Originally validated 13 July 2011, revised 19 March 2012, submitted to queue 23 March 2012. Only minor grammatical corrections and a few word changes.
I just want to say thank you to everyone who has reviewed and favorited this story in the past. I know I've been gone a long time, but I've returned from my personal hiatus and am in the process of revising and finishing this story. I can tell you now that this is only going to be a three chapter piece, short and sweet, which is really what I had planned when I started this months ago.
If you're waiting on Test of a Maurader, you're going to have to wait a bit more, sorry. I've posted a few one-shots that should keep you entertained while I begin the process of editing. It's going to take a lot longer than this did. Again, I apologize, but have hope that I haven't completely abandoned ToaM yet.
The ginger walked slowly through Diagon Alley, the dark and somber mood of the streets weighing down on him. No one who didn’t have to be out and about was around. Those that were made their way to their destinations with no distraction. Business in the Alley had slowed to such a degree that many shops had been forced to close. Many said it was temporary, but just as many were convinced that Wizarding Britain was falling.
Even now that the war was over, and good had finally vanquished evil, people were still in hiding. It didn’t seem to matter that Voldemort wasn’t an issue anymore, that nearly all of his followers had been captured and properly punished, that the Ministry was rebuilding out of the rubble of trickery and deceit. It didn’t matter that Harry Potter lived, that so many lives were saved. All anyone could focus on were the lives that were lost, and the grotesquely depressive mood had saturated the Wizarding community.
Stopping outside a once familiar storefront, the redhead surveyed the area with disgust. The once bright window decorations and obnoxiously colored building all held the dirt that had invaded the Alley. He knew the pains of war more than most. He had fought since the age of eleven, sacrificed his childhood, his time and his energy to the Second Wizarding War, and won. He lost friends, loved ones, family. Ronald Weasley was a war hero, and never wished to be a stupid, ignorant muggle more than he had since the fall of Voldemort.
The larger than life faces of the Weasley twins above the entrance hurt Ron on a deep level, but he couldn’t let it bother him. Pushing through the front doors, Ron entered the all but abandoned Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. Dust covered every surface, shelves were disorganized and numerous objects littered the floor. The sight probably hurt more than seeing Fred’s shining face grinning down from the storefront. His brothers had worked so hard for this shop; it was their dream, their baby, and the surviving twin gave it up without a glance back.
George had sequestered himself into the flat he and his twin had shared above the shop. He didn’t return any owls sent, blocked off his floo connection and wasn’t showing up at the Burrow anymore. None of the Weasleys wanted to do anything, or, more accurately, didn’t know what to do anymore. Everyone was mourning those lost in the war, but George was hurt the most.
Molly and Arthur lost a precious son, one of their babies; Ron and the rest of his siblings lost a brother, someone they all admired and looked up to; but not George. George lost his twin, his second half. No one knew how that felt, none of them had had that connection with Fred. It was something only those two would ever know, and something only George would feel the loss of.
They did, however, all know what it was like to have someone, mean the world to them; but none knew what it was like to have someone be their world. Fred was always the outgoing risk taker, George seemed along for the ride. That’s the way the world saw them. ‘Fred and George.’ Never ‘George and Fred,’ and certainly never just ‘George’ or just ‘Fred.’
Ron knew better than that. He had always looked up to the twins. They were, besides Ginny, the siblings closest in age to him. They were just a few years above him in Hogwarts. They were on the Quidditch team. They were everything that they wanted to be, and Ron was always, deep down, jealous. He watched them since a young age constantly. He would eavesdrop on them plotting what prank to play at dinner, discussing Quidditch tactics, talking about the pretty girls in their year or just being brothers.
Ron saw the way Fred admired George, the way George was the true mastermind behind many of the shenanigans, the way they helped each other with their own personal issues. George was better with the technical things; Fred was better with presentation. Together, they made the perfect prankster. Fred loved watching his brother at work, George loved watching his brother shine in the limelight. They worked wonderfully together, complimenting each other in ways no one else ever would.
Ron understood George now more than any of the other Weasleys. He understood that Fred made George better, and how George didn’t think he’d be any good without him. He absolutely hated it. Even in the most serious situations, the twins held themselves with such aloofness that it seemed impossible that anything bad would happen. Ron didn’t know what to do without that beacon of light in the dark, and couldn’t begin to imagine what George felt upon seeing his brother’s face in death. His own reflection, eyes dull and lifeless, a ghost of a smile upon his lips.
It gave Ron hope that Fred’s last moment had been spent laughing. He knew that, in the scheme of things, it was a nasty thought and utterly useless, but it helped him get through the times after the war. If Fred was laughing, things couldn’t be that bad. They’d get better.
Of course, it helped that Ron had someone to help him through this time. Thinking about it, nearly all the Weasleys had someone to help them through it. Molly and Arthur, Bill and Fleur, Ginny and Harry, him and Hermione. There was Charlie, who was also alone, but Charlie had always been a fighter. Never had Ron seen Charlie truly upset about anything; he’d always stood tall and strong. But he could also see that crumbling little by little as they all watched George pull away from them, his family.
As Ron walked through the shop, wisps of dust floated around him, getting in his lungs and causing him to cough. It had only been a few months since that day, the Final Battle. Ron felt as if it had been years as he looked around the mess that was once the shop. Covering his face with the collar of his robes, Ron made his way deeper into the store to the stairs that led to where George had been hiding.
They creaked as he ascended, causing Ron to wince slightly. The building was so quiet that the noise sounded much louder than it was. He couldn’t recall a time when creaking floorboards sounded so loud, like such an intrusion.
Ron knocked on the door to the twins’ flat quietly. Receiving no answer, he tried the doorknob. It was unlocked, which wasn’t strange for the twins. The only entrance was through the shop, and one of them was there at all times. It hadn’t seemed necessary for them to keep the door locked.
Turning the handle, Ron slowly pushed open the door. The scent of Firewhiskey and musk permeated his nose. It wrinkled in disgust and fear. He hadn’t really known what to expect, but, somehow, this wasn’t it. The flat wasn’t messy, just not clean. There were a few socks in random places and Firewhiskey bottles on the coffee table but nothing extreme. Ron called out for his brother, but got no response.
He sighed, shutting the door softly behind him. Ron felt as if he wasn’t welcome here, almost as if this wasn’t the flat of his brothers. He felt like a stranger, peeking in on a desperate soul’s life, wanting with every fiber of his being to reach out and help him.
Popping his head into the kitchen, Ron was only greeted with the sight of more Firewhiskey bottles. There were dishes in the sink, smelly and moldy from not having been touched in months. The sight in the bathroom was a bit better, even thought it appeared to not have been used much, at least there weren’t any alcohol bottles.
Standing outside George’s bedroom door, Ron collected himself for what he was sure would be something he’d never wanted to see. Not bothering knocking this time, Ron pushed the slightly ajar door open to the sight of his brother’s hollow eyes staring at him from where he sat tightly curled on his bed.
Original Author's Notes:
This is the first chapter of my entry for megan2u's "Summertime" challenge. I was given Ron working a summer job. I know that this chapter doesn't jump right into the prompt, but it does in the next. This is going to be a bit dark, just a warning. I've decided to show Ron working at the WWW, as JKR has told us that he does. Megan, if there's an issue about not having the exact prompt validated by the deadline (it's so close now!) feel free to take me out of the challenge. I'll continue to work on this, even if you do decide to do so.
As usual, everything is unbeta'd, so feel free to point out any errors or places where there could be some improvement.