Chapter 1 : The Mirror of Erised
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George Weasley tried to keep up with his daughter, he really did. Her voice bounced off the cold walls of the old castle as she scooted around corners and ran down staircases. It had taken him a while to get his bearings. He didn’t quite remember the routes and secret passageways so frequented by him and his brother in their schooldays. Now he needed Roxanne’s bobbing black hair as a guiding light.
“Yeah, sorry I’ll be missing some antiquated and absurd tradition that will no doubt have me on the edge of my seat and not at all bored in the slightest.”
“It’s James’ graduation!”
“And I’m very happy and very proud that he managed to get through seven years of schooling and still have some life in him. I’ll have you know that I…”
“Skipped the last couple of months and flew out of here on a broomstick?” Roxanne said, walking back around the corner to check whether her father had caught up with her, “I know. You tell us the same story whenever you come back.”
“That’s because it’s a great story,” George replied, and his daughter laughed. “When you do something interesting, I’ll tell that story.”
“And I’ll have you know that I do plenty of interesting things,” she replied.
“Unless they include several remarkably ingenious pranks or you giving a basket of orphaned kittens to some old grandmothers, I don’t want to know.”
Roxanne set off again down the corridor. Trailing his old, wrinkling fingers along the cold stone, George followed. They moved quickly through the castle, and George appreciated the warmth of the summer on his face, and the healthy bounce in his step. He treasured the smile his daughter flashed his occasionally as she turned around to face him, and the happy laugh that echoed around him. She looked so much like her mother.
Gaping ridiculously at a portrait of his younger brother, George stopped. “Hey, Roxy, over here! Your uncle Ron! Merlin, he’s put on weight.” He waited for a few moments for his daughter to run back around the corner to look at the portrait with him. He waited, trying to listen for her footsteps or her impatient tone of voice through his only ear. No one came.
George left the painting, still smiling inwardly at his brother’s outrageous pose and his sincere facial expression, and tried to find his daughter. He opened doors and crept down corridors. Far away, he could hear the sound of applause. The ceremony had started, and he was already late.
There was no response. George opened every door, trying in vain to find a way back. He wished he hadn’t given that amazing map to Harry. He knew it had probably helped the defeat of the darkest wizard of all time, but he still resented the way Fred had decided that they should give it to the dark-haired, bespectacled boy.
He opened another door; there was nothing, except an empty classroom with old, dust-covered desks and chalkboards. Several old professors snored in their frames, and one of them blinked stupidly in the spotlight. This obviously wasn’t getting him anywhere. Closing the door behind him, he continued along the corridor.
“Roxy! Where are you? Now really, if this is some sort of fun little game, it isn’t getting us anywhere!”
His voice echoed as he strolled along. He passed portrait after portrait, door after door, and he wished, once again, that he could remember where he was going. The sound of applause seemed fainter now, as if he was moving away from the ceremony. He turned back around, and tried his luck with a door on his right.
The room was dark. Dim light filtered down from a window high up. Something black and menacing flittered up in the high-vaulted ceiling, and George hoped it wasn’t a bat. He always hated those. His hand on the doorknob, George moved to close it, but a glint of gold caught his eye; an antique frame, half covered by a grey dustsheet, with words etched into the gold wood. Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
George pulled the sheet down, only to see himself. He was younger – free of the wrinkles and the laughter lines and the slightly greying hair - and his ear had returned to him, and a slanting grin graced his lips. George smiled, thinking that the mirror was some sort of device that showed you years younger…
But something was different; his eyebrow was cocked differently and there was a freckle just underneath his left eye that wasn’t there usually.
Fred and George. Gred and Forge.
George reached out to touch Fred’s face, but his fingers only felt the cold glass of the mirror. He didn’t understand what was going on. What was this mirror? What did it show? Why was he there, standing there, just out of reach?
“You’re going mad.” A voice in his head said, its tone smooth and mysterious. George almost jumped out of his skin. “Take out your wand. Charm massive, pus-filled boils…”
“Fred?” He choked out.
“Finally. It took you long enough. I talk to your ear all the time, can’t you hear me?”
His laughing voice echoed around George’s mind. He placed his fingers once again on the mirror. Maybe he was just imagining the movement of the face’s lips. Maybe the light from the window was distorting the image, confusing him. It had been so long.
“Yes, congratulations, it’s me, your long dead twin. You do realise that you’re having this conversation inside your own head, don’t you?”
The face was still and George stepped closer to it, examining it. His breath frosted on the glass. It was strange. After so many years and months, to see his brother’s face, seemingly alive, with his voice filling his head as if he was standing so close to him.
“It rhymes with dead. That’s how people should introduce us at parties: Dead and George.”
“Do you want to say that one more time, or should I just throttle you?”
George shook his head. The reflection smiled.
There was brief beat of silence as the two brothers stared at each other, one old with greying hair and wrinkled skin, the other youthful and happy, still possessing that mischievous character that had attracted and annoyed so many. George wondered whether they should be finishing…
“Each other’s sentences? That’s a little cliché, don’t you think?”
“Well we were identical twins.” His voice was loud in the cavernous room.
“Not identical anymore. You’re getting old.”
“You would be too.”
“Ah yes, death. My premature departure from this earth proved a little problematic.”
George looked again at the face of his brother. He had failed to see him this animated in a while, with his voice so clear in his head, his memory so strong and vibrant in his mind’s eye. Sometimes Fred’s laugh came to him when he was inventing for the shop, or joking with his brothers or while looking at his son.
“You’ve been old before.”
“I think you mean ‘old school’.”
“Sixth year? When we tried to enter the Triwizard Tournament? You had that ridiculous beard.” George laughed. “We got in so much trouble for using that aging potion. Good thing Dumbledore thought it was funny.”
“He still does. And the Marauders.”
“Now they were old school.”
There was a creaking door hinges and George turned quickly, but there was no one. Nothing had moved. He imagined how weird it would seem to a passerby – even one of his many relatives – that a middle-aged man would be standing in a dark room, admiring what appeared to be a floating head in a mirror, and talking to himself.
He should be at the ceremony.
“Time is galleons, twin brother. And there’s no point in spending it at some antiquated and absurd school tradition when you could be doing something fun. Like talking to your long deceased twin in a room full of bats.”
“That’s just what I was saying to Roxanne,” George replied quickly, pointing behind him at the door. Fred’s face fell slightly, but still retained a roguish grin.
“I would’ve liked to meet her, and seen Angelina again.” A pause. The voice inside George’s head seemed fainter. “I see you’ve bestowed the great name of Fred onto your youngest son. What makes you think he’ll be worthy?”
“He acts just like you.”
“So he acts just like you.”
“I’d say he’s very worthy, then.”
There was a sound of trumpets and drums and applause, louder now, and George looked at his brother in the mirror. He tried to print the image onto his brain – he hoped it would replace the one of him, cold and still, with Ron and his mother crying by his side. A better picture. Fred winked.
“You’re going to go, aren’t you?”
“Get out of my head.”
“But you don’t know where to go. You’re lost. Honestly, George, I’m ashamed, think of all the time we spent creeping around the place, finding all the secret passageways…”
“Do you have any idea where I should go?” George asked.
“There’s one behind the statue of Gregory the Smarmy. It’ll get you out onto the grounds.”
George found himself nodding. “We found it in our first week.”
Silence, for a second, as thoughts tumbled through George’s brain. There were memories of his time at Hogwarts, times with Angelina and Roxanne and younger Fred, memories with his vastly extended family. Memories of the war. He could tell Fred could see them too.
“I miss you.” George said.
“And I’m proud of you, but let’s not turn this into a nostalgia fest. Go on,” the voice was growing fainter, quieter, and George wanted to stay, to hear it again. “Go waste your life away at some preposterous function.”
“Someone isn’t bitter.”
“Someone isn’t dead.”
Fred smiled. George smiled. The older man turned away from the mirror and looked nervously at the flapping black creature in the vaulted ceiling. He opened the door, and looked back for one last glance at his brother. The reflection had gone. The cold shine of the mirror glinted in the gloomy room. George shut the door with a snap, walked briskly down the hallway, tapped the statue of Gregory the Smarmy twice with his wand, and began the long trek down to the grounds, to long and boring ceremony that he should have been at.
“I’m proud of you.” A voice whispered in his one, very unholy ear.