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Heroes by Mistress
Chapter 1: Gone
For anyone who knows that some nights are easier than others.
It was such a common phrase I’d forgotten all the meaning behind it.
“Some nights are easier than others.”
A cliche I learned from my grandfather when grandmum passed away. I was seven when it happened and kept asking where she went. I searched for her when we visited, pulling blankets off the back of chairs and yelling into the attic. Eventually, my grandfather pulled me onto his lap and explained everything.
In great detail.
He told me some nights were easier than others.
That is the phrase that came to mind after Fred Weasley died.
Most of the fight was a blur, looking back. I remember the left side of my face slashed open with a flying piece of stone. Legs aching from taking the stairs three at a time. Reserves had not prepared me for that. Seven years of school hadn’t prepared me for the mangled bodies in the corridors and the violent spells coming at me.
One thing was certain. Nothing could have prepared me for walking into the Great Hall during the lull in fighting and seeing Fred on the ground, body among the taken.
Fred Weasley was my first real love. It sounds silly and maybe it was. We laughed. We danced. We kissed by the lake and snuck into Hogsmeade. He was my first in everything, including me bossing a boyfriend around the Quidditch pitch. We broke up shortly after graduation, when I went off to try my hand at the big leagues, but agreed we’d remain friends. Of course we did. I couldn’t get through a week without getting an owl from Fred asking advice on some problem he had at the shop. The owls included questions on how to shut George up from talking about the cute cashier they hired.
I suggested attempting to fire him, which Fred told me ended in a scuffle and some pranks. As per usual.
It took a war to kill Fred Weasley. In the days that followed, I wondered what would have happened had he lived. Who he would have grown to become. A franchisee? A husband? A father?
And yes, part of me wondered where I fit into that. After I finally made it onto a Quidditch team. After I wasn’t away training months out of the year.
Would I have fit into Fred Weasley’s life?
The funeral was held on a Thursday. Mrs. Weasley had wanted it to be a small, private funeral, but I think a part of her knew that would never happen. Her son and his twin had touched too many lives. Mine included.
Every chair was filled and plenty stood in the back.
I arrived early, just after eight, to help with anything. I hadn’t been sleeping well and I needed an excuse to use my hands. To concentrate on something other than the overflowing pile of letters on my desk. I hadn’t been able to get rid of them. Or reread them. So there they sat, Fred’s sprawling signature poking out of a few.
The kitchen was bright. Mrs. Weasley was at the sink soaking pans. Her eyes were red. She glanced up as I walked in. “Oh, hello, dear.”
“Good morning.” Hardly.
I took a pan from her and began to scrub its contents with a wire sponge. I was thankful it took a while. Mrs. Weasley silently tended to the food, prodding some cabbage rolls with a fork.
The Burrow had never been that quiet.
“I appreciate you coming over early,” Mrs. Weasley said, clearing her throat a little. Just enough.
“Couldn’t sleep.” I moved on to the next pan. And the next. I rinsed the sponge clean and tried not to look at the back garden where Fred’s older brothers, Charlie, Bill, and Percy, were straightening rows of white chairs. I grabbed a rag and began wiping down the already clean counter.
Nausea had set in. I was usually so good under pressure. Fred had once given me a very long-winded compliment about my ability to keep calm in intense situations. My fingers were shaking now.
I imagined him rolling his eyes, perched at the head of the table like he used to do, only to be kicked out of the chair by his father.
Mrs. Weasley pulled a roast from the oven and added more herbs to the top. Then she put it back in, humming a little. It was a tune I was unfamiliar with and didn’t ask about. She grabbed a few tissues and walked through the back door.
“Do you boys want breakfast?” she called to her sons.
Each one shook their head and returned to the chairs. Bill moved his fingers through his hair, abandoning the straightening to pull a few weeds.
I draped the rag over the sink nozzle.
“You’re here early.”
George was in the doorway, still dressed in his pajamas. His Witches Dig Me t-shirt had a red stain on the hem. His hair was sticking almost straight up and it was obvious he hadn’t showered for a few days.
I shrugged and rinsed my hands, desperate for something else to do. Shamefully, it was hard to look at him. There was a pain in his eyes I could hardly see, let alone imagine. I wanted to say something, but the only question I could think of was ‘how are you’ and I didn’t want to hear the truth or a lie.
“Did you eat?” George moved to the fridge and pulled out an apple. He shined it on his dirty shirt.
“Not yet, no.”
“Apple?” He held it out to me.
“I’ll be okay.” A half-smile was all I could muster. “Can I help with something?”
“Mum not utilizing you at the moment?” George tried for a smile, looking outside. When he spotted the chairs, the remaining color in his face was gone. “Right. Well, I can’t think of anything at the moment. I’ll be upstairs.”
He tossed the apple in an empty dish and left the room. His footfalls on the stairs were heavy.
For a while, I occupied myself in the garden. I watered the summer flowers without magic and spread mulch around the bed. Anything to keep my mind off the battle. The castle. Everything in ruin. I knew Harry would be arriving soon, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. Harry was a boy plagued with too much guilt.
“George upstairs?” Mr. Weasley closed the shed door and latched it behind him. He carried a coiled garden hose and a watering can. It appeared I wasn’t the only one trying to keep busy.
My gaze moved back to the house. Even it looked distracted. “I believe so. Do you think he’ll come down?”
“I think so.” Mr. Weasley frowned and hoisted the hose over his shoulder. “I think he knows what would happen if he didn’t.” I didn’t pry. Instead, I watched the twins’ father walk back toward the house, hook up the hose, and begin watering flowers I hadn’t. After a while, Charlie opted to assist with the watering can.
There was a shadow in George’s window.
I knocked a few times. “Are you decent?” Something I used to ask at Hogwarts before barging into the boys’ dormitory.
“Dressed? Yes. Decent? No,” George answered automatically.
I closed the door and leaned against it. George was dressed, though his tie was lopsided. The room had not been changed much since they graduated, though it was much emptier than when I’d visited in the past. Not just from a lack of belongings.
“How’s the food coming?” he asked. He was laying back on the furthest bed, the one I knew to belong to his brother, staring at the ceiling with a blank look about him. “I hope there’s cake.”
“It’s in the oven.” I crossed the room and slid his legs over so I could sit. “Chocolate with cream cheese frosting.”
George draped his arms lazily behind his head. “How do I look? Presentable? Invisible?”
“You look like yourself.” I straightened a few wrinkles on the leg of his pants. “Just after a shower.”
His smile reached his eyes that time. “Animals were starting to avoid me.”
“Rightly so.” I chuckled and looked around the room. Everything had been dusted. Even the desks were glossy. “You cleaned.”
“Everything but myself, apparently.” George sat up and fiddled with his tie, pulling it away from the white collar against his neck. “Needed something to do.”
“Something tells me family time was out of the question.”
“I remind them of him.” George raked his fingers through his still-damp hair. I liked the way it looked when it was wet. Like almost-ripe apples in autumn. “I’d rather just stay in here and think.”
I spun the ring on my finger. Fred had given it to me while we were dating. “Do you ever think that you may be thinking too much?”
“Yet another thing I think about.” George smiled a little. He frowned when the doorbell rang. “Can I ask you something?”
I shrugged. “I’ll do my best to answer.”
“When was the last time you and Fred talked about the two of you?”
I hadn’t expected that. “A year ago?” I guessed. “That weekend I came back for a family dinner and we met up for ice cream in Diagon Alley.”
“What did he say?” George asked.
“We agreed we’d revisit the subject after I had a set schedule,” I replied. “When I didn’t have to do training camps for months at a time and compete for roster spots.” My finger was growing red from where the ring was rubbing.
“Okay.” George swung his legs over the side of the bed and moved to the window. “People are starting to sit down.”
“Why did you want to know?” I blurted. I could hear that conversation so well. Feel the breeze. Taste the mango ice cream.
“Just wondered.” He ruffled his hair and turned, straightening his tie. “You miss him?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“An honest one.”
“Of course I miss him.” My eyes were prickly. “I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Do you still love him?”
“George.” I was on my feet, chest heaving for no reason other than the adrenaline pumping through me. “Fred and I haven’t been seeing each other for a long time.”
Hadn’t. Hadn’t been seeing each other.
“Just answer me.” I couldn’t remember a time George had frowned for this long.
“No.” It was an honest answer. I had been in love with Fred at some point, but I put all that on hold after graduation. I fell out of love with him so it didn’t hurt as much. But he was still one of my closest friends.
“Okay.” George moved in front of the mirror and cleared his throat. “Ready?”
“What have you been thinking about?” I asked. I touched his shoulder and he jumped.
“Ang, Fred was still in love with you.” He didn’t turn, but met my eyes in the glass. “He wanted to marry you. He was waiting for you.”
If there was anything I did not want to hear the minutes before one of my best friend’s funeral, it was that he was in love with me. My stomach tightened and I wanted to be sick or run or sleep forever. I stepped away.
“Sorry,” George mumbled.
“Is that what you’re doing?” I asked. Everything felt blurry. “Trying to get me to feel as horrible as you so you don’t have to go through it alone?”
George spun around, frustration in his eyes. “Maybe I am. So what? This isn’t a joke. He was my brother. Is my brother. People are down there laughing. They want to celebrate his life.”
“What’s wrong with laughing instead of crying?” I said, though I was guilty of the latter.
“Because he doesn’t get to join in.” George’s tone was sharp, hurt. “I don’t live without Fred. I can’t move on like other people can. He is a part of me. And he’s a part of you too, whether you’ve admitted it to yourself or not.”
“Of course he is,” I said, arms folding. The room seemed smaller, too. Less welcoming. “We should get downstairs.”
“I’m not coming.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I’m not.” George fell back onto the bed. “They can laugh by themselves. Eat all the cake. It won’t make them feel any less alone.”
He was just as frustrating and stubborn as he had always been. But before, I had Fred to translate. Now he looked smaller, less broad-shouldered. “Just let me be,” he said.
So I did. I should have taken him by the collar and forced him outside, but I couldn’t. I let him grieve.
The funeral was quiet. I sat near the back, eyes on the individual threads in my dress. The wind was picking up and moved through the leaves and grass. It was amazing how much you could hear when you tried not to.
Fred’s brother Percy spoke first. I hadn’t interacted with him all that much in school, but I heard all the stories from Fred and George. How much they disliked him for what he’d done to their family. But at times how much they missed him being around. I can remember their reaction to him coming back. He mentioned being with Fred when he was killed. My jaw tightened.
Ginny spoke next, her shoulders shaking as she fought to get through the words. Halfway through, Harry joined her at the podium to help her through the rest. He tightened his grip on her shoulders.
A few people I didn’t know spoke. All good, refreshing stories about Fred. All of them included George. I kept the tissue close to my face.
After the ceremony finished, everyone formed a line to pay their respects. The casket was open. I assumed they cleaned him up a bit after the battle.
I wished George wouldn’t have told me.
I couldn’t get in that line. My feet wouldn’t move. My legs wouldn’t stop trembling. Even the grass was shaking around me. I heard his family sobbing. Mrs. Weasley was howling. Harry had his arm around Ron, whose face was red and blotchy. Hermione was comforting Ginny. I kept flattening my dress against my legs. I knew some familiar faces were there – Alicia, Katie, and Oliver – but I couldn’t bring myself to be social. I couldn’t bring myself to do much of anything.
This was Fred. Fred Weasley.
When people began to mingle and head for the small white tent the boys had constructed, I finally twisted around. An upstairs window was open. George’s foot was dangling out the side as he sat there, leaning against the frame. He had an extendable ear dangling down toward the grass.
I sat with Alicia during brunch. We had kept in contact over the last year or so, but nothing tremendous. I didn’t keep in touch with many people. She knew that. Oliver introduced us to his girlfriend, a reserve for the Norwegian national team. Katie stopped over to catch up over some shrimp cocktail. I briefly spoke to Harry about the weather and managed to escape back inside before my heart could hammer louder in my chest.
Or hurt any worse.
Inside was quiet. I could hear the voices in the tent, but for the most part everything was calm in the kitchen. I shut the door behind me and leaned against it.
Damn it, Fred.
“See Oliver’s hot girlfriend?”
George was in the doorway leading into the hall. His fingers were moving up and down his tie.
“I did. She’s a catch.” I pushed off the door and went to the sink, turning on the water to do a few dishes by hand. It calmed me.
“You kept it together well.”
“Glad you noticed.”
“Glad you noticed, George.” There was a bite in my voice. At least I was there.
He crossed the room and shut off the water. “I couldn’t do it.”
“You wouldn’t. There’s a difference.”
“He’s my twin!”
I rounded on him. “I don’t want to talk about it. It was your choice not to be out there. With your family. Your friends. It’s your decision.”
“It was my decision.” He folded his arms. His skin looked tanner than it had the last time I saw him. “And that’s that.”
“Then why are we talking about it?” I tossed the rag into the sink and shoved past him.
“Where are you going?”
“Why?” George reached out and grabbed my arm.
“So you can’t make me feel worse than I already do.” I shrugged him off, tears blurring the lemons in a wicker basket.
“Ang,” he said quietly. There was laughter outside.
“Fred would have come,” I said and turned fast before I had to see his face. What I’d done to him. I rushed out the door, past Mr. Weasley who had taken up smoking on the front porch, and down the drive. I didn’t care the dirt was messing up my shoes.
I wanted to leave. I wanted to leave forever and never think about Fred or George Weasley again.
Things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.
The week went unsurprisingly slow. I told the team I wouldn’t be in and no one questioned me. I packed a bag and left my flat for London to stay with my parents for a few days.
“I don’t want you to be alone,” Mum told me.
“I’m fine.” I wasn’t.
My room was just as I’d left it two years before. Filled with Quidditch posters and Gryffindor colors. Fred came over the summer before seventh year and helped me decorate it one afternoon. The frames were still lopsided from his “impressive eye.”
I sank into the covers and barely left for three days.
“Ang, you have an owl.” Mum tapped on the door with her knuckles. She poked her head in and tried for a smile. I gave her points for trying.
“Doesn’t have a name.” She turned an envelope over in her hands. “Purple ink.”
I only knew one thing that branded itself in purple. “Throw it on the desk. I’ll get to it later.”
“Would you like something to eat?” It was lunchtime and she was bouncing on the balls of her feet. It upset her when I didn’t eat. Then she didn’t eat and we were both upset because we weren’t eating.
“I’m fine.” I wasn’t.
I should have said, some days are better than others.
I stared at the envelope for the better part of two hours until I finally pulled my wand into bed. “Accio envelope.”
I need to ask you a favor. Could you please come by at your earliest convenience?
I blinked and reread the letter in sprawling purple. Usually only Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes used purple ink for anything. Then again, I’d never received a letter from Mrs. Weasley. Perhaps they took that from her.
It must be serious if she was asking me.
I hoisted my legs over the side of the bed and pulled on a t-shirt and jeans and stuffed a few things into a tote bag. My palms started to sweat.
Why was Mrs. Weasley owling me for a favor? She has a lot of children and relatives and a husband.
She was in the living room munching on carrot sticks. “Hmm?”
“I have to go. I’ll be back.” I tried for the same smile, but didn’t quite manage.
A carrot broke off and toppled to the carpet. “Everything okay?”
“Not really sure,” I admitted. I hadn’t been sure of that since the war started. But it was over now. That was my next goal. For everything to be okay. “We’ll see.”
Mrs. Weasley pulled the door open right away. “Oh, thank Merlin!” she said. It had started to rain and used her wand to dry my damp hair. “I’m so glad you could make it. I owled you from the shop and just got back.”
Explained the purple.
“What’s wrong?” I noticed no one else was in the living room, but I heard voices in the kitchen. “Is everything okay?”
“Honey, George is gone.”
A/N: Thank you for so much for taking the time to try out this story. It will be five chapters total. It's definitely less humor/fluff than I usually do, but I felt this story needed to be told. Freddo in my other story, Hormones, mentioned the story of how his parents got together and that paragraph inspired this story.
I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to leave thoughts.