Chapter 6 : Chapter Six: Funerals, Part Two
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A/N: Remember how I said that I didn't like the last chapter? Well, I actually love this one.
Funerals, Part Two
To say that Harry woke up on the morning of Fred’s funeral would have implied that he had actually been asleep in the first place. Instead, he had simply stared at the clock on Ron’s bedside table until the alarm went off, dictating an appropriate time to actually get up. As he and Ron dressed in the silence of that early morning, he would have concluded that he was no more awake than his best friend, who had snored the entire night and was now staggering about the room in a daze. Harry felt sick, and his lack of sleep was dragging him down like weight. He put his clothes on wrong, and it took him way longer than usual to tie his own shoelaces.
Outside of the tiny bedroom window, it was sunny. Far sunnier than it should have been on a day in early spring. Too bright. Too cheerful. It made Harry feel worse on the inside, as if the intense light from the sun were pulling what little energy he had left from his sleepless nights. Ron thought it was best to open the window and let the breeze cheer them up, but it felt awful to Harry. He wanted to crawl under the covers of his little cot and pretend that he was dead.
“You look terrible!” Hermione said to him when they gathered at the breakfast table fifteen minutes later.
Mrs. Weasley, who had been staring helplessly at the gravy in the pot on the kitchen stove, looked up with only the desperation of a very sad mother. She hurried over to Harry’s side, and without waiting for his permission, checked his temperature. He tried to squirm away from her touch on his forehead, but she was relentless.
“You don’t feel warm,” she said slowly. “But you might still be sick.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t go today…”
Harry looked at her, focusing long enough to give her a stern expression. “I’m fine, Mrs. Weasley.”
She did not argue the point, but spent the rest of the meal fussing like an overprotective hen. Harry would have said something to stop her, but Bill gave him a cross look over his cup of steaming coffee and the words simply died on the younger boy’s tongue. Perhaps having someone else to worry about made Mrs. Weasley feel better. It was certainly hard to ignore the fact that the entire family had dressed once again in black. Even Ginny looked less bright and cheerful. She had been up early practicing Quidditch in the yard, and had only just come down from the shower. There was a black headband to contrast with the brightness of her hair, and her skin was pale and sad. When she looked up at Harry, he looked away because there was nothing he could say to comfort her at this time.
George was the last one to come down the stairs. He was dressed in black as well, but the clothes barely fit him. They were hanging off his frame like rags. He was so pale and sad that it looked as though he had simply wasted away inside. His missing ear was more pronounced than ever, and he still wore a few scars from the night of the battle. The bruises had not healed. He accepted a cup of coffee from his father without a single word, but they didn’t pressure him to speak. The minutes ticked by slowly as they waited for the Diggorys to arrive.
Surprisingly, however, the Lovegoods arrived first. Luna trailed in behind her father, looking unusually solemn in a grey dress. She carried an enormous pot of what appeared to be soup, but it smelled so strongly of those gurdyroots that Fleur could only cough as she set it aside in one of the cabinets. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny finished their food (or rather pushed it aside for a lack of appetite) and followed the Ravenclaw out into the living room. Her gray dress was accented with red and gold thread laced throughout the seams. The effect was rather nice, and Harry knew immediately that she had done it in honor of Fred. It was just like Luna to be so thoughtful, even if it was unconventional.
“Daddy’s going to help with everything,” she said reassuringly, although they had enough experience with Mr. Lovegood to be concerned. “Is there anything I can get you?”
“Thanks, Luna,” Ron said. “But we’re okay.”
Luna nodded and skipped away like always. Harry glanced at his best friend. Ron had not spoken much that morning other than to open the window, and he could just now see the effect of his brother’s death upon his face. Ron looked nearly as bad as Harry felt. His usually cheerful face had fallen into an expression of mourning. Ginny sat on his other side, and they were rather close in physical proximity. As far as siblings go, the two were rarely ever affectionate toward each other, so it was a great testament to their suffering that they had sought support in each other. Harry exchanged looks with Hermione, simply because they both felt so out of place in the family grief.
After a short while, the Diggorys came to help. It had been a long time since Harry had seen them, but they looked just the same as they had on that cold day in June nearly three years ago. Mr. Diggory was a tall man with a ruddy face, while Mrs. Diggory was rather small and kindly. Now that Harry was able to get a good look at them, he could see bits of Cedric in their features.
“Cedric would have been on your side,” Mrs. Diggory said in a tiny voice. “Thank you.”
Harry could do nothing but nod, and he waited awkwardly until Fleur came to lead them toward the church where the service would be held. Hermione and Ron glanced at him, but Harry ignored their rather poignant looks. It was weird seeing Cedric’s parents after all those years, and he could feel the past resurfacing in the pit of his stomach. He just had to make it through today, if at all possible.
George joined them in the living room, and he sat on the arm chair in the corner. Although sounds could be heard from the kitchen as people arrived with great trays of food and words of condolences, the heavy silence between them was thickening. Harry wanted desperately to leave until the ceremony, but he knew that would have been considered rude. So, for the greater part of an hour, he sat absolutely still and picked at a hole in the cuff of his right sleeve.
Aunt Muriel was easily the loudest and most argumentative of all the guests. From their position in the living room, they could hear her barking orders to whoever was arranging the pots and pans. It was unsurprising when Mr. Weasley suggested she take a seat in the living room, but Harry could hear Ron and Ginny groan with anger beside him.
“Oh, you’re in here,” said the old lady as she stumbled into the room. She cast a beady eye at the four of them sitting side by side on the foot of the staircase, and then turned toward George. She jumped at the sight of him, as though she had mistaken his appearance for that of his dead twin.
“Well, I’m a hundred-and-eight! Aren’t you going to offer me your chair?”
“Excuse me,” George replied with great sarcasm. “I didn’t realize I was intruding on your party.”
He sat up, offered the chair to his great-aunt with an over-the-top gesture, and then fell back down on the cushions of the couch. In defiance, he crossed his arms across his chest and looked away with a bitter expression on his face. Muriel took forever to sit down on the old chair, and she dusted imaginary flecks of dirt off before she lowered her bottom. The ridiculous pink feather on her hat floated precariously as she moved about.
“It’s your brother’s funeral,” she said sternly to George as if he didn’t already know this. “You would do well to show some respect.”
“That’s enough, Aunt Muriel,” Ginny said.
“Don’t call me Ginevra.”
“…Ginevra, we are a family united by grief in this time. We need to acknowledge this fact and act like civilized mourners.”
Ron let out a great huff of air, as though he were trying to refrain from saying anything too harsh. “We’re not united by grief, Aunt Muriel. There are a lot of better things to be united over.”
“Like what?” George asked, rather quickly.
No one had an immediate answer for George. They sat in a stunned silence for a few moments, and then Hermione spoke out in a tentative voice. “Honor,” she said. “We’re honoring Fred because we loved him.”
“Ah,” said Aunt Muriel. “The Muggle-born? Why are you still here?”
“Because she’s family,” Ron nearly snapped. Hermione put a tentative hand on his arm. Harry noticed the gesture, and turned his head in the direction of his two best friends. Unfortunately, however, Aunt Muriel directed her attention toward him.
“And who are you?”
Ginny briefly gave Harry a desperate look, but then addressed her aunt with a rather sweetly sarcastic tone of voice. “This is Harry, Aunt Muriel.”
“Harry? Harry Potter?”
“Nice to meet you,” he replied, even though he had already technically met her.
She pursed her wrinkled lips and frowned at him. “You look much better in the papers. I think you’re too skinny…and someone should comb your hair.”
Harry self-consciously ran a hand through his hair. It certainly looked a lot better now that it was shorter, but that obviously didn’t matter much to Muriel. She was staring at him as if trying to judge whether he was the real deal or not. The scrutiny made him feel slightly anxious.
“Do you just live to criticize people?” George asked rather vehemently.
“I’m just giving him constructive feedback,” she replied stiffly. “Potter, do you realize that you let some of the most dangerous Death Eaters get away?”
Harry gave her a blank look. When Percy came home the other day (several hours later than he originally said he would return), he had admitted that many of the Death Eaters were still at large, but Harry didn’t think the public would have come so far as to blame him. He felt the guilt sink into his stomach like hot liquid drunk too quickly.
“Aunt Muriel!” Ginny said, scathing. She stood up, coming to Harry’s defense in a moment of fury. “You have no right to say such things. You are a guest in our house!”
“Why do you care so much?” she sniffed.
Ginny practically exploded in a whirl of emotion. “Because I do, okay? My brother is dead, and I don’t want to listen to you fucking nitpick everything because you think we aren’t mourning right. Do you know how goddamn awful that sounds?”
She was shaking with anger. Aunt Muriel could do nothing but stare at her niece in shock, so the sixteen-year-old stormed from the room. Harry immediately stood up, but he was ignored completely as she blazed past him. They heard the back door open and slam shut with enough force to shake the china on the mantelpiece.
“Teenagers,” muttered Aunt Muriel, tutting indignantly.
Harry looked wildly around at Ron, Hermione, and George, but he could not bring himself to say anything meaningful. Surprisingly, however, Ron was the one who stood up. “I’ll get her.”
He hurried out to the garden behind his sister, and there was silence for a few long moments. Blinking in surprise, Harry finally managed to sit back down next to Hermione. He was not entirely sure what had just happened, but he was pretty sure Ginny had just admitted to Aunt Muriel and the rest of them that she still had feelings for him.
The old lady huffed slightly. “You know, back in my day…”
“Oh shut up, Aunt Muriel,” George interrupted. “I don’t want to hear it today.”
Ginny was not sitting in the garden like Ron had expected, so he hurried along to the apple orchard behind the house. That’s where he found his little sister, hurtling a Quaffle at a bounce-back net with such force that he was surprised she didn’t tear a hole in the mesh. She was muttering, and it was clear that she was in a particularly bad mood. When they had been children, Ron had learned to avoid her like the plague when she was upset, and he had to fight to overcome that instinct right now. She had a mean right hook when she was prompted to use violence, and Ginny had always been able to beat him up despite her size disadvantage.
“Hey,” Ron started awkwardly. He had never been good at refereeing or playing the middle man. That was where Percy and Charlie excelled. Growing up, he had always been firmly on one side or the other, and he had usually sided with the twins.
“Go away,” Ginny shot back.
“No,” he said. “Pass me the ball.”
She finally looked up at him, and her brown eyes narrowed suspiciously. After a moment of thinking, she tossed him the Quaffle. It was perhaps a little too hard on purpose, because the ball hit his stomach and knocked the wind right out of him. He doubled over, grunting, but threw it right back with as much force as he could muster. Ron had not played Quidditch in over a year, so he knew that he was rusty in comparison to Ginny. She practically lived and breathed the sport, so there was barely a grimace on her face when she caught the ball with her hands. They continued like that for several moments, and Ron had to remind himself that he was not out there to injure his sister, but rather console her.
“Ignore Aunt Muriel,” he finally said.
“I don’t want to ignore her,” Ginny muttered back as she caught the Quaffle once more. “I want to punch her in the face.”
“Trust me, that would be a bad idea.”
She sighed after speaking, letting the red ball fall to the ground. Looking at her now, Ron was reminded of that time in the Chamber of Secrets when he thought that she was dead. He and been so scared even then, and the fact that Harry had to go on alone to rescue her still cut him to this day. He was not a hero. Ron had never been able to protect Ginny properly. She always attracted the worse kind of danger anyway, and he knew that she would continue to pursue Harry even if it only meant eventual heartbreak.
“I need you to tell me something,” he said.
“What would Fred say if he saw you so sad on a beautiful day like this?”
Surprisingly, she laughed. It was an inside joke between them. Ginny had always been very good at imitating others, and she had often made fun of their brothers over the years. She drew herself up, putting on a slightly pompous but carefree expression. Her mannerisms were very much like Fred, and Ron realized just how much he had already forgotten about his brother over the past few days. “Gee, George!” she said, “I don’t know who stuck a broomstick up her twat, but I bet we’re related to them.”
He smiled at this, because it was just the sort of thing Fred would have said. Ginny faded once more into her own personality, but the smile lingered just the same. She took a step towards him, and Ron drew her into a hug. For an annoying little sister, she was pretty cool.
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That slogan was written for one of the manufactured products Fred and George had sold in their joke shop before the war forced it down on hiatus. It certainly wasn’t their most popular item on the shelves, but it got enough revenue to make “Sleeper’s Bliss” a household name. It was just a simple potion taken before bedtime, and it guaranteed that the drinker would be consciously aware when they dreamed. Fred had found the recipe in a magazine from the sixties, and together, the twins had perfected the ingredients needed to eradicate all the negative side effects that were associated with such a potion. It was advertised for people who wanted a little more adventure in their life, but the brothers had used it a few times for shits and giggles. The morning after, they would compare notes to see who had had the best dream, but it was usually Fred who won. For some reason, George always had awful dreams.
Which is why George felt like he was dreaming right now, and he was distinctly aware of it. There was still the same dragging sensation as he moved. Each time he was forced to walk or sit or stand, his body felt heavy and sluggish. He couldn’t move fast enough, and time had gotten muddled. Sometimes it moved so slow that he could feel each of the chambers in his heart contract and pump blood. Other times great gaps passed by in the blink of eye. He couldn’t remember walking to the chapel, and he couldn’t remember sitting in the front row next his mother…but George did remember seeing the open casket of his brother. There was a fly overhead, and he could see each graceful sweep of its wings as it descended upon one of the white lilies that adorned the front of the room.
Fred was dead. This had to be a dream.
It was impossible. It had to be some awful side effect of that dream potion, and he made a mental note to fix it when he finally woke up. Fred would be there, of course, just as he had always been for the last twenty years of their life. He was probably having a significantly better dream right now. Knowing his brother, it probably involved one of those beautiful Veela girls they had met at Bill’s wedding. George would have loved for those radiant girls to waltz right in and take over this terrible dream, but he would never be so lucky. Because they were standing and sitting and standing and sitting again, and some man presented his mother with an award. Why would George’s subconscious permit him to suffer through this?
Now they were outside. George could see the other headstones in the distance, and he was distinctly aware of reading Gideon Prewett and Fabian Prewett on a simple rock two rows away. The uncles he could not remember were directly underneath an ugly old tree, and the branches rose up and fell with the gentle touch of the wind. There was the smell of honeysuckle drifting from somewhere in the distance. It reminded him of summer and entire days spent outside until it was too dark to see. George closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, because it had to be the best part of this dream so far. He loved honeysuckle. Back when they were children, he and Fred would sip the nectar straight from the plants that grew along the dirt road to their house. Their mother would fuss at them, of course, because what idiot would eat a strange plant…but they told Ron and Ginny that they were poisonous only so they could have it all for themselves.
It was only when they went to lower Fred into the ground did George finally realize that this was not a dream. He woke up, blinking rapidly in the bright sunshine. Fred had died in the Battle of Hogwarts. There had been a smile on his face as his body fell back in a graceful arch. This was the final goodbye. George must’ve zoned out on the walk to the chapel. There was a handful of dirt in his hand now, and it was his turn to toss it in over the coffin. Not a dream. Not a dream. Not a dream. Once his brother was good and buried in the ground, there would be no denying the fact that he was actually dead. He would never be able to trick himself into believing that his brother was still alive. The tangible presence of that headstone would be enough.
This was the metaphoric final nail in the coffin.
He was having trouble breathing. Looking down at the mahogany casket, George realized that he could not do it. He could not bury his own brother. His entire hand went numb, and he shook with panic. Fred was dead, and George would never wake up to see his face. The crowd around him had gone absolutely silent. It was as though they had been waiting for him to break down.
And then suddenly, there was a comforting hand upon his shoulder. George instinctively turned inward, tearing his gaze from the grave that he could not fill. It was Percy, and although his eyes were red behind the horn-rimmed glasses, he pressed his younger brother into a hug. Percy dropped his own handful of dirt upon the coffin and guided George’s hand to do the same. Fred was now gone beneath a light sprinkling of earth. He was dead, and George wept openly against Percy’s shoulder. The only time he would ever see his brother again would be in his dreams.
The wind died down, and the scent of honeysuckle vanished from the air.
All throughout the ceremony earlier, flashes of the battle kept darting across Harry’s memory. He saw Fred die, just as real as if it had happened mere seconds before. Like this morning, he felt sick, but there was a new emotion now spreading through his body like wildfire: Panic. Harry was not entirely sure where this new emotion was coming from, but the pain of it kept him from thinking clearly, and he stumbled back to the house behind the rest of the Weasleys. He could not bring himself to focus on one particular person, however, because with each passing moment his vision became fuzzier. It felt as though he were looking down an especially narrow tunnel, and everything around him was black.
Back at the house, Harry climbed the stairs two at a time, even though he thought his heart was going to burst with the pain of it all. Apparently no one had noticed his disappearance, but he kept glancing over his shoulder just in case he was being followed up the stairs. He felt like he was drowning. There was water rising in his lungs, and he couldn’t even breath. His head pounded, and little lights popped before his eyes. When he finally reached the topmost landing in front of Ron’s bedroom, only force of habit helped him find the doorknob and step inside. This was irony; he was dying all by himself in his best friend’s tiny orange bedroom…dying from the pain of surviving it all.
He was shaking so hard that his legs wouldn’t hold him, and all he could do was sit on the edge of his cot as each wave of sickening panic washed over him. His face was slick with sweat, and he ran his hands so furiously over his eyes that his glasses fell off and clattered somewhere to the ground.
Don’t cry…don’t cry…don’t cry…
The weirdest sensation of all was the feeling of agitation. It was like his spirit or essence or whatever was stuck, trapped inside a body that he didn’t want anymore. Harry felt like he was going to explode from the inside out.
There was a knock on the door. “Harry?”
He couldn’t answer, because his mouth was full of lead and there was no oxygen in his lungs. If he had been fully aware of his surroundings, he would have noticed the hushed worried voices or the whispered spell of “Alohomora”, but his heart was pounding at an increasingly faster rate and it scared him more than anything else. The door opened and closed, and he was suddenly aware of warm human arms and the scent of flowers. Whoever it was held him so tightly that the shaking stopped almost entirely…but that was when he started crying.
Harry had not cried this whole time, so now that the tears came, they came so furiously that he was unable to stop them. He felt raw and exposed, but whoever held him was crying as well. He could feel them trembling beneath their strong embrace and steady arms. It was Ginny; Harry could smell the flowers and the scent of broomstick polish on her skin. He wanted to stop crying more than anything else. If he could just pick himself up and redeem his shattered ego, perhaps he could avoid the awkward conversations. It was impossible, though. Harry cried so much it hurt, and cried so much that his throat felt as though it had been torn apart. This lasted forever.
…but then suddenly, it didn’t hurt so much anymore.
There was feeling in his arms and legs once again, and his heart had slowed down from its frantic palpitations. He kept his face in the warm crook of her neck, and Ginny was gently stroking his hair as he gasped great shuddering breaths. She was talking, but not to him he realized.
“Why Fred?,” she said, and her voice was barely above a whisper. “He was my brother, and I didn’t want him to die.”
“Nobody did,” Hermione responded gently. There was a great sniff, and Harry recognized that Ron was also in the room, quiet but completely present.
“There’s a hole in my heart, and I don’t think I can handle how much it hurts. We pretend that we’re okay, and everybody is trying to just keep going, but I don’t think our family is going to make it.”
“They will. I promise.”
“How can you be so sure, Hermione?”
The other girl took a deep breath, and Harry could hear the tears in her own voice. “Because the days will just keep coming whether you want them to or not. After a while, it won’t hurt so badly, and you’ll feel guilty and forget how long it’s been, but that’s how life is supposed to go.”
“I don’t want to forget him…”
“You’ll never forget him. You’ll just forget how much it hurts.”
Then there was silence, except for muffled sounds of crying. Harry willed himself to sit up, but he was too tired, too drained from the strange sensation that had enveloped him only moments before. He raised his head just high enough to glance about the room, but it was blurry without his glasses. Ron and Hermione were seated on the other bed just across from him, and they were so tangled up in each other’s arms that it was almost impossible to see where one person began and the other one ended. When Hermione noticed his bright green eyes, she sat up and offered him a glass of water that had been sitting on the bedside table. No one said a word, and when he could not physically hold the glass up to his face, they helped him drink.
Harry laid down on the cot to save himself the embarrassment of speaking, and he was surprised when Ginny curled up next to him. He had never seen her so weak and vulnerable. Her eyes were red from the force of her tears, and her neck was raw from where he had cried so violently. She crept closer, placing her body against his and tucking her head underneath his chin. Harry, whose brain was already numb with shock, snaked his arms around her because he didn’t know what else to do.
For the rest of the afternoon, the four teenagers sat and watched the sun dip lower into the sky through the tiny window in Ron’s bedroom. They completely forgot, or rather ignored on purpose, that they were supposed to go to the funeral of Severus Snape that night. Their thoughts were wild and sporadic, but they didn’t even consider the man who was buried with no one to attend his funeral. Harry could not have gone even if he tried, for he felt that weak. Once it was dark, they watched the fireworks with no particular ambition to sit up and enjoy the celebration of Fred’s memory. Bright yellow sparks and red wheels dotted the sky, momentarily lighting up the walls in the little room. No one bothered them. The house was silent.
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