Chapter 3 : Three
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Turning away from the early risers and promise of a new day he went to help Hannah with the preparations. It had taken a few months to clear the cobwebs and get the shop ready for trade once more, and Hannah had been with him every step of the way. She often turned up at his door in the morning to make sure he would make it out that day, and had slept over once on a particularly bad night. As she walked out of the back with a small smile on her face, humming a tune, George realised just how much he had come to rely on her. She caught sight of him.
“Hey.” George couldn’t always bring himself to smile back, but today was one of those days where he forced the corners of his mouth to turn upwards. It felt forced and unnatural; he hoped one day it would feel normal once more. He supposed it was better than a blank stare. Hannah shifted her gaze away and unceremoniously dumped a load of products into his arms. “Put these on the shelves, please. That should be the last of it.” She brushed some hair out of her face and smiled again. She was always smiling. “I’m gonna go and get cleaned up.”
Then she was gone, and George was alone.
Everything was laid out like before and it felt strange. George glanced over the gleaming shelves, the spotless counter that he’d scrubbed at the previous day and the stacks of products and felt a confusing pang in his heart. This was his livelihood and what he loved to do, but it was something that was special to him and Fred. Fred. Even thinking of his name sent a frisson of pain through him. Perhaps it didn’t send him into a comatose state any longer, but he knew that he would never fully recover. He didn’t know if his family thought the same. They had all been trying so hard, checking on him as often as possible and making sure he was eating, but they all had a sad smile on their features that betrayed their thoughts. He’ll never be the same again.
It seemed only Hannah ignored his morose demeanour and pushed through the wall that had kept everything out for so long. She was the only one that had truly made a difference, and the evidence stood before him. George looked at the time; it was almost nine. They’d be opening soon. He was surprised to see someone already waiting eagerly outside and was taken back to a time when the wizarding world loved and adored his shop. The memories of their first opening day came flooding back to him as he remembered everyone’s excited faces matching their own and their family hugging them in turn. Maybe today would be a similar affair, except missing his business partner.
George sighed and turned away, scratching a phantom itch on his missing ear. A small feeling had taken root in his stomach and its tendrils were creeping up and outwards: doubt. Was this the right thing to do? His breathing got faster. He needed Fred to be able to do this. He looked round at the shelves frantically. No. It was all wrong. He needed him. He needed –
“George?” Hannah was by his side with a concerned look on her face. She must have seen the panic in his eyes as her face changed to something that seemed a little like pity. In that moment, George resented her, but it was gone as soon as it came. He focused.
“I’m fine,” he replied, a little sharply. He turned away so he didn’t see her hurt expression. He heard a sigh and footsteps walking away. A pang of regret gnawed at his stomach. George knew he had to try if he wanted to get better again. Merlin knows it was what everyone wanted for him – but he wasn’t sure if he wanted it for himself just yet.
He heard Hannah come back from the stock room, and turned round to see a determined look on her face. She was carrying a small wooden box. George immediately knew what was in it.
“This is why you need to get past Fred’s death, George. Yes, his death. I’m sorry, but he died and he isn’t coming back.” Strangely, he felt nothing at her harsh delivery. George knew his brother and best friend was gone, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t mourn for him. “It’s been ten months!” Hannah cried. “Don’t let this ruin your life. We all lost people that we loved in the war. Remember what you were working towards, what your livelihood was!” Hannah’s eyes were bright when she finished. She opened the box.
Inside was the little plastic ruby that released a torrent of emotion every time he saw it. Even as he worked on it over the past month, he struggled not to lose control all over again. Their final joke had a decidedly intrusive one; the heart would go over to whoever the user commanded and plague them with cheesy pick-up lines. There was no substance to it, it was a cheap laugh and definitely not one of their best ideas, but Fred became obsessed with it. In a time where death and sadness prevailed, he said that people would need a laugh when it was all over. They had been working on it on the night they got the call.
But now he was dead, it was up to George to finish it.
And finish it he did. The product in the box looked no different than when George had first laid eyes on it, but he had perfected the enchantments. He pointed his wand at it and the ruby rose from the box, floating gently in the air. He guided it over to the glass cabinet they had installed a couple of weeks ago and it hovered above a white cushion serenely. On the outside of the box a plaque simply read ‘In Loving Memory of Fred Weasley, his final joke.’
Hannah had tears in her eyes when he glanced at her, so he quickly looked away. He didn’t want to cry again; he’d had enough of it over the past few months. They had agreed not to sell or manufacture any more of the rubies so that the display remained one of a kind, much like Fred. The corners of George’s mouth tugged themselves into a smile, and Hannah smiled too.
George’s heart was hammering as Hannah opened the shop door and people came flooding in, so he retreated to the back room to watch from afar. It was just like old times – scores of people were jostling to find their favourite products and excited cries could be heard amongst the din, but the absence of the shop owners cajoling and pushing sales was noticeable. Everyone knew what had happened, but nobody spoke of it. George watched in the shadows as the shop had life breathed into it once more.
A gentle tap at the door revealed Hannah. “George? Why don’t you come and say hello to some people? Your family are here.”
George had expected them to show up. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward and gave the tiniest of smiles to his waiting mother and father. Molly engulfed him in a hug, chatting about mundane things and offering congratulations as George nodded his head. Ron shook his hand and asked to speak to him later about the shop, and he even spied Percy looking curiously at some floating baubles. When he touched it the bauble exploded, and George almost laughed. The distraction meant he missed his mother hugging Hannah tightly and whispering a thank you to her.
Laughter and smiles were abound as George sadly showed his family Fred’s monument. He could feel his energy waning and thinking about Fred made the world seem a little less bright but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the rotating ruby. Hannah came up to his side and gave him a gentle nudge.
“You’re not as closed off as you think you are, George,” she sighed. “You let me help you eventually, even if I did push a little bit. We’ve done up the shop, and Ron told me he wants to help out too. Angelina’s here too, you should talk to her.” Surprised, George looked up and saw Angelina from across the room. Their eyes met and she gave him a sad smile which he hated but knew that he should expect it from now on. He turned back to Hannah.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done, Hannah. Thanks for helping me get back on my feet.” His voice was rough and hoarse, but he struggled through the sentence.
“Any time.” Hannah hugged him quickly and returned to the till.
It had been almost a year since Fred Weasley had died, and almost a year for his twin to find himself again. All that remained now was a plastic ruby heart to his name and a dragonskin jacket hanging up in the wardrobe upstairs, but he would live on through the shop, his friends, and his family.
George felt at peace. He would never be the old George Weasley, but it was progress.
A/N: Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.