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Chapter 1: Tell Me a Story?
"I hate living without you, Fred. You would have known exactly what to do if you were in my position, or you would have told me what to do in this situation. I miss you, Fred...Why did you leave me? Why couldn't you have just...lived?" George Weasley stopped in his tracks and fell to his knees before he lost balance"Oh, Fred! I didn't mean that! I didn't! It isn't your fault...none of it! I'm just so lonely and I can't face my problems like I could when you were around."
George stood slowly and sank down on the edge of the bed, where he rested his forehead on his fists and fought back tears.
Fred had been gone for two years, but it felt like eternity. George had forced himself not to show anyone how desperately broken he was, but he wasn't that sort of person: he didn't put up walls, or keep secrets completely to himself, or feel as miserable and utterly hopeless as he did now.
He had re-opened Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to give his parents the impression that he was fine. Ron was working with him now, and all he ever thought about this arrangement was how different it was from what he'd had with Fred. They had been best friends besides being twins. Working with Ron was almost unbearable considering what had been.
There was one more thing, though.
Ron had broken up with Hermione Granger just weeks after the Battle of Hogwarts, and George had discovered something.
"Fred, I...I know you can't...you know, help me out like you used to be able to...but, I'd told you everything for the nineteen years we had together, so I want you to know..." George paused, uncertainly. He had never actually accepted the fact, only realized it. Thinking it in the words he almost had would make it final to him. Could he really just accept it like that? Yes, he could, "I am in love with Hermione Granger. There. Wild, isn't it? I was shocked when I realized it had been developing for quite some time. Think she would ever love me back? I mean, our little brother tore her up when he broke up with her, what if she thinks I would do the same? I wouldn't, but...Oh, Fred, I wish I could talk to you in person! I know you can hear me, I just...wish I could hear you, too..."
George's head suddenly snapped up at the sound of someone pounding up the stairs that led from the shop to the apartments above it. Ron burst in moments later, panting, and managed, "Hermione's...in the...hos...pital. She's...had a...heart...at..attack!"
Before Ron had even finished, George had apparated to St. Mungo's and was striding with forced determination towards the front desk.
"Excuse me, Ma'am, I'm here to see Hermione Granger." It took a lot of effort not to just demand the room number and dart off.
"Oh, yes," the bored-looking woman replied, before spouting off the directions.
George forgot to thanks her as he speed walked to Hermione's room.
Upon opening the door, his heart nearly failed him.
There lay the girl he had fallen for so unexpectedly. She was white as a sheet, and her cheeks looked sunken. Healers standing nearby were shaking their heads and whispering, so George knew it must have been worse than just a small heart attack.
Hermione's eyes fluttered feebly as he stood over her, not caring that he was crying.
"G-George?" her hand reached up to touch his face, as if to be sure he was real, and then she closed her eyes and sighed, "I suppose you've heard what happened."
"Hermione..." no words came. Nothing could fill the sudden, bitter emptiness that was his world now. He had lost Fred...now he would lose Hermione...and he didn't even really have her in the first place.
Hermione's face contorted in pain, but she managed a sad expression and asked, "What's wrong?"
George's blue eyes met Hermione's brown ones for a moment before he croaked, "Everything."
Hermione nodded against her pillow and said, "I know. I'm so...so tired..."
One of the healers looked up at Hermione and George and advised, "Then sleep, Miss Granger, it would be best."
"I...I can't," Hermione's voice was barely audible in her drained state, "George...Tell me a story? Please? My mum always did when I couldn't go to sleep...please?"
His heart clenched. He was no good at stories like she was asking for.
But he loved her...he would do anything for her.
"I can try," he promised, tentatively daring to brush a strand of curly brown hair from her cold cheek.
She smiled, and George wondered if, maybe, she felt the same way he did.
"Well," George cleared his throat, and then began, "Once upon a time, there was a boy who tended to be a bit mischievously. I say boy, but, well, he was nineteen years old, and still childish. The boy had a brother, see, a twin. The two were joined at the hip, so to speak: where one went, so did the other.
"One day, they went to war. The boy lived, but his twin brother died. The boy wept, and screamed, and pleaded, but nothing could bring his brother back. He felt as if his very soul had been split in two, and its contents spilled out like a jar of water. Empty...he felt so empty, as if nothing could ever fill that hole in him."
"And that wasn't even half of it," George thought, miserably.
"Then the boy decided that he should continue the work he and his twin brother had started, but he still saw the rest of his family and their friends often.
"The boy's sister married a very important man, and this man was best friends with a beautiful maiden with long, curly brown hair, and the deepest brown eyes that a man could just get lost in. He knew she could never possibly return his feelings for him...broken, empty man that he was, but still, he found he enjoyed her presence almost as much as he had that of his dead brother.
"The two talked, and laughed together, and the boy found himself falling for her, harder and faster every moment. He rarely thought of anything or anyone else, but never did the girl seem to feel like he did. He didn't blame her, no...he would not have blamed anyone, as he was not such a pleasant person anymore.
"But he enjoyed her presence immensely, and basked in every look she sent his way, gloried in every smile he brought to her lips, relished every laugh he drew from her, loved everything she did, and hoped he might help to mend the girl's own broken heart.
"He knew she was mending his, slowly but surely."
George's voice trailed off as he realized he had probably made it way too recognizable, but Hermione seemed not to have noticed, as her face wore a look of interest, rather than the amusement she normally would have worn. Was her memory malfunctioning?
"So...did the boy get his girl?" Hermione's voice was now cracked and dry, and her eyes looked tired.
George swallowed, but still burst into uncontrollable tears, sobbing, "I don't know! I'm sorry I just don't know!"
Hermione lifted her hand with evident effort and touched George's with a whispering softness, "It's alright, George. Not everyone knows the end to their own story."
What?! Then she had recognized the story!
"George...do you...do you mean to say that you...love me?" Hermione inquired, her voice low and fading.
"Yes, Hermione Granger, I love you more than life itself, and I would do anything in my power to protect you!" George cried with passion, holding her hand to his chest.
"But I'm...dying," she protested.
George fell to his knees beside her bed and kissed her lips with such tender desperation that Hermione only wished he had done it while she had been strong enough to return the kiss.
She had loved him ever since he had come out of his shell of mourning to comfort her after Ron had broken up with her. Now she knew he had felt the same way and she was to weak to even kiss him.
Ron had been a stupid crush she had idiotically considered to be love. Her first kiss with her first real love...was sad. His tears moistened her cheeks and she only wished she could comfort him with something more than a weak smile when he pulled back.
That was Hermione's lovelife: she had her own heart broken, and now she was breaking someone else's...and not of her own will.
"Hermione..." George brushed tears from his face, but they were quickly replaced, "...don't die...please don't leave me."
His pleading tone hurt more than he knew, and Hermione bit her trembling lower lip, "I don't want to die...I want to stay."
"You can't go...I haven't told you the rest of the story! I don't know how it ends..."
The end could be near, or it could be years in the future, time would only tell.