* * *
There was no way that something this horrible could’ve happened to him. There was no way that this was real. It was a dream; it had to be a dream. It just had to be. There was no other way something this horrible could have possibly happened to a member of his family, least of all his twin brother.
How could someone have done something so horrible, so permanent, to someone who hadn't done anything wrong? Unless, of course, you include protecting the ones you love as some evil sort of wrongdoing. He simply couldn’t wrap his head around how someone could be so heartless and cruel to do such a horrific thing, how someone could tear away the one thing that bounded him most surely to this world.
His parents had always told him that there were evils out there, and he had believed them full-heartedly, even if he didn't always act as if he did. If there had ever been a time that he actually listened to what his parents said, it was when they spoke of the Dark Lord and all his evil doings. But did they honestly think that his disgusting evil would reach one of their own?
Apparently, they had.
They had given all their children the warning signs, they had cautioned them to remain as careful as possible at all times. To watch their backs and make sure that they were chatting with people they knew, and not some imposters. And most of all, to mind their own business. It was a dangerous thing, meddling with others when you didn’t belong in the first place.
A small, sad smile quirked the corners of his lips upward as he heard his mother’s voice inside his head. She was always chiding the pair of them, saying that if they didn’t keep their heads in the game, they would get into trouble. They had been naïve and hadn’t really taken in their mother’s words, but now that he thought back upon it, he wished that he had. It was foolish not to listen to someone who had been through this exact same scenario years ago; it was stupid of them not to drink in each and every word and commit to memory.
But of course, what parent expected their children to listen to everything they said? Even in dangerous times as the ones that had befallen the magical world, there was always going to be a bit of information that slipped in one ear and found its way out the other. There was just so much to remember! So many important safety things to commit to memory that it seemed impossible to fit it all in.
There was also the overwhelming fear. It was easy enough to laugh and joke about it, to try and momentarily forget about all the horrible events and all the catastrophes that were tainting both the magical and Muggle world. It was hard not to believe what was printed in the Prophet. It had been so trustworthy before - save for that bit back in their seventh year when it was ragging on Harry and made him out to be the mentally insane one.
A heavy sigh escaped him as he stared out into the night through the kitchen window. It was just all too much. The stress was beginning to reach an all time high and it seemed unmanageable. He wondered if people noticed it when he walked, if they saw the slight hunch of his shoulders or the small, but clearly visible bags that hung under his eyes all the time now. He was always tired, seeing as how he rarely slept through the night anymore; it was all but impossible to fall asleep and not let his horrible nightmares terrorize him.
He felt like the waking dead.
He hadn’t told anyone about his sleepless nights, not even his brother. That would worry his twin just as much as it worried him. He needed to be on alert, awake and ready for action at any time. But sometimes, it was just hard to sleep through the night without horrible images of gruesome and terrible things happening to those he loved, the ones he held so close. There was so much at stake, there was so much at risk, that sometimes, he wondered if it was really worth it all. He wondered if the fighting would pay out in the end.
Of course it would, he chided himself mentally, shaking his head once more. Of course it would pay off. This was freedom he was talking about! How could it not be worth it? Freedom from the terribly dark and deadly reign of Lord Voldemort. Not only would Muggleborns have both their wands and dignity given back to them, but they would no longer be persecuted or singled out ever again! And families would be repaired, relationships would be restored, and everyone would be happy.
In short, it would be a perfect world.
But he was smarter than that. Though he may play the part of a fool on most occasions, he had brains where it counted - not to mention a bit of common sense as well.
The world would never be perfect, he could understand that. He did understand that. But what he wanted to know was why. Why did there always have to be something wrong? Why did people conjure such. . .stupid ideas and have legions of people following them? Why did someone always have to end up getting hurt or worse?
Stop it, he told himself.
He couldn’t get into this line of thinking. Not again. He had already taken to sneaking a few drinks from the bottle of firewhisky his mother kept hidden under the skin. It was the easiest way to relax and, oddly enough, it put him to sleep if he had the proper amount. Of course, with each passing day, the “proper amount” seemed to increase. Nowadays, it took several burning swigs from the bottle, which he had smuggled up to his room and stuffed under his mattress, for the drink to even take its toll upon him.
The floorboards creaked overhead and he quickly stowed the bottle, from which he had been taking casual, but deep drinks from, underneath the skin in its rightful place. He heard footsteps and he knew that someone was coming down the stairs. He prayed to Merlin that it wasn’t his mother, she had already caught him twice that week in the kitchen, in the very same position. He didn’t think he could handle another one of her chats.
Their last one hadn’t exactly gone as he had hoped. The first one, that one was all right because he had felt that his mother had understood what he felt. But the second, it was much different. Of course, it might’ve been because she had detected the heavy scent of firewhisky on his breath. She had snatched the bottle from his hand and her kind brown eyes had widened in outrageous shock. For nearly a half of an hour, he had to listen to his mother rant about how dangerous it was to be getting smashed at a time like this.
What if someone would’ve attacked the house, she had said. What if someone would have managed to break through the enchantments and he was intoxicated, unable to defend himself, she had raged. But the moment she saw the look on her son’s face, she knew that she shouldn’t have went to such extremes and began to comfort him. But he hadn’t wanted comfort, he wanted revenge. He couldn’t help but let the wheels turn in his head as he thought exactly what he would do to the bloke who had done such a horrible deed to his brother, to his twin. He had never found out.
She had draped her arm over his broad shoulders, giving his left shoulder a tight squeeze, and he had wiggled out of her grasp. He told her that he didn’t want to be comforted and stormed up the stairs to his bedroom. Yes, his bedroom, it was no longer the bedroom that he shared with his brother. How could it be when the other was no where in sight?
George jumped out of his skin; he had been so lost in thought that he had forgotten that someone was coming down the stairs. He shook his hair out of his eyes, only to discover that several tears had leaked down his cheeks. Taking a deep breath, he turned around, fully prepared to see his mother, but was surprised when he saw Ginny.
Her hair was rumpled and her pajamas were wrinkled. Her eyes had heavy bags underneath them and she fought back a yawn as she stared at her brother.
When he didn’t answer, she asked, “What are you doing down here? It’s nearly three o’clock in the morning.”
“I could ask you the same question,” George said, turning back toward the window and staring out into the garden. He heard Ginny’s slippers shuffling against the wooden floor and he could feel her strong, reassuring presence beside him. Like him, she leaned against the countertop and gazed out the window above the sink.
They stood there in silence for what seemed like hours. But unlike the many, stony silences he had experienced around the other members of his family, this one with Ginny was anything but uncomfortable. In fact, it was quite nice.
He heard the cabinet door bang and was surprised when he saw Ginny pressed the bottle of firewhisky to her mouth. He glanced at her just in time to see her face wrinkle in distaste as the burning alcohol made its way down her throat, warming her stomach in an unpleasant way.
George opened his mouth to say something, but she glared at him. “If you tell Mum, I’ll ki- hurt you.”
She averted her eyes as she brought the bottle back to her lips and took a long sip. George was surprised that she was able to take the potent liquid without complaining. She squared her shoulders and continued to gaze out of the window.
Once she had taken another drink, she handed the bottle to her brother, who took a long dreg off the alcohol. Unlike his little sister, George did not wince as it slid down his throat, as he had become accustom to the burning sensation - immune almost.
“I came down here to think,” Ginny said suddenly, breaking her gaze off of the garden to look at her brother. He simply stared at her, a sign that showed he wanted her to continue. Tucking a strand of tangled hair behind her ear, she went on, “For some reason, it’s a lot easier to think when I’m down here and look out the window. I can’t explain it, it just seems-.”
“Natural?” supplied George.
Ginny nodded. “Yeah.” She looked imploringly at George, as though waiting for him to spill his guts.
But he didn’t. George kept his mouth tightly sealed shut as he returned his gaze back to the garden, where he could just barely make out the faint outline of a tombstone in the bright moonlight.
Something warm closed around his hand and, with a jolt, he realized that it was his little sister’s hand. She was still looking at him, although her eyes were glazed over with tears. She opened her mouth to say something, but George shook his head. Her jaw locked and her eyes hardened.
“I miss him, too, George.” she said firmly, albeit quietly.
When he felt her squeeze his hand, he pulled it out of her grip and shook his head again. “No!”
“George,” Ginny said, looking desperate. “You have to come to terms with it!”
“NO, I WON’T!” George roared, turning away from her violently.
He began to stalk out of the room, but she grabbed his arm and pulled him back into the kitchen. She struggled against him, but somehow, miraculously, managed to pull him back through the threshold. They both stumbled backward and fell into the kitchen table, causing several chairs to topple over with loud crashes, the table scraping noisily against the floor.
“But you must!” Ginny cried from the floor, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes.
“I won’t do it, Gin!” George said firmly, shaking his head like he was a small child.
Some of the former anger that was pent up inside of him was diminishing; he assumed that having fallen into the table must’ve taken away some of it. Or perhaps, the firewhisky was just doing its job. He hoped it was the former rather than the latter, as he didn’t like hitting the bottle as heavily as he was.
Ginny pushed herself up off the floor and glared stonily at her older brother, the glistening tears still shut up in her eyes. Squaring her shoulders once more, she said, in a voice so quiet, George was not entirely sure she had spoken, “Fred wouldn’t want you to suffer like this.”
George opened his mouth, wanting nothing more than to tell her off, to tell her to go back up to her bedroom, to tell her that she didn’t know anything at all, that she didn’t know what she was talking about, but he realized that she did. Fred was just as much of her brother as he was his.
“Would you have wanted Fred to be so miserable if you had been the one who. . .” she trailed off, lowering her head to the floor. George saw a tear fall to the floor.
Even though he didn’t want to admit it, his sister was right. He couldn’t continue on like this. He wouldn’t have wanted Fred to felt like he was feeling; he would’ve wanted his twin brother to mourn over his death, but not let it consume him. Not like he, George, was doing. The…monster inside of him was slowly eating away at him, the monster he now knew as guilt and hurt. It was tearing him apart, this monster, little by little until one day, he would no longer be. He had heard people dying because of their grief, but had never believed such a silly thing - until now.
He understood them completely, seeing as how he was experiencing the same emotional turmoil within. George had always been forced to put on a strong face, a silly face, anything sort of face to hide what he was truly feeling inside. Guilt, hurt, sorrow, fear, worry, they were all emotions that he carried around in an invisible knapsack, ever since his twin had. . ..
“It’s easier said than done, Ginny,” George muttered under his breath, finally pulling himself off the floor.
“I know,” she breathed.
“No, you don’t,” George said flatly. She opened her mouth in protest, but he cut her off. “He may have been your brother as well, Gin, but he was my twin. It’s like. . .I’ve lost a part of myself.”
Ginny took him by the elbow and directed him toward the kitchen table. She helped him into one of the chairs that hadn’t been knocked over and began to right the ones that had. However, her eyes never left his face as he talked.
“I’ve never been s-so confused in my life,” George murmured, looking down at his large hands helplessly. “I just don’t feel right. I don’t feel. . .complete. There is this huge hole in my heart and I. . .I feel empty, like a hollow shell of the person I was before he - before he. . .well, you know.”
Situating herself in the chair adjacent to George, she left her hand on the table top, palm upward, in case George would need to take it. She figured that she might as well offer as much comfort as he was willing to take.
George buried his hands in his hair and sighed heavily. He could feel the tears burning in his hands, but he didn’t let them fall. He looked at Ginny through his fringe, his eyes full of desperation. “What am I going to do without him, Gin? I can’t run the joke shop alone.”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine, George,” Ginny assured him, taking his hand and squeezing it tightly.
He was tempted to tear his hand away, but once he saw the tears swimming in his little sister’s eyes, he kept his hand within hers. “But how do you know that? I’m nothing without him.”
Ginny opened her mouth, the words on her tongue, when another voice behind her spoke first.
“Nothing?” the voice screeched in protest, apparently taken back. “Nothing?!” Mrs. Weasley strode into the kitchen, her faded, floral dressing gown drawn around her. “George Weasley, I never want to hear you say such a horrible, negative thing about yourself ever again!”
“No buts, George!” Mrs. Weasley nearly shrieked, dropping down to her knees in front of her son. She took his face in her hands, something she hadn’t done since he was a small child. And at the moment in time, he looked as fragile as a small, freckled boy. “We all may have lost our Fred, but we still have you, George. And if you think that you are nothing, then why are your sister and I sitting down here with you, trying to help you cope?”
“Because you’re my family and you have to think I’m important.”
Mrs. Weasley released his face and threw her arms up into the air. “Merlin’s beard, are you out of your mind, George Weasley? You are just as important as your brother, as any of your siblings, damn it! What makes you think that you are nothing without your brother?”
Before George could get a word out, Molly ploughed on, only her tone was much more soft, much more sympathetic than it had been seconds ago. “I heard your little speech about Fred being your other half, dear, but you have to realize that you are your own person. Just because Fred was your twin doesn’t mean that he was literally a part of you. Yes, you two were harder than a Permanent Stick Charm to tear apart, but that doesn’t mean that he defined you as a person. He may have helped shape the mold, but he wasn’t the artist; you were.”
George stared at his mother for the longest time, not exactly sure what to say. He glanced over at where Ginny was sitting to find that her chair was empty. He hadn’t heard her leave, much less go up the stairs to her bedroom. He was at a loss for words. He had looked to his sister for some sort of hint for what he was supposed to say to that, but he couldn’t muster anything but grief.
Grief and sorrow and remorse and every other horrible feeling one experienced when their loved one, especially someone who had stuck by their side loyally for nineteen years.
Before he knew it, he found himself wrapped in his mother’s warm, loving, and comforting embrace as his body shook with sobs. He clung to his mother like a small boy would, as though his life depended on it. Mrs. Weasley rocked her son back and forth, rubbing his back as he sobbed into his shoulder for the loss of his twin brother, the very young man that she had been thinking about - crying about, actually - just moments before she heard the loud ruckus downstairs.
He finally had it. The answer to all the bottled up emotions that were withheld inside of him. And it was the sweetest release.
And it seems to me like you’ve lived your life like a candle in the wind
Never fading with the sunset when the rain set in
And your footsteps will always fall here along England’s greenest hills
Your candle’s burned out long before your legend ever will
- Candle in the Wind, Elton John, 1997
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