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Chapter 1: One
He hadn’t been to the shop for months.
The full realisation of the situation hit George as he faced the abandoned shop front. His lifeless eyes scanned the front of the majestic building; he took in the dust, the faded fabrics hanging limply from the corners, the forgotten jokes he once considered a masterpiece. They seemed to stare back accusingly, the life and vigour of the successful shop lost. I can fix this, he thought to himself, I just don’t know how.
The door loomed as a terrifying prospect before him. He’d spent weeks battling his demons in an attempt to get back to normalcy. People said it was best; the war was over and the pieces were being picked up again. They saw, but they did not feel. None of them felt the intense, consuming pain that afflicted George with every waking moment. His brother, his partner and his best friend was gone forever. The consolers had been a fleeting moment in the crushing reality of his future without a twin.
A bird squawking brought George back to the present. Everything hurt. He wasn’t ready for this. He needed a few more weeks to grieve. Just a few more weeks...
No. He forced himself to take a step forward. Progress. He was one step closer to moving on. The barren shop loomed above him, almost challenging him to make a move. George remembered when he and Fred would head out to the shop front each day just to check that it looked its best. After five months of neglect the shop seemed to be a shadow of its former glory, with its grimy windows and peeling paint. George reached for his wand to fix the door frame, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. As soon as anything changed to the shop, then it was something he and Fred didn’t do together. It was the first step of letting him go, and George wasn’t ready for that yet.
Alas, it didn’t matter if he was ready. The heavy world of the world’s expectations had fallen on his shoulders. He’d passively observed the rest of his family gradually picking the pieces of broken lives back up; a smile here, a laugh there. Slowly, they were recovering. But George remained in his shell, touched by no-one, like a part of him had died that same day as Fred. The two were so connected it was hard to feel normal again. As the seasons changed, George stayed the same, wallowing in his misery.
He didn’t realise that his feet had taken him on the doorstep of the shop until he looked up and saw the ‘closed’ sign precariously close to his face. If he had his way, it would stay closed. His mother was telling him to open the shop in time for Christmas, to take things off his mind. The biting air caused puffs of breath to form in front of him. George peered through the small window, but was only met with dim shapes. You’re going to have to face this some time, his mother’s voice said in his head. We all miss him, George. He would have wanted you to go back.
Was his mother right? He remembered the sadness in her voice mixed with the determination in her eyes. Going back to a normal life was something that George just wasn’t ready for; he missed his brother too much. So why was he here?
George couldn’t see it yet, but something was drawing him back. The joke shop was the Weasley twins’ livelihood, something that kept laughter going when things seemed to be at their darkest. At a time of war and turmoil, the shop provided a safe place, a home, for him if not for anyone else. The war had changed the place for him, but he needed to go back.
With a deep breath, George pushed open the door.
A faint tingle reached his ears as the bell chimed a welcome. A small cloud of dust became unsettled at his first step into the shop, rising and falling quickly. The thin sheen of grime coated every item, as deserted products were scattered around haphazardly. Boxes were strewn everywhere – George recalled that they were going through stock on the day of the battle. It wasn’t safe for them to be there but they both crept back occasionally – they couldn’t leave all of their hard work to fester.
But George had done just that. He took a second step in and let the guilt wash over him in waves, a storm he’d manage to hold back until now. His heart ached as he continued to walk round the vicinity, taking in the forgotten space that was a source of vitality. It felt like years ago.
A soft glimmer caught George’s eye as he walked past. His head turned and caught sight of a plastic gem, winking in the dim sunlight. It was something Fred had been working on when they got the message about the battle – Fred had insisted that when the whole thing was over everyone would want a strong cup of tea and a laugh to go with it. I’ve got to finish it George, he’d insisted that night, we’ve got to be there for everyone.
It was that little red ruby that released a torrent of emotion on George. He sunk to his knees. “Fred,” he sobbed, letting the agony wrench through him, blinding him. “Fred...”
Every memory of his brother flooded the recesses of his mind; he was drowning. Every emotion, every laugh, every tear shed cried out to him and merged into one as he remembered. Fred. The greatest brother, the greatest friend.
George curled into a ball on the floor, not caring about anything else in the world. His entire being felt wholly crushed by the torment of losing his other half. He had so much life, so much potential... they were going to be crackpot old fools together, surrounded by family, passing down their tricks to the future generations. Except there was no longer a future. No longer a need to make people laugh. George was sure he would never laugh again.
He wasn’t sure how long he was there for, only that it was dark when he heard a faint tinkling noise from the door. Someone was here. George tried to summon the energy to move, but to no avail. His muscles ached from being stuck for what felt like eons of time. He watched his finger twitch, but he never wanted to move from the spot where he was. Close to the ruby, close to Fred.
“Hello?” a girl’s voice called out, but George didn’t answer. He wanted, needed to be left alone. Footsteps approached. “Is anyone here?”
A blonde haired soul eventually turned the corner and saw George lying in his desolate position. George flicked his vision to who it was: Hannah Abbott. He vaguely remembered her being a couple of years younger than he and Fred. When she saw the sorry scene she immediately rushed over. “Oh my god, are you okay?”
I’ll never be okay, George thought to himself quietly. Half of me is dead. “No,” he whispered, his voice cracking. He felt a tear run down his cheek as Hannah kneeled down. They barely knew one another, but she ran a hand through his hair comfortingly. George hardly felt it. “He’s gone...”
“Oh George,” Hannah whispered, her own eyes glistening with tears. “I know, I know. Nothing will ever be the same again.” George let himself be pulled into an upright position as he cried unashamedly, willing himself to let go of just a fraction of the torture. He couldn’t. Hannah hugged him close to her as another hour passed that felt like no time at all. Finally, George simply sat in silence, staring into space.
“I’ll help you,” Hannah eventually said. George merely looked on. “I’ll help you get this place back to normal.”
These words registered with George the most. He looked up at the blonde girl; she was barely out of school but so much had happened to her, to everyone. George recalled that her mother was murdered – he recognised the pain in her eyes. He felt it too.
He wasn’t alone.
“Okay,” he found himself saying quietly. He looked up at the young woman. “I’d like that.”
They smiled at one another. Progress.