the door and walked in. He carried two cups of tea in his hands and walked to the bedside table, placing one of the cups down gently. George glanced briefly at the mug, now sitting next to a full, cold and abandoned cup of tea Ron had brought him that morning.
Ron looked at George carefully before deciding to sit down. The only available space left was Fred's bed, which still lay unmade. As Ron bent his knees, ready to sit, George flinched involuntarily and his hand flew out towards his younger brother.
Ron was suddenly standing dead straight, his position fixed. George looked guiltily at the wand clasped in his hand and shrugged.
"Sorry," he muttered. "But don't."
An awkward silence ensued before Ron finally spoke again.
"Are you coming to dinner on Sunday?" At George's blank face, Ron rolled his eyes and continued, "Mum? The Burrow? Ring any bells at all?"
George shook his head slowly.
"Damn it, George," Ron yelled. "Can't you just think about anyone but yourself for a moment? Mum misses you, and she's scared about you, and you know what, she isn't the only one! Merlin! Fred wouldn't have wanted-"
"Don't you dare. Don't you dare tell me what… what he would have wanted. Don't even think about it."
Ron opened his mouth the answer, but thought better of it. He stormed out of the room, slamming the door.
"That's it, Ronniekins," George yelled angrily after him. "Just keep on running." The front door clattered shut. George sat still, his face blank once again.
Several hours later, George was stirred from his reverie. Ron had complained that he only ever thought about himself. George scowled. He was quite possibly the furthest from that he could possibly be. Admittedly, the person who occupied his mind did look like him, but they were completely different. His twin was more creative, more self-assured, more, well, everything.
George looked again at the empty bed and ran out of the room before he even knew he had done it. In the kitchen, he grabbed plates, cups, anything he could reach, and threw them at the wall, trying to make the never-ending voices in his head stop.
'You were never as good as him.'
'It was your fault.'
'It should have been you.'
George sank to the floor and finally just sobbed. His chest heaved as he let out all the emotion he had been holding in for nearly a year now. It hurt, Merlin, it hurt to think about it all, but it felt good. He felt lighter. He wasn't happy, but happy now felt possible.
George pushed himself up from the floor, ignoring the broken shards digging into his palms. He walked into his room, suddenly drained, and flopped onto his bed. He fell, for the first time since it had happened, into a heavy, dreamless sleep.
Two days later, on the Sunday morning when Ron finally returned to the flat, there was no sign of George. Ron looked desperately through the rooms of the small flat, but to no avail; he was gone.
"But where would he go?" Ron asked Hermione anxiously. The 'and what has he done?' was left unsaid, but Hermione could see the guilt dancing behind Ron's eyes.
"He'll be fine," she said reassuringly, squeezing his arm gently. "We just need to think about where he might have gone," She pulled a leather bound notebook from her bag and grabbed her favourite quill from her desk. "Right, where would he go?" She looked at Ron expectantly.
Ron shrugged weakly. "I dunno," he muttered.
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"What?" Ron complained. "He hasn't left the house in nearly a year, how am I supposed to know?" He looked decidedly grumpy.
"Ron," Hermione said softly. "Just think of anything; places he used to go, people he might want to see, anything!"
"I guess there's Lee," Ron muttered thoughtfully. "Or Hogwarts. Or The Burrow."
"Fred's grave?" Hermione chipped in. Ron's face fell slightly.
"I dunno really, he hasn't been since the funeral. Would he even want to?"
"We'll put it on the list nonetheless," Hermione murmured. In a no-nonsense tone she dictated her plan. "We need to be at The Burrow in two hours; you go and check out these," she ordered, handing him a piece of paper she had ripped out of her notebook, "And I'll do the rest."
Ron stood still, looking slightly dumbstruck.
"Come on, Ronald, two hours!" Hermione chided.
"I bloody love you," Ron grinned.
Hermione smiled, bemused. "I know. Now let's go." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before disapparating.
Meanwhile, George stood outside the door of their workshop. He had been in this room once since it had happened and had only lasted precisely 46 seconds. This time, he was determined to do better.
Taking a deep breath, he placed his hand on the handle. He heard the familiar click as the door unlocked, enchanted so that only two people could enter the room. 'Just one now,' he thought sadly.
He twisted the handle and the door swung open. As he took yet another deep breath, the smell of his work, slightly sweet with just a tinge of burning, once again filled his nostrils. He smiled softly.
Slightly more confident, he strode over to a book which lay open on the countertop. It was his twin's idea book. It lay open on their last invention, a contraption which allowed the user to make small portals within a ten metre radius, allowing pranksters to increase surprise and confusion. George grinned at the memory of them chasing each other around the workshop, pulling each other's hair and tripping each other up.
He turned the page, feeling the thick parchment between his thumb and forefinger. His brother's familiar scrawl jumped out from the page. George bent down, trying to decipher the words and hastily drawn diagrams. The design was for a small contraption based on the muggle water pistols they had stolen from a few kids in the village. Instead of shooting water, the device shot a liquid which changed the target's hair colour. A vague list of ideas for the potion to go in the pistol was written but no quantities were noted. George didn't mind. Despite what Snape would have said about him, George was remarkably adept at potions. This potion would be fairly simple; George had already created many colour changing potions. Pulling on an apron, he summoned his cauldron from the store cupboard. Time to get started.
"Lee hasn't seen him," Ron grimaced. "And I talked to the people who live next to the flat and they didn't see him leave, but he could have gone at night, I guess."
"He wasn't at Hogwarts," Hermione said nervously. "I got the map off Harry but he wasn't on there. I checked Fred's grave. George wasn't there or in the graveyard." A ding interrupted her thoughts.
"What's that?" Ron asked, looking around confusedly.
"Ron, for the last time, it's just an alarm." Hermione informed him. "It tells you when you have to do things. Speaking of which, we have to go to The Burrow. That was to tell me it's time for us to leave."
"What do we tell Mum?" Ron asked, paling at the idea of having to break the news to Molly Weasley.
"I don't think we should say anything," Hermione mused. "It will only worry her and you never know, he might just have popped to the shops or something," she said, her voice falsely bright. At a glance from Ron, she winced. "I know, I know, but what can we do?"
"We'll be fine," Ron grinned, pulling his girlfriend in for a hug, before checking his watch. "Blimey, we should probably get going, don't want to be in trouble for being late now," he smiled gently. Holding out his arm which Hermione promptly took, he disapparated.
George sat at the long table in The Burrow as his mother watched anxiously. This was the first time he'd been for dinner in a long time and she eyed him carefully as she brought dishes to the table. The other guests had greeted him warily but happily as he arrived, though few tried to engage him in conversation; his face still looked pale and withdrawn, his eyes somewhat distant.
A crack from outside raised everyone's eyes to the door as a nervous looking, beetroot-red Ron appeared. As he caught George's eye, his mouth dropped open.
George promptly stood up and pulled a tiny pistol out of his pocket, firing it towards the door.
"What the...?" Ron shook his head, inspecting the droplets which flew off. Pulling some hair in front of his eyes, his mouth yet again dropped open. His hair was a virulent purple.
"Come on, little brother, time for dinner," George grinned as the rest of the table roared with relieved laughter.
"I thought, I… Uh, are you okay?" Ron asked, looking incredibly confused.
"Like you said," George answered softly. "It's not what he-" He cleared his throat. "It's not what Fred would have wanted."
"Chicken, dear?" Molly offered from the head of the table.
"Don't mind if I do," George replied.
Fred was still at the forefront of his mind, but this time as a motivator to keep going, not a reason to give up. George wasn't perfect yet, but for now at least, he was okay.
A/N – I would just like to point out that I in no way think George is better, in fact, I doubt he would ever recover fully from Fred's death. This, for me, is just the start of a (very) long journey for George. Reviews would be appreciated, but as always, are not obligatory.