Chapter 1 : Prologue: No Words
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“For some moments in life there are no words.”
- David Seltzer, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
If someone had told George Weasley just yesterday that it was possible to feel this much pain and still be alive, he would have laughed in their face and called them a liar.
But then again, yesterday he’d been normal, human, whole, complete. Yesterday he’d been George, one half of the incorrigible ‘Fred and George.’ Yesterday he’d never dreamed he could be sitting in the Great Hall keeping watch over the body of his best friend, his brother, his twin, his other half.
Oh, how he wished it was still yesterday.
He looked up at the sound of his name. Bill’s tear-stained face floated before him.
“Kreacher’s organized the house-elves and they’re sending up food. Can I bring you anything?” His brother’s eyes were gentle and sad as he spoke.
Mutely, George shook his head.
“’K,” said Bill, and George went back to staring at his twin. He felt Bill’s strong hand rest on his shoulder for a moment, squeezing tightly, and then he was alone with Fred again.
Fred was dead.
The thought spiraled through his brain at least a dozen times a minute, but somehow, even though he continued to gaze at Fred’s long form stretched out on the cold stone floor of the Great Hall, George couldn’t quite comprehend what that phrase meant.
No, scratch that. He knew exactly what that phrase meant – could feel each and every nuance of its meaning stabbing into him like long, jagged daggers. He just kept hoping if he pretended not to understand it might not be true. Ignorance was, after all, bliss.
George sighed as the second person interrupted his thoughts. Couldn’t people bloody well tell he wanted to be left alone? He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes briefly before glancing up. Madam Pomfrey, the Hogwarts’ Healer, stood before him.
“I’m very sorry to intrude, Mr. Weasley,” she said quietly, gently. George thought she sounded terribly tired, and seeing her torn and bloodstained robes he figured she had a right to. “I need to perform a Wand Sweep for Fred – to declare him officially…dead,” she said apologetically, her voice breaking slightly over the last word. “May I?” she asked, seeking his permission.
Choking back emotion, George raked his fingers through his disheveled hair. He’d known this was coming; had watched Madam Pomfrey and her team of healers moving closer to his end of the room all night, wands glowing blue as they gently and reverently paid their final homage to the Battle’s fallen. With a deep, shuddering breath, George nodded his assent.
His eyes followed her as she moved passed him and knelt at his twin’s side, but then he looked away, unable to watch the act that would make his worst nightmare an unavoidable reality. He glanced at the room around him instead, noting as he did that morning light was starting to fill the broken windows.
His family was scattered throughout it, postures and blood-shot expressions voicing their grief even as they fought to maintain their composure and help out. Fleur tended to the wounded in one corner, his father and older brothers helped clear debris in another. His mother sat wearily at one of the long tables, Ginny next to her, head resting on her mother’s shoulder. Grief was etched deeply onto their tired faces.
George scanned the room again, looking for his youngest brother, but came up empty. Harry and Hermione were missing as well. He hoped they’d found somewhere to rest for a while, grieve away from the limelight. He still wasn’t sure of everything the trio had done to make last night’s victory happen, but he figured it had to be worth a few moments of quiet solitude and the chance to break down without it making tomorrow’s headlines.
“Holy Mother of Merlin!”
George jerked around at Madam Pomfrey’s loud and unexpected oath. She was kneeling by his brother, wand outstretched over his still body, its tip glowing bright – red? She clutched her heart, as if she’d just received a huge shock, and for several seconds she was frozen, eyes locked with George. Then, suddenly, she flew into motion.
“PHILIP!” she screamed across the room even as she scrambled in her apron pockets for something. “PHILIP!”
One of her orderlies rushed over, white-faced and panting. “Ma’am?” he questioned as George still sat there, frozen in place and unsure what was going on.
“You’re in charge here! I don’t know when I’ll be back!” Madam Pomfrey ordered tersely, still rummaging through her pockets. “Blast, where is it?” She turned and noticed George again. “You, boy, give me your shoe!”
“What?” George muttered stupidly, gaping like a fish.
“Your shoe! NOW! There’s no time to dawdle! We’ve lost enough time as it is!”
Bewildered, George yanked off his filthy shoe and tossed it to her. She caught it deftly and waved her wand over it, uttering the spell to change it into a portkey. “How could I have missed…” she was mumbling now, even as she went about tucking Fred’s arms across his body and placing his head protectively in her lap. “Should have checked closer…”
“I’ll be at St. Mungo’s!” she snapped at her orderly one last time.
St. Mungo’s? Taking Fred? George’s brain felt like it was slogging through mud, trying to comprehend what was happening. All around him, people had started to notice the commotion taking place in their little corner. Several Weasleys were making a bee-line for them and Madam Pomfrey was gripping Fred’s arm tightly in one hand and George’s shoe in the other when the mud cleared and it hit him.
Without a second thought, George launched himself off his chair at the startled healer and managed to latch a finger onto the shoe in the last second before the portkey activated. He heard his mum shout his name, then Fred’s, and then the familiar pull behind his naval jerked him away and the room dissolved around him.