Chapter 7 : The Empty Bed
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Hermione wasn’t the only one having trouble finding sleep that night. George lay awake in the room he used to share with Fred. He was on his back staring at the ceiling. He figured that it was better lying there awake anyways rather than giving into sleep in which he was constantly tortured with images of Fred.
He rolled over on his side and gazed over at the empty bed in the room. Fred’s bed. The bed that no one would ever fill again. It was exactly the same as it had always been, with the pillows askew and the sheets a tangled mess. The bed frame was a chipped and scarred memorial to their early prank testing days before they opened the shop. George could match the dents and dings with the different events they originated from.
The bed started to look like a water color painting (some Muggle art form that Hermione had told him about once) as his vision blurred with tears.
“Fred, I miss you so damn much,” he whispered to the empty bed. “Some days I just don’t know what to do with myself. I feel like someone’s torn me in half and I don’t know how to put myself back together again. I’m here and you’re not and it just isn’t right.” By now the tears were flowing unchecked down the sides of his face.
“I wish you were here. I know you would have some clever plan up your sleeve for getting Hermione back to her old self. She’s so sad and different, not at all like the girl I would drive you nuts with what with me talking about her all the time. You would know exactly what to say to give me the courage to tell her how I feel too. I want to tell her so much, but I’m terrified of rejection. I wish you could’ve seen her on the broom. I know you would’ve gotten a kick out of it.”
George paused as a shaky breath passed his lips, “Merlin I wish you were here.”
George rolled back over to face the ceiling. He wiped his eyes and took a few calming breaths. Deciding he wasn’t going to get any sleep in this room with its memories and empty bed, George got out of bed, grabbed his pillow and a blanket and headed downstairs.
When he arrived downstairs he was startled to find that there was someone else down here. Usually everyone else was asleep by this time. As he moved closer he realized that the person curled up in one of the armchairs was Hermione and she was, in fact, asleep. George debated going back upstairs so he wouldn’t disturb her, but decided against it thinking that a warm fire and a sleeping Hermione were a much better alternative to a dark room and an empty bed.
He dropped is pillow and blanket on the large sofa then conjured a second blanket, which he draped over the still sleeping Hermione. As he did this he noticed the empty mug sitting next to the chair, the last dregs of cocoa sitting in the bottom. George smiled, a cup of hot cocoa was one of his favorite nighttime remedies. Apparently, it was Hermione’s as well. George looked down at the girl in the chair and wondered what it was that kept her awake at night because judging from the dark circles under her eyes, she didn’t get much sleep these days. The fire and the cocoa too were clues. They were comforts he himself had often sought at late hours when memories of Fred’s death plagued him.
George reached down and tucked an errant strand of hair back behind her ear. She looked so peaceful and relaxed for the first time in a while. Even in the years leading up to the war she had never really been relaxed. Of course, George thought, that was probably an unfortunate side effect of being best friends with the Chosen One and having fought off Voldermort or some other evil at least once a year since you were eleven.
George shook his head as he went and arranged himself on the couch. The girl had done things he couldn’t even begin to imagine and yet she was still here and still his Hermione. She was the one bright spot in his thoughts.
As he lay there watching her, George thought back to what she had told him earlier out by the pond about Bellatrix and Malfoy Manor. He began to get an impression of what had made her become the quiet, reclusive witch she was now. That just wasn’t the kind of thing that you could walk away from and still have the same life you used to. That was the kind of thing that permanently changed a person. It was also the kind of thing that made George love her even more. To go through something like that and still be able to go on living day to day and have most of your sanity was a testament to just how strong she really was.
George also remembered the way it had felt holding her so close today after she had confessed about Bellatrix. She had fit so perfectly against him with her head tucked under his chin and her arms holding on to him. They fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. Not to mention the time on the broom with her rib-cracking grip and her face buried in his shirt.
Merlin he was in trouble. He was no-kidding-around, head-over-heels for the bushy-haired, brilliant witch asleep in front of him. He had harbored these feelings for three years now and he wished he could get up the courage to tell her, but he was so certain of her rejection that he couldn’t. He just could not bear the thought of alienating Hermione that way. Besides she deserved someone better to lover her and take care of her. Someone who wasn’t as messed up as he was and without the emotional baggage he came with at the moment. Yes, it was better to maintain a simple friendship than to ruin it with these feelings. He once again wished that Fred were here. He always knew the right thing to say or do to cheer George up, like giving him a smack upside the head and telling him to go out and tell her already. George sighed and settled into a more comfortable position on the sofa.
Some Gryffindor I am, he thought as he took one last look at Hermione’s sleeping face. I can’t even tell the girl that I’ve fancied for the last three years that I love her, or face an empty bed. With these last thoughts in mind, George let the elusive cloak of sleep overtake him.
A/N: So what did you think? Personally I was a little iffy about parts of this chapter, some of it felt a little repetitive, but that's just me. Please Read and Review they are seriously, greatly appreciated. Thanks!~Naomi
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