Chapter 1 : With Enough Nerve
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Night had begun to fall, yellow lights flickering off one by one behind frosted windows, shadows dancing beneath millions of stars. Madam Rosmerta's place glowed warmly in the chilled night, the Three Broomsticks' warm drinks and laughter spilling out onto the deserted High Street of Hogsmeade. Buildings on either side of the street stood dark and empty, the day's business gone and, so too, the people.
Further along the street, a single window remained illuminated in the night, the glow of a lone candle flickering against the impeding darkness. Sporting the haunting shadow of “Zonko's” above the front door, the building's crooked mahogany frame seemed to sway precariously in the winter wind. A polished sign hanging above the door swung viciously; bedecked in silver decorations, depicting a rather large boy (quite reminiscent of the twins' favorite test subject) keeled over on the ground and staring at his own large purple tongue flopping wildly in front of him. Beneath the flabbergasted boy snaked the intricate design of three silver W's.
Somewhere behind the icy paneled windows, past crates of Skiving Snackboxes, bundles of Headless Hats, and lopsided cages filled with purring Pygmy Puffs—George Weasley sat on the cold wood floor, absentmindedly untangling a handful of Extendable Ears. Empty eyes, misted over in recollection, stared at his fumbling hands. Hints of tears danced behind the deep brown pools, yet a smile twitched at the corner of his chapped lips. George couldn't help but smile when thinking of him.
Ever since they had spoken their first word (“Gotcha!”), the pair of them had driven their mum insane with mischievous pranks and what Mr. Weasley fondly called “practical jokes”, though Mrs. Weasley certainly couldn't see anything practical about them. Their chubby little faces would scrunch up in toothless smiles, laughter shining in their large brown eyes, and despite whatever mayhem they had just caused, Mrs. Weasley couldn't help but laugh herself.
It had truly been the time of their lives. Sure, some of their jokes had been cruel, a wicked grin split George's face as he remembered how ickle Ronniekins had run into the wall trying to scurry away when his favorite teddy bear turned into a giant hairy spider. But it had all been in good fun! They, Fred and George, wanted nothing more than to make people smile.
Each day was better than the last, filled with devious pranks and, since their very first day at Hogwarts, the daily Watch Filch Run Mad Trying to Catch Us bit. They had always been close. Together, in everything. It was who they were! It was never just Fred. Nor George. It was Fred and George. Together, even in name.
He couldn't believe he was gone. Just gone.
George clutched his hair in his hands as he felt sobs catch in his throat. Gone. And George hadn't been there to help him. Where was he when his brother faced death? Why weren't they together? Fighting together? They were always together!
“NO!” George rushed forward upon entering the Great Hall. The fighting had ceased, they were collecting the dead. His family, a circle of fiery red hair, stood together around a body, cold as the stone beneath him.
“Who is it?” He searched the faces of his family. Dad, Mom, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Ginny... “Where's Ron!? Where's...Fred?” Desperate eyes fell on the body at their feet and he collapsed to the floor.
“Fred?” He croaked, crawling toward his dead brother, unable to believe his eyes. “No, Fred. Wake up.” Placing one hand on either side of Fred's face, George shook his brother's head from side to side.
“C'mon...wake up. It's not funny, Fred. It's not funny!”
“H-he's dead, George.” Mr. Weasley's voice sounded empty, a chill passing through each of them as the end of their brother was proclaimed. Mrs. Weasley fell to the ground, wrapping arms around her dead son as if her embrace could bring him back.
“No, no, no! He can't...he can't...” George placed his forehead onto Fred's, hot tears spilling from his eyes, sobs wracking his body.
Fury burned in his veins and George longed to rip the limbs from every Death Eater, every creature that had caused his brother's death. How dare they take his life? Fred had so much to live for! So much and now...
This was their dream! Together! George glanced around at the boxes surrounding him. After the Battle of Hogwarts, he'd bought the old Zonko's building to open up a Hogsmeade branch of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. It was what Fred wanted. To spread the laughs. That's all. Just to make people happy and he...he died for it.
“Dead,” George choked, gritting his teeth against the bitter word.
Oh God, how he missed him! How he wished he could go back and save his brother! Why did it have to be Fred? Why? Why hadn't he been there? Why hadn't he saved him? Why hadn't he died instead? Why—
George jumped, dropping the Extendable Ears he had been crushing in his hands. Looking around the dark room, he stood up and searched over the tops of boxes and crates for the owner of the voice.
“Down here you great dolt!”
Looking behind a cage of sleeping Pygmy Puffs, he saw it. Leaning sideways against a stack of boxes was a package wrapped in grubby brown paper. Through a tear in the front, George saw a kind brown eye staring up at him. Grabbing the package, George ripped off the rest of the paper revealing a grinning oil portrait of Fred.
George frowned as he remembered having the portrait made shortly after Fred had died, in vain hopes that it might make him feel less alone. Unfortunately, he'd been unable to bring himself to look at it.
Fred grinned up at him from the canvas, his head tilted to the side to better look at George.
“Ya mind?” Fred rolled his head from side to side as if working out a crick in his neck. “Can't say this is the most comfortable I've been.”
Settling down on the cold floor, George placed the portrait in front of him. He watched his grinning twin-- the sad smile that curled George's lips did not reach his eyes.
“Thinking 'bout me again?”
George chuckled, nodding.
“Look, I know I'm handsome—“
“You always were the good looking one.” Identical laughs bounced off the walls, brightening the entire room.
“Not too shabby yourself, my friend. Though I must say the down-and-out look isn't doing you any favors.” A somber silence fell over them. George ran his fingers through his hair, staring longingly at the portrait before him. Fred coughed, breaking the silence.
“This place looks a right mess!” Fred exclaimed, glancing around the maze of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes products.
“I know, I know. I've just moved most of the stuff over here.” George paused, tears welling in his eyes again. “I don't think I can do it without you, Fred.”
“That's a bunch of rubbish if I'd ever heard any. You're bloody brilliant! Not to mention, quite the Saint if I do say so myself!” A feeble smile parted Fred's lips as he looked up at his brother. “'Sides, I haven't really gone anywhere, have I?”
And at that moment, George understood. He knew that Fred was gone from this earth, but inside him, past the grief and the overwhelming feeling that he had been torn in two, he knew Fred could still live. In each laugh, each twinkling of the eye, and in each joke that passed through George's lips, he knew Fred was there.
He hadn't lost his brother at all, and he knew that one day, in that Great Room of Requirement in the sky, they'd be together again.
“What'd I tell ya? Anything's possible, mate.”
[Author's Note: Well that's it! I never thought George would be one to just stop living after Fred was gone. He's much stronger than that.
You've read, now review! :D ]