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Chapter 1: Balance
For every win, there must be a loss.
It seems like only moments ago that I was with them all – Fred, George, Oliver, Katie, Alicia and Lee. Together again for the first time since we all began to leave Hogwarts and go our separate ways to live our lives. But he can’t live his now. It’s gone.
I feel as though I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be standing here watching them all crowd around his body as uncontrollable grief slowly tears at their insides, slowly and painfully and mercilessly. I feel as though I should be crying with them, even if it is from a distance, but I can’t. I’m numb, I can’t feel anything. I tear my eyes away from the Weasley's to look at Katie and Alicia who stand solemnly beside me, their arms around each other's waists, tears rolling silently down their cheeks as they gaze across the Hall at the body of Fred Weasley.
The body of Fred Weasley. It’s no longer Fred Weasley, it’s simply his body. No longer living or laughing. He’s not Fred anymore. A body...
And a sob escapes me before I can stop it. A terrible, aching, heart-wrenching sob. How can a sound so horrible come from a human being? I never thought it possible. Katie and Alicia throw their arms around me and I feel the rough hands of Oliver and Lee upon my shoulders. Why are they comforting me, of all people? Shouldn’t they be embracing the families who have lost loved ones? But they’re here for me, and I can't help but feel guilty.
We huddle together for what seems like an eternity, though I find it impossible to judge as time seems to have ground to a halt since I found out what had happened. I know that I won’t ever be able to forget walking through the doors of the Great Hall and instantly spotting his bright red hair amongst the bodies of the deceased. I know that I won’t ever forget the last time I saw him alive, the last thing I heard him say...
We stood in one long line behind what was left of the corridor wall, firing spells down into the grounds, the darkness illuminated by flashes of red and green. I heard Katie squeal as a beam of green light fired upwards from the ground below narrowly missed her and hit the wall behind us. Before I could go to her aid, Lee Jordan, covered from head to toe in soot and dust, had appeared at her side, throwing a protective arm in front of her before aiming into the night below and bellowing a curse which I barely heard above the numerous crashes and bangs and cries of anger and fright coming from every direction.
A sudden blast came from below us, shaking the ground we stood on and knocking me off my feet. A pale hand immediately appeared in front of me and I took it without hesitation, a smile which felt alien forcing its way onto my lips as George helped me and pulled me to my feet.
“You’re quite welcome,” he replied cheerfully, dust falling around us.
“Guys!” Oliver shouted suddenly as Fred motioned for us all to crowd together and crouch behind the wall. “I think we should split up!”
“Split up?” Lee repeated once we were all huddled together.
“No,” I said at once. “We should stay together.”
“That was the plan,” Alicia said. “It was –“
“I, for once, think Wood’s right,” Fred interrupted from beside me, causing us all to look at him as though he had just sprouted three heads.
“Are you mad?” hissed Lee. “We said that we would all stay together! We agreed that it would be safer. Hell, I think it was your bloody idea!”
“But in a big group like this there’s more chance of one of us getting hit,” Oliver said defiantly.
“What was wrong with the way we were trying to stop that? Standing in a spaced-out line – guys, we’ve already thought all of this out!” I replied heatedly. There were jumbled shouts of agreement from Katie, Alicia and Lee, but George had remained silent.
Then there was a scream. We all jumped and turned in direction of the noise. We looked down the crumbling, rubble-covered corridor just in time to see a girl, about the same age as us, fall to the floor with a sickening crunch. Katie let out an audible cry, giving away our position to the Death Eater who was standing over the girl's lifeless body, laughing mercilessly. He turned quickly and raised his wand, but Lee, Oliver, Fred, George and Alicia had acted too quickly for him to be able to do anything. They screamed different spells simultaneously, and all five jets of light from the ends of their wands hit the Death Eater in the chest. He immediately crumbled and Lee, Olive, Fred George and Alicia ducked back down and pushed us all further behind the wall.
“How would you feel if one of us got hit?” Fred said suddenly, his tone serious and very... un-Fred-like, causing us all to fall quiet. “I don’t want to have to just imagine how awful it’d be if it was one of you lying on the ground over there.”
“We should split up.”
I felt my eyes widen. “What? George –“
“None of us want to get hurt –“
“Which is why we’re sticking together!” I shouted. “We can help each other out –“
“I’m not finished,” I snapped at Fred, who recoiled slightly at my expression. “We can’t split up. We can’t. Why can’t we just –”
“Look,” Oliver began exasperatedly as a beam of red light shot through the space where Lee had been standing only a minute before. “We haven’t got time to argue about this. All of those in favour of splitting up, raise your hand.”
Only Lee and I didn’t move. I looked around at everyone’s tentatively raised hands and felt myself deflate. I caught Lee’s eye and he simply shrugged, though he looked as let down as I felt. Katie sent me an apologetic smile and Alicia avoided my gaze altogether.
“Good,” said Oliver, puffing his chest out and sitting up a little straighter. “Okay – George, Lee, Katie and Angelina – you all form one group. Alicia, Fred and I will form another.”
Fred’s face dropped slightly. “But I –“
Oliver continued to speak as though Fred hadn’t said a word. “Right, let’s go. And stay in your assigned groups!”
With that he began to rise to his feet, peering over the wall and giving the all clear as he did so. Alicia pulled Katie and I into a rib-crushing hug and whispered “Stay safe!” before she grinned at George and Lee and ran to catch up with Oliver, who was already striding off down the corridor.
I suddenly jumped when I felt someone grab my arm, their breath tickling the back of my neck. “Don’t die on me, okay?”
I turned to face Fred, who looked surprisingly sombre. “I wasn’t planning on it,” I said strongly and seriously.
“Good,” he said, a small and familiar smirk slipping back onto his face as his eyes began to glint mischievously. “Because I’d hate for us to miss what I have planned...”
I pulled back slightly and narrowed my eyes. “Are you flirting with me, Weasley?”
Fred grinned. “Just a bit.”
I looked down at the ground as I felt myself blush, knowing that it wasn’t the time and place for my previous feelings for Fred Weasley to come crashing back. When I finally found the courage to glance back up I found that Fred’s eyes were startlingly close, his freckled face mere centimetres from mine.
Oliver’s voice startled us both. “Oi, Fred! Hurry up, will you!”
He gave a low chuckle and his hand slowly removed itself from my arm. “Duty calls. Must dash.” He stepped back but maintained my gaze, and I looked straight back at him, my heart suddenly pounding at his absence.
“I’ll see you later, mate,” Lee called from behind me, and I took a step back as Fred grinned and said “Not if I see you first, Jordan.”
He glanced back over his shoulder to see Oliver waiting for him rather impatiently, with Alicia at his side. He gave Katie a wink before smirking at George. “Catch you later, Weasley.”
And I felt George’s hand gently pull me back until I stood in the group, and we all watched as Fred ran down the corridor to join Oliver and Alicia, turned a corner and disappeared from sight.
And suddenly I’m back in reality, suffocated by shock and despair and sadness. Through Katie’s hair I can see George, kneeling at his brother’s head, his mouth open and his eyes blank and disbelieving.
And now I’m sobbing and crying; for myself, for George, for Fred... oh, for Fred...
Almost three hours later, it’s as if the world has woken from its daze and has started to smile again. The Dark Lord is gone, gone forever, and Harry has won – we’ve won. We no longer need to live in fear, we no longer need to fight, no-one else needs to die...
I sigh sadly. Every time I start to think of better things, thoughts of Fred come creeping back; slowly, at first, but surely, until I can only see him running away down that dark corridor over and over again.
Oliver and I are sitting alone on the stone steps leading into the castle, the cool night air breezing past our faces. Katie, Alicia and Lee are inside celebrating what is here to be celebrated, but I need some space, some air. I didn’t object to Oliver joining me simply because I know that he’s like me – he needs some air, some space.
“Have you spoken to the Weasleys?” he asks quietly, his voice hoarse.
“No,” I answer. “I haven’t.”
“I think it’s best,” he replies distantly. “I think they need... they need time.”
“Are you going to go inside?” I ask.
“In a minute,” he says with a sigh. “In a minute.”
I can hear footsteps behind me, coming down the steps slowly and heavily, and I turn to see a blank and expressionless George sit dazedly beside me. He turns to look at me, his eyes dull and lifeless, and I have to turn away, my heart aching. They’re what Fred’s eyes will look like now that he’s dead; dull and lifeless.
My own eyes begin to fill and I slowly turn back to see tears rolling down George’s pale cheeks as he gazes at me, causing my eyes to spill over.
“I expected him to wake up,” he says, and neither of us can take our eyes from the other as his voice cracks. “I was kneeling there next to – next to him and I... I expected him to wake up. He didn’t... he didn’t. Why won’t he wake up?”
I shake my head helplessly as my hand finds his. “Oh, George.”
And I watch as he crumbles, his heart splitting in two. I want to do something, I want to help, but I’m powerless. Why do we all have to be powerless to stop it? All I can do is pull him into me and cradle him as we cry.
He clings to me tightly. “I want to wake up,” he says into my shoulder, his voice thick and muffled and heart wrenching.
Tears roll down my nose and into his hair as I say “You are awake. Oh, I’m sorry... I’m so sorry, but you’re awake.”
“Are you okay?” I hear him ask and I can’t manage to suppress a watery smile at his concern.
“Don’t worry about me,” I whisper boldly. “I’ll be fine.”
“And I’ll be fine, too, right?” he says unevenly, his voice almost pleading.
I close my eyes and hold him closer. “I wish I could answer that for you.”
We’ll stay like this until we’re ready. Together, entwined, as one, until I can stand, and once I can stand I’ll help George to stand, because I don’t think that he’ll ever be fine. Not really.
I quite like this one-shot, but I'm sure, as always, that there's room for improvement, so any of your ideas, comments and criticisms will be most welcome. Thanks for reading and please leave a review, as I thrive on your feedback :)