The world is big, and she knows it. She has always known it.
She stares at it now, from the eternal layers of grass to the endless blue skies. The world is big; bigger than her home, bigger than her wide brown eyes, bigger than her five-year-old mind can grasp. It scares her, and it delights her, and it fills her with thousand and thousands of questions. Yet where to begin with her questions, and whom should she ask? Yet, instantly, she knows the answer to latter question, but as for the first...
She shuffles her feet anxiously through the green, green grass. Then she passes, staring down at her tiny, bare feet and the long blades of too-tall grass that surrounds them. The question forms in her mind. The grass is green, and she does not know why. But she knows who does know.
Reaching a small hand upward, she circles her fingers around three of her brother's fingers. She tilts her head back so she can look up at him, taking in his dancing eyes, his wide smile, and the hair that looks so much like hers. She asks, “Fwed, why is the gwass gween?”
He looks down at her for but a moment, before looking at the grass. Then he raised his head and said, as though it was the simplest thing in the world, “Because there is a great big troll who lives under the ground and every time he sneezes, he covers the grass with bogeys.”
Ginny looks at the grass and purses her lips thoughtfully, trying to decide if it is true. Finally, she nods. It must be true, because her brother knows everything. So, her curiosity ends, but only for a moment, as there are more questions to be found than the color of grass. She looks about, searching for the right one, and as she investigates, the gentle breeze caresses her cheek like loving fingertips. She finds her question in that caress.
“Fwed, where does the wind come fwom?”
He blinks down at her, perhaps wondering how it was possible that she did not know that. Then he sighs dramatically. “There's an invisible dragon on an island in Scotland that always sleeps and is so big that every time he snores, he blows a great gust of wind through the world.”
“Oh,” she says. Just 'oh'. No doubt, just acceptance, because her brother would never lie to her. Still, she did not know there were so many monsters creating such things. She thinks she would be afraid, but Fwed is with her. He will protect her, just like he did from the monster that crawled under the bed last week. He banished that monster, and he will protect her from these.
Her wide eyes hurry about, and she takes in the beauty of the world, searching for another question. Once again, it finds her. There is a pop from behind, and she turns her head around, looking back at the house. She knows the pop means her father has come home. Beside her, her brother turns to look as well, and she knows he wants to go in. For a moment, she wants to, too. She wants to fling her arms around her daddy, to give him kisses, and ask him how work was. Yet, she wants to stay with her brother much more, even though she knows he does not want to be with her. He did not want to come play with her, but Mum made him, and Ginny will not let go of the moments they are now sharing. She likes being with her big brother. Fred makes her feel safe, like as big as the world is, Fred is bigger, still.
So she asks the question that has come to her, “Fwed, where does magic come from?”
“From Hogwarts, of course,” he says quickly.
Yes, of course. Ginny knows she should have known that, but now she knows for sure, and she loves Hogwarts more than ever, just like she has from the first moment she remembers watching one of her brothers ride off on the train to that beautiful, distant land. “I love magic,” she says softly. “I wanna go to Hogwawts.”
Fred's gaze softens a bit as he realizes their shared desire. Kindly, he reassures her, “You will one day, Gin.”
Ginny smiles because she is sure he is right, just like she is always sure that he is right, but the smile waves, only for a moment. Another question is beginning to form, as she tilts her head, up and up and up, until it will go up no more. She stares at the great, beautiful blue above her. She feels a grin tug at her fallen lips. She wants to smile, and she does not know why.
So, she again looks at her brother and asks, “Fwed, why do I want to smile when I look at the sky?”
Fred looks down at her as though in surprise, then tilts his head up and up and up, until it will go up no more. And when his gaze is set upon the endless sky, a grin pulls on his lips, and Ginny knows the sky makes him want to smile, too. And he knows why; Fred knows everything.
She holds her breath, her eyes wide, and waits, wondering what monster is responsible for this.
“Because that's where heaven is.”
So simple. So beautiful, that Ginny knows it must be true. She forms the strange and beautiful word in her mouth, saying it slowly, because she must say this wonderful thing right. “Heaven.” It is such a splendid word, that she knows that whatever place is called by such a name must be splendid too. So, she wants to know what it is, more than anything else in the world. “Fwed, what's heaven?”
“It's the place where all the good people go when they die,” Fred answers without pause, making the place sound glorious, even if Ginny wasn't so sure she liked the 'die' part. “And it's the happiest place ever, where you get to be with the people you love. There's no pain or tears – just smiles, and fun, and pranks – lots and lots of pranks.”
“And candy?” Ginny asks seriously.
Fred laughs. “Yes, Gin. All the candy you can eat.”
Good. She likes candy.
“It sounds bwetiful,” Ginny says, but she sounds uncertain. “But...” She pauses for a moment, unsure how to say such a hard thing. “I don't want to die.”
Fred chuckles reassuringly and pats her on the back. “You won't, Gin. Not for a very long time.”
“And you?” Ginny says urgently, suddenly remembering another frightening possibility. “Are you going to die?”
“Me?” he inquires, pushing a thumb into the center of his chest. He squares his shoulders, looking bigger and stronger than ever. “I'm not going anywhere.”
“Good,” Ginny says, sighing in relief, “because I want you to stay with me fow...” She pauses for only a second, finding the perfect word so easily. “Fowever.”
“'Course I will.” Fred smiles, then pulls her small hand and tugs her toward the house.
She follows, wondering at his side, and then she plants her feet firmly in place. Feeling her resistance, he stops, looking down at her in annoyance, as innocently, she stares back at him with wide, innocent brown eyes.
“More questions?” he asks, barely tolerantly.
Slowly, she shakes her head. Of course she has more questions. There are always questions. Like why her family has red hair, but others have yellow? Or if heaven is where the good people went, then where do the bad people go? But there is something that seems so much more important. It is not a question, nor is it an answer. It is a fact, something that solves more than any answer ever could.
“I love you, Fwed.”
He chuckles, surprised, but something within his eyes dances. Then, here, where no one else can hear, he supposes it would be all right, if he tells his little sister, the nuisance that she is, how he truly feels about her.
He grins wide. “I love you, too, Gin.”
The years go by, as years have a habit of doing. With time comes growth, and with growth comes change. The world that was once so large now seems so small. A child who adores her brother grows into a teen who can no longer believe that her brother knows everything. In fact, she is willing to bet that he knows nothing. She no longer believes that she wouldn't try to trick her, for only a child can be so naïve not to recognize a prankster like him. She no longer believes that she needs her brother to protect her from monster, and instead believes she can protect herself. The bond they once shared grows more distant. But the love – the one spoken of so sweetly on a simple day in the yard of their home – remains. Forgotten at times; taken for granted most of the time, but there – always there.
As time passes, promises meant to be kept are broken. I'm not going anywhere, a statement made by a child who knew nothing of the ways of death and dying, becomes empty and cold.
Yet, the questions do not end, for years later, Ginny stands in another field of green, green grass, under a sky of endless blue, and in front of a horrible slab of stone, with a question burning and tearing her already aching heart. This time her Fred is not there to answer the questions. For he is gone, and she does not know why.
Why did you have to go?
Don't you know it isn't fair?
Why didn't any of us have the chance to say goodbye?
There were so many questions, unanswered, unasked, for they are the questions that everyone in her family asks him. The family that was once nine is now eight, incomplete. There is one empty chair at the dinner table. There is the pain, in each heart that now has a piece missing. There is the silence, in a mother who misses her son, in a brother that misses his twin, and in a sister who misses the brother that used to make her laugh. And there are so many bloody questions.
Where are you, brother?
She feels the tears burning her eyes, the tears that she cannot show to anyone, and she looks away from the stone that she can no longer see. It hurts to look, so she looks at the grass – green – and she feels the wind, gentle like caressing fingertips. She feels the memory come, sharp and strong, like a stab through her brain – and through her heart. But though painful, they are comforting. For though they remind her of the time she will not have as a brother, they remind her of the time she did. The times that she then took for granted, but now treasures. Because as she thinks over those bittersweet memories, she hopes that one day they will be enough. That one day they will feel the ache deep within her.
Then she tilts her head up and up and up, until her head will go up no more. Her gaze fills with nothing but blue. Endless, unstoppable, beautiful blue. She wants to smile, and for a moment, she does not know why. Then she remembers.
”Because that's where heaven is.”
“What's heaven, Fred?” she whispers to herself, feeling for just a moment as though she was still a girl, who's favorite person in the world was her Fred. She can almost feel her fingers wrapped around his, and for a moment, that cold, empty piece that was placed in her heart when he died feels warm.
“It's the place where all the good people go when they die.”
Ginny closes her hand, and does not feel Fred's fingers between hers. The illusion ends, but the magic is not lost, for she is still staring up at the sky. If anyone was good enough to go to heaven, it was Fred. She can see him now, up in that perfect place, laughing and smiling and playing pranks – lots and lots of pranks. She wonders if from up there, he thinks about her and their family, and she's almost sure he does. She's almost sure that, as she stares up, almost looking into heaven, that he's looking back down at her.
She can still hear his promise, I'm not going anywhere, and she almost believes he hasn't. Because heaven doesn't seem so far away. She hopes so, because she wants him to hear this, the thing that she hates herself for not telling him nearly enough when she was a little girl in pigtails.
“I love you, Fred,” she whispers into the sky, into heaven, into Fred's listening ear.
Then she grins, because for the first time in her life, she understands why she wants to smile when she looks at the sky.
A/N: Thanks so much to Lindsey and Victoria for beta-ing this. It meant a lot. Also, thanks for reading. I'd love a review giving me your thoughts on this.
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