Chapter 1 : Pride
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The world around him had dissolved into chaos. He knew that. He knew it by the anguished cries that reached his ears, by the sight of rubble all around him and the dust that danced into the pale rays of the moonlight that fell upon his lifeless body on the cold castle floor. He knew it, he sensed, and yet he could not feel it. It was the strangest feeling Fred had ever experienced. It was as if he had left his body in a closing of his eyelids and was now watching the scene unfolding before him from the eyes of an outsider. A dazed, clueless outsider.
He raised a shaky hand to his eyes and a stab of fear went through his gut as his faze fell upon it. His hand lacked bones, flesh and skin, everything that made him human. A panick unlike anything he had ever sensed gripped his heart. He was dead. There was no other explanation for the silvery, undefined wisp that was now his hand.
He wondered if he could stand and no sooner had this thought crossed his mind, that he realised he was floating a few feet above the ground. He lifted a leg in mid air, then another, he crossed them, he tucked them beneath him, all the while thinking this could not possibly be happening. A burst of laughter escaped his pale lips as a queer thought reached his mind: he was like Peeves, the castle nuissance.
A terrible cry that pulled at his insides forced him out of his dream-like state. He looked down and surveyed the scene happening right under him. He saw his brother Percy frantically shaking his limp body and Ron kneeling besides them, hands and face burried in his soiled black robes sobbing uncontrollably. Harry and Hermione were a few feet back from them looking therrible themselves. Harry was staring wide-eyed at Fred, with Hermione cluthing his arm.
A deep sadness filled his heart. That was his body they were all mourning. But he was there. Right there! Why couldn’t they see him? Why weren’t they looking up? With a soft thump, he landed on his knees on the other side of his barren body. “I’m right here,’ he heard his voice say. It sounded hoarse, like he had never used it before. “Please, Perce, I’m right here, can’t you see me?” he asked again, this time reaching a hesitant hand towards his crying brother. Tear tracks streaked the grime crust on his face, and Fred tried to wipe them off, but his hand simply passed through Percy’s head. Horrified, Fred pulled it back quickly.
His hurt turned to anger as he got to his feet. “Bloody hell, stop crying you fools, I’m RIGHT HERE!” he bellowed furiously. He made a fist and thumped his chest with it with desperate, repetitive pounds. ‘I’m right here…,’He was certain that if this body could cry, he would be crying right now because there was no other way to let out everything that burned his chest right now. “This can’t be true, this can’t be true, please…someone…,” he whispered as he took the air again, averting his eyes from the sad, pitiful sight of his weeping brothers. He tried to ignore the miserable shouts and instead focus on his surroundings. He looked around him and saw only dust, debris and destruction. They were in a corridow, a Hogwarts corridor, but everything was destroyed around him and he couldn’t tell where exactly had the battle taken them.
He tried to remember what it felt like to die, but everything was fuzzy and tangled in his memory. He remembered Percy making a joke, and the ghost of a smile tucked at the corner of his lips. Percy never made jokes. That must have been his first. He tried to focus on it, recall what he had said but it eluded him. It felt like attempting to drink water from cupped hands. The more you try to drink, the faster it dribbles between your fingers.
What was he to do now? Was he supposed to wander about aimlessly, forever condemned to walk this earth as a shadow of his former self? He almost wished he were a ghost. If he were, his brothers would have been able to see him. An icy shudder ran down his spine as the gravity of his situation was starting to settle in.
Something was amiss. He could feel it in his gut. He was not alone. Fred could never assure how he knew this, but as soon as the thought crossed his mind, he could have slapped himself for not realising it earlier. He spun on the spot, looking right and left, squinting, in hopes of catching a glimpse of whoever, or whatever was surveying him.
His nails dug deep into what should have been his palms to shake away the fear that made his heart beat faster, yet he could feel no pain at all. Indeed, where there should have been palms, now there was only a faint, flickering white smoke. He refused to look at it. He would not abandom himself to fear. Fred knew that if that happened, there was no turning back. He would lose his mind and that was not amongst his plans.
‘Show yourself,’ he shouted to thin air. ‘Stop hiding, I know you’re there. Why won’t you show yourself?’ The only reply he got was a sudden gust of wind that rattled the suits of armor on the edges of the corridor and made the torches flicker dangerously. For half a heartbeat he thought they would die down, but that didn’t happen.
‘Please, stop hiding. You know you can’t fool me. I can feel your presence. You weren’t there earlier but now you’ve revealed yourself to me and I can feel you. Why would you do that if you never planned to properly show yourself to me?’ he asked again while taking flight down the corridor. As he reached the end of it, he gazed to his right, down the corridor that met with the one he was in, but there was nothing there. Only rubble. Only silence. Only death.
By then a reckless fury was burning in Fred’s stomach. Was this some joke? Some cruel jape intended to make fun of him? Could anyone be so cruel as to toy with him in moments such as this?
‘This is no joke, Fred Weasley,’ whispered a soft voice. Fred spun on the spot, blood thundering in his ears from the strain he had been in earlier. He tried to hear where it came from but he couldn’t determine it’s origin, not could he discern the figure who it belonged to. There was too much dust filling the air, creating a shroud of darkness that sent Fred’s heart fluttering.
‘Who are you? What…what’s happening to me? Show yourself at once and face me properly. I demand it!’ he said steeling his voice. Fear made him bolder, close to recklesness, but what more could happen to him? He was already dead, he couldn’t die twice. Or so he thought as he was trying to calm down his nerves.
‘As you wish,’ came the voice again, this time a little louder. Fred had to shroud his eyes against the sudden burst of air. The corridor exploded with a red, choking smoke, that forced Fred to back into the wall and shield himself in any way he could. A rank smell filled his nostrils and almost made him retch. He barely had time to think it was because of the red, heavy smoke, that a dark figure was starting to edge against the abundant soot. His eyes were burning and his nostrils were full of a foul smell that turned his stomach inside out, yet he could not avert his eyes away from the strange apparition.
After the smoke had dissipated, a shadow of darkness remained behind. Squinting against the distance, Fred floated closer, heart beating wildly against his chest. If he were to look down, he was sure he’d see its beats through the wispy fog that formed his new body. It was a queer thought that almost made him laugh, but he choked it at the last moment. It would not do to show any weakness in front of this bizzare creature that inexplicably filled him with dread.
When he came level with him, he realised that the indistinct shroud of darkness he saw in the distance was just a man with a long, dark cloak. A hood was pulled over his head, hiding his face from view. Peering at him from behind the darkness of the veil were a pair of light green eyes. They sparkled strangely bright against the dimness of the corridor. Fred felt naked against the searching look this man gave him.
‘Who are you?’ he asked, surprised that he found the courage to speak.
‘I am no one and everyone. I am your enemy, I am your monster, your foe…your friend,’ he said with an amused tone. Fred felt himself shudder. This was no ordinary man. There was a wretched stench about him. The smell of Death. He bit his lip and took a closer look at him. The man’s shoulders were stopped and he learned forward a little, as if an invisible burden bent his back. His arms were crossed against his chest, hands tucked safely in the folds of the robe’s sleeves. The only visible part of him were his green eyes, eyes that sent a chill down Fred’s spine. He resolved not to trust anything this man said.
‘What’s your name then?’ he asked again. He had to find out more about him, no matter the cost. For better or for worse, he was the only person that could see him apparently, thus the only one who could offer an explanation about what was happening with him.
‘I have been called many names. Nergal, Anubis, the Betrayer, the Defiler…what would you call me Fred Weasley?’ he slurred in a voice thick with foreign accents. Fred could recognise a hint of French but it was mixed with others he didn’t know, so he couldn’t be sure.
He thought a second before replying with slight smile ‘the Savior’.
The entity burst out laughing, a hollow laugh, lacking mirth. As a dim ray of moonlight hit his face, he could see a mouth filled with rotting teeth. ‘And why would you think I am here to save you?’ he asked, voice dripping with sly entertainment.
He means for me to get angry and lose my patience. This is all a game to him, thought Fred with a pang of annoyment.
‘Why else would you be here? You don’t seem the kind of…person to bother yourself with trivial happenings,’ he answered with confidence.
‘What if I were here to kill you? To make you disappear into the Void Beyond where nothing exists, only darkness and time without end?’
Fred lifted his chin and took a step closer to the tiny man. The smell of him was almost more than he could bare, but he had to resist. There was no other way to escape this nightmare he was going through. One way or the other, he would escape this place. He would go away, far, far away from the sight of his weeping brothers. Somewhere where he could not hear their miserable cries for him. Anything was better than having to suffer the torment of watching them mourn his death. Nothing could be worse than this.
‘Because then you wouldn’t be wasting your time talking to me,’ he said folding his arms over his chest.
A shadow of a smile made the corner of the man’s eyes wrinkle. ‘You are in the truth, Fred Weasley. You are more attentive than I would have thought. I will not burden yourself with my name, for it would be without use. Names are wind. They only surve the purpose of confining us to a single entity, when we could have it all, be all. Have you never wondered what it would be like to slip out of your human skin and be able to travel the world, see it’s marvels, bask in its beauty and lose yourself to the pleasures it offers, without a second thought about consequences? Come with me Fred Weasley and you shall have all that. Come with me and you will see sights unlike anything you have ever imagined. Come with me and you will have riches beyond your comprehension. Lend yourself to me and you will have wits beyond your measure. Everything and much, much more. What say you, Fred Weasley?’
As he was making his offer, he pulled his right bony hand ouf of the sleeve and extended it palm upward towards Fred. With a start, Fred realised it was an old hand. Its skin was wrinkled and thin, dark veins marked the start of five scrawny, fleshless fingers. And yet his voice was that of a young man…
Still mesmerised by the sight, Fred caught himself asking ‘But how? I have no solid shape. I am…dead,’ he said ruefully.
‘Never despair, there is always a way,’ the old man said in a soothing voice.
‘Can you bring me back to life?’ asked Fred with a hint of hope. He lifted his eyes from the elder’s hands and fixed a hungry gaze upon the set of deep, green eyes staring at him from behind the cloak.
‘Alas, no. That is not possible any more. You have left your body. But there are many and more ways to live. You need only accept my offering. However, before you will be granted the possibility of life once more, you will need to pass seven trials. Seven trials meant to test your inner strength, your forebearance. What say you, Fred Weasley?’
Fred felt suddenly wary. Tasks? ‘What kind of trials?’ he said voicing his worry.
‘All in good time, Fred Weasley. You need not know more at this moment. I ask again, and for the last time. What say you?’ The old man was clearly enjoying himself. That made Fred bristle. This was just a game to him. An amusing game, when to Fred it could be the choice of his life.
He glanced around the stooped shoulder of the elderly man, to his limp body from the other end of the corridor. The scenary changed from the last time he looked that way. Now a giant spider was making his way towards them through the whole in the wall, and chaos raged around his friends and his brothers. Fred felt surprised that he had not noticed it before. Leave, he thought desperately as he watched them stay their ground. They were firing stunning spells at the spider but before long, a swarm of them came crawling towards their position. It took only one look at Percy who was refusing to abandon Fred’s limp body, to strengthen Fred’s resolve. He turned his attention back to the old man. ‘I accept,’ he said wth a confidence he did not feel anymore. He stretched his hand in front of him and laid his palm over the old man’s.
Before he could prepare for it, a familiar sensation filled his body as he felt a hook tug at his navel. Percy, Ron, castle, light, everything dissolved in a blur of colour as his feet left the ground and then he felt them slam into something solid. He staggered sideways and put out a hand in front of him to lean against the closest wall, to stop himself from falling. His breath was coming out in short gasps, as if his lungs had never breathed until then. His head was spinning and his stomach was threatening to spill at any moment yet nothing could compare to what he felt when his eyes fell on his hand. It was back to normal. A soft, pink layer of skin covered fingers, knuckles and palm. His breath caught in his throat. With shaking hands he touched his face and he could feel eyes, mouth, nose, cheeks, forehead, red hair underneath his frantic touches. A warmth unlike any he had ever felt before washed over him and made him grin stupidly. It had all been a dream. Nothing more than a nightmare. It dd not matter that he had no idea where he was. It made no difference that the people around him shot him curious looks, nor that they were speaking a tongue he did not recognise at first. Nothing was more important than the feeling of life that pumped through his heart, not even the sudden rotting smell that filled his nostrils.
A soft wooshing sound echoed behind him and he jerked around, all joy dying away. Distant words ringed inside his head, ‘Can you bring me back to life?’…’No, that is not possible any more…’
Unbidden, tears welled up in his eyes and blurred his vision. The old man in front of him, with his mocking grin was now nothing more than a grotesque, disfigured haze. A blind fury took seize of him and he wanted nothing more than to tear that hood apart and carve the old man’s eyes out for making him suffer like this. Raging, he lunged forward in the attempt to seize the man, to hurt him as he was hurting him, but before he could reach him his head felt like it had burst to flames. He stopped with a shriek, clutching his head, his knees buckled under him and he fell to the ground, thrashing wildly. The last thing he could remember was a lofty voice, that sounded miles away saying words he could not comprehend. And then everything went dark.
Where am I, Fred thought meekly, head pounding. His whole body was aching and sore. His back was sending stabs of pain to the tips of his fingers and toes and his throat was so dry it hurt when he tried to swallow. ‘Water,’ he murmured. He heard the scrape of a chair being shoved aside and the sound of hurried footsteps rushing to his side. He felt a hand slip under the back of his head, slowly lifting him and something cold and hard touching his lips. He parted them to allow to lush elixir to fill his mouth and warm his body. As he was drinking lustily, he realised it wasn’t water but wine. It made no matter.
It took him a few more minutes before he could open his eyes but when he did an incredible sight took his breath away. He was lying down in a feather bed covered with dark red velvets. A fire was burning merrily in the hearth near the door. He pushed himself on an elbow and surveyed the room closely. Rich tapestries hung heavy on the walls and the carpets that covered the floor displayed breath-taking images. Was he dreaming?
‘What is this place?’ he heard himself ask.
‘This is Paris, France, Fred Weasley and it is the start of your journey,’ replied a deep, amused voice from the corner opposite him. He knew all too well who it belonged to. ‘What are we doing here? What do you mean this is the start of my journey?’ Fred refused to look his way. Instead, he resumed his inspection of the room.
With a start, he realised they were not the only ones there. A beautiful, fair serving girl was standing near his bed, looking at him with narrowed eyes. There was awe in her searching look and it made him feel somewhat uncomfortable. ‘You are Fred Weasley?’ she asked with a thick French accent.
‘Yes…’ he said slowly.
A smile blossomed on her lips and she swung down on her knees, hands resting close to his. ‘We heard such tales of you. You are the one who fought against He – Who – Must – Not – Be – Named. Your bravery has helped save the world, monsieur. You are well loved here and admired. You are looked upon by children and envied by grown men and loved by women. Fred The Brave you are called,’ she whispered reaching for his hand and touching it so gingerly as if she were afraid it might crumble between her fingers.
A flush crept up Fred’s neck but he did not turn away from her touch. He felt his heart swell inside his chest without him meaning it to and a grin came unbidden. A voice in the back of his head screamed indistinct words, but he brushed it away like an annoying fly.
He allowed to be pulled out of bed and dressed in dark green robes of silk that brought out his flaming red hair and brilliant eyes. He avoided the old man’s eyes as he already knew what would lie therein. He could almost feel the man’s smirk. Instead, he let himself be ushered outside in the cold, night air.
He gathered his robe closer because the night was crisp and windy and a chill sent shivers to his bones. The view was breathtaking. They were sitting atop a high building looking over one of the most wide and beautiful boulevard he had ever seen. ‘Where are we?’ he asked in awe as he edged closer to the verge of the building.
‘This is the Champs-Elysee. It is one of the most famous streets, and one of the most expensive places in the world,’ the nameless girl replied as she took his arm. He did not try and set himself free. He simply looked over the edge and he could immediately tell that she was right. Muggle cinemas, coffee shops, luxury specialty shops and horse-chestnut trees lined both the sidewalks of this marvelous boulevard. In the far distance he could see the outline of the famous building the Muggles called L’Arc de Triomphe, a renown historical monument. But what really surprised him was the crowd gathered beneath the building they were standing on. They were pushing and shouting and when one of them looked up, they all began to chant his name. He felt dazed.
‘Can you see monsieur? They love you!’ whispered the girl in his ear. He never realised she had moved so close to him.
‘Close your eyes,’ she continued, running a hand through his hair, ‘and lose yourself to pride,’ And he did. He closed his eyes and let the chant wash over him. Images of his fight with the Death Eaters at Hogwarts played before his minds eye and a smug smile tugged at the corner of his lips. The girl kept whispering praises in his ears, and the crowd below was singing of bravery and his deeds and the world seemed to turn another colour. He had never boasted about how brave he was, or how he had fought against Voldemort – he was not even afraid to name him anymore – how smart, cunning he was but now he wondered why not. A swelling filled his chest and he knew, at that moment that he deserved everything they were giving him. All the praise, all the love, all the glory. He was so full of his image, that he did not realise the wretched stench that filled the air once more. It did not matter. Nothing else mattered anymore but him and his followers.
As the songs grew louder with every chant, so was the voice that was now shrieking at the back of his mind. He couldn’t ignore it any longer. For a fleeting instant he recognised George’s voice bellowing.‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Fred, you fool snap out of it. What’s gotten into you? You’re worse than Percy!’
Suddenly, his eyes snapped open. His blood froze in his veins when he saw that he was standing right on the edge of the building. A little shove would be all that was needed to end his life. Terrified, he jumped back down the ledge, cluthing his racing heart with his hand. What was he doing indeed. This was not him. He had never been conceited. Thinking of George hurt him more than anything, but he focused on the memory of his brother to bring him back to sense. Images of them together flashed before his eyes, bursting out of memory like blood from a fresh wound, but he did nothing to stall it. He bit his lip so hard that a trickle of blood ran down his lips and ripped on his chin, but it did not matter. ‘You’re right George…this is not me,’ he whispered to the wind, hoping that it would take the message on its wings back to his twin
A bloodcurdling cry made him spun around and what he saw instead of the old man was enough to melt his knees away. But before he could take a good look at it, it dissapeared and the well known sensation of a hook pulling at his navel was soon upon him, hauling him forward. He world melted together once again and Fred Weasley was falling, falling, falling.
Author’s Note: This one shot was written for the 2013 House Cup. The only requirement we had was that 'travel' should be a general theme of the story. I had lots of fun writing this piece and I plan to continue it after the House Cup ends and explore the other sins Fred will have to face. If you've enjoyed it, I would greatly appreciate a throught from you!
Thanks to MissMdsty for beta-ing this for me!