Chapter 1 : What Remains?
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For those who had undergone the plight of the Battle of Hogwarts, there was no post battle euphoria, the likes of which the rest of the magical community had enjoyed so much. For the people who had not been present in Hogwarts that night, there were celebrations. Very much like He Who Must Not Be Named’s disappearance all those years ago, even the usually oblivious muggles could not fail to notice the numerous amounts of odd looking people wearing various coloured long cloaks on their streets, or the flocks of owls that appeared in broad daylight. No, ironically enough, it was those who had won the war that felt the cost of it most acutely. Relief could not be felt, as how could one feel relief, when the very consequences of the fight that were most feared had actually happened? In the immediate period following the death of Voldemort, the overriding emotion had been confusion. Without the enemy, how could the deaths of your loved ones be justified? How could closure be achieved with no one to blame?
Where was the justice in that?
For George Weasley, none of these questions could be answered. And without these answers, there was to be no future. For he had lost what could never be replaced. Far more than any of his other siblings, he grieved for the loss of his brother, his twin, Fred Weasley. The last light of laughter in his eyes had haunted his dreams, and even his waking hours, when there was nothing else to occupy him. When the event had come to pass, and the battle was finally won, he could not help bitterly cursing those who cheered at the sight of You Know Who’s body, as he saw no victory in it. George even found it difficult to look the valiant hero Harry Potter in the eye, as he knew Harry felt some portion of the victory. As he had lost so much, no triumph could be felt. He recalled sitting there, the longest night of his life, dumbstruck by what had occurred. He felt Fred’s presence like a phantom limb, constantly checking to see if he was there, cracking a joke or mocking Ron. He even caught himself at it now, months afterwards, checking for the brother who had never been out of his sight. He had never been so alone in his entire life. He now felt half an entity. Half a mind.
That was the sort of life that George led after the death of his brother. A half life. At his brother’s funeral, he had simply stood there, his face blank and expressionless as the coffins of Fred and so many others, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and the many other meaningless names were carried and placed in a quiet section of the grounds of the castle. Yet while George had felt this weight upon him, he did not shed tears like the others. His mother had wept for weeks on end, probably for much longer, had she let others see. After all, these were her worst fears come true. But George, as many had expected, did not. He was treated by others like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode in grief at any moment. If George had ever been like the ticking bomb he was treated as, there seemed to be no spark to begin the explosion. There was only emptiness. With Fred’s last laugh, it appeared that he had robbed George of the rest of his own laughter.
So this is where George Weasley was left. Trapped in his misery, and simultaneously running the joke shop that had been the childhood dream of the Weasley brothers. He was stuck running a joke shop where he found nothing amusing. The irony was painful. The fact that Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was thriving as a consequence of the furore of the great excitement that had gripped the wizarding community was of no consolation to him. When he and Fred had originally found themselves as young entrepreneurs, they had wasted no time in spending money on the most ridiculous luxuries they could find; galleons were water to them. Now, George had no desire to do anything except to sit alone in the flat above the shop. The only people he had regular contact with nowadays were Ron, who insisted on helping George run the place, Percy, who, out of the blue, had decided to come in every now and again to help with George’s accounts, and the shop assistant, Verity. It was Percy now who sat at the desk laden with sheets upon sheets of parchment bearing numerous facts while George simply leant against the side of the cold bare wall of the flat, concentrating on a spider scuttling across the floor.
“…And on top of that, you have three-hundred-and-seventy-two galleons and five sickles in your tertiary account for this month, which brings you up to the two thousand mark, if we count your private savings…” Percy droned on, his crisp, clipped voice, fresh from the Ministry of Magic itself. George closed his eyes and sighed through his nose.
“So I would say that you are in a perfect position to expand the franchise, George, a little aspiration never hurt anybody. You have the potential to be quite the mogul of the comedic world.” He went on to say in that same voice of purpose. Percy, while his strict and pompous ways had not altered in the slightest, had undergone a sort of change in philosophy. Ambition had always been at the core of his belief system, but Percy had changed from being hell bent on achieving his own ends to becoming keener on encouraging others to achieve their own potential. The more cynical part of George believed that this was the manner in which Percy saw fit to pay his debt to the family. And as George was at this moment in time, the most fragile member of the family, he was the prime candidate for Percy’s new project.
“Merlin’s beard, George! Are you even listening to me?” his voice cut through George’s reverie like a dagger. He shook his head a little bit, to stave off the new, cynical George who had become so loud and insistent.
“Be fair,” he said drily “, I do have some disadvantage in hanging on your every word.” He gestured to his damaged ear. Percy sighed, turning his chair fully around to face George, considering him meaningfully.
“What?” snapped George. Percy turned around and began gathering all the sheets of parchment haphazardly into the smart black briefcase he had brought with him. Most unlike Percy.
“What are you doing, Perce?”
“What does it look like? We’re going to the Leaky Cauldron.” He said, his eye glinting. This was probably about as rebellious as Percy was going to get.
“Oh.” George shrugged. Percy looked crestfallen for one second; he had clearly hoped that this would provoke a change in George’s mood. However, this did not dissuade him, he pulled on his cord suit jacket in a hurry and beckoned to George to follow him. George did so, his listless expression drew a marked contrast with the bright and purposeful Percy.
It wasn’t a busy day in Diagon Alley, and for that, George was thankful. He didn’t venture often outside Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes except for the rare moments he needed to restock his food supplies; his mother sent him so many food parcels he began to feel like a refugee. Peace and quiet in Diagon Alley now seemed a rarity and this was a stark contrast to the eerie silence that had invaded the place last year. Diagon Alley had restored itself remarkably. The shops that had previously been boarded up were new again; Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour had been taken over by a relative of his, and Ollivander’s Wand shop had been reopened too, though its opening hours were considerable shorter. As they walked, George remained silent bar the odd grunt, his hands in the pockets of his jeans. Percy made up the bulk of the conversation, talking about future possible shop locations and deals that could be made. He was forever on about the potential as if making clear to George what he could have if he would act on it. But George remained immune.
The conversation had run out of steam by the time they had reached the Leaky Cauldron. The pub stank of stale smoke as usual, and the lighting was poor. Percy rapped smartly on the bar.
“A serving of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey for my brother here, please Tom!” He said cheerily, slamming some coins down on the bar.
“Cheers, Perce.” Muttered George.
“And what will you be ‘avin, Mr. Weasley?” said the hunched, bald barman, with his usual strange and disconcertingly friendly smile.
“A glass of mulled wine, please.”
“Mulled wine?” George said sardonically. Percy frowned.
“Firewhiskey is a little strong for my stomach.” He said curtly. George’s mouth lifted in one corner. It would have been something that Fred would have laughed at. They sat in some plush, albeit grubby armchairs, whose original colour had long deteriorated. George drained his firewhiskey, relishing the burning feeling the liquid made down his throat. Meanwhile, Percy sipped his mulled wine placidly.
“Mother and Father are coming tomorrow. Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny will be coming with them, I believe Ginny is also bringing a school friend who has been staying at the Burrow.” He announced, eyeing George carefully to see his reaction.
“Why?” George replied, not looking at Percy.
“For Ginny’s school things. And to see you, of course.” Percy’s voice was careful. He had withheld this information carefully. The rest of the Weasley family was a thorny topic for George, the pariah.
“So Hogwarts is definitely open next year?” George edged around the topic. Percy seemed to sense this, as he arched an eyebrow quizzically. But thankfully for George, he took the bait.
“Yes. McGonagall is the headmistress, as expected” Percy said briskly “, I must say, the Department of Magical Buildings have done a marvellous job. The castle almost looks exactly how it used to.”
The conversation then onwards trailed on like a particularly dull History of Magic lesson, except with more firewhiskey and mulled wine. Just as Tom the barman began lighting extra lamps, Percy stood up.
“Well, I must be off. I won’t be with you tomorrow; I’m needed at the office. I have a meeting with Bertie Higgs early in the morning.” Percy stated. George stood up and stretched, bidding his brother goodbye, and made his way out of the pub into the now lamp lit streets of Diagon Alley.
The streets were now fully empty, and the various shopkeepers were beginning to extinguish the lights. George supposed Verity would be doing the same. He would have to speed up to allow her to get home. However, he maintained his slow, plodding pace. He liked Diagon Alley best like this. Previously, he would have enjoyed the darkness as it allowed for secrecy and mischief. Now, he simply enjoyed the peace. George sighed. He really had become middle aged over night.
As George walked, he contemplated how he would get through the awkwardness of seeing his family tomorrow. He knew that seeing his face would hurt his mother in some form; after all, he was pretty much a walking reminder. At least they could be away from the walking reminder of their dead relative. Yet while George felt this terrible bitterness against the rest of his family, he could not help but feel an aching guilt in the pit of his stomach. He had, no matter what mental accusations he threw at his family, thoroughly neglected in contacting them. It was unavoidable. George would have to confront them, and he might as well get it over with.
A/N: Aaaaaand done. Luna hasn’t appeared yet, but I promise she’ll appear next chapter. Anyway, I hope you liked it! I’d really love to know what you think, so please review :D
Copyright: 'The Tears of a Clown' by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles