Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his adventures, and all his cohorts are all property of J.K. Rowling. I own nothing.
George Weasley crept quietly down the stairs, his stealth perfected from years of practice. It was very dark, only a few silvery beams of moonlight shining through the windows to illuminate his way. He knew exactly where to walk, though, where to place each foot and which steps to skip entirely to avoid the creaks and groans that were inevitable in a house as old as The Burrow.
After silently descending, he turned towards the sitting room but stopped before entering. That was the room where the body lay, the place where George and his family had received a multitude of sympathizers and mourners throughout the day. George had made himself be there, forced himself to greet each person, thank them for coming, and always, always crack some small joke. "With Voldy gone, with no more U-No-Poo, we all knew ol' Fred would be the first to throw a party!"
Many people had come. Their friends and team mates, Lee and Oliver, Angelina, Alicia, and Katie, reserved and quiet and sombre. All the remaining professors, McGonagall with tears in her eyes, Flitwick with his assurances that the little section of swamp would remain forever. Order Members, Ministry workers, acquaintances, Hogwarts students, and what seemed like hundreds of Weasleys, all coming through the tiny, shabby, crowded sitting room of The Burrow to view the body and pay their respects to the family before the burial the following day. Through it all, the empty words, the pitying glances, the sympathetic touches, George had forced himself to bear up, to offer each new group of people a feeble smile and an even more feeble joke. "Yes, well, Fred never did forgive me for being born first. I guess this was him getting one up on me."
Even later, when all the guests had left, when it was just his immediate family gathered together, he didn't let himself slip. He patted his mother reassuringly as she sobbed over the body. "He would have loved to see how you took on Bellatrix, Mum. Right scary, that was." He had stood with his father, with Bill and Fleur, Charlie and Percy, arms all wrapped around one another, as they kept vigil. "Of course, the way I hear, it was the shock of Percy telling a joke as much as anything that did it." He had stood with Ron and Hermione, Ginny and Harry, as they stared down at the body, tears streaming from the girls' faces, and even Ron taking the occasional swipe at his eyes. "Blimey, Harry, don't be stupid, Fred would have killed you himself if he had missed being there."
George knew, even as each sentence passed his lips, that they were stupid and insensitive and inappropriate. He knew with each startled expression, with every angry glare, with all the pity-filled tear-streaked looks, that no one understood. He was a Weasley twin. Anything less than a joke and a grin, no matter how half-hearted and truly unfelt they were, would have been a disgrace.
Now, though, in the deep of night, with no one else around, George had come down to face the terrible, bitter truth. He was a twin no more.
He took a deep, steadying breath before finally entering the sitting room and making his way over to Fred's side, standing next to the dark wooden coffin in which he lay. Perhaps it was simply the surrounding darkness, or the way a single shaft of bright moonlight landed across Fred's face, but it seemed to George as if there were a tiny smile frozen on his brother's lips.
"Hey there, Fred. Some day, eh? I-I guess..." George paused, waiting, half-expecting someone to speak up and finish the sentence for him. There was only silence.
He sighed, feeling a bit stupid, when a tiny voice in the back of his mind spoke. Cheer up, lad, it's not like you can't finish the sentences yourself, you know.
George looked again at his brother's face. "That's true, I reckon. I mean, it's not like we haven't spent pretty much..."
...every single minute...
"...of every single day..."
...since the day we were born...
"...hanging around each other."
George ran a hand through his hair, looking around for a moment. After a brief silence, he said, "Uh, look Fred, sorry about all those jokes earlier, when everyone else was around."
Yeah, you should be sorry. Those were absolutely terrible. First the holey crack when you lost your ear, then the rubbish you were spewing earlier? I expected better of you.
"Yeah, well, I was under just a little bit of pressure, wasn't I? At least I was able to come up with something."
True enough. I suppose I can let it slide this time.
"Heart of gold, mate."
And don't you forget it.
George dropped his head as silence fell once more. This time, when he looked at Fred's body, his eyes shimmered brightly with unshed tears. "I won't forget. Never. And, er, I know I've never really said it before, but—"
I know, George, you don't have to say it.
"I love you. I shoulda said it a long time ago. I don't know why I didn't. But I love you, Fred."
I said I already knew, didn't I? I've always known, just like you've always known that I love you.
Tears began to leak from George's eyes. "It hurts. Worse than anything, even losing my ear. It's like losing the only half of myself that was ever any good. I don't know what to do anymore."
You're being a bit dramatic, don't you think? And what do you mean the only half that was any good?
"You know what I mean. It's always been you, hasn't it? All the stuff we've pulled, it's always been your idea and your nerve that got us through. All the pranks, nicking that map from Filch, selling our joke stuff, leaving school early, starting up a shop, all of that was you. I was just following along."
Being a bit revisionist with your history there, mate. You were as much a part of all of that as I was, even more, sometimes. I mean, yeah, a lot of the ideas were mine, but you were the one who worked out how to actually do everything. Most of what we sell in the shop is stuff you did the enchantments for. And what about that time-delay charm you worked out a few weeks ago? That'll work on pretty much everything we sell. It was a brilliant piece of magic.
No buts about it, mate, you are definitely the brains of our duo. I'm just the charm and dashing good looks.
"Maybe. But I... I'm still going to miss having you around."
Well, of course you are, you great lummox. Who wouldn't miss me? But it's not like we won't see each other again, is it?
He blinked, scrubbing the tears from his face. "It's not?"
'Course not. We'll see each other again. This is like having separate detentions. It's right awful now, but we'll be back together in a bit.
George felt his heart grow lighter. He would see Fred again. Not tomorrow, or the next day, but someday he would be reunited with his twin.
It better be a good long bit, though, understand? I don't want to be seeing you anytime soon.
He smiled lightly, his first genuine smile in a long time. "Yeah, I think I can agree with you on that one. So long as we get together again eventually, I reckon I can wait a while."
Excellent! And in the meantime...
In the meantime, I guess you'll just have to be Weasley twin enough for the both of us, eh?
"Yeah. Yeah, I think I can do that."
After the burial of Fred Weasley, all the mourners made their way back to The Burrow for the wake. They all gathered in the garden where tables of food were set up. They stood clustered in little groups of well dressed people, all sombrely sipping their drinks and nibbling at their snacks. No one spoke above a whisper, when they bothered to speak at all. Some were still sobbing quietly.
That's when it happened.
It started, oddly enough, with Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Chosen One, the Saviour of the Wizarding world. One moment he was standing with his arm around Ginny, and the next he had, quite suddenly, turned into a ferret. Not just any ferret, though. It was a white ferret that had the odd habit of bouncing up and down like a rubber ball. Surprised shouts rose from the gathered mourners, and many reached for their wands, thinking it was an attack by whatever Death Eaters remained. The surprise turned to absolute shock when their wands began turning into rubber chickens and boxer shorts and flobberworms.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, acting Minister of Magic, stepped forward and shouted, "Everyone into the—"
He never actually finished his sentence, though, as he quite rudely interrupted himself by fainting on the spot. Arthur, Charlie, and Percy Weasley rushed over to help, but just as they reached him, Arthur projectile-vomited in a loud gurgling retch, all of which drenched Percy. Charlie managed to avoid the vomit, but only because, at that precise moment, he transformed into a bright yellow canary.
Professor McGonagall, meanwhile, quickly made her way over to the bouncing ferret, intending to Transfigure it back into a proper Gryffindor. She raised her wand, but stopped before actually casting a spell. A strange look appeared on her face, a dreamy, unfocused gaze that appeared entirely out of place on the stern teacher. She lowered her wand arm, turned towards Ron, and in a strange floaty voice said, "Why, Mr. Weasley, you are looking quite handsome today."
All jaws in the vicinity dropped as everyone, Ron included, turned to look at the current Headmistress of Hogwarts. Their shock only increased when they saw that she was blushing and giggling.
Professor Sprout stepped warily towards McGonagall. "Minerva, are you feeling quite alright? Perhaps... you..." But then she trailed off, her face taking on the same dreamy expression, her voice the same floaty sound, as she looked at Ron. "It's just that Ron here has always preferred Herbology to Transfiguration. Isn't that right, Ron?" And she fluttered her eyelashes at him.
Ron jumped back, realizing that perhaps Aragog wasn't the most frightening thing he had ever seen. He looked around for some bit of assistance, but there was none to be had. Where Ginny had been standing, there was another bouncing white ferret. Hermione was vomiting noisily. Seamus Finnegan was lying on the ground, apparently unconscious. Sitting on his chest was a canary that moments before had been Dean Thomas. Neville was frantically trying to stem the thick flow of blood from his nose. Luna stood watching everything with her own dreamy look, but Ron couldn't decide if she was being affected by the same thing as the teachers or if that was the way she always looked. Over her shoulder, though, he saw Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell making their way towards him, both with the wide eyed, adoring look he was quickly beginning to fear. He slowly began to back away, but only made it a couple of steps before running into something very large and very solid.
"Ain't leavin' so soon, are ya, Ron?"
Terrified to his very core, Ron slowly turned. There stood Hagrid, looking at Ron as though he had just sprouted fangs and horns and a giant stinging tail. Of course, with Hagrid, that meant he was giving Ron the same dreamy stare as the others. And then Hagrid gave a slow, significant wink.
Ron ran screaming, pursued by the quickly growing horde of his admirers. Luna, who had apparently not been affected, watched him go and said to no one in particular, "Ronald has certainly become popular."
A loud BANG cut through the pandemonium, momentarily focusing everyone's attention to the sky. Blindingly bright, golden fireworks streaked through the air, forming huge fiery letters. Everyone in the garden finally understood what was happening when they read the message in the sky:
In Loving Memory
They all looked around at each other, at the people beginning to recover from the vomiting and fainting and nosebleeds, at the useless bits of trash the wands had become, at the assortment of singing canaries and bouncing ferrets that were popping back into people, at the now rather large group of people chasing Ron around, at the complete and total chaos that reigned in the garden.
And everyone finally started to laugh.
Watching from an upstairs window, George Weasley smiled through his tears.