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It had become clear to many of their family friends that the Weasleys were still getting over Fred’s death, even seven months after the young wizard’s death. But, none more so than George Fabian Weasley. An outsider could see that the one-eared wizard was still grieving the loss of his brother. For Apollonia Snape, she had only known Fredrick Gideon Weasleys for a single year before his death; and even then, they weren’t all that close. She simply knew him as a prospective business partner. Oh, and the man who decided to bind his magic to her.

Due to Fred’s choice to bind Apollonia to her promise to watch over George, through the use of his magic, there was no way that the young Snape could ignore the warning signs that George gave off. If ever there came a time in which he was starting to become depressed about Fred’s death, then Apollonia had an obligation to rectify the situation. She didn’t have a choice in the matter, not that she wouldn’t have done it anyway. Apollonia knew what it was like to go without a twin, though it was during a time when her father concealed that secret from her, and she would do what she could to help him.

Thus far, the Christmas break was not one to be remembered. Apollonia, Harry, and Hermione were invited to spend the break with the Weasleys, which caused a ruckus in the house. Mostly because of Apollonia. For years, it was the Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione. Now that Apollonia was invited as well, the youngest of the Weasley sons had taken offense to her inclusion in the celebration. Ronald Bilius Weasley hated her. Ever since she and Harry became friends – before the discovery that they were siblings – Ron chose to hate her because she was a Slytherin. However, it wasn’t as if Ron had a choice in the matter; Arthur and Molly loved her like a daughter. It was the fact that she was Harry’s sister that compelled the Weasley parents to treat Apollonia like she was their own daughter.

Before the Christmas break, the last time that Apollonia was really at the Burrow was over the summer, at time when she was able to avoid the youngest Weasley. However, now that she was invited to the house, the young Snape had no way to avoid the family’s youngest son, as much as she wanted to. But, watching out for George was a priority, a fact most of the family seemed to understand. Even Percy, who was still trying to get used to be around his family – and felt guilty about Fred’s death, understood that Apollonia had a job to do. However, Ron didn’t. He refused to accept that Harry’s sister was trying to help.

Even though Ron was the only one to truly despise the young Snape, it didn’t mean that she was beloved by everyone else. Bill and George were the only ones to trust her completely, which left the others – Charlie, Percy, and Ginny – hating her to varied degrees. If not for the fact that he was wallowing in his own guilt, Percy would have trusted her. However, the young man’s guilt was too consuming that was impossible to turn to the Ministry official. Charlie, in the meantime, was still smarting over the prank she played on him when she was young. He refused to trust the girl, even if she was Harry’s sister. Then there was Ginny. Though they got along for the Year of Torture, learning that Apollonia was Harry’s sister caused the Weasley daughter to stop trusting her. It took awhile for Apollonia to understand the reason for this, but she soon understood what was going on; Ginny was afraid of losing Harry, of the man-who-conquered spending more time with his sister than the girl he loved. And, despite Apollonia’s assurance that such it would never happen, the Weasley daughter was still wary of the Snape.

Since the break began, Apollonia had not had the chance to spend time with her brother. Instead, she was relegated to spending time with Fleur, Hermione, Angelina Johnson, and Alicia Spinnet. It was only after Fred’s passing in which Apollonia became friends with Angelina and Alicia; they were grieving over the loss of a friend and Apollonia happened to possess a piece of the deceased’s magic. It was only natural that they would become friends. Then there was also the fact that Angelina had been dating George for the last few months. Angelina was the young Snape’s contact, helped watch over George while Apollonia was finishing her education and preparing to attain her Potions Mastery.

The night before Christmas was much like last year’s. A rather somber feeling accompanied the supposed celebration, knowing that Fred wasn’t there. Apollonia could feel the crackle of Fred’s magic every so often, a reminder of what she was supposed to be doing. At this time last year, Apollonia was spending time with the Weasleys; learning that she was to be godmother to little Teddy Lupin; and making a deal with Fred and George that would seal her fate only five months later. Now, only a year later, Apollonia was yet again spending time with the Weasleys; this time without her father, Fred, Remus, and Tonks. She was treated like scum by her brother’s best friend, and given very little respect for all that the young Snape did for the Wizarding World. Though it was a world without Voldemort, Apollonia felt like this was the same world she grew up in. Like it was never going change.

The Burrow was in no shape to be celebrating Christmas. None of them seemed all that thrilled about celebrating the holidays when one of their number was dead. It was Hermione, Harry, and Apollonia who had to step in to ensure that the Weasley family did not crumble under their grief during this holiday season. Apollonia was especially worried about George; his grief was palpable; and the young Snape was the only one who could even begin to help him through this. “What are we supposed to do to keep the Weasleys from succumbing to their grief?”

“I can’t think of anything,” Apollonia admitted.

“You can’t?” Harry asked.

“Well, not anything that will help everyone.”

“Just George,” Harry guessed.

Apollonia nodded. “It’s not like I have a choice. Fred made me George’s keeper when he bound me with his magic in the moments following his death. As much as I know you could use the help with others, George is my only concern. Percy maybe; but no one else.”

“It would be easier if we each handled two,” Hermione said.

“George and Percy then,” Apollonia said.

“I’ll take Ron,” Hermione said.

“And, I’ll deal with Ginny,” Harry told them.

That was predictable, Apollonia thought. Of course they were going to choose to deal with their significant others. Where did that leave Bill and Charlie, however? Which one – her brother or her friend – would deal with the each of the older two Weasley brothers? “Bill and Charlie then. Who will watch out for them?” Apollonia wondered. No matter how old the brothers were, they would still be affected by their younger brother’s death.

“I’ll take Bill,” Harry said.

“Then Charlie is mine,” Hermione decided.

Though the group of three decided that it would probably be best for them to focus on only two of the Weasleys each, a last-ditch attempt would be made for the whole of the family; to bring them together. During the last seven months, changes were made so that the Wizarding World could better understand the Muggle world; so that another dark lord like Voldemort could not rise up and stir the masses. Not only that, but it gave Hermione the chance to show the Weasleys a part of her world that could not be explained: television.

Muggle technology. It was a concept that no one in the Wizarding World had even considered. But, Hermione, being the progressive person that she was, helped the Ministry more become accustomed to all the technological advances that Muggles made over the years; technology that they would have to get used to if there was ever a need for them to blend in. The Wizarding World stopped advancing somewhere in the Middle Ages. So, it was about time for changes to be made. In the aftermath of the war, Arthur Weasley’s job became that much more important, for it was his department that would aid in the integration of the mundane and magic.

The Muggleborn and Muggle-raised students of Hogwarts helped the Ministry in such an effort, earning credit towards their Muggle Studies class – when Hogwarts was reopened, there still wasn’t a satisfactory teacher to be found, someone who knew what they were talking about compared to Charity Burbage who spoke about Muggles as if she had limited experience with them and Alecto Carrow, who’s only purpose in the castle during the Year of Torture was to degrade those of Muggle birth or were Muggle-raised as she spouted the Pureblood propaganda she was paid to teach – which became compulsory for all Purebloods. Apollonia, Hermione, and Harry were doing so, though none of them were taking the class; Apollonia dropped it as she focused her studies on obtaining her Potions Mastery.

But, as the Christmas break began, Hermione seemed intent on showing this to the Weasleys. It was something that Apollonia had been exposed to a few times during her childhood, having been raised by the Tonks until she was eleven, so she had some idea of why Hermione wanted to do this. “What do you plan on showing them?” Apollonia wondered.

“Oh, a Christmas classic; It’s a Wonderful Life,” Hermione said.

“Which one is that?” Apollonia asked.

“A man wishes he never exist and sees what life would have been like without him,” Hermione answered. “I think it’s appropriate enough. Might even help George get through his grief.”

George didn’t know why he agreed to this. He knew that spending time with his family would only remind them of Fred. Every time he saw his own reflection, all he could think of was that day in Hogwarts; when the wall collapsed and his twin perished from the world, a smile etched on his face. Seeing that smile on his twin’s face, it haunted him. Even knowing that he died laughing did not help him. It was the thought of Fred being gone that really unnerved him.

“Can everyone gather into the living room?” Hermione called.

George groaned. What was it now? All he wanted to do was sit up in his room and remember Fred, remember all the good times they had before the war separated them. Why did Hermione have to go and ruin that plan? He looked over at the figure standing to his younger brother’s girlfriend’s left. Oh! That definitely explained quite a bit. Apollonia Snape, the girl who somehow had a connection to Fred. Yes, that would explain why he was here. Harry’s sister would never let him sulk instead of spending time with his family.

“What’s going on?” asked a grumpy Ron.

“I wanted to share something with you guys, a tradition that my parents and I had when I was younger,” Hermione explained. “But, seeing as my parents currently don’t remember me, I thought I’d share it with you; especially now that the Wizarding World is starting to adapt Muggle technology.”

“And what’s this tradition?”

“Watching It’s a Wonderful Life,” Hermione answered.

“What’s that?” Ron asked.

“It’s a film,” Hermione said. “A Christmas classic.”

The one-eared wizard groaned. He didn’t want to be doing this. But, seeing the look in the emerald eyes that belonged to one Apollonia Snape made George realize that there wasn’t an option. In the last seven months, George had come to realize something; he couldn’t say no to Apollonia. It was impossible for him to ever deny any request she made. George sighed in resignation. He didn’t have much of an option. Apollonia would force him to spend time with his family; there was no way for him to get out of this, as much as he tried.

Three hours went by and George had come to realize just how pointless this whole gathering was. All this film did was remind him of all the pain and sacrifice the Wizarding World went through since Sirius went through the Veil. In fact, George was not sure if anyone realized it, but the film’s protagonist and he had a few things in common. Annoyed by this fact, George stormed out of the living room and went to his room, the room he once shared with Fred.

He huffed in frustration. The film Hermione showed them did have one thing right; it was better to not exist than suffer through the pain of losing someone he cared about. “I wish I didn’t exist,” George muttered. “Maybe if I didn’t exist, Mum, Dad, and the others would be able to get over Fred’s death.”

“Oh, George!” a voice exclaimed.

George turned, only for his dark blue eyes to make contact with a pair of emerald ones. These emerald eyes were different than he remembered, however. Instead of the brilliant gemstone-coloring, it was more of a faded green with dark shadows under her eyes. Why that was so, George wasn’t sure. In fact, he wasn’t even sure how she got in here; he was the first to leave the living room, of that he was sure. It was almost like she materialized into his room out of nowhere; it wasn’t apparition, for there was no POP. So, what could it have been? “Princess,” he asked in a quiet voice as he looked up at Apollonia, “why are you here?”

“I had to come,” Apollonia replied.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I had to stop you before you made a mistake,” she answered in a quiet voice. “Why would you ever want to give up your life? Don’t you realize what you have?”

“It’s not the same without Fred,” George protested.

“Trust me, I know,” Apollonia whispered.

“How can you even think to say something like that,” George asked her, “when you know nothing of how I really feel? You might have lost your father and nearly lost Harry, but it is nothing compared to how I’ve felt since the beginning of May.” And in losing her as well. However, George wasn’t about to tell her that. He swore not to tell Apollonia about that, as much as he always wanted to. “Princess, you might want to help me, but I doubt it’s really going to help.”

“What if I told you I could?” she asked.

“Could what?” he wondered.

“Show you what life would have been like if you didn’t exist, like the film,” Apollonia answered. She laughed. “It’s funny. The George of the film lost his hearing in his left ear while saving his brother Harry and you lost your left ear while saving Harry, your surrogate brother.” George nodded. That fact was not lost upon him. Nor was the fact that the villain bore the name Potter. That was entirely too strange for George’s liking, though it was doubtful that anyone else realized it. Apollonia looked at him. “You realized it then?”

“Of course I realized that,” he scoffed.

“Shall we go then?” Apollonia suggested.

The one-eared wizard nodded. “Let’s go.”

“Take my hand,” Apollonia said, holding her hand out.

George took the proffered hand, wondering if this would be what was like…no, he couldn’t think like that! It was never going to happen. He gave up his chance a long time ago. Harry’s sister began chanting something under her breath before apparating them out of his bedroom. “What was that?” George asked after they touched down on the ground again.

“Something Hermione and I worked on the last few months,” she said. “I was worried you’d slip into despondency because I wasn’t helping you. I trust Angelina to do that. It’s just…Fred’s magic is in me. Because of what he did to me, I have the better chance of getting through to you. This —” she pointed around at their surroundings “— is that way. Although, I did not expect it to become an It’s a Wonderful Life parody. Not at all.”

“And where are we?” George asked, looking around at where Apollonia pointed to. It looked like nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it looked as if they were at the Burrow. Although, surely it could not have been that simple. Yes, the surroundings were the same, but the homey feeling that accompanied walking onto the property of his childhood home wasn’t there. No, there was something different about it. He repeated his question to the man-who-conquered’s sister. She knew what was going on. She knew of whatever changes were made due to George’s supposed nonexistence, not that he believed that she was capable of such a thing. “Princess, where are we? Why are we here?”

Before Apollonia could answer, George saw a familiar redhead run across the property. George looked at her hopefully. She nodded. “He’s alive.” As George was about to run after his twin, Apollonia stopped him, laying a hand on his forearm. “You don’t know what you’re doing, George. I know you want to see him. Merlin knows I know, but you can’t.”

“Why not?” George demanded hotly.

“Your ear,” she said quietly.

Immediately, George’s hand went to the left side of his head, where a darkened hole where his ear should have been sat. It had been that way since the Battle of the Seven Potters, when Harry was rescued from Privet Drive. Apollonia’s father severed George’s left ear off using a curse of his own design. However, George did not find a darkened hole. There was an ear there! “I’m no longer Saint-like!” he exclaimed, recalling the lame attempt at humor he used to mollify Fred after it was discovered that they were no longer identical.

“Oh, darn! No more Saint George,” Apollonia sighed dramatically.

“Why can’t I go see my brother?” George demanded.

“Because…oh, well…you’ll see,” she said.

George followed his brother into the house, though he did not know where Fred had gone. Dejectedly, George trudged up the familiar path to his room and went inside to sit on his bed. He wasn’t sure why Apollonia was so insistent that he did not come in here, nor did he care. All that mattered was seeing Fred again, seeing his long-lost twin. George missed his brother terribly. He would not pass up the opportunity to see Fred once again.

As he sat there waiting for Fred, George heard footsteps coming towards the room. To his utter disappointment, however, it was not Fred. It was Ron. And, he did not seem all that thrilled to see him. “Who are you and what are you doing in my brother’s bedroom?”

George was taken aback at his younger brother’s confusion. Although, perhaps he should not have been. Ron’s idiocy was legendary. It took seven years for him to admit his feelings for Hermione. And, then there was Apollonia, whom he refused to accept because she was a Slytherin. “I’m your brother, Ron. Your brother, George,” he responded.

“I have no brother named George,” Ron said. “There’s Bill, Charlie, Percy – who no one has spoken to in years, nor has anyone cared after he abandoned us – and Fred. But, no George.”

Apollonia suddenly appeared at his side. “I tried to warn you,” she said softly. “You don’t exist here. Things have changed and you’re not going to like them very much.”

“How would you know?”

“Just a guess,” Apollonia admitted in a quiet voice. “I can only guess as to what might have happened to the world if you did not exist. The one thing I did know, however, was that none of the Weasleys would know you. But, I think it’s best if we look around; if we get some idea of what’s been going on here. I’m faintly curious to know what changed.”

“You shouldn’t be,” a cool voice said from behind them.

The two dimensional hoppers turned around, only for George realize who this was. Tall, thin, and bushy gray hair. Yes, this was definitely Clarence Travers. Not a very good thing if what Harry once told him was true. “Princess,” he warned her quietly, hoping that Travers did not hear them, “we need to leave. This was the Death Eater that killed your godmother.”

George had to hold Apollonia back. “You KILLED her!”

“I believe that’s what the boy said,” Travers said.

“Why?” she screamed.

“Orders,” he replied. “That’s how it always it. But, that’s not why we’re here, is it? No, you’re here to see what would happen if the boy here didn’t exist. You might want to follow me then.”

“Why would we ever follow you?” George snarled at the Death Eater. “Especially after what you did to her, what I’m sure you’ll eventually do to us.” Apollonia came here with him; he would not let anything happen to her while they were here, especially caused by the man who killed her godmother. It was like allowing Rookwood to get away with what happened to Fred.

“It’s not as if I can kill what does not exist,” Travers stated.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you don’t exist,” the Death Eater pointed out. George scoffed. He knew that. The fact that Ron did not recognize him, even though he was identical to Fred, ensured that George knew what was going on; that he and Apollonia had indeed hopped into a dimension where he did not exist. What did it change though? What had been altered? “Her,” he pointed to a shaken Apollonia, “I can easily kill. You, not so much. Although, I think I will wait on that. I have something much more jarring in store for her. You as well.”

“Then get on with it!” George yelled.

George, Apollonia, and Travers appeared at the Ministry. Only, it was not the Ministry remembered; wherein Kingsley became Minister and took back control over the place. No, this seemed like it was the puppet Ministry. Upon seeing the statue of Voldemort, George knew that he was right. There was no way that the Ministry would ever willingly commission a statue of Voldemort, not unless he was in charge. George had a bad feeling regarding what he and Apollonia were about to discover. “Harry’s dead, isn’t he?” she asked in a quiet voice.

“Very good,” Travers praised. “Yes, Potter is dead.”

At the very mention of Harry’s death, Apollonia burst into tears. It was expected, especially for those who accepted that the two were siblings. As far as the Weasleys went, that was only him and Bill; they were the only ones that truly accepted her and might comfort her over such a loss. “Why would you tell her that?” George snarled, dark blue eyes blazing.

“Because just as much as you need to know, so does little Snape need to know what your nonexistence would do to her life,” Travers answered. “You affected more than your family. You affected her as well.” George looked at Apollonia sadly. He was afraid to ask, afraid to know what fate befell the princess he protected so vigilantly over the years. He should have known, however; he watched her for so many years that of course it would have had an impact on her life, not that George ever realized it. Not until now.

“What was my fate?” Apollonia asked.

Travers grinned, a cruel smile appearing on his lips. It was almost sickening to look at, knowing that he took pleasure from seeing their horrified reactions. George shuddered at the thought. “Without George as his support system, Fred collapsed at the hands of Umbridge, both he and Mr. Jordan. On the day you two made your miraculous escape from Hogwarts, Umbridge was instead looking through the records of all students in her care. She discovered that Miss Evans was not in fact Miss Evans, but rather Miss Snape; whom the woman knew to be the cousin of her sister’s husband after she vetted the teachers. Her brother, Gabriel…”

“I should have known,” Apollonia interrupted.

George looked at her. “You mean because of…”

She nodded. “Of course. Selwyn has already ruined my life by making me Lady Prince, why not bringing about my doom in a universe where you don’t exist. I lost Zara because of him.”

Of course she had to bring up Zara. Zara Alaine Prince was the reason George watched over Apollonia so ardently. Only five people other than himself knew the real reason he kept watch over Apollonia throughout the years. And, of those five, two were dead; Fred and Zara. The other three were Angelina, Alicia, and Harry, the latter of which only learned the truth because of George’s patronus and its relation to Apollonia’s animagus form. He would never tell Apollonia, however; even knowing what might have happened to her simply because he did not exist to protect her. No, he could never do that to her. She was happy the way her life was. She didn’t need anymore drama in her life. And that’s exactly what would happen if George were to confess the truth to her, what only a select group knew.

“If I may continue?” Travers inquired.

“Tell us!” George demanded.

“Selwyn informed the Dark Lord of Snape’s connection to the royal family,” the Death Eater said, “and he demanded that both the Potions Master and his daughter be brought before him.”

“Show us!” George exclaimed.

“If you insist,” Travers said, snapping his fingers.

With the snap of the Death Eater’s fingers, George and Apollonia were standing in a darkened manor. The lighting was dim, which only concerned George. “Malfoy Manor,” Apollonia whispered.

“Are you sure?” George asked her.

She nodded. “I spent a good chunk of my life here,” she reminded him. “There is no way I would forget what the place was like. It’s darker though. That’s the only difference, so I think Voldemort is here. I don’t know why he would still be using this as his base of operations, but he is.”

He didn’t say so to Apollonia, but George was worried. He was worried about what they might find while they were here. Travers seemed almost delighted as he led them through the manor. Whatever they were about to find, it did not sound all that pleasant; not if a Death Eater was so pleased to be doing this. George looked over at Apollonia and saw her eyes blazing. This isn’t good, he thought. “Which room are we going in?” Apollonia snapped.

“All you need to know is that the Dark Lord will soon be in your sights,” the Death Eater answered. “Anything else is on a need-to-know basis, of which you do not need to know.”

“Just get on with this!” George insisted.

“You really shouldn’t be so quick to want to see what happened to your friend,” Travers warned him. George scoffed; it was not as if he would heed the advice of a Death Eater, unless it happened to be Severus Snape. He might listen then. “You might not like what you see.”

George and Apollonia followed Travers through the Death Eater base, still very unsure about what they would find. Apollonia seemed especially disturbed by all of this. He supposed it was only natural. She did spend her summers here. When they stopped moving, Travers pointed to the door. “You’ll find the answers you seek beyond this door.”

“The ballroom?” Apollonia asked. “Why the ballroom?”

“That is not your concern,” he insisted. “Now, if you really want to see what life is like here, then you must enter. As I said before, you will not like what you see. Especially you little Snape.”

Keeping Apollonia close as he did, George pushed open the door. He nearly gagged at the sight of the room. So did Apollonia, though her pain was far worse. Mounted on the wall, just above the throne where Voldemort sat, was Harry’s dismembered head. “Merlin!” he breathed as Apollonia buried her face in his chest, so as not to look at her brother’s dismembered head. George couldn’t blame her. “How did that happen?”

“Battle of the Seven Potters as you call it,” Travers answered. “You were not there to draw attention away from Potter and the half-giant. Instead of you, it was the little Snape. And since Severus would not risk hitting his daughter, he did not cast that severing charm of his; the one that ultimately saved Potter’s life. Potter died that night, along with the half-giant, Potter’s owl, the paranoid former Auror, the active Auror, your eldest brother, and that Veela fiancée of his.”

Bill was dead? And Fleur as well? That left Mum’s, Dad’s, Charlie’s, and Ginny’s fates unaccounted for. George wasn’t sure he wanted to know what Percy was doing. “What of the others?” George asked. “What happened to the other members of my family?”

“With Shacklebolt dead, no warning was given that the Ministry had been taken over, so when Arthur came to the Ministry for work, he was tortured into giving up the location of your childhood home; your twin and younger brother were the only survivors. Ginevra was killed by Bellatrix —” Like she almost was at the Battle of Hogwarts, the Weasley thought darkly “— Charles was killed from being lit on fire; and Molly’s death, that was Rookwood’s doing.”

“And Percy?” George asked hesitantly.

“Oh, the Ministry boy’s alive,” Travers said.

Percy, Fred, and Ron. That was all that remained of the Weasleys because George did not exist. How could so much have changed because George was not a part of their lives? Apollonia was still tucked away; her face buried in his chest so that Harry’s mounted head could not be seen. “There are two things I want to know. One, what happened to Apollonia; and two, what’s Percy been doing since Voldemort’s rise to power?”

“Follow that figure and you will have the answers you seek,” Travers said ominously – just as he has throughout the trip – pointing towards a hooded figure slipping out of the room.

Not caring if Travers was following him, George followed the figure, grabbing the hem of their cloak so that he and Apollonia could learn where this person was headed. Although, why Travers wanted them to follow this person did not make much sense. As George soon realized, the figure had gone to the Ministry. He nudged Apollonia. “We’re out of Malfoy Manor,” he told her.

Apollonia shuddered. “That was morbid,” she said.

“Twisted too,” George stated.

“Why are we here?” Apollonia asked.

“Travers wanted us to follow someone,” George answered the girl. “I don’t know why we’re back at the Ministry though. Doesn’t seem to make much sense. He took us to the Ministry, then to Malfoy Manor. Now we’re back at the Ministry for whatever reason.”

“Who are we following?” she asked.

George pointed ahead of them. “I don’t know who it is.”

“Like Travers would tell us,” she scowled.

“I’m with you there,” George said. It was doubtful that he or Apollonia could trust anything that man said. Travers was a Death Eater. It was not in the Death Eater’s nature to do anything that would help anyone save themselves or their master. Apollonia’s father was the exception, of course. He did what he could to protect his daughter. The fact that he happened to be right about a few things was merely a coincidence. All advice from that man was to be taken with a grain of salt.

The figure stopped outside an office and pulled down the hood. “No way!” George exclaimed, looking from the cloaked figure to the office they were standing in front of.

Apollonia sighed. “Is it really that shocking that I was the one we were following?” she asked him. “I was supposed to be turned into a Death Eater, you know. If Umbridge and Selwyn got to me, I probably was. Voldemort would have never allowed me to go without the mark.”

“Right again!” Travers exclaimed.

“What do you want?” George snarled.

“I’m here to explain what I’m guessing your friend already knows,” Travers said. “Selwyn’s missive to the Dark Lord forced Snape and his daughter before him where she was marked. However, the little Snape was made aware of something prior to the meeting; something that changed things quite a bit. Miss Snape, I believe you know the thing to which I am referring.”

“That I was Lily Potter’s daughter,” Apollonia stated knowingly.

“Correct,” the Death Eater said.

“What does that have to do with anything?” George wondered.

“Because Miss Snape took her brother’s place as leader of the Resistance after he was killed,” Travers elaborated. “She has continued her brother’s work from inside the organization, with little luck. The last year has been difficult for her as she settled into her new role, the secret leader of the Resistance. Only a select group of people know the truth; everyone else is under the assumption that Neville Longbottom is the leader of the Resistance.”

“Who besides Neville?” Apollonia wondered.

“The Weasley boys and Zara Prince,” the Death Eater answered. “Not even her father knows how involved she is. He’s under the assumption that his daughter is merely a spy for them.”

“Zara?” Apollonia asked.

George hit himself in the head. He always forgot that Apollonia never got the chance to know her cousin. Fred and George did, but Apollonia never did. Yet, in a world without George, Apollonia was allowed to know Zara. The downside was that she was a Death Eater. “Why do I always forget that?” George wondered aloud. “Why do I always forget that she didn’t know Zara?”

“Makes perfect sense,” Apollonia mused.

“What makes you say that?” George wondered.

“Because my life is so messed up,” Apollonia explained. “It always has been, since the second Dad became a Death Eater. I was conceived some fifteen months after Dad became a Death Eater. I always thought my life couldn’t get anymore screwed up. Clearly, I was wrong.”

George nodded. He was the reason she remained invisible. He kept her from suffering at the hands of Voldemort. Over the years, it often appeared as if Malfoy was the one protecting her, but his aid was mere subterfuge to keep everyone from realizing that it was really George. In that moment, he regretted what he did all those months ago; allowing himself to give up what he wanted since he was thirteen. What was I thinking? George wondered. How could I have been so blind? There was nothing he could do now, of course. Not if he wanted to destroy her happiness. She was indeed happy. And George could not begrudge her happiness, simply for the sake of his own. He wouldn’t do such a thing.

“Can we just find out what I’m doing here?” Apollonia suggested.

“Of course, princess,” he replied.

They looked around, hoping that whomever this universe’s Apollonia was meeting would arrive soon. As he looked at her, George came to understand something that occurred just before their trip into this dimension. Her eyes. Her eyes held a weariness that George never saw in his Apollonia. But, this one had it, for she had seen things that his Apollonia never did. Professor Snape never allowed his daughter to become involved in war. And now he could see why. Those eyes – which were now mirrored in his Apollonia; the same way that George had his ear returned to him – represented everything that Apollonia should have never been a part. But, in the universe where George did not exist, she was forced to take up the mantle of leadership in the fight against Voldemort; a fight she had no place in, at least in George’s opinion. It was too much for her to handle.

Finally, a figure appeared before them…well, before this universe’s Apollonia, emerging from the office. It was the red hair that caused George to become aware of whom this was. This was a much wearier version of Percy. He appeared to be in just as bad a shape as Apollonia was. This universe’s Apollonia looked at Percy and sighed. “Percy Weasley, I hope you realize just how difficult it is for me to sneak out of Malfoy Manor. Dad is the only one who knows what I’ve been up to and even then, he doesn’t know everything.”

“I wouldn’t have called you here if it wasn’t for a good enough reason,” Percy told her. “You’re the only one I trust to get this taken care of. You might be a Death Eater, but you’re the best person to help me with this because of your situation. When you came to me saying that you were Harry’s sister, I was skeptical of it being the truth; but you’ve proven that you’re the one Death Eater that can be trusted, even more so than your father.”

She nodded. “I know.”

That was true. Apollonia was always more trustworthy than her father. In fact, she was the only Slytherin that the Order trusted. If the Apollonia from this universe was trusted by Percy, then it was clear that the Order did the right thing by trusting her. She was a part of this.

“What do you want?” she asked Percy.

“I was hoping you could get a message out to Fred and Ron,” Percy said, looking at Apollonia pleadingly. “I learned something that could be of great use to the Resistance.”

She sighed, looking at Percy sadly. George had a strange feeling he knew what Apollonia was going to say. It wouldn’t change much, because Ron appeared to be mostly the same, despite George’s nonexistence. The only thing that might have changed was never putting together an Unbreakable Vow for Ron to take. But, other than that, there was nothing that George had done over the last twenty years that really brought Ron and George closer together. “Really? You pulled me away from Malfoy Manor so that I could play messenger owl between you and your brothers? How many times have I tried to tell you that I have difficulty going to see them? Ron hates me and Fred…well, often times I wonder if the only reason he tolerates me is because he and Zara are dating; and I’m Zara’s cousin.”

That was a possibility, George admitted. Fred never noticed Apollonia. It was George who did that. Fred might have accepted it, but it was begrudgingly. He could feel his twin’s presence on Apollonia; he always could, so Fred eventually accepted her. Although, that was also after George’s secret was discovered. This was different. Here, Fred had no inkling of what was going on. He did not understand why Apollonia was so important.

“Even so, they do trust you,” Percy pointed out.

“Yes, they do,” Apollonia replied.

“Then you need to tell Fred and Ron about this,” Percy said.

“What is this message?” she asked.

“There’s another prophecy,” Percy said.

It was not this universe’s Apollonia who reacted to the news, but the Apollonia he traveled here with. “The prophecy Romulus told me and Harry about,” she whispered, almost tearfully. “The one James first told me about in the letter he left me. I always thought it was pointless to put any stock into because the war was over. Once again, I’m proven wrong.”

Neither George nor Apollonia heard anything more of the conversation. Travers spirited them away to another part of the Wizarding World. They were back at the Burrow, which George now realized was barely standing. Only magic kept it standing for as long as it had been. “What’d you do that for?” George wondered. He wanted to know what was going on.

“I saw no point in you viewing a conversation that the girl already knew about,” the Death Eater said. “Surely, she could tell you what she meant. There is still one thing yet that you must see.”

“Which is?” George asked.

Travers pointed off in the distance to where a Muggle farmhouse could be seen from their current location. “Oh, crap!” George exclaimed. He knew what that was. George looked at Apollonia, hoping she didn’t remember what happened at that place so many months ago. That was the day he realized she was a princess, the day he realized what might have happened if Voldemort got his hands on her; what did happen in this universe.

“You remember then?” Travers asked.

“Of course I remember!” George yelled. “How could I forget?”

Apollonia looked around and George knew she caught sight of the farmhouse when her eyes widened. “Oh, come on!” she exclaimed angrily. “Why here? What’s the significance of the place Selwyn owns?”

“Just watch,” Travers ordered.

This was occurring as Apollonia spoke with Percy, George understood; but he was not sure what was so important that it pull him and Apollonia away from the Ministry. It did not take long for George to realize what was happening; several Death Eaters, including Selwyn, were on their way towards the Burrow. “George,” Apollonia said quietly, “I think I know what’s going on here. They’re going to attack Fred and Ron.”

“What? No!” George yelled.

“You can’t stop it!” Apollonia called.

Damn it! He had forgotten that Apollonia and the Travers guide were the only ones who knew he was here. Somehow, George always seemed to be forgetting certain aspects of this. His dark blue gaze shifted to Travers. “Okay, okay, I get it. Everyone in my family except Percy would have been killed had I not existed. And then there’s Harry and the position Apollonia was put in following his death. Yes, I get it. Now, send us back!”

“Oh, that won’t be happening,” Travers said.

“Why not?” George wondered.

“Why isn’t it obvious?” Travers asked, a grin appearing on the Death Eater’s lips; one that George did not appreciate, for he knew what it represented: his true nature. It was something he grappled with throughout this trip. “Without you around, the Dark Lord lives. Without you, the Purebloods will reign supreme.” A wand was pointed towards them. “Avad —”

Before Travers could finish the curse and eliminate Harry’s sister as well, Apollonia held her hand out. “George! Give me your hand. I can get us out of here,” she told him.

George nodded and took her hand. “Of course.”

Once Apollonia had his hand, she began chanting the same spell from before. The chant was completed mere seconds before Travers’s spell hit and the duo returned to George’s room, as if no time had passed. “Now do you see?” she asked. “Now do you see why your existence is so important? To wish yourself out of existence, it would destroy everything, me especially.”

George nodded, looking into her emerald eyes; following their homecoming, her eyes returned to their normal hue. Incidentally, his left ear was gone again. Everything was back to normal. One thing had changed, however. He was starting to understand why it was a bad thing for him to even think such a thing. It would have altered everything, with no way to change it back. “I understand, princess,” he said quietly. “I’ll keep the lesson in mind.”

“Good,” she replied, leaving the room.

Apollonia left George’s room feeling extremely weird. She had just experienced a world where George did not exist. And the thought scared her. The thought that it was George, not Draco, who kept her from becoming a Death Eater; it was not something she had ever considered. She never gave it that much thought as to who other than Draco and Zara who helped her. But, George did. And it made Apollonia wonder; did Fred know about that when he bound her to the promise she made with his magic? Was he aware of what occurred?

As she made her way down to the living room, Apollonia happened upon Hermione. It occurred to the young Snape that nothing was mentioned about the fates of the Muggleborn students as well as the Muggles. Probably killed, Apollonia thought. Voldemort would never let any of them live, especially Hermione. “Did it work?” Hermione asked her.

“Did what work?” Apollonia wondered.

“Convincing George that holding onto his grief will only cause him more problems,” the muggleborn witch answered. “That’s part of the reason I did it, you know?”

Apollonia nodded. “It worked. A little too well, I think.”

Author's Note: This story was just asking to be written. It started out as a one shot set within my Princess series - a different take on the It's a Wonderful Life plot; I'd never seen one about George - and turned into a response to a challenge. If not for it being turned into a challenge fic, I might not have gotten this up until Christmas.

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